Home and Away; beasts and mutants

This week’s Home and Away stories explore the weird and wonderful, the mythical and the mutated.

…..Home….

BEAST OF BODMIN SPOTTED!

When I was growing up in Cornwall there was sometimes news of sightings of an animal that became known as the Beast of Bodmin Moor.  Commonly considered to be an escaped big cat now roaming the moorland, the Beast has been ‘spotted’ on numerous occasions across the county.  I can’t remember the last time the local news has re-ignited this story, but in the past week a man has claimed to have spotted the creature up a lane near his house in Redruth, Cornwall (a good drive down the A30 from Bodmin Moor may I add).  Now, I’m not ageist but our eye witness is a 72 year old gentleman, who has claimed to have spotted the Beast a total of three times during his lifetime.  Maybe he’s just a batty old man?  Perhaps he has an obsession with the strange animal.  No-one else can support his claims, and the Beast seemingly wandered off across farmland, leaving all animals untouched and wasn’t seen again.  I’ll leave you to decide the solidity of these claims.  Click here to read the full story and make your own mind up.

Some pictures of previous ‘Beasts’ that have been sighted in Cornwall…

Copyright Google images
Copyright Google images
Copyright Google images
Copyright Google images

….Away….

MUTANT PIGLETS LEAD TO LOTTERY WIN

More beast-like animals in this week’s story from Thailand, in the form of two separate births of mutated piglets.

The first, a piglet that had, “…five legs, two tongues and fangs sticking out of it’s mouth.  Its feet, rather than having trotters, were capped with five eerily human toes.” (www.phuketgazette.com, 2013) was born in the north east of Thailand.  Unfortunately the little pig beast didn’t make it into the evening of it’s first day alive.

The second piglet was born in a province that neigbours my own, Nakon Si Thammarat, and was described as having, “…two heads, two mouths, two tongues and three eyes.”  (www.phuketgazette.com, 2013).  Again, it didn’t live very long.

Despite not being alive for very long, both cases of mutant piglet births resulted in local villagers gathering to look at the animals to gain an insight into sucessful lottery numbers, which is apparantly a custom that I am not aware of but does not surprise me.

In both villages, on opposite ends of the country, the same winning lottery numbers were seemingly drawn from viewing the piglet beasts.  Strange… but true!

I couldn’t find any pictures of these specific mutant piglets but I am sure you can use your imaginations…

In and around Hat Yai; Ton Nga Chang waterfall

We went on this little day trip ages ago but I didn’t realise that I never made a post about it.  I have to share how amazing this place is and right on our doorstep too!

Ton Nga Chang waterfall is about 20 minutes out of Hat Yai.  We went there on the motorbike so I’m not sure what the public transport situation is to get there – I expect you would need to take a tuk tuk or taxi.  Annoyingly, as the area is designated a national park we had to pay 200 baht entry fee.  This entry fee is only 30 baht if you are Thai, they really hike the price up for foreigners.  It’s frustrating when they do that because having lived her for a short while now I am able to read a little Thai; enough to see clearly that on one side of the board it says 30 บาท (baht) and on the other it says 200 baht.  I didn’t have my work permit to hand so I wasn’t able to try and get in for cheaper but someone that we had spoken to who can speak a lot of Thai wasn’t able to get in for the Thai price even with his work permit so I think it would be impossible for us to either.  I understand the concept of having to make money out of tourists, especially in areas of natural beauty that are no doubt damaged by the tourist trail, but a little recognition that we are actually working over here, teaching the future generations of the country, would be nice sometimes.

After begrudgingly paying the inflated entrance fee (which is only equivalent to around £4.50 but would cover food for 2 days!!) we drove along the meandering road that curled around the base of the mountain.  It was peaceful and the air smelt so fresh you could taste the oxygen that the blanket of trees covering the mountain side was kicking out.  We parked up (which was free, thankfully) and packed a small bag with a few essentials and made our way towards the information board.  Despite being in Thai we were able to make out that they had quite the set up; souvenir shops and food stalls, a homestay area for people wanting to make a full weekend of it, a few marked out footpaths and seven tiers of waterfall scaling the side of the mountain.

The base tier of the waterfall is a short walk away, and consists of a babbling brook (ooh, alliterative) with boulders for scrambling and pools for relaxing.  As is usual at a Thai waterfall, the base tier is always the busiest, chocka with families with plenty of kids.  Thai people love to visit the waterfalls (as would I considering they get in for so much cheaper – can you tell that it’s annoyed me?!) and take along a picnic and make a real day of it, picking a shaded spot to set up camp while the kids splash about in the shallow water.  I guess it’s safer and it doesn’t require walking too far; which, anyone who has spent any time in Thailand will tell you is not a favourite past time of Thai people!  So, as usual, we bypassed the base tier and headed for a handy sign that lead the way to the next.  After a short and mildly strenuous walk on quite uneven ground (NB: wear proper shoes and NOT flip flops like I did) we reached the second tier, which is wider than the base and has an actual waterfall at the rear.  This was pretty busy too, but it had a bridge leading across so I took the opportunity to grab a few pictures.  A couple of my students spotted me and came over the say hello; as I was dressed in a very un-teacher-like outfit of Levi cut offs and a crop top this cemented for me that if we were going to de-clothe and have a dip it would have to be at the next level.  Another handy sign lead the way, this time pointing towards a steep incline of hardened mud, boulders and tree roots.  Using the tree roots as footholds and the vines hanging overhead for stability, we scrambled up around the side of the waterfall.  It was steep, and slippy and hot work, but it was so worth it to emerge at the top to a beautiful, calm plateau with a number of pools and two big waterfalls feeding them with fresh water.  This was the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen, and my hot and sweaty state was soon to be cured.  There were a few people, but no children, so it was pretty quiet.  A section of rock to the far side had been smoothed out by the constant stream of water and served as a waterslide for the more adventurous.  There were a number of pools to choose from so we found one in the sun near the edge of the cliff, overlooking the stunning view beneath us.  You wouldn’t know that there were hundreds of screaming kids below at all.  I found a crevice where I could lean and feel the water massage my neck as it flowed from pool to pool.  It would have been perfect until I raised my hand and saw that it was covered in the one downside of taking a dip – leeches!  Luckily they were really tiny and were easily shaken off – I think we know why this wonderful pool has been left alone by the people.

There was another deep pool that had ledges of rock all around to sit on – a bit like a jaccuzi.  There were a few people in there so we deemed it to be a leech-free-zone.  I realized that everyone was staring at me, and then it struck me that no other girls were in their swim suits.  Some of the men were in swim shorts but the majority of people were wearing shorts and t-shirts, some even wearing skinny jeans, even when in the water.  I don’t know if it’s a modesty thing or a leech thing or both, but as I was in bikini bottoms and a crop top, my white skin was out for all to see, and they certainly had a good look!  I quickly got in and covered my exposed self with water.  We had a lovely relax, taking in the view and the beautiful surroundings.  Our peace was momentarily interrupted when some screaming Thai girls alerted us to the fact that we were also being joined by a water lizard, but the quick reactions and impressive lizard-catching skills of their male friends quickly rid the pool of its reptilian inhabitant.

Ahhh, just writing about this place makes me want to go there again.  I would even pay the 200 baht fee.  We never made it past the third tier because our time was running out and we didn’t think that any of the next levels could top what we found at tier three, so another visit is in order to explore what lies above.  A lot of people who visit Thailand never venture down as far south as Hat Yai but if you ever find yourself stopping over in the area (in transit to/from Malaysia, for example) I would really recommend visiting Tong Nga Chang waterfall – it will be 200 baht well spent!

Home and Away; freedom to farm animals across the globe.

This week’s stories both share a common theme – I’ll let it emerge for itself.

BUDDHISM FREES BOVINES

My away story comes in the shape of giving the gift of life and freedom to 10,000 cows all in the name of Buddhism.  The Buddhist faith is built on a foundation of karmic order and the act of making merit.  I think of merit making as a point system; the more points you make (through participation in various merit making ceremonies, meditation and being a mindful and considerate person, among many things) the better your next life will be, and you will be one step closer to eventual spiritual liberation and actualisation.  I think.  That’s my lay person’s interpretation of it anyway.  Acts of kindness = scoring points to ensure that you move on to a good next life, and relinquish any wrong doing in your current life.

One way of making merit is to give the gift of freedom to living things.  It is a typical sight to see a woman selling the opportunity to release a bird at a temple (to later be caught and caged again – freedom has its limits when money can be made) and this week’s story is similar to this but on a much larger scale.  A slaughterhouse in Songkhla (the next city on from us) was offering people the chance to pay to free a cow from its gloomy fate.  10,000 cows were up for grabs in fact.  I’m not sure what exactly happened to the cows once they are released – I wouldn’t be surprised if it was similar to the birds at the temples – caught and for sale again around the corner!   And so, the world is a better place, and 10,000 cows have been saved from their burger destiny, at least until tomorrow.  Click on the link above to read a nicely written piece on the story which goes into further detail about the religious aspect of the whole thing.

HURDLING HERD IN HAYLE

Continuing on our bovine theme, my story from home isn’t anything out of the ordinary yet is often found decorating the pages of The Cornishman.  Another case of cows getting a taste of freedom but this time they are escapee cows.

A farmer in Hayle, Cornwall has lost some of his herd following an escaping mission that saw the animals “…flying along like race horses” and “…jumping a six-foot high Cornish hedge”.  I’m not sure if the farmer has exaggerated ever so slightly as, if you don’t know already, a Cornish hedge is one made of stone and covered in hedgerow – if a load of cows have been able to clear such a barrier standing at six feet I am truly impressed.

Unfortunately for the farmer not all the cows have been recovered and he now fears that the boggy woodland has taken them to an early cow grave.  A telephone number has been provided in the original article in case any rogue cows are spotted grazing out and about the area.  Keep your eyes peeled people.

……..

I can’t write 2 stories about freedom seeking cows without also adding in my own cow (and other animals) ordeal (living in Cornwall lends itself to having many farm themed tales to share).

Two of my friends own a small holding just outside of my hometown of Falmouth.  They were off at a music festival and I had volunteered to watch the farm for the 2 days that they would be away.   I have helped out at the farm before but this was my first time being in sole responsibility so the pressure was on.  I arrived on day one with my Mum in tow and set about beginning my list of to-do’s; feed the geese and chickens, feed the pigs and piglets, feed the cows.  The sheep can take care of themselves.  Off we skip in our wellies to visit the chickens, but as we got closer the skip in our step disappeared when we realised that something wasn’t quite right.  Chickens usually make quite a bit of noise, especially if they spot someone coming closer.  This chicken coop was eerily silent.  I peeked in.   Feathers everywhere.  Headless chickens.  No geese.  A chicken massacre had taken place.  Evidently there was a breach in the security and a fox had managed to make its way in and bite the head off every bird.  The geese would have put up a fight and must have flown away.  What can we do?  Neither of us was prepared to start picking up dismembered chicken remains, and as we were unable to get hold of my friends we secured the entry hole and left the bodies there.  (It transpired that there was still an entry point somewhere as by the next day nothing remained).  After that gruesome start to our farm day, we made our way around the rest of the animals and luckily everything went to plan.  Back home we went, with images of the chicken killing spree still fresh in our minds.

The next day, as we pulled in to the drive of the farm, yet again something was amiss.  An unknown car was parked in the driveway – we have a visitor!  As we made our way around the car I noticed that the cows, which are usually in a couple of fields behind the house, were happily grazing away in the orchard out the front.  The fields and the orchardsmust join up somewhere.  I didn’t think any more of it.  As we made our way into the farm, a man appeared.  “Are you the owner of the farm?” he asked.  “Are these your cows?”  I explained our farm-sitting situation.  He in turn explained that he had found the cows wandering down the road in the village.  “I must have spooked them when I walked up to them and they made their way back to this farm, so I stuck them in the nearest field and thought I would wait until the owners came back.”  Evidently my gate closing skills aren’t man enough for farm life, and the cows had managed to push their way through and go off on a little adventure.  The man was pleased to see us though, as we could now help him herd the cows into the correct field.  Help him herd??  This man wasn’t a famer but he was a farmer’s son – in the present company that made him an expert.  Me and mum ‘helped’ to herd the cows back to their field, which mostly consisted of holding our arms out as wide as we could and hoping a stampede didn’t break out.  Great.  I look after the farm for 2 days and all the chickens are dead, the geese have disappeared and the cows went for a wander!  Just as we were finishing up, my friends returned home to witness first had the results of my poor farming skills.  Needless to say I didn’t farm sit for them again!

Some pictures of the animals I epically failed at looking after…

Home and Away – Pepper Spray Parents and Ladyboy Laundering

hospital gown

This week’s story from home is brought to you courtesy of Penryn town once again.

POLICE USE CS SPRAY TO BREAK UP FIGHT IN PLAYGROUND

Penryn’s finest on show once again, this time in the local primary school.  Police were already at the school to deal with a previous altercation between two mums waiting to pick up their kids, then when a fight broke out with one of the dads and one of the original mums (man vs. woman – there’s no sexual discrimination round these parts), the police jumped in and used pepper spray to sort things out… as you do with little children around.  I can’t help but think that this was a case of over-enthusiastic cop on a quiet day… 

Our away story for the week

LADYBOY ARRESTED ON THE OPERATING TABLE

A lady boy was arrested as he/she was being prepped for sex reassignment surgery (think on the hospital bed, in hospital gown, bare bum exposed, drip in arm…) when it transpired that the money had been stolen from a man as he slept, post ladyboy sex session.  The 20 year old ladyboy had seduced the man, 56, and after having his wicked way with him he made off with 300,000 baht in cash.  He ran off to Hat Yai (my away-home city – apparently now the centre for dodgy, paid for in cash, carried out in an hours notice sex changes) where he paid down a deposit on his operation and then spent 100,000 baht on ‘leisure activities’ – probably the kind of activities popularised here by Malaysian tourists; the sex kind.  Anyway, he was arrested on the operating table and was carted off, penis still attached.