It is actually a tired old diary trying to masquerade as a Filofax. It is leather bound and in quite a sorry state as it had spent a good many years in a box with some old tapes; both rich archives of old stories and events of years gone by.
It is my 1997 diary – six years after I started life as a freelance – six years after I regained confidence to get a proper diary, or personal organiser as some preferred to call it. I said regained confidence because after more than ten years waking up to routine work, life as a freelance is less predictable and at first I wasn’t sure whether there’d be any work, any projects coming my way. What if I had blank pages staring back at me with doodles adorning them; no important appointments and assignments?
By 1997, I realised that that was the least of my worries. It was a good year, alas like this year, it ended with a financial crash in SEA that had a domino effect everywhere.
Organise my life it didn’t, but it sure looked impressive carrying a bulging Filofax. In those days, anyone young and fancied themselves upwardly mobile, must be seen carrying one of these. I wasn’t young, but I still fancied myself upwardly mobile.
Anyway, mine was a freebie that MAS used to give to their first class passengers, and I got mine from one of those privileged ones.
I scanned through the pages, littered with phone numbers and names jotted hurriedly in places they shouldn’t be. There were calculations in pencils, email addresses in lipliners and cryptic messages that defy logic and common sense, especially written in columns that say finance. But that shows how organised I was/am.
But that’s not the point of this entry. This is the year that started with an entry that says:
Another year! Wonder what’s in store!
It was a cold start to the new year, but from the entries right through the pages, it seems that I had had a good year, travelling a lot in and out of the country. I realised now that it was at this time that I met the maths genius and her family, travelled to Cardiff and Liverpool to meet the Malay community there and then off to Holland for the same purpose. Looking back, I had truly enjoyed these visits and meeting such interesting people with interesting stories to tell. They were old Malay Sailors in Liverpool and Cardiff who shared with me their stories of adventures at sea.
I see that I also went back to Malaysia for what was to be the first hari raya back home in 17 years!! The children truly enjoyed themselves and experienced real hari raya for the first time; playing crackers and fireworks and most of all helping with the preparation. I jotted down in the entry on 9th February 1997 “They really look good in their baju Melayu!”
Aaaah, at the National Archives open house, I met the incredible Ahmad Daud! By then, he had forgotten that I had interviewed him way back in 1992, but I remember his conversation, as he was walking to the car, to be most interesting. But I didn’t have my video recorder with me.
It was a wonderful holiday with the entire family as I noted at the end of our trip. Since then, we have not had a family holiday together, what with commitments and what nots.
I came back to London with an urgent assignment waiting for me. “ A very uplifting experience” – I wrote in the entry on 8th March. Took the train from Paddington to Theale where I was taken on board a helicopter to do a voice over job. I had done lots of voice overs in studios of varying nature, but never in a helicopter, a few hundred feet above the green fields of Berkshire.
This was also the year I covered the All England Badminton in Birmingham. Rashid Sidek lost to a Chinese player and suffice to say, nothing much after that to report back.
Friday 28th March was an eventful day. We drove aimlessly and found ourselves in Brighton. All along the way, we could see a strange something in the sky – it turned out to be the Haley Bopp!! It will make another appearance approximately in the year 4377. So put that in your diary!
Oh, on April 11th, after a consultation with a Dr Li, I was told I had low platelets in my blood So, that explains all the bruises at the slightest nudge. Does that also explain the severe headaches that I complained on almost every page?
We made a convoy to Great Yarmouth on May 3th. Started off at about 11pm because the other half was still working. It was fun because we got to celebrate his birthday – another surprise one at Kak Long’s house and then we went off to the great Bally outlet in Norwich. This place used to be crawling with Malaysians buying – what else, Bally shoes, Bally handbags, Bally belts at a fraction of the price at the stores.
As I got to June 1997, things became more exciting. I got to visit Book Villages in Europe – the one in Redu, Belgium and Hay on Wye in Wales. I remember train rides, flights, car rides deep into the Belgium and Welsh countryside and having lots of fun while working. I must have had such a lot of energy then. Where has it gone now?
Before we could unpack the bags from the trip to Wales, we were off to Hungary, by train!!! That was a busy year too for the then PM, so we had no rest at all, traipsing around England and Europe in the name of work. But getting to Budapest by train was quite an experience and it is certainly a very beautiful city.
And of course, this was the year Princess Diana met with her tragic death. I even remember the dress that I wore on that day – a bright red kebaya, as I was assigned to cover the Merdeka celebration. I was somewhere on the A40 when I heard the news on the radio.
How time flies.