It's feeling a bit on the warm side
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It's feeling a bit on the warm side

It was Oscar Wilde who observed that "conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative". He might have had a point but it means there are a lot of unimaginative people in Thailand at present. I can hardly recall a conversation lately without a reference to the heat. It has definitely been "a bit on the warm side".

Actually that's not entirely accurate. It's been scorching, sultry; sizzling, sweltering, stifling, searing and steaming. I think that just about covers it. Or to use the official terminology, "bloody hot".

It is of course a bit foolish to complain about the heat in a tropical country because that's what happens in the tropics. As we perspire our way through April and May and probably further into the year we know it's going to be either hot, very hot or unspeakably hot. The shopping malls have been bursting at the seams with the public taking full advantage of the air conditioning.

The only people who can really adapt to it are those fortunate enough to be in inactive posts. Of course the sensible way to tackle hot weather is to do absolutely nothing, and I think I have almost got the hang of it. But it is not as easy as it sounds. Simply thinking about doing nothing is enough to bring on a sweat.

Perhaps during these hot months the whole country should be transferred to one giant inactive post. That would make it an ideal society, busy doing nothing all day long.

Inelegantly speaking

If we were in the UK anything remotely resembling this type of weather would prompt newspaper headlines like "Phew! What a Scorcher" accompanied by disturbing photographs of blotchy British bodies soaking up the sun in the local park.

English summers are frequently the target of jokes but they do occasionally have hot days. Back in 1797 the novelist Jane Austen wrote a letter to a friend in which she complained: "What dreadful hot weather we have. It keeps me in a constant state of inelegance".

That is worth remembering. So in these coming weeks, as I sweat buckets in Bangkok I am not in total disarray but merely experiencing a temporary state of "inelegance". That sounds much more agreeable.

Mad dogs and Englishmen

Noel Coward famously took an entertaining swipe at British colonial life in the tropics with the song "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" who venture out in the midday sun. The lyrics inform us that "Englishmen detest a siesta" and "in Bangkok at 12 o'clock they froth at the mouth and run".

Adopting Coward's theme some years later comedian Spike Milligan observed of Sri Lanka: "By midday in Colombo the heat is so unbearable that the streets are empty, but for thousands of Englishmen taking mad dogs for walks".

The expression "Mad dogs and Englishmen" caught on in Britain and was the name given to the legendary 1970 tour of the US by Joe Cocker in which the singer performed in 48 different cities. No wonder he was totally exhausted at the end. The lead musician on that tour was the talented American Leon Russell who later released a bluesy number, "The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen" which is well worth a listen.

Up on the roof

Many thanks to everyone who attended the book signing for Beyond Nowhere held at O'Shea's Irish Pub rooftop bar last week. I hope everyone enjoyed it along with fellow authors Jon Prichard and Peter Bond. I had a great time meeting a cosmopolitan gathering of readers from Australia, Germany, UK, US and of course Nakhon Nowhere. Apologies if my signature was a bit on the wobbly side but my handwriting has always been erratic and has definitely not improved with age.

There are still plenty of copies available at AsiaBooks, on the website and Amazon.

Ink wells and blotters

One reason for my miserable handwriting can be traced to early school days back in the Dark Ages. At primary school we still had those Dickensian-style ancient wooden pens with a metal nib and an ink well attached to the top of the desk. It was almost impossible to write clearly with these wretched pens and also very messy.

Most pupils ended the day with ink stains on clothes, face and hands. We had pink blotting paper to help rescue the situation but our exercise books were covered in splodges, smudges and ink stains.

Eventually we graduated to using a biro which was regarded as a major technological breakthrough at our school. The biro certainly came as a relief, although it didn't improve my handwriting that much. It still resembled the trail of a drunken spider.

Written off

With the extraordinary advances in modern technology, handwriting has become almost redundant these days apart from signatures for official documents. I mean, when was the last time you wrote a hand-written letter? Apart from compiling a shopping list or writing a brief message on a New Year's card most people are not called upon to write anything.

In the old journalist days I attended press conferences where scribbling down notes was a necessity. However, on some occasions upon returning to the office I couldn't read my own handwriting and suffered the ignominy of asking a colleague if he could decipher it.

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Roger Crutchley

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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