HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Snap Shot

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

A Slice of Thai History

Personal Directions

Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Women’s World


Family Money: Modern Myths about Stocks - Part 1

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

The past three years have taught prudent investors to treat stock markets with caution, but the recent rally has investors plunging back into the markets, crying: “the rally has come!”. Sadly, many private investors still have dangerous illusions about the best ways to identify cheap shares and the most successful investment styles. These ‘investment illusions’ are dangerous to your financial health.

1. Great Companies Will Remain Great

Many high-profile investors - including Warren Buffett - base their investment approach on buying a handful of great companies, and holding on to the shares for the long term. The argument is that great businesses - which benefit from strong brands and generate superb returns - will prove stock market winners in the long run.

Unfortunately, great firms don’t always remain great. Just ask shareholders in Marks & Spencers, Rentokil, Gillette and MacDonalds. Investors should never be complacent about the businesses in their portfolio. No company is guaranteed success, no matter how strong its brands or market share. As the respected US fund manager Peter Lynch says, “Companies are dynamic, and prospects change. There simply isn’t a stock you can own that you can afford to ignore.”

2. The shares trade at a discount to net assets so they must be good value

Recent bids in the retail sector for Selfridges and Allders have highlighted how a company trading at a discount to its net asset value (NAV) can prove attractive to a predator. But a discount to NAV doesn’t always signify value. Selfridges’ NAV consists mainly of its Oxford Street store. It’s clear that any bidder should be able to crystallise value from this asset, either by selling or mortgaging the property. Furthermore, the store hasn’t been revalued recently, so the figure on the balance sheet probably doesn’t represent its full value.

Selfridges, however, is a rare case. Most firms’ assets consist mainly of stock, debtors, or fixed assets of dubious value, rather than freehold property.

Many groups trade at a large discount to their NAV because they generate such poor returns on their asset base. For example, the stock market is unlikely to value a business with a NAV of 100p a share at a premium to that level if the company consistently generates a return on equity of only around 5%. That’s less than the firm’s cost of equity, and suggests it is destroying value - so a discount to NAV is applied by the market.

But a discount to NAV doesn’t always signal that a company’s shares are cheap. Investors looking for bargains should make sure those assets are worth something and/or check that the company consistently generates returns on its equity base superior to its cost of equity (usually in the region of 7-10%). In most cases, neither will be true.

3. Buy after a profit warning

Many retail investors and company managements are startled by the impact a profit warning has on a firm’s share price. They argue that as the warning relates to only one year’s profits - after which management often reassures the business will be back on track - the share price fall represents an excellent buying opportunity.

Unfortunately, this rarely proves to be the case. The market’s savage reaction to most profit warnings is entirely rational. That’s because any asset - including a company - is worth the net present value (‘NPV’) of its discounted cash flows. In the event of a profit warning, analysts will usually lower their estimates of sales trends at a firm, which in turn will lower the cash flow forecasts. That means even a modest undershoot in one year’s profits can translate into a large loss of value.

There’s also an old stock market adage that “profit warnings come in threes”, which means that after the first, you should always be wary. History has proved time and again that when a group issues a profit warning, it’s rarely a one-off occurrence.

4. Focus on earnings per share

Investors are still fixated by earnings per share (EPS) and the ubiquitous price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio. They’re still the most common measures used to identify attractively-priced groups. The City’s obsession with EPS sometimes leads to ridiculous situations - for example, analysts’ favourable views of ‘earnings-enhancing’ acquisitions. These are deals which boost a company’s EPS. But just because a deal is earnings-enhancing, it doesn’t mean it is creating value. Any business on a high P/E multiple, for example, can boost its EPS merely by using its highly rated shares to acquire a firm on a lower P/E rating. That doesn’t mean any value has been created. Investors should focus instead on the return made on the capital outlay.

EPS rarely provides much insight into whether a company is attractively priced: not only can earnings be manipulated, they also rarely translate into cash flow. Also, a company’s EPS and its P/E multiple give no indication of the return a business is generating on its capital base. And it is returns that are the real sign of value creation.

EPS, therefore, should never be used in isolation. Investors should always check other investment parameters, such as cash flow return on capital, when assessing a firm’s performance. As Collins Stewart’s chief executive, Terry Smith, never tires of pointing out, a group can generate any rate of earnings growth if it has no restriction on the amount of capital employed, and the return it must generate on this capital.

5. Take profits on winners; hold onto losers

One of the most common mistakes made by investors is to hold on to shares that have slumped in value in the hope of an eventual turnaround, while quickly banking profits on any that have risen in value. There’s no reason to sell shares that have risen in value if the company’s prospects remain sound and it’s still modestly valued. And the most pernicious example of failing to cut losses is when investors ‘average down’. This is the practice of buying more shares that have fallen in value to lower the average purchase price. This rarely proves a wise move. When a group’s shares fall in value, the market is sending a clear message that its prospects are worsening. Perhaps the worst justification for buying lemons is “it’s gone so low it can’t go any lower”. Unfortunately, it often can.

(To be continued next week...)

Snap Shot: How to shoot a cat! Or other animals

by Harry Flashman

I have a couple of photographic friends. Howard Green shoots horses and Ernie Kuehnelt shoots cats and dogs. They are heroes in my book.

Why? Well take horses to start with. They are strange cumbersome beasts with big barrel bellies and spindly legs, one at each corner. They won’t stand still as soon as you approach them and spit all over you if you get too close. They also have a very powerful kick, to be avoided at all costs, and have most unsocial habits like peeing on your foot or leaving large deposits for you to stand in. Mind you, the droppings are nothing compared to elephants, but that’s another story.


Cats? If ever there was an ‘ornery’ creature, it’s a cat. A cat is never your pet. It allows you to be its human food provider, and heaven help you if you give it something it doesn’t like. Cats have been known to pee on your TV set, just to get even. Cats will not come when called, will not “sit” or “stay” like a dog and their tolerance towards photographers is not the stuff of which legends are made. Cat photography is difficult. Very.

Cameras and horses came together in the late 1800’s when there was controversy as to whether a horse had all four hooves in the air while galloping, at some point. Money changed hands when some high-speed photographer solved the conundrum at f8 and 1/60th of a second. I hope he was well paid. Oh I almost forgot, horses smell too.

Now take a look at the photo with this week’s column. It really is a beautiful animal shot, all Ernie’s work (and the cat’s of course). There is no getting away from it, this shot is visually attractive, with the sweep of the edge of the large container drawing your eyes into the picture. Note that the sweep runs from left to right - a small thing to remember, but our eyes are used to reading from left to right, so photos work best when going left to right as well.

What else can you see in the shot? It is taken with natural light, in fact Ernie says that he once took some shots of a kitten with flash and now the cat runs every time it sees a camera! Flash is not the ideal light source for cat pix!

Looking at the ears of the cat, you can see that the ambient light is coming from above and slightly behind the animal’s head, backlighting the ears and almost making them translucent. Looks good. There is also enough light in front of the cat to get some catch light reflections in the cat’s eyes, to make it look alive. Even a white board beside the camera can be enough to do that for you.

So what is the secret of getting your cat in the plant pot and going click? Again according to Ernie (as I don’t shoot cats) it is a matter of extreme patience, being ready at all times and being aware of the photographic opportunities in the cat’s favourite haunts.

Ernie uses a variety of lenses, but all of them are short to medium telephotos. Around 100 mm being a favourite. This gets you physically far enough away from the animal that it can tolerate your presence, and the lens is long enough that you can frame up the cat’s face and crop in the camera, a much better concept than cropping later.

Sharp focus is just as important with animal pictures as it is for human portraits, and Ernie focuses on the eyes. The depth of field is such that there is sharp focus from the nose and whiskers right through to the back of the head, and then the body of the cat just starts to go slightly hazy, keeping the attention on the cat’s face.

So there you have it. How to shoot your neighbourhood cats, and not get arrested. Lots of luck!

Tripping down the stairway to heaven

Or a night in the ICU Part 2

by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant

Last week I was being trundled into the ICU for 24 hours of observation. When I arrived I was shuffled off the trolley and onto the electric bed. Quicker than Gypsy Rose Lee’s my clothes disappeared and I was re-dressed in the hospital gown. I was also plugged into the monitor via a blood pressure cuff on my right arm and several adhesive electrode pads across my chest to give the ECG (EKG if you are American) readouts. A natty little Plethysmograph reader was slipped on my left middle finger, and I already had the Intra-Venous drip into the back of my left hand. There were so many leads, tubes and wires attaching me to the monitors, there was no possible chance of my escaping. Not that I was in any condition to do a runner!

Dr. Alongkorn visited me and explained again that with my head injury it really was necessary for me to remain in for at least the next 24 hours. (I agreed to stay in till the morning!)

Now with all the recordings scooting across the monitor it was time for the nursing staff to monitor my progress. Under the circumstances, my BP decided it might go up, but this was considered to be a reaction to the pain messages I was getting from my neck, the left side of my head, both elbows, back, right hip, knee and ankle. As I said last week, I must have descended the stairs very quickly and most inelegantly! However, to be sure, they had one of the cardiologists, Dr. Ularn, to confirm that concept. He did and very shortly afterwards I received a shot of Pethidine in the right shoulder.

Ah, the wonders of Pethidine. A damn fine painkiller, as it takes you and floats you gently 100 m.m. above the bed. Well, that’s what it feels like. I can remember telephoning Peter Malhotra at the Pattaya Mail to tell him about the accident, but since I was well away with the faeries by that stage, goodness knows what sort of garbled nonsense he got from me! But at least the pain settled. As did my BP.

When you are not really lining up for the ferry ride across the River Styx, Intensive Care Units can be somewhat boring. That’s an understatement. I managed to beat some of the boredom by seeing what I could do with the graphs running across the monitor. If I held my breath, I could ‘flat-line’ the respiratory monitor, but if I took sharp little in and out gasps I could produce some wonderful zig-zag, saw-tooth patterns. Pulse could be altered by breath-holding too, but the BP cuff was hard to fool. I did try by flexing my arm as it automatically inflated, but it didn’t do anything. (Bernoulli’s Theory beat me for all students of Physics.)

So day dragged into night and into morning. The self inflating BP cuff and its damn pump made sure you didn’t miss any of your ICU hours by needless sleeping. The food was passable, if not quite to Miss Terry Diner’s “Highly Recommended” standards. The nurses cheerful, but none more cheerful than me when Dr. Alongkorn gave me my parole that morning. Mind you, I was required to go home for further custody for the next 24 hours.

So that’s the rewards of clumsiness. Multiple bruises, concussion and a night in ICU. Try to avoid them all!

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I suspect you may have unwittingly wounded yourself with your razor-sharp and sometimes intolerant pen (a pen is also a female swan, a beautiful ‘mature’ bird, so I am trying to be nice whilst taking you to task!). I saw in Heart to Heart that you wrote: “Dear Bee, I’m sorry, my Petal, but I am not on your side. Sure I get annoyed at the poor spellings, but that is for incorrect English spellings written by native English speakers. They should know better and it is they that should have a dictionary.” I wholeheartedly agreed with the above and so was quite taken aback to read your response to the next poor soul seeking your advice: “Dear Distracted, You know the problem, right from the start when you say that you do not speak Thai and your maid does not speak English. No communication! Could your husband get what he wants done if his secretary only speaks Urdu and he speaks Pigeon English?” With absolutely no intention of knocking you off your ‘perch’ Hillary, but is this not a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Pigeon Pie I have heard of although never sampled (too many bones, so I am told), but I am unaware of a language called ‘Pigeon’ English. Do the little feathered dive-bombers in Trafalgar Square actually speak English? I have previously thought I heard the little incontinent devils make ostensibly racist remarks as they were about their business, but I had no idea they had their own brand of English. I put it down to the wind. Perhaps you meant to write: ‘pidgin’ English? I trust you will not ‘Bee’ too ‘Distracted’ to own up to this obvious aberration without evacuating your lexically-challenged bowels on me? Probingly yours,

Lance Boyle

Dear Probingly,
I have just been lanced! Or stabbed with my own poison pen, you would say? Straight through my faithful copy of the Concise Oxford. However, there is a primary flaw in your lexicon, my Petal, and that is your assumption that I am a native English speaker. It may interest you that during my formative years I did not converse in the Queen’s English. I also hope that in pointing out a minor aberration, you are not doing this to feather your own nest, young Lance. Finally, regarding my anatomy, more specifically my “lexically-challenged bowels” let me assure you, that no matter what you may think, I do not drop my pearls of wisdom from that end of my intestinal tract.

Dear Hillary,
I was recently delighted to spot some tasteful copies of five pack assorted ‘M and S’ scanties and wonder if these would make a suitable gift for Wee Nit (the adorable). Feminine advice please. Would they go down well? Wee Nit has now picked up her aitches to excess - ‘Hillary’ sounds like ‘Hill Hairy’. Hilarious, yes/no? Wading On,

Dear Mistersingha,
So nice to see that you and Wee Nit are getting along so well and the elocution lessons are still in full swing. In my idle moments I often wonder how the wee thing goes with pronouncing ‘Mistersingha’? I also notice you say that you have found tasteful “copies” of Marks and Sparks underwear. My dear sir, copies!! Surely the least you can do, if you insist in shopping in the “keeneow” department stores, is to get her the real M&S article? My feminine advice is to get her some really nice items of female frippery. You know the sort of thing - a series of holes held together with silk thread. As far as going down well, I refer you to the fact that women’s intimate apparel is always on the top floor of department stores, so that mindless lift attendants don’t drone on, “Ladies underwear - Going down.” By the way, Mistersingha my precious, where are the promised Mars Bars you said you were sending? I hate men who promise us girls the earth (in your case a miserable Mars Bar) and then never deliver.

Dear Hillary,
I am from Danmark (sic) and I wont (sic) to marry with my Thai lady, but friend say if we marry her cannot to own house in Thailand. They say I can have condo but she cannot and she can house but I cannot, but not if marry. I confuse and need to see what we do because she wont (sic) to marry and me too. Sorry about English no good.

Dear Dan,
A few years ago this was all spelled out in the column “Family Money” by Leslie Wright, in “Getting Real about Real Estate” where he pointed out that the Thai law has been changed (how novel!) so that a Thai woman married to a farang can own real estate in her own name (and the law has just been changed about that too). What you have to do is to go and see a good lawyer who can explain Thai law to you. Ask around and go and see at least two lawyers, then you will be able to make up your mind on what to do. Do not make investments on the advice of just one. Do not worry about your English, it is better than half the letters I get from some native English speakers (see the first letter this week!).

A Slice of Thai History:The beginnings of the Thai Postal Service

Part Two

by Duncan steam

In 1885, communication in Thailand was largely conducted via waterways and bullock cart. Roads were few and the railway was still some years off. When the postal service extended to Chiang Mai, the route went up the Chao Phrya River to Nakhon Sawan, and then took a branch of the river as far as Uttaradit where it went by road through Phrae, Lampang, and Lamphun before reaching Chiang Mai. The whole process took around 15 days.

In April 1886, the postal offices located in Phuket and in the vassal state of Kedah participated in a direct exchange of mail with Penang. In the same year, direct closed mail began being sent to France and Italy. In June 1886, a line was opened between Chiang Mai and Rangoon that saw mail delivered from and to Bangkok. Mail from the north of Thailand that was destined for Europe was also dispatched via Rangoon.

A mail delivery line between Bangkok and Saigon was established in March 1887 while in June 1888, an agreement was reached with the Straits Settlements for the exchange of parcels. In December 1889, the agreement was extended to include India and Britain. A similar arrangement was made with Hong Kong and this enabled correspondence to travel from Thailand to Japan, Macau, and the Chinese treaty ports.

In 1890, an agreement was reached with Germany whereby parcels were sent on British steamers to London and then forwarded. A year later, German vessels began taking parcels direct to Hamburg and then dispatched throughout central Europe.

In the initial stages, the postal service focussed on overseas deliveries and receipts. One of the main reasons for this was that the average Thai person living in the interior was illiterate and therefore rarely wrote or received mail. Additionally, traders needed to maintain communication with their overseas markets, receivers, and suppliers.

Domestically, the government concluded agreements in the 1890s with the Siam Steam Navigation Company to transport mail between Bangkok and the Thai ports along the east and west coasts.

The construction and expansion of the rail network made it a viable alternative to water-borne delivery of the mail, and in 1905, the Postal Department arranged for the establishment of post offices at each station. A few years later, mail vans were used to collect mail from post boxes and delivered to the stations.

By 1917, with the completion of much of the rail network, the number of ports at which vessels of the Siam Steam Navigation Company were required to call was substantially cut back.

An experimental airmail service, handled by military planes, between Bangkok and Chantaburi was begun in February 1919 and proved so successful that it was expanded to Khorat, Roi-Et, and Ubon Ratchathani in 1922. Mail from Khorat to Nong Khai, which had previously taken up to 14 days, was reduced by air services to around four hours.

In 1927, the Postal Department reached an agreement with the Interior Ministry to set up a postal outlet in each district office. At this time, the postal express service was also established to circumvent theft. Between 1927 and 1935, the postal service ran at a substantial loss, but with increased usage by the public, it had become self-sustaining by the 1970s. In 1961, Bangkok and Thonburi were divided into 12 postal districts, issued with a number, and mail collections were conducted three times a day.

In remote country areas where there was no postal outlet or the district office was some distance away, the village headman acted as postmaster. This situation has carried on into the twenty-first century in many of the remoter parts of the nation.

Personal Directions: The tip of the iceberg

by Christina Dodd

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that they are first and foremost individuals – above all else. And as individuals they have tremendous ability which is mostly untapped and under-utilized.

You could say that we can compare our capabilities and potential to that of an iceberg! From the surface we can really only see about five percent of the iceberg – we can only see the tip of it. And this is about as much ability as we use. Human beings only use about five percent of their total capabilities. The rest of our capabilities lay hidden, just like the rest of the iceberg lays submerged.

Inside each and every person there is enormous ability just waiting to come out and to be used. So why can’t we use our ninety-five percent worth of capabilities that lay hidden? What is it that prevents us from drawing on these powerful resources? Why can’t we or don’t we use these strengths?

Basically it’s because we build barriers and put up walls and obstacles to progressing and to moving ahead. We tend to convince ourselves more of the things that we can’t do than the things that we can do. We surround ourselves with attitudes of negativity, of impossibilities. We tell ourselves that we’re not good enough, not qualified enough, not clever enough, not strong enough, not confident enough. We continue to say we’re not ready, we’re not sure. We continue to be afraid to act maybe because of things that happened in the past. We continue to live with our past failures and relive them like we watch re-runs on television.

The more we think, speak and behave negatively and surround ourselves with our failures, the more suppressed our abilities and our potential become. The deeper they go inside us, and the harder it is to bring them out.

But there is a solution to all of this. There is a way out. There is a way to break down the walls we build that stop us from using our potential to the full. And it all has to do with three fundamental steps, three key steps!

The first step is to give every single ounce of effort that you have to achieving your goals. Put your blood, sweat and tears into it. Don’t just give sixty, eighty, ninety, ninety-nine percent effort – give 100 percent of your effort into reaching your goals. If you give less than 100 percent then you give room for failure and is that what you really want – failure? Of course not - so work towards your goals with every bit of your heart and commit totally to it. When you put this much into it then you will find yourself drawing on strengths and abilities that you never realized you had and that had been “hidden” all this time, just waiting to be put to good use.

“The average person puts only twenty-five percent of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than fifty percent of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote one hundred percent.”

- Andrew Carnegie

Secondly, never ever give up in working to achieve your goal! Try, try, try, and never stop trying! The more you try the more your abilities will surface and help you along the way. There is so much power in trying and continuing to try. You know this yourself just with simple tasks. The more you persevere and don’t give up, the more likely you are to succeed because you are not going to give in and in adopting this attitude, you find strength and determination and the will to get through. The “success” literature is filled with stories of people who made it because they never gave up! Because they never gave up they were able to find ways to overcome obstacles. They were able to draw on their capabilities and reach their goals.

And the third step and probably the most important step is to use positive speech. Always use positive speech in whatever you undertake in life, in the way you live your life. Using positive speech has a power all of its own that enables you to fight adversity, discouragement, despair and all of the obstacles that will come to you in life. Just by speaking in a positive, encouraging, hopeful, optimistic, cheerful and well-meaning way you will be capable of doing so much more than you ever thought before. Being positive is about the best natural medicine you could possibly use to get through life and all its problems.

It’s not just that you are speaking positively, it’s what happens to you when you speak positively. You begin to gain strength from within yourself and look at things in a different light. You find a source of new energy to drive you. Your mind opens and your imagination begins to work overtime. You find that you can think more and create more. When all of these come into play you are more able to fight for what you want in life and in doing so draw on the talents, the gifts, the capabilities and potential you have inside you!

Turn negatives into positives. Turn minuses into pluses. Turn failure into success!

Have a great week, and to leave you on a thought-provoking note:

“We become what we think about most of the time. The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives”.

- William James (1842 – 1910)

If you would like more information on our training programs, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]

Whether you are interested in management and business, teambuilding or communications, we have a range of programs to suit your particular needs and which can be specifically tailored to meet your individual requirements.

Social Commentary by Khai Khem

A mother is a special person

August 12 is Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday. Thailand also has specified this day as the nation’s annual Mother’s Day. Our beloved Queen Sirikit is a very, very special mother - a mother and Royal Matriarch to all Thais.

Mothers are indeed special people. What would we do without them! Many countries around the globe have a day designated to pay tribute to mothers, not only our own, but to all mothers and the sacred concept of motherhood. Not all nations celebrate this holiday on the same date, but the sentiment which honors our mothers is something we all share.

Most holidays have origins reaching far back into history. Records show that there were celebrations organized for mothers in Ancient Greece. English -speaking countries trace the tradition to the 1600s in England, when the day of tribute was known as “Mothering Sunday”. Working class people were given the day off and encouraged to spend the time visiting their Moms. They often brought a gift of flowers or special cake to show their love and respect.

However, mothers deserve to be remembered every day. Children living at home with their mothers should show them respect, listen and learn from their teachings. When they get older, they will realize what a great role their Moms played in strengthening their family unit. This attitude applies to stepmothers and adoptive mothers as well. Mothers give so much of themselves and their importance in our lives is immeasurable.

One of the hardest jobs in the world is to be a parent. Working mothers bear an increased burden, and they are especially to be admired for their extra efforts to help support the family.

For those whose mothers have passed away, Mother’s Day is a day to remember with fondness all of the wonderful things about that special person who was so dear.

Our mothers have tremendous influence on us and leave lifetime lessons and impressions, indelible and irrevocable. They are also a powerful and driving force in all societies.

Many mothers devote their time and energy to charity work; join foundations and clubs which contribute to the physical, mental and emotional well-being to their communities because of that inherent compassion and empathy which goes hand-in-hand with the very essence of motherhood. They lend a unique, warmhearted and sympathetic touch to the task at hand.

At home we all learn things from our mothers. Some are very practical things such as how to walk, talk, dress ourselves, and safely cross the streets. We most likely learn to read and write first from our Moms. And we also learn the subtle things - such as inner strength, how to pray, how to dream and how to make those dreams come true.

Single mothers have the hardest job of all. For whatever reason, through death, divorce or abandonment, a mother who must raise her children single-handedly deserves much praise, for she is a woman who must be all things to her children - mother, father, bread-winner, disciplinarian, homemaker and mentor.

All mothers are not created equally. Some live in poverty and lack the financial means to provide their children with material benefits. I have observed families who live in externally squalid conditions, but the mother’s love and warmth for her children was rich and potent. One such mother once told me that although she doesn’t have power, either economically or politically, she has great love and energy. That was her greatest gift to her family and her children were very lucky beneficiaries.

When we mention mothers, everyone has their own private memories, mental portraits, lessons learned, stories and anecdotes. An email from an American friend shared this list of things she believes all mothers tell their children, in every language and culture. Even in Thailand, no matter how they are phrased, I think meaning is usually pretty close.

Some motherly advice: Always change your underwear; you never know when you’ll have an accident. Don’t make that face or it’ll freeze in that position. Be careful or you’ll put your eye out. If everyone had measles, would you want them too? You have enough dirt behind those ears to grow potatoes! (Rice). Close that door! Were you born in a barn? If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Don’t put that in your mouth; you don’t know where it’s been!

Woman's World:Diet for a healthy body - part 1

by Lesley Warner

When we talk about diet, the mind immediately imagines ‘overweight’; this is not always the case. Regardless of your weight you should manage your diet, but this is sometimes easier said than done for a busy woman. Personally I am not convinced that anyone really has the time to manage their diet like dieticians recommend. It is not always practical to add up calories and check proteins and carbohydrates while running a busy house, going to work or shopping on a tight budget.

Another thing to remember is that we do not all have the same requirements the energy necessary to power body functions varies with age, sex, activity level, and environmental temperature.

There are numerous articles on what is considered a balanced diet. This is an example of one I found: “A balanced diet consisting of 2-3 servings of milk, yogurt and cheese, 2-3 servings of meat, poultry, beans, eggs and nuts, 2-4 servings of fruit, 3-5 servings of vegetables and 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, or pasta each day will provide all the necessary nutrients for good health”. I would go along with that, as it seems a fairly easy rule to follow. Although I am not convinced I could consume it all in one day!

It has been suggested by dieticians that to keep the body in good condition we need about 40 nutrients in the diet to maintain our health. A healthy diet needs to provide energy substrate, essential amino acids, necessary polyunsaturated fat, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Fiber is indigestible plant material like cellulose, pectin’s, or lignin. High fiber diets are recommended because of an association with decreased cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disease. Fiber ads bulk to the stool and diets high in fiber have been shown to decrease cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

It has long been recognized that fiber is very important in our diet, and if you don’t particularly enjoying eating bran it’s not always easy to know where to find fiber. I discovered that peas are high in fiber and they are an easy option to add to any recipe. Here is an old favourite that you might enjoy and benefit from at the same time.

Spaghetti Bolognese

55g whole-wheat spaghetti


115g lean minced beef

1-small onion, peeled and finely chopped

1-stick celery, finely chopped

1/4 beef stock cube dissolved in 70ml boiling water

Salt and freshly ground pepper

A pinch of mixed herbs

1-teaspoon tomato puree

25g frozen peas

Fry the minced beef in a non-stick saucepan until well browned. Drain off all the fat, which has been cooked out of the meat. Add the onion, celery and stock to the meat in the pan and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Reduce the heat, season to taste with salt and pepper and add the herbs and tomato puree. Cover and simmer gently for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if it begins to boil dry. Boil the spaghetti in salted water for about 12 minutes or until just tender. Drain and arrange around the edge of a serving dish. Stir the peas into the sauce and heat through for 5 minutes, and then pour into the centre of the pasta.

One useful tip to remember if your problem is that you are overweight: instead of buying sweetened fruit beverages, coffee and tea, choose water instead. Water has zero calories and water is good for the skin and general health. Personally I am not a great lover of water and find it difficult to make myself drink a glass. It was brought to my attention that I don’t drink enough water by the doctor when I was feeling particularly run down and had a blood test. His words were that I was starving my body of water therefore my immune system was not as good as it should be. One way to be sure you get a healthy quota of water is to give yourself a target amount to consume daily. For example I buy a large bottle and aim to drink it all by the end of the day. I do find it easier when I am in a hot climate than I do in the cold.

Wine: The Magic Wine

by Ranjith Chandrasiri

Champagne was first discovered more than a century before the famous old monk, Dom P้rignon, appeared on the scene at the end of the 17th century. Before his time, Champagne’s cold, northern climate was infamous for pale pinkish still wine made from pinot noir; consistently anaemic, thin, tartly unripe and harshly acidic. Determined more by grapes grown on the extreme edge of their ability to ripen properly, P้rignon reversed this situation through improved farming methods that markedly increased ripeness and concentration.

He also evened out dodgy quality by blending wines grown in differing microclimates within Champagne and across both hot and cold vintages. Combined, these practices effectively filled in weaknesses and bolstered strengths. As a result, the region’s reputation soared, demand increased and prices rose dramatically.

Dom P้rignon didn’t invent Champagne but he did achieve a number of breakthroughs that are key to making Champagne as we know it today. He perfected the method of making white wine from red grapes, for example, and most importantly, he mastered the art of blending wine from different grapes and different villages to achieve a complex base wine.

It is more likely that P้rignon’s Champagne bubbled without any intent. He was probably more concerned with trying to keep the bubbles out of his wine, given how deadly the work was back in his days. This danger arose from “stuck fermentation” that was common to cold climates.

Champagne is a region with a very cold climate, which makes it difficult for fermentation to be completed. The ultra-cool climate is prone to early cold snaps that cause yeast to go dormant and fermentation to stop dead in its tracks, leaving behind a partially fermented, low-alcohol wine full of unfermented sugar, but nicely balanced by high acidity. The Champenois went ahead and bottled this for drinking the following year. Things got tricky when spring’s warmth brought the hibernating yeasts back to life. Stored in relatively brittle, thin-walled bottles, the wine went through a secondary fermentation, in which carbon dioxide increased and back-pressure built up, leaving the winemakers at the mercy of potentially lethal time bombs. No doubt tired of copping the odd cork under the chin, P้rignon invented a metal clip to hold the cork in place during second fermentation.

The storage solution, however, came from 17th-century England. The English had developed a fondness for P้rignon’s well-blended Champagne, but wisely preferred bringing it over in barrels rather than risk the unwelcome surprise associated with French glass. The great problem was the transitory nature of the bubbles: they would dissipate after some time in the cask.

At about this time, a new form of harder, thicker glass was developed in the super-hot, coke-fired kilns of northern England. The second innovation came with improvement in bottle making; the indentation called a punt in the bottle base meant the extra pressure that came with fermentation could be contained. Capable of withstanding the pressure of secondary fermentation, this new bottle allowed sparkling wine to be produced, contained and transported reliably for the first time.

Another one of Dom P้rignon’s contributions was the art of blending. He found more complexity blending wines from different villages. The same philosophy applies today; famous champagne houses like Krug carefully maintain all their traditional sources of grapes by offering long and attractive contracts to their growers.

There were two further developments in the refinement of champagne, as we know it. The first was simply the decision to restrict the grape varieties in making champagne to three: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.

The next refinement was to clarify the wine. Not that it worried Dom P้rignon one jot, but the early champagnes were cloudy from the presence of yeast lees. The trick was to get the sludge out and leave the bubbles in. The credit for cleaning up champagne’s appearance is accorded another monk, Dom Ruinart. He evolved a technique of standing the bottles upside down so the sediment settled against the cork, and then freezing the neck so that a plug of frozen sediment could be fired out by a quick opening and then recorking the bottle. There have been numerous improvements to this idea but basically it remains the same. The process is called r้muage and the traditional wooden shaking tables with chamfered holes used to encourage the sediment to settle still remain in use.

When the good old Dom P้rignon tasted his first glass of bubbly, he is reported to have rushed into his boss’s study yelling, “Father Abbot, I am tasting stars.” It adds to the story to know that Dom P้rignon was blind and couldn’t see what he had created. Champagne hasn’t looked back since.

Ranjith Chandrasiri is the resident manager of Royal Cliff Grand and president of the Royal Cliff Wine Club, Royal Cliff Beach Resort, Pattaya, Thailand. Email: [email protected] or wineclub Website:

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