Andrew Hicks is what I would call a true English gentleman. He is particularly well-spoken with enunciation that would make Her Majesty awfully proud. And like every true gentleman he retains complete control of his emotions, refusing to be rattled even when I started asking him a few racy questions. This week I had a chance to meet up with and chat with Andrew Hicks, author of the very popular novel, "Thai Girl". Here is a transcript of part of our conversation.
So when did you first come to Thailand?
In the late seventies.
I was living in Hong Kong and then Singapore and we came for family holidays.
Yes, with my English wife and children.
How was Thailand back then?
In many ways it was exactly the same. Bangkok had serious traffic, pollution, pretty girls… Patpong and Pattaya were totally wild. Since then Bangkok has got taller, the skirts have got longer and the countryside is perhaps more developed. The towns are now much bigger and brasher, but the more it changes the more it stays the same.
You’re married to a Thai woman now?
How long have you been married?
Four years, though we’ve been together longer.
And you moved here because of her?
Not exactly. On taking early retirement, I started spending winters in Thailand and as I was single, after a time the inevitable happened. With a Thai girlfriend, suddenly I wasn’t an outsider any more. I had a family and a home and so I settled.
So the reason you will be known amongst my readers is because of your book. Do you want to tell me a bit about it? I am embarrassed to say that I personally have not read it yet!
When I was first retired, coming back to South East Asia was a natural move. I hate English winters so I found myself travelling around Thailand and the rest of South East Asia as a backpacker, revisiting old haunts. More and more I gravitated towards Thailand, my companion a notebook in which I recorded my experiences and impressions. I’ve been a writer all of my life, my subject being rather dry, namely academic law. I always wanted to write something with a better storyline and I found I’d collected so much rich material that I wanted to stitch it together into a story. As Thailand’s the subject, a love story was inevitable.
I didn’t want to write yet another one about bargirls so I wrote what’s perhaps a literary first, namely the story of the Thai woman who says no to a plausible passing farang. It’s about a young Englishman, Ben and his friendship with a beach masseuse called Fon and how he learns about himself and Thailand through a roller coaster relationship with his Asian dream. If you look at my readers' forum on Thaigirl2004.com, I’m sure you’ll be persuaded to read it!
So, the book has no hookers and no sexpats?
There’s both hookers and sexpats in it. The story’s about the reaction of Western travellers to Thailand and of course one of the things that fascinates them is the nightlife. What’s the fabled ‘Thai girl’ really all about? So like everyone Ben visits the bars in Bangkok and talks at length on the beach to his traveller friends about Thai girls. He also meets Jack Russell, the thinking man’s sex tourist, who takes him on an educational tour of the Sukhumvit bar scene and from Jack, Ben learns all about sex for sale in Thailand.
So to that extent, there are hookers and sexpats…but you’ll have to decide whether Ben becomes personally involved or not when you read the book.
So, what’s your opinion on the whole hooker scene here in Thailand?
What a question! Opinion, thoughts, feelings? Maybe they’re all different. The nightlife in Bangkok is intoxicating for any normal person but it’s so in your face, it’s a bit freakish. What can one say? The problems for the women and for Thai society are enormous, ranging from cross border trafficking, public health issues, problems of illegality and corruption, exploitation of underage girls. You name it, every social problem comes with mass prostitution, whether it caters to Thai men or to farang.
There’s also an immense problem for Thailand and its reputation. I feel this myself whenever I tell them back home I’m married to a Thai woman. That’s partly why I called the book “Thai Girl” because in part it considers the nature of Thai womanhood. What do the words, 'Thai girl’ mean on the international stage? Sadly Thailand has become associated with cheap and easy women. This reputation is partly earned but it’s also a tragic reflection, considering the delightful modesty for which most Thai women are known.
You live in Surin, don’t you?
Tell me about life in Surin!
My wife and I have built a house in her family’s village where most of the neighbours are related to her in some way or another. Rice farming is the primary occupation but of course it’s not enough to sustain people and families are broken up as the young and healthy migrate to find work elsewhere. It’s a sleepy place for me, having lived in Hong Kong, Singapore and London but I still find it fascinating because every day I learn something new about a rural society which so epitomises the real Thailand.
How do you keep busy up there? Or should I ask ‘Do you keep busy?’
Yes, I keep very busy! Cat, my wife, is a dynamo and has something planned for us everyday. Some of her family live with us in the house and the usual process of living together in a large family keeps us thoroughly engaged. You know…shopping, eating, cooking, doing the garden and farming make the day very full. And of course I write.
And do you know many other Westerners up in that part of the country?
There are a few. We have one particular friend in the local town and we spend a lot of time together. Another Brit is about 40 km down the road, but otherwise I have no contact with other farang.
Any particular reason for that?
Close by there are very few farang. In Surin town which is 40 minutes away there’s quite a number but I’m not sure I always have much in common with them. They can be found at the farang pub drinking beer, and while some are fully involved with their families and local life, for those that have little interest in what’s going on around them, it must be a pretty dismal exile.
Going back to your book, has it sold well?
Yes, it’s sold extremely well. There are 15,000 copies in print and it’s been republished in Singapore by Monsoon Books, a very successful small publisher. (Monsoonbooks.com.sg) As a result the “Thai Girl”s now available on Amazon and in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and most places in South East Asia where you’ll find an English language bookshop. There’s also a distributor in the USA.
Was this book a one off?
It was certainly a first because I’ve not written fiction before. It’s been a very enjoyable experience so I’d like to write another. First of all though, I’m writing the story of my life with Cat in Isaan which I hope to publish and call “My Thai And I”. I’ve written the first draft but the trouble is I’ve got so much material it’s difficult to cut it down and knock it into shape.
There are a lot of books written by Westerners living in Thailand now. Do you read many of them?
No. Almost deliberately I avoid them, partly because I’m a little skeptical and also because I don’t want to be influenced by them. If anybody accuses me of copying others, I can deny it.
Now, you have written some submissions for this website. Do you read the readers’ submissions on this site or much else online relating to Thailand.
I haven’t read much online because small town internet cafes are hot and noisy but I’ve just recently got satellite internet and I now very much enjoy your Readers’ Submissions. It’s one of the best collections of writing about Thailand that I’ve come across.
There’s a feeling amongst many Westerners that Thailand is changing, and not necessarily for the better. What do you make of that?
I don’t have that sense myself, partly because I’m reasonably secure with an annual retirement visa. From my own perspective of several decades in Asia, there are ripples on the pond from time to time, but as I said before, the more things change, the more they stay the same. People shouldn’t be too paranoid and must adapt to what’s happening around them. In life things are always in flux and there are challenges to face wherever you are. People say exactly the same of England. “I can’t live there any more…it’s all gone wrong!” they say. Then they come to Thailand.
So what do you miss most about England?
When I’m away I can honestly say I don’t miss anything much, except my adult children. I think I’ve a capacity for focusing on and enjoying the place I’m in at the moment. Perhaps most of all I do miss quality English newspapers but now that I have the Internet I can get what I want online.
You’ve got satellite internet up there? How does that work?
To begin with, it didn’t work at all! It was a total nightmare! Constantly I was pushing Cat to phone TOT to come out and get it working and it took about two months for it to function adequately. The technicians kept coming out and saying it was fine and then fiddling with it, but finally it’s a great link with the outside world.
So you have a satellite dish on your property?
There’s a massive dish beside the house.
And what does it cost?
The monthly subscription is 2,200 baht plus VAT. You can choose the speed you want for the price. At first we had the cheaper speed but it was too slow so we upgraded to a higher speed. It’s not fast but it’s enough. I could pay more for more speed but I really don’t need to. Time’s not a big issue!
So that’s the only option for the internet?
For me yes, because there are no telephone lines in our village.
So, why not live in Bangkok, Khun Hicks?
Because there’s nothing to keep us in Bangkok. No family, no job, no commitments. Bangkok’s a great city to visit but less good to be stuck in, so a home in the country and an opportunity to come to town is probably the best of all worlds. We have a cheap room in Sukhumvit Soi 71, a nice group of friends there and access to great Isaan food whenever we want it.
One column on this site from the past caused something of an uproar. It was suggested by the writer that he would be much happier if he avoided poor people in Thailand, yet it sounds like you do the complete opposite. Care to comment?
I have an active conscience and I do find beggars deeply disturbing. Cat and I have just passed some beggars on the overpass by the MRT…women begging with children. Cat told me that children are abducted to be used like that. Otherwise I have no problem being around poor people. Glossy shopping malls like Siam Paragon make me more uncomfortable.
In the village, although they have no money at all, I don’t feel they’re poor as such. If they still have their extended family and their rural traditions, they have something that city people have lost. Urban poverty is much more discomforting, though first generation migrants to Bangkok often retain something of their rural warmth and dignity.
In our soi in Bangkok we’re surrounded by poor migrants from Isaan and through Cat I’ve made many good friends. Yesterday when we went back to our room after several months away, we were greeted as long lost friends. These are poor people but I feel at ease with them and we’ve never had any bad experiences. I think it’s when urban poverty is several generations old that it gets more difficult and I do wonder about the future.
So, to Thailand’s future. As a former law professor, how optimistic, or otherwise, are you?
I am by nature an optimist. As to politics, only time will tell. It takes many generations for institutions and democracy to mature in a young nation state such as this. I see establishing the rule of law as the key to nation building and I’m happy that the current interim government has made this a central aim of its administration.
Urbanization in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok, is a nightmare though and I cannot foresee a very positive future for the big cities. Nonetheless the Thais seem remarkably good at preserving the very best of their own personal qualities and traditions despite urbanization. I only hope that institutions such as the extended family and the positive influence of Buddhism can endure to save Thailand from becoming just like everywhere else.
You can find out more about Andrew Hicks' novel "Thai Girl" at the link below. Andrew has also written some stories for this website which can be found here:
“Thai Girl” Author a Sexagenarian – Official!
The Lightness of Being Unbearable
Why Are Thai Girls So Explosive?
You Can Score, On Route Twenty Four!
Thai Morality – The Hole in the Dyke
Of Walls, Wives, Caves and Gates
Where was this picture taken?
Last week's picture was one of the easiest pictures ever run – it was the Big Mango Bar in Nana Plaza of course! There are four prizes each week and the first four people to identify where the picture above was taken and email me with the answer win a prize. You can choose from a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod OR a 500 baht credit at Lennie's OR a 500 baht credit at Catz Gogo OR a 500 baht credit at Octopussy Bar in Hua Hin. Each of the prize providers is in a different area so please specify which prize you would prefer. Oh My Cod – Khao San Road area. Lennie's – Pattaya. Catz – Pattaya. Octopussy – Hua Hin. This week's picture is back in Bangkok.
FROM STICK MARK II'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick Mark II)
EMAIL OF THE WEEK Refusing to be a victim!
I went to a small massage outlet once and had a GREAT massage. So I decided to go again – what a MISTAKE! Chose the girl, went upstairs, and as I always do I went to take a shower. In the middle of the shower, without me asking, in comes the girl. Afterwards have a half-hearted massage, which was largely distracted by me continually having to answer "no" to offers of extras. Anyway, finally it is finished and I go to leave. She asks for a tip. Didn't feel she deserved any, but handed her 200 baht. "NO", SHE SHOUTED. I want 1,500! For what I asked? I took off my clothes – you owe me 1,500. I then tried to explain that I did not ask her to do that, and if I had, it did not cost 1,500! But she stood in front of the door, blocking my exit, demanding 1,500. So what was I to do? Being stubborn and refusing to give in to these sorts of extortion – I held each of her arms just below the shoulder and physically moved her and pushed her back on to the bed – and in that split second she was on the bed, I BOLTED! Once I got downstairs I DEMANDED my thongs, which I was given – but as I was leaving the dear girl came downstairs SCREAMING. So I then have another 3 girls all chasing me! But the good news is that I can run faster than Thai girls, and I lost them a little further past the Emporium – Soi 22 or thereabouts. My advice is RUN. There is not going to be any good coming from trying to get girls in a massage shop to see reason, when treated like I was.
Nothing is rational!
The only right you have in an altercation with Thais in Thailand is to get the hell out of there. Expect the unexpected, nothing is rational, your only chance of winning is by losing.
No farang = no accident! (Actually, you seldom hear this said.)
I heard that, and you can confirm whether true or not, if you have any type of traffic accident while in Thailand, that the foreigner is automatically at fault. In other words, if you are minding your own business on the side of the road, and a motorcycle runs you down, that you are automatically at fault, logic being that the farang is responsible because (and get this) if you were not in Thailand in the first place that the accident would never have happened! Furthermore, I heard that if you are in any accident at all which is even 1 percent your fault and 99 percent the Thai's fault, that it the farang who bears all responsibility. And, believe it or not, what the farang must do is to walk away, and then RUN away from the accident.
Choosing ice hockey over muay Thai.
I have Thai friends in town that own a Thai restaurant. An extremely pleasant couple that have been living in Canada since 2001. I asked them why they chose Canada. Their family asks as well, because as a couple they made about 80,000 baht per month, which is very decent by Thai standards. The biggest point they make is they want a Western education for their daughter. They flat out say that Thai schools are not as good as those in Canada and the US. We discussed rote learning systems, class size comparisons, school politics and teacher capabilities. The next point they make is University admissions to the best schools are extremely competitive. In Canada there is not much competition for spaces at Universities and the only hurdle is usually tuition fees. Another point they make is the school workload is just too much in Thailand. The kids need time to be kids and not cramming knowledge at all hours of the day. Homework loads in Thailand are incredibly high as opposed to Canada where the load is much lighter and manages to achieve the same learning result.
Why alpha males love katoeys.
Easy answer as to why the majority of farang dating katoeys appear to be muscular tattooed types. Many men in prison take up with a male wife and continue with this pastime once they are released. In the US and probably most other countries, many criminals spend more of their lives behind bars than outside with repeated arrests and thus have multiple homosexual relationships. Outside of gay sex, the only other pastimes in prison are weightlifting and tattooing. Thus, you have a muscular tattooed group that is drawn to Thailand for the katoey experience.
Katoey lovers part 2.
About the heavily muscled tattooed guys with katoeys, I have three theories. 1. They are so hard they don't care what people think when they see them with a ladyboy. 2. They are so stupid they don't realise it's a ladyboy. 3. Steroids have shrunk their genitals so much they just like to remind themselves what a proper knob looks like occasionally.
Sponsors are harder to come by because of sites like this!
One thing I found interesting when I talked to many of the gals being "sponsored" was that none of them were faithful to their sponsor. Every one of them was doing things against their agreement. I choose not to get involved with any of them, but I do find it fascinating to talk to them. A common complaint the girls have is that it is more difficult to find sponsors because there is so much information posted on the internet about it that many guys are becoming "educated" before they ever step foot in Thailand.
What we find offensive.
I found it odd that a reader was offended by the bar owners and called them pimps, but the reader was not critical of the patrons of the bars. Let's say the bar owners are guilty, then so are the hotel owners that provide a bed, the taxi drivers that drive them to a hotel, and the airlines that brought the farang to Thailand etc. The reality is that the bar owners are not breaking any laws – they are merely selling drinks. The patrons are the ones breaking the law by asking and paying the girls for naughty activities.
For those of you looking for something a little different, Guess Bar is a new ladyboy bar located in Sukhumvit 1 Plaza. The bar is located on the upper floor (2nd floor to Americans, 1st floor to Brits). Open about 7 months, it has already been voted as the best ladyboy bar in Bangkok and the best ladyboy bar in Thailand by readers of a specialist forum, Asian TS. The owner is a stunning ladyboy called Jay who has built up an attractive team of ladyboys, some of whom can pass as real girls, even to old hands! The bar itself complements the more infamous ladyboy bars in Nana as it offers a contrasting experience. For a start they have a smaller number of umm, err, girls. The likes of Obsession and Cascade have over 80 staff – Guess has less than 20. Guess Bar is an enclosed bar that feels more like a club with sofas, relatively quiet music and hostesses wearing dresses, not bikinis. This bar appeals to guys who want to try ladyboys in a comfortable and not threatening environment. 18 staff work in the bar and drinks are typical Bangkok bar prices: 110 baht for Heineken or Beer Lao, 180 baht for John Smiths, 110 baht for Gin, Vodka and other spirits. The staff look passable – they don't look like guys in frocks but that said there are no post-ops in the bar (i.e. had their tackle removed). One of the most appealing reasons for being where it is, is its discrete location – near to Nana but not in a busy building with lots of potentially embarrassing encounters from being seen entering or exiting by friends, colleagues etc.
Next Friday, that is June 29, Metro Bar in Soi 4 will be hosting Latin Night. Starting at 7 PM they will have Pepe Lopez Gold Tequila at 60 baht a shot, Sombrero Silver Tequila at 40 baht as well as Bacardi at 60 baht a shot and Corona beer at 130 baht a bottle. They'll have all the best in Latin music from the golden oldies right up to the latest club mixes. Plus they've teamed up with the excellent chefs at Bully's on Sukhumvit to bring you a FREE spicy buffet. There will be free shooters and spot prizes for anyone playing a great pool shot. They will be making margaritas and slamming tequilas all night until 2 AM. Of course no Metro Party would be complete without the fantastic Metro girls who will be dressing up especially for the event!
The Shakerz Grand Opening is tonight! Shakerz is the newest venue in the Nana area and can be found on the corner of Sois 4 and 6. The bar is easiest reached by simply walking down Soi 4 beyond the Rajah Hotel. The shows are planned to start around 10 PM.
As was mentioned several weeks in this column, Pam's Bar in Cowboy was on the chopping block. Well, it has well and truly gone now. A Cowboy institution for 20 odd years, the small cubby hole of a bar known as Pam's will become part of Baccara. Work is underway now.
Has the Gulliver's branch in Sukhumvit Soi 5 ever used the upstairs area? They built the venue promising it to be a two storey venue and for sure there is a second floor, although whether it is ready to be used, or whether there will ever be demand for it, who knows?
The state of the pavement on Sukhumvit in the prime area, between sois 3 and 5, is diabolical and quite frankly it is starting to resemble the Beach Road in Pattaya. And with rain now falling every other day, it makes traversing that section of the road entirely unpleasant.
It remains quiet in the city's bars – but how does one know that it really is the quiet season? If you venture out on Friday or Saturday night, Bangkok's farang oriented bars do a fairly good trade – but it should be obvious that this is because the next day isn't a work day. But venturing out between Sunday and Thursday at the moment is a completely different story. The bars are quiet, really quiet!
Word coming out of Pattaya is that it too is on the quiet side. Now I have not seen it with my own eyes as I have not been down to Fun City for several weeks, but from friends who have been down there recently, they suggest that now is a very good time to visit.
The appalling lack of imagination by the bulk of the Nana Plaza bar managers and owners is no better demonstrated than in Pretty Lady Bar where they are playing exactly the same animated porn flick that they were playing in there, get this, almost 10 years ago! Even back in '98 and '99 when Dave The Rave was at the helm of what was then arguably one of the best bars in Nana, those awful European animated porn flicks played on two televisions in the bar. The tape is worn and the picture is blurred. It's just downright tacky. Apart from 100 baht lady drinks, which makes it among the cheapest in Nana, Pretty Lady really needs to pull its socks up. It is not doing the business it used to be. Still, #34 is very pleasant on the eyes.
You only need to make one bad decision in Thailand and it can be all downhill from there. Just one bad decision. That’s all it takes. A minor aberration you might think but then all hell can break out. Of course the most common mistake Western guys make is to shack up with the wrong woman. Once that has happened, all sorts of bad decisions (on his part) inevitably follow. I cannot re-iterate enough the need for sound reasoning in Bangkok. It only takes one small mistake and you can be in all kinds of bother. Choose your apartment, your job, your girlfriend and your friends in Bangkok with much greater care than you would at home.
The farang beggar who is a common sight around the most popular parts of the city has been spotted in his place of abode. The well-known Dutchman who has a variety of signs stating he needs anywhere from 5,000 – 10,000 baht to fly home is currently living in one of the sub sois in the Prakanong area. Why do I know this? He has been asking people in the neighbourhood for money so that he can go upcountry and visit his girlfriend! The apartment building he lives in rents out units at close to 10,000 baht per month which suggests that begging is rather profitable. Given the publicity he has had, I am kind of surprised that the Dutch Embassy has not stepped in.
And speaking of scammers, the fake monk has been seen regularly at exit 2 at the Nana BTS station, that is the exit closest to the Landmark Hotel. The fake monk is often seen wearing a pair of Nikes!
Bangkok’s discussion forums are not always the best places for reliable information but I have read a few humorous threads recently on different forums which when put together suggest that the there is a growing issue of shoes being stolen from outside various venues including massage outlets and temples. I always thought temples would be the last place one would lose their shoes from, but what would I know?
While this site sometimes has the reputation of being a place to bitch about Thai women and their lack of faithfulness in relationships with Western guys, it has to be said that the opposite is largely true too. Chatting with a good Thai female friend this week, she has dated two Western guys in the past year, both of whom had promised to be true to her, and both of who she later caught cheating. Now to qualify this, she is a drop-dead gorgeous woman who speaks very good English and has everything going for her. She wants a serious relationship with a good guy. Western guys are not as innocent as they may like to think!
"If you don't do that I'll call the tourist police." I hear this said so often and it really does make me laugh. It is one of the most common threats aggrieved Westerners in Thailand make, either against the local Thais or even other Westerners. Let's look at it a bit more closely. The tourist police deal with tourists. Funny that. They also tend to be found in the touristy areas although you can find them in more far flung places. It is my understanding that the tourist police generally liaise with the real police. So things are going to end up in the laps of the real police eventually. The threat of going to the tourist police will scare no-one, unless you are a bona fide tourist in a tourist area.
Thais who have been to the UK can easily be spotted around town as those carrying a Harrods’s bag, pretty much wherever they go. They love their Harrods’s bag and for many it is an important fashion accessory. So I bet the Thai hi-so set are pissed off to see that copied Harrods’s bags are now available from a number of street vendors. Soon every man and his dog will have a Harrods’s bag! I really do find this quite laughable.
A former teacher in Thailand is currently working on his PhD dissertation and his topic is an exploration as to how virtual communities are used as socialization tools by EFL teachers in Thailand. He is interested in learning about the experiences of teachers who visit this site. He would like to conduct interviews via instant messaging or email with EFL teachers. If you are interested, please send an email to Michael Pfahl at [email protected].
A farang about to leave Thailand has a number of items for sale, listed here.
The junta won't like this article written by a freelance journalist in Bangkok called Thailand's Free Falling Economy.
Quote of the week had me in fits of laughter. "We Thai people speak softly because we have small noses."
Miss Udon is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Feel free to send questions in for her to answer and get the perspective of a Thai female. You and I may well disagree with what she says. The purpose of this section is to provide a Thai woman's perspective!
Question 1: I am puzzled. A dowry is paid to the bride's family to compensate for the lost income she provided to her parents while single. Fair enough. But why then does she expect her husband (farang) to keep helping her family financially after they are married? It should be a dowry or financial help later, not both. What do you think?
Miss Udon says: In Thai culture, our family comes first. Parents are the most important people in our life so we always send money back to them. If there is any way we can help them recover debt we would do it. When we get married it doesn't mean that we will stop sending money to them. We will continue sending money if we don't work. Of course if we don't have money to send, where do you think where will we get money from? Some of us choose to go back to work just because we need to send money back to our parents. If we get married, especially with a Western guy, our parents would expect that we send more money than usual. The best thing to do is to talk to your girl to make her understand what you are thinking. Then she will find a way for herself to make her parents understand.
Question 2: I am a Western guy who has lived in Bangkok for 5 years. I am single and go out often with different ladies, but would really enjoy having a special someone. I have been running into a consistent problem and was hoping you could give your opinion on whether I am handling it well or should try a different approach. Just as you referred to last week, many ladies from small villages look for a western man to help support their families. I have no problem with that, but more and more I am being asked for lump sums of money from ladies I have dated for a VERY short period of time. When I have a steady girl, I will gladly help her financially, but giving lump sums of cash to relative strangers doesn’t work for me. My answer to these requests has been "I'm sorry but I cannot help you as we are just beginning to get to know each other. However, I am sorry for your financial problem and hope it resolves itself." I am not going to give money to ladies I have just met, but I understand why they ask (because their families are poor and they hear stories every day about Westerners throwing money around.) Is there a better way for me to handle this?
Miss Udon says: What you did is already right and I think it was the best way – to tell them what you think. In my opinion, girls who ask for help after a short period of dating can mean one of two things. First, she is really broke and needs help. She couldn't find any one who can help her except you. Mostly we won't ask a guy who we have just dated for a short time. Secondly, she is just asking randomly and whoever she meets she will ask. Maybe she gets lucky and a guy will give her some money. If not then no problem. It's worth it to try anyway. As I said, you have been handling it just fine. There is no better way in my mind.
I was away from Bangkok for most of this week and have a bit of a backlog of emails to respond to, so if you sent email to me this week you may not have had a reply yet. My apologies and I will attack the backlog this evening!
Stick Mark II