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Britain is a dark and gloomy place

It’s been a massive shock being back. I know from experience that it will only take a week or two to get used it all but right now, I just want to stay in and hibernate.

Britain is cold and dark. The sun came up and 08:01am and set at 15:52pm. In between there was hardly anything that could be called “daylight”. It was cloudy and snowy all day. Everyone is miserable. The other day I met a mate for a drink and he had black eyes and a puffy face as he was attacked by a random nutter a few days before. London is exciting like that.

Last night I went to the pub with some friends and we had to move pub as we couldn’t face queuing up at the bar. In Thailand there are hot waitresses everywhere that remember your drink and get you a new one when you look at them. Plus they are hot.

Food here is bland. Even the Thai food is toned down.

My first shift when I got back was a nightmare to get to. Due to a signal failure in Camden, the whole network went tits up. When I finally got on a train, they kicked us off at Willesden Junction – a station that is remarkable for its distance from any alternate means of transport. I ended up being 40 minutes late for my first shift in ages. To make matters even worse, there was work to do. Will this suffering never end?

The only things that are keeping me going are: the traditional binge-drinking over the Christmas and New Year period, my growing addiction to on-line poker, and the anticipation over the new Avatar movie.

I promise to write more soon. Next time I will be more cheerful!

The Thai wedding.

Well it’s all almost over. After a month in Thailand, the return to Blighty and darkness and televisual toil beckons once more. No mysterious benefactors have stepped out of the woodwork to give me the millions I’ve hoped and prayed for, so I’m coming back. As an atheist, the prayers were probably a waste of time but I thought I’d give the deities a go, a chance to redeem themselves, but nothing…

It has been a superb trip.

The first week was all predictably taken up with preparations for the wedding. Actually all the main preparations had been done and paid for by Nim’s family before we even got there. I am eternally grateful to them all for this as the day turned out to be perfect.

My nerves started to mount as we met members of the family and gave them invites. One minute it was a retired colonel, the next minute we were at a hospital owned by a member of the family, the next was a nice household full of friendly relatives drinking tea. It was a bit of a whirlwind! We then saw the ballroom and stage and seating arrangements and where we were to pray and sit and make speeches. It was all a bit daunting. Then there were visits to the tailors where my wife got a stunning dress and I got a Thai-style top that actually made me look quite good – as opposed to a daft foreigner in a Thai shirt (although there was an element of that). Nim truly looked gorgeous though.

In all our finery!

In all our finery!

Then it was the actual day! We loitered around the entry area welcoming the hundred or so guests. (I nipped out for a few cigarettes but was there a lot.) A few million photos later and we were seated in special chairs. There was a row of nine monks in front of us who started chanting and everyone adopted their finest prayer positions. As stated before, the ceremony was opened by the head of the Ministry for the Interior (another family member). At some point Nim and I had to pour water into a special bowl and then light some incense and candles at an altar. Then there was more chanting and praying. I became surprised and mildly alarmed at how tired my hands had started to become and noticed a few Westerners feeling similar discomfort. The prayer position is not a natural one. Try it yourself for half an hour.

The room as guests begin to arrive.

The room as guests begin to arrive.

We then knelt and received a blessing from the head monk and more water was poured. Things became a bit confused in my mind at this point but I had helpful whisperings from Nim as to what I should be doing and was apparently quite convincing in pretending I knew what the hell was going on. We then prayed in front of each of the monks who flicked water on us with bunches of twigs. Soon after this the monks were given food and we gave them gifts each.

Blessed by monks.

Blessed by monks.

Nim and I were then instructed to sit in a different bit and we knelt forward with our hands over ornate bowls. My hands immediately started to cramp again. Some beautiful flower things were draped over us, some kind of paste daubed on our foreheads and a circle of string was placed around both our heads that were joined by a single strand. A queue formed and people came forward to pour water from a special gourd over our hands and into the bowls as they blessed us. It was all very touching but by the end my hands began to ache and shake. Hopefully no one noticed or thought it was emotion.

It was incredibly touching and emotional though as I was warmly welcomed into Nim’s family.

When all this was done, I breathed a sigh of relief and started to flex my weary digits. Too soon! We had to stay in position as a million photos were due to be taken. Ages seemed to pass and as we were joined by precariously joined pieces of string, there was no way we could see what was happening behind us. Eventually it was done and I have to say that some damn fine photos came out of it. My smile grew increasingly fixed by the end and my hands began to curl inward but it was worth it.

We then broke for lunch and a tour of tables and relatives. And a quick smoke break.

Flowers and string

Flowers and string

Four of us were then summoned to the stage – Nim’s uncle, my dad, Nim, and myself. Nim’s uncle gave a speech in Thai that seemed to go down well. Then my dad gave a great speech that started with a sentence in Thai and received immediate applause. Nim was supposed to be next but then I was asked to step up instead. Which was good as it pre-empted my nerves. I gave a speech in English, which seemed to go down ok and then came the bit I had been dreading. My paragraph of Thai. I’d practiced it a lot but was fairly concerned. Ninety percent of the audience spoke the lingo pretty well after all. I think because it came at the end of my fairly well received English speech, I was no longer nervous and it went quite well. A Thai friend remarked afterwards that it was the first time she’d actually understood everything I’d said. Nim then gave a superb and emotionally charged speech that put mine to shame and had half the room in tears. Bless her.

Can you understand my finest Thai?

Can you understand my finest Thai?

Feelings were running quite high at this point but there was a bit more to come. A new area was prepared and Nim and I knelt and were blessed by our nearest and dearest members of the family in turn. We knelt and the couples sat on chairs and gave us astoundingly beautiful gifts and family heirlooms that had been passed down through both our families. I felt honoured to be receiving lovely gold and jewel encrusted heirlooms that had been passed through Nim’s family for generations. It was probably the most touching part of the whole day as our parents whispered blessings and well-wishes.

Then we were done. I was physically and emotionally drained – as was Nim. It was quite a day. It was at this point Nim turned and said, “That was the short version of a Thai wedding.”

All done!

All done!

That evening there was a party at a pub owned by a friend of ours called The Pickled Liver. It was quite alcoholic and very welcome.

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I got married… again! This time Bangkok Buddhist Style

Yes, I’ve done it again. Same lady, but different country and very different ceremony. So my blog and review output has been somewhat lacking. Apologies for this but I have to have priorities.

My ‘Wedding 2’ was held in a large ballroom in Bangkok. There were nine monks, a hundred guests, and lots of emotion. It also featured myself giving a speech that ended with a load of surprisingly comprehensible Thai. I will write more on this very soon but I’m a bit drained at the moment. It promises to be a fascinating article when it happens. The ceremony was opened by a (now) relative who is the head of the Ministry of the Interior. That’s just for starters. I will talk about all the monks chanting and string tying and water blessings soon. I promise.

Life has almost returned to normal. Normal for my life in Bangkok anyway. It feels great to be back here and hanging out with friends. I barely feel as if I left. All I have to do now is write a 1500 word essay on linguistics and historical perspectives on socio-dialects and attitudes toward them by tomorrow night. Then I can finally chill out and blog my ass off.

Right now though, I’m going for a pint. Of Tiger. In a street cafe in Bangkok. Life is good.

I’m now entering the ‘World Domination’ phase of my life plan!

I’m in Bangkok! God I love this place! Apart from the fact that where I’m staying has no internet, everything is perfect in the world of Ward. I lived here for two years before I was forced back to Blighty. I spent my days in coffee shops and bars happily writing away and get hyped on coffee or drunk on Tiger beer. Occasionally an editor would phone me up and ask me to attend an art opening or review a book or interview someone. It was a happy and carefree time. Unfortunately, while I was just about able to live on this, I couldn’t really see any future in it. Even more unfortunately, I’m in my 30s now and have to think a bit about the future. So I reluctantly returned to my glittering career watching tv in high-tech windowless broadcasting facilities in London. This coincidentally was the exact moment when I started smoking heavily again.
But I have big plans! This site seems to be gathering pace and soon I expect to earning as much as £5 a month from it. I am also midway through a degree which will mean I can finally accept one of the job offers I have received out here in either the English department of a top university, or sub-editor of a newspaper. Neither of which were available without a work-permit, which can only be attained by having a degree. Which is annoying and frustrating, but so is life, so I’ll stop bitching about it. I have also decided to try my hand at online poker, which is a sure fire route to big success.
I have actually met a few professional poker players out here and they seem to really enjoy themselves. Bastards. Sadly the two I asked said that they didn’t make a penny until after they had been playing regularly for at least a year. Worth a try though right? I can’t see any way this plan can go wrong.
So if anyone enjoys this site, just wait a while. Soon I will have more free time to read books, watch films, and play games. All so you don’t have to. Nice of me isn’t it?
The only problem is my current lack of internet and that will be fixed on the 18th. Then – watch out world!
In a bit.

So What’s Been Happening?

Well, it’s 6:30am and I’m eleven hours into my shift. Or to put it another way – nothing’s happening and I’m at work being paid quite handsomely to watch Doctor Who. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. I do know that it could be a lot worse but I really need a beer. I’m doing 11 12-hour shifts in a two week period and it hasn’t allowed me much social life. Again this is both a good and bad thing. Good for my liver and bad for my brain. I finish on Monday morning, will catch a couple of hours sleep and head for the Notting Hill Carnival. When I will rectify the situation with cans of Red Stripe.

Because of all this I haven’t done much. I read the paper a lot. So er, here’s what’s been happening I found mildly interesting over the past few days:

A-level and GCSE results are up yet again. If you’re a pessimist, then you probably think that this is because they are getting easier so that schools can report better results and the government can say how brilliant the education is. If you’re an optimist and don’t want to belittle the young

The next generation of Brits.

The next generation of Brits.

people’s achievements then presumably you are in awe of the increasingly super-genius that are leaving schools. Year upon year the British are getting smarter and it’s quite baffling that we haven’t ruled the world by now. Having read a few internet forums on sites like Amazon, I have to say I’m leaning toward cynicism. The other day someone was reviewing something and said they had ‘buyed’ this and it was crap. They were 18. This was not an isolated event and one forum descended into a generational debate between 30/40 year olds and teen/20 year olds. All the younger generation were morons in this forum and defended themselves by saying it was just a forum. The older generation pointed out that buyed isn’t a word and you don’t confuse your, you’re, they’re, their, and there because you are relaxed and simply chatting. You do it because you’re an idiot. Or is it ‘your an idiot’ (just a wee joke). Most of us older types claimed it was a matter of dignity, learning, and that the younger ones sucked. With that said, the other 30/40 year olds and I, proud in our maturity, wisdom, and education left the Playstation 3 discussion room in disgust.

In defense of Britain’s youth, I suspect they are exactly equal in intelligence to all previous generations. They are just worse at spelling.

Another news story I saw was about a high-speed train that will go from London to Scotland in 2 hours. Which is cool if you’re feeling too dry and warm and crave a deep-fried mars bar.

These deep fried Mars Bars could be two hours away in the wonderful future.

These deep fried Mars Bars could be two hours away in the wonderful future.

Actually I’m being flippant here as I love Scotland. The bits I’ve been to anyway. Mostly Edinburgh in fact. I have spent the odd day in Glasgow, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan too and they were delightful. Apparently you will also be able get to Manchester and Liverpool in an hour which is pretty impressive. The article added as an afterthought that you’d be able to go to Birmingham in 45 minutes but seemed at a loss as to why. I have yet to meet anyone who has ever gone to Birmingham. Maybe it awesome and happening and a brilliantly kept secret.

Roll on 2030!

Roll on 2030!

The only problem with this train is that it won’t be in place until 2030. Which says something about British transport. There will be a moon base and we will have landed on Mars before we can build a quick train to Scotland. There is something deeply wrong with this scenario.

I wrote about how few have died from swine flu recently and struggled to think of something nobody has ever heard of that has killed more. I then read in a paper of a 16 year old girl who died of adult cot death. This is incredibly tragic and apparently kills hundreds of adults a year. I did a bit of internet research and found that this is linked to the rather alarmingly named Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. Where you just die. Probably while doing something dull. I have decided to worry about this instead. I now really resent work just in case it happens there.

Apparently most Brits are staying put in Britain this year and enjoying what the media have rather tediously dubbed a ‘staycation’. On top of this, more and more people are staying in and drinking at home due to the recession, pub prices and the smoking ban. This combination of staying in and drinking has led to the biggest baby boom in 50 years. Then it was relief to have survived the war and not be speaking German but now it seems to be alcoholic boredom. There’s not a lot on telly, you’re drunk with the missus, what else is there to do? I did read that the average Brit who has left the country on holiday consumed an average of 8 alcoholic drink per person every day. This booze expenditure is probably why we are so welcome abroad.Send_Booze

In summary then, not a lot has been happening and I’ve done bugger all.

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