Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Man on the Spying Trapeze

Who is the spy at the Ambassador’s reception? That is the question. Is it the junior diplomat drinking Scotch at the bar, or the worn-out, platinum blonde wife of that know-it-all Counsellor in the Political Section? Perhaps the Third Secretary in Economic/Development, the one who drinks shandy and watches Sex and the City. There are a lot of unsavoury characters in the ranks of the intelligence community, and he’s a bit of a “red flag,” isn’t he? I heard that he’s got a first in gay from Cambridge. For all we know, he could be Moscow’s man at the UK Mission. Let’s face it: any one of these characters at the Ambassador’s reception could be the man, or woman, on the spying trapeze.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Expat under the Jackboot

Achtung Farang! For you ze party is over. Three years ago on May 19, 2010, things went pear shaped for the 8.2 million or so residents of Bangkok. The sit-in and occupation of the city by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the 100,000 strong red shirted supporters of ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra (removed in a military coup of September 2006) was forcibly evicted by security forces after a two month protest. Snap shots pinged and ricocheted. Grenades banged. And plumes of smoke from arson attacks rose up from the city centre blackening the sky. Dangerous days in a country defined by a rift. You were either a Yellow or Red. But, this time 3 years ago, if you happened to be Red, you could have ended up dead, dead, dead.

The AWOL Ambo

In May 2010, nerves were frayed at the UK Mission in Bangers. Red Shirt protestors (the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship) had set up camp next to the Embassy compound, a brick's lob from the Ambassador's residence. They were a noisy bunch who played Thai country music 24/7 and liked setting off fireworks. Silly Billy UK based staffers (now living on site to cut costs for HMG) thought they were getting mortared. There was much panic below stairs. Many diplomats, worried about a Mau Mau style massacre, fled to Pattaya to play elephant polo and 18 holes of golf. Surely the upper ranks of the UK Mission would be sporting their best stiff upper lip?

Bollocks they would. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Goodbye to Thailand


Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Secret Origin of the Male Trailing Spouse

How does a nightmare begin? For Alexander Reynolds, journalist, newly posted to Thailand, it began at a few minutes past Seven on a lost Wednesday night. It began with the arrival of a strange book from a distant bureaucracy.

“DFIDSEA Bangkok Welcome Guide: A Little advice to help you through your first days and weeks at post in Bangkok.”

In the years to come, Alexander Reynolds would go back to where it all began. Many times.

FCO Spousal Abuse

Three weeks ago The Times asked me to write (and rewrite!) a feature about my life as a male trailing spouse. 

“I’ve been on the hunt,” the Boss lady said, “for an expat husband who might write a funny piece for us about what it’s like following your wife’s career across the globe. We always hear about the expat ladies who lunch, but what about the men? Do you lunch, shop and get pedicures too? Does it feel emasculating and how do others react to the news that you’re the trailing spouse?” 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Tom Jones KO’s crowd at the British Embassy May Ball

The role of the British Embassy in Thailand, or any British Embassy in the world for that matter, is to work with the host government and the private sector to increase bilateral trade and investment. For many years some of this vital business intelligence work and lobbying was done over prawn cocktail, beef wellington and apple crumble at the British Embassy May Ball.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tips for Trailing Spouses

Excess baggage: 4.7 kilos; time spent in official line at immigration: 22 seconds; Duty Free; fags: 400 Benson and Hedges; booze: malt whiskey (three litres); cosmetics: X2 Clarins Super Moisture Gel ($22 each!) Run to gate (late again!) turn left in aircraft (business class), fasten seat belt, pop Xanax, read latest edition of The Economist and try to look intellectual on the flight back to London.  

A trailing spouse must trail, trek and travel. Globetrotting is good for the image. It makes you exotic and your friends jealous. But flying is expensive, right? Not necessarily.