Putting the world to rights in five minutes
Our planet is in a mess—environmentally, economically, socially and politically. Hardly a day goes by without some horrific news about villages buried under landslides, politicians arrested for corruption or suicide bombers blowing themselves and everybody nearby to bits. Despite amazing advances in technology during the last century, we don’t seem to have learned anything about how to live together despite our differences. Even the modern sciences of psychology and sociology have no blueprint for improving relationships.
While I can’t condone acts of violence, I sympathize with disaffected youth who see no future for themselves and resort to extreme acts to let their feelings be known. After all, as a radical student in the UK in the late 1960s, I protested about the Vietnam War and threw rotten tomatoes at Margaret Thatcher, ‘the milk snatcher’, when she visited my college—South Bank Polytechnic, now known as South Bank University, in London.
Things don’t look too bright for the future of our planet either, with leaders like Donald Trump and Theresa May to guide us. Topics like Trump’s travel ban on Muslims from certain countries and May’s stance on Brexit are guaranteed to spark off arguments among American and British subjects, and even going on holiday is a nerve-racking experience these days, running the gauntlet of inefficient security systems at airports worldwide.
I get grumpy myself at times—who doesn’t?—but for years I’ve believed that negative attitudes and stress are the quickest way to an early grave, so I try to reduce these conditions to a minimum. In that respect, I feel blessed to live in Thailand, often dubbed ‘the Land of Smiles’, which may sound like clever PR by the tourist board, but it’s actually true; most Thais do go around smiling.
I suspect that it has a lot to do with a Buddhist upbringing (95% of Thais are Buddhist), as in general they don’t bear grudges or grumble when things don’t go their way. Instead, they are always eager to help someone out (it accrues merit towards the next life) and are ready to smile or laugh at any opportunity. Sanuk, or having fun, is a guiding principle for Thais in everything they do.
If I don’t get inspired by Thais smiling all the time, I remind myself of a song performed by the members of Monty Python at the end of the film ‘Life Of Brian’. The characters in the film are in a difficult predicament; in fact they are being crucified, but they cheer each other up by whistling along to a tune called ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. So why not give a listen, and whistle along yourself: just click HERE.
"Goodbye hello!”…reminds me of an old Beatles song, but the website hola.org is something much more insidious than anything we knew when we used to go round singing “I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello”.
A friend recommended it as a useful site that would enable me to watch programmes on the BBC iPlayer, which is generally not available outside the UK, as well as any other websites that are generally blocked in the land where I live—Thailand.
Being a sucker for anything that makes life a bit easier or more fun, I downloaded it and for a couple of weeks enjoyed my new-found freedom—watching the final of Wimbledon tennis and a few insightful documentaries—but then the trouble began.
‘Tis a strange island, shaped like a pregnant woman dipping her toes in the sea, where I happened to be born.
It seems especially strange to me, having lived in voluntary exile abroad for nearly 40 years, and only popping back for short visits to see family and friends every few years. I always leave bemused by recent developments and wondering where this country is headed.
This visit is no exception. Though the climate and countryside is familiar enough, the towns and people wandering the streets are oddly alien. The high street of Maidenhead, my home town, is a commercial wasteland, a windy corridor bordered by charity shops and empty premises, which are now brightly decorated with artwork extolling the town’s merits, compared with white-washed windows on my last visit. Meanwhile the people I pass are speaking Polish, Romanian, Urdu, Hungarian, Russian or Chinese—anything, it seems, but English.
As the world waits anxiously for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne, our budding blogger reveals a crack in the psyche of the so-called United Kingdom. It’s called
THE BRITISH MONARCHY SCHIZOID SYNDROME
We Brits are an odd bunch when it comes to our views on the Royal Family. On the one hand, it’s not unusual to hear us ranting in pubs or at parties about the preposterous privileges that they enjoy, or how they should know what it’s like to do a hard day’s work or to do their shopping at Sainsbury’s. On the other hand, when a Royal Wedding or Jubilee comes around, we go all gooey and gaga, saying silly stuff like “Isn’t she sweet? Doesn’t she look lovely?” No doubt the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, from 2-5 June 2012, will be another such occasion, when we all bury the hatchet for a few days, smile at our neighbours and act like life’s one big party.
As my book Walks along the Thames Path has just been released in its fourth edition, I got to pondering the magical attraction that the source of a river has, and in the case of the Thames, the nagging doubts about its true origin. Then the pondering turned into a story, called...
SEEKING THE SOURCE OF THE THAMES
Locating the source of a river is not as simple as it may seem. For a start, most rivers have dozens of tributaries, all of which originate at springs, so just how do you decide which is the main source? Interestingly, there is no internationally recognized method of determining such an essential fact, though logic would suggest it is the spring that is furthest from the mouth of the river, or at the highest elevation above sea level, or that produces the greatest volume of water; yet this logic does not always apply.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.