Monday 28 March 2011

Clocking Time (CsH)

Yesterday Sunday, we changed to BST (British Summer Time) when the clock was put forward by one hour.  Hence the time difference between KL and Leicester is now 7 hours.

In the temperate climate, time and season is closely interlocked with the ever-changing tapestry of our life.  The times for sunset and sunrise change  from week to week, month to month and season to season and that of course affects our prayer times. The duration of day and night undergoes the same variation.   Our levels of energy and activity change accordingly.  The longer days of summer give us more hours for work and play - rather more of the latter.  Shorter autumn and winter days make me mellow and restful - turning into hibernation mode.

Forgive me if I seem to extol the joy of living in the temperate zone - it is a privilege to be able to savour this experience and also to be part of the tropics.

When I settled down in Leicester in the mid-1980s I found myself in the company of Frank Moule, the spouse's student.  He was a painter and decorator who left school at 14 and had a lifelong dream to go to University.  He finally made it as a mature student when he was in his mid-40s.  The late Frank was one of the most remarkable men I've met and I have to write a special posting of him some day.

Because he had a family (with 3 children) to look after, Frank supplemented his student's grant with jobs during the long university summer vacation.  This time Iain got him to do some work in our house.  For his break, he would join me in the kitchen for a cup of tea and my home-made flapjack.  As usual in England, people love to talk about the weather and with Frank he went on to explain  the four seasons to me -to someone from the tropics.

I didn't want to tell him that  'Night and Day',  and the 'Seasons" were part of the Physical Geography syllabus for the GCE in Singapore.  I can't remember learning that at Crescent Girls School  but teaching those topics was a right old headache for me and especially for my students.  I know of some of my colleagues who simply circumvented that part of the syllabus. 

The tilting of the earth's axis, the two movements of  the rotation of the the earth on its axis (which causes night and day) and the revolution of the the earth around the sun (which takes up a year)  were concepts that were too complex to digest.  And when I tell my students that summer in the Northern Hemisphere happens when the sun is overhead at the Tropic of Cancer, winter is when the sun is at the Tropic of Capricorn they start to turn purple.  They become cross-eyed when they learn  about the Spring and Autumn Equinox when the whole world has equal nights and days.  By the time we got to drawing the diagrams to illustrate all these happenings - remember you get more marks when you attach diagrams to your answer - they almost go berserk!

But dear Frank gave me a beautiful and philosophical interpretation to that clinical study of the seasons in the Geography syllabus.  He saw the changing seasons as a vehicle of hope and inspiration.  For Frank, in the depth of winter you can look forward to the light and colours of spring and summer.  The arrival of the snowdrop in winter says you have just made it for the next change.  When the body tires from the long days of summer you know that autumn will appear when life will be mellow and restful, and come winter you can wind down and put your feet up.  Thank you Frank.

Time is the essence of our days and nights and seasons.  Clocks serve to remind us of our time, to regulate our activities and duties on earth.

My mother's clock
There is a clock in our house which is constantly on BST.  My mother gave me this battery-clock in 1980 when she visited me in Brunei where I was teaching at the then Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Teachers' Training College.

Mak sewing at my Anggerek Desa Flat
That little clock has been ticking away for the past 30 years - a constant and soothing reminder from my mother of what I could and should be.

There was another special clock in my life.  Heaven knows where it had gone to.  It was my father's clock, a wind-up brass ship's clock.  He faithfully wound it every other day.

He passed away in 1974.  I rushed back home from my studies in  London knowing full well I wouldn't be in time for the funeral.

As I settled down with the family Abah's clock stopped ticking at 9.30 pm.  It was the time of his passing the night before!  I was in time, after all.

And now at 67 I do ponder about my life's ticking clock albeit sometimes only.

But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.           (Robert Frost)


Sunday 20 March 2011

Holier than Thou - Part 2.

This is a continuation of  the posting 'Holier than Thou - Part 1'   regarding the Archbishop of Canterbury's (ABC) harangue of Pakistan and Muslims after the killing of Pakistan's Christian Minister of Minorities on 2 March 2011.

 READ: " A truly Islamic state would protect Christians."

In paragraph 10,  the ABC wrote : 'It is heartbreaking to see those we count as friends living with the threat of being coerced and menaced into silence .............  They need to know the support of Christians and others outside Pakistan for their historic and distinctive vision.'  In other words, those who threaten our brethren will have us, the Christian West, to answer to.

In that case the worldwide Christian Congregation  and their Secularist sidekicks in the West should not begrudge or castigate the Ummah and especially  minority Muslims in USA, Britain and Europe for declaring their sympathy and support  for Muslims in Palestine, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Mindanao, Myanmar, and Pattani who suffer more than  'the threat of being coerced and menaced into silence.'  In fact the 'historic and distinctive vision (s)'  of these nations have been pummelled and bombed into pieces, overwhelmingly by the Christianist-Secularist Masters of the Universe.

In calling for a 'civic recognition' of non-Muslims in Pakistan and 'guarantees of security' for the brethren of the late Christian Minister for Minorities  the ABC seemed to be a little amnesiac about the draconian Terrorism Act 2000 (Tact) and the anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 (ACTSA) which virtually turned Muslims in Britain into a suspect community.

This resulted in a regime of stop and searches, arrests, sweeps and raids sanctioned by the law. Young male Muslims were profiled as potential terrorists when they prayed at a particular mosque or visited internet sites dealing with Muslim causes or simply for  wearing traditional Muslim outfit.   You are presumed guilty unless proven innocent.   In this atmosphere, self-righteous hostility grew against Muslims - mosques were vandalised and cemeteries desecrated.

And so, when ABC in Paragraph 5 stated that 'a just Muslim state, no more and no less than a just Christian or secular state, had to provide for the rights of its minorities', he seemed to put on his blinkers about what Muslims have to endure as minorities in USA, Britain and Europe.  Even the battered fate of Muslim nations like Palestine, Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan could not get into his reckoning.

After all, the crown of victimhood is also worn by minority Muslims in western countries.  Take one example of Nawaz Malik's experience on 23 November 2010:  Detained at (Heathrow) airport ' for no other reason than  I'm a Muslim returning from the Hajj'.  Read

However one must be clear that this 'discrimination' against Muslims was not just because of 9/11 in New York or 7/7 in London.  The animosity towards Islam in Western religion and culture carries a long history  and 9/11 especially cut deep into the psyche and ego of the West.  Bush and Blair, two  devout Christian leaders of the two most powerful countries in the world  launched  the War on Terror (by Muslims of course) - thus recommencing the Crusade.

As for the 'populist illiteracies of modern extremism' in Islam (paragraph 7) ,  this should be seen in the context of similar extremist illiteracies of both Christian and secular cultures, in their politics, their media and their literature.

"Any death diminishes me' wrote John Donne.   That is a sentiment that we all hold dear.

On 1 March 2011, 9 Afghan children aged 8-14 were attacked and  killed by American helicopter and artillery fire while they were collecting firewood in Darah-Ye-Pech district of northeastern Kunar Province.  They were blown to bits.  They were just minding their own business trying to help their parents to eke out a decent living in their war-torn and poverty-stricken country.  Very little was seen or heard in the Western media about  this ghastly massacre.  I could not find any image of  the agonising cries and grief of their parents and siblings and friends or of their funeral.  But the above photo will have to do because this is all that they and other murdered children of Islam are entitled to.

When Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian Minorities Minister in Pakistan was gunned down in his car on 2 March, the print and electronic media in Britain gave the news full publicity from the event of the death up to the funeral and of course the Archbishop of Canterbury's lament.

And above is a photo of the Minister's funeral attended by the PM of Pakistan and the US Ambassador.

Death is supposed to be the great leveller.

May all  9 children (al-fatihah) and the Minister rest in peace.

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella.
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella.
                              (Charles Bowen 1835-94)

Sunday 13 March 2011

AsH's Folly

I saw this advertisement on TV last night .  If you buy Sunday's News of the World they will give you 5 pounds in cash off your shopping at the Co-op.

The Co-op is the nearest supermarket to our house and so I nudged the spouse to wake up. (Most nights it's the TV watching him). Look! that's a good offer! He gave me a half sleepy ominous look and mumbled "News of the World?  No way".

But I couldn't resist what I thought was a fabulous freebie.  I must admit the brain was a bit addled from a  meal of chicken stew, steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes for dinner.  As usual I had to countermand him and suggested that the fiver could get us 2kg of oats, 2 litres of milk and a loaf of Burgen bread thrown in!  He nodded off to sleep again.

Came Sunday morning before he left for his walk I reminded him of the OFFER.  He came home about half an hour later and voila! there was the News of the World  and the Sunday Express.

He bought the latter because BBC Radio 4 , in their roundup of the day's  news had mentioned  a feature in the Sunday Express about British girls found alive after the horrendous earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan two days ago.  On hearing this, we looked at each other and said "Here we go again".  Every time some disaster occurs somewhere in the world, the British media without fail will zoom into searching and publicising the Brits caught in the disaster.  The  other victims - especially the locals - don't seem to exist or get much shrift.  It's the "me! me! me!" syndrome.  I guess Iain and I are just too cynical and jaundiced and too old.  Ten to fifteen years ago the media, especially the BBC, was not this insular and parochial.

This is the left side to be joined to the right side seen below.

But ........ I hurriedly leafed through  NOTW, turning away from the headlines like

to look for my free five pounds.  Here it is.

Right now I must look for a deep hole to hide in and escape the spouse's look which said "You've been had!"

Have to go now and prepare a 30 pounds-worth shopping list ...... let me see ..... 4 boxes of detergent,  10 boxes of Thornton's Chocolates,  4 tubs of Elmlea's single cream  and loads of soft fruits to go with the cream (yum, yum), 10 packets of Kettles Crisps - or maybe just six dozen tins of baked beans to keep the old man happy..........

See you later says the Bongok, Bodoh, Tolol, Goblok and Siau Chaboh!!!!!!

"Thirty quid!  Bloody  Hell!"  grumbled the spouse.

Friday 11 March 2011

Holier Than Thou (Part 1)

John Donne  (1571-1631),  English  Poet
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod is washed away by the sea, Europe is the less , .........................................any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind;  and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

About a week ago the print and  electronic media in England were full of the news of the atrocity committed against  the Christian Minister for Minorities in Pakistan, assassinated by gunmen in Islamabad.  The killing  was mourned as the death of a brave man - a martyr who was prepared to die for his beliefs, for his vocal and strong stand against Pakistan's Blasphemy Law, a martyr who had anticipated his end at the hands of extremist Muslims.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams displayed his indignation at the martyrdom of a co-believer.

Read. "A truly Islamic state would protect Christians" - Times Article Monday 7 March 2011.  Archbishop of Canterbury

Sometimes, or most of the times - depending on the agenda - well-intentioned and good people, in their desire to right a wrong, get carried away by the heat of the moment and end up forsaking the context of events, of failing to see the forest for the trees.

Pakistan is a huge, tangled, and bloodstained forest.  Much blood, innocent or otherwise had been shed in that blighted country way before the assassination of the Christian Minister for Minorities.  With the collaboration of shady politicians Pakistan had been used as a Trojan Horse as well as a launching pad for the West's, especially America's war with Communist Russia in the 1980s and later in their "War on Terror'. 

Hundreds or even thousands of innocent civilians have been murdered  by different agencies and by an assortment of methods from suicide bombs to American drones.  There are many dead and dying trees in this forest - and the late Christian Minister is not the first or the last.

When the Archbishop , in the second paragraph, agonises about the supporters of such atrocities, that  "they inhabit a world of fantasy, shot through with paranoid anxiety"  and that they  undermine  "Koranic ethics" (?) he should be reminded of Tony Blair  - a "statesman" who is both a paranoid and an opportunist, and who also had the privilege of straddling both Anglican and Catholic "biblical ethics".

Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, declared:

"This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today.  It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of life and we, the democracies of this world, are going to have to come together and fight it together and eradicate this evil completely from our world."

What is the difference between this chilling battle-cry and that of the extremists in Pakistan?  This  "War Against Evil"  is but an excuse for another Crusade.  (Wasn't that the word used - a slip of the tongue, no? - by George Bush?)  It's a revival of the old hostility against Islam.  Christianity good, Islam bad!  Christ is a Saviour, Muhammad is a Blasphemer!

To widen the picture of that forest : is the good Archbishop aware of another war, the Christian Holy War based on 'Biblical ethics' to convert Muslims, in the Middle East especially and in almost every corner of the Muslim world?   The video below explains:
 "Conflict" we hear, "' is a natural part of the Christian life (minutes 8.36) Our activities can lead to people dying.  But to spend the eternity in heaven and not in hell - seems like a good deal.  Even if it results in a physical punishment here on earth"  (minutes 2.42).


In paragraph 6 of his article, the Archbishop took it upon himself to tell the Muslims how to mend their ways.  He called upon an "international Islamic intelligentsia" to do something about the "level of abuse that characterises the practice of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan".

The practice of blasphemy laws is not a monopoly of the Muslims.  Even 'secular' Western states lay down strict laws  against treason and betrayal of the state and its ethos.

Private Bradley  Manning, accused of  passing on secret documents to WikiLeaks faces another 'serious new charge' (3 March 2011) .... for 'aiding the enemy', a capital offense (i.e. the death penalty) in USA under Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 

During the First World War, British soldiers, mainly very young men who ran away because they could not bear the trauma of  a horrific war were subjected to capital punishment.  The official figures recorded 3,000 were sentenced to death.  306 were executed by firing squad.  But that does not include the unofficial figures of those executed in the field by their Officers without recourse to the law.   Of course they are classified as 'deserters',  of committing treason, a secular version of being an apostate. But the West will claim the dispensation that this is War.  What on earth is going on then, in the Middle East and Pakistan?

Back to the Archbishop's backyard :  the Blasphemy Law in England was not abolished until 8 May 2008. It started as a canon (like Sharia) law in the 16th century, and became common law during the 17th century whereby blasphemy against Christianity became an offence .  It was a tool mainly for persecuting atheists and Unitarians.

 In 1656, a Quaker, James Naylor was  'flogged, branded and had his tongue pierced by a red-hot poker.'  The last person to fall foul of the Blasphemy Law was William Gott who in 1921 was punished with 9 months hard labour when he described Jesus as a clown.   However, in  1977 Mary Whitehouse brought a charge of blasphemy against the publication of  James Kirkup's poem  'The love that dares to speak its name" by the periodical  Gay News.  This revival of blasphemous libel was supported by Lord Scarman when he stated that "I do not subscribe to the view that the common-law offence of blasphemous libel serves no useful purpose in modern law ....... to safeguard the tranquillity of the kingdom" during the House of Lords Appeal.

There were other cases: for example, when Mary Whitehouse and The Nationwide Festival of Light (an evangelical organization) attempted to censor Monty Python's Life of Brian .  In  1988 a petition for Salman Rushdie (Satanic Verses)  to be prosecuted was rejected because the law only protects Christian beliefs.

Despite the abolition of the Blasphemy Law, the 1989 18 minute film Visions of Ecstasy which "includes a sexualised representation of Saint Teresa of Avila caressing the body of Jesus on the Cross"  remained banned under the blasphemy law.

But to cut a long story short and to dispel claims that 'we're not like that anymore" - do remember that it took the Archbishop's motherland over 400 years to "form a coherent judgement on the level of abuse that characterises the practice of the blasphemy laws" - and I'm only quoting his injunction to the "international Islamic intelligentsia".
More in Part 2

Thursday 10 March 2011

Holy Hand Grenade

This is only the appetiser.  Enjoy!

HOLY  HAND  GRENADE - Script from Monty Python's  "King Arthur and the Holy Grail" (a spoof and satire)

ARTHUR:  Have we got bows?
????:  No
LAUNCELOT":  We have the Holy Hand Grenade.

ARTHUR:  Yes, of course! The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch!  'Tis one of the sacred relics Brother Maynard carries with him. Brother Maynard! Bring up the Holy Hand Grenade  (singing)  How does it, uh ... how does it work?

????:  I know not my liege.

ARTHUR:  Consult the Book of Armaments!

MAYNARD:  Armaments.  Chapter Two, Verses Nine to Twenty One.

BROTHER:  And Saint Atila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, 'Oh Lord, bless this thy hand grenade that with it thou mayest blow thy enemies to tiny bit, in thy mercy.'  And the Lord did grin, and the people did feast upon the lambs, and sloths, and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals and fruit bats, and large .....

MAYNARD:  Skip a bit, Brother.

BROTHER:  And the Lord spake, saying, 'First of all thou shalt take out the Holy Pin.  Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less.  Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.  Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three.  Five is right out.  Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thou foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.'


ALL:  Amen

ARTHUR:  Right!  One ... Two ... Five

????:  Three, Sir.

ARTHUR:  Three.


The next exciting episode is  "HOLIER  THAN  THOU", Chapter Two, Verses 22 to .......

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Man From Johor Bharu (CsH)

Mahzan sent me this photo of Queen Beatrix's palace (so he was told ) this morning.  He was at The Hague attending a medical workshop.   He added  "luckily she wasn't home, otherwise I'll tell her our Sultan Johor's house is bigger than hers".  na, na , na , na na!!!!  Typical rakyat  Johor and typical of my wacky nephew. 

With  this photo of the Palace of Justice behind him he imagined all the people he would like to see put on trial here.  But 'Zan, you and I know it will not include Blair, Bush and the leaders of the Israeli regime.  They're the wrong political colour.  By the way, UK, the EC and USA are thinking of packing off Muammar Gaddafi  to that Court because he poses a threat to his people and 'their oil'.

I see you're "taking the earliest flight out" to go home - to Sabrina, Nadia, Nabilla and Adam.


Can't say I blame you.  I can imagine you as this "Man from Houston", sung by Mark Lindsay, one of arwah Ucu's favourite singers.

Aaaaaah this song's making me SAD.  No, it means Seasonal Affective Disorder.   

Still, I wonder what happened to all those years.

Have a safe journey home.  I know you will be the "first man off the plane".

And  "oooh, they love you".

Friday 4 March 2011

Lely - The Fish That Swims Upstream


Mak Nyonya - a Pisces - lives the life of the other fish: the one that swims upstream, the one that had to negotiate the boulders, the strong currents and the rapids just to keep body and soul together.

Despite the trials and tribulations she never lost hope and  maintained a loving joy for life and all of  Allah's  blessings.

She found room in her heart for the little people 

and tall people

and even strict schoolmarms.

Her greatest happiness, I do believe, is to lose herself in the world of nature and "all its creatures great and small".
Look for the little red blob

However, she has an irrepressible and cheeky sense of fun too.  More often than not I get dragged in as well and that should warrant detention class for both Teech and pupil.

Two  MANipulators
Fishes have to eat too, even if  the food is captured in tins and  tubs.

But she can also cook a mean asam pedas.  She's not just a pretty face.



POST  SCRIPT :  Just before I finished this posting I received a call from Singapore.  Lely's much-loved grandmother, after a long illness, passed away peacefully.  All things must pass, Lely. Granny's gone for  'a good rest', like you told her to - your last comforting words to her.


INVICTUS  (Latin for UNCONQUERABLE)  - by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Thursday 3 March 2011


Two weeks ago, I had a dream.   I was going to buy a bed and revamp  (nothing to do with the vamp or naughty woman) and restore the guest room-cum-work room. 

It will be like killing two birds with one stone because I could also clear out  the junk and dendritus that had accumulated for the last six years. That task alone took two days. 

 Last Saturday I went shopping at The British Heart Foundation shop where they had some decent and reasonably priced new beds.  I  made my choice and was pleased that they could deliver it on Monday this week.  So I dismantled the old bed and got cracking on the the dusting and vacuuming. 

I'm very adamant that the spouse keep away because this is MY room and I do not look kindly on any help or suggestions or advice.  Also I'm as tough as old boots!

The flatpacks arrived at 4 pm.  Lo and behold!  It's made in my country.  Now, that should be an apt bed for manufacturing dreams.

But when I took the parts upstairs, this was all I could put together.

 A half bed!  An adult's playpen!.  A hole in the bed!  I phoned the shop, explained my woes and in the end I decided to meet them face to face to resolve the problem.  They were very good and promised to 'top up' the shortfall and they would deliver the next day. 

 On Wednesday, after the delivery of the missing parts this DIY  cracker-jack got working again only to discover that 24 pieces of the side plastic covers  had gone AWOL.  Another phone call, another delivery, more work to loosen the main structure before the base parts could be  assembled.   I was determined to finish this by Wednesday because I did not want to be embedded with this contraption for much longer.  I was close to becoming a DIY nutcase. 

Here it is - completed with the aid of much cursing and swearing and embellished with expletives in five languages.  By the way, the bedspread did not come with the other flatpacks.

So now I'm waiting for two guests from London to test the bed.  Me?  No way will I risk  my life and limb.  Any other takers?