Family Money: Setting Your Risk Goalposts
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
Last week we started looking at evaluating risk.
Fundamental to making any investment decisions or constructing a portfolio
is the need to have a clear understanding of risk - what it means in
practice as well as theory, and what level of risk is appropriate for you
and your investment goals & objectives, pertinent to prevailing market
conditions. It’s not as complex as it sounds, but it does need to be
evaluated objectively, preferably with the help of an experienced
professional adviser. This is especially important if you’re planning a
discretionary portfolio, where an objective experienced manager with a
good track record is essential.
Having a clear understanding of a client’s Risk
Aversion Profile (‘RAP’) is - or should be - the first step in the
portfolio construction process after determining the fundamental objective
of the investment.
RAP is a fundamental and in theory should not be
drastically altered by market conditions: a conservative investor will
tend to remain conservative, and an aggressive investor will tend to
remain aggressive. A decade ago that was nearly always true. Nowadays
however many investors are swayed by the latest news on TV without having
a fundamental understanding of their real RAP, because this was never
determined by objective discussion with a professional advisor: their
investments are mostly made on whim or fancy. This often results in rash
or inappropriate investment decisions being made, which are reversed at
the next bit of good or bad news. Such frenetic activity by thousands and
thousands of small investors has been one of the principal causes of this
year’s market volatility, with record jumps in both directions. Of
course, the figures also affect the rest of us, trying hard to remain calm
in the midst of the storm, desperately holding on to our seats while
others are madly rocking the boat. It takes strong nerves not to follow
Standardised volatility measures that compare market
risk across all asset classes and geographical regions can be applied to
individual assets and portfolios. These measure how much volatility a
particular asset contributes to the portfolio, and quantify overall
portfolio risk - which equates to volatility and potential return, either
positive or negative. Most such tools lay in the realm of the professional
asset manager with sophisticated computer software rather than the private
investor, who generally wants to keep things simple and easy to
The easiest such tool to understand is a simple risk
scale. On this standard scale 1 = lowest risk (cash), 2 = international
bonds, 3 = balanced risk, 4 = major-market equities, 5 = emerging-market
equities, 6 = commodities, futures & options, 7 = forex dealing, 8 =
mineral exploration, 9 = venture capital, and 10 = setting up a business
All other factors being equal, a ‘standard’
balanced model portfolio would typically comprise 59% equities, 29% bonds,
9% cash & currencies, and 3% commodities futures & options. Such a
portfolio would have an aggregate risk rating of 3.21.
But a low-risk portfolio designed to produce income
(rather than capital growth) would be conservatively stanced and have an
aggregate risk rating down around 1.5-2.5 depending on prevailing market
conditions and the client’s particular biases and preferences.
A portfolio designed for longer-term capital growth may
be more aggressively stanced, and have a risk profile of up to 4.5 on our
standard scale, again depending on prevailing market conditions and the
client’s particular biases and preferences. Up to 85% of the portfolio
might be in a basket of suitably diversified equity funds, with some hedge
funds to reduce volatility and increase potential growth.
Some investors feel we have reached the bottom of the
bear cycle, and now is the right time to go back into equity holdings.
There is so much downside to be made up that an aggressive growth
portfolio will produce very good results over the coming period - if
Making a model
Only after having determined the risk-aversion profile
(‘RAP’) of the client, and agreed the aggregate risk rating of the
portfolio we’re about to construct, can we proceed to create a model
portfolio, or Asset Allocation Matrix (‘AAM’). This determines the
proportions of assets - cash, bonds, equities - that will comprise the
portfolio, and is custom-tailored to each individual.
A risk-management system also ensures that the selected
asset mix is in line with the client’s ability to tolerate short-term
Once the AAM has been constructed and its risk-profile
agreed with the client, the component funds for each asset sector can be
selected. As there are a great many funds available for each asset class
and sector, most investors simply don’t have the information available
to them with which to select individual funds. By what criteria should
these funds be selected? Past performance? Over how long? Star rating? The
manager’s consistency? Ah there’s a good one! Personally, I have found
that a portfolio manager needs a sophisticated relational database which
doesn’t just list the funds that pay to be listed (as in the financial
press) but many thousands more. And a filtering system which can apply the
criteria you are looking for, to whittle down the enormous list of funds
available for each sector to a short-list which you can research
individually. Then you stand a better chance of having selected
well-managed funds which have demonstrated consistent above-average
performance. And that, fundamentally, is what most investors are looking
I want to take this opportunity to wish all readers a
Very Merry Christmas and a Happy & Prosperous New Year.
Snap Shot: The DIY Camera Technician
by Harry Flashman
I will begin this week with a depressing thought -
everything made by humans and human technology will ultimately fail. The
most expensive motor car will eventually have a problem. The space shuttle
needed repairs. The most complicated electronic equipment will one day
just not work. That is the law!
That law holds true for cameras too, no matter how
fancy and expensive. I well remember taking a Hasselblad (one of the most
expensive medium format cameras) to Fiji on an assignment and it broke the
shaft to make the shutter work. And there certainly was no Hasselblad
agent in Fiji!
So what can you do to try and ensure your costly camera
equipment doesn’t break down at inopportune moments? There is a plan of
action and it is called preventive maintenance.
The first thing to remember is that cameras are very
delicate pieces of equipment. They have lots of moving parts (shutters,
apertures, film transport/wind on, etc.) plus expensive optical glass in
the lenses, mirror systems and viewfinders, let alone all the fancy
electronics, batteries and such. The humble camera is not so humble these
Let’s start with the outside and clean it. Do not get
the kitchen universal cleaner and spray liberally. With a soft brush (like
a child’s water colour paint brush) gently wipe the nooks and crannies
on the surface. Round the eye piece and all the little edges, and under
the knobs. Now dampen a cloth with plain water and gently rub it all over
the exterior of the camera body. By now, the camera should be looking like
new again - but we’ve hardly started!
The next item to deal with is the lens. Gently unscrew
the lens and put the camera body aside somewhere safe. With your soft
brush gently dislodge any dirt and dust from the lens barrel. What is
really good here is one of the soft blower brushes available in most
camera shops for around 180 - 300 baht, depending on fancy packaging and a
little bottle of cleaner. Go for the brush only type - do not use even
commercial camera cleaning fluid anywhere near your camera! Blow brush the
lens elements as well (front and rear).
Now with a very clean damp cloth gently clean both the
front and rear surfaces of the lens. Use a spiral motion to clean from the
centre to the edges. Use a fresh piece of the cloth and give it one last
swipe. Put the lens aside safely.
Now let’s return to the camera body. There are
certain things you must never do. You must never touch the mirror or the
focussing screen with your fingers. Even to change the focussing screen,
you will be supplied with special tweezers by the manufacturer. The other
part of the camera that should never be touched with your fingers is the
shutter. This is a very delicate part of the workings and can be bent or
twisted very easily. The other do not is oiling or spraying with CRC or
other similar lubricating fluids. Leave lubrication to the manufacturers
agents or camera repair shop only.
Now open up the back of the camera and clean the
internals with the blower brush again, taking particular care with the
channels where the back fits in as it closes. You are quite likely to find
small particles of dust and dirt in the cassette holder area, as this is
the part you open up every time you change film. The pressure plate inside
the back has to be completely clean because the film emulsion runs across
it. Any dirt or grit there will leave a scratch on the negatives.
The last area to check is the battery compartment.
Again, a quick brush and blow should be enough. Do not use the damp cloth
in here. Finally, if you don’t know how old the battery is - then change
it for a new one.
That’s it. DIY maintenance over for another 3 months.
Modern Medicine: Red Eye - and why the drops didn’t work!
by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant
Red Eye has been doing the rounds again, with everyone
blaming someone else as the reason why they have suddenly developed this
very painful condition. A couple of years ago, I fell victim to this, and
let me assure you that doctors do not make good patients. Here was my
One question I have often been asked is whether doctors
treat themselves, or go to see other doctors like a regular patient? Some
people actually think that it is against the law for us to treat
ourselves. So what is the real situation?
The vexed question is self diagnosis and treatment. Can
a doctor adequately diagnose conditions in him or herself? The answer is
generally yes, provided that the doctor can properly examine him or
herself. The thought of trying to check myself for piles, for example, is
ludicrous and needs a contortionist, as would be trying to check the back
of my head for subcutaneous scabies - and I don’t want either of them,
The thoughts about all this came after I found another
condition I could not treat in myself - a ripe red rip-roaring red eye.
Awakening one morning with a painful eye, I found it impossible to try and
prise my eye lids open to actually look into my eyes to do the diagnosis.
Nevertheless, I gave it a good go, well rather an educated guess is the
correct answer, and purchased some antibiotic eye drops at the local
chemist down the road. They weren’t the ones I wanted, but were what he
had. That was good enough.
But it wasn’t. By the next day I had an eye that
looked as if it had done ten rounds with Mike Tyson, but checking my ears
showed no evidence of injury so that diagnosis was incorrect, so it was
time I pocketed my pride and visited a real eye doctor! Luckily my friend
Dr. Somchai, the ophthalmologist, was on duty at the Bangkok Pattaya
Hospital and he examined my eye using the latest slit lamp equipment and
he delivered the bad news - I had a viral conjunctivitis, so antibiotic
drops were quite useless (but I had worked that out already)!
This is why, for the majority of red eye cases,
antibiotic eye drops bought over the counter at the chemists just do not
work. But how will you know whether yours is viral or bacterial? Well, you
find out the same as I did - you take yourself off to see a specialist
Dr. Somchai also told me the even better news that 90%
of these go into the other eye as well. This I did not relish, as I can
assure you that from my side of my eyeball, it was a very painful
condition. Surgical antiseptic techniques were the go here. Scratch left
eye with left hand only and then wash hands - surgical scrub. Rub right
(good) eye with right hand only and wash hands again. Even if it did
nothing to halt the disease, I had the cleanest hands in town!
So what was the treatment? For viral (not bacterial)
conjunctivitis it is symptomatic. The disease runs its course while we
give you something to make the symptoms more tolerable. For me, the best
was a cold towel (from the fridge) placed over the eyes every hour. And
wait for one week!
Heart to Heart with Hillary
I have read your column on the net version and must say
I enjoy it, even if some of the advice is a little tongue in cheek. My
wife and I are regular visitors to your country and will be coming over
this Xmas as usual (trying to escape the cold of England at this time of
year). Since you seem to know what is happening around town, could you
suggest a few good restaurants for us to try this time? We enjoy most
types of food, and price is not a consideration.
Are you inviting Hillary along too? If so, please
note my response to Jasper (below) and bring in the VC for the dinner
party! However, being serious for a moment, I am not the person to consult
on these matters, but rather my sister-in-crime, Miss Terry Diner. In her
Dining Out column each week she visits and reviews different restaurants,
all cuisines and all price ranges. You are sure to find some places you
would like to try. There is also her Dining Out Guide which gives over 50
establishments she has reviewed in the past 12 months, and is available at
good book stores for 259 baht, or directly through the Pattaya Mail.
Once a week I have a night out with the boys at work.
Usually this means I get home in the wee small hours (2 a.m. closing time
these days) and sometimes I am a little the worse for wear as a couple of
the lads are top drinkers. My girlfriend is starting to crack up a bit
about this one night a week. I reckon she is being unreasonable, as I used
to get home even later before the crackdowns in the past year. What can I
tell her to make her see that this is just harmless fun with the lads and
is a break for me from family responsibilities?
I want you to change roles with your girlfriend for
one night. She is going to go out with the girls from work and is going to
come home at something past two, decidedly the worse for wear. In other
words, very drunk. Are you going to sit back happily and let this happen
every week? Will you happily sit at home and not wonder where she is? Will
you sit there calmly watching TV soap operas about cheating husbands and
wives (that’s all there is on local TV) and not worry? Or are you going
to crack up about it? It is only Scottish stags that are the “monarchs
of the glen”. I think you should reconsider your responsibilities to the
young lady. And some people told me that chauvinism was dead!
After all the time reading your column and enjoying
your advice to those needy people I have some uncertainties about you. I
recently heard a shocking revelation about you that you are not actually
who you say you are. I heard a little whisper that Hillary actually has
meet (sic) and two veg and not a couple of fried eggs. The
revelation didn’t come out of a bit of bar chat, it came from a friend
of mine who works for a magazine publication in Bangkok. The writing style
sometimes does not represent the style of a lady, with the comments made!
I will still continue to read but I need some assurance.
Dear Jasper (carrot?),
What a silly, silly boy you are! Repeat after me,
“I shall not believe anything that comes out of the mouths of
journalists, especially ones from Bangkok.” Now write that out one
hundred times and send it to your “friend” who “works for a magazine
publication in Bangkok.” Jasper, my Petal, even you should know that
this is not true. Nobody actually “works” for magazines in Bangkok.
All they do is hang around bars and denigrate the efforts of the real hard
working people out in the provinces, such as Ms. Hillary. You have hurt me
deeply, Jasper, a knife plunged between the fried eggs. I shall cry myself
to sleep this evening over a bottle of Veuve Cliquot (vintage, of course).
In the meantime I shall have another chocolate. You may placate me by
sending quantities of one or the other, but preferably both.
The neighbours in our condominium block have a cat. I
think it is a kitten, but it is driving us both crazy. The owners are out
all day and the cat calls out all day. When they come home it appears that
it must be a perfectly behaved little kitty because there is never another
mew out of it until they leave again the next morning, when it starts all
over again. We have tried speaking to the owners, but they are a European
couple and do not seem to understand any English. The condo management
says that pets are not allowed. They are in the end unit, so we are the
only ones that have to put up with their noisy pussycat. What should we
do? Will the management help, we don’t want to be thought of as another
whinging farang couple?
George and Mildred
Dear George and Mildred,
There are only two people left to talk to here.
Management and the cat itself. Since its owners do not understand you, I
doubt if the cat will. Invite the management people up during the day to
hear it, if it is that bad. Surely you could have thought of this
yourself; however, I think you probably are a whinging farang couple.
A Slice of Thai History: The Death Railway
Part Two: From Changi to Kanchanaburi
by Duncan Stearn
Initially, the Japanese military in occupied Singapore
informed the Australian and British commanders in Changi prison camp that they
required a large force of POW’s to go north by train through Malaya to work
in Thailand. Stating that Changi was becoming too crowded, the Japanese
claimed the selected POW’s would receive good food and be housed in better
Although the British and Australian senior officers were
suspicious, there was little they could do to check the veracity of the
Japanese claims. Within months of the first group of POW’s leaving Changi
(in June 1942), the prison camp in Singapore was reduced to a few thousand men
as more and more Allied prisoners were shipped north to the steaming jungles
of western Thailand and eastern Burma.
Fortunately, because of their suspicions, the British and
Australian commanders made sure that the troops going north were accompanied
by as many medical men and medicines as possible. This act alone helped save
the lives of countless numbers of POW’s.
There were two sections of the railway, one in Burma and
one in Thailand, the pair separated by the Three Pagoda’s Pass.
According to one Australian prisoner, “This Pass was a
sort of watershed that made all the difference between what you died of,
although the death rates were much of a muchness either side ... I was on the
Burma section ... so we died of starvation. The men in the Siamese [Thai]
section died from cholera ...”
Apart from starvation and cholera, the men died of
beriberi, dysentery and malaria.
Originally, the Japanese considered that it would take
somewhere between five and six years to complete the line from Kanchanaburi to
Thanbyuzayat in Burma. This would mean having a direct line from Singapore,
through Malaya and Thailand and connecting to the existing rail network in
Burma. Apart from supplying their bases in Burma, the Japanese also planned to
use the railway to launch an attack on India.
Given the war situation, the Japanese commanders on the
ground were put under great pressure to finish the job with all haste. To this
end they pushed their slave labour beyond breaking point and succeeded in
completing the work in just 16 months. The last piece of the line was finished
in mid-October 1943.
The construction of the bridge over the River Kwae
(generally misspelt as Kwai) was particularly costly in lives, as was the
building of a wooden viaduct near Nam Tok. The railway was used just once by
the Japanese military before Allied aircraft bombed it and destroyed the
The toll on human life was devastating. The railway line
was constructed over the remains of approximately 16,000 Allied prisoners of
war and 75,000 Asian labourers. At least one man died for every sleeper laid
on the railway track.
Bits ‘n’ Bobs
JOIN THE PUDDING CLUB!
Yes, the festive season is upon us and many will
be looking forward to a slab of Xmas cake. Rather than buy from the
supermarket, have a bash at making your own as the following recipe
sounds like fun!
*1 cup of water *1 tsp baking soda *1 cup of
sugar *1 tsp salt *1 cup of brown sugar *3 lemons *4 large eggs *1
kg. mixed nuts *1 bottle of Brandy *2 cups of dried fruit.
Open and sample the Brandy for quality. Take a
large bowl and check that the Brandy is fresh.
To be really sure of the Brandy’s quality, pour
one level cup and drink immediately.
Repeat stages one and two.
Turn on the electric mixer, beat one cup of
butter in a large fluffy bowl.
Add one tsp of sugar, beat again. It is now best
to make sure the Brandy has not curdled and is shtill O.K.
Try another cup just in case. Turn of the empty
Break two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in
a cup of dried fruit.
Pick fruit off the floor.
Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers
pry it loose with an sdrewskiver.
Sample the Brandy to check for contisticity.
Sift two cups of salt, or something, who caresh,
snot that important.
Oh yes, check Brandy again.
Now squeeze your lemon and strain your nuts.
Grease the oven before turning the cake 180
degrees twice, try not to fall over.
Go to bed. Better luck in the morning.
Three men pass away on Christmas Eve and ascend to
heaven where they are met by St. Peter. “In honour of the season,” St.
Peter announces, “Before I let you pass through the pearly gates, you
must each give me something that represents Christmas.”
The first man fumbles through his pockets and pulls out
two lighters. He holds them up proudly and flicks them on.
“What do they represent?” St. Peter asks him.
“They are candles!”
“Ah! You may pass through the pearly gates!”
The second man rummages through his pockets and pulls
out two sets of keys. He holds them up proudly and shakes them.
“What do they represent?” St. Peter asks. “They
“Ah! You may pass through the pearly gates!”
The third man searches desperately through his pockets,
finally pulling out a skimpy pair of silky women’s knickers. He holds
them up proudly.
“What do they represent?” St. Peter asks, looking
THE FAIRY ATOP THE CHRISTMAS TREE - HOW
THE TRADITION STARTED
One particular Christmas a long time ago, Santa was
getting ready for his annual trip... but there were problems everywhere.
Four of his elves fell ill and the trainees did not produce the toys as
fast as the regular elves, so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of
being behind schedule. Then, Mrs. Claus told him that her mother was
coming to visit, which naturally stressed Santa even more. When he went to
harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth
and two had jumped the fence. They were gone and only heaven knew where.
This induced yet more stress but Santa knew he must carry on regardless.
When he began to load the sleigh, one of the boards cracked and the toy
bag fell to the ground, scattering his gifts. Irritated, Santa went back
into the house for a cup of coffee and a shot of whisky. When he went to
the cupboard, he discovered that the elves had hidden the liquor and there
was nothing suitable to drink. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped
the coffee pot and it broke into hundreds of little pieces. He went to get
the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw it was made from. The
doorbell rang and Santa cussed his way to the door. He opened the door and
there was a little fairy with a great big Christmas tree. The fairy said,
very cheerfully, “Merry Christmas Santa. Isn’t it a lovely day? I have
this beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?” Thus
began the tradition of the little fairy atop the Christmas tree...
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR READERS, FAIRIES TOO!
Personal Directions: What is Motivation?
by Christina Dodd, founder and managing director
of Incorp Training Asssociates
Every day I see people rushing to their offices, to
their cars, to the next floor up in the building, to the department store.
There are people buzzing here and there full of life and vigour. Then
there are those who don’t buzz. They don’t walk with a purpose. They
move with only half the energy and enthusiasm of others. They seem
disinterested and bored and are almost void of expression.
I had a colleague once who behaved this way and who
confessed to me that she hated her job so much that she had trouble
getting up in the morning and making the trip to work everyday. Sometimes
she said she would stop the car and have a long debate with herself about
turning back. On most occasions, however, she eventually made it to the
office where she struggled to keep up appearances and to get things done.
All she could do was to count the years, months, weeks then days that
would bring her to retirement.
My friend was living half a life. Her staff (and family
and friends for that matter) were getting half a manager, half a person.
She was probably performing at half steam and her company was getting half
an employee - a poor arrangement for everyone concerned! But then again,
at least she was getting to the office. Some people give up and simply
don’t make it. They are so de-motivated that it takes its toll in other
ways and more often than not, with serious results.
When your energy is low, what, if anything, can you do
about it? If your employees are sluggish and lack the passion and drive
that you see in all those television ads of successful companies forging
ahead, how can you give them a boost? When your kids are despondent and
have no desire get out and do things, how can you help?
For many decades studies have been underway and
researchers in business, psychology and other fields have been working to
come up with some answers to these questions.
What exactly is motivation? Motivation is basically an
internal state of arousal that often precedes behavior. How can you induce
an internal state of arousal? In other words, how can you make yourself or
others want to behave? How can you get people to strive to
achieve? To yearn to reach goals? To desire to be greater
than they are?
These are all important questions, because if behavior
and motivation are not in sync with each other - if people are just
managing to drag themselves through the day without any solid purpose to
it - then performance, productivity, mood, health, and relationships all
suffer. So we have to find out what produces that wanting. What is
it that makes us want?
Motivation is generated by a variety of factors, some
of which we can control, and some of which we can’t. For example let’s
look at our genes. We’re stuck with our genes and our genetic make-up
constrains how we react to the world. Some people are naturally energetic
and enthusiastic; others are more reserved and contained. We also can’t
control our environmental backgrounds or histories - the set of
experiences we’ve had up till now. We didn’t choose our parents or the
neighbourhoods and towns we were raised in, the economy of the country,
the news in the newspaper, and so on.
But there are several factors that we can manipulate to
some extent to boost our motivation and give us an element of control.
Factors like exercise, good nutrition, sleep for example. If we are in
good health, we are more likely to have energy and be more easily
motivated. There are also other factors that motivate us like rewards,
challenges, friendship, kindness, security, authority, independence,
pleasant environment, creative expression and meaning. Having a purpose to
life and work is critical as is setting goals and targets. They all give
us a reason for being here.
Some people might ask, “If you’re trying to boost
your own motivation, isn’t it just a matter of concentrating and willing
yourself to be motivated?”
A lot of “success personalities and gurus” would
have you believe that this is possible. I personally think that will, or
“willpower” plays an extremely crucial part, but willpower alone is
not enough for most people. I’ve witnessed many motivational seminars
where participants come running out of the room dancing and singing as if
they’ve just won the lottery. Sure it’s great to get this “high”
and to be buzzing with energy and enthusiasm - but for it to be all
powerful it has to have meaning at the end of the day. It has to be
harnessed and channelled into action, and it has to have long lasting
effects and bring about real results, whether they be on a personal or
The best and most effective way to boost your
motivation and to change yourself - and your future - is to combine will
with learning and practicing new skills.
Acquiring new skills has a number of advantages over
trying to work with willpower alone. For one thing, it saves you a great
deal of grunting and groaning. Second, it prepares you for the long term;
mustering up your courage might get you through the next few minutes, but
it’s difficult to rely on in the long term. Third, the right set of
skills will help you through changing conditions such as a new place of
work or new boss, an unstable economy, or simply getting older.
In today’s corporate world, managers have an
incredible task ahead of them in motivating staff and keeping them
motivated. In achieving this perhaps the most important skill they have to
have is to be an exemplary model of high motivation themselves. To be able
to demonstrate high energy, commitment and enthusiasm in their work. Then
it’s on to learning and to learning not only about themselves, but about
their staff - knowing them, their needs and their wants.
Want to develop your skills in motivating your staff?
If so, please contact me directly by email at christina.dodd @incorptraining.com
or at Incorp Training Associates in Bangkok. Tel: (0) 2652 1867-8 or fax
(0) 2652 1870.
Have a great week!
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
Christmas can be a time of celebration for everyone
Christmas is a time of celebration. But how and IF we
celebrate it depends a lot on who we are and where we live. The global
Christmas is multi-cultural, religious and for some people, merely a time
for parties, hospitality, commercialism, and gift giving.
I recently had the opportunity to entertain some Muslim
friends from Malaysia. Since the Ramadan fast made some of our eating and
traveling plans logistically tricky, I made the effort to work around the
fact that they could not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. Thankfully a
lot of my European friends had lived and worked in Muslim countries and so
we all pitched in to arrange activities which would conveniently
accommodate my guests.
The subject of different religious traditions was often
the topic of our discussions, amid much laughter, a lot of questions and
curious comparisons. One night at dinner, my Malaysian friend asked how
Americans celebrated Christmas. Since we were dining with a couple from
Oregon, I was off the hook. The American woman had been living in Pattaya
for about 2 years. Christmas was right around the corner and this year she
and her husband would not be going home for Christmas. As she began to
explain to our Muslim friends how she and her family celebrated Christmas,
I could tell she was homesick.
For her, Christmas really was a time for celebration,
which included spending time with her family, decorating the entire house,
inside and out, and shopping for the people she loved. For her it was the
most important time of the year. Her whole family gathered at her
parent’s farm in eastern Oregon. Some members traveled for days across
the country from other cities to be there a few days before December 25th.
For her, decorating for Christmas was part of the fun.
Her father always drew new background scenery for the Nativity scene that
he displays, every year. Other family members prepared the outside
decorations. She explained how her parents added a little more each year,
and they now had so many lights and decorations the final effect was like
Her family always has a real tree, not one of those
artificial plastic affairs which are so popular these days. A fresh fir
tree usually 6 or 7 feet tall was traditionally set up in the living room
and the whole family participates in the decoration. The tree ornaments
were collected through the years and some were priceless treasures.
When all the grown children, grandchildren, sisters,
brothers, etc., finally arrived the whole family went to church on
Then on Christmas Day they got up early and everyone
spent the days baking cookies, making candy, and preparing a huge
Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. The smaller children played games
and shared their new gifts that Santa Claus had brought for each of them.
As I listened to this woman reminisce I realized that
her traditional Christmas was pretty much how it is celebrated around the
world. Even non-Christians make some of these arrangements because we have
Christian friends and enjoy participating in this joyous season.
Major cities around the world decorate their department
stores, hotels and public places with lavish Christmas themes. Thai
residential neighborhoods are filled with houses whose owners have
decorated their gardens and palm trees with colored lights and bright foil
ornaments. Kids around the world are familiar with Santa Claus and often
receive gifts on during Christmas season even though the thought behind
them is less Christian and more in the spirit of fun.
I thought back to when I lived in Bangkok (a long time
ago) and remembered another American woman whose favorite time of the year
was Christmas. Joanne LaValley and her husband had been posted for 5 years
in Bangkok with an electronics company. At the time the American Woman’s
Club building was still in the old American embassy compound. The club had
a number of Santa Claus costumes in different sizes which were kept in
stock for members who volunteered to play Santa Claus at charity fund
Joanne always reserved the smallest one - months in
advance. Every Christmas Day for 5 consecutive years, she hired a tuk-tuk
from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. She and the driver filled the tuk-tuk to
the brim with a bright red sack stuffed with wrapped gifts. Then, dressed
in full costume, this pint-sized female Santa had the tuk-tuk drive up and
down Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Road while she dispersed gifts to the surprise
and delight of Thai children on the street.
However we choose to mark this particular holiday, what
is certain is that variations on the theme will be many and in some cases
very original. So here’s wishing all of our readers a very Merry
Christmas, whoever, and wherever you are.
Women’s World: A day at the beach
by Lesley Warmer
The 20th Century began the swimwear revolution, brought
about by a major increase in recreational sports oriented activities. The
clumsy and uncom- fortable corset was being discarded and the work of
exposing more and more of the skin was beginning. So swimwear began to
shrink and more and more flesh was exposed.
daring for the time.
The 1930s had a new generation of designers producing
swimwear that was well designed, sleek, and streamlined. The famous
Bauhaus style was free of all decoration and left beauty (in the eye of
the beholder, in most cases methinks!) up to the individual form. The
swimsuit hugged the body and was constructed to allow shoulder straps to
be lowered for tanning. The “panel suit” was also popular, with a
small skirt attached.
The 1940s had bathing beauties, pin-up girls, and
glamour girls wearing high heels and jewelry.
Then the most exciting and daring item of fashion
arrived on the scene. In 1946, Frenchman Louis Reard was looking after his
mother’s lingerie business, and designed a new swimsuit. At the same
time A-bombs were being tested in the Pacific atoll ‘Bikini’ so Reard
chose this name for his new design. When asked, “How small is it? Reard
was quoted as saying, “It’s so small that it reveals everything about
a girl except her mother’s maiden name.”
Stars like Brigitte Bardot and Diana Dors helped to
make it popular by making celebrity appearances dressed only in a bikini.
a backside like this, why not?
In the 1950s a bosom was all-important, for as long as
a woman had a bosom she was desirable. Because all fashion ends in excess,
the more she had the better. Early in this century, some women resorted to
removing their lower rib cage to create an hourglass figure.
In 1951 bikinis, perhaps seen as an unfair advantage to
the wearer, were banned from beauty contests.
Then in the 1960s Brian Hyland came up with that
ghastly song, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,”
triggering a bikini-buying spree among teenagers everywhere. Then
‘thin’ became fashionable and the topless look began.
Ursula Andress wore one of history’s most memorable
bikini’s in the Bond movie Dr. No. She walked out of the sea as a girl
named Honeychile Rider in a bikini, accompanied by a hip holster that held
a hunting knife. Cave girl Raquel Welch wore a fur bikini in “One
Million Years B.C.”
Burning bras in the 1970s was a protest against
admiring women for their bosom. The no bra look came in. Gone was the
stuffing and the construction. What you see is what you get was the
message. There were no surprises. The soft, gentle contour of the bosom
was no longer hidden under padding.
In 1983 even Carrie Fisher, as Princess Leia, wore an
ornate bikini in “Return of the Jedi.”
Times and tastes change, however, and just as
importantly, people age. Through the ’80s and early ’90s, bikini sales
began to slide. Sales dropped to less than a third of the women’s
bathing suit market, and in 1988 Reard’s company folded.
A word of advice, when buying a swimsuit know your own
body type, or at least try and be honest about it. A bathing suit should
look good dry or wet. It must be attractive day or night and needs to look
good at the pool, jacuzzi, lake, river, ocean, spa, and on a cruise.
If you want to add weight all over or just in certain
areas, warm colors such as red, oranges, yellows, plus white will do the
trick. Or for the opposite effect try cool colors - blue, green,
turquoise, plus black.
Lines, whether they are stripes in the print, seams or
zippers, can add width or length to the garment. Vertical lines make the
body look longer. Horizontal lines are relaxing and add width. Diagonal
lines add motion and action. Proper use of the diagonal line can cover a
lot of figure flaws by creating exciting optical illusions. Lines can make
the bosom appear more seductive and fuller, the waist smaller, a torso
longer, flatter a tummy, widen shoulders, and slim hips, when needed. The
size of the print is very important. Large prints will add weight.
These days we have “bikinis”, “monokinis”, and “thongs”,
which should be reserved for the very young, and the very fit but
unfortunately, especially around Pattaya, any shape can be seen in this
form of swimwear.