Here’s a bit of advice I hope you’ll find valuable. It’s based on personal experience. This is it: If you need to get something and the purchase involves reading the packaging, don’t ask your beloved to buy it for you.
Not if she’s anything like Mrs Pobaan at any rate.
There are a few exceptions. If it’s half a kilo of onions from the market, a bottle of milk with the light blue cap from 7-Eleven the same size that we always get or an eight-watt light bulb exactly like the one you give her to show the chap in the shop, then that’s probably going to be OK. But on a free-style purchase where any amount of decision-making will be required, then, take it from me, it would be better to wait until she has brought the car back and set off to buy whatever it is you need to get yourself.
Just as an example of what can go wrong, once I asked the chilli in my som tum to buy me a bottle of Scotch whisky called Benmore Four Casks from Big C. I repeated the name. Benmore Four Casks. She repeated the name. Benmore Four Casks.
‘You’ll recognise it because it’s Scotch whisky and it’s got a four in the name.’
‘Four. No problem.’
When she returns she proudly presents me with her purchase. It’s in a bottle but that’s the only bit she’s got right. She has bought me a bottle of Blend 285, a brand of local surgical spirit flavoured with whisky extract that is the cause of many a morning headache around these parts.
I say, ‘How could you have got that so wrong?’
‘No, it’s not.’
‘I knew it had to have a number in it.’
‘But 285 instead of four?’
‘Sorry, wrong number.’
You see the sort of thing that can happen?
Now she’s gathering up her stuff, jangling her keys and looking for her going-out shoes and she asks you if there’s anything you need from the shops. Just thank her very much and say, ‘No, lovely teerak, there’s nothing I need except to see you return safely to my arms.’ You may think that this last bit is a trifle sickly but, believe me, she’ll appreciate it. Say sweetly, ‘I think maybe I’ll pop out myself a bit later.’
The reason I pass on this relationship-saving advice is that I have spent the last five hours staring at the ceiling. It’s 4am. It’s dark, so I can’t actually see the ceiling, but I am staring at the place the ceiling was last time it was light enough to see it. It’s still there, surely?
You see, I can’t sleep. It all started a week or so ago. I came back from a brief trip to Europe. Maybe I was jet-lagged. I don’t know. My routine was upset, my rhythms disturbed. I was discombobulated. That night I couldn’t get to sleep until the early hours, then I slept until the late morning.
The next night was the same, only later. I thought I was becoming nocturnal. I imagined myself growing huge eyes like a bush baby. Perhaps I would glow in the dark. This would be a novelty at parties but not great if, as I did, I preferred to retain membership of the human race.
So, when Mrs Pobaan says to me thoughtfully, ‘I’m going out to the shops. Is there anything you need?’ I say, ‘Could you perhaps pop into the pharmacy and get me some sleeping pills, lovely teerak?’
‘Yes, no problem.’
When she returns, she is lugging a pack of huge tablets, clearly designed for veterinary use, called something like ‘Somnolese’ or ‘Zonkolin’ the way that drugs are. She says, ‘The pharmacist says to take 1-2 tablets half an hour before bedtime.’
I tell you, Samsung makes smaller tablets than these.
Keen to please my beloved but not wanting to overdose on what is clearly a very potent medication, I take one capsule and wait. After an hour I am surprised how perky I still feel. Expecting the effect to come across me quickly like a pair of blackout curtains, I go to bed and await developments.
Nothing. I toss and, of course, turn. This goes on for most of the night and in the morning I feel terrible.
‘How were the sleeping pills?’ asks my concerned life companion the next day.
‘I’m not sure if they had much effect,’ I respond with the sort of diplomatic honesty married couples are advised to use.
‘Try two tonight.’
It’s now 4.15am. I’ve taken two capsules of Morphinex and have lain awake for five and a quarter hours, staring at where the ceiling ought to be. Why oh why? I decide to get up to investigate. I look at the packaging of the drug that my teerak has lovingly bought for me and for the first time actually read the label. All is revealed.
‘Herbal’, it says.
Well, that explains everything. I am under the misapprehension that I have taken a powerful narcotic that will render me comatose for eight hours after which I will arise from my pit, refreshed and raring to meet the new day. Instead, I have been lying awake for the last two nights failing to be sedated by a dose, then a double dose, of parsnip extract.
Or dried cucumber essence.
It’s a personal view that you may not accept, but I put it down to gullibility. Some people, and Mrs Pobaan is one of them, and there are many more in this Land of Smiles I am usually pleased to call my neighbours, who will believe everything they’re told. If the pills have a picture of a snoring woman on the box, then snoring is what their effect will be, you only had to look at the label. Whereas, in truth, a lot of things are a complete con and you actually had to read the small print, rejecting anything that includes the word ‘herbal’.