Reasons to be cheerful #1


I spoke too soon in the previous post when I said I was on the road to recovery. Turns out I have one of those nasty bugs that goes dormant, lulling you into a false sense of complacency so you start eating again, then comes back with a vengeance to bite you on the bum. Literally.

I’m sick and grumpy (a week-long ban on alcohol doesn’t help) but tired of talking about it. So instead I’m going to focus on reasons to be cheerful.

The idea for this blog post came from Roo in response to expats bitching about living in Phnom Penh. Here are five of my reasons to be cheerful. Roo will add his in due course.

1. Travelling with Roo — We met up overseas in Thailand in 1992 and managed to get caught up in a coup — the first of many memorable journeys together. Being in Cambodia reminds me of all the things I love about travelling with Roo: his passion for information and understanding, his interest in the world and the people in it, his gregariousness and sense of humour, his fascination for markets and unparallelled bartering skills, and his willingness to take a chance.

2. Natasha — hard not to be cheerful with this exquisite creature in our lives. Even when she’s howling like a banshee at 4 o’clock in the morning, I still can’t believe how lucky I am to be her mother.
Tash and teddy bears picnic

3. Old friends and new — Being in Southeast Asia puts us back in touch with friends we don’t see often enough but when we do, it’s as if we only last saw each other yesterday. I mentioned my friend Ying in an earlier post, and a couple of weeks ago we were treated to a lovely dinner with friends from Cambodian Red Cross, Sok Long and Va Sopheak and their families. We are also currently enjoying a second visit from Shalmali, this time accompanied by her husband Randy. And just when you think you’ve made all the friends you can, you meet people so cool you just have to hang out with them — like Harriet and Dan. Very happy making.

Singly's tuk-tuk4. Tuk-tuks — This kid-friendly form of transport generates its own breeze, the seats are comfy and the views are great. Not sure about the carbon footprint. Our regular tuk-tuk driver is Mr Singly, who ferries Tash (with one of her parents) to and from school twice a day. He’s a lovely man and a very good driver.

5. Villa Langka — OK, I’m showing my truly bourgeois credentials here, but a short walk along Street 282 from our place, past Wat Langka, its walls lined with frangipani trees (I’m not making this up) is a guest house called the Villa Langka with a beautiful pool set in a tropical garden. It costs $5 for adults and $2 for kids to use the pool, or you can spend the equivalent on food and drink (and the mojitos are excellent). If someone in our house mentions going for a swim, Tash comes out with, ‘We go pool, have shower, swim, eat chips, come home, drink milky. Sound good?’ –Sounds great!


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2 Responses to “Reasons to be cheerful #1”

  1. khim Says:

    Angela, Andrew,

    Get well soon…

    yes, there are always reasons to be cheerful….just as there are always reasons to bitch when living in a foreign country…a South African colleague here said that I don’t bitch enough about the French…..well, she should hear me at home : )

    btw, do check out this video:

  2. Julian Savage Says:

    Dear A Team – this was written a while ago and I couldn’t wait for Maja’s contribution any longer. Enjoying the blog. Love to all, Julian

    So, I have been living in London for the past 4 years and in response to the A Team’s post concerning “Reasons To Be Cheerful’ I was moved to reply. In the first instance the English make a national pastime of the ‘culture of complaint’ and as an ex-pat one is doubly qualified to take up this pursuit with abandon given a) my antipathy towards the English (read Anglo-Celtic Australian justification), b) the tendency to mimick as a quasi-means of assimilation and c) the fucking pathetic winter (in the sense of little snow/light/general crappiness) lasts six months and encourages navel gazing of the bleakest woe-is-me variety. Hence, to counter the paradigm and welcome the first rays of sunshine in late April (it also snowed in the same month?!) here goes (I’ll stick to the prescribed 5):

    The first two things we did in our relationship were to move into an apartment together and travel around Europe for two months – any test of two people’s ability to spend time with each other. The fact that we have managed to find a working, domestic balance amidst the passion, upheaval and occasional challenge has been startling. My life here really ‘began’ when Maja arrived. Every day is full of frivolity, joy, emotion and stimulation in a heady mix that is perpetually intoxicating. I love her and I love IT. She is a fantabulous lover, intellectual other, source of support and inspiration. Enough! Otherwise I’ll have to beatify her and she’ll be untouchable.

    OK, so I’m a cinephile, boffin, dilletante, academic, art/music lover, an all round wanker if you will. And every day there is something going on to satisfy the most slaven of cultural pariahs. Top five:
    1. Jean Claude Vannier – an orchestra and assorted musicians (making found sounds, a rock band of legendary UK session men, a little kid) play JCV’s music concrete masterpiece followed by the entire Gainsbourg album ‘Ballady of Melody Nelson’ sung/spoken by rock royalty (Jarvis Cocker, Mick Harvey, etc). A truly one off experience that required the requisite combination of nerdy obsession and inspired concept.
    2. Eddie Palmieri – el maestro de los teclados. One of my heroes – the remarkable EP hammered away for three hours of incredible latin jazz back by some crack NYC talent. Although I would have loved to see him in his jamming salsa heyday watching the sausage like fingers pound piano and organ was a treat to a man still recording and experimenting into his fifth decade of playing/composing.
    3. Lalo Schifrin – another Latin jazz extravaganza with Schifrin and the London symphony moving between original, standard and film score material. Props to Aussie hornsmith James Morrison who soloed on trumpet/trombone (simulataneously at a couple of stages) and flugelhorn. The orchestra added colour and emphasis never overshadowing an incredible, intimate quartet. Duly deserved the standing ovation.
    4. The Black Rider – stage play based on an old fable with original music by Tom Waits played live. Marianne Faithfull starred and although a little tired and emotional the phenomenal staging made up for the looseness of a preview programme.
    5. Madame Jo Jo’s (Deep Funk wth Keb Darge) – home to former porn king Paul Raymond’s Revue Bar this disreputable club now hosts a range of festivities including this long running funk night. Incredible tunes, vibe and dancing from ‘resident’ breakers make this a club worth going back to time and time again.
    5a. A special mention to Trishas aka the Evaristo Club, a former Soho speakeasy run by Sicilians now gone leggit. Always cool with or without the fags, drag queens, jazz heads, wide boys, hipsters, etc that make up its clientele. My dream is to DJ there one day (I’m working on it).

    The one comodity that has actually fallen in price in the last decade in the UK is beer. I didn’t think this was possible under capitalism, but it is a good reminder that no system is infallible to incongruities. Those ‘exotic’ lagers, pilseners, weizen, stouts, ales, etc of yesteryear are all available at discount rates from an endless series of ‘off-licences’ around town (a sort of mini-mart with booze).
    Top five:
    1. Budvar (Czech Republic) – the true king of beers who not only remain state owned, but perpetuate their resistance to selling out to the insipid American brand that co-opted their name. Funds the health system in the south of the republic. A distinct full bodied pilsener with a smooth as silk flavour, augmented by a rich, honey-flavoured aftertaste produced bty the legendary saaz hops. Perfected the recipe in the 13C. Sublime. Average price £1.20/500ml.
    2. Guinness – whether it be the rich, smooth flavour of the widget inspired draught or the nutty bite of the Oirish original an unmatched stout to see out the loooong winter, eat with oysters, etc. The apparently not-so-apochryphal story that someone survived on guinness alone is telling. It is food, hearth and shelter.
    3. Grolsch – a quaffable premium lager of the Dutch stylee. Flip top bottle not required when the standard is 6 x 500ml cans for 5 quid.
    4. Real Ales – an acquired taste but essential to winter drinking. Regional variations worth trying including Harveys (south east), Hobgoblin. London Pride a solid standby.
    5. Cider – while obviously not ‘beer’ a good change-up that doesn’t have to be watered down with a glass full of ice or swilled like the white variety, which comes ‘pre-wrapped’ in a brown paper bag. Many different styles – the more traditional ones are cloudier, more flavoursome AND stronger. Best to be propped up in some bar in the west country with a ‘scrumpy’ next to some geezer with sideburns as wide as a cricket bar speaking some incomprehensible gibberish call cornish.

    The truism that the English are the ‘librarians of American culture’ stems to the accumulation of vinyl records, a pursuit dear to my very existence. Name your flavour and I have seen every rare LP or 45 on the planet at some time or another in the stores in London (at a price of course). I used to know a thing or two about music – now I have the collection to publish a musicological treatise. Endless distraction and enormous fun, especially when dropping a favourite tune to an 800+ crowd (my closest brush with rockstar status).

    I always appreciated the line from Laurence Sterne’s ‘other’ book, A Sentimental Journey, when his central character describes travelling through France and is accosted by a countryman, excusing himself ruminating, ‘an Englishman does not travel abroad to meet other Englishmen’. A ride on the 149 bus is tantamount to touring the globe and my forays onto the continent and beyond have been fabulous – the Djeema-El-Fna in Marrakech being one of the highlights. The greatest banjo players and breakbeat drummers on the planet!
    Bring on Portugal 08.

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