Monday, March 31, 2014

46 Great Yarmouth

Ormesby to Great Yarmouth to Winterton
Great Yarmouth was my favourite holiday place until I started adventuring out to distant camp sites with the scouts and without my parents.
In my early days the family stayed at my grandparents boarding house in Yarmoiuth itself. In later years I drove up and visited my nan as she lived out her autumn years in a bungalow on Fritton Close, Ormesby St Margaret.
Aside from Olive and Frank, the other main attraction of Yarmouth was the Snails at Joyland, and also the 2p for twenty shots shooting range. If you hit all the targets on all three rows you got your 2p back. The targets on the bottom row were easy. The  animals on the top two were harder, and sometimes they stuck and didn't fall over. Sometimes I got my 2p back even though I was expecting differently. A trip on the Snails and two goes at the shooting range. That would keep me happy for the day! 
"Joyland: Sixty and Still Thrilling"
BBC Norfolk
21st April 2009

Joyland, the children's theme-park on the golden mile in Great Yarmouth, is celebrating its 60th birthday.
 Originally opened in 1949 by the Cole family, the park still has many of its original rides like the 'Snails' and 'Tubs'.

"Many thousands of people have ridden on this ride," said current owner Michael Cole.
"My grandfather designed the [snail] ride. It's a simple design but it's stood the test of time," he added.

The Tyrolean Tubtwist ride is one of a kind according to Mr Cole.

"This is the only one in existence in the world and it's a fantastic ride," said Michael.
Despite the pensionable age of some of the rides, there is no intention to retire them.

"The National Amusement Park Historical Association came here from America about 12 years-ago and they advised us that if the ride ever became non-profitable, to contact them and they would help subsidise it," said Michael.

"They were very keen not to see it scrapped," he added.
In the family visit days we'd drive up to Yarmouth, four of us squeezed in a mini, then a Vauxhall Viva, then a Ford Cortina Mk III with vinyl roof. At the "Monument" we'd stop and drink coffee from a flask. Almost a cup each. We'd get a few pear drops or cola cubes. Spam and salad cream on white medium slice bread with Anchor butter sandwiches. Wrapped in Sainsbury's cling film. The salad cream and bread were Sainsbury's also; no differenc in the quality to the expensive brand. And a Penguin biscuit.
As a young working bloke I'd nip up in my Ford Sierra, or in the alter days my Frod Granada. The passenger seat would be covered with jumbo sausage roll wrappers, Walkers cheese and onion crisp packets, cans of any sort of drink that I fancied, a Mars Bar or a Lion  Bar or Twix, and often a Scotch Egg. Money no object, and a graze as I drove.
In late teenage years, just before university, I enjoyed visiting in school holidays, on my own, and go fishing on the Broads. I was never much good at catching much, but I enjoyed buying, sorting and maintaining a couple of rods, a few reels, various floats, stools, bags and rod rests. My nan knitted fingerless gloves for the winter months. Spam and salad cream sandwiches and Penguin bscuits again for lunchtimes.

The last trip up in a pre university holiday was with my mate John. We took the train and hiked around. All about the abandoned airfields, and those not so abandoned and then used by the USAF (in the days of nuclear protests). We drank a fair bit at the pubs and stops around the coast and waterways.

My favourite part of the coastline was, and always was at Winterton. Apparently the grass in the sand dunes was planted at some time in the 1800s to stop the inland creep of the North Sea. I'm glad they did it. The grassed dunes were fabulous adventure areas for kids.

I've reduced, just by using the backspace, out the flowery language of a website to this... "Winterton-on-Sea is a mismatch of cottages and houses strewn along grass verged lanes. Half timbered cottages with dormer windows hiding under thatched roofs vie for position with buildings of red brick and tile. The village's pub is brick and flint. The church dates 12th-century and has a tower; 132ft high.  (Inside is a) corner dedicated to those lost at sea.

To the north of the grassed sand-dunes is a position ideal for bird watching. 

Winterton is fortunate to enjoy a favoured position on a magnificent stretch of coastline."

I drove Olive, my nan, to the car park in 1991. We sat in my bronze Ford Granada and chatted about things. We looked out over the sea, grandson and grandmother. I went for a walk up and down the sand dunes, took in the air, and my nan stayed in the car sucking on mints and doing what nans do. I drove her home to Ormesby and then I drove back home alone to Little Marlow. That was the last time we spoke before she died.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

45 Sukhumvit Soi 31

I finished writing Oxford !

At last. I think I've finished the Oxford page and now I feel I am back on track with this geographical narrative thing. Over the stuckness.

Or it is rather that I believe I can leave the Oxford page behind and move on. I know that it is good enough not to have "draft" slapped across the top.

But oooeerrrr....

So many spaces yet for me to place and store. At the moment they are nothing but a boring list that hold meaning only for me.

England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Wales, USA, Tunisia, Italy, Jamaica, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Crete, Turkey, Scotland, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Albania, Greece, Tanzania, Malawi, Zaire, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, India, Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Taiwan, New Zealand, South Korea, Australia, Dubai, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, North Korea, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Cuba, Sri Lanka and more...

Then there is the plan for the future chapters... after I get the house up. Overland the world by train and container ship.

Oh yes. Railway station waiting room scenes. As long as I am in my iPod and Bose noise reduced headphone world then I am fine.

1. Bangkok to Phnom Penh.
2. Phnom Penh to Saigon
3. Saigon to Hanoi
4. Hanoi to Beijing
5. Beijing to Harbin
6. Harbin to Vladivostok
7. Vladivostok to Moscow
8. Moscow to Berlin
9. Berlin to Southampton
10. Southampton to North Carolina
11. North Carolina to San Francisco
12. San Francisco to Melbourne
13. Melbourne to Darwin
14. Darwin to Indonesia somewhere
15. Indonesia somewhere to Singapore
16. Singapore to Bangkok

A list that right now holds just excitement and anticipation for me and who knows what for you... nothingness, empathy?

I have researched that most of the above can be done using rail and container ship. There's a few rail gaps between the Thai border with Cambodia and Saigon. Then another rail gap somewhere from the Chinese border to Vladivostok. There's a tricky choice of how to get from Moscow to Berlin and on to the docks at Southampton. Some uncertainty about the skip from Australia up to Singapore.

I'll be doing this next year if I get the house up and work some stores to pay the passage and invest in a few new cameras and a reliable wide angle lens.

Friday, March 28, 2014

44 Bangkok

Meanwhile, back in Bangkok...

Met a bloke today who is cycling Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and then not sure where. He was zipping in from the airport while I was photographing the roadside campaign posters for Sunday's senatorial election (as one does).
Greg's planning on a year and a half on the road and maybe a sore bum. The senatorial candidate is planning four years in office, a massive new house extension, a couple of places overseas for the kids and a fair whack lobbed into his bank account after he's voted for a couple of infrastructure mega projects, allegedly.

He (Greg not the suited trusted parliamentary fellow) has already cycled a circuit of the USA and having looked at his web pages (search 'starving cyclist') it is clear he's pedaled a fair few of the countries to the south. I hope he likes south east Asia as much as I do.

I'll be thinking he's needing the protection of the Journey / Travelling Gods. Here are the Sri Lankan versions keeping out the hot sun at their little temple on the beach in Sri Lanka.

People like Greg are inspirations for me.

And now, I really must get back to re-writing the "Oxford" page, to remembering my lost Oxford cycling and rowing days.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

43 Colombo 1

Now in a hotel  room ready for work tomorrow,

I've done a lot of this over the last decades and I am okay with it. Fly in to a new city a few days before the job starts and see the sights on my own tab. Check into the company provided hotel the night before the project / program and I'm ready for the off.

I work in shopping. Retail marketing being the posh phrase that gets my daily rates to up over two thousand a day with expenses. I'll work for any client that sells things. I'm good at working with those that sell things people need every week or so. Grocery shops, butchers, cheese shops, pharmacists, tobacconists and newsagents (they call them CTN here), those sorts of stores. the places I went with my mum in half term holidays on a Wednesday afternoon.

I usually end up working with and for the rich grocers; such as Keell's in Sri Lanka. I would like to work for Cargills in Sri Lanka. Two reasons. One, Cargills have a glorious building in the centre of Colombo, it's one of the oldest Edwardian pieces in town. Second, Cargills are the selling agents 'for candles'.

For candles. It is a British thing. Say it to any man or woman over 45years old 'for candles' and it is probable they'll titter to themselves.

Colombo is a strange little place. Strange as in "quirky strange". I only walked and sweated the pavements around the old fort station for a couple of hours but I found it to be a pleasant spot. If no one forces me to live in it and spend Sundays until eternity here.

The quality of the buildings and roads, the driving on the left, reminds me of Kuala Lumpur fifteen plus years ago, when someone did expect me to live in it! Or maybe a Langkawi two decades ago. It also sparked off memories of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. And some parts of Cairo. It was obviously the old colonial / beau epoch architecture that was doing it. It was when there was a sense for putting the date on the building. 1900. 1903. 1912. There was a wall on one street, behind a cell phone shop (closed for Sunday), just the wall. It was falling apart and had bits of tree growing out of it. 1925 it had on it.

The railway station and the bridges over the tracks; the placement of the platform clocks and waiting rooms straight out the Hornby catalogue and if it was the London Underground then Colombo Fort could well have been a near East version of Queensbury when it was on the Bakerloo line,

In some spots the buildings were getting a conservation overhaul. Desolate almost past it structures looked like they were destined for whatever Dante had in store for bricks and mortar in the depths of forgotten hell. No one seemed interested in some buildings that must have been loved once. Every building has an architect, or a builder at the least. Some places looked too far gone to be saved.

I liked my walk in the blistering heat. Past the port buildings that reminded me of the Empire Exhibition architecture, New Delhi and also the Star Ferry Hong Kong. The GOH opposite (Good Old Hotel?) something Oriental Hotel... Grand Oriental Hotel? A bizare sculpture of a little local kid pulling an expat old gent in a rickshaw. In bronze it appeared. Thought the bronze rickshaw had a glass window in the back. Glass windows in sculptures on a bronze. I think that's cheating!

Colombo city centre reminded me of the England in my youth. Sunday shops closed as were everything else, hardly any traffic on the roads and nowhere to buy a bottle of Coke. (In youthful England back in the day, no one bought bottles of water. We drank it straight from the tap. Most definitely, none of my family and friends would have been caught walking around the street with a bottle of it in their hand. Water? Bottle? In the street? Wait until you get home. Wait until you get your packed lunch out.)

I made it back to my hotel room. Ordered a room service burger and drank the complementary water dry in five minutes, and then water holed my way through most of the mini bar. I have done that rather a lot over the last few decades.

But why is it that so many of the hotels are called Cinammon? Cinammon Grand. Been there (by accident). Cinnamon Lakeside. In there. Cinammon Stick. Cinammon Powder. Cinammon Cake. Cinammon Cinammon Cinammon. Weird word is cinnamon.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

42 Bangkok

I'm in Colombo now, but back in Bangkok the games continue...

In the Duty Free Shop at Phnom Penh International Airport you can buy books that are banned in Thailand. One of the banned in Thailand books that we are not allowed to read is "The King Never Smiles"

One month on...

- - - -

Kangaroo-Constitutional Court helps wreck 2nd Feb elections .
Friday, 21 March 2014
Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The notorious Constitutional Court has once again worked hand in glove with the anti-democrats, ruling that the 2nd February 2014 election was “unconstitutional”. This is a re-run of the ruling that the election on 2nd April 2006 was null and void. The 2006 ruling, along with anti-democrat protests, led to a military coup and the continuous destruction of Thai democracy. Previous court rulings abolished Taksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party and brought down the elected Palang Prachachon Party government in 2008...

The excuse for wrecking the 2nd February elections was that many constituencies had no candidates and were unable to hold elections. But there was no recognition of the illegal acts of Sutep’s mob in using violence to prevent voting and the unconstitutional boycott of the elections by the un-Democrat Party because it knew it would lose. Nothing was mentioned about the fact that the military, known for its repeated unconstitutional coups, stood by and did nothing to ensure security during the election.

In demanding a new election, the court stated that it did not care that Sutep’s mob had promised to disrupt any future elections.

The elite appointed courts and non-“independent” bodies have been working hand in glove with Sutep’s mob. They along with the middle classes, hate the democratic process which gives the majority of the population some say in politics. They view most ordinary Thais with contempt.

The anti-democrats now hope that throwing the ball back to the biased Election Commission and the government will allow more time to push out Yingluk and start a process of changing the election rules to reduce the democratic space. Many academics and NGO leaders in the anti-democrat camp are hoping for a compromise and make dark predictions about “civil war”. But such a compromise would give the same weight to a minority of anti-democrats as to the majority of citizens who want democracy. A compromise between democracy and dictatorship can only lead to “half democracy”.

The only way to defend the democratic space is a total mobilisation of the red shirts and other progressive forces. But unfortunately the UDD leadership cannot be relied upon to do this."
Giles Ungpakorn
- - - - -
Giles Ungpakorn believed he had to flee Thailand in 2009 as he faced a lese majeste charge following him authoring and publishing a book showing that the 2006 coup was for the rich

Friday, March 21, 2014

41 Colombo 6

A day on the beach in Sri Lanka's south west coastal suburbs

If clients didn't pay for me to visit their countries, with enough opportunity to get out and explore, I probably wouldn't bother doing their work.

This morning and this afternoon I prepared myself for next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday's in the office work. At a few of my old jobs, today would be called "outlet checking."

This really isn't a tough life.

 I've earned it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

39 Nong Ki

Desperately Seeking Architect and Builder...

I hopped into the car and left Bangkok exactly three hours and one minute before I passed the Nong Ki sign on Thailand's Route 24. I was off up to Buri Ram province to meet an architect and a builder.

All the way up on the drive I was thinking to myself, please don't let a mafia mini bus driver crash into and kill me, please let me find a competent architect who understands my needs. Please let me find someone I can talk to about keeping it simple but making the simplicity with a high quality. Please let me find someone who doesn't want to create their own image of their perfect home and then put me in it. Please.

No candy pink roof tiles or majestic magenta patio balustrades. Instead can it be crisp, well fitted door frames and skirting. Absolutely no fluorescent strip lights, I beg.

Still praying, I drove past a pink and purple cottage and into the village. I nearly wet myself. My parcel of two rai popped into view. The front rai had already been raised above the road and the sugar cane fields around. That will sort the ground run off and reduce flooding. Crumbs. That ground looked very dusty, and bright in the midday sun. If I was John Steinbeck I would write a few pages about it. I'm not John Steinbeck.

Having said I am not John Steinbeck I do wonder how Cheops felt when his lads had leveled the pyramid area on the banks of the Nile. Wonder what was going through Montezuma's head when the first shovels of Mexican dirt went down? How did Rama I celebrate the night after the marsh was finally drained on the Bangkok side of the Cha Phraya. The emotions in the first city building folk in Mesopotamia. The celebrations of the druids at Stonehenge?
If I was any one of them, back then, I would have got an artist man in. I'd have held up the work for a few hours. "Hold up, hold up, everyone hold up. We're doing a before and after sketch. Do it from here, here. I'll pop it in my tomb when I die so the bastards in the future don't think this was built by a load of extra terrestrials and not us lot." This record the moment, before and after thing started to happened at some point. In Thailand there is a ceremony around the first City Pillar. In Indonesia there are family rites around ashes and a piling on the North East of the plot, Or is it the South East? It is one of the main compass points, I know that. And Hitler had a photo of him laying the stone of the Reich Chancellery. With the SS in the background with flags and a buffet ready for lunch. I've seen it. The photo that is.
I don't have a Chancellery or a despotic megalomaniacal dictator to photo, but I do have the man that did most of the ground raising. Here he is.
After my ground check and a swift bacterially safe omelette and rice it was some North East waiting around and sitting in the shade, anticipating the architect and builder arrival.
I'd prepared my thoughts and plans and tried to load them in Powerpoint, loaded in "style photos" of interiors and exteriors that fitted with the look I fancied. This was to help brief the designer man on "clean and simple". I am a man, not a princess, not an effeminate transvestite ladyboy who's just married the night club owner, not a hi so Chinese Khun Ying with a metallic gold Merc chauffeured to the Nelson Hays Library and then afterwards to the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. No blue floor times. No Louis the whatever golden taps and door knobs and chandeliers. 
Clean. Simple.
I think Khun Prasert, Upcountryna Buri architect man, understood my general direction and the swing of who he was going to be working with. There's Praseret above. He's wearing a local district office uniform as they do up in Thailand. Look how well turned out he is! No square spectacles, black sweaters and Audi 8s for this guy. Uniform and a silver Toyota Hi Lux pick up. Khun Prasert could well pop along to a royal 86th Birthday march past and flag wave celebration dressed like that. Immaculate.
But he did say a few times "It is a very, very big house." Later he said "It is a big piece of land" he after we'd walked the dirt. He spoke it in a not so reassuring tone. He talked as if he was wetting himself.
In times like these I have learnt it is best not to get excited and whizz off into farang jargon and telly architecture history talk.
Waxing lyrical around "the lines in a Mies van der Rohe pavilion", "organic roof sitting on top of a Frank Lloyd Wright Falling Water", "the machine for living in the guts of a Villa Savoye courtesy of Le Corbusier."  No point in doing any of that. It is all merely sounds roof sounds water sounds sounds sounds villa. 
I showed pictures from magasines and together we worked on pen and paper sketches to clarify the ideas. 
For the now the most important thing was that he seemed a decent enough bloke, was proud to wear a uniform and had created house plans before. I'll see in time if he was simply being polite to keep everyone happy. It wouldn't surprise me if he telephones in this afternoon saying his uncle needs him to run the family business for three years and so, unfortunately, he cannot take on this job for at least three years. It happens.
I'll see.
After I'd walked the site with architect and super smiley builder man "yes yes I can build a shower like that" / "he can build a shower like that, he is an expert" (on showing a gray slate man's bathroom form a magazine), return wai'd Khun Charles Jencks before he drove off to be dismissed for the evening by his company sergeant major, and squeezed back in my petite hire car to follow mister builder man to Buri Ram.
I was off to see the quality of the build of a finished house. Another check on his past work was not going to do any harm. It would be reassuring to check what I'd seen on the last trip to Nong Ki.
I'm not sure what happened.
I have no idea why he took me to this particular bungalow. It was truly a house fit for the waiter who had married the mamasan. Poorly fitting doorway liners, old style windows, naked holes in the tiles for the door bolts, and so on. With delight he showed me the shower. "Here! I am expert at showers." Oh bugger.  It was a pre formed cheap plastic corner unit and not the clean simple man's slate shower of the magazine.
I kept smiling and maintained a level of polite enthusiasm. As you have to.
I'll sort out the reasons why I was shown that place. Boombim can do some investigation work with her sister. I can only liken the session to a client briefing whereby the HR director discusses with the workshop session organizer at the Sheraton in Hua Hin the venue and facilities she would like for their important upcoming management team building program. After an hour or so of chat, glasses of water, head nodding, mutual laughs and yes, yes, yessing, the head of banqueting takes the client off out to show her the shitty all you can eat buffet at the Sawasdee Happy Fortune Lodge three miles out of town, built in the 1980s.
The danger in Thailand is assuming the person who speaks the best English is the smartest person, and the most competent professional. They get away with this because they can make foreigners feel at ease over someone who struggles to make themselves understood. Often the smartest people have spent their time on activities other than learning English. The non English speaker gets overlooked. In many cases they simply need time around and another approach to get a full understanding.
Therefore my patience is required, at least for the timebeing.
Still... in the car on the way back to Bangkok (I was testing the Nong Ki to Bangkok timings for a night run, and a check on whether the journey was survivable) I did think to myself, "What was it with mister builder man? Did I really come across as a tuk tuk driver who had just won the fucking lottery?" 

Monday, March 17, 2014

38 Klongton Nua

Improving the here, moving ahead on the now.

As of this moment, one of the most challenging tasks for building my own house in Village Thailand has been to find an architect / designer who can take my sketch, plan, idea and turn it into workable drawings that a builder can follow.

I think tomorrow's trip to Nong Ki will get me over this hurdle. For 30,000THB it will be money very well spent.

I'm very much looking forward to making my own place in which to put my stuff.

With stuff in there I will have more freedom to bugger off on six months trips again. A base from which to launch is what it will be. A garage to park in at the end of an unpredictable day. A ... enough of that.
So far all I have to show is legalities, 3,200 cubic metres of moved dirt and lots of chat and promises.
Fingers crossed that by Songkhran we will be able to start the build.

37 Barcelona

Mies van der Rohe and Antoni Gaudi for a long spring weekend (1st draft)

Photo Essay i. Mies' Pavilion


Photo Essay. ii. Gaudi's Sagrada

An Easter trip to Barcelona in 1991 was the first getaway I took following my separation. Working with a good salary, single and with a long Easter break. It was the first time I had taken an overseas long weekend on my own that wasn't done on a budget.
It was quite liberating and the time away I needed to recharge.
In the days before the cheap flight fad of Ryanair and the ilk it was great to be doing something different and to be part of what felt an elite group of travelers who explored "out of season". I brought back the art gallery posters, the art gallery books and boxes of slides of the famous architecture, urban walks and squares of Barcelona.

The cultural highlight of the trip was, however, the Barcelona versus Atletico Madrid match at the Nou Camp. It was the fight of Orwell's visit to Spain and homage to Catalonia, the left wingers versus the royalist capital dwellers (almost).

I managed to pick up my ticket on the day before the game. Right up on the top tier on the very back row. The highest seat in the stadium, having to watch the play through the gap in my knees and over the top of the man's head in the row in front. What a gradient that stand was! What a height.
I can't remember the final score without referring to the video replay. But I can remember the first goal celebrations and flares.

And I can remember the promise I made to myself on the plane back to Heathrow and in my car back to Little Marlow; "Whenever I visit a city overseas I'd take in the big game whenever possible." It is something I still do to this day. Cricket in Cape Town, American Football in East Rutherford, Baseball at Arlington, Shea and The Bronx, Bulls in Seville, Rugby Union in Paris, Football in Pyongyang. And so the list will continue to lengthen.
Architecture and the galleries is all very good for the polite, but for the vernacular I can't beat the local stadium.