Vol. X No. 48
Friday 29 November - 5 December 2002

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Fun City By The Sea

Updated every Friday
by Parisa Santithi

 



COLUMNS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Snap Shot

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Bits ‘n’ Bobs

Personal Directions

Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Women’s World

Family Money: UK Property: The Tax Issues

By Leslie Wright,
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 UK.

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 indirectly.

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.

Methods of
Ownership

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 issue.

In conclusion, no single structure is suitable for every situation: careful planning must be undertaken, and adapted to the circumstances.


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 else.

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 realistic.

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 popular.

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 colours.

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 the photograph.

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 my life.

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

Dear 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).

Bazza

Dear Bazza,

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.

Dear Hillary,

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?

Highly Dangerous

Dear HD,

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!

Dear Hillary,

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.

Browned Off

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.

Dear Hillary,

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?

Bob

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 AGAIN!

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 protected] (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 contributed!

COLD TURKEY

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 worked.

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 quiet.

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. Advice appreciated...

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 “ category.

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 end.

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 satisfied.

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 [email protected] 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 this before.”

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 telling them.

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 4:00 a.m.

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 people.

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 handmade creation.



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