How to get a police certificate in Thailand

How to get a police certificate in Thailand

Everything you need to know about getting a police certificate in Thailand

… by someone who did it the hard way!

Recently, I had to get a police certificate, also known as a criminal check or a penal record, from the Royal Thailand Police. Although it is not that common for foreigners in Thailand to need one, you might do if you have been out of your home country for some time, are starting a new job in Thailand or applying for a visa from another country. Given that nothing is easy when it comes to navigating the Thai bureaucratic system, especially when you might not speak the language very well, I have put together this handy guide to help you, based on my own experiences.


What you will need to get a police certificate in Thailand (as a foreigner)

  • A copy of the identity (photo) page of every passport that you hold.
  • A copy of your Thailand visa.
  • A copy of your Thailand work permit (if you are working in the country).
  • A copy of your TM30 (notification of where you live).
  • A copy of your TM6 (departure card).
  • A copy of your most recent ninety-day (90 day) report.

Depending on your country of origin, you may need to get these copies certified, although in many cases a normal photocopy is sufficient. Give the Police Clearance Service Centre a call before you visit in person, to check the requirements. The phone number is: 02 205 2168.


A Thai TM30 form needed for a police certificate - Rob Gregory Author

A TM30. If you don’t have one of these, you are in trouble and could face a 1,600 Baht fine!


With regard to Thailand visas, I would recommend taking a copy of every visa that you have had while living in the country, just to avoid the possibility of any problems when you get to the office.

It is also a good idea to take your original passports as well, just in case. This is Thailand after all and anything could happen!


Apply for your police certificate in person if you are in the country

As far as I can tell, if you are in Thailand when you apply for a police certificate, then you must do so in person, at the Police Clearance Service Centre in Bangkok. This is because they will take a copy of your fingerprints on the day. For those applying outside of the country, there are other procedures that you must follow. Check the Police Clearance Service Centre website for details if you are applying from outside Thailand.

If you are not living in Bangkok, this can be a bit of a pain, because of the additional travel involved, but unfortunately, nowhere else in the country is allowed to issue a police certificate at this point in time, so you’ll just have to take it on the chin.


Call ahead before you travel!

The Police Clearance Service Centre is open from 08:30-16:30 on weekdays and does not close for lunch. The only times that it is closed are outside these hours and on public holidays, however, I would strongly advise that you call them on 02 205 2168 a couple of days before you travel to double check that they will be open.

I travelled down with my family on a normal weekday, only to discover that the clearance centre staff had been seconded to provide support for an ASEAN meeting that was taking place in the capital. This meant that I had to go back the following day to get my business done, which was less than ideal, seeing as how I was staying in Chiang Mai, some 700km away!


Homepage of the police certificate website in English - Rob Gregory

Homepage of the Thailand Police Clearance Service Centre website. Note: The download link for the application form does not work!


Note: While events like exceptional closures might well be notified in the press and on TV, such notifications may well not be in English and are easily missed. For example, the Police Clearance Service Centre website itself, is fairly basic and does not have any information about opening times, let alone special closures on it. The best thing to do is to call ahead to check that they are open for business. The number is: 02 205 2168.


Travel to the Royal Thailand Police Headquarters in Bangkok

Fly, drive, hitch-hike or walk, whatever suits you best, to the police headquarters in Bangkok. It is located on Rama 1 Road, in Pratum Wan, a stone’s throw from two major shopping malls, Central World and Siam Paragon. It is a huge complex and very hard to miss, with signs both in English and Thai. Plus, the exterior railings are painted in the distinctive plum red of the Thailand police force!

Foreigners can enter the complex without ID. Just walk through the metal detector at the gatehouse and smile at the police on guard. Thailand nationals must surrender a photo ID, e.g. ID card or driving licence, in exchange for a visitor’s pass before they are allowed to enter.

You will need to go to ‘Building 10’, NOT ‘Building 24’ as listed on the Police Clearance Service Centre website. Just ask the guards and they will tell you where to go (in a nice way, of course).


Map of the Royal Thai Police HQ - Rob Gregory Author

Map of the Royal Thai Police Headquarters, in Bangkok, showing the Police Clearance Service Centre (pinned).


Start queuing for your police certificate

Building 10 is quite small and can easily get crowded with people seeking police certificates, so stay calm and prepare yourself for a bit of a wait. The good news is that once you start the process, it doesn’t take too long to complete and by Thailand standards is pretty well organised.

While you are waiting, you can take advantage of the ‘gift shop’ just inside the front entrance to buy gifts for your loved ones, including Royal Thai Police clothing patches and a range of rather serious looking knives (I am not joking about this).


Main entrance of the Royal Thai Police HQ - Rob Gregory Author

The main entrance to the Royal Thai Police Headquarters, in Bangkok. Image taken from Google Maps.


Getting a Thailand police certificate – the physical process

Step 1 – Justify yourself

An officer sitting directly opposite the main doors will ask you what you want the police certificate for and if you are travelling overseas, when you plan to do so. Thailand police certificates are only valid for one month after being issued, although most governments will accept them for several months after this. Once you have satisfied the officer (you don’t need to provide any supporting evidence), they will give you an application form and a fingerprint card. Don’t bother trying to download the application form off the website, the link does not work!

Step 2 –Fill in the forms

Go to the table and complete both forms. In a rare display of forward thinking, there are samples in both English and Thai, to help you fill in the right information in the right spaces. Remember, in Thailand, the Thai script comes first, so make sure you double check before putting pen to paper, as it is easy to fill in the wrong boxes.

Step 3 –Get your documents checked

Go to the table next to the one where you completed the application and fingerprint forms. An officer there will check your forms and scribble on them. They will also check your photocopies. This is where I fell foul of the system. I needed the police certificate for New Zealand, but had my visa in my British passport, so only took copies of my British one to Bangkok (silly of me, I know). I managed to print out a copy of my NZ one from my laptop at a very helpful, if rather expensive, bookshop around the corner from the police complex, but this is why it is so important to take copies of every passport and visa that you have with you.

Step 4 – Get your fingerprints taken

The fingerprint station is on the other side of the table where you filled in your application form and a very helpful officer will cover your digits in black ink and then press them onto the completed fingerprint card with glee.

Helpful tip: Take some baby wipes or kitchen roll with you because there are no hand dryers in the toilets and you really don’t want to use the grotty old towels that are lying around in there!

Step 5 – Get your photo taken

Right next to the fingerprint station is the photography area. It only takes a minute to get your mugshot taken and then you are on to the next stage… more checking!

Step 6 –Get validated

Go back to the officer who originally checked your documents. They will tell you to go to a numbered desk in an annexe to one side of the main area (next to the photography station). Go inside, hand your forms to the officer behind the relevant desk and smile. The officer will check everything, then stamp and validate your application. It only takes a few minutes, which is good and smiling does help, believe me!

Step 7 –Pay up and get your receipt

Go back into the main area. Hand your authorised documents to the officer at the desk opposite the table where you originally completed your forms. They will do one final check, then take your money and issue you with an official receipt. The current cost for a police certificate is 100 Baht.

Step 8 –To post or not to post?

Nearly done. It normally takes around three weeks to process a police certificate and you can choose whether you want to collect it in person or have it posted to your address in Thailand. If you choose the postage option, it will cost you an additional 50 Baht. An officer sitting beside the one who issues the receipts will take your money and give you a blank envelope. Back to the big table one last time and fill in your address. Then, give the envelope to the officer, breathe a big sigh of relief and leave the building.


Congratulations, you have successfully applied for a Thailand police certificate!

Now, go and get yourself a coffee, beer or something a bit stronger… you deserve it!


All up, the whole process should take less than an hour to complete from start to finish, however, I would recommend that you allow yourself at least two hours, if not more, just in case the Police Clearance Service is particularly busy on the day you choose to apply for your police certificate.




Note: As with everything in Thailand, the rules, regulations, processes and locations frequently change, often without notice. While I hope that this information is useful to you, if you do find that any of it has become outdated, please let me know at so that I can update this article and help others avoid mistakes. Thank you and good luck!


Also, while you are here, why not have a look at some of my other Thailand blogs, or check out my short stories? Most of them are free and are an excellent way to pass the time while you are waiting for your Thailand police certificate.


Thank you!


Amazing Thailand No 6 – Asian Insects


Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Seven

Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Seven

Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right

Part seven of a seven part series

Introduction to Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right

Well, here it is, the long awaited final to Seven Books in Seven Weeks. Okay, so it took a bit longer than seven weeks to complete but then you probably expected that from the start! Anyway, without further ado, here is the seventh book in the series, Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah Right, written by none other than me!


The Genesis of Drynwideon

The idea for Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right, also affectionately known as the world’s first anti-fantasy novel, first popped into my head in July of 2017. At the time, I was suffering from a fairly serious chest infection, which had developed into pneumonia and was spending most of my time lying in bed contemplating my navel and watching the world pass me by, while I waited for my white blood cells to do their job and banish the infection from the bounds of the pale, flabby thing that I call my body.

R A Gregory. Author of Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny - Yeah, Right

Rob Gregory. Author of Drynwideon.

Around the same time, the latest season of Game of Thrones was fast approaching and every time that I ventured from my sickbed, there was something on the television or the radio, hyping up the much anticipated series and saying how utterly amazing and fantastic it was going to be. I have never read Game of Thrones or seen the television series, apart from a few snippets that left me wondering what the heck was going on, but I had discussed it with a number of George R. R. Martin fans in the bar, who regaled me with its wondrous depth and complexity, all of which, I have to say left me a little flat. Now, I have nothing against Game of Thrones, but well, you know me, I like my stories simple and Game of Thrones or GOT as it was commonly known made me feel as if it was a soap opera set in a fantasy world, a bit like ‘EastEnders in Mordor’ or ‘Coronation Street in Wonderland’.

So there I was, incapacitated by illness and slowly climbing the walls with my inability to escape the GOT-hype and it got me thinking. What if there was a traditional fantasy story where the hero got killed off in the first chapter and the rest of the story focused on the most unlikely hero imaginable, someone who had no heroic qualities and just wanted to be left alone to get on with their life? And that, dear reader, is where the idea for Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right came from.


Drynwideon’s Storyline

The storyline of Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right is pretty simple. We start out with our hero, Gonald the Mighty scaling Mount Terror on a dark and stormy night, in order to slay Ka, the Dragon Princess, tyrant of the known world and the girl he had once called his daughter. Think Conan the Barbarian but better looking and a lot older and you’re on the right lines. He confronts her only to discover that Drynwideon, the mythical sword he stole from the king of the elves, is nothing more than a cheap replica of the ancient weapon and dies horribly when Ka incinerates him in a ball of searing flame. With me so far? Good!

Then we meet our protagonist, the anti-heroic, Drin. Sick to death of hearing about failed attempts to defeat the Dragon Princess, his main concerns are getting enough food to eat and avoiding winning the nightly ‘meat lottery’, which will mean he ends up on the dinner plate instead of one of the other villagers! His plans to flee the decrepit village he inhabits are thwarted by the village chief, but he escapes, as all good protagonists do and flees anyway, only to discover paradise just a few miles away! However, as with real life, things don’t always work out the way you planned and Drin’s stay is rudely cut short, whereupon he spends the rest of the book trying to find a substitute in which to spend the rest of his days.

Along the way, which inevitably involves arid savannahs, enchanted forests and countryside that wouldn’t be out of place in The Shire, he amasses a rag-tag assortment of unwanted companions, all of them with seriously disturbing personal problems and ends up on The Quest, a once in a decade Battle Royale, organised by the Dragon Princess, in which everyone apart from her dies in a most unpleasant manner.

Armed with only his trusty dagger, a thing called ‘Thing’ and his maladjusted friends, it is up to Drin to face Ka and win, if he wants a future longer than a few strangled breaths and a couple of mortal wounds that is!

I won’t tell you what happens, you’ll have to read the book, but it’s pretty darned good and a very welcome change from the usual run of the mill fantasy epic, I can assure you of that.


Drynwideon’s Main Characters

The main character in Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right is Drin. Half-starved, sarcastic and possessed of a natural cunning which saves his life on more than one occasion, as mentioned above, all he wants is a quiet life and being a hero is the last thing on his mind. When I was writing him, I couldn’t help but think of Michael Palin’s character, Dennis Cooper, in the brilliant Terry Gilliam film, Jabberwocky. Dennis, like Drin, is a reluctant hero, who has his own plans for his life but finds himself drawn into a far bigger adventure, despite his ongoing protestations to the contrary.

Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right. A book by R.A. Gregory Author

Drynwideon in all its glory.

Tefal the Dwarf is the Sancho Panza to Drin’s Don Quixote. Level-headed and cautious where Drin is headstrong and opinionated, he is burdened by the terrible afflictions of both claustrophobia and agoraphobia (or Clagraphobia, as a good friend of mine put it). The idea for Tefal came, believe it or not, from a line written by one of my favourite bands, Half Man Half Biscuit. Check out the opening to their song, San Antonio Foam Party and you’ll see what I mean. Apart from being a much-needed counterpoint to Drin’s acerbic nature, Tefal is a fully formed, if half-sized character in his own right and possessed of a pretty unique way to deal with his bodily fluids… well, one of them at least.

Then we have Rioja (pr. Ree-Oh-Jar), Drin’s ill-matched love interest. A half-fairy with a malformed wing, she was cast out by her fellow fairies for not being pretty enough and subsequently developed a thirst for violence that borders on the psychotic. She is one of the driving forces behind Drin and Tefal’s reluctant entry into The Quest, and the poor thing perennially mistakes their attempts to wheedle out of it as acts of heroic bravery. To be honest, I can’t recall where I got the inspiration for Rioja from and even if I could, I wouldn’t tell you. After all, Hell hath no fury like a crazy fairy’s scorn!

The Rog was another of those characters that seemed to pop up from nowhere. Half rabbit, half dog, he becomes Drin’s most loyal companion, which is a good thing because, as an Andarian Harehound, the Rog is a terrifying killing machine by both day and by night. No one knows why The Rog chose to befriend Drin. Maybe it was abused as a pup, who knows?

Finally, we have Spasmodicus the Ridiculous. An ancient, battle scarred barbarian, most definitely cast from the Gonald the Mighty mould, he is the unfortunate owner of the Farting Phoenix, a mythical creature that blows itself up with a foul-smelling gas when frightened, only to reincarnate moments later. Poor old Spasmodicus. The day he took ownership of the Farting Phoenix, which bonds to its owner for life, was also the day that he said goodbye to most of his hair.

I could mention the myriad of other characters that litter the pages of Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right, such as Captain Colleston, Mad Anja and Chamberlain Rousseau, Governor of the fabled port of Naxxis, but then there wouldn’t be much point in you reading the book. Incidentally, you can buy it here if you are interested!


Influences on Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right

Here is where everything in Seven Books in Seven Weeks comes together, for in their own way, each of the books that I have covered previously had an influence on Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right. Whether it was the magical world-building in The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe and The Lightstone, the contemporary humour of The Pyrates and The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, the wonderful vocabulary used in The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm or the simple fact that The Book of Three inspired both Drynwideon the mythical sword and the magical bag summoned up by Drin, each of them evoked feelings and memories which I drew upon in order to create my own unique anti-fantasy adventure story.


Printing the Paperback of Drynwideon

Shortly after Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right had gone through its umpteenth edit, a friend of mine persuaded me to publish the book as a paperback. Now, I’m not a fan of the vanity press and abhor the idea of anyone paying for their work to be published by a company that exists only to take advantage of people’s desire to see their name in print. However, vanity is a strange mistress and I was so excited by the fact that I had written a ‘proper’ novel that I eventually capitulated. To say that it was another adventure entirely would be an understatement of epic proportions…

With the printers. Drynwideon lives! Rob Gregory Author

Hot off the press, the first copy of Drynwideon.

First of all, we approached a local publishing house and while their principal editor was very keen on the project and eager to expand the company’s portfolio, unfortunately, like many first-time authors, I fell foul of the Monday morning publishing meeting and the book was ultimately rejected because it was a seen as a stretch too far from their usual fare… academic books about Thailand!

Dismayed but not deterred, we then decided to do it ourselves, not realising quite how fickle and challenging the world of professional publishing can be. A friend of mine who had worked in the printing industry in England did a line by line edit of the manuscript, which then had to be reformatted, by me, to fit the 8”x5” book format that we had decided on. Getting the margins and paragraph breaks right was a task that still gives me nightmares to this day and was a far cry from my previous experience of self publishing in the digital domain, which, by comparison, was an absolute breeze.

While all of this was going on, the friend who had first suggested paperback printing was busy trying to find a reputable printer to do the actual physical work of making the book. Fortunately, we were extremely lucky in this regard and found a local outfit with heaps of experience and a Heidelberg press, don’t you know, to do the job for a very reasonable price.

Then it was just a matter of checking the proofs and giving the printers the okay. There was one small glitch when it turned out that two hundred copies of the cover had been misaligned during the trimming process and had come out wonky, but we weren’t in a hurry, so a few days later replacements had been printed and I was the proud owner of one thousand copies of my book!

Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny - Yeah, Right lives! Rob Gregory Author

Standing there, like a proud father, the author with Drynwideon.

Like any major publishing house, we subsequently embarked on a media and publicity campaign, and sent out press packs to over two hundred different publications around the globe. Unfortunately, this is where the reality of the modern publishing industry and our naivety came home to roost. There is simply so much stuff out there these days that media outlets and magazines are unwilling to give column inches to unknown authors. As one editor of a well known science fiction and fantasy publication told me: they get so many books from mainstream publishers to review each month that they can’t take the chance on the indies, it just isn’t worth the risk for them. So, to cut a long story short, after many months of getting stuck into the DIY publishing game, we didn’t get a single piece of publicity, other than the free stuff I did on Reddit and various Facebook pages, plus a couple of paid adverts on Amazon.

However, all was not lost and just over a year since Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny, Yeah, Right, was first released, I have managed to make a respectable number of sales and that number continues to grow each month as word gradually spreads about the world’s first anti-fantasy novel. So, what is the take home message? Simple. You’d better grab yourself a copy of the first edition paperback version before they are all sold out!


Mistakes in Drynwideon (Should I really be telling you this?)

Like any published work, Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right has its fair share of typos and grammatical mistakes, I am sure of that and it is an inevitable part of the writing process, so I am in good company — right up there with the best of them in fact! Furthermore, like any author, my writing style continues to evolve over time, so now when I look back on Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right, it sometimes seems as if someone else has written it.

Author Antonin Cee at the drynwideon launch party. Rob Gregory Author

Dutch author, Antonin Cee, holding a copy of Drynwideon.

However, there is another mistake that I want to discuss here and it is the mistake that many emerging authors make. I didn’t listen hard enough to my reviewers. If one reviewer makes a comment then conventional wisdom says ‘take it under consideration’. However, if two or more reviewers make the same comment then you’d better darned well pay attention before you dismiss it!

In my case, at least two people commented that the first chapter was, in their opinion, too long and that they felt put out by the fact that they had invested time in getting to know Gonald the Mighty, only to have to start again in chapter two with Drin, the real main character of the book.

In my defence, that was exactly what I had intended! I wanted readers to think that they were getting a piece of traditional heroic fantasy fiction, only to discover in chapter two that it was anything but traditional, by which time they would be compelled to carry on. As a result, I ignored my reviewers comments and went ahead with the version as I had written it. After all, that is the author’s prerogative and to be honest, at that time I was damned if was going to let anyone tell me how I should write my novel!

Looking back, however, I realise now that I made a mistake. Had I been more receptive to criticism, then I would have rewritten the first chapter to make it more snappy and clear that it was a story within a story, rather than the main feature. It was a lesson hard learnt but one that has been put to very good use in my subsequent writing.


The Impact of Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right on Myself

It is fair to say that Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right has had a huge impact on me. Not only was it the first full-length novel that I wrote, it has formed the basis for the rest of my writing career to date. It showed me that I did have the ability to write a compelling piece of original humorous fantasy, which was my primary aim and gave me the confidence to continue writing, even though the challenges have been significant.

Since then, I have penned two further novels covering different genres, with a third, more recent one returning to the world of Drin and his colleagues. A proper sequel to Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right is on the cards for next year and a series of prequels are planned to follow that. Suffice to say, I have a lot on my plate as far as writing is concerned and my world is a far brighter place for it!


Conclusion to Seven Books in Seven Weeks

So, there you have it. Seven books in a little over seven weeks. All of them have touched me greatly in some way or another during my life and I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my various interactions with them. Perhaps I have even convinced you to hunt them down for yourself, in which case I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have. All that remains for me to say is thank you for coming on this journey with me and please do stay tuned for more fascinating insights into my world through the medium of my blog.

Oh, and please do take a few minutes to have a look at my various written offerings, including Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right. Quite a few of them are free and most of them should raise a smile or two!


Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny - Yeah, Right by Rob Gregory Author

Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right. Signed copies available for sale here.

Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Six

Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Six

Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Six – Professor Branestawm

… Part six of a seven part series…


Well, you’ve made it this far, so welcome to the penultimate instalment of Seven Books in Seven Weeks. Having covered science fiction, epic fantasy and swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, we return to the world of children’s fiction, with what is possibly a long forgotten classic, The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm, by Norman Hunter.

I don’t recall where I got this book from, it was that long ago, but seeing as how it has travelled with me around the world and halfway back again over the last twenty years or so, I think it is safe to say that it is among my most treasured pieces of literary material.

Professor Branestawm was the creation of Norman Hunter, a man who began his career as an advertising copywriter, before becoming a stage magician, so, in other words, he moved from one type of illusion to another. He was a prodigious writer and racked up more than thirty-five different works in a lifetime that stretched almost ninety-five years. This was made all the more, dare I say it, incredible, by the fact that he took a thirty-year break in the middle of his writing career. Anyway, The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm was the first book in the Professor Branestawm series and was published in 1933. I have a copy of the 1976 version, published by Penguin Books, under their Puffin imprint.


The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter - Rob Gregory Author

Front cover of the 1976 edition of The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter.


Tales of a time gone past

One of the things that I have always found delightful about the book is the fact that it is set in a time that is completely alien to me, yet also strangely appealing. I have always had a soft spot for the 1930’s and it is quite possible that this was in some way kindled by reading about Professor Branestawm’s incredible adventures at a very early age.

The world of Professor Branestawm is a place of gas-lights rather than electricity, machinery rather than computers and catapults rather than machine guns. It is a place betwixt the old world of steam, coal and manual labour and the modern world of electricity, screens and automation. It is a place that no longer exists, if indeed it ever did, and the professor’s inventions reflect this magnificently, being full of cogs, levers and pieces of string holding press-ganged household objects together. Just look at the Penny Farthing bicycle on the cover of the book, with an oil lamp on the front and a reading attachment on the handlebars. Trying to imagine this sort of contrivance today, when we are surrounded by ultra-bright LED bike lights and clip-on smartphone holders would be almost impossible.

Other inventions are just as outlandish. The professor’s home-made fishing apparatus, the pancake making machine and his burglar catching contraption, are just a few examples of creations imagined, to paraphrase Norman Hunter, by a mind that was so clever that it had no time to think about ordinary things. And all were brilliantly captured in the beautiful drawings of W. Heath Robinson, who provided the illustrations for the book.


Professor Branestawm's burgular catching machine - Rob Gregory Author

Professor Branestawm’s burglar catching machine.


Main characters

Without a doubt, the main character of the book is the eponymous Professor Branestawm. Clumsy and forgetful, because of the all the wonderful ideas he has, he is indifferent to the motivations and social niceties of normal people and possessed by an optimism that is unquenchable in the face of every new disaster that his creations inevitably precipitate. With his balding head and scruffy appearance, he is an archetypal academic and his five pairs of glasses, including the pair he uses to find the other four when he loses them, only serve to reinforce the image of someone who walks among us, but is really living on an entirely different plane of existence altogether.

Then we have Colonel Dedshott of the Catapult Cavaliers. Militaristic, impeccably dressed and possessed of a mind that takes everything at face value, he is the very antithesis of the professor, yet despite this, or very possibly in spite of this, he is one of the professor’s few friends and a very loyal one at that. It is the colonel, who, never being one to run away from danger, bravely battles envelopes and paperwork, brought to life by one of Branestawm’s experiments, with nothing more than a poker grabbed from the professor’s fireplace.

Finally, there is Mrs Flittersnoop, Professor Branestawm’s long-suffering housekeeper. It is she who makes sure that the professor’s more mundane needs are taken care of and is the voice of common-sense and reason when things threaten to get too out of control. Although, on occasion, even she needs to retreat to the safety of her sister, Aggie’s, for a bit of peace and quiet when the professor get too caught up in his work!


Frontispiece for The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter - Rob Gregory Author

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm, with illustrations by W. Heath Robinson.



Put yourself in the mind of a child for a moment and you will soon see why Professor Branestawm had such appeal to my younger self. You knew from the very first page of each story that things were not going to go as the professor had planned and that you would be carried along on a roller coaster ride, which would culminate with everything turning out alright at the end. None of the major characters would be seriously harmed — the poor soldiers of Squiglatania, in the first story, were less fortunate, after the professor happily rained home-made bombs on them — and you would get to see the latest innovation that the professor had dreamed up turn rogue on him and more often than not, on the much-abused residents of Great Pagwell, too.

Most of Professor Branestawm’s mistakes were the result of simple oversight and there is no reason to think that if he had ever corrected one of his errors in a Mark II version, then a life of fame and fortune would have awaited him. Take, for example, the clock that never needed winding up. Were it not for the fact that the professor forgot to include a mechanism that reset the clock to striking one, after it had reached twelve, then the world would probably have been a very different place, instead of one where every clock got so wound up that it eventually exploded! However, being possessed of such a great and highly active intellect, the thought probably never occurred to him to try and improve on a previous failure. Besides, had he done so, then there wouldn’t have been the need for any more Professor Branestawm stories.


Professor Branestawm's clock - Rob Gregory Author

The clock that never needed winding, Mark I version.


One of the things that I love about Norman Hunter’s writing is the way that he played with words. Consider this excerpt, from the beginning of the first Professor Branestawm story:

On went the machine, but nothing else happened. On and on they whirled, and nothing happened. And it kept on happening over and over again, till everything was so nothing that neither of them could notice anything.

Or this passage:

The clock in Professor Branestawm’s bedroom struck ten to seven the next morning, because it was one of the Professor’s own inventions, and because that was the time.

“That sounds like Tuesday,” said the Professor…

There is a wonderful, surreal edge there, which is coupled with a skewed logic that you can’t help but accept, once you are immersed in the world that Hunter created. Then there are the contradictions. Take, for example, this one line in the second chapter.

“In another moment he had dressed himself with his usual scrupulous carelessness…

‘Scrupulous carelessness?’ Absolute brilliance! Personally, I would love to see the Professor Branestawm stories included in the list of required reading for schoolchildren, because I think that it would do a lot to improve the appalling levels of comprehension and vocabulary that we see in young people today. Hmm, with a viewpoint like that, maybe I would be better off back in the 1930’s? Professor, where are you? I need a time machine!


Professor Branestawm's potato peeling machine - Rob Gregory Author

Not quite a time machine, but probably better than your average potato peeler.


Short stories

Another thing that I like about the Professor Branestawm books (and I have more than one of them) is the fact that they are written as discrete short stories. Not only does this make it easy for a child to read, it means that you aren’t bothered with cliffhangers, or interminable bouts of description in order to add body to the story. Each one is simple. The professor has an idea, invents something, it goes wrong and then there is a resolution. It may be formulaic, but it works and more than that, Norman Hunter was a master of the short story. In just a few pages, he could transport you to Great Pagwell and have a fully fledged adventure underway. I have tried my hand at short stories and I can tell you, it is a lot harder to write a good one than it looks.


Rear cover of The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter - Rob Gregory Author

Rear cover of The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter.



The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm remains as engaging a read for me today, as it was when I first picked up the book over thirty years ago. Hunter’s storytelling is superb and his characters are timeless, rather than staid or dated.

I think that the book has had a particular impact on me in two ways. First, it engendered in me, a love for short, self-contained stories, which I have tried to emulate in my latest work, a series of fantasy tales with a saucy, culinary theme. Second, it introduced me to a vocabulary and use of wordplay, which although old fashioned by today’s standards, I have found myself incorporating into my writing on an increasingly frequent basis, as you have probably noticed while reading this missive.

So, once again, thank you, Norman Hunter, for bringing us the wonderfully inept and scatterbrained Professor Branestawm to the world. I may only have two pairs of glasses at the moment, but rest assured, I am fast catching up!




Only one more book remains to be reviewed in Seven Books in Seven Weeks. Place your bets and stay tuned for the big reveal, coming soon!

Asian Dust – A Pervasive Problem

Asian Dust – A Pervasive Problem

Further musings on Thailand’s bad air quality

An Ominous Introduction

As you probably already know, Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand, has the unenviable distinction of having the most polluted air in the world at certain times of the year, most notably during the stubble burning months between February and May. According to data from the World Air Quality Project, in the 2019 season, PM2.5 levels in the city rose to 282µg/m³ — the maximum safe level indicated by the World Health Organisation is 25µg/m³ — giving Chiang Mai an Air Quality Index (AQI) of over 296.


PM2.5 chart for Chiang Mai 2019 - Rob Gregory Author

Historical PM2.5 data for Chiang Mai during 2019. Green is good. Everything else is not.


At the time, things were so bad in the ‘Rose of the North’ as Chiang Mai is sometimes called, that I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog about how you could literally eat the air, it was that thick. You can read it here if you are interested.

Thankfully, things have calmed down since then, although at the time of writing, Chiang Mai still had an AQI of 105 according to, with PM2.5 levels standing at 37.1µg/m³, so not all that healthy for your average city-dweller.


AQI reading for Chiang Mai - 26 Sept 2019 - Rob Gregory Author

Air Quality Index for Chiang Mai at 3pm on 26 September 2019, the time when this post was written.


However, rather than focusing on pesky, seasonal micro-pollutants, today I want to discuss another, all pervasive, but often overlooked airborne contaminant that brings misery to the lives of millions on a daily basis. Yes, that’s right, Asian dust.


A Different Kind of Dust

Dust is everywhere and comes from many different sources, including I should point out, ourselves. Dead skin cells can account for a substantial amount of the dust that occurs in the home environment, especially in the bedroom. Other sources of dust include soil particles, plant and animal fibres, airborne pollutants, ash and pollen. Dust as we know it, is commonly reported in AQI measurements as PM10.

However, Asian dust is different to that found in other parts of the world. Asian dust is vicious, nasty stuff. It is the kind of dust that lurks in alleyways, tempting young children into strange cars with promises of sweets and cute puppies. It is the kind of dust that swindles old ladies out of their pension money. It is the kind of dust, that like your Uncle Steve, turns up uninvited on Christmas Day and refuses to help with the washing up after eating all of the mince pies. In short, it is dust with a grudge and you had better watch out because once it has you in its sights, then there is no hope of escape!


Air pollution in Chiang Mai during 2019 - Rob Gregory Author

Air pollution during the burning season in Chiang Mai, 2019.


My Life With Dust

I first came across Asian dust almost a decade ago and to tell you the truth, that first encounter nearly finished me off there and then. I’m a genteel sort by nature and the kind of person who likes to keep a tidy home. My batting average with regard to dust was pretty good at the time and friends often commented on the ‘show home’ conditions that I lived in. All that changed when I moved to Asia.

Within a day or two of unpacking, I noticed a grimy, grey-black substance on my writing desk. Further examination revealed the same stuff on the coffee table and my bookshelves, not to mention other parts of the house. I took to it with a feather duster and then a can of Pledge, which had always done the trick in the past and was amazed by the resistance of the alien fuzz to traditional cleaning methods.

Unlike the well behaved British and Antipodean dust that I was used to, this unusual and unruly beast was sticky and clung to the surfaces with the tenacity of a one-handed man on the edge of a cliff. When it did finally relinquish its hold, it stuck just as fast to the feather duster and cleaning rag as it had done to the desktop. After much flicking, rubbing and buffing, I finally had the house clean again — although the feather duster and cleaning cloth were never the same — and settled down to a bit of much needed and very cathartic writing.


Dust on a fingertip - Rob Gregory Author

My mortal enemy for longer than I can remember. Sticky and all-pervasive, Asian dust.


The following day, it was back! Not quite as thick as the day before, but there nonetheless and with an evil glint in its eye that promised that this was only the beginning of a game that would be played out over a span of months and then years. It was then that I realised that I had contracted Asian dust!

Since then, my life has been one endless battle with the sticky detritus of a thousand passing scooters and soil-coated flip-flops, and I know from bitter experience not to skip a day, because that will only make it ten times worse when I come to resume the fight the following day.


The Dust Gets Worse

Some years ago, I became involved with a little bar in Chiang Mai. It’s a bit like Hemingway’s but without the customers. Still, it is home and I am rather fond of the place. Like many bars in Thailand, it is open to the street and this is where my woes are compounded. Every day, we wipe the tables, chairs and shelves before opening and every day, by the time that we close, a new layer of Asian dust has accumulated on every surface that we own.

Recently, things have taken a turn for the worse, due to a building project that has begun along the road from us. Several times each day, trucks laden with dirt, drive past the bar and leave in their wake, damp soil and building spoil, which, when it dries out becomes… yes, you’ve guessed it, Asian dust! Now, instead of having to clean the bar once a day, it is a task that must be done every couple of hours. I must admit that I have a growing appreciation for the suffering of the Greek figure, Sisyphus, and feel like I am living in the Asian version of the movie, Interstellar, although in my case, Michael Caine is five thousand miles away and I don’t have a spaceship or a wormhole to crawl in to!


Dust on a table top in Chiang Mai - Rob Gregory Author

Believe it or not, this table was cleaned less than three hours before the photo was taken!


Till Dust Do Us Part

Dust is a real problem in Asia and one that is set to get worse, with the increase in car ownership, high density living and the consequent number of major building projects that are occurring in the region. PM10 pollution might not have the same fear factor as its 2.5 micron cousin, but to my mind it is just as damaging, both physically and mentally. After all, dust particles, no matter what size they are, have to be filtered out by the body, be it by nose hairs, mucus membranes or in the lungs themselves and the constant cleaning that must be done to maintain a habitable living environment does tend to wear you down over time.


Historical PM10 data for Chiang Mai in 2019 - Rob Gregory Author

Historical PM10 data for Chiang Mai during 2019. Green is good, but is it good enough?


In a few months, I will be leaving Asia, for hopefully less polluted climes and while there is much that I will miss about this wonderful and anarchic part of the world, Asian dust is one thing that I will be happy to leave behind.


For more information about air quality, see:

Air Quality Index (Wikipedia)



Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Five

Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Five


Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Five

… The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser…



Welcome back to Seven Books in Seven Weeks. Last time, I left you with a taste of epic fantasy, in the form of The Lightstone by David Zindell, so what better way to resume the series than with another epic tale, this one of swashbuckling adventure and derring-do on the high seas?

The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser is a wonderful romp through pirate lore, with a comic turn that has, without a shadow of a doubt, influenced my own writing over the years. First published in 1983, it predates Pirates of the Caribbean by two decades, yet many of the scenes and situations it describes would not be out of place in that particular movie series. I have a copy of the 2003 edition, which incidentally came out around the same time as the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie and I have to say that when it comes to dishonesty, scurrilousness and downright self-serving behaviour then Fraser’s Colonel Tom Blood outshines Captain Jack Sparrow in every respect.


Front cover of The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser - Rob Gregory Author

Front cover of The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser. The strange ‘scratch marks’ on the top are due to de-lamination of the protective cover!



The Pyrates is a novel in three parts, with each part building on the one before. It follows the convoluted adventures of the aforementioned rogue, Colonel Tom Blood (cashiered) and Captain Benjamin Avery, hero of the Royal Navy, as they battle their way around the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the Cape of Good Hope, to Madagascar and back again. Along the way, we stop off on remote desert islands, pirate ports and the lair of Don Lardo, the reptilian viceroy of the Spanish stronghold in Cartagena.

The main vehicle for the series of misadventures that befall the heroic Ben Avery and the decidedly anti-heroic Tom Blood, is a crown, fashioned with six great gems, which must be delivered from England to the African King who commissioned it. Of course, when Tom Blood gets to hear of its existence, he wants the crown for himself, as do the six great pirate lords that sail the high seas. I won’t tell you who gets there first, but the shenanigans that follow ensure that both Blood and Avery get tested to their respective limits.

Map of locations in The Pyrates - Rob Gregory Author

From good old Blighty to Cartagena and back again. Which way is Hollywood?


Supporting Characters

One of the things that makes The Pyrates such an enjoyable read are the supporting characters. While Ben Avery and Tom Blood are as black and white as you can get, in terms of their principal qualities, the six pirate lords add varying shades of grey to the mix, while Lady Vanity, the Admiral’s daughter and Avery’s sweetheart, is a study in bimboism and snobbishness, who would be equally at home in Sloane Square, a trendy New York cocktail bar or the back seat of a Range Rover.

Without giving too much away as far as the pirates are concerned, we have Calico Jack Rackham, immaculate in dress, less than immaculate in thought and leader of the pirate band by the simple virtue of being literate. Then there is Black Bilbo, an ex-guttersnipe, who is deadly with a rapier and harbours dreams of being a gentleman. Firebeard is a giant of a man, who ties firecrackers in his beard and sings the kind of sea-shanties that would get you kicked out of any self-respecting parish choir, while Black Sheba (the She-Wolf) is an ex-Barbados slave, with a taste for Pierre Cardin and a hatred for men that would rival even the most radical of 1960s feminists. Akbar the Terrible, hawkish, hairy and of the Islamic persuasion, runs a crew of slaves and has a penchant for gold lame trousers, while Happy Dan Pew, is a poor unfortunate, who, after suffering a blow on the head as a child, came to believe that he was a French filibuster, even though he can barely speak a word of the language beyond that in the Collins Primer!

Then there are the minor characters, such as King Charles II, Samuel Pepys and Goliath, the dwarf who accompanies Black Bilbo wherever he goes. All serve to help move the story along and make The Pyrates a far richer tale for their brief presence in the book.

Now, just for a moment, turn your thoughts to the Brethren Court in Pirates of the Caribbean. Comprised of nine pirate lords, rather than six, it is interesting to see a Frenchman (Chevalle), an ex-slave (Joacard), an Englishman with gentlemanly pretensions (Barbossa) and the terror of the Arabian Sea (Sumbahjee) among their midst. It is likely just a coincidence, however, if you have ever read The Pyrates, then it is the sort of thing that does make you raise an eyebrow in curious speculation.

Inside cover of The Pyrates - Rob Gregory Author

Beautiful inside cover illustration for The Pyrates.



George MacDonald Fraser is, to my mind, a master of both humour and the burlesque. Consider the following excerpt from The Pyrates:

She was not tall, but her carriage was that of a fashion model who has been to a Swiss finishing school and knows she has the equipment to stop a battalion of Rugby League players in their tracks with the flick of a false eyelash…

… Captain Avery and Colonel Blood stood together by the rail, drinking her in – one in respectful worship, the other with thoughts of black silk bedclothes and overhead mirrors.

In just a few lines, he captures the characters of both Colonel Blood and Captain Avery, while at the same time giving us a compelling image and insight into the kind of woman that Lady Vanity is.

Another area where Fraser excels, is in mixing up the old and the new. In fact, this is one of the things that I enjoy most about The Pyrates. Fraser takes the Seventeenth Century and liberally peppers it with Twentieth Century references. Purists would undoubtedly hate this molestation of history, but I love it. Consequently, we have references to Gucci, Cartier and Marvel Comics and that is just on one page! For me, this is what makes The Pyrates so special. Not only do we have an excellent historical adventure story, but we get to observe it and laugh from a modern perspective.

Then there is the pure silliness. One of my favourite examples is where Ben Avery renames a pirate ship that he has single-handedly captured. We are not told what his instructions to the pirate signwriter were, but when the name is revealed, he is horrified to read ‘The Glodden Vatiny’ on the rear of the vessel, rather than ‘The Golden Vanity’. I still laugh about that one every time I think about it!

Rear cover for The Pyrates - Rob Gregory Author

Shame about the rather plain rear cover!


Historical Accuracy

I mentioned the historical nature of The Pyrates above and this is something else that George MacDonald Fraser excels at, interweaving unique fictional characters and situations into a historically accurate background. Anyone who has read the wonderful Flashman Papers will know what I am talking about. In that series, he took a fictional figure, Harry Flashman, from the book, Tom Brown’s School Days, and placed him into history with a precision that was unnerving.

Cover of Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser - Rob Gregory Author

Flashman, another of my favourites by George MacDonald Fraser.

The same is true of The Pyrates. At the end of the book, Fraser briefly introduces the real-life individuals that inspired some of his characters and I have no doubt in believing that he more than thoroughly researched both the geography and history of seafaring and piracy in the Seventeenth Century, before setting pen to paper or finger to typewriter. As always, it is a case of knowing the rules before you break them and Fraser acknowledges this in the afterword, when he talks about some of the artistic liberties that he took when writing the novel, particularly those involving the time taken to make some of the sea journeys.


The Pyrates, by George MacDonald Fraser, is a fantastic book and one that is worthy of a place on anyone’s bookshelf, unless they have an aversion to pirates or the sea, in which case I would suggest that they leave it well alone.

As with all of the books I have covered so far, The Pyrates impact on me has been enormous. I love mixing up the old and the new in my writing and have probably done this most explicitly with my Fotherington-Tomas series of short stories. Incidentally, I freely admit that I followed Fraser’s lead with Flashman and lifted my protagonist, Fotherington-Tomas, from a pre-existing book by another author. You can check it out here if you are interested. Although some people might think that this is a little cheeky or disrespectful, in my view, I believe it is a way to breathe new life into existing fictional characters and take them in directions that their original authors would never have imagined. Call it a homage, if you will, to the brilliance of the originators that came before. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, is it not?

So, in a Cartier-diamond-encrusted nutshell, thank you George MacDonald Fraser for giving the world The Pyrates. More people these days might be familiar with Pirates of the Caribbean, but you got there first and for my money, did it far, far better!


With only two more books to cover in the series, it is anyone’s guess as to what will pop up next. Pride and Prejudice? A Tale of Two Cities? 2001 – A Space Odyssey? Place your bets here and make sure that you check out the next instalment of Seven Books in Seven Weeks!