It has always struck me as a little strange that Japanese dishes such as fish tempura and tonkatsu are often accompanied by a squirt of English mustard. Similarly, it seems to me odd that omurice is almost invariably topped with tomato ketchup. The Japanese have also adopted Worcestershire sauce, and a thicker variant of it is a mandatory accompaniment to tonkatsu. And then there’s mayonnaise. It is (of course) drizzled over salads, served as a dip with takoyaki, and no okonomiyaki would seem complete without it on top.

I struggled to think of any similar flow of Japanese – or, indeed, any oriental condiment – from East to West, with the possible exception of mushroom ketchup, which I believed originated in India. That said, it’s hardly a mainstream occidental accompaniment. I was therefore rather taken aback by a recent episode of Masterchef Australia. What happened was this…

Kewpie mayo packOne contestant was asked to select one of three condiments which must play a central role in the food they were to prepare. (Specifically they were asked to make “dude food” – a culinary category I hadn’t heard of before.) The three possible condiments were tomato ketchup, Thai chili sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. The other contestants appeared universally delighted that it was to be the Japanese mayonnaise. It seems that Japanese mayonnaise has made it from Japan to Down Under.

Obviously, I’ve eaten Kewpie mayonnaise before. It’s smoother and sweeter than “true” mayonnaise. Occasionally I shop at a Japanese-owned supermarket here in Bangkok and take home a tub of potato salad and a ham sandwich which is liberally doused with the stuff (including an extra blob on the outside). It’s strangely addictive. I wondered why, and now I know…

Kewpie mayonnaise (the name coming from the abbreviation Q.P.) differs from classical mayonnaise in a number of respects. For example, it’s made only with egg yolks, rather than whole eggs, giving it a yellowish colour. It’s emulsified more than normal making it very smooth. The acid in it is a mixture of apple and rice vinegars. And … drum roll … it contains a heavy dose of MSG. No wonder it’s so more-ish and has started to take over the world! Everything tastes better with MSG – even “dude food”.


Sam Roi Yot, which translates as “Three Hundred Peaks” is a national park area about 4 hours drive south from Bangkok. It seemed like a pleasant place for a few days away from the big city – a place to breath in fresh air and relax – oh, and to eat incredibly well.

The drive down on Saturday morning was uneventful. Well, it was uneventful in the sense that I’m now so used to seeing Thai drivers taking break-taking risks with the lives of themselves and others that I’m pretty inured to the experience. Finding the hotel, however, proved a little problematical. I turned left after the statue of Jao Mae Guan Im (the Thai name for the female form of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara) as the hotel’s map indicated, but the hotel was nowhere in sight. Could there possibly be two statues of Jao Mae Guan Im on a single stretch of road? Anyway, pulling up the map on a friend’s mobile ‘phone, I was informed that the hotel was just over 11 km away, back the way I’d come. I followed the map, and when the positioning system said I was outside the hotel, there was … nothing. However, I had seen a group of beach front resorts across the bay, and headed for them.

On the hunt for the hotel, I passed a restaurant, Jim Daeng, which had been recommended for its seafood. To be honest, I might not have gone there if I’d translated the restaurant name beforehand. Daeng, I knew, means red, but Jim was unfamiliar to me. The dictionary told me it’s a slang term meaning a lady’s front bottom. Red Vagina? Not the most appetising name for a restaurant. And to be honest, I can’t think of any other restaurant named after a squish mitten – except possible Le Gavroche. I’m not sure what a Gavroche is, but it might be a lady bit. Anyway, the meal was excellent, with spicy stir fried prawns, spicier stir fried scallops, a rather herbal mixed seafood tom yam gung, and crab fried rice. And the location, just across the road from the beach, was great.

Having eventually found the hotel and settled in, we went for a walk along the beach front, which is pleasantly lined with pine trees. Such is the unpredictable nature of the weather at this time of year I really should have taken an umbrella. Such is life, it started to rain heavily as I was far away from the hotel. I tried sheltering under the awning of a beachside stall, but the rain just came through. I was fated to be soaked to the bone. When the rain stopped it left droplets of water on the pine needles which looked quite magical.

Water droplets after rain, Sam Roi Yot

A single water droplet on pine, Sam Roi Yot

Sunday was set aside to explore the national park, with the usual racist nonsense of 40 Baht admission fee for Thais, and five times that amount for foreigners. After all, everybody knows that all foreigners are incredibly wealthy and so should be fleeced, even if they live here and pay more in taxes that the typical Thai. Anyway, putting aside the unpleasant feeling such blatant discrimination produces, I drove into the park to the foot of a mountain, Khao Daeng. The uphill struggle was hard going, but the view from the top was in part glorious, and in part dispiriting because it revealed the extent of the destruction of the coastal area in the name of shrimp farming.

Shrimp farm destruction of nature in Sam Roi Yot

There wasn’t a lot of wildlife visible in the park, though I did see a large monitor lizard scurry away in the distance, and there were a few monkeys.

Monkey in tree at Khao Daeng, Sam Roi Yot

Monkeys in tree at Khao Daeng, Sam Roi Yot

Sunday lunch was at a well-known restaurant inside the park which specialises in seafood. Again, we ate very well, starting with betel leaves (I think), topped with an oyster, a little nam phrik pao (chilli jam), fried shallots and a whisper of dill. Things then got even better with steamed prawns accompanied by a rather strange, medicinal-tasting soup, and an enormous mud crab. This time I remembered to photograph the dishes.

Oyster wrapsPrawnsMud crab

The restaurant was next to a klong. The klong banks were alive with small crabs with red claws (and a few blue ones). There were also some mudskippers which hauled themselves onto the bank. If ever there were a fish so ugly that even its mother couldn’t love it…

Mudskipper, Sam Roi Yot

After lunch I wanted to see Tam Phraya Nakhon – a much-photographed cave. I parked a couple or so kilometres away and we walked over the headland to the other side. That was pretty tiring, but nothing compared with the climb up the mountain to the cave. Rather inconveniently it had been built at the top of a tall mountain. The ascent took over an hour, and I was very hot and sweaty by the time I reached the cave, which isn’t really a cave, but rather two massive sinkholes with a connecting passage.

Looking up at Tam Phraya Nakhon

Various Thai kings have liked this place and visited on more than one occasion. King Rama V liked the place so much he had a sala built here.

Sala at Tam Phraya Nakorn, Sam Roi Yot

There was also a sheet of stalactites.

Stalactites, Phraya Nakon

The descent was almost as arduous as the ascent. I must have looked in a terrible state. Several people going in the opposite direction said “su, su” meaning “fight” or “struggle” to encourage me. One couple that didn’t speak to me, commented between themselves rather in disgust that my clothing was totally soaked through. I’d liked to have told them that I was probably the only person who had climbed two mountains and over the headland that day. For most of the visitors don’t walk across the headland, but take a boat to the foot of the mountain. Still, I survived, even if the next day I was barely able to move and there wasn’t a muscle in my body which wasn’t aching.

For the final morning we’d booked a boat trip to “Monkey Island” which, as its name suggests, is an island with monkeys. However, I did rather have misgivings about getting onto the boat when I saw that the sea was teaming with thousands of jellyfish. The trip to the island didn’t take long. The pilot steered the boat onto the shore, a small, gravelly beach, and then started cutting up bananas. As if by magic a hundred or so monkeys appeared from the undergrowth.

Boat at Monkey Island, Sam Roi Yot

The young ones were particularly cute.

Monkey family

However, some of them seemed more like meercats.

Monkeys pretending to be meercats

I guess they do it for the enhanced TV ratings.

I had wondered how the monkeys (macaques, I think) survived on a small island with no source of fresh water. The pilot said that someone brought fresh water from the mainland for them.

Wide eyed monkey

However, the colony wasn’t really thriving, and the number of monkeys has gone down over the years.

Yet another monkey

Sometimes it’s a “you scratch my back” kind of world – at least for monkeys.

Monkeys grooming, Sam Roi Yot

What happened next was perhaps one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. One monkey, and it was only one, started digging where the water lapped onto the beach.

Monkey digging for cockles

He found a cockle which he then placed on a flat rock and took a smaller rock and used it to smash open the shell.

Monkey holding rock as crushing tool

That moment alone made braving the jellyfish all worth it. He then gathered more cockles and crushed them, giving me a chance to try to get a photograph of the event.

Monkey smashing cockle with rock

Monkey holding rock as tool

So, at Sam Roi Yot a good time was had by all (apart from the cockles who didn’t particularly enjoy the experience).


i see that master Whisky Portrait

is trying to embarrass me again
by showing my baby photos
not fair
i was a very cute puppy though

not a lot to report really
stayed at the doggy spa again
for a couple of nights
whilst master went away
for a short break
he tells me that he s ordered
a special harness for me
so that i can travel on the
back seat of the car
so next time i can go away
on holiday with master too

just in case you re wondering
the world s greatest living artist
that s me just in case you weren t sure
is still busily creative
here s my latest work

Deconstructed toilet roll on blue towel

i call it
deconstructed toilet roll on blue towel
magnificent no



“The things he hadn’t touched or kissed his senses
slowly stripped away
Not like Buddha not like Vishnu
life wouldn’t rise through him again”

– Lou Reed, Dime Store Mystery

A little over a year ago, just before I got Whisky, I visited my sister and nephews in England. My eldest nephew, T. had recently acquired a tiny, black kitten which he named Ivan. The ball of fluff would sit, quite contented, on T’s shoulder. Recently, Ivan didn’t come home. He was found later, dead at the roadside, presumably hit by a passing car. Some kindly soul had covered Ivan’s body with a towel. T. was, quite understandably, distraught.

Baby WhiskyOne of the things that has surprised me about having Whisky is the sense of loss I feel has he grows up. I miss the way his tail no longer curls into a perfect circle; now it’s more of a loose corkscrew. I miss the way his ears no longer flop over. I miss the way he’d jump up on the sofa as soon as my back was turned, and then look at be defiantly has I tried to get him off. I miss the funny, rubbery texture of his then almost hairless tummy. I miss the way he used to hiccough in his sleep. I miss… a lot.

“In the midst of life we are in death”



In the newspapers today was an horrific account of how a group of people had been bussed hundreds of miles from their home, forced to work for no pay, starved, and made to sleep under a bridge in the cold and wet. This is the sort of story one expects to hear from despotic regimes such as Burma or North Korea. It was therefore somewhat shocking to hear that this happened in the United Kingdom as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. So, congratulations, Queen Brenda. You can now hold your head high alongside the likes of Thein Sein and Kim Jong-Un.


In September last year the Serious Fraud Office decided to abandon its two year investigation into Weavering Capital for perpetrating what was Britain’s largest hedge fund fraud to date. Apparently the lily-livered milksops at the SFO found it too difficult to to get the evidence they needed. Boo-hoo for them. That’s their job. How hard can it be to prove that the Weaving marketing information bore absolutely no relationship to what was actually done: interest rate swaps between the fund and an offshore company controlled by the fund manager, Magnus Peterson?

Anyway, just days after the SFO’s lazy, bungling incompetents decided the case was too difficult for them, two directors of Weavering (one of them Peterson’s father) were each fined $111,000,000 for “wilful neglect or default in the discharge of their duties” by the Grand Court of the Caymans.

And earlier this week the High Court in London ruled that the directors of Weavering, including Peterson and his wife, must pay $450,000,000 for their fraud in a civil case brought by the company’s liquidators.

And how did the Weasel of Weavering take the news? Was he humbled or apologetic? No. He said:

“The judgment is simply wrong”

and continued

“[it] shows a very limited understanding of the financial and trading aspects of the management of the fund”

How difficult is it to understand that a cheating scumbag comprehensively lied to investors, auditors, brokers and administrators about the fund’s strategies and investments, entered into sham transactions with himself, and ultimately burnt his way through more than $530,000,000 of other people’s money?

Of course, all Peterson has to do now is declare himself bankrupt and he gets off scot-free. Investors will never see any of their money back.

This is not justice. If there were true justice in the world Peterson would be behind bars now sharing a cell with a big, fat, sweaty man who rogered him nightly to within an inch of his life, and then his bum hole would, Prometheus-like, be restored by the next day so that the whole process could be repeated. But then, with the weak-kneed, craven, chicken-hearted cowards of the SFO at the helm, there never was going to be any justice in this case at all.