Monday 29 September 2008

Professor Tuholsky's Facts

This morning I was clearing my old files, as part of my resolution to clear some , if not all of the flotsam and jetsam of my years. In my 60s I am very conscious of my mortality and am adamant that when I kick the bucket, friends and family will not be burdened by the awful task of sorting out my junk. But mind you, 2 days' ago I found, tucked in an old wallet, a Straits Settlements One Dollar Note, dated 1st January 1935, a gift from my spouse during our courting days. Some male birds bring their future brides twigs and straw to build a nest. I get this One Dollar Note and a collection of Hindi records from the 60s featuring Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mahmud, Hemant Kumar. No greater love has man ....... Bless his cotton socks!!!!

Anyway, from 1978 to 1984 I was teaching at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Teachers' Training College, Brunei and I had loads of time to read, not much from the local papers, but I did rummage through some of the books I discovered in the College's Library. And I found this. I typed it (on the typewriter) and have kept it all these years. The paper is yellow and brittle so I decided to transfer this on to this computer thingamajig - a gadget I learned to use only 3 years ago. You can tell what a novice I am from the layout of this blog, very spare and spacious. I'm still trying to put in a sitemeter and that gave me a headache. I've been hounded by Din to insert this. I've been hounded by Mahzan to start a blog. In fact, in my autumn years, the youngsters enjoy pushing me around - it's revenge I think for all the bullying and nagging they received from me long, long ago.

So, here is Professor Tuholsky's Facts by Christopher Logue

Once upon a little planet,
A nice provincial planet set
Deep in the galactic sticks,
There lived an interesting thing
Called Man.

Man had two legs and two
Convictions: one he called Luck,
Which he believed in when things went right;
The other he used
when things went wrong.
This was called Religion.

Each man had a liver,
A heart, a brain, and a flag.
These were his vital organs.
On these his life depended.
Doubtless there were men alive
with only half a liver,
Some had no heart,
But a man without a flag?
Impossible !

Many admired human character,
But it was split. One half was
known as Male -
And did not want to think;

The other was called Female -
In whom thinking was discouraged.

Yet both had this in common:
They were full of fear.
They were afraid of
cancer, debt,
Old age, loneliness, and
But most of all they
feared their fellow
Thus justifying the name

Man was political.
He lived in groups.
Each group detested the
next group.
O, there were many detestations !
And the chief of these
was called Patriotism.

Although he had two
Man rarely listened, and,
if he did,
He only liked to hear
new promises,
estimates of his own
value, congratulations,
Above all, expressions of

Of course, some men
were different...........
revolutionaries, saints,
But these were few,
And they were quickly
Shot, or poisoned.

Next week we study

Saturday 27 September 2008

Disqualified Disquiet : Revisiting Malik Imtiaz Sarwar's "Is there a Statesman in the House?" 5 August 2008

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (MIS) sounded quite euphoric about Tony Blair and his lecture at the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Law Lecture. I was there and I felt no sense of 'chagrin' at the title of the lecture; "The Rule of Law", only amusement and disbelief.

MIS's obsequious review consisted of statements like how the subject was presented "winningly.... and poignantly" (sniff, sniff, pass me my handkerchief dear). It was dribbling with purple words like crisp, articulate, erudite, intelligent, maturity. Hold on, are we reading about a prophet of peace?. Of course MIS is not placing Blair on a pedestal because when you do that you end up smelling his feet.
MIS is depressed because his country has not spawned anyone of Mr Blair's calibre, a statesman: as in a political leader who is respected because he is wise, honourable and fair minded. Let's see if The Right Honourable Mr Tony Blair fits this bill.

During his premiership, he presided over the dismantling of civil liberties mainly in the name of the War on Terror. The Police for instance have been given new powers to raid any home. Under SOCPA (Serious Organized Crime and Police Act), people are not allowed to demonstrate within 1 km of Parliament Square, where the Mother of all Parliaments is located. Under SOCPA anyone can be arrested for any offence - even for spitting on the pavement. He will be fingerprinted, photographed and required to give a sample of his DNA to be stored indefinitely for police records. So, what happens to the sacrosanct rule of innocent before proven guilty?

Under Blair the Executive takes precedence over the Legislature. Parliament is often sidelined as policies and policy initiatives are announced on TV or radio or press releases. It has been described as a 'sofa government' where no minutes of meetings are made. Information Officers in the Civil Service were replaced by Labour stalwarts who made sure only the good news is published. Bad news is spun for the Government's good. Presentation takes precedence over content (and truth). MIS wrote , "It was not so much what he was saying that struck me but rather how he was saying it" I rest my case; for the moment.

MIS's Hotspur was the 'statesman' who waged 5 wars in the first 6 years of office. He is the 'liberator' of the Balkans, then Iraq - taking his country to war under false pretences. He is also Africa's saviour, whose debt cancellation is less than what his government spends in a week savaging Iraq. MIS and his entourage are incensed about injustice and inequality in their homeland. What is his take on the tens of thousands slaughtered by the Anglo-American invaders? Where is the justice and equality?

But to MIS, Blair is an articulate, erudite, intelligent, matured speaker (and man). So was Hitler, Mussolini and a host of other tyrants. This is the statesman who left office with the stench of the cash-for-honours affair and who holds the record for being the first PM to be questioned by the Police over the issue.

So enamoured is MIS with this guitar-toting 'pretty straight kind of guy' that he cannot accept Dr Mahathir to be in the same league as his Blair. Dr M it seems 'left Malaysia deeply divided, distrustful and greatly crippled' . I would say DITTO, DITTO and more DITTOs for the United Kingdom! You can repeat that for USA and the rest of the West with the Great Economic Tsunami of 2008 . MIS's choice of Blair as a hero and statesman speaks volumes about the integrity of the human rights industry in Malaysia..

To those cretins who invited Blair to the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Law Lecture, may I suggest an invitation to Frances Webber who wrote an article on "The Blair Legacy" in the website of the Institute of Race Relations ( - just to set the record straight. There's a little gem in that article: "Since 2005, immigrants needed permission to marry (unless they marry in an Anglican Church)." The Court of Appeal in 2007 overturned that ruling and hence no non-Anglican immigrant will have to live in sin.


I would have to say that one of the most brilliant prime ministerships of modern times was brought a cropper by the Iraq War. He'll never recover in my opinion. It's been ruined for all time. That is tragic. Kendal Myers, US State Dept (Daily Telegraph)

He did change the country. Unfortunately, because of Iraq, he transformed it into a more dangerous, paranoid, despised and ridiculed country. Blair's reign will be remembered for one disaster of epic proportions, one appalling legacy. Piers Morgan (Daily Mail)

It is de rigueur and fashionable to slag off your country, its governance and if you're really macho, its religion as well. Who has the right to anoint any leader as a statesman and condemn other leaders to the bin of iniquity? A statesman is one who is respected because he/she is wise, honourable and fair-minded. Name me one and pigs can fly.

Monday 22 September 2008

What Manner of Life do we live? (CsH)

We hired a car for the weekend to travel up north to Spennymoor (near Bishop Auckland, which is near to Durham) to visit Iain's 90 year old Aunt Peggy who is very, very ill and not supposed to last for very long.  It was painful to see her stricken on her bed, just skin and bones, unable to move because of very serious bed sores.  She had been diagnosed with MRSA.  She could barely whisper a few words and each word required so much effort and pain but she did want to communicate with us.

She asked for a drink several times, she expressed her agony over her bed sores (because the nurse had changed her position), but most of all, Peggy never forgot her manners.  Despite her pain, she never forgot her concern for her visitors. She asked us, "How are you for food?"  And another time she said  "You don't have to stay if you have something else to do."  English manners (?), courtesy (?),  politeness (?) - whatever else the English are, they have manners. They may not be religious, they may be rough and tough or slick and hypocritical but they have a way of lubricating relationships within their society to make life pleasant for all.

The one heartening aspect of living in this country is: as a woman, as another being walking this earth, English people and MEN have been courteous to me. For instance, when they bump into you, they look at you and apologise, both men and women, both young and old.

They give way to you when they pass you walking down the street, they hold doors open for you AND when you do the same thing for them, they  'thank you'.  In Leicester they usually say "thanks , me duck" and the youngsters normally say "Cheers".

Before I go any further, let me state I am no Anglophile, I don't look at them through rose-coloured glasses, most of the time there is not much love lost between the English and this Malay, but I'll give credit where credit is due.

Years ago, in 1974, when I came to London for the first time as a student, I encountered the English courtesy.  I add the 'the' because it is particular to the English.  I had just arrived at Heathrow,  had got as far as Piccadilly Tube Station and was lugging my large suitcase (full of rempah, blacan,ikan bilis which my mak had packed for me) to get to Victoria Station.  As usual, the station was packed and suddenly I touched this hand that was taking over the handle of my suitcase and I heard a voice asking me,  "Where are you going?"  I looked shocked, panic - stricken and just mumbled and pointed in the direction I was heading for!  He was a well-dressed man, in suit and tie and oh my word! he was gorgeous looking (behave yourself, woman!!). So he carried my case and when he put it down at where I wanted it to be, he looked at me with his blue eyes and asked "Is this fine?"  And he walked away and I stood there speechless and I didn't even thank him. He's somewhere out there, perhaps still in London and I want to give him a very,very belated thank you.  That was my first introduction to a stranger and a gentleman in England.

Another time, again because of my oversized suitcase, a thuggish looking huge English bloke asked if he could help me. I dare not say no because he looked SO huge AND thuggish! I was terrified he might steal my suitcase, again full of blacan, rempah and ikan bilis!! (silly cow). He carried that tartan case up the stairs from Seven Sisters Tube station, crossed the road and deposited it right at the front door of my flat at Page Green Terrace.  I thanked him profusely, he just nodded his head and smiled and walked home - perhaps to his wife and kids, perhaps to a lonely room. I felt like such a fool - an ingrate - because I harboured such suspicious thoughts of him and his motive.  I knew I felt that way because he was not well-dressed, he looked working class and I behaved like a typical snobbish prat.  I still feel horrible even as I am writing this.  But to that Joe Blogg, I apologise most deeply and I have learned my lesson not to judge a book by its cover (something Malaysians do a lot of).

Another occasion: the doorbell of my flat at Maida Vale rang. I opened the door to this tiny looking English man, a pensioner, and he smiled sweetly and said "I think this is yours and I know you would miss it a lot" as he handed me my monthly season pass for the London Underground.  It was just the first week of that month and replacing it would make a big hole in this poor student's pocket.  I felt like giving him a big hug, but we Malays don't do hugs do we?  We don't even shake hands with members of the opposite sex !!!  But that's another story. I asked him to come in for a cup of tea.  In England a cup of tea can do wonders, from easing your thirst to helping you through a grievous patch in your life.  But he nicely declined because he had to take the Tube to Hammersmith which is south of the river (Thames) and I was to the north - and besides, it was getting to rush hour.  It's like the distance from Setiawangsa to Puchong, or maybe even more. When I meet my Maker, I would ask if I could meet this lovely old man and share a pot of tea with him.

Why do I reminisce like this?  In all the times I have been on visits home to Malaysia and Singapore, I observed how the Malays have become more religious, from their attire to the endless ceramahs on radio, TV, Masjids and Universities. The Malays are always going on about 'berbudi bahasa'.  And yet Malay men AND  'hijab-ed' women as well, both young and old have left me ( a warga mas) standing with my bags on the LRT while they remained seated, sometimes pretending to sleep.  They have cut the queue and pushed in front of me at cashier's counters without blinking an eyelid, they have knocked into me without saying a word of apology and they sullenly take our food orders without any  'thank you'  even though we show our appreciation by thanking them!  Islam Hadhari?

They first have to remember  to be Malays - polite Malays like their grandfathers  (grandmothers) and great-grandfathers (great-grandmothers)  who were untainted by the desire to be Orang Putih celop or Arab-celup.

Thank you Peggy, for reminding me about good manners, and practising good manners. When it's time for you to go, may your journey be peaceful and know that all your beloved pet dogs who have gone before will be waiting for you.  Take care, pet.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Back in Leicester

The flight from KLIA to Heathrow took 12 hours. The journey from Heathrow (including waiting time of 2 1/2 hours for the 230 National Express) to Leicester took 6 hours, and the distance between the two places is only 100 miles!
Arriving at Heathrow is always depressing. Some years ago, a Polish-British colleague of mine told me that arriving at Heathrow is like arriving at a skip. ( A skip is a builder's large metal container for carrying heavy materials like old bricks, wood etc; to be taken away.) Despite the "refurbishment" and Terminal 5, it still remains a big skip. The trolleys are still squeaky and have a mind of their own - they wander all over the place dragging you and your luggage with them on a merry path. The toilets might be fairly clean but some of the doors cannot be locked and some are bereft of loo paper. Speaking of toilet doors, years ago, at Dubai Airport; a huge German woman tried to 'share' the toilet with me. Luckily Dubai's toilet doors had strong firm locks. Women who travel alone need protection not only from men but also from the predatory fairer sex!
Exhausted, hungry and fed up I tried to kill time by reading the papers. It seems that at W.H. Smiths they give away the Times when you buy 2 bottles of mineral water.
As for the mineral water, it's buy one, get one free. Aaah, now I know I'm back in BOGOF land. Welcome to Britain!! As for the papers, I flicked through a couple of pages - mainly the same hypocrisy and parochialism . So I used it to pad the cold metal seats in the National Express waiting room , which they described on the Arrival Notice Board as the 'lounge'. We then got up to go to the bus stand for No 230 to Mansfield via Leicester. It was 7.20pm and though we were both almost on our last legs we could not help but notice that the bus stand which was barely lit looked like the back of a factory on a seedy street. This is Cool Britannia. Land of Hope and Glory! So for Malaysians who enjoy slagging off their country - come to Britain (which includes Wales).

More later. And I miss you folks back in KL and the two in Singapore; and Poppy(aka Kuntum), Comot (aka Coreng), Hitam, Rusty and Socks (aka Kelabu). As for Mahzan and Sabrina, you should stash your money under the mattress like Tok Mok used to do - no hi-tech thingamajig can detect it.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Tide and Time and Music

Fascination by Jane Morgan linked a daughter-in-law and a father-in-law in a strange and poignant way. In the 80s when Keith was still relatively strong and hearty, he talked about wishing he could listen to Jane Morgan singing Fascination once again.

I was stunned because I have been looking for this particular song too. I first heard it on the radio, when we were living at 691,Kampong Abu Kassim, Pasir Panjang Road.I must have been about 11 or 12. We had a fabulous ERRES radiogram then, powered by battery, a car battery mind you. But that's another story.

We (his son and I) hunted in every nook and cranny of many charity shops and second hand shops in England but no such luck. Keith passed away in 1997 and the fascination also went with him.

With the help of my brother Mus in KL, we trawled the internet, but again dismal failure. Then about 2 months ago, I plunged into the world of YouTube and voila!!!, there it was, posted by maynard cat on September 2007.
So Keith, where ever you are, here's our song and I hope it brings back that mischievous twinkle in your eyes.

This song

Monday 8 September 2008

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Monday Morning Coming Down -8 Sept 2008 (CsH)

My late brother, Akim used to play Kris Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Down" on Sundays; sprawled in front of his super-duper hifi set during the 70s. I could hear it from my bedroom and shared such sleepy Sundays with him. I still look after his Wharfedale Speakers, huge in comparison to today's miniscule versions. They're about 15ins x 24 ins and weigh a ton! But the sound they produce makes your heartbeat roar and your spirit soar. They have travelled with me wherever I go - it's just like him keeping me company all the time. His Thorens turntable is now being looked after by his and my nephew Shah, the one he used to call 'the little tyke'. That little rascal (he's now 32) ,when he was about 5 poked his smutty fingers at his Uncle's favourite AR speakers and almost brought tears to Akim's eyes.

That is quite a long introduction to my title because this Monday morning, I woke up and decided I must start a blog where I can put down my thoughts on paper(?) and stop them from keeping me awake. So good luck to me as I venture into the ether and the never-never.

With a handshake from my spouse (very, very English) and with best wishes for my new adventure, Hamid's daughter shall set sail in her prahu.

Monday Morning Coming Down

Why am I doing this? Starting a blogsite at 64- "now that I'm older losing my hair?" No valentines, just a grumpy old woman (GOW)scattering bouquets and brickbats and having a good time. It's also an excuse to postpone or ignore the cooking and ironing and dusting.