Family Money: Is Goldilocks at
The first and third largest stock markets in the world -
the USA and UK - have long extended their arms across the Atlantic to hold hands.
For many years these two powerful economies rode up and down the roller
coaster, carrying investors and the non-investing public with them, and most of the time
rising and falling almost in parallel.
Sometimes it was a very bumpy ride, going from boom to bust and back
In recent weeks, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and its British
cousin, the FTSE 100 index, have been setting new highs. The problems that dogged world
markets last autumn seem to be fading from the memory.
Many investors - especially those with short memories - have once again
been buying heavily into the US equity market, driving the market up.
In recent weeks I have been asked many times what my outlook is on the
US economy - mostly by people who hadnt read my article on the subject published in
this space on 22nd January. Some of these potential investors are euphoric about the
recent rises; others are sensibly cautious.
Unlike some commentators on a certain global TV news network, I
dont change my opinion every time I change my shirt. But in view of the number of
enquiries Ive received on what seems to be happening in the US and what may result,
and at the risk of boring regular readers of this column, Ill venture my views once
again (the guiding information for which, by the way, is gathered from various &
sundry sources, primarily from commentary carefully put together by professional analysts
at several major institutions as well as in the London Financial Times, but never last
nights TV news.)
Not too hot, nor too cold
At the moment, both the US and UK economies seem
to be experiencing what economists call The Goldilocks Effect.
A Goldilocks economy, like the fairy tale heroines porridge, is
one that is not too hot to cause inflation, nor too cold to cause recession, but just
On the surface, the key to the revival is that Goldilocks is alive and
prospering, albeit to different degrees, on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the US, sure enough, economic growth marches briskly on without any
sign of inflationary pressure. In the UK, the porridge might be tepid, but at least
recession now looks less and less likely. It seems that Britain is avoiding the worst of
its old boom-and-bust cycle.
But the economic news tells only part of the story.
Underpinning the remarkable resilience of the US and UK equity markets
has been the most obvious form of support for any commodity: a shift in the balance of
supply and demand.
With low returns on alternative investments (such as cash or bonds),
more and more money is pouring into equities. And with most emerging markets still
worrisome in the minds of most investors, theyre chasing after the safer
bets of the traditional major economies.
And this means the US & UK, since Japan, the worlds second
largest economy, is seen by most investors as a sick aunt to be avoided until she either
recovers or dies. The Japanese doctors keep fussing, and trying various pills and potions,
but havent yet come up with a remedy that will get Auntie Nikkei going again.
In the US and the UK, however, because companies are buying their
shares back, or not issuing new ones, the supply of equity is shrinking.
With demand rising and supply falling, it is no wonder prices are up.
Flights of fancy
There has been much talk and comment about
psychologically-critical barriers, as if breaking through these somehow meant the
investors had won a race and would get a medal for having done so.
A figure like 10,000 on the Dow is, of course, just a number.
But the anticipated reaching of that landmark inevitably raises the
questions: how much longer can this last? How imminent are the threats that might bring
the long bull run to an end?
Back last autumn, of course, it seemed as if the bull market was
already over when Russias default, the continuing crisis in Asia and the
near-collapse of US hedge fund Long Term Capital Management appeared to threaten a global
Investors then fled equities for the safe haven of US bonds, resulting
in the S&P 500 index dropping nearly 20%, the UKs FTSE Index 25% and European
markets 35% in less than three months.
The usual voices of doom & gloom were trotted out, if you recall,
to forecast the end of the worlds economy - as they do with monotonous regularity
every time theres a bump in the ride.
The main effect of these gurus is to induce small investors (who mostly
jumped on the bandwagon rather late in the day) to panic and sell out - and suffer a loss
in the process, more often than not.
Fortunately for stock markets, central banks quickly rode to the
rescue, with the US Federal Reserve cutting rates three times, the Bank of England five
times, and even the euro bloc managing a collective rate reduction before the introduction
of the single currency in January.
Once again, the gurus of doom & gloom slunk back to their holes...
until the next time theyre needed by certain TV networks to comment on the latest
dip, and maintain the networks ratings by getting the news to you first.
Global growth is still not expected to be
sparkling in 1999 and there are plenty of problem spots, such as Japan, Germany and
Brazil. But the worst may be over for Asia, notably in South Korea.
Outside Germany, Europe seems on course for respectable growth; and
above all, the US economy keeps charging forward. Economic growth was an annualised 6.1%
in the fourth quarter of 1998, but as Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman, said recently:
"There have been no obvious signs of emerging inflation pressures."
The UK economy is enjoying nothing like the same kind of growth as the
Even on the UK chancellors forecasts, which many analysts feel
are optimistic, UK GDP is expected to grow by only between 1%-1.5% this year.
But expectations of recession, widespread in the autumn, have started
to fade as survey data have indicated an upturn in business sentiment.
All this has reassured those who feared that corporate profits were
about to be severely squeezed.
According to one information company, US corporate earnings forecasts
have been rising steadily since December. And the corporate sector is playing a big part
in fuelling the rise in share prices.
At this stage of previous bull markets - notably in 1987 - companies
were falling over themselves to issue new equity to take advantage of high share prices.
But not this time.
In the four quarters to the end of September, there was net retirement
of some $158bn of equity in the US, while in the UK the supply of equity was reduced by
more than £30bn in 1998.
Take-overs & buy-backs
Two factors have been behind this shift:
take-overs and share buy-backs.
Take-overs or mergers offer companies two advantages. At a time when
low inflation and moderate economic growth make it hard to increase sales rapidly, mergers
enable companies both to cut costs (which improves margins), and to achieve the scale
needed to become a price-setter rather than a price-taker in their sectors.
As investors have recognised this trend, blue chip shares have
outperformed small companies - increasing the incentive for companies to grow bigger by
Share buy-backs have had an even greater influence than take-overs.
There seems to have been a revolution in corporate finance, with
managers accepting that surplus cash should not be hoarded but returned to shareholders.
With cash deposits paying a low return and debt tax-deductible,
buy-backs also enhance earnings per share and reduce a companys cost per capital.
The result is that buy-backs normally drive share prices higher,
something that managers - increasingly motivated by share options - have not failed to
In the US they have happily borrowed money to buy back their
companies shares. Over the four quarters to September, the corporate sector
accumulated some $359bn of debt, the highest ever 12-month figure.
Of course, higher gearing increases risk, but why should managers care?
They get generous severance packages when they quit or are fired. And if share prices
fall, boards are normally willing to rewrite options schemes to compensate.
A bubble about to burst?
There are some clouds on the horizon. Arguably
the latest rally in US share prices in particular is showing even greater signs of being a
bubble than before.
But once again, the nebulous ERP (Equity Risk Premium) factor comes
into play, as investors perceive the risk is acceptable in buying high-priced equities.
The long bull market in equities, which began in 1982, has been
accompanied by a similarly profitable era for bonds, which has seen yields fall to levels
not known for a generation.
Falling bond yields reduce both the borrowing costs of corporations and
the temptation for equity investors to switch out of the stock market in search of a
But they also increase the theoretical valuation of equities.
The value of shares is the future dividend, or earnings streams,
discounted to the present day.
As the discount rate (normally the prevailing bond yield) falls, then
the present value of those future earnings increases.
Since 1982, the value of US equities has increased more than ninefold.
Only a third of this has been due to a rise in corporate profits; the
other two-thirds has come from an increase in the multiple - the price-earnings ratio -
which investors have been willing to attach to those profits.
The rise in that ratio has been closely correlated with the fall in
bond yields. Without it, on measures such as dividend yield or price-to-asset value,
shares would look horrifyingly exposed.
The strength of the US economy has unsettled the Treasury bond market,
however, with investors fearing either that inflationary pressures will return or that the
Federal Reserve will raise interest rates to head them off.
The yield on the 30-year issue - which dipped to 4.7% in October - has
risen to around 5.55%, undermining the valuation case for shares.
The Fed keeps track of the relative valuation of shares by comparing
the forward price-earnings ratio on the S&P 500 index with the 10-year Treasury bond
yield. A couple of weeks ago this showed equities looking 27% overvalued.
Such extremes of overvaluation had been seen only twice before:
worryingly, that was in August and September 1987, just before the overheated, speculative
bubble market crashed...
And the UK?
The UK stock market looks less exposed as both
price-earnings ratios and bond yields are lower than they are in the US.
But as has been shown so many times in the past, London will not be
able to escape a setback on Wall Street - and nor will anyone else.
The US equity market constitutes such an overwhelmingly large
proportion of the worlds capitalisation - about 45% - that a substantial fall in US
equities would put a dent not only in the US economy but also severely affect the rest of
What could bring a halt to the bull run?
The most likely cause would be a realisation by investors that
Goldilocks is starting to show her age.
There are two opposite dangers, which cannot simultaneously be
Some fear inflation.
Part of the reason why inflation has been so low for so long has been
the weakness of commodity prices; but oil prices have started to perk up in recent weeks.
Without the support of falling oil prices, some analysts think US inflation could reach 4
percent by the end of next year.
But the bigger fear is deflation: that the debt accumulated by
governments, corporations and individuals over the past 20 years will prove to be an
intolerable burden in a slowing economy.
At some point, defaults will rise, creditors will start to demand their
money back and the economy will suffer a credit crunch.
Optimists hope that the two forces will counteract one another and that
neither threat will materialise. But the stakes are high.
The UK and European economies are dependent on the US to keep world
growth moving ahead, and the US economy itself requires a rising stock market to keep
consumer expenditure growing. Just getting to 10,000 on the Dow may not be enough.
If you have any comments or queries on this article, or about other
topics concerning investment matters, write to Leslie Wright, c/o Family Money, Pattaya
Mail, or fax him directly on (038) 232522 or e-mail him at [email protected]. Further details and back
articles can be accessed on his firms website on www.westminsterthailand.com.
Leslie Wright is Managing Director of Westminster Portfolio Services
(Thailand) Ltd., a firm of independent financial advisors providing advice to expatriate
residents of the Eastern Seaboard on personal financial planning and international
The computer doctor
By Richard Bunch
I thought, judging by the number of virus we have seen in our
workshops this past week, a timely reminder of the dos and donts was in order.
Firstly, you should have a decent anti-virus program installed on your
PC and ensure this is monitoring your PC at all times, thus preventing any nasties being
run. However, this is not the be all and end all, it is merely the beginning. It is
essential that you update the virus database at least monthly and the engine as advised by
the developer. The good anti-virus software developers post updates on their web sites and
these should be downloaded and installed regularly. Remember also that if you are
installing anti-virus software for the first time, it should be updated immediately as the
database will almost certainly be out of date.
One virus that seems to be particularly prevalent at the moment is
Happy99, ska Trojan. This is a Win32 based Trojan program which when run displays some
fireworks on the monitor. Apart from the fireworks, the program also does some other
activities in the background. One of these is to modify WSOCK32.DLL.
You cannot get infected just by downloading the Trojan file, you have
to execute it!
The modified WSOCK32.DLL detects e-mail and newsgroup postings made by
you and will then send a copy of the happy99.exe to every user or newsgroup you send
e-mail to. It is intelligent enough to only send one instance of happy99.exe to each
recipient. The unique function of this Trojan is that it can spread on its own.
Happy99 also goes by other names, which include wsock32.ska, ska.exe,
ska and iwormhappy.
Remember, if you implement and practice good anti-virus routines you
should have no cause for worry from infection of this or other virus.
Please let me have your questions, Ill try to help.
The comments contained within this column are not necessarily the views
of the author or Pattaya Mail Publishing Co., Ltd. Letters may be edited.
Send your questions or comments to the Pattaya Mail at 370/7-8 Pattaya
Second Road, Pattaya City, 20260 or Fax to 038 427 596 or E-mail to [email protected]
Richard Bunch is Managing Director of Action Computer Technologies,
providing total Information Technology solutions to clients on the Eastern Seaboard.
Snap Shots: Size does matter!
Well, that headline got you in, didnt it? And
its not really misrepresentation either. What we are talking about here is the size
of your photographic prints.
Now what you have to remember is that size costs money. The bigger the
print, the more expensive it gets. However, on the other hand, the bigger the print, the
greater the impression!
So what we are going to do this week is show you how to get the maximum
out of your images, but also reduce the costs of your photography as well.
Photo: Crop and
You see, if the pros were to get every shot they took printed
full size, just to see if it was a good one or not - then the costs of commercial
photography would be even more horrendous than they are at present. Some professionals do
not even get the roll of 36 shots printed! They have the film processed and work
exclusively from the negatives, looking at them on a light box, using a magnifying glass.
Now doing that requires a very keen eye and bucketfuls of experience. We will not go that
What Harry Flashman did when he was running his Pro Studio was to have
the film processed and then very small prints done, the same size as the negatives
themselves. These are called "contact proofs" and you do need the magnifying
glass to see if the subject has crossed her eyes at the time of taking the shot. This is
too hard, as well as the fact that it is very difficult to get contact proofs done here in
So what to do? Firstly, reject the hinted "Big size, na?"
when you take the film in for processing. Get the smallest (and therefore cheapest) size
prints you can. In the course of a year, youll save a bundle.
Now, which shots should you get printed larger? Certainly not every
one! Even the pros reckon on six good shots a roll. Or put another way, 30 shots not
worth doing anything with! This is where you have to learn to be very selective. Only pick
the best ones. Do not worry if there are not so many good ones on the roll. Practice makes
perfect in any field of endeavour, doesnt it?
The next step is to put the selected print on the table in front of you
and study it for a while. Would it look better if you chopped out the bushes on the left
of the print? Is there too much sky? Would the portrait be more pleasing if you chopped it
through at waist level? With pieces of blank paper you can mask off the four edges of the
print and finally come up with the photograph that really looks good.
The next bit is important. Taking a ruler and biro, draw on the small
print the new edges you have chosen. You are now getting ready to selectively enlarge your
Check through the negatives to see which one corresponds to the
selected print you have been working with. Mark in the cardboard folder that negative
number and the approximate size you want the print to be. Now staple the small print (with
your drawn new edges) to the folder and go and see your favourite photo processor.
You theoretically have covered all the loose ends. You have indicated
the correct negative, the size you need and the "crop" you want. All things
being equal, you should get the correct enlargement - but this IS Thailand! Be prepared to
smile and get it done again if needs be.
Photographic enlargements are cheap in this country compared to overseas. It really is
worthwhile to selectively enlarge your best prints. You will not be disappointed. Size
Modern Medicine: Breast Cancer
Just the mere mention of the words Breast Cancer can
instill extreme fear in the minds of many women. For them, breast cancer is taken as a
certain death sentence. However, with improved knowledge of the disease, improved
detection methods and improved treatments it is no longer the problem it once was.
It is still, however, the commonest cancer of western women with 10% of
the female population developing the disease. It is also mainly a cancer of older women,
with 75% of those with breast cancer developing it after the menopause.
Interestingly, Asian women have one sixth the incidence of their
western sisters, but if they migrate to western countries their daughters have the same
chance of getting breast cancer as the westerners.
There has been some publicity of late that the medical scientists have
identified a "cancer gene" for breast cancer which is passed down from mother to
daughter. This is not quite so simple, and only around 5% of breast cancers are actually
The most common factor in the cause of breast cancer appears to be
"unopposed" oestrogen and breast cancer is certainly more prevalent in women who
have not had children, or who did not become pregnant till very late in their childbearing
The presenting symptom of breast cancer is usually a lump in the
breast, detectable by simply feeling for it. This has led to the advice for women to
practice BSE. This stands for Breast Self Examination. This procedure should be carried
out once a month after the period and note taken if the woman feels that the texture of
the breast tissue has changed at all compared to last month. Now before you rush off to
the bedroom, please note that normal breast tissue is not smooth. It is, after all,
glandular tissue so will be "lumpy" anyway. What you have to remember is what
your breasts felt like last month! O.K.?
Even when you have found a lump does not mean you have identified
breast cancer. Over 75% of breast lumps are "benign" (non cancerous) so
theres no need to panic immediately.
Go along and see your doctor who will most likely arrange for an
ultra-sound and mammogram (special breast X-Ray), and then a Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy
Remember these figures and take heart - 90% of women do not get breast
cancer, 75% of breast lumps are not cancer and only 5% of breast cancers are inherited.
However, since it is an important cancer, do look for it every month. Get in the habit of
doing BSE, and in between times - relax!
I have a problem. Of course, many people have problems
but as your job is to give advice, I think you should do it and Im sure you do, as
it is your duty and...but I do run on so.
But, speaking of doing ones duty. I have continually
had the most upsetting experiences when eating out at Thai restaurants in Pattaya.
I love Thai food. Its so trendy, uh, delicious.
My problem is that there are certain ingredients that I dont like
and whenever I ask the serving staff to not add them, they actually laugh at me! I find
this very rude.
Just the other night we were at a restaurant and I ordered Phat
Thai, that very famous noodle dish. We all have our preferences in foods. I told the
serving staff that I didnt want any chilies (much too hot), dried shrimp (rather
awful little creatures), fish sauce (who knows what its made from?), MSG (need I say
more?), bean sprouts (too much crunch for my taste), those Thai green onions
(never know if theyre washed properly), granulated sugar (when is Thailand going to
find out how bad refined sugar for you?), or egg, (I must watch my cholesterol).
Well! Do you know what the waitress asked me?
"Do you want any noodles in it?"
She probably thought she was being funny but I found it impertinent and
What does one do with serving staff such as this? My husband
didnt support me and just kept quiet. I could tell he was not happy though, the way
he kept staring at the waitress, with gimlet eyes.
It IS terrible, isnt it? One wants to eat the cuisine of the
country one is in and then meets up with this type of behaviour.
I suggest you take your business elsewhere. There are many places that
DO know the customer is right.
There is a very good restaurant (Ill send you the name by mail. I
cant advertise in this column) that serves food the way YOU want.
They specialise in Thai food and never put chilies, fish sauce, any
type of uncooked vegetables and do EXACTLY what you want.
They are so understanding. They even use carrots instead of papayas in their Thai
Style Papaya Salad.
|Origins of sex
A lecturer at a prestigious Chonburi educational institute has
published a report to show that the first sexual encounter occurred in Pattaya 1.2 billion
years ago. This is the computer calculated date for the first chance meeting of two single
cell plankton in the South China Sea. In response to reporters questions, Dr Charles
Pratley explained it was not possible to say for certain whether the intimate occasion was
straight or gay or whether the plankton actually realized what was happening.
Skinny fellowChristopher Jeburk, 31, suspected international jewel thief and
candidate for deportation, has baffled investigators after he escaped from a holding
prison near the Cambodian border. He disappeared through a window only seven inches wide
and then evidently jumped over a twenty foot electric fence. The only clue left was a
video cassette of The X Files. His cell mate is suggesting that Jeburk had managed to
become like the flexible Eugene Tooms who bounces out of all manner of tight corners in
the mysterious TV series.
Hole in oneTiger Woods of all standards should note the special offer at
Century 2000 golf course near Rayong. Every Tuesday thru Friday, the green and caddy fee
combined is a very reasonable 250 baht. Golf carts, none too plentiful it must be said,
are 500 baht for 18 holes and 300 for 9, sharing or not. Weekend and holiday golfing is
also cheap at 430 baht for the green and caddy fee. Century 2000 is closed to the public
on Mondays. The special offers are scheduled to last until May 31 upcoming. Prior to this
plug, the course was not normally crowded.
Wish you were hereA farang businessman had to leave his wife in Hong Kong for
twenty four hours because of an airline mix-up. Arriving in Bangkok he sent her an E mail
but mistyped the address. The message was unfortunately misdirected to the sobbing wife of
a vicar who had just died in tragic circumstances. It read, "Just checked in. Very
hot down here but people very friendly. See you tomorrow."
Reader PL writes that he recently received a multiple entry, 12
months validity, non immigrant visa at the Thai consulate in Hull, UK. All he needed
was a letter from his Thai lawyer relating to a holding company. This consulate also takes
applications by post, which London no longer does. Several readers tell Grapevine that
officials overseas still know nothing of the 800,000 bank deposit required for an annual
retirement visa. None the less, thats what you will need when applying for one at
any Thai immigration bureau in Thailand.
roundupNew research from America shows that jealous free men whose
wives are ugly live on average twelve years longer than worried males with beautiful
spouses... Fifteen mobile prostitutes have been rounded up in Phnom Penh and had their
motor bikes impounded because they were not wearing the straps on their crash helmets...
Maurice, the naughty New Zealand cat, has stolen 60 bras and panties in nocturnal
expeditions stretching over two years. Owner Meg Springfield is appealing to neighbors to
keep their smalls inside.
Equal opportunitiesFollowing complaints from physically handicapped tourists, a
resort restaurant with steep stairs has put up a notice reading, "If you find our
steps difficult, please note our Bangkok branch hasnt any." A newspaper has
printed this ad from a company seeking to hire staff: "Men and women can both apply
in confidence for these positions equally, but not if they are pregnant or have a
Adaptable clawsAmazing Thailand continues to impress. From a sign displayed in
a zoo in this area: "Do not caress any wild beasts as some are not your friends. But
dont forget to visit the bird sanctuary and see the rare species using our
binoculars." Meanwhile, a hotel in Phuket carries this odd warning in its extensive
gardens: "Please do not encourage the cats as there are already too many."
The interstateOverheard in Cheers, the only bar to give potential quizzers an
oral examination. A senior citizen was driving down a US freeway when his car phone rang.
Answering, he heard his wifes voice urgently warning him, "Stan, I just heard
on the news that theres a car speeding the wrong way down the 1-280. Please be
careful!" "Hell," said Stan, "Its not just one car. Theres
hundreds of them."
Dining Out: Supping in the Supper
Can you really improve on a good concept? Well, Pat of
Pats Pies and Deli believes you can. After running her very successful takeaway
operation, she and partner Chart have opened up Pats Supper Room almost next door to
the Takeaway on 3rd Road (close to the Pattaya Tai intersection).
Pat met us at the door, all aproned and at the ready. "Come in,
Luv! Were just cheap and cheerful, Luv." Well, I would certainly agree with the
"cheerful" aspect of the décor. Bright cane furniture, glass topped tables and
funky palm tree lights in the corner and "old masters" on the walls. Bronze
cutlery and heavy damask table napkins completes the picture. Probably seating around 30
diners at a pinch it is as welcoming as Pat herself.
Photo: Pat's Pies
and Deli Supper Room.
The menu is British, starting with selections of Pats home cooked
pies, all served with chips, mashed or roast potatoes and 2 veg, all varieties between 100
- 120 Baht. From there it goes on to the roasts with beef, chicken, pork or lamb 165 - 215
Baht. If you are into Yorkshire Pud then Pat offers some giant ones with fillings of lamb
and mint sauce, or beef and onion, pork with stuffing and apple or chicken for between 150
It does not end there. Cod and chips, Rissoles, sausage egg and chips,
gammon, burgers, pork pies with Branston pickle or even Scotch eggs.
Three brands of beer between 45 - 55 Baht a small bottle, plus some
eminently drinkable house wines (red and white) for 60 Baht a glass.
If this is not enough, there is a whiteboard with the weekly specials
and some desserts as well.
My partner decided on the special turkey roast from the specials board,
while I immediately returned to childhood memories and asked for the gammon with egg and
chips. Madames plate arrived with large pieces of turkey breast and roast potatoes
while my gammon rasher was so large it practically covered the plate. Our waitress also
brought along the vinegar and HP sauce bottles. With English voices surrounding us from
the other tables it was like a family Sunday nights dinner back in the "old
So, how was it? Simply great home cooked food! Great tasting tucker,
very generous portions and I licked my plate clean, just as I used to on those Sunday
nights at Mums, all those years ago. If you are hankering after some genuine British
food in a friendly and funky place, then Pats Pies and Deli Supper Room is the place
Only one word of warning - it filled up very quickly on the night we were there, so I
suggest you book - and its not open on Tuesdays. Pat, Luv. It was great, Luv! As you
said when we walked in - "Were just cheap and cheerful, Luv." Dining out
with you certainly is! Definitely recommended.
Animal Crackers: Living in the
shadow of your tail!
The tree squirrel is a very special animal. It is one of
very few wild animals that have adapted to humans and learned to coexist with man. It can
live on both natural foods and handouts. You will often see people with a small squirrel
as a pet, but like all wild animals they do need special care.
The squirrel is a great acrobat. Its large tail makes it the most
recognised mammal on earth. It will do amazing high wire acts, as it races through the
Photo: Grey squirrel.
In actual fact, the Grey Squirrel is one of the oldest mammals in the
world, having been traced back 50 million years, from a fossil record made in North
America. It is a rodent, so it is a vague cousin to the rat.
The squirrel got its name from the ancient Greeks, where Aristotle
called it a "skiouros," (skia meaning shade, while "oura" means tail).
This is where the "Sitting in the shade of your tail" comes from. Many years
later the French created the word "esquirel" to describe it. From the French
derivation we now get the English word "squirrel".
Squirrels throughout the world are all related to each other, but there
are 365 species of squirrels divided into 7 distinct families. The 3 common ones are the
ground squirrel, the flying squirrel and the tree squirrel. The Grey Squirrel is the
commonest tree squirrel, inhabiting most of the Northern Hemisphere and its cousins are
often seen in Thailand (especially at Chatuchak Market in Bangkok!)
The average Grey squirrel is fifteen inches long and weighs about one
pound. Its diet consists of nuts, seeds and fruit. They will eat scraps from the rubbish
bin including bread, meat and even snack food (and a Big Mac for my squirrel).
Unfortunately, these lovely animals do not have a very long life, most
living only around 6 years.
The Red squirrel is smaller than the Grey. Eight to ten inches in
length, with fur that ranges from red to black. Most will have a white belly and a long
fluffy red tail. Some subspecies can have red or black ear tufts. These grow more
pronounced as winter arrives. The Red squirrel is found in coniferous forests, where it
feeds on the seeds and cones of the Pines, Firs and Spruce trees. It is found in
cold countries and not at Chatuchak.
The Asian squirrel that is most common here is the small Grey with a tail almost as
long as its body and head. While they can be kept as pets, they need large runs or
otherwise they can become nasty and will bite if provoked. You have been warned.
Auto Mania: The Bangkok
International Motor Show
While you are reading your Pattaya Mail this Friday,
your hard working motoring correspondent will be sweating away in the hot-house called
Bangkok, to get the latest on all things motoring at the Bangkok International Motor Show.
Since this will entail much walking from stand to stand and consumption
of some several litres of high octane beverages, I can hear your sympathetic sighs from
here. Mind you, its not all automobilia and Bolly, you know. There are the usual
problems to be overcome such as Press Releases in Thai and some exhibitors who have a
deeply entrenched distrust of all farang autoscribblers. Toyota were notable last year
with their PR department being totally unapproachable. It will be interesting to see what
this years lot will be like.
Grand Prix International, the group who put on the show, have been very
helpful in the lead-up and have sent over the list of exhibitors. This includes the
majors, Honda, Volvo, Toyota, Ford and Mazda plus Benz, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Jeep,
Thai Rung, BMW, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Citroen, Audi, SEAT, Alfa and would you
believe it - Holden! The big Aussie bleeder. It would be nice to see some of the Oz V8
muscle grunters on the roads round here. The latest top of the line models sport 17"
wheels, a cool 10" and 12" wide.
Noticeable by its absence is the General. I do hope they havent
gone back to building minivans out there at the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate and are
hiding again! Theyve been rather quiet of late. Seems rather strange to me that the
worlds biggest car maker isnt represented at the Bangkok International Motor
Show. Never mind, Holden is part of the Generals line-up, so they can build decent
cars when they want to.
As well as the inside displays at BITEC there are also some outside
areas with Off-Roaders, an Auto Salon with collectibles and some Rally vehicles.
New and different cars expected include the new S Class Benzes - the
S320 and the S 500L, some concept cars from Toyota called the Fun-Cargo, Fun Coupe,
Fun-Time (a Pattaya go-go on wheels?), a WRC Replica and an example of their Hybrid system
(presumably a gasoline/electric - though a PBR could be an option)! VW are also bringing
over the W12, which if my memory serves me correctly is the Le Mans style coupe designed
to out-Ferrari Ferrari. VW, under Managing Director Pietch, has the ability to produce
anything these days. Never underestimate them.
Oh yes, I almost forgot - there is a bullet-proof Chevrolet Suburban on
display. For the man who has everything and wants to keep it. Or perhaps its for the
Generals Head Honchos if they renege on building the Zafiras out there
at the ESIE!
The Show is on from March 27th (Saturday) through to April 4th
(Sunday). Open from noon till 10 p.m. each day. 50 Baht for adults and 25 Baht for Primary
and Middle School students. Cheap day out!
Last week I asked about the chain-drive sports
car. It was, of course, as some of you knew already, the famous S600 Honda Sports of
around 1964 (or maybe even 1963).
I will probably have to smarten myself up with dates as Ted Aspudd out
there at the Bira International Race Circuit took me to task over the Metallurgique that I
said was 1919 - 20. Ted reckons it was 1918, and since Ted is older than me hes
lived closer to the date of manufacture than I have! Mind you, he didnt pick the
fact that the picture I published was of the 1912 model.
Ted, who is always interesting to talk to, had also driven a Berkeley
and reckoned that not only did they have the best brakes in the world in their day, but
also the noisiest brakes in the world. Apparently they had to stuff chalk in the drums to
stop the howl. How that works, I dunno, but Ted said it did.
Back to the Honda S 600. It actually began as the S 360, but I
dont think they ever released them with an engine that small. They did have an S 500
as well, but again I think it was a motor show display only. The S 600 was replaced by the
S 800 and eventually lost the chain drive in that model. The engines were very much
motorcycle derivatives complete with roller bearing crankshafts. One of these actually did
quite well in Australia in the ProdSports category. It was very light and could deliver
good horsepower. And did it ever rev!
Honda have certainly built some interesting sports cars over the years.
The latest all aluminum NSX mid engined cars being good examples of this. They crashed one
at Bathurst and it took them hours to pull it straight in the rack. Normal construction
steel monocoques can be pulled straight under an hour at the race-track body shop at
Bathurst, but the alloy NSX almost had them beaten.
Car and Driver, an authoritative American magazine, tested a road going
NSX in 1997. They recorded performance figures that were staggering. 0 - 60 MPH in 4.8
seconds and a standing 1/4 mile in 13.4 seconds and 106 MPH through the traps at the end.
So, for this weeks quiz question - what was the top speed of the road registered
NSX? First correct entry wins the Automania FREE beer. Fax the Editorial office on 427 596
or email [email protected]
Had a nice note from regular Peter Cabrey in Hawaii who said he
hadnt won much recently, but with all the research hes been doing it has
improved his motoring knowledge no end. Thanks Peter!
By the way, if youve got an NSX sitting in a shed somewhere then
do not sell it. This car will be a very hot collectors item in ten years!
Found another race driver in our midst. Martin
Kent, who I havent met yet, will be instantly recognisable by his crotch-bulge.
Drove a Gordon-Keeble with a 500 horse-power Chev up the sharp end. Gordon-Keebles were
never noted for their road holding abilities and with 500 neddies on tap this one must
have been a beast. Big cojones, big big cojones! Thanks for making the contact, Martin.
Copyright 1998 Pattaya Mail Publishing Co.Ltd.
370/7-8 Pattaya Second Road, Pattaya City, Chonburi 20260, Thailand
Tel.66-38 411 240-1, 413 240-1, Fax:66-38 427 596; e-mail: [email protected]
Created by Andy Gombaz, assisted by Chinnaporn Sangwanlek.