Monday, 19 January 2009


How I pine sometimes for an England and Englishness that possibly never existed except on celluloid, in black and white, and in my parents' fond imaginings, born of gratitude to a regime that did not slaughter. Tea and understated sympathy was what you got instead.

What kind of England do we return to in a few weeks? The credit crunch only set in after our departure. Woolworths for one is no more. The only time I have shop-lifted was at Woollies in Streatham. It was a kid's prank, and the dare a Milky Bar, in a dim and distant time when white chocolate still seemed a miracle.

Perhaps it was that illicit thrilling Milky Bar that inaugurated decades of assorted addictions, often involving the briefest of brief encounters, snatching pleasure at the limits of the law. My England became a fraught and unhappy place, without refuge or repose.

For two days now I have been walking around Bangkok in temperatures around 30C, visiting temples and following canals and seeking the shade of public parks. The temples are quite extraordinary, huge in scale with extensive precincts, and very beautiful. Its amazing what you can do with several million mosaic chips and bucketfuls of smashed crockery. Its giving me ideas for the garden back home. I have seen the famed Emerald Buddha which is in fact made of jade, and a golden reclining Buddha who was 41 metres long, and whose massive soles were inlaid with the most lovely mother of pearl decoration; a feat indeed of the inlayers' art. The Royal Palace here knocks most royal palaces into a hat.

We are all a little weary of travelling, and in a last gasp for me as I'll be coming home earlier than the others, we go down the coast in a couple of days to relax on an island in the Gulf of Thailand, where David and I will do a diving course!