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  • *Morpha Too

    Hi readers. Have you missed me? I know I have. These last few weeks have been a bit of a blur what with one thing or another, but I am now once again a (largely resting) artistic minnow at large in the fetid sharkpool that is Sean Penn city.

    Catching up with J on his return from the glistening Christmas card frosts of the UK is proving to be quite a sobering experience. I’m still not too ‘au fait’ with this world vibe webslinger, or whatever it is that allows me to communicate my collected drivel electronically to your good selves, so my knowledge of the big wide world out there beyond my couch comes largely from the Taiwanese news programme, which is broadcast on the only current affairs channel I can get a decent picture on due to next doors cat chewing on the cable that brings the wonders of Cambodian Cable Channel into my modest home. And so it was that I knew nothing of the passing of Harold Pinter….

    (Sound of clock ticking gently in background. Author pulls puzzled face and rubs his unshaven chin during Pinter-esque lengthy pause in tribute…)

    … Eartha Kitt (neck and neck, or perhaps claw and claw with Lee Merriwether for the best Catwoman ever – sorry Halle and Michelle), Ron Asheton, Oliver Postgate or Tony Hart. J’s roll-call of the recently demised has left me saddened and indeed sobered, as the Christmas/New Year booze supplies have finally dried up. He’s trying to cheer me up somewhat but not even a free CD from Mojo of progressive rock gems called ‘Heavy Mod’ can help to ease the ache, although it includes yet another version of Demis Roussos’ strangulated yelping on ‘The Four Horsemen’ by Aphrodite’s Child which does raise the ghost of a smile from me. ‘666’ is an album I can heartily recommend to all you ‘End of Times-ers’ out there. Maybe Dubya can hunker down with a copy now he has the time, and the weight of the free world and the mess he left it in is off his bloodstained little mitts.

    I think a little measured reflection is in order here…

    Ron Asheton was a raw, brutal guitarist and a bit of an inspiration to those of us whose technique on the six string centres around the creation of NOISE. Particularly with the early Stooges, the Louie-Louie inspired youthful riffage churning from his instrument struck the lost chord of intelligent dumbness with absolute exactitude. If I had a glass I would raise it to you right now Ron, before smashing it and using the shards as guitar picks and slides…

    The work of Oliver Postgate was equally ground-breaking and just as scary, but he chose the path of children’s animation to spread his manifold talents amongst humanity. British kids like me and J growing up in the 60’s would be in complete thrall to the tales of Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine and the Pogles of Pogles Wood, and just a little bit scared of the dark undercurrents lurking beneath these imaginary worlds conveyed in the honeyed deep tones of this committed socialist. This most masterful of storytellers mellowed a little in the 70’s, the Great Green Bird Graculus giving way to the deeply surreal Clangers and ultimately his most popular creation, Bagpuss, but I never could stand that stripey cat. I wonder if it chewed through television cables? Or maybe I was just too old by then, no longer a child. Postgate’s unique visions were realised in genuine collaboration with illustrator Peter Firmin and bassoonist Vernon Eliot in a shed in Firmin’s back garden – great things can happen in sheds, just ask D.H. Lawrence. Or J. He’s just told me he has recently written a blog about his nana’s shed. We shall never see the like again, I imagine…Oliver Postgate, I mean, not garden sheds…

    …nor indeed shall we see another Tony Hart, who died last week and was again a huge inspiration to many British children over nearly five decades of broadcasting. Like Postgate, a gentle, quiet spoken and unassuming man, his influence on generations of budding artists was incalculable – he brought art into everyone’s living room and demystified it, deconstructing it’s complexities before our eager youthful gaze, and doing it in an innovative inclusive manner with Vision On. All of this was accompanied by his mischief making plasticine friend Morph. Goodbye, Tony, Oliver and Ron (and Eartha and Harold), and thank you all from this old reprobate for making his childhood and youth an infinitely more exciting and stimulating place.

    Well, I have a mischief making plasticine friend also, and I do believe he is beginning to melt away before me like the wicked green witch from Oz. This is partly because my aircon has ceased operations (I think the aforementioned cat is slaughtering the birds nesting in there and blocking the thing. Oh Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, dear old bird-murdering machine…) and partly because all I have to offer poor J to drink is a chili flavoured fortified wine-type concoction I picked up from a dodgy streetside stall somewhere.

    But wait a moment, J, bless him, has come up trumps, pulling from his bag a pristine copy of… …Bulghakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’!

    ‘For me?’ I say
    ‘For you.’ he says ‘Happy Christmas’.

    Wow.

    Life is good sometimes, isn’t it.

    See you soon, friends, I’m off to do some reading….

    * from Big Star ‘Radio City’. If you don’t already own this, shame on you. A jangly fuzzy snarly hazy power pop masterpiece if ever there was one

  • I wish it could be Christmas everyday

    ...actually, no.

    I don't.

    But here, to paraphrase Phil Spector, is 'My Christmas Gift to You'. (though I wouldn't care to be on the receiving end of the kind of gifts he seems to be dishing out these days...)

    A Christmas Ode

    by Skip 'lonely this Christmas' Cormack

    ‘twas Christmas Eve in our house
    and all the lights were dim
    I heard a noise upon the roof
    Oho! It must be him…!
    I then discerned more muffled sounds
    descending from above
    a skiffle-skuffle in the snows
    which cloaked us as a glove

    I pulled the covers to my neck
    and listened full of awe
    through half shut eyes
    my gaze intent
    fixed on my bedroom door…
    The minutes passed…
    And passed again
    No sign of bearded gent…
    I sighed and snuggled down again
    A sigh of discontent
    But wait! Another thump and bump
    Came loud above my head
    I bravely threw the covers back
    And tumbled out of bed

    The window pane was frosty cold
    To my hot snuggled touch
    I grasped the sash and tugged and tugged
    To pull the window up
    The icy blast did freeze my breath
    Its fingers chilled my heart
    I leaned outside and upward gazed
    ….it gave me such a start!

    A hand was reaching down to me
    Stretching from above
    With fingers long… yet fingers three,
    Encased in silver glove!
    Before I had a chance to gasp
    It grasped me by the arm
    And pulled me out and upwards fast
    - I cried out in alarm!
    The earth it spun below me far
    The stars swam in the sky
    I found myself placed on the roof
    (I feared that I might die…)
    my eyes were screwed tight shut in fear
    Of that which I might see
    I opened them a little bit,
    And there… in front of me…

    ‘You’re not Santy Claus!’
    I cried
    ‘You aren’t a man – or woman…
    you’re not an aminal I know…
    in fact, you’re just not human!’
    The creatures voice replied to me
    As if inside my head
    ‘look kid, I’m really sorry that
    I yanked you outta bed,
    you see my ship it lost control
    (I thought that I was dead)
    I spun and spun and spun around
    Down through your atmosphere
    But luckily I missed the ground
    And landed right up here.’
    The five-eyed thing in silver suit
    It pointed up (and right)
    I followed with my startled eyes
    Which then beheld a sight

    Upon our roof, upended there
    Suspended, bashed and dangled,
    A silver flying saucer hung
    Antennae quite entangled
    I drew my frozen breath inside
    My heart began to pounding
    I blinked… and blinked
    And blinked again
    Through greenish haze surrounding
    ‘my fuel pipe’s bust, I’ve lost some juice’
    the voice began to drone
    ‘I’m gonna need your help with this,
    so’s I can get back home.’
    I knew right then I had to help
    (Although my mind was reeling -
    I’d watched James Stewart on TV
    I felt that CHRISTMAS FEELING!)

    ‘You stay right here, I’ll be back soon’
    I told my ET friend
    He lifted me back down and through
    My window once again
    I crept downstairs and searched around
    Collected what was needed
    Then tiptoed back upstairs again
    To where my friend was seated
    ‘ A ‘Black and Decker Workmate’, eh?’
    Its five eyebrows rose in wonder
    ‘A ‘Ronco Super Fix-It Kit’… a ‘Kenwood Master Blender’?
    And what’s this kid? ‘Talisker?’
    Ah, must be some kinda juice…
    Let’s get back on the roof now kid,
    And put this stuff to use…’

    And so it was we toiled that night
    Under sparkling stars and moon
    My five-eyed friend and I worked hard
    And very, very soon
    The saucer sat, undented now
    (With a tank full of Dad’s whiskey-
    although my own opinion was that flight was somewhat risky…)
    The alien then climbed inside
    And waved to me ‘goodbye!’
    He pressed and pushed and twisted things
    But still it would not fly…

    We stood forlorn on frozen roof
    And pondered what to do
    When another voice boomed from above
    ‘Need some help, you two?’
    Once more I froze in utter shock
    On raising my gaze high
    For there above, without a doubt
    Suspended in the sky
    I saw a sledge, packed full of stuff
    A flying reindeer team,
    A jolly, red-clad, bearded man –
    Now surely it’s a dream?

    But no, it was old Santa Claus
    A twinkle in his eye
    He hitched the saucer to his sledge,
    And said ‘let’s help this guy!
    Come Donner! Blitzen! Prancer! Dancer!
    Come on Rudolph, too!’
    Rudolph turned and looked at him, and loudly sneezed – Achoo!!!
    (so THAT’S why he has a red nose…!)

    A jump start, it appeared to me
    Was all that was really needed,
    And yes, the saucer flew away
    And into the night receded
    Santa turned and laughed at me
    And patted on my head
    ‘Young man, you’ve had a busy night
    now get yourself to bed…’

    The morning dawned… t’was Christmas Day!
    And my joy was unbounded!
    For everything which I’d asked for
    The Christmas tree surrounded
    My parents puzzled over this
    And other things quite curious,
    Such as where had all the whiskey gone?
    (my dear old Dad was furious!)
    They wondered why I yawned all day,
    went to early bed that night,
    and what was the green glow in my room?
    (actually, a meteorite – thanks, alien!)

    and so my tale has come to end
    (it’s short – but it’s not tall)
    and all that’s left to say is, friends…

    a Merry Christmas to you all!!!

    (and a Happy New Year!)

  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town

    Too late, apparently he’s already been… and not only was he sitting in a cyclo, but he also changed colour, shape, race and size over the course of a morning. J assures me this was absolutely the case, and that neither he nor Santa had been ingesting any hallucinogenic drugs last Sunday morning. Mind you, he also claims to have seen a giant bear walking through the lobby of the Intercon, so I probably am right to have my doubts about his mental state.

    More of that later, let us first rewind to Saturday last.

    I realise now that spending my days lying around my apartment watching DVD’s and listening to music whilst planning my next artistic assault on the world out there is not quite as exciting as it sounds. J and family have a much more exciting life and seem to get themselves embroiled in amusingly surreal scenarios with an astonishing regularity. He enthusiastically recounted the events of last weekend to me as I was attempting to watch ‘The Best of the Johnny Cash Show’ on DVD. Eventually I gave up marveling at the stellar selection of guests that the Man in Black had managed to get on his show (Dylan! Creedence! Joni Mitchell! Ray Charles!)and the often astonishing performances therein and gave the ranting J-ster my full attention.

    So, he told me that on Saturday morning they had decamped en masse via Chairman Mao’s black tuk-tuk to Street 240. To ‘Images’, to be exact. It’s a gallery of sorts, which masquerades as a hairdresser. Or maybe it’s the other way round. It sounds to me to be a bit like The Man from U.N.C.L.E – is it a laundry fronting an international law enforcement agency, or an international law enforcement agency fronting a laundry? I’m still not sure, but Robert Vaughan and David McCallum as Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin were one of the great 1960’s televisual double acts… I so wanted to be Ilya Kuryakin when I grew up, and spent most of my life before the onset of severe follicle challenging perfecting a hairdo somewhere between that of the enigmatic Russian and Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones. Oh to be pale and interesting again!

    Back to J’s tale. ‘Images’ was pretty busy, so the family sat awaiting their appointments with shampoo and scissors in the company of Brenda, the Thai owner.

    In the UK, Brenda is a name that for persons of my (and J’s) generation mostly conjures up images (!) of grainy 1960’s social realist movies starring Dora Bryan as a put upon housewife in apron and curlers with a half-smoked cigarette dangling from chapped lips gossiping over a brick wall to her inquisitive neighbours as she hangs out the washing in the back yard of one of a row of identical houses with outdoor toilets in some unidentified but grimy northern town.

    Of course this is an absolutely stereotypical picture. I’ve known many Brenda’s (hello Brenda!) who have proudly reclaimed the name from the grip of dour British northernity and are nothing like that. ‘Images’ Brenda enjoys gossiping, but there, J assures me, the resemblance ends. If we continue to use the analogy of 60’s movies, she would be a leading actress in an Asian version of ‘Valley of the Dolls’, immaculately glamorous and more than slightly enigmatic, kooky yet sweet and teetering on the edge of more than her high heels … however, there are more connections than at first appears between glamorous Brenda and her dowdy 60’s British archetypal namesakes…

    As a child growing up in Northern Scotland, I remember that it appeared that one of the most prized attributes that a woman in those remote communities could have was a practical working knowledge of the supernatural arts. I recall that J’s beloved nana could foretell the future from playing cards, tea leaves, shapes in the fire and would also converse readily with those who had ‘passed over’. His next-door neighbour also possessed those gifts, but apparently with a leaning toward the Dark Side… he told me how he and his sisters were terrified that when she died, only a slight brick wall separated their bedroom from the room where her corpulent corpse lay awaiting internment, and how their fevered imaginings surmised that she was about to become a zombie for her dark master, one who would punch her way through the wall to ensnare them all and drag them screaming down into the depths of hell…
    Kids, eh…

    Sorry, I’ve meandered a bit. No, glamorous Brenda is no zombie (although one staff member is scarily quiet, unnaturally pale and her hands are icily cold…), but she is, in addition to being admirably direct in her professional capacity, calling a bald patch, well, bald … a fortune teller! Yes, none of that idle British hairdresser chit-chat (Where you going for your holidays then? What you doing Friday then? Going out tonight? See Corrie last night? You thought about a Chestnut Rinse? Did he/she? Really? Oooh, I like that George Clooney, he’s a bit of alright… etc) around these parts, no sir. In J’s words, ‘…not only a hair-cutting, blow-drying, permanent-rinsing fortune teller, but a psychologist to boot!’ as she not only identified the Chinese horoscope predilections of each of the family J’s birth signs (J - Monkey, A - Dragon, O – Dog) but gave an exhaustingly comprehensive analysis of the psychological interactions that each could expect with the other… they’re pretty much doomed by the sound of it… quite a visit, by all accounts, trumping even the foot and hand massage that the adoring staff dole out to young Master O on a pretty regular basis when he visits… believe me, I’ve seen the cell phone video evidence of the Little Prince getting his treatment… what’s he going to be like when he grows up??

    J had gone off track a bit by now as none other than Derek and the Dominos were blasting it out on Johnny Cash and he was becoming more than enthusiastically effusive, so I pulled him back by asking about their Sunday trip to the Xmas Fayre at the Intercontinental Hotel. They had invited myself and our mutual friend D along, but I declined, having very little enthusiasm for Christmas and all that goes with it at the best of times. J used to be like that also, but I see increasing disturbing evidence that age is wearing him down and he is starting to enjoy the festive season. Jebus to the Power of Ten. That’s all I have to say on that. D, however, agreed to go (I bet he regrets that now) , so all piled into the Chairman’s vehicle and puttered off down Mao Tse Tung Boulevard toward the sweeping majesty of the Intercontinental Hotel. I’m going to let the voice of J take over now, as my fingers are starting to hurt from playing air guitar and I need a beer…

    ‘Do you remember Fellini’s ‘Satyricon’? That’s what it was like. With howling children. Everywhere. And these bloody parents dawdling about from stall to stall getting in my way. It was impossible to push the stroller without bumping into someone gawking at something they’ve ignored at the Russian Market for the last three years as if it was the Holy Grail or something similar. The WIG (Women’s International Group) staff who were running the event all looked as if they had been prodded by Satan’s own trident all the way up from the seventh circle of hell to attend to the needy masses. Och, I’m being overly sarcastic here, it wasn’t like that at all, it was really good fun, with crafts and gifts and Santa (I do have to admit to being a wee bit disconcerted at the way he metamorphosed over the course of the morning… black, white, portly, skinny, western, asian… would never have put Santa down as a shapeshifter, but there you go…) and scary big bears and falling Christmas trees.

    Lovely.

    O made a beautiful Christmas tree for mummy and daddy, he didn’t much care for Santa (it is an anagram of Satan, after all), did some groovy Khmer dancing, was severely frightened by the big bear, but on the whole seemed to enjoy the whole thing. A and D also appeared to be having fun, so we put the cap on a memorable day by zooming (puttering) across town and having an extended Sunday roast lunch at the Green Vespa, where the ever convivial Alan hypnotised us with his Golden Syrup Pudding into staying much longer than we should have, to the point where I was perfectly happy to spend the afternoon wearing a giant foam Guinness hat and D was equally happy (?) to sport a giant shamrock…’

    Do you see what I mean about surreal? Some of the stuff they get up to would have made William Burroughs think twice before committing it to paper, but it’s all true. Tune in next time for further adventures in Sean Penn, city of cyclo Santa’s, big bears and fortune telling hairdressers…

  • Rock n Roll Doctor

    It’s been quite a week in the world, hasn’t it? Being a ‘resting’ artist means having the luxury of time to just sit, lie or lounge and watch the world go by, and this week that world has seemed even crazier than ever. The unfolding tragic events in Mumbai and the ongoing actions of the factions in the mess that is the current Thailand political scene have had their effect on lives here in Sean Penn. J was more twidgety than usual during his visits this week - A has relatives who work in the area where the terrorist attacks occurred, so all had spent an anxious few days waiting for the good news that they were safe and well. J and family have also had to put back up plans in place for Xmas travel arrangements, as they are currently booked to fly back to the UK on Thai Air – things are still unresolved as I write this on Sunday morning, with violence between pro and anti government protestors erupting again in Bangkok and at the airport.

    All is not entirely doom and gloom, however, as even in Buddhist Sean Penn, downtown is succumbing to the warm glow surrounding the upcoming celebrations around the birth of baby Jebus. The weather has, however, become noticeably cooler, approximating a warm summer’s day in Thurso (Northern Scotland’s Atomic Capital, and birthplace of Robert Dick (noted Botanist), and myself and J (noted nothingnists)) and has brought the unusual sight of the young and trendy of the city sporting fur-trimmed parkas (adorned with the usual baffling mix of cutesy-pie animals and incongruous slogans, such as ‘Lovesexy Micky (sic) Mouse’ , ‘Kiss Teenage Punk’, but thankfully not the very wonderful and straight ahead ‘Jesus F**k’ that adorned a T-Shirt sported by J’s dedicated and chaste housekeeper, a devout Mormon. A had to take her aside, stifle all guffaws and gently explain that in her case, the congruence of the ‘J’ word and the ‘F’ word were perhaps not entirely appropriate…) and the not so unusual sight of babies in knitted wooly hats and mittens. So far I haven’t spotted a Santa hat, but that can only be just around the metaphorical corner.

    Whilst we are on the subject ,J’s visit yesterday had a bit of a Festive bent. He bounded upstairs and into my living area (not simply a room… a sea of the necessary detritus of living surrounds me and spills into neighbouring pockets and cupboards and shelves and cubbyholes…), tossed me a large bottle of chilled Angkor (‘My Country,My Beer’ – now there’s a no-nonsense no-frills advertising slogan) with deceptive underhand ease and proceeded to beam from ear to ear as he realised exactly what was thudding out from my well-worn Wharfedale’s…

    “Little Feat! Yes!!”

    There followed many minutes of reminiscing, which I will not bore you with now but will save up for later, around the 1970’s, hippies, Sandside bothy, salmon fishing, bass players (Jazzbo Riff, to be exact),drummers, Viewfirth Club and on and on and on…. This conversation was punctuated by much laughter and soundtracked by ‘Electrif Lycanthrope’ a bootleg of Little Feat live in 1973 which I had owned on vinyl back in those heady days, loved and played until the grooves bled white, and have just rediscovered lurking as a free download on the internet, mastered off the original tapes by the original engineer… oh joy!
    However, this is simply digression. J was full of the joys of impending Christmas, particularly of the $20 fibre optic Xmas tree that A had bought on Friday from Pencils Super Dooper Norodom Store. Subsequent analysis has determined that the actual value (!) is closer to $50 (or more) but mass confusion at the tills (nothing new for Pencils) had led to a reduced price which was welcomed with open arms by A… she had, however, been more than a little concerned by the reaction of J, a confirmed member of the ‘Xmas? Bah Humbug!’ squad to the aforesaid purchase.

    No need for any worry, however, as J had experienced such a crapola week at work that even the tears of an ant would have swung his miserable unforgiving heart around, so the sight of a gently fluctuating fibre optic Christmas tree actually sent him into paroxysms of the deepest joy. Not the expected reaction, but welcome nonetheless. The family JAO (to give them their acronymical due) are planning to visit the Xmas Fayre in the Intercontinental Hotel later today (Saturday), so I am expecting the following a) a sixpack (at least ) of beer and b) a blow by blow account of the terrors encountered by J… ‘there be monsters’ indeed…

    In the meantime, I’m going to crank up my Eagle 15 watt amplifier, attempt another few home-made whisky sours and revel in the soul stew and rock and roll sauce of prime Little Feat… life is there to enjoy, so don’t worry, be happy!

    I’ll write again soon

    Ciao

    Skip

  • Suicide is Painless

    Lonely? Depressed? Suicidal?
    You have a choice.

    Used to be that Croy Changvar, otherwise known as the Japanese Bridge, was the favoured suicide spot for the loveless or lovelorn of Sean Penn to fling themselves from into the welcoming arms of the afterlife/yawning abyss of nothingness (delete according to belief). Hardly a month goes by without somebody launching himself or herself from its lofty parapet into the mighty and muddy Mekong below. Most succeed in their self-made appointment with doom, but some fortunate (?) souls survive the plunge into the murky waters and are left alive to reflect on where it all went wrong (or right).

    However there is now a new kid on the block that has real potential to overtake the bridge for fatal effectiveness (it’s much higher with no water to cushion the fall) and newsworthiness (the location - smack dab in the centre of town, close to the Independence Monument). Step up and take a bow, ‘The Place’. Or to be absolutely specific, ‘The Skybar’ at ‘The Place’.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we journey together further on this blog adventure I should give you some background, let you decide if you want to come with me or if here is where the track runs out. I’m Skip, and I live in Sean Penn. Thanks Chandler. Yes, my sense of humour is on a par with Homer. Simpson, that is, not the Greek one. I didn’t want to start writing a blog, but my friend J cajoled me into this in a roundabout way. He used to write one, but got all angsty about something really trivial and stopped it a few months back. When we talk, which is often, he keeps saying things like ‘ well, I would have blogged about it but…’ so I have decided to start this blog partly to annoy him by reporting ghost writer fashion on his exploits (and those of his long suffering family - his beautiful wife A and wonderful son O) and partly to allow myself and some of my other friends who can’t be bothered maintaining regular contact with the virtual world (or, like me, are a little scared of it – I was going to call this blog ‘Fear of Facebook’) a portal through which they can vent whatever steam they need to let off. So if you stick with this you will probably get as familiar as a Numskull (hello ‘Beezer’ readers!) with the inner workings of the brain department of not just your humble scribe but also those of my curiouser and curiouser friends. Might even twist J’s arm and force him to scribble a paragraph or two. Are you still with us? To use a well-worn phrase used by many Khmer, ‘ …up to you…’

    Yes, where was I… background? I grew up in the north of Scotland in the same remote township that spawned J, although I made my escape before he did. The story of how we both ended up in Cambodia will have to wait for another time, but will be worth the wait, being full of skullduggery, various nefarious acts, a dash of derring-do and more than a little stop-motion animation. As of now I’m a sometime artist, musician, and writer… I have been very kindly described by some as a bit of a Renaissance Man. Not by J, I have to say. He rather unkindly describes me as a bit of a Neanderthal Man. Ha Ha. Lately I have spent a great deal of time ‘resting’, so to speak. I’m sure you know what I mean. This city is a bit of a cultural oasis at the moment, and I’m waiting for the other camels to get out of the way so I can have a drink. Which is where we come back to ‘The Skybar’, where J told me he and A went for a sunset drink last Saturday evening. I’ve arm wrestled him and won again, so I’ll force him to take over now and fill you in on the rest…

    ‘This family seem to have a bit of a thing with Skybars at the moment. We escaped the craziness of the water festival to spend a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur, or Kula Bumper, as O rechristened it, where we stayed at The Traders hotel. It’s a very striking modern edifice that adjoins the park next to the Petronas Twin Towers, and there were many diversions in that area for young O to take advantage of. Having said that, the KLCC park police seemed absolutely determined to prevent us from sampling the delights of the paddling pool – every time we went anywhere near it a whistle blew in admonishment… perhaps a shark escapee from the Aquaria (another highlight for O) lurked in its improbably blue shallows, just waiting for a pale snack to venture within snapping distance. Or maybe they realised we had come from Cambodia, and therefore were possibly prone to random bursts of public urination. Whatever, we were fated neither to paddle nor to piddle in that tempting lakelet.

    The Traders was comfortably luxurious and not lacking in character, curious for a late twentieth-century hotel. Some very interesting pieces of primitive artwork adorned the lobbies and rooms, yet despite my best efforts I was unable to liberate any of them to join the suitcase full of complimentary cotton buds, toothpaste, razors, soaps and shampoos that I planned to lug back to PP with me. The top floor of the hotel was given over to a swimming pool complex and a Skybar, where spectacular views of the KL skyline and the twin towers vied for attention with ensuring O did not decimate all round him and fling numerous toy cars into any of the three pools. He’s definitely well into his investigative phase now, and normally one viewing of a procedure (such as selecting a floor in the lift, locking/unlocking a door, programming a DVD player, flying a 747) is enough to ensure he can replicate it. Investigation is also invariably linked to destruction, as anything moveable, or indeed immoveable, that lies in his intended path is ‘removed’ from that path and ‘relocated’. A and I however now have the ability to mostly predict the intentions of our little chap, and closely mark him at all times, so his options were pretty limited. The Skybar was partially open to the elements from above, which allowed a gentle evening drizzle to pitter patter on the surface of the pool, and the service was pretty immaculate all around, so top marks to The Traders.

    Fast forward by two weeks and we are sitting (minus O, who was off partying with some 16-year old Mormon women – please don’t ask) in yet another Skybar, this one almost at the pinnacle of ‘The Place’, which is one of the latest ‘places’ to see and be seen in in Phnom Penh. Not quite as expensive or indeed as tasteful as the KL model, but still pretty impressive and, on a very breezy Saturday evening, even a little bit scary as (BBC voice) ‘moderate to strong gusting’ threatened to send more than the occasional tissue spiraling out over the fairly low balustrade and down onto Sihanouk Boulevard far below. The staff were obviously recruited on what I will call the ‘Van’s’ basis (please see my ‘Lost in Space’ blog for further elaboration), that is to say they outnumbered the clientele about 5 to 1, and spent much of their time wandering around with candles for all the outdoor tables, which of course being nine floors up and in a windy vortex kept going out, or shining torches onto the usual baffling menus which you couldn’t read because your candle had blown out, but there was never anyone around when you actually wanted to order a drink or food. Or indeed to stop you from vaulting out into the great beyond, if you so desired. Much to A's dismay I mused on the possibility that ‘The Skybar at The Place’ may become the premier suicide spot in PP. Particularly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 5pm until 8pm, where you can buy one beer and get one free, so if you happen to have a suicide pact it will ease the economic burden of that final meal, or if you are the sole depressed it will numb the senses that little bit more before that last leap. And if you have any doubts about the worthlessness of life, they will finally be irrevocably removed by the live music on offer…
    I jest, of course. The live music was surprisingly good, if you are in a Billy Joel-filtered-through-a-vocoder mood. Quite incongruous however to hear the singer, mid ballad, insert a soulful plug for the buy-one-get-one-free-beer…’

    That’s enough for now. He can be such a miserable git sometimes, can that J. We’ll just have to keep an eye on the Post and the Daily to monitor his suicide theory, but it might be a good idea to walk on the other side of Sihanouk of a weekend between 5 and 8, I suppose, just in case it starts raining men (or women)... Hallelujah!

    Mind how you go. I'm off to listen to 32 minutes of 'Mountain Jam' by the Allman Brothers now.

    Who said 'get a life!'?

    Skip

  • The Valley of Gwangi

    Welcome to The Valley of Gwangi. Enter here and you will find the ramblings, rumblings and grumblings of living dinosaur Skip (and his equally unusual friends) on a variety of subjects which will inevitably include music, the life expatriate and otherwise in ‘Sean Penn’ (more correctly known as Phnom Penh, the capital city of the Kingdom of Cambodia) and sundry other invariably unconnected topics…

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