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Chiang Mai Citylife > Articles > 2012 > 2012 Issue 04 > The Baker’s Dozen

The Baker’s Dozen


I asked some Thai friends the other day, who they thought was responsible for the appalling air quality. Mushroom growers, apparently…and nobody else. Floored by the assignment of all blame upon one, seemingly small group, I disputed the poor shroomers’ sole culpability, but my friends remained unmoved, and unconvinced. We agreed on the need for wider education and the enforcement of existing laws. I questioned why there was no enforcement and, sticking to their guns, they replied: “we like mushrooms”. Futile to argue further.

Now we’re back out on the bikes wearing a gas masks, and the forest of nasal hairs sprouting from my nostrils needs trimming. Ineffective against the smallest particulate, they’re still one of nature’s natural filters. Much to the disgust of my beloved, I’d decided to let them grow to provide an additional level of protection. Couldn’t grow a mustache, but, unchecked, the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” would appear just above.

The buying of a battery operated trimmer represented another depressing milestone in my life. The nose must always be done first. An unexpected whiff of earwax can be quite off-putting. I pressed the button and as the motor spun into life, I yearned for the days when hair didn’t rapidly grow out of every orifice. I wondered what Mrs. D was nostalgic for and interrupted her Kindle moment on the couch.

“The days when I was single.”

I ignored her, of course, the book must be making her emotional. However, being a nerd, I wanted to learn what caused nostalgia. There is no clear understanding of the chemical processes involved. However, my favourite theory says it’s the brain’s natural anti-depressant. When you’re weary, when you’re feeling small (sorry, I came over all Simon and Garfunkel), the psyche goes to a place where things seemed better. A happy memory fills your mind…but can we trust it? Research has shown memories are positively modified each time they are recalled. A good memory becomes better over time. Psychologists use this to modify the triggers and treat phobias. Armed with my new knowledge, I tried asking Mrs. D again about what made her nostalgic.

“The days when life was fun.”

I spotted an underlying theme in her answers but couldn’t work out what. I needed to find a happy place. A song called ‘La Dolce Vita’ assaulted the airwaves in 1983. I thought it nothing more than a trashy piece of Euro-pop and changed stations whenever I heard the distinctive introduction. For some reason it started to play in my head and happier times filled my mind. To paraphrase another song, to the days when I could do all night what it now takes me all night to do. If I’m lucky. I told Mrs. D and hoped for a different response.

“The days my nipples pointed to the sky.”
I shouldn’t have agreed so quickly and had to beat a hasty retreat under a barrage of abuse. Mr. Paris continued to sing his bloody tune over and over again. What other things did I long for? Walking into a room and remembering why comes to mind. Geting out of a chair without groaning used to be nice. My old MG; but goodness knows why, frankly it was unreliable and had no room for hanky-panky. Then another memory came and transported me back to the valleys of South Wales. No more than five or six years old, standing in my grandmother’s old house. She cooked loaf after loaf of bread and warmed them by the fire. I can see every detail. A wonderful image. Or it could have been in Tesco. The mind plays tricks, you know. Either way, filled with a warm glow, I decided on one more try with Mrs. D.

“For the days when you stop asking me stupid bloody questions!”

Now we were getting somewhere. This was a familiar type of response. I knew what to do next. I needed to be emotionally sensitive to her needs and find out what was making her unhappy. She asked me what the day was. My technically correct answer of Thursday produced a nod but little else. Next, I had to tell her the date, which I did after checking my watch. I was right but her face told me otherwise and I started to panic. What did she want from me? She produced a card and a present. I tried to imagine the smell of fresh bread, hoping it would transport me elsewhere. I had forgotten our wedding anniversary.

Hurt and anger fueled the tirade that came next. I didn’t run away and took it on the chin. On the positive side, I didn’t have to feel nostalgic though. The good old bad old days were back. Shame Daring, shame.