Thursday, 2 August 2007
Now It's A Fish Pond!
Cat and me are both quite tired after focusing on building the new wooden house for weeks on end and I’m longing not to be invaded by teams of workers every day. I want to be free of all the problems that constantly come up… they’ve run out of nails and want me to run them into Sankha, they need more varnish and I profoundly disagree with their choice of colour… and they want more alcohol. Do they really need a big bottle every day? Surely a small bottle would do!
Now suddenly I realize that the work's almost done and the house is substantially complete. Yes of course, there are loads of details to finish that won’t get done anyway, but it’s now all over bar the shouting.
Cat sweetly thanks me for being her ATM and tells me that the men won’t need to come to work tomorrow. I tell her how relieved I am, and please, please can we stop building and at last lead normal lives again? Please, no more projects, I beg her!
A little later that day Cat obviously has something important on her mind. I ask her what’s up and she looks a little worried.
‘Teerak ja! A’s mama want to sell fish pond next door. Very cheap. Only 30,000 baht.’
‘Cat, no, not again! Not so soon,’ I plead. ‘Didn’t I just say…?’
A is Cat’s very pleasant cousin whose family live in a house adjoining us. His mother is a teacher at the school but his father, formerly Cat’s teacher died a couple of years ago of liver failure. The family now has financial problems and in the usual way, selling a bit of land is the only quick solution. And of course if you’ve got a ‘wealthy’ farang living next door, then you’re in luck.
The pond is directly across our left hand boundary. It’s a murky, tangled mess of bamboo and jungle and while it could be useful securing our borders, I’m not sure I want to buy it very much. Most of all, what I don’t want is another hassle with all the work that’ll need doing. Though I have to admit that the pond is ridiculously cheap, less than it costs me to insure my flat in London for a year.
Though on top of the price, we’ll have to pay a team of men to cut back the forest and to fence it all off, to hire a digger to make it deeper and I guess we’ll have to build a Monet style bridge over it from which, in our idle moments, to feed the fishies.
Cat’s a persuasive sort and sure enough, the workers were back the next day to get started on the pond. I think I’ve managed to veto the digger but I’ve paid for my first ever pond and we’re now going for all the luxury add-ons.
‘We’ve got lots of wood left over from building the house,’ says Cat, ‘so we might as well build the bridge. We’ll only need some concrete legs and grass roofing to go over the top.’
Yes, yes, of course we do! It’s all getting more elaborate by the moment.
I’ve since been fighting a rearguard action to stop them cutting down all the trees and bamboo round the pond that nicely shades the new wooden house. And I can’t stop them burning things directly under the trees which are now all brown and scorched. It’ll all grow back, Cat tells me. Yes, but it’s going to look horrible for months, I grumble.
In these parts, ponds are not only for fish but also for storing stashes of illegal timber, and A and his brothers have been up to their waists in the murky water pulling it all out and piling it on the bank.
With superb timing, Cat’s brother Saniam now wanders in with a policeman in tow which is making me feel distinctly nervous. We still have piles of newly cut bootleg timber under the house and he’s snooping around like a shark in his ‘one size too small’ uniform clutching his two-way radio, a gun strapped firmly to his right buttock.
Cat later tells me he’s from Mama’s family which is a bit of a relief. Apparently he was admiring the new house and was easily sweetened with a small consideration.
It crosses my mind that memoirs written by farang convicts incarcerated in Bangkok jails do sell extraordinarily well, though on balance I’m glad I haven't been given the chance to write one. I'll happily stay here, especially as the whole pond project’s growing on me now, I have to admit.
It’s all looking cleaner and bigger and I can see the fish flipping around down in the water. They’re not very big but we’ve already had two meals from them. And a big plus, on the far side there’s also a free wooden pig house thrown in for good measure.
Or could the pig house perhaps be a minus? It's half falling down and I suppose it means that as soon as the work on the pond’s finished, we’re going to have to repair the damned thing. After all, we’re sure to order far too much wood for the bridge, so as we’ll have lots of wood to spare, we’ll have to use it so we don’t end up in jail.
And if we’ve got a decent pig house, I guess it’d be pretty silly not to get some pigs right away and fatten them up while we’re eating fish. Another project looms!
Cat’s logic is always impeccable and I find my ability to resist her slowly weakening as I slip further into my dotage. It's the will to resist that's slipping too.
But then why should I resist anyway? I like it here.