Saturday, 27 October 2007

New Visa Success

A successful trip to Penang although it was not smooth sailing. The first day proved a right struggle. My return flight was cancelled so my return was put back one day. When I arrived my ATM card refused to work - the banks are very suspicious of transactions in Thailand and Malaysia so as soon as they saw something out of the ordinary they blocked my card. That meant I was left relying on changing the Thai money I had with me - barely enough.

Then I realised that with all my concern about whether my bank balance would be enough - I forgot the most crucial document. I was applying for a visa based on marriage to a Thai and forgot my marriage certificate. How stupid was that? I thought it looked like a disaster. I was staying at the Mingood Hotel. It is a basic hotel but good for the price and they have a good visa agent. He said if I could get the document scanned and e-mailed then he could print it.

So with phone calls to Pon and Huwy the plan was put into action. Huwy came through and the document was scanned and sent through just in time for me to get the application in. I still had the anxious wait to see whether they would accept my dodgy bank balance but in the end it all went through and I have another 1-year multi entry visa. It really shouldn't be this much effort. I am married to a Thai with children and you would think the visa would be almost automatic. Still rules are rules and we have no choice but to play along.

The rest of the trip to Penang was uneventful. It is a chance to eat really good Indian curry with naan bread which I just love. And I had a few drinks of Guiness which is also good. I took a trip to Penang Hill which is one of the attractions of the island. It is a cable train ride to the top of the 830m hill. Well in line with the general tone of the trip, the clouds came in so there was no view to be seen. Then it started bucketing down with rain. I waited in a restaurant for two and a half hours but it just wasn't going to stop so I went back down. Well at least I saw the cable train.

And while I was away Spurs' troubles reached farcical levels. Having totally failed to perform in a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle, we then had an apparently easy uefa cup game against Getafe from the bottom of the Spanish league. We lost 2-1. Our manager was sacked. As much as I like Martin Jol and I think the board made his position impossible, I have to say it is the best thing. I was never convinced by his tactics and sometimes he was just too nice. We always got dumped on by referees because they know MJ won't kick up a fuss. It is a sad reflection of the game but the reason why all the top managers spend a lot of time attacking referees is they know it works. If you try to be nice and sporting it is just taken as a sign of weakness.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Penang Trip Tomorrow

The last night of the vegetarian festival was fantastic. It is an amazing site. For 3 or 4 hours they keep up a constant barrage of firecrackers and fireworks while the processions charge through. And somehow while throwing firecrackers at each other they keep the whole thing in good spirits.

Well tomorrow is my Penang visa trip and I am a little concerned I don't have a decent bank balance to show. It is a fairly new requirement in Penang that you need to show a Thai bank book with a decent balance. I was going to organise a transfer from England over the phone but when I called they have changed their rules and I now require a telephone banking pass code which was sent to my mum's address inEngland. Typically she is on holiday so I can't get it. I therefore only had the option of sending a letter. It might have made it in time but there is a postal strike in England. So now I have to smile nicely and hope they are kind to me. It would be gutting to do all the effort and expense of this trip and only get a 3-month visa. Fingers crossed.

Still I am quite looking forward to the trip. It is a chance for some decent Indian curry and some Guinness.

In the meantime money continues to drain from my account like someone pulled the plug out. My flat in England is finally renovated and occupied again (by a nun I think). However the washing machine instantly broke down and had to be replaced plus yet more renovation work and I even had to refurbish it. It will be at least another month before the rent starts coming in.

Work from England has also been very quiet with nothing to do for around 3 months. Fortunately it has picked up this month with quite a bit coming in but again the money won't come until next month. I keep on expecting this work to dry up completely but I now think it will last until December. Once it is finished I will have to seriously look into making some money in Thailand.

Late night tonight, Spurs at Newcastle.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Last Night of the Veggy Festival

The diet continues slow but steady. That is the way it should be. I am going to Penang next week for a couple of days. I need to get a new 1 year multi-entry marriage visa. The last couple of times I have taken the bus. It is a long ride and there is now a direct flight so that is what I am doing this time. It is an okay trip. Makes a nice little break. I keep thinking about sorting out my 1-year extension but I acually quite enjoy these visa trips. I will take a couple of days break from the diet as it is no fun being away if you can't eat or drink. There is a decent gym in one of the hotels where I can work off those excess calories.

Tonight is the conclusion of the vegetarian festival. We have been to a couple of the processions. They are spectacular but I have seen them so many times now that I dont' get excited anymore. We have also eaten plenty of the vegetarian food which really is good. Tonight is always fun. It is a firecracker extravaganza and a truly spectacular site as the procession charges through the smoke and flashes. Pon and I will go. We can leave the kids at home as it is a late event.

On Wednesday I went round Huwy's to watch the vital England game in Russia. We blew it. From one-nil up and looking comfortable, we lost 2-1. Now qualification is out of our own hands and looking unlikely. Sometimes I think being a footy fan is more heartbreak than it is worth.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Start of the Vegetarian Festival

The vegetarian festival has started in Phuket. This annual event (see Phuket Vegetarian Festival) is certainly the weirdest event of the year in Phuket. Nobody fully knows where the origins of this strange event come from but it was certainly Chinese settlers or visitors who introduced it a long time ago. Since then it has developed into a bizarre spectacle with street processions, body piercings, displays around the Chinese temples and all sorts of weirdstuff going on. It is 10 days of pure madness and just has to be seen.

There are a number of rules that should be followed for the 10 days. The main one is that you should only eat vegetarian food. Others include wearing white clothes, no alcohol and no sex. Pon makes an effort to adhere to a vegetarian diet. There are vegetarian foodstalls everywhere this time of year so it is not that difficult. I play along when we go to see the events but otherwise I continue as normal.

We went to the Downtown area of Phuket Town this morning for the first full day. We had vegetarian food and bought some white clothes. At one point Ben gave us a nasty little scare. Pon had crossed the road to buy some food. Ben suddenly decided he wanted to join her and dashed across the road. Luckily there were only a couple of motorbikes coming and they managed to stop in time. He has never done it before and we had relaxed. It is a reminder that you only have to relax for a second with kids and something terrible can happen.

Before we went to the vegetarian festival we went to the gym and I had a go at the yoga class with Pon. I have always heard that yoga is hard work but I was surprised. I was absolutely soaked in sweat by the end. Still it makes a nice change from the usual workout so I might do it again.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

School Holidays

The school holidays have started so Ben is very happy. I wonder if he will actually start to miss school after a while. I don't think so. I don't remember ever wanting to get back to school when I was a kid. Jenny is pleased to have him back. Although they have the odd dispute they still generally enjoy having each other around to play with.

Meanwhile, one week in and the diet is going okay. Well for me - I don't think Pon is going to lose an ounce. Thai people are really rubbish at dieting. They like their food too much and they can't stand being hungry. Instead they look for magic solutions or take appetite suppressing pills. I try to explain to Pon that losing weight does involve feeling a little hungry sometimes but it is just not the Thai way. If they are hungry they eat.

I have upped my efforts at the gym (just got another two months membership) and I am also back playing football. I am eating a reasonable amount of healthy food and I have dropped a couple of kilos. Of course that is normal when you first start a diet and most of that is just water and food clearing my system. Still I think I have dropped a bit of fat.

Spurs are teetering on the edge of a turning point. Having recovered a 4-1 disadvantage against Villa into a 4-4 draw we then went and got a 2-2 draw at Anfield. Normally this would be a good result but of course in typical Spurs style we almost won but gave away a last minute equaliser. It was still a step in the right direction so I hope it turns around for Jol before he loses his job.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Time for a Diet

Unbelievably, Spurs compounded their half time situation by going 4-1 down and then made a comeback with a last gasp equaliser for a 4-4 draw. It makes a nice change from us throwing the match away in the last minute. Still I cannot bring myself to be too pleased as we were dreadful at the back and we really needed a win. We are still in the bottom three. Still it is the sort of moment that can be a turning point. You never know.

Gil has gone back to Nigeria. We had final drinks with him on Sunday night. Thought it was just going to be a quiet night out in Phuket Town but in the end we got totally hammered.

Pon and I are now going on a little diet. Neither of us are badly overweight but we have let a few kilos pile on. It is something I seem to find myself doing every couple of years. The weight slowly goes on to the point where I say it is enough. I set myself a limit of 80 kgs. Whenever I hit that point it is time to lose some weight. So a bit of discipline over the next month and I hope to lose 4 or 5 kilos.

I have done this three or four times before and am reasonably good at it. Plenty of exercise and eating a sensible amount of good food is the answer. Do not try to lose weight too quickly - 1 kilo a week is more than enough. Also drink plenty of water and avoid sugar and fat.

I never needed to worry about my weight until my 30s but as you get older, you put on weight that much easier.

So I have added our starting measurements to the side of the blog:

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Ben Busts his Head

Huwy has yet more drama in his life as his wife falls ill on the same day he needs to organise his visa trip to Penang. Everything he does seems to turn into a crisis. The result was we ended up babysitting their kids on Saturday morning while he was trying to sortt his stuff out.

To add to the drama Ben was playing with Fern and managed to fall off the hammock and crack the back of his head open. There was a lot of blood and it looked quite nasty. We took him into Phuket International Hospital where they very quickly pinned the gash together with 4 staples. Ben was a little upset but quickly recoved and was soon running around again.

The one good bit of news was that Ben's school insurance paid for the hospital bill. It is one of the few financial breaks I have had in the last few months. My flat in London is currently empty and being renovated which is killing me. I have not had much work from Hammersmith so there has been no money coming in. Still it is looking a bit brighter now with the flat due to be let again this month and some work coming in again.

Right now Spurs are torturing me again 3-1 down at half time against Villa. Jesus!