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So what is the "new normal" lets ask Roger

Started by thaiga, July 26, 2020, 01:12:45 PM

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Another interesting article from Roger Crutchley, about what is the new normal, nobody really knows, which is probably the reason for its popularity amongst public speakers and politicians, but it sounds good. he goes on to say. There is bit of a worry that "new normal" might also be a bit tough on old guys like me who have spent their whole life desperately trying to be normal, only to find that now we are in danger of becoming "abnormal". lol. :)

Thanks to Roger Crutchley
Bangkok Post columnist

Desperate times for the old normal
Every now and again a buzzword or phrase appears which you know is not going away in a hurry, although you wish it would. One such expression which we have become accustomed to in recent times is "new normal". Admittedly it sounded quite trendy and even clever when it first emerged, but it has been so overused it is already something of a cliche.

It is still not entirely clear what "new normal" actually means, primarily because nobody really knows, which is probably the reason for its popularity amongst public speakers and politicians. If someone uses "new normal" in a speech they are pretty safe because it sounds like they know what they are talking about even if they don't.

There is bit of a worry that "new normal" might also be a bit tough on old guys like me who have spent their whole life desperately trying to be normal, only to find that now we are in danger of becoming "abnormal".

"New normal" might also sound the death-knell for that long-established and wonderfully comforting expression "perfectly normal". Somehow "perfectly new normal" doesn't quite flow off the tongue in the same manner.

It could also be an interesting period for four US towns in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky which happen to share the somewhat abnormal name of Normal. One wonders when the pandemic is over if they will be renamed New Normal or perhaps if they haven't adapted to the new situation, will settle for Old Normal.

End of the road

Some buzzwords have a longer shelf life than others. Back in 2004 when George W Bush came up with a "road map" for Middle East peace, you had the feeling it wasn't the last we had heard of that expression and that has proven to be the case. I even heard it a couple of times last week when a British politician got in a tangle and was unconvincingly trying to pretend everything would work out if we followed his "road map".

The "road map" expression even reached Thailand a few years ago. It is the sort of term politicians dream about. It sounds quite enlightened even if it doesn't really mean anything. It doesn't matter as long as it impresses the general public. Unfortunately, as we know, maps in Thailand have to take into account assorted U-turns, gridlocks and potholes which have an unfortunate habit of either leading to a dead end or a head-on collision.

Not so plain speaking

In the past decade the "road map" expression has also come in very useful for anyone who serves on a committee or board and in a meeting is called upon to comment on something they know nothing about. Even an incoherent mumble can sound quite authoritative as long as you lob in "road map" and a few other established buzzwords such as "window of opportunity", "grass roots" or the favourites for many years, "transparency" and "sustainability". You can also slip in Boris Johnson's favourite "sherpa time" and find people nodding in agreement.

A mention of "re-engineering" or "synergy" also doesn't do any harm as long as you don't have to explain what they mean.

"Paradigm" is another word that regularly crops up in reports despite the fact that few people know its meaning and even fewer how to pronounce it.

Box tickers

There are some expressions that can be irritating simply because they are too clever by half. In this respect "singing from the same hymn book" has always been a bit annoying, as has "thinking out of the box", not to be confused with the equally maddening "ticks all the right boxes".

Then we have "correct me if I am wrong", which really means "I am right and don't even think about correcting me".

One expression we are all probably guilty of using is "but, having said that" after which we go on to contradict everything we have just said, a convenient way of sitting on the fence.

Thanks, but no thanks

One email expression that can make people uncomfortable is "thanks in advance". It's a sneaky way of thanking a person for something they probably don't want to do, but makes them feel guilty if they don't. Another annoying expression is "with all due respect", a pompous way of announcing that whatever is said next will not show any respect whatsoever. All the above are basically modern-day cliches, a word derived from the French publishing name for a printing plate that can be reused over and over again. So not for the first time we can blame it all on the French.

Nailed on

Many thanks to a long-time Bangkok resident who can confirm first-hand the item last week suggesting there may have been some surreptitious tinkling with the coconuts at British fairground shies in the old days. In 1950 his grandfather ran an amusement arcade in Blackpool and one of the tasks granddad gave his nine-year-old grandson was to nail down the coconuts at the shy so they would not fall off if hit by a customer.

On one such occasion, the youngster missed the nail and hammered a painful blow on his finger and to this day has the wound to prove it. One suspects he is probably the only expat in Thailand to have suffered a coconut wound in such a manner.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Taman Tun

Just a few comments on Roger's observations:-

Synergy was the favourite expression of a guy working for a company that was  involved with our company in carrying out a project.   His definition of synergy was perfectly clear:-  A solution to any problem on the project would result in a huge cost saving to his company and a huge increase in cost to our company.  He seemed quite upset when we would not accept his definition.

Box tickers
This is one of my favourite insults at the moment.  I use it to insult people who blindly follow processes and procedures without deploying any thought or common sense whatsoever.

Thanks in advance
I use "thanks in advance" quite a bit.  It is designed to ensure that they actually carry out the task that I have just requested them to do.  I don't care if they feel uncomfortable or not. 
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


thanks for that T.T. Box tickers i like that one. Thanks in advance TIA i always use that one, does bring on the reply most times, a thankyou in advance, if not answered might just make some feel uncomfortable being thanked for nothing.

He mentions there may have been some surreptitious tinkling with the coconuts at British fairground shies in the old days, all the fun o the fair

"Carnival Time means coconut time when the girls get loose at the Fair."

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


Another article of fine words from Roger Crutchley Bangkok Post columnist, down to earth guy i must say and a pleasure to read. 
guest houses, advertised a two-minute stroll to the seafront when it was more like a two-mile trudge. LOL.

August can be a very wicked month

My goodness, we are already into August, but with the coronavirus it feels like the year has hardly got started. Six months seem to have simply disappeared and worse, I've got a year older with nothing to show for it but a few more wrinkles. I also have an uncomfortable feeling I will still be wearing a face mask next August.

As a kid I used to look forward to August with a mixture of excitement and just a little trepidation. As August coincided with the English school holidays, in the 1950s and early 60s the month witnessed a mass migration to the coast for a couple of weeks by the working and middle classes. Those that couldn't afford a fortnight away would take grueling day trips to the seaside, which often entailed three hours getting there, three hours getting back, and maybe an hour or so squeezed in at the resort.

The "toffs'' of course went further afield to what was known then as the "Continent", where people spoke in foreign tongues and ate strange food. When they returned they would flaunt their new-found tans and start dropping French phrases into their conversation to show how sophisticated they were.

Every August our family would head off to an English beach resort on the south coast in search of a fortnight of fun and sun, or more often than not, rain and pain. The two weeks was epitomized by the emergence of plastic macs as we sheltered in doorways from incessant drizzle or gales whipping up the trouser-legs. England is not called the "Land of Rain Stopped Play" for nothing.

One positive result of having to take refuge from the rain at the seaside was that we often ended up in a cinema. From what I recall, most were war films like Reach For the Sky, The Dam Busters and The Cockleshell Heroes. They don't make films like that these days.

Saved by soggy chips

Things changed a lot in the early 1960s with the advent of cheap package tours to Europe and the British began to head for Spain, Greece and Italy, seduced by the sun and warm waters of the Mediterranean, not to mention the cheap vino. But they still demanded English breakfasts and fish 'n chips.

As my dad didn't fancy "abroad", our family continued to frequent places like Bournemouth, Hastings and Weymouth until I was old enough to escape with school friends for serious sessions with the plonk in Italy and Spain. Our family stayed in guest houses. They were the sort of establishments which in promotional literature advertised a two-minute stroll to the seafront when it was more like a two-mile trudge. They were not dissimilar to the hostelry in Torquay depicted in the John Cleese TV series Fawlty Towers. In fact some of the landlords were disturbingly similar to Basil Fawlty.

One such place in Bournemouth had a particularly grumpy owner and the portions for our meals were so small we had to go to a nearby chip shop afterwards to fill ourselves up. When we entered the chippy we found half the people in there were from our same guest house and getting stuck into soggy chips for the very same reason.

Cold feet

Not so long ago on a trip to England, I happened to visit a number of traditional south coast holiday haunts including Brighton, Bognor Regis and Worthing. Nothing much had changed over the years apart from the prices. The deckchairs, sticks of rock, naughty postcards, jellied eels, silly hats, crazy golf and the ubiquitous chippies were still there in all their glory.

One difference was that, despite decent weather, there did not seem to be many people swimming or playing in the sea. It seems the English have been spoiled by vacations to warmer climes like Thailand. Understandably they no long consider dipping their toes in the uninviting waters of the English Channel or the North Sea when they can choose Samui, Krabi and Phuket without any danger of suffering frostbite.

A real buzz

Many thanks to readers for their comments on buzzwords featured in last week's PostScript. I particularly liked the anecdote from a reader who recalled inventing "Buzzword Bingo" in meetings when he would tick off a list of trendy words that he suspected would put in an appearance from assorted speakers. The inspirational vocabulary included "synergy", "quantum" and the wonderfully meaningless "cross-functional", all which no doubt prompted approving sage-like nods from those in attendance. Perhaps he could patent a board game.

For some wonderful comedic exchanges of doublespeak in committees, I can recommend the BBC "mockumentary" Twenty Twelve, a behind the scenes comedy mini-series on a fictional organizing committee for the 2012 London Olympics. It is very entertaining, helped by some terrific acting from a cast led by Hugh Bonneville.

Last word

Finally, in the unlikely event that you wish to learn more about Old Crutch there is a Q&A in the current online edition of Expat Life in Thailand magazine at expatlifeinthailand.com It includes observations on the important things in life including rattling taxis, singing noodle vendors, a loyal maid and of course a devoted dog. There is also a review of my book The Long and Winding Road to Nakhon Nowhere, by Leonard H Le Blanc III, in which the expression "a literary masterpiece" definitely does not appear.

Thanks to Roger Crutchley A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


This guy is so down to earth with a sense of humour thrown in, Roger Crutchley a long time popular Bangkok Post columnist, he certainly brings back some old memories, What did you have for breakfast. worth a read ...
Memories of serious cereal behaviour     video   below     

The recent PostScript column concerning the unlikely combination of bathroom submarines and cornflakes prompted a number of seasoned readers to recall their childhood breakfast delights.

One veteran of bathroom battles pointed out that I had unforgivably overlooked the plastic frogmen which accompanied the Kellogg's subs.

There have been tales from readers about munching on Cocoa Puffs, Cap'n Crunch, Frosties, Twinkies, Winkies or whatever, before dashing off to school.

To entice youngsters to consume a particular brand there were plenty of slogans. One of the more popular, promoting Frosties, featured Tony the Tiger announcing "They're not good. They're Gr-r-reat!" Shredded Wheat announced "That 'Good Morning' Feeling" while Kellogg's Rice Krispies probably had the most memorable catchphrase with "Snap! Crackle! Pop!"

Then there were Wheaties advertised as the "Breakfast of Champions" featuring famous sportsmen including Brooklyn Dodgers baseball star Jackie Robinson who informed us that "ball players go for milk, fruit and Wheaties."

Breakfast of Champions later became the title of a famous Kurt Vonnegut novel.

However the "breakfast" referred to in the book was actually a martini.

Nosebag nosh

Whatever your taste, breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day, something that gets you off to a good start. As a kid I grew up in a cornflakes environment, but did have a brief flirtation with Rice Krispies, possibly influenced by the slick "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" campaign.

As a teenager I wasn't a huge cereal consumer, maybe as a result of reading a comment by author Roald Dahl in which he observed that cereals are "made of all those curly wood-shavings you find in pencil sharpeners". Another cereal sceptic was English humorist Frank Muir who was a traditional bacon and eggs man. He likened muesli to "the leavings of carthorse nosebags" and the "sweepings of racing stables".

The cereals that rocked

Something that might surprise people is that the Rolling Stones made an advertising jingle for Rice Krispies which aired on British television in 1964.

It was just when the Stones were breaking through and would do anything for a few extra quid.

You can find it on the internet and it's not a bad sound. The jingle resembles the Stones' early Chuck Berry cover versions, with guitar riffs, wailing harmonica and Mick Jagger in good voice as he extols the virtues of consuming crispy rice.

Inevitably the lyrics are a bit dodgy, but to his credit Jagger makes "pour on the milk and listen to the crackle of that rice" sound quite funky.

The joy of kippers

A Scottish reader reports he much prefers kippers (smoked herring) to cereals for breakfast because "at least they have a bit of taste". He is right about the taste, although "acquired taste" is perhaps more accurate. When I was a kid I used to dread it when my mum announced it was "kipper day". It wasn't so much the taste, but I seemed to spend more time extracting the bones out of the fish rather than eating it.

However, after a couple of vacations in Scotland where it was hard to escape kippers, I soon adapted. To get into the spirit of things for today's column I actually purchased some "smokey golden" kippers from the supermarket and they became Thursday's breakfast. I really enjoyed them too, possibly because I had not tasted a kipper for a while. It goes down very well accompanied by bread and butter.

Breakfast in America

Kippers have made a number of inroads into literature. Followers of PG Wodehouse novels know that Bertie Wooster liked to begin the day with kippers for breakfast because he felt they were good for the brain. However, he also appeared partial to less healthy indulgences at the breakfast table. In My Man Jeeves, an off-colour Bertie comments: "I hadn't the heart to touch my breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself."

Wodehouse must have had a thing about kippers. One of the characters in his novels is a childhood friend of Bertie called Reginald Herring, inevitably nicknamed "Kipper".

Harry Potter devotees will be aware that kippers were regularly served for breakfast in the Great Hall. Harry's ginger-haired mate Ron Weasley also gagged on a portion of kipper that went down the wrong way.

We must not forget the English pop group Supertramp who did their bit to popularise kippers in their 1979 hit Breakfast in America which included the plaintive cry from singer/composer Roger Hodgson "Could we have kippers for breakfast, mummy dear, mummy dear?"

The Flying Kipper

Kippers brings to mind the Fawlty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse". It features Basil in a state of panic after he fears a guest has died after being served a breakfast of kippers.

The smoked herring also plays a significant role in the children's television series Thomas the Tank Engine. Making regular appearances is "The Flying Kipper", an express fish train normally pulled by Henry the Green Engine. It gets involved in all sort of dramas and has even been known to crash. When Henry is under repairs, the Fat Controller asks Gordon to pull the fish train but the snooty express engine refuses saying it was "far too smelly" for an engine of his status. I wonder if any readers are currently partaking of a kipper breakfast. Enjoy, but watch out for the bones. 
Thanks to Roger Crutchley @ the Bangkokpost

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


Bit more lighthearted fun from  Roger Crutchley Bangkok Post columnist - down to earth guy with interesting articles that make you smile
I shall in future prefer to be regarded as an "old tree" rather than an old fart. ha! ha!

Wagglers, winkers and grasshoppers

A half-hearted spring-cleaning session at home during the week came to a welcome halt when I unearthed a long-lost copy of Have Fun With Thai Proverbs collecting dust under a pile of disintegrating paperbacks. Written by Dr Duangtip Somnapan Surintatip, the book is a reminder that there is a common thread to proverbs around the world. As the title suggests, it can be fun putting long-standing expressions into a Thai context.

As I leafed through the book, the dog approached and started licking my toes as is his customary morning greeting, which happened to be quite timely. According to the book, len kap ma ma lia pak (If you play with a dog the dog will lick your mouth) means roughly "familiarity breeds contempt". My faithful dog showing contempt for Old Crutch? At least he didn't lick my mouth. Admittedly, the toe-licking is simply a sign the dog wants his daily treat, or possibly, that I have smelly feet.

Animals play a prominent role in Thai proverbs. "Out of the frying pan into the fire" becomes ni sua pa chorakhae (escape the tiger, meet the crocodile), while "to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut" translates as khi chang chap takataen (ride an elephant to catch a grasshopper." The crocodile also features in the Thai version of "like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs" with son chorakhae hai wai nam (teaching a crocodile to swim).

Having been guilty of "putting one's foot in it" on many occasions, it seems my problem was kwaeng thao ha sian (looking for a splinter by waggling one's foot).

There is also a rather quaint interpretation of "When in Rome do as the Romans", khao muang ta liu hai liu ta tam (when you enter a town where people wink, wink as they do."

The ancient tree

There is an intriguing Thai adaptation of "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" which is transformed into mae kae dat yak (it is hard to bend an old tree.) I shall in future prefer to be regarded as an "old tree" rather than an old fart.

However, one tree proverb I hope not to be hearing is mai glai fang (a tree near a bank) or as we know it less happily in the English language, "to have one foot in the grave."

Proverbial paradox

Parents often find proverbs useful in teaching kids how to make the right choice. But children quickly learn that, wise though a certain proverb may sound, there is invariably another proverb which has the exact opposite advice.

Everyone is familiar with the cautionary "look before you leap", but then you have "he who hesitates is lost.'' In a similar vein, "it is better to be safe than sorry" is contradicted by "nothing ventured, nothing gained." It can be quite confusing.

Another off-quoted proverb is "too many cooks spoil the broth", but then you have "many hands make light work."

Again we are taught "the pen is mightier than the sword" but "actions speak louder than words." Well, you get the idea -- you've got a 50% chance of making the right decision. Just choose the one that suits your mood at the time.

The kids are alright

It is not surprising that schoolchildren can get a little confused over incompatible proverbs. Some years ago an American teacher gave his class of pre-teens the opening words of a proverb and asked them to finish it off.

Some of the children's answers actually made more sense than the original proverb as seen below:

If you lie down with a dog you will... stink in the morning.

A penny saved is... not much.

A miss is as good as a... mister.

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and... you'll have to blow your nose.

Children should be seen and not... spanked or grounded.

Better late than... pregnant.

Happy the bride who gets... the presents.

You can't teach an old dog... new maths.

Know what I mean?

In a recent column on irritating expressions, one that I overlooked was "I mean", which invariably doesn't really mean anything. Just about everybody, myself included, uses it in conversation often without even realising it. It's one of those things that just pops out and has sneakily embedded itself into everyday English. Switch on any TV news programme and it won't be long before you hear someone coming out with an unnecessary "I mean..." Sometimes it's the very first thing they say. "I mean" doesn't really have any point unless it's explaining that what you have just said previously was incomprehensible, which I admit happens to me quite a lot. It should not be confused with "you know what I mean?" at the end of a sentence which suggests the person you are talking to actually understands what you are saying.

Just filling in

The reality is that "I mean" is one of those very useful filler expressions, used primarily to give the speaker a few extra precious seconds to dream up what to say next, a bit like the equally redundant "at this moment in time". It's really a handy substitute for all those stuttering "ums" and "ahhs'', "errs'' and "you know", which can be quite painful at times. In that respect, perhaps "I mean" does serve a useful function after all... if you know what I mean.

Thanks to Roger Crutchley @ Bangkokpost.com  Post columnist
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


Another article of fun from Roger Crutchley Bangkok Post columnist, down to earth guy that puts news in a different perspective, a good read to cheer us all up away from the blues - you might remember Brylcreem, a popular hair product. In the 1950s it was known for a catchy ad which informed us
"A Little Dab Will Do Ya!"

A good time to chill out and be cool
It was a strange week even by US President Donald Trump's standards. It began with him pardoning turkeys and ended in pardoning former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Who is next in line for a pardon one wonders?

Mr Trump understandably wanted to get away from the White House after doing his duty with the traditional Thanksgiving turkeys, which prompted annoying headlines like "Lame duck pardons turkey".

Although he could not make it to Gettysburg as planned to join Rudy Giuliani, he did manage to phone in a speech to his loyal supporters. The speech may not have quite matched the eloquence of the "Gettysburg Address" delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, but it was colourful in its own way.

Despite the importance of what took place at Gettysburg all those years ago, not all Americans are fully aware of its history. Some years ago, The Tonight Show asked people on the street what they knew about the "Gettysburg Address". There were assorted flaky answers but the most entertaining came from a lady who said: "I've heard of the 'Gettysburg Address', but can't remember which street it's on."

On another occasion, US students were questioned about Gettysburg and there were plenty of dodgy responses. The best answer came from a young woman who correctly explained, "It's Lincoln's appeal to everyone, saying 'hey, chill out, we need to...you know, be cool and stuff.'"

That sounds like a most timely message for everyone in the world today.

Turkey trot
For anyone concerned about the welfare of the presidential turkeys, they were well looked after. Just like their predecessors, Mr Trump's turkeys Corn and Cob spent a couple of nights in a posh Washington hotel, complete with room service and two comfortable-looking beds. After the pardons the birds in past years were sent to assorted zoos, including the interestingly-named Frying Pan Farm Park in Virginia, or the equally intriguing Gobbler's Rest. You can't make this stuff up.

Just a dab
My thanks to a reader who suggested the greasy hair sported by spivs and wide boys mentioned in last week's column was most likely a result of using Brylcreem, a popular hair product. In the 1950s it was known for a catchy ad which informed us, "A Little Dab Will Do Ya!"

During World War II, the RAF in Britain were known as the Brylcreem Boys by other members of the armed forces because at the airbases they had a chance to have a proper haircut, unlike those in the army who were stuck in the battlefront trenches. The expression was initially meant as a mild insult, but after their heroic deeds in the Battle of Britain in 1940 the Brylcreem Boys quickly became a term of endearment and pride.

Hair creams made quite a cultural impact in the late 1950s especially with the emergence of Elvis Presley who used them to good effect. Not everyone liked greasy hair, however, and in 1962 there was even a song about it. Entitled "That Greasy Kid Stuff", Janie Grant sang about putting her fingers through her boyfriend's hair prompting the splendid lyrics:

"Are you still using that greasy kid stuff? That icky sticky ooey gooey greasy kid stuff."

Bad hair day
In the late 1950s, a boy called Richard who lived next door and was also my age, started to use Brylcreem. One day he gave me a dollop and I smothered my hair with it. When my mother saw me she had a fit and ordered me to wash my hair immediately. It took ages to wash the grease out and for that reason alone I've never since tried any type of gel.

After the greasy hair experience Richard, who was a bit of a rebel, adopted a crew cut, regarded in England as an "American haircut". I knew a crew cut would not go down well in our household so I stuck to the much safer, but very boring "short back and sides".

Shortly after that, the Beatles surfaced with their mop-heads and greasy hair quickly lost its appeal.

Misbehaving hyphens
A reader in England pointed out that in a recent PostScript I incorrectly hyphenated the town of Kingston Upon Thames. I suspect my brain had been scrambled by watching far too many hours of US election results. But that's no excuse considering I lived in Kingston as a student for three years and admit that it never really felt like a hyphenated town. It had more of a semi- colon feel to it, with the occasional exclamation mark when I had overindulged at the pub.

I have since discovered that Kingston dropped the hyphens in 1965. As I was in Kingston from 1964–67 that might explain my confusion -- I arrived in the town when it was hyphenated and when I left it was no longer hyphenated. Such dramatic times.

Full stop
Just like apostrophes, hyphens are becoming an endangered species in these Internet days. Even back in 2007 the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary announced a cull of unnecessary hyphens and "de-hyphenated" about 16,000 words. Just as long as they don't eliminate full stops -- then we would really be in trouble.

Thanks to Roger [email protected] bangkokpost.com

They love to get their fingers in your hair
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


Rogers back with some more fun news of new and old and a bit of advice as to not fall asleep on the bus  ;D
anyone remember The Titfield Thunderbolt Stanley Holloway (video below) a 1953 film where two soaks steal a train and drive through a town

When steamrollers saved the day
In recent street confrontations in Bangkok the police have regularly used buses as barricades against the protesters, hopefully letting any dozing passengers off first. People tend to fall asleep on buses and might get a bit of a fright waking up in the midst of a street showdown.

It is not only buses that make useful barricades. Back in 2009 when protesters threatened Government House, police commandeered several steamrollers that were being used for nearby roadworks. The steamrollers proved quite effective at keeping the demonstrators at bay, although admittedly they didn't have any rubber ducks to deal with.

Later when things calmed down, the protesters took over the steamrollers, which they used to help prop up a stage for their speeches and singers. So both sides were able to make creative use of these largely unheralded machines. That was real democracy in action.

The doll crushers
It also served as a reminder of how versatile steamrollers can be. Apart from their regular unenviable task of flattening road surfaces in Thailand, they are often called upon to squash fake watches and other counterfeit luxury goods. Many years ago they were even used to crush fake Disney Winnie the Pooh dolls, although one would have thought giving the dolls to slum kids might have been a better option.

Other counterfeit toys that have succumbed to the Thai steamroller in recent years include Iron Man, Captain America and Hulk. Earlier this year, a steamroller in Pattaya did everyone a favour by crushing more than 700 illegal motorbike exhausts, you know, the ones that make that horrible racket.

Scene stealers
Steamrollers, including the ancient ones with smoking chimneys, have made appearances in a number of films. As a kid I recall seeing the British comedy, The Titfield Thunderbolt, starring Stanley Holloway, featuring a railway branch line which was under threat. A steamroller is used by the bad guys in an attempt to derail the tank engine pulling the express. The tank engine triumphed.

In the 1971 film adaptation of Dad's Army, Capt Mainwaring commandeers a steamroller with predictably disastrous results as he discovers he doesn't know how to stop it as it runs out of control, demolishing everything in sight.

You wouldn't think steamrollers would inspire musicians but they have played their part. Neil Young's old group Buffalo Springfield was named after a company logo spotted on a steamroller. One of James Taylor's biggest hits was a song with the unlikely title, Steamroller Blues, which includes the lyrics "I'm a steamroller baby, I'm bound to roll all over you."

Perhaps they should play that song next time the Thai steamrollers get together for a counterfeit crushing session.

History lesson
Last week's column included some American students who were a bit vague about US history. To balance things out, I should point out that Americans seem to know more about British history than the Brits, especially when it comes to royalty.

Back in the 1980s, I was with a coachload of American tourists visiting William Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick Castle. They were a friendly bunch and far more clued-in than me about the monarchs and castles, which admittedly was not very difficult.

When the Texan I was sitting next to asked what I thought about the Plantagenets and the House of Lancaster, it seemed prudent to change the subject to Shakespeare, not that I knew much about him either. When asked what was my favourite work by the Bard, I mentioned Julius Caesar, praying that there weren't any follow-up questions which I most certainly couldn't answer.

When conversation turned to Shakespeare's sonnets I hastily changed the discussion to the much safer ground of English football. That's when the American informed me he was a huge fan of Manchester United and proceeded to name the entire team.

Stonehenge and chips
Some time later I was also with American tourists on a trip to Stonehenge. Once again they knew a lot more than me about the origin of the old rocks so I kept quiet. Weather-wise it was a really miserable day, with a chilly wind whipping across Salisbury Plain amidst threatening clouds.

The Americans appeared to be just a trifle underwhelmed by Stonehenge. If you are looking for a visual treat it is not the place, especially during windy Wiltshire weather. You definitely need the sun out to appreciate Stonehenge. After briefly walking around the historic stones, much to my delight the Americans suggested we get back on the coach and find the nearest pub.

Twenty minutes later we were all sat in a lovely country inn with a pint and tucking into fish and chips. Poor old Stonehenge was all but forgotten.

Rock of ages
You don't have to go all the way to England for the Stonehenge experience. Just north of Chaiyaphum provincial town there's "Moh Hin Kao" (The Hill of White Rocks) which has been rather fancifully dubbed the "Stonehenge of Thailand".

Of course it is nothing like the real Stonehenge, but there are some impressive rocks lying around. The wife dragged me there a few years ago, believing that, as a certified old fossil, I would feel at home among ancient rocks. Instead, I was a perspiring wreck after 15 minutes, primarily because we were there in the midday sun -- Mad Dogs and Englishmen and all that. Noel Coward would have been proud.


Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

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How do people in Korat call the Thao Suranaree Monument in the center of town? (Mundo/Yamo/Supa/Mall):
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