Thursday 30 July 2009

Hail to Thee, Blithe Spirit

But this I know for certain that you'll come back again, that you'll come back again.And even as I promised, you'll find me waiting then,you'll find me waiting then.

Jack Marlowe is the epitome of a fine English gentleman. But more than this, he is devilishly witty, erudite and a loving warm-hearted friend.
You can't pin him down. At times he's urbane and learned. Sometimes he's cheeky and full of tricks. Most of the time he has that rogueish twinkle in his eyes!

Jack is a prolific and creative embroiderer and there have been several exhibitions of his work in Italy. Above is a picture of "the Fireworks", the embroidery, not the man with his back to you.
And here is the garden that Jack 'built'.

For he is also a landscape gardener who can reel off the botanical names of all his plants and leaves you stunned. But he has his mad moments as can be seen from his garden hat.

Like us, Jack loves cats. He used to have eight of them and now only Mab is left. He's seen below with Claude The Adored who sadly died a few months ago.

Jack Marlowe does not adopt sweet cuddly kittens, which most people prefer. For he will take into his home and his heart the abandoned, unwanted and older cats that nobody wants. Jack is special that way.
Before we knew Jack, we always thought that opera was just music sung by screeching fat ladies for the snobs and the elites. He took us under his wings and taught us to listen to the human voice in opera - the voice as a musical instrument - to appreciate its timbre, tone, pitch and articulation. Jack, do you remember listening to this on those winter evenings (and the umpteen mugs of tea) at No. 10, Oxford Avenue?

We know you're not feeling too well right now - perhaps in need of manure? This posting is just to let you know how much we love you - The Adored. I cannot say enough to thank you for what you have been to us - Our Irrepressible Optimist and dear friend.
P.S. All these photographs come by courtesy of Lely, your little tropical flower from Singapore.

And here's one for the road. And as you always say when we take leave: ANON.

Friday 24 July 2009

Name Calling (CsH)

Abdul Hamid and Kamisah named their children Maznah, Maznoor, Mustapha and Mustakim. We were quite amused being the 4 Ms and our teachers in Pasir Panjang English School knew of our connection because of the first letter of our names. We thought it was quite fun for us to have the same type of signature i.e. m. hamid.

My sister's name was very straightforwardly Malay, easy to pronounce and remember. So was Mustakim although it was not such a common name. But it had a beautiful meaning - "The Straight Path " taken from the Fatiha. As for Mustapha it was a happy name for my brother until that song 'Ya Mustapha" became a big hit in the early 60s. Until today I don't know how he coped having his name associated with exotic images of Middle Eastern belly dancing belles. That song was sung in about 3 or more languages but the running lines were :
Cherie je t'aime, cheri je t'adore
Como la salsa del pomodoro

which means
Darling, I love you darling,
I adore you - like tomato sauce

As for my name, it was a sad woeful story. It's a difficult name to remember and I suffered a lot of teasing because of it. I was called 'must-snore' or 'must-gnaw'. When I was the Editor of the school magazine at Yusof Ishak Secondary School, the co-editor was Mr Koh Sei Hian. Our colleagues had a lot of fun repeating this line - 'You must know (Maznoor) Koh says when (Sei Hian). GRRRRRR!
When I was in Primary Five, my class teacher Mr. Chia Wai Chee discovered from my birth certificate that my name was actually spelt 'Maznoor' and not 'Maznor'. Now that I like, because 'noor' (with a 'u'sound) seemed more feminine than the guttural 'nor' and as 'noor' means light I felt I could shine a little. But it was to no avail. I remained 'No' for ever and ever.
My most difficult time was when I had a student, a male student called Masnor. I recalled how Abah had a friend also called Hamid and they used to refer to each other as 'Che Nama'. Now I can't do the same with my student, can I? So whenever I have to call him I have to grit my teeth and sometimes the two of us can't help but smile. I wondered how he must have suffered too because he has a girl's name! And I thought I had a problem.

In Leicester, in any written communication with the Muslim community they would spell my name as Mansor, Manzour, Manzoor. Oh what the heck!!!
Then I started on a new adventure in 2000 - of picking up jobs in the factories as an Agency Worker. That experience warranted a whole new chapter and I must say it was one of the most enjoyable and challenging time of my life in Leicester. So I reported for work at Cobalt - a sort of postal centre for all kinds of institutions.
I went to see Claire the Supervisor and I gave her my name. It was a Monday morning and already she looked frazzled and knackered. She looked puzzled - then sighed and said "I'll call you Maizie" and then showed me my work table. And so, at last I had a name that anyone and everyone can remember!! I became 'Maizie' for evermore and where ever I worked in my new career as a factory worker in Leicester. You can't imagine my relief when I gave my name to a stranger and he/she could remember and get it right. Oh what joy!

Abah, I do wish you had given me a more manageable name like Aminah or Fatimah, although I would have preferred Maimunah. I can imagine a scenario where someone I adored from afar would call me "My Munah" especially during those difficult teenage years!!

For the benefit of a commentator from June 27 who "...just wish you were slightly happier", please do not misconstrue this posting. I tend to have an ironic, wry sense of humour. I still love my Abah to bits and I can live for many more good years with this unique name he gave me.

Sunday 19 July 2009

For Capt. Yusof - Alfatihah

Sailing takes me away
To where I've always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free.

I met the Ancient Mariner just once - about 1 1/2 years ago at the Press Club. In that smoke filled room I remembered a man with a gentle face and a twinkle in his eyes - just sitting and listening and smiling.
I go into his blog very frequently. He writes like he looks - serious, precise in his words and phrases; at times angry but non-judgemental. He was a concerned and thinking blogger. To me he belongs to that rare breed - the Malay Gentleman.

He was just a year younger than me. At my age we begin to notice our peers departing this blessed earth. This is my third farewell tribute since we got back. May Allah bless him on his journey and to grant his wife and family the strength to carry on.

Most nights before we switch off the lights, Iain would say to me, "See you tomorrow, love." There was one night when I just cried and asked, "What if I don't see you tomorrow?"

We must always keep this question in mind in our relationships with our parents, our spouses and children and sibling and friends.

Farewell Capt. Yusof.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
'Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.'
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

See you tomorrow. God be willing.

Friday 17 July 2009

Grumpy old Woman (GOW)

Today, for the first time since we got back, I took the LRT to get to Ampang Park. As I was about to sit down on this empty seat in the train, this middle aged Malay man dressed for his Friday prayers gave me a stupid grin, barged in and took my seat!!!! I couldn't believe my eyes. The young Chinese lass next to him stood up to give me her seat but I thanked her and said "I don't want to sit next to him!"

I was fuming and I knew he dared to do this because firstly I'm a woman and secondly he thought I wasn't a Malay. That is a despicable attitude on both counts. I must say I was so incensed that I missed my stop. So I got out at KLCC to go back to Ampang Park. This time when I got into the train I didn't bother to look for a seat and just stood next to the holding bar.

Then I heard a voice from behind me saying "Macik, would you like a seat?"

It was a young Malay man, dressed for his Friday prayers. I was gloriously, happily surprised but I declined and thanked him saying I was getting down at the next stop.
Just before I got out at Ampang Park, I stepped back to thank him again and we exchanged nice smiles.

When I got home I described my experience on the LRT to the spouse and I suggested to him that God must be fed up with me grumbling on the blog about these instances of Malay rudeness - so God decided to shut me up and declare, "Okay then, this middle-aged Malay gave you a hard time, so here's this courteous young Malay to make up for it. Now stop being a GOW."

Okey dokey. But I still want to write this episode in my blog.

Thursday 16 July 2009

Ruth Denis Buchanan

Ruth Denis Buchanan
1915 - 2009

A strong-willed and indomitable lady decided to call it a day and passed away in Paekakariki, New Zealand. Bride, Iain's sister phoned us with the news of their Mum's death just a few hours ago.

Ruth was a dedicated birdwatcher for most of her life and in her 70s she went on an ornithological trip to Australia with people half her age and they had quite a time catching up with her! She looked out for her birds in England, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, the Pacific Islands, West Africa and South Africa.
In her mid 80s with her friend Martin (of about the same age), they undertook a 5 week canal boat trip in England - with Ruth actively engaged in maneuvering the boat and working on the canal locks. They then went up north to Northumberland and she walked for miles following Hadrian's Wall - after which the two of them took the local bus to visit her sister Peggy at Bishop Auckland. She was indefatigable!
Ruth was also skilled in the art of Maori basket weaving. She would start by collecting the flax leaves, drying them and from there proceed with her basketry. We all have been given many samples of her work and only her arthritis forced her to stop this activity.
We are also proud recipients of her knitting expertise - from gloves to scarves, slippers, hats and (for me) a beautiful reversible gilet, my very proud possession. And on her first visit to our home in Leicester, we were each given a hand knitted cushion cover - a his and hers. Iain's was embroidered with images of sheep (the NZ connection) and mine with a coconut tree (the tropical association)

She never did anything by halves!

Ruth, you never wasted any portion of your life and we hope that we all, and your grandchildren and great grandchildren can live up to your example.


Wednesday 15 July 2009

Jet Lag Blues

It's 2.54 am - awake after a sleep of some sort of about an hour. My body clock tells me it's 8pm, just after dinner and resting on the settee with the SOG/MOG (Silly Ole Git/Miserable Ole Git) watching Gardener's World.

I recalled the 11 hours of agony from London to Hong Kong sitting next to a fattish lady who was sniffling and coughing. I'm stuffing myself with Vitamin C and Echinacea to ward off any possible infection. I have been re-acquainting myself with my books and files and found this poem. Very apt for this season of colds and stuffed up noses.


Raid,raid, go away,
Dote cub back udtil I say
That wote be for beddy a day.

And wot's the good of sudlight, dow?
When I ab kept id bed.
Ad rubbed ad poulticed for to cure
The cold that's id be head?

I've beed out od the kitched lawd
With dothig od be feet,
Ad subthig's coffig id be deck
An all be head's a heat.

Tell Bay to dot bake such a doise:
Dote rud the cart so hard!
For tissudt fair, just wud of us
To rud arowd the yard.

Ad wed I try to say a tale,
Or sig a little sog,
The coffig cubs idtoo be deck
Ad tickles dredful strog.

Ad wed is father cubbig obe?
He'd dot be log he said-
If this is jist a cold it bust
Be awful to be dead!

Oh what a log, log day it is!
Ibe tird of blocks ad books;
I've cowted all the ceilig lides,
I've thought of sheep ad chooks.

I've drawd a bad's face with a bo.
I've drawd a pipe to sboke:
Just wed I thought I was asleep
I wedt ad though I woke!

What's the good of sudlight dow,
And what's the good of raid?
Ad wot's the good of eddythig
Wed all your head's a paid?

Raid, raid go away,
Ad dote cub back udtil I say,
Ad that wote be for beddy a day.

by Furnley Maurice

I think I've figured it out and I shall go to bed or have my breakfast.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Puan Esah (CsH)

We got back to the house and the cats on Thursday mid-afternoon. They still remembered us and there was no sulking or biting despite our absence. Phew!!!
The verandah smelled of cat's pee because the neighbourhood's tom cats have been using our premises for loads of fun and games. As for the garden, it can but thrive in the tropics. The bunga tahi ayam, the bougainvillea, the cup and saucer flowers were bursting with bloom except for the frangipani, the spouse's favourite flower.

Where we live, the developers have planted a series of bunga cempaka on the wayside and when they are in full bloom the fragrance is quite intoxicating. The spaces in between (which are actually public domain) have been planted with flowering plants, trees of various shapes and sizes, serai and lengkuas by the house owners who live opposite these public plots.

Our neighbours, Puan Esah and Encik Yusof who live a few doors away from us had taken over a little plot about 2m x 1m in size and she had vegetables, chilis, serai, daun kunyit, lengkuas, banana and papaya plants growing in it. Typical kampung plants. They also made a kind of makeshift wooden fencing around this little garden. Again, typical kampung. Puan Esah came from a kampung in Malacca and she said to me they missed their kampung and the life style they had. Now they were in this Kuala Lumpur suburbia because this was where their children were. (That was exactly the same reason why my sister and 'Bang Long moved from their cosy house in Batu Pahat to Kuala Lumpur.)

Then about a year ago, workers from Majlis Bandaran came along, ripped up the little garden , dug up all the plants and threw them away. We found out later that this was done at the behest of the Datin who lived opposite the garden. She regarded it as an eyesore. Fair enough - but this was not part of her property and to add insult to injury she took over the same plot and started to plant (or rather got her maid to plant) a variety of flowers to provide a 'pleasant ' view from her house. She claimed she loved gardening but the garden plot of her corner house had been extended with concrete to enlarge her terrace house! It was a squalid thing to do, to chase out these kampung folks from this little plot and then to covet the same space for their ends, to grow pretty flowers. To me , this is the kind of mentality you often find amongst the Malay nouveau riche , our new middle class, or perhaps our new 'feudal overlords'.
In fact we were invited to visit their house and admire their English wallpaper!!

Years ago, Abah said to me the Malays are particularly partial to one nasty disposition - dengki, meaning spiteful. After over 50 years of independence, modernisation, material accretion and revitalized religious zeal, this streak still persists - from the lowest to the highest level. You don't need others to break up the Malays. They can do a jolly good job on their own. Thank you very much.

So, on the Thursday we got back, we went up the hill to buy some basic provisions. We bumped into Encik Yusof, he shook and held on to my hand and with tears shimmering in his eyes he said Puan Esah died just a few days ago on Saturday. I called Iain and he hugged our neighbour and Encik Yusuf recounted to us her last few hours. At last, Esah, you will find your little garden. Alfatihah.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Tired of Thinking and Travelling (CsH) (another alliteration!!!)

Tomorrow CX 252 will carry us to Hong Kong and from there CX 723 will get us back to Kuala Lumpur.

So, goodbye to number 43.
Goodbye to the roses, busy lizzies, geraniums, lavender, and sweet williams.
Goodbye to fish and chips at Market Harborough on Wednesdays [because on Wednesdays OAPs (Old Age Pensioners) get a 30% discount].
Goodbye to small bags of chips at Leicester market. To hell with the cholestorol.
Goodbye to my favourite shop, Animal Rescue - to June and Monica on Mondays and to Sheila and Deanna on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Goodbye to our staunch friends like Jack, Doug, Dorothy, Anne and young Yasir.

Hello to number 19.
Hello to Abdul Hamid's 2 children, to his 7 grandchildren, and his 9 1/2 great grandchildren and the lovely in-laws of course!
Hello to Jai, Lely, Oi Bek, and Ruqxana in Singapore.
Hello also to Din and Ben and other friends in KL.
AND to Comot, Hitam, Rusty and Socks - our 4 legged friends.
Mustn't forget tosay mornings and teh tarik.

One does get tired of thinking but Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) wrote :


This blog will shut down until AsH (thanks for the acronym Din) recovers from jet lag and resumes (ab)normal services.

Nah's taken my(?) cat!! boo! hoo! hoo!

Monday 6 July 2009

"Hantu Jembalang" in Leicester

I walked into the City Centre today to do a bit of shopping and to enjoy my (small) bag of chips before we leave on Wednesday. It was a soothing day, not too hot, it was just nice. I know I will miss cool days like these when we get back to KL, but there are also many other compensations - like the ferocious rain and thunder and the wonderful streaks of lightning in the sky.

I boarded Bus No 22 as usual to get home. At the stop for the Railway Station, about 8-9 well-dressed, clean looking young men and women got in. They were all Caucasians except for one Afro-American and another youngster from Africa. They all spoke with an American accent and they had badges which indicated Church of the Latter Day Saints. All the young men went upstairs and 2 of the women took up seats downstairs and one decided to sit next to me although there were other seats available on the bus.

And I said to myself "here it comes". Indeed I was right. As soon as she was seated, she turned to me, smiled so sweetly and said "How are you?" This is the conversation.
Me : Fine, thank you.
Mormon Girl (MG): Isn't this lovely weather?
(Bus travellers in Leicester, whether they are white or brown or black generally keep to themselves, at the most they exchange smiles. But they will come to your aid if you require any help.)
Me: Not too bad (I know people in England always love to talk about the weather but
this girl sounded like she had just recently completed a course on how to start
a chat in England)
MG: Do you live here? ( She was beginning to irritate me. This was the usual patter)
Me: No answer, I just nodded my head and looked out of the window)
MG: Does your family live here? (still full of smiles)
Me: ('That's it' I said to myself. I've had enough) Do you mind if I don't talk to
you? I would prefer to be left alone.
MG: Oh, it's nice to talk, isn't it? (still full of smiles)

I ignored her and she knew I would not play her game. And I was left in peace.

I am no cranky, bad-tempered old woman. But, many, many times I've gone through these farcical and slimy attempts of Christian evangelists to engage my attention with the hope that I can be successfully converted. They do not want my friendship. They want my soul! I have never seen any attempts to convert a native English. She could have sat next to several other Caucasians in the bus and plagued them with her sickly sweetness

I recalled a summer's day, sometime in 1994. I was walking home and this sweet middle aged lady started talking to me and she said "What a lovely frock you're wearing". I said "thank you" and I thought it was kind of her to say that. I was quite naive then and was not aware of their modus operandi. We walked together and started chatting. Then she asked me "Do you know Jesus?"

Me: Oh yes!
She : Do you know that Jesus died for you - that he died for our sins?
Me: Ummmm, is it?
She: Do you want to be saved?Me: From what? ( I think my face was looking more and more pinched and worried)
She: From Sin!! (she was getting quite excited and querulous)
Me: But I do have my own religion.
She looked fiercely at me and asked "What?"
Me: I'm a Muslim.
You should have seen her face!! I must admit I was quite frightened.
She: You Mahometans will burn in the fires of hell unless you accept Jesus. You must
I realised this was getting nasty and I said to her as gently as I could, despite my anger.
Me: Look, you have your religion and I have mine. Can't we respect each other's

She kept on screaming and yelling at me. That I must seek for salvation and accept Jesus as my saviour.
Me: But we Muslims accept Jesus! He is one of our prophets.

She became apoplectic and I am sure if she had a Cross in her hand, she would be waving it at me, like they do to Vampires and other nasty Apparitions.

That incident utterly shocked me and that's when I started my reading on the History of Christianity and its ways and purposes. That's also when I discovered Ahmad Deedat - he is one man I truly admire. If I could only have just 0.1 percent of his knowledge and tenacity.
More than any Ulama and Ayatollah, he has done a great service for his faith in facing the Judaeo Christian wraths and deceits against Islam - in their arena.

I find that all religions and beliefs teach us to be good and kind. Not all Christians want to SAVE my soul. But it troubles me a lot when I read about the Christian Evangelists' agenda and how they work to achieve their objectives.

Those young Mormons in the bus and others who knock on doors in the mainly Asian and non-Christian neighbourhoods of Leicester are well trained and well endowed to do what they are doing. It seems that the Mormons own a big chunk of the gambling 'industry' in Las Vegas. So they can afford to take a gamble on seducing us to give up our faith. And they have made big strides in achieving their target.

And they represent only a tiny, tiny tip of the iceberg.

And I hope this explains my rancour. They have really spoilt what promised to be a lovely day. Never mind, tomorrow will be a better day.

Hello Ben - The World's Greatest Boyfriend

I am tired of talking to you on the phone and 'chatting' on Yahoo Messenger.

Yes, you are still as handsome as ever and yes, still as macho as ever.
We really, really hope you can make it to KL when we're back. Then we all (and your new friend Iain) could go "walking through the windy park, and take a drive along the beach", or see the stars at Jurong Hill.
I shall make sure you will not cheat at Gin Rummy, this time.

1977 was a good year!!!

In those days I made you stand on the chair as punishment because you were such a pest. Today, this will cause you more agony.

Friday 3 July 2009

Civilized Casualties in Afghanistan

Remember that 1996 movie "Executive Decision" about the hijacking of a 747 jetliner by Islamic terrorists? We were watching it on the video in the Express Bus from Kuala Lumpur to Batu Pahat. However we were more fascinated by an elderly Hajjah sitting just a couple of seats in front of us. She was quite hypnotized watching this American movie peppered with shoutings of Allahu Akbar. I cannot imagine what was going on in her mind.
Well, that was not the first or the last of Hollywood movies that capitalise on demonizing and mocking Islam for political and pecuniary purposes.
Let's put the shoe on the other foot and listen to this.

The above is a hymn, an invisible inspiration at the core of Western politics and policies - from Imperialism to the War on Terror.

As to the War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course Guantanamo Bay, Norman Solomon has this 'Orwellian Logic 101 - A few simple lessons' - to contribute.
"When they put bombs in cars and kill people, they're uncivilized killers. When we put bombs on missiles and kill people, we're upholding civilized values. When they kill, they're terrorists. When we kill, we're striking against terror."

Photograph : Alauddin Khani/AP
This is how a terrorist is buried. He's an insurgent, a killer.

This shows a hero. He's a warrior, he died defending our freedom.

Two nights ago, Channel 4 News revealed the compensation given by the British MOD (Ministry of Defence) to civilians killed in Afghanistan as a result of their 'tactics'. Firstly it involves a long drawn out process for the relatives concerned. Secondly they have a tough job to prove that they are 'genuine' victims.

Photograph: Fraidoon Pooyaa/AP
An Afghani woman and child terrorised out of their minds.

We were informed by Channel 4 News that the MOD gave a compensation of USD210(MYR 741) for an Afghani mother killed by British firepower.
How much is a Muslim woman worth - alive or dead - compared to a Judaeo-Christian woman?
Will she be less worthless had she discarded her burqa and her hijab?
Will there be a bonus value on her if she emulates the norms and mores of the West like President Sarkozy's glamorous wife?


We are all culpable : for hiding our heads in the sand.