Saturday, August 21, 2010

The End

My camera disappeared in the move, so I'm afraid that's it.

Thank you for stopping by.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

He Moves

The movers, five of them, turned up at 9 o'clock on Sunday morning and emptied the entire house of all valuables and invaluables within an hour, levering the hideous Chinese bed out over the front, strapping themselves to flowerpots the size of small mountains, everything. My belongings, such as they are, filled the whole lorry.  They drove over and performed the same manoeuvre in reverse and were all done before 1 o'clock. I've never seen anyone work so efficiently, or certainly not recently. All for 2,500 baht for the lorry and driver and 300 each for the strongmen, who would have been worth their weight in gold, but who am I to quibble. I gave them my TV and the dvd 'collection.'

Here, on the other hand, no progress at all had been made. The top floor was in the pristine state Nek had left it, gypsum wall a moonscape, airing holes uncut, dust an inch thick, no panels in the windows. A buck-toothed gentleman and the painter fixed the walls within about three hours -- as contrasted with the three weeks they'd remained unfixed -- and then I forced them to buy glass and do the back windows. On a Sunday? they said. Last Tuesday also good, said I, but failing that a Sunday will have to do. By the end of the day the windows were in, and I spent a restless night in my new bedroom listening to the cats explore their new home with anguished cries for help and orientation till I was well nigh out of my mind.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cry Freon

The air conditioner has been installed:

You have to admire the concentration of the Chang: when he paints he paints and nothing can blur his focus, not the floor on which he's dribbling, not the bedroom lampshades he's generously slathering in emulsion, nothing. Silk doesn't really take to scraping, so they're ruined. On the first floor the drippings seeped into the concrete and are now preserved for all eternity under a layer of crystalline sealer; looks horrible where it's black. The only option is to sand the sealer down in those places, paint the splotches over thinly with the grey wall paint and seal it again. Luckily the sealer turns it roughly the same colour as the concrete, and if it's not overdone it'll serve. I nonetheless threw another screaming tantrum and cut 2,000 baht off Nek's total, which leaves zero.  

The welder plumbed -- so why don't I call him the plumber? -- quite well I think. He'll finish that today, attach handles to the first-floor windows, and patch all manner of holes with cement and generally tidy up. The useless pair spent another day desultorily scraping things off floors. The he-useless tends to wander off halfway through some minor task in search of more moonshine, and when he comes back he's forgotten where he was. Sad, of course, except he then bellows at the little wife to get a move on.

P.S. 'Quite well' my arse.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Designated Driver

Another day and Nun switched his phone on, only to tell me he's waiting for Nek to pick him up and bring him back. I told Nek to do it fast as the boys can't work on their own, partly because they don't want to and partly because they have limited resources. They can paint, but that's about it, and there's lots left to do, as you can be sure I pointed out.

Later I rang back and said can't you sit on a train or bus? It'll cost about 150 baht. He sounded as if this was the first he'd heard of these modern marvels and said he'd have to confer with Nek.

Later still he had some other reason why it's going to take several days, so I told him not to bother. The welder can apparently also plumb, and the coat of tile putty on the roof can wait till another day. Instead Nek can make me a little roof over the back door from the leftover iron or wood. All that remains is to add handles to the first-floor windows, put obscured glass in the top-floor windows, make a bathroom threshold and drain, and to sand down the botched paint job on the shutter and spray it instead. Oh, and replace the doorframe on the top floor. And put in some porous barrier in the courtyard to keep the sand in but allow the rainwater to flow out into the drain at the back.

PS: And fill in the hole next to the back door. And put a strip of rubber sheet at the bottom of that door.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tree 2

The monstrosity has been tamed. She'll never be a beauty, but at least she no longer offends the eye quite so much:

Since I had to pay for it, I only had my side of it done: isn't that petty? My punishment is that I'm now rather exposed, and my reward that I have a view, nondescript though it may be:

The balcony floor is all shiny with penetrating sealer, and in the process the boys lost the rest of the tub, because once mixed it sets very fast. Apparently with a bit of thinner the other two tubs will be enough for the whole floor. They did some desultory painting, but Nun's not there and m'neighbour says yesterday they were drunk and lying around on the ground floor doing nothing. They'd also failed to put the glass in the first-floor windows, apparently because the welder forgot watever it was that he forgot.

Nun's switched his phone off; God knows if we'll see him again.

Monday, August 9, 2010

alea iacta est

The lorry has been ordered for Sunday, the air conditioning man for Thursday, there's no turning back now.

The Catch

The American neighbour, a mighty gossip before the Lord, says the reason the owner moved out to the swamps beyond the airport is that she has cancer. She does look frail and always wears a sun hat, and I can't for the moment remember her hair, or whether she has any. He says she seemed a lot worse seven years ago. Still, it is a worry. Then again she has no children and I expect the house would go to her younger sister, who's an almost equally fey and pointedly helpless person, plus she's been trying to sell the house for years whenever she had no tenants, and the building five doors down has also been unsuccessfully for sale for a long time, so I don't expect to be kicked out immediately even if she gets sick again, which inshallah she won't.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Having been given money for the family, Nun promptly decided it was time he went and saw them for two days. I suppose when he's here he works well, including Sundays, so I have no reason at all to stop him.

This morning he finished the windows in the back and then plugged the worst of the leaks -- a drainpipe cuts through the overhang on the top floor, and the rain comes in all around it, soaks through a rotten window frame and generously waters the wall below. There's more: the flowerbeds above the second-floor balcony also soak through the concrete, water gathers outside the flowerbed surrounding the spirit house (the brown-black patch), and the snails' trails at the bottom are hairline cracks that someone covered with smears of cement, now broken and useless:

He reckons it could all be remedied with a coat of tile putty, for which I didn't have the money until I remembered that Nek owes me a water tank, which isn't really needed until I make the bathroom. So now we have about 4,000 baht to play with, which I may put towards the roof sealer and a little iron-and-PVC roof over the back door. Who, as they say, is your daddy.

Meanwhile the painter carried on with the free ground floor job, and the welder branched out and painted the banisters and window frames, very neatly too. Nun claims the two of them will come in while he's away.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

One Damn Thing After Another

Nun seems to have taken over the entire job, including asking for advances. He says his family in Lopburi are starving and having to kill the celebrated monkeys for food, I exaggerate, so I coughed up another 10 grand. I bought some more paint for the painter too, which leaves a mere 6,000 baht in cash to the total. I told him he'll have to get the rest off Nek, but he said it's fine, so long as the family can eat he's content.

Apparently yesterday a man from the electric came and threatened to shut us off, charging 20 baht for the privilege. I tried to pay today but the Prakanong district office and her dependencies sleep on Saturdays, and my trip to the arse of beyond Onnut was wasted. Ever conscientious, I then psyched myself up to sweep the monstrosity's blossoms out, but someone had done it already.

Next was a trip to the iron workshop under the Klong Tan flyover to discuss my desk and shelving. The man there was one of those people who seem permanently wrily amused by nothing in particular, though you can't shake the feeling that the joke's on you. We doodled on the back of his wall calendar, he made a few suggestions, and he'll come back with an estimate, or rather I'll go back for an estimate as and when. Nek can do the job, but I'd rather not have anything to do with him after this.

My shelf brackets have gone missing; I have a feeling I put them somewhere safe when the owner came, and now I can't remember where. On top of the bathroom?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Heart of Glass

Nun and the welder put in the french window panes, except for one, which was the wrong size, and attached some bolts, ears and slightly twee but serviceable handles:

The painter was at work on my ill-gotten paint job downstairs until he ran out. He's patient and neat, but he doesn't judge his own work, so you have to tell him where it didn't take sufficiently, and like most chang he doesn't consider anything but the task in hand, happily painting over nails and craters that he should have seen to first. Still, he doesn't mind if you then tell him to do it (note Tom's scooter, which he kindly lent me for the week):

The tree man came with his girlfriend, who is the brains behind the operation, and quoted me 3,500 baht, a number that is becoming of ever growing importance to me (and how many other blogs do you know that parody WG Sebald). He claims 500 of that is the bribe to shut up the city; I tried but failed to haggle him down. As we surveyed the monstrosity from the first floor, an old woman from next door screamed at everyone to sweep the monstrosity's wilted blossoms out of the gutter pronto, which task will nonetheless have to wait till another day.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Industry 2

I made my way over brimming with hope and vim -- to find the first floor painted a distinct shade of lavender boudoir. Oh dear, I said, maybe when it's dry... That is dry, they said. Such long hours I spent too, choosing the shade from the TOA 'palette.' Checking in the shop, it turned out that if you tip the sample away from the light, it does mysteriously take on a purplish tinge. It wasn't to be helped, so I bought another 2.5 gallons, this time making sure it was strictly black-based.

A soulful slip of a boy, about 12 years old, was working with Nun, and believe it or not he's quite good at painting walls. Within about an hour and a half he'd painted the boudoir with the new grey, which is just right and by sheer luck within the same spectrum as the floor. Nun, meanwhile, had paved me a balcony and cemented the iron frames both sides. Between them they achieved more in one day than all the useless dregs Nek had favoured me with taken together. The welding youth arrived with the glass panels just in time for the downpour, and they unloaded them and left.

The painter asked for 100 baht. It was the least I could do, especially since he'd asked me what colour I want the ground floor painted. White, I said, careful not to blink. Touch wood Nek's forgetfulness is for once working in my favour: I'd told him to leave the ground floor for the time being, but wouldn't I be a fool to bring it up?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Racing Snails

On the phone this morning, Nek demanded more money so he could buy the glass for the iron-framed windows. I said that was the reason you needed more money on Sunday. He said the paint is running out. I said buy more. Krub, he said, but didn't.

Chang Poon's name is Nun, so if it's not too late to change the cast list that's what he'll be from now on. While the boys and girls slept, Nun finished the frames for the french windows:

and the iron windows in back:

He too was waiting for the money to buy the glass. I said get it off Nek, he's had 62,000. Nek apparently told him it was all gone, so I suggested he borrow it off some other sucker, the wife, the wife's uncle, I don't care, I'm fresh out. Upstairs the outside of the windows had been painted, black in front, as I said, black in back, as I didn't, matt where I'd asked for glossy, badly.

My arrival -- I won't say galvanized, but stirred, as one might stir thick soup, some activity. Desultory scraping of walls, but come 4 o'clock they all piled on the pavement outside, ready to call two-and-a-half hours a day. I objected, so they did a bit more incompetent painting of the front shutter and then drove off in this season's worst downpour, most of them exposed to the elements on the back of the pickup truck. Serve them right.

And thank God for it, because it allowed me to identify a couple of leaks that can now be plugged. (Let's face it, I'm going to have to stay at the old house another week, hopefully for a week's rent only, though we shan't tell Nek that). The intersection floods knee-deep but in my courtyard it all runs off like a dream. Outside, I bought a climber with indigo flowers from a jolly toothless woman -- all toothless people look jolly -- who was sheltering from the rain there, for 100 baht. She identified herself as a gardener, so I said come back in about three weeks and we'll do business like nobody's business.

Then of course I hit my head on the ill-painted shutter. Slapstick is a cold version of pastoral.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Back to Normality

...if there is such a thing. Chang Poon and the Youth welded, a little teenager had done some painting, a little man joined the little woman in painting the shutter, badly. Not exactly 'five to six' people at the paint brush, but at least some. What a pig's ear these idiots have made of the gypsum walls. Neither hide nor hair of Nek, maybe just as well.

I'm fully aware of the comic potential of frustration, but there's nothing funny, to the penguin, about the penguin sliding along the ice on his stomach, nor about this whole fucking farrago to me.

Scraping the Barrel

An even quieter Monday: Nek disappeared like the wind on Sunday and then decided to have himself a holiday or, as he put it, take his child to [rest of sentence drowned out by my screaming]. That meant Chang Poon was also mysteriously absent, as was everyone else. You can't win with these people: if you're nice to them they think you're a soft touch, if you're horrible to them they're scared, but only of your presence, so they stay away. At my wits' end, I addressed Nek in the universal language of money and told him I'd cut 1,000 baht for every day that no progress is made,

Will it work? This morning he claimed he'd finish the french windows today and 'five or six' of the boys would paint the walls upstairs. We'll see. Meanwhile I have a spare 1,000 baht to pay for an extractor fan.

Kitti finished his job and got paid. Now he'll only have to help me put up the lanterns outside on the day. My sole complaint is that he rather eccentrically fixed it so that only one of the twin bedroom lamps can be switched on from the door, while both are controlled from the bedside switch, but I decided to think of that as a feature.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


A quiet Sunday. Seems to have been a quiet Saturday too: Once I'd left the welding youth must have been out of there like a flash, leaving Chang Poon on his own and progress stalled. We're still, to coin a phrase, four tiles short of a full counter. Nek was there when I arrived, pacing nervously, waiting for another instalment. I subjected him to the usual psycho-terror, and Knotty was dispatched upstairs to paint the walls. Not sure if that's to be welcomed, so I told CP to go up occasionally and avert the worst.

Kitti had more or less finished his job, and very nicely too. All that remains is to attach the breaker box, move one socket because it'll get in the way of my desk, and, once the bed has been airlifted into the third floor, hang the Chinese lanterns outside. I can't expose them to the danger, having invested all of 400 baht in keeping the ancient craft extant.

The owner came to take her rent and everything that wasn't nailed down, including Big Jim's vast industrial fridge. She also told the neighbours to move their plants so they don't trespass on my bit of pavement no mo' and then whispered to me to plug the holes in the manhole cover because otherwise they'd 'pour food down there.' Yes yes, I said. The American neighbour's mother-in-law, a member of the farming community, had a look round and shouted at me to get the broken cover out of the sewer in the courtyard. I shouted back there's no hurry, and we had a high old time.

PS: Looks like the worst was averted in the sense that Knotty disappeared the moment I left, having in two days managed to paint one coat on the bathroom walls only, a job that would take me -- even me -- about 45 minutes. 'Do it yourself then.' No. I'm paying, aren't I, so I don't have to.