Thursday’s Lotus available as a PDF

I am pleased to add a further version of Fuengsin’s biography: a Portable Document Format (PDF) file that can be read in applications such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.  It’s free of charge as a gift of Dhamma.

The PDF file uses the same layout as the source file of the print copy, though the document settings are at a somewhat lower resolution to aid portability whilst retaining reasonable quality for the images.

Kindle e-book version now available

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the Kindle version of Thursday’s Lotus.

Thursday's Lotus: paperback front page, first chapter displayed on Android tablet and Kindle Touch devices
Thursday’s Lotus published as a paperback and e-book, displayed on a Android tablet and a Kindle Touch

These are available from Amazon Kindle Stores around the world, e.g. amazon.com (priced $3.00) and the UK (£2.30).

I adopted the EPUB standard in preparing the electronic version, which means I should be able to make the e-book available through other services besides Kindle. More about the production process and these intentions to follow in another post.

Libraries: Bibliographic Data and Public Access

Libraries provide an essential public service, with the rise of digital communications only adding to the responsibilities and possibilities.  As part of the publication process, there is in many countries an obligation to inform the national library in the country of publication about the forthcoming title and then to provide legal deposit copies.  In the case of Thursday’s Lotus, I have so far donated copies to the US Library of Congress, the British Library, the Bodleian, St. Cross College library (where I studied for my Master’s), and a couple of local libraries – Summertown Library in Oxford and Hagley Library in Worcestershire.  I hope to add to this list in due course, intending especially to donate to libraries in Thailand.

Why have I put the US Library of Congress first in the list?  It’s because — as far as I have been able to determine — the place of publication has been recorded as the United States.  I used a CreateSpace-assigned ISBN, and according to the guidance notes on the CreateSpace website, this means that the place of publication is the United States.  Whilst I am the publisher, the close involvement of CreateSpace as the imprint seems to be the main factor in this.

In any case, it made sense for me to get in touch with the British Library to inform them ahead of publication as the UK is the primary target for distribution.  So I uploaded details to the Bibliographic Data Services online submission service.  These details constitute the cataloguing in publication data, key bibliographic details that are made available to other libraries, book stores and others who might stock the book.  As this was the first time that I had provided such information, I was glad to receive the helpful advice from the BDS support team.

The data duly appeared in the British National Bibliography list for 13 April 2016, the date of publication (p. 34), reproduced here:

294.3092
Thursday’s lotus : the life and work of Fuengsin Trafford /
Paul Joseph Trafford ; illustrated by Chanaphan Rassameepiyarak ;
edited by Robert Bullard, Jane Struthers, Sue Mumford-Smith. —
North Charleston : CreateSpace, 2016. — 1 volume ; 23 cm.
ISBN 9781523935185 (pbk.) : £9.95
BNB Number GBB651786

Trafford, Fuengsin.
Buddhists. Great Britain, Biography.

Prepublication record

Having registered this information, I could (probably should) have included this in the copyright page, but I forgot, so have included it here. However, it may yet appear as CreateSpace is print on demand, after all!

Thursday’s Lotus is published

(last updated: 21 April 2016 – Amazon UK site fully activated)

Thursday’s Lotus: The Life and Work of Fuengsin Trafford has been published! It’s available initially as a paperback, and can be ordered online (details below).

Thursday's Lotus: The Life and Work of Fuengsin Trafford
Thursday’s Lotus: The Life and Work of Fuengsin Trafford.

Fuengsin.org will be serving as a companion site, beginning with a contents pagea complete list of all the websites mentioned in the endnotes .  It’s intended to supplement this with digital versions of photographs, further facets from her life and a chance to provide feedback and ask questions.

The book is available through amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.fr, amazon.de, and other Amazon sites — the recommended retail prices are $14.99, £9.95, and €12.99 respectively. (For CreateSpace users, orders can also be placed through their store.)

This book has received many contributions and feels like a crowd-sourced publication.  Thank you to everyone who has helped.

– Paul

County Express interview with Fuengsin Trafford (1981)

Note

The following is a copy of an article – with minor edits – that I originally posted on Blogger.com, June 12, 2011:
http://paultrafford.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/county-express-interview-with-fuengsin.html


 

Fuengsin Trafford at home, 1981. Credit: Phil Loach

The Internet and, especially, the Web are enabling old lines of investigation to be reopened with possibilities of new finds – for all kinds of detectives, including biographers! In March 1981, Fuengsin was interviewed for the County Express, which was published, as far as I can recall, in Stourbridge and Kidderminster. Jill Skelding was the reporter and she came round to our house with a photographer, Phil Loach; I can’t remember them myself, so I expect it took place during the day whilst I was at school. The article was part of a series called Woman to Woman and this particular interview was entitled: Buddhism as a way of life. It was published on Friday 13th March 1981.

I thought that it would be a good time to reproduce the article online (I don’t think the paper is in circulation under that name any more; it may have become Stourbridge News). We kept a few cuttings, but even if we had preserved them in mint condition, the newspaper medium meant that photographic reproduction was limited in quality. Fortunately, Google came to the rescue (again) and 30 years after the interview I was able to locate Phil, who is still in the photography business with The Silver Image. What’s more he was able to send me a pretty good scan (a larger version of the one online). So the complete article is available to view.

Here I’d just like to highlight a few things my mother said.

It’s really quite a typical piece – finding the mundane and profound in the everyday and the present moment. You get a taste of something unusual in the first two paragraphs, though it’s definitely more mundane in flavour!

With an impressive Oriental family history spanning several centuries and an unusual childhood spent in Thailand, there’s nothing Fuengsin likes better than to disappear to the depths of her kitchen and cook … spotted dick steamed pudding!

Mrs. Fuengsin Trafford, who lives in West Hagley, came to England 17 years ago, in her mid-twenties, from her home town near Bangkok. She studied at London University – and soon found she had a weakness for English food.

The kitchen wasn’t always frequented with such endeavour. One of my mother’s childhood friends said that the two of them used to play cooking. I asked whether that was because in reality they didn’t do any cooking and she nodded and grinned! In fact my father taught her some of the basics English cookery – there was little indication that she could later produce a cookery book! And as for her regard of the culinary offerings of this new land, the initial response was typically to bring out a tin of red chilli powder … at breakfast!

There’s a brief summary of how she came to the UK as a student, met my father, married, and settled in the UK. When she left Thailand in the early to mid 60s, Thonburi, where she grew up, was still separate from Bangkok on the other side of the Chao Phraya river and certainly was not so developed. We spent our first family holiday there in 1972, and there was a lot of change already by that time, but looking at photos from that period still shows many areas of fruit cultivation. Fuengsin did not return next to Thailand until after the interview, so she probably had nostalgic recollections in mind when she recalled:

“By that time my father had died, but my mother and Anthony got on remarkably well – the pace of life is so different out there, it’s hard for anyone from the Western world to understand it immediately.”

“The pace of life in Thailand is much slower than here in England – there just isn’t much stress, or traffic come to think of it!”

Our next family trip was in 1988 and I think we all found the new Bangkok somewhat overwhelming.

The article then moves on to discuss my mother’s Buddhist outlook, which is clearly the theme of the photograph, which shows her in a quite serious pose seated underneath three Buddha rupas. Fuengsin’s characteristic directness is clearly recorded:

“Buddhism is something that has to be achieved by the individual – but once you have reached that point you will have enlightenment.

“It isn’t a Sundays-only type of religion, and I know it’s hard for people who know nothing of Buddhism to even to begin to understand what it’s all about, but basically, no one can tell you how to practise Buddhism, it’s something the individual must learn for him or herself.

“It has to come from inside a person, and it is a very personal thing – no one can help you with it, and you can only practise Buddhism though life itself.

“It is closely linked with meditation and when you meditate you look at a figure of a Buddha and bow – that way you are aiming to suppress your ego, and get rid of any pride. Once you are rid of that you are at one with the universe.”

She had a very practical approach to Dhamma and these teachings are really core to the article, including the value of service. It’s mentioned that Fuengsin taught English to Asian immigrants – I recall she said these were elderly Pakistani ladies and that she was a member of a volunteer group (she didn’t even get her bus fare paid). I’m sure my mother would have had a quip about ‘Big Society’!

The article concludes by switching back to food and more steamed puddings. I think my father and I must accept some responsibility for this – we created quite a demand for puddings and cakes!

You are welcome to read the interview …

 

Personal Diary Of Fuengsin Trafford – in 10 volumes!

Note

The following is a copy of an article I originally posted on Blogger.com, April 07, 2010:
http://paultrafford.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/personal-diary-of-fuengsin-trafford-in.html (with updated links)


 

Fuengsin Trafford, 29 Alpine Close: inside cover of first volume of diary

My mother, the late Fuengsin Trafford, kept a personal diary, covering the years B.E. 2512 to 2517 (1969 to 1974). At the start, my family was in Southampton (Alpine Close), and then we moved to Strood in Kent in 1970 when I was just a toddler, staying there until 1975. I don’t know what prompted my mother to maintain the diary – whether it was something she chose to do to help her adjust to British life or whether she was following some advice from a friend.

The diary is mainly in Thai and occupies a varied collection of notebooks, ten in all, most of them fairly small (bit less than A5 in size). There’s an entry for almost every day, sometimes running to only a few lines, at others to more than a couple of pages. I estimate that there are 1500-2000 pages in total, but I can barely make out any of my mother’s handwriting. 🙁

Yet I can extract some simple patterns because there are many names in English (most of which I can decipher, but not all!) These include circles of friends and places visited (many mention Strood, Chatham, and Rochester, all places in the Medway area that are collectively seeking city status). Also recorded are literary works that she enjoyed reading, including a succession of French novels: Préséances (Mauriac), Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier), La Porte Étroite (André Gide), L’Assommoire (Zola) and unspecified works by Balzac and Flaubert. There are also contemporary events that hit the national and international headlines, which could be an interesting complement to her collection of scrapbooks.

But how am I going to be able to make more than superficial use? I would dearly like to be able to read the handwriting, but for the moment I am dependent on others and so I’m inviting a few Thai friends to transcribe small portions to gain a better idea of what my mother wrote. I hope that these samples will help me to be able to read on my own.

Even then as there’s so much material I shall have to target particular portions for reading, transcribing and translating. I could choose passages where certain people are mentioned etc., but perhaps there are more ingenious ways of delving into the text. Any suggestions would be welcome…

Golden Jubilee celebrations at KMUTT

Note

The following is a copy of an article I originally posted on Blogger.com, February 04, 2010:
http://paultrafford.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/golden-jubilee-celebrations-at-kmutt.html


 

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the official founding of King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi – it was established originally on 4 Feburary 1960 as Thonburi Technology Institute (TTI). It’s now a substantial research-led University building up an international profile.

KMUTT Campus; photo credit: KMUTT Welding research and consulting center

I’ve been fortunate to get in touch with the University as my mother used to work there as a lecturer in English. She would refer to her former place of work as “Bangmot,” which is the colloquial shorthand and was one of the first members of staff, joining around the time it was founded – I’m currently trying to establish exactly when. The following photo was taken in 1964, when there was (as far as I know) just this two storey building!

The developments are extraordinary, so congratulations to the university on its achievements! I think my mother would have been delighted to see its progress.

Recalling Memories through Pictures (using multimedia tools)

Note

The following is a copy of an article I originally posted on Blogger.com, December 30, 2009:
http://paultrafford.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/recalling-memories-through-pictures.html


 

The processes of contact, feelings, perception and memory are closely interlinked. They are mediated through our senses and for most people the sense that usually predominates is sight. So in trying to put together the early life of my mother, the late Fuengsin Trafford, it’s been helpful to carry out interviews based on sets of photographs. I haven’t done much planning really, but rather have made things up as I’ve gone along, working intuitively; it’s only now I can see more of the methodology that I’ve actually followed! I’ll report here on that methodology and also on some of the technical tools that I’ve used to assist me.

My mother left hundreds of photos, which I’ve tried to arrange in sets according to distinct periods: early childhood, University days, her first years of teaching and so on. I created an index for each set and have pencilled in an incrementing number on the back of each photo, so that they are uniquely identified and there’s some order to them, though (as I later would frequently find out) it’s not chronological! I then scanned in the photos at a fairly high resolution (on an HP Scanjet 5370C, quite old now) and saved the files using the index as part of the file name. Having done this for a fair proportion of the collection, I’ve put copies in many places – on laptop hard drives, an external backup disk and memory sticks.

However, merely creating an archive without any descriptions is not much use! For some while I had intended to ask relatives and friends of my mother to enlighten me as to the context and details concerning the photos. I was finally able to set off for my mini fieldwork earlier this month (December), with a copy of the photos on my netbook, an Eee PC. When I met the ‘interviewees’ in Thailand I recorded the conversations using a digital voice recorder, saving copies of the recordings as files on the netbook.

It was the first time I had properly used such a recording device and my experience of conducting interviews was minimal (though I once did an interview with a Big Issue seller as part of a one day digital video course). So earlier this year I explored the world of digital audio recorders (a process that’s familiar for me as I’ve purchased quite a lot of electronic devices 🙂 I settled on an Olympus WS-110, which is a compact device, somewhat smaller and lighter than e.g. a Nokia 8210 mobile phone. I chose it based on reviews of its audio quality – good microphone and high quality sampling (see e.g. reviews on Amazon); file format wasn’t a concern for me. These devices are evolving rapidly and already Olympus lists this as an archived product, which means you should be able to find it new at a very good price on ebay (which is where I purchased it). Operating the device was very simple.

Then the netbook would serve as a digital lightbox and a basic means of navigation – for a given photo set all the photos would be the same folder and I’d run a slideshow using the wonderful Irfanview! The major handicap with the netbook is the relatively small screen – in many cases I needed to zoom in (my audio recording has a lot of tapping sounds!) When I was in conversation, I’d start with a preamble about what I was intending to do and asked for permission (it’s worth confirming this afterwards as well). Although sometimes you know that everyone is happy, it’s a good habit to get into in case I go on to do academic fieldwork, which is something I am deliberating. My main role felt like being a catalyst, with some general encouragement and a few questions sprinkled here and there, to elicit a few more details. There’s no doubt a large swathe of literature on conducting such interviews, but I didn’t read any.

On my return to the UK it was time to transcribe what had been said. To facilitate this, I wanted to associate the audio with the respective pictures (a tradeoff of using a separate recording device rather than doing the recording directly on the netbook). The intended result would be a video consisting of the photos that I had shown with each photo accompanied by the respective audio commentary, i.e. the comments from friends and relatives.

The solution I adopted was to use a video editing tool, Windows Movie Maker (WMM for short), which comes part of the Windows operating system. I guess it is similar in functionality, if not in elegance, with Apple’s iMovie. My familiarity with WMM is very limited, so it’s probably best if I summarise. The basic idea is to create one WMM file for each interview (WMM only provides a single audio track) so that in any given interview when playing back you know what was said about a particular picture. Here’s a screenshot:

Windows Movie Maker screenshot showing a composition of photos synchronised with an audio track

There are basically three areas: top left is the collection of files that I used to create the composition – this is where you import the photos and the audio and in this case I could import audio straightaway without conversion as it was in WMA format. Top right is the playback for the composition as a whole. However, the work is carried out below in the storyboard/timeline, which consists of parallel tracks. All I used was the Video and Audio tracks, dragging and dropping photos from the collection area, moving them about until there was approximate synchronisation.

However, in writing a biography I need words as well as pictures! The next step in the process is thus transcription. The method I’m using here is to create a large table with the first column containing the photos, one photo per row. Each of the other columns are to record the transcription from a particular interview. With reference to the WMM files I’m transcribing what was said about a particular photo in the corresponding cell of the table. Again I’m not being particularly sophisticated about the implementation – it’s one mammoth table in a MS Word document. As long as it works, it is okay. For a formal research project I expect this would be better implemented in a database.

Handwriting bonus!

There have been some nice extras in undertaking this exercise. My mother has penned in Thai many documents, including a diary over several years. It’s one thing to learn how to read the printed word, but a further step to decipher Thai handwriting! With these compositions I have some samples here that have been read out (and with the aid of a dictionary I can slowly spell them out myself). To be systematic, for each letter I can build up a set of samples that I can use later on.

For a few hours of recording, there are many more in organising and interpreting, but I find it fun to do and along the way I learn a little more about Thai history generally. For anyone contemplating learning more about their own family history, I’d recommend this as a stimulating and informative exercise.

Acknowledgements

I mustn’t forget to thank everyone who has kindly provided information in the December interviews, including: Pah Vasana, Khun Jamras, Pah Umpai, P’ Laem, P’ Darunee & her mother, Khun Chaiwat, P’ Yui, P’ Ead, Na Tewee, Na Tun, and Pah Jah. If I could contact all those my mother knew well, this list would be very long …

Researching a Thai Biography

Explanatory Note

The following is an extract from the first article I posted about the biography on Blogger.com, December 15, 2009:
http://paultrafford.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/researching-thai-biography.html


 

… I’m currently gathering some information here in Thailand for a personal project: a biography of my mother, the late Fuengsin Trafford (the following photo of her is one of my favourites):

In my 10 day stopover on my way back from Melbourne to the UK, I’ve been showing old photographs like the one above to relatives and friends, seeking to learn more about her early life – her childhood, her university studies (and many outings) at Chulalongkorn and afterwards her time at the Thonburi Technical Institute, Bangmod (now King Mongkut University of Technology, Thonburi). I’ve been using a voice recorder and subsequently transferring the audio to my Eee PC: everything that has appeared online in the past couple of weeks or so has emanated from or been processed on this netbook, truly a travelling companion! (And I’ve been fortunate enough to have good Wifi access with reasonable broadband connections.

Today, one of my kalyanamittas, Khun Jo, took me to the National Library in Bangkok. My grandparents’ home was formerly in Rajadamnoen, in the city centre, which became a target for British and American bombers in the Second World War. Many families moved across the Chao Phraya to Thonburi, though my grandparents may have moved a few years before as they were the first to arrive at what was then an orchard without any dwellings. I was looking for some background information and photographs from that time and in the short time we had we were able to find a book that specifically mentioned this movement from one side of the river to the other.

I feel there’s a long way to go, not least to understand the geography – I recall two of my mother’s friends taking her to a certain restaurant around a big roundabout; only today did I learn that this was in Rajadamnoen. Evidently there’s much more for me to explore!