Wednesday 30 June 2010

BRIDE - My Brave Sister-in-Law

When we got home on Monday I found this mail from Bride.Graham and Bride
She wrote, "I've just received this from someone I occasionally get a massage from. My instinct is to send back some comments, probably equally inappropriate. I don't feel I can ignore, but maybe I should. Any hints on a reply that is balanced ...."

The article began like this. "These are troubling times. This was written by a woman born in Egypt as a Muslim. This is not heresy, and it will scare you." This was the sentence at the end of the text. "This is your chance to make a difference....! Pass it on to your email list or at least to those you think will listen"

Titled 'Joys of Muslim Women' by Nonie Darwish, it represents a piece of writing from the stable of rabid, evangelistic Islamophobes which has been circulating on the internet since October 2009. Darwish claims 'a man can marry a child as young as 1 year old and have sexual intimacy with this child, consummating the marriage by 9.' More gory stuff followed. What she later claims is the most threatening - that 'In twenty years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the President by themselves..' !! There are sites that claimed this is not her writing although she said it was "to a large extent accurate." Even if that is so, the content of this chain e-mail is dangerous and provocative.

For more details read this this

I seem to have a problem linking to this site. Please search under "Joys of Muslim Women" by Nonie Darwish.

Bride's big brother (the spouse) had written her some ideas for a response. But she had already done one earlier, a level-headed and fearless riposte. We could not have done it any better. And I want to share her reply to her masseuse with all my readers.

Yes that email did scare me. I was shocked to see such an anti-Muslim tirade and found it tantamount to hate mail. How can we ever hope to have peace and harmony in the world when such radical and off beam views are being circulated.

This woman alleges "propaganda and hatred are taught to the children from birth", yet in my opinion is engaging in what she accuses others of. She is, from my further reading, a radical activist.

As for the town of Dearborn ... yes it has a large Arab population. Most are descendants of those who went there in the early 1900s to work at Ford Motor Company ... around 100 years ago. Most of the Arabs in Dearborn are originally from Lebanon or their ancestors are. Lebanese are almost entirely Christian. But regardless of their religion she is scaremongering. She is virtually labelling all Arabs as Muslims and all Muslims as child molesting paedophiles, intent on death and destruction.

Spreading these sort of views is dangerous and will never help us understand our fellow man/woman. I do not have any particular religious beliefs, tho we live in a predominantly Christian based society with the values such as, God created us all equal, and others such as, an eye for an eye!

Yes I did 'send on' the email, to my brother and sister-in-law who are Muslim. She and her whole Muslim family have welcomed us with open arms. They are loving, caring, warm, friendly people and they are not a threat to anyone. The women are liberated and well educated. They choose whether to wear a scarf or not, and all the other issues in their lives. They are not married at 1 yr, nor do the men treat them badly or have multiple wives.

Our time would be better spent looking in our own back yard at child abuse, violence and racism in NZ and putting our energy into addressing that. Rather than buying into one woman's view and judgement of a whole religion, and many races, on the basis of what?


PS please remove me from your email list for such mail.

Thank you very much Bride. You're a typical daughter of Buchanan and wife of Coe.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

The Singapore Weekend - A blow by blow account

FRIDAY : Arrived at Jai's flat at 4 pm. Got diddled by the taxi driver because he took the longer route. He was a middle aged, grumpy looking bloke with a pony-tail.
Lely dropped in to stay for a while. We didn't get to bed until past midnight because we had lots of catching up to do with Jai. We have not seen him for nearly seven months. We decided to call it a day because of sheer tiredness and furthermore, Roger Federer, Jai's tennis hero was about to start his match.

SATURDAY : Went to Pusara Abadi. They have now planted grass in between the blocks.

After Pusara Abadi we stoppped at my favourite shopping Mall. No, it's not C.K. Tang (ooops, I should say Tangs, just like Robinsons or Harrods or M&S) or Takashimaya. It's Boon Lay Shopping Centre!! First we had a late breakfast of yummy, scrumptious, and delicious lontong.
At the Singseh shop we bought Bosisto's Oil of Eucalyptus, a hot favourite for folks our age. This old shop still had the wall of shelves which displayed all kinds of medicine, pills and ointment. I preferred this to the garish, stylishly-shaped counters in the modern pharmacies. But then, what do you expect from the likes of us.
Of course I had to buy my special towels made of soft fine cotton. They reminded me of the times when mother would be scrubbing hard on my face, neck and arms with those towels. I also recalled camping days when my friends were using posh towels in colours of pastel blues and pinks and yellows. I only had my 'Good Morning' towels because my mother could 'clorox' away the dirt and marks to turn it pure white once again!

I also wanted to visit Nancy. Although she was from the Chinese Stream in Jurong Secondary School, she still remembered me when I visited Boon Lay last year. We bought a couple of items from her shop and before we left I said this to her.
"I hope you will still be here, Nancy, when I visit Boon Lay again."
She gave a philosophical reply, "I think I will be here forever, Miss Hamid."
Here are the two of us in front of the shop.Someone like Nancy makes teaching such a privileged occupation. Although my departure from Jurong Secondary School left a nasty taste in the mouth - they could not take away from me this joy and pride - when your student remembers you, 30 years later.

We then proceeded to Boon Lay Place to visit Jai's mother. On the way, the spouse made a new friend.I could kick myself for not bringing a spare 'film' to take photographs of this visit because that picture was the last one available.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON : With pickled herring aka Lely, we went to see our first male strip show in Singapore or anywhere else for that matter, at the National Library's Drama Centre Theatre. We have seen the original movie. We liked it because it portrayed a moving story of Thatcher's Britain. This "Full Monty" seriously tackled the issues surrounding unemployment, working class culture and custody rights of fathers and other socio-economic problems. The matter of bare derrieres was not the centrepiece of this drama.

However, this Americanised Broadway version is too "Broadway" with its usual razzmatazz of singing and dancing and the cliche one-liners you get on American 'sit-coms' to get you rolling on the floor with laughter. There is more to "The Full Monty" than the titillation of male strip dancing. But then we are out of sync with modern tastes or perhaps we come from another planet.

Years ago as I left the Lido Cinema after the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" I overheard a comment: "Lousy movie lah. Not funny at all." As it was set in a hospital for mentally ill patients, she expected a lot of comical slapstick scenes to make it worth her time and money!

How we pander to the lowest common denominator!

But all in all, it was interesting entertainment. They put on a good show and a lot of hard work had gone into the performance. However, the screeching female singing was like a choir of Ethel Mermans and Barbara Streisands.

SATURDAY NIGHT : We met up with the rest of the girls and Shyama who had just turned up from Jakarta for a holiday. By then we were absolutely knackered - though the 'tapau' rojak mamak and mee rebus perked us up. But for two over 60s, it had been a long day. We did not get back to Jai's abode until after midnight. Tut tut - terrible behaviour for two incorrigible pensioners.

Thursday 24 June 2010

A Decent Interval.

We're off to Singapore tomorrow and won't be back until Monday.

In Singapore we'll be staying as usual with Jai, our young stalwart friend. Jai was not my student but we got to know him through Yuwrajh the accountant (remember?). For the past 22 years Jai has been part of our lives like the others.

On Saturday morning we will menziarah (make a pilgrimage to) the grave at Pusara Abadi where my father and brother have been re - interred, together with six others.

We hope to catch up with Ruqxana the Magic Cook and Oi Bek the Omnipotent one if the latter recovers from her jet lag.

It is only in Singapore that you can get the genuine Mee Rebus and Rojak Mamak. Pasembor is just an insipid version of the Rojak Mamak at West Coast Road Food Centre. This we shall do with Irene the Canary and LadyBird.

The highlight of our mini-holiday is when we get to take a peep at Lely's new flat. This avid photographer from is going to cook us a meal of ikan asam pedas, dalcha and acar - nyonya style. Pssst...I hope her mum, Mary, is around to supervise.

We are more used to seeing Lely looking like this and a bit apprehensive about her culinary skills.

It promises to be a delightful weekend and we hope to get back to Kuala Lumpur with our waistlines and sanity intact.

This is for all you lovely kids.

Have a peaceful, happy weekend everyone.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

The Paper Chase - 1962-1963 (CsH)

My Abah and I had no idea how my university studies were to be funded. We knew about free education for Malays up to University level. I was to discover later - when I was teaching at Yusof Ishak Secondary School - about the Government's strict definition of a 'Malay'. When your birth certificate and identity card - and your father's too - indicated your race as Javanese, Indonesian, Arab and Boyanese, you were not eligible for free education. Especially in Singapore, the Arabs, Javanese and Boyanese folks were keen to set themselves apart from the Malays. As for the Chinese, the Hakka and Hailam were regarded as 'different' from the Cantonese, Teochew and Hokkien. The Indian community was also divided amongst the Tamils, Gujaratis, Sindhis and Sikhs and of course the caste system.

When I finally passed my HSC we had to start thinking hard about finance. I supposed, at the back of my dad's mind, he felt we could muddle along on his salary as two of my siblings were now financially independent. But he was realistic enough to know that the frailty of his health could not guarantee me a secure sojourn at University.

He must have written to, and received a reply from, Pa'Tua Haji Majid (his half-brother) a Senior Administrative Officer in the Education Department in Malacca when he asked me to sit down for a serious discussion.

It seemed Pa'Tua could use his 'connections' to enable me to obtain a Selangor State Scholarship as I was born in Selangor; and so was my father and grandfather, who were of Tanjong Karang origin. Pa'Tua believed that I would not encounter any problem as he had seen how even applications for Secretarial Studies overseas were attended to - depending on the strings and cables you could pull, of course!

At that time there was no strict demarcation between a Singaporean and a Malaysian. In fact my Singaporean cousin, born of Singapore-born parents, moved to Kuala Lumpur to further his studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. He thrived on the generosity of the Malaysian Government who subsidised his education all the way to post-graduate level.

I must admit that Pa'Tua's suggestion was a shock. I had to think hard. I looked at Abah and I knew he was giving me the option to decide for myself. He was not an autocratic father, not my Abah!! Somehow it was quite an easy decision for me.

I said to him, "Tak hendak lah Abah. 'Nor runsing dengan cara yang mengharapkan pada tali dan rantai. Susah kalau makan budi orang." (I don't think I will take this up especially with this unorthodox method of pulling strings and cables - the commitment of obligation is something I cannot handle). I remembered the old pantun.
"Pisang emas di bawa belayar
Masak sebiji di dalam peti.
Hutang emas boleh di-bayar,
Hutang budi di bawa mati."

He looked so relieved when he heard my decision and he said, "We started this journey together and we shall finish it in the same way." I was so pleased at our concordance and so proud to be my father's daughter, made from the same mould - truly "anak si Hamid".

So I applied for a Singapore Government Teaching Bursary which was not too difficult to secure because they were upgrading the teaching profession. Many graduates cocked a snoot at becoming teachers and so the Bursary was like a carrot to entice graduates into teaching. During that time, if you were a graduate, especially with an Honours degree, the world was your oyster - well almost - all other things being equal.

More daunting was getting into Singapore University. At the very minimum you had to pass at least two subjects at Principal level (grades ranging from 1-6) and two more at Subsidiary level ( grades 7 and 8). Grade 9 was a Fail. Even with these credentials, you might have found yourself on the waiting list. However a Credit in Mathematics at 'O' Level would be a boost. But the one major stumbling block for entry was the General Paper which consisted of critical comprehension and essay writing. I knew of some of my peers who scored good Principals but were denied a place because they failed the General Paper.

And so I spent three years at the Bukit Timah Campus. And my dear Abah, despite his poor health, kept on working. We all could see how tired he looked at times and I just wanted time to fly.

I recalled his response when my uncle, Pa'cik Omar, congratulated my dad when I finally graduated. He simply said, "It was all her hard work." Only a loving, honourable man and father could have the courage and magnanimity to make such a statement. My love for my mother is boundless but this unique Malay gentleman is irreplaceable.

BUT my education did not end after the much sought after Degree. I was about to be enrolled into the school of hard knocks when I ventured into the teaching profession in Singapore.

Monday 21 June 2010

Chasing the Higher School Certificate - 1962-1963 (CsH)

Pre-University I (or the Lower Sixth) turned out to be a lot of fun. We were fortunate to have a little room attached to the back of our class. During our Mathematics lesson, which was forced upon us for reasons known only to the school administrators, about 8-10 of us would hide in that back room to escape gentle Miss Lim, the mathematics teacher ...and....practise a really spiffing retro-dancing - the Charleston!!! In that back room we were 'quietly' flapping our arms and kicking our legs while humming tunes like this one.

OR, we would skive from classes, especially after break time and make a dashing getaway to the main road to pick up the bus that would take us to Lido Cinema at the junction of Scotts Road and Orchard Road. As we were skint we bought the cheapest ticket for one dollar and at the end of the screening would end up with a stiff neck - from sitting right up in the front row. But when you're young, there was only pleasure to be had, even in a cricked neck.

Each day, to get to RGS, I had to take two buses. There was firstly the Keppel Bus from Pasir Panjang to Telok Blangah. Here you picked up no 21 STC (Singapore Traction Bus) to get you to Anderson Road. It was a hassle despite the chance to meet up with the dishy looking boy from St Joseph's Institution at Telok Blangah bus stop.

I much preferred to get a lift from Abah on his way to work at Nee Soon (now hanyu pinyinised to Yishun) even though it meant leaving our house at six thirty in the morning. But I quite enjoyed being the first one to enter the school gate and having some time alone with my dad - precious time for an 18 year old daughter to chat with her 52 year old dad. He would stop the Armstrong Siddley in front of the school gate and I would wave him good-bye as he drove off.

Then, when I was in Pre-U Two or the Upper Sixth, my father had his first heart attack. We were all shocked and very frightened. Our father, our tower of strength had been sapped of his vigour and energy. His big strong heart was impaired and damaged. Our main concern was his long-term health and we thought the only recourse was for him to retire. My elder sister had just completed her teacher's training course in Johor Bharu, my younger brother was just about to start at the Singapore Teachers' Training College and our youngest brother was still in secondary school. And at 19, when most youngsters my age would be working, I was still a schoolgirl!!

It was on one of those journeys to school with my dad after he had recuperated from his heart attack - when I suggested to him that I wanted to stop my Pre-U and look for a job or perhaps enrol at the Teachers' Training College. Teachers in training were usually given an allowance. I decided on this because between the three of us we could support the family and Abah could retire. I had thought long and hard on this decision and I just wanted his permission and blessing.

He didn't blow his top or jam on the brakes on hearing my bombshell. He very firmly and quietly said that I must get my Higher School Certificate (A Levels) and proceed to University. That was the end of that!

My dad carried on working despite his ill health and did not retire until four years later when I graduated from the University of Singapore in 1967.

It was some time coming, but I grew up good and proper in 1963. My dancing and skiving days were over.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Chasing Skirts - 1962-1963 (CsH)

There was only one Government Girls' School where you could do your 'A' Levels. I found myself at the pukka Raffles Girls' School, located at Anderson Road.

I felt very much like the poor country, or rather, kampung mouse in my classroom. There was an ongoing, subtle pecking order at work.

Firstly, to be acceptable you must have attended Raffles Girls' School at Secondary level and if you were also a pupil during Primary School, you were absolutely pedigree class. As for me, my humble lineage came from Crescent Girls' School, for a lower and middle class catchment area. My Pasir Panjang Primary School was but a very provincial kampung school from the then rural west coast of Singapore.

Secondly, your father had to be a so and so. It was not money that counted, that was just a good standby. Your old man should be a member of the upper echelon of the social order, the aristocracy of the influential and rich. It was a kind of secular feudalism - no need for titles like Rajas and Tengkus and Datuks. If you were of a certain breed, it was noticeable in your outfit and your airs.

We had a girl whose father was the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and another whose parent was the Secretary of the same outfit. Many of the proletarian newcomers sought the friendship of both girls, although the latter had already made up her mind that she had no intention of expanding her coterie.

I must admit to feeling like an 'ugly duckling'. You would like to make new friends but, hell, if I have to devalue myself just to be accepted as a member of 'The Group'... Like they used to say, 'bo chap' or "I couldn't care less".

But I did make one concession so as not to stand out like a sore thumb. When I started my first year at RGS, my ole mum, as practical as ever, had bought for me the cheap, rough cotton material for my school skirt. Its texture was almost similar to that used by the 'Samsui' women (Chinese women labourers who all wore the same blue and black 'uniform' ). And it was not the right shade of blue. It was more indigo blue than navy blue.
When it was being washed, the colours ran like the Nile and I am certain that after a few months the skirt would turn to pale indigo blue. It had to be starched otherwise it would not iron well. Of course, after ironing, the skirt would stand up as stiff as a ramrod and you ended up looking like you were wearing planks instead of a languid flowing skirt.
Each time before you sat down, you had to very carefully and sedately 'smooth' down the back of the skirt to keep the stiff pleats intact. If you failed to do so your rear would look like an unmade bed when you stood up. At 18, that was a terrible embarrassment to shoulder.
I could not remember how I plucked up the courage to ask my mother if I could please have the latest in-material, the more expensive polyester-tetoron that was crumple-free, drip-dry and did not require ironing. We compromised and she gave me what I wanted. But I could have only one skirt made of that coveted material.
That skirt beefed up my confidence no end at RGS. I made sure that on Wednesdays when I came home from school, I would immediately wash that precious garment, put it up to dry (it didn't take long) so that I could wear it again on Thursday morning. Sometimes it would remain slightly damp at the waistband but ... who cares? Style and pride took precedence over common sense and I stopped feeling like a Cinderella-poor kampung mouse for the rest of my A-Levels.
And here's what that nerd looked like in her polyester-tetoron skirt and her first non-homemade school blouse bought during a sale at Wassiamull.

And here are what those two years looked like with Miss Lim and Miss Cohen as our minders.

P.S. If any one mentioned in the previous posting choose to make any ha ha remarks they shall not taste my special Fruit Cream Salad forever and ever.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

SPILLING THE BEANS - by the Stinging Detective

It was a dismal, torpid Sunday. This detective wanted (not needed) sustenance and wanted it fast. Out of sheer boredom she switched on the e-mail expecting the usual bills and court orders. But there was something special from Canary, a connection from way back. She had just obtained a photograph from Karang Guni King Kumar (5th from right in the photograph), an ex-student from Jurong Secondary School.

I saw my chance to make a deal because there was a big fish in this photograph, someone I could squeeze for profit. So a few days ago, I dropped him a line and gave him an ultimatum - pay up 5,723 thosais ( complete with dhal and chutney), or 579 cheesecakes from that good-looking broad, Ruqxana, from Cookery Magic. The fish refused to bite so ... I shall make him eat dirt because here's that incriminating photograph hee, hee, hee. It's a laugh-a-minute!!!!

Now put on your shades because this closeup will be a real eye-sore.

Well, now that the Agency's bearded factotum has finally got me my strong, hot black coffee, I can begin to expose the shady goings-on in Jurong Secondary School during the mid 1970s.

So, to begin at the beginning. There was this shaggy bunch of wannabe dropouts - a mixed bag of rainbow colours and cultural affiliations. Those last two words, of course, would be gobbledygook for this Gang in those days. They were used to earthy words like Mamak (for Indian), Malaikwai or Melayu Blachan (for Malays) and China Bukit or Sepit (for the Chinese and Peranakan).

This Gang had no name and no leader because they were all bloody-minded about their independence and the integrity of their pet schemes - like escaping to the roti canai stall at Jurong Market during Art Class. They had no written Constitution because they were always changing the rules and moving the goalpost to suit their purposes. But they were avowed to just one cause - to buck the school's system, whenever and where ever they could - because for five hours a day they had to contend with a regime of narrow-minded, despotic school administrators, nicknamed the Nanyang (University graduates) Mafia.

The Big Fish I was trying to hook was Samseng A, as seen above. Do not be fooled by that cute well-scrubbed look, like butter won't melt in his mouth. As for those white socks, what you see is only the tip of the iceberg. The rest is just spotty black and quite horrendous and that goes for the rest of The Gang.

JSS imposed short pants for all the boys including the Seniors. For the latter, that was really unacceptable because long pants were the symbol of manhood for these teenagers running high on their testosterone. Samseng A (SA) decided to test/mock the rules by wearing a pair of trousers that looked like it could not make up its mind - to be a pair of regulation shorts or long shorts? What the regime did to him is best kept a secret.

Just to the left of SA was the other dominant male of this Gang - Big Bad Ben. They called him The Hitman though sometimes it was Hit-and-Miss. One reason for this monicker was whenever he opened his mouth to sing "And I have to say I love you in a Song" to his secret paramour in The Gang he got pelted with banana skins and a barrage of @&*+"%#. But despite his heartache he managed to devise many devilish schemes to cause chaos and havoc to The System. Looking back, if he had only grown up in a society that engages and develops a student's imaginative and creative talents, he would be a writer today, and a fine sensitive writer too.

Every authoritative body, even such a nefarious Gang, needs someone to fiddle the books. For this, there was Yuwrajh(7th from right) - because he was the only one in The Gang that could add up to 10 on his fingers. All the rest of them were called "platypus" (a mammal that lays eggs), by their mathematics teacher because they never fail to score a zero in their mathematics examination. Samseng Y was such a rotten accountant that he always ended up being owed money by the rest of his mob. This nice financial wizard had one flaw however. He couldn't spell for nuts. He was mercilessly taunted for sentences like "The sun sat in the west" and "She wore a beautiful diamond neckless" . So he ran away to London where he is happy because, over there, there are lots and lots of Brits who cannot spell either.

Then there was Rojiah the Dodger(3rd from right), like Roger the Dodger in The Beano. She was their Getaway Gal. She was good at getting them out of tight spots because she was also the School's Head Prefect.

And here's my source - the one they called the Canary. This doll-like creature was the Gangster's Moll, caught in the eternal love triangle with SA and The Hit Man. It was like a choice between a rock and a hard place. Wisely, she found her own comfort zone away from those two brooding Jurong Romeos. She still plays a mean guitar, and there are rumours about a secret song she used to sing for SA only.

There are two other members who are not in this picture - they were mainly part-time Gangsta Gals because they suffered very strict curfew hours. One of them was Lely - or the LadyBird or the SS. SS is not the Secret Service but the Shxx Stirrer who specialized in knocking the System. Her main coup was in noticing the love bites on a certain young teacher's neck and for once this teacher managed to retain the class's attention.

The other was the Omnipotent Oi Bek - the Serious One - who made sure The Gang left no traces of their presence. She also saw to their insurance cover.

The Gang's Nemesis was of course the Nanyang Mafia running the school - led by Johnny Louse and Two Pee Sang (The names have been changed to protect their identity.) Partly, it was all a matter of those long trousers. Remember, all boys - including seniors - HAD to wear shorts - so that the school could let it be known just who was in charge.....or just who wore the pants!

Now, it was bad enough that Samseng A already towered over them when he was 15. And as for the others, by the time they were 16-17 about 80% of the boys would be taller or as tall as the Nanyang Mafia.

But my concern here is Samseng A, the truculent one who was reckless enough to gamble his present and future standing. This daring sleuth can now reveal that(even in those early days) Samseng A was a shadowy man, there was something of the night about him. He was, like the bats and foxes and Vampires and Draculas, a nocturnal animal. He was almost always semi-comatose during the day and only came alive after dusk. Some girls believed his dozey eyes were a sign of a simmering sizzler - a PHWOAR! But, really, he was just sleepy!

He puts on this air of somnolent nonchalance to disarm his opponents. But those eyes were saying, "Just you dare cross the line." What you see is not what you get!! He was not known as "The Samseng with Velvet Gloves" for nothing.

And so ... ?

Well, for a Malay kid who grew up in Kampung Jubilee, off West Coast Road, Singapore - and who is not a product of pukka schools like Raffles Institution or Anglo-Chinese School - this SA, this lad - has gone far. But no matter how high and how far he has been, he does not forget his old friends or where he comes from.

They call him "Rocky" in Malaysia. He's a somebody in Malaysian journalism. He has always been his own man - ever since he stood up for himself when the Disciplinary teachers of Jurong Secondary School wrongfully entered his family flat and ransacked his room to look for 'stolen' artworks.

But he's still "Din" to his old teacher. And I can still cuff him about the ears if he crosses the line. Basically, though, he's a good lad.

Post Script: The most recent photo of SA with Canary on the left and LadyBird on the right.

Saturday 12 June 2010


What is Sweden famous for? Think of IKEA, Abba, Volvo, Saab, Ingrid Bergman, meatballs, fermented herring, Nobel - the inventor of dynamite, Bofors - arms manufacturer AND Sakerhets Tandsticker.Before electricity lit up our lives in the kampung, we only had candles, pressure lamps, kerosene and charcoal stoves and matches were a very indispensable part of our domestic life.

Thanks to Sir Walter Raleigh, who introduced tobacco to civilize the world, matches also became a necessary accessory for social occasions, for making friends, and even for solitary reflection. Although smoking, of course, is now stigmatised and the electronic lighter has overtaken the match.

The original match, likened to a portable fire, was indeed easily combustible. Then in 1836 Gustav Erik Pasch created the safety match where it could be lit only when it was struck against the box. It was first manufactured in Jonkoping and from there match factories lit up all over the world.

Come to think of it, the Swedish-created dynamite and match make for an explosive couple!!

Our late Peggy, the spouse's Aunt, was a magpie like me. But she had nine rooms to indulge in her hobby! Years ago I found in her box of discards the 'Coronet', a monthly magazine, very like the Readers' Digest. It only ran from 1936-1971. In this November 1947 copy I read an interesting article about Sweden's development and recovery after the Second World War.

What was more intriguing was this page - a pictorial catalogue of Swedish match exports.

Here are the closeups. The first shows a typical view of the African in his habitat. The other three are of course typical depictions of the Arab and the Muslims. But why the Mufti of Mecca? Why exclude the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury? (And believe me, I have checked through a good number of catalogues!) I suppose they are not fiery or exotic enough in the eyes of the cool, icy Swedes.

There's a telling picture from the past - just a seemingly innocent prototype stereotyping of non-WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) from behind the eyeballs of the Swedes.

But this is classic. It's the 'Chap Tuan'. 'Tuan' is the deferential 'Sir' (in Malay/Indonesian) that you apply to the White Man only.


Saturday 5 June 2010




We talk about the USA bankrolling Israel. But the gates to hell (for the Palestinians) were opened by the British.

I realize many of us are tired of hearing about what goes on in Gaza/Palestine. Eventually news about these beleaguered people will be blotted out until another bloodletting occurs. I am aware that I do 'go on and on' about this issue, refusing to let go, like a dog with a bone.

There are two images I shall always remember. Since 1987, they have forever been engraved upon my psyche.

We were at the demonstration in London in support of the Intifada some years back. (The First Intifada from 1987-1993 was an uprising against Israeli Occupation where 1,100 Palestinians throwing stones were killed by Israeli soldiers.)

While some hotheads (you find them at any demonstration) were yelling rabid anti-Israeli slogans, I observed a family walking in front of us. The hijabed mother was holding the hand of her 9-10 year old son and the father had his little girl on his shoulders. They were saying, (crying?) just loud enough for us to hear - Palestine (they pronounce it as Pales-teen), Palestine, Palestine and they never stopped that anguished call. God forbid that any of us, in this post WWII 'enlightened' era - brown, white or black or of any rainbow colour; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Taoists, Confucianists, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, atheists, humanists and pagans - have to go through the ordeal and oppression of the Palestinians.

Also around that same time, on British TV, I watched a grieving Palestinian mother crying out her agony, " I have more sons at home. Allah hu Akbar!" as they buried her suicide bomber son. I am not a mother. I will never know her pain and her sacrifice. But I can relate to the sense of injustice and the helplessness.

Those two images keep on haunting me.

And to Abdul Hamid's and Kamisah's grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all the rest of his progeny I want to leave these notes and information because ignorance and laziness is a major cause of apathy. It is in no way adequate but this will have to do, coming from an old woman's experience and observations living in the belly of the whale.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Killing Them Slowly - GAZA

A Signpost to the Continuing Brutality of the Israelis in Gaza.
Items not allowed entry into Gaza: ' light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee, chocolate, nuts, shampoo and conditioner'. Israel claimed they allowed aid to come in but that is only 1/4 of the usual quota.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) 61% of Gazans are "food insecure", a typical PC bureaucratic substitute for the 'poverty and hunger that dare not speak its name'. And if the Gazans can afford to buy their food needs and the supply is ample - which is unlikely because of the embargo - they would still have the problem of getting enough cooking gas because the amount allowed in by the Israelis meets only 1/3 to 1/2 of their requirements.

So, why can't the Gazans grow and produce their own food, setting up the poor man's version of the self-sufficient Zionists' ideal of the 'kibbutz'? Firstly the Gazans are prohibited from exporting their flowers, fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, the FAO says $180M of trees, fields, livestock, greenhouses and nurseries were destroyed during the Invasion. But here's a piece of good news. In 2010 the Israelis allowed the entry of 'potato seeds, eggs for reproduction, bees and fertiliser that could not be used to manufacture explosives'. Aaah, now they can have chips and chicken chops just like any restaurant in downtown New York or Tel Aviv.

What about electricity? Again the Israelis' blockade made sure that the Gazans suffer 30-65 hours of power cuts per week. What effect will this have on the remaining hospitals?
Before the invasion Gaza had only 133 hospital beds per 100,000 population, compared to 583 in Israel. Of course we have to be realistic - how can anyone expect the Gazans to be treated as equals with the Israelis? During the so-called Operation Cast (in) Lead, six hospitals were damaged 'including one that had a new building completely destroyed, another lost two whole floors'.

And why can't these lazy bounders reconstruct their buildings?
Not when there is a blockade on bringing in cement, concrete and wood, spare parts for machinery and other materials needed for rebuilding the infrastructure. 12,000 homes were destroyed during the invasion and schools for 15,000 new pupils could not be made.

There's a long litany of sufferings inflicted on the people of this beleaguered piece of Allah's earth by this 0.002% of the world's population. You can see here that size does not matter when you're armed to the teeth by the United States of America and the Judaeo-Christian nations in Europe and countries like Britain and Australia are always bending backwards to soothe the Israelis' hurt and constant pain of victimhood.

I salute the many generous and courageous men and women who risked their lives and limbs in their effort to break this blockade.
What happened to Mavi Marmara is typical of the high-handed and brutal tactics of Israel. We only get platitudes of regret and sickening hand-wringing by Friends of Israel. As for the UN, all they can muster is a diluted version of reprimand. If the UN shows such impotence to act on the inhumane blockade of Gaza how can we expect them to have the stomach to rattle the Powers who are Israel's minders?

And Israel knows that too well and Israel doesn't care a damn about the rest of the world and its criticisms. They are after all The Chosen People.