Saturday, October 29, 2011

Loy Krathong

Last week, we celebrated the Thai festival of Loy Krathong here in Exile.  Traditionally this annual festival is when Thais pay their respects to the water spirits, to ensure clean and abundant water for the coming year; and to 'float away' their sins and cares of the past year. 

This fesitval is particulalry poignant today  as you would be aware, Thailand and now Bangkok, are suffering from the effects of severe flooding after a series of heavy storms September and early October.  There has been much loss of life, livelihood and housing and the country is ill-equipped to deal with the humanitarian and physical consequences of the flooding.

'Loi' or 'Loy' means to float and a 'krathong' is a little boat made of banana leaf or trunk and decorated with flowers, incense sticks and candles.  People make their own krathongs traditionally, especially children at school, and may decorate them to reflect their lives and concerns, with small figures or offerings.

Our krathongs were made by a group of Thai ladies. All the krathongs were sold to raise money for the flood victims.  Each was unique and beautiful  and some were quite complex:

We launched the krathongs from the beach - out to sea as there are no rivers or canals here:

The function was hosted by the Thai Ambassador, supported by members of the local Thai community. We had a wonderful Thai feast (always food!) and entertainment.  There were various Thai dances, traditional music and a fashion show of Thai ladies' costumes for the last few centuries from different parts of the country, all arranged by the local Thai community.

The photos are all a bit fuzzy as they were handheld, at a distance, in the dark, but they give you a taste of the beautiful costumes and lithe dancers:

We raised quite a bit of money for the flood victims, but it is never enough.  We are using eggcups to bail the ocean.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Soft Toy Drive

The association for the accompanying spouses and family has organised a toy drive for some local charities.  I despatched Marius to buy something suitable while he was doing the grocery shopping (usually we do this together but yesterday morning I was not well enough to go out).  These two heroes were selected by my tough, scary husband:

The toys are for children in an orphanage who do not have a legal identity.  Many children around the world are not formally recognised by the government of the country they were born in - or any other.  They are state-less and right-less.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Feasting - Gourmet Post

We went out to a swanky Thai restaurant last night with friends.  It was a lovely evening allowing us to dine al fresco.

At 8 o'clock, the place was empty.  Most people seem to dine quite late, with the restaurant not filling up until after 9 pm (which is usually my bed time).  I decided I couldn't cope with a late night and alcohol, so I chose one of the jewel-like 'mocktails' from the menu:

In laziness, rather than swim through the pages of menu, we chose the banquet meal, which follows. 

We began with an 'amuse bouche' of taro and peanuts, in a tempura batter.  This was followed by a cascade of delightful morsels, each one more delicious than the last.

Spicy minced duck with salad leaves

Grouper in red curry sauce, from the wok

Squid and vegetables in a noodle broth:

Green papaya salad:

Roast duck curry in a clay pot:

Char-grilled beef with tomato and basil in a chili lime dressing:

Chicken in pandan leaf:

Sea bass and Thai celery with lime dressing:

And for sweets, we had mango with sticky rice and coconut cream:

tapioca and sago:

and fresh seasonal fruit (rambutan, mangosteen, dragon fruit and ciku).  

The meal was accompanied by a light lemongrass green tea. 

Next week is Loi Krathong when we will go to the Thai Embassy function held at one of the hotels.  I hope to bring you photos of what promises to be a magical night.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Ratty Triumphant

Remember Ratty, half dead?

He's doing very well thank you.

Yesterday, we were sitting in the garden, listening to the fountain, sipping wine in celebration of Thursday.  Ratty's ambulance driver was visiting.  She was suitably impressed with the transformation in his health.  He tried to show off by jumping on the windowsill and missed.  His hind legs have not yet regained their strength, although he can walk and run pretty convincingly.

Marius and I agreed that if he couldn't jump he couldn't survive on the street.  Hmmmmmm

This morning, his little sister LG was on the front path.  Marius was out for his swim, and Ratty was in the kitchen with me.  I said to Ratty 'Why don't you go out the front for a minute and say hello to LG, so at least she knows you are still alive and well?'  I opened the front door and called to Ratty.  LG came bounding up the steps mewing and very keen to come inside.  Ratty inched his way to the door and put his nose around it.  I was trying to encourage him to say hello at the same time as trying to prevent LG from coming in.  (Strangely I suspect my marriage wouldn't be a very happy place if LG came in to make herself at home.) 

Ratty and LG touched noses and gave each other little kisses and then Ratty washed her ear for her, as he has always done.  I closed the door and came outside with them to have a little visit.  All was going well until Black Tom (LG's boyfriend) came around the corner and Ratty took off at high speed towards the wilderness of the golf course.

You can imagine how I felt - a simple act of kindness was teetering into disaster. I went after Ratty but could see no sign of him.  I met Marius walking back from the pool and told him my tale of woe and shame.  He said 'Don't worry, I'm sure he'll be back.  At least we know he can run.'

I went back into our garden to bring in Ratty's food bowl, feeling remorseful and kicking myself (I'm very good at that).  Then I went out again to move the sprinkler.  It would have been less than 10 minutes since I'd last seen him.

Yeowls.  Remember Ratty's siren?  He was calling me - but from where?  


The garden wall is more than 2 metres high.  How did the boy who can't jump get up there?  I guess he can climb and found a handy tree or bush to use as a ladder. 

He didn't seem too sure about how to get down again and resisted Marius attempts to encourage him.  We went inside to cook breakfast, Marius telling me 'He'll be fine, he'll get down.'

Two minutes later, I heard 'maaoooow' in the hall - and there he was.

He might not be able to jump but he does seem able to cope with the outside world.  Except, of course, he much prefers the inside world.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

I wish this was me:

but it isn't.  (Strictly speaking, 'I wish this were me' is correct but sounds rather affected, don't you think?)


Monday, October 17, 2011

Now what am I supposed to do?

Ratty visited the Vet on Saturday afternoon and was pronounced healthy.  The Vet was amazed at Ratty's progress.  We've made an appointment for two weeks' time for his little op.  He was the best behaved cat getting into the carrier, travelling and being a patient at the Vet of any cat we've ever taken before.

I can hear the chorus of 'I told you so' streaming through the ether and can feel all those heads shaking.  I don't want four cats.  The politics of three cats is bad enough.  And if Ratty moves in (as he has done) how do I square my conscience about his little sister 'Little Guy', Pink Floyd and all the rest?

Ratty has fallen in love it seems.  Once you take a chap into your bedroom, he thinks he should spend all his time there, with you, exclusively.  If I move from my chair he wakes up and maows, and if I don't come straight back, he wanders around the house looking for me.  The place he has chosen to roost is - surprise, surprise - exactly where he spent his days in the HDU.

And Wolfe, who is a jealous queen, tries to climb onto my lap to show Ratty that I love her the best, while poor Macc and Ming slink around the walls glaring at me and then arrange secret meetings with me upstairs under the covers.

My advice to the world:  never, ever fool around, it is simply not worth it.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Compound Interest

It is autumn here in Exile-land.  The days are growing shorter and the temperature is finally dropping, a little (26-38 yesterday).  Not the season of mellow fruitfulness, but we did have our first mist (fog?) of the season this morning:

Pretty, isn't it?

It is a strange place we live in.  The 'project' is nearly complete and most of the construction staff are gone, leaving many empty houses behind.  Even now, with the school year underway, it is rather like a ghost town.  On my morning walk I pass houses where friends used to live, now empty.  It is a transient existence.

Over the summer, in our little street, half the houses were vacant and many more were unoccupied while people were on holidays. While I was in Melbourne, at one point Marius was alone on the Avenue. 

Lots of people are still packing up, the tell-tale piles of cardboard cartons and rolls of packing paper and bubble wrap marking the next victims to face the moving ordeal.  I shudder when I pass, dreading the day when we have to move again.  International moves are incredibly stressful with customs and import/export rules to worry about on top of all the other headaches of breakages, pilferings and 'missing items', to say nothing of the dramas of moving pets.

It is not unusal to see 40-foot containers parked and swarms of men lugging crates and boxes.  It is a strange feeling seeing most of your worldly goods - and the visible detritus of your life - compacted into a steel box.  I wish I could say that the experience has made me less materialistic and more focussed on the spiritual side, but it hasn't.  Being uprooted makes the nesting instinct (how's that for mixing my metaphors?) even more frantic.

We should have some official news about our futures very soon.  Most likely any moves we make will be cross-compound rather than cross-seas, which is good for satisfying my inertia and for not having to move cats, not so great for freedom of expression.


Friday, October 14, 2011

I'm Convalescing - Okay?

I was quite worried about Ratty yesterday.  About 4 o'clock, after being tempted with hand-offered turkey slices, he emerged from seclusion and had a big bowl of cat-crunchies and a drink of water.  He spent the evening on the lawn, chatting and being patted, and showing off his new walking skills.  He can manage 2 metres or so and then needs a little sit (I know it well!) but he is walking almost normally.

This morning he managed to scratch an ear with his hind paw - quite a feat of balance and strength given his recent history!

It did occur to me - finally - that maybe Ratty was worried about being in Macc's territory and was keeping a low profile as he was not his normal Supercat self.  Macc hissed at him but did not display his aggression otherwise - he saves that for poor Wolfe who is still copping it on all sides.

It is midday here and warmish (33) but not too oppressive;  sleepy time for cats usually.  Macc is upstairs on the verandah, asleep.  Ming is on our bed, asleep, Wolfe is on a chair under the kitchen table, asleep, and Ratty is under some ornamental grass in the garden.

I'm not so worried about him any more.  Tomorrow we're taking him for a check up at the Vet and we will see if the Vet thinks it's safe to give him a general anaesthetic so soon after his 'head injury' or whether we should wait a little longer for his operation.

As for the future, we will give him the option of returning to his former life on the streets.  Unlike Wolfe, we don't think he wants to be a house cat. He has made no attempt to come back inside through the always-open garden door.   Rest assured we will continue to do our best for him.

Thank you for being interested in his progress.  It is really quite a miraculous story isn't it?  I feel, not so much vindicated for my stubborness, as relieved that for once I seem to have made the right decision in giving him more time.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The HDU is Closed

I've closed the HDU (High Dependency Unit) because Ratty has moved to the garden. 

He's now somewhere between walking and hop-along but definitely mobile.  Time lapse photography (sort of?):

I wanted to call this post Miracle on 5th Avenue but I haven't.  One, because I think that might be bad karma, and two, my cat-radar is confused.  I am not entirely convinced that Ratty is 'all better now'.  He likes it in the garden and having made a nest for himself in a hedge of bougainvillea and jasmine and cigarette bush, he doesn't want to come back inside.  That makes sense as until his accident, he had never been indoors, so he is in his element.  But he is also not very interested in eating, which isn't the old Ratty I know and love.

He spent the night outside, safe in our walled garden and this morning I made Marius haul him out of the shrubbery and put him on the patio in front of a plate of sardines.  Ratty ate a little but then sloped back off to the jungle, where he is now.  Marius said he put up quite a bit of resistance, wriggly and kicking so he doesn't seem to be ... er dying.  Maybe he is simply fed up with being a patient (I know how he feels)?

If there is something wrong, I won't try any more heroic nursing, I will let him go.  If not (and maybe he knows this in his cat bones?) we will arrange for him to be neutered.  Then we will let him back out on the street to fare for himself, still feeding him when he calls round and looking out for him.  As I said, my cat radar is confused.

Here he is enjoying the delights of the garden:


Wednesday, October 12, 2011


We are considering renaming Mr Ratty Mr Lazarus.

This morning when Marius got up, Ratty's bed was empty:

we looked behind the curtains and under the bed, but then Marius spotted him:

Ratty is recovering from a serious 'cranial trauma'  (nasty bump on the head) and his hind paws are not back to normal.  Yesterday he could sit himself upright unaided:

but how did he get to the bears?   I watched him do it the second time.  (Sorry no photos).  He sits himself up and can manage to raise his backside off the floor long enough and high enough to take a few shuffling steps, then sits down again.  Repeat.  I am not quite sure why the teddies were so appealing ...

He must be getting better because now Mr Macc is very suspicious and has been heard to growl at the resurgent Ratty:

While Miss Beowulf has been talking to Ratty and keeps inviting him to play:

Marius says he's sure Ratty will be on his feet and walking normally by the week's end.  We've made an appointment to see the Vet on Saturday to discuss his progress and his 'snip' op.

Please don't uncross paws, whiskers, toes etc, yet.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Look at Me!

Seven days ago, we found Ratty unable to move ---

Look at me:

Look at me:

Look at me now!

The last photo is a bit of a cheat as I had to lift him up into this position, but his front paws are strong enough to hold him like that for a few minutes.  We are doing physio-practice-standing and Ratty tries to take a few steps while I hold him up - all the instincts seem to be intact.

See what all your positive healing energy has accomplished?


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ratty in the HDU

We are making progress, snail-like, determined. 

Ratty has finished his course of antibiotics.  I am still force-feeding him the 'recovery' vet food, but half his meal is now 'sardines in aspic' which he eats himself.  Eats is perhaps too polite.  He practically inhales it, he likes it so much. 

the 'sphynx' position, head up!

His neck and shoulders are getting stronger and he will happily stay in his sphynx position for 10-15 minutes without wobbling over.  He washes his front paws and chest and this morning, I saw him washing his right hind leg.  He'd got himself half up and twisted around and was busy with his tongue.  I think the grooming is a very good sign of returning to cat nature, self awareness and self care, to say nothing of returning strength:  on Thursday he could do nothing himself, not even lick around his own mouth.

paw washing

I am sure his eye-sight is back to normal or near normal.  Yesterday we played with the feather and he tried hard to bat at it and eat it, while this morning, when he was sitting up having his breakfast, he caught sight of another cat, who he was most interested in and wary of:  his own reflection in the piano about 3 metres away.

I would like to take him back to the Vet who saw him last Monday, and who supported our decisions not to euthanise him, and who discharged him from hospital last Wednesday night.  I think it would be reassuring to have a professional, objective opinion on his progress, and especially a neurological assessment.  Depending on how well I am tomorrow, I might even attempt this feat on my own.

not elegant, maybe, but it works

We are cautiously optimistic.