Thursday 24 January 2013

Winter 2013

The only adventurous thing I did this winter was to take this photograph of the first snow fall on January 14 at 3.45 am.  It wasn't much to talk about.

Then it came down with a vengeance on 18 January.

18 January 1413 hours
Wonky knees and chilblains  got the better of me and I opted for indoor activities only.

So I raided the spouse's stamp collection.

This one I found most interesting - the tiger of the Federated Malay States.

Wow!  Was there ever such an entity - The Malay States??   Looking at today's analysis of  Malays , Malaya and Malaysia, one would think that the Malays were immigrants like everybody else, that they had just come down from the trees and possessed no political , economic or social structure worth mentioning.  Furthermore, it took the British and others to show them how.

There was of course the overlord, the English King :

But there also existed the Malay Sultans:

........  and way back in those days Jawi was an acknowledged script.  During my colonial education in Singapore in the 1950s, I was given hardly 3 years of Malay language education in Rumi - much less in Jawi.  However my Chinese and Indian classmates were taught their language in their script.

Still, I musn't grumble too much or I may be branded an ultra-Malay fanatic.

However I did make very - and I must emphasise - very small efforts to brave the snow.  You can find pictures of beautiful snowscapes anywhere in the papers and on the screen.  But you'll never see anything like these.

The littlest snowperson  (very PC)
My wash basin and ex-Marmite bottle crowned with snow
My yellow bin with a white topping
Another artwork  - 'Fluffy Wall'
I  WUZ HERE  (Size 4)
But the most unkind cut of all was this.  I trudged through the snow (on the bus) to get an electric under-blanket for the bed in the bolt-hole.  But after unmaking the bed and fixing the under-blanket and then making the bed again, I was ready to plug it in - only to discover this.

Cheers for a Made-in-China British product - the wonder of Globalisation!   (Note the pin on the left)
Goodnight  and have a lovely weekend.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Horse dóeuvre and Pig in a Poke

When you live in Britain, you must not horse around with comestibles from the Supermarkets.  You have to hold your horses before you pay for the pack of beefburgers you picked out in the freezer at Tesco, Aldi, Iceland and Lidl.  Complaints about food standards in the supermarkets have been going on for years but sometimes it's like flogging a dead horse  (it's actually gone into the beefburger, ha ha!).

Most of the time the food giants get away with it except this time, when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) tested and discovered horse DNA in the burger samples from the four retailers above.  Tesco's Everyday Value Beefburger, for example, contained 29% horsemeat.

What should go into the ingredients  of a 'Value" Beefburger?

From the Daily Mail 16 Jan.2013

What exactly is a 'Value' burger.  It's a pseudonym for cheap or economy burger - the kind of food that the poorer Proletariat can afford to buy.  While the standard ( or posh) burger must have 62% meat, the economy burger contains only  47% meat,  at the least.

What is meat as opposed to MRM (mechanically removed  meat ) and MSM (mechanically stripped meat)?
Meat is specified as "skeletal muscle with naturally included or adherent fat and connective tissue" and the latter two are meat that have been pressure blasted from the carcass.  MRM and MSM , when used in economy burgers have to be listed as  separate ingredients.

Or course only cheap and fatty meat make up the 47% meat in an economy burger and MRM and MSM  would be used as fillers. See the above image.

When we were growing up in the kampung, chicken and red meat were a luxury.  We were made to eat the chicken right down to the bone.  As for beef, after removing the meaty bits, mak would render down the bones and gristle into a kuah or soup - our Malay kampung version of low-tech MRM and MSM.  Nothing was wasted. It was not just because meat was expensive but  it was out of gratitude for the animal that fed us.  To give a meaty flavour to her dalcha mak would buy the cheaper scraggy bits at the market which she described as tetelan.  A quarter pound of meat sandwiched between two skimpy layers of bread was almost an abomination in my mother's eyes - one should not eat that much meat.  As  she would say,  "Jangan makan lauk sa'ja - mesti ada nasi".  

Where is the source of the horse meat or equine (a posher word) meat?   Horses are not bred for meat like cows.  They are mainly surplus or old horses, pets and race horses included, that are more economical to send to the abattoir than to be put down by a vet.  It was estimated that 8118 horses from Britain were exported to Europe in 2011 for their meat - mainly to France, Belgium and Italy.  By the way it's also used in pet food.

So what's the fuss all about?  According to the renowned French chef Raymond Blanc,   "horsemeat is lean and rich in iron, has a slight taste of game - is incredibly tender - and similar in colour to beef  (my emphasis)"

Fair enough, different cultures have their own versions of what is edible.  The British delicacy "hung pheasant" is a wild bird  (dead one of course) that is tied and propped on a hook with guts and feathers intact.  It is then left to hang for up to a week or more at 10 Celsius until the meat is 'high' and starts to decompose. This will make the the meat tender and improves the flavour.

The French enjoy  frog legs and foie gras or fatty liver where ducks and geese are force-fed three times a day with about 4 pounds of grain and fat so that the livers will be bloated to 10 times the normal size. Chinese partiality to cats and dogs of course is much reviled. So, why the kerfuffle over horse meat?

From the Daily Mail 16 Jan 2013

 The reason is this.  The above 'Value'  Burger claims to have 8 % more beef but nowhere does it include the 29 % horsemeat.  That is deceitful and unlawful.

As for the "pig in the poke" out of 31 other meat food products like cottage pie, beef curry pie and lasagne, 21 tested  positive for pig DNA.

After this exposure, over 10 million beefburgers were removed from the Supermarkets' shelves.  I wonder what happened to them - perhaps they've  been diverted to the underdeveloped world.  Or maybe they've been destroyed.  Either way, it's as immoral as the initial deceit.

Now perhaps I can offer something better than supermarket burgers for all the busy mums and dads in Malaysia.  My dear mak often used the word muai in her cooking.  She applied this mainly to rice.  She judged the value of  rice not by the price but by how muai it is - that is how far it can stretch. Her one tin (a condensed milk tin) of beras  (brand A) should cook  into more nasi than brand B.   Whenever she cooked mee goreng, our favourite lunch on a Sunday, she made sure we had rice with it  - again her concept of muai!

So here's my tested and tasty MUAI  MEATLOAF or SQUARE BURGERS

1 lb mince meat
1 lb cooked rice
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2  Tablespoon Worcester sauce or kicap
3 level Tablespoons  tomato ketchup
2 level teaspoons mustard or chili  powder
2 level teaspoons salt
1 onion sliced and fried slightly
4 teaspoons (or more) curry powder

A 2 lb loaf tin oiled and lined at the base 
Oven 180-190C

Method:  Put meat in a bowl and mix with the cooked rice using a fork or your kid's grubby fingers.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and then spoon into the loaf tin. Pat it down a little.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.

When the meatloaf is cool, cut  into slices.  It can be frozen for up to one month.  Before freezing interleave the slices with grease-proof paper.  It will make it easier and cheaper to re-heat.

This meatloaf is highly recommended by the spouse because it is not too meaty and it's economical or 'muai'!

And it comes straight from the horse's mouth.  When your horrible kids nag you for burgers from the supermarkets or other outlets, just say neigh if you want them to turn into stable characters.  ( I''m enjoying this horse play).

Thursday 17 January 2013

Creating a bolt - hole in Leicester

For  the last week I have been caught up in a major makeover project - to transfer paraphernalia from this back room .....

The  Back  Room

to the front room which is also the study/guest room.

The  Study/Guest Room

This involved sorting out nearly 500 books, re-packing boxes and cases of what the spouse teasingly considers as junk.  The computer table had to be given away together with over 250 embroidery, cross-stitch, patchwork and applique books sob, sob - so as to make way for a bed in the back room.

Back in Kuala Lumpur we were plagued by the infernal noise from Ikan Bakar Sekinchan.  Read

Here in Leicester ...

Leicester City Centre
....... in this row of Victorian terrace houses, we have the joy of having 'new' neighbours:  East Europeans on the left and East Asians on the right.  These houses which are over 100 years old were not built to cope with the cacophony from loud radio and TV and with neighbours who are not familiar with living terrace-style, almost cheek by jowl in urban centres.  In the first place, you do not shout  when you want to communicate with each other under the same roof.  When the adults shout, the children scream.  That comes from our East European neighbours.

Our East Asian neighbours on the other hand would be whooping and yelling with joy (at night) over their favourite TV programmes.  And as they work on the late shift, they would get home by near midnight to natter and clatter with their cooking.  On weekends it can get a bit more raucous - the after effects of happy boozing.

We have an additional problem on our street.  Our neighbours cannot speak English and so a civilized tete-a tete is out of the question.  We did manage a certain degree of success with our East Asian neighbours.  When we knocked on their door to explain our problem - the young man opened the door, glared at us saying,  "What, what you want?" After we gently asked for their co-operation, he muttered  "Okay, okay" and shut the door on our faces.  Albeit they did quieten down - but not enough!

As for our East European neighbours, we dare not approach them.  Three years ago, the tenants from Poland used our backyard as their ash-tray.  They pounded their Polish rap music as of eleven in the morning when they came home from the night shift and more wall- pounding music at night up to the early hours of morning during the weekends - and of course they were all plastered with vodka.

 As if to point two fingers at us for trying to get help from the police they smashed their unwanted TV  in front of our window and the tyres of our Corsa were punctured.  Fortunately, as we were just getting to the end of our tether it was time for us to return to Kuala Lumpur and when we got back they had gone.
 More have come and gone on both sides of our house since then.  The only decent ones were two men from Hungary a year or so ago.

Today Leicester is lauded for its "liberality"- and landed (like the rest of the country) with  a 'multi-cultural' population  as a result of immigration.  In the Census for 2011, Leicester's total population was 329,000.  The table below shows the ethnic composition of Leicester.

 The marker  +  indicates the growth of population from 2001 to 2011

Other Features of Leicester from the Census of 2011

1.  Just 45 %  are white British  (excluding the Other Whites from the EU/ Eastern Europe )
2.  28.3 % are Asian or British Asian Indians and 2 % are Asian or British Asian Pakistanis.
3.  65 % were born in England  (84 % nationally),  5 % were born in the EU  (4 % nationally), 10 % in Africa and 17 % in the Middle East and Asia.
4.  18 % of households have nobody speaking English as a main language (4 % nationally).
5.  In 70 % of households, every occupant speak English as a main language  (91 % nationally).
6.  32 % are Christians, 19 % Muslims, 15 % Hindus, 4 % Sikh, 0.4 % Buddhists, O.1 % Jewish and 23 % were of no religion.
7.  In addition, there are 31 Druids,  22 Heathens, 3 members of the Occult, 320 Pagans, 20 Satanists, 10 Scientologists, 62 Wiccans, 30 Heavy Metallists and 778 Jedi Knights.

Of course the "White British" are fearful of what's happening to the population composition, not only of Leicester but of the United Kingdom as well.  As I said to my spouse (and he agrees with me) - it's the chickens coming home to roost.  Britain did this to Malaya over a hundred years ago and now it's happening to them.

Well, today the bolt-hole is done - for Darby.  AsH has the other room.

The bantal peluk in the picture is a family heirloom.  It was made by my mother and has travelled from Pasir Panjang to Jalan Mas Kuning, Royal Road and Johor Baru.  Then it returned to Singapore (Boon Lay).  In 1995 this much-cuddled bolster migrated to Leicester and maybe one day I will take it to my other home in Kuala Lumpur.  This bolt-hole bears all the hall marks of an ancient person's den.  Second from left is a ceramic hot water bottle, followed by Kwan Loong Oil, Olbas Oil and Minyak Gamat.

Finally a few days ago, we were surrounded by this.....

and there's more to come this week - end!!!

The Heavy Metallists and the Jedi Knights of Leicester wish all who read this blog a happy weekend.  May the force be with you.

This song is especially for our dearest Lely.

Friday 4 January 2013

Viva Malaysia !

What a good start for 2013.  We have been accorded the status of  Best Value Country in today's Daily Mail in an article by Jill Reilly.  Other  'valued' countries include Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama and Mexico.

The rate of exchange is GBP1 = MYR4.88

Please note: Entertainment does not include alcohol.  This should keep away many  Brits and  Americans!

Anyway for more titillating information, read

But this news is old hat.  Singaporeans have savoured this boon for the last 30 years or more.  While wealthy  Indonesian Chinese R&I  (Retire and Invest) in Singapore, Singaporeans do the same  and happily tweet  'çheep, cheep'  in Johor Bahru and Johore and Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

The only difference is this:  the West - and I am speaking about Britain mainly - are finding that they cannot afford the expense of looking after their disproportionately  high percentage of over 65s  ( as in Singapore too) .  Putting up the old folks  in a retirement home costs the minimum of  about GBP500 per week.  This would have to come from the State, or the loving children will  have to forego their inheritance of  mater's and pater's property and investments.

There is however another dimension to the plight of old people in UK.  This was  highlighted in the retirement speech of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the House of Lords on 15 December, 2012.  He bemoaned "the contempt towards older people"and how this was "fostering verbal and physical abuse " of the older generation.

However, before estate agents  and other servicing agencies in Malaysia get too excited about the 'migration'  of  pensioners who seek a decent life on GBP612  ( MYR2986 ) a month - minus alcohol - I hope they are aware of  Jill Reilly's last paragraph in that write-up.

" But Malaysia's human rights record has come in for international criticism - internal security laws allow suspects to be detained without charge or trial."

Oh dear, oh dear how do we shake off this black mark?  These agents could proclaim -

" We can inform our potential clients of these redeeming factors: we have had no history of dictatorship and civil wars and natural calamities (as in Nicaragua),  we are not a transit point for smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants to the US (as in Panama) and we do not hold the record of having the "highest rates of kidnappings in the world" (as in Mexico).  All these countries, especially the first two - and Ecuador - live mostly in poverty.

In fact, Madam and Sir, we have quite a high standard of living here - but we do wonder how we can manage this and also enable foreigners to live cheaply in Malaysia.  Of all the countries in Southeast Asia, we wonder why Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand,  and the Philippines were not chosen.  And furthermore, dining out in this country excludes alcohol - which is certainly not a plus factor for westerners!

And as for our Human Rights record - we are not really that terrible but we do have a little old lady here who could enlighten and assure you that where human rights are concerned, it's not that much different from living in Great Britain." 

The old lady will refer mainly to information from Human Rights Watch although there are many details and instances of human rights abuses in Britain which are given short shrift in official records.

Secret  Court  Hearings.  The  British Parliament began debating the Justice and Security Bill on 18 December 2012.  "The Bill will widen the use of secret hearings (my emphasis) in the civil courts on national security grounds, excluding the person affected and his or her lawyer from the courtroom.  Such hearings would undermine a basic principle of justice: the ability to know and challenge the case against you.  Parts of the judgement in the cases would also be kept secret.

Stop and Search under Section 44,  the Terrorism Act 2000.  This was supposed to be a counter-terrorism policy.  But between 2007 and 2009 , despite the 450,000 stops and searches, not one was successfully brought to court.

It was quite a selective stop and search because Asians and blacks took the brunt and most of these searches were carried out in London in the areas of Muslim communities. It's hard to tell whether they were picking on Muslims specifically because religion is not recorded during these searches.

Intelligence Cooperation with Countries that Torture.  France, Germany and the United Kingdom have been using intelligence obtained under torture in their 'war on terrorism'.  This goes against the EU's anti-torture guidelines.  Such victims include Djamel Beghal tortured in the United Arab Emirates and the information derived was used to convict  him on charges of terrorism in a French court.

UK's Counter Terrorism Policy  Although the pre-charge detention order in terrorism cases was reduced to 14 days  in early 2012, the Government reserves the right to reinstate the 28 day detention order.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers .  UK rejected the recommendations.  "Changes in immigration rules have made it harder for foreign domestic workers to leave abusive situations without losing their immigration status.  Women claiming asylum on gender- related grounds are detained " and not given adequate time to prepare their claims and obtain medical evidence.

Death by Remote Control  The November 2012  HRW Report, "Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots " noted concern about the use of drones, for example , in killing civilians.  There are tons of material on this cowardly and brutal killing of civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This is Britain's contribution.

1.  The Taranis (below) , a United Kingdom combat aircraft, was unveiled in 2010 .  It was designed to attack targets "even in another continent".  By the way,  'Taranis' is  the Celtic God of Thunder to whom human sacrificial offerings were made.  (And  they mocked the Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy).  This is a robot- aircraft that murders without inflicting damage and pain to the man or woman who presses the button. It's described as an autonomous weapon, a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) enabling the perpetrators to execute without getting blood on their hands.

 The United States is undoubtedly the leader in this super killing machine business.  However other countries - "including China, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Russia and the United Kingdom .. are also involved."  We can look forward to full autonomy for weapons within 20-30 years and maybe even sooner.

It's regrettable that Human Rights Watch resorts to the same language of the countries that they are monitoring by describing these barbaric aircraft as "autonomous weapons ".  A 'hurrah' word which means self-governing and free to act independently has been hijacked to whitewash such savagery.

" Cough, cough ahem.  Little old lady (LOL) , ahem ... could you please stop here?  We think you're upsetting our clients."

Beautiful Guitar play in this video - one of my top favourites.