Remember

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

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On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month many millions of people around the world stop whatever they are doing.

Stop to take a moment from their hectic lives to pay their respects to the fallen. To those who paid the ultimate price to ensure that our busy lives can continue day by day with hardly a beat missed.

The 11th November 1918 saw the signing of the armistice treaty that officially brought an end to World War 1.

One year later in the grounds of Buckingham palace King George V hosted the first service of remembrance to commemorate the signing of the treaty and this became a national tradition. Two minutes silence is observed, the first minute is a time for reflection and give thanks for those who sacrificed so much, and the second is a time to draw your thoughts back to the living, to those who were left behind, the families who lost so much.

In 1939 the traditional armistice day services were moved to the closest Sunday to the 11th in order that production for the next Great War would not be interrupted. This continues to this day, although in recent years the focus has once again shifted back to the day itself.

 

RBL Paper Poppy
RBL Paper Poppy

Inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ written in 1915 by Major John McCrae,  the poppy has become a symbolic item worn by many as a mark of respect for those who perished and those who still serve. In the United Kingdom, remembrance poppies are sold by The Royal British Legion (RBL). This is a charity providing financial, social, political and emotional support to those who have served or who are currently serving in the British Armed Forces, and their dependents.

This year is the 100 year anniversary of the commencement of world war 1 and there have been many events organised in commemoration of this. By far the most striking is an instillation at the Tower of London titled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘,  designed and created by Tom Piper and ceramic artistPaul Cummins   There are 888,246 ceramic poppies that cover the lawns of the tower, one for each of the British and commonwealth lives that were lost in the conflict. The last of which was placed there today by a 13 year old army cadet.

The many people that I know that have seen it have all been moved in different ways by the piece, I have only seen it in photographs, but have been similarly moved. The sheer scale of the piece brings into sharp focus just how many lives were lost.

Photograph used with kind permission of Michael P Mulcahy of Innercitylifelondon
Photograph used with kind permission of Michael P Mulcahy of Innercitylifelondon*

 

There has been much controversy in recent years about the political nature of wearing a poppy, but for me it is not a political statement, but a personal one. It gives a focus to my thoughts and I have a deep and emotional attachment to it.

During my life as an ex-pat it has become quite a mission to secure my remembrance day poppy. Although the poppy is a recognised symbol in mainland Europe, actually finding one was nigh impossible.

When we lived in France it was a simple matter of asking my mother to pop some in the post, but the mail delivery here in Thailand has proved to be somewhat hit and miss. And last years were hastily cobbled together from craft paper and pins. This year I was a little more organised and made crochet poppies to wear.

Crochet Poppies
Crochet Poppies

This morning I made sure that my hustle and bustle was completed in time for me to head to a local park where I could spend a contemplative few minutes in the tranquility of the flower garden alone with my thoughts. But it turns out I was not alone. There was an elderly gentleman who approached me as i meandered along to the coffee shop. He stopped me and in very broken English told me I looked sad and asked if I was ok. In VERY broken thai I told him I was fine and we sat and had a conversation only made difficult by the language barrier. My thai lessons are going well but I’m not yet up to discussing the geo-political nature of global conflict, so I did the best I could to explain why I was here and what my wooly poppy was for. It took a while, but the understanding in his eyes spoke more than words. When we parted he took my hand and said;  “War is bad, you remember- is very good”

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Jer Gan Mai

 

*I am a huge fan of this exceptionaly talented urban photographer. Please take a moment to look at the work of Michael P Mulcahy at Innercitylifelondon.

 

Loi Krathong

November the 6th was the full moon day of the twelfth month in the Buddhist calendar. It is a very special day, particularly in the Lanna kingdoms in the North of Thailand. It is the festival day of Loi Krathong.  Now as with any good Thai festival (particularly one that falls near a weekend) it has extended itself from one day ( the day of the full moon) , to 3 days of parades, contests, sky lanterns and, much to my dogs dismay, extremely loud fireworks.

The origins of loi Krathong are to be found in the ancient Hindi religious texts some of which have been wholeheartedly embraced by the wonderful mish-mash that is thai Buddhism. The basic idea is that you give an offering to the river goddess to thank her for life sustaining water and apologise for any harm you may have caused to the water.
The name itself is a literal instruction for the event. Loi meaning ‘to float’ and Krathong which is ‘a basket that floats’. So during loi Krathong you should float a basket that floats.
The simple krathongs are made from banana tree stems wrapped in banana leaves and decorated with flowers, incense and a candle. It is also traditional to put something of yourself in the basket so the goddess knows who exactly the offering is from. Locks of hair and fingernail clippings are the preferred items of choice. The baskets are made and filled, then taken to the riverbank, lit and launched and your offering of appeasement to the river goddess is carried downstream. ( Quite how launching hundreds of thousands of floral tributes, that will soon become nothing more than litter, into an already polluted waterway is seen as an appropriate apology for polluting the river is up for debate, but not right here or right now).

My very own Krathong
My very own Krathong

The process of making a krathong has developed into a true artform. I am rather proud of the one I laboured over today in my Thai culture class, but as pretty as it is, it pales into insignificance when put beside just about any other one you can buy from the numerous vendors throughout the city. To watch the nimble fingers manipulating the banana leaves into such delicate,  intricate and beautiful sculptures is a joy to behold. And that’s even before they start getting fancy with the flowers. But a Krathong can also be as simple as a banana leaf ‘boat’ with a single flower inside. There are also now some made from a dough like substance filled with fish food that breaks down in the water and feed the fish as they go, which I think is a rather splendid idea.

Small Person and her 'fish food' Krathong
Small Person and her ‘fish food’ Krathong
Launching my Krathong into the Ping River
Launching my Krathong into the Ping River

Over the years the festivities have of course grown and have become a major tourist draw. Despite Thailand’s many problems, over the last year in particular, which has seen a vast drop in tourist numbers it has been estimated that an additional 200,000 people will be in this city alone for the festivities.

Of course Chiang Mai has an additional draw besides the Krathong.
In the northern or Lanna kingdoms of Thailand we have the YI Peng festival as well. Ye Peng (  directly translated from the Lanna language it means ‘second full moon day’ ), is a festival of light. The origins are rather hazy but most scholars agree that this was again taken from an a incident Hindu ceremony which was incorporated into Buddhism many centuries ago. As Chiang Mai was the ancient capital of the Lanna kingdoms it is a focal point for the celebration.
During Ye Peng people will decorate their homes and businesses with khom fai and khom thew which are small decorative paper lanterns and lanterns on sticks illuminated by small candles. This is a time for making merit at the temples and offering your hopes and prayers to Buddha for the coming months.

 

Loi Thew
Loi Thew

But the main attraction are the khom loi, hundreds of thousands of paper lanterns released into the night sky. The main spiritual purpose of the lantern release is one of cleansing. It is said that you speak all your troubles and woes as the lantern slowly inflates and as it takes off into the sky, so does your burden. Whether your troubles really do float off into the distance is I suppose a matter of opinion, but for one night at least it is a soothing thought.
It is a sight that I will never tire of seeing and one that I find both mesmerizing and deeply moving. I once again feel blessed to have been a small part of it.

Up up and away.
Up up and away.
Let your troubles drift away
Let your troubles drift away

Jer Gan Mai.

A Small Act of Kindness

I am interrupting my European travelogue for something VERY special. ( it will continue after this post )

Now those of you who follow my blog will understand my reasons for the interruption. If you are new to this page I would humbly suggest reading a post from April of this year before continuing to help better understand just how important this is to me.

Today something quite wonderful happened that reaffirmed my belief that I live in the best city, with the kindest people, in the world.

It was not long after I’d dropped small person off at the school bus this morning and I was back at home pottering around in the kitchen when my phone rang. When I saw it was small person calling my Immediate reaction was to check and see if the Matilda was in her box. ( Our adventurous hedgehog had a recently stowed away in small persons school bag and had an excursion ). Thankfully she was in and the cage lid was closed.
But what could possibly be wrong? She must have only just arrived. Was she sick?

Of course these thoughts were fleeting as I answered the call to an extremely excited 9year old.

“Mum, mum, mum, you will NEVER guess what’s happened!”
“So tell me then…”
“Well I just got to school and one of the secretaries told me that she had something for me and I should wait outside…”
“So what was it?”
“Well she went inside ,then she came back outside and guess what she had?”
“I don’t know…. Tell me, please?”
“She had the bag”
“Which bag?”
“Your bag!”
“My bag?”
“Yes, your bag, THE bag!”
“WHAT?”
“The bag that you left in the songtheaw, your bag, it’s here!”
“But that’s impossible, how?”
“My student ID was in the front pocket of the bag. ( On a side note I was wondering where that had gone, I just assumed it was somewhere in the mess of drawers in her bedroom). The driver must have found it in the pocket and brought it back to the school so they could give it back to me.”
“But that’s amazing, that’s so brilliant and kind. Did the driver leave his name so we could say thank you?”
“I don’t think so, they didn’t say so. He just dropped it off when he was going past.”

I said my goodbyes to small person with the firm promise that she would remember to bring my bag home with her. Of course she’s as absent minded as her mother and left the bag in her classroom when she came home, but it matters not. My smelly frayed old bag has been returned and I could not be happier or more amazed.

The driver could have no idea that an empty bag could have been so missed or mean so much. It was worth very little in monetary terms, probably less than the cost of the fuel he used to get it back to the school, but in terms of memory and feelings it is beyond price. But with no thought of reward, I’m not even able to say thank you, he brought my bag back to me and he will never know how much his seemingly small act of kindness means.

When you do something nice, when you perform one small selfless gesture, when you give something of yourself with no expectation of thanks or reward you often have no idea of the consequences of your actions. Even what you consider to be the smallest most insignificant thing could bring so much happiness to a stranger or a friend. So as a way of saying thanks to this lovely, lovely songtheaw driver I’d like to ask you all a favour.
It’s not a big thing, it won’t take much for you do, but please I’d be honoured if you would.
Just do something nice for no reason. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it can be as simple as giving up your seat on a crowded train, holding open a door, even a kind word can sometimes be the most precious gift.
So after you’ve read this, be it an hour a day or a week, just do something nice for a friend or a stranger. You have no idea how much joy you might bring.

Jer Gan Mài.

My First Coup

I know it’s not like me to write about current events, but there is no possible way I can ignore this one.

I have been trying to write this piece for several days. It has undergone many revisions, edits and rewrites as on rereading it was unpublishable, for many reasons, in the present climate.

So I deleted everything I had written and started again.

As most of you will be aware by now the country which I now call home has undergone some rather radical changes in the past week.

On the 20 th may at 3am the Thai Royal Army announced through a television broadcast that it was assuming control of security and peacekeeping duties and the whole of the kingdom was now under the rule of Martial law. This was to put an end to the protests between rival political groups in the Capital which had been ongoing since November of last year and were escalating to a point that was no longer acceptable.

The following two days saw the protest sites of both camps closed down and the protesters dispersed while the chief of the army General Prayuth Chan-ocha gathered the key figures from both political parties in order to seek a resolution to the crisis.

On May 22nd, seeing no advance in the discussions the general assumed control of national administration and a coup d’état was announced on all national television stations.

Since then it has been hard to keep up with developments.

Large numbers of troops have been mobilised and there is an extremely visible presence on the streets of most large cities.

All of the politicians and civil servants who were at the meetings were detained and many more have since been requested to report to the military.

The senate has been disbanded and all law making powers rest in the hands of the military under the name of the National Council for Peacekeeping and Order (NCPO)

All TV stations ceased regular broadcast, ( although most have now been reinstated)

A national curfew has been imposed during the hours of 22.00 – 05.00, with exception of essential services, transportation of food, and those with legitimate travel plans.

Certain international and domestic web sites have been blocked as they were deemed to be promoting instability or of being critical of the coup.

A ban has been placed on all political gatherings of 5 persons or more.
Despite this ban there were a number of anti-coup protests in Bangkok and here in Chiang Mai on the 24th on May, which in the main passed of peacefully with only a handful of arrests.

On 25 May 2014, the NCPO authorised the military courts to try all cases concerning lèse majesté, sedition, national security or violation of NCPO orders.
In military courts, civilians are not allowed to have themselves represented by lawyers.

This is a very brief summary of some of the key events that have taken place over the last week.

Obviously I am unable to make comment on these events as we are operating under extremely strict rules regarding both the activities of the military and civilian populations. There are many good sources of information available outside of the borders of the kingdom if you wish to look into this further or if you are unfamiliar with the strictures of martial law or the details of lèse majesté.

Whilst I’m certain that the general has far more important things to do with his time than to trawl the internet reading through ex-pat blogs I’m not ever so keen to be among those who are testing this theory so I shall be keeping my opinions very much to myself. In the words of the character Francis Urquhart, ( or Francis Underwood if you happen to be a fan of U.S television drama), ” I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly comment “.

Now how is all this affecting the life of Small person and I.

Well in all honesty, not a lot.
Other than an extra day off school for small person on the 23rd it hasn’t really had an impact on our day to day living. As I do have a small person in the house, being out after 10pm is rarely an issue. And getting out of bed and out of the house before 5 am is unheard of. I’m not really one for protests, certainly not in a country where I am a recent arrival and whose politics are far more involved than anyone who has been here for only 9 months can have more than a basic grasp of at best.

Day to day life in the city is carrying on in an almost normal fashion with very little disruption. There is a large military presence in the city, but on the whole the few soldiers I have come into contact with have been courteous and friendly and have been extremely helpful at stopping the traffic to allow small person and I to cross the busy main road when the traffic lights were broken.

Clearly this is an extremely fragile time for this wonderful country, and we are not naive enough to believe that it will be plain sailing from here on in, but as of this moment we are happy, at peace and safe.

No-one knows what is going to happen over the course of the next days, weeks or months, I pray with all of my heart that Thailand will emerge from this time as a stronger and more unified country and that democracy will be restored. But until such time as that happens we just need to be vigilant, but most of all ( and much as I hate to use this hackneyed phrase it does seem rather appropriate in the circumstances), just keep calm and carry on.

Jer Gan Mài

Time For A Nice Cup of Tea.

Why didn’t anybody tell me that tea can be nice?*

I have never liked tea. Ever. And I’ve tried, believe me I’ve tried, but I just can’t stomach tea.

I’ve tried ‘normal tea’, builders tea**, hippie tea***, earl grey tea, Assam tea, Oolong tea, saffron tea and on one memorable occasion Vietnamese green tea with condensed milk, and I just don’t like tea. I don’t even like the smell.

Technically I should like tea. For one thing I’m Scottish and its practically pre-programmed into our genetic base code that we “do like a nice wee cuppa tea”‘.

I grew up surrounded by tea as my family held with base genetics and (with the exception of my mother who can’t abide the stuff) were, and are to this day, tea monsters. I mean they do drink coffee, but they prefer tea. I mean actually would rather drink tea than coffee. It blows my mind.

20140520-003342-2022619.jpg

Some of my friends even drink tea.

Most of my friends drink coffee, but some of them drink tea.

When I was a younger I had a minor operation on my wrist, nothing to write home about, no complications.
Apart from afterwards when the stitches got infected and my wrist swelled up like a balloon. Thankfully my mother was on hand to bring her many years of nursing training into full effect and removed the stitches and the end result is nothing more dramatic than a weird scar on the inside of my left wrist that looks like a squashed bug.

As I was saying, the operation was a complete success and the wonderful nurse was at my bedside waiting for the anesthetic to wear off. As I began to stir she very kindly went to fetch me a hot cup of tea, and wafted it under my nose as a gentle encouragement to wake. It definitely worked, but probably not in quite the manner she had intended. Im not sure which was worse, the smell of the nurses vomit soaked shoes wafting up from under my bed or the smell of the tea that invoked that response.

20140520-003342-2022730.jpg

So you get the picture. I don’t really dig on tea.

But since we have moved here, something rather curious has happened. I’ve started to drink tea. Not milk and sugar biscuit dunking tea, but tea nonetheless and some of it has been less than unpleasant.

You see in a lot of cafés here, you will be served tea, regardless of whether you want it or not. When you order a sit down coffee, it will usually be accompanied by a small glass of tea and a small glass of water for you to drink once you have finished your coffee.

My first coffee-tea was delivered by the loveliest lady who runs a small cafe which is rather conveniently located just across the road from where small person gets dropped off from school and on the very rare occasion that I am early, I will sit and order a coffee. And get a tea. Obviously given my tea loathing status, I was rather dubious, but the twin desires of not wishing to offend and being determined to soak up as much of my new city as I could, I had a sip of the tea. The most surprising thing about it was that I wasn’t instantly sick. The second most surprising thing was that it was actually nice. Really actually nice.

This shock to the system left me reeling it has to be said, and I still regard tea with suspicion, but I have returned many times to this little coffee shop not only for the exceptionally good coffee, but also for the tea ( and occasionally for the delicious watermelon ice lollies that she has in the freezer ) .

Endeavoring to discover where you could buy this magical blend of tea it turns out that it is in fact a Chinese black tea, and to fully enjoy the taste it should be drunk when piping hot. Now this I can get behind as there is nothing more offensive to my palate than a warm drink. I have been known to down an entire mug of coffee before a normal person would consider it safe to pass their lips, and there is little more disappointing that a cup that has been allowed to sit too long and take on tepid qualities. Likewise with a drink that is meant to be cold, just shy of freezing is my preferred temperature. The only acceptable exception to this rule is mulled wine.

But back to the tea.

I decided that I would drink more tea, not go as far as order it you understand, but the range of coffee-teas that are served in Chiang mai is vast. And I have tried all of them. I was actually quite delighted that after a massage I was given a few moments to sit and sip hot tea before entering back into the city scrum.

I still don’t like hippie teas*** and the thought of a builders** brew makes me nauseous, but there really is something quite wonderful about a simple delicate Chinese black tea . Who would have thought??

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Jer Gan Mài

* Of course many people have tried to convince me over the years that tea is a good thing. I just simply didn’t believe them.
**builders tea- tea made from bags that have been stewing for so long that when milk is added it looks bright orange. Sometimes known as fake-tan tea.
***hippie tea- any kind of fruity/herbal tea bag concoction that is wafted over a mug of hot water before serving. Let’s be honest here it’s not even tea, its flowers in hot water.

Did the earth move for you darling?

So tonight I was all ready to post a blog about His Majesty The King, it is after all a national holiday today to mark the anniversary of his coronation. But at around 6pm something happened that changed my mind. Something big and a little bit scary.

So tonight I was all ready to post a blog about His Majesty The King, it is after all a national holiday today to mark the anniversary of his coronation, I had done my research and had my notes ready to compile. But I’m afraid that post will have to wait until another day.

At around 6pm something happened that changed my mind. Something big and a little bit scary.

I was on the phone to hubby casually chatting about the days events and all of a sudden my tummy started to feel a bit odd. Now its not unknown for me to get a few butterflies from time to time when I’m talking to my belovéd, ( even after all these years 😉 ), but he’s never actually made me feel queasy before. It was then I noticed that the tv was rocking gently before my eyes and I had a fleeting worry that I was about to faint. My fear of fainting was soon overtaken by a deeper concern as I noticed that not only was the tv moving but the pictures hanging on the wall behind it were swaying from side to side. Simultaneously I became aware that my feet were moving too, even though I was sitting down and they were flat on the floor, which could only mean that the floor too, in fact the whole house, was having a not insignificant wobble.  I tried not to panic as I grabbed small ones hand and dragged her into the garden whilst my poor, dear husband had to listen to me verbalising these events on the end of a phone 6000 miles away. It wasn’t till I was almost through the door that my thought process  caught up with my physical awareness and the word “earthquake” arrived in my brain.

By the time we were in the garden, less than 30 seconds since it had begun, the ground had resumed its usual and much more welcome position of reassuringly solid and the only visible signs of something awry were the hanging orchids swinging from side to side in the still, calm evening air. I handed the phone to small person as I did a quick perimeter check of the house to ensure there were no blown out windows or new cracks in the masonry and was satisfied that no obvious damage had occurred. As I finished the circuit of the house I noticed the garden wall, which has never been the sturdiest of structures, had sustained some damage, but other than that we appeared to be in the clear.

Several large cracks appeared in the mid section
Several large cracks have appeared in the mid-section

I spoke again to my worried sick husband and assured him that we would be staying outside for a little while in case of aftershocks, and that I would speak to him again soon.

Then I did what had to be done.

Within seconds I had confirmed via twitter that it had indeed been an earthquake, and not a small one. A 6.3 magnitude quake had been recorded by the USGS, ( United States geological survey), 12km south of Chiang Rai, which makes that just over 130km of us here in Chiang Mai, but that there were, thank goodness, no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties.

Epicentre 10km south of Chiang Rai
Epicentre 10km south of Chiang Rai

Then I took to Facebook to let my friends and family know that all was well should they hear news of an earthquake in Northern Thailand, and of course to swap immediate news and ‘quake stories’ with my fellow residents of this fair city. In the immediate aftermath it became clear that whilst there have been a few reports of structural damage, there was nothing major to report other than a sense of overwhelming relief that we seemed to have got off so lightly.

This is not my first earthquake, I’m up to 4 now, but this is the first big one. The others were insignificant by comparison, registering as no more than a momentary shift that had to be confirmed by news reports after the fact ( and one not registering at all as it happened while I was asleep and was so small that it was barely there at all).  However I very much suspect that it won’t be my last. Whist not on a par with ‘the ring of fire’ or the San Andreas Fault, Thailand, I have discovered, is no stranger to earthquakes. The area between Chiang Rai, the epicentre of todays quake, and Chiang Mai sits on right on top of the Mae Chen Fault and over the past 40 years, Thailand has experienced mid-sized earthquakes (magnitudes 5.0-5.9) 8 times, or once every 5 years. 5 of these tremors struck in the north, while the other 3 were centred in the west. Virtually all earthquakes recorded in Thailand are under magnitude 6.0*, but todays was clocked at an impressive and rather scary 6.3.
photo
There have been reports of some small aftershocks in Chiang Mai at around 7.30, but I didn’t feel anything personally. Possibly as I was being pulled headlong into a series of storm drains by my dog who was making great sport out of chasing lizards on his nightly stroll around that time.

But of course it wasn’t just me that felt the earth move this evening and its time to look at things from small persons perspective.

After her initial period of wide-eyed wonderment at feeling the floorboards shimmy beneath her feet, and telling  daddy that it was ‘just like being in the earthquake room’ at the Museum of Natural History in London, she quickly lost patience with my insistence that we stay outside in the garden for while, just in case. Her impatience grew even stronger when she realised that her beloved ipad was just too far away from the router inside to pick up the wifi.

My request that she was to go to bed in our room tonight (which in all honesty is more for my comfort than hers), was treated with not a small amount of disdain, until she remembered that you get much better Internet in our room than hers and suddenly decided she was a bit too scared to go to sleep straight away but she would probably be ok if I let her play mine-craft for half an hour…. As I went up to declare the final bed time I asked her if she was ok, to which she replied ;
‘Honestly mum, what’s the matter with you tonight,  it was only an earthquake’.

Jer Gan Mài

 

*source ; source http://www.cicc.chula.ac.th/en/current-campaign/203-likelihood-of-earthquakes-in-thailand.html

Farewell old friend…

Today for the first time in 8 and a half months I left something in the back of a songthaew ( redbus/taxi ).

It wasn’t anything expensive or vital. It wasn’t a thing of great beauty or importance. It was just an empty bag. An empty,old dirty, worn out bag. I am unreasonably sad about the loss of my old, dirty, worn out bag.

Today for the first time in 8 and a half months I left something in the back of a songthaew ( redbus/taxi ).

It wasn’t anything expensive or vital. It wasn’t a thing of great beauty or importance. It was just an empty bag. An empty,old dirty, worn out bag. I am unreasonably sad about the loss of my old, dirty, worn out bag. We have a history you see. A full and wonderful history.

the bag of wonder

Somewhere in the middle of the Nevada desert, it was waiting. Waiting for the moment that fate and an excess baggage problem would bring us together. Waiting to be found. I could feel it drawing me ever closed like a fish on a line pulled inexorably to the shore. I turned a corner of the tat filled mall in a tourist trap laid out in the sand. And there it was. I didn’t know it at the time, but we would be together for an age of adventure, spanning continents, conquering new worlds….

OK so I’m probably getting a bit carried away now but it was a REALLY good bag.
We have been together on many adventures, starting with the honeymoon in Vegas and LA, it’s still got the hotel stickers on. Although we bought it together it was soon ‘my bag’. My husband thinking (probably quite rightly) that it was just too small for him. But you would be amazed at how much you can fit inside. It could happily contain the necessary requirements for me and small person for up to a week’s worth of travel.
It’s been with me on buses, planes, trains, motorbikes, boats, cars. And travelled to many destinations including. Paris, Rome, Nagoya (Japan), Holland, back to America (twice), Macau ,Hong Kong, Phuket and all over the UK .It has suffered in the bowels of many a national express coach the length and breadth of the country, been trundled through as many railway and underground stations as you could mention and been the mainstay of many a house move, not to mention yomping through the country lanes of rural France filled with groceries from the nearest shop that was 2 miles away through rugged forest and field paths.

From Rural France to Thailands second city, my trusty bag has continued in it’s service. Due to its slightly worn ( already once replaced) shoulder straps, the ever-so-slightly awkward zip and the slowly growing hole in the bottom it has been demoted from essential travel bag to family workhorse. Accompanying me on the weekly water run and on trips slightly further afield to Tesco Lotus to assist in the conveyance of ‘the big shop’. It was todays ‘big shop’ that led to my distress. For unknown reasons we jumped from the back of the songthaew, paid the driver and watched him drive off into the distance. It was only then, a minute too late, that I realised my bag was not on my shoulder. I must have set it down as we got in and got carried away eating sno-cones and chatting with small person and not realised that I had left my wonderful bag inside.

I KNOW it is unreasonable and quite ridiculous to become emotionally attached to a travel bag. I know.  But that doesn’t alter the sadness I feel. I KNOW that I needed to get a new companion as after 13 years of faithful service it was more than a little frayed round the edges, and yet I haven’t . I KNOW its just a piece of luggage and I haven’t lost the memories contained within its canvas shell and I KNOW I will find a new bag, but my goodness it will not be easy, it will have a VERY hard time living up to it’s predecessor.

 

Jer Gan Mai