Welcome to the home of Robert Mills writing


Robert Mills used to write a regular column for the Khon Kaen Gazette (www.khonkaengazette.com) called ‘Siam Sketchbook’ which presented a whimsical view of life in Thailand from a foreigner’s point of view. Below is an article which did not appeared in the paper, which gives a flavour of the column’s style.

The Lizard in the Shower

Living in Thailand is different from my former life in the UK in many ways. As those who have spent time in the Kingdom will be painfully aware, one of these is the impact of insects on day to day living. It seems that most biting insects have tired of Thai food and are dying to get their teeth into something foreign. They are active in the evening and normally favour the legs and arms, but if these are protected by clothing or covered in insect repellent they very willing to sink their fangs into the neck or even the hand.

The kitchen is almost constantly infested with ants and one has to accept that a way must be found to coexist with them, as they cannot be eradicated. They have an uncanny knack of working out where food is stored and an impressive ability to penetrate containers designed to keep them out. I was particularly impressed when they managed to find their way into a sealed plastic box and bore through a heavy duty plastic bag to get at its tempting contents. The safest places to keep food are the refrigerator or on a makeshift plinth surrounded by water. Water is the main weapon in the war against ants and they can readily be washed away from areas where their presence is not desired. Food can also be protected by making a ‘magic’ circle with ant repellent and placing the item inside it. Ants are choosy about what they eat. Garlic is never touched and they seem to prefer my farang food items to almost anything else we have. However, it has to be said that the ants do perform one useful service. When washing up is left to dry and the draining board and you see an ant walking over an item you can be sure that it hasn’t been adequately washed – a useful method of quality control.

Our allies in the battle against the insect hordes are the geckos, small lizards which live outside and inside the house. They are certainly partial to flying insects. Once, while we were having diner in the open air at a local restaurant, I watched a particularly smart gecko positioned next to a light. The insects attracted to its beam provided him with a feast without the need for him to move a muscle, except for his tongue which he employed with great skill. The geckos which come into the house are small, usually only 2 to 3 inches in length and their presence is welcome. So it was that when I found that I was sharing my shower cubicle with a small gecko, I was not unduly concerned. I did think that he might have had the decency to bring his own soap and a towel, but I was prepared to overlook this in view of the fact that he was a comrade in arms. I continued with my ablutions, unconcerned by the fact that I was not alone. My wife took a shower after me and reported that the creature had expired. It is not clear whether he died of old age, drowning or the shock of seeing me naked.


Khon Kaen Gazette