During the recent debate concerning the use of a pen name or nom de plume among writers to the ''PostBag'', the name Edith Clampton surfaced on a couple of occasions. One reader asked where she was and if she is happy and well.
For those unfamiliar with Edith, a bit of background is necessary. During the early 1990s a reader who signed herself Edith Clampton (Mrs), became a regular contributor to our letters section. She was the ''Queen of Tittle Tattle'', suffering infuriating problems with such things as electric toothbrushes and portable potties. She also took a firm stance on elephant dung. Edith's letters were so gripping she developed something of a fan club as readers eagerly awaited the next installment of her tribulations in Bangkok, especially when she encountered awful ''scruffy people''. There was even a book published in 1996 of her collective correspondence and readers' responses.
Alas, in the mid 1990s Edith suddenly disappeared and the letters section has never been quite the same. One reader claims to have spotted Edith about 15 years ago at the Ploenchit Fair, stocking up on Marmite. And she hasn't been seen since.
There are several theories regarding Edith's disappearance. One rumour suggested that she had eloped with a samlor driver and gone to live in Nakhon Nowhere. But the hypothesis favoured by her maid, Khun Hazel, and driver, Khun Parker, was that Edith underwent a sex change and is now a business executive known as Ed Clampton.
A plea from the jungle
During her heyday, Edith's name spread throughout the region. In December 1993 a Bangkok-based journalist set off on a trek to interview Karen guerrillas deep inside the jungle across the border in Myanmar. After a tortuous journey on a long-tailed boat and an exhausting slog through the jungle, he eventually made it to the rebel camp.
The journalist was quite pleased to be greeted by one of the senior Karen commanders who indicated he had something quite urgent to discuss with him after his marathon journey - news of a major battle perhaps? Maybe even an international scoop?
Deep in the jungle, the very first question he faced from the rebel officer was: ''Who on Earth is Edith Clampton?''
It is said that the number of letters written to the editor are inversely proportional to the importance of the topic. But that's the great part about it - people get excited about the most absurd things. Over the years, the Post has received letters about overpriced doughnuts, fake crocodile shoes, mad cows, stuffed squirrels, grilled grasshoppers, topless transsexuals, spoiled brats (plenty of those), the first hearing of Jingle Bells and other matters of great import. And long may it remain that way.
One thing for sure, ''PostBag'' is usually an entertaining read, even if you vigorously disagree with what is being said and may even loathe certain contributors. As an American editor once remarked: ''The secret of successful journalism is to make your readers so angry they will write half the paper for you.''
A few years ago we carried a complaint from a reader about there being far too many whining letters in ''PostBag'' and that we should only publish happy missives. This raised the possibility of reading things like the following joyful letter:
Sir - I am from England and would like to say what a great experience it is being a pedestrian in Bangkok. Unlike London, where the pavements are smooth and boring, in Bangkok there are all sorts of exciting things to experience. I love the challenge of leaping over holes in the pavement while at the same time being strangled by overhead wires.
It's so exciting, especially dodging motorcyclists who have accidentally strayed onto the pavement. Occasionally a pedestrian plunges into a hole, and I love the way everybody laughs, especially if the hole is full of water. Another exciting challenge is crossing the road. I received some useful advice from a fellow pedestrian who said the best technique is to simply dash across the road when you ''feel lucky''. What fun!
Actually it's much more fun writing whining letters.
I could go on ...
Just as in newspapers around the world, many letters to the Post don't get published, primarily due to space limitations. This is a bit unfortunate as it means some quite decent and witty letters never see the light of day. A couple of years ago the Daily Telegraph in London recognised that good letters were going to waste and came out with a book entitled Am I Alone In Thinking ... ? a collection of unpublished letters. Edited by Iain Hollingshead, it became a best-seller, prompting several sequels. Here are a couple of examples from the book:
Sir - My first thought on seeing your headline ''Pupils to be taught about sex at seven'' was, ''What, in the morning?''
When I was a child, the school day began with a prayer. But you can't stop progress.
Sir - I've often wondered if Britain's education system is in a state of decline. Then I visited Google and started to type, ''Can I get ...'' Before I finished my query the first suggested search in the drop-down list appeared: ''Can I get pregnant from a dog?'' Now I know.
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