Saturday 30 October 2010

Dennis Potter's 'Lipstick on Your Collar' - History Repeating Itself

I am no Anglophile.  Malay movies from the 1950s and 1960s,  Malay popular music from the 1940s onwards,  Lagu Melayu  Asli and Hindi  movies and songs  are in my blood and in my bones.

Growing up in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s was a very rich and multi-faceted experience.  The popular songs before and after The Beatles were shared by us all - Malays, Chinese, Indians, Eurasians and all the various shades and colours of people you can find in our Pasir Panjang  English School during the Colonial period.   Somehow, without any diktat from above, we accepted, acknowledged and respected our differences. As for our similarities - we were just schoolkids having to work hard to get a good education so that we can help our parents when we grow up.  And most of all we had fun doing all the silly and mischievous stuff that all kids do.

Some of our parents were poor, some were rich and some just plain ordinary like mine.  We could not see  many visible signs of  our parents' economic and social status.  We all  travelled by bus or walked to get to school.  There were no  Mercedes or Jaguars in the school carpark to pick up the rich brats.  There were  no talk or boastings in the classroom about  going on holiday to Europe or the U.S.A.

My sister would often visit her friend who  lived in a big house by the seaside and this girl was the daughter of the Biscuit Taukeh!  My friend Yap Siew Har lived in a huge mansion at the 5th milestone and in class she was just as ordinary and naughty like the rest of us.  She even told us that her father had two wives and we all thought nothing of it.

Jeevan threw a stone at my brother's forehead and as a result, Mus needed a couple of stitches.  I had to run home to inform my mother about  the trouble he had got himself  into. Jeevan's father was a Manager at the then Singapore Harbour Board but my parents were not bothered about confronting Jeevan's parents.  Kids will be kids.  Racist intent? Racism?  That was not in  our parents' vocabulary.

That's a long preamble before I begin this posting.

Living in England   from the mid-1980s had opened up my eyes to the reality of what Britain and the British  had done to my part of the world and how the powerful in the White Christian West have manipulated and subjugated the powerless - especially the colonisation of our minds.

But there were also parts that I admired and enjoyed.   There were the writers, the journalists and the playwrights. One  I really  appreciate is  the dramatist  Dennis Potter - especially his TV dramas like 'The Singing Detective'  (1986) and  'Lipstick on your Collar' (1993).
I know  I  have a penchant for attaching songs to complement the themes of my various postings.  This is certainly  due to Dennis Potter's influence because I  love his technique and  I love songs.

'Lipstick on your Collar', set in 1956 during the Suez Crisis,  tells the story of  a young man doing his National Service as an interpreter of Russian documents in the Intelligence Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Today you would call him a spook - like those in MI5 and MI6.   As his job and his bureaucratic Civil Service Colleagues are so staid and boring  he decided to create fantasies about them in pop songs.

It's uncanny, almost prophetic because some of these scenes are applicable to the Invasion of Iraq by USA and UK in 2003 -  another war against another Arab nation.

N.B  Each video begins with the same 20 secs. introduction.

Blue Suede Shoes  is a scene in Parliament.  Just change Colonel Nasser to Saddam Hussein.
And substitute 'blue suede shoes' for dominance over oil in the Middle East.

'Don't be Cruel'  is such a lovely parody of office culture in a Government Ministry.

And this is the best of all.   It's all about toilet paper and Intelligence documents.  Just like the 45 minute threat and the secret dossier on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction  that Blair was plugging before pushing the button on the Invasion of Iraq aka  Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Well - people in a hurry may say - why rake up the past?  The War's over.  Saddam Hussein has been overthrown.  Iraqis now have democracy because they are  allowed to take part in elections.

If only Dennis Potter knew how his portrayal of British Intelligence in LOYC  is being given a re-run ten years later.

But then I live in the past.

And we are doomed to repeating the tragedies of past history.

But we do enjoy our present.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Skipping over the Ocean like a Stone

I must admit to feeling knackered.  There have been too many lackadays, lackaweeks and lackamonths.

I took my mind a walk
Or my mind took me a walk
Whichever was the truth of it.  (Norman MacCaig)

And my mind wanted :

*  to hear my good friend Dot greeting me with a

* to muck about in my favourite 'shopping mall'  - Leicester Animal Rescue.

* to go marketing for fresh fruits and vegetables.

* to observe from my study the spouse coming home after a successful forage for milk in the shops.

* to potter about in my kitchen where I have a special accessory

* who takes pride in having his own personalized cutlery.

* From my kitchen I can delight in my two favourite snacks - burnt muffins and marmite on toast.

* There are no spectacular views of sunsets and stormy seas.  But what I can see from my study window is good enough for me.

* I  also managed to learn a little lesson about conservation.    As kids, if we did not polish off the food on our plates we either get a hard rap on the knuckles or a remark like  " your father worked very hard to put that food on your plate".   Why did it take the environmentalists that long to advise the public and why didn't the parents take on the responsibility?

* I  would walk past these photos each morning when I woke up to get to the kitchen.  And I miss that routine.

* I often think about my special room, my messy cluttered room where I store all my treasures past and present - where I could spend endless hours on my writing, sewing and my fiddle-faddle.

* But this, the trees of Victoria Park are what we miss most of all.

I feel it is time to go  (to the other)  home, 6,572 miles away.

Insyallah we shall and soon,  once Iain  gets reasonably well enough to face the winter without having to fall back on the NHS.  Between Leicester and Kuala Lumpur - it's like being caught between two lovers.  But I should not complain - we are blessed - Syukur Alhamdulillah.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Tears for Fears

For the past few days I have been reading Wikileaks' Iraq War Logs.

So I asked myself what's new? I recalled the revelations about U.S. use of torture in Iraq, especially the atrocities in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Yes, there were splutters and a degree of outrage but generally people - especially the Americans - were quite sang-froid about these disclosures. They were more up-in-arms about the construction of the Mosque near the site of 9/11.

After all, their CIA had been conducting this 'harsh interrogation' in Vietnam and Latin America. The CIA were also not averse to utilising Nazi torture techniques. According to Alexander Cockburn (2007), they have, since the 1950s been "financing research into sensory deprivation and isolation techniques".

The bleeding hearts in the West reacted with the usual debate about the dangers of using torture to extract information without really touching on the moral principles involved except of course if they are talking about the 'Islamists'. They'll quote selective chapter and verse from the Quran to express their disgust.

The cynic that I am cannot help but think that the Iraq War Logs, especially promoted by the Guardian (the world's leading liberal voice ?!??) is just another repeat - and will not change the fate of Iraq or the Middle East by one iota!!

All the hand-wringing, just like all the perfumes of Arabia for Lady Macbeth, will not wash the blood from their hands. I see it as merely a form of catharsis for the West so as to carry on with business as usual in Afghanistan and perhaps Iran? Yemen? Sudan?

So we can expect to see the Liberals and liberals putting on their hair-shirts, wallowing in their angst and spouting platitudes of "your pain is our pain".

But for the Iraqis and (some of) the Muslim countries, this response of the West is very irritating and irrelevant.

What about a Nuremberg Trial of the perpetrators and the liars - or something close to that? If that is unpalatable, how about a recantation by Bush, Blair, Mr and Mrs Clinton, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Sarkozy, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Gordon Brown, Jack Straw, David Cameron, Berlusconi, John Howard, the Israeli leadership, the Arab running dogs of the West and all the supporters of the War from the great and good in Hollywood and the literati?

Perhaps an apology might appear - like Blair's for the Slave Trade - but just over one hundred years too late!

How about financial compensation? That is quite feasible because an Iraqi's life, like the Afghani and Palestinian is quite cheap. After the deaths of civilians at Kundun in Afghanistan the Germans were talking about Euro4,000 for each victim. That's about Malaysian Ringgit17,000. That sum can only get you a bread-and-butter second hand car in Kuala Lumpur.

The Germans had another offer - to purchase cattle for the families of the victims!!

War Log or War Dogs - the evil deed is done. The scorched earth policy and divide and rule is now in full swing. The house has been blown down.

Thursday 21 October 2010

In the Name of Holy / Holey Charity

My desk-top computer collapsed completely a week ago. My brother had a tough time trying to retrieve the backup but a visit to Low Yat saved my skin or rather the computer's.

Going through what had been 'saved' brought me to this posting.


These beautiful children from the poorest parts of the globe are being put up for adoption. This includes the appropriation of their souls as well in the case of this Christian Compassion Charity.

For US$38 per child (tax-deductible), your adopted one will be connected with "a loving, church-based child sponsorship programme". Other than food, water, education and medical care - "Most important of all, your sponsored child will hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God".

I could suggest another country where these soul-snatchers could ply their trade.

Yahoo News UK revealed in October 2010 that in UK, nearly three in ten seven-year-olds are living in poverty. 20% of the children are "living in such poverty that their family's income is less than 50% of the average family's weekly income".

But such Compassion to these children will not be tolerated and there's not much cache in harvesting the souls of children from the West.

Remember the old saying? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. But the intentions of this Charity reek with the odour of self-serving righteousness.

If religious-based do-gooders turn you off, you can always divert your good heart and wallet to adopting an Orangutan instead.

You can select what you please from

There's also Nita.
However she suffers a terrible malady. "Treated as a human while being with her 'owners', it will be difficult for her to adapt to life in the forest".

I discovered some fascinating aspects of 'bringing up' adopted orangutans.

1.Diaper them from day one. Why? To keep your floors clean.
2.Feed them a non-soy formula because some believe that soy causes aggression in adults. Bang goes Darwin's Theory of Evolution. As far as I know soy is marvellous for us human primates. And it's especially good for women to ward off menopausal problems.
Also sambal pedas tahu and tempeh is one of our top favourites. But maybe that's why I'm so bolshie and bloody-minded?
3.Give them biscuits as a snack or a treat. Hmmmh - The spouse also enjoys this for his elevenses.
4.Baby orangutans love stuffed animals. Which animals, I wonder?

Both Charities apply the same gambits for extracting the milk of human kindness. Christian Compassion offers this.

"Receive a free Compassion scrapbook when make your first payment. This scrapbook will serve as a handy way to organize the photos and letters that you receive from your sponsored child.
When you sponsor a child, you are linked with one particular child who will know your name, write to you, and TREASURE the thought that you care. He or she will pray for you often and write to you.'ll receive your child's photo, personal story".

For £10 per month

What are we doing to our suffering children and animals?


P.S. I have a habit of scribbling on bits and pieces of paper what I consider to be telling and fascinating ideas that I see on TV and hear on the Radio. This I wrote about 15 or so years ago in my kitchen note-book. So I must have heard this over the radio while I was cooking at Oxford Avenue, Leicester.

Tuesday 19 October 2010


This is for the family in Paekakariki with our heartfelt thanks for the hospitality - from the roast (halal) leg of lamb (and all the yummies) to the joyful times with Atom and Mika.

Remember our Brave Bride ( posting on 30th June 2010)? Well here's more - and a half.

I have removed this photograph because this is not Bride's and Graham's house.

Here's part of the garden - on the leeward side - bursting with lemons.

And speaking of lemons, here they are, all clustered in a family photograph on a lovely sunny Spring day.

And here's my favourite Kiwi nephew Josh with his favourite nephew Atom.

Just to spice up good old Josh, here's a blast from the past. Yes, it was you playing Ninja with Unc on Foxton beach when you were just knee-high to a grasshopper.

My bestest favourite is beautiful Mika giving her great-aunt a flower.

And now, the most dreadful part. Here are the FOFs (Four Old Fogies). Bride, don't you dare suggest another word for the second 'F'.

However I much prefer this picture when we were all so much more beautifuller and gormless.The lady in the orange top was the matriarch, the late Ruth (or Haggis to her children, don't ask me why) and sister Jane is to her left.

And for the grand finale, here are all four of the second generation - playing their usual loopy games.There are Josh and Sadie acting out their drunken yobs' roles. And Jane's Joe and Sam are making out to be two pommies in a Gentleman's Club.

They're not like that now, just much worse in different ways. Sighh!

Thank you all in Paekakariki for the memories and the love.
PS. The first three photographs are from Lely, and photos 4, 6 and 7 were taken by Sadie - partner to Jason and mum to Atom and Mika. Thank you girls.

Thursday 14 October 2010

A Carload of Crackers

New Zealand is a beautiful country with a population of just 4 million people and 40 million sheep (2006).

But I must confess, something else other than the landscape, caught my

Most of the time, it was very, very, because of the storms and fierce winds at this time of the Spring Equinox.

However we managed to put in a bit of walking especially at Rotorua. Fortunatelydid not suffer too much from the physical exertion.

It felt good to be breathing clean fresh air after Kuala Lumpur's urban oxygen.

We hired afor the duration of our holiday.

We are very stick-in-the-mud and averse to driving an automatic car.

But these two intrepid pensioners managed to make it up hills and mountains, along unsurfaced roads and cute little town roads without requiring the services of either the dent man or the

This was what the car and Lely looked like at the start.

By the time we got to Cape Palliser both of them became unrecognisable. As for the absence of Lely in the following picture, we had decided to lose her in the hills of Maungakotukutuku.

Most of the time, we did our own cooking and the spouse had to admit thatbecause, together with the help of our general factotum, he enjoyed great meals sans spices and other hot condiments. That was his reward for doing the driving.

We got back to KL safe and sound but after the episode with the NZ Security people I had to do a little on bees and their culpability in producing potential weapons for terrorists.

I used to see in Leicester quite a number of people willing to part with quite a bit of money for these special number plates. You know about fools and their money? Well they can also be found next door to down-under.

I shall bid good-night to all with a joyous

See you soon in a tick and/or a

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Honey - I miss you

On September 30th at Auckland Airport, New Zealand security confiscated  two jars of Manuka Honey, each weighing  500 gm, from my hand luggage.  I was perplexed because I had not seen any notice at the Airport to inform me that honey is a restricted item, like knives, sharp instruments and all forms of liquid.

I had the gall to ask the officer why and I was brusquely told it's a gel.  A gel??   He then took the two jars and another 250gm jar  and   chucked them into the bin.  When the spouse inquired if they were to be given away to a  charity  he was curtly told that they would be thrown away.  It was sad I thought.  Three jars of nature's health food, made and packed in NZ were destined for the rubbish bin - this in a country that is religiously concerned with and practices a high standard of conserving and recycling.  I wonder what the bees'  Union has to say about this wastage!

When I got home I decided to check up on how honey could be linked to a potential  act of terrorism.  The key words were hydrogen peroxide  (H2O2).   Honey had the capacity to produce small amounts of this  'lethal stuff' which is commonly found in cleaning agents like bleach.  But it was precisely H2O2 which made honey ideal for treating infected wounds and other bacterial disorders.

But then, hydrogen peroxide was said to be one of the ingredients in the bombs that failed to explode in the July 21, 2005 London bombs and since then honey has been damned and banned.

So I guess I should  grin and bear the seizure of my three jars of honey - for the safety of  air travellers. 
But  these  incidents only caused me greater confusion.

Firstly,  why was I told that  I  could make up my 'loss' by buying honey at the duty-free shop  at the departure lounge!   What is the difference between honey bought at the Airport's duty-free lounge and those  purchased at bona fide  Supermarkets like Pak N Save  and  Tourist shops  outside of the Airport?

Secondly,  when I started unpacking at home, guess what I found in my handbag which had gone through the same machine as the hand luggage?

The One That Got Away

Now this is the most unkind cut of all.
While the contents of my hand luggage were being rummaged,  next to us at the counter was Todd,  ( we caught his name from the tag of his hand luggage.) a New Zealander in his mid-thirties.  Todd's problem was rather different.  He had in his hand luggage a vicious-looking  work knife - steel, folding, and almost 6 inches long and a large bunch of wire.

Our honey was summarily disposed of with no questions asked.  Todd's bag of tricks, however, seemed open to lengthy negotiation.  When we left the counter, bereft of three honey jars, the Security officer was still opening and closing the knife, trying to decide what to do with it ( and the equally potent bunch of wire) and patiently listening to Todd pleading to be allowed to keep his toys.

Well, honey chile ............"If you can pour it, pump it, squeeze it, spread it, smear it, spray it or spill it, then it is a liquid, gel, or aerosol" according to the (USA)  Transportation Security Administration.

P.S.  I'm having a wee bit of trouble with this new post editor.  If you can't get the video please click  "Read more" at the bottom.  Hope it works. HELP!