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  1. The week that was in Thailand news: Hallelujah! At least a semblance of sanity is returning to Thailand I'm not a religious person, more a devout atheist, yet were they angels I heard when my condo management decided to open our swimming pool at last? Nah, it was a more earthly noise; I mistook the screeching sound of the BTS trains, weighed down by the crowds returning to work, for something celestial. Having lived in Thailand nearly four decades Rooster often confuses angels and their sounds, if you get my drift. Still, it was a great swim on Wednesday on a beautifully clear and quiet Bangkok day. Trooping down to the deserted pool (are people still scared?) with my gleeful chicks armed with balls and rubber rings. My seven year old got her first sunburn and I strained my back with the first serious exercise since February. Another detriment was getting incredibly hungry. Swimming is something I have taught all my children to do, quite adeptly. I say "taught" but really it is just encouragement and repetition. With about as many children drowning in Thailand as dying on motorcycles, I figure it is an important life skill. Despite being a teacher for thirty years, I mostly stay out of my kid's formal education. After all it's better to have someone else to blame when it all goes pear shaped (like always having the Thai wife do the navigating in the car). I can teach them other important things.I steadfastly pass on my native tongue rarely indulging in Thai with my kids. I teach them the difference between Marmite and Vegemite while retaining an appreciation for both. I instruct them in moderate irreverence; if it descends into anarchy Mrs R takes over to reinforce the "Three Rs" taught at their Thai school.....religion, royalty and rote. Though I was happy that she agreed with me that the online lessons for the kids were so dreadfully dull as to be worthless. I shall continue to teach my kids self sufficiency, bread making and frugality until the school belatedly opens on July 1st. One must instil values in one's children. Like reminding them of the importance of being Asian when it comes to giving their respected dad half their salary. My eldest - a temporarily poor equities trader in Canary Wharf - pays for her mum, she's not daft. She says she will find funds for the Sunshine Retirement Home IF I make it that far. (Though I hope she doesn't think that will be an English care home where the inmates have been dropping like flies from the lurgy in recent months). I taught both my now adult children to play Scrabble. My son, now 26 and waiting for a few years for the university in Liverpool to open again, has two words after I introduced the wonderful world of crossword gaming to him. Child abuse. Life for Rooster started to resemble a semblance of reality this week. This was mirrored in the news. After starting 90% of my daily Thai to English news translations with "Covid-19" in recent months, it was almost a joy to get back to some honest to goodness road rage, senseless and needless murder with a slathering of Thai and Farang drama and banality thrown in for good measure. Almost.... After the opening of the pool I decided to venture out onto the mean streets of Bangkok. At least 98% of people in masks, some hiso's even in shields! I needed to shorten a long list of things put off because of lockdown. First trip to the mobile shop that I reckon sold Mrs R a dodgy battery. Strike one - I paid an extra 200 baht for a better one that is just the same. At least I didn't give in to buying a new phone as suggested by the owner who I now refer to as Amah Khee Gong at home. Then it was off to Lotus. The mobile shop had kept my phone for the afternoon so it was an honest breeze getting past the QR code brigade. I decided on "no have phone" rather than "mai mee thorasap" as I didn't want an inquiry or to use a pen. (Apparently old westerners in Pattaya are having problems with QR codes. They think it means Quarantine Rations. But I do sympathise; I grew up in an era when we used to throw stones at the geeks in the computer club because they were as square as the screens on their silly machines that would never catch on). Lotus (are two branches called 'loti?) delighted me with delicious nine baht lemons and 29 baht a kilo spuds. The latter went excellently with a free pizza delivery, promised on a previous occasion when the overworked motorcycle guy took over two hours from oven to door. My word those Grab and Food Panda guys are like buzzing insects flitting about the city. If you took them off the streets there would have been few bikers left. (One of my "steeds" is awaiting a spark to reignite it's potential for mayhem on the roads). Apropos, this week came news that 40 of those delivery dudes had been hoaxed in a bogus mass pizza and Oishi party. Next stop were the banks to get the two remaining ATM cards updated to the new 6-digit system. I'd forgotten my passport. Driving licence "chai mai dai kha". The first arranged it but said I had to bring my passport in on collection, the second shook her head wearily behind a mask, shield and makeshift screen. With the handy disguise of my my multi-rewashed Hello Kitty mask, I grumbled about being made to feel less like an old customer and more like a leper. Next stop was Big C. After registering at 36.5C or thereabouts for about the fifth time that day, I received what looked like a yellow Star of David sticker for my arm. Whatever, I wasn't there to buy pork but some cut price boxers. Finally to Homepro for a door knob that was duly fitted by our condo handyman who I call Egor. The other guy is Lurch. On the plus side, it is understandable that they know far more about knobs than me. Back home there was just time to paint the children's Wendy House fashioned from a fridge carton. The wife looked on admiringly but I was careful not to lower my guard and spill the beans that we have spent so little during the lockdown, 30,000 baht this last month. We'll see what damage there is when the air-con enhanced electricity bill arrives before I start getting generous. Like my return to normality so the news followed suit. Only less mundane! Here in no particular order are some of the best Thai based stories of the last seven days with a smattering of Whitehall and White House for good measure. Enjoy! 1. Drama of the week - especially for the forum curmudgeons who relish a hearty Thai bash - was the story of Ron, 86, who was rescued by a Liverpudlian after being allegedly mistreated and starved by some local family who kept him upstairs atop some pallets. A crowd fund was set up and he was due back to Blighty on Eva today. His Hua Hin savior, praised online as a superhero, quickly faced accusations of ripping people off in real estate. He was none too happy when I spoke to him about this, but after I managed to get a denial of sorts, he put Ron on speakerphone which proved quite a challenge for the octogenarian. Still, the war veteran and ex-cabby, two related fields of human conflict, expressed his heartfelt wish to return to Thailand one day. Not to hook up with another Thai woman but to reunite with his dog. Oh well.... 2. Dozens of hotel pool villas burnt to the ground in Hua Hin after sparks from burning fields nearby set them ablaze. The same thing happened last year. The disgrace that is crop burning has to stop both here in Thailand and in the rest of Asia. The cleaner air many of us have been breathing, as well as a host of other positive changes to the environment during the pandemic, must serve as lessons. Recently it was reported that national parks could close for two months a year. That's the spirit! 3. That bloated beast of the skies, Thai Airways, filed for a version of bankruptcy. Creditors can Whistle Dixie while the airline starts running into yet more billions of debt. Six thousand people face losing their jobs. They will buck the trend by going from inactive posts to something more constructive that, in time, might add to the Thai economy instead of bleeding it dry like the thirsty elite do with their so called "national carrier". 4. Most clicks of the week went to a Thai teacher trying to teach English online. Her pronunciation left a little to be desired. When I heard it I thought it was some new dialect of Asian-cum-African extraction combining sounds like those guys who click their tongues mixed up with weird tones. Bloomin' expat whinging about theThais' English, I hear some say. Well I know how the woman feels. I was a Thai language teacher here for twenty years. Mind you, my pronunciation has always been my strong point. And if I ever got too far out of my Thai comfort zone I could always switch to English. The lady on the TV didn't have that option; reverting to Thai would have meant a colossal loss of face, something as a barefaced farang I never needed to worry about. 5. My colleague "Dan About Thailand" wrote about how much he has learned during his lockdown with family on the beach at Koh Chang, about how he hoped his life would take a new path. I wish I could say I have learned something. But as I said in a previous week all I can pinpoint is that I am not as much of a hermit as I thought. Oh, and that I am quite useless at baking bread. 6. In Suphanburi a lottery seller took umbrage with a municipal "jobsworth" (my word) drawing blood and causing stitches after whacking him over the head with a coffee cup. It had been a disagreement over an overzealous mask wearing request. Not to condone his behavior, but being a closet anarchist some of these local officials remind me of the traffic wardens where I was born. Will bad karma be visited on them one day along with the people that attack them? 7. Thai drama of the week was undoubtedly the 70 year old grannie motorcycle taxi rider who murdered a young security guard. Jobsworth was not the cry this time though the guard may have started it. Gran couldn't believe that a swipe with such a small fruit paring knife could kill. Clearly her Khun Khrus didn't teach her that when you take a knife to a fight you may have to pay the consequences. 8. That pathetic, needless death in Bang Plee was reflected in Bang Bung, Chonburi, where a three year old toppled into a bucket in the loo while her cousins were otherwise engaged in the pointlessness of online lessons. Little Am died for nothing. 9. Down in FQUOTES (the Former Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard) another motorcycle taxi rider (my, aren't they mischievous!) made off with a foreigner's 10,000 baht he was doling out to the needy. Police are looking for a man with a number on his back, with no passenger, no helmet, weaving from side to side after consuming a vat of Lao Khao. Plod are working through 10,000 suspects. 10. Officials at Suwannaphum (my spelling) discovered there were three Nigerians hunkering down at the airport these last few months. Last week it was just one. Seriously though, it would have been better for the authorities to offer something more than Mama noodles to help these desperately stranded people caught in transit without visas. Is that so hard? 11. A NIDA poll captioned as Freedom vs Health told us that 78% of the Thai public wanted to keep the bars and clubs closed that infuriated the forum faithful no end. The people were also in favor of keeping the curfew. Not surprisingly this emboldened the National Security Council to recommend that the emergency measures continue for another month. The Covid Committee lapped it up and approved. Goodness, how these generals love their control. One likes to think that when this is all over there might be a reckoning. Then Rooster awoke.... 12 A reckoning is what will be coming in the UK after a series of gaffes and patent deceptions perpetrated on the British not least about those care homes. I have claimed in previous columns that the Thai and UK response was equally good and equally poor. I am starting to think that Thailand, with its handy recourse to authoritarianism, has leapt ahead in the credibility stakes. Over in the US of A its leader lurched and leered from the sublime to the ridiculous getting involved in a pathetic spat with the equally idiotic leader of the Democrats then swapping his Dettol for some other unapproved remedy. It's like Looney Tunes over there. 13. In Lopburi the tourist police took pity on another Brit who couldn't pay his hospital bill. I feel sorry for some of these foreigners in Thailand who have been unable to plan their retirement or have contingencies against change. But this one had a car for goodness sake and was on his way to visit friends. The report never mentioned if they could help. Thai police were also filmed (by themselves) offering the long arm of the law to a broken down motorcyclist. Well, it made a change from honest cabbies. 14. Again in Pattaya the traditional massage shops begged to reopen. Let's hope things end well for them though perhaps not in a happy ending. 15. Panasonic announced they were sacking 800 and moving some of their production to Vietnam. This thrilled some on the forum who are members of the SS........Schadenfreude Society. Finally, the railway police arrested a man and a woman in Hua Hin with 19 kilos of "ice". At first it appeared like finally some good work from plod until the name of the lady was revealed. METHanee the Mule kind of gave it away. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2020-05-24 - Whatever you're going through, the Samaritans are here for you - Follow Thaivisa on LINE for breaking COVID-19 updates
  2. The week that was in Thailand news: Free at last! Free at last! Well, free to laugh. As Thailand began what is now known as "Phase Two" of the coronavirus pandemic, there was some optimism in the air. If the figures are to be believed, we have turned the corner and can now start getting our lives back, albeit in bitesize increments. Uncle Too has kindly given us back an extra hour before bedtime. But it is the opening of those national institutions that are as much a part of daily life as somtam gai yang and Muay Thai that is much more important to the well being of the national psyche. Yes, the malls are due to be opening again today, Sunday. Those who think Thai boxing is the national sport have obviously never spent a weekend at Central, Paragon and the like. "Dern Hang" can be translated as aimlessly wandering around in free air con with your mate because it's cheap and there is nothing better to do. Call it the national sport. Roooster has done tons of it. I have been a Scrabble playing professional for nearly thirty years and all our Thai tournaments - famous worldwide for the number of children they attract - have been held nationwide in shopping centers. I calculate that I have spent well over a year of my life in Thai malls so I am far more expert on this fundamental aspect of Thai life than anything more traditionally cultural. So as our new found freedom - even though it will be a new found normal - is thrust upon us, I thought it was a fine time to ditch the coronavirus angst and plump for a happy column focusing on humor and only humor in the last seven days in Thailand. So grab a coffee and relax for we might just be, in the words of a popular American, "Free at last!". And we should always be free to laugh. Chiang Mai kicked off the Thaivisa week with news that countless businesses had set up caring and sharing cabinets for the needy. They were also handy for the unscrupulous to get some cash from resale of sardines. This was not missed on immigration chief Big Oud (the sound of a pig at the trough incidentally) who announced his own "Love&Share" cabinet scheme outside immigration offices. Rooster's English translation of his remarks in Thai indicated that he adores all foreigners as much as his compatriots. I won't apologize for the absurdity of the wind-up. Indeed, this may not be funny to some of the forum's curmudgeons who have to deposit their life savings in the bank at zero interest just to get a visa but they are never happy anyway unless Thailand is going down the pan and they rarely find anything in Thailand humorous. Down in Koh Tao, once known for murder, everyone was laughing as foreigners caught outside without masks were made to do press-ups by the road as punishment. Thank goodness that was not tried on the denizens of Pattaya or Hua Hin; it could have resulted in the decrepit and unfit ancient retirees taking all the Covid-19 bed space. In Chumphon someone has been stealing the flushes. About twenty stainless steel attachments worth nearly 100K have gone missing from the ladies and the gents at a gas station recently. A man with screwdriver was spotted on CCTV. Apparently the local constabulary are not yet flushed with success after failing to flush out the miscreant. Down in Patong, Phuket, Daily News told us in a banner headline that an Aussie had taken over a gas station to dole out free fuel to motorcyclists in need. The humor came from the standard slip of the media in mistaking Australia for a little known part of central Europe called Austria. Yes, Mr Willy (with a name like that he could have hailed from anywhere) was a proud native of the country that produced Hitler, a man who I have never seen referred to as an Australian despite the Thais being less clued up on Nazis than they should be. The Thai penchant for knowing squat all outside their borders also extends to mixing up people from Iceland and Ireland. Still not to worry, with the blanket terms "farang" and "phasaa farang" (English?) in widespread use, does it really matter exactly where we are from. Thai journalists usually avoid the specifics by referring to perceived national traits for foreigners in their stories. Hence the British are "gentlefolk", the Germans are beer guzzlers, French like perfume, the Japanese and Koreans guzzle only sushi and kimchi respectively and Americans are all called Sam. As for Austrians, well they are all Australians who are kangaroos anyway. In Bang Saen the local mayor Narongchai was ranting about his compatriots again but it was good natured. Last week the strongarm rello of Pattaya mayor Sontaya banged on about their lack of cleanliness, this week he threatened to re-close his beach road. He won't - he was just letting us know that he can if he wants. The mayor is desperate for the tourists to return as so many traders are. Apropos, the TAT - never short of ramping up the titter-o-meter - hit optimistic heights by claiming that Thailand would have 16 million foreign tourists this year and 100 million Thai domestic tourism visits. I think they will be counting the overseas clicks on Thaivisa to calculate the former and including the Thai visits to malls and parks for the latter. Last weekend Chatuchak weekend market was opened again with the new restrictions in place. Everybody was told to keep their distance as they crammed in the little lanes of the market with barely the width of a Thai neuron between them. Expect the market to be deserted today when the malls open......if we still can't have our condo pools open we demand free air conditioning goddammit! Further delays were announced for the reopening of condo pools for reasons I find impossible to comprehend. I satisfied myself by telling my condo manager that I was thrilled that he saw fit to continue to be so concerned about my health and well-being of my chicks. He smiled in appreciation - he doesn't do sarcasm or even humor to any marked extent. In Korat a 25 year old driver blamed the drizzle for overturning his pick-up. The accident occurred outside a "famous mall" showing how they are used to pinpoint locations much like the English give directions based on the names of pubs. The only difference is that the Thais, fearing defamation, won't actually mention names, while the English talk about their pubs with a reverence only matched for their beloved NHS. I mention that the driver was a quarter of a century old because Thai media invariable attributes this to the 'fact' that decisive things always happen to those experiencing "benjaphaet" - being 25. In fact it is right up there in the pantheon of excuses that include brake failure, anger, lack of readies and.......drizzle. "Sorry officer, I'm 25, even if I don't look it and it was all the other guy's fault". I'll try that next time. The story also made reference to Thaivisa's "cultural attache" - I do like to make sure that people have read to the end and try to reward those that do with a tidbit. Incidentally I was delighted to hear this week that one of Thailand's more well known and light hearted columnists - Crutch of Bangkok Post fame - is not only a regular reader of The Week That Was but actually enjoys it. (I had contacted him attempting to get in touch with his former colleague Bernard Trink who I would like to interview. The "Nite Owl", rumored to be in Sattahip, remains elusive so if anyone knows his whereabouts please let me know). In Ratchaburi reporters dashed to a house where a Pomeranian had taken up residence in her fridge to combat the searing temperatures we have been having this week. A vet suggested that one hour in a "tuu yen" is more than enough for the average long haired pooch. The story reminded this "Pom" of his first few formative days in Sydney during their interminable summer. I remember going into an incredibly large and freezing cold storage room out back of what we Brits are wont to call off licences. Having retrieved a few cans of Victoria Bitter the owner remarked about me finally having a cold beer after all that warm muck back in the old country. I had to agree that this land of milk and honey seemed better. The old country was in the midst of a huge amount of laughable events this week as the government of Boris Johnson lurched from one gaffe to another. One report said that Boris' attempt at Churchillian rhetoric had backfired and the pandemic response - with his chopping and changing and lack of fine detail - had damaged the 'Boris Brand'. Meanwhile members of his cabinet started publicly arguing over what is joshingly referred to as their policy based on the best science. The British press - most of whom look up to Viz comic for journalistic integrity - did their Schadenfreude bit by claiming that the Germans were endangering their public by ending their lockdown too soon after a spike in cases. If was all nonsense and I was surprised to find myself impressed by the calm reasoning and decisive questioning of new Labour leader Keir Starmer as he faced Boris during Wednesday's PMQs. In America - where the pandemic response would be utterly hilarious but for the disastrous death toll and destruction of the economy and employment - the POTUS (Piece Of Thoroughly Uninformed Stuff) had a spat with one of his chief health advisers, the much respected Mr Fauci. Fauci is clearly motivated by professionalism and a desire to further the public good. Surely either his sacking or resignation is in the offing given the circumstances. Back in the Land of Smiles there was a story about a group of sexy Chanthaburi dancers who had replaced shuffling for collecting durian and rambutans to make ends meet. Their ends looked very meet. The sight of these saucy vixens dressed up in what used to be called "hot pants" raised some laughs and added to the stifling temperature of the forum faithful, now denied their bar stools for so lecheringly long. While not amusing in the slightest for the victim, the apprehending of a man who came to be know as "Mr Acoustic Guitar" kept the Thais amused. He had given his guitar to a bus driver in payment for a fare after hammering his better half to death, as you do. Several people including those in the bank getting 5,000 baht handouts had remarked how similar he looked to the wanted guy on the TV. "Yes, I do don't l," said the chilled musician shortly before plod moved in to take the killer off the streets. The media said he had murdered his stepmother but that appeared to be stretching the truth as their ages were similar. To wit, as the pressure of lockdown moved into what seemed like its 100th week, Rooster and Mrs R tried to remain cool and I hid the family hammer. My eternal thanks to a close American friend and his charming daughter for saving my marriage and giving my four year old a birthday to remember this week. It's at times like this when one realises who one's friends are. Drama - and thus humor - of the week centered on a teary eyed 72 year old taxi driver called Sitchai who was featured on television bemoaning his desperate virus situation. Within hours he got 8 million baht in donations. Soon a garage rental guy started complaining that he was owed 14,000 baht and Sitchai was just a con man who lived rent free in his ex wife's house. Wisely, the alleged fraudster got a pal to transfer the cab rent and the garage owner told the media to lay off. Naew Na, the mouthpiece of the RTP and especially immigration, got themselves tied up in knots after praising the cops for finally arresting a Cameroon guy on a five year overstay. The reality was that the arrest was completely random after the African had been silly enough to break the curfew in Bang Phai, Khon Kaen. In boxing news an Australian expat (probably from Vienna) wants to set up a charity event in Thailand featuring Iron Mike Tyson. Even well into his fifties the former world champion still looks mean and ...well..hungry if his latest training video is anything to go by. Finally, former PM Thaksin added to the titter fest by condemning the lockdown as being not worth sacrificing the economy. He may well prove to have been right. The comments provided the usual responses to Thaksin or Yingluck comments with 50% of posters praising and the other half deriding. As clear a sign as any that the country remains as divided as ever. Something that is no laughing matter. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2020-05-16 - Whatever you're going through, the Samaritans are here for you - Follow Thaivisa on LINE for breaking COVID-19 updates
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