Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Tales of Christmases gone by

The Two Ronnies saved the day. It used to be The Sound of Music or Poseiden Adventure but this year, there were repeats of The Two Ronnies. May be because Ronnie Barker – a comic genius – died recently. And what a genius he was and his death is a great loss to British comedy. No special Only Fools and Horses but just repeats. And of course the Queen’s Christmas message.

The Queen did her first Xmas speech to her people as well as to the Commonwealth in 1952 – mostly reflections of developments during the year, etc. etc. And this year, we are told she has snubbed her new daughter –in – law! But why am I blogging about this? Well, this is just a good excuse to tell you that for about twelve years, from a small cubicle at the BBC, I was broadcasting the Queen’s speeches ...in Malay!

The speech, in a firmly sealed envelope, was usually kept under very tight security – just in case it was leaked out to the press before Christmas. I’d get it just the day before Christmas, translate it and in a voice so unlike Her Majesty’s, I’d sit in my self op room and play Queen! So, that’s it. The next day, on Christmas Day, it’d be played out, while I sit in front of the TV at home and watch repeats of The Sound of Music.

So there – it is not as if I could write a book called, “Once I was the Queen”, hehe!

When we were small, Christmas was always with Uncle D and Aunty T. They celebrated Christmas and we just joined in the fun. I remember one particular Christmas in Port Dickson where we booked a bungalow to see the new year in. Uncle D dressed up as Santa and we children had so much fun. Aunty T cooked her delicious chicken curry and roti parata to go with it. That used to be Christmas. I don’t know where Uncle D and Aunty T are now but I certainly hope they had a wonderful Christmas. For us, we just sat in front of the TV, like every other year to watch repeats.

Our arrival in London 26 years ago was just a few days before Christmas and I had expected a white Christmas of course, just like the ones we see on TV. I was very disappointed. Christmas is of course, very much a family affair. So we were quite touched that for the first few Christmases, we were invited by close friends to join them at the family table. There I was, with funny paper hat, perched uneasily on my head trying to tackle those horrible Brussel sprouts. And again, after dinner, we’d watch repeats, play scrabbles or do the jigsaw puzzle. The mother died a few years later, one of the brothers migrated to Brazil and the other died recently. But I must add this, we became so much a part of this family that when the brother died, I was in the car following the hearse and was seated in the front row as a family member. So, this year, M won’t be knocking on our door with gifts for the children or papayas from his brother in Brazil.

Christmas parties at the office start very early. At the BBC where I used to work, there were a lot to cover but none would match parties by the Far Eastern Service. While the Eastern Europeans would serve nuts, cheese, crisps, sandwiches and of course drinks, ours would have mee goreng, currypuffs, rendang and satay – very popular indeed! This year, I gave Christmas parties a miss.

In our own household, when the children were small, they would insist on a Christmas tree and presents but we explained to them that it wasn’t our culture or religion. The children, however, did involve themselves in Christmas plays at school. Little T was one of the three wise men, and much later his father gently told him that perhaps we should just be in the audience and watch and not participate at all. He pleaded and became one of the donkeys instead. That sort of minimised the role a bit.

When halal butchers started stocking halal turkey, we used to have roast turkey but I have never really taken to turkey. The meat is dry and tasteless – but perhaps it is the way I cooked it. We’d have roast turkey with nasi tomato – don’t get me wrong – we were not celebrating. This is so we could keep stuff our face while watching repeats. The next day, it’d be turkey sandwich. And if there’s anymore leftovers, it’d be turkey curry!

One particular Christmas break, on impulse we booked a cabin in Wales. Of course, I had with me a ready roasted chicken, loads of ingredients for curry and bread. The place we booked was a long way away from Swansea but it was a good break – no tv, no repeats for that year. A friend who had booked a cabin for his family had already arrived and we had a wonderful Malay dinner in a cabin in the outskirts of Swansea. The wind was howling outside, it was bitterly cold but the chicken curry and bread kept us quite warm throughout the night, while we played scrabble. The next morning the children went to feed the farmer’s goats and chicken while the grown-ups went to fish – and we had salmon and air asam for lunch. And I wonder what they had for repeats that year.

A good friend of ours decided to tie the knot of Christmas Day – so since then – must be about ten years ago, we would be over at their place to celebrate their anniversary. And we’d have turkey of course, among other things. After which we’d watch repeats or perhaps some old Malay movies. But this year, they are celebrating their anniversary in Bali. Why is everyone going away?

But a couple of Christmases were quite tragic. One night we came back from a celebration at a friend’s place. Before turning in, H, as usual, called out to the cat to come in. He was one of our first few cats. We didn’t even have a name for him. Then H was too tired and went to sleep. The next morning, there was a knock on the door and a neighbour told us that our lovely cat had been knocked down by a car. H was full of remorse – blaming himself for not going out to search for his cat. AG cried silently for it was this cat who kept him company while he did his work at home and we were all in tears.

I was wrapping presents a few days ago for our neighbours when Nona reminded me that I had forgotten someone. So, I went out and bought a box of chocolates for Sandra’s mum. Sandra was Nona’s childhood friend. Sandra used to knock on the door for Nona in the morning to go to school. And Sandra, in her sweet voice, would always stop me on the way out to say cheerfully, ‘Hi, aunty – how are you?’ But not anymore.

Two Christmases ago, I came back and found Nona in tears. Sandra died in a hit and run, yards from her house. Her mum was inconsolable and so was Nona. This Christmas, Nona took the box of chocolate to Sandra’s mum and came back with a present. It was necklace – Sandra’s necklace and her mum wanted Nona to have it.

And of course, how could we forget last Christmas – indeed, how could anyone forget last Christmas when we woke up the next day and saw tragedy unfolding on our TV screens.

And now in my best Queen's high pitch voice "Beta ucapkan selamat tahun baru - dan senyum-senyumlah selalu".

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Law for The New Family

The last few entries of Choc-a-Blog have been a big moan about the bitterly cold weather. But yesterday the temperature rose to a dangerous new level. I am not one to swear BUT the air was turning blue as I tried to digest the new Islamic Family Law that was passed in Malaysia yesterday! Make no mistakes, this is indeed Law for the New Family!! Not a new Family Law. What’s new about the way women are being treated?

I was alerted to this news by a call from the BBC who wanted to interview me on this matter. Felt an utter prat as I had not been following it but gosh the shock and the anguish that followed – it really ruined my day. I had wanted to blog about today – the anniversary of Choc-a-Blog. A year ago I meekly started this blog and got two comments and a year later Choc-a-Blog is still here – Alhamdulillah. I also wanted to blog about this December being an anniversary month of sorts; it was our 26th Wedding anniversary and thus our 26th year in the UK. This means I have spent more years here than in my own country – but this doesn’t mean I am not concerned about what is happening back home. I am VERY concerned.

Let us look at the snippets of news from the last few days:

Women senators who have been up in arms against the controversial family law Bill, which they say will lead to erosion of their rights, will have no choice but to vote for it.

All talk of breaking ranks to vote against the Bill dissipated after Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz spoke to them in small groups before talking to a group of 25 senators, including the 19 women.

Anxious to ensure that Barisan Nasional senators toe the line, he warned that he was invoking the Whip and ordered the 19 Barisan women senators to vote for the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2005 when it comes up for debate today.”

Yeah , right Nazri!!!!! Well done! But, a touch heavy handed, don’t you think?

And let us look at what’s causing the concern:

"1) The right of a husband to claim a share of his existing wife's property upon his committing polygamy
Husbands have an equal right to a wife's property; likewise she has a claim to joint property acquired during their marriage.

2) Making polygamy easier for men
While a husband may be able to prove that his proposed marriage is necessary, he does not have to prove it to be just.

3) Forcing a wife to choose either maintenance OR division of joint property upon a husband's polygamous marriage
Syariah law makes it mandatory for husbands to provide maintenance for a wife throughout their marriage. Islamic law entitles her to both.

4) Enhancing the husband's right to divorce
This gives an additional right to divorce for the husband, which used to be the prerogative of the wife; he may escape paying any form of compensation.

5) Allowing a husband to get a court order to stop his wife from disposing of her property
The husband has no right to his wife's property since she is not obliged to provide maintenance for him or his children. That is his responsibility.”

And what did our Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil say?

"It is necessary for us to take one step backwards so we can move 10 steps ahead. We have to look at the bigger picture," she said at the Parliament lobby while a group of women senators nodded in agreement. Also present was Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz.

Shudder! Shudder!

I just couldn’t describe the feelings I had yesterday – but disappointment and despair should sum it up. I am disappointed that with all the outspoken, vocal, intelligent women that we have, we are still taking steps backwards. Shouldn’t be we fighting and protecting one of our own rather then let heavy handed men bully us into agreeing to anything? Haven’t we seen enough injustice as it is – even without those five humiliating clauses above?

I just depair because, whenever anyone here talks about the injustice of Islamic law allowing men to marry more than one, I will always defend it, quoting well quoted quotes about being fair, about being caring to all parties concerned. And most importantly, I say, I am proud that at least in Malaysia, there are laws to protect women, wives, whose husbands want to take on a second or third wife. Other than having to prove that they can be fair in dishing out their money and love and attention (which is of course a joke), they also have to ask for the permission of the first wife. Now, this can still sound very strange to non Muslims. Whaaat? You mean, the first wife will still accept that?

And, I proudly tell them, there are even wives – first wives – who do go and ask for the hands of the intended to be her husband’s second wife. More clanging of jaws on the floor!

But, what I didnt tell them is that of course, when hubby takes second or third wife and all are hunkydorry with schedules and time tables stipulated, are the stories that I heard about hubbies sneaking back to new wife’s bordoir, even when it is not her turn on the schedule. Where is the justice in this?

And now, when the husband entertains thoughts of taking on another one, he can now claim his first wife’s existing property??? And I foolishly thought that what a woman earns is hers and what the man earns is for both of them to share. Now, does it mean he can take her share and share it with his new whats’it?

What happens to the wife who follows the husband overseas to study – works her butt out to finance him and upon returning home, suddenly she doesnt seem to fit in with his crowd anymore. Suddenly, he looks at her and she has let herself go. Why, because she has been working her butt out to support him – to see that he gets the qualifications to climb the corporate ladder. And when he takes a second wife, he is entitled to whatever she earns? *& )(*&^!! Yes, sorry, this is because I have seen these before too.

Let’s not even talk about making poligamy easier.

I have seen enough who sheepishly come to London to solemnise their second or third – the imams here do not ask for the first wife’s letter of consent. It is thus their duty to register when they go home.

One wife who suspected her husband’s intentions, contacted all registry offices and finally found out. She nearly killed herself and her child. Perhaps she had not been paying attention much to the husband because all her life was devoted to a child born with Down’s Syndrome. Such is life.

I might not be making much sense as I am quite, quite angry still . No, I am furious. Let us voice out our concerns – if not for ourselves, for our nieces, daughters and our sisters in Islam.

Also pls see Mak Andeh.
For analysis by Suhaini Aznam, pls read:


That's it Zai! Give him an earful!
Posted by Picasa
Picture taken from The Star - sorry - pinjam

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Guess what I did last Sunday?

Usually even wild horses couldn’t drag me out of the house on a Sunday. It was a bitterly cold morning that only bowls and bowls of mee bandung or laksa kedah would suffice to see me through the day. Instead it was to be a Sunday like never before. And it was horses that took me away from the pile of ironing, away from the omnibus version of East Enders. I was dragged, not quite kicking, to the London International Horse Show!!

Posted by Picasa

I was late! I didn't want to go but I went nevertheless, taking the tube and later a taxi that cost a bomb for the short distance between Earls Court and Olympia! I was told to get the invite at the reception. Gave my name – Z...Wan. and I was handed a card that says Wan Z.... “This is not mine – she is a celebrity,” I said to a puzzled receptionist. So, off I went with the card that says : Presidential Box! Not only was it an invitation to watch the qualifying rounds but also to watch it, while having lunch in the Presidential Box!!

The view:

The velvet curtain to the box opened to reveal that...I was late. The guest of honour, a Jordanian Princess, some Lords and of course our own princess – Wan Zaleha Radzi were already there! And what a view from where we were seating!

Not that I know much about the show jumping - there were lots of appreciative Oooohs when the horses made it and a chorus of Aaaaahs when a pole dropped. But I concentrated more on the lunch on offer. It was very nice – they had roast lamb on the menu but a kind waiter came and told us that we could have vegetarian instead.

my lunch Posted by Picasa
Wan Z was two seats away from Z Wan and I could hear her explaining the whole thing to other guests. She is afterall an expert in these things. She looked lovely – and I remember meeting her once – just once in a studio at TV3. She was doing the voice for my documentary. And she remembered too, which is nice.

There is something about horses that is so beautiful – horses have a combination of power, strength and at the same time they are graceful and agile. It is such a beautiful animal!

The highlight of the event, for me, was the prize giving ceremony. The band played the theme song of Mission Impossible and with that, we marched down with the Princess. I tell you, it was so exciting – I could hear my heart thumping in rythm with the theme song! And yes – we were so close to the horses – they looked magnificient. A friend said, the most beautiful thing about the horse is the eyes. I daren't go THAT near! But what they left behind on the ground wasn’t too aromatic, I must say. I loved it when the winner, Robert Smith and his horse Kalusha rode off in a fanfare of applause – and £60,000!!!

The winner & the Princess Posted by Picasa
On the tube back, I reflected on the day’s events. My Mak would have disapproved of my presence there. Horses are, afterall, connected to gambling. Remember those calendars with pictures of pretty women in cheongsam holding on to a horse? These would symbolise the dates of racing. I just love those old calendars.

Never in a month of Sundays had I dreamt I would be there - watching a horse show from a Presidential Box. Yes, so that was what I did last Sunday – and I missed East Enders!

Wan ZRPosted by Picasa

Saturday, 17 December 2005

Thank you for little pleasures.....

This came in the post this morning
Posted by Picasa

Hooray! Yum! Yum! Drool! Drool!
Posted by Picasa

BUT look at these that can't be eaten!!!
Posted by Picasa

....because they have this!
Posted by Picasa

So, moral of the story on this cold, wet, gloomy winter morning is "You've got to be grateful for little pleasures...no matter how little!"
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Just a Snip

The doctor beckoned me to his room. He had some quiet words with me and I left, cutting a forlorn figure walking down the long hospital corridor, with abang’s comforting words to my youngest son, still ringing in my ear. He said:

“Aaaah, Its not such a big deal! Just one snip and you’ll be a man!! Masa Pak Lang dulu..heh!......” he went on narrating how brave he was when facing the Tok Mudin and his sharp, gleaming knife, batang pisang and all that. Well, that was his version. Mak had a different version of course.

Yes, I was sent out of the surgery because the doctor knew I would create a scene, had a fit, faint or go hysterical as my son was being ‘done’. He sent me off to the canteen with instructions to come back after half an hour. Is that all it takes these days??

After what seemed like an agonising 30 mins at the PMC brand new canteen, I walked up. I was almost in tears to see the little boy I left half an hour ago, now a man, walking like a cowboy towards me, holding one end of his kain pelikat so that it didn’t touch the sensitive area.

All these must have come flooding back to him last week when we visited three month old Y who had his snip. He cringed when he saw little Y already in his nappies and cringed even harder when Y’s mum gleefully described how it was done. She watched it.. Watched it? I nearly died just waiting for ‘it’ to be done.

When the eldest had his done, I was lucky as my husband was there with him. I had requested anaesthetic, a blind fold, a hard thud on the head...anything, anything to knock me out. But doctor said: anaesthetics only for patients – okay lah! On the way to the clinic in Kampung Baru, I was already having problems breathing. By the time they went in, I almost collapsed in the waiting room. Didn’t I read somewhere that a doctor had accidentally cut off more then necessary?

During the last visit home, two nephews had theirs done. I just love listening to the uncles and other male cousins who would just gloat about how brave they were sitting astride the batang pisang. They were never scared – em, perhaps, just a little. To this day, I never really know, or dare ask what the batang pisang was for.

I heard one story about someone not a million mile from this blog, who decided at the very last minute, to postpone the snip. Not that he succeeded. He spent the days recuperating, singing “Aduh, Mak sakitnya...”

That wasn’t so bad. I heard Abang and Abang Tam and the other cousins were singing P Ramlee’s “Beginilah nasib, diri ku yang malang, Oh Tuhaaaannnnn!..
When they were feeling a bit better, from their sleeping area with their sarungs suspended high up to the ceiling, they’d play cowboy and indians, shooting at each other, right into the night. Of course they made a speedy recovery when visitors came with money filled envelopes. This usually helps.

Anyway, I still have four in our household that needed to be ‘done’ – Tabby, Moaner, Kissinger and Jasper. Aaah, give me more air!

Monday, 12 December 2005

The Lie Must Go On...

The water flowing down from the imposing Jerai that formed the backdrop of our quiet little town, was, needless to say, very cold. I shiver at the thought of that afternoon, that episode, after our Quran class. It wasn’t the quick dip in the cold water that made me shiver, just the thought of what we did after that.

“We came here to get clay for the art class. That’s all,” Kak Cik said taking matters into her hands. “Listen, we need not tell her anything”.

We were perhaps about nine or ten when we began this conspiracy against Mak that was to continue until now. Kak Cik seems to take charge in matters like this. I meekly obey when she says, “Listen”. You see, Mak must never be subjected to any worry. Imagine had she known that her two little girls were splashing about in the river behind Mak Aishah’s house, she’d be worried sick. That’s for sure.

And we don’t want that, do we? We have seen what she went through when Abang did his disappearing act. He sold his bicycle and with what little he had, took off for some adventure. I didn’t see Mak cry but I know she didn’t sleep at night, waiting up for Abang. And the same thing happened when he went up the Jerai and came down carrying a huge python. Or the time he spent nights at sea, with the fishermen. Abang must have told her he was there to paint the sunset.

We must never make Mak worry or sad. She had never seen us quarrel or heard us raise our voices to each other. This means we grit our teeth or just hiss out whatever we want to say to each other when she is around. We do not bring up any sensitive subjects in her presence. One look from Kak Cik, my sentences will hang midway. There are taboo subjects. London is taboo. Cos she wants to visit me. So no one talks about London.

And we have learnt to deal with certain situations quite early.

I remember how she’d patiently wait while we read letters that Abang wrote from Belfast. When we finished she’d ask:

“Abang kata apa?”

“Dia kirim salam,” we’d reply after digesting the chronicle of explosions which had happened within earshot of Abang’s rented accomodation. This was in the seventies.

“Amboih – tujuh lai surat, dia kirim salam saja?” came the retort.

”Aaha – dia kata dia sehat,”

And so the lie goes on and on. Or perhaps, it should be termed being economical with the truth. Why would we be telling Mak the truth? Censorship was exercised very early in our household and storylines get changed very easily during conversations among us siblings when Mak suddenly makes an appearance.

Kak Cik has devised an effective way to let us know when storylines have to change. A very painful one too. I’d get a very strong kick under the table and believe you me – the storyline WILL change.

For example:

“Pak Tam kerabat pokok moktan (rambutan). Lepaih tu jatuh....” the story got interrupted as she sensed Mak's slow walk into the kitchen.

“Pak Tam?” Mak was curious about her brother. You see her hearing is selective.

“Dak, pokok moktan Pak Tam lebat tahun ni,” Another lie – another version of Pak Tam’s accident that resulted in his broken leg.

When Kak Piah was very very ill, carloads of relatives were visiting her at the hospital. And of course they’d visit Mak as well as Mak is now easily the great grandmama of all in the clan. The official version was that they were all attending kenduri of some friends that Mak didn’t know, or something like that. I find that hard to believe cos Mak seems to know everyone.

And when Kak Cik herself went into hospital to remove something which was not supposed to be where it was, there was a wall of silence. No one knew how to explain. But deep inside, I think she suspected something.

And another thing, we do not speak in English when she is around. She knows that is one way we are talking about things we dont want her to know.

And the conspiracy still continues – for it must. The last few days had seen a frenzy of sms’es and yms and phonecalls back and forth.

YM form Ajie "Dont say anything to Mak, Ok?"

SMS from Lilah - "she doesn't know - so dont say anything".

And the phone call from Kak Cik, “Listen, we must not tell her, okay? She must never know. We need not tell her anything,” said Kak Cik, taking charge once more, and I was transported back to the riverbank, standing there, shivering and almost in tears.

“Yes,” my voice broke as it did on that afternoon on the river bank.

Kak Cik sounded very strong. She said that she is alright. But she is lying too – we have been in this game for too long. I knew that she went into the shower and had a good cry and came out to face Mak again as if everything is alright.

When I called home, I was pleasantly surprised that it was Mak who picked up the phone. I was taken aback by the strength in her voice and more importantly, was happy that she could hear my voice.

“Mak sehat?” I asked not daring to utter more than three words.

“Mak sehat. Zaharah sehat?” she always called me by my full name.

“Sehat, Mak” we both lied.

Monday, 5 December 2005

Training My Thoughts

With robotic movements of the Stepford Wives, I joined other early morning commuters, hands clutching steaming hot take-away coffees, newspapers under armpits, to board the 0830 to Norwich. Unlike other days, today I had ample time to find a comfortable seat by the window to take in, for the last time (at least for now) the wonderful English countryside from the warm comforts of my window. Aaaah, the early birds get to choose – so many empty seats, with tables facing outward bound, where you can see where you are going or backwards, cos you can see where you’ve been.

I chose one in the middle carriage as it’ll be near the exit of my intended station and prayed that no one sat next to, in front of or adjacent to me. I was in no mood for small talk. And proceeded to bury myself in the morning papers.

Aaaah, what is the world coming to these days.... “Sex Slaves Gang Jailed” screamed the headlines in the free morning paper – the Metro. “Sex slaves sold at Gatwick” – revealed another headline. Young girls as old as 15 and sixteen are being lured from Lithuania with all sorts of promises of fun, excitement and probably the line that London streets are paved with gold.

So, so sad, I thought as the train pulled out of Liverpool Street Station. I hope the four caught will rot in jail...but I bet there are many more, perhaps in hiding, perhaps still running their despicable trade under a different guise! The door from the adjoining carriage opened and a couple sort of rushed in – the girl, a young lass of perhaps 16 looked around for seats and I prayed she’d give the empty seat next to me a miss. The gentleman behind her – no, I wouldnt call him that – he had this roguish look about him – somehow, he didn’t fit in with the early morning commuter crowd. Not like those I was accustomed to seeing these last few mornings, a bit dodgy, I thought, as I returned to the news that I was reading.

“We were promised that we will have a fun time at Halloween,” one girl was quoted as saying, “but as soon as we got here, our passports were taken and we were sold to brothels and pimps. And.....” I didn’t get to finish reading the sentence as I felt my space being invaded...by the young girl who had hundreds of other empty seats to choose but took the one next to me. But there was something about her. Her vulnerability, as she looked around wide eyed, timid even. No – scared is the word.

And...what about the rogue I saw behind her? I thought they were together but there was a certain hesitancy before he took the seat three rows away, facing us, his eyes never leaving the girl, I thought.

As the girl plumped herself beside me, I caught a whiff of her perfume. Hmmm, a bit too early for perfumes as expensive as this, I thought and I became suddenly self conscious of the scent that was coming from me. Its the minyak gamat balm that I had lavishly rubbed on my hands to ease the old joints in the winter cold. Instinctively, I pulled out my gloves and put them on.

But the strong whiff of gamat balm was still getting to my head though it worked wonders on my joints.

The young girl, still under the scrutiny of the rogue, which I now assumed was Lithuanian – from the Baltic region, anyway, was applying her bright red lipstick to those bee stung lips. The guy in pin striped suit adjacent to us looked up from his laptop and I thought - that’s not a look, its a leer, an ogle! And did he just licked his lips, those very lips that he kissed his wife goodbye with???? How dare he!

Aha!!!! I get it now! My eyes were darting from rogue man to young bee stung lip girl to randy pandy in pin stripes! I know why she sat next to me...she felt safe. May be she missed her momma back in Lithuania ( or perhaps her grandmomma!) and my motherly instincts took the better of me and I stared back hard at rogue man. I have read about things like this before. They ply the morning train to whatever destinations and pick up clients along the way. The pickings from the likes of pin stripe suit man could more than double the highly priced peak time return ticket to Norwich. Hmmm...

My heart was pounding. My coffee went cold and my almond croissant untouched. Having done her lips, young Lithuanian girl, for that was what I was sure she was, slowly lifted one shapely leg and crossed another shapely one, revealing her fish net tights underneath the knee-high leather boots. Gosh, they do get well paid in this business, I thought, making a mental calculation of the miserable hourly rate that I got plying this same route every day for the past two weeks!

From the corner of my eyes, without making it too obvious, I looked into her small mirror as she did her eyelashes, her red moist lips parting as she did so. Pinstriped suited guy had by now forgotten why he switched on his lap top and I swear he was drooling.

Rogue guy looked around uneasily and returned his beady eyes to Marlena – yes, that must be her name. Marlena – or it could be Veronica – names you see on small cards posted on telephone booths around London. He looked more than interested as Marlena or Veronica or whatever flicked her shoulder length hair back revealing long slender neck. I gasped! What was thatttttttttt? What have they done to the poor girl! A big blue, purplish bruise! Oh, how she must have suffered! She must have fought back. The reports did say they were threatened with beatings should they retaliate.

My head was racing and I knew I must act fast. I must save this young girl from anymore dirty paws that’s waiting to maul her. And wipe that lecherous look from your face, pin stripe baldy and go back to your wife and children!

Then suddenly – “Ting Tong! The next destination is Chelmsford. Please ensure that you take all your luggage with you. This train will now stop at Chelmsford”.

Marlena slung her handbag over her shoulders, walked past rogue man and was soon out of my sight even before I could put on my Superwoman cape. Rogue man stood up and walked behind her...aha! At the platform, Marlena flew into the arms of a forty something old woman screaming.......”Mummy! I missed you” and rogue man – (or was he?) sauntered up the overhead bridge and disappeared.

I went back to the newspapers, sipped my cold coffee and made a mental note, never again to use gamat balm. It does things to your tired brain.