When paradise is just 10 minutes away
Roughly once a week, I have the pleasure of asking a taxi driver to transport me to paradise, or to get the pronunciation right, "paradye". And within 10 minutes we have arrived.
Admittedly it's not quite ''a place of timeless harmony" that the dictionaries promise, or even a Garden of Eden, but the name of a shopping mall in the eastern suburbs that in midweek is pleasantly peaceful.
And that's the key for me. Anywhere uncrowded and not noisy is about as close to paradise that you can get in Bangkok these days. And I admit to getting just a little buzz out of asking to be taken to paradise.
Visiting that mall always brings to mind the hit song when I was a teenager back in prehistoric times, Halfway to Paradise, by Billy Fury, dubbed "Britain's answer to Elvis". In the song, Fury is "so near, yet so far away" from his personal paradise. This of course was a young lady to whom he laments I want to be your lover/But your friend is all I stayed.
"Paradise" is undoubtedly one of the most abused and overused words in the English language. Go anywhere in Thailand and there's a good chance you will come across some version of paradise, whether it be the name of a hotel, bar, massage parlour, condo or coffee shop. There's probably even a paradise in Nakhon Nowhere.
However, I've yet to come across a Paradise dentist.
Adam and Eve
It is not only in Thailand where you can spend time in paradise. In the US, there are more than 20 small towns and villages by that name, with one in California even having its own newspaper, the Paradise Post. That sounds quite enticing. I wonder if they have any openings for wrinkly journalists?
There is even a Paradise in England, a small village in Gloucestershire. However, when it's piddling down with rain on a cold winter's night, it might require a visit to the local pub, the Adam and Eve, for a couple of "paradise cocktails" to convince yourself that you are in the right place.
Perhaps the most unlikely location for paradise is Glasgow, but Celtic Park, home of the famous football club, is called Paradise by their fans. It is even honoured by a song: "At the east end of town, a big stadium stands/It's called Paradise, by the Celtic fans."
In 1888, the original stadium was built next to a cemetery, but soaring rents forced a move across the road to a new stadium. A local journalist likened it to "moving from the graveyard to paradise" and the name has stuck.
Most people will be familiar with the name of John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, even if, like me, you have never read it. It's of truly mammoth proportions. When it was first published in 1667, it had 10,000 lines and required 10 books. So if you are at a function and someone gets up on stage and announces they will recite Paradise Lost, you could be in for a long evening. I am just thankful I never had to study it, although perhaps I might have learned a few things.
The expression "Paradise Lost" is often seen in newspaper headlines, usually accompanied by a story lamenting a place that was once near-perfect, transforming into something quite the opposite. A bit like Pattaya perhaps, or when Joni Mitchell sings in Big Yellow Taxi: "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."
A cold day in Hell
One of the Paradise towns in the US is situated on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan. Curiously, if you happen to travel a few hundred kilometres down the road, you will end up in Hell.
In the 1840s, one of the founders of the latter settlement was asked what he would like the town to be called and he responded: "I don't know, you can name it Hell for all I care." So they did.
Three years ago, when Arctic-like weather swept through Michigan, British newspaper The Sun couldn't resist running a front-page photograph of the snow-covered township with the banner headline "Hell Freezes Over".
Trinity of tedium
Talking about quirky place names, readers may recall a PostScript item three years ago concerning the twinning of the Scottish hamlet of Dull in Perthshire with Boring, a small town in Oregon. At the time, there were reports that the Australian town of Bland in New South Wales was keen on linking with the other two places to form what The Scotsman newspaper termed a "trinity of tedium".
I am pleased to report the Aussie link has now been cemented and last week Dull held a reception for Bland dignitaries, greeting them with a Gaelic version of "G'day mate".
For several years now, Aug 9 is celebrated as "Dull and Boring Day". The people of Boring mark it with a "not too exciting party". Citizens gather to enjoy a Boring beer in a Boring pub, talking to other Boring people. Sounds like fun.
In Dull, there is even more excitement, with one villager commenting: "There is never a dull moment here." However, with a population of just 84, that claim could be stretching things a bit.
However, a Dull official observed "we have possibly got the most photographed village sign in the UK".
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Bangkok Post columnist
A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
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