Mostly this blog — The Opin­ion­ated Diner, not this post — is me think­ing aloud. Some­times it has obvi­ous shape and form, other times I per­haps post before I should, and the sub­stance is thin. I’m not sure which of the afore this post is. It may not mat­ter so I’ll continue…

Khun Santa

It was about 35 degrees cel­sius when the above photo was taken, in the cap­i­tal of one of this world’s largest Bud­dhist nations — albeit one that cel­e­brates Christ­mas far more imag­i­na­tively (this set­ting is not part of that descrip­tor) and spec­tac­u­larly than any so called Chris­t­ian nation I’ve been to dur­ing the sea­son of goodwill.

This is a tale of a jux­ta­po­si­tion as uncom­fort­able that image: In a fairly grey and char­ac­ter­less Bangkok through street (it takes you from Charoen Krung to Rama IV), Thanon Sura­wong, which runs par­al­lel to the major com­mer­cial through­fare of Thanon Silom, but has none of that wide boulevard’s hotels, banks, mar­kets (at least not at this end) com­merce or fas­ci­nat­ing dis­trac­tions (the 19th Cen­tury Chi­nese ceme­tery and the large Hindu Tem­ple are but two) sits the Neil­son Hays Library.

It’s less than a kilo­me­tre from the ugly flesh­pots of Pat­pong, which many vis­i­tors some­how think define Krung Thep – they love to hear and repeat sto­ries of the gang­sters, knives and threat that sup­pos­edly lurks behind the gawdy doors — when in real­ity mostly it’s a just a tourist dri­ven pit, a kind of Dis­ney World with pole danc­ing for the the gullible.

But back to the Library. It has one — a library that is — plus a cafe, and an art gallery (of sorts — more a wall in the cafe), which they claim has, and I quote:

one of the largest col­lec­tion of Eng­lish lan­guage titles in Bangkok. Offer­ing a wide vari­ety of con­tem­po­rary fic­tion and non-fiction, fresh books arrive every month. Check out our lat­est titles to see what’s new right now. We also stock an impres­sive array of mag­a­zines and newspapers.

Gosh. That’s really good.

So good in fact, some­body rec­om­mended we join it shortly after we arrived in Bangkok. Yep: one of the largest col­lec­tion of Eng­lish lan­guage titles in Bangkok.

Aside of course from the 35 or so branches of Asia Books in the city also with their online cat­a­logue of half a mil­lion e-books and their we-can-get-anything pol­icy, or the three branches of the extra­or­di­nary Kinoku­niya, the likes of which many native Eng­lish speak­ing cities don’t have (the Paragon branch is arguably bet­ter than Strand in NYC) and most espe­cially New Zealand (where, yes we do have a hand­ful of very, very good indie book­shops but noth­ing like this).

Which is my point, or get­ting to it. The per­son who sug­gested we join was a New Zealan­der, res­i­dent in Bangkok for well over a decade — but not. She, like so many com­pa­tri­ots and other old Com­mon­wealth types (Cana­di­ans seem to be excepted) have never wanted to. Be res­i­dent that is: they live in a house in the city for a vari­ety of rea­sons, mostly work or spouse-work.

Next to the Neilsen Hays Library is the British Club. It’s where mostly Brits, New Zealan­ders and Aus­tralians of a cer­tain type like to hang. There are Thais in there of course — some­body has to pour the drinks and park the cars.

On their web­site they say:

Often described as “an oasis in the heart of Bangkok”, the British Club Bangkok is the Social, Sports & Cul­tural Cen­tre for the English-Speaking Com­mu­nity in Bangkok.

Ahh… away from natives and all that spicy food and, well, Thailand.

Indeed, the word Oasis repeats itself on the NHL site:

A major achieve­ment was the instal­la­tion of air-conditioning in 1999! This has greatly enhanced com­fort and the sense of oasis from the heat and traf­fic outside.

Our asso­ciate (let’s call her a friend — her mum is a friend of my mum’s) sug­gested that we join The British Club too. It’s an oasis. Not really for locals. She talks of ‘locals’ often, as in “we don’t go to that mall, it’s for the locals”, or “we only buy imported fruit and vege, not the stuff grown by ‘locals’”. She explains that, despite the fact that she’s been in Thai­land for over a decade and her kids are both around a decade old, there is no need for either to learn Thai, as that’s only use­ful when inter­act­ing with ‘locals’.

And why would they?

Well, maybe when the New Zealand adults advance their par­tic­u­lar charity.

Because — and I am not josh­ing — my national com­pa­tri­ots raise money and dis­trib­ute funds in Bangkok assigned to teach very poor Thai kids to play *rugby*.

Because — and now I am mak­ing fun (because there is noth­ing else you can do when faced with such obscene con­de­scend­ing absur­dity, dri­ven by embed­ded West­ern self-importance and delu­sion) nat­u­rally phys­i­cally small, likely under-nourished chil­dren from Klong Toey prob­a­bly need a game regarded in the king­dom as unskilled and thug­gish in their lives far more than edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties or infra­struc­ture — or com­put­ers — or health­care — or.…

That’ll sort you young ‘local’.…… make a man of you!

Mostly the dogs in Thai­land are not mad, but the ozone-depleted midday-sun in the Great South­ern Land and its wee off-islands seems to have pen­e­trated and fraz­zled parts of two of the last bas­tions of the empire.

These are pecu­liar peo­ple. But they, as in the New Zealand bit, come from a land where our kids are still pri­mar­ily taught Great Britain’s his­tory in Sec­ondary Schools, ignor­ing 170 years of dis­tance, and our geo­graphic posi­tion in the world , plus the per­cent­age of our youth for whom the 1832 Reform Act is less impor­tant than the 1858 Treaty of Tientsin in their makeup.

To be fair, the above are not absolutely rep­re­sen­ta­tive of New Zealan­ders abroad, or even close to it. Not all, or even most, New Zealan­ders, Aus­tralians and Eng­lish (I’m exclud­ing Irish, Welsh and Scots as from all of the above as pretty uni­formly they seem to be more inter­na­tion­ally robust, mostly I guess since they’ve been bat­tered by over­lord­ing alien invaders for up to a mil­len­nium) live in that odd post-Raj world in Asia, but enough do to be able to say that it’s not easy to always hold your head up and hand over a black and sil­ver pass­port at immigration.

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