Thai Days: Robin and the shark fins.


Hugh Paxton’s Blog posted this last night but then noticed that the story hauled a whole lot of family messages in its wake. They actually made for more interesting reading than my post but there was the issue of privacy. So, with great reluctance, I pulled the post and decided to delete all the Paxton family email exchanges then post it again without Danny Harry’s Christmas quiz (if you caught the original post the answer wasn’t earwig and if you thought it was you won’t win a prize of chewing gum but life’s like that, full of tricks, traps and dreadful disappointments). Here’s Robin and the Shark Fins. Minus Danny Harry’s Christmas quiz and all the cheerful, rather incoherent Paxton family email exchanges. Incidentally if you did rashly respond to Danny Harry’s quiz (rather helpfully sent with the advisory that the correct answer was (A) not (D – earwig) you wouldn’t have received your prize of chewing gum. DH is one heck of a quiz master but is a bit too young to actually buy chewing gum. I’m not even sure he has mastered his bicycle. But his heart is in the right place. If I was designing a quiz I would most definitely include an earwig option. I only have four nephews and each of them has an abundance of talents. I’m amazed that my sister hasn’t throttled them. And I’m amazed that Robin wasn’t throttled last night. This is what happened:



We live in a world of people who really want things to be right but don’t kick sufficient heads to make that dream a reality. This is not the case always and some of my most respected friends are risking their lives and sanity making things right on a daily basis.

Here’s a little bit of encouragement for the can do guys and gals out there saving the world!

Robin. My nephew. Aged nine. Currently my guest in Bangkok.

Robin amazed me! We walked past a shark fin restaurant and I began muttering about that being eco-slaughter and I was being grumpy and ineffectual. We then saw its sister restaurant (both the same enterprise) and it had basking shark fins in its window display. I simply can’t stand that. It’s criminal. I decided to stop talking and complaining to indifferent thin air and stepped inside to cause trouble and blimey! Robin was not just beside me but ahead of me. There was a brief pause. The manager, a sleazy slick gangster in a penguin suit initially thought I was a customer and gave me a greasy grin and a menu. Robin, informed him that killing sharks and selling fins was bad. I thought “Robin! What a surprise!”

It is unfair but previously I had thought Robin was a bit frail. Not a wimp, nothing like that, but a small boy. I told the manager “This is a protest!” and hoped he wouldn’t pull a gun or order thugs.

Robin stood his ground. I had no inhibitions about smashing the shark slaughterer in the face but that would have been stupid and (shamefully) I was sober and lacked that reckless edge that comes with five pints of lager and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. I wasn’t a coward. But I wasn’t quite sure how to take things further.

Rather gratefully I realized I was obsolete. The manager and I looked at each other. And we hated each other. But neither of us knew what to do.

Robin had the floor.

He was relentless, obstinate, calm and resolute and repeated his message. This made the protest utterly confusing. I had precipitated it by grumbling getting angry but Robin had actually made my ineffectual grumbling a protest!

Staff came went and fled, the manager kept looking at me for help. That wasn’t why I was there. The manager kept looking at Robin. The boy stared everybody down. I wanted to hug him. How spontaneous! How brave! How totally magnificent. But also how out of the blue!

The manager scarpered to collect his wits and wonder why everything was thoroughly unpredictable. I had a look at Robin and he was my kind of eco-warrior! The bravest boy I’ve seen, and, this really appealed to me, without mercy.

That restaurant was profiting from killing sharks. And Robin was having none of it.

The manager came back. I returned to “This is a protest” mode hoping to disconcert the dwindling opposition. And Robin continued his condemnations. I had a look at them both. Robin. Small. Tough. Lecturing. I had a look at the restaurant. There were some customers leaving. The manager reared up and tried to appear terrifying. Robin was dauntless.

I was encouraged by his spirit and said in rather a dull voice “This is a protest.”

What happened next was very funny. The manager launched a counter attack.

He said, with a sneer, “I don’t know you.”

This might be a hurtful insult and a terrible thing to hear if you are Chinese. And if you take that sort of thing to heart.

I don’t. Robin didn’t.

“I know you,” I said. “You are scum.”

“I don’t know you!” said the manager again and he ran away and there was an unfortunate sound. I think he fell down stairs.

I looked at Robin and thought how well he’d managed the affair. I hadn’t planned a protest but Robin had listened to me complaining and had clearly decided to sort this evil out. Instead of writing petitions or wandering around the Chinese embassy with a guitar he stormed the shop. Obviously I surged in to support him but if I’d done it my way there would have been a mess. Or just a silly argument. Something ineffectual. And it wouldn’t have utterly disrupted two of the most exclusive shark fin restaurants in Bangkok. The boy has style! All he did was shout at them and show no fear. And give em a damn good talking to!

“I don’t know you.”

Maybe. Maybe not. But that man will never forget Robin. And neither will the restaurants.

Gives me hope! The kid’s a contender!


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