Family Money: UK Property: The Tax Issues
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
I’m asked all the time about the tax implications of
owning UK property. It can be a minefield if not properly planned and
structured. The impact, not only of income tax, but inheritance tax,
capital gains tax, corporation tax and stamp duty have to be considered.
Inheritance Tax (IHT): Many people think their spouse
can inherit everything without paying UK inheritance tax. Not always. If
the deceased is deemed UK-domiciled for IHT purposes but the spouse is
not, the spouse’s exemption is limited to ฃ55,000 above the
nil-rate band (now ฃ250,000).
Foreign domiciliaries are subject to UK IHT on assets
in UK. So, if a foreign domiciliary owns UK property in his own name, the
personal representatives of his estate will have to obtain a grant of
probate/administration in the UK to obtain title to the property, which is
subject to 40% UK IHT above the spousal exemption and nil-rate band. This
can be a slow and costly process. Furthermore, the estate can be exposed
to public scrutiny, Inland Revenue investigation and legal claims in the
Capital Gains Tax (CGT): UK resident non-UK
domiciliaries (e.g., Thai wives living in UK who’ve acquired property
there) are liable to CGT subject to the application of main residence
relief exemption and non-business asset taper relief. Main residence
relief only applies to one property and married couples can only claim the
relief on one property.
Income tax: Rental income is subject to UK income tax,
for residents and non-residents alike. The expenses of the property
including mortgage interest payments can be offset against the rent - but
only if the mortgage was incurred either to purchase the property or to
raise money for the cost of maintaining it. Taking out a mortgage at a
later date in order to reduce income tax will not work.
A further income tax concern arises with regard to
shadow directors - particularly since the case of R. vs. Allen. A shadow
director is someone who is not a director of the company but has real
influence in the corporate affairs of the company - in other words, gives
directions to the board which are routinely followed. A shadow director
who receives benefits in the UK (such as rent-free accommodation) will be
liable to income tax on the value of the benefit.
Ownership of property in the UK will result in a
UK-resident individual becoming ordinarily resident in the UK, which may
adversely affect their income tax status. Individuals wanting to preserve
their not-ordinarily-resident status should consider purchasing a property
Corporation tax: If the central management and control
of an offshore company is conducted in the UK, gains made by the company
on the sale of the property will be subject to UK corporation tax. It is
common for foreign domiciliaries to purchase property through offshore
companies and then to treat the property as their own - for example,
instructing estate agents and accepting an offer and then directing the
company to complete the sale. This sort of improper conduct can lead to
real problems with the UK IRD.
Stamp Duty: Stamp duty is charged at 4% for properties
over ฃ500,000. However, if the property is owned by an offshore
company, sale of the shares in the company rather than the underlying
property will not give rise to a stamp duty charge.
Direct ownership: This is the most straightforward
route. A UK resident can rely on main residence relief to avoid capital
gains tax. The significant concern remains inheritance tax.
Inheritance tax can be minimised by taking out a
mortgage on the property, which reduces the taxable value of the property.
If the mortgage is provided by an offshore provider, UK residents can use
offshore income to pay the interest without remitting income to the UK.
The other alternative is term insurance. This is
particularly attractive if the purchaser is young and healthy. The policy
should be issued either by an offshore provider or by a UK provider under
seal and kept outside of the UK; otherwise any payment under the policy
will fall into the UK inheritance tax net.
Mortgages and insurance are sometimes simpler and
cheaper than an offshore company/trust structure, so may be useful if the
property is worth less than ฃ5m. However, if the property is very
valuable, the insurance premiums or interest payments will be very high
and short term costs may outweigh the long term tax benefits. In these
circumstances, the offshore company/trust structure should be considered.
Leaving property to a UK-domiciled spouse can shelter
it from inheritance tax. If the surviving spouse sells the property and
takes the proceeds of sale outside of the UK this may remove the proceeds
from the UK inheritance tax net. The risk is that the surviving spouse may
not have an opportunity to sell the property. A second-death insurance
policy would protect against this eventuality.
Trusts: Holding a property through an offshore trust
will shelter the property from UK capital gains tax if the settlor is
non-UK domiciled. This structure is therefore useful if main residence
relief does not apply (for example, because it’s a second home).
However, a property owned directly by a trust will not
shelter the property from UK inheritance tax. So, holding property through
a trust will require the addition of a mortgage or insurance cover, use of
the spouse exemption, or the incorporation of an intervening offshore
company to reduce inheritance tax liability.
Offshore company: If used correctly, an offshore
company can shelter the property from inheritance tax, capital gains tax
and stamp duty, avoids the need to obtain a grant of probate/
administration, and maintains a high degree of confidentiality. However,
the legal ownership of the company must be respected and central
management and control of the company must be exercised outside the UK.
Company directors must evidence their decision-making process through
board minutes of meetings occurring outside of the UK. If the directors
have no knowledge of the underlying property and always act on
instructions, central management and control is likely to be a serious
In conclusion, no single structure is suitable for
every situation: careful planning must be undertaken, and adapted to the
Snap Shot: Colour or Black and White?
by Harry Flashman
I can remember when all photography was done in Black
and White (B&W). You too? To get different colours, toners were added
to the final bath for the prints - selenium, sepia, iodine - they all gave
a different “cast”, but it was still B&W with a tinge of something
The next thing we did was to hand colour B&W to
give blue eyes staring out of a grey face which had red lips. Hardly
However, we then invented colour film. We learned how
to make it so cheaply that everyone could afford to use it. We made it so
responsive that any simple camera could handle it. We made it universally
This is no object of wonder. We live in a colourful
world - and especially so in Tropical Thailand. However, just how
“true” are the colours you get back from your friendly one hour photo
processors? (Incidentally, have you noticed that most one hour places tell
you to come back in three?)
Unfortunately, colour changes from photo processing
shop to photo processing shop and from brand to brand and film speed (ISO
rating) to film speed. As an exercise, take the same subject with the same
camera, at the same time of day with different films and then compare the
end results. The camera never lies? It certainly bends the truth with
You will also get spectacular differences in colour
depending upon the time of day. The “colour” of the sun’s rays is
measured in a scale called Kelvin degrees and this differs dependent upon
the time of day. The “blue” end of the range is in the morning and the
“red” end in the afternoon. When you are using sunlight as the source
of light for your photographs, the colour “temperature” (the degrees
Kelvin thing) of the sun’s rays will give the overall cast to the
picture. This is why you get “warm” (orange-red) tones in the late
afternoon and “cold” (bluish) tones in the mornings.
Now it doesn’t stop with orange and blue. If you use
other sources of illumination for your photographs, you will get even more
different colour casts. Look at any photographs you have taken where
fluoro lights were the principal light source. The resulting photo will
have a distinctly “green” hue. Similarly, if “ordinary” (tungsten)
light bulbs are the light source you will get a very strong orange cast to
Take a look at the shots I have used this week to
illustrate colour shift. Even though they are printed in glorious
newspaper grey monocolour, you will see an obvious difference. These shots
were taken at an open air night concert, and the guitarist is Lam
Morrison, for the music buffs. The two shots were taken less than 5
seconds apart, but they look totally different, do they not? The shot on
the left was taken by using the flash with the camera (which overpowers
the stage lights), while the one on the right was taken after turning the
flash off and letting the stage lights be the source of illumination. If
it were in colour, you would actually see that the left hand side is blue,
while the right hand side is a yellow/green.
Pro shooters will use this colour shift to impart a
mood to their shots. When taking a restaurant, for example, you want to
evoke a warm, friendly mood. So, turn off all the fluoro’s and the
camera’s flash and turn up all the tungsten lights. End result is that
warm inviting glow.
Now, if on the other hand you want the bleak wintery feel to a photo,
get up early in the morning and take the shot of someone standing alone on
a windswept beach. The blue cast from the early morning sun will do that
for you. If you are not an early riser, then bung a blue filter on the
lens and get the same effect - that cold blue cast through the picture.
(But that’s an old pro shooter’s trick!)
Modern Medicine: Quitting the Weed
by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant
I used to smoke 45 cigarettes a day. I gave up 21
years, 6 months ago at 10 o’clock in the morning, not that I’m
counting or anything! It was probably one of the most momentous decisions
I have ever made, and definitely one of the best decisions I ever made
about my health.
It was 1981 and I had started smoking as a medical
student around 20 years previously. It was just the done thing at the
time. We all smoked, it made us feel older and more mature, after all our
fathers all smoked, so it was almost a ‘badge’ of adulthood.
As the evidence began to mount up against cigarette
smoking at the end of the ‘70’s and the early ‘80’s, I found
myself in the silly position of advising people to give up the weed, while
I hid my ashtray in the bottom drawer of my desk!
Like all smokers, I was able to rationalise my stand. I
was advising patients whose lung function tests were down, but mine were
perfect. If mine fell, then I certainly would give up smoking immediately.
Yes, you are way in front of me, aren’t you! I had to test my lung
function machine one day - and there was the proof - my respiratory
function was 15% below the “average” for my age and height. It was
‘bite the bullet’ time!
So I ‘gave up smoking’. I expected that there would
be a couple of difficult days, but then the cravings would abate and I
would be smoke free again. Two days was an understatement. For two weeks I
would follow other smokers down the road, nostrils flared and twitching as
I desperately tried to get a whiff of their second hand nicotine. I would
look at ashtrays, wondering if I could take a quick lick before anyone
would notice my bizarre behaviour. Really, it was a very stressful time of
But after two weeks, the cravings became less, I was
able to have a beer without looking for a cigarette at the same time and I
had schooled myself into saying, “Thanks, but I don’t smoke,” when
offered a cigarette. But it was still very difficult.
In fact, it still is very difficult. I am sure that if
I smoked a cigarette today I would be smoking 20 tomorrow and 45 the day
after. But I don’t, because I made a conscious decision, based on
medical knowledge, all those years ago (21 and a half)!
Since those days, the medical evidence is not just
suggestive, it is totally compelling. Cigarette smoking increases your
chances of getting just about everything you don’t want, from crow’s
feet to cataracts to cancers (all of them, not just lung cancer). So why
do we still smoke, any rational member of society would ask? The simple
answer is that we, as a society, have been manipulated by big business
into taking an extremely addictive drug called nicotine.
Like all addicts we do not wish to admit to addiction,
saying, “I can kick the habit any time I want. I just don’t want to
right now.” It isn’t your ‘fault’ that you are continuing to
smoke. It isn’t your fault that you have returned to smoking after some
time of being a non-smoker. It is a drug of addiction and next week I’ll
tell you how to stop - permanently!
Heart to Heart with Hillary
My girlfreind (sic) cannot speak no good English, but
will not to go to English classes, even though I pay her munny (sic) every
month and sed (sic) I will pay for the English clases (sic) as well. Can
you tell her to go? I can’t take her back to Aussie if she can’t speek
(sic) to the poeple (sic).
You do have a problem, but it is much greater than
your girl’s lack of interest in the English language. Just where did you
go to school to learn your mother tongue, my Petal? Or were you sick that
day? Hillary thinks it would be a better idea if you both went to the
English classes. Enroll her in the advanced classes, it will give you
something to aim for - catching up. Just remember, the family that learns
together, yearns together.
I do not know where to turn to get the answer to my
problem, so I thought that maybe you could do it. I have a motorcycle that
I let my girlfriend use for shopping and general getting around when I am
not in town (I work three months in Saudi and three months here). I have
always been very careful to make sure the car and motorcycle I own have
insurance and that we have medical insurance as well. I get a call from my
lady to say that she had a small accident on the cycle and that I will
have to pay 5,000 baht to the car she ran into. I rang the insurance
people but they told me that my lady doesn’t have a drivers license so
they are not going to pay, I have to. Hillary, is this right? I have been
paying the insurance for over two years and now they say they won’t pay.
What is this? Can I take them to court for misrepresentation or something?
Time to read through the fine print, I think, Petal.
Unlicensed drivers and riders mean no bikkies back for the bikers I’m
afraid. Just pay up and tell your girlfriend to go and get a license. It
is a lot cheaper than paying for damages. Even if she has to buy it!
This is a stepson problem, and a large one, so I hope
you have some good ideas. This man (he’s 32 now) wraps my wife (his
mother) around his little finger. He never has any money and on this trip
to Thailand, she paid for the lot. His mother and I have been married five
years, but she divorced his father 15 years ago. I know that when he comes
it will be hand-outs every day. How do I show my wife just what this guy
is like? I have never liked him.
Dear Browned Off,
Regarding your stepson problem - is the problem a
large one, or is it he who is a large one? If it is the latter, don’t
pick a fight with him! Would it surprise you if I told you that I am sure
your wife already knows what this young man is like. After all, she’s
known him for 32 years, which is around 27 years longer than you have.
Mothers know and understand what their offspring are like, but forgive
them and make allowances for them. Lighten up, I’m sure he won’t be
here for ever as he probably doesn’t like you much either.
I am 48 years old and retired and have been in Thailand
for fourteen years. I do not believe that man was meant to live on his
own, so in that time I have had a few girlfriends, mainly to live in. I
was always told just how pretty the Thai girls are, and to start with I
felt the same, but recently (about a couple of years) I have gotten around
to thinking some of the European women are pretty good on the eye as well.
So much so that I am thinking about just how I can manage it, because I do
have someone living with me right now. What is your opinion, Mrs. Hillary?
Should I just forget about the Euros and concentrate on the one at home,
or should I get to know some of the visiting back-packers? I am getting
quite confused just thinking about it. Do you think I have a problem Mrs.
Hillary, and who should I see about it?
Dear Butterfly Bob,
Yes, Petal, you do have a problem. I think most of
it comes from a wild imagination, tempered with an excess of circulating
hormones and an unshakable belief that the grass in the next field is
greener. Really, Bob, it is high time you settled down. You have a little
one at home, try to let that relationship develop, instead of developing
fantasies. So what should you do? Well first off, bottle the hormones,
you’ll need them later when you are older. Secondly I would suggest some
work to fill in your obviously under-employed days, there’s plenty of
charities that could do with a helping hand. You never know, you might
even meet some ‘Euros’ as you so delightfully call them! And by the
way it’s Miss Hillary, thank you, Petal!
Bits ‘n’ Bobs
UK CLUB OF PATTAYA COMES UP TRUMPS
I am very pleased to report that the recent
Charity Dinner & Grand Prize Draw hosted by the UK Club of
Pattaya at the Pattaya Marriott Resort & Spa raised a staggering
150,000 baht for the unfortunate and orphaned children under the
care umbrella of Father Giovanni Contarin at the Camillian Center,
Rayong. What a great result!
Caring and actually showing you care about little
ones born with HIV that will almost certainly lead to AIDS is not
the most ‘fashionable’ of worthy causes these days, but thanks
to the UK Club many an innocent kid will live longer and have their
life enriched as we all hope for an imminent cure for this
unforgiving disease. To find out more about the UK Club, e-mail:
email@example.com (tel. 038 300435). To find out more about
the Camillian Center and the Jaidee Appeal (Jaidee means ‘good
heart’ in Thai) for the kids at the Camillian, then go to http://www.bahtbus.com/csc/index.html
Well done the UK Club of Pattaya and all who
Mary received a parrot as a gift. The parrot was
fully grown with a very bad attitude and worse vocabulary. Every
other word was an expletive; those that weren’t expletives were at
best, rude. Mary tried to change the bird’s attitude by constantly
saying polite words and playing soft, soothing music. Nothing
She yelled at the bird and the bird got worse.
She shook the bird and the bird got madder and ruder. Finally, in a
moment of desperation, Mary put the parrot in the freezer to get a
minute of peace. For a few moments she heard the bird swearing,
squawking, kicking and screaming and suddenly there was absolute
Mary was concerned that she might have actually
hurt the bird and quickly opened the freezer door. The parrot calmly
stepped out onto Mary’s extended arm and said, “I’m very sorry
that I offended you with my language and my actions and I ask your
forgiveness. I will endeavour to correct my behaviour and assure you
it will never happen again.”
Mary was astounded at the change in the bird’s
attitude and was about to ask what had changed him, when the parrot
continued, “May I ask what the turkey did?”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“My mother never saw the irony in calling me a
son-of-a-bitch.” Jack Nicholson
JUSTICE BY FIRE OR FIST?
I honestly hoped that my absentee neighbour had ended
up dead in a ditch or had been helped on his way to Hell by a pragmatic
believer in euthanasia. It was not to be, Mad Max is back. As the maid was
happily lobbing the semi-encrusted dog turds over his wall as per my
explicit instructions, out boomed the dulcet tones of the lunatic whilst
vociferously berating his slave (maid) for overspending by ten baht. I
politely bellowed some positive advice encouraging him to breed in the
manner of a hermaphrodite, but no reply came the answer.
Later that day, I was sitting in the forecourt of a
Sukhumvit garage, awaiting some minor repairs to my car to be completed,
up pulled Mad Max, blocking my car. It was inconsequential so I ignored
the deliberate act of pomposity and antagonism in the way he ignored me as
he marched past. Only two yards away, he proceeded to invade my car to
show the mechanic the source of his auto problem. As I stood up and barked
some typical comments that one does when confronted with something overdue
for a mortuary slab, off he scuttled totally ignoring me.
The following day, as he passed my house, he stopped. I
looked up incredulously as he wound down the window and proceeded to
extend the middle finger of his right hand in my direction whilst
scowling. My dilemma is this: do I grab the nutter by the throat the next
time I see him or just burn his house down if the wind is in the right
direction? Something needs to be done and will be done, that’s for sure.
ANAGRAM OF THE WEEK
The Morse Code: Here come dots...—...!
DUAL PRICING WORKING IN REVERSE?
I keep a small stock of goods made by the older kids at the Camillian
Center at my house and sell them to friends from time to time to raise
money for the Center. My maid had a friend visiting and I saw they were
having a look at some of the items. The friend was keen to buy a cardboard
Easter chick. Being ‘out of season’, I offered it at half- price. She
handed me 100 baht and adamantly said, ‘I can pay farang price!’
Personal Directions: Handling phone calls ... handling complaints ... leave a lasting impression
by Christina Dodd, founder and managing director
of Incorp Training Asssociates
Most conversations we have in this modern age are over
the phone. Just take a look around you in your workplace, at home, while
you are walking down the street, while you are boarding the skytrain or on
the ninth hole! In fact, almost everywhere that you turn you will see
someone using a telephone; that marvellous little invention that has
turned communication, and the “art of communication”, upside-down and
inside-out and whichever other way you care to name.
We have become so used to the telephone as a means of
communication that we have, in many ways, forgotten how powerful a tool it
can be, particularly when doing business. I say this because like you, I
too have been totally amazed and disappointed, and at times angered, by
the lack of basic telephone etiquette that exists in many businesses
today. Companies seem to be more concerned with acquiring the most
complicated automated answering systems than with having human beings on
hand to serve their customers’ needs and enquiries.
I spent a very long day not so long ago trying to get
some answers from a company (and a rather major one at that) about a
product I had bought. Well, this company’s automated menu must be about
the longest one in history and if you have the memory of an elephant then
you’d probably work it out and actually get through to a human voice
after a while. I did manage to break through after numerous attempts and
study of the instructions, and after experiencing enormous levels of
frustration and stress which immediately put me into the “hostile caller
This type of situation happens so much of the time and
it really can be avoided if companies seriously consider the caller first
- and then install simple but efficient and personable systems to connect
them to the appropriate “people”. Automated systems can be a great
help if they bear in mind that the caller is not a machine!
Whenever I train people in improving telephone skills
and techniques, one of the main points that has to be stressed to them is
that the moment they speak, the first image they convey over the phone, is
the first impression the customer or caller will get and it will be the
one they will always remember.
The telephone requires us to be more aware of our voice
than at any other time. Callers - customers - cannot hear our facial
expressions or our overall physical appearance, but they do form a mental
picture of us based upon the tone and quality of our voice. Our mood -
smiling and happy or frowning and angry - more often than not will come
through. It is wise to never under-estimate human perception and the
ability of the person on the end of the line to sense attitudes. That’s
why, before we ever pick up a telephone, we should take a moment to be
sure that we are mentally prepared to deal with the customer on the other
A pleasant phone voice takes practice and speaking in
well-modulated, pleasant tones is a learned talent. If you want to assess
your speaking voice tape yourself talking on the phone then ask an honest
friend or colleague to evaluate your vocal quality. Better still, have
someone tape you from the listener’s end so you can really hear how you
sound to your customers. By the way this is a good exercise for everyone
to do because it can immediately highlight problems that may exist and in
no way can it disguise the areas that need improvement. It is a dramatic
and honest method of feedback which is highly useful.
Some people I have done this with have never heard
themselves audio taped before and have been surprised and even shocked at
the way they sound! I tell them not to let it bother them because we all
sound strange to ourselves on tape when it’s for the first time.
Professional telephone talk has its rules. As mentioned
in the preceding paragraphs, a pleasant phone voice sets the tone for the
remainder of the call to be one of two things - a success or a disaster.
Then there are some basic procedures that need to be closely followed to
ensure customers that they are being well-taken care of, such as the way
to answer the phone; putting a caller on hold; taking messages;
transferring calls and ending the call efficiently so that the customer is
Quite often I find that people in companies, who are
not strictly involved in customer service, call centres or telemarketing
for example, think that they can answer the phone when it rings with a
simple “hello”. Perhaps they think that because their position is not
customer-oriented or sales-oriented that they don’t need to pay
attention to the way they answer the phone and that the call is probably
“just an internal call.” This is one of the most common mistakes that
is made by general office staff. It doesn’t matter that you are not
actually in customer service - the point is that whoever is on the end of
the line could be a customer who has somehow gotten through to your
extension, they could also be one of your valued suppliers, they could be
a colleague in another department or they could be your boss!
People who have good communication skills, with
particular regard to the telephone, are an asset that companies cannot
afford to be without. Taking it a step further, people who are skilled in
handling objections or complaints, and dealing with dissatisfied,
difficult and sometimes hostile customers, either over the phone or
face-to-face, are worth their weight in gold. At Incorp we place a lot of
emphasis on this aspect of training because people, in general, feel that
they do not have the confidence or ability to handle what they see as
confrontation. They think that it should be passed on to someone else to
deal with but in doing that, they are adding fuel to the fire!
In dealing with difficult customer situations, we focus
on issues which include projecting a professional and positive attitude,
being supportive and cooperative, adopting active listening, choosing
vocabulary and verbal techniques, enhancing authority and credibility,
getting to the heart of the problem and developing strategies to prevent
problems from happening again. At the core of this is to most of all stay
in control of emotions, remain sincere as much as possible and continue to
work towards resolution - not further conflict.
For some customer service staff it may seem near
impossible to handle problems when the caller becomes irate and abusive.
But through learning and application, and experience, it is possible in
most cases to find ways of overcoming and resolving all varieties of
customer related problems. Fear plays a great role in the way we behave
when confronted, and if we can begin to understand fear, and how to
control it and use it to advantage, then the boost this gives in terms of
self-confidence is quite remarkable.
It is necessary to place real importance on this
subject and not to simply tag it on at the end of a program session. It
requires definite focus and attention. One method is to brainstorm to come
up with as many probable objections, complaints or difficult scenarios,
and then to dedicate sufficient workshop time to acting on those
situations. This can be done through role play and various activities that
invite interaction and discussion. Putting people on the spot in the
training sessions to come up with credible solutions is a technique that
has proven very successful with our programs. We advocate the need for
swift but controlled action, thinking “outside the box” and practice,
practice, and more practice.
If your company’s training requirements call for
improvement of communication skills and indeed for better handling of the
customers that nobody wants to handle, then please contact me by email at
chris firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling me directly at Incorp
Training Associates in Bangkok.
Until next week, have a great week!
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
Is your memory what it used to be?
I may have mentioned this before but in case I
haven’t: My memory is shot. If your memory is shot, too, then you
probably sympathize with those people who say, “I may have mentioned
If your memory is as lousy as mine is lately, chances
are that you, too, are addicted to the conversational trick of alerting
your listeners to stop you if you’ve told them what you have begun
In fact, if my memory serves me; which it rarely does
these days - at least half the people I know have taken to prefacing their
statements and stories with phrases like, “I can’t remember if I
already told you this, but - have you heard?”
Very young people rarely sprinkle their conversations
with these alerts. Are some of us just getting old? Is this really a sign
that Alzheimer’s disease is taking us over?
I know people who really worry about this. They don’t
remember what they say, or to whom they said it. They feel it is better to
let their listeners know right up front that their memory, which at one
time was so sharp it could slice bread, so vast it contained an ocean of
knowledge which could be tapped at will, is now just a jumble of loose
wires and short-circuits.
Did I write this column once before? If so, I’m sure
readers will register their complaints. I offer my apologies in advance.
Frankly, I have learned that it’s only polite to let
your listener know that you know that you may be boring him or her with
rehashed facts, leftover insights and gossip so old it smells worse than a
South Pattaya dumpster.
If you don’t acknowledge the chance that you’ve
mentioned something before, you leave your listener to fume and snooze in
silence as you repeat yourself. Or you may be lashed by humiliation when
your audience snaps, “Yes, I know that, you already told me. We had long
conversation about this subject. You don’t remember?”
Of course you don’t remember. You remember your first
phone number when you were 5 years old. You remember your math teacher’s
middle name. You can repeat all the verses of Rudyard Kipling’s “The
Female of the Species is more deadly than the Male”, and you can sing
all the words to a Frank Sinatra song in reverse.
What you cannot remember is what time the Thai
repairman said he’d come to fix the leaking roof, or if the Minister of
Interior said Pattaya can or cannot extend the beer bar closing time to
So now you make pre-emptive strikes by announcing early
in every conversation that this episode may be a rerun. It’s good to let
the listener know that despite your diminished memory, you remain 100
percent aware that you may be a repetitive bore.
And what about all those secrets you are not supposed
to repeat? Which info was told to you in confidence, and which gossip is
allowed to circulate?
A friend just revealed to me that Viagra is now
becoming a party drug in the senior set, much like teens use Ecstasy to
get high in nightclubs. I forgot if I was supposed to tell all my friends
about the Viagra, and add a little spice to the conversation, or if was
supposed to stay a secret? And WHICH wife was I NOT supposed to tell?
Okay, that’s easy. Now I remember. The wives don’t really care. It’s
the girlfriends I’m not supposed to mention.
So what is really the right approach? Last month a
friend rambled on for hours about the fact that the love of his life (whom
he met on Walking Street) just moved out and left him. Last week he called
again and repeated the story. For the sake of courtesy, I pretended it was
all news to me. The more surprised I acted, the more irate he became. His
memory is obviously in good working order. He was hurt that I seemed to
have forgotten his shock and grief, and as a friend I was totally
unsympathetic and apparently do not listen when he speaks to me. Ooops.
All I could do was explain to him my memory is shot and beg his
forgiveness. Then I sang the words to “I Did it My Way” in reverse.
Women’s World: The World of the Sarong
by Lesley Warmer
While visiting a village in Buriram I was wandering
around with my friend when we stopped outside a very run down wooden
shack. He said, “come, I want to show you.” As we bent down and
stepped into the darkness I had no idea what I was going to see. Inside
was an old lady sitting weaving an intricate design in silk, next to her
were two baskets: one contained the silkworm cocoons and the other the
discarded worms. How she could possibly work in the poor light and heat I
have no idea. We watched for a while and I admired her skill and patience,
and as we turned and left my friend dipped his hand into the still living
worms and held one up as it wriggled frantically in his fingers. I had the
feeling it knew what was coming. He offered it to me, I made a face and
said “no thanks” and he popped it into his mouth and sucked it with
the enthusiasm of a child sucking candy.
I decided to find out a little more about the Sarong.
The amount of effort that goes into producing these beautiful and
intricate designs needs to been seen to be fully appreciated. It takes 2 -
3 months they tell me from start to finish; the designs tend to be
individual to each area, like the Scottish tartan. A sarong is a piece of
fabric, usually about 180 cm by 120 cm, and can be many things to many
In the village men often wear a “pakama,” which is
a light cotton cloth of two-meter length wrapped around the waist or head.
This pakama (we would refer to it as a sarong) can serve as a belt, hat,
storage bag, swimming garment or hammock. In the evening, after they
bathe, they may wear it without a shirt.
Village girls these days tend to prefer jeans, tee
shirts and sandals. But during pregnancy they often revert to the more
traditional sarong. This sarong is a tube shaped cloth worn around the
waist. Most women end up wearing this for the remainder of their lives,
having silk versions for special occasions. They often raise their own
silk worms or create their version of a “knitting circle” with family
and neighbors. I suppose it’s a “weaving circle” and they work
together to produce the worms and sarongs.
Throughout history the world has known the sarong by
different names; for example, in Tahiti and Hawaii sarongs are known as
“Pareos”, in the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Thailand,
Malaysia, and the Philippines it’s called a “Sarong”, in India a
similar garment is named “Sri” and Africa they call it a “Kanga”.
History recalls the “Toga” in Rome and Greece.
In Indonesia on the island of Java, in the not too
distant past, sarongs of certain designs and patterns were strictly
reserved for royalty and were the property of Kings, Queens, Nobles and
Aristocrats. It was a hobby for the royal woman. Imitating these designs
and wearing them in public was punishable by death!
Most sarongs are produced by what is termed the batik
process. The batik process has been around for at least 2000 years. No one
knows exactly when people first started applying wax, rice paste or even
mud to cloth to resist dye. But batik is known to have existed in China,
Japan, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Europe and Africa. The word “batik”
is the name for the process of dye resistance, to produce the type of bold
exotic patterns used on fabrics dyed by this process. The process involves
covering the areas of cloth, which are not to be dyed with melted wax; the
wax is later removed by immersion in boiling water. Using this slow and
intricate process, executed by craftspeople in small workshops, a single
piece of intricate batik can take more than a year to complete. Silk,
rayon and cotton are used for batik.
These days we have many uses for the sarong which is
becoming more and more popular every day, e.g. fabric to make clothing,
turban, beach blanket, curtains, wrap, wall decoration, tablecloth, dress,
cover-up on the beach.
What better place to find the perfect sarong than Pattaya, although
watch out for those copies! A true silk sarong is rough to the touch and
quite stiff, if you look closely you will see the imperfections of a true