Thursday, 20 November 2014

Summer of Sixty Nine

Guess I like my cars and there was no better year than the open road in the summer of sixty nine with hazy Jane, rollin' down the highway and getting my kicks on the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway in a great grey Pontiac GTO. Foot hard down, steering one-handed, my extra-tanned left arm out the window,and enjoying the scream of somebody else's rubber on hot tarmac as we stormed up through the hairpins. Auto driveaway from New York to Fort Lauderdale. All we paid was the gas!
Then on the way home, brought a big Ford station wagon back to New York. Sleeping in the mountains in the car we couldn't get out in the night because of the bears sniffing about.
Had to go up to Toronto to see what mounties looked like as they must be everywhere. Can't remember what I'd done wrong.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Breasts of Dora - Shock Photos!

When Jack Reynolds gave a copy of A WOMAN OF BANGKOK to Bernard Llewellyn, his best buddy from the Friends Ambulance Unit 'China Convoy', he wrote the above on the title page and it puzzled me greatly. Meeting and pausing awhile in the back streets of Bangkok is one thing but...! So I put the question to Jack's old China friend, Howell Jones in Newfoundland and he quickly came up with the answer. Jack and Bernard were keen climbers when in China; near the FAU depot in Kweiyang there were some strange conical hills which they must have named in Dora's honour. And now at last I even think I have found the hills themselves, to the right of the picture seen across the roofs of the village by the depot.
But who was Dora? Well, I think I now know this too. In the FAU Register is listed Dora Chau, otherwise Tsou Ling-hwa and this week at the Imperial War Museum in London she took off her dark glasses in my presence and gave a most wonderful smile. At least, we were watching a faded colour film of the China Convoy in the early forties but it was enough to suggest she would have deserved a special association with those mountains. I believe that Dora was a refugee from the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, an educated woman, a student perhaps, who fled into the interior of China, to Kweiyang and into a job with the China Convoy. She may have returned to Hong Kong after the hostilities and I would really love to know. There's more about Jack and Dora in my forthcoming book, but I don't want this blog post to be a spoiler!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Magical China Photos

Part of my research into the adventures of Jack Reynolds in China with the Friends Ambulance Unit distributing medical supplies in the nineteen forties has been collecting photos. I had nothing to start with but by tracing families of former FAU members I have managed to build up a fine collection to illustrate my book. What follows is an arbitrary selection, chosen mainly because they are of low definition that should post easily.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Great Wheels for Sale

My drop dead gorgeous Toyota pickup is for sale. To be seen in Sangkha, Surin province, you won't find one cheaper with under 30,000 kilometres on the clock. This time it's not a joke and I can be contacted at This picture appears in MY THAI GIRL AND I so the truck's famous too!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Distracted by the 'China Convoy'

I have been silent on this blog for quite a time for two reasons, first I have been locked out and unable to post as they think I'm an intruder, but suddenly today I'm back in again. And secondly I have been distracted by researching and writing about the 'China Convoy'. [Paragraph] Further down this blog are some articles about 'Jack Reynolds', the mysterious author of the seminal novel, "A WOMAN OF BANGKOK", in which I ask for help to discover who he was. Well, now I know and have even written a book about him. He finally settled in Bangkok working for Unicef and had a family of seven children but the reason he came out east from England was because he was a pacifist and did alternative service in China in the nineteen forties. [Paragraph] The photo's of a bearded Jack in 1946 in Chungking where he was transport director for the Friends Ambulance Units 'China Convoy' This was a Quaker relief project which distributed medical supplies and services throughout China for almost ten years from the Japanese invasion to the communist 'liberation'. [Paragraph] Jack's story in China is an amazing one, full of adventures and accidents and is well worth telling. Called A TRUE FRIEND TO CHINA, 'The lost writings of a heroic nobody', my soon to be published book is an edited collection of the articles Jack wrote for the FAU newsletter that was put together and circulated to all its staff in China. [Paragraph] He was a great blogger long before blogging and I've thoroughly enjoyed doing the book, even if it has meant that my writings on Thailand have ground to a halt. Perhaps at least I'm back in my blog and it can come back to life.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Thai Girls Trashed!

......... My novel, THAI GIRL, is a story of how English student, Ben, goes backpacking in Thailand with Emma, his girlfriend from university. There are tensions between them and Emma dumps Ben on the tiny island of Koh Samet, their ultimate tropical paradise. Ben then falls for Fon, an enigmatic but flirtatious beach masseuse who refuses his advances but slowly is drawn in................ I have received many emails from readers alternatively saying that Emma or Ben are insufferable and that Thai women or western women are money grubbing and awful. Some of these comments are posted on the Readers Forum on and I find them fascinating because different readers react so differently to the book and its characters. ................... I have just recieved another message from a reader which is particularly interesting because she has spent a considerable time in SE Asia as an NGO volunteer. Her uncompromising views thus cannot be dismissed lightly as being from someone who is ignorant or not well-disposed to Thailand............ Her unexpurgated comments now follow............ I just read your book, THAI GIRL, which I found in an op shop in Australia. I've spent the past 5 years going to and through Thailand so was curious to see how it was written about.....well the scenery and setting certainly rang true, also the sense of discombobulation that first time travellers experience. But as a female I found the female characters to be absolutely awful. I know you were trying to create a sense of empathy with the Thais but did you have to make Emma such a horror? And frankly, having seen first-hand the grasping greed of many Thai girls and the terrible consequences of their overwhelming desire for money on naive Western men, I couldn't see anything in the female Thai characters that would cause any guy to 'fall in love'............. I don't pretend to have an understanding of men, but who would fall for the sob stories and rapaciousness of child-like women who see sex as a monetary transaction? I've sworn, after spending the past couple of years working in SE Asia, to never return to Thailand again. A big part of this decision is due to the constant demands for money, even from supposed 'friends' and even while already volunteering all my time to NGO work. I really fail to see how any self-respecting man could find any happiness when their entire personal value is monetary and not based on intelligence, kindness, humour; all of those necessary attributes to fulfilling relationships................... Are men really so shallow?........... Helen................................................................................ Wow say I! There are loads of issues there for comment, but just a brief defence of my female characters from me.......................... Wasn't Emma entitled to her post-university depression, especially in the face of Ben's overwhelming personality! She then had the courage to dump him and to go off and enjoy Thailand without him. And as for Fon, the 'Thai girl' of the title, she pushed Ben away and never asked him for anything. Surely she breaks the stereotype that Helen asserts?.......................... So what's your view? Are Thai women so rapacious and western men so shallow? Do please post a Comment.............................. PS If you'd like to read a case study, non-fiction this time, you could try my later book, MY THAI GIRL AND I.............

Thursday, 5 April 2012

My THAI GIRL's an Ebook!

For an author like me it’s earth shattering news that my two books about Thailand can now be bought anywhere in the world on the click of a mouse. They have recently become available as ebooks. **** If you Google the titles or go to Amazon you can find them from many suppliers and you can have them in seconds to read off your Kindle device or your usual computer screen. Images of both books appear to the right of this blog article and you can learn more about them and read reviews and first chapters on> **** My novel, THAI GIRL, is the story of a young Englishman who falls in love with Fon, a masseuse working on the beach on Koh Samet and tells how he discovers Thailand and its culture through his on-off relationship with Fon. “Thai Girl” was first published in Thailand in 1974 and again by Monsoon Books in Singapore, achieving best seller status in both places. It still sells well and is currently reprinting for the ninth time. A friend recently sent me a shot of the books prominently displayed at Bangkok airport which gave me a very good feeling!>**** MY THAI GIRL AND I, “How I found a new life in Thailand” is my own story of how early retired and living in Thailand I met my future wife, Cat, and how we set up home in the rice fields of North Eastern Thailand. The book is written as a collection of short anecdotes, not unlike the blog articles below. It tells my tale of falling in love in and with Thailand, together with all the joys and tensions of a cross-cultural relationship and of living far from home. It’s an easy read and, I hope, a funny one that can be dipped into as well as read straight through, though I hope you’ll find it hard to put it down!>**** This book has been a special pleasure for me as I have made many friends from it among readers who have had similar experiences or dream of escaping the western rat race, so I am happy that it can now be bought anywhere in the world. In fact as the book has over 100 photos, an ebook is perhaps better in that these all appear in colour and are far sharper than on the printed page.>**** The emergence of the web and of ebooks is causing a revolution in the world of publishing and books. It is said that in the US Amazon now sells as many ebooks as it does conventional books and that these are the future. I struggle with this because I still love the feel of a physical book and of the rows I have stacked tightly on my bookshelves as a reminder of past pleasures. On the other hand, the big publishers and book sellers have had a strangle hold on the book trade which has tended to inhibit the publication of new authors and fringe topics. Now it’s a new world out there with the emergence of ebooks and of ‘print on demand’ books where no physical stock is held but a book is printed off and bound whenever an internet order is received.>**** The availability of books on the internet, obviating the need for visiting a bookshop, is another side of the revolution. This applies not only to new books but to second hand and out of print books too. For the bibliophile or researcher, gone are the days of trawling through dusty second hand bookshops looking for that rare out of print title. Now all you have to do is go online and you can find any number of copies available and order and pay for one in a matter of minutes.>**** This is wonderful for readers of books. It presents a problem though for publishers and authors as an accessible market in second hand books must inevitably inhibit sales of new books.> Authors generally have to be satisfied with minimal royalties on the price of new books sold and have always complained that multiple reading via lending libraries means that they cannot make a living. I have always thought that a book is almost a sacred thing that should be kept and passed on for others. Now I can’t help feeling that a mass produced paperback should be read and discarded just like a newspaper. The new internet market in second hand books however means that the life of a book can be indefinitely renewed as it is sold on from reader to reader.>**** Writing and creativity does need to be stimulated and in general the new world of books will promote this. I therefore welcome the brave new world of ebooks and commend it to you. Ebooks are cheap to buy and great for the reader and at least they cannot be sold on and recycled. The world of reading is thus becoming a better and richer place.>**** In any event I cannot be a luddite as ebooks are here to stay and if you can’t beat them… just as in “My Thai Girl and I” I advocate that expats living in the cultural melting pot of Thailand can only find happiness there if they learn to ‘go with the flow’.