Thursday, August 31, 2006

Nice Malayalee Girls Like Me

My Uncle Pepe is a triumph of hope over experience.

He calls to wish Julie for her birthday. And gets me on the phone instead (Julie being engaged in performing her ablutions at this time). So he compliments me on my ahem, professional MC performance at Eve's wedding. I thank him of course, in the usual Malaysian self deprecating manner: "Nolar Uncle, so-so oni, nothing greatlar and that's the first and last time anyway..." and he says, no, no, you should consider doing it more often, you were very good, and your partner was very good, etc, etc, etc...."

He evinces a distinct interest in my "partner", Mary Zack. So I tell him a bit about her. Then he asks how old she is. I wonder where this is going. After all, I can hear his wife, my aunt, in the background. Surely, my venerable uncle is not thinking of having an affair at his advanced age.

"She's 50 this year, Unc."

"You're bluffing. She cannot be more than 30."

"Aiyo Uncle, I'm sure she would be flattered but she's 50lar." (Mary wouldn't mind because she is like me. We neither of us don't bother to hide our ages).

I hear my aunt break into peals of laughter in the background. She pulls the phone away from Uncle.

"Jenny? Your uncle was thinking of matching her with Santosh. Nice Malayalee girl, tall and pretty and all. He thought it would be a nice fit."

Santosh is my cousin. A kid of 32. The only one of his siblings who is as yet unpaired. His eldest brother is engaged to an Italian. His second brother, married to a Tamil. And his only sister going out with a German. All nice people but, as my aunt points out, not one of us.

"Your uncle wants a daughter-in-law who can make putu."

Note: I am Malayalee. Pukka. And I can't make putu to save my life. Or aviyal (I don't think I spelled that right which just goes to show) for that matter.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I was the loudmouth who had to announce to all and sundry at my cousin's wedding that we (Jenn, Eve and Mary) were the infamous 3K Production, 3K being both Tiga Keling and Three Keralites. Keralites being Malayalees. Malayalees being the partners of choice for other Malayalees. At least where their parents are concerned.

My aunt stays on the phone and asks me (very nicely of course) to put out feelers for Santosh. A nice Malayalee girl. From Malaysia, not India (because if she's from India she cannot work for a few years while they try and sort out her papers and Santosh doesn't want a stay-at-home wife). I laugh and rhubarb non-committally because I don't approve of arranged marriages and don't even attend them as a matter of principle.

Uncle Pepe doesn't stop there. "So Jenny, when is your big day?"

"Um, never Uncle."

"Don't talk like there anyone now?"

"Nope. No one."

"Never mind. It can happen in a second. I pray every day for your big day." (I ask you, with four children of his own, how does he have the time to busybody with his nephews and nieces?)

And that's not all. Apparently I will get together with a nice Malayalee boy. And have nice Malayalee children. And why stop there? I will also probably array myself in silk sarees and make putu and aviyal for adoring in-laws.

As I said, hope over experience. Truly.

I need a drink.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

To A Lost Love

This silence lies between us like a cold, dead thing. It's been years and yet there are still days when I wake up and can't believe you're gone. It's been so long. And it's been no time at all.

I go through all these spectacular highs and lows and they mean nothing, because nothing I do means anything at all. Everything in the intervening years has been a blur. Watching myself from the outside. Standing three feet from my body.

Once I was real. Now, I am a shadow pretending to be real. I hate to think that I need to be completed. I hate to think of myself as a half that's lost its whole.

So I take refuge in biting sarcasm. The tough guy, that's me. I try not to let them see me cry. I try not to let them see how much I still long for you. I now think I always will. You will always be the part that's missing. And there is nothing I can do to fight it.

Believe me, I've tried.

I look for you but the road is dark. I listen for you but the phone is silent. I reach for you but my arms are empty.

I know you can never come back. I know that if you were to, I would find you strange and you would find me stranger.

The things we can know with our minds are endless. We try to rationalise our misery. Of what use is that? Misery remains misery. I remain empty.

I close my eyes and you will be here, if I wish hard enough. Please, please, please, please, please.

But you're not. You never will be.

I thought age was supposed to bring wisdom, acceptance, a cooling of the blood. But the wounds grow deeper and I miss you so much it's hard to breathe.

I love you.

I always will.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

MCs, Weddings and Other Benign Disasters

As you may know (if you've read the last few posts) I was one of the MCs at my cousin Eve's wedding. Which was last night. I would like to give you an amusing and scintillating rundown, complete with a description of our amateur (though professional) MC performance, but I'll spare you.

Instead I will share with you a few things I've learned in case I ever have to do this again. Which is not likely as both Mary (the other MC) and I, took a vow that this was a first and last for us. (Just in case you were thinking of inviting me to MC for your wedding now I am an acclaimed professional)

(The Two MCs)

1. Go round beforehand and ask as many of the friends and family as possible to clap wildly and laugh, even if they don't think what you said was particularly funny, or if they couldn't hear it, or if they didn't get the joke.

2. Primp for big appearance on stage - a thick layer of war paint and blue hairspray (but let us be different or die) should just about do it.

3. Tap your foot impatiently if the mother of the bride insists on waiting around for more dumb (read unpunctual) guests to show up before she allows the ceremony to start (here, you can throw a mild hissy fit, so she knows she doesn't only have the bride's ire to deal with, but that of her insignificant MC who also happens to be her very difficult niece).

4. When you introduce yourself, lay it on thick: "On my left we have the beautiful Mary Zachariah (pause for cheers of acclaim from the table full of Edgians and BT-ites). You've probably seen her on TV. And if you haven't, pretend you have! As for me, I'm a cousin. And the three of us together, Mary, the lovely bride and me, are known as the 3K Production. 3K standing for (dramatic pause) Tiga Keling (Tiga is three in Malay and Keling is the most derogatory term for Indians in Malaysia) or Three Keralites (we realised one day that all three of us were Malayalees and Kerala is of course, the land of our forefathers). And what do we produce? Chaos, Panic and Disorder, and that's all you need to know about us."

(The 3K Production)

5. Speak clearly into mike while fending off deejay who attempts to come on to you by claiming to be lesbian. "Sorry honey, you're the wrong sex, I prefer women."

6. Spend intervals of MC-ing and introducing surprise acts by knocking back a few so as to loosen the tongue and maybe the bowels. "Oh blurry good, blurry, blurry, blurry good. Ooops... fellover."

(Julie and me, drunk as skunks)

7. If you have to read other people's speeches that have been emailed over at the last minute (Mary had to do this, not me), cut out all the hard words, in fact, cut out whole paragraphs and pages. The groom, whose best friend it is who sent the speech, will still be terribly touched and attempt to wipe off a furtive tear, while everyone is clamouring for his speech, which comes right after, before he has had a chance to compose himself. (And now, over to you, Bruce!)

(The Happy Couple)

8. Once dancing starts, and MC-ing duties are officially over, take off horrible high heels which have been killing you all night, as well as shawl, which keeps slipping off, and get down and dirty on floor with cousins, as well as friends you have just made today. (Nilanjan and Atre, that's you, you lovely, lovely, lovely people)

9. Kiss anyone (and by anyone I mean family and close friends and not gatal DJs) who says you look hot. They're probably being kind, but who cares?

10. Turn into taxi and be very hospitable with the ones who have no ride home or the ones who are stuck because they were forgotten in the general exodus. (Yes, I did this and I'm a saint, see my halo?)

OK, so I had fun. We all did. But that doesn't change the fact that MC-ing or public speaking (although I am a ham and love to be the centre of attention) is not my thing.


No, I mean it. Really!

OK, OK, maybe if you ask real nice and provide me with lots of booze beforehand...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

There's A Kind of Hush

Soemtimes life pauses to take a breath. In that hush between words, you see all these scenes splayed out in front of you, meandering towards completion. Completion, in nearly all these cases, would be painful. Or startling. Or real. Right now, you're in a waiting place, and that feels slightly unreal, but OK.

Someone is dying. It is only a matter of time. An operation to stave off the inevitable, but it is only a delaying mechanism. When you've used up the life in your body, you die. It's not pretty, but it's nature's way.

Someone is getting married. And I have to be one of the MCs (tragedy indeed! I will go up on stage and become tongue-tied) And although the wedding is on Saturday, I still have no idea what to wear! This is what happens when you don't fit your dressy clothes anymore.

I am leaving for abroad. The tickets have been purchased. And yet, it doesn't seem like I'm going. It feels strange. Not quite real, somehow.

I have given in at least three invoices for work done. They have yet to be "processed". So I made brownies. (I know you don't see the connection but there is one, believe me, there is)

I have stopped reading Dostoevsky 5 because I got irritated by his Russian chauvinism and have taken to soothing my mind with toilet literature. In this case, Wilkie Collins.

I still go walking every morning. I try and make it early. If I get there at 4.30am, there are still people there. I like the morning hush. A little late (like say 5.30) and there is already a crowd. I don't like the morning crowds.

I love people. They annoy the heck out of me.

I may be meeting someone I have wanted to meet for a long time on Friday. An old lady. And I am supposed to try and convince her to let me write her life story. But for that day, I shall just buy her lunch. A nice lunch. (Now where does one get a nice lunch in Ipoh?) Building up trust and all that.

I watched Renaissance Man for the first time yesterday. It was splendid. Now I feel like reading Henry V. Or Hamlet. Othello. Maybe King Lear.

No cause, no cause

For the past few days, I have been going to bed at 7.30. In the evening. I pass out and sleep till morning. I mean to say, what? But at least now, I'm not grumpy in the morning when anybody calls. And my nerves are no longer shot to hell.

Is this the promised end?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Two! No More Than Two! (continued)

The Lover lets himself in to my apartment, drops his suitcase and comes to a halt. The air is thick with almost a pack of Virginia Slims and he knows I never smoke unless upset. And it takes a lot to upset me.

"Belle, you went to see her didn't you? After the last time, I thought you would have come to your senses."

"I can't help it. She's my Mom."

"Your Mom? She's probably the most selfish, self-centered human being on the planet."

"You wouldn't say that if you saw the condition she was in. How she lives."

"Belle, she chooses to live the way she does. How many times have you offered to bring her here?"

"Dunno," I shrug. Many times.

The Lover and I have what some may call a strange arrangement. He lives in another country. Has a life there complete with wife and kids whom he adores. He flies in from time to time for business and has a key to my apartment. We met on assignment. I was lonely. He was drunk. Enough said.

For the most part, we remain detached from each other (other than physically, of course). Emotions are messy. We don't like mess.

So we call it "having sex" rather than "making love". I am very particular about signifiers. Better to be specific. Better not to create any expectations.

"Whose expectations?" he once asked.

"Mine. Yours," I replied.

We kept it like this until one day, he happened to stumble on me when I had just visited Aunt Sis (do you mind if I keep calling her that? I'm sorta used to it by now). I was unable to switch off my misery and so he sat next to me, took my hand, and heard me out. The whole sordid business. Funny how we had been sleeping together for nearly two years without knowing anything about the other.

He learned how Dad left Aunt Sis 10 years ago and how she took to her bed. How the huge settlement she received from the divorce dwindled slowly as she made herself into a career invalid, moving from the swanky side of town, to that little hole in the boondocks she now occupied. How she worked her way through a series of maids until all she could afford was a gully dwarf. And that's only because a gully dwarf came free (you know, Merowene is quite good, I've got her bathing at least once a month, she's practically a lady).

Aunt Sis never forgave Dad for leaving her. Of for the "Filipina trash" he took up with. A teenage mail order bride. Thing is, he mail ordered her, before he was free to do so.

And she never forgave me, for being half Dad's. Half pariah blood. She said I looked like him. He said I looked like her. And his young Filipina bride decided she didn't like having me around. Very subtly she edged me out of his house and then his life. Young wives can do that.

Anyway, I know it's pathetic to keep trying with two people who no longer want you (I always thought in a divorce they fought over the only child) but I found I couldn't help it. After a few years without contact, I began to try and mend bridges. It was hopeless with Dad. With a young family and a wife who didn't want me around.

And as for Mom, I mean Aunt Sis, well, things didn't go so well, once I lost my temper and told her there was nothing really wrong with her. Some words remain there between you for always. She told me not to come back that time. But still, I manage to sneak past the guards at least once a year to see her. And she always ends up kicking me out.

"I don't know what to say, Belle. Why do you keep doing this to yourself? They're not worth it, believe me!"

It's easy for him to dismiss my family this way. Would he be so quick to dismiss his own? Everyone is expert at telling me what to do. Resentment rises and I choke it down. After all, the last time I lost my temper, I lost my Mom.

The Lover, who doesn't love me, is all I have left.

"I'm going to bed," I tell him, killing my cigarette.

He is sitting, hunched over on the sofa, wondering if this time he has gone too far.

Halfway across the room, I turn:


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Hen Night

OK I know I promised to do a continuation of Two! No More Than Two! but this is too good to pass up (yes, folks you are gonna be subject to intimate details of my dreary life once again).

Firstly it's 4.07am in the morning. Insomnia, insomnia, insomnia. Except that this time, har har, I have a good excuse. I was at my cousin's Hen Night. And just made it home past three (they were playing Corinne Bailey Rae's Put Your Records On which is like one of my favourite songs, so I stayed in the car until it finished)

Anyway, that's neither here or there. I digress because I'm Indian and it's in the blood.

Anyway, you know what Hen Nights are like. Lots of drink. Embarassing forfeits. Total humiliation of the bride to be (Praby I love you, but I can't help it, I have to write about this).

Anyway, we had dinner at Italiannies and then adjourned to Laundry Bar for drinks. And ahem, other stuff. Before we adjourned, Addy handed out slips of paper for each one of us to write out a task for Praby (known to the rest of the world as Eve) to do.

I didn't know what to write, so I chewed the end of somebody else's pen, looked around, scratched my nose, winked at a cute waiter, scratched my knee, told a joke about monogamy (hahahahaha, it was funny but you had to be there), smiled around at my various friends, all in a vain search for inspiration. The rest of them were scribbling like it was the lotto or something.

And then, in the words of Oprah, my great AHA moment! (OK I know she doesn't use it in this context, but I don't care). If I had been in the bath, I would have taken off, tearing down the streets ala Archimedes, screeching EUREKA, EUREKA, EUREKA!

Anyway, my darling Praby, who already had two glasses of Shiraz in her (which should have driven her tipsy but she was too apprehensive to be tipsy, wondering what horrors lay in store for her), said, Jenn, you are my cousin, you are supposed to protect me. And I smiled in that serene fashion I have (you should ask somebody about it, I look like a Zen Mistress with that smile), nodded very calmly and intoned, yes, yes, I love you.

Her face took on an unhealthy pallor.

She was looking so worried that my heart misgave me. Don't worry, I said, taking her hand. She looked a little relieved. It's gonna be as bad as you imagined, I said. She smacked me.

Then we adjourned to the Laundry Bar. She was off the, ahem, facilities, with a few of the other girls (why is it that women always have to do group pees?) when I tapped Cindy on the shoulder (I had only met her tonight but we got along like a house on fire because we shared an interest in the same books and both love that James (is it James?) Blunt song) and she had seen what I wrote on that fatal piece of paper.

"Let's go scout out the place, pick a cute guy and ask him," I said.

I figure that reporters are about the most open people in the world. We can go up to strangers in nearly any situation and ask them anything. It's part of the job. (OK, so how many times a week do you have sex? No fixed number? How about an approximation? I'm doing a survey for the NST)

Anyway, we did a round and the dearth of cute guys at Laundry Bar was heartbreaking. Finally Cindy spotted one standing by himself and bopping to the music.

"Ok that guy over there, across my shoulder, the one with the full head of hair (we had been looking for a bald guy as Praby likes em bald) what do you think?"

He was cute, not my type, but cute, so I moseyed on over, only to find that Cindy had not followed me. I turned to see where she was and she waved at me, as in, you're on your own from here, babe. Can't believe you're doing this.

(When a girl you've never met before suddenly gives you flowers, that's Impulse)

I smiled up at this cute guy and asked if he would do me a favour. He looked a tad apprehensive. I said it was my cousin's Hen Night (he looked even more apprehensive and said, shit, I don't like the sound of this)...and asked if he would mind being smacked on the butt as that was one of her "tasks". He burst out laughing and agreed. Introduced himself as Jimmy (Jimmy, if you're reading this, thank you, and although she is getting married, the rest of the single women in the group thought you were very cute and wanted your phone number except that it is not polite to ask for a guy's phone number after you've smacked his butt)

Anyway, once Praby had come back, the night began in earnest. First, there was the unveiling of the cake. OK girls, if you live in KL and want a naughty cake for a Hen Night, you can't go wrong with Just Heavenly. It's in Bangsar, and their creations are truly artistic.

When my very modest cousin lifted the cover off the scrummy cake, she beheld a naked man, on his side, covered with a red cloak. The words: "Lift and Enjoy!" What she had to do was remove his cloak, and bite off his penis. (Something every good wife-to-be should know how to do).

She was mortified. "Lift your hair, bend over, come on," screamed Audra.

"Do it slow," Addy chortled.

Praby could not bring herself to do it. But the chanting grew louder, with everyone shouting encouragement and so she had to bend over and get on with it. Once she had chomped off his itty bitty member, saying in quite a surprised tone, "yum, that was nice", it was time for the presents.

There was extremely sexy lingerie (one had all this beads hanging off, ala part of a belly dancer's costume). We asked her to do a dance for Bruce and take pictures for us to see and she gave us this "yeah, that's gonna happen..." look. Then there was this book, Sextasy. It had pictures. Enough said. There was also a thong for Bruce. We wondered if she could photograph him doing a Chippendale's table dance. She didn't think so.

When she had unwrapped the last present, the flaming Lamborghini arrived. I don't know if you've ever had one of these babies, but it is potent. You're basically drinking a fiery concoction (it is burning and you use a straw and suck it up) and after that...

Anyway, after the killer drink (remember, she had also had red wine and white wine and sangria by this point), it was time for the games...yay!

The first forfeit was to go up to the manager of the place and tell him she was smitten with him and was thinking of leaving her husband-to-be. The manager was not around at that point, so we asked her to pick again.

The second one asked her to find a guy and ask him to wear her necklace for a few minutes. The guy she asked refused, but Praby put it on him anyway and he had to submit to being a little manhandled. It was at this point I realised that she was well and truly drunk. (My sober, serious and inhibited cousin would never have done that to a stranger)

Then she picked MINE! YAY!

I hauled her off unceremoniously to screams of NO! NO! NO! to go look for Jimmy. He wasn't standing where he had been before, and I hadn't really memorised his face. I was wondering if I would have to pick some other guy when Cindy indicated a guy sitting quite near us.

Grinning, I dragged Eve up to him and said: "Smack his ass!"

Drunk as she was, my little cousin was mortified. She continued to resist weakly as he stood up obligingly to let her get on with it. So I took her hand and smacked him with it. He extended his hand to her and said, "All the best".

What a nice, nice guy! Why oh why hadn't we gotten his phone number?

Anyway as I was leading her back to the table, Praby sighed: "Gosh, he was SO cute!"

"Cindy picked him," I said generously, giving credit where it was due.

"What do you mean picked him?"

"You didn't think I was gonna let you smack a stranger's ass did you?"

Cousins. They're so good to each other.

Anyway, the night wore on, and Eve got progressively drunker. She reverted to a sort of infantile state, her head lolling on the table, unable to hear what anyone was saying.

"What? What? What? Can we go home? Please, can we go home?"

Adeline (whose job it was to send her back) agreed, and Addy and I saw them to the car. Praby couldn't walk straight and kept wailing...but I have a wedding to attend tomorrow, how am I gonna go in this state?

I said, oh just show your mother the lingerie and she will understand. And Praby said, I don't even have to do that. She only needs to see the naked man with his penis bitten off.

And we all laughed immoderately.

She got home safely.

And will probably be bleary-eyed and hungover at her cousin's wedding today.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Two! No More Than Two!

I'm making my way up the five flights of stairs (panting and wheezing which makes it difficult to be furtive) and then I get to the DOOR. I give the secret knock. It is answered by a secret knock within. I knock again. This goes on indefinitely.

I am getting tired of this. What was the use sneaking all the way up if I'm gonna be playing knock knock with some gully dwarf who says (secret knock, two knocks - and I say, but that was two knocks - and she says, I count five knocks - and I say, two, no more than two). It would help if the gully dwarfs could count past two.

Finally, as I start pounding the door and threatening to break it down (a threat I could not carry out any more than if I was a fly, the door being solid meranti, and me being only vapours and blood), she opens the door a crack and peers out. I smile winningly. At least, I think it's winning. At the sight of my gleaming teeth, she screeches and tries to shut the door. I insert my foot. She shrugs and sighs and gives in to the inevitable.

Really! The things I have to go through to pay a visit.

Anyway, once I'm in, I try not to wrinkle my nose. The scent of unwashed gully dwarf assails my nostrils with all the strength of an FF (a former colleague who used to give the rest of us headaches and sinus attacks if he sat anywhere close by, he was that pungent).

"So, is she here?"

"Who?" asks Merowene, in a sullen tone. I interrupted her Solitaire and she is not happy about it.

"You know who. I mean, like, how many people live here anyway?"

She takes me literally and puts up four fingers: "Two, no more than two."

"Is that you Lullabelle?" a thin, tired voice calls from the other room. The bedroom.

"No, no miss, it's just Merowene talking to herself. Go back to sleep."


"Yes auntie, it's me. Merowene let me in," I turn back to the gully dwarf regarding me with suspicious eyes. Can't blame her, I guess. After all I hardly come to visit and I should. I really should. Poor Aunt Sissy (short for Sisyphus). "Go back to your Freecell. I can show myself in."

But Merowene, being the contrary creature that she is, decides to dog my footsteps. She is not letting me anywhere near her mistress without supervision. I sigh and follow.

I enter the room and recoil at the air which is as thick as Merowene's matted hair. I move to open one of the windows and they both cry out. No, no, don't let the nasty air in.

I sigh again. The stench of Merowene is hard enough to take with open windows. And here, there is another smell subtly interwoven with angry gully dwarf - that of a frail, lonely, neglected human. I seat myself gingerly at the edge of the bed and smile into my Aunt's face.

She smiles back. "So you're here. How long has it been?"

I cringe. "Too long Aunt. I'm sorry. I've been busy."

"No matter," she says generously. "It's always nice to see you."

Merowene squats down and Aunt cries out in alarm. "No Mero, no! The bathroom, do that in the bathroom." I recoil in horror. Oh God! What is it to be an invalid? Maybe we should get rid of the gully dwarf and I should move in. Or move her to my place. Palliative care. A full time nurse. That sort of thing.

Merowene stalks off in high dudgeon.

"Aunt, why don't you come back with me? My apartment isn't big, but it's comfy and I would take care of you. And we could get rid of that gully dwarf."

Aunt shakes her head with a smile. "No, I couldn't do that. Besides, I've grown fond of the creature. She isn't very clean, but she's affectionate. And she does take care of me."

I listen to the sound of Merowene going potty loudly in the bathroom. Surely Aunt deserves better than this.

We talk for a while and as I am about to get up and leave, Merowene brings in two cups of tea. I look to see tea leaves and other brown unidentified stuff swimming around in the murky liquid. No, I cannot bring myself to take the cup. But Aunt is nodding in a pleased fashion (Merowene is coming along nicely, don't you think? Just look at that), so I am forced to take it. Aunt takes the other.

The gully dwarf steps back and watches me with a strange look. What's with the sly furtive grin?

The tea smells, to be delicate about it, like puke. I cannot bring myself to raise the cup to my lips. So I purposely joggle my own elbow and spill it all over my lap. Boiling hot. Ouch!

I see the disappointment in her eyes and smile kindly at her. Yum, I say. Yum yum. Rubbing my belly. That was good.

Aunt Sissy is looking at me strangely too. "Lullabele?"


"I think it would be a good idea if you don't come around here anymore. You upset Merowene and she sulks for days."

"But Aunt Sissy..."

"Stop calling me that! You know I'm not your aunt."

"OK then, but you told me not to call you Mom."

She flinches and falls back on the bed clutching her heart. Merowene screams and pushes me aside. She buries her face in Aunt's lap and they both screech until I leave.

It was getting a little crowded anyway. The apartment was not meant for more than two.

No more than two.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Wolf's Point of View (not original)

OK, so I got killed in the end and you all said yippee. I'm not complaining about that. I wasn't as clever as I thought I was, so I'll take defeat like a wolf. But now that I'm a was-wolf (that is, a dead wolf), and I'm up here in Valhowla (paradise for wolves), I'll rest a lot easier if the record is set straight.

The official accounts of what happened that day are all lies, and I hate lies -- especially lies about me. So here's the story of what really happened.

The first lie that annoys me is all this big-bad-wolf business. Big? I may have been average size once, but by the time I was killed, I was more ribs than muscle. I hadn't had a decent meal in weeks. Skinny, yes -- big, no. And why bad? What was ever bad about me? I reckon I'm one of the nicest wolves I know. So instead of, "In the forest there lived a big bad wolf", now read, "In the forest there lived a skinny nice wolf."

Next we come to the question of motive. The history books say I wanted to eat Little Red Riding Hood. I didn't, and I can prove it. But even if I had wanted to eat her, what's so terrible about that? When she had eggs and bacon for breakfast, did anyone complain that big bad Red Riding hood took the eggs from the chicken as well as two slices off Porky Pig?

When she had roast turkey for Christmas, did it bother her what might have happened to Mrs Turkey and all the little Turks? When she sank her teeth into a juicy rump of steak, did she spare a thought for some poor cow walking round the field with half its bottom missing? What's the difference between a little girl eating me and my mates, and me eating a little girl?

Anyway, as I said, I didn't want to eat her. Here's the proof. You remember she and I had a little chat in the woods? I asked her where she was going, what she had in the basket, and where her sick granny lived. Well, if I was close enough to talk to her, you'll have to agree that I was close enough to eat her. Why didn't I? Some of the accounts suggest it was because there were some woodcutters nearby. Rubbish. If there'd been a single woodcutter nearby, I'd have been off faster than you can say, "The wonderful wolf went away from the wood."

The fact is I was after Red Riding Hood's basket with all the goodies in it. With my blunt old teeth I couldn't even bite a chicken, let alone a little girl. It was the basket I wanted. I thought of stealing it from her there and then, but for three reasons I didn't.

First, I didn't want to upset her. Second, she might have started screaming, and I don't like screams, or people who hear screams. And third, she might not have let go, and I was in no condition for a fight.

My plan was very simple. I intended to pop along Granny's cottage, give her a little scare so she'd run away for a few minutes, pretend I was Granny, and relieve Red Riding Hood of the basket. Then she would have gone home thinking she'd done her good deed, Granny would have come back feeling pleased that she'd escaped from the wolf, and I'd have got the basket. We'd all have lived happily ever after.

Only things didn't quite work out that way. First of all, in spite of what the official reports might say, Granny wasn't there. I pushed open the door, all set to say "boo" and get out of the way as she rushed out, but there was nobody to say "boo" to. Actually, I was rather glad, because some grannies don't scare easily. I've seen grannies that scare me a good deal more than I scare them.

Anyway, the room was empty, so I reckoned it was my lucky day. I crawled into bed, pulling the covers over me. In a few minutes, Little Red Riding Hood came along, and again the history books have got it all wrong. Unless she was as short-sighted as a one-eyed rhinoceros, do you honestly think that she would have taken me for her grandmother? All those lies about "what big teeth you have", and so on. I'll tell you exactly what we said to each other.

When she knocked on the door, I stayed under the covers and called out: "Who is it?" (That was rather clever of me. I knew who it was, but Granny wouldn't have known, would she?)

"It's me Grandma!" said Red Riding Hood.

"Who's me?" I asked.

"You's you!" she replied.

"Well, who's you?" I asked.

"Little Red Riding Hood!" she said. "I've brought you a basket full of lovely food."

"Oh, surprise, surprise!" I said. "Come in, my dear, come in." And in she came.

Naturally I stayed under the covers.

"How are you Grandma?" she asked.

"I'm not well at all, dear," I said. "I've caught a catching illness, and as I don't want you to catch it too, I'll stay under the covers will you've gone. Just leave the basket there, dear, and run along home. Run quickly, 'cos I've heard there's a big bad wolf in the forest."

It was brilliant. I felt like jumping out of bed and giving myself a round of applause.

"Yes, Grandma," said Red Riding Hood, and she put down the basket, turned around to leave, and ... just my luck! Who should walk in the room at that moment but Granny herself! I knew I was in trouble as soon as I heard the footsteps. I'd made a run for it if I hadn't been paralysed with terror.

"Hullo, Red Riding Hood," said Granny.

"Hullo, Grandma," said Red Riding Hood.

"Hullo, trouble," said I to myself.

"Grandma," said Red Riding Hood, "if you're here, who could that be in your bed?"

I wished I could just curl up and disappear down the side of the mattress.

"Whoever you are," said Granny, "I've got you covered. Come out with your hands up."

I poked my nose out from under the blanket.

"Look," I said, "it's all been a terrible mistake..."

"It's the big bad wolf!" said Red Riding Hood.

"No, no," I said, "I'm just a skinny nice wolf..."


Oh, the injustice! All I wanted was something to eat, but before I even had a chance to impress them with my charm and good intentions, Granny had put three bullets to where I should have had the fruit cake and chocolate biscuits. I collapsed like a chopped tree.

"Good shooting, Grandma!" said Red Riding Hood -- though what was good about it I shall never know.

"Quick, fetch the vet!" I gasped.

But the last thing those two had in their mind was to help poor dying Wolfie. "We ought to get the newspapers here," said Granny. "This could be quite a story."

"Oh, yes," said Red Riding Hood. "They might publish our pictures and we'd be famous!"

And while I lay there, half in and half out of the world, they calmly discussed the tale they would tell the reporters. Granny was worried that she might get into trouble because she didn't have a licence for the gun. (I wished she'd thought of that earlier.) Red Riding Hood also wondered why Granny hadn't been in her bed, because she was supposed to be sick. It turned out that Granny had been on the lavatory, but she certainly wasn't going to tell that to the reporters.

"And what," said Granny, "are they going to think when they find the wolf in my bed?" After all, I've got my reputation to think of."

"Blow your reputation," I groaned. "What about me? I've been shot!"

"You keep out of this, Wolfie," said Granny. "You've caused enough trouble as it is."

I'd caused trouble! Was it my fault that she'd been on the lavatory? And who fired the gun? And who didn't have a licence? But it as no use arguing they'd made up their mind that I was the villain and they were the heroes.

"Perhaps," said Red Riding Hood, "we can pretend someone else shot him a hunter, or woodcutter."

"But that wouldn't explain how he got into my bed." said Granny.

"I know what," cried Red Riding Hood. "We could say you were in bed, and Wolfie came in and ate you."

"You must be joking," I moaned. "With my teeth, I couldn't even eat a chicken, let along a tough old bird like Granny."

"Keep quiet, Wolfie!" said Granny. "No, the problem there, my dear, is that if he'd eaten me, I'd be dead. And I'm not."

"Well," said Red Riding Hood, "we could say he ate you whole, and then the woodcutter cut him open and you came out alive."

"Now that's an idea!" said Granny.

"Oh yeah!" I gasped. "A newborn fifteen-stone sixty-year-old baby! Who's going to believe that?"

"Then," continued the Little Red Liar, "we'll say he disguised himself as you, I came in, and the woodcutter rescued me in the nick of time."

"Oh, well," I groaned, "why don't I eat a whole Red Riding Hood for dessert -- make a proper meal of it?"

"Why not?" asked Granny.

"You're both crazy!" I panted. "Nobody in this whole wide world could be stupid enough to swallow a story like that!"

Those were my last words. With one more bullet from Granny, I huffed my last puff. But I died happy in the knowledge that nobody in the whole wide world could be stupid enough to swallow a story like that.

Ugh, how wrong can a wolf be?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Way of the Coyote

Of course you feel sorry for him. It's easy to feel sorry for him. Especially when he talks, tears in his voice, about how his wife left him, moved to another state, how he never gets to see his daughter.

He drinks because he misses his daughter. He drinks because he still loves his wife. He drinks because there is nobody in the world who loves him. He drinks because he is so fundamentally unlovable.

What he does not tell you is that his (ex) wife has a restraining order. And although she has moved state and changed her name, she still looks over her shoulder when she goes out. And underneath her clothes there are scars that will not heal. No, he left that part out. You don't really need to know about that. Not until you get to know him. Not until you understand the circumstances, how it was, how she really left him no choice...

Your friends say watch out. They say there is something not quite right about this one. They say you don't need more drama in your life.

You say, come on. You say, have a heart. You stopper your ears because you know they are right. But you are already caught up in the unfolding. Cannot let go now.

He draws you in. Young, naive and frankly, too dumb to know better, you think you're Emily Dickinson:

If I could stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain
If I can ease one life the aching
or cool one pain.

Arrogant really. What makes you think you can save the world? Or a single soul? You're a raw, wet-behind-the-ears kid from the right side of the tracks and you've never dealt with anything like this before. The lies, the prevarication, the cunning, the sudden violence, the heartbreaking apologies, the desperation:

"Please, please don't leave me, if you leave me, I'll die, I have nobody, I have nothing, and you know I love you, only you, I need you, please don't abandon me like she did."

So you stay. You tell yourself, one last chance, I'll give you one last chance, the next time you do this, that's it. But one last chance blooms into another and another. You stay. Because you cannot take the tears. And the suicide threats.

He controls you. You chafe at the chains. But you stay.

There is a breaking point of course. After which, you leave. And stop answering his calls. Block his email addresses. Take out your own restraining order.

It takes a while but eventually, he lets go. You'll become one of his stories. Like his ex-wife. To be told over a glass of Jack. To the next bleeding heart, save-the-world sucker.

The girl I loved who abandoned me.

And once you're out (oh, the blessed freedom) you wonder why you stayed. Why you put up with the fights and the jealousy and the control and the shattered glass when really, there was so much of life out there for you? If he was determined to die, the kindest thing you could have done was to let him get on with it. Even offer a few suggestions. (Herbicide, surefire way - just have to make sure you take enough, or you could linger for days)

Of course you look at men differently now. If they cry, you get up and walk away. If they cling, you get up and walk away. If they threaten suicide, you get up and walk away.

Deal with your own shit. I don't have time for this.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Guide to Looking Younger Than Your Age (if you're into that kind of thing which you may not be in which case disregard this post)

"How old are you?" he asked, casually, like it's a polite question and not one of the 10 big no-nos and likely to get you bitch slapped.

"34 years and what month is it now, August? Well 34 years and 9 months exactly," I answer because one of my affectations is that I always answer this question without hesitation. (My other is that I insist on using a fountain pen, which makes many people look at me askance, but let us be eccentric or die)

"Wow. You don't look your age at all. In fact, if you hadn't told me, I would have not pegged you at over 33 years and 11 months," he breaks into an artless guffaw.

I am stunned. 10 whole months younger! I must be doing something right. Trouble is, I don't know what. So here, in an effort to share the blessing, I give you all the ways I know of to look at least 10 months younger.

1. Be a bum: Now, this may be obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people are addicted to having jobs they hate.

2. Go through periodic bouts of intense depression: I dunno, it's probably cathartic or something, but it certainly works for me.

3. Eat more chocolate: See it's all about being happy and more chocolate makes everyone happier.

4. Have brief forays into alcoholism during which you write suicidal poetry: Happened, in Australia where the wine was cheaper and more accessible. Again, donno why but it seemed to work.

5. Toss off phrases like "I don't suffer assholes gladly" and then don't. They'll give you a wide berth. It may be a little lonely at first, especially if you're surrounded by them, but heck, it probably shaves like a couple of months off your biological age.

6. Go for long walks at the Bukit Kiara arboretum: During which time you take note of how all the geriatrics are much fitter than you. Then come back and eat a whole tub of ice cream to comfort yourself.

7. Hang about with people a lot older than you: Like at least 50 years older. You're bound to look younger then.

8. Lose your temper often: Again, catharsis.

9. Cuddle your Mummy and climb on her lap if you can: She may scream get off you baby elephant, but still, it's nice.

10. If all else fails, learn to make really good desserts: You can bribe your friends into saying you look 10 months younger.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Beautiful Washing Machine

It's probably not what you think.

The beautiful washing machine is a woman. A sprite perchance? An alien? A ghost in the machine? Anyway, she is beautiful, silent and unquestioningly obedient. What more could you want? Who wants conversation when they can have acquiescence?

She appears mysteriously one day in the house of a bachelor who has just been dumped by his girlfriend, and meekly accepts the role he assigns to her as maid. No maid ever worked so hard. You see her vacuuming and mopping floors, handwashing his clothes, cooking the meals, standing at attention while he eats, always silent. He decides she needs a change of costume and buys her a sexy yellow sun dress and a pair of low heels, after which she does all of the above attired thus. Always silent, she obeys unquestioning as he asks her to sit on the washing machine (OK there is a washing machine in this and it is second hand and temperamental and the girl is supposed to have emerged from the machine although this bit is left fuzzy) and he runs his hand up her thigh. All set for the seduction scene. Instead, he thrusts a lit cigarette into her mouth, causing her to cough and choke and blows smoke into her face, a sadistic smile twisting his banal features. His ex-girlfriend refused to let him smoke. His ex left and took the washing machine with her.

This girl has appeared in reply to the cosmic question - but who will wash my clothes now?

She is not a person but a commodity and he decides that pretty as she is, he does not want her. Instead, he will pimp her out and make some money on that sexy body. He secures a short squat ugly customer, who has bargained the price down from RM150 to RM120 and takes her to some cheap, sleazy motel for a slap and a tickle. OK, what he actually does, is bounce up and down the bed, trying to talk to her. As she remains silent, he tells her to go take a shower first. And a dump (you draw the appropriate inference, it was immediately clear to my friends what he meant)

Meanwhile, he jumps on the bed with boyish exuberance, falls down and hits his head on the bedpost. The girl, who is obediently going potty, hears the noise, comes out to find the guy passed out and runs away. Later, when the bachelor is trying to pimp her off to someone else, the original customer reappears with a band of gangsters, accuses the girl of hitting him on the head and robbing him, and they set on the bachelor. We don't get to see the effects of what they do, except that it must be bad as the gangsters run away and said bachelor doesn't get up to look for the girl.

The prospective customer, cheated of his fun, runs after the girl, chasing her through a carpark and she escapes. Through all this, her face, is as ever, expressionless. She remains silent in a true 'what can't be cured must be endured' fashion.

Another bachelor (this time an old one, a widower with grown up children in fact) is in his car, procuring porn from one of those VCD touts so common in KL. She enters his car. He looks at her, doesn't say anything, and takes her home.

Here, she resumes her drudgery, cooking, cleaning, washing (his washing machine does not work either). But the old guy has children who are not happy with the situation. The son hits on the girl (the father stops him, sending him off to do some chores), the daughter is angry and jealous (who is this girl? we don't know anything about her) and the daughter's boyfriend forces himself on her. Except that, although she resists initially, she ends up embracing her attacker, a blissful look stealing over her face as he orgasms. Apparently she likes sex. Probably this was her first time (we move deeper and deeper into male fantasy territory here).

The old man watches from the door and then proceeds to have a heart attack. Not all at once of course. No, he puts on his manga mask (he usually wears it to watch his gay porn) and the presents himself to her in the mask and in a pair of shorts (obviously, although he has told his family that she is his girlfriend, they have never had sex). Then he has his heart attack and lands up in hospital.

The mute washing machine comforts the son. She pushes her body against him and kisses him. This is probably the first and only time she has shown any volition and initiated a contact on her own.

The daughter, angry at being supplanted in her father's affections, thrusts a knife at the silent girl, hurling accusations, and the girl turns, impales herself on the knife and crumples on the floor, a bloodstain blooming in her centre. The daughter rushes out in horror, blood on her hands only to discover as she reaches the hall that her hands are clean. The kitchen is empty. The girl is gone.

Later, she dons the girl's costume (an old outfit of her mother's - a grey blouse and black skirt) and assumes the girl's place - mopping the floor for her father who has become even more silent and withdrawn.

The father goes to the supermarket (I forgot to mention but there are many scenes, where the different characters wander through the colourless antiseptic supermarket aisles shopping for sterility in nice packaging) and buys a heck of a lot of beer (maybe he has decided to make a lateral move to alcoholism to end his meaningless existence now that the girl is gone). The checkout girl tells him that that will be RM600. He looks up and it is his washing machine. He is flabbergasted. He asks her what her name is. She replies, rather shortly, that her her name hasn't got anything to do with anything, UNCLE!

They call it insubstantiation.

Have you ever considered
that Tahiti is merely
a Gauguin construct.

The beautiful girls
who fuck when you feel like it
and weep when you leave
but know they cannot stop you
and never try.

Feminism? What feminism?
These are the children of the gods.
They know what's what.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Walking in this world

So I was out for a walk today when it struck me. Runners have nice legs. Bikers have nice butts. You could call it an epiphany. As I was meditating on said revelation, a piece of eye candy ran past. He was so seriously good looking that I had to look away. I took care to look away because I think I've seen this particular eye candy before. At that time, I gaped (I didn't know I was gaping until he started to laugh). So it was imperative I look away. Otherwise he would think I found him good looking. Which I did. But you know how it is. Or maybe you don't. Anyway, a frank acknowledgement of male beauty is untenable.

(They say so and I take what they say as gospel truth though I have yet to meet them, you know what I'm saying?)

Walking in the evening is nice. Walking in the early morning is even nicer. The air is lambent, the day hasn't begun, the minds of the few but faithful out on the hilly paths, are quiet.

I like walking alone. I like walking with kindred spirits. I like walking with my iPod. Or without. I like the sound of my own thoughts. I like the sound of a friend's chatter. I love the spectacle of the baby monkeys frolicking on the trees. The sound of serious runners puffing away uphill. The smell of the trees closing in on me.

Just don't ask me to run...

Friday, August 04, 2006

The writer is an instrument of transformation

It seems to me that the intersection between the writer's life and a writer's work is irrelevant to the reader. The reader is not being offered a chunk of the writer or a direct insight into the writer's mind, the reader is being offered a separate reality.

Jeanette Winterson.

Justin may not agree.

In sooth I know not...

In sooth I know not why I am so sad...

I rush headlong into a relationship with a comparative stranger, thinking I know him, I really, really do, and that he is my soulmate. OK I don't like this and this and this but heck, I'm in full moon madness now, so don't bother me with such inanities.

And then of course, the dream comes undone and I am left thinking, who is this person I am with, anyway? And who am I with this person? What on earth are we doing together?

After the first few times you kinda catch on. (Well you would but I never do)

So, I watched The Break-up because it was marketed as a comedy and I'm in the market for inane comedies, the dumber the better. But it was not. Not really. It was actually painful and some things came too close to home. I found myself weeping silently towards the end and when it was time to leave, that familiar lost feeling welled up.

I walked the length of "The Street" trying to find a cafe where I could drown my sorrows a cup of hot chocolate and pour out my feelings into a journal. Thing is, it was 11.30 and all the cafes were closing.

I really didn't feel like a bar.

So I made my way back to the parking lot and eased the car out of there. Sadness welling up again. Funny thing, I was back to about February last year, and my own breakup. Why was I feeling this way? He didn't deserve my sadness when it was happening and he certainly didn't now.

Of course, at this time of the night, my favourite radio station went for soft, slow and melancholic songs. And I, who am not overly fond of driving, wished the ride wouldn't end. I wished there was someone I could call and say, meet me for a drink. At the same time, I wanted to be alone.

Alone on the deserted roads with songs of desolation. And my thoughts.

In sooth I know not why I am so sad...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Yellow Flowers

No, it was not the Lake District,
and God knows, I’m no Wordsworth
But there they were
on the fringes
of a manicured lawn
waving their gaudy heads.

Yellow flowers, I called them,
Until Christa told me they’re daffodils
her favourite flower and she
leaned down to smell one.

Daffodils? They curl their scented lips,
Daffodils? They sing like mynahs.

truly love it was the nightingale and not the lark!

I huddled on a bench
under a sky of blue concentrate
and the wispy heat of an
almost summer day
and smelled my memories.

And thought
why be sad?
There is hope yet,
There are yellow flowers,
There are daffodils.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Another meme because I have nothing to say and besides, I've been tagged and is this a long title or what!

Pink tagged me so I will do the gentlemanly thing and oblige. Life would be futile without memes. Blogs would remain empty, grass would wither and there would be something rotten in the state of Denmark (what state is that, you ask? Ask Aragorn, I answer, he's from there. Or at least, Viggo is) I love Viggo. Well, OK, I love Legolas more. Julie loves Viggo. So I wake up to Viggo every morning cos Julie has plastered a poster of him on my wall, which she has yet to move to her own room. I can live with that. Besides, I left my Legolas poster on my door in Australia.

You can say, I left my heart in Perth.

Talk you of killing?

The lady doth protest too much, methinks...

Brevity is the soul of wit. And discretion, the better part of valour.

Shut up Jenn! Get on with it!

OK, OK, keep your shirt on.

I am thinking about whether I should take a shower. Mary covered my chest in glitter. It spilled out of the glitter box she got for Gorgeous. So she simply swept it up from the table and liberally adorned me with it. In a restaurant. Gorgeous was sitting too far away to be similarly adorned. And Gorgeous was wearing her blouse all buttoned up to there. I was less conservatively dressed. And I have the glitter to show for it.

I said the quality of glitter is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. Mary said all that glisters is not gold. And I said, sometimes it is. And we giggled at how profound I could be. And Gorgeous smiled at us in a superior fashion. Silly kids, she did not say. Can't take them anywhere, she did not add.

I wish that this glitter was actually fairy dust and I could fly away - second star from the right and straight on till morning. Or some such direction. Maybe I could disappear down a rabbit hole. Run to stand still. Sing, oh frabjuos day, calloo callay! Slay the Jabberwock.

I hear that plump is the new thin. And dumb is the new smart. And prevarication is the new truth.

I wonder if the world has gone mad and what I can do to fit in. Or out. I want to fit out. How do I fit out?

I regret I didn't say goodbye to Boomer when I had the chance.

I am all textures of nothingness. I am the void into which it all disappears. I see copies before me, copies of copies of copies. I feel no colour. I feel no song. I feel nothing.

I dance when I'm pleasantly buzzed. Wine now. JD before. It all adds up to music.

I sing pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile smile smile...slightly discordant, but life is a soundtrack by the Teenage Fan Club. N'am sayin'?

I cry when my existential despair surfaces. And the protective layers are stripped off. And the pointlessness comes home to me. And nothing means anything.

I am not always chipper.

I make with my hands things for people I love. Like muffins. Or cookies. Vindaloo. Or tapestries. Christmas angels. Sometimes stories. Silly poems. You know, stuff...

I write nonsense, mostly. And that too, when I am in a good mood. Otherwise, different versions of my suicide note. I want to perfect it by the time I actually decide to shuffle off. This mortal coil and all.

I confuse Oscar Wilde with George Michael. Madonna with Princess Diana. Guildenstern with Rosencrantz.

I need to disappear.

He thought he saw a Rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
The Middle of Next Week.
'The one thing I regret,' he said,
'Is that it cannot speak!'

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

There's the beep...

My voice (particularly sprightly and fake): Hiya!

My cousin's voice (doing his Yoda impression): (Giggle). Here I am not. Message will you leave. Do not be angry, as anger leads to the Dark Side. Teach you I will.

This was my favourite. I had to change it cos nobody was leaving messages. They wanted to know who the guy was. They thought they got the wrong number. "Hey I called you, and it seemed like you said hi, and then there was some guy's voice, so I didn't leave a message."

Back to the drawing board.

Me (in ridiculous chirpy voice that I would slap another person for using): Hidely ho! Now I'm not here right now, so you be sure to leave a message y'hear? (slight pause and then in my normal voice) Julie, what are you doing with that knife... get away from me, get away, GET AWAY! (Three piercing shrieks) Julie does her Gargamel laugh (you have to have watched the Smurfs to know what I'm talking about, it's really diabolical and she's been practising since she was 2). I die.

Julie only agreed to do this for me cos it was my birthday. Of course, the first person to call and hear it was my extremely bossy godmother. She listened, then called my mother:

"Dot, her work people call this number, what are they gonna think?"

Two seconds later: "Jenny are you crazy? What will people think? Erase that at once!"

Me (defiant): Huh! It's my phone, it's my life, and my contacts are cool. You mind your own business!

Of course, I got all my friends to call and listen. They thought it was hilarious although they held their phones away from their ears.(My piercing shrieks can bust your ear drums). An analyst called and told me: "You're madlar!" Omar called and said: "Who was that laughing? Your sister? She sounds cool." A Datin* (the only Datin who ever called me, she would have to call now, right?) called and left this message: "Oh. Oh dear."

After a day or so I had to change my message. I found that a lot of uncool people call me, after all.

Hi, I'm not available right now, but leave your name and number and I might just get back to you.

Slightly cheeky, but kinda boring, huh?

"There's the beep, you know what to do."

Briefer and briefer as I lost interest in coming up with innovative messages to amuse my callers.

Thank you for not leaving a message. You know how I hate returning calls. You've just made my life a whole lot easier.

Am toying with this one as I reinstall my voice mail facility.

*Datin: If your husband is a Datuk, then you're a Datin. It implies Manolo Blahniks, Prada bags and maybe Chanel suits. Also, a degree in Art History.