The Legendary Edith Clampton (Mrs)

On reading the title, most of you are probably wondering “Who the heck is she?” Well, she was one of Thailand’s most well-known farang names during the early to mid 1990’s; a name that was highly controversial, but in the stupidest way possible (She even has her very own Wikipedia entry).

So, who was Edith Clampton (Mrs)? She was simply a regular ‘letters to the editor’ (Post Bag) writer at the Bangkok Post. No-one quite knows her nationality, but we do know that she was married to Mr Clampton and had a personal driver called Khun Parker and a servant named Khun Hazel. We also know that she was extremely wealthy, fervently disliked the Philippines and held scruffy smelly backpackers in much contempt (but she did have a little sympathy for them, however). Edith is a legend for two reasons 1. There has been no-one else like it in the English language papers 2. She never existed.

From 1993 – 96, the editing bosses of the Bangkok Post allowed Edith to submit some of the most hilariously daft comments for publication in their Post Bag. She was highly ‘controversial’ because a large minority of the Post Bag readers actually took her letters seriously, including embassy officials and big coperation heads. At the end of the day, what made Edith’s letters so classic were probably the incredibly serious replies which often bombarded the sub-editors desk in batches. After Edith’s demise in 1996, after too many readers complained about what had to be the pen-name of a joker, it wasn’t until years later that the editorial bosses finally admitted that Edith Clampton (Mrs) really was a nom de plume and her letters were made up fiction, by an outsider they eventually got to know personally. The Post has never revealed the true identity of Edith and the writer remains a secret.

In 1996, a compilation of these nonsensical letters were published in a book called Edith Clampton’s Letters and Readers’ Responses to Post Bag, but unfortunately the book went out of print years and years ago. I had always known of the book but was never able to find a copy anywhere – that was until a couple of months or so back when I came across a copy in a tiny English language section of a second-hand bookstore in northern Bangkok. Since the book has been out of print for going on ten years, it seems more than ok to share with the readers here some of the ‘delights’ of Edith Clampton (Mrs).
I’d love to post some of the pathetic replies too, but this blog is long enough as it is.

The first letter here is a classic example of the ignorance of Edith, an upper-class snob who thinks she is riding a brand-new Bangkok micro-bus when instead she’s taking a normal green bus. In 1996, the fare for a micro-bus was 15 Baht, and for an old green bus, 3.50 baht. The last letter, arguably the stupidest of all (the only one not Thailand-related here) caused the Filipino community in Bangkok to throw a complete frenzy and start mayhem at Post Bag.

Not Up to Scratch

SIR: I put the new micro-bus service to the test and have decided it is not the answer to our traffic problems. To say the least I am disappointed. First I was lead to believe the micro-bus had daily papers on board but when I asked the young conductor for a Bangkok Post he looked at me as if I was an idiot. Eventually he became tired of my nagging and snatched me a Thai Rath (Steve’s notes: a Thai language newspaper) from a fellow passenger. The overall service needs to be improved and I would like to suggest the following:

1. Make the drivers slow down and not keep changing lanes.
2. Don’t let people stand in the bus.
3. Insist that the drivers stop at designated bus stops (luckily I had my personal driver, Khun Parker, following in The Car)
4. Make the buses air-conditioned.
5. Forbid the conductor from hanging out the backdoor and waving his money tin around like a mad-man.
6. Change the colour of the buses from green to something more attractive.

The trip was very uncomfortable and I strongly suggest the micro-bus people seriously look at this service if they want Bangkok’s upper echelons to use this service.

Edith Clampton (Mrs)

Pizza Men on Bikes Prove Too Elusive

SIR: I’m afraid Pizza (Steve’s notes: Pizza Hut) and Dominos need a dressing down. From time to time their sales people ride motorcycles up and down my soi. And I have great difficulty trying to get them to stop. Other vendors like the lady who rides a bicycle and sells yogurt – she always stops. The ice-cream man, the fruit man and the rag and bone man, the pork-on-the-stick man and the somtam man – they never fail to stop. But the pizza men – I have to stand in the middle of the road and wave my arms about like an idiot before they even acknowledge me. And then they speed off when I try to open their box and buy a pizza. It’s high time somebody stepped in and taught these young hooligans a thing or two about salesman-ship – you don’t make money by swerving around your customers.

Edith Clampton (Mrs)

Oops!

Nowhere on the Phonecard does it say you can’t withdraw the card’s balance from ATM machines. Last week I held up many people while bank officials had to come and gouge my poor Phonecard out of the haemorrhaging Automatic Teller. I’m sure many other wealthy people have suffered this embarrassment and I hope TOT officials make it clear on the Phonecard that ATM’s cannot be used.

Edith Clampton (Mrs)

No Help for Backpackers

SIR: I recently sheltered some German backpackers who through no fault of their own had run out of money and were stranded in Thailand for a few days. I helped them with some rice and let them sleep in the garage – and I’m not even German!
They told me they asked some German residents of Bangkok for shelter but were refused. They said the Bangkok Germans made them feel like second class citizens. Admittedly they were scruffy but I found them very friendly and each night I would venture into my garage and entertain them with some of my travel stories. Surely it is the responsibility of each nation to care for their own. Embassies should have a list of their citizens living in Bangkok and when travellers are stranded they could be given the list of names and addresses. This way travellers in trouble could go direct to their fellow countrymen for assistance.
We shouldn’t forget that Mary and Joseph were once stranded.

Edith Clampton (Mrs)

Surprise the Maid with a Cuppa

SIR: Every year (in Thailand) we have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Children’s Day, but never a mention of Maid’s Day. And it’s about time attitudes changed. Many people accustomed to living in pigsty conditions in their own country now enjoy a clean and happy home here in Thailand. Thanks to the maid. But do they appreciate the niceties the maid performs?
In the Clampton household one day is set aside each year for my dear maid, Khun Hazel. It is her special day. On that day housework is forbidden. I also perm and cut her hair and let her use my make-up and perfume. She has full use of the car and driver Khun Parker, for an hour. She is also allowed to sit on my Italian Settee and watch whatever she wants on television. And at the end of her favourite day I treat her to dinner at S&P.
Relationship building with domestic servants is important and Maid’s Day will help strengthen the employer/employee bond. It can start with a little knock on the maid’s bedroom door 15 minutes before she normally wakes up and surprise her with a hot cup of tea.

Edith Clampton (Mrs)

Who Has the Right to Elephant Dung?

SIR: Elephant droppings have become increasingly popular as garden fertiliser but collecting is risky business. Last week an elephant went to the toilet in our soi and a public spectacle erupted. It involved my maid, Khun Hazel, shovelling the ordure into a bucket, a drunken foreign woman screaming she had fed the animal previously and was claiming a return on her investment, and the mahout, seeing the manure as a possible gold mine, trying to sell it. The elephant remained calm.
I fear incidents like this will happen again and again unless some legal expert can inform the public who is the rightful owner of the dung once it hits the streets.

Edith Clampton (Mrs)

Teething Troubles

SIR: My teeth have turned a grotty shade of green and I have enough sediment between them to grow potatoes and all because of the Philippines.
For the last two months I have been visiting that country and the power blackouts, from three to seven hours everyday, are beyond a joke. Each time I went to clean my teeth there would be no electricity and I was unable to use my electric toothbrush.
I would suggest wealthy people with electric toothbrush not visit the Philippines or if they do take a generator.

Edith Clampton (Mrs)

Part two has now been posted: More Edith Clampton and Readers’ Responses

17 responses to “The Legendary Edith Clampton (Mrs)

  1. I really would like a copy of this book. How about creating a .pdf version and sharing it? I guess that as the book is out of print, then it may also be out of copyright?

    Really funny. Thanks for this.

  2. Welcome back to blogging Steve.

    Edith Clampton we hardly knew ye. Sadly, she is referenced in a Nation letter to the editor as “the late, lamented Edith Clampton.”

    Perhaps one too many rides on the green bus did her in.

    I hope she remembered her maid Hazel in her will.

  3. Good find Steve. I guess it went out of print when the Bangkok Post publishing arm folded.

  4. Great stories Steve, I can relate to her when people take my posts very seriously including my self.

  5. How wonderful to see some of these letters once again.I remember seeing some of them at the time when they were printed in The Bangkok Post.Please do what you can to make all of these letters,and responses to them,available.Great stuff.

  6. Thank you for this post ! It brings back great memories from the time I was living in BKK. I was looking forward to every morning to read Edith Clampton’s letter in the post. Actually, I was even addicted… These letters were so much fun and were a great way to start the day with a good laugh.
    I am also glad that I bought this book before moving. I coudn’t have considered leaving BKK without it…

  7. Ooops, I forgot to vote ! Now it’s done 🙂

  8. Thankx for the comments. So glad it brings back memories – it really does for me.
    Perhaps a part 2 of this blog ought to be written with some of Edith’s ultra enemies getting their revenge ( with a bit more Edith added in for spice) – via Post Bag in the old days that is…

  9. Maybe either Khun Hazel or Khun Parker are still around to be interviewed on their memories of their days with the redoubtable Mrs Clampton and her crusades?
    Might make some interesting blogs.

  10. Fantastic post Steve.

    I really like her having a chauffer called Parker, just like Lady Penelope in the Thunderbirds.

  11. Edith Clampton, along with Night Owl, Insider and other genuinely quirky but delightful elements of the Bangkok Post, have unfortunately been swept aside in favor of bland and unoriginal copy. The Bangkok Post is now a “serious” newspaper in all respects. Too bad.

  12. LOL great posts! I like the one about the elephant.

  13. Thankx for all the feedback. Part two has now been posted – with more Edith and the readers’ responses

  14. Great post Steve

  15. Hilarious!!!
    What a great find!!
    Keep them coming, I would love to read more!!

  16. I just saw many copies of this book available at Jamjuree Square – the bargain book fair on the first floor(Samyan MRT) and I just bought one yesterday. I couldn’t stop reading and laughing at her letters and featured replies. Totally recommend if you want to get hold of it.

  17. i had a copy i picked up back in the 90s, but finally pitched it on the assumption i could find an e-version — pirate or otherwise — someday. little did i know!

    now i wish i had scanned it and put it up myself. hopefully someone else will someday.

    ranks #3 on my “shouldn’t have thrown away” list….