Sometimes I’m a Mermaid 

I slipped on the deck one morning, running across to grab some lemons, and as I ran, one leg slipped out behind me twisting my knee as I hit the deck, my thumb wrenched back as I tried to stop myself. Still, I kept sliding and letting my lemons go rolling ahead of me l desperately try to stop myself from careering over the steps to the concrete below. I stop on the top step. There is no time to waste as the Gilbert’s in the car with the motor warming and I wince as I gather some of the lemons I am taking to Amy, limp to the car and slip in the seat. “I just slipped on the deck” I say to Gilbert as I put my seat belt on. “Aha”, he says, his thoughts on other things.

Every morning that I spa I stretch and make up exercises that I think will help. I twist from the waist side to side and pretend I’m a mermaid keeping my feet together and drawing my knees up. I make like a starfish and then do scissor legs. I have no idea if this will help anything but it feels great. I love the water. The birds are too busy to watch catching their breakfast insects. Occasionally Paddy the dog will stealthily sneak up and pop his nose over the edge of the spa and if particularly curious will jump up to look in. Given he’s about a 50 kilo Ridgeback and about five foot tall if he stands on his hind legs, I nearly have a heart attack as if a shark has just loomed up over the edge of my boat, and losing my grip sometimes I go under enough that my gasp almost has me taking on water. “Get out you bloody idiot”, I yell at him when I realise my life wasn’t in danger at all, and he lumbers down, still panting happily as if I told him I love him.

The jets switch off automatically after ten minutes and I know it’s time to get out. It’s a marvellous way to start the day and I’m warm with blood pumping. Sure as hell beats doing exercises I think, as I pass Gilbert who is doing squats in front of the TV.

My knee is not right and there is a spot in my back that feels like it’s on the verge of going into a spasm and I decide maybe this mermaid business is not working. Maybe I need some physio to help me along. “I’m at the end of my frozen shoulder unfreezing, my back feels tight, my hip is giving me jip, this finger locks up and this thumb aches. I’m generally feeling quite old and stiff”, I confide to Helen, my new best friend. I sound like a whiney old moaner. She marks all the problem spots on a picture of a body and takes notes. It’s not looking good, this body picture and lines of notes. “…and I hate exercises, I continue. I would shovel compost for an hour happily before doing exercises, but I love spas. Can you give me things to do in the spa?” I ask tentatively.

“I certainly can, she replies full of smiles. That’s perfect for what we need to do for you. We need to get you stretching and lengthening your muscles which have to some extent become short and tight. The hot water will help with that.  We need to keep you doing the things you enjoy, and strong and this is entirely achievable.” Wow, so glad I asked!

I smile. I’m excited. I have a prescription for exercises in the spa! She gives me the full check over. She finds out where I want to be. Do I want to take up running, or biking? Hell no! Its pretty simple I explain bringing it right down to basics. “I want to be a fitter, slimmer, stronger more supple me. Yes that’s it in a nutshell”. Now she smiles. “Ok”, she says and so we begin. I am so happy doing my stretching most mornings and I feel absolutely fabulous getting out all warm and ready for breakfast. Its funny but after a very short time I am feeling fitter, slimmer, stronger and more supple. I’m not sure if its just in my head, because as she puts me through my paces I still can’t do the things she seems to want me to do. Like touch the floor or reach past my knees when I go side to side and even when I try to do it, I feel surprised that I can’t. Helen explains its about the long term. We’re not so much just fixing a problem but keeping me in better physical health going forward. 

I tip toe out to the spa in the dark as the moon bids me goodnight, slipping past the tree line. I have much to be grateful for.

Posted in Health & wellbeing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A poke in the eye with a sharp stick. 

Over a period of a few days I noticed whenever I counted the hens, one seemed to be missing and each time as I debated looking around for her, I heard her squawking up in the hen house and assumed she was laying. After a week or two of this, I realise its always the same hen missing, so go and check. She’s there alright, but shes eyeing me up funny and I get in to have a better look and see she has a puss filled ball stretching from the side, over one eye. I approach her from her bad eye side and pick her up to take a good look. I can’t see any other way around it but to pierce the ball so the puss can escape. I mull this over as I take some food up to her. 

A vets bill is out of the question but I am to go to town later so drop into the chemist and say. “I have a funny question. I have a hen with a scratch beside her eye that has filled with puss and is now covering her whole eye. I’m thinking I sterilse a needle, pierce the swelling so the puss can escape, wash with a little saline solution and smear some bactroban on the wound. Does this sound like an OK plan?” I ask. He smiles and I know he lives on a small block also. “It’s a good plan, he nods. You can use Iodine too if you have it”. 

Later I say to the children. We have an operation we need to do on a hen and I may need some helpers, at which they become very excited and assure me they definitely want to help. 

I sterlise a needle, thread it into a paper towel and hand it to Wheriko explaining not to touch the sharp end. I hand the bactroban on the end of an iceblock stick to Kahu and tell her I will need it after I have cleaned the eye. She nods. To Tai I hand a small water bottle I have filed with a little warm saline/salty water. “This is to wash away any puss that comes out”. Gumboots on, my nurse aids are bubbly with the importance of it all, chattering as we go out the back door. 

We have discussed at length what I am going to do and why, and no one seems particularly fazed at the prospect. I easily pick up the hen who is outside this time feeding with the rest, tuck her under my arm, keeping my right arm free. “Needle!” I ask Wheriko and the children gather around, but as I pierce the bubble that sits over the eye Wheriko squeals, “Oh Nanny, that’s horrible. I can’t look!” she cries and runs behind the other two who are having second thoughts now. “Paper!” I call and Wheriko forgetting she is even holding it, has refused to come forward. She shields her eyes as she leans forward but steals a glance I notice. Kahu is also backing away. She doesn’t want to come any closer. I press the ball with my latex gloved hands and puss starts to come out. “Water, Tai! Water”. I need it now!” Tai stretches his arm trying not to step any closer than he has to. I squirt the water over the area. “Ointment!” I call. “Ointment”. No body moves. “Ointment, Kahu I need the ointment”. She brings it over and squeals as I smear the bactroban over the ball that isn’t as tight now. All three have decided they don’t want to be vets assistants any longer. 

“Don’t be silly I say. Is it better I help the chicken or leave her to die in pain?” “That was probably painful” Wheriko looks at me accusingly. “Well maybe not as bad as you might think. She didn’t fight or squeal much”, I answer. “Nanny she yells, You just poked her in the eye with a needle!” “Ahh no, it looked like I poked her in the eye, but I was careful to break open the little sac of infection over the top and not actually poke her in the eye, so not the same thing”. None of them look too sure about this.

There she is on the left. Looking much better!

To be honest I squirmed myself and said a few sorry, sorries under my breath. It was possibly one of the more horrible tasks I’ve had to do, but once I was holding her I knew I had to finish the job. I was surely rewarded when I went down a few days later to see her bounce out of the hen house and run down to me with the rest, in anticipation of the scraps I had. I had to look twice to be sure it was the same hen. I can see a thin skin over her bad eye but she looks happy and healthy and I stroked her as she snatched some scraps up and I felt so relieved. I’m not a hundred per cent sure she isn’t blind in that eye, but I think it was better than letting nature take its course in this case, and I think better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!   

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Birthdays and toffee treats

With a birthday on the horizon, I received a delightful card with a treat enclosed and unexpected results. 

Dear Gavin, I’m being formal here because its important.
I am about to celebrate a significant birthday. They all are these days, actually.

I opened the card I received from you, and Melanie and Sarah and all my friends at Arnet Law, and what joy to see not one, but TWO toffee bars! Not any old toffee bars either, but exactly the kind we used to buy when I was at high school. A rather long time ago. 

I tucked them away as we have six others sharing our household and four of them are children so after extolling the evils of sweets I was not about to let them see me eating them, and pretty sure I didn’t want to share them. On this point however I relented, as after the children were all tucked up in bed, I handed one to Gilbert and said rather smugly…”My friends at Arnet Law sent me these in a card, would you like one?” 

I had an ulterior motive, I have to admit. Gilbert’s birthday is after mine, and while I didn’t know how friendly he is with you all, there was a possibility he would also get two toffee bars sent, so I hedged my bets that I might get one of his, if I shared one now. Besides its not nice to be greedy.  

And now to the point of my letter, apart from a thank you of course.Thank you! I popped this toffee bar into my mouth and it snapped, just they used to in the old days. I closed my eyes as the chocolate melted to leave the softening toffee in all its glory and all the while, I kept thinking. Don’t chew, don’t chew, don’t chew. However, I found my mouth responding to that toffee as you would expect, and I began to chew. It was absolutely delicious. Until, you know don’t you…You know what I’m going to say. 

Until I noticed it became terribly crunchy. Now I was pretty sure toffee bars are not crunchy so I gently tugged it from my mouth to find half a tooth had tagged along for the ride! Damn, damn, and a lot of other words that are not polite.
So I did what you would do when you shouldn’t waste good things. I popped that lump of crunchy toffee right back in there and sucked on it, so as not to waste a single bit of that deliciousness until I was left with just crunchy bits. 

And now here’s my thoughts. I know I can’t blame you or Melanie or Sarah or the others who shall remain nameless, for chewing, when at my age I should definitely not have chewed, but maybe for people born after say 1950, you send something softer. Something we can reach into the envelope and be equally surprised and delighted and not fear the loss of our teeth. 

I know you are not near this age Gavin and were born wellllll after 1950, but there ‘WILL’, to quote your words, come that day. 


Gavin’s reply

Hi Tricia,
Thanks so much for the lovely email. We have all loved reading it! We often get calls or thank yous – but nothing quite as fantastic as that!

Soooo sorry to hear about your tooth though! A few people have commented that we should be careful! We might get sued!! (and Im not suggesting that you do that!!) We did consider the marshmallow bars – only they don’t arrive in once piece… or looking anything like what left the office!!!!!

I will take it as my mission to work through all the possible options for a replacement!!!
Talks soon!

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In Sickness and In Health

 When we got home Gilbert showered before going straight to bed, refusing any more pills. He reckoned they were making him feel sick, but an hour later he woke me and said he needed me to take him to the Dr, who promptly shoveled us to hospital after hearing the word ‘Thailand’. I explained that the children at home were all sick with the same symptoms and its possible it was the same thing, as he had become unwell just 24 hours after arriving in Thailand. The hospital Dr’s all agreed, but felt they needed to rule out all other possibilities, which I guess is just as well. So testing for every tropical illness began, followed by almost anything known to man and two days and nights later he was discharged with a three day medical certificate. Something he’s never had in almost fifty years of working. He actually had a second week off. I think if someone had come in with a gun Gilbert would have stood up and asked to be shot.   

As I was about to visit our South Island babies I asked at the chemist…”The whole household has been sick. According to the hospital he had Influenza B followed by a chest infection. I have been embarrassingly well. Is it possible I could be a carrier? Could I take Influenza down to them?” 

“No, he assures me. You usually shows symptoms 2-3 days after contact. So you either have it or you don’t. If you have it you are usually pretty sick for around seven days. If you are still unwell after that, it has often developed into something else, as it did in this case”. So I ask why I didn’t get it? “You could have come into contact with it last year or before and fought it off”. Basically my immune system has recognised it and kicked it to touch. Well, not his exact words. “Would you like to get a flu shot now?” he asks. “No thanks, If I have been in a household with seven other sick people and not caught it, I don’t need that ta”. “It would be a good idea to take some Vitamin C and some probiotics,” he continues. “Doing that thanks,” I reply. 

As I usually park in a car park a good distance away from where I am going, to fit a brisk walk into my day, I pass another chemist and decide to ask there too. Just to be sure. I tell the same story and she gives the same answer, except she tries to sell me something that if I take every day ‘just in case, I come into contact with something’, It will find the bug and surround it and suffocate it, or something. Ummmmm, No thanks. 

Later on I read stuff about flu shots and Influenza and I remember each time Mum got a flu shot she became very ill, which they said was a co-incidence and nothing to do with the flu shot. I have never had one and pretty sure I never will. I think I have proved to myself that its so much better to get a little sick every now and again. My immune system updates the bugs I have been in contact with, and I get recharged, and then when something really nasty arrives on the doorstep, my body is in a much better position to fight it, than if I had a flu shot for what was here last year and made into a vaccine. Not happy to put some man made poison straight into my system. Thank you.

Lindy and I board the plane after a relaxed wine and can’t manage to take a selfie that includes us both fully…I know…ready to go. The sunset is amazing as we land and Evon is already there to collect us. We are wined, dined and treated like Princess’.   

We have a great weekend. We walk around the Red Zone and Chee explains the proposed developments, while the girls are threatened by the swans when attempting to feed the ducks. The girls explain the Red Zone is there because of the earthquake as they collect sticks. Lindy and I attend the Trade Fair and still find time to go shopping. 

Watching these two cuties who are typically best buddies and enemies at the same time, like siblings should be. We celebrate Piper’s birthday with a yummy cake 

..and I enjoy reading the same stories I read to Chee when he was little.   

“When’s the last time you guys slept together?” Chee had texted me before we headed down. “About 50 Years ago. No problem unless she wets the bed or farts, then I’ll push her out”, I texted back. “Good he replies. You’ll be sleeping together. Lets hope neither of those things happen” And before we know it we are snuggled under two layers of duvet and sleeping soundly. Lindy had warned me of her snoring before we dozed off. “Did I snore?” she asked as soon as my eyes opened in the morning and stretched. “Well if you did, I smiled. I never heard a thing”. “Did I? I asked in return. “Not really” she answered. “You kind’ve purred.” “Pardon?” “Aha, she nods, it was like a purr”.

I’m home just 24 hours and come down with a nasty head cold that leaves me full of snot, a headache and tucked up in bed sipping hot water and cider vinegar between violent sneezes. After crowing like a fool about my fantastic immunity, here I am with possibly the South Island strain of the flu. 
I tell my hairdresser, and we’ve never discussed anything like this before so I don’t know where she stands, but she tells me she would never have a flu shot and believes in personal responsibility and good holistic health. However, she tells me she had a sound dressing down from a client recently when she was asked if she had had her flu shot yet and she had replied no. This woman berated her over the next twenty minutes for her selfish attitude and poor community spirit. People relied on those who worked in the public arena, like teachers and shop assistants, hell anyone that walked out their front door basically, who should all get their flu shot to protect everyone else from getting the flu. Hmmm…

She shook her head and said, “I didn’t berate her, because it would be unprofessional of me. Turned out this woman was a public health nurse who advises others on better health outcomes for themselves and their families.” My hairdresser made eye contact in the mirror to make her point as she held her arms out. “Not only was she hugely obese, she is one of the most unhealthiest looking woman I have met. I could have given her some suggestions on fitness and healthy eating…never mind a bloody flu shot!”  
Haha…I had to laugh and I had to agree. I do most certainly believe in holistic health. I also believe in personal responsibility and do not expect the Dr has all the answers, I do believe in not pumping our bodies with drugs to take care of what we are not giving it or doing. These are short term solutions and our bodies won’t thank us for it.       

I leave there and I can’t stop thinking about this and remember that there was a time that the Dr’s and priests and indeed many others, were in positions of authority. Never to be questioned. Drs not only said it was OK to smoke, in my grandparents day they encouraged it, and women were told it would help them have a smaller baby. Less birth complications. Lets be honest, The medical profession didn’t and doesn’t always get it right.
When my mother had babies, bottle was definitely touted to be better than the breast. They didn’t bother with colostrum as it wasn’t worth it and in fact my Mum received an injection to dry up her milk after at least one birth. The medical profession do a lot of amazing stuff but they got this one very wrong. 

As I look up vaccinations I am shocked to see the current vaccine recommended schedule. My grandmother had one vaccination as a child. My mum had around four vaccinations. As a child I apparently was offered around fourteen vaccinations. This year in 2017, we are recommended around thirty nine for our children starting at just six weeks old. Then four, for our teenagers, and annually for our elderly. But wait, there’s more coming on line this year. Something doesn’t feel right about this. For me in fact, a lot doesn’t feel right and the more questions I ask and the more info I have gathered over the last fifty years, the more things don’t stack up for me.
I’m glad I am in a time where we can question. We don’t have to accept what ever the Dr says. We can choose what we think our family needs and we all need to be ‘thinking parents’. I have a great Dr who not only welcomes my questions, he aids my learning and respects my decisions. I can decide what I will take and when. I can make an informed decision. You can too, and it doesn’t have to be the same as mine. I respect your choices. 

Sunset on the wing

Posted in Travel, Whanau=family | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Bangla Rd

Being a work conference we are with a bunch of people whom are all, but one, younger than us, and whom we don’t know very well. Gilbert and I are fairly sedate, while some are leering up every night. Down Bangla Rd bars till morning, and most of them looking like death at a late breakfast.

Two of them arrived a couple of days early and hit the bars. They warn us of the scams. The barmen play games and it’s probably very cleverly rigged so you win some, you lose some. When you win, you get free shots and there’s a lot of fun in sculling the drinks as the victors are urged on. When you lose, its added to your tab. When you finish a drink, as soon as you put the glass down, warns Aaron, they replace it with a full one. If you touch the glass, you have to pay for it. If you don’t, you don’t have to. Of course most will pick the glass up…and the bar staff very kindly keep a bar tab. It was 20,000 baht in no time, getting up to $1000 NZ, explains Aaron, which is bullshit, but by then you’re legless and in no state to argue. Given the drinks are cheap here, it’s unlikely they have drunk that much, or lost that much. You would think that warning would suffice, but no. It’s like all the men turned into brainless morons.

Two other men go down a few nights later and they tell us the next morning, with quaking voices, a very similar story, only they refuse to pay at first. They argue with the bar staff. It couldn’t be 20,000 bah!. The barman’s friendly disposition changes. He summons someone over and says they refuse to pay. The slightly aggressive man who comes over, lifts his lapel and shows the men his badge. He’s a police man, but is he? And do you really want to question that? He threatens them with a taser. One of the men took one look and ran, actually ran to the ATM and duly handed the 20,000 baht over. They breathed a sigh of relief, told us who knows what they were putting in our drinks. Could have been spiked. They considered themselves lucky and headed back, arriving at the hotel at 4.15am. We listen to their voices and serious faces and as I retell the story back in the room to Gilbert, we are shaking our head and chuckling. Oh, could have been worse. Could have been Bangla lock up! 

We have seen enough of the Bangla Roads of this world to know it is a heaving cesspit, where the locals lighten the tourists load. Not a nice place to be and we are not interested at all. 

From where we have our final dinner in an open air restaurant overlooking Patong Beach. The sunsets reflection on the water through the Palms is absolutely stunning. We can see the light pollution over the streets. It appears above one area almost like a halo but its throbbing makes me think an electrical storm is hitting the area. The guy across the table leans back to take a look and tells me “no, that’s Bangla Rd”. 

We ready ourselves for a banquet


Posted in Travel | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Getting sick in Thailand is not funny

A group of us are scheduled for cooking lessons and we have chosen Pad Thai, Penang curry, Black pepper beef, Tom Kha Gai soup and Mango sticky rice. As I know you are now licking your lips, I can confirm it was amazing and I’m looking forward to making this at home.

Our teacher shows us the different fruits and explains the durian on the end here is loved by locals, but it tastes like heaven and smells like hell.  Quite similar to the Chinese cooking I know but the subtle spices are something else. We are taken to the markets first and compared to where we shopped in our Village while staying in China these are clean, airy and well organised. I suspect she has taken us to tourist friendly markets but still my companions haven’t seen anything like it before. 

We go to the culture show and are shown to a table and I end up next to the company CEO. Hmmm, not my preferred seat I have to say. I order a whiskey and sip it as we all are back and forward choosing from the biggest smorgasbord I have ever seen. There are about 30 different tables of food from every country imaginable. 

We soon start chatting and he asks me about our Croatia visit. I already know he is descended from an Island close to ours. “How was your visit?” he asks. “Fantastic!” I say. We share similar stories and his eyes twinkle with delight when I tell him about Maree phoning me to say there was a competition on. My writing the story about Grandpa and us winning the ten thousand dollars. He loves it! He tells me about his grandpas arrival here and a bride being chosen for him from the village and her delivery of fourteen children in a raupo hut at the rivers edge. We both admire the strength of people in those days. I tell him the trick Grandpa played played on Nana, a Lebanese to win her agreement to marry him. He thinks it’s hilarious as he throws his head back to really belly laugh about that. “Lebanese?, he says. How did they get on?” Well I say the Lebanese fought amongst themselves until it was time to have dinner and then it would all be blown over and be friends again. I always remember lots of screaming matches. By contrast, The Croatians would argue over something and depending on how bad it was, a grudge could transcend generations, and indeed did in our family. “Yes he agreed, saying that has happened in his family, hundreds of years in fact.” 

We had an hour before the show and were encouraged to visit the ‘Thai Village’ which was pretty cool. I lost Gilbert in the first ten minutes as I chatted to actors who were demonstrating life of a hundred years ago, when the heavens opened up and I was stuck in ‘Northern Thailand’ in a pole house, with a ‘river’ to cross. I was wondering what to do when someone arrived over with an umbrella especially to rescue me. He walked me back to the main building safely. The Thai people are such beautiful people. In our hotel complex we are greeted beautifully by all the staff, and we go out of our way to smile and greet them the same. 

We all ambled over to a the theatre so huge it could seat 2-3,000 and even had a couple of elephants on stage. It told the story of Siam and included waterfalls, rain and a river running through the stage with hundreds of cast and multiple scene changes. 

By the end of the show Gilbert is feeling pretty miserable and by morning is sick sick sick with headaches and body aches and a general very ill feeling. I try to tell him about over lapping the paracetamol and the ibruprofen, but apparently he knows all that. For two days he is miserable. Mostly holed up in our room with room service lunch and dinners delivered. He could go to all the activities but then with his cough, he could spread it around everyone else, he rightly reasons. While he’s incubating his little malady, every other man and his dog in our group is going down. Their symptoms are more tummy, where Gilbert’s is more flu like. Not the women surprisingly. On day three I tell him if he overlaps paracetamol and ibruprofen he will get better cover. A revelation apparently…

The room cleaners are aware he is feeling unwell and left a lovely note and flowers 

The steamy hot atmosphere makes him feel much worse and I manage to coax him to the pool just twice. He’s a lot happier watching movies in the room with the aircon on full. This is our third trip to Thailand and while it’s a shame and it’s never fun to be sick, there’s nothing we need, so don’t feel we are missing anything at all!

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Via Singapore

One of our suppliers has kindly provided an all expenses paid conference in Phuket, Thailand. I say conference, but with just one two hour ‘update’ in the whole week, it can hardly be called a ‘conference’, and they very generously encourage us to relax after a busy year. We are spoiled with cultural shows, boat rides, spa treatments and much more, interspersed with cocktail hours and sumptuous buffets. Even the breakfast is almost more than I can bear, though I try very hard. Day one I sample a good deal of what’s on offer but day two I realise I can get omelettes any time and revert to the delicious subtle curries and naan breads, while day three sees me with yum char. Dim sums, dumplings and finishing with Chinese tea. Yep. This is me and that’s my breakfast preference. 

Yum Cha every morning!

We were pretty excited at an upgrade which gave us better rooms in a Villa complex with its own pool, bar facilities and each room looking over the pool had a fully stocked free mini bar. Umm excuse me did you say ‘FREE’ mini bar? Yes the girl enthused. It will be refilled each morning at no charge. At this point Gilbert was imagining chips and chocolates while I had visions of bottles of Jameson’s whiskey and absolut vodka. There had to be a catch to this so I asked, “was there also water and lemonade and coffee?” “Yes yes, said the girl, and a coffee machine so you can make you own coffee how you like it but also sachets for you”. Wow! It’s no brainer, we said looking around at each other laughing as we scrambled for the front desk to sign up. 

Mini bar, but not as we know it…

We are shown to our room and it’s a lovely room overlooking the villa’s pool. I go straight to the mini bar. I could do with a drink right now! I look around check all the cupboards and there’s no chips or chocolates, no whiskey or vodka. In fact there’s only a fridge full of soft drink and heaps of water! Haha! How crazy is that! She wasn’t lying. Just our perception of what a mini bar contains. On top of the mini bar is a coffee machine and it’s a little ripper. The coffee is strong and rich and velvety and sits on my palate delighting me. I LOVE this coffee. I restrict myself to one each morning after breakfast. A sweet, short black. I balance this with a gorgeous Chinese teapot that I make a pot of green tea to sip on each morning before we go to breakfast. And actually we are at the pool side bar from 4pm with the others, so seriously, we do not need a mini bar. 

One of several pools in the complex

The women are pretty excited about the shopping, with most not been to Asia before. It’s fun watching them as they take in the street sights, sounds and smells. They think they are being intrepid crossing the road around tuk tuks and Sherrie told me she found two handbags she loved, when her husband began bartering, much to her horror. She begged him to stop. Eyes wide, she told me it was embarrassing. I laughed and said it was completely OK and even expected. “I’ve heard of it, she said, but I couldn’t stand it, and had to move away. Oh it was horrible,” she said shaking her head and looking down. 

Everything inside is serene and beautiful. A very different picture just outside our gate

Nikki on the other hand has been to Thailand five times and is a veteran. She has a calculation she uses to barter with and is lovely but assertive. They were here in just October she tells us as we make our way down to her favourite shoe shop. She stops uncertain for a second, gets her bearings again and continues, listing what she’s bought so far. Two pairs of Adidas for her and now she wants two for her Mum, little bags and handbags and several iPhone cases. She stops again as we are weaving through crowds of shoppers. She’s peering up at the shops overlapped signage with blinking lights thrown haphazardly over. She then looks at the man sitting at the edge of his wares. He is bored and looks up at her now she has stopped. “Please Madam you wish to buy?” He asks half heartedly. 

“Are you the man I bought off before?” She asks peering closely at him. “Yeees, he says unsure himself, yes I am, please come and look again”. Nikkies eyes are squinted looking down the dingy interior for something familiar. “Did you take me to the back of the shop yesterday?” she asks. “Yes I did”, he assures her. He is now standing, smiling encouragingly and starts to walk down the shop beckoning her to follow. Nikki steps in a tad and looks around. “Please come” he nods. “I will take you out the back and up the stairs again”.

“Stairs?”Nikki repeats, “Stairs?” “Yes, he nods, I will show you shoes and handbags at the best prices. Please come” At this Nikki steps back and pulling her shoulders back she barely turns to us as she says, there were no stairs. Not this place, must be further down”, and continues her ‘dos and don’ts’ of shopping rules with barely a pause. 

A little further on she spots it and smiling, she nods at the door keeper, the introducer, the man who hands us over to the seller and we are led down a dusty alleyway where someone steps from the darker space as our eyes adjust and asks if we want tailor made suits. “No thank you, we answer. We’re just here for shoes”. Up one step, through a door and we are in a brightly lit space of floor to ceiling adidas. Nikki quickly chooses three colours and tells him she will come back as these are for her Mother and she will ask what colours. “I have wifi”, he tells her and in the blink of an eye the decision is made. She tells him what she will pay for them and he nods in agreement and the shoes are purchased. “I will give you something, he smiles bowing his head, as you are my ollld customer”, and he reaches in and grabs a brand new pink plastic bag and gives it to her as if a gift, on hands outstretched. “Thank you”, Nikki responds with a lovely smile. “I will see you again,” he says as he turns to open the door, just as two more women step up to the door, eyes quickly taking in the multi colours and we step down as the door is closed behind us. 

“There’s a lot of knock offs”, Nikki continues chatting as we walk away pausing at the entrance just long enough for her to point out the Phuket Travel sign and tells us “to make sure you come back to this one. These are the real deal. I’ve worn mine to death since October. I go power walking, tai chi, the gym and they are in perfect nick still! She looks back at Sheryl and I to reinforce this. I’ll take you where there are some dress shoes. Really cheap but no bartering in this shop. I’m crazy about shoes, she confides. My husband says we will have to add on another room for all my shoes, she almost squeals with laughter. I really have enough now, but I’ll show you.” Sheryl wants to buy some for dinner tonight. We are going to a cultural show and she only has jandals. “What about you?, Nikki asks me. Do you like shoes?” “Well, I have funny feet, I admit. I only have one place where I can buy shoes that fit and are comfortable, so not sure I’ll find any here”. “I’m sure you will, she says, they have heaps”, as she turns and steps into a big bright store with floor to ceiling glass. 

We step up and it’s big alright. Sheryl is off. She is tiny. Possibly a dress size woman’s four to six. She is probably going to go to a tailor later as she has trouble finding clothes small enough. What a problem! She is slipping her perfectly beautiful little feet into exquisite heels and viewing the backs in the many mirrors. Nikki meanwhile is complaining about her feet still being puffy from the flight and is dismayed her feet puff over the straps of some. She is confident they will be okay once the swelling goes down. I wander up and down the rows and find the biggest pair of sandals I can find. The salesman is close behind me. “Do you have any bigger sizes?” I ask. He shakes his head and looks down at my feet. “They will fit, he assures me. Try them”. I drop them to the floor and my gigantic feet can’t even get under the straps to get in. I look up at him and laugh. He looks quickly at my face, shrugs his shoulders and moves to the next person. “Any good?”, Nikki asks as I catch her up. “Nah, nothing big enough here”, I answer fingering the wallets in every shade and hue. “Did you ask for a larger size?” she asks as she bends down to do up the straps on a different pair. “Yep. Apparently I’ve tried on the biggest size they have”. Looking down at my feet, Nikki is perplexed. “They don’t look that big, she says turning back to her own feet. Oh well, we can find another shop and ask.” Her and Sheryl take their purchases to the counter and are sad for me. “Hey, don’t worry about me, I laugh, I never normally go into shoe shops. I’m well used to it.” Off we head again but in this heat quickly decide to head back for a swim. 

We are instructed not to finger these as they are destined for a Buddha

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