Saturday 19 November 2022

Semangat 44 and a Grumpy Old Woman

For the record, I am a member of that transitional generation that could sing God Save The King/Queen, Majulah Singapura and Negara Ku with gusto and pleasure and several dashes of pride.

In 1951 I was seven years old and at Pasir Panjang English School in Singapore.    Here we were taught God Save The King (King George VI) - which, in 1953, became God Save The Queen (Queen Elizabeth II).    In 1959, when I was 15, Singapore attained self-government and Majulah Singapura took the place of the British anthem.   Came September 1963, Singapore merged with Malaysia and I added Negara Ku to my repertoire.   Then it was back to Majulah Singapura on 9 August 1965 when Singapore was expelled and became an independent Republic.

But Negara Ku was never an unfamiliar, foreign anthem in our family or in many other Malay families in Singapore.  The family of Abdul Hamid bin Jala/Jaleh never saw themselves as being Malay as defined by shifting politics - sometime Malayan, sometime Singaporean, sometime Malaysian!   No.  We were Malays defined by much more than that - by a shared history, a shared tradition and  culture, and a shared religion.  We were simply Malays, from an island and a peninsula in the one Malay world.    BUT THAT WAS THEN!

It is hard to wean myself away from all those past anthems in my head and my psyche.  In 1974 (when I was 30), my two native English companions had to pull me out of the cinema because God Save The Queen was playing at the end of the movie and I had automatically stood up to attention.  Everybody else in the theatre were scrambling out!!  How do you delete a song which which has been embedded into your head from the tender age of 7/8 years old!

In 2009, when I finally became a Rakyat Malaysia, as my Abah had wanted me to do since 1968, Negara Ku was not alien to me at all - it is like what my dear Emak would describe as familiar as "air mandi".  But when I hear Majulah Singapura, I respond to it with a respectful nostalgia - as a Malay from Singapore.  " Tempat jatuh lagi di kenang.  Ini kan lagi tempat bermain".

That is a long preamble to my posting today - Malaysia's 15th General Election.  I did my duty for GE 14.  It is a duty that I regard with great seriousness.  But I had to weigh my responsibility as a rakyat with my need to look after the health of 78-year-old AsH and her octogenarian spouse.  Four months ago both of us had a bad dose of Covid, and the ramifications of that on our health and well-being and our work were horrendous.  I looked to the spouse, to a good friend on our street, Fadzil and to Zaini a comrade-of-like-mind to help me to a decision.  So, I shall carry on with this posting knowing that I will be risk-free,  InsyaAllah, to carry on with our "vocation".

This morning, on our way to breakfast I took a few photographic souvenirs of GE 15.  I should have been snapping the election banners before today when they were all glowing and blowing in all their splendour on those bright sunny days.   There was an obvious coincidence of a predominance of blues -  UMNO/Barisan and Perikatan Nasional banners in less well-off areas and in Malay areas.   I noted more reds in the more upmarket residences.   A caveat though - this is only what I notice in and around where I live.

What would my father (1910-1974) have thought of this and all other elections and the plight of his Tanah Air today?

Abah and all his friends had such hopes for their Tanah Air .   I saw my father's tears when, on 31 August 1957,  we were all listening on the radio to Tunku Abdul Rahman calling out "Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!"    It was the declaration of independence for Persekutuan Tanah Melayu.  

Jual sayor jual keladi

Dedala api chambah di-batang

Biar-lah hanchor biar lah mati.

Ta'mahu lagi di-jajah orang.

"Why are you crying?"  I  asked my father.  "I am happy for my country but I also fear for her future."

Baju baharu kain bertekat.

Baju belah pakai kerosang;

Bersatu padu kuat sa-ikat'

Kalau berpechah di-makan orang.

Tanah merah tanah-nya liat'

Buat menimbun tambak negeri;

Antara pemerentah dengan ra'ayat,

Kebajikan umum hendak di-chari.

Looking at his Tanah Air today, Abah would once again be in tears - but now holding down his head in his hands in despair.

I have observed the political shenanigans going on in this nation for the past 13 years.  I reckoned our "Malay-led backdoor government" did a remarkable job in pulling us out of the pandemic.  We may not have been the best in the world, but we do have something to be proud of in the leadership and all the personnel that worked tirelessly for the country's salvation.  For these personnel there were no rewards of titles, high dividends, generous bonus and profits for their hard work and sacrifice - only their sense of duty to their Tanah Air.

And yet, looking at the brouhaha and the innuendoes and the sleights-of-hand during this 2022 political campaigning, it is certain we have learned nothing at all after the pandemic.

Buluh betung puchok-nya rapoh,

Kuching puteh tangkap tekukur;

Sa-puloh pun jong masok berlaboh,

Anjing maseh berchawat ekor.

Every five years, we put up our democracy for show.  We still believe in our rights and responsibilities as a rakyat of our Tanah Air.  We have to keep on believing, even though :

Turun ka-sawah memakai tudong,

Padi di-huma layu lengkesa;

Sa-ekor sawa, sa-ekor tedong,

Bersama2 mengadu bisa.

NB.  The photograph above was taken in 1952/1953.   All the pantun were taken from Kalong Bunga Buku 1, DBP 1964 - hence the old spelling.

Abah, I have not left my country.  I fear our country has left me.


Wednesday 9 November 2022

si Hamid or AnaksiHamid ?


The above comment came into my blog a week or so ago.  I shall oblige as much as I can.

As for the the "state of the UK government", I think I have nowt to add.  The UK's media, electronic and print, will be a better source than me.  I only know the cost of heating this winter will go through the roof.    But then, everything's gone up, hasn't it?

A dear Leicester friend signed off his recent email to us with  "kujdesuni" and the spouse replied "faleminderit".  Why?   With 40,000 Albanians arriving as refugees(?),  illegal immigrants(?), asylum seekers (?) in Britain this year from across the Channel in their dinghies, the Brits will have to start looking for Albanian-speaking interpreters.  Unlike the case of minorities in Malaya, they will not be provided Albanian-language  schools.  But certainly words like "take care" and "thank you"  (translation of the words above) will have to be part of the repertoire in schools, hospitals, job centres, social service providers etc. etc. in UK in the very near future.


Economically, Malaysia is perhaps faring better, despite the constant whingeing of the moaners and doom-mongers.    And we always have them, don't we?

With regards to Rishi Sunak (Rashi Sanuk/Sunuk, according to Joe Biden), well, he's brought a lot of joy and pride to the hearts of India's PM Modi and many of its people.  Even Indians in Malaysia (and  local "other" liberals) are toying with the sentiment, "why can't we achieve the same, here in Malaysia?"

May I recommend this article by Pankaj Mishra in the Guardian?

and by Mihir Bose 

Just for a little quirky peek at the nature of democracy in UK  (Malaysia, USA or anywhere else where "Democracy Rules OK")  this image below symbolises the great reality of democracy.

Okay, Zelda Supreme, that should answer your queries.    

Now to the nub of today's posting.

Years ago - as soon as I started blogging - Rockybru,  a former student of mine, coined the acronym AsH from my moniker "anaksihamid".  Since then,  commentators and readers of my Blog, and even friends, have referred to me as simply AsH.  At times - and I feel quite chuffed - I am 'Kakak' or Auntie.    Especially touching is when one of my readers, a professor, calls me "Cikgu".  All we have in common is Leicester, my place of abode and where she spent some time as a post-grad student - and I never had the pride or pleasure of being her teacher!     My former students from Singapore, including Rockybru, know me as "Miss Hamid."  It should be Miss Maznoor, but then that's Singapore.

Hamid, of course, is my father's name, and AnaksiHamid means the "Child of Hamid". 

Now Zelda Supreme addresses me with " Hi Si hamid " - the first time ever that moniker has been used.    Well....perhaps I should clarify a couple of issues to some of my non-Malay readers and perhaps some Malays who have lost touch with the nomenclature of their mother tongue.   

Firstly, this comment addressed to  "Si hamid" will certainly get nowhere, because it is directed to my beloved late father! 

Secondly, I think this will be an opportunity to narrate the reasons for my choice of this name for my Blog.

(A caveat:  This is not AsH making a mountain out of a molehill.  Most of my readers  for the last 6-7 years - just over 90%  -  are not from Malaysia..  So, for them, I hope the following might shed a little light on Malay names and titles in the Semenanjung.  Of course, a few Malaysians, too, might benefit!)

Why AnaksiHamid?

Why did I choose the name AnaksiHamid?  After all, 'Grumpy old Woman' (GOW), or 'Wicked Witch  of the East' (WWE) suits me to a T.  But I am the daughter of my mother Kamisah and Abdul Hamid my father.  My father has always been the example that I try to live up to and who imparted to me  the fortitude and the guts to be what I am today, what I have made of myself yesterday and what I might be tomorrow, InsyaAllah. 

However, in Malay culture 'si' is not a nice or kind word.  It can be very dismissive of the the person referred to - it's almost a form of denigration and a term often used by a superior to an inferior.  Basically, it means "that so and so", someone of little or no significance.  At its best, it might bring an air of familiarity and perhaps a teeny-weeny bit of affection.  But that is stretching its usage too far.

The impact of the word 'si' can be illustrated from a little story of two visits to my paternal grandfather's house at Sungai Buloh.  That first was in the late 1950s, maybe 1958.  We were in our teens when Abah (father) took us to Paya Jaras, Sungai Buloh to visit his late father's house.  It was a huge, sturdy kampung house, on such high stilts that our family car could be easily parked under the house.  We had a great time playing under the house and roaming about the sawah and the coconut holdings with our cousins.  And I remember a kitchen which had a unique built-in waist-level rack for drying plates and other kitchen utensils.  It was constructed in such a way that the run-off  water would trickle onto the ground outside.  I wished we'd had something like that in our Pasir Panjang (Singapore) kampung house - leaving no messy drips on the kitchen floor. 

But I recall something else very vividly.  In a group photograph on the wall of my Abah's father's house, I pointed to a man who looked very familiar to me. I asked, "Abah, is that you?  He replied, "No, that's your grandfather".  I gasped and said nothing.

We also met Macik S (Auntie S) and her family who were living in the house.  They were not well-off and her husband, if I recall correctly, had no waged full-time job.  They led a self-sufficient hand-to-mouth existence - a common condition of the Malays in the kampungs in the Semenanjung during the 1950s and even later in the 60s and perhaps to the seventies. Their condition was very unlike the sojourners in the urban areas who had the benefits of education, housing and health facilities, as well as opportunities for a stable, salaried employment.  All we knew about Macik S was this ; she was adopted as a child from a Chinese family by my grandfather.  Being his 'sister', she called my Abah 'Abang Hamid', a respected and affectionate term.

On our way back to Kuala Lumpur, Abah made a stopover at our grandfather's grave.  The graveyard, unlike our graveyards today, was overgrown and uncared for.  It was here that Abah instructed all four of his children not to make any claim on his father's house, land, padi and coconut fields; although he had also apportioned part of the land for "Tanah Wakaf" (land donated for religious use - for cemeteries, building of mosques, etc).

The second visit was made by my sister and her husband in the early 1990s, about 30 years later.  When the two of them retired from teaching, they decided to use the time available to re-connect with long-lost friends and relatives - to foster the spirit of tali siratul-rahim (bond of good-will). They managed, after a lot of queries and searching to locate the site of our grandfather's house.  

But the kampung house was no more.  It was now a typical rumah batu (brick house) with fencing around it.  Maznah and Haron stood at the gate  and called out Salaam Alaikum.  No response.  They called again because they could see there was someone in the house.  Another Salaam Alaikum  and finally an elderly lady came out, reluctantly, to the gate.  

My sister introduced herself  and asked "Boleh saya tumpang tanya?  Ini rumah Puan S?  Saya anak Abdul Hamid dan ingin berjumpa dengan adik angkat Abah saya, Macik S..(May I make a little query? Is this the house of Puan S?  I am Abdul Hamid's daughter and would like to meet my father's adopted sister, Macik S)."

Her brittle reply was " Kan si Hamid dah mati!  (Isn't that Hamid dead?)" 

It was now 'si Hamid' and not 'Abang Hamid'.

What did she fear to make her so contemptuous and  hostile?  We were not interested in the property and the land although we did wonder what happened to the land that Abah had set aside for Tanah Wakaf.  Today Sungai Buloh, a thriving adjunct of Kuala Lumpur, has become prime land.

So that's the story behind the name of my Blog; of why I chose AnaksiHamid.  This title is to reinstate the pedigree of a man who shunned his inheritance and decided to work, to struggle and to make his own way in life, for himself and his family.

His legacy to his two sons and two daughters was simple : "I cannot leave you land, money and property when I go.  I can only provide you with the best education you can get.  It will be completely yours and no one can take that away from you."

And Maznah, Maznoor, Mustapha and arwah Mustakim (in the baby buggy) are very fortunate and proud to be the children of  si hamid.

Kamisah and Hamid's Four - 691 Pasir Panjang Road 1949.

Finally,  to Zelda Supreme and others who may mis-name AsH, for whatever reasons;  I hope this little tale would serve as a reminder to be accurate.  


I reckon President's Biden's comrades and most American citizens must have been quite embarrased when he congratulated the PM of UK and mispronounced the name of the  PM as Rashi Sanuk/Sunuk!

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Bukit Dinding and all our Highland

When I was in Primary Six at Pasir Panjang English School, Singapore in 1957, we had to be able to fill in a sketch map of Malaya with various geographical details as required by the school syllabus.

Note the location of the resource-rich States of Perak, Selangor and Negri Sembilan, all "acquired" by the 1874 Pangkor Treaty.  The marginal and poorer States of Perlis and the East Coast only had rice and coconuts - which offered little scope for profitable enterprise.

This morning, on our way home from breakfast, I made the spouse stop the car to let me snap a few more pictures of my much-loved Banjaran Titiwangsa.   In my 1957 map, Banjaran Titiwangsa was known as merely the Main Range! What a put-down name for the backbone of the Malay Peninsula.

Banjaran Titiwangsa as seen on the road from Sri Rampai to Setiawangsa.  

Banjaran Titiwangsa, if you can appreciate it behind the clutter of development.

Banjaran Titiwangsa and her magnificient limestone outcrops, again overshadowed by the ugly pinnacles of development and greed.

I shall savour such views of my mountain-backbone - but I fear that in 30 or 50 years' time or even sooner, "some rich men (will) come and rape" (2.42 in the video) those mountains.  

From the age of 13 (Primary School), through my Senior Cambridge, Higher School Certificate and my degree at Singapore University, geography (and maps especially) has always been my favourite subject, yet nowhere was I made aware of how tin mining and the clearance of forests for rubber had ravaged the environment of the Semenanjung in the pursuit of profit and "progress". In the time of my youth, I suppose few people thought about challenging and criticising the desecration of the landscape in the non-western parts of the British Empire by the Brits and their compradores.  

However, in one of my spouse's old books - "Illustrated Guide to the Federated Malay States" (1923) edited by Cuthbert Woodville and illustrated by Mrs H.C. Barnard - I noticed a reference, bland though it may be , to what happens to a valley as a consequence of tin mining:

A river valley dug, flooded, scraped and scoured for tin as noted in 1923.

When I got home, I decided to check "The Last Resort", one of my favourite songs by the  Eagles.  It encapsulates so much of what has, is, and will happen to the beautiful landscape of our Tanah Air.

The rape of the land of the First People (The "Red Indians" ) in USA was based on the ideology of the Manifest Destiny (referred to as "destiny" in the above song).  "We satisfy our endless needs, justify our bloody deeds. In the name of destiny, in the name of God" (5.11).

 As for Malaya, the violation of the Semenanjung's landscape was engineered by British Imperialism and powered by imported labour, merchants, traders and administrators from China and India especially after the Pangkor treaty. 

Here is a sample of the instigation and drive to develop(?) and exploit (?) the resources of the Semenanjung

The Manifest of the Semenanjung's Destiny.


I was quite taken by this Youtube comment on the Eagles' song:

" .... a simple fact that no white man (me included) could ever love this land as much as any Native American, they fought for over 400 years to keep their home and we just kept pushing and pushing them......" by Robert Flor.

On the matter of love and respect for their land, can the bumiputra Malay-Muslim be compared to the Native American?  Unfortunately not, I fear, despite Islam's teaching that we Muslims are supposed to be the Stewards of Creation :

"Cannot misuse all these natural resources beyond their immediate needs"

When we, in our arrogance decide to place our abode in locations that threaten and abuse nature .....

....... then we and others in the vicinity have to pay a price. 

We desire (and developers are always happy to feed that wish and vanity) that our abodes be built on high land or high slopes so that we can get a much-envied exclusive view and establish that we have achieved high stature in our life style.

We desire such elevated locations because it will promise us high returns on investment.

We also desire such lofty positions because it ensures good feng shui.

So when I noted several banners appearing in Setiawangsa .....

......  I decided to look up the background of Bukit Dinding.

This map taken from the website Mapcarta shows the position of Bukit Dinding between Setiawangsa in the southeast to Wangsa Maju in the north.  Bukit Dinding is 291 meters high, which is just a little short of a few metres to be classified as a mountain. A mountain has to be 1000 feet high (304.8 meters).  It is a very popular spot for hikers  and cyclists.

For the past six to seven years, we have seen a growing number of youngsters, both male and female ( almost 100% Malays) gathering on weekends and public holidays to hike along the path that goes up Bukit Dinding. Good for them, we said.  Sometimes we can see almost 100 cars sitting along the road, as well as motor bikes and bicycles - all, as a rule, conscientiously parked.  It is a sight worth remembering.  So the preservation and protection of Bukit Dinding means a lot - not only to the residents at the bottom of the hill - but to these youngters enjoying a good healthy exercise instead of parking themelves in front of the TV or wandering around shopping malls. 

I was quite curious about that route up the slope. So four days ago on a weekday afternoon when there wouldn't be any walkers this late-septuagenarian decided to give it a look. 

Oh, how I wish I could turn the clock back to 53 years ago when at 25, with a group of NCC Officers, we drove from Singapore to climb Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir), on the border of Melaka and Johor.  Gunung Ledang is 1276 meters high.  On the afternoon of the next day we got down to the base of the mountain and drove back to Singapore.  The climb and the view at the top was awesome.  It was worth every painful joint and muscle ache in the body.

Before I left for that trip, my Abah gave me this petua (advice).  Do not pluck or break any leaf or twig or branch or flower on your climb up Gunung Ledang.  Secondly, do not look back or anwer when you hear someone calling your name from behind you.  Aaah, father knows best.

Oh Malaysia, you do not know how lucky you are to have all this natural beauty - to have all these hills, mountains, and forests, all these wonderful coastlines and rivers, to savour and appreciate.  But I fear there won't be much of a legacy to leave behind for future generations if the present one does not make a greater effort to preserve what is left - places like Bukit Dinding and many others that are about to be turned to  "Places where the pretty people play - hungry for power", see 2.30 in the video.

Remember this by arwah Usman Awang?

Bukit Dinding and all the surrounding areas were once - before the British came - a tropical rain forest.  They were then sold or bestowed for planting thousands and thousands of acres of rubber.  Then urbanization created new owners, and now these owners are allocating these prime areas for huge new housing developments. 

This view of Bukit Dinding will be obliterated in a couple of decades or maybe earlier. Image taken from Malay Mail 9 Oct 2022.

This fate of Bukit Dinding as envisaged by the developer Nova Pesona.

Nova Pesona  according to ctos .....

....... and Nova Pesona is a subsidiary of  .....

..... IGB (Ipoh Garden Berhad).  A corporate profile of IGB Berhad writes : it is "primarily a property company engaged in all aspects of the property industry.  Its core business is in retail, commercial, residential, construction, and hospitality.  The company also has investments in water treatment, information technology and data analytics and education.

IGB Berhad is one of the largest listed property companies in Malaysia with footprints across Asia, Australia, the United States of America and United Kingdom,"

As for Nova Pesona, according to the Malay Mail ( 9 Oct 2022)

From the Malay Mail , 9 Oct 2022. According to the Kuala Lumpur City Plan, large parts of Bukit Dinding have been designated for "housing" as early as 1983. Only the peak of the hill has been designated as a no-development zone.  Nova Pesona .......... owns the largest parcel out of the five parcels carved out and zoned for "housing" there.  All are owned by private developers.

I find it quite mind-boggling how such hills and mountains (let alone lowlands) can be owned by "private developers".  It is like accepting that large parcels of The Great Wall of China or the Cheviot Hills or Yorkshire Moors can now belong to private developers!

But, there's no way that the Chinese and the Brits will allow themselves to be caught or manoeuvred into the same situation as the Semenanjung Malays faced all those years ago.

Hopefully, the campaign for Saving Bukit Dinding will not be regarded as just another Nimby (Not in my Backyard) attempt to preserve the sanctity of their homes at the foothills of Bukit Dinding - although these are certainly under constant threat of soil erosion where they are and any more pressure of "development" by property developers will exacerbate their situation.  These residents are confronting a very powerful property corporation and hopefully DBKL will take a strong stand in choosing stability (for the hills and the homes ) over profit.  

This campaign should be an eye opener, for Malays especially,  that no more of  the Tanah Pusaka - the hills, forests, mountains, sea-shores - shall be "pledged, hocked, pawned, peddled, marketed, mortgaged and auctioned ....... to the highest bidder and their middle men and agents - though all too often we still get shortchanged" (as AsH has said before!)

Despite Merdeka, despite increasing wealth, despite the investment in religious and secular education, Malays have succumbed to corruption, cronyism and nepotism and now as we can see at every election and proceedings in Parliament, they are scratching out each other's eyes for bigger and bigger slices of the  booty in the name of the Rakyat and democracy.

Here's an illuminating blast from the past.

I recall this quote from Punch, 1878. 

I am not hungry, but thank goodness, I am greedy.

For all the residents of Setiawangsa and Wangsa Maju, keep the flag flying.

Friday 2 September 2022

Two knights in shining armour.


A few days ago someone asked why AsH has been silent.  Thank you for asking!  

Well, AsH is still alive but not kicking.   For the past 7/8 weeks the spouse and I have shared a litany of health problems.  Firstly there was the spouse's dengue, which was reasonably remedied despite the discomfort and anxiety.  But that's how the stoic Scotsman views his ailments, even his cancer.  Doesn't believe in crying in his (Kaliber) beer over such details of ill-health - "must not grumble, others suffer worse than us".

As if to test his resilience, we both tested Positive for Covid 19, about a few days later.  The self-quarantine, the daily reports to My Sejahtera and after seven days, the negative test allowed us to heave a sigh of relief.  We celebrated with our favourite Lontong breakfast at  Seri Talam Cat Cafe, Taman Sri Rampai, with Nasi Lemak bungkus for lunch and kuih Tepung Bungkus for elevenses.

But no, there was no happy ending to this dastardly Covid virus, especially for the Belacan Malay wife of the Wild Scotsman.   She'd developed a constant racking dry cough which went on all day and night causing bronchitis and sleepless nights.  This, they say, is part of the Long Covid scenario.   Comforting to know it has a name! The general advice given was plenty of rest and plenty of water.   That didn't work.  I turned to my very capable and competent Traditional (Herbal) Chinese Medicine, Prof. Liu Xiao Hang at Tung Shin Hospital.

I marvel at the skills of Prof Liu in applying his knowledge of thousands of years of traditional Chinese medicine.  What seems to be a simple act of taking your pulse provides him with much of the information for diagnosing your ailment..  Through my haze of endless coughing, weariness and aches I watch him holding my pulse and considering the message it gives him for deciding on the treatment for an "infection" that has baffled the Western medical establishment since Covid began plaguing the planet.  

I watch him thinking hard, looking at his computer at a long, long list in his herbal pharmacy before he decides on what herbs to choose.  He does not prescribe a week's or a fortnight's series of the  same medication.  The first prescription he gives is for three days only.   There are 3 more 5-day prescriptions.   Now it is a 7-day prescription.    Each prescription is totally different from the other, and consists of at least fifteen, sometimes twenty, different herbs.    And each prescription is chosen specifically for the patient according to the state of the patient's health and symptoms on that day.     You could say it is a personal prescription for AsH, according to what Prof Liu can read from her pulse, her eyes, her tongue, and what she says.     It's all too mind-boggling for me to absorb, Long Covid or no Long Covid!!  

But Prof Liu will also utilise what Western medicine can offer: he sent me for an X-Ray because he was worried about the lungs.  Over less than weeks, he sorted out the bronchitis and the cough which meant I can stop having to sleep (when I can get a chance in-between the racking coughs) sitting up.  

Just last week, he started AsH on his prescription to alleviate another feature of Long Covid - the loss of appetite, extreme fatigue and listlessness.  As I left he smiled, patted my shoulder and said, "Do not worry.  You are getting better."  (I know so.  Slowly and surely I can see chinks of light at the end of the tunnel.  Not the the huge bright light of an approaching train!)

A tough old bird like me does not cry.  But I do wish I could override the norms of our Asian Culture and give Prof Liu a humongous hug.

                                                      Professor Liu 

                                                       Thank you ever so much.

Despite a brain that is still foggy and dense (which I know Prof Liu will be clearing up in time), I write this posting to record my deepest appreciation (BUDI YANG TIDAK TERHINGGA) to two men who  have kept me company and  boosted my spirit through these last few months.  There's Prof Liu. 

Next - the other knight in shining armour who took over the reins of minding the house, the cats and the cantankerous (because she's fed-up of being ill) wife .   Other than his allocated (by AsH) tasks of being the Beverage manager, dish-washer, lunch provider, binning-the-rubbish expert and driver; he took over all of Ash's jobs like the laundry and the cooking.  He made sure his crabby wife (who was losing her appetite) ate up what he had so lovingly prepared in the kitchen.  He was rolling out baked beans on toast, chicken carcass stew - our favourite because of the flavour of the boney carcass, baked beans on toast, macaroni cheese, my mother's recipe for sardines  (Sardin Cap Ayam) cooked in lashings of onions, red and green chilis and lemon juice, grilled chili cheese-on-toast, baked beans on toast, corned beef fried with cabbage, red and green chillies, loads of onions served with mash and hot rice ...very irresistible, and digging deep into the freezer for my cache of home-made soups, frozen apple pie, frozen banana cake and Dalcha and ...... baked beans on toast. But there was the evening when I thought I had better stop feeling sorry for myself and AsH decided to fry chunky chips (not the flimsy French fries) which had been parboiled earlier.  We left no chips unturned - somehow my appetite for chips was left intact.    A week later, we decided to indulge ourselves and splurged on Students' Union staple food - chips, eggs, fried tomatoes and baked beans.  Methinks that was a necessary complement to Prof Liu's herbs.

This year,  he is officially an octogenarian and AsH is just 2 years behind him.    What follows next me duck, is to thank you for looking after me, especially all that driving through KL's horrible traffic to get to Tung Shin - sometimes up to 3 times a week,  but especially for travelling and sharing that "less travelled road" (Robert Frost's phrase) with me since the 1980s.

In the beginning : there were two nerds.

Two sweet (?!) 13 year-olds from Singapore and New Zealand.

We were as different as chalk and cheese or more aptly, as nasi lemak and fish 'n' chips.

These two dishes kept them together.

The most unlikely couple are we!  Being the parsimonious Scot and the prudent quarter-Chinese, quarter-Bawean, quarter-Minang, quarter-Melayu jati Malay, they realized that two can live as cheaply as one.  They decided to set up house and built an erratic, eccentric, adventurous and bewilderingly happy life together -  as Darby and Joan and like two peas in a pod.

We were both brought up in families that had one thing in common.  Our respective parents were not afraid of pulling up stakes, crossing borders and oceans (in the case of Iain's family) to forge a different life for their families in places far away from their familiar homes.  The two of us could not deny what was in our blood.  Before we got hitched, we sought and experienced "hidup berdagang di negri orang" or in today's parlance, as foreign workers.  In the 1960s he went to Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (as recorded in his green Identity card) to teach in UM and I ventured into Brunei to teach at Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Teachers Training College. during the late 1970s.

We were as snug as two bugs in a rug in our little abode at Oxford Avenue, Leicester.

He "escaped" from decades of a mind-sapping academic career at University in the late 1980s and began a new life growing our vegetables in his allotment, drawing his illustrated book  Fatimah's Kampung and fossicking for books in the second-hand and charity shops with his wife tagging along quite happily in this alien (for a Singaporean) past-time.  He gave her free rein to do whatever she fancied, like wandering around in Leicester's charity shops, second hand-book shops on her own, delving into the fascinating world of part-time employment in factories, a plant nursery, Leicester Royal Infirmary and making new friends among her working class mates.  Oh, she also enjoyed cooking and sewing.  These were all the things she wanted to do after nearly 2 decades of earning her crust as a teacher.  I have had enough of teaching, teachers and bureaucrats in a profession which I think was losing its main objectives of teaching and guiding the young. 

But most of all, we enjoyed some great walkabouts - not as typical tourists but as students trying to learn from and of other cultures. 

There were also other nooks and crannies of the world like in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Canada, USA, France, Italy, and of course East and West Malaysia and New Zealand.

But we learned a lot from visiting India, four times for the spouse and twice for me.

INDIA - Pitha Street in Bombay (now Mumbai) scrupulously described and illustrated in Iain's detailed drawing, 1982.

But nearer home, we entered London only for the purpose of supporting causes close to our hearts that still matter to us today.  We walked for Palestine, for the two Intifada and Bosnia.  We also marched twice against the war in Iraq and  against President Bush's state visit to UK at the height of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Top - For Bosnia (1992-1995) . Centre - with our own home-made poster, November 2003.  Bottom - What we think of Bliar's corporate event in KL - a business congress, 24 April 2010.

But our happiest walkabouts were in Northumberland - the ones we shared with Peggy, a good friend and guide,  a loving, lovely and adventurous  Aunt/Aunt-in-law.  She was that way too with our friends (local) and my former students and relatives from Singapore.  She was always so welcoming, a warm  and generous hostess.  She often gives her departing guests presents of her home-made jam.  Bless you dear Peggy.

Whitby, Boxing Day 1987.  Two of my former students came along on that Chistmas holiday, Yuwrajh (in picture) and Rojiah who took the picture.

The biggest wandering of all for us was the semi-move to Kuala Lumpur in 2007.

The Big Move - 2007

The main reasons for the move were to be nearer to our families in Malaysia and New Zealand.  But it was heart-rending to part with dear friends and Peggy.  She passed away at the age of 83 but we were there to be with her towards the end and to see to her last journey to be with all her beloved dogs.  

Living in KL was a bag of mixed blessings.  Some were painful for it removed a lot of scales from our eyes.  But we are mostly thankful, for here in Kuala Lumpur we could stretch our thoughts and writing and it also gave us the best health care (at Tung Shin) - care that we could never receive in Leicester.

However I believe in searching for the good things that life can offer.

Seek and you shall find.  Amongst other things, we discovered this at Sri Rampai, close to where we live.

Our 'canal' walk at Sri Rampai.  On the left is the canal full to the brim after a heavy downpour and on the right, the trickle of water during a hot spell.

However, this is the most beautiful sight I've ever seen - and I discovered it in Malaysia!

Burung Tempua (weaver bird), arrowed, and it's incredible nest.  We are so privileged.  It upsets me that that there are crass-hearted people who take/steal their nests (and eggs and babies) to sell to vain customers as decorative items in their gardens.  I shall not reveal where we saw that bird and her lovely nest.  No, it is nowhere near Sri Rampai or Setiawangsa.

But, we do miss our kampungs where we came from. 

(Top) - Iain's Kampung, Victoria Park in late summer/autumn.  (Bottom) - My kampung house, 691 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore,  which had been completely expunged and blitzed by the winds of progress and development 

Oh what it was like to be young and happy-go-lucky.

Playing elderly in Liverpool, 1989/1990

Truly and really elderly in 2020.

To soothe the hardened arteries, here is this little dissertation from a 50p tea towel.

Indeed we are a "hardy bunch", despite dengue and Covid and whatever life throws at us: including the kitchen sink.

Finally, thank you love, for "watching over me".  InsyaAllah we shall carry on trudging, enjoying and making good use of our time on that "less travelled"  road together.

From your soppy, sentimental, sweet ole tart ... aww shucks .........


Taraa to all me ducks out there.

Maungakotukutuku, NZ 2012.  (photograph taken by Lely)