Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Old Year is Dying, Let Him Die

I wish to sum up the year, but that requires reflection and its 11am in the morning - and I am in my nocturnal phase, which means I should be fast asleep now. But because Mum insisted I get up and have some breakfast, well the coffee is singing in my brain and I am up, up, up!

This year, I lived by default. I fell into a job because there was nothing better on offer - not that I regret everything about the job - I did meet some pretty amazing and interesting people and I did get to produce two issues of a magazine my way - I fell into flings, I ate my heart out over someone who didn't care and never would care.

Frankly, it all seems like a frantic lack of planning.

Well, I'm starting the next year with a plan. It's slowly solidifying and I'm feeling quite happy about it.

Life can simply happen to you like a traffic accident. Or you can take the wheel.

I'm taking the wheel.

Later for you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas

What a weird day. I saw it in, puking my guts out and crawling into bed beside my mother. "Ma, I'm sick," I whispered as she moved back to make place for me. And then I shot out of bed again to puke some more. Dry heaves as my stomach had been effectively emptied by first episode a few minutes before.

I tossed and turned, my head in a vice, unbelievable pressure behind my eyes. Pain blotted out everything else. These things happen, sometimes.

And then suddenly, unaccountably, I fell fast asleep.

And today, well today, I wandered through the day, watching Christmas movie after Christmas movie, reading one of my Lucia novels (EF Benson is a fricking genius), working on yet another needlework project (I think this one will be for Helen, Simon's mother).

The day I was due to leave for JB I had dinner with my good friend A. We met at what has become our usual place in Taman Tun, and exchanged gifts. Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly considering the fact that we have known each other for 18 years and tend to communicate telepathically, both gifts were handmade. I cross stitched an eagle. She framed one of the few pictures of us together, complete with poem, meaningful words and scrapbook stick-ons. As she doesn't tend to make gifts (that's my weakness) it was more than meaningful. We chewed on our lamb shanks, emptied our glasses of Malbec and the conversation flowed like the wine.

After which I drove back through the relatively quiet highway and Mum had a fit cos I hadn't told her what time I was leaving and all she knew for sure was that I was definitely in KL at 6pm.

I arrived at one in the morning and she staggered out to open the gate as the dogs went crazy. I couldn't let them go, as they were still growly with each other and jealous (they have become significantly more well-behaved since then).

And now, it's the wee hours and I'm awake because there is something, something, something...on the edge of my consciousness and I don't know how to reach out and grab it, or if I should let it light softly, like a feather, on my shoulder.

Perhaps, the latter.

Mark's only present to me ever was his song that he bluetoothed to my phone, which I have subsequently transferred to my Ipod. And when I listen to it, that umbilical cord I thought was cut, twinges.

If music be the food of love, play on...

Never mind.

It is Christmas after all.

Or at least, Boxing Day.

And lemon cakes and moist chocolate cakes and chocolate chip cookies and puddings and mince pies abound.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sometimes a good friend is all you need

Mary is packing up to leave and I'm transcribing furiously. Furiously. This guy is chattering on about strategic active hedges, and I grit my teeth and type. Did I mention furiously? I pause the recording and look up longingly for a while.

"You leaving?"

"Not unless you want me to stay."

I grin.

"Stay. Please. Then we can have dinner and I can send you home."

She seats herself right down, and decides to go through her voluminous google alerts.

I resume typing. Bad English and all. I don't bother to edit. Too tired. Too fucking tired.

Mel leaves. Then Gerry. And we're alone by the skin of a second. Mary removes her fancy sequinned red purse which contains the all-important keys. We will be LOCKING UP. For the first time. I cram my water cup and coffee mug into an overflowing sink. Lady will be coming tomorrow to wash. Mary moves things around at her desk.

We switch off the lights. Zap ourselves out. And then I rush into the bathroom outside leaving her to get on with it. I come out and she's on her knees trying to jam the keys into their supposed sockets.

"Child, I think she gave me the wrong keys. I've never tried these but they don't seem to fit."

"Give it here."

I try. And try. And try. Maybe there's a knack to this. Maybe not. We look at each other in consternation. "Mel? She only just left. Maybe she hasn't gotten far."

Mary calls her. Mel is already in her car driving away. She will call the boys to see if anyone is in Marketplace. If not she'll come back herself to effect rescue. By now, Mary and I are sitting cross legged on the welcome carpet outside. Except there's no welcome carpet. So we're basically sitting on the floor. Laughing at each other.

"Do you think Dana did this on purpose? Gave me the wrong keys cos I bugged her for them so much. Shoved this unlikely pair in my hands while thinking, he he he I got you, just wait till you try these?"

Now Dana is this inoffensive nice Indian girl. The mousy kind who hides behind her dupatta. You know what I'm talking about. I say, yes, yes, typical Indian drama queen. Maybe she will come here singing then run to one corner and then the other, shade her eyes, and sing...aaaaaaaaaaaaah (you must imagine the wobbliness of the aaaaahs)

Mary and I are rolling on the floor. Charles calls. He's the one coming to our rescue. He's a bit tipsy (they have been at it at Marketplace since 6. It's half 8 now) But he's coming up anyways. He does. Greets us sitting on the floor and shakes his head. Tries our keys just to make sure that the two ditzy females didn't get it wrong. We didn't.

So he locks up for us like the nice boy he is.

And says he might see me at Backyard later. If I'm going. Tired as I am, I tend to drag my ass to Backyard on Mondays just for the sheer punishment of it.

Mary and I make our way to Devi's Corner. Hungry as I am, I tell her my ghost story through mouthfuls of roti canai and mutton curry. Suddenly she remembers:

"Our boy is getting married. He was hanging around the other when you were paying and I wondered what he wanted, and he told me he was going to be away for a few days...going back to India to get married."

We look at each other. If our boy is going to get married, we have to give him an ang pow. Thing is, we don't have any red packets. Or white packets. Or even brown packets. I suggest we nip across the road to see if they have any likely looking envelopes. Mary is all for coming back on another day. But I say, no, we must give him the ang pow before he leaves, not after he comes back.

(For those not in the know, our boy is the best waiter in Devi's Corner. The one comes charging along when he sees us, providing us with water, napkins, and all the attention he possibly can, while attending to 100 or so other customers at Devi's. He's the reason we're platinum card holders there).

Anyway, we are nothing if not subtle. After asking him when he is leaving, we hurtle across the street, look for envelopes, find only ugly brown ones, ask the nice Bangladeshi fler there to show us other envelopes, he shows us some shocking shocking pink ones, Mary blanches, but I think they look I buy the packet, RM1 for all 25...and we take our own envelopes, write touching notes on the cover, stuff our money into it....then go across the street from him and signal for him to cross the street, present him with the envelopes....ahhh furtive....ahhh drama queens, I hear the tablas and the veenas...

And then Mary slips into the DVD shop and I follow her. She's promised to buy one, just one...or two, no more than two...and the first one is there and the second is sorrylar miss, not arrived yet....and she starts leafing through a pile and I grab her and drag her out of there bodily (I have to, if Mary gets going, we could be here all night).

And I send her home and hoping that one of my other colleagues doesn't come to Backyard with Charlie boy. "Mark doesn't like him lar...but then, knowing Mark he'd have to recognise him before he remembers he doesn't like him..."

Mary: "Oh yeah?"

Jen: "Yeah. Remember how hard I had to work to get him to remember me? I mean, he'd come out to get the morning paper and stumble over me at this front doorstep....Jen, what are you doing here? Me (giggling sheepishly): Oh I just happened to be in the neighbourhood...and then he goes to his neighbourhood mamak to have a teh tarek and there I am behind giant shades and a broadsheet....and then he's driving and glances in his rearview and there I am...

"Child, you're a stalker."

I acknowledge the truth with a sigh: "Yeah."

And we collapse in our seats laughing.

And I don't care that tomorrow is going to be even more complicated than today.

And oh yeah, I decided to give Backyard a miss after all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

No More

All my life it seems that I have been adjusting to one prison or another. Safe behind these golden bars, because I'm too afraid to venture out, alone, in the dark. Safe behind these golden bars, because I'm afraid of what will happen if I do.

I step out, step out into the dark and fall.

And I know now, having lost everything, having to start anew, it's time to be stupid. To let go.

I'm about to step out.

I'm prepared to fall.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In sooth...

In sooth I know not why I am so sad.

I should have that stitched on a sampler and put by my desk. So I could gaze at it at leisure and just get lost in the interminable sadness that to me, seems to characterise this existence.

I fall.

I keep falling.

I haven't stopped falling.

I wish I knew where to go from here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creaky Bones

It's about 11.04 in the morning now, which is pretty early for me up to be up, considering. I took knock out cough mixture last night but the effects were temporary. So I spent most of the night tossing (bed was full of bees, empty of sleep).

Before dropping off I attempted to make a start on Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveller. All I can say is he messes with your mind to such an extent that you begin to feel unstitched. Lovely.

In a few minutes I'll have to take a shower and head off for the mechanic to see why my car is leaking. On Saturday they said I could have blown a gasket. Oh well...once it's fixed it's fixed.


This is a car we're talking about.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Counting the Minutes

I finished Baldwin's Giovanni's Room last night. Or rather, this morning at 7am. And then I went to sleep. And woke up at 3. With Mum hollering for me from downstairs from breakfast onwards. Poor thing. I should have taken the knock out cough mixture and gone to sleep.

I wonder which book I'll go for next. Probably Go Tell It On A Mountain as I have that book too. But alternatively I might go for the Italo Calvino book. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

Giovanni's Room was unbearably tragic. The tragedy was foreshadowed on the first page, the fatal flaw, so to speak (although as a homosexual, I wonder why he considered it a fatal flaw, or maybe, it was the closets who pretended and tried to lead hetero lives despite their proclivities, lying to everyone around, lying to themselves and then destroying everyone around them, who were fatally flawed).

I wish I had a volume of Tony Curtis's poetry now to break the mood.

Let everything that is to fall, fall, beginning with tired love...

Oh well.

I've survived one day more.

This Deafening Silence

Mum stood by the door chattering. She was telling me how she had nearly lost me before I was born. She was 8 months pregnant and in hospital because "the baby was in distress". She told me about the doctor, she couldn't remember his name, but he was very senior, a lecturer even, who sat there with her, recounted his life, told story after story, to calm her down, so they didn't have to operate. One nurse kept coming in to take her blood pressure, etc.

After this, the nurse told her: "You're very lucky. The baby's chance of survival at 8 months is very slim."

So it took another month of distress and a C-section for me to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world. Actually into an incubator as I was so tiny.

And I listened and tried to feel grateful that I had been spared. And I wondered if the baby that was had decided to give it a miss.

All I feel right now is unbearably weary. Like life has passed by and somehow, I missed the bus. And now there is nothing left for me but the slow process of growing old and dying.

And I see his face, white and mocking floating in front of me, laughing. Saying come out and play. And I look at him, beautiful, cruel, angry - and I think...oh God, not again. I know you. And I know what you will do to me. Go play with someone else. I'm not sure I'll survive you.

He withdraws.

All is silent.

I can't bear this silence.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The End

Virginia left her last letter (dated 28 March 1941) on the writing block in her garden lodge. About 11.30am she walked the half mile to the River Ouse, filled her pockets with stones, and threw herself into the water. Her body was not found until 18 April, when some children discovered it a short way downstream. She was cremated at Brighton on 21 April with only Leonard present, and her ashes were buried under the great elm tree at Monk's House with the penultimate words of The Waves as her epitaph: 'Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!'

Final page, Selected Letters, Virginia Woolf.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Because You Left Me

I was reading Virginia's last letter to Carrington (this was just before Carrington's suicide) and I cried. Just bawled. Who knew that a letter could convey such depths, but then it was Virginia Woolf writing, so that would explain it.

Lytton Strachey had just died and Carrington was unravelling...she was in some ways already dead.

Somehow, in her letter, Virginia managed to capture that sense of loss and futility, reaching out to someone, your arms closing over nothing, the emptiness washing over you, bottomless, irreversible.

And stale platitudes are less than useless, except for the vague sense of someone out there attempting to reach out a hand and comfort you.

But goodness knows, blind as I am, I know all day long whatever I'm doing, what you're suffering. And no one can help you...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Getting Ready To Jump Again!

My life takes on a sameness after a while...walking the dogs in the evening (they look forward to this almost as much as their mealtime), playing Bejewelled Blitz on Facebook, reading my Virginia Woolf (I'm at 1930 now and she's writing to Ethel Smyth of having torn her skirt, knickers and some tender parts not mentioned even between ladies, on barbed wire - ouch!).

So Mum asks when I want to go fix my car (the RPM is all out of sync - Mark trying it out told me to switch cars - he tossed it off lightly as if buying another car was a walk in the park - and maybe it is - I live in a world with imaginary fences which I am afraid to cross and maybe, just maybe, there are no fences but in my head)

And to pay some bills and post my first batch of Christmas cards (I wrote out all of 10 yesterday). I'm listening to Ordinary Miracles by Sarah Mclachlan now on Youtube, I find it particularly evocative. Sun comes up and shines so bright and disappears into the night. Except that the sun hasn't come up, or if it has, it is hidden behind muggy blanketing clouds that obscure and obfuscate the day itself.

Oh well, I'll stop prattling now, and stop playing BB and have a shower and take off for the wild blue yonder.

Later for you.

(I miss Mark. No, not that one, the other Mark)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The rhythms of this place is like balm to a wounded soul. I see myself slowly coming up for air. It's like a time-out from life. Hard to think that just 5 months left me this bleeding mess. That's all it took.

And I think I'm so smart but I never, never recognise the signs. The falling apart, the forced withdrawal from life and all I hold dear, the mounting irritation at my friends who are doing nothing more than simply staying in touch.

And slowly I start to feel like I'm going to fly into a million pieces.

And then I do.


That was close. Almost too close for comfort.

Maybe I was born to be a flaneur. Now I just need to find my City Lights and my brew of choice and there I'll be.

Later for you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If Tomorrow Comes

And the next day, I loaded up the car, and took a slow drive back to JB. Slower than I intended because it was tropical storming, so heavy, there were times I wondered if I was going to make it. What with buses and lorries flashing me for going too slow and all that.

So, tension.

And when I got back here, I just fell apart. Sick as a dog. I crept into my mother's bed and stayed there. Phone switched off. I went dark for a week.

Slowly, I felt my spirit knitting itself back together. Slowly.

And a week later I switched on my phone. Now this being my network, all the calls or texts that came during the week would be wiped out. But the phone started to ring. One by one, friends started checking in.

I started to reconnect.

A night spent tossing and turning after these conversations...and now...

What happens tomorrow?

I wonder.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

And So I Jumped

And so I finally came to the end of Virginia Woolf's Selected Diaries. The last word in them (unless the last word was edited out) is rhododendrons. Not even a word I know how to spell without looking up. The last year has a sort of unreal quality to it - the war slowly destroying everything she had taken as real and sweeping away the ground beneath her feet. Before that, even when depressed, she was light, sparkling, piquant, provocative and even in all her insecurity - secure in herself.

And yesterday I walked out of a job of no more than five months. I walked out before he ground me beneath his heel, having brought in my replacement and flaunted her in my face and attempted to order me to go for a special lunch in her honour.

"She'll keep you on your toes."

"I wasn't aware that I needed keeping on my toes."

"She can help out in the magazine."

Uh oh. You make your motives very transparent when you say things like that. You hired her for the newsletter. You want a clear delienation between the newsletter and magazine. And you say, she can help out in the magazine?

You said, would you like to come for lunch with...And I said no thanks. And you glared at me, went back to your office and issued an order. Via email. All of you are to come. Which I ignored. And then, you yelled at me in public for not showing up. Everybody else showed up. Why couldn't you?

But you see, you did it to the wrong girl at the wrong time.

I wake up every day with a tension headache wondering how we are going to see yet another issue through. I wake up everyday with a good for nothing deputy who comes and doesn't come to work as she pleases and who doesn't answer either my calls or emails asking for an update on her stories. I wake up everyday, now to your displeasure and the smouldering hatred in your eyes. Marshalling your forces. Making up the charge sheet. Preparing.

I see it all, neatly laid out at my feet, the course you follow. The course you always follow. I guess you must secretly despise me for agreeing to the low salary. We're all worth what we think we're worth. Never mind the fact that you make me work about five times as hard as my predecessor and that I successfully turned around your stupid magazine.

Never mind that.

You're looking to the international face of it, your new acquisition, oh, isn't she just precious, isn't she bout the cutest thing you've ever seen. A master's degree, some experience as a practitioner, she speaks the language...what more could one want?

And now, I've become the one who has defied you one too many times, the one who says no, the one who doesn't sugarcoat her no's to take into account your massive ego.

And so.

I have to go.

Not until this issue is closed, of course. I mean, there are only four stories in....still, oh, I don't know...another nine to go? Yes, let's all be civilized about it. Close the issue and then we'll have our fight and I'll either demote you or push you hard enough so you'll quit on your own accord.

No one is indispensable Jennifer, I thought you knew that.

And if I'd actually given two shits about you, I would have paid you properly.

So I jumped.

Without a net.

Without a parachute.

I cleared out my desk. Left my tag and my key on it.

And because of your frantic phone calls and your frantic texts (which I haven't read) I've switched off my phone and it will stay switched off.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Loony Files

I just wanna stop, and tell you what I feel about you babe....

I'm huddled in a corner crooning to myself when Steve shows up and eyes me nervously. He seats himself far away enough to be out of reach, but close enough for a conversation. He's disgusted, but he's fascinated. It's not everyday you meet a loony you used to know before they crossed over.

Mind you, even in those days, he suspected, he saw through me...yeah, I didn't take him in. Not for an instant.

I nod affably and go on singing. I pause for the sax solo and he cuts in.

"Um, hi Jennifer, how's it going?"

"Wonderful, couldn't be better!" I wink at him.

I just wanna stop. The world ain't right without ya babe...

"It's been awhile..." he pauses, unsure how to continue.

"So, did you lose your mind all at once or did it happen gradually," I chortle, filling in the blanks for him. He doesn't get the reference (Fisher King, in case you were wondering) and moves a little ways aways.


Except that it isn't.

Not to me.

We loonies notice everything.


"So, are you supposed to be out here, all by yourself, with no one to..." he trails off again. No keeper. No one to look after me. No one to see that I don't attack respectable citizens at the train station, with places to go, people to see, things to do.

"No, no one, no one at all. I lived in a bubble and it burst!" I'm laughing so hard it's hard to continue singing. But I manage nonetheless.

For your love...for your love...for your love...

Hold on, I switch off the smile abruptly, narrow my eyes and glare at the respectable citizen.

"How do they classify you? Human? Subhuman?"

Steve recoils. I have offended his delicate sensibilities. He wishes he hadn't started this conversation. Curse his compassionate heart! It ALWAYS gets him into trouble. You can't talk to these people.

"Look," he mumbles, "I have to go."

"No!" I bellow. "Human or subhuman? If you're classified human, you have in effect, been breaking the law. Hear that? The law? The Law? The LAW? Humans are not allowed to talk to subhumans. You know that, Steve, you of all people, know that!"

(I'm a nice person but it really gets to me when people break the law)

Steve has moved off. And I'm screaming into the emptiness of the train station.

In Cape Town you're always looking away into nothingness which accounts for the sharp precarious beauty of the city.

In Lappland, you dive into the snow and it absorbs all your noise. And angst. And poetry.

It's 10 below now. Hot, by local standards. Step into the sauna to heat off. Then into the snow to cool off.

Blow hot.

Blow cold.

That's me all over.

They said that the subs have to be euthanised.

They said it was for the best.

They said no one would miss us.

The song has changed. I don't know this one. I sit quietly and wait for my song to come around again.

You see, I lived in a bubble once.

And it burst.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Suffering for our Art

It's a school, it's a frigging school, the kids are walking past in their teenagerly nonchalance, and some of them glance at us a little puzzled as we sit there puffed out from the uphill climb to get here. I stare into space, Jackie curses eloquently and Simon, peacemaker that he is, tries to smooth things over.

We have taken to blaming the sat nav (satellite navigator, for those of you who are unfamiliar with these funky abbreviations) for everything, most times unfairly, but this time, with considerable justification. We were meant to be heading towards the Musee de Matisse. Instead, it led us to a school, a perfectly ordinary school, with the kids just having finished their morning session. And there we sit, like paedophiles-in-training, staring at them staring at us.

"You have reached your destination," the electronic male voice tells us confidently. We experimented briefly with Yoda and Darth Vader voices - but none of these were clear. And when you're navigating you'll take clear over amusing any day.

When Jackie programs the actual address iof the museum in (by street this time because it is obvious the sat nav has no clue where the Musee de Matisse is) we find we are 9 miles off. And there is no way in holy hell any of us are going to walk 9 miles to get there.

"I wonder if Matisse appreciates all the trouble we are going through to get to his place," Jackie wonders idly, as we puff our way back into town to refresh ourselves with an extremely overpriced Orangina each. Then we find our way to the Chagall museum instead, which is apparently nearer. If that bloody sat nav hasn't fooled us again.

The Chagall museum is the only art museum in Nice with an entrance fee. 8.5 Euros each, to be precise. But Chagall is breathtaking - his reds are basinfuls of blood, his blues are the colour of the sky in the South of France, his greens are emerald dreams. We wander around speechless, reading the little notices next to each painting which explains the imagery - mostly Jewish - he seems to like cockerels and Hanukkah candles. And there is the creation of man, and there is Moses, and there is Adam and Eve...and he likes to look through windows a lot. And there is a short filmlet of the mosaic he designed for the Plaza in Chicago. The New World. In 1977.

He kept changing his mind, refining it even to the last minute. The poor sod who actually had to cut the tiles sighed heavily at all the changes and extra work, but went gamely ahead. When you're dealing with a Master, you submit to the Master. Every whim.

When Chagall finally says: "I am giving you so much trouble - I am hard on you but only because I am hard on myself. Some people are so easily satisfied." He shakes a bony finger at the notion.

An artist is NEVER easily satisfied.

Then we make our tired way back to town - to have lunch. We are all starving by now. A nice little cafe with an old man waving at someone near us (I nearly wave back cos I think he's waving at me, I seem to make that mistake a lot here). This cafe is cheap and cheerful and everyone seems friendly. A baldy smiles engagingly at us as he bites neatly into his baguette.

Then as we're walking back to the carpark (we think we'll give the Matisse museum a miss for today) we run into a little adventure.

There is a police car with sirens blaring inching forward in front of the cafe. This is unusual as testified by the fact that everyone is craning their heads to look out. A police car attracts attention here. Simon is chugging on cheerfully ahead, in front of both us as usual, and I notice a man trying to hide behind a car. He looks so innocuous that I can't believe he is what all the commotion is about. He passed us a little while ago, hurrying but trying not to appear to hurry and suddenly a tall official looking man barks out:

"Arrestez vous!"

The crouching man straightens up and goes without a murmur. The plainclothes policeman stuffs him into the noisy police car. Simon steers us off into the opposite direction in the meantime. Jackie has visions of Simon (who was closest to the guy) being dragged into a hostage situation. But really, for an arrest, it was severely anti climatic.

We giggle a little hysterically, recount what we each saw, and try to figure out what crime this guy must have committed.



Can't say. He looked harmless enough.

Anyway we finally find our way back to the car (and the massive parking bill) and decide we will spend the afternoon at the beach. But stop at the supermarket first. To get a few essentials. Like an adapter (Jackie cannot use her straightener and her hair is getting curlier every day) and...snacks. We get tarts and eclairs and cakes.

All we do is eat. And look at art. (hey, I just realised that art rhymes with tart)

And then we're on the beach unloading our booty and watching some poor sods windsurfing not very successfully. Jackie and Simon are reading. I am writing postcards.

Just another ordinary miraculous day.

But Jackie will never forgive that sat nav.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fire Walk With Me

I remember writing an essay in the good ole days when I had essays to write, arguing that Jabberwocky is nonsense. All attempts to impose a meaning to it being the result of the human need for order in the midst of chaos. Lewis Carroll himself may have said that he didn't mean anything more than nonsense, but good ole David Buchbinder eked out a meaning - calling it a quest, etc, etc.

Which may be why I read so voraciously these days, attempting to find the hidden code to what is happening in the world now, stringing together random words from various books like some sick Dadaist poem, fingers...desperately....turning....pages....

And I watch Twin Peaks which was one helluva mystery beyond the murder mystery and the "who was Laura Palmer, really?"....and wish and wish and wish they had the sense to allow a third season so it wouldn't have finished in the air, so to speak, with the bad Dale returning from the Black Lodge. I mean, it ended on a cliffhanger, for crying out loud. A cliffhanger and they cancelled the ending was European, at best, leaving you with more questions than answers.

I had lunch with a good friend today and we talked of many things and I told her about Plot Against America which I had just finished and which she would probably like as she followed the recent elections so closely, listening to every debate, following the issues and arguments, while I avoided all of the same.

And I walked into a bookshop to get a birthday present for a friend and ended up buying two other books (one depression memoir, another an appetite memoir) because I couldn't, couldn't, couldn't resist them (although I have enough books unread to last me till the end of the year, and that's if I read fast).

And I realise that the only place I get the candy store reaction, is the bookshop. You could turn me loose amidst oodles of chocolate and I would make my desultory way through, maybe tasting a bar here and there, but not really caring, you could turn me loose in a make-up counter, or amidst clothes and shoes and bags, and I would get bored, tired and ask the air...aren't we done yet? Can we go home now? Please?

But a bookshop, now that's different. I recognise the signs of addiction. It was like that time when I had nothing but juices (fruit and vegetable) over the course of a month and I started going wonky in my head, reading recipes like it was extremely accomplished porn, closing my eyes and tasting bloody meat on my tongue, fantasising about spaghetti and meatballs and avoiding Kentucky Fried Chicken because the aromas made me miserable. Aromas that I normally ignored or never even registered when I was eating normally.

And that's how I am with a bookshop, even when I have loads to read and re-read....and I don't understand why.

But excuse me, I have to go read one of my new books now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Amazing Grace or Because It's the Right Thing To Do

I forced her to watch It's A Wonderful Life and Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, so she held a gun to my head and forced me to watch Amazing Grace.

And I watched it today after I emerged from a very deep evening nap in which I all but passed out.

And I woke up and crawled out of bed to have some dinner, reheating what had already been put away, and decided that I would watch the second of the DVDs Mary thrust on me. (Watched Northanger Abbey, the older version earlier and was not impressed)

And to say I loved it would be putting it mildly. Even as I watched it I wondered at my reaction and thought maybe, just maybe it was because it was about one man, in fact, a bunch of people who banded together to fight the good fight, without any hope of gain or political mileage, doing something right because it was right, because it was the humane thing to do.

I know why every time I watch or read something where the characters have integrity and a sense of purpose, I am blown away. Especially when I read the news about crossovers and those who take the easy way out and remember the people who made a guest appearance in my life last year, the toxic ones who lied and schemed and cheated, trying to outdo each other for a prize that was so far shop-soiled and diminished that it was difficult to comprehend. Or give credence to.

And the image of the Coyote keeps popping up in my mind. The trickster. The one who gets run over by a truck, then gets up to see if that was a truck who ran her over, and gets run over again.

The Coyote.

The trickster.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lying Low

The message was clear: Keep your head down, keep your nose out of trouble. Paralysed is good. Action is bad. In effect, I was supposed to lie low and deal.

Arriving at home, exhausted, I thumbed through the last few pages of Ceremony but was too tired to finish. This book cannot be skimmed. It is not a straightforward narrative. You have to read every word or you get mixed up. Halfway through a passage I realise she is not talking about a mare anymore, but a woman. I wonder if the writer knows that you have to introduce a subject before you substitute it with a pronoun. But it keeps you on your toes. So much so that my already muddled head cannot take it. My eyes ache. I need to sleep.

And in the morning, before anything, breakfast, morning pages, morning rituals, I finish the book. Stunned at the violence that comes to a head. It was building up. If I'd paid attention to the markers Francine Prose tells us we have to pay attention while reading, I would have seen it coming.

And I set down the book and glance at my table, clearer than before, but still piled with books I have yet to read, and run my fingers along the various spines, settling on Philip Roth's Plot Against America. Earlier, I thought I'd finish Virginia Woolf's Diary (not the Writer's Diary which I finished sometime in December, but the other one, the compressed rest of her life diary, the one with the gossip and the bitching and all the stuff her husband found nececssary to excise from the demure Writer's Diary). However, I'm now 80 pages or 2 chapters into Roth. And I find the book chilling. Maybe I'll do a happy book after. Do I have a happy book?

And while lying low, there are all these projects which I put on the backburner some 10 years ago, or whatever time it was I abandoned them that I can resume. Finish them little by little while I "deal", while I wait out this phase of my life.

Cleaning my room turned up a lot of stuff. I'd forgotten how much I had, or rather all my "stuff" was hidden in all that clutter under layers and layers of dust. Now I take each object out (or pot of goo) out, dust it off, set it on my table, and use it. Nice.

And there is still The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain I bought a couple of years ago that I can dust off. And learn to draw. I drew my last picture sitting on a park bench in Fraser's Hill (actually I think it was a summer house) overlooking some pine trees, in the rain. Sketching, trying to drown that edge of desperation that kept rising up and choking me.

Because I didn't want to be there anymore. And I didn't know how to leave.

But then I learned.

The beauty of life is that nothing is indispensable and you can say goodbye to anything.

Or anyone.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Myth Behind the Meaning

In roughly an hour I will be on my way to pick Mary up and find out how her first week at work went. I called her at an hour past noon and she answered, the both of us having just unclosed an eye. She has an excuse. I need to get my act together. Phew.

Having said that each day is pretty productive and items are flying off to the to-do list like autumn leaves. I now have lists for everything, so things actually wind up getting done. A very satisfactory state of affairs.

And I am three quarter ways through Silko's Ceremony. I didn't really notice the burgeoning anger or the meaning of the symbols till now, when she spells it out for us (just in case we're as blur as me, and have missed all the symbols). It is a powerful (though difficult) novel, and I am glad to have finally got going on it.

I watch four episodes of Supernatural every day (while it holds out) and that's a lot of fun (a less brooding James Dean, bright witty repartee - corpses and clowns - an unbeatable combination). I also watched It's A Wonderful Life yesterday and have decided that it IS the best Christmas movie ever. (This is after having ploughed my way through so many unsatisfying ones these holidays).

Yesterday I decided that the root of all my problems was second level signification. Or rather, not what someone says, but the meaning I ascribe to their words. You know how we're always asked not to make assumptions? And then we make assumptions about having been asked not to make assumptions (what did they really mean by that?).

Well that's where I'm at, at the moment.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Strange Dreams

Maybe it was the oils that I mixed together willy nilly in a terracotta burner to fragrance up the room. Maybe it was watching The Man in a Grey Flannel Suit just before I went to bed. Maybe it was Francine Prose's Reading Like A Writer that I finished just before I dropped off at, what was it, 2? 3? in the morning.

Whatever it was, I had the strangest dream. So strange (even for me) that I woke up still caught in it silken web, thrashing my limbs feebly trying to sort out what was real and what wasn't.

The phone rang. I let it ring. After all, if someone wanted to contact me directly they would call on my mobile. After staggering out of bed to check said mobile, I discovered that it was off. The battery had run out. Oh glory.

And now I want to read Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony but it's pretty hard going. Doing an inventory of the books I still have piled on the various surfaces of my room, I realise that if I don't buy another book this year, I still have plenty to last me for at least the next six months. (To say nothing of the books that I simply MUST re-read because they were so good).

I think I'll go switch on my phone now.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I'm feeling somewhat relieved. My room is now practically pristine...I realise now, after cleaning each thing individually and seeing all the spares I have, that I may have to catalogue what I have, just to keep track and not keep buying the same thing over and over again.

And wonder of wonders. My writing desk is actually clear enough for me to guessed it, write. Oh happy day calloo callay!

A few more odds and ends to get through but basically, you can stick a fork in me, I'm done.


It's 11.38 in the morning and my recycling (or charity) man has been here to collect my stuff. There was a suitcaseful of clothes, my old radio (which I had faithfully repaired three times already but given up for lost when it broke down after only less than a week back from the repairshop), my old laptop (the one the repairman said was only good for parts), shoes, teddy bears, and lots of books.

Old aspects of my personality falling away. I guess I should feel freer. Except that I've always found it easy to let go of "stuff". I might miss said stuff 10 years from now when I start to wonder whatever happened to such and such...but that never crosses my mind when I'm offloading.

And now there are sweaters and scarfs scattered on the floor (all my warm clothes which I emptied from the suitcase I was giving away) which have to find some more permanent place of abode.

And there are all the errands I have been meaning to run since I got back but haven't gotten around to yet. And there are still the three letters I was intending to write but which I still haven't.


Shifting Dust

It's late, very late now, and I've just watched the last episode of Monk, Season 6. Kind of fascinating how his arch-nemesis Dale the Whale is the perfect opposite of the fastidious, obsessive compulsive detective. Over the past few days a few of my friends have expressed surprise that I am into Monk, but I think if they just watched a few episodes (from the start that is), they would find him funny and endearing (rather than irritating).

So much for that.

I spent the day shifting dust in my room (still heaps and heaps of dust more) and I must say, for the first time since I got back, some order is emerging out of all this chaos.

Tomorrow the recycle man will pop in and I shall offload a great deal on him. I think I will breathe easier after that.

Interesting thing whenever I clean the room, and I mean a real clean as opposed to a desultory dusting, I find so many former aspects of my self. I read bits out of books on my shelves, decide that a few of those books really don't serve a place on my private shelves anymore, come across journal entries, letters, scraps of things I wrote to myself...I keep finding surprising bits of me buried under all those layers of dust.

Even the to-do lists or to-buy lists are interesting after a space of time. Nice to see what I was making or what was in my life at any one point in time. In the same way, it is nice to go back in this blog and see what was happening at any one point in time. If I bothered to update at that point, that is.

I am not tired yet (although I should get to bed as I have a couple of appointments tomorrow) and will resist watching Supernatural or It's A Wonderful Life or The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.

Maybe just some more to-do lists and then it's to sleep, perchance to dream.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Check Your Bills

I was sitting around wondering about how I managed to rack up such a high Maxis bill, when I had changed my plan from paying for RM150 of airtime I didn't use to RM50 of airtime I didn't use, when I decided to follow my friend Mary's advice and scrutinise the itemised printout (for which I paid RM5 a month, after all) to see where all the extra charges came in.

Hmmm, there was RM50 for changing my SIM card. Except that I hadn't changed my SIM card. Of such "little additions" do the telcos thrive. I called the Maxis customer service number and after negotiating myself through a maze of menus (press 1 for English, press 1 for bill inquiries, if you still have a question hang on the line and our customer service consultant will be with you in a couple of hours) and finally got put through to a human voice.

When I told him of my predicament, adding that I had NOT changed my SIM card anytime within the last four to five months, he said he would check up on it and call me back. And he did apologising for the error (it was theirs) and saying that the RM50 would be credited into my next bill. Unfortunately, they would not be able to give me a refund.

Which sucked out loud, seeing as I had planned to disconnect my bloody postpaid service and get another prepaid starter kit (at least with prepaid, you know what you're paying for - with postpaid, they just tagged on charges upon charges as they pleased) and now I would have to wait a month, till the company had refunded my money. And I am determined to do so.

Not being in the habit of scrutinising my bills I just wonder how much extra I have paid for services I did not use, without knowing it. I am sure billion-dollar telcos like Maxis live off suckers like me.

But just in case you think Maxis is bad, I was having a drink with a friend who uses the DiGi postpaid service, and who, like me, is not in the habit of checking her bills until one day, almost by accident, she noticed they were charging her a large amount for MMSes. This, at a time when her phone did not have the MMS capability. As per SOP, the customer care consultant apologised profusely (our mistake) and rectified the problem.

Are these honest mistakes? Or are these giants deliberately out to cheat us, relying on the fact that like so many careless Malaysians, we will never scrutinise our bills at the end of the month?

Maybe this is how they pay for their huge advertising campaigns and price wars.

If times are as hard as people are determined to make it out to be, I don't think we can afford to keep subsidising these big bad corporations. RM10 here, RM50 there - it all adds up.

Time to start checking our bills.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Shadow People

They emerge from the shadows and are suddenly right in front of you like a traffic accident, in fact, worse than a traffic accident, because traffic accidents you can ignore, and these shadows will just not leave you alone.

Sometimes it's the little boys who beg: "Please akka, please." wanting you to buy a bunch of pens you do not need. They pretend to be hungry. You may have forked out if you hadn't seen the pimps, but now, you think you'll give it a miss. No point in funding yet another syndicate.

But I especially like the little old lady - she's Indian, she appears diffident and peers at you uncertainly. You think she is lost (how can you be lost in front of the Bangsar Maybank for crying out loud?) and wants to ask the way to somewhere or other.

Until she prefaces her request with "Sister..." and you remember where you met this little old lady with the sad and sorry face, the kind of face that makes your wallet tingle. It was with the Dementor, and she asked for money (bus fare I think it was, if it wasn't money for a meal) and he told her off for begging, for lying and for trying to pull a con.

"I've seen you before, auntie, and I know you do this every day. Not today, auntie, not today," he says and she smiles sheepishly and amazingly, walks away leaving you alone. (The Dementor had some uses)

This time, however, she gets you alone and has made eye contact before you realised she was a crook, before you realised it was better to avoid her gaze. She steps forward hopefully. But by then you've remembered. So you turn and walk away. Quickly.

And she follows, her footsteps ringing angrily on the cement pavement behind you. So angrily that you look back to see her following, her face twisted in demonic rage. Once you catch a glimpse of the face, the footsteps cease. She slinks back into the shadows from whence she emerged.

Waiting it out. For the next victim. This is Bangsar. There's always a sucker to be had. Today, thanks to the Dementor, that sucker isn't you.

But vaguely shaken from that glimpse of that evil face, you keep looking over your shoulder for the rest of the day.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Oh God, It's Such A Tip!

I put away my suitcase. Which is a big big deal cos it took up so much space and I kept tripping on it every time I took a step. And all the various and sundry travelling bags that had been unseated when I took down my suitcase.

But the room is still in terminal condition. Monk would die. He would simply die! And now I look at the clothes and the books scattered on the floor and just cringe. I need to impose some order.

Instead, I took a break and watched four episodes of Monk (Season 6) back-to-back.

They cut off the water supply which means it will be difficult to take a shower after cleaning the room. It also means I wont be able to mop it, as there is no water.

Oh the humanity. Oh the destruction.

Some order please, some order. Any order.


Procastination Is The Thief of Time

It's not just that my room is a tip. It's that it's such a tip that I prefer to sit outside and contemplate it and sigh heavily. I know I have to gird the loins and set to cleaning it up. But I dread the job. So in true Jenniferian spirit, I am procrastinating. Or as some wit whose name I can't remember said:

"Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow. And never do tomorrow what you can put off indefinitely."

So yeah, I'm back in KL. And yeah. Real life is rearing its head.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Houseguests and High Teas

We have a houseguest. She is one of Mum's classmates. She is a former nurse, pretty nimble and active, which contrasts to Mum's more stately movements. They sit and exchange memories. They're both going for the great reunion today.

One of the most interesting things about our houseguest is that the man she refers to as "grandfather" had a road named after him in KL. That old Kapitan China - Yap Kwan Seng. In case you're not familiar with the road - the Aussie High Commission is there. And a further claim to fame would be that Mary is going to be traipsing there every day to her new office. And if you haven't been to Malaysia for more than 50 years or so, it used to be called Circular Road. (I know this because Auntie Bhujee told me this when she was recounting the exploits of the House Boy which are elsewhere in these annals).

Yap Kwan Seng had 17 wives and concubines. Apparently at the time, if you were rich enough, you could have any number of wives and concubines (rather like King Solomon, n'um sayin?)

The Great High Tea Chase being a washout (there is no high tea in JB for love or money) the 65-year-old girls (I can't help calling them girls - Mum calls them girls) are settling for lunch at Danga Palace, which is apparently very nice.

Another friend is coming to pick these two chicklets up and cart them off to the party.

I was supposed to leave this morning but I didn't get up. So I'm still not packed and anyway, I have to prepare the dogs' food before I do. Or maybe wait for them to come back.

Sleepiness may have something to do with watching five episodes of Monk (with one break for Intan) last night. Went to bed at about 2 in the morning. No, it was 3. Definitely past 3.

Yesterday the phone started to beep again. Chinese New Year is over. Wheels are starting to whir. Time I got on with it.

Jenny Goes Postal

"Why are you screaming?" she asks.

"Because if you create a bloody world, even if it's a skewed Escher-type universe where up is down is up is down, you still need a few rules. And then you follow the bloody rules. Things have to make sense. On celluloid if not in real life.

"This," I point my finger accusingly at the screen. "This is utter Chaos. The deaths - its gratuitous - there's no coherence, nothing makes sense."

"Oh come on, it's a soap opera, when does that ever have rules - they just have to figure out ways to keep the story going..."

I feel the muscles in neck clench, I want to throw a chair at the TV, I want to smash something, how can I communicate to these blindly trusting people that something is wrong here, something is very wrong here and they should vote with their remote controls and click off?

She continues to gaze at me with mild concern. A little more and she'll take my temperature. And I won't be answerable. No, not bloody answerable. I'm close to busting a blood vessel, and if I go down, I'm taking all the dewy-eyed cows with me.

You. Cannot. Just. Kill. Characters. Because. You're. Too. Dumb. To. Think. Of. Any. Further. Complications.

If a show is done, it's done.

Cue the happy ending and let everyone get to bed.

Not good, Benny...not good at all!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Glib Apocalypse

Since Apocalypse is where every "supernatural" dramedy seems to tend, why not jump on the bandwagon and write your own? A few guidelines, if you want to cash in on this trend which should go up all the way, dunno, 2012, when Mayan prophecy has it we're all gonna croak?

1. You must have a tortured hero/ine. Maybe hero/ines.

2. Tortured hero will have to choose between saving the world. And eating an ice-cream.

3. You can gauge the level of torture by hero's glib remarks and slick repartee. Throw in one-liners and cultural references (and by cultural, I mean B-grade TV shows) and your ratings go through the roof.

4. Build up to Apocalypse with Signs. Crib from the Book of Revelation, if you can't think of any yourself. It's always good for a few episodes.

5. Turn everything upside down. Angels are perfectly perfect in every way. Meaning emotionless automatons who follow orders without question. Demons are a little like the heroes - tortured.

6. A theme song for evil would be good. Not House of the Rising Sun. That's so "been there, done that". Something a little unexpected. Like Fire and Rain. I can definitely see the possibilities there. You know Fire? And Rain? See where I'm going with that?

7. Go heavy on the tomato sauce. And mutilated bodies. But would help if heroes are impervious. And if they trade joke over corpses.

8. No matter what you do and how you play it the Apocalypse will fall flat. Like any production of King Lear. So don't worry about it. Oh yeah, and in TV-land, everything is reversible. Sold your soul? Buy it back. Fallen into hell? Climb right out. (After all, if Dante did it, why can't your hero/ine?

9. Long shots of hero gazing into distance at scenes of destruction, flashbacks of sacrifices along the way, brimming eyes, heavy sighs, counting the cost, giving up all thought of ice cream.

10. End with burgeoning music, a few stale platitudes mouthed off earnestly, or as earnestly as the B-list actor/actress of the "cheerleader or James Dean will save the world" ilk can manage.

And voila, you have a hit, a maker of nightmares, something that can go into seven seasons at a pinch.

Keep it churning....

The Banality of Turning Points

When I read Hugo, Tolstoi or Dickens I am often struck by the moments of truth, when all of life seems to hang in the balance, when these characters have to decide between the right path and the wrong one.

These moments are large, enormous, enough for a frantic:

What have I done
sweet Jesus what have I done
become a thief in the night
become a dog on the run
have I fallen so far
or is the hour so late
that nothing remains but the cry of my hate
the cries in the dark that nobody hears
here where I stand at the turning of the years...

The turning point is always glaring, emblazoned with with fluorescent red poster paint. You can see the turning point. It's there. It's fair.

But maybe for the lesser characters like us, the ones without those Masters of the Third Person Omniscient to write our dialogue (and certainly no one to edit it) the moments of truth, the turning points, are less vivid, banal even, and they pass unnoticed until you're remembering them after the fact.

Even though they carry with them the crushing weight of Consequences, of Remorse into an indifferent pillow each night, of hopelessness, of another little piece of you breaking off and falling into the swirling wind (or is it mud?) to be lost forever, you get no warning beforehand.

It could be as simple as approving the "friend request" of someone you don't really like on Facebook. OK, so the person is an irritant. Bad vibes first time around. Bad bad vibes. Clash and burn.

No reason to be rude, right? Accept the friend request. And so it begins.

It could be as simple as reading the status updates of these so-called irritants, finding yourself amused, and gradually coming to like the once-irritant. It could be replying to comments on your posts and your notes, by this now-not-so-irritating-in-fact-even-positively-witty irritant.

It could be as simple as agreeing to meet for a drink. In a quiet place. To talk.

And after the fact, after the "banshee wailing for her demon lover" misery, the lies, the fabrications, the anxious planning and politicking and arranging of events and consorting with other banshees, when the dust has settled, when the grime has been wept away, when the heart has resumed its monotonous look back to see at what point you fell.

And you can't believe how banal, in fact boring, the moment. And how improbable all the lies you swallowed unwittingly.

The idle mind.

The devil's playground.

For sure.

Friday, January 23, 2009

That Thin Veil

What amazes me is that no matter how smart you think you are, you're bound to think well of friends, or people you consider as such. Even though they may be anything but.

You view their actions through this veil and seek to find reasons, explanations, justifications (no matter how flimsy) for their behaviour.

But your belly is churning and you can't sleep at night and you have imbibe ever more copious amounts of alcohol to persist in this self delusion. Because facing the truth would mean falling...

And you would rather not fall.

But then a feather lights on your head. And you start to plunge.

And once you've got your lens adjusted you start to view things as they are. You start to see how laying the worst possible interpretation on every minuscule piece of behaviour is no more than just.

You understand that you're dealing with the undead, not a spark of light or goodness anywhere. Evil being merely privative, a dark hole, an absence.

And you understand why the undead fill the rest of humanity with dread, and wise people steer clear.

You can't save the undead.

Their souls have already been damned to hell.

All you can hope is that their bodies follow.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Great High Tea Chase

Mum is supposed to meet a bunch of her old friends for high tea. Why high tea rather than lunch or dinner? Lunch is too short to catch up. And none of these old ladies actually feel safe being out for dinner. Besides, Mum doesn't like the night air. She nearly always falls sick after.

So today Mum was perched on the piano seat lamenting the fact that one of the chief organisers was so lazy and passive that she hadn't even found out about how much it costs to have high tea at Mutiara Hotel.

I said it was as easy as anything to find out, went onto the net and started googling the hotels in JB and ringing out to find out if they provided high tea and how much it would be.

Thing is, all of them provide high tea.

On Saturdays and Sundays!

And all charge some bloody extravagant price per head ++!

Yipes! It is so much easier to plan one of these things in KL. The sheer magnitude of choice!

Anyways, I decided to call Chubs and rope him in, with Mum twittering in the background about how he's working and would be in a meeting etc etc. Chubs gave me the name of the newest hotel in JB and said he would ask around about high tea but not just yet as he was on his way out.


I tried googling "high tea in JB" and came up with a big fat zilch!

Mum decided to call her friend Halimah who came up with a few recommendations.

I honestly think that there is a business idea here for some enterprising person has a large dining room and a flair for baking. Offer to organise get togethers in JB and provide a nice selection of cakes and endless pots of tea in nice china - maybe limit the customers to old ladies - and charge not as much as the hotels and make a killing.

So Mum calls her lazy friend, having done all the spadework and guess what?

Lazy friend is still sleeping.

I guess not all 65-year-olds are built alike.

Monday, January 19, 2009

That Looks On Tempests

I watch King of California on Astro and decide for a split second that lunatics are charming. It must be exhilarating to live with a person who is unbounded by accepted logic.

That is, until I remember what it was actually like being around a lunatic who asked me to put my fingers between the blades of a table fan that was running, and my hand into a wall (because mass was largely imaginary and we could walk through walls if the spirit moved us).

Most of the time, I was scared out of my wits.

Most of the time, he was drunk.

So I'm thinking, nah, maybe not lunatics exactly. Maybe quirky...quirky's good.

And I wait for Mum to come home from her appointment at the hairdresser's. Her hairdresser operates from a little room at the back of the house, what used to be an airwell. You call, make an appointment and go over. She charges next to nothing. Mum's all excited, a reunion is in the works, and she has spent the past few days on the phone to various friends, she hasn't seen or spoken to in decades.

You can see it is important as she is out at this time...when her shows are on. This means she will be missing Marina. Actually, no, Marina only starts at half past three, so maybe she'll be able to make it.

So this is what was missing in her life - friends her own age, from school no less, back when she used to be popular - getting together catching up on each other's lives...friends who haven't heard each other's stories 100 times, who haven't moved into the same familiar grooves where you talk without saying anything and don't listen cos you've heard it all before.

Remembrance of things past.

Most of them have creaky knees. I know this because when Mum comes up for her afternoon nap during which time I haven't even woken up for the day she tells me about who she spoke to and what ailment they have and adds that maybe they should have had a reunion at 60 rather than 65.

Younger = less ailments = healthier.

However, Mum is definitely spryer these days - when she has something to look forward to. A reunion. Old friends. Nice stuff.

Yesterday she told me she was attacked by a swarm of bees that suddenly appeared out of nowhere and were instantly attracted to her bright orange caftan.

"Bladi hell...when I wore the green caftan, the butterflies used to light on me."

I don't know about you, but I'd prefer butterflies to bees.

Maybe animals just love her. After all our famous squirrel, Botak (who eats all the fruits on our fruit trees) always comes out when Mum is in the garden but disappears at the sight or sound of me. The only animal I seem to be popular with over here is Maggotty. (That's Maggot the dog, not the actual maggots, though come to think of it, I seem to be pretty popular with the ants and mosquitoes as well).

I have chopped onions annd garlic for vindaloo.

I am supposed to make lemon curd cake as well, but maybe I'll wait until Thursday, when we've chucked all the cake that's about a month old in the fridge, as well as the remainder of my failure of an angel pie which continues to occupy much space in all its creamy glory and is much avoided by both mother and brother.

Although it hasn't rained in days, maybe is windy outside and the chimes are all tinkling together, a choir, a cacophony and decide...

Still aimless...

Saturday, January 17, 2009


When the stormy winds cease and the water settles, the sediment sinks to the bottom. And I can see clearly, all the shit that I keep inside. All the vitriol I carry in my belly.

I hear myself say things, sound off, excoriate, and wonder...did I really say all that? Did I think it was OK to say all that? Did I think it was forgivable?

Usually the waters are turbulent, cloudy and I can't see past the air in front of me. I walk around in a daze. Words running on that same old treadmill in my mind. I do the wrong kind of recycling.

But when I get away from it all for a prolonged period, I start to see, I start to be aware...

I'm so sorry for so many things. Anything I condemmed in anyone else, was a matter of logs and specks. And I feel the guilt twist my insides until I can't breathe.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm not ready to re-emerge

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Theme Song

Kau datang dan pergi
Oh begitu saja
Semua ku terima
Apa adanya.

Ku pegang erat
Dan ku halangi waktu
tak urung jua
ku lihatnya pergi

Monday, January 12, 2009

Power Root, Anyone?

I love my title. That whole double entendre thingy really floats my boat.

So anyway, it was early morning (right, two in the afternoon actually, but who's keeping tabs?) and as I emerged from the mists of sleep, I saw two SMS-es on my phone awaiting inspection. One was an MMS, a review of Bedtime Stories, which was kinda cool.

The other was purportedly from a company called Power Root (I had never heard of this company) telling me I had won RM10,000. Now that is huge shock to spring on you in the early morning, afternoon, evening, whatever. I mean, it is a huge shock to spring on you. It gave me a number to call to go collect my prize.

The SMS came from the following number - +60178954279 - and this is what it said:

TAHNIAH! simCard Anda t'lah berjaya Cabutan BERTUAH Wang RM10,000.00 from "POWER ROOT" SDN BHD. Sila Hub Office Ditalian 012-815-9897 Terima Kasih.

Now elsewhere in these annals, I have documented my extreme naivety when it comes to people telling me I won something. I mean I actually parted with RM3,000 of hard-earned cash, which left me practically penniless for the rest of the month, because some red-faced 15-year old appeared at my gate, did the scratch and win thingy and told me I might have won a car. (Now I know that the proper response to these scratch and win fellows if you're unlucky enough to be outside when they're around is to hand them the RM1 they say they get for every scratchy and then go into the house and bolt the door)

So when I stumbled down to make the ginger orange butter broccoli (I liked it, but it was a tad sweet, maybe I should have used blood orange rather than sweet orange marmalade) and vindaloo (cos Mum was not feeling so good and I promised to make lunch) I went on the net to check out this company. Yes, it existed. Yes, there was a contest on.

But didn't you at least have to participate? The SMS told me that my phone number had been "picked". From a hat? I mean what was up with that? Anyway, I noted a number to call for "enquiries". It being Sunday (smart move that - those too impatient to wait one day to check would call the number given which would lead them to some path to destruction, or at least, some path in which they and their money are soon parted) I couldn't call.

This morning, I tried calling the contest number. I called at 8.30am. No answer. 9am. No answer. 9.30am. No answer. 9.45am. Still no answer. I wanted to abandon the quest, but decided to try their Johor office number.

A girl answered. I told her I received an SMS telling me I had won money from Power Root.

And she said: "Actually miss, that SMS is not true."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Recipe for a Disaster That Never Happened or Have You Heard From Jackie?


Time on your hands
An active imagination
Indian (Malayalee preferred) blood
A healthy diet of soap operas, Brazilian or Indonesian for choice
Tears of sorrow and regret. (optional)


1. Have a slight deviation from the ordinary. (i.e. Jackie fails to make her customary weekend call to the folks).

2. Then hear from equally drama queen husband who insists something must have happened to her.

3. Read news about how people are freezing to death in England. Add a little active imagination.

4. Disturb youngest daughter's ahimsa state by constant calls (Have you heard from Jackie? Has she replied your email? Did you SMS her?)

5. Worry.

6. Worry some more.

7. Just a little more worry and you're nearly done.

8. Mix all ingredients together in a copper bowl until light and frothy.

9. Here is where you can add the tears, if you want. Throw in memories of Jackie as a chubby toddler with unruly curls and a gap-toothed smile for added effect. Cue sad music from your soap of choice.

10. Work yourself up to a STATE.

11. Stir in panic.

Serve hot.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lemon Cream Pie

I guess I shouldn't have watched Waitress. Because the actual story slipped past me, and all I noticed, were the pies and how she made them. This seeming miracle of crust and filling. I wondered about it. Why didn't I make pies? I mean, I made cakes, I made puddings, but no pies. Maybe pies were essentially an American thing. Twin Peaks. That pie song in the movie Michael. And of course, Waitress with the famous chocolate strawberry pie.

That's when I decided I would google a lemon pie recipe and make it. Just like that. Naive as I was, I thought it'd be a piece of cake.

Well there were recipes in abundance of course. That's what the Internet is for. So I picked one (lemon angel pie with a meringue crust) and trotted off to the stores to get supplies, the first essential supply being, a pie plate. We didn't make pies so we had nothing suitable.

Well I gathered all the ingredients (it called for heavy cream,and there was not heavy cream, so I got double cream instead) and came back home all set to begin.


Did I already say I was naive?

The first reverse was the pie plate. Intent on getting exactly what the recipe asked for, I forgot that our oven was a teeny tiny one. The pie plate wouldn't fit. So I transferred the fixings for the meringue pie crust to one of Mum's corning ware containers. Cos, as she pointed out, Corning Ware is microwaveable.

The recipe called for 250 Celsius. It probably meant 250 Farenheit. Anyway, I followed the recipe and burned the crust.

Luckily, since the there was so much crust I had enough for another try. This time, I would be using the pie plate. Who cared if the oven door wouldn't close all through? Maybe I could stand there for an hour or so and force it shut.

Anyway, I plunked in the pie plate with the raw meringue and waited for it to heat. No, too much heat must be escaping for the temperature refused to go beyond tepid. In the midst of trying to make the filling, there I was, leaning up against the oven, trying to warm up the pie crust.

This went on for about half an hour and then I noticed that I had failed to switch on the oven.


I amended that, wondering what else could go wrong....and placed the glass bowl on this iron thing above the boiling water in the pan (no, we didn't have a double boiler and I had to improvise). Well, wouldn't you know, I heard a crack. And then another crack. The beautiful glass bowl was all but shattered and the filling seeped into the water underneath.

I called to Mum who was playing Spider Solitaire to tell her I had cracked her bowl. Mum, being Mum, took it philosophically. She told me, it had been a free gift for something or other anyway. As the family baker though, that had been my favourite bowl. This pie was getting more and more expensive. Why oh why did I have to embark on this freak?

A quick check in the oven and I noticed that the crust was actually beginning to brown, the slight aperture at the top of the oven notwithstanding. OK, I would need to make some more filling. Thank goodness we had one lemon left. (Here I thought briefly of that house in Perth with the lemon tree - all it would take, would be to step out into the garden to get an apronful of lemons...if I wore aprons, that is).

So I set to zesting and squeezing the second lemon (a small one, but hopefully it would give me what I wanted) and making some more filling. This time I was careful to place the filling in a saucepan which I placed over that iron thingy over the boiling water. OK, I would have to stir it from time to time (the recipe said constantly I said bollocks to that).

Now it was time to beat up the cream. Now the recipe didn't call for whipping cream. It should have. Or I should have used my common sense to remember that whipped cream only comes from whipping cream.

So I whipped the double cream and it turned to butter. Yeah, just like that. And it being a lemon cream pie, I would have to coat the crust with my whipped cream, and the add the filling, and top it off with cream.

Tired by now of all the foul-ups, bleeps and blunders, that's exactly what I did. Who cared if my cream was buttery. I removed the pie crust from the oven, placed some aluminium foil over the top and weighed it down with sherry glasses full of water. (We didn't have anything that could do for pie weights).

In the meantime, Mum had moved from the computer to the TV. It was time for the penultimate episode of Intan. Actually I think it's the penultimate episode cos the grandmother died, which I think signals an ending, and all those holding out against her marriage to Rado, had come around. No more loose ends, so to speak. Mum gave me a disgusted look and asked me when I had become an expert on Intan. I just gave her a superior smile and turned back to my disaster of a lemon cream (or rather butter) pie.

Once I figured it had sufficiently cooled and been weighed down, I coated it with cream, added the filling and coated it with cream some more. It looked OK but the family eyed it askance and declined a piece when I offered.

Maybe I'll stick to cakes.