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.

 

The Accidental Tourists

Power cuts are something you have to learn to live with in Thailand. Sometimes the power will drop out for a few seconds, sometimes a few hours, but never usually much longer than that. We have learned to be ready. Torches are dotted around the house in convenient location, candles are at the ready in the kitchen drawer and there is always a lighter on hand in case of a night time outage. It’s not really been a problem ( well not since hubby got a U.P.S. for his computer anyway), just a minor inconvenience. So when the power dropped out yesterday morning, we thought nothing of it and carried on as we were waiting for it to return.

Lunchtime sandwiches were eaten and water boiled on the gas stove for coffee while we watched the battery power on our phones and computers slowly head towards zero.  Which was not a problem as the power would be back soon right?

By 3pm  hubby was beginning to panic. His laptop had just died and his evening Skype meetings were approaching with alarming rapidity. Of course these were the meetings he could not afford to miss but with no power ( and therefore no Internet ) it was not looking too favourable, so a plan was hatched. Hubby would go into town and find a convenient coffee shop with free wifi and charging facilities, and if the power was not back on by the time I left to pick up small person from school he would book himself a cheap hotel room for the night and conduct his meetings using the hotel wifi.

When hubby got to town he sent word that it was the whole of our area that was out, but the city centre was good. As I formulated my reply and wondered just how many candles we had left in the drawer I heard the glorious sound of our little fountain spluttering back into life. 7 hours later we had power back- huzzah!

I texted hubby the good news and hurriedly found every chargeable appliance and plugged them in. A few minutes later hubby called me back and rather sheepishly confessed that he had panicked on the way into town and reserved a hotel room for the night just in case, and then tried to cancel it only to be informed that such a late cancellation would incur a full fee penalty.

We ran through our options. Hubby could go ahead and use the room, but would not have access to his main computer so wouldn’t have all the information at his disposal. We could join hubby at the hotel but would have to keep small person quiet from 7pm, and get her to sleep without interrupting his phone meeting ….. never going to happen. Hubby could just come home and we could chalk the whole thing up to experience, or, I could pack an overnight bag pick up small one from school pick up the hotel key from hubby then send him back to his office at home and she and I could enjoy dinner in town and a night in a hotel.

Guess which one we picked?

A bag was duly packed and a very confused small person was whisked into town to meet up with hubby and find out where we were staying for the night.

When we arrived at the 4* Imperial Maeping hotel I was rather impressed. Of course I have seen the hotel before as it is brilliantly located in the town close to the night bazaar, but as we live here, we have not stayed in it before.

Imperial Maeping Hotel
Imperial Maeping Hotel

Top tip coming right up ; It may seem rather extravagant for hubby to have booked a 4* hotel, but if you are booking in the low season ( march is not a big tourist month here generally ) and at the last minute the 4*&5* hotels can often be almost as cheap for a night or two as the mid range 2*&3* so its definitely worth checking.

We bid hubby a fond goodnight and checked in. It was a very nice twin room with coffee making facilities ( often lacking in most hotels these days) and being on the 12 th floor we had a lovely city view.

View from the 12th floor
View from the 12th floor

But it was the bathroom that made me squeal with joy. Literally squeal. It wasn’t a huge room, there wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about the colour scheme or the fluffiness of the towels, but there was one thing in this bathroom that filled me with joy and presented the perfect way to spend the evening once small one was in bed.
And that one thing was a bathtub. ( Which of course is the only picture I took that came out fuzzy and out of focus ).

I love having baths. I haven’t had a bath for 7 months. Our house, as wonderful as it is, has no bath. The vast majority of houses in Thailand (and I’d go as far to say the vast majority of houses in Asia ), have no baths. Plenty of showers but unless you are in a place that has been specifically built for westerners you will more than likely not have a bath in your bathroom. Now this wasn’t a deal breaker when we rented the house, but it was close!

As I have said, I LOVE having baths. It’s not just about getting clean you see. A bath is so much more than that. It’s a place to relax, to wallow, to pamper, to read, to have a glass of wine or two and on occasion it’s a fine place for a snooze. Bath times in my younger days were a highly controlled affair. With a family of 6 living in our house I had to clear a large window in the family schedule to enable my wallowing, but even then there was always the chance of interruption, and I was always getting into trouble for using all the hot water. A 3hr bath needs a lot of topping up.  When we moved to a house with a separate toilet and bathroom it was heaven. I think my longest ever bath was around 5 hours. I didn’t plan to stay in there that long  but I was heavily pregnant at the time and after waving hubby off to work I decided to have a bit of a read in the bath. I was so heavily pregnant that getting into the bath was a struggle and getting out was impossible. Thankfully my toes could still reach the taps so I didn’t have to suffer the indignity of cold water while I waited for hubby to come home and rescue me. Equally thankfully it was a very good book.

But I digress, the hotel room was lovely, but we were hungry so we headed out to eat. It’s a curious thing being a tourist in your own city. We wandered out to the night bazaar and browsed a few stalls, but as we know this market fairly well we knew the busy areas to avoid and we were able to recognise when ‘market fatigue’ kicked in and we knew exactly which side street to head down to find the right eatery to satisfy our needs.
The panoply of culinary options available to you in this area of the city is quite breathtaking. From tradition Thai street food to high end European menus all within shouting distance. The choice can be somewhat overwhelming and the ‘what would you like for dinner?’ question can be both hazardous and time consuming, luckily for us small one had already decided that a burger was what she needed and despite being surrounded by some of the most delicious and exotic of dinners a burger was what she had.

Sometimes only a Burger will do
Sometimes only a Burger will do

With dinner over it was time to retire for the evening ( small person still had school to get up for in the morning ) and we headed back through the busy streets with nothing but having a long luxurious bath on our minds. Well that was on my mind anyway.
Obviously small person had to go first, but she doesn’t appreciate a bath as much as I do and it didn’t take long for her to be tucked up in bed and at last it was my turn. With a cold beer in my hand and a freshly downloaded book on the iPad I lost myself for the next few hours.

Sunrise over CM
Sunrise over CM

Morning arrived all too quickly and the scramble to get small person ready for school was unchanged by our location. Breakfast in a tuk-tuk was quite fun though. I waved goodbye to her but instead of heading the short distance back home to a bleary eyed husband ( who had been up until stupid o’clock in the morning and was now fast asleep) I turned around and headed straight back to the hotel. Well the beds were so comfy and the pool looked so inviting and as I still had 3 and a half hours till check-out it would be silly not to. Might even have time for a quick bath before home time……..

not quite time to check out...
not quite time to check out…

Jer Gan Mài.