In this morning’s Bangkok Post, I read ‘Saving forests promises vast societal gains’ while the hack-hack sounds back of my house that had woken me went on: a machete-wielding red shirt was downing the remaining trees on the uninhabited half of the large terrain vague to turn it into a car park.
Those trees, mostly tamarind and banana trees, were planted about fifteen years ago by a routinely drunken cop called Somkhit who beat his wife and had his hutch right behind my back wall – they moved long ago, shortly after she threatened to knife him one night – ; only last year one of the tamarind trees with branches the thickness of my thighs fell on that wall, denting the metallic fence but smashing the next-door neighbour’s just built veranda; all these years, and yesterday yet again one last time, a sarong-clad matronly woman would harvest the tamarind with the help of two lengths of bamboo tied together with a sharp blade at the end; it made a click-clack sound I had learned to recognise. As for the ever-shifting banana groves, their fruit were inedible but their leaves provided an unending source of wrapping material that kept a woman or three busy slicing and folding in the compound, a non-negligible source of piddling income.
Initially, a quarter century ago, the whole piece of land, including the rows of townhouses in one of which I live, was an orchard and when in 1991 we bought the demonstration unit of the yet under construction Barn Chai Suan estate, I remember seeing its rows of ditches, though nothing grew on them by then but wild grass, sundry hoppers and crawlers, and mosquitoes.
The owner of the plot of land reportedly lives in Singapore. How he or she feels or whether he or she knows about the evolution of the land I have no idea, but now we’ll have on one side a car park and on the other a shanty community, complete with a furniture factory of sorts (power saw noisy and turpentine smelly even on New Year’s Day and sometimes late into the night). This ever growing hamlet numbers maybe forty people, mostly Northeasterns these days I guess, perhaps as many fighting cocks, plenty of frogs and toads, a few snakes and no dogs.
Creation of that car park might explain the almost daily burning of rubbish that has been making my living room so fragrant lately. Thank god for little mercies: I’m told that the parking area won’t be tarmac’d: we can do without the stink and the glare, but might have to put up with the dust. Already there are about a dozen cars parked there at any time, including a couple of police cars, so I suppose it’s a done deal.
Since they have removed the stacks of metallic grids against their side of my back wall, the bladder-challenged among them have taken again to peeing virtually under my nose: as it is, my slice of townhouse is the only one in the row to have a back yard and back view; the others over the years have walled everything out to second-floor level, thus cutting off contact with the barbarians at the back and by the same token condemning themselves to perpetual air-conditioning. I’m mulling a strongly worded notice in Thai I’ll stick to the fence to please water the wall a few yards away to the right – that should be doing a favour to ‘Mr Hot Wall’ (but I’ll tell you that story some other time).