This issue of
Citylife

Dice Game

  • Work in a Thai TV station and appear on TV
  • Have a makeover
  • Go back to school
  • Fly plane
  • Work in a local market
  • Swim the moat

So it was back to school; sixteen years since those traumatic days of dark influence from wicked teachers and dank, inimical classrooms that may as well have been the holding cells for young offenders.

Nakorn Payap International School kindly allowed me to wax my Dice game sentiments on their charming school just down the road from another landmark where lessons are learnt – Chiang Mai jail. It has to be said, the first day at school again was quite nerve racking without mum at my side or even a bottle of tepid milk to ease the tension. Straight into my first class:Englishliterature. I was amused to witness one of the most implausible excuses I’ve ever heard of as to why a student couldn’t come to class. The young girl gingerly approached the teacher and told him, “I can’t turn left … I can’t study because I can’t turn left.” Immaculate! How could the poor girl even make it to her seat with such an uncompromising and unfathomable condition? It remains a mystery as to how she even made it to school, but then again, Chiang Mai does embrace the one way system. Reading a Booker Prize winning novel, the line “An idle mind may sink” scared me somewhat so I hunkered down into a book with a fellow classmate. Watching the fecund minds sucking in the information kind of reminds you of how caustic, self indulgent and narrow minded those my generation have become. We touched on the futility of life, duplicity of self and the chameleonic attributes of the human spirit – the tenuous divide between human and animal. I was feeling more animal whilst discussing the meaning of anthropomorphism and before the lack of self worth really depressed me it was time to move on to science class.

“Are you a new student here?” asked a confident girl in front of me. And so we rise from the fall . . . only to be shot back down by tricky scientific terminology: PLANT LIKE PROTISTS, or was that a mistake? Maybe, PLANTS LIKE PROTISTS, or PLANT LIKES PROTESTS? Euglenophytes … no cell, two flagella with membrane made of pellicle??? Was this a joke or had my time in school really been spent on gambling, smoking and trying to be tough? It was a comic relief when the teacher finally said something with the word ‘sex’ in it, though to my disbelief no one chuckled. In these modern times the words ‘sexual reproduction’ (even if related to flowers) weren’t having the same impact as they had in my own sheltered school days when our strictly unliberated and asexual old prude of a teacher would utter such licentious words in a blushed undertone. Not even a farting noise from the back of the class. I was completely out of my depth. The boys in both classes so far seemed collectively focused on some other task, on some other airwave. Joining forces with them I settled down into dawdling, dalliance and concentrated time consumption. Ring, ring – the bell.

World culture taught me that the Han dynasty enjoyed the wheelbarrow years before my dad, anesthetics were indeed not Scottish; and as alluded to by our congenial teacher, the Chinese Han took pleasure in hacking up pandas for the fun of it (such an overrated animal, anyway). Second best student quote of the day, “Paper is pretty cool.” She’s not wrong. The Han Dynasty was a Golden Age: Golden Age = Peace, prosperity and achievements. It’s hard to imagine a Golden Age in a country these days; it’s hard to imagine a Golden Age in a small company. The question should never be over-looked: Is history all lies and are all books actually fictional? After not being able to find the Black Sea on the map and forgetting which century Genghis Khan plagued Europe and Asia, I sneaked off to physics class with my camera between my legs.

How wonderfully eccentric did our physics teacher look and sound; scientists are artists that can’t draw. He sounded much like Andy Kauffman’s character in Taxi, and inexplicably, because I always hated physics, facilitated the most enjoyable class of the day. Rotational motion and centrifugal forces were a blast. Vt = rw might have meant nothing to me riding to work on my two estranged wheels, but with the help of a plastic six wheeler bike and a concise explanation it all became clear to me how the speedometer works. Not only that, the teacher’s profound words, “If there’s change in direction, there’s change in acceleration,” led to all manner of metaphorical cogitations.

Physics : the backbone of philosophy? After producing a Sesame Street, ‘Burt’ key ring, with an elastic spring as key chain, he spun Burt’s head in a circular motion whilst proving Newton’s 1st 2nd and 3rd laws of physics. I liked that, somehow Sesame Street coupled with mind confounding physics elucidated the whole conundrum. Maybe the teacher tamed the class a tad for my benefit. It worked; without Burt, all the diagrams would have been redundant.

School is not out, on the contrary it is very in; work, bills, responsibility, back ache, hangovers, consumeristic crap on TV . . . sycophants, detractors, back stabbers, bald spots, lumps under your skin and blood clots; purse grabbers and the realisation that life is not all about ME ME ME is totally out. My old man always said, “Your school days are the best days of your life.” It was hard to believe at the time, and maybe quite an insidious and selfish revelation to be telling your kids that it’s all down hill after institutionalised education – but he was probably right.