Wednesday 23 February 2022


 The most memorable part of coming back to KL was not :

1.  The Home Quarantine e-bracelet and the Covid 19 Lateral Flow Test.  From 2 days before we departed from Heathrow and the end of the Quarantine we had altogether 7 Covid tests to prove we were negative (of Covid, not attitude) and hence acceptable to be let loose - despite getting all three vaccinations.

Our e-bracelet and negative tests.

2.  The surprises awaiting when we got home.

Fermented pasta in the kitchen cupboard (left) and exploding tiles in the study (right).

3.  Leaking roof in the bedroom which saturated the base of boxes of gramophone records and books, suitcases of my precious batik collection and embroidery, Iain's drawings and black and white photographs from the 1960s  This we knew a few days before we left when our lovely neighbour Zarina and son Haiqal went upstairs to supervise the cleaners.

The sodden, sodding floor after 2 weeks of drying and airing (left) and dear Haiqal laying out the gramophone records made up mostly of Malay songs from the 1950s and early 1960s (right).

4.  Operation touch-and-go repair.

                        1 - Drying out the record cases.
                        2 - Record sleeves - after Iain's repair.
                        3 - Some of the salvaged records.
                        4 - Some of the stuff transferred to the dry bedroom including Iain's drawings for 
                             "Fatimah's Kampung" and the record player.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words (and sodden belongings) can never hurt me.

Leaving Leicester can be heart-rending because we have to leave behind dear old friends.  Friends who are kind, generous and gracious;  friends like Jack, Jackie and Julia, Jagdish and his wife Poonam, friends in Leicester Animal Rescue Charity Shop and last but not least, Colin.

2021/2022 had been a "long, hard winter" for us but good old Colin brought out the sun.  He is a Jack of all trades (or in modern parlance a "Renaissance Man") but above all he is a master photographer.  As a photographer, Colin brings with him the light and the colours of the most generous sun.  

But for silly ole Ash, Colin is (and has always been) a dear friend, the world's greatest boyfriend - and one of her two bestest idiots.


In fact, Colin has his own mug, strictly reserved for him when he turns up at our house for tea or lunch or dinner!

To add to his credentials, he is also responsible for causing a domestic fracas in our household.   Let me explain.

This Christmas, Colin gave us a precious gift he made with his own hands.   Here is a picture (with copyright notice added):

Pen 1 : For Iain or Maznoor.

Pen 2 : for Maznoor or Iain.

We can only choose one but we are still fighting over which one.  In fact each one of us would love to have both!!

What is the pedigree of these two ironwood pens?

It started with this piece of ironwood from Quoin Hill, near Tawau in Sabah, given to Iain when we visited the Cocoa Research Centre.


It was from a gigantic ironwood tree that looked like the one below.

AsH (not the tree) and the ironwood tree (1983) behind her.

Iain gave his good mate Colin this piece of ironwood when he learned of Colin's new hobby, making pens from wood.  To enliven these times of Covid pandemic, Colin spends hours and hours in his garage, making pens out of specially selected woods.  

Iain is also in love with wood.   He has a collection of wood pieces ranging from a bit of plank from Iceland, a piece picked up from a tree felled near P Ramlee's house in Kuala Lumpur, pohutukawa from the volcano of Rangitoto Island, Australian Jarra from an old railway sleeper in NZ, a 30,000 year old length of swampwood from NZ, rosewood from an old rosebush growing in our front garden at Oxford Avenue Leicester, hawthorn from a hedge near a pig farm on the A1 in England, oak from a fence post in Wales, the rewa rewa from his Mum's old hand mirror, all kinds of driftwood from Paekakariki beach (his home village in NZ), swamp myrtle from Norfolk from his late friend Dave, a belian roof tile from Sumatra given to him by an old Malay lady in Muar, olive wood from Bethlehem bought from an antique shop, and his piece de resistance, a 200 million year old fossilized tree trunk from South Africa which was given to his father Keith when he was teaching in South Africa during the late 1940s.   

But back to Colin.    I wanted to know from Colin how he constructed these beautiful writing tools.  As I was too dense (like the ironwood) to fully understand the process from Colin's verbal description, he gave this illustrated account for his pen-pal idiot.


The first step

Colin,  although you have no wish to share your garage space with spiders, at least you are gentle with them.     Because of that, you can be assured - the next time we get back to England - of your supply of spicy roast chicken, yellow rice, tomato chutney, bread and butter pudding, lemon layer pudding, onion bhajis, rice noodle soup, roti jala and Malay chicken curry and your top favourite from my kitchen, lemon cheesecake!  I shall of course ensure that the spouse keeps you well supplied with mugs and mugs of tea.

"Ta raa me duck!"   Keep safe and well while we're away.


More examples of CGB's work.