There is a decent sized tree just above the back wall of my house in Bangkok which provides welcome shade. So I was a bit concerned the other day when local government workers arrived armed with a chainsaw, explaining that the tree was threatening overhead power lines.
I feared the worst as a worker climbed the tree, but to my relief he only cut the directly offending branches and not the whole tree – we had been spared a chainsaw massacre . The squirrels were also thrilled that their playground had survived the chop. I want to thank the guy for his restraint, something you don’t often see when it comes to trimming trees in Thailand.
Hopefully this worker’s refreshing attitude is a spinoff of Governor Chadchart Sittipunt’s plans for “greening Bangkok”. Mr. Chadchart recently pledged to plant one million trees during his four-year term. Normally, this sort of thing would be greeted with yawns by the people of Bangkok as another empty political promise. But you never know.
The new governor believes this can be done if every Sunday each of Bangkok’s 50 districts plant 100 trees. Some will dismiss Mr. Chadchart’s efforts as daydreaming and it is true that he is more likely to find himself overwhelmed by a sea of paperwork or permanently stuck in a traffic jam.
The governor is highly unlikely to be able to solve Bangkok’s traffic problems – you need Harry Potter’s wand for that – but when you’re trapped in daily traffic jams you’re certainly better off. if your vehicle is in the shade of a tree.
There was a large leafy tree arching over a ground near my residence. It provided shade for motorcycle taxi drivers and pedestrians and was the only natural shade in the place. Then one day I came across a huge traffic jam on the soi caused by a large container truck which had cleverly got stuck with the low branches of the overhanging tree. The truck was totally stuck and causing traffic chaos. The driver stood there, staring at the tree as if he was responsible for the accident.
I didn’t think about it until the next day. As I descended the soi, I felt like something was missing – the tree was totally gone, not just a few branches, but everything. There was only a shabby piece of trunk left. From what I had observed, it was enough to cut the offending branch. Instead the poor tree was summarily executed for interfering with the truck which I also suspect was taking an illegal shortcut being far too big for the small lane.
Unfortunately, producing any newspaper, including the Bangkok Post, also requires cutting down trees, which makes it a bit difficult for anyone to sound convincing as a crusading environmentalist journalist. Some people in the publishing industry succumb to a bad conscience as they get older. British novelist Hammond Innes, explaining his role in a tree-planting campaign, observed: “I replace some of the wood used by my books. Books are just trees with squiggles on them.”
Reading or Reading?
Last week’s article about my hometown of Reading’s failure to achieve city status prompted a number of comments, not all of which were replicable.
My thanks to a reader who worked for the WHSmith book chain. He was based in nearby Swindon when all staff received a free book from the chairman who loved literature. The book was titled The pleasure of reading. The reader asked a colleague from Swindon if he had liked the book, to which the guy replied that he hadn’t bothered to read it because ‘everyone knows Reading is a dump’ .
Reading certainly has a problem having the same spelling, but being pronounced differently, to this other “reading” much more commonly used. I have a friend from Derby who loves to cheer me up by deliberately mispronouncing Reading as “Reeding”.
An exasperated American even took to TikTok not too long ago to complain about the pronunciation of British cities, including Reading which he says should be spelled the same as other “readings”. He commented “For God’s sake make sense of the town (city) with the spelling. UK town names are so confusing for no reason”.
The American probably wouldn’t be amused to learn that Berkshire County in Reading is also not pronounced what it sounds like, but “Bark-shire” as in dog noises.
After that, all I can say is “Wow wow!”
It sounds different
There are of course many places in English that are not pronounced as you might imagine at first. Readers will know many, but here are a few that even the English might struggle with. One that caught my eye from an early age was the Cornish fishing village of Mousehole, pronounced “Muzzle”.
A fairly simple one is the Cornish port of Fowey pronounced “Foy”. Perhaps more difficult is the Cheshire town of Cholmondeley, known as “Chumlee”. Then there’s the Cambridgeshire town with the unlikely name of Godmanchester which, thankfully, has been shortened to “Gumster”. And I have no idea why Belvoir Castle somehow became the “Castor of the Beaver”.
Bangkok Post columnist
Longtime popular columnist for the Bangkok Post. In 1994, he won the Ayumongkol literary prize. For many years he was a sports editor at the Bangkok Post.
Email: [email protected]