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From Inside And Outside Of The Formicary

  • Written by Markin
  • October 17th, 2013
  • 12 min read




This is London calling…

My stay in hospital was not as long as expected and I’m back in the Formicary. Rumours of my death were an exaggeration.

Ant does care about me and I care about Ant.

Ant was a dutiful (legal) Thai wife – visiting me every day. I did find the smart, black outfits she chose a little unnecessary and the black hat and veil were over the top, by my standards at least. But then Ant likes black and white (kind of suits her personality). She did say (really), “I dream I push you in wheelchair in Pattaya.” Not if I’ve got anything to do with it mate. Ho hum.

In hospital, a lot of my time (and of those working there) was spent asking/answering questionnaires. Apparently I had not answered the questionnaire relating to my original admission to A&E in June. It had to be done.

We came to the last question, something like, “How would you rate your experience in A&E?” What could I say? Exciting? An experience not to be missed? I’d recommend it to my neighbours? What???…I laughed.

“I’ll put you down as preferred not to answer then. Is that OK?”

“Yea, that’s OK by me.”

We went through a similar dance involving ethnicity. “What do you feel your ethnicity to be?” I was shown a list from which I could choose. Now, given that the word “feel” was used I could have legitimately said anything. But I know if one looks up “ethnicity” in a dictionary it relates to culture. The option “White” was on the list. I asked, “Is there a white culture?”

“It up to you, it’s what you feel.”

I asked, “Is there a black culture?”

“It up to you, it’s what you feel.”

Some more permutations were tried out.

“Shall I you down as preferred not to answer then? Is that OK?”

“Yea, that’s OK by me.”

What I find frightening is that the statistical ‘correlations’ gleaned from these questionnaires might be used – slightly less worrying (and probably nearer the truth) is that they are not used. So why obtain them? Ho hum.

Remember I was in the hospital for further investigations relating to having had ‘a stroke’ (God, do I detest that word). One concern relating to ‘stroke’ surrounds cognition (i.e. whether you’re exhibiting crazed fruit bat tendencies). I was asked, “Do you drive?”

“Yes”. (You can’t legally drive for four weeks after having one of those things beginning with ‘s’).

Next, “Do you fly?”

I sensed a trick question. Many things went through my head – Do I have wings? No. Do I pilot planes? No. Do I get into planes and go to a weird, weird country? Yes. The balance of probability suggested that “No” was THE answer. But I had hesitated.

Cognitive score 38/40.

I hate hospitals.

But it was a change from being in the Formicary – no statutes of Buddha, no pictures of more ancient Thai deities on the walls, no Thai satellite TV (in particular Thai soap operas. Me, “More rich people being unhappy?” Ant, “What you talk about? Etc etc”), no calling of the fire brigade by neighbours when Ant is preparing those extra-special Thai foods, no noise from the laptop of fascinating Thai sites. What was similar was no SKYPE – yes that skirmish is still continuing.

The hospital, for all its multi-cultural efforts, does not seem to have been colonised by the smiley kingdom (yet).

But of course there was still the mobile phone! Two days into my hospital stay and I wasn’t expecting this SMS: “Hello martin aunt son make problem u SMS phone esso ok auy”

And later, “Martin aunt son stupid figh with he wife and make all broken and for me too not find id police take go and wait because he kill the wife near die ok I SMS tomorrow”

The next day, “U know bad boy be always smok yaba not have problem is I am lucky burning haus now in mongky haus 5 year but have no id wait again 3 month ok esso have ok haus he burning not finish can stay.ok I take tomorrow.good night.auy”

You don’t speak Thai? I’ll translate. But first (as always) the scene of the crime must be set CSI style (put on the latex gloves again – if you really, really must).

Auy is the daughter of Nanthana. Esso is Auy’s brother. (Yes, yes I know Nanthana is dead. We’re all trying to get over it in our own ways). Don’t know Nanthana? This will help and deserves consideration by the citizens of that bizarre nation that is apparently prepared to bring the world economy to its knees – again – over the provision of limited national health care. Why because it is to be abolished? No because it might be provided!!!! Truly bizarre!

The aunt mentioned is in fact a great-aunt who has recently returned from Switzerland where she ran a Thai massage parlour (lots of sporting injuries caused by skiing). Great-aunt was in the process of building a house with funds flowing from a Swiss guy.

Since her mother’s death Auy and Esso have lived with ‘aunt’ in a village, well more a hamlet, in Ubon Ratchathani. The relatives are perhaps the most unpleasant crew of humanoids I have had the misfortune to meet – so much unlike Nanthana’s other relatives in Chaing Rai. The better qualities of the ‘Ubon Crew’ include (in no particular order): duplicity, meanness, avarice and plain down on the ground heartlessness. Auy and Esso have been made to feel like ‘cuckoos in the nest’ – so much for the all pervasive importance of family in the smiley kingdom.

So, to the translations or interpretations of the SMSs above which I received as a lay in a (National Health) hospital bed 5930 air miles away from the unfolding events.

The first (a harbinger of doom) indicates that the ‘aunt’s’ son had caused an unstated problem with Auy’s phone and that I should now start using Esso’s number. What problem had aunt’s son made?

The second SMS indicates that the son had been fighting with his wife who might be near death as a result and that many household goods had been broken and lost (including Auy’s ID card). The police had been called.

The third and many subsequent SMSs indicate that the aunt’s son had been a naughty rascal and having ingested yaba become as high as an orbiting space station, beaten his wife near to death and burnt down the family home. Auy indicates that a five year term at his majesty’s pleasure is indicated for the son (we will see about that – kind of depends on the Swiss guy don’t you think?)

Auy is a young (Thai) woman, maybe twenty-four or twenty-five (“Sorry martin I no good maths”). She is not always a reliable witness, being as she is easily distracted by small golden objects moving in her peripheral vision but it would appear true that the family (sans naughty son) are living in one room in a burnt-out house. AND Auy’s ID card is lost. But fear not Mr Weston Union, Esso still has his ID card.

I was interested in the extent of yaba use and related consequences in the smiley, smiley kingdom. In the UK a story, such as the one related, might hit national TV and press (on a slow day), certainly it would feature in local media. In Thailand? Is it so rare that it warranted banner headlines in the Bangkok Post or so common that it barely raised a comment two sois away? Smile, “You know Somchai got blasted and burnt the house down…again?” Smile. Smile, “He’s a lad ain’t he. But his mum got a Swiss guy right?”Smile. Smile, “Yea that Somchai’s a [email protected]*kin’ drug crazed loon but he’s not that stupid – but just don’t leave any matches around.” Smile.

On my return to the Formicary I hit the internet. I set aside two to three days as I expected a wealth of information. Not so!!!!

One site said, Yaba, “(crazy medicine, pronounced yar bah). Originally manufactured by the Nazis to help keep their troops awake for days, Yaba has become increasingly popular in the Far East amongst claims that the drug is now bigger than heroin in Thailand.” It continued, “We've experienced some difficulty getting a consistent description of ingredients and effects, with some reports stating that the drug is mostly methamphetamine, running 80% pure with much of the cut being castoff from heroin production.” The site had little else to add. Hmmmm.

Time to turn to the font of ALL human knowledge – Wikipedia, which stated, “Ya ba: This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it…” It continues, ”Originally named "ya máa" (ยาม้า), meaning "Horse drug". A drug designed for horses in Burmese Shan provinces. Given to them when pulling carts up steep hills and for strenuous work.” Further, “Yaba tablets were sold at gas stations and commonly used by Thai truckers to stay awake. After many horrific long-distance bus accidents, they were outlawed by the Thai government in 1970. The deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s campaign from 2003 onwards to eliminate drug-trafficking has further helped to curtail widespread use, in particular, use of the drug by bus drivers is not as widespread as it was in the 1980s.”

To what extent is its use not as widespread as it was in the late 1980’s? How wide spread was it in the 1980’s? To what extent are long-distance bus drivers monitored for use? How many test positive for yaba use? NO STATISTICS!! Indeed, “This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it…”

So where to go for information about Yaba? Thai National Official Statistics? Wait… wait…Ok, I’ve stopped laughing.

Perhaps I should turn to those two notable Thai social commentators Mrs Ant and Ms Da.S? No, I fear I know their answer, “No Thai person take Yaba. You look Thailand down. I die for my king. Buddha blah blah blab.”

OK, 0% yaba use in Thailand.

OK. I’ll say “ALL Thai people take yaba – 100%.”

The parameters are now set: current Yaba use is somewhere between 0% and 100% in the Thai population.

But remember, actually we do know for sure that there is in the smiley kingdom a twenty-four (or twenty-five year old) woman whose mother has recently died, who is without the father she never knew (he was/is a member of the ‘boys in brown’), living with unpleasant (to say the least) relatives, trying to take care of her younger brother and who is now living in a semi-burnt out home (which had been built on the proceeds of a Swiss massage parlour), all because one Thai citizen took Yaba. (Welcome to Thailand my friends!!!)

So, if we estimate the population of Thailand to be 67millions – no wait we can be more accurate, 67,108,507 (source World Population Review), the current percentage of yaba use in Thailand would be 1/67108507 X 100. My calculator nearly melted but delivered the result 0.0000049012%. OK, round it up for ease of use to 0.000005% of the population using yaba in Thailand in October 2013. Perhaps I’ll submit this to Wikipedia.

What will happen to Auy and Esso? I do worry. I MEAN IT, I WORRY about Auy and Esso.

Me? Between important time spent on questionnaire filling and me receiving and answering SMS’s, some ‘medical investigations’ were undertaken. Lots of machines and further questions. “Can you confirm your date of birth?” “Yes”. “Can you confirm your date of birth?” “Why? Do you want to send me a birthday card?”, “Where are you?” “A place that I don’t want to be.” “Can you smile?” “Why have you said something funny that I didn’t notice?” “Can you smile?” “Yes, if you say something amusing.”

Supercilious/smart arse score 10/10.

A final large ward meeting was convened – many people, some arguing.

The apparent clogging of some arteries was entirely a false alarm – blood thinners would do the job. My bank manager disagreed (strange that he should be there). He suggested that I should be legally barred from entering any of Mr Weston Union’s offices for the foreseeable future if not life (or whichever came later), the Head Vampire pulled rank (medical consultants take precedent over financial consultants apparently). So, more blood thinners. The bite marks (as from small and large reptilian creatures)? No problem (the Chief Veterinary Surgeon, who had been called in from nearby London Zoo demurred because Komodo Dragon bites can be poisonous due to the “ikky stuff” in their saliva). OK, situation to be monitored. The shadows on the heart that seemed to spell Nanthana? The assembled team were baffled but said they would probably fade with time (no chance I thought).

But OK, a slightly soiled if not clean bill of health.

More to say? This is a true story, I cannot lie or exaggerate.

This was London calling…

Pip, pip…

I am Martin (still) and I guess that’s not all folks.