History & Old Stuff · Holidays · January 2017 · South East Asia 2017 · Travel

The Nervous, Jetlagged User’s Guide to Bangkok (Part 2)

By the time you read this we will have started exploring Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but I haven’t told you an almost-amusing anecdote about umbrellas, so let’s continue with Francesca’s Edited Highlights (part one is here).

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace, a complex of buildings which used to be the royal family’s permanent residence, is the one place everyone says you have to go when you’re in Bangkok, so we went one morning… so did everyone else in Bangkok. I’m travelling with Maxim who-needs-a-guide-just-take-photos Burke, and know little to nothing about Buddhism (and even less about Thai history) so dodging a million people in the rain  – and by rain I mean HUGE DOWNPOUR – to squint up at golden pagodas through soaked glasses was a bit like walking into a chocolate shop never having tasted sugar. Everything was wonderful, but I have no idea what I was looking at. I did enjoy sitting in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (which is not actually emerald) and searching for nirvana, but I think it’s going to take more than a few sessions on a meditation app for that.

We also accidentally kept the umbrellas we borrowed from staff, and I was wracked with guilt for a few days for stealing from the Thai government, so I have left mine in the hostel. I wasn’t going to smuggle contraband into Cambodia.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho, one of about four hundred wats (temples) in Bangkok is right next to the Grand Palace, and contains a couple of hundred bronze-and-gold-leaf buddhas. We paid for a tour guide this time, who told us that the Thai name for Bangkok is the longest city name in the world, and that it means ‘city of angels’. Take that, LA. We also met, amongst others, the reclining buddha…. which really reminds me of Kate Winslet in Titanic, now I think about it.

img_5575
Is ‘draw me like one of your French girls, Jack’ an appropriate caption? No? You come up with one, then, because that’s all I could think.

National Museum

The Thai equivalent of the British Museum, the National Museum doesn’t look that big from outside. Ignore this and wear your most comfortable shoes. And take snacks. There’s a sprawling gallery dedicated to Asian art, a section filled with royal objects, a separate art gallery, a building dedicated to one of Thailand’s queens…

And more umbrellas.

img_5607
We checked it’s a real umbrella with spokes (?) and everything.

 

I did not try to use that one. I must say, I was a bit worried about the number of priceless artefacts out in the open.  What if the rain got in, or a passing child vomited? Then again I once visited a museum where a local stray would follow visitors in and curl up on the antique bed, so I guess a bit of rain isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’d still be wary of puking children, though.

Khao San Road

Khao San Road is the other one place everyone says you have to go when you’re in Bangkok, and since we’ve given the ping pong shows a miss, we did. In a nutshell, it’s like Camden Lock Market but instead of punk gear and tattoo parlours, there are street vendors with scorpion kebabs and tattoo parlours. I didn’t get any good photos, so just imagine Camden Lock, replace rain with sun and add the scorpions. The tourists were identical.

History & Old Stuff · Holidays · January 2017 · South East Asia 2017 · Travel

The Nervous, Jetlagged User’s Guide to Bangkok (Part 1)

Greetings from the veranda outside our hostel. There is a bazaar directly to my right, which stocks live gerbils, and a coffee shop to my left, which doesn’t. So far as I know.

Thank you to everyone who saw my last post – if you’re family and you’re new here, please be aware that I swear here more than I do in front of you.

I am slowly starting to make friends with Bangkok, although I doubt we’ll ever be on as good terms as I am with, say, London. I suspect this is because even the thickest motorists in London usually observe lanes, traffic lights, zebra crossings and the difference between the road and the pavement. But we’re getting there. It’s been nearly a week since we left home, and I’ve learnt a lot since then, for example:

  • It’s possible to crack the code on your own padlock, which you accidentally reset
  • Tuk tuks are terrifying
  • I mean if one crashed and- I don’t know how they don’t – every person inside would be toast
  • McDonald’s in Asia is identical to McDonald’s everywhere, down to the smell (although the one we popped in to seemed to serve more fish)
  • It rains more in South East Asia than it does in England, which I did not think possible
  • Boat taxis are cheaper than taxi taxis
Bangkok River Taxi
I couldn’t take more than a couple of photos because that is not somewhere you want to lose your phone.

We’ve started to get our tourist heads on and been exploring too. We’ve seen a lot, so let’s call this part Francesca’s Edited Highlights (because the forty minutes we spent at the Vietnamese Embassy, or the forty minutes we spent stuck in a taxi on the way back from Chinatown does not make good reading).

Bangkok’s Malls

If you hate Westfield, do not try the Siam Centre, MBK Mall or Siam Discovery. They are air conditioned to a t, absolutely bloody enormous and include everything from contemporary art galleries to supermarkets. They remind me simultaneously of Debenhams and Are You Being Served, and feature many Starbucks.

Starbucks in Siam Discovery Centre, Bangkok
It really is the same everywhere…

Jim Thompson House

CULTURE TIME. A US soldier, Jim Thompson, was posted to Thailand during World War II, but I think the war ended by the time he got there or something – he had a lot of free time, so he explored Bangkok and fell in love with it, returning to live and transform the local silk industry (he came up with printing onto silks directly with moulds; previously patterns were woven in). He built himself a house and a reputation, went to Malaysia on a trip and went missing. Now his private art collection is on display in his house, which his family gave to Thailand. No one knows what happened to him, although one therory is that he was assassinated by the CIA (is anyone else getting serious Leonardo diCaprio blockbuster vibes?). Anyway his house had a pond and a potty shaped like a frog so I like him.

(I was not allowed to take a picture of the frog.)

I’m trying to keep these blogs short like me so I will leave this here… part two coming soon! Or when I’m next in a decent wi fi zone…

Funny · History & Old Stuff · Internet · July 2016 · Pure Insanity · Videos

5 Things You Didn’t Know the British Museum Would Make a Video About

Sometimes – often – my day job isn’t the most mentally stimulating or lighthearted. It frequently involves spreadsheets, social media scheduling apps and twelve tabs, one of which is my bank account. On these occasions I find my own entertainment in the form of podcasts, YouTube playlists and throwing pencils.

Sometimes the entertainment finds me.

I came across this while researching the British Museum for a blog.

And now we’ve all learnt something. You’re welcome.

(All Hail) Creation · Art · Complaints · History & Old Stuff · Internet · June 2016 · Tumblr

I Summon Thee, Bullshitticus

I’ve been feeling a little bit short on inspiration lately, but I’m trying not to just shut off the page when I can’t think of the next sentence, so this is version three of today’s blog and I will fucking make a statement: I am considering rescinding my atheism. Don’t worry, I haven’t found God. I was approached by a couple of very polite Mormon recruiters in Southend the other day and equally-ish politely rebuffed their advances; I’m not fussed about my soul’s final resting place. In fact, I’m considering offering that up to the fates as well. It’s not capital-G God I’m looking, it’s the gods. Well, the nine Muses. Well, any of the Muses. Maybe not Euterpe, who was apparently muse of flutes and lyric poetry, but I’ll take the rest. Thalia, muse of comedy, will do. Or Melpomene, muse of tragedy. I’ll work with what I can get at this point. I will even pray to this guy:

Bullshiticus God of term papers by the sous chef on Tumblr
from thesouschef.tumblr.com

The artist accompanied their illustration with extra theology:

In this time of term papers I wanted to draw my patron deity, Bullshitticus, god of students and general last minute fudgery, sitting upon his Golden Futon, attended by the muses Caffeina and Thesaurae, whose powers of artificial energy and pretentious vocabulary can be invoked in case of the all-nighter.

I like to think he’s Dionysus’s second cousin or something.

I do not have a term paper due, but I do have two articles to finish, three or four postcards to design, some stories to complete and a week of social media posts to compose. I have lost my information book on the original Nine Muses and sources about Bullshitticus are scarce (I feel he is a last resort anyway, although I could do with a blessing from Thesaurae) but I will consult my mythology books for worship tips. Should I make a burnt offering? Construct a shrine? Do I need to find honeyed wine and sprinkle it on a brazier alongside words of thanks?

Muses, I am considering going back to fan fiction. I have wondered about trying poetry. I’m willing to forgo my daily surf of the popular page on Instagram. I will make you a shrine in my bedroom next to my MCR posters. I will buy scented candles and burn them while I read from classical texts. Please send help.

On the off chance the muses aren’t listening, do you guys have any ideas for rekindling inspiration?

Art · Books · History & Old Stuff · May 2016 · TV · Videos

‘Romeo, Romeo, where are you Romeo?’

I read the other day that the average deposit for a home in the UK is currently £80,000 and as my reactions were limited to either throwing myself into work or jumping off the QEII bridge, I’ve been writing a lot. I don’t want to show it to any of you yet (for a staunch non-spiritualist I am ridiculously superstitious about sharing work before it’s done) but I’m quite quietly pleased with myself for having picked up a pen.

It got me thinking about that other great writer great pieces of literature, and I wondered if any of you have been watching Upstart Crow? It’s on BBC2 on Monday nights should probably be required viewing for every student studying Shakespeare. It was written by the same guy who co-wrote Blackadder, so maybe we should just appoint him head of schools and be done with it.

Imagine the exam papers.

 

(All Hail) Creation · Books · History & Old Stuff · October 2015 · Patreon Reviews

Review: ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’, Judith Kerr

Polite notice/potential spoiler alert: this one might make you sniffle. And, um, it’s about a Jewish family in the 1930s. But not quite like how you’d think.

In 2013 I was lucky enough to go to the Hay Festival and attend an interview – which was more of a conversation – between two of the most prominent writers my childhood, Judith Kerr and Michael Morpurgo. I learnt that Michael Morpurgo failed his 11+, that Prince Philip read Mog and that Judith Kerr is not, as I’d assumed, born-and-bred English. She was born in Berlin, where her father, Alfred Kerr, was a big deal in literary circles. He saw the writing on the wall and spoke out against Hitler before a lot of people did… He was also Jewish, so his name was on the top of a list the Nazi party published stating who they would shoot should they come to power. He moved his family to Switzerland in 1933, just before the Nazis were elected.

I wouldn’t normally add so much background to a fiction novel – and you certainly don’t need to know it to read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit because the novel is, technically, a children’s book. It’s funny, it’s easy to read and its main character, Anna, is a little bit like every seven-year-old who lives with her brother and their parents. The whole story takes place before 1939 – war isn’t really mentioned – and the plot concentrates on Anna’s experience leaving Berlin for Switzerland. Then her experience leaving Switzerland for Paris, then Paris for London. First and foremost it’s a children’s book, about children and aimed at them. But it’s also an autobiography; Judith Kerr writes in the notes that she wrote it to help her own children learn about her childhood.

Course, reading When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit as an adult, in the same week Syrian children were drowning in the Mediterranean, it was surreal to realise that Anna and her family were some of the first refugees of the Second World War. It also made me want to cry my eyes out, because Anna is almost completely unaware of what’s going on outside of her little world; anti-Semitism, the probability of war and the realities of seeking refuge in a foreign country aren’t such bold themes as they would be in an ‘adult’ novel. That’s what makes it so poignant (and a little bit ironic). Finishing the book made me want to find anyone who opposes helping the current refugee crisis and throw them into a dingy off the coast of Greece. This novel is historical, but it also couldn’t be more current.

WHSPR

I got to meet Judith Kerr at Hay, and at the time I didn’t realise how lucky I was to meet her and to see her interviewed. Mog the Forgetful Cat and The Tiger Who Came to Tea are classic children’s stories, but it’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit that you should make your children read as soon as they’re old enough to get through a prose novel. Then you should borrow it off them. (If you buy it, try to get hold of the Essential Modern Classics edition; there are notes from Morpurgo and Kerr plus a bit of historical background.)

I’m off to read the next book in the series. There are two more, obviously… there’s the war to get to yet. I’m just glad I know Anna has a happy ending.

You can support my work every time I review a book using Patreon.

DISCUSS. · Government and Politics · History & Old Stuff · June 2015

A Magna Carta Retrospective

Do you think any of the onlookers at the Magna Carta signing actually thought it would be celebrated eight centuries later? Like did any watching peasants have a debate?

Steve the Peasant

Dude they’re signing that peace treaty so we won’t have to pay stupid taxes and the barons can’t get away with everything.

Jimmy the Peasant

Yeah we can’t even read that, it’s in Latin. And it only applies to free men. Which we aren’t. And it says women can’t accuse men of murder and I, personally, see that as sexist.

Steve the Peasant

Dude it’s a start. Maybe future generations will polish it up, take out the stupid bits and use it as a foundation for declarations of independence or bills for human rights!

Jimmy the Peasant

Whatever, man, we still have to pay our fucking taxes.

They head off to herd cattle and fight dysentery. 

Should’ve placed our bets with Steve, huh. Although it really didn’t let women accuse men of murder… it wasn’t much of a peace treaty either.

Still, I like to think they had no clue at all that a cramped, slightly ugly, almost completely incomprehensible peace-treaty-that-wasn’t would be remembered as the start of something wonderful… or as something less shit than a megalomaniac king and war-funding taxes, anyway.

Happy Monday!

PS check out that link and the video about half way down. It reminded me why history is brilliant if you let filmmakers get hold of it.

History & Old Stuff · January 2015 · Movies

Forgetting Weekends…

It’s been a strange few days… I drafted most of a post about everything going on with Charlie Hebdo, but I felt like I was going round in angry, bitter circles with very little productive or useful content, so it’ll stay a draft for now.

Let’s just keep on doing what we do, yeah?

My research for the Saving Face topics is well underway, and I’m also working on new stories, which makes me feel superduper productive.

From chrisprattings.tumblr.com
From chrisprattings.tumblr.com

In fact, last Saturday I forgot it was Saturday and tried to get up to work as normal. I couldn’t work out why the dogs were snoozing. I felt like I was in the groove, work ethic wise.

Also from chrisprattings.tumblr.com
Also from chrisprattings.tumblr.com. Someone’s a fan.

It’s almost a week later and I still am even though it’s January and traditionally I should be completely miserable and drowning in a winter cold. I probably will end up with some sort of lurgie, actually, but for now I’m smug and that’s what’s important. Plus, since seeing that film Unbroken on new year’s day (should that be capitalised?) I don’t feel like I can complain about a self-imposed work load.

I mean, have you guys seen Unbroken? It was like watching Die Hard or Rocky or any other macho action movie except for two important differences: a) there were no swooning maidens to sleep with the hero in a hotel part way through and b) the reason there were no swooning maidens was that the film was 100% true. All of it.

Every scene.

Well, maybe every scene, but there were no plot embellishments for dramatic effect. I don’t even want to tell you what happens, because I want you to see it and think “holy shit how did this guy live to be 97?” But he did.

So it’s not a big deal to forget it’s Saturday.

If any of you have any contributions to the Saving Face project, let me know!