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Thai Girl Tattle: Building, Building

Building work continues at Andrew Hicks's rural home in Thailand.

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More and more we’ve been migrating down the ‘garden’ and eating under the grass roofed shelters by the new wooden house.

While I was away in England Cat cut the last tree down and extended its kitchen as everyone finds it easier cooking in a more basic kitchen than in the smart one in the concrete house where there’s more to clean up.

The trouble’s been that as it’s at the lowest point of the land and as it’s rainy season, things have been getting a bit boggy. Cat’s plan therefore has been to finish rendering the kitchen in cement and to extend the roof to make a dry outside eating area with a concrete floor where we can sit and eat in the open air.

And this is exactly what she’s just done.

We collected the cement and corrugated iron in the pickup and had some sand and gravel delivered and she and Ben then got to work. Older brother Mangorn was the powerhouse, his wife Mali and son, Kong joining in to help on the second day.

There were some major hydrological issues though as the kitchen extension and the new concrete floor would effectively block the escape of surface water onto the next door land, though nobody seemed troubled by this at all.

For ages Cat’s been asking to build raised pathways between the two houses but I’ve resisted saying that the key to the problem of soggy ground is proper drainage.

There’s a major cultural conflict on this issue… farang brains tend to think ‘drainage’ while Thais just build up the land to displace the water somewhere else.

Anyway I suggested that a drain through the cement work was going to be needed and they found a two inch pipe. Niagara could as soon be piped because when there’s a downpour the place floods very fast and there’s tons of water to get rid of.

I was working upstairs at my computer when my phone rang. It was Cat. Would I please come down and explain my farang view to the team. It wasn’t for her to tell them that a two inch pipe’s a silly idea. That could seem offensive.

I duly played the fool with them and I don’t think anyone lost too much face, though there was one of those uncomfortable ‘farang talk too much’ silences. Now we’ve got a muddy open drain between kitchen and concrete floor and I hope we can finish it properly come the dry season. More likely it’ll stay as it is.

Wheeling the tons of sand and gravel down the garden, mixing the concrete by hand and laying it was a grueling task in the oppressive heat. I don’t know how they do it but do it they did.

Everything’s now a mess. All is chaos, but that’s just the way it always is. No details of what they’re going to do are ever thought through or discussed and nothing is properly finished, but maybe it’s just too hot to bother. Anyway we now have a sitting place with the bamboo chairs we bought in Ubon and the kitchen is nearly done. Let’s see if it all gets swept away with the first heavy storm.

Such are the ripples on our little pond… small ones indeed.

Sometimes I think I spend quite a lot round here. It’s summer time and the living is easy, but we always have to support the extended family. You can’t be kee nieow (‘mean as sticky shit’) as that’s just not the way you do it.

In fact I’ve built a nice concrete house. Then when I was away last year Cat built a wooden house at the bottom of the garden. Then when I was away this year she built the shop for Ben and Yut across the road and made a bigger kitchen for the wooden house. And now she’s just built the new sitting area down the garden.

When the farang’s away the cat will play?!

No, it’s not quite like that, but yes the village does benefit from its resident farang. This is a very small pond and any input is important and trickles down.

It often seems that the economy locally is on the brink of collapse though with everyone struggling with a mountain of debt.

I’d love to be able to bail them all out and 700 billion dollars would be more than enough to put things right for them.

Such figures are unfathomable, but that’s another world which nobody round here even seems to be aware of, let alone concerned about.


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