Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Joining the international jet set

I am now the proud owner of 2 phones. My smartphone that I use in the UK and now I have a Thai phone for here. I had to get a local number and, in spite of having months to prepare, I didn't do anything about it before I left thinking that a local phone would do the trick, so for the grand price of £14.48 I have a mobile phone and (hopefully) a month's worth of pay-as-you-go calls.

There's just one fly in the ointment - the instructions came in Thai. It actually took me close on 2 hours to work out how to get it into silent mode. There's a strict rule here of no mobile phones outside of rooms, apart from us working people who need to be contactable, but we still can't have them ringing. I was convinced mine would go off somewhere inappropriate and I'd be thrown out before I even started. Now I'm just waiting for my friend Nok to arrive. She comes from Bangkok and is due in tonight, so hopefully she'll decipher it all for me and then I'll be fine.

Getting the phone was quite funny too. I was told the best place to go was the 7 Eleven, which is across the street. Except that it's across the main road which also happens to have a concrete barrier running the length of it. My UK sensibilities told me that there must be a crossing somewhere, but much to the bemused looks when I asked the security guys outside another hotel, they politely told me to get over that barrier and stop fussing. I was wearing a dress...mmmm... not the best for crossing large concrete obstacles and still keeping my modesty!

One of the Thai words I learnt before I came over was torasap, which is mobile phone, but sadly I only remembered it after having bought the phone. Ah well.

I also managed to get lost in the bowels of the complex a couple of times, but was rescued by obliging staff who escorted me to my destination. I think I've got the hang of to-ing and fro-ing now without wandering into someone's office or the kitchens.

Today I had my orientation with HR. I'm still here, so that says all you need to know. I start in earnest tomorrow, but today I'm free to enjoy the sun and amenities. I'm beginning to wonder if I'd have done better to keep myself to guest status rather than worker, but it's done now, so no complaining.

I've also come out with a cold, which isn't so good for a place that boasts its wellness facilities. One of the other consultants told me to eat fresh ginger, which has certainly sorted my sore throat and I'm hoping it is really the cure all he tells me it is.

Well that's it for today. More in due course.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Time for sun!

Here I am in Sunny Hua Hin and so far, apart from getting lost going from my room to get my breakfast and having to get the resident computer expert to help me get accepted onto the system, I'm doing well.

My flight over was good. I flew EVA Air, which is Taiwanese and, in spite of the cabin crew's limited English, they were lovely and courteous and my veggie meal was delicious. I even got a pair of pj's to take with me... always a bonus!

I arrived at Bangkok airport and it took me a while to find my driver, but after that it was plain sailing in an air conditioned, dark-windowed, comfy car all the way to Hua Hin. It took around 2.5 hours, but was very pleasant. I'm in the staff guest quarters, which is rather like a 4* hotel (as opposed to the 5* facilities at Chiva Som Spa itself), so I'm certainly not complaining.

I had a lovely meal last night, accompanied by an extremely chatty guest, who came from Largs in South Scotland (small world). I was actually pleased to get to the silence of my room after that!

So anyway, you'll have gathered I have internet access and will give you short updates on here, but gotta run now as today is my day off, so am going for serious sunning and R&R before the work begins.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Bye bye UK

Yesterday I left home to start my adventure of working in Thailand with my giant suitcase (known as 'The Beast') all packed with some clothes, some work stuff and seemingly lots of tablets. Can't beat a good vitamin!

The Beast and Vespa get to know one another

Anyway, it's certainly living up to its name. It weighs in at a mighty 19.5 kg, which is a huge amount more than I'm used to travelling with. It really got to me. But after Mountain Man laughed at me and my antics I got over myself and we set off for Berwick station ready for the first leg of my journey.

A last cuddle

The one good thing about The Beast is that the wheels are super wheelie. The worst thing about The Beast is that the wheels are super wheelie. I can push it along with one finger, but just you try being on a London bus lurching around corners and trying to hold onto a suitcase that wants to wander everywhere... not easy!

Last night I went to the Impressionist exhibition at The National Gallery. It was fab and I spent a lovely hour and a half amongst some beautiful paintings. Then off for a Japanese dinner and then in for a relatively early night.

Today was haircut day and I went and got myself cut and dyed and ready for the off. The haircut took almost 2 hours! I was a bit freaked out that someone could take so long, but worse than that, my mother also was freaked out and phoned to check I was still alive... a touch embarrassing! The haircut is lovely btw and here's a not-very-flattering selfie to give you some idea.

The new haircut

So now I sit in the Business Class lounge at Heathrow, eating the lovely food and being very good and not drinking any alcohol.

If I can post more while I'm away (dependent on internet access in Hua Hin) I will. But if you hear nothing more from me until I get home in May, then don't worry, I've not gone AWOL. You can think of me in 33 degrees working my socks off  - no actually that doesn't make sense cos socks are something I definitely won't be wearing in that heat - but I'm sure you get the picture.

After Hua Hin I'm meeting up with MM in Kathmandu for a bit of R&R, which should be good fun.

So bye bye cold UK and bring on the searing heat - ready or not here I come!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Some sad... or maybe not... news

Odi has been withdrawn from the Guide Dog training programme. She was very unsettled and according to the trainer had decided she just didn't want to do the work. There were more and more things she was doing that weren't helping and they made the decision to stop her training and find her a good home.

In some ways I'm sad about this, but in others it's good news. No-one likes to think of a dog being stressed or unhappy and she obviously was at least a bit of both, so they're now looking for a good home for her. I'm just hoping they find somewhere soon so she can get out of kennels and start being the joyous Odi we knew and loved.

One good thing though - and I suppose everyone who has a dog who doesn't make it for behavioural reasons must wonder whether it was something they did - the trainer said she came into Forfar really well behaved and knowing all her commands and that we'd done a good job with her. Mmmm... maybe they say that to everyone!

An interesting thing though. Apparently her sister, who's in Forfar at the moment is displaying similar behaviours (though not to the same degree) as Odi. Her brother has been withdrawn for cataract problems and there's other problems with others in the litter. The trainer said it was very interesting when you look at the whole litter and realise that it's not just pertaining to one of the pups. However, one of her brothers is doing really well, so it's not all of them. He, apparently, doesn't have the sensitive side.

So that's that. Still at least whoever gets Odi will have a very well trained dog who will be a great pet. Lucky people.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Panic stations

Today I decided to take a peek at Russell Turner's (aka Bassman's) blog and to my horror he described getting a letter from Getty Images and how they wanted him to pay big bucks for his unauthorised use of a photo of theirs on his blog in 2010 - you can read his blog here and find out how he dealt with their bully boy tactics.

However, it did make me think, cos I've used a few advertorial type photos that I took off websites, like Amazon or newpaper articles and I also remember getting a warning from author Nicola Morgan about how careful you have to be.

Panic mode took over!

I have now wasted most of my Sunday morning going through my 747 posts to take out anything that I didn't take or could be a problem. It took ages. And I did this instead of writing my poem that I should have written by now and which needs to be in tomorrow. Yes, I know it should've been written days ago (like Bassman did on the day I gave him the assignment), but I'm still staring at the photo I'm going to use and looking for divine inspiration.

Oh yes, and I have had quite a busy week mainly because my electronic diary went a touch awol again, this time when I transferred to my new MacBook Air, and I discovered I was supposed to attend meetings and supervise someone only getting alerted to the missing dates the day before they were happening when I'd already accepted other invitations. All's well tho as I managed to cancel the accepted things (apart from one game of bowls where I was standing in for someone) and get to do all the things I was supposed to do with much rushing up and down the road in my speedy little car.

Yesterday was grandson time as Mountain Man's daughter brought his grandson, Nathan, over from Glasgow for a visit. We had a lovely lunch at Jamie Oliver's and then, while they all went and spent the afternoon at Camera Obscura courtesy of a free pass from No. 2 Son who works there and which I felt would be too crowded for a six month old pup, Vespa and I went for the better training option of going in and out of shops instead.

Nathan with his red nose

I thought I'd finish with a pic of Vespa, who's now six and a half months old and a real chunky boy. He weighs more at his age than Odi did when she left at 15 months even though he's not as big length or height-wise as she was at that age, he's just solid dawg!

Mr Chunky... I'll leave it to you to guess which one I'm talking about!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

This week's poetry challenge

I know how much some of you (no names, no pack drill) are loving the challenge that is my poetry course, so I thought I'd let you know this week's assignment which I got today and then I'll sit back and wait to see what you come up with:

Essentially we have to pick a photo of someone (not ourselves) and write about it starting with the line: This is a photograph of me.

We've been given loads of photographic examples e.g. the ones on Mary Ellen Mark's webpage and as always we can use one of the suggested ones or pick any photo or subject we like.

So come on you poets out there, have a go.

Me? No, I'll be thinking about it until about 5 mins before it has to be posted and do my usual panic poem!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Help required... again!

Illness and stress have taken their toll this week and I've spent the last 2 days with my arse glued to my mattress as Mountain Man ministers to my needs.

The illness I think was my mother's parting gift to me as I left London last week as it has a familiar ring to it from when I phoned her before I got to her house last weekend and she complained of similar symptoms.

The stress has been to do with my current poetry course, which is driving me a bit crazy.

The illness I can do little about, but stay quiet and allow my body to get better. The stress is just ridiculous and so unnecessary, but dealing with it is so much harder to entertain. After all, I did decide to do the course and I could equally well decide not to do it if I so wanted. But there's pride at stake. I don't like to start things I don't finish.

The problem has been that this week's assignment has been about picking a gene and seeing where it takes me. There are, according to the internet, 19,000 - 24,000 genes depending on who you read. This is not a great start. Ok... next. What about chromosomes? That cuts it down considerably, but there are still 46 of those.

After quite a lot of umming and aahhing I went with colour-blindness, which is an anomaly of the 23rd chromosome. Hooray, I thought, at last I've narrowed it down! That lasted all of 3 days which have been spent reading all about the problem and even doing the Ishihara colour-blind test (I'm not, you'll be reassured to know), but it's so fascinating that I've written next to nothing, but I can tell you all sorts of interesting facts about it.

The poem has to be in tomorrow and I have precisely 10 lines of a crap poem. In my last poetry post, lamenting the paucity of my poetry skills, Bassman came up with a poem in 5 minutes, so if anyone has any offerings then please feel free. I need all the help I can get!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Jeans-gate and more

There's something about being a bit of a rebel that really appeals to me.

My mother's birthday lunch came and went with only the minimum of problems. This year it was mainly with my brother's wife, who comes under my category of 'difficult women' (along with my mother I might add). For instance, at one point she insisted that I should have rose wine because that's what she and my mother wanted in spite of my saying that I didn't like rose. My mother was fine with it and anyway I was paying half the bill, so why shouldn't I have what I wanted? She raised her eyebrows (well as much as anyone who's had botox can) several times at me. I couldn't care less what she/they wanted, I would have bought them a bottle for themselves, but the insistence that I had to drink it too was a bit much. I stood firm and ended up with rather a nice glass of Chenin Blanc. Result!

Then we had the usual complaints about the food (I swear she can't go anywhere without complaining at least once), the usual getting up from the table to give my brother a hug and kiss making sure everyone in the restaurant sees her (I kid you not), the inumerable times she shouts out 'darling' to my brother at every conceivable moment... ok, I'm going to leave it there, but suffice it to say these were the tip of the iceberg.

Yesterday my mother took me to lunch at The Reform Club in Pall Mall. It's a fantastic building with the most unbelievably beautiful glass dome in the ceiling. However, they might class themselves as full of 'traditional, progressive spirit' but that, friends, is as long as you're not wearing jeans... which of course I was. To cut a long story short, I was allowed in and allowed to eat lunch but not in the main dining room. And I had to keep my coat with me in case any of the fuddy duddies, sitting looking very uncomfortable in their suits, complained.

I thought it was hilarious, but my mother wasn't quite so relaxed and did mutter something about not being able to take me anywhere. There was one very funny moment when we were talking with the manager and a woman came up to me and said how much she loved my coat. She obviously wasn't fazed by my bejeaned legs at all.

So that was London and I'm pleased I got out of there without being thrown out of anywhere and without smacking anyone, even though I think it was touch and go on both counts!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Priorities sorted

Goodness, here we are in March!

It's not just that the year seems to be zipping by, but frankly I'm now becoming a tad anxious as my trip to Thailand (for work I assure you) is drawing closer at a helluva rate. I leave the UK on 28th March and don't come back until 2nd May. Some of that... at the end... will be holiday, but before that I have to get to work.

I've done pretty much nothing to prepare myself and will need to cobble together presentations and sensible clothes to look a bit professional.

I have, however (and I'm sure you'll be utterly reassured to know), bought a new swimsuit, which my lovely friend Tracy sent all the way from South Africa for me.

I know that sounds a bit extreme, but when I was over there a few years back I bought a very cheap and flattering tankini from an outlet in Port Elizabeth, but late last year I went swimming in a pool when I suddenly realised the elastic in the bottoms had worn out and I rather embarrassingly had to grasp hold of them rather unbecomingly otherwise I would have been even more embarrassed.

Anyway, I looked and looked in the UK for one I liked, but couldn't find anything, so during a Skype with Tracy she said she'd go and look in the same outlet in PE for me and so for the grand price of £28 (including P&P) she bought one for me and sent it across. It's not quite as pretty as the last one, but fits like a dream.

I've also, under the guise of work, bought myself a MacBook Air. Right I know that really is a bit extreme and a lot more expensive than the swimsuit, but it felt like a necessity for lightweight computer travel, at least that's how I sold it to myself in John Lewis.

I've been practising travelling with it in my handbag while going to London for my mother's 92nd birthday today. It's brill.

So there you have it... you can see that I have my priorities in order!