master was cross with me
because of what i ve done
to his strelitzia


it s not my fault
i thought i saw a frog in there

anyway he still loves me
and brings me tasty treats

Hose Connector

this is what they look like
after i ve chewed them.

Tasty Snack




“Behold I [God] will bring the waters of a great flood upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, under heaven. All things that are in the earth shall be consumed.”
                 – Genesis 6:16

That’s how floods happen, right? God gets angry. There’s a lot of rain. Flood happens. Well, not in Thailand. In fact, the rainfall last year was only marginally greater than usual. The catastrophic flooding was more caused by man’s greed than the hand of God.

The primary cause of the flooding was the mismanagement of water levels in major dams on rivers running south through the central plains. Water was held back so that fields downstream would remain dry so that rice farmers could make their third harvest of the year. This meant that the dams filled up to capacity and beyond. It was only mid-October when the massive Bhumibol dam was full to the brim. So when the rain kept coming, there was no option other than to let the water flow unconstrained down river.

What should have happened next is that excess water should have been redirected to low lying land – so-called “monkey cheeks”. However, much of this land is used for farming, and farmers don’t particularly like having their crops ruined. Influential people who depend upon farmers’ votes for their lucrative positions ensured that the sluice gates on their home turf remained firmly closed. It has been said that in Suphanburi province the MP personally holds all the sluice gate keys, and that not a single sluice gate was opened in his constituency.

So, farmers crops were spared – crops estimated to be worth about $95 million – at the cost of the devastation of seven major industrial estates – damage estimated at over $31 trillion – yes, trillion! And that’s not even counting the cost to the millions of people whose homes were flooded or small businesses ruined.

When the flood water reached Bangkok it was managed with what looks like ineptitude. But then the Flood Relief Operation Centre was manned by political cronies of the government, rather than by experts in water and disaster management. (They couldn’t even chose a dry spot for their offices, and were quickly flooded and had to be relocated.) Many mistakes were made in the opening and closing of sluice gates around Bangkok. And things weren’t made any better by angry residents forcibly opening gates so that their homes could be drained a little sooner at the expense of those living elsewhere.

Lack of building planning is another contributing factor. For example, before Suvarnabhumi airport was built the area acted as both a sponge (the original name for the area translates as “Cobra Swamp”) and a floodway to the sea. Now the water has nowhere to go. Industrial estates, housing estates and roads have all blocked the ways for water to drain.

Bangkok’s klongs have largely fallen into a state of disrepair. Local residents use them to dispose of their rubbish (and the stench from them can be unbearable) plus they are rarely dredged. To make matters worse, people have built homes at the sides of klongs, stealing part of the waterway and narrowing the klong. In at least one case an entire klong has “disappeared” after being filled in and built over.


So there it is, a sad litany of greed, selfishness and incompetence. Still, surely lessons have been learned, so this won’t happen again? Well, it seems not. The Bumibhol dam is still 91% full and experts are warning that this is far too high for this time of year, with the rainy season just around the corner. I guess I won’t be putting the waterwings away just yet.


i have often wondered why Whisky Portrait
master always picks up
my poo and keeps it in a bag
anyway last night
master was reading me
a fairy story about a goose
that laid golden eggs
suddenly it clicked
i must be

the dog that lays the golden poos

funny thing is though
that they don t look
very shiny
i guess master must spend
a lot of time polishing them
when i m not looking



13 Jan – American embassy announces ‘’foreign terrorists may be currently looking to conduct attacks against tourist areas in Bangkok in the near future.’’

13 Jan – Hezbollah terrorist arrested in Bangkok

15 Jan – Deputy Prime Minister Kowit Wattana said “ the situation is under control”

16 Jan – Kowit further adds “The government can take care of people’s security and they need not be concerned about the terrorist warning issued by several foreign countries.”

16 Jan – Police discover more than 4 tonnes of explosive material just outside Bangkok in a space rented by the Hezbollah terrorist.

It’s being reported in the Israeli press (and it was the Israelis that uncovered the plot) that the intention was to launch two attacks, one on Khao San Road – an area very popular with backpackers – and on a Jewish centre. The Thai language press reports that the terrorist had in place two large trucks to transport the explosive. However, the Thai police line is that the explosives were to be sent to other countries, simply making Bangkok a hub of international terrorism – so that’s OK, then. And we really don’t need to worry about the rest of the gang who are presumably still at large.

A couple of unanswered questions:

(1) If the US embassy hadn’t gone public, would the Thai authorities have done anything? (They’d already been informed of the threat by the Americans several weeks ago.)

(2) The US embassy is refusing to retract its warning of an imminent terrorist attack, despite the Thai PM’s request. What do the Americans know?


Calcutta doesn’t, to be honest, have much in the way of tourist attractions. However, there is a small group of Jain temples that’s well worth a look,

Jain temple in Calcutta

Another Jain temple

Jain temple corridor

The bridges across the Hooghly river are also impressive. The Howrah bridge is probably the most famous. This is the less well known Bally bridge, though now we’re supposed to call it Vivekananda Setu much in the same way as we’re supposed to call Calcutta “Kolkata” and Marathon bars “Snickers” nowadays.

Bally bridge


Puri is a seaside town very popular with Bengalis. It’s also a good jumping off point for a trip to Konark. The beach, however, is shared with dogs

Dogs on Puri beach


Cows on Puri beach

and camels.

Camel on Puri beach


And finally a couple of pictures of TLP (one with his cousin).

TLP, cousin and present


[i2011 8]

‘Tis the birthday of Jesu, a day celebrated by buying expensive gifts that are rarely what’s really wanted or muchly appreciated, a day marked by eating and drinking to satiety and beyond, and presided over by the patron saint of commercial excess, St. Santa of Claus, the sacred rites being performed before the high altar: a synthetic tree covered in gaudy baubles signifying … nothing. But this year is different.

I walk along a dusty street towards the celebration hall. Today we’ll gather, more than 400 of us, to celebrate the birth five years ago of The Little Prince, a charming young boy, so full of life and energy. TLP is dressed like a little maharajah from turban top to gold brocade shoes.

The Little Prince

He’s playfully chasing after his friend who clutches a bag of crisps. They seem oblivious to the assembling crowd.

In the kitchen the caterers have ready vast woks of boiling oil

Sizzling oil

and great bowls of food.

Vast bowls of food

The hall is decorated with balloons, and there’s a montage of photos from TLP’s life so far.

Party balloons

Tables are dressed ready for the first batch of diners. Before I can take it all in a small paper cup of sweet, milky coffee is thrust into my hand and the social round begins. I’m led to chat with various strangers with whm my generous hosts think I’ll have something in common. Remember who’s who and how they’re connected is beyond me, for every young woman is a “sister” and every older one and “aunty”.

The birthday cake, a rather lurid pink affair, is brought in,

Bringing in the cake

and we gather around waiting for TLP sporting his most serious expression to blow out the candles and cut the first slices.

TLP cuts the cake
Then it’s time to eat.

Party dining area

We eat in batches of 100. As we are seated large polystyrene plates are placed in front of each of us by one of the caterer’s team, swiftly to be topped with an enormous pile of rice. Then the dishes come in swift succession: dahl, a golden battered and fried slice of aubergine, and fried potatoes.

Rice, aubergine, dahl, fried potatoes

vegetable curry, potato curry, a battered fish steak, a spoonful of bone-in mutton curry.

Mutton curry

As each plate is cleared a blob of date & mango chutney is put on it – a digestif, I’m assured – accompanied by a chip of poppadum.

Poppadum and date/mango chutney

Being unaccustomed to eating without the leverage of cutlery I was a little slow, so only had time for rasgullah (sweet, doughy milk balls soaked in syrup)


and had to forgo the other desserts (a kind of fudge and a cake) to make way for the next sitting. Regrets, regrets.

Perhaps the most touching moment for me was when an autistic lad spontaneously grabbed me by the hand and then hugged me. Why me, I don’t know. He seemed so guileless. Soon he was pointing at the balloons on the ceiling. It was the work of moments to untwist a bouquet and give it to him.

Kid with balloon

Soon most of the children had their own balloons to toy with.

Five hours after the start most of the guests had gone. The caterers had packed away their mobile kitchen,

Caterers leaving
and I walked back home through the still bustling streets.


One of the benefits of having a birthday party with lots of guests is that you get lots of presents – in this case sack loads of them.

Sacks of presents

It’s fun unwrapping them.

Unwrapping presents

Of course, you might end up buried.

Buried by presents


TLP Portrait

Thank you, TLP.

[I2011 7]

Through a gap in the shutters I can see it’s still dark outside. The praeternatual silence in this, the noisiest of cities, is broken only by the far whistle blast of a passing train. No traffic noise, no blaring horns, no raucous shouting, no barking dog or crying kinder … nothing. I feel cocooned in a black, velvet stillness. But this, it doesn’t last.

The sun has yet to creep up towards the horizon; Suriya’s rays have yet to break night’s grip, but the crows, black as is the sky, caw, cutting – nay rending – night’s dark cloak.

As I toss fitfully, willing sweet nepenthe’s return, I hear the tinkling of a bell, frantically summoning the gods as if calling a butler at afternoon tea. Then comes the call of the conch. In my mind’s eye I envisage some householder muttering incantations and marking mystic symbols in front a small personal shrine. The bell’s tintinnabulation and shell’s bellow are soon echoed by a dozen of my neighbours. Then comes the sound as of a dinner gong. The gods placated, the day can now begin.

The house comes alive. The splash as people tip jugs of water over head and body; the slap of flip-flops on the tiled floor; the guttural throat clearing; the rattled drawing of the iron grill over the front door. Soon there’s a sizzle of vegetables frying; the smell of cooking onions escapes from the simple kitchen and makes its way under my bedroom door. So enticing. But still oblivion calls – just for a few more minutes.

[I2001 6]

First hail a pedal rickshaw to take you through the rutted streets to the local train station. Now dismount.

Next, cross the railway tracks via the pedestrian bridge. On the far side negotiate futilely with the autocab drivers, who will demand four times the normal fare. Then force your way onto a local bus, applying maximum pressure to squeeze your way between passengers who have already filled it way beyond any sort of reasonable capacity.

Get off at the ferry terminal.

Now board the wooden ferry boat across the Hooghly river, taking care not to fall over the sides, which have no safety rails.

After that, pick your way through the local market to the train station and take the first train to Howrah Junction.

At Howrah Junction, buy some food and drink to consume on the train, then board the overnight train to Puri.

Once on the train, locate your sleeping berths and remonstrate with your fellow passengers who have commandeered some of your spaces. This will have no effect whatsoever, but is part of local tradition. Then summon the conductor who, also in accordance with tradition, will side with the interlopers. Accept that your party will be split up.

It is now necessary to wait for the arrival of the train’s hijra (i.e. transsexual – often pre-op and always in a very cheap frock) whose role it is to create a lot of noise and maximum embarassment (for you) so that you pay “her” to go away.

Next, lower your bed into place, lie down and cover yourself with a blanket. Pretend to sleep for the next seven hours whilst enjoying your neighbours’ making and receiving ‘phone calls late into the night on their mobiles. Thrill to the stench of the latrines which fills the carriage each time the train slows down. Listen amazed to the call of the chai-wallah as he walks regularly up and down the train calling out his offerings of tea and coffee. And if you get bored, watch the cheery cockroaches frolicking around the carriage.

If your train appears to be on time, don’t despair – the driver will run into – or over – something at a level crossing to ensure that Indian Railway’s renowned record for punctuality isn’t affected.

On arriving at Puri choose an autorickshaw driver who can both be able to squeeze all nine members of your party plus luggage onto a vehicle that can reasonably hold five and can go to your requested destination*. It is recommended that you cling on for dear life on the way to your hotel, and pray to your favourite deity that the three-wheeler might not tip over on a sharp corner.

Once at your hotel, reflect upon the fact that in a few days you’ll have to make the return journey.

* Our trip organiser was concerned that if the group were split half might be taken to a different hotel (despite the fact that the rooms were pre-booked) in the hope of a little kick-back from the hotel. Not an unreasonable concern based upon previous experiences I’ve had in India with taxi drivers from both airports and train station.

[I2011 4]

Legend has it that the temple at Konark was built by Krishna’s eldest son, Samba. Samba was devilishly handsome, and rather full of himself, so when a wandering wise man visited he ignored him. The wise man decided to punish Samba for his arrogance and gave alcohol to the wives of both Samba and his father – all 16,100 of them. In a state of inebriation Krishna’s wives, shall we say, lost their inhibitions with respect to Samba. Unsurprisingly, Krishna was a little miffed with what happened, so cursed his son with leprosy. After 12 years of suffering, Samba was cured, and so in gratitude to Surya, the sun god, he built a magnificent temple.

Konark sun temple, Surya figure

Reality is a little more prosaic. The temple was, in fact, built at the behest of King Narasimhadeva I in the 13th century.

The entrance is guarded by two stone lions trampling on war elephants. Under each elephant body is a human crushed.

Konark sun temple, entrance lion crushes elephant and man

The temple is build in the form of a massive chariot (arka) with 12 pairs of wheels pulled by horses.

Konark sun temple horse

Konark sun temple wheel

Konark sun temple chakra

The walls are completely smothered in fine carvings showing animals

Konark sun temple, lion crushes elephant

some weird

Konark sun temple creature

Konark sun temple creatures

dancers and musicians

Konark sun temple dancers and musicians

I couldn’t quite work out what some of the people were up to, though.

Konark sun temple - what are they doing?

As Tagore wrote of this place:

“Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.”

[I2011 4]

A short cycle rickshaw ride then a shorter walk, and I see a tower belching smoke. Immediatley my mind turns to Orthanc and Isengard, but rather than orcs being groined from the ground, here they make bricks.

Brick works, Calcutta

Men and women crouch, picking up lumps of clay and then throwing them into wooden moulds, pressing the clay down, and swiftly level the tops with a wire before turning the blocks out ready to dry. Then back for the next and the next. They work apace, for the pittance they’ll receive depends upon how many bricks they’ve made that day.

Bricks drying

I notice a stick-thin girl – perhaps, I think, a couple of years old. Then I notice her tinier sister next to her, also pathetically emaciated. And finally I notice a small baby clinging to the back of the first girl, looking like a tiny spider monkey shawn of its fur. It’s a pathetic tableau. None of the girls looks healthy. No-one her elooks healthy, child or adult. Faces are drawn and aunt, eyes dead and soulless. Some children are pot-bellied, whether from worms or kwashiorkor, I know not, and it doesn’t make any difference, for in this place there’s money enough neither to fill the belly, nor to heal the sick.

Many of these people aren’t from these parts. Their clothing belies their origins, as their faces proclaim their homelands. They’ve been drawn here in their millions in the hope of a better life. If this is the better life, then what hellish existence have they left behind?

Child workers at brick works, Calcutta

[I2011 3]