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A Story About When ASQ Goes Wrong: Part 2

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Here’s the second instalment of a story written and sent in by a reader about their experience in quarantine after returning to Thailand from the UK.

You can read Part 1 here if you missed it.

A Story About When ASQ Goes Wrong Part 2

RANT – PART 8 (DAY 7 & 8 – PROBLEM CHILD)

Captain’s Log. Day 7 of this captivity. Can’t be bothered doing the blog. Ask Lieutenant Ohura. Over out out.

Day 8. If ASQ were a computer game, I would now be on level 2 – the hospital part. Level 3 – something I don’t aspire to achieve – is that level which Richard Barrow caveats with the phrase ‘sadly’, as in ‘sadly somebody who was 104, had diabetes, other underlying conditions, died today of Covid’. Dying is, of course, no laughing matter and sincerely hope that is the last one in the country. At least I won’t be infecting anyone unless I am deemed to have caught Covid for a 3rd time. Have I ranted on the subject of test accuracy? Oh yeah, I have.

Feeling it quite a bit now. Need to work and really focus but that’s not proving easy to do. Boredom, containment fever, lack of sleep are all contributing factors I feel. Earlier, when I was supposed to working at the world’s smallest desk, I found myself over by the window observing smog levels with no recollection as to how I got there or indeed how long I’d been not working. Another issue with this kind of joyous arrangement is the time it takes to get over jetlag. Normally for me, I’d be clear within 5 days being pre-Covid seasoned traveller that I was. I’m now 11 or 12 or some figure between 1 and 14 days in and still feeling it. Lack of clear routine, fresh air, exercise have all taken their toll I’m sure.

Having yearned for a glass of white or foaming golden on my balcony back on Suk, I’m minded to reconsider that goal. The pollution here right now is simply awful. Buildings I could see out of the window a week ago have simply vanished. One benefit of being stuck in this hermetically sealed box is that my risk of pegging it from an 18th-century mining disease brought on by the orange smog is theoretically lower. It does beg the question, given the 60 or so road deaths per day here and now the world-leading pollution which no doubt will lead to yet more deaths or at least contribute in a meaningful way to them, it’s amazing that all these controls are in place for Covid, which has killed less than 70 odd in a full year.

The previous night I finally reached the end of the road with Mr Pot Noodle. Too much of a good thing? I’d long given up getting hospital food, now only receiving some fruit 2 x per day. I get Starbucks coffee to the door 2 x per day, sometimes on-time and sometimes they even get the order right, so why could I not get delivery too I asked myself. OK, so it’s not allowed so I switched into full contingency planning mode. No point ordering anything too expensive in case it gets rejected / eaten by the staff. No point in ordering anything that can’t be reheated decently either as given both the distance this place is from any decent restaurant and the possibility of the food having to undergo a forensic examination before finding its way to me means it is likely to arrive stone cold.

Grab? Nope, nothing close that wasn’t written in Thai. Download Food Panda. Check Indian and Italian but figure food from places 20 km probably not ideal. Then – aha – Wine Connection. Rule out pizza for the above reasons and go for soup, pasta, roast potatoes and salad, all of which are perfectly fine following a quick nuke, except the salad that would probably melt. Remember not to mix the greens. Only 30 mins later Mr FP is on the phone asking – in Thai – for directions. Luckily I know the name of the place and Thai word for ‘hospital’. Click he’s gone. 5 mins later he’s downstairs and now I’m stuck. I think I’ve over-stretched myself. I’ve come to the outer limits of my Thai. All I can say is in Thai is ‘wait 5 minutes please’ while I figure out what to do. I know the ward and room number, but there’s no way they’re going to allow a bike delivery driver in here. Not without quarantine anyway, and what would that do to my evening meal? Speculatively I message the 2 Line contacts and 1 replies: ‘wait’. 10 mins later there’s a knock and the bag is there outside my room in all its glory. AND IT WAS GLORIOUS. I ate every single bit of it and licked the plate clean (the plate that came with the Red Cross parcel – plates are banned here due to some obscure form of Covid risk I haven’t been able to fathom). OMG, I’m stuffed and, for once happy.

This morning the intercom – which I’d assumed was faulty given the inactivity over the past few days – sprang into life: ‘Meeester are you OK?’. Mr: ‘Yes thanks, tickety boo, 100%’. Intercom: ‘u have any complaints today for me?’ ‘Mr: ‘no, all good’. I chortle to myself as the intercom goes click then silent. Seems I really am the hospital’s problem child. They may well be as happy to see that back of me as I will be for this place.

There are 2 electrical devices in this room, not counting the intercom which runs on fairy dust. There is the fridge and a water heater device thing in lieu of a kettle. It’s a large cylindrical contraption which keeps the water at or close to boiling temperature. You plunge a nob on the top to release boiling water which, due to height of the spout above the bench, sends the water down from said height to hit the tea bag or coffee below and then with the precision of an artist, splatter it all over the bench and floor. They are both quite loud, especially if switched on at 4am as they were last night. Human error on the heater part there. The hum of electrical power is constant, only the 2 devices are slightly out of phase. Every 5 mins or so the fridge (faster) catches up with the slower water heater and they throb in unison for 10 seconds, before beginning another 5 min journey to synchronicity.

RANT – PART 9 (THE LONG MARCH TO FREEDOM)

Time continues to fly. Actually, that’s not true. Not even slightly. I believe it did move once while I wasn’t looking. I notice that the clock on the wall has not been hung straight so the numeral ‘11’ is actually where the ‘12’ should be. But it’s not as if I’m going anywhere or going to be late for anything important so I resist the temptation to fix it for them. Maintenance can handle that chore. Give them something to do when they are not hiding from aircon units with the special Spinal Tap volume setting (11).

The intercom crackles into life with no warning and the most welcome incoming missive to date: “Meeester, Covid test tomorrow”. I come over all Nelson Mandela and can sense freedom (but in my case liberation will not result in leadership of either my country of birth or adopted country, unless politics has taken a radical turn during my incarceration that wasn’t reported on t’net).

Work occupies the day but the evenings drag in particular. Having spent the day staring at a laptop more designed exclusively for portability rather than 12 hours of solid work, I don’t relish using it to watch stuff I’ve downloaded or Netflix, which I’ve all but exhausted. TV is anything but smart (ancient would be a better description) so projection opportunities are not on offer – the ‘Samsung Ancient’ I’m sure if I looked there would be somebody in Thailand trying to sell such decrepit and feature-less models for close to the original selling price.

Check said antique and scrolling down past the Thai radio channels into a zone hitherto unexplored, I find BBC World embedded at end of the list, disguised cunningly as ‘True Channel 77’ and settle down to watch from my chaise longue – sorry – hospital bed on wheels. 5 mins later the news part finishes and a documentary on the Thai student protests is announced. This will be fun I think, but fun is most certainly not on the agenda and it has been censored so it’s back to mini-Netflix, pot noodles and nuts for yours truly. Have I ranted about my health recently? Yes, but by way of update, temperature still stubbornly normal (36.3), heart rate unchanged at 70 despite the strenuous effort of walking to the door and BP also normal (I never saw the machine reading but the nurse confirmed it was so with her usual smile).

So it’s onward to test day and 24 hours closer to my Nelson Mandela-style release event. I wonder if there will be throngs of people lining the streets as did for my predecessor. Probably not, but no harm in dreaming. I further wonder where they will do the test – a specialist facility on a different ward? Isolation area within an isolation ward? Would I finally see the doctor, the voice from the intercom? Ooh the an-tee-see-pay-shun (said with Rocky Horror phrasing). True to form, they don’t disappoint – or rather they do but that was oh so expected – a swab stuck up my nose in the corridor adjacent to the doorway to my room with a bit of extra pushing in an upward direction as apparently there was a ‘blockage’ thrown in to complete the misery. 10 seconds from start to finish. Had to wipe the tears away after that one. Oh, the indignity of it all! The door to Freedomtown was swiftly closed once again and my excitement for the day was done.

Sleep is fitful at best. The combination of lack of exercise – unless you count a few laps around a hospital room as activity – and fresh air see to that. And now there is an added dimension to ponder: what if there is yet another positive test? I’m almost certain that my test in the hotel was a false positive so I should be clean and OK, right? But what if I’m not? How many more days would the rules dictate I have stay? What fiendish things would they have in the plan? Moved to a facility for higher risk / odd cases? What if I really am on The Truman Show Part 2? I had many hours to consider such eventualities.

The doc had indicated results would take 48 hours but almost exactly 24 hours later the intercom of doom interrupted my ferociously busy daily routine. “Allo Meeester your test result is……”. My world stopped dead for a moment as the doc added a totally unnecessary pause a la Gordon Ramsey before announcing which chef would be being sent home from whatever cookery game show he was filming at the time. I know who I’d send home – yep, the hospital chef whose services I had dispensed with completely after those initial sub-standard and grease-filled degustation sessions. Apart from my Red Cross parcels and my increasing cunning and effectiveness in circumnavigating the DCP (Delivery Control Police) I’ve effectively become a fruitarian as it’s the only food I can stomach from Hell’s Kitchen.

Oh yes, post-pause, she completed the sentence with the word ‘negative’.

Cue a whole host of emotions, but strangely the overwhelming feeling is one of flatness. I’m sure that’s not in the Guinness Book of Official Feelings Terms, but there you go. Flat it is. No smiling. No darts-esque fist pump following a 170 check-out. No Premiership footballer slide (mind you on the rock hard floor that’d be a catastrophe in waiting). Just flat. I guess being locked up for 10 nights on a ward full of sick people whilst being in fine bodily health has just knocked it out of me mentally. The journey from a beautiful house in the UK complete with wine cellar, through to a balcony-enhanced hotel and finally to a hospital ward in the space of 2 weeks has done for me. Decide there and then to push my luck:

Me: “Can I leave now?”. It being 8am (or 7:55 on the wonky clock). Doc: “No. Tomorrow”. A rule I’ve never understood, I’ve done quarantine, tested negative, so why the continued lock-up? I suppose it helps the hospital (or hotel) P&L but beyond that I’ve run out of logic beans.
Me: “Why?” Doc: “Rules”. I hadn’t expected to win that particular argument but that would never stop me from trying. Heaven forbid anyone or anything going against ‘The Rules’. Those rules created by a faceless committee of politicians and bureaucrats, no doubt congratulating themselves on a job well done. The country protected from a fit & healthy visitor while 1000s of other – ahem – visitors trot over the land border bringing with them disease, pestilence, famine and plagues of locusts.
Me: “So what time can I leave?”.
Doc: “9am”.
Me: “Can I leave at 8?”. Thinking to avoid rush hour traffic and also spend 1 hour less indoors.
Doc: “Will try to arrange, staff for payment start at 9”.
Mentally process the odds of them actually checking me out at 8am. Decide Scunthorpe winning the FA Cup would be more likely (edit: I was right). Stuff all my things into the various suitcases, put away my cricket gear (fat lot of use that has been) and snuggle down for another restless night under the towels.

Come 8am I am packed, cleaned and ready to go. Transport arranged for 9am (see, I didn’t back that particular 8am horse).
8am – nothing.
8:15 – nothing.
8:30 – knock on door. Random nurse: “Bye today?”. Me: “Yes Bye today”. Point to my credit card. Random nurse walks away.
8:55 – another person arrives who is not dressed as a nurse or wearing full PPE but, crucially is in possession of a credit card machine and forms.
9:00 – finished and I have a receipt. They all leave. My door is open. So what now? Do I just run? Would be hard with 2 suitcases, 1 full cricket bag (complete with helmet guaranteed to protect against Covid, even the dreaded ‘UK variant’), 2 rucksacks & 1 laptop bag. Decide on balance to wait.
9:01 – transport is here. Nobody else is.
9:15 – man arrives with a hotel-style trolley and I load all my stuff on. Taken to lift (note: not in wheelchair) where the usual ‘stay away’ cone is put next to the door to warn against intruders from other floors trying to share the mode of transport. I thought I’d got the all clear so I’d be spared the cone of rejection? Oh well. Have to wait 5 mins to use the exit door on the ground floor as about 25 staff are coming the other way and being subject to checks. Tantalizingly close to the outside now. Driver is across the way. Take a deep inhale of the road fumes and pollution and stretch my arms out wide a la Titanic, but without the wind. Or the boat. The trolley-pushing man looks at me like I’ve just crawled out from under a stone. 11 nights in here mate, I think to myself. Enough to do for any man. Load the baggage and turn to wave at the crowds that would have put old Nelson himself to shame. No wait, I made that bit up. Even the arriving nurses have finished arriving and gone. It’s just me and the driver. Even Mr Trolley has headed for the hills.

Do a Morecambe & Wise type leg kick by way of celebrating and sit back for what Google said would be a 20 min trip but in fact takes an hour. Do I care? Nope. Even wound the window down.

Upon return find that nothing has changed. My apartment is still standing. Nobody has sneaked into avail themselves of my amber liquid stocks in the fridge. I decide that 10am is too early, even for this momentous occasion.

Reflect that I will be included in Richard Barrow’s daily stats tomorrow. Recovered and released from care, or whatever the phrase he uses. Good job done by the system there. The fact that this was most probably a false positive reading and I was flatly denied another test (at my own expense) is neither here nor there. I’d had Covid in the UK and tested negative after.

In other news, the hospital bill dwarfed the hotel ASQ charge and due to one final, monumental, Herculean eff-up by the hospital who classified my enforced incarceration as ‘rest’ and failed to mention the keyword of Covid, the insurance company has refused to pay – hence the credit card. This will be my next battle.

God bless the system.



Stickboy aka Sticky Boy aka Mike McKay aka Mike McKwai, Wild Mike, Magic Mike, Mr Mike, and a fair few more best forgotten, is a party animal with hollow legs who loves music, current affairs, beer, food, causing trouble on Twitter, and making the most of life without worrying too much about what people think or say about his antics. You can send him stuff here - stickboybkk@gmail.com

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Opinion

UPDATED: Control Zones And Restrictions Explained

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The CCSA will recategorise many provinces on Monday 22nd February each with different controls and restrictions in place.

Below is a brief explanation of what each colour represents.

Note that the new restriction levels can be upgraded by provincial governors as they see fit to control the spread of Covid-19 in their own part of the country. What they cannot do is loosen the levels set by the CCSA.

control zones explained

DARK RED – Maximum Controlled Area

Only Samut Sakhon remains in a highly controlled area with the highest category of restrictions.

Schools, gyms, massage shops, pubs and entertainment venues remain closed.

Some businesses can open again, including restaurants until 9 pm but no alcohol.

RED – Highly Controlled Area

This category has been scrapped and the four provinces previously categorised downgraded.

ORANGE – Controlled Area

8 provinces fall under “controlled” category, mostly Central and East including Bangkok plus Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Tak, Ratchaburi, Samut Songkhram, Nakhon Patham.

Bars and entertainment venues can open until 11 pm with alcohol and live music (no dancing).

Restaurants can also open to 11 pm with alcohol sales permitted.

Schools can reopen as normal.

Events for up to 300 people are allowed but must adhere to social distancing rules.

YELLOW – Under Maximum Surveillance

14 provinces fall into the “maximum surveillance” category including Chonburi.

Bars and restaurants can open until midnight with alcohol permitted.

All spas and massage parlours can open.

Sports competitions and events can have spectators.

GREEN – Under Surveillance

There are 54 remaining provinces under “surveillance” mainly in North, Northeast and South.

These provinces have very few restrictions with the usual social distancing rules and regulations to adhere to.

All the above new measures are subject to change without notice and expected to come into effect on Feb 22.



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Opinion

Talking Tea & Coffee

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As frustrations in Bangkok grow at the ongoing restrictions on selling alcohol in restaurants and the continued closure of bars, people, rightly or wrongly, wanting a drink and a night out are continuously asking in comments, emails, private messages etc where can they get a cup of “tea” or “coffee”.

As things go in Thailand, there’s always someone willing to break the rules and take their chances selling sauce when they shouldn’t be.

In Bangkok, you can drink and dance around the clock – if you know where to go.

And here is where the trouble starts.

Talking Tea Coffee Clubs

Too many people are getting annoyed, angry and upset with me because I’m not spilling the beans on social media where they can go for a decent “coffee”.

I guess they are just getting pissy at me out of frustration but you can be assured I won’t be incriminating myself or anyone else by talking about this sort of thing in a public forum or even privately with strangers.

Dropping hints, talking double-Dutch, a nudge and a wink… all good. Blurting it out, no chance.

As I was telling Stickman last month, the Stickboy audience is very diverse.

On Twitter, for example, around 40% of followers are female, both Thai and foreign. There’s also diplomats, ambassadors, politicians, policemen, journalists, mixed in with locals, expats and tourists tuning in to my daily updates.

I dread to think what would happen if I published on Facebook or Twitter, “Right troops, the “coffee” club hot pick of the day is Big Barry’s British Boozer on Soi 69. 2 mugs for 100 baht on special until 7pm”

Big Bazz would most likely be cuffed and stuffed within the hour, a couple of dozen patrons possibly heading for court the following day for breaking the Emergency Decree and most importantly, me and my missus packing our bags and heading to the hills for safety as God knows who is out for blood.

I’m happy with both my legs attached to my body and living in Bangkok, thank you very much.

The other common complaint at the moment is me not reporting who has been busted for selling “coffee”.

Just ask yourself, why would I want to piss on people struggling to stay afloat after a brutal 12 months?

I know I’m an asshole but there’s a time and a place for that – right now isn’t it.



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Opinion

A Story About When ASQ Goes Wrong

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Time for something a little bit different here on Stickboy, a story written and sent in by a reader about their experience in quarantine after returning to Thailand from the UK that I think is worthy of publishing.

Opinion A Story About When ASQ Goes Wrong

INTRODUCTION – THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

Brit. Vegetarian. Went back to the UK for XMAS. Tested positive for Covid (felt like a standard winter cold for a couple of days, nothing more). Not sure which strain it was. Self-isolated for the required period feeling completely normal. Tested negative in the 72-hour pre-flight window and fit-to-fly OK. Fit as a fiddle. Flew back from the UK and into quarantine.

In this tale, I won’t be naming the hotel nor any other facilities. The tales are 100% true but told with a British-type take on life.

PART 1 – A (WEEKEND) DAY IN QUARANTINE

Having trouble sleeping. Jetlag – yes of course but partly due to the idiot in the room above. The hotel is a sturdily-built older style near the river (the river part is irrelevant to the story but provides you, the reader with positional information) and yet I have to suffer his fitness routine which goes like this:

4 x per day, scrape all furniture along the floor, presumably to create space for his ‘gym’. Circuit training which involves skipping every 2 or 3 minutes for a minute. I hear the ‘tap’ of the rope followed by the thud of a great ape. Just how heavy is this guy? Goes on for 30 mins or so, gap, then the scrape of the furniture being replaced. Clearly, he’s not too strong otherwise he’d pick the f*cking stuff up!!

So last night I kept going until 10:30 or so then tucked in for the night. Maybe the pre-snooze choice of viewing – story of Caligula on Netflix – wasn’t the best, but by 11:30 I’m wide awake again. Why? Yep, Joe Wicks upstairs is fitting in a final routine. Scrape…..tap, thud, tap, thud, tap, thud. I’m lying there imagining him lying there in a writhing mess tied in his own rope, or maybe falling past my balcony have tripped over it. Sadly, neither happen. A final loud scrape of the table and he’s done. But no my friends, he clearly needs a bath after his exertions, and proceeds to fill it at a pace barely fast enough to register but which fills my room with the sound of running water sufficient to prevent sleep.

Back to sleep about 1:30, then awake at 2:30 for an hour, followed by – thankfully sleep until 8:30 when I woke with a start. Yep, Bonzo above has risen from his post-bath slumber and has turned into a furniture salesman again.

Being the weekend, arranged breakfast for the leisurely hour of 9am, that being the latest time of offer unless you want to go the room service route (THB 800+++ for full English, errr no ta). Fed up of eating out of the plastic trays they give you, so yesterday called up and asked for a plate. Given the shocked response you’d think I’d asked for carnal relations with the receptionist. I wasn’t giving in and, finally having promised not to try to return the plate (i.e. has to remain locked in my room), one duly arrived, so I moved my work stuff from the table (note to King Kong above, quietly moved) and set-up restaurant style. Decided to try the eggs today, serviceable but a tad cold. The hash browns were a disaster – never been a fan of them – but fried food delivered from the kitchen by 1 man who’s probably been to 20 rooms and doesn’t have one of those heated trolley things – just doesn’t work, trust me.

As I write, Steve Austin above must be on the sit-up part of his routine and the rope has fallen silent momentarily.

More later.

RANT – PART 2 (BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR)

My wishes going into Saturday were as follows: for Joe Wicks upstairs to trip up over his own skipping rope and fall headfirst into the river and for me to miraculously shed the pounds I have piled on during December pre-UK trip binging and the isolation in UK. Way too much booze and way too many carbs.

So, after my poached egg breakfast, I settled down with a book with the patio doors open to the balcony to allow the breeze to flow through. Yes, the tugs straining to pull whatever cargo they transport up and down the river are noisy, but my stomach is full and I’m getting to grips with the whole quarantine thing. Even planning on trying to break my record for the number of steps taken in a hotel room when the phone rings.

‘Meeester you’re test is positive and you need to leave to hospital do you want lunch’. What?, I’ve got 1 hour to pack up everything back into my suitcases, put the stupid blue plastic coverings back over my boaters and I’m escorted out, but not before I have to lift my own cases onto the concierge trolley thing.

I’m now in a personal van (isolation has started). It says ‘First Class’ which momentarily amuses me but I have to hang on for dear life while the madman driver horns his way down side streets whilst talking constantly on WhatsApp. Upon arrival, I’m told not to leave the van. The reason becomes clear when another post-apocalyptic being drags up a wheelchair and I have to leaver myself into it without touching the floor and he wheels me into my room via a lift. Signs are placed on the lift to deny entry in case someone tries to join us from another floor.

The room is stark. Tiny hospital bed, bathroom, but is private. They close the door without saying anything and sod off. Now what? A nurse comes, wants a blood sample. Why? Then a form to fill in which is mostly about where I’ve been (surely that was the point of all the pre-landing controls) and how much money I have. That sorted, she sods off too. Silence. Or rather not, there are 322 lanes of busy traffic right outside my (single glazed window).

4 hours later I get a Line message from someone’s personal account. Do I want any food and do I have any questions – yes & yes. They only have Thai food. My request to see a doc is summarily brushed away; they are either busy (no shit Sherlock) or gone home. Marvellous. Food arrives – tiny portion of pad thai, but just edible. Turn on the aircon – no!, it’s like having a World War 2 bomber in my room. Message the faceless Line person and I’m moved to room opposite. I have to move myself – doesn’t that defeat the whole object of quarantine?
The bed is pretty uncomfortable. And the pillow the worst I have ever had. I swear it has bricks in it. The are no blankets, just an outsized towel. I am not joking here. Sleep was almost impossible but finally went off at 4am, only to be woken at 7 for breakfast – just the knock on the door and run away routine. Bowl of cornflakes and, get this, jelly. Jelly as in kids jelly. Not jelly as in jam jelly. WTF. Haven’t bothered to eat it. Oh and some pepper.

Next knock and run is a pack of tablets. The writing is in Thai so I don’t know what they are. Shan’t be partaking of those.

Still no doc. Still no information. I wonder what my blood pressure was this morning.

So, back to the start of this story. I don’t have to put up with Joe Wicks any more and I am clearly on a diet so all’s good. This is Thailand. Happy days.

RANT – PART 3 (SAME OLD SAME OLD)

A long, dreary Sunday devoid of sunshine, wind, noise, fresh-ish air, reliable Wi-Fi, my mate Joe Wicks and edible food. Oh and TV, no English channels.

After Jellygate (which was left to melt and poured down the sink) lunch arrived in form of a Chinese soup in a plastic bag which was basically water laced with liberal amounts of MSG. Had about half of it and then proceeded to empty the fridge of water, me being more parched than a camel after a desert trek.

Dinner arrived 3 hours later in the form of yet another pad thai pak, only this one had a surprise ingredient – prawns. Dumped that outside, and requested the veggie version which duly arrived 45 mins later, stone cold and devoid of any veggies whatsoever. Cold, congealed noodles are not, and never will be, on my culinary wish list and are also dispatched outside with a flourish. Rummaged through my suitcase and knocked up a delicious pot noodle (bought in the UK in case the hotel food was rubbish – oh, little did I know). Dessert was a Club Mint biscuit, now rationed to 1 per day due to the current and forecasted menu situation.

The Wi-Fi is patchy at best. Keeps dropping. When connected it’s rapid, but the drops make working just too much hassle and I give up and return to my doggy jigsaw – a challenging beast it is. This is my 2nd attempt at it; the first being trashed after my 1 hour ultimatum to leave my salubrious premises for this sh*t hole.

A nurse appears twice a day to take my blood pressure, pulse and temperature. The routine is the same: she takes the above readings, says ‘no temperature, no fever’ to which I reply: ‘yes cos I’m not sick’ and we both have a jolly good laugh about it (that last bit isn’t true – there is no conversation – she just shuffles off).

After having been totally ignored all day, a voice appeared from an intercom thingy on the wall. ‘Allo Meeester how are you’. Me: ‘absolutely fine thanks (thinks about having a rant about the terrible food but for now decide to bite tongue). ‘OK the doctor can talk to you tomorrow about 9 or 10am, is that OK?’ Me: ‘Yes, I’m not planning to go anywhere’ and we have another jolly good laugh (you can make your own mind up if I’m telling the truth here).

And that’s it. Another day in the paradise island of Thailand draws to an ignominious end. It’s 7:20pm and I’ve run out of things to do. Briefly consider another pot noodle, but decide that’s not in the spirit of the enforced diet. Made my bed, that is moved the towel over the mattress so that it’s in-line with the shape of the mattress.

RANT – PART 4 (YOU AIN’T GOING NOWHERE BOY)

So could things get any worse, if you want to save time the answer is ‘yes’ and just skip to the end.

First the good news. My request for a new pillow was a resounding success – no rocks in this one. This despite them saying there is no point as they are all the same. Clearly not madam. Two other changes improved my sleeping a LOT – 2 extra towels (they are towels and not blankets) meant I could wrap one around my feet and stop it slipping off the slidey bed and I rigged up a contraption to cover the massive frosted window immediately outside of which is an arc light which would easily allow night-time work in a shipyard. 6 hours kip is 3 x what I got the night before. Result. Time to face the world.

Breakfast is delivered via the hit and run service and it’s…..friend rice. Groan. I am longing for just a piece of toast. Worse still, despite me opening the door as soon as I heard the knocker the deliverer had sprinted away, it was stone cold. Tried re-heating but still not pleasant. Trails of grease left on my spoon again. Decided to stick to coffee which thankfully I had the presence of mind to bring from the UK. Served in a washed-up disposable cup. No pottery here.

Blood pressure time. Normal as usual despite the hapless breakfast service. We had our usual giggle about my health of course. It’s great to have a laugh with the staff each morning. The man who is in the room across the corridor I vacated (the WWII engine repair shop) doesn’t look in a good way. Unable to get out of bed for his BP test. Grim. I hope you pull through fella.

My work called and asked if there was anything they could do. Yes, as it goes, remind them (a) I need to speak to a doctor and (b) tell them I want to move. Doc duly calls via the intercom and it goes like this: ‘how are you feeling?’ Me: ‘Good’. Doc: ‘any symptoms? Me: none. I did think of trying some smart-arse reply such as ‘my leg has fallen off but ‘tis but a scratch’ or having a rant about the food but think better of it. Figure she’s probably not in charge of catering and humour is not their thing. Doc tells me knows I want to leave and will look into it. With a click is gone. The intercom is 1-way – transmit only – so I have no way of re-starting the conversation and anyway I wouldn’t know who to ask for, unless they only have 1 doctor that is – like the BBC.

Mid-afternoon now and another person I’ve never heard of contact me by Line to introduce themselves and summarily shuts down any notion I may have had of getting out of Thai prison. ‘You cannot refer to another hospital, the Department of Defense does not permit it because you are infected with Covid’. DoD? My word, is it because I may go thermonuclear at any moment? The chat continues. ‘Can I”, I ask politely, ‘take another test’. There is a pause in comms, but the result is another ‘cannot’. Seems that even if I tested negative, they are still not going to let me go back to the hotel. They won’t even let me pay for another test. I know how Jim Carey felt now in The Truman Show. Physically I feel great, symptom-free. Have been since early Dec.

Not giving up and sensing that the opportunity given by the enemy finally putting their heads above the ramparts, I steel myself and enquire as the possibility of getting some decent grub. Cue various conversations over the intercom and an admission they’ve never had a vegetarian before, are not used to catering for Westerners and certainly not for grumpy ones (I made that bit up, but yes I am). I talk them through what a Western meal is, and tonight got pasta (lukewarm which for them is an achievement akin to the first summit of Everest) and some tomato-y sauce, resembling if I’m not wrong Heinz 57. Still, for a hungry man it was OK. Wouldn’t want it tomorrow though. Tomorrow’s breakfast (having explained what a vegetarian and / or westerner would eat) is an omelette. Technically omelette with soup, but I pointed out that soup is not to be served pre-lunch.

Decided to launch into the hotel. Why had the sent me to a place clearly geared up for locals more than tourists? Why, when I had book 5 star did they send me to a place that wouldn’t know good food if it fell on them? Or know an oven coming to that. And would they mind awfully giving me some money back given my insurance is currently taking a caning and paying for my current accom. I’ll save you the effort of reading further – no is the answer. Non-refundable and they have to disinfect my room blah blah. Like that will take 11 days. I have a good mind to call the hotel and ask to be put through to the room I stayed in so speak to the guest that is no doubt there.

So that’s it. I’m stuck here. Definitely the fittest person on this ward and, who knows, maybe the hotel. I hope the ladies come past again at 6am having a loud Thai conversation as I need the practice and I’m at my sharpest then.

Tomorrow I resolve to be happy (but I’ve got my fingers crossed just in case).

RANT – PART 5 (DAY 4 – COMING OVER ALL MICHAEL PALIN)

Over XMAS, I watched a documentary on one or other of the UK channels where Michael Palin re-visited his epic trip to the Himalayas. He has such a child-like outlook on travel and a wonderful way of describing it, which he often does in the present tense. I’m noticing that I have started to the same (the describing part, not the travel – that currently sucks big time) – see, I’ve just done it again.

Sleep was fitful last night, but I need to take a moment to reflect on this awful disease. I had only been asleep for about half an hour when I was roused from my slumber by the loudest coughing I have ever heard. Almost sounded like it was being done for effect and coming from inside my room; neither of which of course was true. Some poor chap was having a coughing fit, which was only briefly interrupted by the sound of female nurses attending to him and, for some reason, talking very loudly. I have a brief present tense Palin-esque ponder about how fortunate I am in real terms, but after that ponder and a totally unnecessary check of the news on my phone to find that nothing had changed much in the world in the 30 mins since I last checked-in, I find that in fact, I am now 100% awake, a situation that I also find is still very much in progress 2 hours later. Wondering if hunger could be the cause I launch into a bowl of Shreddies brought from the UK and saved for such a major emergency. The only milk I have comes from small cartons which come with a mini straw stuck to the side. I have no knife to cut open the top, so have to use the straw, hole arrangement to sort of squirt milk, mostly onto the cabinet but occasionally onto my cereal. Imaginary hunger now sated, and the poor chap’s coughing now under control, I snuggle under my towels for sleep until my alarm for work comes just as I enter the part where you get deep refreshing sleep.

I know when breakfast is about to arrive as there is a rising crescendo of noise which builds as the trolly moves along the corridor. I amuse myself by trying to match the volume of the totally unnecessary Thai chit-chat and trolley wheels and various rattles to their estimated GPS position on the floor. Stealth commandos these ladies are not. I’ve heard quieter bin men and lorries in the UK. Frankly, I’ve heard quieter community firework displays. I think they would give Donald Rumsfeld and his Shock & Awe routine quite a run for its money.

I was kind of looking forward to breakfast – not for the goodness and calorific intake particularly but to see what they would make of their first attempt at a western veggie breakfast. Boy, did they not disappoint. A luke-warm omelette (never a good thing, and containing something quite questionable as a filling) accompanied by ham and sausages, and a salad drenched in some white sauce. OK, so the at least the salad is veggie and on the plus side, they had clearly done a run to 7-11 as there were a couple of slices of the square white bread sold in said store, the one with zero taste or calorific value that is almost see-through. Bless their cotton socks for trying. And I mean that most sincerely folks (as Hughie Green once used to say). Was he one the 70s entertainers with…..err….questionable tastes? Can’t remember, anyway I digress.

There are a total of 8 light switches in this room. Each one controls just 1 light, but in a Thai Engineering / random particle generator sort of way, there is absolutely no logic in terms of which switch controls which light that I can see. Now that my jigsaw is finished I see this as my next mission – to work out the logic behind the design. I suspect the answer will be ‘that’ll do’ but I’m going to give it my best Stephen Hawkins and see what I come up with.

About 10am there is a knock on the door. Strange, as I’ve already had my morning BP check and banter with the nurse steadfastly remaining on the corridor side of proceedings. ‘All normal, healthy’, she says as usual. ‘Yes, that’s cos I don’t have Covid, I’ve already had it’ I reply in a jocular manner which she no doubt really appreciates but runs off quickly down the corridor just in case she’s asked to join in with audience participation. It’s the same twice a day but we never get tired of it. I will surely miss it when I’m released, perhaps I could pay somebody to knock on my door on a daily basis and do role-play for me. I wonder if she goes home to her partner after a long shift and talks in glowing terms of her star patient (and his shorts – see below).

Click, the intercom springs to life. Usual scripted 2 questions about my health and then ‘what do you want for lunch Meeester’. My reply – and it was polite – was ‘nothing thanks’. Click, gone. Oh well, I enjoyed my human interaction while it lasted. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s back-and-forth, cut and thrust of witty repartee with my unseen friend. For I do see the voice as my friend. Despite this, and at 1pm, the lunch I specifically didn’t want specifically arrived. Didn’t even both bringing it indoors.

Around mid-day there is another knock, and this one really is welcome. 2 bags of stuff purchased from Villa Supermarket and delivered right to my door by a nurse, via a ‘family member’ for that is the rule – deliveries only from family members – how much fun would sitting on the committee who dreamed up that nugget be? Croissant. Baguette. Hummus. Crisps and more. A real plate (denied here of course). Nail clippers, mouthwash, proper toothbrush. Oh, the unbridled joy. Lunch was pretty much all of the above, minus the nail clippers obviously. I never thought I would be so happy to see a crisp. Lashings of UK chocolate too.

Interesting comment relayed by the nurse who never talks to me and translated as: ‘we know he’s not sick but we have to stick to the rules’. No shit Sherlock.

Due to a major logistical error in the packing department on the outbound leg of this mammoth journey I have only been in possession of a single pair of shorts so these have been my constant companion for the 3,541 days I’ve been marooned here. A trusty companion that has started to show the signs of age and over-use it has to be said. So the inclusion of new, clean shorts in the red cross parcel was a delight to behold. I’m not sure yet whether to submit my old faithful friend to the washer (no facilities here), for cremation on the banks of the Ganges or mount him (for he is a he) on a plinth for prosperity.

RANT – PART 6 (DAY 5 – GOODBYE FAITHFUL SHORTS, HELLO STARBUCKS)

For those of you asking about the fate of my shorts, they are currently lying in rest. After a short (sic) but dignified ceremony they will be cremated this afternoon, their spirit to live evermore in the giant Uniqlo in the sky. RIP faithful friend, you have been a loyal servant. Once worn, never forgotten. OK, 10 times worn…..

Breakfast today was a non-event – literally. Nothing came. I can only surmise – quite rightly so – that they have concluded that I’ve already eaten my last mouthful of their slop. Surmise, as nobody actually called me to confirm the cessation of deliveries. They did, though, come to check my BP and temp as usual, a constant 36.3. Yep, that fever is-a-raging in my body. I didn’t take the friendly banter option today as I was in the middle of a conference call: ‘sorry, give me 2 mins folks I need to have my temperate checked’ maybe had them worried they had p*ssed me off. I’m sure she was disappointed at the banter-less visit but we still have this afternoon’s visit to put that right. A post-apocalyptic character took the chance to dart into the room’s bathroom to undertake what I thought would be a re-stock and clean. But no, she (I think a she, rather hard to tell) flushed the loo and left. I’m pretty sure I had flushed earlier, but hey, you can’t be too sure in these Covid times. Stay safe folks, flush those loos!

Momentous news. A deal was brokered and signed yesterday between the Red Cross and what I assume to be a friendly nurse which in terms of impact to the human race is akin to the accord which ceased the Arab-Israeli war and the Good Friday agreement rolled together. I transfer money to their account and a Starbucks coffee is delivered to outside my room in the morning at 8am. At 8:50, this came to pass. Small mercies. Small victories. They need to work on their timing, however. The goal of winning the war will remain unattainable unless just surviving until release can be considered as such a victory. Probably not come to think about it, as the hospital will still be standing, ready to welcome some other unsuspecting farang who will fail a less-than-perfect test and be wheeled – literally – to this very room. I hope whoever it is likes cold, tasteless food 3 x per day and their temp remains at 36.3. In humanity and Starbucks we trust. Continuing the war analogies and whilst I have established this beachhead, I’m thinking of expanding this treaty to include a further delivery for the afternoon to enjoy with my stash of UK choccies. I’m no longer on emergency rations in that department which is another major win.

On the subject of chocs, I had completely forgotten how nice Time Out bars are. Or maybe it’s just relative to the current environment. With a cup of tea. I may go for Cadbury’s Caramel bars in the next parcel – need to be careful though, don’t want to spoil the hospital-mandated crash diet.

Cutlery given here is a spoon and fork. White plastic, especially good for the environment, and wrapped in plastic.. No knife. Anyway, if you are ever at a loose end, try slicing a tomato with such implements. I think the choice of spoon and fork says everything about this ‘International’ hospital.

Lunch was offered – as in dumped outside a la Amazon delivery service in the UK (‘ring & run’) – and rejected. But it did come with a Slurpee (I think that’s what they’re called). Iced sweet drink – this one was orange – in a plastic container where the lid has a large hole in the middle for – presumably – a very large straw. They had removed the lid, covered the drink and cup in cling film, and then replaced the lid. Amazing. But even with the crap food, it’s a nice touch. Someone has taken the time to go onto the street and spend 15 Baht of my food allowance on this. Splendid. Not sure my dentist would agree though.

Whilst grabbing my Slurpee I notice that the room opposite is now empty. This is the room with the WWII bomber-esque aircon and the chap who wasn’t able to get out of bed. I hope he has either been discharged on moved to ear, nose & throat ward to repair his bleeding eardrums.

News of an ornithological nature now, and I can report that the corrugated flat roof just outside my window is in fact ground zero for pigeon mating in Bangkok. I believe the correct term is Genetic Assortive Mating but I stand to be corrected and probably will be.

Raise a glass to the dearly departed shorts.

RANT – PART 7 (DAY 6 – CAN HE FIX IT? YES HE CAN)

Lying awake for hours last night I did wonder if there would be any worthwhile material left to make a blog for today. I should have had more faith in my captors; they have delivered in spades. Bravo. So in the spirit of Terry Waite, I shall continue to defy my captors and write this blog.

Shorts may have passed on, but SoS (Son of Shorts) is in fine fettle, so long as I’m extra careful not to repeat the food spilling catastrophe which partly led to the demise of Shorts. If we go by human years, SoS is now an adolescent and tomorrow will celebrate manhood with a small but classy gathering over afternoon tea, given that booze is very much banned. I’m thinking one of these cake stands usually seen in smart London hotels and country houses, full of….err….cake. In reality, it is more likely to be a Time Out or Club biscuit.

Having logged on and started work, there was a 5 minutes complete interruption to Wi-Fi which, to be fair has been decent so far. Better than the hotel actually. Microsoft Teams (gotta love rich Uncle Bill) apparently can’t handle such an exception and promptly froze, prompting me to have to do a full reboot of laptop and VDI session. All this before coffee. That’s the wrong way around no matter how you look at it.

Talking of which, the underground hospital delivery network (UHDN) has fixed the timing issues related to yesterday and I’m supping my coffee watching my laptop reboot by 8am. Nice work team. Yesterday’s military-eque victories have seen me in confident mood to push further over the trenches, and stride across the battlefields, pushing as far as ordering an egg Sarnie with my morning coffee. That would be my lunch since we’ve agreed to no more slop deliveries apart from fruit. Delivery? Yes. Met client expectations? Resounding no. They had taken the sandwich, toasted it (yes toasted an egg mayo sandwich) and stuffed it back into the bag. Figuring that wouldn’t taste great by lunchtime, it became my breakfast. Now I am without lunch. Oh, the hammering they are going to take on TripAdvisor.

Sandwich finished, laptop rebooted, coffee located on table I’m ready for a 9am conference call. At 08:59 Bob the Builder decides to start taking up the concrete floor in the room above using (a) a jackhammer and (b) as far as I can tell a hammer. There was also a ‘tappy’ thing but I can’t imagine why they’d try floor removal with an HB pencil. I try audio through headphones (single ear, losing both the battle and will to live), via laptop speaker (forget that, it’s like an ancient cassette player v Metallica live). No choice but to get back onto the faceless Line account and, this is the nub of the request you will understand, tell them to shut the f*ck-up. 20 mins later I get a message that the Head of Engineering is involved and shortly after peace prevails….until exactly 11:30 when I can only assume that the negotiated armistice period ran out and mayhem returned. Nothing else to do but write this blog.

The usual nurse arrived for morning pointless health checks but there was a surprise in store. A team ventured into my room, kept me at more than arm’s length, changed the sheet – I mean towels – that had been on the floor where they had slid off overnight and flushed the loo. Here’s an interesting thing, I’m in complete isolation, but the door I have to open to get my BP checked and reach for food, doesn’t self-close despite having the contraption fitted. Talk me through that if you can!

In other disturbing news, the hotel, I mean the hospital has effed-up my insurance paperwork. They – for whatever reason – told the insurers that the reason I am here is for ‘rest, quarantine & isolation’ so the lovely people at the Insurers gleefully pointed at the exclusion for such treatment and told me to sling my hook and get my credit card out. Now this place isn’t cheap, cr*p yes, but cheap no. Messaged Ms Faceless: ‘what am I in here being treated for?’ Faceless: ‘Covid’. My Angry: ‘so why did you tell the insurance company it was for rest?’ Faceless: ‘oh sorry, sorry for everything’. They are now attempting to address this situation with – let’s be honest here based on track record – a very low probability of success.

I am minded of the penguins in Madagascar who, when in the sh * t mutter: ‘smile and wave boys, just smile and wave’. That’s been my go-to philosophy recently, but there hasn’t been much smiling today and the wave I gave the post-apocalyptic cleaners today may have come across as a little creepy.

Dinner tonight should be a real haute cuisine affair. I’m thinking Pot Noodle, and luckily I have a few varieties from which to choose. There is a coffee on order too, though that’s not included in the restaurant’s cover charge. Can’t wait for tomorrow to see what the Chef, Head of Engineering, Faceless Line person and The Gods have in the stores for me.

Part 2 coming soon…



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