marcel barang

Chronicle of a flood foretold – Day Five

In English, Reading matters on 31/10/2011 at 9:27 am


1am: As I smoke a last cigarette in the back room, there’s a sudden row in the dark, ten yards from my feet: a number of hens are protesting. Somebody must be stealing their eggs in the dead of the night, as John Updike would write. Nearby, someone queries someone, ‘What are you doing there?’ Over a hundred yards away, two drunks shout at the top of their lungs coué œil (French transliteration; no translation: this is a family blog) and other niceties, while the hens’ rooster flaps its wings and roars, and so do the others, ad infinitum. The poor creatures sound spooked: for four days now, they’ve been crowing without a pause, day and night. As for the toads, they’ve either grown blasé or drowned: not a croak; no cricket singsong either. I leave the drunks to their quarrel.

4:30am: Woken up by cold, hunger and the need to pee. I drink some UHT milk, but as usual can’t go back to sleep, lie down in the cool night (26°C), who needs air-con?, with funny thoughts about the water bill next month, the odd meals I rustle up these days (putting me in mind of Old Sorn’s menu in Chart Korbjitti’s Time) and absent friends. By 5, two middle-aged male and female voices and a torch waddle the length of the lane.

5:30am: Let’s go down the stairs and fathom. What a pleasant surprise, considering! Under torchlight, I can see the kitchen tiles again. Only 12cm of water! This sudden low corresponds to a huge difference in tides at the Chao Phraya estuary (3.22m around 6pm last night and 0.36m just past midnight). Yet, the worst seems to be behind us here, give or take two or three more high morning tides.
By 6, it’s daylight and I listen to FIP while I type this.

6:05am: The public system is at it again. Incredible: they still want people to go away ‘because the Chao Phraya…’ No respect for the PM. Must be Democrat electoral agents. Democrats run the BMA, which runs the flood shelters…

7am: A squirrel, the first I see around here, is trying out the bark of some of my dead vines and doesn’t like it. The water jar has settled almost against the back door. Still half full, it weighs at least half a ton … and yet was sent floating!

7:50am: Am I the only one awake? The half-dozen townhouse facades in front of mine are still blind and dead, and drenched in sunshine. Khun Yui is the first to appear, a mobile to her ear.

8:30am: 14cm. The tide has turned, will peak (3.88m) around 9am and will be felt here in late morning [the Chao Phraya will peak at 11:30am, according to the Navy quoted by the Post]. Aren’t I turning into the seasoned (and watered) tide scientist!
A neighbour sorting out a disarrayed pile of boards at the back tells me the small community that has colonised the terrain vague over the years is coping without problems. Only five people left the other day to go back home, not Chanthaburi, he says.

11am: Standing with water to half-calf to cook linguine, it feels like I’m wearing socks dipped in acid. I cook the linguine through a combination of gas to bring water to a boil and then hotplate (newly reconnected) to bring them to al dente condition. A chunk of butter and a can of tuna fish and here is lunch. I deliberately make too much for one meal: the leftover, warmed up with olive oil and speckled with herbes de Provence, will go well with a steak for dinner.
A fact of dubious import: the toilet bowl downstairs has emptied itself.

11:45am: 32cm

12:25am: Khun Ngoh, with a backpack, leaves her house for a ‘rented room’ across the river to resume work tomorrow at the Bank of Agriculture. She really must be a hotshot there. Her son and daughter, both adult if unattached, stay behind to watch TV and hassle each other. Water level downstairs:  36cm.

3:20pm: 41 cm. Uh-oh! At this rate, on November 10, I’ll be floating a krathong in my living room.

That low table is about to start floating again. I took a nap, what with the heavy lunch and short night and the local temperature: 33°C. I’m wishing for a quick downpour so I can shampoo my hair without wasting water. Doesn’t look likely at the moment, though.

4:15pm: 40cm.

6:20pm: Wonderful leaders we have! ‘04:25PM: PM: It won’t get any worse’ (Bangkok Post online); 5:38pm: ‘80-90% of Thon Buri likely to be flooded as more water is drained via western floodway, Science, Technology Minister said’ (The Nation online). No, I promise, no more echoing the jackasses; let them bray. I’ll stick to my yardstick downstairs. Right now: 41cm again. My steak is compromised. Another can of tuna fish, then?

8pm: Neighbour Karoon sends me this from the other day. Trouble is, I can’t hear myself here: the laptop can pick up any radio in the world through iTunes but all videos are soundless. One more cross to bear.
And to keep you abreast: 43.5cm just now.

9:10pm: Amazing! They have stopped. Not a single cockcrow in the last two hours. Is this coinciding with the rising water level?
44cm, by the (stair)way.
Opening a new packet of cigarettes, I have to laugh. Its message: Soop Laeo Thao Nao (Smoking rots your feet). Try flooding, it’s faster.
Latest news from the backyard front: the jar has floated back to its corner.
From the front yard front: the bulb above the living room door conked out last night; bought last month, guaranteed 10 000 hours. Now the wooden door won’t lock. The gridiron mosquito door will keep intruders away.
To amateurs of fusion cuisine: try leftover linguine warmed up in coffee-machine-heated water and topped with sardines in tomato sauce.

  1. What a crazy planet. Just for purposes of perspective, we had a 15 inch accumulation of very heavy wet snow overnight just north of NYC. Since the beautifully colored autumn leaves were still on trees, big branches and even entire trees themselves came down in large numbers, cutting power lines, closing roads (yet opening emergency shower centers?), putting the entire southern Hudson River Valley and Southern Connecticut on highest alert. In the city itself we had the equivalent from the skies in the form of slushy rain.

    Where will you get more food from? Any concern about development of health-threatening mold spores? At this point, how would you rate government’s ability to cope with food distribution and health needs?

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