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Archive for the ‘English’ Category

On Thai visa extension and other forms of torture – 2

In English on 01/06/2013 at 12:44 pm

Thu 30, 2pm. The ministry’s certificate, which has reinstated mention of a fiscal year (the next one, ending September 2014) and, except for that mention, is identical to the one provided last year that earned me the extension of both visa and labour permit, still doesn’t satisfy the current team of officials: yes, it does state I am employed by the ministry but it does not specifically ask Immigration to extend my visa by one year! The head of section (Khun N, a charming young woman with a sense of humour but tough as nails) calls up the OCAC office, and I’m told to go back to the ministry to pick up a newly worded certificate and bring it back to them today. They must be joking! ‘What time do you close here?’ ‘Four thirty.’ ‘No can do.’ Even she must face that fact. In despair, I offer to be given the ‘seven-day ultimatum’ to give time to the ministry to correct and sign the document. This means risking expulsion if … New chat on the phone. On an A4 page, Khun N writes down the changes she wants made to the certificate (why wasn’t this done two days ago? Short answer: different head of section). ‘Take this and fax it to your office. Wait for the fax of the corrected certificate and bring it back to me before four thirty. And bring me back the original first thing tomorrow or else…’

So I go down one floor, fax the corrections and wait. Thirty minutes later, the burr of the fax machine is heard again. I can’t believe my eyes: here is copy of the final certificate and it is duly signed! I must have impressed the director general for him to condescend to do in less than half an hour what it took him two days to do previously. Khun N has me pay the 1900 baht fee so that there is no hiatus in the visa extension process on file, though my passport will only be stamped tomorrow when I hand over the precious certificate.

But what about the labour permit, then, which also ends today? Well, too bad, the Labour Ministry is almost an hour away and will be closed to new business by the time I get there. So I go back home.

Fri 31: yet another early rise. By a quarter to 8am, I’m back in the same armchair in the inner corridor – I even scare the old housecleaning lady. I don’t have to wait long: contacted by phone, the young woman who talked to the N1 section chief and arranged for the certificate to be signed says she has left the documents in an envelope on her desk for me to pick up and run away with. So it is another trip to Immigration. As soon as she sees me, Khun N motions me to come in and my passport is duly processed in a trice. We exchange pleasantries and next, I’m queuing anew for a re-entry visa (just in case I need to leave this country in a hurry).

The traffic is fluid and I’m at the Labour Ministry by 11:30am. I pick up ticket number 188. As tickets in the 140s are being processed, I know it’ll be another two hours before my turn comes. I go out and have a Thai coffee and later lunch. When my number is called and I sit down in front of a familiar face, I apologise right away for being one day late and blame it on being detained by Immigration. As I launch into an explanation of what has happened, she tells me to save my breath and talk to her boss instead, as there are two things, she claims, that need clearance: she has noticed that my address has changed (I tell her it’s the same house, the Bangkok administration guys have changed the address three times in the past ten years or so – well then, next year bring a certificate of change of address from your local BMA office – yes, ma’am) and my employer hasn’t filled in and signed the Form of Employment. What now?

Her boss certainly remembers me. I do not know her name, but she is by far the most understanding of them all and has been consistently so with me for years now. She listens briefly to what I have to say, me apologetic for knowing I should have come earlier but simply couldn’t, caught as I was in the nets of the pernickety immigration police. She asks me whether being a consultant to the ministry is my only job and I’ve really resigned from Thai Day Dot Com, with a sigh says ‘You seem to be in trouble often’ and with a blue pen clears my problematic file of black spots and sends me forking out the 3 100 baht annual fees.

On the way back home, totally knackered, I decide to go and check my blood pressure at Siriraj. It’s an alarming 181/82 on arrival and 161/74 forty minutes later. The doctor tells me to take double the usual dose of medicine. Yes, I know, in two weeks’ time I’ll be sixty-eight…

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On Thai visa extension and other forms of torture – 1

In English on 01/06/2013 at 12:44 pm

Yes, my visa and labour permit have been extended for another year – one day past the deadline. And it was no walk in the park. This is how it went.

Thu 23: I pick up the Ministry of Culture’s jotmai rap-rong (certificate) stating that I’m employed by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC), which is the main document I need to present for extension of visa and labour permit before both expire on May 30.

Fri 24: I discover in the morning at Siriraj hospital that yes, I can see my usual doctor, but no, I can’t have a doctor’s certificate for the Ministry of Labour because today is a Buddhist holiday. Come back on Monday.

Mon 27: early rise (i.e. not much sleep). At Siriraj before 8am. I queue up to get my personal file, go to the fourth floor, where the action is, register, go up and down floors for: 1) a blood test for syphilis only; 2) an x-ray of the lungs. By 9am, this is done. Results, I’m told, at 11am. Or later. The middle-aged male doctor who is going to certify that I’m sane and not socially repellent takes my pulse and prods me with a stethoscope. When I come out of Siriraj with the bleeding bai rap-rong phaet, it’s a quarter to twelve.

Tue 28: very early rise (i.e. not much sleep). Taxi over the 39km separating my house and Government Centre, where Immigration is these days. This takes one hour and twenty minutes. Sometime after 9am, I’m number 36 queuing up at N1 counter (diplomats and state employees). One hour later, I’m told the ministry’s certificate is inadequate: it gives no indication of duration of employment. ‘Go back to the ministry and have this added to the letter.’ So back to the ministry. The problem is simple: last year, the same certificate mentioned the then-coming fiscal year; this time, as the fiscal year ends on Sept 30, the young man preparing the letter for me kindly thought that if that FY was mentioned, I might only be granted four months… The problem is simple, but the solution is problematic: whatever the wording, the certificate needs to be signed again by none other than the director general of the ministry, and this TAKES TIME. Will two days be enough? The agreement with the staff at OCAC is for me to wait at home to be told that the certificate is ready. If no word tomorrow (Wed 29), then I’ll go to the ministry first thing in the morning on the last day and wait there until the certificate comes through. For some reason, this piece of paper is not signed by the readily available head of OCAC, as it was last year, but by the director general of the ministry himself…

Wed 29: I spend a nerve-racking day alternating translation of a short story about a chest of drawers and reading of French crime novels on the iPad. When in late afternoon I call OCAC, I learn they’ve all gone to a cultural function. The phone number I’m given for the young man processing the certificate doesn’t work; I leave a message to my usual contact at OCAC for her or the young man to ring me back. You guessed it: no call back.

Thu 30: asleep at 1am. Wake up at 4am. Get up at 5am. At the ministry at 8am. The personnel dribble in at leisure in the next hour. 9am: the young man says he has just gone by the DG’s office and impressed them on the need to deliver that certificate this morning. I sit unobtrusively in an inner corridor. I’m brought a glass of water, then a cup of coffee. Sometime after 10:30am, the word is the director general wants to see me. We have a pleasant chat while he signs the damn pieces of paper, which still need to be registered. I get them at 10:40am. Taxi to Immigration. A miracle takes place: the traffic is light; the 35.5km are covered in only 50mn! At 11:30am, I’m number 117 at the N1 section. I learn that after 12am, no applications are accepted. Between 12am and 1pm, the place is vacated. Before that, I’ve had some Thai food downstairs; I while away the time reading Jadet Kamjorndet’s latest novel, Prathet Mue Song (Second-hand country), which I found in the mail yesterday along with three volumes of poetry sent by good old Siriworn Kaewkan – the SEA Write must be on poetry this year, then. I’m still worried about making it on time to the Labour Ministry, but heck, the visa is what matters most. It gets close to 2pm when my number is called. And when things go wrong again.

Going through the moves

In English, Reading matters on 26/05/2013 at 6:12 pm

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Two weeks ago, I failed to celebrate an anniversary. It took me days to realise, under grilling by a taxi driver, that I had lived in Thailand continuously for thirty-five full years as of the 12th of May. (My first stay, as a reporter for Le Monde diplomatique, was in mid-1972, during the halcyon days of the Vietnam war and marshals at the trough helm.)

According to officialdom I’m still a ‘non-re’ here, short for ‘non-resident’, believe it or not. Mind you, that’s better than the previous ‘non-imm’ stamped in our passports: the term was confusing, given that the only non-immigrants in a country are by definition the natives. And non-resident we have become more than ever, it seems, since an underworked Immigration started insisting on treating us as potential criminals by demanding that, yearly visa notwithstanding, we prove every three months that we still live at the same address!

Anyway, two days from now, for the thirty-sixth year then, I’ll be renewing my yearly visa and labour permit – this time again on the strength of casual employment as a consultant by the Thai ministry of culture. The thing will involve only a few grams of paper (compared to the kilos of documents I had to produce each year as an employee in a Thai company) and hefty taxi fares. And with luck, not too much pain from intensive walking. Thinking of which…

Tomorrow, to please the benighted Labour Department, I’ll go once again to Siriraj hospital to get some doctor who doesn’t know me from Adam* certify that I’m ‘not an individual of unsound mind or mentally retarded’, do ‘not have tuberculosis at a dangerous stage, elephantiasis showing symptoms repugnant to society, highly punishable drug addiction, chronic alcoholism or third-degree syphilis’ (source: ‘Tor Thor 5 – Tor Ayu Bai Anuyat Tham Ngan’ §5).  Never mind modern diseases such as AIDS or Alzheimer.

* The doctors that know me there are experts and do not waste time handling such inanities.

Shall I bring along my newly acquired iPad?

Lately this contraption had changed my life, along with the streaming of Giro stages on the net (ending tonight with Balocco indigestion): I’m ransacking sundry websites offering hoary or new-fangled fiction for free. I’ve stocked up on Vernon Sullivan, Herlock Sholmes and Arlene Supine, and re-read with glee, fifty plus years later, L’Étranger de Camus, not to mention generous helpings of contemporary stuff that only transit the Kindle slot the time it takes to find them rubbishy and ditch them. But I’ll talk about this some other time. What with the washing and the ironing, I’ve done more than enough this weekend.

Hip hip ouch!

In English on 18/05/2013 at 12:41 pm

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A few nights ago, my bilingual blog, which now has 334 subscribers, passed the 100,000 hits mark – whereas this one, set up a couple of years before, has yet to reach half that many hits, with 70 subscribers.

I haven’t written here for over a month for a variety of reasons. One is bad health. Forget about high blood pressure, that’s under control, I believe, and no bother. Forget about putting on weight, that hurts only my ego. The main trouble is I can no longer walk any distance (over two hundred yards) without pain in the hips, though not down the legs. I’ve seen four specialists so far: the first one was a quack: ‘your pain is due to age, no treatment; exercise, walk more’. The next two, consulted the same week unbeknownst to each other, gave me two different batches of pills and for about a month and a half my joints stopped complaining.

I felt so good I decided to treat myself to a few days at the beach and relied on a famous Thai writer to take me there. We agreed to meet a few miles inland close to his lair. But just walking around in search of a food shop while holding a travel bag was enough for me to call it quits and return to Bangkok after a lunch of khao man kai without kai but with moo daeng (translation: chicken rice without chicken but with red pork). I never saw the sea.

And I won’t see France either this year come August, as daily life in France means walking and then walking and there would be no point flying over to spend the time between bed and armchair, which I can do here without bothering anyone.

The only hope for the time being is acupuncture, one session every Thursday morning. So far, it hasn’t made any difference, except that … I now have backache more often than before on top of the pain in the hips. The young Chinese acupuncture fellow cheerfully says that’s normal. I like his frankness and will give him the benefit of the doubt for a while before I either turn to a physiotherapist or a wheelchair.

Another reason why I haven’t written here lately is quite simply il Giro. When after spending daylight hours translating some short story or other (more than half a dozen of them in the past three weeks, for the bilingual blog, the end-of-year anthology and also an OCAC project) or helping this or that friend by proofing or subbing some texts, I no longer have the stamina to stick to the keyboard after dusk. Now television is consistently out of order (I’ll have to do something about that) but there is the daily pedalling drama on the little screen. Dramas, should I say: there is also the Tour of Norway and even the Tour of California, but that’s broadcast while I’m asleep.

From one year to the next, live streaming on the net has much improved, in coverage and in quality. Two nights ago, I even watched alternately Bradley Wiggins coughing his lungs out and François Hollande addressing the press. One quit, the other quipped and dug in. Not enough AICAR for one, not enough grands écarts for the other?

For whom the brain tolls

In English on 13/04/2013 at 8:15 pm

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I have a quarrel to pick with Chart Korbjitti: it took him a year to let me know in under two thousand words that he had the good luck of a brain infarction.

I’m so pissed off I’ll make this text public on my bilingual blog, thaifiction.wordpress.com, this coming Friday at 00:01 sharp, local time.

I’ve fired him a mail just now to let him know I won’t talk to him again if the next time he dies he doesn’t inform me forthwith, but that in any case I’m his big brother and his pushing in ahead of me is just not on, never mind that he was head of the line in primary (you’ll understand on Friday). Hang on out there.

The other bad news of this Thai New Year, which is bad news in itself given all that senseless splashing about and all those truly dead and maimed on the roads, is that Saneh Sangsuk’s The White Shadow won’t ‘see the light of day States-side’ as I foolishly hoped the other day. I shouldn’t have told ’m Saneh is keyboard-phobic and thus unlikely to produce much and make ’m rich.

Just to pep myself up, here is a boob, not of the Songkran-drenched variety:

Bangkok Post, Monday April 8 2013: Page One story entitled ‘Enraged locals attack cops, foil casino raid’ has them locals pelt them cops ‘with projectiles and scolding water’ – wow, even the water was irate! It isn’t just a typo, as a few paragraphs down we read: ‘Some sprayed extinguishing agents and threw scolding water at the officers.’ Something to scald a proofreader with.

Going cool turkey – 4

In English on 31/03/2013 at 9:54 pm

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Fag free? Looks like it. It’s been two weeks since I stopped taking Champix pills after completion of the three-month treatment, and the physical need for nicotine has gone.

What remains is the fancy need – the fleeting thought at odd times of how good it’d be to light up – but that’s easily dismissed, like a pesky insect, like that Juno down the street now that I’m gonad-poor and crumpled, dismissed with a flicker of the brain. Or a sugar-free look om to pacify the lips.

These last few months the downside has been a steady revolting gain in weight.

When I flew back from France last September, I weighed 83 kilos for 1825 mm in height. Six months later, I haven’t grown any taller but I weigh as much as 89,000 grams. In all justice, I can’t blame only Champix or cessation of cigarette consumption for those extra six kilos of lard: during that time I’ve been unusually sedentary due to excessive working sessions on the one hand, and on the other a growing incapacity to … simply … walk any longer – believe you me: of three years’ standing.

In the last few weeks, after a particularly painful ordeal in the street that had me mincing steps like a nonagenarian afflicted with delirium tremens, I’ve been consulting with one fake (Dr Amnuay) and two true (Dr Charoen and Dr Manoj) specialists of bone and nerve and cartilage messes and if I’m for the moment mobile and full of pep, it’s because of pills gobbled morning, noon and night this week and the next at Dr Manoj’s whim come what may.

You’d better believe it: I did extensive laundry by hand this very morning and even ironed no fewer than three shirts this afternoon in splendid heat. The last time I forced myself to wash a few clothes – two weeks ago, it was – I had to fetch myself a stool as my haunches refused to give a hand and lit up flares in protest.

The overwhelming feeling at the moment is of distress, or should I say désarroi: I’m an able-bodied man everyone says looks ten years younger than his real age without even trying – and also feel like it most days, damn your eyes – and yet what’s happening inside that wholesome body belongs to the terminal stage. Did I tell you about high blood pressure? And those feet and ankles that keep inflating when I worship the digital lares a tad too long? How boring can I be?

On the plus side: it looks like Saneh Sangsuk’s masterpiece The White Shadow might see the light of day States-side. Just because a butterfly once flexed its wings in the Amazon and many years ago I partook of Korean food with – but hush! What was that, Leonard, about ‘spiritual thirst’?

There’s Diaodai Tai Fa Khlang two-thirds trussed into French on my screen, and Le Seuil has yet to send contracts for it: I checked this very day with the main recipient. Please, please, please, may all things fall into place for once, ma chère Anne,

and I’ll go and have dinner now and be content.

News by the wayside

In English on 22/03/2013 at 5:26 pm

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When I was half my age and a journalist, I met two Catholic priests of my generation the miscreant that I am is proud to have called friends rather than sources. One was a burly Basque fellow called Guillaume who earned himself a bad name helping the poor in the island-jail of Singapore (he was subsequently logically and honourably expelled); the other was a Belgian priest active in the small Catholic community of Song Phi Nong (‘two brothers’)  not far from Bangkok.

If anything, Father Bruno had the gift of the tongue. His fluent Thai had me salivating at a time when I was sweating over the rudiments of the vernacular. I was also amazed at how he could swallow rice congee for breakfast in lieu of coffee and toast. Since he wasn’t French, I didn’t hold it against him.

When I settled down off Sathorn Road in a rented wooden house some thirty-five years ago, it was Bruno who found me a maid: Nipha and her lover had to elope as their parents, taking a leaf out of Shakespeare’s R&J, objected to their mating. The couple would stay with me with the addition in due time of a baby daughter until, four or five years later, I myself found love and moved elsewhere. Nipha cooked and washed for me, smiling away; her Romeo, even thinner than she was and sporting a thin moustache and a permanent frown, found work in some office and was in eternally white shirt and black trousers. Years later, I met her again by chance. By then she had changed her name, was in door-to-door sales of crockery or some such, was divorced and her daughter was going to secondary school.

As for Bruno, we seldom met as he dealt with his church community by the river and I travelled the region, but a quarter century later we did meet a few more times: by then he had left Song Phi Nong for a Bangkok suburb. I found him rather subdued. As I remember, I lent him and he later duly returned André Brink’s great novel A dry white season.

And then, day before yesterday in late afternoon, it took a seventy-three-year-old taxi driver who took pity on me as I lumbered out of a hospital in the Bangkok boondocks along a busy thoroughfare but warned me he was on his way back home to Rangsit so he’d drop me in an area where taxis were frequent but then, having taken a shine on me, what with my ready Thai, painful hips and fascinating conversation, forgot all about home, said he’d take me all the way to mine and settle for that khao kha moo I was vouching for at the top of my road, as he was used to eating simply, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke either, just some plain rice and plain water, look at me;

yes it took a diminutive seventy-three-year-old taxi driver who lives alone, his ‘madam’ and their daughter in Lopburi, who owns three t-shirts like this one and two pairs of pants he washes himself in turn and, mind you, spends only one hundred baht a month on water and electricity given that he has neither air-conditioning (beside within his taxi of course) nor television and relaxes at home in a pha kha ma if I know what that is and sometimes even wears nothing in the dark;

indeed it took a still sprightly grey-haired Bangkok taxi driver who ages ago worked for a time in installing electric generators in Saudi Arabia, a man born  seventy-three years earlier in Song Phi Nong and a Catholic to boot …

… to inform me that Father Bruno died of cancer a year ago.

Double translation: how to butcher a text

In English, Reading matters on 31/01/2013 at 4:35 pm

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No one can deny that double translation, convenient as it might be, is a crime in literary terms. At the instigation of the Thai Ministry of Culture, I’ve now become a criminal and a reluctant accomplice in the maiming of at least one text.

For some time the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture has been putting together a trilingual anthology of Vietnamese short stories and poems. As, I suspect, no one could be found at the last minute to translate from Vietnamese into English, I was asked to handle two such stories from their Thai versions. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse and I’ve spent much of the month obliging.

The longer text (over 8 000 words) was a pleasure to read and translate: a gripping story going as far back as the war of independence against the French, told both tongue-in-cheek and tear-in-eye in fluid and rich Thai that presented few real difficulties.

On the other hand, it was obvious that the shorter Thai text, dealing with the supernatural, had had parturition problems: the work of an academic, it had been more than a little spruced up (in red) by a well-known writer. As I set about deciphering that prose, my suspicion grew that it lacked literary finesse – what with the words ‘after that’ being repeated 29 times in the course of 5 600 words – and quite possibly accuracy.

Pho and nuoc mam aside, my knowledge of Vietnamese holds in three syllables: bao chi fap (French journalist) which were very useful during my Vietnam War holy days as they meant ‘Don’t shoot!’ As a translator from the Thai, I shouldn’t have to mess around with the original text, but that’s just what I found myself forced to do: the story had a funny-sounding title (who has ever heard of เสือสีน้ำตาลดำ, a ‘black-brown’ tiger?) and many non sequiturs or obscurities even my most learned Thai neighbour failed to make sense of.

Viet-English instruments of linguistic torture online are unanimous: mun means ‘ebony’ and ebony is neither black-brown nor brown-black. They are also unanimous in failing to record the words man nguyen in their original constellation of accents (which I can’t reproduce here), a regrettable absence as that expression keeps appearing in the words a stuttering young man addresses to an older man – and is left as ม่านเหงียน (marn ngian) in the Thai text.

When I asked the Thai translator for clarification by email, drawing his attention to a dozen perplexing points, he merely translated into awkward English what he had stated in opaque or improbable Thai (In two cases this was helpful, I admit.), insisted his tiger was ‘black-brown’ and that Man Nguyen was a person’s name. How could that be, sir? The old man the younger man addresses already has a name, Grandpa Canh, and, more significantly my dear Watson, in the original Vietnamese text, the words man nguyen, which appear often, are always italicised and without capitals.

I asked around and, thanks to a good fairy, was able to elucidate the sore points, including the elusive man nguyen: the expression translates as ‘Oh dear!’ or ‘Oh my!’ or perhaps even ‘Ouch!’ So much for the translator’s fluency in the language.

At this level of incompetence, there is much to be feared that other parts of the story that sound all right are in fact ridden with inaccuracies. Let’s hope against hope that the original writer isn’t fluent in English or else is also fluent in Thai. As I’ve made quite a few changes to the unsatisfactory Thai version anyway, I’ll insist for mine to bear the mention ‘Adapted from the Thai of So-and-so’ rather than ‘Translated from…’

Man nguyen … man nguyen…

2012 in review

In English, Reading matters on 31/12/2012 at 10:49 am

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 12,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 20 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Going cool turkey – 2

In English on 22/12/2012 at 12:52 pm

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Tuesday 11 December: … No particular wayward symptom. Tomorrow, the Champix dose will double, in two takes, breakfast and dinner, to 1mg a day. The fact that, for two days, I’ve smoked only 13/14 cigarettes each day instead of 18/20 may be due to a psychological factor: being conscious now of what I inhale; normally, I smoke without giving it a thought: cigarettes come of their own to my lips and I light up.  For many years now, I’ve been in the habit of smoking two cigarettes over breakfast, one after eating the toasts and one after finishing the second mug of coffee (all the while reading the newspaper), and I’ve long noticed I smoke the first cigarette almost without being aware of it or afterwards of having done so, as if it were just a matter of restoring the level of nicotine in my body gone low during the night. 14 cigarettes altogether today.

Wednesday 12 December: … Still no adverse symptoms. One more pill over dinner tonight. … By the end of the day at 2am, I’ve smoked 14 cigarettes.

Thursday 13 December: … Day’s consumption of cigarettes: 14, including a compulsive two or three when I write the blog entry announcing the uploading of 12 Thai short stories – 2012. Don’t even finish the third glass of pastis.

Friday 14 December: Day at home. The usual: breakfast, house cleaning, blog refurbishing (working backwards to last October, another twelve stories to go), some Thai reading, and TV until half past midnight. Only 10 cigarettes today.

Saturday 15 December: Get up at 8am. I write this just after breakfast: clearly no need for a fag except through habit. I smoke one in two instalments and it feels as if I’m forcing myself to smoke. Looks like the varenicline is doing its job.  Same routine as the day before. I end up smoking only 7 cigarettes, and two glasses of pastis are enough to sleep by 1am.

Sunday 16 December: … up by 7:15. From now on, double the previous dose: 2mg per day. Seven fags left – and an extra packet, bought by mistake. Will put them on the little wall in front of my house for people to help themselves. I don’t feel the need to smoke at all. Same routine: blog reshaping, short-story reading, TV watching. To sleep at 2am.

Monday 17 December: Woken up at a quarter to seven by the dustmen. Forgot to put out the trash. When I go and pick up the newspaper an hour later, the leftover cigarettes are gone.

… The lack of smoking doesn’t bother me but the absence of cigarettes, lighter and ashtray does when my brain tells my hand to grab a fag as my mouth needs to get something between its lips. I treat myself to plain water or coffee or tisane or pastis, depending on the time of day. Bed at 3am.

Tuesday 18 December: Usual routine … Late night shopping at Foodland. After that, more work on next week’s bilingual offering … Some TV. Three glasses of pastis. Bed at 2:30.

Thursday 20 December: Woken up by the phone at 6:15. No one on the line. Can’t go back to sleep, so get up as the dustmen jazz up the lane. Weighing myself, surprise: 85 kg, two more than on my return from France end of September. This putting on weight predates giving up smoking. It’s more probably the result of minimal physical activity in the past two months spent overwhelmingly in front of the computer screen.

Friday 21 December: At Siriraj Hospital, get two months’ worth of Champix, paying for it as much as I would for two and a half months of cigarettes. I donate the Nicotinell patches to the hospital, happy New Year, folks!

Saturday 22 December: Last night and again this morning, I notice that two small blobs of spit I produce are brownish instead of the usual white as if, one week after giving up smoking, some nicotine stuck in the throat or the bronchial tubes wanted out. I breathe with ease and the coffee this morning tastes better than ever. Will two to three months be enough to unhook me from dependence? Oh well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.