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Back To Work

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back to work

I left my desk and Bangkok last Wednesday heading up north to Udon Thani with the family to celebrate New Year.

A good time was had by all, warm welcomes all round, good food, plenty of beers and cheers as we rang in 2021 with the extended family at auntie’s place.

A day at the pub, a day messing around in the garden and a day sat doing sod all is how it panned out.

It was a much-needed break away from it all.

During my time away much happened with the spread of covid leading to a bunch of new restrictions from the BMA and the government.

I did install the WordPress Android app and could easily connect to the website admin area but for reasons unknown, it just wouldn’t do any updates. I tried logging in via the Chrome app but that was a dead-end too so it was impossible to update the website with the latest news.

However, I did do dozens of updates on social media and was in touch with my contacts in Bangkok to keep readers and followers up to date as best I could given that I find it a real struggle to do any sort of work from a phone.

The odd social media update with a photo of a pint and a burger is fine, full-on news is another thing.

I don’t care what anybody tells me, a phone just can’t do what a desktop computer can and thankfully that is what I am using to type this.

Back at my desk, back at work, and all my favourite tool are just a click away.

Normality has returned.



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: 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.



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