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Books: At Last – Melrose finds his place

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Edward St Aubyn’s At Last (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 2012, 266pp) is the highly satisfying finale to his Patrick Melrose series of five novels. This is a towering achievement in fiction, psychologically intense, philosophically deep, screamingly funny.

Introduced at the age of five in the first novel, Patrick Melrose grows up to be a highly educated heroin-and-cocaine junkie in the second, a recovering addict in the third and a husband and father in the fourth.

The final novel takes place on the day of his mother’s funeral in London. It’s the second happiest day of Patrick’s life. The first was two decades earlier when he collected his father’s ashes in New York. His father David had raped him at the age of five; his mother Eleanor ignored him and finally squandered the last of his patrimony, a beloved villa in the South of France, by donating it to a ditzy New Age cult. An orphan at last, Patrick Melrose envies the Oliver Twists of this world:

“Patient endurance of potentially lethal influences has made Patrick the man he was today, living alone in a bedsit, only a year away from his latest visit to the Suicide Observation Room in the Depression Wing of the Priory Hospital. It had felt so ancestral to have delirium tremens, to bow down, after his disobedient youth as a junkie, to the shattering banality of alcohol.”

Gathered at the funeral are major characters of the previous four novels: Patrick’s longsuffering wife Mary, his preternaturally precocious sons Robert, 10 and Thomas, 6, his former lover Julia, his best friend Johnny Hall, his rich Uncle Henry, his broke sponger Aunt Nancy, his utterly selfish mother-in-law Kettle, his mother’s cult sycophant Annette, philosopher Erasmus Price and his horrid wife Emily who “had three main drawbacks: she was incapable of saying please, incapable of saying thank you, and incapable of saying sorry, all the while creating a surge in demand for these expressions”.

Also at the funeral is Nicholas Pratt, his hated father’s best friend, the last survivor of his social circle of aristocratic monsters. Spewing acerbic observations, Nicholas makes Oscar Wilde look tongue-tied. His presence puts Patrick in mind of yet another early childhood horror: when, at the age of three, his father grabbed him on the edge of the villa’s swimming pool.

“Suddenly he felt himself hoisted off the ground and thrown into the air. With the slowness of horror, when the density of impressions registered by the panic-stricken mind makes time thicken, he used all the incredulity and alarm that rushed into his thrashing body to distance himself from the lethal liquid… but soon enough he plunged into the drowning pool, kicking and beating the thin water…”

Meanwhile, his father sat smoking a cigar and extolling his educational methods to Nicholas Pratt.

At the funeral, favorite songs are played and guests take the lectern to recite biblical passages and inspirational poems. Eleanor’s casket rolls away to be cremated to the strains of Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon.

At the reception afterward, a drunken psychiatric patient accuses Nicholas Pratt of being insane, prompting an apoplectic reply: “I have not suffered from the slightest taint of mental illness. The modern passion for pathology is a landslide that has been forced to come to a halt at some distance from my eminently sane feet.”

His long screed against psychiatry mounts into a towering rage about “that forgotten under-world of dangerous gibberish where toothless infants rip the nipples from their mother’s milkless breasts”. Then he topples to the floor with a heart attack. An ambulance is summoned, ending the party.

Mary invites Patrick home for a meal with his sons. Patrick waffles, returns to his lonely bedsit and, after he hears of Nicholas Pratt’s death in the ambulance, changes his mind and decides to rejoin his family.

As his son Thomas has observed, “In fact, you should change your mind, because that’s what it’s for”.

And with this lurch toward the freedom of decision-making, Patrick moves away from a lifetime of reacting to past trauma. It’s a fitting end to a monumental work of fiction.

— James Eckardt

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

World

Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him

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Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him | The Thaiger

“…his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding, shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.”

Darth Vader has died… May the force be with him. The man who played the bad guy in the first Star Wars trilogy, British actor David Prowse, died at the age of 85 after a short illness.

American actor Mark Hamill, who played Darth Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker, alongside with David and the initial cast of the epic saga, sent his condolences in a tweet.

“So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader.”

“Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #RIP”

Star Wars co-star, and fellow Brit, Anthony Daniels, who played the gold-plated and effusive C3PO in all but one of the 12 Star Wars instalments, paid tribute to Prowse’s contribution to the saga.

“Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in ’77 and has done so ever since.”

David wore the ominous black suit and helmet to play the Star Wars villain Darth Vader although it was the American actor James Earl Jones who provided the character’s voice in post-production. George Lucas felt that David’s West Country English accent was “unsuitable for the part”. The decision to replace David’s voice caused a long-term rift between actor and director that eventually saw David cut out of official Star Wars publicity events. But his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.

Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies - May the force be with him | News by The Thaiger

David’s career as an actor spanned 50 years, but it was his role as the Sith Lord in Star Wars that brought him international fame and attention.

But it was his role as the “Green Cross Code Man” from a British road safety campaign that Prowse said he was most proud of. David was awarded an MBE, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in 2000 for that role.

David Prowse was born into a working class family and grew up in a council estate in Southmead, in southwestern England. He gained a scholarship to attend Bristol Grammar School. He had a passion for bodybuilding and was crowned British Weightlifting Champion several times in the 1960s. He became lifelong friends with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger in his weightlifting years.

His towering figure helped land him roles as monsters and villains in TV shows and films. He played the monster in “The Horror of Frankenstein” in 1970 and a bearded torturer in “Carry on Henry” in 1971. That same year he made an appearance as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian film “A Clockwork Orange” in 1971. He went on to play Darth Vader in all three of the original “Star Wars” films, in 1977, 1980 and 1983.

With the success of Star Wars, Prowse became a regular on the fan circuit and attended conventions around the world for almost 40 years, but he was rumoured to have later fallen out with director Lucas and was banned from official events in 2010.

He published an autobiography, “Straight from the Force’s Mouth,” in 2011.

SOURCES: Reuters | CNN | BBC

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Chiang Rai

Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia

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Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The entrance to the real Tham Luang cave near the Myanmar border in far north Thailand

The Australian Government is putting up A$13 million to Imagine Entertainment and film giant MGM to shoot a live-action feature film called Thirteen Lives, based on the Chiang Rai Tham Luang cave rescue story. The film will be shot in Queensland, Australia in the hinterland areas behind the Gold Coast.

The film will be directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The Da Vince Code, Cocoon, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Splash, Frost/Nixon), and start filming in March 2021. The state’s Gold Coast hinterland will double for Thailand with a similar hot, humid climate.

The Australian Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher MP, says the production should inject more than A$96 million into the Australian economy, “directly creating around 435 jobs for cast and crew”.

Thirteen Lives will tell the remarkable story of the effort by many volunteers, including Australians, to undertake an incredibly complex rescue. And I am proud to say that this story will be told here in Australia.”

“I understand this project will also undertake a significant amount of cutting-edge visual effects work here, a great opportunity for our local post, digital and visual effects companies.”

Thirteen Lives follows the true story of the 2018 Tham Laung cave rescue of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team, trapped in a cave by heavy rain and flooding in Chiang Rai, far north Thailand. After the team was stuck for days with no supplies and falling oxygen levels, a group of diving and rescue experts from all over the world were called up to work together with their Thai counterparts to save the 13 young men. Among those experts were a group of divers from the United Kingdom and Australia.

The first major feature film about the rescue operation was The Cave, released in October 2019. The film was quite critical of the Thai red-tape which hampered much of the early rescue efforts.

Ron Howard has worked with plenty of Australians in the past.

“From Thirteen Lives to the animated projected I am directing with Animal Logic in Australia, I am excited about the opportunity to film and work in Australia and dramatically expand on that list of collaborators whose sensibilities and work ethic I have long admired and respected.”

Imagine Entertainment and MGM’s Thirteen Lives will be distributed by Universal Pictures International.

Watch a message from director Ron Howard HERE.

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Thailand

Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break

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Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break | The Thaiger

Phuket’s sea gypsy communities are getting a much needed break after the Covid tourism standstill have their traditions a break from the tourism onslaught. 42 year old Sanan Changham says now there is an abundance of fish and shellfish to eat. Tourist boats have been docked at the quay, making fishing easier for the Chao Lay, or “people of the sea.“

“We don’t dive as deep as before, so it’s less dangerous.“

More than 9 million visitors came to Phuket in 2019, impacting the sea gypsies and their way of life, mostly located at the southern end of the island. The booming tourism brought a decline in fish stocks, decreasing fishing grounds and loud construction of hotels. And the traffic. Such hotels signal an even bigger threat to the 1,200 Chao Lay in Rawai, as property developers have tried to evict them from their ancestral strip of land that faces the sea.

Ngim Damrongkaset, a Rawai community representative, says he hopes the area where developers have taken a stake is abandoned.

“They want to drive us out of our homes, but also to deny us access to the sea.”

For the Chao Lay people, the fight to keep their land has been unequal as most are illiterate and were unaware of the fact that they could register their land, but the government is trying to help them. One way for authorities to buy the land and entrust it to them.

Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says the government must seize the opportunity provided by the pandemic to rethink their vision on Chao Lay.

“Covid is an opportunity to change mentalities. Mass tourism in Phuket has been a catastrophe for the sea gypsies.“

The land in Rawai was originally claimed by Indonesian ancestors of Sanan, before the island became flooded with international travellers. But since tourism has become more profitable, authorities have cracked down on the sea gypsies unless they are sailing in protected marine reserves.

“Before, we risked being arrested by a patrol or having our boats confiscated.“

For the animist Chao Lay the beach is a vital space where they keep their colourful wooden boats and where they pray and give thanks to their ancestors. But not only their unique cultural heritage has helped them navigate the waters.

The Chao Lay people are experts at detecting any abnormalities in the water, as such they were able to escape before the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami hit, while saving loads of tourists. Furthermore, Children of the Moken have 50% better visual acuity in the water than their European counterparts, according to a 2003 study.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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