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.
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?”.
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.
My Week Off Was A Washout
I turned 50 last Monday and the plan was to work all day then, later on, celebrate with my missus and a couple of close friends before taking a few days off to relax and do something other than sit in front of the computer all day and night.
This plan was carved out on Friday night and Saturday morning.
All weekend I had my head down putting together a skeleton schedule on social media for my planned time off to keep things ticking over, just at a trickle.
Then on Sunday evening, the entire plan fell apart in one small but sudden movement.
I did my back in and the pain was excruciating.
Despite feeling like I was getting tasered every time I moved I cracked on with the social scheduling on Monday and went out as planned.
By Wednesday I could hardly move. I tried walking, laying down, heat pads, a massage thingy for your back… no dice.
A few packets of pills from the doc started to ease the pain but coughing or sneezing left me on the verge of passing out in pain.
Over the weekend with lots of pills and laying flat out on bed relieved things somewhat but what a wasted week.
I did nothing and went nowhere.
So here I am, back at my desk having had the longest period of time off since November 2019 when I flew back to Scotland for a few days and no better off.
One word sums up my week off – washout.
No Twitter, No Problem
Facebook is the dominant social media network with far more users than the likes of Twitter but with more users comes more rules and for Stickboy that has been an ongoing problem for the past 7 years.
In February 2020 Zuckerberg & Co pulled the plug on the original Stickboy Bangkok Facebook page that had gained 60,000 followers.
25,000 photos, 1000’s of videos and endless hours of work gone in the click of a moderators mouse – well, it is their site and their rules which I tried hard to follow but it was impossible with the haters and keyboard warriors reporting all the posts and AI technology used by Facebook incorrectly marking content as offensive.
This has made the new Stickboy BKK FB page rather dull and boring plus it isn’t as easy to share others content on the platform like it is over on Twitter where they are far more relaxed with their rules of what is and isn’t acceptable to post.
The problem is a lot of people aren’t interested in Twitter or just don’t get it so followers of Stickboy end up missing out on some great content and conversations shared on that platform that just isn’t suitable for Facebook.
As a way to give readers choices, I have published a page here on stickboybkk.com that lets you see my Twitter feed without the need to download the app and sign up for an account.
I have also done the same for the Stickboy Babes Twitter account that doesn’t exist on Facebook as the risk and chances of getting banned are far too high.
So there’s no need to miss out on any great content being shared somewhere you aren’t interested in or signed up for.
No account needed, read right here on the Stickboy website
FROM THE ARCHIVES: 5 Things Expats Love To Boast About
Bangkok is bullshit central as far as I’m concerned – it always has been and it always will be. It matters not where you work or socialise, your fellow expats in vast numbers tend to talk utter crap, usually about themselves.
There’s no stopping them and what I’ve listed below are only a handful of the things expats like to boast and brag about with 99.99% of it nothing more than a figment of their imagination.
If you are here in Thailand legally what difference does it make what visa anyone else is on?
Well, to some a great deal as it happens and anyone on anything they deem a “lower status” option than theirs shall be looked upon and treated like shit on their shoe.
Yet, many claiming to have their house in order are the ones disappearing over the border every three months… because they just love Cambodia so much.
Who They Know
Name dropping knobheads are everywhere and there’s no escaping them.
Do you know such and such? I bumped into blah blah the other day. Yeah I’m pals with the owner of XYZ.
My answer in these situations is always, “Nah, sorry I don’t know many people here” and to be fair, that’s a true statement. I don’t know many people here.
The chances of me knowing some guy who put on a show in an unknown venue located down a sub soi in the arse-end of Sukhumvit Road are about slight to none much the same as me knowing the owner of XYZ.
But they are super well known in Bangkok… well, I live under a rock with a tiny population and that’s just how I like it but good for you on having such a well-known and well-connected network.
They will talk to fellow expats in Thai and then pull a face when you don’t respond – we are both native English speakers you fud so what’s with the Thai?
Then we have those who “think” they can speak the lingo when at best they can tell the taxi driver left and right on the way home but that doesn’t stop them making a complete fool of themselves with their gibberish.
So you can speak some Thai, good on ya, but you aren’t alone, there are plenty of foreigners here who have put in the effort to learn the language but there’s a time and a place but chit-chatting to me in Thai isn’t one of them.
Wife / Girlfriend
Her heritage and social standing will be mentioned in the first breath of manure coming out their mouth about her being Thai-Chinese, or is it the other way around?
You will quickly be informed of how she is the only child of a super-wealthy hi-so family who owns half of Thonglor.
In their head this makes them believe they are superior to anyone foolish enough to date an Isaan native.
And what usually makes this funnier is they aren’t dating some super-rich chick at all but some wannabe WAG.
But why spoil the fun by pointing out the obvious? Let them carry on with their foolish fantasy.
Their Latest Money Making Idea
And the most important part of the title is “idea” because 99.999% of these dreamers who harp on about the millions they are going to make with their amazing money maker never ever get around to putting their big plans into action.
They spend all day, and night, talking and do absolutely nothing.
And it’s funny how they always need a “partner” to get it off the ground.
Right, Stick is outta here before we get to how long they have lived here, the millions they are earning a month, how much champagne they drink, the fantastic job they have, how successful they were back in farrangland… and please don’t let me ever meet another special forces guy.