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The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snap shots

Money Matters

Let's Go To The Movies

How does your garden grow?

Life in Chiang Mai

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

‘Chemo’ and cancer survival and other issues

Cancer is not necessarily the end of the world. There are various treatments for the different types of cancer, and there are a lot. These can include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It depends much upon what kind of cancer, and what stage it is at.

Looking at the cancer scenario, I came across an article the other day referring to breast cancer survival rates and compared two different kinds of cytotoxic drugs. In other words cell killers, and that is what chemotherapy is all about. Unfortunately, the chemotherapy drugs will also kill off ‘good’ cells as well as the cancerous ones. A big problem, and the reason why people taking chemotherapy need to have their blood count checked regularly.

But back to the two drugs being used for breast cancer in the scientific article. The end result of the study was that Drug A was more effective than Drug B, but had significantly more side effects as well. Reading further, it was reported that Drug B extended life by 13 point something months, while Drug A had the sufferer living 15 point something months; however’ the downside to those ‘extra’ two extra months included mouth ulcers, infections and low blood counts. However, the researchers came to the conclusion that Drug A was best.

I ask you, best for who? In my book, it wasn’t the patient! Yes, it’s my old hobby horse - the Quality of Life. What is the point of saying you can have Drug A, to give you two extra months - but of misery. One thing is for sure, I will put my last baht on the fact that none of the research team took either drug! At least the famous medico John Hunter gave himself syphilis to try to find the cure. You won’t find that kind of dedication today, even though some people would call it foolishness.

We must never forget that in all our research we are not dealing here with breast cancers - we are dealing with women that have breast cancer! We, the medical profession, must treat the whole person, not the disease or the test result.

Now I mentioned breast cancer for a couple of reasons. One is the fact that screening tests can be done, and I would suggest that all you ladies over the age of 40 (or over the age of 30 if your mother or a maternal aunt died of breast cancer) should consider annual mammograms in addition to your monthly Breast Self Examination.

The second reason I mentioned breast cancer is that it is not, as many western women think, the greatest killer of women. For many 10 year groups of women, heart disease is the greatest killer. Yes, heart disease, the greatest killer of men is now firmly entrenched in women’s medicine.

I’m sorry to say this, but along with your quest for equality and work opportunities, you also picked up male disease patterns as well. Heart disease in particular. One of the reasons is of course the western diet high in animal fats, well documented as a precursor of heart disease. Cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries, coronary artery bypass grafts (known in the medical trade as CABG’s, or ‘cabbages’) are all now women’s diseases too.

So what can you do about this? The simple answer is to take a leaf out of the Eastern ladies’ handbooks on living. An Asian diet, which is high in vegetable content and low in animal fats is a good start. More of a ‘jai yen yen’ approach to life’s problems also helps. Use the ‘family’ network to get problems solved, and in fact the family approach to living, with each member helping when necessary, is another good example from the Asian book of life.

In the meantime, you should get your cholesterol measured each year too, not just “him downstairs”. Correct it as needed. Get your blood pressure checked and correct it as needed. Make sure your weight is within healthy limits too. And finally, all things in moderation applies to the women folk as well.


The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Painful urination

There are many euphemisms for urinating (to use the ‘correct’ term). One I really do love is having a twinkle! It is amazing just how many words are used by the average Anglo-Saxon family to describe one of nature’s most basic and instinctual acts. From pee-pee, to passing water, to Number Ones, to doing a “wet” - the list is endless. When asking a young child about bladder habits I always speak to the parents first asking, “What do you call it in your house?”

However, a lady of my acquaintance told me she had been suffering from a Urinary Tract Infection and asked that I cover the subject in one of my weekly columns. So here we are.

Urinary Tract Infections are otherwise known as UTI’s in the med bizz. This is a condition which can result in Cystitis, another very common condition in women. Did you know that women suffer from UTI’s 10 times more than men? The reason for this is simply a poor layout and poorly designed plumbing! It is another example of some fairly dubious design work at the initial stages, several millennia ago. You see, it is said, and probably with some correctness too, that the female short Urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside world) is the reason for this, while the male, with the longer Urethra does not have the problem. One wonders if this was the start of the so-called “penis envy”? The Urethra is also located near the rectum in women. Bacteria from the rectum can easily travel up the urethra and cause infections. In other words, with women, the exhaust is too close to the inlet. A good hydrodynamics engineer would have designed it better.

So how do you know if you have a UTI? Read through the following list and tick all the symptoms and signs you have had:

A burning sensation when you urinate
Feeling like you need to urinate more often than usual
Feeling the urge to urinate but not being able to
When you eventually do go, it is a teaspoonful only
Leaking a little urine
Cloudy, dark, smelly or blood in the urine

The most common symptoms of a UTI are burning and scalding and frequency (going to the toilet many times a day) but if the infection is coming down from the kidneys there can also be pain in the loin region and the patient can be quite ill, with fevers and rigors (uncontrollable shaking).

Diagnosis begins with the history and then examination of the urine, and the best way is what we call a Mid-Stream Urine (which we shorten to an MSU because we love acronyms). If you are going to see the doctor you can save time by taking along your MSU. The MSU is obtained by passing water into the toilet, then passing some into a clean bottle and then finishing in the toilet bowl again.
The doctor may elect to have the urine examined and cultured for the micro-organism involved, or it may be just a simple dipstick test, with the doctor quite sure of the diagnosis.

The end result is treatment which is generally some antibiotics and something to make the urine more alkaline if there is a lot of pain, but one of the cornerstones of all UTI treatments is for the patient to drink lots and lots and lots and lots of water. Really flush the urinary tract through, taking the bugs away and out of the body. I cannot emphasize enough the need to drink gallons (liters) of water, and I do realize that because it stings when you pee, the patient is reluctant to drink more - but it is necessary.

Of course, if the UTI’s are recurrent, then it will be necessary to investigate further and see why this is so. Sometimes the Ureters (the tubes from the kidneys to the bladder) are malformed, or there can be stones in the kidney which may predispose the patient towards this condition. Generally we would begin with an ultrasound and work on through from there - but the majority of UTI’s are a simple infection. And bad plumbing.

Dolly has so much to give

Foster Home needed for sweet old lady! We are desperately looking for a foster or forever home for Dolly the dog. She is considered disabled as she is unable to walk. We are campaigning to find her a forever home as she is such a sweet old dear, requiring very little care as all her faculties still work.

Please help us find a place of love and care for Dolly’s last few years. She is currently in temporary foster care. Please contact Care For Dogs, English (08 47 52 52 55) Thai (08 69 13 87 01) or e-mail: [email protected] to make an appointment to meet her.

Hi, I'm Pui

Could you take time to brush me or even take me to the salon every now and then? I promise I won’t bite. People say I am very handsome and I think I am too. I’d love a chance to live with a family of my own outside the shelter. I’m healthy, sterilised and vaccinated so you can just pick me up whenever.

Contact Care For Dogs, English (08 47 52 52 55) Thai (08 69 13 87 01) or e-mail: [email protected] to make an appointment to visit the shelter & meet him or any of the many other dogs waiting for you…

Adoption Fair:

Care for Dogs is having an Adoption fair at the Airport Plaza, on Sunday March 27th from 11am-6pm! We will have a wonderful group of young and adult doggies and kitties available for adoption. All of the animals are vaccinated and, if old enough, spayed. There are no adoption fees. Besides all the adorable furry faces to kiss and play with, there will be stuffed animals, Care for Dogs' t-shirts, magnets, and other beautiful items available for sale to directly support our rescue efforts. Come out and celebrate the friendship between man and his favorite companion!

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Thai boyfriends
Dear Hillary,
I have been told by someone who has been here a long time that all the girls from the bars have Thai boyfriends who live off their earnings. Why would this be? The girls make plenty of money from the foreigners, so why would they support a Thai boyfriend, when they can keep it all themselves. I told him that it doesn’t sound right to me, these girls aren’t that silly, surely.

Dear Wondering,
Wonder no more, my Petal. The ladies of the night generally do have a Thai boyfriend and there are plenty of good reasons for this. The liaisons with foreigners only last as long as the foreigners holidays, generally a couple of weeks. Foreigners speak a foreign language, so it is not all that easy for them to communicate. Girls working in the industry don’t have language qualifications from a university, do they? So, with a Thai boyfriend they get a companion who talks their language, and is there 12 months a year, not here today and gone tomorrow. He also works as pimp and protector. The girls are not silly, they live off their wits and take the best options available to them. Yes, they have Thai boyfriends. Your friend was right.

“Family” allowances
Dear Hillary,
What is the score over here? I have been with my Thai GF for around three months, but now she is asking for regular money “to send to Mama”. Now I happen to know that her mother has a good job, so why am I expected to just send her 20,000 baht every month? I sort of get the feeling that I am being played for a sucker here. I already give the GF 20,000 baht every month, so how come it suddenly doubles? Surely if she wants to send her mother money, she should do it with her money, not mine. I’ve asked a couple of the guys at work and they say it’s pretty common, and it is up to me to decide if the girl is worth it. Can you put me (and the guys) straight?

Dear Jerome,
You have a saying in English that goes “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, and I think you’ve been doing some rushing, without doing the homework first, my Petal. Is the girl’s mother caring for children? Most probably her daughter’s children, your Thai GF? How did you come up with a figure of 20,000 baht a month for the girl? Did she ask for it? Does she work, and if she doesn’t, why not? Jerome, you have known this girl for a whole three months and here you are flashing the cash as if this is a long established, sound relationship, with shared responsibility as far as finances is concerned. And what is this “worth it” nonsense? We’re not talking about a car here. We’re talking about human relationships. Get out of there Jerome, before you make more silly mistakes. You are not ready for a steady relationship. Stick with one night stands.

Last Will and Testament
Dear Hillary,
I am now 66 years old and I get a pension from the UK, not that it’s worth much these days. The problem is I have been told that my Thai children cannot inherit my estate when I die. Their mother and I have been together for ten years, and these are my children, sorry ‘our’ children, but we have never been married as I have a wife and grown up children back in the old country. What is the situation as regards my Thai children? With what my friends are telling me, I am worried that in the event of my dying the children (8, 6 and 4) will be left with nothing. I don’t have much, but the UK family is all grown up and can take care of themselves. Have you any guidance, Hillary? There must have been others in this situation.
Planning Ahead

Dear Planning Ahead,
Congratulations on being one of the few foreigners to think ahead and not pretend to themselves that they are invincible. So don’t cash in the chips at this stage There are a few things you have to do before you shuffle off. First, have you made a will in Thailand? If you have not, then your family in the UK could have certain rights to your estate, which could out-rank your Thai children’s rights. There’s nothing like a funeral to get family members scratching each other’s eyes out! Especially from one side of the globe to another. The important factor to protect your Thai children is to see an accredited lawyer who will register your will in English and in Thai. If you really are that close to shuffling off then do it today! For that matter, do it today anyway - you might get run over by a bus. Your embassy can advise you too. I congratulate you on protecting the welfare and future of your new family. There are some insurance plans you can take out as well, as long as you are reasonably fit. Talk to your embassy as well, as they can advise on what happens with your pension.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

A note to you Hillary:

In Thailand, just like other countries, words translated to English from Thai or another outstanding example - Arabic, are mostly phonetic. Don't you read the signs in this city? Every other one has a spelling error but gets the point across. I don’t see ‘katoyey’ in the dicktionary. You must be a little dense not to KNOW that ‘pubic’ was on purpose. I will mail you photos of the large banner advert across S. Pattaya Rd where Pattaya was spelled ‘Pattata’ by the Rotary Club, Central Pattaya and TAT. The sign also said that the bed race event was “organdied” by the Rotary Club.
Singha Jerry

Dear Singha Jerry,

Where would I be without you to assist both myself and the City Fathers with your own particular brand of spelling. Actually, I don’t think you should change one little bit - you fit perfectly. You must have drunk so much Singha that you are eligible for a Thai visa, and you’ve definitely got the spelling to go with it! See you on Pattata Beech some afternoon. I’ll recognize you by the bottle.

Dear Hillary,

Actually, the correct spelling for the trans gendered person is kathoey. So, both of you are wrong. When the word is spoken in conversation, people know what you are talking about. You say Patty ya, I say Pat i ya. Same=same.

G. S., Florida

Dear G.S., Florida,

As the T-shirt says, “Same, Same - But Different.” Thank you for the erudite explanation, but I am not sure if Singha Jerry is ready for it. Or ready to read it? Transliterations are always open for debate, but if you want to really read something different, use one of the electronic translating programs to go from Thai into English.

Dear Hillary,

One of my workmates and I came to Thailand for two weeks over Xmas. We did what two young blokes do and enjoyed ourselves with the ladies. Unfortunately my mate fell for a girl from the second bar we drank at. She could hardly speak any English at all, but now my mate has received an email from her saying that her mother is ill and she writes, “Darling! Will it be alright if I ask you for more money? I am reluctant to tell you about this, but you are very generous and gentle, I have no one to help at this time.”

That just doesn’t seem to be from the same girl whose English was limited to “I lub you, Darling.” Or “One more beer?” Do they have writers in the bars or has she managed to learn English in four weeks? I don’t really think that is possible, do you? I am trying to show my mate that he is being taken for a ride. He gave her heaps of money in the two weeks, and now she wants more. Tell him he is being a sucker, Hillary.


Dear George,

Yes, this was not written by her, and yes, they do have writers who will send the email, and do it for a slice of the money that comes in from the begging letter. Get hold of a book called The Scribe, where this is described. There is also a book called Handbook of English Love Letters, 20 years old now, but most bars have a dog-eared copy somewhere, and I think you will find that the letter your friend received comes exactly from there. Your friend should grow up, George and see the difference between infatuation and true love. Yes, he is being taken for a ride, but whether you can convince him of this is another matter altogether.

Dear Hillary,

As I am now in my early 50’s it is becoming noticeable that my tummy is getting that little bit larger. My wife even says it is very noticeable. I have tried dieting but that just makes me hungry. Is it worthwhile going to one of the gymnasiums round town, or do I have to give up drinking as my wife suggests? I only have six to eight pints at night which I do not consider excessive as I used to drink even more than that.


Dear Kenny,

Or is that “Kilkenny”? Looking carefully at your letter, since I can’t look carefully at you (and perhaps don’t want to!), I do think I might just perceive a very slight chance that you are just the teensiest bit worried that someone might go through with cutting off the pipeline to the brewery. Hillary would never do that to you, Kenny, my old drinking mate! You must remember me. I’m the two people at the other end of the bar every night! Come on, Kenny! 8 pints! Is that all? I don’t believe you.

OK, Kenny, I’ll pretend you really want to do something and here’s the answer. Cut the pints in quarters (so that’s two a night), join a gym (the Fitness Centers are better at fat burning than the musclemen types of places), cut out sugar, drink more water (the kind that is without the sugar, yeast and hops and doesn’t come in green or brown bottles) and walk everywhere in town rather than driving, riding or catching taxis.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

f8 and be there

Go to many of the photography forums (‘fora’?) and look up photojournalism you will find many discussions on who first uttered the immortal words “f8 and be there!” These discussions then go into semantics as to whether f8 is the best all round focal length, and then why the photographer from years ago would have settled on this focal length with his (probably) Speed Graphic camera. What all the discussions are missing is that the focal length in this situation is totally unimportant. It is the “be there” that counts.

The job of a photojournalist is to get back to the editor with a usable photograph of some event, be that a fire, a debutante ball or the Australian Chamber of Commerce networking night. If you are at home fiddling with the camera’s f stops you certainly won’t get the photograph, will you!

The photojournalist’s creed of f8 and be there may have come from Arthur H. Fellig, known as ‘Weegee’. Born in Poland in 1899, he came to America in 1909. “I saw an ad in a mail order catalogue which I sent away for: a tintype camera, and I decided to go into photography.” Even that statement was typical of this man. He didn’t wait to see if he was going to be any good - he was a “doer” and just waded right in and “did it”. You can warm to people with that much self-confidence.

He worked for a few studios and then got a job in the darkroom at Acme Newspapers. Life in the newspaper business is always exciting and frantic. Arthur H. Fellig reveled in that excitement. He had found his niche. He was only 21 years old but he decided he was going to be a freelance news photographer.

He soon became known as the first on the scene of any newsworthy happening, be that fire, murder, suicide or landslide. He was so uncannily aware of what was happening that people began to feel he had some kind of psychic powers of prediction. At that time, America was also in the middle of a Ouija Board fad and from this Fellig was to adopt his nickname “Weegee”.

Of course, Weegee was not psychic, but just used to sleep fully clothed, with a police radio on his pillow. In the boot of his car was his “office”, complete with typewriter to knock out the words, spare film and lots of flash bulbs. Weegee would arrive, record the shot, type the words and have everything on the editor’s desk within the hour. It was no wonder that Weegee was so popular with the news media of the day. (He would be even more popular today!)

By 1935, Life magazine was doing features on Weegee and his work. There was no doubt about the fact that he had the photographic “eye”, but for Weegee, the subject was the all important part of the photograph. And the subject he dealt with was done incredibly directly. Weegee was not one to be horrified by the sights before him, such as gangland killings. He took the shot that kept that horror for the eyes of the newspaper readers the next day. (Interestingly, that direct, confrontational photographic style is still used in the Thai language papers today - check any front pages for graphic images.) Another quote from this amazing man, “I like to get different shots and don’t like to make the same shots the other dopes do.” When asked what his formula was he replied, “I just laugh. I have no formula, I’m just myself, take me or leave me. I don’t put on an act. I don’t try to make a good or bad impression. I’m just Weegee.”

Weegee will be remembered for his record of the seamier side of New York life. This was put into book form, called the Naked City and was published in 1945. Unfortunately, the wide public recognition that came from this book ended the directly grotesque nature of his images and Weegee went to Hollywood where tinsel-town swallowed him up. He died in 1969.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX77

At what stage does a camera cease to record ‘real’ images and instead present the photographer something that has been ‘photoshopped’ before even being considered as ‘post production’? Is this photography, or is it a fraud?

What brought this to mind was the fact that Panasonic have launched a camera that can brush up, clean up and even put make-up on the subject’s face. Through their Lumix division, the Panasonic FX77 has a “beauty re-touch” function that will whiten teeth, increase the translucency of the subject’s skin, remove dark eye circles, make the face look smaller and even magnify the size of the eyes. If that is not enough to make the subject look beautiful, then the camera has an application that will apply rouge, lipstick and even eye shadow.

The development of this technology is supposed to have come about after Panasonic listened to their clients and found out that a reputed 50 percent were not happy with the way they look in photographs. The phrase “Truth hurts” comes to mind!

A Panasonic spokeswoman, Akiko Enoki, said, “According to data we’ve acquired, around 50 percent of our digital camera clients are not satisfied with the way their faces look in a photograph. So we came up with the idea so our clients can fix parts they don’t like about their faces after they’ve taken the picture.”

According to the Panasonic blurb, the FX77 comes not only equipped with high performance but also with a host of entertainment features that adds fun to photography such as new Beauty Retouch, Art Retouch and My Photo Album. With the newly integrated Lumix Image Uploader the photographer can instantly share the enhanced images via Facebook or video to YouTube (movie) with any PC on the spot. All you have to do is checkmark the photos you want to share and connect the camera to a PC. Uploading starts just by following the simple instructions, allowing you to add a comment and notify your friends via e-mail. Facebook can be used for photos and YouTube for movies.

The camera was released through the Bic photo chain in Japan and they reported that these features made it a great hit with consumers. “It’s very popular among people who use pictures in their blogs, or those taking just one commemorative photo that they need to be flawless,” said Hiromi Honma, a Bic Camera sales representative.

Looking at this camera’s photographic features, “The FX77 features a new high quality Leica DC Vario-Summarit 24 mm ultra wide angle lens with 5x optical zoom and F2.5 brightness. This lens will excel not only in shooting landscapes with its wide angle of view but also in capturing moving subjects even in low-light situations such as indoors or at night with its outstanding brightness. Comprising seven elements in six groups, including three aspherical lenses with five aspherical surfaces, the lens unit in the FX77 is miniaturized both in total length and diameter to fit into a slim and compact body.

“Panasonic and Leica have had a good association in the past and this advanced lens passes Leica’s stringent standards to deliver exceptional optical performance right to the edge of the frame. Thanks to the newly incorporated Intelligent Resolution technology, Intelligent Zoom is available with the FX77 which extends the zoom ratio by approx. 1.3 times whilst maintaining the picture quality even when combined with the digital zoom. This means the 5x optical zoom can virtually extend to 6.5x equivalent. The Extra Optical Zoom function extends the zoom power to 9.8x (at 3 megapixel resolution) by using the center part of the 12.1 megapixel high resolution CCD - bringing subjects even closer.

The compact lens unit contributes to a slimmer, sleeker profile compared with previous Lumix FX models” and is apparently the most luxurious ever Lumix compact camera.

All these new technology features are remarkable, packed into a compact camera, but I am not sure about the Beauty Retouch and Art Retouch applications. This is just one step away from getting someone else to sit for your portraits. There is a difference between avoiding showing portrait problems and straight out lying with a camera. I would not recommend this camera.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Interview with Martin Gray, part 2

On February 2, 2011, Martin Gray, manager of the CF Miton Special Situations Fund, spoke with Tim Price and Killian Connolly of PFP Wealth Management. Part 2 of the interview follows.

Tim Price: Are there any currencies other than Sterling that you particularly like?

Martin Gray: I’ve been steadily moving toward Asian dollar currencies over the last 18 months or so. I hold Asian currency funds and bond funds. That’s as far as I go - I haven’t got any Asian equities or property to speak of. But I think there’s a misalignment there that will have to correct itself in due course. I also think that Sterling’s a bit overvalued at the moment and therefore I’m quite happy to hold some US dollars. I still think that on any setback the dollar will benefit as a safety currency though further down the line that may become a little less safe and a little less attractive. The other currency that I’ve held long term and since 2006/7 is the Yen, which I continue to hold. I don’t think the Yen’s overvalued. It was at these levels 15 years ago against the dollar, and since then we’ve seen inflation in the US over 40% versus negligible in Japan. Despite their debt situation in Japan I still think it’s a good currency to hold.

Tim Price: Do you have a view on the Japanese stock market?

Martin Gray: I have. It hasn’t proven particularly right in recent times! I’ve had a reasonable weighting, not a huge weighting, towards Japanese equities, for over a year now. I felt that the DPJ [Democratic Party of Japan] and their focus on domestic policies would be a boon for the domestic economy. That has turned out to be not so good so far - they lost their first prime minister in four months and the next one nearly went about five months later. But they seem to be trying to get domestic policies through; politics is such in Japan that it’s proving to be quite hard work, now that they’re not in control of both Houses.

Killian Connolly: Do you view gold as a currency? What is your view on gold and silver?

Martin Gray: I certainly have viewed gold as an alternate currency; back in 2001 I increased the weighting to gold in the fund to nearly 8% or 9%. Fairly consistently over the last 10 years gold has featured between 5% and 10% within Special Situations. More recently, since the middle of 2009, I’ve been decreasing that weighting; now it’s probably less than 5% of the fund. I’ve felt that there’s a lot of speculation on gold and the price has run away a little bit, and I’ve been concerned about the correlation of the gold price with other assets. It has moved in the “wrong” direction on a number of occasions compared to where it should be going as an alternate currency, for instance the Dubai crisis when it fell $50 rather than rising $50 in a day. I am a fan of gold but I’m not very happy at these levels so I’d be happy to be underweight where I’ve been over the past 10 years - but we have made a lot of money out of gold.

Tim Price: Do you think there’s any such thing as a safe asset these days?

Martin Gray: Probably not. There’s a risk to pretty much anything, isn’t there? You might say that gold is the nearest thing to that because not much sovereign paper these days or currencies can be viewed as safe with the amount of debt floating around the world. That’s an interesting debate - probably one for a couple of bar stools and a long evening!

Tim Price: Do you think QE [quantitative easing] will end, or would you like it to end, any time soon?

Martin Gray: I would like it to end, because it is creating extremely false markets in asset pricing and we’ve seen correlated movements in all assets - it was pretty hard to find an asset that fell last year. We saw back in 2009 and last year that as soon as any announcement was made that quantitative easing was going to be resumed that asset markets have gone through the roof in anticipation of that. The liquidity has just sent everybody into risk assets, down to the casino - however you wish to describe it. I would like to see it end and am probably positioned for it ending, sooner rather than later. But I’m not sure the Americans have got much alternative at the moment.

Tim Price: What do you think is the likelihood of a rise in UK interest rates any time soon?

Martin Gray: My hope and belief is that there is little chance of that happening; however, there seems to be a lot of media and market views that we should be raising rates sooner rather than later. I think that would be a disaster. I don’t think there’s any necessity for it. Sure, the inflation numbers are not coming through good, but I do side with Mervyn King on most of the points he’s been raising. There are short term problems with food and commodity prices; oil prices are obviously having an effect, ditto VAT. But I don’t see any basic long term underlying inflation. I think it will be under control with patience. I think the UK economy is in for a tough time.

Tim Price: What’s your take on how we end up, in a world that’s drowning in debt? Do we end up with “muddle through” austerity; do we end up in a deflationary mess; or do we end up in an inflationary or very inflationary crisis?

Martin Gray: Here in the UK I think it’s austerity, low growth. Deflation? Possibly, but disinflation or low inflation is how I’m positioned. The inflation thing is a concern but I think we’d need another two or three bouts of quantitative easing to really concern me about that. I think governments are going to be forced by the populace to tighten things up eventually. I think we’ll have a long, hard grind as we clear up this mess.

Killian Connolly: What’s your view on emerging markets, and China and India as the global growth drivers? Do you see any worries on the horizon?

Martin Gray: Yes, I have a number of concerns that China is eventually going to be forced to get its house in order. I don’t think we can see these rates of growth and lending continuing forever. There are some signs that the Chinese authorities want to slow things down a little bit but they don’t seem to be having too much effect so far. We’re already seeing a little bit of a setback in emerging markets this year but I think there’s a lot more to come. I think money’s just wholesale flooded in to those economies with quantitative easing and created - bubbles - probably the wrong word, but certainly too much fund flow in the wrong direction where a lot of that money isn’t really needed and it needs to flow back again. From my positioning I’ve got no emerging market exposure at all - and this is from a fund that in 2007 and early 2008 still had nearly 20% in Asia and emerging markets, of which nearly half was in China, so I’ve moved to a very defensive position from there. I’m quite happy to be out of those markets at the moment. I think there’ll be volatility to come, particularly as they do have an inflation issue and that may lead to other problems - trade barriers and those kind of horrible things.

Tim Price: On which note, I think we all head to the bar. Martin Gray, thank you very much indeed.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Interview with Martin Gray, part 1

As regular readers of this column know, we are big fans of MitonOptimal. Today we have a special report from Tim Price, director PFP Wealth Management, who interviewed Martin Gray recently.

On February 2, 2011, Martin Gray, manager of the CF Miton Special Situations Fund, spoke with Tim Price and Killian Connolly of PFP Wealth Management. Part 1 of the interview follows.

Tim Price: Is the financial crisis over?

Martin Gray: I’m still pretty cautious. I’ve positioned the portfolio fairly defensively as we’ve gone through this crisis, and I’m happy to stay reasonably defensive in my funds. In so far as the financial crisis is concerned, I think there’s more to come. I think we still have a solvency crisis, more so than just a banking crisis or a financial crisis. I’m happy to be reasonably defensive at the moment and see how things pan out.

Tim Price: What would cause you to be slightly more upbeat?

Martin Gray: One of the key things would be to see unemployment in mature economies to start decisively to come down. I’m not seeing or hearing any room for improvement yet in the UK, Japan, places like that. We’ve had very little real wage growth in the mature economies through the last 10 years, so I think that would be a key metric.

Tim Price: What’s the objective of your fund, particularly the CF Miton Special Situations Fund?

Martin Gray: Quite simply, it’s a global balanced fund. I look to make money in any areas; I don’t run to the benchmark; I’m looking to make money wherever I can. I don’t have any limits in terms of what I can hold, except perhaps in risk.

Killian Connolly: What investment products do you allocate towards in pursuit of the fund’s objective?

Martin Gray: I use a wide range of underlying assets: broadly speaking closed-end funds; open-ended funds; direct equities; direct bonds, like Gilts; ETFs [exchange-traded funds]; occasionally structured products. Direct equities would usually only be UK equities.

Killian Connolly: And derivatives? Is the fund exposed to any kind of esoteric products?

Martin Gray: Nothing particularly esoteric at all. The fund itself has no enhanced powers so I am restricted in that respect, but that’s how the fund has always been in its 13-year life, so why change it?

Tim Price: Can you say a little about the parent group?

Martin Gray: It’s been through quite a lot of change over the last couple of years and it’s now a purely asset management business, renamed at Group level MAM Funds. At the moment there’s just being completed a placing to clear the bank debt that was raised to buy the Midas group three years ago. There’s also three new directors coming on board, replacing a couple that are leaving the board now. It sounds like a lot of change but it’s very much to do with moving toward a pure asset management business. We’re looking forward to Gervais Williams [formerly with Gartmore] joining us in March - that’s very exciting for all staff.

Killian Connolly: Obviously you managed the fund during the Credit Crisis and during 2008 - what experience do you take from managing money during that time?

Martin Gray: It was very interesting times and 2008 was a year I enjoyed for the fund; it was a good year for the fund. We positioned ourselves probably much too early, in late 2006, for some problems in the asset markets and 2007 was quite hard work on the back of that, but 2008 was a very rewarding year for the fund where we did manage to make a positive return. I suppose since then I’ve continued to be a bit too defensive; going back to what I said earlier I’m not convinced that the banking crisis or the debt crisis is fully solved yet, and there are still some worries now. Added to the banking system we’ve got governments now heavily indebted and there are still plenty of danger signs going forward.


Tim Price: You’ve alluded to the government debt crisis. There seems to be an interesting polarisation in the market between Keynesian stimulus and more recently the so-called Austrian school has become popular with views about monetary policy and governments keeping out of the way rather than trying to reflate the economy. Do you have any economic bias from a philosophical perspective?

Martin Gray: Not especially. I just try and manage the fund as I see it and where I see opportunities taking into account everything that’s out there. Pursuing any particular style or any particular economic style is perhaps a bit too narrow for me. I have to try and make money through all times I guess, for investors, as well as trying to protect the downside as much as possible. I try not to be too focused on any one thing or any one area, even if it’s what I might basically believe in.
Killian Connolly: Do you support the ongoing coalition government’s austerity plans? Do you think that will create opportunities for the fund?

Martin Gray: I hope so. From a UK perspective I was very pleased with the austerity plan because it is tough and it gives them room to flex back a bit on it. The alternatives weren’t great for a standalone currency; if Sterling or the Gilt market had taken any kind of hit on the basis that we were getting out of control, I think that would have been a nightmare. You’d have seen yields climb quite sharply and we don’t want to be following what’s going on in Spain and Italy and southern Europe. I thought it was the right thing to do even though it’s pretty harsh.

Tim Price: You’ve mentioned Spain and Italy; what likelihood would you attach to any sovereign defaults in the Euro zone or elsewhere over coming years?

Martin Gray: This is down to the populace and whether they’re going to be prepared to take the harsh lessons of what they’re going to have to do. I mentioned earlier no real wage growth throughout most mature economies over the last decade or so - that hasn’t been true, of course, in southern Europe where they’ve enjoyed a huge kick-up in pay to the point where those economies are uncompetitive. That has to change. Have they got the stomach for reversing those 25% to 30% wage increases they’ve taken while the Germans have taken virtually none? Or are they going to be on the streets and forcing governments to default on their promises? It’s a very difficult one in terms of what will actually come out at the end of the day; are the Germans prepared to be the lender of last resort? I doubt that they are, despite Angela Merkel’s comments that she was pro-Euro and they will do all they could. I’m not sure they would go that far.

Tim Price: Do you have a view on the Euro then?

Martin Gray: I hold no Euro assets in the fund (or negligible amounts). Deliberately. There are risks for the Euro over the next few years. I’m quite happy not to hold Euro assets. That has had an effect on my asset allocation but I don’t see much point holding an asset if you don’t like the exchange rate of that economy versus Sterling.
To be continued…

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

The King’s Speech: UK/ Australia, Drama/ History – In my view a beautiful motion picture, with everything you could wish for. Finally we’re able to see this here, at Vista only, with thanks. Oscars for best picture, best director (Tom Hooper), and best actor (Colin Firth). Tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George ('Bertie') reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded stutter and considered unfit to be king, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue. Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country into war, The multi-award-winning cast includes Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall, and Michael Gambon. Rated R in the US for some language; 15+ in Thailand. Reviews: Universal acclaim. Vista only

Rango: US, Animation/ Action/ Comedy/ Family/ Western – An absolute delight! Rango is your more or less ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff. Directed by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) and starring Johnny Depp, it’s the first full-length work of animation created by the brilliant special-effects company Industrial Light & Magic, and it’s a winner. Generally favorable reviews – but from reading what the reviews actually say, you’d think it was universal acclaim! Not in 3D, and many think it’s better for that! Airport Plaza only.

Gnomeo and Juliet 3D: (Shown in digital 3D) UK/ US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy/ Romance – A version of Shakespeare's play, set in the world of warring indoor and outdoor gnomes. Garden gnomes Gnomeo (voice of James McAvoy) and Juliet (voice of Emily Blunt) have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors. Caution: has plastic pink flamingos and lawnmower races. Mixed or average reviews. Airport Plaza only.

Red Riding Hood: US/ Canada, Fantasy/ Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – Set in a medieval village that is haunted by a werewolf, a young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter, much to her family's displeasure. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (the first Twilight, and Thirteen), starring Amanda Seyfried, Julie Christie, and Gary Oldman. Generally unfavorable reviews. At Airport Plaza only.

The Adjustment Bureau: US, Romance/ Thriller/ Sci-Fi – On the brink of winning a seat in the US Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) – a woman like none he's ever known. But just as he realizes he's falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself – the men of The Adjustment Bureau – who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista only.

Sucker Punch: US/ Canada, Action/ Fantasy/ Thriller – A young girl (Baby Doll) is institutionalized – locked away in a mental asylum by her wicked stepfather – where she will undergo a lobotomy in five days time. Faced with unimaginable odds, she retreats into a fantastical world of her imagination where she and four other female inmates at the asylum plot to escape the facility. Generally unfavorable reviews. At Airport Plaza only.

SuckSeed: Thai, Comedy/ Musical – Inspired by the rhythm of rock 'n roll, the film tells a story of teenage boys who set up their rock band called SuckSeed just to impress the girls. Things get complicated when a girl joins up on guitar. Directed by Chayanop Boonprakob.

Gantz: (Thai-dubbed, no English subtitles) Japan, Action/ Crime – After trying to rescue a man on the subway tracks, two teens wake up in a room dominated by a mysterious black sphere that sends them to hunt down and kill aliens hiding on Earth. From a popular manga series. At Vista only.

Vanishing on 7th Street: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – An apocalyptic thriller/horror about a group of people who must avoid darkness to stay alive. The story follows a mysterious, seemingly global blackout that causes countless populations to simply vanish, leaving only their clothes and possessions behind. A small handful of survivors band together in a dimly-lit tavern on 7th Street, struggling to combat the apocalyptic horror. With Hayden Christensen and John Leguizamo. Rated R in the US for language. Mixed or average reviews.

Just Go with It: US, Comedy/ Romance – Another Adam Sandler extrusion. On a weekend trip to Hawaii, a plastic surgeon convinces his loyal assistant to pose as his soon-to-be-divorced wife in order to cover up a careless lie he told to his much-younger girlfriend. Generally unfavorable reviews. A star and a style of comedy I find repellent. Airport Plaza only.

How does your garden grow?: By Eric Danell,Dokmai Garden

Feed-back on bamboo

Cory in Hang Dong sent the following feed-back on my Chiang Mai Mail garden column ’Bamboo’:
”Finally an article from you in the Chiang Mai Mail with a picture. Tried to find pictures on internet of the Dendrocalamus sericeus bamboo - Hopeless. Just that you know, I download ALL your articles in the Chiang Mai Mail. May I suggest that you also put all of your articles on your website. I think that you and your garden can play a leading role in educating Thai and foreigners alike by adding such info to your website.”

Dear Cory, absolutely, pictures are very important. Previously I had a space limit for the printed version, 350 words or less if I included a picture, but now when there is no printed version anymore, there is space for illustrations. Below is a picture of the lovely ’blue bamboo’, Dendrocalamus sericeus (sang mon). It is a tall and very strong bamboo, superior for construction, and also makes a lovely ornamental due to its bluish culms. The blue colour is due to a white wax coating on top of the originally green culms. If you wish to see the bamboo in real life, simply go towards the Opkhan national park in Hang Dong, and keep going straight towards the Mae Kanin Tai village rather than going to the headquarters.

As to a link to all the Chiang Mai Mail garden columns, I simply forward the question to the Editor. I should be happy to link to such a collection.

Meanwhile, keen gardeners can also tune in to the Dokmai Dogma blog (, with almost daily articles on monsoon gardening and biodiversity issues. Currently it includes some 340+ articles, almost all of which are illustrated.

How does your garden grow?: By Eric Danell,Dokmai Garden

Letter from a reader

Hello Eric,

Orchids again from me... having moved from Chiang Mai's urban Nimmanhaemin area to the rural Chom Thong my orchids have done wonderfully... good light from hanging in the lamyai trees and the fresh air seems to have done some magic with lots of blooms this year. Nothing to the quality of the Flower Show but enough to make me very happy.

Your column (which I search for right off once the website is updated) in the Chiang Mai Mail this week shows a lovely Papilionanthe teres (?) flower. I find this to be quite frustrating (it's done in many books as well) as one cannot identify a non-flowering plant when one does not know what the leaves look like. I apologize for my lack of knowledge on these things but please show just a bit more in the future?
Keep on planting!


Dear Fred,

You are absolutely right that pictures of orchids should also show the leaves. The problem is that in an orchid book that would probably make the book twice as thick, and more expensive, and then the publisher is less inclined to invest. We had a Taiwanese visitor at Dokmai Garden last year, preparing a book on wild Thai orchids. We discussed the optimal orchid book, and we both agreed that vegetative characters should be included.
As I wrote in the previous garden column, the leaves of Papilionanthe teres are terete, which implies they are cylindrical (not flat) with pointed ends. That usually hints to the orchid grower that the species is a sun-lover. In full sun the leaves may turn more reddish, using darker pigment to protect the cells from UV-damage.
I include a picture of Papilionanthe teres leaves and aerial roots.


Eric Danell, Dokmai Gardens
[email protected],

Life in Chiang Mai: By Colin Jarvis

The British Government Condemns Old Lady To Death

During last year's British general election David Cameron and Nick Clegg both frequently used the word “Fair” in relation to the type of society they wished to build. Yet now, they are condemning many British people, who live in countries such as Thailand and Australia, to death. These people have paid thousands of pounds to the British government, during their lifetime, in the belief that they would have free health care for life, providing they paid their National Insurance.

This right is being taken away from people who spend most of their time abroad. To qualify again for the assistance of the National Health Service a person must reside in the UK for at least 12 months.
Until now, many British subjects, particularly people who had retired abroad, relied on the services of the National Health Service if they became critically ill. It is, after all, a service that has been paid for by British subjects who pay their National Insurance and taxes. So what happens to someone living in Chiang Mai, a British subject of, let us say, 75 years of age, who develops a serious cancer or other life-threatening illness? Up to now they have always believed they could return to the UK and immediately obtain treatment. This will no longer be the case; theoretically the National Health Service will refuse to help them at all.

In the belief they have a right to this treatment many British people do not have health insurance in Thailand. There are several reasons; many insurance companies will not insure someone after the age of 60 unless they were previously insured by the company and, as one becomes older and more infirm the cost can become prohibitive. So these people do not have the ability to obtain medical care, at a reasonable cost either in Thailand or the UK. This will cause great hardship to many British subjects who came to Thailand to enjoy retirement and live out their life in the wonderful atmosphere that is Chiang Mai.

So Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, where is this fairness? These people have paid throughout their lives and have been told throughout that they would have access to the National Health Service for life! You changed the rules and why? The reason you give is that there are now too many people of retirement age and you are looking for every excuse to cut them out of the budget. Essentially you have chosen to hurt people who are unlikely to be able to cause you many problems, who are unlikely to vote for you and who in your view will be "Out of sight out of mind".

These, by the way, are the same people for whom their state pension, again to which they have contributed throughout their lives, is frozen at the moment they retire and leave British shores. Thus an 80-year-old person retiring to Thailand or Australia at 65 , will currently be receiving a pension of the same value that it was in 1996.

British citizens used to feel they were the luckiest in the world, having pretty much the best of everything. Nowadays, as a pensioner living in Thailand today, they rightly, feel pretty hard done by. If a French person falls ill in Chiang Mai, however long they have lived here, the French government will, apparently, pay for their medical treatment. The Japanese will pay for 70%. The British: nothing.
The likelihood is that British subjects, who retired to Chiang Mai, will have a dreadful time if they become ill or infirm. This is particularly the case if their partner dies and they have no other family in the area.

Other nationalities also suffer, this can be from a variety of reasons but generally, elderly and infirm and perhaps demented old people cannot care for themselves. Neither will the Thai social services and indeed, why should they?

What happens to such people when they find themselves in this position and have perhaps lived in Chiang Mai for 30 to 40 years, perhaps longer? Until now, when such people had been discovered, other individuals or groups have often attempted to help out on an informal basis. It is wonderful that such people will volunteer and undertake what can often be very difficult and distressing work. Many of these people are referred to the local consul of their country. The consuls can often do very little other than refer the matter to the person's relations in the home country. Very often they will repatriate such people but in future there will be no point in repatriating British citizens for the simple reason they will not be eligible to receive any assistance when they arrive.

A new group is currently being formed to organise a system of volunteers to help such people in future. This is still very much in the planning stage and it is entirely voluntary. Many church and religious groups, nationality groups, other special interest groups and many of the consuls in Chiang Mai are supporting this new venture which is currently being led by: Ben Savasti-Thompson, the honorary British consul.

When this new venture is up and running there will be many opportunities for people to assist, perhaps by providing transport to help people travel to and from hospital, perhaps providing assistance with writing letters and helping people communicate with the bureaucracy and, often vitally important, translation either between foreign languages or foreign languages and Thai.

The Chiang Mai Mail will keep you informed about this developing project so that you may offer your support or, at least as important, inform the group about people in serious distress. The new organisation intends to offer support to people of any nationality, other than Thai, providing they have been living in the Chiang Mai region for some time.

So whilst the British politicians are effectively condemning some old people to death, once they become ill, there are some generously minded people who are willing to offer their time to support foreigners in distress. Shame on you Cameron and Clegg!