Thursday 28 April 2011

....... The Fire of Love - Episode 1.

There was no glow and Maizie had no time for callow Kiwis.


More rubbish.  Maizie dreamt of becoming a train-driver.

Maizie had a second-hand MG Midget, not a  Morris Minor which was the standard vehicle for Learner-Drivers.

Maizie trained for the NCC  (National Cadet Corps) and was appointed as the Commanding Officer for the Girls' Unit at Yusof Ishak Secondary School.  She was quite a tough young bird - then.

YISS  was also known as "Yang Itu Saya Suka".  For me then, it was Riduan, front row, third from right and maybe ....???

When he learned of her military training in an adjunct of the formidable Singapore Armed Forces , he quickly backed off and retreated to the wet and windy English Wimpdom.

COMING  SOON   -    Episode  2

Monday 25 April 2011

Prelude to 'The Fire of Love' (CsH)

It's April, me duck!  It's that time of year when romance and love and weddings, though not necessarily in that order, fill the air.  Everybody loves a wedding, nobody can resist a romantic story.

This is my contribution to complement the hype of the Royal Wedding.  It's an old story of an old couple but if you brush away the dust of  past years, it can be quite enthralling -  like watching a kettle boil.  Here goes!

Once upon a time, in the era of   "zaman nought belum"  (that's how my nephew Mahzan would describe it) there was this boy-twit  from Paekakariki, New Zealand ........  

The boy-twit in 1960
.......and this nerdy girl from Pasir Panjang, Singapore.

My dear ole mum was so pleased to see her tomboy daughter dressed up like a real girl.  But it didn't last very long.

 They were as different as chalk and cheese.  But, if I may say so, she had more brains between her ears (it comes naturally with us girls)  and  her sporting prowess was unbelievable.

Just compare their School Report Cards .......

HIS - Total is 80.2 %

HERS - Total 90.5 %

Furthermore, she loves the outdoor life, being one of the early pioneers of the Marathon  from Shenton Way to West Point, Pasir Panjang.

She's the one in front with her best left leg forward

As far as I know he spent most of his youth fishing in the Bay of Plenty, North Island with his mates.  I was often persuaded to ooh and aah at the big scar on his big toe.  It was almost chopped off because of a misdirected axe - he still has a poor sense of direction!  His other achievement was when he won the  rock 'n' roll competition in his little village.  His partner was his sister Jane.  No other girl wanted to dance with him.  His prize - a carton of cigarettes.

Kate Middleton finally met her Prince Charming.  As for these two,  they pursued their very different callings but  somehow landed with each other as of the 1980s.

There was no grand wedding, no exchange of goats and cattle (as dowry), no gold and diamond jewellery.  It was just a simple nikah at Masjid Jurong followed by doa selamat with the family and within 6 hours he whisked her off in the big Silver Bird to his home in Leicester.

It was , and still is a junk marriage - collecting junk I mean - and a love of travelling kept them on their toes.  Because of his Scots ancestry, travel was never a three-star affair - it was rucksacks and budget hotels all the way.  I love it too, living and travelling dangerously!
They lived a modest life like the Stone Age hunters and gatherers.  He hunted for books and old garden tools. She gathered old embroidery , old postcards, old Geography textbooks, old cutlery as well as sampler materials for her patchwork, gramaphones etc etc.  Her junk took up almost two-thirds of their living space and he had to make do with less.  But despite this unequal sharing of territory their eccentricities kept them together .......

Some husbands buy their wives expensive material gifts but I have no desire or use for such fripperies.    Instead I receive brilliant offerings in the shape of  this magnum opus ........

Such is his devotion - and all because she gives him such adulation and such care.... like this conferment of his status in our house.

Before "Fatimah's Kampung" there were other stories, one of which I have posted on September 24 2009.

This year we celebrate our Silver Anniversary and I shall launch another mini opus by the spouse ........

This is just the "gazek" .... like we used to say in the old days before they screen the big movie in the cinema.

The rest is yet to come.  Barbara Cartland, eat your heart out!

Sunday 24 April 2011

Mothers - (CsH)

Walking around and about Leicester these past years I observed many mothers pushing their tiny tots in prams and baby buggies.  Some of these portable kids look as old as 4 or 5 - they should be walking!

I do feel sorry for these little children for all they get is a worm's-eye view of the world - merely visions of shoes, feet, sandals, trousers, edges of skirts and coats (depending on the weather).  They also breathe in a good dose of carbon monoxide and dust especially when they are being trundled on the roadside.

I also note the same habit in Singapore in the last few years although not so much in Malaysia.

I remember a train trip from Bombay to Neral, sometime in the early 1980s.  I was standing next to an Indian lady carrying a toddler in her arms.  We both had to stand for the duration of the journey, which took over an hour.

I could not help but notice the bonding between mother and child.  Each time the train came to a shuddering stop, the little one would clutch her mother's neck for comfort and the mother would reciprocate with a little squeeze. The child would play with the mother's colourful plastic bangles.  It was like she was counting them or sorting them according to colours.  But that was how the toddler kept placid and happy.  This was a very poor mother and child and certainly the mother's arms must ache from carrying her baby.  But I do think  they derived a great deal  of reassurance and solace from this physical proximity, especially for the child.

You can't get this stuck in a baby buggy can you?

I have also been stuck in my own rut, sorting and scanning the old black/white family photographs.  I was quite chuffed when I found photos of  mak mendukung  my brother Mus.

Singapore Botanical Garden, 1947.
I also recalled how she would carry Akim in an emban just like these Malay ladies from some years ago before my mother was born.  It took me a couple of days to excavate these pictures from my treasure trove of pre-war and post-war books.

From a 1930s Journal of the Empire
The caption for the above picture reads  :

Malays are devoted to their children who up to the age of fifteen and sixteen are most engaging creatures.  They trot about with their parents, and when a baby is tired, the mother swings it on to her hip and twists a sling for it out of her sari [it's actually a longish and wide selendang or a sarung]  to which it rides happily and comfortably.

This came from a 1936 Primer

From Grace Garnier's "Paddylands" circa 1930s (?)

Mak (2nd from right)  and her mates in Geylang 1940, I think

Mak would carry on with her  cooking and cleaning and sweeping the house while carrying Akim in her emban.  He would fall asleep in her arms as she got on with her domestic chores - lucky devil!! 

I can just imagine the sense of security and snugness that these bairns absorb just from being tucked in so close to their mothers.

I  recognize that feeling.  Whenever there occurred a thunderstorm at night, mak would come into our bedroom, cover the mirror with a blanket and then move over to our bed to pull the blanket over us. That intimate touch and the scent of her closeness was magic comfort and I fell asleep again knowing that I was well-protected from the thunder and lightning and the storm.

Akan ku abadikan keramat kasih-sayang mu.

Friday 15 April 2011

Letter from Kakak and Abang Leicester

Congratulations  AG for the bequest of another book to our youngsters.

I have not had a chance to read it but here's a review.

We're very sorry we can't share your day this week-end at Tuk Din but we are over here rooting for you over there in London and in KL when you have the 'proper' Launch.   Just remember us when you're tucking into Sambal Ikan Bilis and Petai. 

It's very heartening to find a Malay who has documented so lovingly the Trengganu Malays'  way of life and purpose, of a time that some of us in modern Malaya  have chosen to forget and discard.

It's an admirable mission accomplished by a gentle Malay gentleman.

For you and Zaharah here's a song from the old days, from the old thing here to celebrate your journey.

To play, click the little arrow.

This is a quiz for Zaharah who got her KiaT over numbers and dates.

And from the Scotsman to the T-man , LANG MAY YOUR LUM REEK!

Salam and love from Darby and Joan.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

The Curtain - Twitcher

WEREN'T  WE  CLEVER? - all that ventilation.

WEREN'T WE MALAY WOMEN BRAVE? - but not so against the 'buaya darat'
I love those old pictures and photographs of our people taken from those days when David Camoron's (not a spelling error) forefathers were ruling the roost in Malaya and Singapore.

Most of such illustrations and narratives convey the message of the superiority of the Caucasian masters.  This patronizing attitude is still alive and well today, albeit a little muted.  Modern writers like Anthony Burgess, Paul Theroux and quintessential WOGS like Naipaul do carry on with the tradition  of  contemptuous writing about the coloured people, especially the Malays.  There's a great deal of political and pecuniary capital to be made with this genre of writing.

 Sadly our own people, so often enamoured with such authors,  fail to notice the lip-curling derision of  these wordsmiths. 

However, since the great financial collapse of 2008, we can begin to see cracks in the make-up of the West.  It is a picture of the chickens coming home to roost - of hard times and dark days.

Since we got back in January I can't help but notice these changes  from the  roost in my room.

Pot - Hole  Britain

        Repair work going on as seen from my window

But this is just a drop in the ocean.  The real picture is quite dismal.

Frank's  Caution.

When our late friend Frank was Clerk of Works at the City Council he specialized in Health and Safety.  It was his job to ensure that there were two men at work whenever a ladder was being used.  While the first man is up the ladder the second must be holding it down.

Well, this is the BT man at work, all by himself.

  ANY OLD IRON?   Or The 'Karung Guni' Man

Over twenty five years of living in this first-world country, and it is the first time I'm seeing this!  You can tell he's coming every morning when you hear the musical call from his lorry.  He keeps on trying.  He never gives up.  I have more respect for him and his mate than the elites running this country.

Growing Old in Leicester

This old couple turn up every Wednesday morning after the bin-men have emptied the bins.   They drag the bins to their special  vehicle, give them a thorough wash and then pull them back to their rightful place.  You can see how the wife is bent over doing her task.  Why oh why should they, at this age, have to do this?  I can't begin to think how many bins they  clean up each day, how much dragging and pulling and how sore they must feel at the end of each working day.     And in this economic climate, how much longer will this indefatigable pair be able to survive?

for here come the Evangelists - to seduce us with their offer to save our souls and their promise of a better kingdom than this benighted existence we now have.   Hallelujah!

And wait... There's even more light on the horizon.  There's the Wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton on 29 April.  We can all have a party.  There's hope for all the Cinderellas and Ugly Ducklings and Paupers in this nation.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Comestibles from ' Long ago and far away'

I think I have too much paraphernalia from the past - ranging from my school badges to a 'dutch wife' pillow from the Pasir Panjang kampung house.

As AsH I am only carrying on the torch for my father's proclivity - collecting and storing memories and history and stuff that are too precious to be discarded.  And am I glad that I'm an incorrigible magpie!

I remember one day when Abah, returning from his foray at Sungei Road  (Singapore's thieves' market ), plonked down 2-3 pairs of shoes for my sister and I.  We were aghast and horrified.  They were obviously shoes from the 1930s or 1940s with chunky heels and little straps for the ankles.  Our faces told Abah what we thought of his choice.  Didn't he realise we were in the 1960s, and that stilletto heels were the fashion?  Really!   Heaven knows what he did with those shoes.  If  mak had seen them he would be in real hot water!

Somehow, I think, at some time or other I might have made my nieces suffer the same fate - but they were too polite to complain.  Bless their cotton socks!

But now ... this I have to inflict on all those who visit this blog.  These pictures and texts are taken from "Look and Read", my Primary Two School textbook.  I love the drawings and the old-fashioned colour scheme.

 But most of all, they remind me of gentler days of long ago - of the Ice Seller and the ice-balls, the apek who sells fruit or the mamak/bai who comes to the door and rings his bicycle bell to tempt you with his roti at five cents a loaf! We were informed that English boys love sweets made from the sugar cane while we in the colonies suck the sugar cane.  How interesting!!

Also fascinating is how toddy is a substitute for yeast and cigarettes were sold at the Ice-seller's stall.  





Finally, boys and girls, which drink would you choose?  Teh Tarik, Sir.

Which fruit do you like best?  Durian, teacher.  But the durian doesn't like me!  BURP!!!

Which kind of bread do you like?  Do you mean dosh, Miss?  I only get 10 cents per day from me mum.

Teacher, did you know that  too much sugar gives you diabetes?   I discovered this while reading the Health and Scientific Review, Volume VI, No. 19.  It is considered a modern plague due to over-consumption and lack of physical activity.

Shut up and sit down AsH, sez Teacher!

                                R I N G !!    END  OF  LESSON

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Raking the Cupboard Under the Stairs

It's spring cleaning time again.  This time I steeled myself to clearing out the junk in the cupboard under the stairs.  It took three days in all, endured a bout of skin rash because of the dust and aching arms from moving and sorting volumes of heavy books. 

My  Work  Station
 I  re-discovered the Grease Filters for Cooker Hoods (bought 4 years ago),  my beautifully comfortable Kung Fu shoes which I bought at the Chinese Emporium, Orchard Road in 1985,.....

..... our now dysfunctional cameras.  The Nikkormat was the spouse's good companion, bought in 1965 which took him to places that other parts cannot reach.  I reckon that Nikkormat received more TLC than I ever got - at times.  My Konica,  chosen by arwah Akim in 1979  went with me to Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak, India, Sri Lanka and Britain.  Both items are still much loved and I was over the moon to see them again.

Here's the Nikkormat .....

...and the Konica. 

As I dug further into the deep recesses of the cupboard I found Iain's little hoard of books, all hardcover, all very intriguing for their content  but especially for insights into the history of Malaya and Singapore. As Smeagol (Lord of the the Ring) would say :  "My precious, my precious."

The Golden Health Library (1920s/1930s)

The Book for the Home (1956)

The Geographical Magazine  (1935-1964)

The Most Special Set  (1922)

And this is the piece de resistance from my cave under the staircase!!!

What's so special about this?

It's antique soybean milk!!!!


Top Left: A son of the Sultan of Perak, Raja Azlan (in blue) on the occasion of the installation of his father at Kuala Kangsar.   Bottom Right:  Two of the crowd outside the palace.

The above image is extracted from The Geographical Magazine  (May 1950 - April 1951).  Amongst other things, Ian Morrison wrote :

1. A love of colour, in their whole way of life as well as in their dress and articles of daily use, characterizes nearly all the Malay races.  [Why not?]
2. In Malaya today the position of the Malays has been seriously threatened by the arrival of the immigrant Chinese.  Although the Malays still outnumber the Chinese in the Federation and although the birth-rates for the two races as revealed in the 1947 Census are now approximately the same, Chinese outnumber Malays in the economically important States of Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Johore...  [ How did this happen?]

3. It is generally agreed that, if Malaya is to be a peaceful and prosperous country, an effort must be made to correct this unbalance.  But it is easier said than done.  It is as hard to persuade the Malays to modify the political rights which they enjoy and which they regard as one of the chief safeguards of their own survival as it is to persuade the Chinese to admit the Malays to a greater share in the economic life of the country.

Here (Item 3) is an example of a Colonial Bureaucrat who failed to acknowledge that Malaya is Tanah Melayu,   that the Malays' political authority is not a   privilege granted by the Colonial Powers for them to 'enjoy' and it's certainly not negotiable.  This is the very same bland attitude that regarded Lim Chin Peng as Malaya's Freedom Fighter!

  After all Mr Morrison's  descendants in Britain today are adamantly against  immigration from non-EU countries.   Future British Nationals are now required to take English Language and Citizenship Tests, and an oath of loyalty to Queen and Country.   Best of all, David Cameron has abandoned the policy of multiculturalism.  So, why is Malaysia, or rather the Malays, expected to be  'whiter than white'?

All this I raked from the cupboard under the stairs!!  There are lots more salacious revelations when and if I can get away from living up to my  reputation as an 'indolent Malay' gambolling amongst the flowers in the English Spring. 

Who says 'History is Bunk'!   It's the  interpreter of that history who writes bunkum.