Colin, photographer and photography-technician extraordinaire was coming for dinner on the 22nd.
so on the 21st, I took Bus Number 22 into the city centre to do the shopping. The bus stopped at the Railway Station to pick up a tall, strapping young man, somewhere in his mid-thirties. He was carrying a big and heavy rucksack on his back. He also had a name-tag on a string draped around his neck.
To put it simply: he looked absolutely knackered - but he also wore a grim and dignified countenance. From his build he could have been a policeman, a sports coach or even a British Airways pilot - of someone holding a job that required authority and responsibility.
As the bus approached the City Centre, a comfortably-dressed, middle-aged English lady proceeded to the front of the bus where the young man was sitting, as she was about to get off the bus.
As she went past, she gave him a nice smile and said "Merry Christmas"
With a wan, worn smile, he replied, "Merry Christmas to you."
This was the rest of the conversation. (W=English woman; M=English man.) W Are you looking forward to Christmas? M Well ..... it's okay, I think ...... W It's a happy time, isn't it - sharing with family and friends.....? (and she went on and on) M (He began to look fed-up as it was obvious he was not prepared to natter on about the joy of Christmas) To hell with fucking Christmas. All for one man's birthday. What has he done for the world? W (gasping with shock) Oh .. oh ... M I'm sorry, please, I apologise.
The bus stopped and as the woman got down, he wished her, "You have a happy Christmas, love." He was a Big Issue vendor. The Big Issue is a weekly current affairs and entertainment magazine - put out specially to help the homeless......And his rucksack was heavily laden with copies he was hoping to sell - and this he will do without a kiosk or a covered stand. If it rains or snows, he will stand in the biting cold, for the sake of a tiny income.
Figure 2 - A homeless man sleeping outside a big department store House of Fraser
Figure 4 -The East London Mosque contributing to helping the homeless in London.
We Malay-Muslims in Malaysia, have a lot to learn from the Ummah at the East London Mosque.
Eid in Gaza 2014 (see reference to the above image)
And there are also the Syrians, Yemenis, Iraqis, Libyans and Rohingyas to remember in their dark days.
Are the Muslims' pockets so shallow and our hearts so grudging? Finally, an anecdote from my childhood to close this post about Christmas.
Makcik Ayik was my mother's best friend (during the 1940s to 1960s) from their days of being neighbours at Kampung Chantek, Dunearn Road, Singapore,
Makcik Ayik and Pakcik Mat (late 1950s)
When I was about 10 years of age my mother would 'park' me at Makcik's during the school holidays. As Makcik had no children, my mother thought I would be good company for the dear lady. Also it got me 'out of her hair' and gave her some peace with her other three brattages.
I quite enjoyed being the only child at her kampung house at Batu 10, Bukit Panjang. I remembered walking along a rickety wooden bridge across a river to get to the kampung from Bukit Panjang. Road.
That was over 60 years ago. Today Batu 10 has been gentrified and un-Malaydified to TEN MILE JUNCTION.
BATU 10 aka Ten Mile Junction
Just over 60 years ago, on the 25th day of December, I was chatting to Makcik Ayik and I said,
Makcik, hari 'ni hari Krismas. (Auntie, today is Christmas Day)
She replied, with a quizzical look on her face.
Krismas 'tu apa 'nak?? (Child, what is Christmas?)
Looking back, I reckon my mum's good friend must be thinking what a weird Malay child I am - must be because of all that schooling!! Christmas ??!?!! Indeed, we have come a long, long way from those dark days of ignorance!!!!
However, we're no better or kinder than Makcik Ayik's generation.
May next year's winter be happier and more peaceful than that of 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 etc etc.
I promised myself I would undertake more postings in this blog of mine when I'm back in cooler climes in Leicester, when the septuagenarian-brain is not getting pickled in the heat of my tanah air.
I did quite fine in November. But December has been taken up with cooking dinners for dear friends that we have not seen for 8 months - people like Ann and Dot, Jack, Colin and Doug. The aroma of chicken cooked in spicy-serai sauce, tomato-apricot chutney, all sorts of spuds dishes (spicy, sauteed, boiled, mashed, roasted etc), curry mutton and chicken, grilled lamb chops and a vegetarian methi cake, filled the house for the past few weeks. As for desserts - the spouse had his fill of Eve's Pudding, apple crumble, lemon layer pudding, Bramleys topped with custard sauce and the creme de la creme - a dessert he would cry for - bread and butter pudding!! But I must also record the great evening we had at a pub, the Rose and Crown at Thurnby, with our mates from our favourite charity shop, Animal Rescue. Iain and I learned that we could get just as heady (but not quite pickled) on plain Tonic Water (sans the Gin) !!!! Of course a game of Skittles was on the menu and I have to report that AsH did win a prize - the wooden spoon. I will never live this down for the rest of my days.
But one cannot avoid the antics of politics and politicians in Malaysia even in this little corner of England. Why do I scare myself with reading Malaysia's online papers? Sandiwara Malaysia goes on and on, with the same actors and actresses - roaring the same nefarious and hypocritical lines, this time with their eyes on the next General Election.
Indeed we are spoiled for choice. It's like being in a sweet shop where the bottles are filled with multi-coloured sweeties but they all taste the same -leaving a nasty, bitter after-taste in the mouth. But to be fair to Malaysia the effect is the same in USA or Britain. Maybe not so in Singapore where the political sweet shop has fewer flavours.
Still, I have been dipping my toes (freezing at times) into an interesting pursuit - dabbling in the art and artifices of Photoscape. People may pooh pooh at my venture, but try to do something new and hi-tech(?) when you get to 72!
It's like making a Patchwork Project. I sewed two lovely (so I believe) patchwork bedspreads, made up of Liberty of London fabric samplers, for Shah on his 21st birthday and Maria on her wedding day.
But this is still the most beautiful patchwork for me - made by my dear mum to take with me to my new home in England.
Every time I reminded my brother Mus about how he intends to celebrate his 7th decade he would reply - with a cheeky glint in his eye - I'm 69, you have to wait till December.
Okay - it's just two more days to your big decade and I am throwing the book at you!
1. Here's the birthday boy in the second decade of the 21st century. ...
2. It all began in in the first half of the 20th century ( 1946, to be precise) at Pasir Panjang Hill Singapore.
Where on earth did Abah get that beret?
Now that beret is replicated in this ..
3. How did he manage the strength to carry all that paraphernalia in his 60s?
His training began at a very early age - hugging a broom.
Linus (from Charlie Brown) had his security blanket but Mus was more innovative. All he needed was a yellow T-shirt but that was not the fashion in the late 1940s!
4. During his early years he had a dream of being a great hunter.
On an elephant at Haw Par Villa with Donald (Trump?) Duck behind the wired fence as his first capture. Little brother Akim was appointed as his lookout man.
But it was not to be. All little hunters have to go to school, get a solid education, hang on to a steady job,
..... find a nice girl and get married..
.... and start a family.
His three joys.
5. But he has always been a rebel and cocked many a snoot at the tyranny of authority in any shape or form. Ask him about his exploits at Pulau Merlimau Primary School.
This family trait of sticking up for justice and dignity, and getting punished as a result, had its antecedents when he was just knee high to a grasshopper.
Yah! Boo! Sucks!
6. But don't ask me what this picture is supposed to prophesy.
Heaven knows what he's biting on
Maybe it has to do with helping his grandson to deal with a drink.
But there's a degree of similarity in their facial expression when dealing with beverages.
Where's the teh tarik??
7. I do not know how he manages to keep looking young for a septuagenarian - still has lots of thatch on his head, still walks with a strong, steady stride, still curses and swears at stupid drivers in Malay, English, Hokkien, Cantonese, Punjabi, Tamil and even in French and German!
Fabian and Frankie Avalon rolled into one.
Ahem! Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. I choose this theme song to celebrate his teen years and his dynamite youth.
8. I understand he's spending his birthday at Sepang with his son. His (and Shah's) passion for cars are in his genes, from our Abah. In his life, Abah had about 6-7 cars, not at the same time.
The Sunbeam Talbot - our first family car.
The Armstrong Siddeley - a much loved family car which kept us going for years. Mus and Mother are on the far right.
But this Lambretta is his good friend. If only that scooter could talk .....
Many happy returns, Mus .
He wrote this in our sister's Autograph book when he was just eight.
We won't burn our lips but we'll always love and remember you.
Got back to our Leicester abode a week ago and landed smack-dab in the middle of the countdown of the election for the 45th President of the United States. So we stayed up (also because of jet lag) for the nail biting results and was quite pleased that the uneducated "basket of deplorables" (Clinton's description of Trump supporters) gave the self-righteous hypocrites and educated liberals of Clinton's ilk a good kick of reality.
Above all, it is so satisfying to see how the election has exposed all the bigotry and extremism around issues of race, religion (Islam in this case), and immigration in this font of the Free World.
I applaud the victory, because now those non-white, non-Christian, non-liberal nations who have been accused of various malfeasances can heave a sigh of relief to know that they are not the only 'basket of deplorables' on this earth. My word! "Deplorables" also exist in the Free World and they are claiming and winning their ground. And true to form (just like the well tutored 'liberals' in the non-western countries) the Clintonistas (and Brexit Remainders) are very sore losers: they take to the streets to denounce the results, and they claim the electoral system which is enshrined in their Constitution is flawed and needed to be revamped. Does that sound familiar? Are we witnessing an American Spring? , a Squeaky Clean Demonstration?
It's just another scenario of saucy geese and ganders -"What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander")
On getting back to Leicester I snapped this photo when I was on my way to the Co-op.
The image indicates a parking lot for the disabled owners of the car. But it's so tempting to put another interpretation. Is it the car/driver that is disabled or the potholes, that symbolize the damaged and unrepaired surrounds of where the car is parked. Or maybe both! I suppose we could apply the same obfuscation to hurrah-words like 'democracy', 'freedom' and 'equality'.
To me it's so symbolic of the state of the richest countries in the world. The election of Trump as the president of the most powerful country on this planet should teach Malaysians several lessons.
1. Debunk the myth that western liberal democracies - their lifestyle, and their culture - are worthy of imitation, to be transplanted into all nations. Western democracies have shown again and again that they will not spare the rod to turn other economies and culture to get tied up to their apron strings. Note most recently the fate of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria!
If they are capable of setting the dogs of globalisation and neoliberalism on their own working class (whites) and their poor, why should they lose sleep over the emaciated economies and societies of the rest of the non-white, non-Judaeo-Christian world?
George Monbiot has this to say about American democracy in general and Trump specifically.
...... the US ...... now suffers the worst of both worlds: a large electorate dominated by a tiny faction. Instead of republics being governed, as Madison (America's fourth president) feared, by "the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority", they are now beholden to the not-so-secret wishes of an unjust and interested minority. What Madison could not have foreseen was the extent to which unconstrained campaign finance and a sophisticated lobbying industry would come to dominate an entire nation, regardless of its size. For every representative, Republican or Democrat, who retains a trace element of independence, there are three sitting in the breast pocket of corporate capital. Since the supreme court decided that there should be no effective limits on campaign finance, and, to a lesser extent, long before, candidates have been reduced to tongue-tied automata, incapable of responding to those in need of help, incapable of regulating those in need of restraint, for fear of upsetting their funders.
Read more in https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/26/donald-trump-outsider-system-elections
(Wannabe political fashionistas in Malaysia should beware of dipping their hands into donations boxes from abroad - they could turn into the 'tongue-tied automata ' of the American empire .... or is that what they actually desire?)
2. For many reasons, Trump has been demonised as a monster, succumbing to the lowest common denominator of all that American (and Western) civilisation holds dear. Trump, in the liberal perception, is a racist, a misogynist, a demagogue and an islamophobe.
But Donald J Trump did not invent Islamophobia, and neither is he its only purveyor and practitioner. In denouncing Trump's Islamophobic klaxon-call, 'educated' Muslims are losing the context of the theory and practice of Islamophobia.
Whether the ruling elites are Republicans or Democrats, antipathy to Islam - and by association, the Palestinians and Gazans - holds them together.
Ash has, in the past, wrote several postings on this issue and here are several extracts to support my conviction. As I said earlier, anti-Islam sentiments did not begin with Trump or in the United States.
In the beginning - from the pre-Christian era : Arabs = Islam. Therefore Islam lies and deceives.
From Roget's Thesaurus :
From some time ago ......
From not too long ago ......
3. Trump's Wall.
Two thousand years ago, Emperor Shih Huangti constructed The Great Wall of China to protect the people and territory of China from invasions.
In 122 AD Hadrian's Wall was constructed to keep out the native (and barbaric) Picts and Scots from invading the Roman province of Britannia.
The Israeli Apartheid Wall is different from all other Walls. The Israeli Wall is a prison corralling people in the West Bank in the world's largest prison.
We don't hear any bleatings of anger and protests from the Republicans or Democrats or from the global Human Rights Industry over this wall.
So,what's so special about the wall to be built by the United States 45th President? As he also intends to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he might as well pick up tips for his Wall from Israel. But just make sure it's cost- effective. Don't employ labour from Israel or the US - get the Mexicans to do it quick and cheap.
So Trump intends to expel 2-3 million illegals from Mexico. In this case he is simply continuing President Obama's legacy.
4. Tags for Trump and Gender : Women, misogyny, glass ceilings, Muslim women.
Nafs nafs. I shan't assault my readers with more renditions of the same song. But here's my favourite. A cartoon is worth a thousand articles.
This is taken from a brilliant book , The True and Barbaric History of the Benighted States of America by Jim Hughes - Quartet Books Limited, 1973. Great Britain. I bought it from a car boot sale at Saddington, Leicester sometime in the early 1990s.
Liberation theology for Hawaiian and all women.
Liberation is available not only to Hawaiian women but to all who seeketh the golden chalice of choice.
My grave oversight - I forgot to record the source of this image. All I can recall is, it came from a serious article on the internet.
Finally, we (have to) look forward to the reign of the 45th President of the United States. The so-so 44th will move to greener pastures.
Long live Mr. President Donald J Trump - " the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the Militia of the several States when called into the actual service of the United States."
Hold on. I hear a little voice. Words referring to a sacred text that you know so well.
Please Mr President, could you find a way to correct a historical calumny - against the First People of this nation. If you can make laws to protect the dignity and human rights of Semites (of Judaic origin) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transexual citizens, perhaps you could erase the reference to us as "the merciless Indian savages whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."
From the American Declaration of Independence - indicting the king of England for trampling Americans' rights and liberties.
When you can grant us this dignity, we can truly and heartily roar your clarion call 'Glory Hallelujah' and Make America Great!