Far too many of my former Bangkok Post colleagues have passed away this year and this week things got even worse with two more old pals gone.
First there was Shiv Kumar who worked on the business section over roughly the same period I was at the Post. For several years we had adjacent desks and got to know one another quite well. Shiv was very amiable and helpful and I will always treasure his friendship.
Then came the sad news from Jakarta of the passing of old friend John McBeth, 79. The Post carried an excellent obit of John in Friday’s edition which covered his many achievements, so I will stick to personal memories.
A born reporter
A New Zealander, John joined the Post in 1970, about six months after myself. He was a trained journalist after several years on the Taranaki Herald and Auckland Star and knew his stuff. John was a competent sub-editor but he much preferred reporting and didn’t want to be restricted to the office.
As he wrote in his terrific book Reporter he was only planning to stay in Thailand 10 days before heading to London and Fleet Street. It didn’t quite work out that way — he remained in Thailand for the next 16 years.
The early 1970s were exciting times in Thailand and during John’s five years at the Post he enjoyed some memorable experiences along with colleagues including Peter Finucane and Tony Waltham. John was also blessed with a superb sense of humour.
When John was at the Post we sometimes had a drink together after work, usually past midnight. It was after one such session in April 1971, that his journalistic skills really came to the fore.
We were on Sukhumvit and after a few beers went our separate ways, John heading for the Atlanta Hotel on Soi 2 and me to my home on Soi 8. While changing in his room, John heard screams and then saw flames coming from the old Imperial Hotel on Soi Ruam Rudee, just across the railway tracks.
John dashed through the darkness to the hotel and his harrowing eye-witness reports of the tragic fire which claimed at least 24 lives dominated the Bangkok Post’s news pages for the next few days. It was an amazing effort and a superb piece of journalism especially considering he hadn’t had a wink of sleep and must have been absolutely shattered.
It is no wonder John went on to experience a very successful journalistic career. He was something special… and a good friend.
RIP John and Shiv.
Not a great idea
When I first saw the Bangkok Post headline last weekend of official plans to extend the Songkran festival to an entire month I nearly spilt my morning cup of tea. My eyes immediately turned to the top of the page to check the date. No it wasn’t April 1, but it certainly felt like it. What were they thinking?
Thankfully common sense prevailed with a hasty U-turn within 48 hours when we were told “Govt rejigs plans for Songkran” with assurances the festival would remain a traditional three-day holiday. One suspects the country breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Even so, Songkran still feels like it goes on forever… or maybe I’m too wrinkly to appreciate getting soaked to the skin.
More words of the year have been pouring in from leading dictionaries. In recent weeks PostScript has already featured “AI or artificial intelligence” (Collins) and “hallucinate” (Cambridge). This week the Oxford English Dictionary announced its outstanding word of 2023 was “rizz” which I have never heard of but sounds like a fizzy drink. It is apparently online slang for “charisma” or charm. I think I prefer charisma.
Among other words on the shortlist was “Swiftie” for anyone who’s a fan of popular singer Taylor Swift. For the curious, no I’m not a Swiftie but concede she has talent. Time Magazine this week even named her “person of the year”.
Then there is “beige flag”, a warning that the other person in a relationship might be a bit on the boring side. On a similar theme is “situationship” which aside from being a horrible-sounding word apparently means an informal romantic relationship. What’s wrong with “affair”?
America’s oldest dictionary Merriam-Webster has come up with “authentic” as its word of the year. At least it is a word I recognise. According to the dictionary “authentic” has become particularly popular this year with people searching to work out if something is real or fake.
It is no coincidence that one of the runner-up words of the year is “deepfake” a reference to videos or photos that are digitally altered by AI. A rather sad indictment of our times.
Eagle has landed
Thanks to the many readers for their comments about HP Sauce mentioned in last week’s column. It seems the sauce is still a favourite amongst the English.
Over the years HP had a variety of slogans including the sausage- oriented “Put the bang in your bangers” and “Give your chips yum, mum”.
Perhaps the most eye-catching ad came around 1905 with the sketch of an eagle about to land at its eyrie clutching a bottle of HP in its talons, with a message for the hungry eaglets “It’s good with cold meat”.
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