Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tell me something I don't know

Moods are ephemeral.

(Yeah, and?)

They pass.

(Your point being?)

We are not defined by our moods.

(This is all very interesting. Not. So what you trying to say?)

A mood is a mood is a mood. It's fleeting. Just remember, this too shall pass.

(Bubble, bubble, toilet trouble)

Yeah, that too.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Boxing Day

Hello! Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day! Sorry this is a day late but as you may understand, things have been a little hectic/mad around here. Anyway, as my sainted Mamma would say, when you don't wish someone on Christmas Day itself, Compliments of the Season!

Things to do the day after Christmas.

1. Sleep till afternoon, especially if it's raining (oh joy, it never rains but it pours);

2. Watch DVDs (To Kill a Mockingbird, Narnia Chronicles, Northern Exposure);

3. Call friends to say, hey, I'll be back in KL tomorrow...wanna meet? (Yes, I mean you!);

4. Finally send off trifle recipe that I was supposed to send off before Christmas;

5. Make up gift basket of goodies and go visit old music teacher;

6. Go easy on the port (especially since we finished most of it yesterday);

7. Reply emails (I'm sorrylar, I was busy! And tired! You try making six different types of dessert in two days!);

8. Reply all the text messages I received yesterday (same as above, sorrylar!);

9. Do new post for Christmas, a day late;

10. Wish everyone a Happy and Holy Easter. (Father Pang, absent-mindedly one Midnight Mass, long story).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tarts, anyone?

Julie was at her boss's leaving do. Her boss, Kathy, is Eurasian. As some of her guests gathered around the table of goodies, one remarked rather snidely:

"Eurasians make the best tarts..."

Julie who was trying the tart in question disagreed: "No, my Jackie makes the best tart!"

She wondered at the ensuing laughter.

(Just for the record, our Jackie does make the best tarts. Pineapple. It melts in your mouth)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pulling a Jennifer

I pulled a Jennifer today. It's good to pull a Jennifer because it amuses the people around me. And selfless as I am, I exist to amuse.

I received a cheque today. A long-awaited one. One that I wish arrived earlier so it would have cleared by now and I could have finished my Christmas shopping. Instead, it arrived today. Rain or no rain I was determined to bank it in. Like immediately. OK, almost immediately. I mean I needed to go back to bed. Also read a little William. Also watch some TV. Also make vague attempts to pretend to help Jackie who is cleaning the balcony in earnest (she sorted toys and recycleable books today).

Anyway, I bustled downstairs at about 2.30pm and declared my intention of going to bank in the cheque. Mommy, whose eyes were riveted on her Indonesian drama serial, Bawang Merah, Bawang Putih, told me to wait a while so she could follow me.

"No, no I want to go now. I'll go alone. You go get your Christmas cards and I'll post it for you. (you see this Mommy ah? I post my cards on November 15 and she posts hers on December 19)

Poor Mom shifted her gaze reluctantly from the TV and went upstairs to look for her cards. After tapping my fingers impatiently for all of five minutes I went to the stairs and shouted: "Hey Mom! Just give me the cards, I don't want you to come with me."

"What if you can't get parking?"

"Aiya, the whole bloody place is flooded. Surely there'll be less cars on the road and I'll get parking. No problem. Stop changing and just give me the cards!"

(When I'm impatient, I'm impatient)

Anyway after faffing about for a further 15 minutes during which time I chafed in irritation, swore softly under my breath and found myself on verge of apoplexy, Mom gave me her cards and a bill she wanted settled. I took off. Still raining. I took the flooded road first and then had to do a U-ey as it was impassable. Sort of like a lake. Came out in the news later that night, that road. (Is JB famous or what?)

Being the bright spark that I am, I found my way to the Post Office through an alternate route. (OK it's brilliant cos I don't really live in JB and I don't know the roads here very well. What do you mean I spend half my time here so I should have learned by now?)

Anyway Mom was right. It WAS chock-a-block. No parking whatsoever, except for slim ants and maybe some slender cockroaches. Being Malaysian, however, I proceeded to park illegally and charge for the Post Office where I settled all business in a very short time.

Feeling very pleased with myself I took off for City Square where I would bank my precious cheque and do some light shopping. As I was now filled with love and light and feeling a little guilty for snapping at her earlier and making her miss the last excruciating 10 minutes of Bawang Merah, Bawang Putih, I called Mom and asked if she wanted me to buy anything for tea. Also the newspaper. She said yes to both.

(Do you get the God is in His heaven and all is right with the world feeling right about now? Because you should)

Anyway, there I was ambling amiably towards the bank. I found that I would require an envelope to deposit the cheque in this machine (unlike the one in KL where you just deposit the cheque as is) and grumbled cheerfully to myself about JB being ketinggalan zaman (behind the times) in terms of cheque-depositing-technology. Anyway, I went to get an envelope from one of the customer service officers and here is where I encountered my first reverse.

No, it wasn't the envelope. That was as right as rain. (Haha, rain! Get it? Rain!) In fact, the customer service officer provided me one promptly. With a smile to boot. It's when I fished into my bag for the cheque to pop into said envelope. It wasn't there. In all the bustle, I kind of left it behind.

So I drove home rather sheepishly. Mom unlocked the door and asked if I'd banked it in. I told her, I left it at home. At which point, she stared at me for a while, then made her way to the steps to holler for Jackie.

Mom: "Jackie! Jackie! You know what that Jenny did? She left the cheque behind!"

Jackie: "Aiyoooooooo!"

When Ivan, returned from work, Mom obligingly went through the story again. Bellows of laughter issued from Mother, Brother and Sister.

I took a bow.

All It Does Is Rain

It rains. And rains. And rains. And then, for variety, it rains some more. Lightning, thunder. Light drizzle pretending it's gonna stop. Heavy again. A little lighter. Then heavy again. Tapering off. Then heavy again.

It's been like this for three whole days already.

The road in front of the Convent is flooded. Roads in town are flooded. Work on the fence has had to stop. Nobody can hang out clothes to dry. Our Astro (satellite tv) transmission is disturbed.

It's dark. It feels like winter. The air is so moist you could lick it. The doggies are sleepy. I am sleepy. But I need to drive into town and run some errands.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Wisdom of Julie

So, does anyone want a pair of black Guess jeans? Practically new. One catch, however. You have to be like, really, really thin. Anyway, if you want it (call it a Christmas present, sort of) send me your size. Also your address. And I'll parcel it off.

Jackie and I were cleaning out the balcony. OK, cleaning out is a bit too ambitious a phrase. We were making a start. You have to understand that our balcony is sort of stuffed up. With years and years and years of debris from our childhood, teenagerhood and early adulthood.

Jackie: "Eh, look at that, Julie was so cute in this one, remember?"

Me: "Can save ah?"

Jackie (examining it carefully): Yeah, this one can.

(I have to say we tossed as many into garbage bags labelled: "to be binned", as we saved)

Sorting out the clothes into three categories - children, adult and garbage took us all of yesterday afternoon. Coincidentally, it was a sort of "second deluge" type of day, where it rained continuously from early morning to late at night, which meant we were not going to be doing anything else outside (the roads being flooded). As we uncovered years and years of memories, we laughed, sneezed and felt a little sad.

Jackie (holding up tiny tee-shirt): "Hard to believe I ever fit into this."

Me: "You were very skinny, what?"

Me (holding up third Snoopy, "It looks a little like rain" tee-shirt): Gosh how many of these did we have?

Jackie (holding up her Thundercats tee-shirt): "Wow! Thundercats! I actually had a Thundercats tee-shirt?"

Jackie (holding up a Buck Rogers tee-shirt): "Eh, who was this Buck Rogers fler, ah?"

Me: "This guy, he went to sleep or something and woke up in the 25th century. Don't you remember?"

Jackie: "No, I kept mixing him up with Battlestar Galactica."

Anyway, you see how it goes. Btw, if you know of any worldwide charities who want lots and lots of kiddie (and adult clothes) as well as toys and books, please tell me. We have cartloads to get rid off.

OK, Jackie found this in the balcony. It was a crumpled piece of paper, scribbled over in Julie's schoolgirl handwriting. Jackie found it inspirational and will keep crumpled piece of paper. I, on the other hand, thought I would share it with you.

1. Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive. (Elbert Hubbard)

2. Friendship is like money - easier made than kept. (Samuel Butler)

3. The only people in the world who never fail are those who never try.

4. It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn't.

5. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.

6. It is easier to stay out than to get out. (Mark Twain)

7. A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.

8. Winners never quit. Quitters never win.

9. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

10. Being in the right does not depend on having a loud voice. (Chinese Proverb)

11. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. (Teddy Roosevelt)

12. To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting. (Edmund Burke)

13. Silence gives consent, or a horrible feeling that nobody is listening.
(Franklin B. Jones)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Castration: Not as fun as I thought it would be

It's been three days since Elliot's little operation. The pain seems to have kicked in properly today. We thought he was settling down and recovering when this morning we noticed little whimpers escaping him as he tried to find a more comfortable way to sleep. That's the thing with large-testicled dogs. After the unkindest cut of all, the testicles, which have not been sutured, tend to get in the way.

I called the vet, and we went to pick up some painkillers. Gave it to him, allowed him to sleep inside (Mom turned a blind eye for once because the doggie was in such obvious pain) and after a while he became more comfortable and fell asleep.

Despite his agony, the naughty doggie still finds it in himself to growl viciously at Maggoty. We castrated him, hoping it would improve his personality. Elliot, who looks part Rottweiler, is one aggressive dog.

When he starts growling:

Julie: Give me a reason, just give me a reason!

Jackie: Elliot, stop it! Don't you dare!

Me (bellowing - I have very good lungs): You go sit down there and shut up or I'll wallop you!

(None of it works, of course)

Simon said it would take a while for the testoterone to vacate his system. We're hoping after he will be all sweetness and light and forget to growl at Maggot. (I would, however, be perfectly OK if he bit chunks out of Igor)

Speaking Malayalam

Mom told us she had given Auntie Baby a "katrika" tree.

Me: Is katrika the same as murniaka (drumstick)?

Mom: Aiyoooooooooooo!

Jackie: Nolar! It's karipila (curry tree)!

Mom: Aiyoooooooooooo!

Me (to Jackie): Ele! Think you so clever ah?

Mom: How many times do I have to tell you, katrika is brinjal?

Me and Jackie: Ooooooooooooooh!

Of course, I'm also the person who argued with my Auntie Granny (Auntie Baby's older sister) that "palli" was school, rather than church. Auntie Granny was born in Kerala. Nuff said.


Except for the occassional sabre-rattling from the two witches and their one (rather cowardly) thug next door, work on the wall is proceeding unimpeded. It is coming up beautifully.

But the real news is that Jackie went to do her passport today. She said she wasn't too annoyed by the whole process. (Usually she is ready to chew bits off the wall off after a JB immigration passport experience because everyone goes out of their way to give you a foretaste of Purgatory)

Firstly, the guy who did her passport looked at her date of birth and said: "I can't believe you're that old, you still look like you're 18."

And if that wasn't enough, the old auntie at the photo shop (she had to take a paspok picture with a blue background as her pictures had a white background, a little idiosyncrasy of the Malaysian Immigresen) said she looked like Preity Zinta.

When I went to pick Jackie up, she asked me who Preity Zinta was.

"Bollywood actress," I answered laconically.

She then told me that the immigration officer who was doing her passport, on finding out that she lived in England, asked her for a JC Bola (ball) the next time she comes back.

"OK," agreed Jackie, amiably. She asked me later if JC Bola was a brand of football she hadn't heard of. I told her he probably said jersey bola (as in football jersey).

"Oh," said Jackie, "that makes more sense."

Anyway, she thinks Badawi's government is a vast improvement, if only because the immigration flers have become that much nicer.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Good fences make good neighbours

You remember what Gandhi said before he disappeared in a puff of logic? If not I'll refresh your memory, Simon.

Brotherhood and sisterhood can be preached to everyone but brothers and sisters...

OK anyway, as you know, the Moms wants to put up a wall at the back. No unfriendly reason. Just so the dogs can run wild and free and attack Mommy's plants with impunity. Also poop where we need to hang clothes. You see, all love and light.

But somehow, taking down the ugly old rickety fence to put up swanky wall has ignited enough familial animosity to make two Iraqs.

The two witches from next door, with Igor, their resident thug decided that it was their business what we do with OUR fence. After threatening our pavem (poor thing) Indonesian worker, they erected chair barriers today so as not to let the lorry come through to where the bricks, etc, need to be unloaded.

Anyway, picture the peace and tranquility of Jalan Gertak Merah at 0800 hours. Birds singing tunefully. Elliot recovered from his little operation yesterday, but a little depressed that Julie has returned to KL. The good folks of Jalan Gertak Merah enjoying their morning roti canai at the gerai across the road. And Jackie reading Baby Blues.

Suddenly the peace is shattered by raised voices, punctuated with the occassional swear word. We (the three Jacoby children) stick our heads out to see the Old Woman and Mom going at it hammer and tongs.

We watch with intense fascination (to say the least) when I suggest we go support our Big M. Jackie demurs. And then we hear a loud bellow.

"You leave my mother alone!"

I turn to Jackie in wonder: "Who's that?"

Jackie shrugs in resignation: "I think Ivan has joined the fray."

He kicks the offending chair away and hollers about their bullying tactics. He also queries the sincerity of Old Lady (Aunty Chachi)'s aspirations to sainthood: ("Disingenuous Aunty Chachi, really disingenuous!")

Old Lady retorts: "You think you accountant you so great ah?"

Bleached Monkey (formerly known as Black Monkey before the application of oodles of Fair & Lovely) starts screaming for Igor, her card-carrying criminal son who also acts as resident thug.

He charges out and shouted at Moms: "You don't speak to my auntie like that."

At which, Jackie charges forward: "You don't speak to my mother like that."

When Jackie and I appear, Auntie Chachi who has been shrieking for all she is worth, quietly steps back and commences her cleaning activities. The garden path gets so dirty when you're busy hurling offal.

Ivan, who is already late, then takes himself off to work. He sees that he can leave things in Jackie's quietly capable contemptuous hands.

She turns to Moms: "Don't get upset. They're not worth it. They're beneath our contempt."

Threats of police interference are made by ironically enough, the only one in the group with a criminal record. At which Jackie sneers: "Go ahead, if you know how to dial."

At this point, Ivan makes a reappearance and asks why we are still talking to these nonentities. To which Mom replies:

"Eh Ivan, what you still doing here?"

Ivan, holding up the offending article: "I forgot my tie!"

(Just a bit of comic surrealism that lightens the charged atmosphere of a typical Malayalee family fight - you see why it's more civilized for us not to speak for 20/30 years?)

Jackie, who has been busy calming Moms down (Look Moms, they're so far beneath us, don't upset yourself, these people never went to school, they're not educated, it doesn't matter what they think) agrees with Ivan: "Right Mom, let's go. These ARE nonentities." She turned: "Yeah, nonentities, look it up if you don't know what that is."

As we turned to leave, Bleached Monkey throws out a parting shot: "You live in England now you think you white?" (As you can see neither Bleached Monkey nor the Old Lady can argue grammatically. Just thought I'd point that out)

At which Jackie chuckles: "At least I don't bleach my face!"

To which, after a few moments of stunned silence, the Bleached Monkey replies in an unconvincing tone that would not fool a child: "I don't bleach my face!"

The air is now thick with threatened lawsuits. I think Fair & Lovely should get into the fray and sue Bleached Monkey for pretending not to be bleached.

(Jackie, who is sitting beside me said, yeah, but I don't know if they would because I don't know if they would want her to be an advertisement for their product. On consideration, I quite agree. Hideous harpies, bleached or otherwise, don't make good advertisements for anything but the "before" for Extreme Makeover)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Proper Stuff of Fiction

But any deductions that we may draw from the comparison of two fictions so immeasurably far apart are futile save indeed as they flood us with a view of the infinite possibilities of the art and remind us that there is no limit to the horizon, and that nothing, no method, no experiment, even the wildest - is forbidden, but only falsity and pretence. 'The proper stuff of fiction' does not exist; everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of brain and spirit is drawn upon; no perception comes amiss.

Virginia Woolf on Modern Fiction, The Common Reader, Vol. 1

Currently OD-ing on

A Fairytale of New York

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me
Won't see another one
And then he sang a song
"The Rare Old Mountain Dew"
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you
Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true.

They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me Broadway was waiting for me.

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night.

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas Day.

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old
Sl't on junk
Lying there almost
Dead on a drip
In that bed.

You scum bag
You maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God
It's our last.

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas Day.

I could have been someone
Well, so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you.

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas Day.

Hmmm...sort of Iceman Cometh feel to it, no? I thought I'd spread some Christmas cheer....sort of.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Deleting Orkut

I finaly did it. Deleted my Orkut account. I got all these weirdos asking to be friends, OK, maybe there was one normal person, but for the rest, mostly weirdos, and I couldn't understand why. Before deleting it, I went back to read what I had written and a sort of lightbulb went off.

OK, there was this one guy from India (where else?) who wanted to get together for fun and games on his visit to this, our very own, teh tareky emerald isle. His "groups" consisted of porn sites, mostly. Ugh! He even propositioned my dear, straight-as-an-arrow cousin, and I thought, geez, you sure are desperate.

Well, anyway, my friend Hrish could have told me why. On re-reading my profile, I noticed that under "activities" I put: You mean other than sex? Under sexual preferences, I put: bi-curious. Are you starting to see the problem here? Because I sure am. As for my dear cousin, um...I kinda wrote her profile. Which means she got lambasted by the same number of creeps and weirdos.

The last straw was funnily enough, neither a creep nor a weirdo. Just someone who disagreed with my taste in books. I can take a lot of things. But not someone who disagrees with my choice of reading matter. Or who disses my favourite authors.

So you see...the big DELETE.

Anyway, I have enough friends.

Free Advice

"What do you charge for free advice?"

Charming, I think, simply charming, someone asking for advice, rather than have me dish it out freely in generous quantities.

"10 per cent of anything you make from it, maybe 11, depending on whether I like you ."

"That's a little steep, no?"

"Depends...if you make nothing, you pay nothing...."

"Well...," he breaks off.

Ah, here it comes, I think. Sure enough, the kid does not disappoint.

"I have this business plan, see and it's for this cool technology, first in the world, no one else is even close to doing anything like this..."

He goes on yada yada-ing while I carefully extract my attention. I hum Nella Fantasia under my breath (yes, in Italian) and then, as he is nowhere near done, I hum Pal (yes, in Hindi). I chuckle to myself at a joke Sam told me know the one about Amelele Mobudu? Hehe, funny story, but will tell you some other time.

Finally the young man winds down, looking at me, expectant. Thing is, it's not free advice he wants. It's an introduction. He heard somewhere that I was the hook-up girl, and so, he wants me to hook him up.

Someone with deep pockets. Dumb enough to be impressed by enthusiastic waffle. You know, that sort of thing.

I sigh. This is getting to be a habit among the young and penurious. They come bearing business plans for the latest greatest new new thing. They've got the patter down pat. Thing is, the patter gets old real fast.

I feel my way around it. The usual questions. Value proposition. Investment timeline. Customer base. Barrier to entry. Potential exit strategies.

He gapes. Looks hunted. Slightly resentful. You know, that sort of thing.

"You could afford to be a little more enthusiastic..."

"What's the use? I wouldn't be doing you any favours. Go back and do your homework. And maybe I'll think about hooking you up."

He leaves.

I exhale.

Shhhh....come here, I'll tell you a little secret.

The thing about free advice; it's worth exactly what you pay for it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Like a handful of smoke, a fistful of water.

You hover over there, just out of sight, and yet I see you.

I do.

I feel that something, that something intangible, I cannot frame the words...

...but you are there, and I linger here.




This brief madness. It seems interminable.

The world in a grain of sand?

Eternity in an hour?

You ask me to live through the minutes. But they stretch, they mutate, they succeed each other.

How hostile the minutes, how unfriendly.

Please come back.

Or let me wake up.

Like Shining From Shook Foil

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie.
And yet you will weep and know why.

Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Gerald Manley Hopkins

Monday, December 04, 2006

Curry Puffs and Teh Tarek

New monitor. It shines pinkly in the summer sun. Actually no summer sun. A fluorescent light. So, it shines pinkly under the bright impartiality of a fluorescent light.

Boyz II Men crooning Silent Night. Now Nana Mouskouri singing Deck the Halls. Falalalala.

Nuff cookies. Baked last batch last night. Or in the wee hours of the morning. Soft, rolled balls of pecan chews. They are chewy. Good jaw exercise. Mary didn't much care for them, but Julie and Dadda did. Which is why I had to bake another batch when I was supposed to have finished cookie baking a while ago.

Distributed some presents already. Books I made. A CD mix. Three batches of cookies. A Texas Fudge Cake.

Bought new monitor today from newly opened Digital Mall. (Old monitor went on the blink) Trudged all the way to the top. Monitors got cheaper as you ascended. I think it has something to do with rent.

Raju's is still hang out for rich and famous. Saw Charlie Peters there today. Hmmmm... he waved and didn't come over to say hi. But that's OK. Don't really know what to say to the rich and famous.

We had curry puffs and teh tarek. (Some things never change)

Bought a whole heap of books at Wisma Atria. Ben Elton. Jeanette Winterson. Peter Carey. Julia Cameron. Joan Didion. And some others I can't remember now. Also bought Christmas CD which I'm listening to now.

Altogether an eventful day.

Getting close to when I'll have to split. So much more to do.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reading, ranting and `rithmetic

"So what are you reading now?"

I pause awhile and consider. I am in various stages of three books. One new and two, I've read before. My appetite is voracious and I devour anything that takes my fancy, from the highly literary (oh, only us select few read and understand these things) to the uplifting to the downright maudlin to the nice cliched stuff I've read a million times and continue to re-read cos it's like talking to an old friend.

Usually when someone asks me this they simply want to know what I'm reading. They're asking for information and also because I'm likely to plunge into the narrative, summarising it, telling them what I like, what I don't like, how it makes me feel...

But this person is not asking for information's sake. He has that air of conscious superiority. He asks to despise my taste. In which case I should say, "Torrid Lovers at First Embrace" or some such inconsequential tome (although I could probably argue that Bakhtin would have approved) and now despise me if you dare!

Except that I'm not Elizabeth Bennet and although he's contemptuous and forbidding, he's not Mr Darcy.

I would like to say a book of Virginia Woolf's essays and I'm up to Addison at the moment, but that would be approval-seeking. And I don't want his approval. Or to let him see that his contempt has affected me. The way to deal with contempt is to go the other way. As in, I'm too secure in myself to care what you think. I know I'm smart, too smart for the likes of you, who reads an article (or review) of a book or flips through reading only sections and then attempts to lay down the law on it.

Excuse me? I read the fucking book in question. Like twice. Or three times. I could quote great swaths of it, not to impress you (God forbid!) but because I loved it so much. How dare you come to me with your half past six understanding, with that slight sneer and bored, rather sarcastic expression and tell me what to think?

My lecturers didn't attempt to make me think one way or another about fact they encouraged me to disagree, to form my own opinions on the relative merits of Hamlet or Death of a Salesman and they gave me high distinctions for doing so.

Who the fuck are you to tell me what to think, you underbred wannabe writer?

So go ahead then, despise me if you dare.

Because you know what?

I sure as hell despise you.

A Little Musical Interlude

OK, OK, this is a departure but I want to put it up on my blog so it is always there for me to click through to. I heard it a few years ago, actually they showed the video on Malaysian tv, a filler in between serious serious Indian drama type shows (I think it was the NTV7 Sunday thingy or it may have been TV3 or RTM2) my father used to watch. Oso me. Anyway I saw this. I didn't know where it was from or anything...but I absolutely loved the song (mind you, I don't know what it means except that it is something about friendship).

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

That still silent moment

Poetry is that still silent moment screaming in my pancreas. It is the sky bleeding silver into my fur at night. Poetry is the wind that gently brushes my face but leaves before I turn around.

It calls to something inside me. Something primal. Something raw and untamed. Beyond reason. Beyond boundaries.

This is why I prefer to read it only when fortified by a glass of Cabernet Merlot. Or two. Then it makes sense. Then it doesn't have to make sense. Nothing has to make sense.

I swallowed a tail of lightning and all the green tea in the world will not save me...

Slightly heady, veering off into unenclosed spaces. I pause. I rest. I read some more.

Red is charming. Merlot is fruity. And poetry tastes like the moon.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A State of Mind

Senility is an interesting state of mind. I know. I am getting there. I made it to my mid-30s (yesiree Bobbo! as Julie would say) two days ago and am now feeling the effects.

I find myself gazing at my friend Mary with mild interest when she says:

"Yes, and you were saying?"

"I was saying...?"

"Yes, you know, just now, you were talking about..."

"I was talking about?"

Her nostrils start to flare a little. What are we, a vaudeville act? I continue to look mildly inquiring, sort of like a friendly cow.

"You know about MPH? The presents? You were saying something..."

I root around in my mind for any possible connection. MPH. The bookstore. You know, lots of books. I was saying something about lots of books? What could I have been saying about lots of books? That I like to read? But everyone knows that. What else? Presents? I thought I told her I was making my presents this year.

And then a dim candle goes off in my head. Oh yeah, now I remember. I relate my pithy anecdote. She nods in all the right places, satisfied. God is once more in His Heaven. And all is right with the world.

And then, this happens again, about 10 minutes later. Distract me for one a half seconds and I find myself gawping like a friendly goldfish. (I don't know what gawping is, but I like the sound of it)

When it happens the third time, Mary, who is about 15 years older and has more right to senility, tells me I had better start writing things down. So as not to forget. Although some things are best forgotten. I agree wholeheartedly. She waits for me to remove my ever present notebook and fountain pen from my bag so I can make a start.

She waits.

I stare into space.

She waits.

I stare into space.

She taps her foot.

I stare into space.

"Angel child?"

"Yes?" I turn to her. Mild inquiring surprise at the slight impatience in her tone.

"The notebook?"

"What notebook?"

"You were going to write things down..."

"I was?"


"Are you feeling all right?"

She starts to tear her hair out.

I continue to gaze at her with (you got it!) mild inquiring surprise.

"I give up, I give up, I give up!"

I try to remember what we were talking about. No cigar.

So I resume my examination of the air in front of me.

Senility is an interesting state of mind.


Where is home I hear you say,
So far away
So far away...

Today I found out that one of my favourite bands has long since broken up, the members moving off to other things.

There is a crack in everything God made.

No more beautiful music punctuated by Maori voices raised in song.

Oh, she will never come again.
Never, never, never, never, never!

Nothing stays the same. All we have are shifting sands and we stand confused wondering where to fix our eyes; how to pick the transient from the eternal.

We lie down somewhere and wake up somewhere else.

Thus far and no further?

Which is the dream and which the waking?

I sliced my finger today, and watched as blood poured out, wondering briefly at my lack of clotting stuff. Fibrinogen. The blood was thin. Sparkling. It didn't seem quite real. (But then it's the ketchup that's real, blood is only water mixed with poster paint)

I wonder how I would feel watching blood seep from the wrist.

Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well...

No cause, no cause...

...lives of quiet desperation.

One equal temper of heroic heart...

A counterpane of white...

Only God can make a tree!

Fodder for cannons, Hal, fodder for cannons.

Ophelia was sad. Hysteria passio, they said, but maybe she was just tired of all this transience.

Everyone leaves me.
Everyone leaves.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holding Back The Crowds

"Angel child, you must publish, you have all these stories lying around. Publish and be damned," she laughs knowingly.

I sigh. This again. Thing is, I'm happy writing my little stories and tucking them away in my famous filing cabinet or in my blog. Lots of em here for people to read or ignore at will. Mostly ignore. But that's OK.

If I promise not to breathe, do you promise not to know I'm here?

Where the bee sucks, there suck I,
in relative obscurity, let me lie...

But no. Her voice is gentle with an undercurrent of steel. Not much room to negotiate. I picture the publishers pissing themselves laughing when I present them with a sheaf of stories: "Hey, hey Tan, you gotta come read this, it's too funny..." I slink out of there, head hanging in shame, wondering how I ever dared.

"Look," she says, "are you scared of the crowds? You know when you go for signings? Don't worry child, I'm big and I'll make sure they behave properly and not like typical Malaysians, cutting the line trying to get to you."

At this I snap out of my customary somnolence. "Lines? Crowds? Excuse would be more like, one solitary person who strolls up after I sit there for about four hours smiling painfully. And I will grab her book, sign it before she can object, thank her profusely, offer to pay her for buying my book, offer to buy her lunch so we can talk about said book, ask if she has transport home and if not, offer to send her."

We crack up.

Crowds indeed!

And I feel just like
I'm living someone else's life
It's like I just stepped outside
when everything was going right...
and I'm surrounded by
a million people I
still feel alone
let me go home.

No more angst, no more angst, no more angst...I promised.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me

Hello! It's my Happy Birthday, so I thought I should tell you because it is a matter of grave importance and of public interest to boot!

Shameless hussy forsooth! So happy birthday to me, lalalalalala.

That was my first as you can probably tell from the cake. I look troubled as I had just pooped my pants. The folks kept trying to get me to smile in the studio and discovered why I wouldn't when they got home and checked my diaper.

OK I thought I would share what Julie (Googlie) wrote in her birthday card.

"Are You Sure It's Your Birthday? Are you really sure it's today? Really sure? I'm only asking because old people are so easily confused. Happy Birthday."

(OK that's not what she said, that's what the card said. Now for what she said)

Dearest Appu, (she calls me that, I donno why, maybe cos I call her, among others, Shi Sho)

Happy 35th! This was the rudest card I could find. And it's quite tame some more kan? Anyhoo so 35. Thirty five. Yesiree Bobbo...the big mid 30s. I just have to say this. You don't look a day over 25!

I am waffling so here's wishing you the best of all the ill-gotten booty there is to have, run wild and free like the bulls in Pamplona (sp?), enjoy the breeze like the tumbling tumbleweeds and fly high with the birdy num nums in the sky. (and poop on anyone who tries to 'lastik' you down).

Have a great one.



I would give you Jackie's card as well, cos it's sure to be as funny, only it hasn't arrived. Pout. Nemmindlar, I'll have an elastic birthday.

(I asked Julie what she meant by people trying to lastik me, and she said shoot me with a catapult while I'm flying high, lastik is sorta Malay for elastic).

Now that I've suitably amused myself...

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Way It Crumbles

There were none at Ikea (actually there were some but they were so large that they were for gingerbread, not cookies). There were none at the Bangsar Village Grocer. There were none at the swanky House of Presentation (the nice Indian girl said, aiyo, so many customers have been coming to ask, so I called the boss who said they discontinued the linelar, try Bangsar Grocer, can?) There were none at Bangsar Shopping. And only very tacky ones at TMC.

Ugh, whatever happened to cookie cutters? They should have been simple enough to find. I even called them by their Malay name "acuan biskut" and still, no cigar. When did Malaysians cease to bake cookies? Or better still, did they evah?

I wrestled with the ancient question:

To bake, or not to bake,
that is the question,
whether tis nobler in the mind
to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous cookie-cutterless fortune
or take arms against a sea of troubles
and by Opposing,

A conundrum, indeed. How was I supposed to take arms against this sea of troubles, to say nothing of ending them, when I couldn't find a cookie cutter for love or gold or a princely ransom?

Not to worry. I hired a superhero. Or actually, I confided my troubles to a superhero. My friend, Mary Zack. She put the word out on her supersonic radar and immediately, an answer made its way through the stratosphere...."try PJ Old Town. Got lot of shops with kitchen stuff there. Very cheap oso!"

She texted me. I leapt three feet, charged with some of her bionic powers, transmitted over the mobile.

PJ Old Town was grotty. Not to worry. Grotty is as grotty does. But were there cookie cutters? Or acuan biskut here?

First shop: Same tacky plastic ones as in TMC.

Second shop. More of the same. And some of those thingamajigs that you use for tarts. Or tat, as it is apparently known in Malay.

We traipsed from shop to shop recoiling at the miserable selection. Yes, they had it. But really, ugh!

The final shop. Cookie cutters (from Europe, because they had German words on the cover). Only circles. OK, what the heck, who needs Christmas trees anyway, right? I mean circles, they are practical. Yes, yes. So OK I bought them. The nice thing about PJ Old Town is that you never pay what's on the price tag. You're expected to bargain. So RM7.80 meant RM5. We pointed out to nice Indian guy who looked dubious when I said RM5, that the item had not moved in years, as was evidenced by the five layers of dust on plastic cover. He shrugged philosophically and gave me my change.

The mission was a success. Sort of. It was time to fortify ourselves with curry puffs and teh tareks at Jalan Gasing. (All in the neighbourhood, what?) We ate and ate and ate and watched the youngsters who congregated there. Sort of a who's who. The up and comers. Also some oldies who think they are up and comers. I mean I saw the former group editor. With another former group editor. With a group of young lackeys. Probably plotting the overthrow of present management of various newspapers. We nodded as we passed and he smiled and spoke to Mary. I was invisible but it made me no never mind.

So now I have everything and my life is perfect and I could actually embark on cookie baking frenzy I think I will go to sleep.

What can I say?

That's the way the cookie crumbles...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wanted: Two bowl lickers

I decided which cookies I was gonna make. Then I made a list of ingredients and scoured acres and acres of supermarket aisles (OK, this was mostly within Bangsar, but still!) found treacle and pecans at Bangsar Shopping (if you're looking for these in TMC or Bangsar Village, fuhgged about it) and even found cookie tins in Ikea. Cookie cutters as yet remain elusive, but I'm going for an adventure with my friend Mary Zack later, and we may stumble upon them at this place that was recommended for baking implements in PJ Old Town. And then I'm pretty much good to go. (I tell you, next year, I may just resort to store bought gifts)

What I lack now, and what I probably will never find as I'd have to go back to the 80s to look for them, are my two bowl lickers. One curly headed (Jackie go comb your hair!) with a mischievous grin and the other sort of angelic looking (it's very nice, Jenn-fer) with a sweet soothing voice suitable for tv commercials.

They should preferably answer to the names Jackie and Julie (or big monkey face and little monkey face), love everything I make and wash up after (the bowls, I mean, licking it clean will just not cut it).

Apply within.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My bounty is as boundless as the sea...

You're in my blood like holy wine,
you taste so bitter and so sweet,
I could drink a case of you, darling
and I would still be on my feet.
(Joni Mitchell)

So I am sauntering along the hard bright streets of Nusantara, whistling a solitary tune, when before my amazed eyes, the trees start bleeding golden light onto the pavements. I glance around to see if anyone else has noticed, but the people continue to shuffle along, clothed in the greyness of their thoughts.

Ah me,
Life is joyful.

I reach out and the light spills onto my fingers, the texture of warm honey, or Sheila Majid's voice singing Lagenda. Or Dick Lee singing Bengawan Solo. (Listen to it Jack, there's gamelan and it sounds wonderful)

Bengawan Solo,
riwayatmu kini,
Sedari dulu jadi,
perhatian insani...

Strains of Nella Fantasia. A joyful noise. Oh, this is uplifting with a vengeance. All the colours coming down to kiss me. People look up and smile. Hey Pink. Hey Green. Hey Cerulean Blue. Oh, look at Yellow there. Ah Orange. How I've always loved you. And Red, where's Red? There's Red. With Purple. I used to love Purple better when I was a kid. Purple was then my favourite. Whatever happened to us, Purple? She smiles and waves gently. Melambai-lambai. Belaian jiwa. That sort of thing.

And there are smiles. I can pick out smiles in the crowd. Cloud. Something like that. What is happening to me? I can't take it.

A surfeit of waterfall and wine. Jane Austen waltzing by with Virginia Woolf. And was that..., no it wasn't. Must be a trick of the light.

I have to go now. In vacant or in pensive mood. The air smells of Christmas and there are cookies in the oven - gingersnaps and chocolate bars and butter cookies. And then there are the various wrappings and ribbons and presents strewn around in various states of glorious disarray.

Maybe I would be more coherent if I had daffodils.

That would be a glorious life; to addict oneself to perfection; to follow the curve of the sentence wherever it might lead, into deserts, under drifts of sand, regardless of lures, of seduction; to be poor always and unkempt; to be ridiculous in Piccadilly. (Virginia Woolf)

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Malaysian Dream

I was not going to post today, but then I listened to Ikhlas and thought, what the heck. Everyone charges that we Malaysians are not integrated. That we have failed to achieve the spirit of "Muhibbah", Petronas ads on the various religious festivals, notwithstanding.

They say we are polarized. Split apart. Pulling in our own different directions.

Not being an analyst, political or otherwise, I couldn't say if this was true. I refuse to pontificate (although pontification is my very favourite thing, being Catholic) one way or another.

But I will say that Malaysian integration has succeeded in at least three instances.

Our language.

"We Malaysians like to tokkok like fren fren one."

"Adar podar!"

Our food:

Butter prawns*, which includes ingredients from all three races and has been declared food of the gods by those not allergic to prawns or not able to eat it cos they're vegetarians. And don't even get me started on black pepper crab.

The song Ikhlas. Malay song. Sorta Chinese introduction. Tabla throughout. Amir Yussof singing meaningful lyrics that don't mean anything in English.

OK here's the Petronas ads. Praby, I thought you'd like this. I found your favourite.

Seri pati, seri, seri.

And vat about this "Indian" fler, huh?

Tapi sayang,
hanyalah impian,
bulan tak bisa tunggu di taman,
dan bila mentari datang,
pulanglah segala kenyataan...

* 600g large prawns
oil for deep frying
2-3 tablespoons butter
15 bird's eye chilli (cili padi, you know, like me, small and deadly)
10-15 sprigs curry leaves
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese wine
1/2 grated coconut deep fried until golden


Remove heads from the prawns but leave on the shells. Slit down the back and remove intestinal tract. Trim feelers and legs and dry prawns thoroughly. Heat the oil and deep fry the prawns. Drain and reserve.

Melt the butter, add chillies, curry leaves, garlic and salt. Add reserved prawns. Add soy sauce and Chinese wine. Then grated coconut, last of all. Cook over high heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve immediately.

(yummy, yummy, yummy, I got love in my tummy)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The doors slide open

Yesterday I split in two.

Effectively, I turned right and left at the same time, and, rather than tripping myself up as I usually do when I attempt two directions simultaneously, I split.

Usually when I split and occupy several different realities at once, I don't know about it. No one has come up to me yet and said, hey Jenn I saw you at such and such, when really, I was at home, curled up in front of the tv, cradling a bowl of ice cream (because ice cream is milk and milk is healthy, and sometimes I have lettuce with it so there!) and watching The Waltons. Or M*A*S*H*. Or Shakespeare in Love. Or Stage Beauty. Or Tuesdays with Morrie.

No. They nod and smile crookedly, as if they're not sure about something and then they look away. (You get used to people looking away after a while and it doesn't bother you anymore. Much).

But today, today, I found out that I did something I didn't do. And it could have only been me. It couldn't have been that evil twin who pretends to be me, when I'm not looking. Only, I put on weight and cut my hair and adopted scruffy looking fake Birkenstocks and a crumpled kurta. She's into coiffed hair and business suits, so you see the problem. We no longer look alike (OK, I am sticking my tongue out at you evil twin, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah)

Jackie says I wrote a post yesterday. But I didn't. Really! I wasn't even at home yesterday until long past midnight. I went to a variety of places, arriving five to 10 minutes too late at each, and finally had tea at the mamak near the old office with Addy and then swung by to see if Mary Zack was back. She was. We hung out. Hence the late homecoming.

This intrigues me. It would send me into a meditation on quantum physics and the endless different worlds we occupy.

Everytime we turn a corner. Split. Split. Split.

Hey Jenn, still at the newspaper. Do you smoke now?

Hey Jenn, who stayed in is Charles?

Hey Jenn who actually wrote a book: Did they publish it?

Hey Jenn who stayed about four: How are Amechi and Daddy? Is Malaysia still sultry and hazeless and full of nice people?

Next time I bump into one of you, in your endless variations, I'll wave and smile.

Wave back.

And then we'll split again.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hidden Joys

PLEASURES lie thickest where no pleasures seem:
There’s not a leaf that falls upon the ground
But holds some joy, of silence, or of sound,
Some sprite begotten of a summer dream.
The very meanest things are made supreme
With innate ecstacy. No grain of sand
But moves a bright and million-peopled land,
And hath its Edens and its Eves, I deem.
For Love, though blind himself, a curious eye
Hath lent me, to behold the hearts of things,
And touch’d mine ear with power. Thus, far or nigh,
Minute or mighty, fix’d or free with wings,
Delight from many a nameless covert sly
Peeps sparkling, and in tones familiar sings.

(Laman Blanchard)

Because, I felt like it.

Christmas is a-coming

Christmas is coming
The goose is getting fat
Please-a-put-a penny
in the old man's hat,
in the old man's hat.

If you don't have a penny,
a ha'penny will do,
if you don't have a ha'penny
then God bless you,
if you don't have a ha'penny
then God bless you.

There's the sugar plums, of course.

And pulling out the old recipes, fragrant with old brandy. And the creativity required to make a host of presents. (That's right folks, I'm making my gifts this year! I think it'd mean more)

There's books:

To be made by self.

There's CD's. I'll select some songs and burn `em.

There's cakes (tell me which one is your favourite. Addy has booked the Texas Fudge cake).

As for crafty sorta projects, well looks like I will only finish one by Christmas. Maybe I can work on `em next year to have enough presents to go around.

(No, that's not it)

Gosh, I feel all excited.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Dale and I

The first time I went to the US, it was because of Dale Carnegie. I was reading "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" (which is an excellent title for a chronic worrier like me) and the US Embassy called to ask if I wanted to interview some VIP, who was part of the International Advisory Panel of the Multimedia Super Corridor (this MF of a project in a country where mega-projects are like rain).

I said OK. Embassy guy said, one problem. She has no time here. You would have to follow her to Sarawak. I said OK (a little more trepidatiously). He said, one more problem, she has not agreed to interview. You would have to ask her in Sarawak.

And the last problem. I didn't have a passport. Although Sarawak is part of Malaysia, you cross the sea to get to it. So, when you arrive there, you whip out your passport. At the time, we were having our financial crisis. Our wonderful Prime Minister didn't want us to travel. So passports went from being about 120 ringgit to 600 ringgit. 300, if you took the one with less pages. Nother problem - since I didn't have money at the time, I had put off renewing my passport. Embassy guy checked around, then called me back to say I might be turned back at the airport.

Oh, this was just getting better and better. So, I didn't have the interview, I could go all the way there (waking up at 3 in the morning, I might add, to catch the first flight out) and be turned away at the airport. Or, better still, be allowed in, and then have Ambassador Dougan refuse to speak to me. Wonderful.

I was sitting in a hotel lobby waiting to interview someone or nother when the office paged me to tell me this latest bit of news. Of course, I was sitting with my Dale Carnegie (since that was my book-du-jour and I am never without a book to beguile the wanton hours, especially if there is a possibility that I will be kept waiting. Also, if there isn't a possibility. I read in taxi cabs)

Carnegie asked: "What's the worst that can happen?"

I said: "They could turn me away at the airport!"

Carnegie said: "OK, they could turn you away at the airport. Now accept that outcome and get on with it."

So, I "accepted" that outcome, set off the next day prepared to be turned away at the airport when I got to Kuching. And instead:

They let me in with my identity card. After all, I am a Malaysian. Also, once when I got to the hall the first talk would be at (after which I would see if Ambassador Dougan would be amenable to speaking to me) I found her a delightful woman. She spoke from the heart and it was wonderful how down to earth she could make a dry topic like technology. After the speech, when everyone was buzzing around, I went up to her. She not only agreed to an interview, she asked me to accompany her on her "official tour" of Kuching. This was more than I could have expected. Anyway, at the end of her tour, we had about an hour to speak.

I did three stories. The guy at the Embassy was so impressed that he recommended me for an East West Centre fellowship (ah, Hawaii! Also San Fran and Seattle. To say it was wonderful would be to damn with faint praise).

And that is how Dale helped me get to the States.

I wonder what would happen if I actually applied the rest of the 100-or-so self help books that I've read.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bum Chums (Get Your Mind Outta The Gutter)

Bumming had lost its lustre. There I was, searching for work, regular work, any work, as long as it had a fixed income, because, the thing I missed most, was my credit card. (Yes ladies and gentleman, as much as that lowers me in your estimation, I have to say, like George Washington, I cut down the cherry tree, I cannot tell a lie ((well actually I can, but in this case, I'm not)) )

Anyway, I thought the days interminable, sitting at home, stuck on the computer, or watching yet another rerun of M*A*S*H - you ever realise how watching the same comedy over and over tends to depress rather than amuse you? Like when I had my wisdom tooth knocked out, and stayed at home with about 10 new PG Wodehouse books and after reading most, started sobbing because it was all so frivolous and if another person said well pip pip then I could have cheerfully chopped off their heads?

OK. All that buildup and that's not what I came here to talk about. I do not exist when I'm drunk (OK it's early in the morning and it's only coffee, but still).

I discovered why bumming has paled. You need someone to bum with. And yesterday, I had just that. Addy came out for lunch with me (she's a member of the working elite, but she was off yesterday) and we lingered over Chipotle Roast Chicken sandwiches at Coffee Bean, talked up a storm, tried on clothes at British India (Addy, not me), visited a few art galleries in Bangsar (we're both very distinguished art critics, ahem)

Addy: Honestly Jenn, how do they choose these things? That looks like something a talented three-year old could do.

Jenn: Yes, yes. (Imitates La Penseur for a bit) I dunnolar Addy. Anyway, that other quite striking what?

Addy: The background looks silver from this distance. If I had a Malay restaurant with dark wood walls, I would definitely buy that.

Jenn: Hmmm, lot of these end up in restaurants, huh?

Addy: (nodding wisely) Yes, yes.

And then we ran some errands. And ended up at Strudels Lucky Gardens, with clove and cardamon teh tarek and a tangerine ice tea as well as a sujee cake. Yum, the sujee cake was nice and buttery. Then we talked up two storms. (I tried to sell Addy on Shantaram and she has finally agreed to borrow my book and do the flip test). Then Addy had to go to the hairdresser for a hair wash (nice luxury, that) and I went along with her and we discussed really abstruse topics like Madeline Wickham (a pseudonym for Sophie Kinsella of the Shopaholic series) and women who prey on vulnerable men at funerals.

OK at this juncture I have to report that a sum total of two people have said they like my hair. My good friend Omar, whom I talked to about the possibility of hiring me and Addy's hairdresser. So that's two. Versus like a 100. But I would say I'm still ahead.

Then we decided that since we had done nothing but eat the whole day, it was time for dinner. So we sashayed along to the T-Club and had the mutton curry (which was very nice and I would definitely recommend it). As we meandered through Bangsar Village on our way to T-Club I picked up a nice white kurta. Yay! Now I have all of two kurtas.

Large and roomy, that's the ticket.

Addy's friend Antoine joined us at T-Club and he ordered some Japanese dishes (which were also very good)and we talked about Paris, and he said the most unusual time there was Fall of 1996 (the time I visited) because everyone was on strike, so Parisians actually started talking to each other, offering lifts to strangers (cos all the public transportation was on strike) and being uncharacteristically nice. I said my view on Paris was formed then, and I find it difficult to shift. Strangers were chatting to me on the street, everyone was nice, everyone spoke (or tried to speak) English. I found out that the artist on Montmartre who sketched me without permission and then asked for 300 francs for his effort, had cheated me blind, but I didn't feel as indignant as I should have.

I love Paris in the Springtime
I love Paris in the Fall

It's surprising how after a day of doing nothing in particular you can feel so pleasantly tired. I came back to do a Mensa test that the Chubster (that's my brother Ivan, for those not in the know) had sent and was gleeful that I got 16 answers where he got only 5. He asked how I got so many, and I said I must be a frigging genius. Or at least, highly intelligent. Then I asked him how to email him my answers...and he said, duh, why don't you click reply on the mail I sent.

And he said: "Genius???? Highly intelligent????"

And I said: "Heh, I'm tiredlar. And according to your stupid test I am."

And he promptly offered to send me a few more Mensa tests. But I declined. Declared my intention of knocking off. Which I did.

(Oh yeah, I did all of five Christmas cards yesterday, which I think is pretty good. I also collected a whole heap of addresses. Am I efficient or what? What do you mean what?)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

It's a matter of perspective, my dear

It is a truth generally acknowledged that if you have long hair and ask a Malaysian hairdresser to bob it, she will get extremely nervous.

Short hair not nice and what have you.

She tries to talk me out of it. Tells me she will add more layers.

No, I insist, I'm sick of it, cut it off, all off.

And she says, but, but, but...

I stick my chin out mutinously.

She sighs, shrugs and gives in.

I wink at myself in the mirror. This is more like it.

My hair is dry and sad and it wants to die anyway.

So she starts clipping. Gains momentum.

It's all coming off, it's all coming off, oh glory, it's all coming off...

She says: "Your hair very hungrylar...why you no condition?"

I say: "No excuse, just lazy. Just don't care enough."

She says: "Tsk, tsk, tsk."

I smile knowingly at her.

Snip, snip, snip.

And the floor is soon covered with my split ends.

She runs some gel through so the short ends stand at odd angles.

It's supposed to look more citified. Or sophisticated. But it just looks like I couldn't be bothered to comb my short hair.

Oh well. I love my hairdresser. I think I'll make her triple chocolate muffins the next time I see her.

Coming out of the dark...again

I know, I know, I can get rather tiresome, same old, same old. I just received an email from a friend in Australia, full of pep and advice, and thought, gee, I used to be the leperchaun full of pep and advice.

Now look at me.

Anyway, I am back in KL. Drove down yesterday. Listened to a motivational tape the entire journey (luckily I was driving alone, because I listened to the same tape three times) and by the time I got to KL I was raring to go. So I shifted the mounds of dust from my long suffering room (the state of it had to be seen to be believed), ran a few errands, sent out important emails, answered important emails, and basically started to get things done.

Today, I made a book. Yes, you heard what I said, I MADE a book. Formatted it, printed it out, and am going to bind it and send it to this nice old lady. I promised to do this months ago, but was busy then, sitting on my tush, being somnolent.

I will do similar important things tomorrow. Like my Christmas card list.

November is the pleasantest month of the year, falalalalalalalala.

New Cars

Ivan's new car, a light blue Honda City, has arrived. He sold his Proton to Julie. The family is alive with new cars.

I think I'll paint mine red. I always wanted a red car. So what if it's not new? At least it can be red.

Pearl red.

BTW, Jackie and Simon (Simon, you there? Say hi once in a whilelar) Ivan's new number plate is Julie's birthday. That young genius suggested that they swap cars. Ivan gave a mirthless chuckle. Maggot has already marked the car but he doesn't recognise it so still barks. As does Elliot. I think they only approve of Protons. Mahathirian, no?

Some mute inglorious Milton

I wandered lonely as a cloud, in a graveyard full of bright black marble because it was close to All Soul's and Momma insisted I tag along. Ivan and Julie were ready and willing, but without me, it would have been three. And three is unlucky. Or so my mother thinks.

So there I was the reluctant grave visitor:

Romeo: Come now man, the hurt cannot be much...
Malvolio, or maybe it was Mercutio: Look for me tomorrow, you will find me a grave man...

The family graves are all sort of clumped together - the two grandfathers, an aunt, a few relations, some friends. Of course, the strangers' graves were more interesting. Like that woman who died at 79, who brought up six children on her own. Her husband, 21 years older, had left her a widow at 40 during the Japanese occupation. Most were those who had lived a rich full life, at least I think they did, anyway, they were old, so maybe, more ready to go. There were some very young ones, like Roland, who died when I was still at school. Run over by a lorry. He was but 14.

And then there was this:

Beneath rests our only child Thambi
Fond memories of a mere 20 years
Can only be treasured
Each day passes in agony
Still pondering why our only Joy
Hope and Future pillar of strength
Had to be taken away
So early in life
Whatelse to give except our tears
To hear those endearing words
"Anyi and Amma:
Bleeding hearts wil not heal
Till we embrace you Dear Son.

I felt a catch in my throat.

And then it started to pelt with rain.

So we left.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Sad Man

The man moves in circles
his sadness peeling from him
like leprosy.

He says:
"I still feel kinda
about myself."

And we say:
"Don't worry,
we'll love you better."

but under the scabs
there's sand,
irritating, exacerbating,
to a fine point of

We need to rip the scabs
pour salt and methylated spirits
into his wounds
a sting
and then peace.

"Lo, sleep is good, better is death; in sooth,
The best of all were never to be born."


It is subtle I guess, all the ways in which the world has devised to let you know that you are unwanted. No, there is no welcome mat out, you have to create it, stake your claim on a bit of space, hang out the shingle to say, hey I'm here. This is mine. My own. My precioussssssss.

No one is going to rock up and say, hey, you, I'm glad you're here, feel free to share my space, feel free to be part of my life.

That's not how in works in the world I have imagined.

You have to justify the space you take up. Or else quit it. No one asks you to. It's just expected. Subtle. But in your face, all the same.

A friend once talked about a premier news organisation. She said if you don't make the grade there they will not tell you to leave. You will do so on your own account.

Deadwood, driftwood? There are ways, without bringing lawyers into it, of getting rid of these. All you need to do is show them they're unwanted. Withdraw your attention. And they wither and die. And more importantly, leave.

We all need attention. We cry out for it. We scream into cupboards and then, the can only write in so many cafes and nurse so many coffee of the days before the whole thing starts to get real old.

Look to the future? What future? There is only tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

I hate it when I ramble.


Friday, October 20, 2006

What does this sound like to you?

Words are free in the sense that we do not pay money to use them. We each may use as many or as few as we desire, no lifetime limits, deciding how much of our inner selves we wish to reveal to others in our frail efforts to communicate; slivers of the demons and angels residing inside shoved out into the light, seeking understanding, salvation, absolution, to salve our wounds, to assuage loneliness.

In person, I don't often speak. Conversations flow past me faster than I can process, too much time spent lost in eddies of words; the quiet one in the corner trying to peel the strata of what was said from what was meant from what is thought from what is felt. It often appears I'm not paying attention but I am, a depth of interest my body language is unable to convey while words wash over me, drowning in another's thoughts at the expense of my own.

Much of what is written here I would never say aloud, couldn't say aloud as there wouldn't be enough breath in my body to get it all out, only my fingers on keys able to keep pace.

I feel like I've used a lot of words, here in this place, maybe too many. They are free but they still took a toll, written and read. All I know now is I feel like I've used enough words and there's nothing left for me to say.

Thank you for listening. Please take care.


I've often wondered how you survived and what strength there was in you, to make it from day to day, with little or no hope, or light at the end of the tunnel. No I didn't read the back issues, so I don't know what brought you to this pass, but I did see the incredibly depth and sensitivity that characterised each post and signalled you felt everything more deeply than most.

Everything you wrote read like it should have come from a novel. And not a trashy Mills and Boons, but one of those up for the Booker. You know the kind that people buy in hardcover, put on their shelves, re-read fondly, getting something different every time.

Dear Fury, if you're still around, if you're reading this... I'd like to say so many things. I'd like to say goodbye, if a goodbye is in order. I'd like to say thank you, for your incredibly generous blog. I'd like to say good luck, if you're not going to do, what I think you're going to do.

I know words eventually wear themselves out and you get lost in the silence.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Scenes of Malaysian Life

Morning: Me asleep. Fast asleep. Haze still going strong. Can hardly breathe outside. Dogs not too happy.

11am: Persistent knocking on door. Mom arrives. Sits on Jackie's bed and starts to talk. And talk. And talk. Then electricity goes off.


In the news: The haze. Forest fires. More horrific road accidents. It always happens during the festive season. A motorcyclist was hit by a car. As he lay groaning on the road, an SUV came up and swept him off in its undercarriage. Villagers pursued trying to get SUV to stop. The driver was afraid of being subjected to mob justice. So he went on for 2km till he got to the police station. Motorcyclist was dead by then. Festive fare, this. Turn the pages, more of the same, more of the same.

"Oh to be on the PLUS highway, now that Deepavali and Hari Raya's here....lalalala"

noon: Mom calls LLN. Cannot get through. Gets sick of being on hold, so she calls her friend Halimah and they both gossip about Symbiosis, this Malay drama (yes Jack, she has stooped to that and what's more she enjoys it as much as Days Of Our Lives).

"Aiya electricity went offlar Halimah, so I may miss today's episode. So anyway, what happens ah?"

No, Halimah is not clairvoyant. She's simply watched it before.

"You mean he has AIDS? Oh my God! But, but, but he was a model, right? A kept man? Who was keeping him? And that Datuk is the bad guy right? I had a feeling. So quiet but you can see he's not a good character..."

After this intense discussion, Mom tries for the LLN again. This time she gets through. They obviously have a sophisticated caller ID system which enables the girl on the other end to not only tell Mom her name, but her address as well.

Elliot (the dog) is barking all this while. The air is punctuated with "Shut up Elliot!" and then Mom goes out to see what the matter is. Oh, the LLN guys were here all along. They are fixing the problem. Ahh the sweet scent of smoke in the air.

The haze, always the haze, you can't get away from the haze.

Me: "Why don't they cloud seed over here? They cloud seed in KL and see, we get rain there and it clears the air..."

Mom: (Silence)

Me: MOM! Why don't they cloud seed! The idiots! (I am grumpy cos it's hot and I can't turn on the fan and I can't watch tv and I can't play on the computer).

Mom starts to fan me with her Japanese fan. I giggle. I suggested that she fan me as a joke, but she obviously thinks it will cool me down.

She tells me that the squirrels living outside are bold pieces. It's bad enough they rifle the cempedak (jackfruit) and ciku trees so she doesn't get any fruit, but they stole into the house yesterday and attacked the dogs' food as well.

"But at least they don't pelt me with rambutans, haha."

"Who did they throw rambutans at?"


Mom laughs hysterically. I laugh hysterically.

"Hey Mom...oh never mind."


"I was going to ask you to give those poor LLN guys some water...but they are fasting right? No water..."

And then the fan comes on. The LLN have triumphed. Oh happy day calloo callay. I can now go on the computer while Mom watches her show.'s the little things in life.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ay, there's the rub!

I blame it on the dream catcher. Of course, this one is an actual dream catcher. Not the touristy travesties of feathers and string that masquerade dream catchers at every kitschy stall on the ground floor of the KLCC. I got it from Sedona at the Ala Moana Centre in Oahu. A present for Jackie, I think. Or it may have been Julie. It was supposed to have been made by honest to goodness native Americans. Navajo, I think.

Anyway, ever since I laid my head neath its lambent influence, this time around, I have dreamed that;

1. I died and went to hell. Ron Howard was there. Also Meryl Streep. And a priest I used to know in Australia and kinda liked. I was given a chance to come back. Yes, from hell. Which was sort of not that bad a place. The priest came back with me, but refused to listen to my confession. He said, if he was to "confess me" it would cause a scandal. It was already in the news, how we had come back from hell together. We came back to earth in some sort of cathedral.

2. I watched Jackie's car go into a pond. Then, I sat by the side and waited to see if she would swim up or if I would have to tell Mom that she drowned. The real nightmarish bit here was that it didn't even occur to me to dive into the pond to try and help her. Hours later, she emerged, pale and shadowed and fixed me with a haunted look. "Why didn't you come help me?"

3. I was on a dark road somewhere in America riding a bike (I hate bikes, the motor type anyway). Twilight was falling and I couldn't see properly and was very tired (but I couldn't dismount, I don't know why). I was in a tree encrusted place (sort of like an eco-resort) with houses dotted on the ground and in the trees (kind of like Solace in Dragonlance). Quilly lived somewhere here and she had put her address up on the net. But I had forgotten the number. So I drove along, wishing she would come out, so I would know. I was so tired that I knew I would shortly fall off my bike.

4. Ron Howard was there (this was before we went off to hell). He looked about 30. He had two siblings (a pretty boy and girl) who were teenagers and another two (also a boy and girl) who were little kiddies. We were discussing the Andy Griffith Show. It was all very confusing. Shortly after this we took off for hell.

5. I had a final ad maths (additional mathematics) exam. To read the questions, I had to climb a curtain in the hall (you know those long curtains that come all the way to the floor). It was precarious, to say the least, trying to balance on the curtain and read the question. I only got past the first question and then decided to take a walk. After that I naturally couldn't go back to take the rest of the exam. So I failed.(Mom came into the room at this point and I told her I failed my ad maths. She said kereka di? as in are you mad, girl?)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

Hallo! Sorry about the silence. I have been sleeping. Actually at night I stay up because I cannot sleep (the haze, the heat, the incessant noise of KL) and then in the mornings I drop off until evening. At least, I drop off when my phone is off and Mom cannot call:

"Jenny-ah, what you doing? Have you had your breakfast? Aiya, your stomach is empty, you'll get gastric."

"MOM! Just get off the phone and let me sleep!"

"Why so grumpy? Miss Grumps....what time you went to sleep last night?"

"4, maybe, 5, no wait, it was 7."

"Why you sleep so late? Not healthy you know. Anyway, what did Jackie send for me? And when are you coming back to JB?"

Which is the reason for the call. I refuse to tell. It's supposed to be a surprise. But Mom has decided that by attacking me unawares in my half somnolent state, she can pry the secret out of me.

So here I am, back in JB. Mom is satisfied because she got to examine all her presents. As expected the frog playing the banjo chimes was her favourite. I think she likes the skirt (although she did not react to it). She was very pleased with the nougat. She was also pleased with the shortbread. And she wants me to make sticky toffee pudding.

"Why? You're not supposed to eat that."

Pouts: "I want to give my friends a treat."

"Yeah, that's a likely story."

Pouts some more.

She is a naughty Mommy.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I want to get off

Ever since I've been back, I've found it difficult to reconnect to this place. Every time I go away, it's like an escape. I wish I didn't hate it quite as much when clearly there are plenty things to love about it. But it's as if there is a great sadness, an oppression in spirits, laboured breathing, a quiet weeping, a loss, an absence.

My mind is stuck somewhere else. Where that is, don't ask, because I don't know.

A friend called. We haven't caught up in a while and she tells me she is depressed. Despite this, she has started work on another novella and I am moved with admiration. The people who produce, while the world around them goes to hell in a henbasket...

She asked if I was working on anything. I said no. Nothing. She said, that's a pity. You should write. And I agreed. I should. But what?

What indeed.

I went for my first early morning walk today, hoping to get back into some sort of routine. It didn't help. My thoughts circled like ravens. Or vultures. Picking at carcasses and wondering why they tasted of dead meat.

Stop this train.

I want to get off.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A birthday message to be lost in the stratosphere

Another year rolls by and we are still not talking. Another birthday passes, unacknowledged.

Sometimes, I wonder how you are. Most times, you don't cross my mind.

I remember how we celebrated your birthday in times past. It was an important occassion. To be marked. Remember that year we brought the cake to the office? Also flowers. I gave you Illusions. Richard Bach. (You lent it out without reading it and never got it back) Your cake was from, where else, Kokomo. The chocolate special. And your flowers, large red, velvety roses, your favourite. We sang loudly in the pantry. You made a wish and blew out the candles.

For that one man, that one man, that one man, that one man, who would see you as you are and not as you appear, for that one man, that one man, that one man, that one man, who would love you as you are, love you as you are, love you anyway, as you are.

All those birthdays, all those cards, all those good wishes, all that love, all that good cheer...spent.

But not completely. I still have enough left inside me for a wish you will never read.

Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Impossible Art of Biography

I have been OD-ing on biographies. And autobiographies. And have come to the conclusion that they are in both cases, exercises in futility.

With autobiography, you're writing your own story. And for the most part, memory is fallible. Also, for the most part (if you're the decent sort) you leave out all the "inneresting" bits. (Unless of course, you're Liz Wurtzel, in which case, "that's just too personal" has no meaning).

Also if you're not a writer to begin with (in some cases, even if you are), your autobiography can come out jagged, unflowing, and run out of steam. It doesn't "end" in the conventional way. You simply run out of things to say. And the reader, (that's me) closes the book with a feeling of disappointment.

I think this is why I love reading books by acknowledgedly mad (or rather not quite sane) people. They romp merrily on the page, cheerfully chronicling their excesses (if not of action, at least of thought), never bothering to pander to conventionality.

Does this stem from some latent (OK, not quite so latent) voyeuristic tendency in me or is that, the carefully edited, "appropriate" memoirs are just too pale, too grey, too uncommitted?

If you're not going to tell it like it is, why bother to tell it at all?

And then there's biographies. Especially literary biographies. And if there is not much material to go on, if letters have been burned and notes destroyed by familial "protectors of privacy" then all the biographer has to go on is conjecture.

Here, most of all, you can see the chronicler, seeking to impose his/her point of view on the biographed. Sometimes these come across as an exercise in wishful thinking. Sometimes I want to slap said biographer silly. Which is why I feel the most that biographies of people long dead, are highly arrogant.

How dare you think you can know what they thought? Or felt? How dare you think you are smart enough to get into their minds? How dare you shrink fit them to your own?

OK, have had my rant. Now I think I will switch to fiction for a bit.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Quoth the Raven, Nevermore!

I could a tale unfold...

But I wont.

Because blogs are not for tale unfolding.

They are for vomiting.

I didn't want to tell you this.

But since I have not slept in quite a few hours and since I've watched Shakespeare in Love twice (not back to back, I watched Stage Beauty in between) I am in the mood to confess.

No more.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Confessions of a Sybarite (like a hedonist, only more so)

Because this is the fasting month, I want to talk about food.

Moderation in all things, after all. Especially moderation. If you're gonna pig out, you may as well make it worth it.

Let me amend that. If I'm gonna pig out, I may as well make it worth it. (I want to look on my fat kindly, tracing every bulge with fondness)

Right, we did a lot of walking in England. Jackie and Simon are right keen on walks. But then, we ate more than we, now I am left with visions of Dorset apple cake. Also, lemon drizzle. Lemon pudding. And scones (the real stuff, freshly baked). And pork in apple cider. Also pate. And chorizo sausages. Some paella. Kit Kats and Cadbury chocolate. Purbecks ice cream (Dorset cream and butterscotch). Wine, wine, wine...oh to be squiffy now that autumn's here....!

I guess I should feel guilty about all this. And work out or something. But as I still haven't met anyone since I've been back (except for little sister Julie who is very polite about these things) and not been subject to:

"Oh my goodness, you've put on like, what is it, 10 kilos over there?" (puffs out cheeks to demonstrate) "Why'd you have to eat so much? Exerciselar, that's the only thing for it. Also it would be better for you to cut down on your food intake. A grapefruit now and then should do it..."

I have not been sufficiently self disgusted into activity.

Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, September 29, 2006

More Tea, Vicar? or Poop poop

This post is dedicated to Jackie and Simon. There they are, posing with Ben and Tifanny (Ben and Tiffany are the ones with the fluffy ears).

Aren't they adorable?

I thought to give you a wordy account of my trip, starting from when I arrived at the airport (Heathrow, of course) and got mangled in a throng of the patiently weary travellers (so much so, that poor Simon who had arrived on time to pick me up had to wait all of two hours and drive back to Poole for about one and a half hours) to Jackie (who would have come but she was working, also she didn't realise the immigration would take as long as it did), but after making such a promising start (in wordiness, if nothing else, I am Indian after all, and wordiness is in the blood) I have decided to spare you.

OK Jack and Simon, this was going to be longer but I just received a call from the airport which has confirmed that my bag (oh happy day calloo callay) is in and I am off to get it.

I had a great time. We saw lots of things. They took me for tea in a variety of twee places. We went to Bath and Chawton and Steventon and had a real Jane Austen fest (during this time, I re-read Pride and Prejudice and watched the Colin Firth version as well as Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility) and indulged in an orgy of Austen-ism. Jackie and I have been fans since we were kids.

(Now that I have read her biography, I think that...OK, OK I won't spoil it for you. Just to tell you, I finished, this AM)

Simon and I earwigged on a variety of interesting conversations (Jackie is not as nosey as we are) and compared notes later. He was more discreet than I was. Hmmmm...have to work on that.

They both showed me the best time. This is the most fun I've ever had in that sceptred isle. (I think I got that quote wrong but I only read Richard II four times, only enough to pass the test, after which I forgot the quotes...yes? no?)

OK, off to airport now. Hope the customs people are kind. I am a bedraggled sorry sight and have not brushed my teeth in 48 hours (because my toothbrush was in my bag and I was too lazy to buy another)

Update: My suitcase (or rather, Julie's) is now safely in my hands. It has been unpacked. It is broken due to rough handling but the airline has promised to either fix or replace it. On the road to the airport the ornamental bougainvilla bushes started shedding petals which skittered across the street in a truly ghostly fashion, as if strewing the path for a wedding. I felt a little freaked out. Partly cos I had lost my way and ended up driving to Negri and doubling back.

I found the downy feather I picked up in a field near Longworth in my bag. Also the flint from Burley, the twig from Oxford and the conkers from wherever Simon's mother got them from. And the lavender from Sussex. But I lost the fragrant pine leaves from the tree at the back of Jane Austen's house. They all go into a magic England box. (I know I said I was no longer into kooky stuff...I lied)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Adventures of Polly the fiddle faddle

We went to Lulworth today, Jackie and I and (drum roll, please) we climbed this hill. It was a difficult hill. Ivan (my supposedly athletic brother) hardly made it up intact and the last time Jackie went, she was moaning softly. But the two of us, heroes that we are, decided to attempt it anyway (although Jack promised that if I was tired and wanted to rest, or that if I wanted to abandon said enterprise and go on down, she would be OK with that).

But my Malayalee pride was at stake. I silently promised myself that I would keep moaning to a minimum. And that I would keep on keeping on all the way to the top, no matter how crappy I (or Jackie) felt. Of course, as you probably know, it's much harder to resume if you stop halfway up a hill. So we puffed our way upwards, wheezing like steam engines (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could, I think I can, I think I can) but did we stop? No sir ree! Not even when snotty woman with child on her way down the hill, laughed at our gasping breaths. Not even when old man with stick in front of us stopped, purportedly to look at the view, but mainly because he wanted to have a rest.

We overtook him.

Then we got to the top, the views were stunning and we plumped ourselves on soft grass, took in the deep aquamarine waters, the hills all round ("That's Weymouth, I'm sure that's Weymouth, no wait a minute, that's Portland, OK, Portland...") and Jackie decided to take forty winks and I decided to read my Jane Austen biography.

The blessed silence was punctuated by my occassionally excited exclamations:

"Aiya, Warren Hastingslar, not Clive of India."

"Hey, you know ah, Jane Austen's aunt was very independent..."

"Hmmm, her father had an evil stepmother..."

To which Jackie would reply: "Jennifer! Stop telling me about it. I want to read for know ah, in an ideal world we would be reading the same book at exactly the same time, so there would be none of this bocor rahsiaing..." (letting the cat out of the bag)

Then I had my Kit Kat (Jackie didn't want hers) and the wind was up and the seagulls and crows flew overhead and there were some people around us and we had a short conversation about breaking wind in airplanes.

Then we tried to go to Tyneham, but apparently the village was closed so we went up to Creech Point and put up chairs (Jackie and Simon have these really cool fold-up chairs in the boot) and read our respective books (she was reading the Wodehouse biography which is also really cool)...and we looked at the rolling hills spread out all around, a glimpse of the sea, also the sheep and cows in the field and Jackie said the scene spread out before us reminded her of the Shire (if you don't know which Shire, brush up on your Tolkien, my brave hobbits) and then I got a headache due to excessive exposure to the sun and we got into the car and found a shortcut home. Part of the shortcut involved a journey on a tiny road:

Jackie: Look at this small, am never gonna listen to you again.

Me: Aiya, it is only 5 miles to Wareham on this road, it shortens our journey lar!

And then we arrived home semi-merrily and she made me scones and we had tea in their Royal Albert fine bone china and tried to crook our little fingers as we raised the pretty tea cups to our lips and sipped appreciatively.

"Darjeeling, old girl?"

"No thank you dear, I prefer Lapsang..."

Now she is on the sofa reading her book. And I will join her shortly reading mine.

Jackie once said that her tombstone will read:

"Mourners not welcome: I just want to read my book!"

Can you see the family resemblance?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bookshops I have known

The thing about a bookshop, especially a second hand one, is that it has nuances, slight (or major) differences and each has to be approached cautiously, skirting around at first (rather like Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, the Andrew Davies production). On no account are you to approach a bookshop directly, or, irritated by your clumsy arrogance, it will not yield up its delights to you, but keep them hidden, safe from your Philistine grasp.

"Go away please, we do not serve your kind here!"

Once you have made the approach in the required manner, you are allowed to raise your eyes to the volumes - old, new, paperback, possibly antiquarian? You take them in at a glance....oooh I like this bookshop, it has Claire Tomalin's Jane Austen biography. Ooooh I don't like this one, expensive, without taste...yes, you make your quick snap judgements, lower your eyes, once again and proceed to look for the shelf, your shelf, the one you came here to meet.

Once you find it....a certain rigidity takes your being and you sink down, goldfishy and subverbal. Please, please, leave me be for a while, I need to search, I need to run my fingertips over these precious spines, maybe take out a volume or two and open them and let that old book smell waft up to my nostrils.

Yes, OK, there is a kiddie size chair here I am going to wedge myself in and read the first few lines of this - Pelham Grenville? Who would have thought?

In Malaysia, it is definitely Kinokuniya, KLCC. Of course, Borders at the Curve is not bad and MPH at Megamall is sorta catching up. As for secondhand books, there is only Skoob, but you need to take a trip there, to the middle of nowhere, specially for your book expedition...there are treasures, but you have to be patient. Chat with Thor. Or his wife. They're both quite nice. Eccentric, but nice.

And in England - my favourite little second hand bookshop so far, has been in Winton. There are masses and masses of books, piled up on the floor, stacked in the shelves, still in boxes - you have to be patient enough to go through the untidy stacks, selecting the ones you want - presenting them to Mr Brown, who will usually say, £5 for three. If the books happen to be a little older, rarer, he may pause awhile, regard you quizically and tell you £15. But he usually shows you a cheaper alternative. If he has one. A genial soul, he keeps up an unending patter and laments the fact that people don't read books anymore. I wished myself upon him for a half day of work (he had let slip that he needed help arranging the books, never dreaming anyone would take him seriously, and I showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed, one windy Wednesday morning, and not knowing what to do with me, he set me to work with the old antiquarian books) Luvely luvely. Of course he cringed and snapped when I handled some with less than the required care. But he gave me a rare edition of Summoned by Bells by John Betjeman as payment. So cool! (Anyway, that one's Winton, in Bournemouth, OK?)

I loved the bookshop in Wimborne. It had the Jane Austen biography and the PG Wodehouse biography (by someone or other) so I considered it the best stocked second hand bookshop around these parts. When we went there was only a sullen teenager looking after the shop, staring into space (instead of reading a book, despite the riches all around, can you believe that?) but I still loved it.

The one at Lyme Regis (think Jane Austen's Persuasion) was pretty good, nice comfy sofas to sit on downstairs while you browsed through, and quite a few bargains for £1 each, but I still preferred the one in Wimborne.

We had a look-see at the secondhand bookshop in Dorchester but found it expensive and unimpressive. (The books were cold and forbidding, they didn't call, I didn't answer)

London, Charing Cross was so-so. Not as good as I expected or remembered. Neither was Foyle's, my favourite bookshop in all of England some 10 or 11 years ago, when I was here on assignment. (The other members of my troupe were off sightseeing. So was I. For me, bookshops are sight seeing). Borders was OK. I really needed to use the bathroom and they only had one. So, I didn't buy Paulo Coelho's new book there which was going for £3 pounds less although a cursory skim showed that this would be my kinda book.

Having said that, my bag is full of books. I am hauling back a frigging library.

And if you want me, I'll be at my club, er...bookshop.