The walls went up very quickly and render slapped on and smoothed down. And, as you can see in the background, the previously gaping holes for the windows were shaped.

Walls Up

Walls Up

Unfortunately, that turned out to be a problem. I’d decided to replace the old kitchen windows which were of the louvre type. The glass slats were a pain to keep clean and never looked particularly nice. Plus, it was going to look nicer if both windows looked the same. The new windows are a bit narrower than the louvre ones, so the window hole needed to be padded to one side.

Window Alignment

Window Alignment

Unfortunately, the side the builder decided to pad meant that the right hand side of the window would be hidden by kitchen cupboards: the work had to be redone. Fortunately this didn’t take too long or (I hope) cost me too much.


It was my misfortune recently to have to pass through security at Suvarnabhumi airport twice in the space of a couple of hours or so. (Oh, how I love the long, slow moving queues!) Now, to get to security I have an option: take the left escalator or the right one. The first time time I took my usual route up the left escalator. Being very much a thrill seeker, on the second occasion I took the right escalator, expecting the experience to be the same. It wasn’t.

Left escalator: take off belt, but keep shoes on, pass through a metal detector.

Right escalator: take off both belt and shoes, step into a perspex tube which closes around you, and raise your arms.

I presume the perspex tube was to detect BO, in which case any terrorist with a personal hygiene problem and a shoe bomb would best be advised to take the left escalator.

My initial thoughts were: why the difference in procedures and (inherently) level of security? But then I thought: what’s the point?

Take off your shoes? There has never been a successful shoe bombing in the history of aviation.

Take off your belt? There has never been a successful shoe bombing in the history of aviation.

There has been a successful bum bombing (albeit not in the air), with the explosive device secreted in the bomber’s behind. In fact, so successful was the technique that Wahabi scholars have apparently issued a fatwah permitting future would be bombers to be well-and-truly buggered for the purpose of widening their would be bomb holders in the furtherance of jihad. If the authorities were serious about passenger security, surely they would ask all passengers to drop their trousers/lift their skirts, then bend over to have a torch shone where the sun never shines, rather than ask them to shed their shoes and belts.

Perhaps even more ridiculous is the continuance of “Duty Free”. On 9/11 (never sure why we call it that, given that it happened in September, not on November 9th) the hijackers were armed with box cutters. Quite frankly, a broken bottle of spirits makes a more formidable weapon than your average box cutter. (It also strikes me as ludicrous that in first class, the customers can have metal eating irons, yet in cattle class they have to make do with flimsy plastic knives barely able to cut an overcooked potato. As if a fanatic planning on bringing down an aeroplane with a spoon and fork would baulk at the cost of a first class ticket to have access to the implements of death.)

Of course, airport security isn’t really about security: it’s about creating a climate of fear, about making certain business owners very wealthy, about reminding the proles they are impotent in the face of authority.

So, it’s all security theatre. In fact, I can be more precise: it’s security farce.


Day 5 was a total washout, thanks to a passing tropical storm. To be honest, so far the weather has been surprisingly clement during the day: awesome thunder storms at night, with torrential rain and lightning flashes, but mostly just drizzle or light rain during the day.

In the last couple of days the floors for kitchen extension and drying area have been poured, the metal skeleton of the extension erected and some lower brickwork courses laid.

Kitchen Ribs

Kitchen Ribs

At the same time as having the kitchen extended, I’m having the drive relaid; it had subsided badly – perhaps 15 cm or so – and consequently cracked. To date, the old drive has been dug out and a new one’s concrete poured. I’m also having a canopy erected so I don’t get soaked opening the gate when leaving home during a thunderstorm. Perhaps more importantly, it’ll keep the rear of the car less rained upon, and so less frequently in need of a wash. Work is well under way for the canopy.

Car Canopy

Car Canopy

Whisky seems to approve.

The drive will be tiled. I had wanted cobblestones, but the cost is ridiculous. Even the synthetic cobblestones are as pricey. The tiles arrived yesterday, and laying should start on Day 8.


For the last couple of days the focus has been upon the foundations for the kitchen. Concrete has been poured around the piles and a mould formed to receive the concrete raft the extension will rest upon. In the foreground of this picture you can also see that they’ve dug trenches which will be used for poured concrete beams which will support the covered drying area next to the kitchen. (For much of the year, when drying clothes I’ve had carefully to watch the skies for signs of imminent precipitation. Far too often I’ve rushed out in torrential rain to retrieve partly dried pants, getting soaked in the process. During the rainy season, the weather can be too stormy for days on end to permit laundry. Once the kitchen extension is complete I’ll be able to bring my washing machine in from outside, which will help a lot, and hang up clothes for drying under cover.)

Kitchen Foundations

Kitchen Foundations

There was one hitch today: a water pipe which I’d thought only served the bar (a bar which I’d instructed the original builders not to construct and so was redundant), was cut. Once more the bizarre piping of the property flummoxed me: this was in fact the illogically placed fresh water pipe for the upstairs, and I found myself sans water upstairs. Fortunately the builder was able speedily to rectify things and I can now shower again.

In the background of the photo, to the right of the satellite dish, you can see the black tape used by the neighbour’s builder to fix where their kitchen extension pulled away from the side of the house as I mentioned in my previous Postcard.

Today also included a trip to a builders’ merchant, so I’ve bought such fripperies as ceiling lights and a motion-activated flood light for the drying area. The latter will also provide extra security covering the sliding glass doors from kitchen to the drying area. Hopes of buying electrical switches, sockets, extractor fans and a wall fan, however, remained unfulfilled.


Priority for today was getting the piling done for the kitchen extension. One of my greatest fears is that the extension will subside and pull away from the house. The neighbours have had a big problem with this – a problem their builders “fixed” by putting black plastic tape over the gap. There’s hardly a house in the moobaan which hasn’t had a kitchen extension or a car port built, and many of these have cracked badly. One house had a garage built (very unusual for Thailand). Unfortunately for the owners, it too started to subside, and risked ripping the whole front of the house off. It had to be torn down.

Anyway, I’ve gone for piling overkill so, fingers crossed, there shouldn’t be any problems.

Rather than use a pile driver, Thai builders have their own way of doing these things:


Finally, after five years of struggling in a tiny, badly designed kitchen, I’ve got the builders in to extend it. They arrived as scheduled, on the dot of 7:30 a.m.. Thankfully, the rain held off for the day, and they were able to make good progress. By lunchtime the kitchen had been gutted – poured concrete cabinets reduced to rubble and windows removed.

Kitchen Stripped

Kitchen Stripped

And in the afternoon they removed one of the external walls. This revealed a small hitch: there was a soil pipe which had been embedded in the wall. Its position makes no sense whatsoever – nowhere near any of the upstairs bathrooms. Doubtless it can be diverted.

Kitchen Wall Down

Kitchen Wall Down

Can’t say the dogs were particularly keen on all the strangers outside the house, or the loud sound of power tools as the concrete was ripped up. But then, neither was I.


Unlike Mozaic’s location on the fringes of town, Locavore (pronounced to rhyme with “herbivore”) is pretty much in the centre. And unlike Mozaic’s Balinese portal, on arriving at Locavore one is greeted by a locked, plain wooden door with a small glass panel. To the left is a window through which one can see the cooks make their magic. And once through the door, there’s no lounge. One is taken straight to one’s table – a table which, to be honest, is rather too close to the neighbours’ one.

I was disappointed to find that we’d been put in a table in a corner, and I was left basically staring at the wall, a prospect only leavened by the large mirrors on the wall which let me observe approaching wait staff and the kitchen in the distance.

Like Mozaic, there was no à la carte, just a choice of tasting menus. Whilst choosing which (OK, I lie, I’d chosen weeks before I arrived) I ordered a cocktail. I can’t remember its exact name (something like “Into the Forest”) or what was in it, but it arrived with a pot of smoking thyme twigs. That not only seemed rather unnecessary and a tad unpleasant, but also would have been dangerous say for a severe asthmatic. And to be honest, had someone on an adjacent table been served one, I’d have been more than a little miffed: I really try to avoid restaurants that allow smoking. My other grumble is that the barkeep seems not to own a strainer. This cocktail, like others I received later, was full of botanicals. I’d have preferred them removed after they’d done their work. I still had high hopes, but the initial impression was less than stellar.

As amuse gueules there was a large leaf (possibly deep fried) with a crispy coating and a (rather greasy) morsel of chouros (deep fried batter) topped with a piece of cheese. (No photos. And as before, all my photos are rather poor given the low level of ambient light.)

Then there was a sorbet (cold) in a warm tomato water. Somehow the sorbet perfectly captured the sweet and sour notes of tomato. Things were looking up.

First course was tiger prawns, cold smoked, lemon balm cream, a vinaigrette flavoured with shellfish bisque, bitter leaf salad, sour dough crumbs, cucamelon (a sort of slightly sour cucumber from South America).

The disk beneath the leaves is the prawns, pressed together.

The following dish I don’t have a description for.

Next was raw beef, wasabi leaf mayonnaise (which I really couldn’t taste) and wasabi flowers, croutons, beef fat, shallots two ways (crispy fried and pickled), radish.

Unlike Mozaic, where each dish was accompanied by a different wine, here there was a mixture of wine, beer and cocktails. With the beef was served a delicious wheat beer, locally produced. I just wish Thailand produced such craft beers.

Then it was raw abalone, langouste poached in seaweed butter, a (fairly) local and raw oyster, celtuce (a variety of lettuce principally grown for its stem), clam juice, sea urchin roe, seaweed.

I’d been slightly apprehensive about this course. I’d never had raw abalone before, and am not a great fan of uni (raw urchin gonads). I needn’t have worried. The abalone was delicious, and the uni simply one ingredient in the yummy sauce.

I’ll just reproduce the description of the accompanying cocktail for posterity: “muddled celtuce, cucumber, kemangi, seaweed, fennel consommé, gin, elderflower liqueur, straight up.” Kemangi is lemon basil.

Next was parrot fish (another handsome reef fish with no provenance, dammit), with braised octopus, chorizo, “bread and butter courgette” (whatever that is), red capsicum sauce, crispy oregano leaves, squash flowers.

The sauce is kept away from the other ingredient since, apparently, it’s not to everyone’s taste. Thankfully I’m not everyone, and it was delicious. The fish was also cooked just perfectly.

For the pork course, the restaurant buys a whole pig (organic, of course) and breaks it down to provide two cuts for each service. That night the tenderloin was meltingly tender (cooked sous vide, I suspect), but I felt a little short changed by the accompanying sausage (but there again, it was a very good sausage). The pork came with green peppercorn sauce, dauphin potatoes, broccoli stems in vinaigrette and broccoli cream, roasted apple, nasturtium leaves.

Next up was a pre-dessert, not listed on the menu. For me it was a decadent delight, reminiscent of dulce de leche with a bright sorbet. Don’t have a proper description (or decent photo).

The first dessert was described as “sorrel and chocolate”, but I was more interested in the beetroot component. Beetroot and chocolate has become a very trendy combination recently. Anyway, the dish was bitter chocolate ganache, sorrel/yoghurt sorbet, salt baked sweet pickled beetroot, beetroot meringue, sorrel leaves, beetroot reduction.

I did find the ganache slightly too bitter and not totally balanced by the other components.

And the final dessert was mulberry sorbet, jasmine panacotta, coconut foam, unripe strawberry consommé, coconut crème, mulberry gel, fresh strawberries.

Just divine!

From then it was just a matter of finishing off (from memory) madeleines with crème anglaise, fresh rambutans and some tiny sweet cakey things.

After that there were some tiny doughnuts tossed upon in bags of cinnamon sugar at the table. Like Mozaic, the meal didn’t end on a high note. The doughnuts were dry and seemed superfluous. Of course, they are currently rather trendy, but I prefer to eat terrific, not trendy.

So, lots of hits, a few misses, but in all a most memorable meal.


On arriving at Mozaic you pass through a traditional Balinese entrance into a lounge area where you can peruse the menu whilst sipping on a cocktail. It was here that we received our first amuse gueules: a small choux bun filled with cheese and truffle oil, and a cornet filled with raw beef and topped with (I think) parmesan foam. (I didn’t take notes, so some of my descriptions may not be 100% correct.) Anyway, the choux bun was as a mutant cousin to the “cheesy footballs” that graced the sideboard of my home at Christmas when I was a child. The (spherified?) truffle oil added a pleasant richness to the mouthful. Nice, but not great.

The cornet was a step up, with the meat meltingly tender and sweet.

It didn’t take long to decide on the food. There’s no à la carte, so for me it was simply a matter of choosing between the six or eight course menu. Not knowing the full capacity of my stomach, I went for the more moderate option.

The first course was seared prawns, pickled radish, torch ginger flower.


And I’ll apologise here for the poor quality of the photographs. The lighting was dim and the photo exposure long since I wouldn’t dream of using flash in such a place. Not all the other customers felt the same way.

Next up was confit of coral trout, smoked corn purée, baby corn, ginger crumble.


It was, of course, delicious, though I wished I knew more about the provenance of the fish. Coral trout is a reef fish and I’m not keen on eating reef fish since it damages the reef ecosystem, plus it’s a beautiful fish, “coral” referring to its colour. And I really do hope it wasn’t caught by fishing with dynamite or cyanide.

Following that was the course I was perhaps most looking forward to: breast, confit and foie gras of duck. I do love my foie gras. Imagine my disappointment when I saw it was foie gras terrine, rather than a lovingly fried piece of fatty liver. Still it tasted good.

I think the sauces were a jus and a balsamic reduction. The trail of black powder is olive powder.

On to pork, pomelo purée, bok choy, oyster mushrooms.

I’m always a little bit disappointed when chefs break up a cut of meat then reassemble it. I would have preferred a tranche of perfect belly pork. That said, the skin was wafer thin and magically crisp.

And so on to the desserts: sorbet of nutmeg pericarp, sautéed dried banana, grape, pear, sage/balsamic reduction.

The taste of fresh nutmeg pericarp was a first for me. It’s absolutely delicious, with a weird drying effect on the moth, rather like tannins.

One nice touch at the restaurant is that when you sit down to dine you are presented with a board showing many of the more unusual ingredients used in the menu, so I also got to see what a fresh nutmeg fruit looks like.


Nutmeg is on the right, in the middle. You can see the bright red of the mace covering the nut.

One of my quenelles of sorbet had shifted on the way from the kitchen. A pity, but it still tasted very good.

The second desert didn’t really work for me. The menu description I have doesn’t match the dish, so I think this was a dark chocolate mouse, apricot, coriander foam, sorbet and balsamic reduction. I could be completely wrong.

The decorations on top of the brown thing, which I’d anticipated were chocolate, were actually dried kaffir lime leaves which (a) don’t taste particularly nice, (b) stick in one’s teeth when you chew them. For me this was the least successful dish I had. I’d even go as far as to say I consider it misguided.

Petits fours to finish, and it was time to head back to the hotel.


I had a life plan for travelling. I formulated it after I’d gained confidence travelling solo around Morocco, driving a car from town to town, picking up hitchhikers and being harassed beyond belief in the souks. The plan was simple: whilst I was young I would explore far away countries; as I got older I would explore Europe; and in my dotage I would explore Britain, taking in sights I hadn’t explored such as Stonehenge and Salisbury cathedral.

My plan also included never revisiting somewhere I’d previously been, like the turtle, always moving forwards, never back.

That plan was rather foiled by my moving to Thailand; it’s now unlikely that I’ll ever do justice to Europe and the UK, and sometimes I revisit places I’ve already been, in this case Bali.

This trip to Bali was rather different from my previous one and wasn’t really about the temples and long walks through rice fields. It was far more about massages, great food and a few too many art galleries. (I visited three in as many days.)

But to begin at the beginning: the trip to my first destination, Lovina, was gruelling. I had an evening flight from Bangkok to Singapore. There I was supposed to wait two hours before flying on to Denpasar, the capital of Bali. Well, before departure the airline changed the scheduling of the Singapore-Denpasar flight twice before departure, each time increasing the delay. And then, whilst waiting in Singapore, the flight departure time was again changed a couple of times. In all I spent over 5 hours in the middle of the night in Changi airport. The only slight bit of “excitement” was when a group of soldiers, two toting machine guns, came through the airport checking the passports and boarding cards of all present.

So, exhausted and unkempt, I arrived in Bali. Then there was the mere matter of a three hour drive to Lovina along narrow, twisting roads across the island’s volcanic landscape. Normally such a thing would be a scenic delight, but struggling (and ultimately failing) to stay awake detracted from the joy of the situation.

Lovina, which I hadn’t visited before, is often described as a fishing village with black sand beaches. ‘Tis true there are fishing boats there, as this photo confirms.

Lovina Beach, Bali

Lovina Beach, Bali

The photo also confirms that the beaches aren’t black, more a nondescript grey.

Lovina itself is for the tourist little more than a couple of narrow streets lined with restaurants, bars and hotels leading down to the beach. Really, it could have been almost anywhere in the world.

Next was Ubud. Goodness, how it’s changed since last I was there! The place has developed at least a kilometre in all directions. Hotels that were previously surrounded by rice fields are now blocked in by resorts and restaurants. The centre of town is now wall-to-wall hotels, bars, restaurants and shops along the main streets, and a large proportion of the houses in backstreets have been converted to guesthouses. This really has stripped the place of much of its character.

Still, much of the cultural experience remains intact. There are more art galleries than one could shake a stick at, both commercial and otherwise. And I was able to take in a kecak (monkey dance) performance. Kecak, for those not familiar with it, is a form of musical drama performed primarily by men who sit in concentric circles, bare chested, chanting “chak” rhythmically – often contrapuntally – whilst moving their arms. Though it’s a fairly modern invention, dating from the 1930s, it feels positively primaeval and visceral. The plot is perhaps a little hard to follow, but is based upon the abduction of Sita by Ravana as recounted in the Ramayana.

I was fortunate to get a front row seat having arrived relatively early. However, with the sequel, described as a fire trance dance, I began doubting my good fortune. A pile of dried coconut husks was set in the centre of the temple courtyard, doused with lighter fuel and lit. Once the fuel had been reduced to burning embers a man riding a hobby horse proceeded to kick the embers about to a backing of more “chaks” from the chorus. The audience was “protected” by a low (and not particularly effective) metal barrier.

My final destination was Sanur, a fairly upmarket beach destination. Unfortunately, now almost all the land between beach and main road has been built over with large resort hotels making it difficult to move from the beachfront path into the town there being so few access points, so if going somewhere in town one is forced to choose between braving the town pavements or walking extra kilometres to find some way of getting from beach path into town. It’s a pity.

My lingering feeling is that Bali, whilst still magical in many ways, has become over-developed and become more anodyne. They’ve recently opened a second airport terminal to attract more tourists and have big plans to increase visitor numbers by millions a year. They call it progress, but it doesn’t feel like that.


I have instructed my scribe and general factotum to write this communication to you even though he’s a fool. Albeit a good-hearted, well-meaning fool. Let me explain.

I think you already know I greatly respect Queen Elizabeth and the way that she and her family have stolen so egregiously from the British public. I think it’s fair to say I model myself upon her. (Still not got that paw-waving thing going right, though.)

Anyway, my scribe and factotum, knowing my admiration for the Queen thought it would be a good idea for me to dress like her. Unfortunately, he didn’t get it right. No frumpy dress in some bright colour. (Canary yellow would have been good.) And no matching hat. No, he goes and gets me a ruff. It’s Elizabeth II I want to be like, not Elizabeth I! I just look ridiculous.

Princess Rye and the Virgin QUeen

It was quite a fuss getting the ruff made and fitted. My factotum took me to an establishment specialising in providing dogs with ruffs. And I had to stay there for several days whilst it was done. I think the tailor wasn’t very good though. He must have slipped and cut me on my tummy whilst I was asleep. He then sewed a few stitches there, perhaps thinking I wouldn’t notice what had happened.

I’m really surprised that my factotum doesn’t know the difference between the Virgin Queen and Brenda. After I remonstrated with him, and as he walked away, I’m sure I heard him mutter “you may not ever be the virgin queen, but now you’ll always be the virgin princess”. I wonder what he meant?

Princess Rye