Thursday, 26 November 2009

An Uplifting Experience

This article below can also be found here.

YOU can only expect this from the best of friends; one big hug and a breathless whisper in the ear: You’re wearing the wrong bra size, dear!

With that one statement, I was officially declared to be among the 80 per cent or so women who strut around wearing the wrong bra size; and we are not even talking about cups, bands or straps yet.

So, okay, it is time I pull up the straps that keep falling off my shoulders and put my hands up and admit to never having had myself measured; not since Mak bought that trainer bra from one of the shops in our small town of Alor Setar. It was then either S for small, M for medium or L for large. No 32B, 34DD, 36FF or other complicated combinations that were more appropriate for opening a safe. Any adjustments needed were made by stuffing socks or tissues. There was nothing that a small safety pin couldn’t do; it could hold the straps in place or serve as an extension of a back band a few centimetres too short.

And there were not many to choose from either, unlike today’s array of fashion which promises to lift not only what threatens to defy gravity but also your spirit. The correct measurement, cups and straps could do wonders for your posture, while giving back that waistline you thought you’d lost forever. Or at least, it gives you the illusion that you have a waist you don’t actually have.

So, it was after this short lecture directed firmly at my fast-deflating bosom and self-confidence that I found myself at one of those expensive stores in Oxford Street, in the lingerie department.

“What’s your size, madam?” asked the salesgirl politely. I mumbled some digits and an alphabet. And like a stern Maths teacher, she whipped out her tape measure and immediately dismissed my answer as wrong. So, I got a few D’s mixed up and for that wrong answer, I was marched off to the changing room.

I remember needlessly mentioning something about having four children, all breastfed, by way of preparing her for what she was about to see.

“I have seen it all, Madam. And so there is no need to be embarrassed,” she said, quite professionally. It was then that I surrendered myself to her expert hands. I even made her choose the pattern and style she thought were appropriate for me for I couldn’t bear the thought of being lost in the sea of La Senzas and La Perlas in their various colours and cups.

She came back with a selection; several pairs of deep plunge, half cups, underwired, sexy and naughty and even sober, schoolmarmish ones. Then I was made to stand with my back facing the mirror. I was then asked to bend down with both hands held out by my side. When the new undergarment was put in place, she started adjusting the bands and the straps. And slowly, quite slowly I felt a truly uplifting experience, right there in that small changing room. It is wonderful what an extra D could do to lift your spirit and more, and I wondered why all this while, like all the other 80 per cent who go around in blissful ignorance about their correct size, why I never bothered to go for a proper fitting.

“Will that be all, Madam?” asked my fairy godmother with her magic tape measure. “And what about these to go with the brassieres?” she added, flashing what looked like hairbands or things they now called thongs.

Er, no thank you, I said politely. Let’s not even go there

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Letting the hair down with Hairspray


In two black cabs, we raced through the streets of London to theatre land, just in time to grab our tickets and find our way to our seats. It was a last minute decision - but last minute decisions are sometimes the best; forget about looming deadlines and commitments. Four ladies were about to let their hair down with the attendance of one young male escort.

I had always wanted to see Hairspray but when tickets were available, I was not. But two days ago when I got news that there were some tickets available for the popular musical at Shaftesbury Theatre, I wasted no time in contacting friends. We were game for a night out to enjoy ourselves.

Hairspray is the kind of musical that, apart from getting you tapping your feet and swaying in your seats, has this good feel factor. It guarantees fun and laughter throughout; an experience not unlike Grease and Mamma Mia, which I had seen numerous times.

So, there we were tapping our feet and clapping to the rhythm of the sounds of the sixties in Baltimore.

Hairspray brings about a certain nostalgia and reminds me of the cans and cans of hairspray that I used to tease my unteasable curls before going out in the evening. I had wavy hair but longed for those straight and obedient tress that would just automatically curl upwards at a flick of a brush, held up with lots of hairspray, of course. I remember spending hours in front of the mirror doing the backcomb for the beehive, Anneke Gronloh effect. Then to complete the look, a big bow of ribbon!


My penchant for stage productions goes back to those days when I had to accompany the young thespian in our midst - Fatimah Abu Bakar, when she was rehearsing for Tun Kudu. She has great talents, that one, and when I moved to London, it was wonderful to see her on stage here, in Jentayu! I was so proud of her!

Anyway, after reading several blogs about musicals in Malaysia, I yearn to be able to see one. I have heard so much about the P Ramlee musical and Puteri Gunung Ledang but my visits home never coincided with the dates on the shows.

Well, one day, perhaps.

Kak Teh's other Hairspray piece and for those who want another glimpse of Stephen Rahman Hughes:
Mamma Mia and Hairspray moments
When Hang Tuah came to dinner

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Has it really been thirty years?

Salam all, this piece below appeared in my column here.

ON the greyest of a grey autumn morning, I found myself in what could only be described as a sardine can of a coach, in the underground train making its way to East London.
The tea that I bought earlier in the hope of having a leisurely breakfast during the journey was fast seeping out of its styrofoam container onto the almond croissant, as it was being crushed and squashed by early morning commuters entering and leaving the train.

It was only 7.30am and work was not due to finish until about six in the evening.

Early morning commuters tend to be quite aggressive compared to bedraggled homeward bound ones.

So, after being elbowed and pushed and squashed and left with a soggy almond croissant, you can imagine the speed with which self-pity was rushing in.

I suddenly noticed how young these early morning commuters were — in their twenties and thirties; all fresh and eager to start their day. At 7.30am, I was already about to give up.

I put this feeling of melancholy down to the unusually hectic week. I had been to several cities in the far flung corners of the British Isle, trudging to get to my transport when most people were still in bed and arriving home when most people were already asleep.

I had been covering stories with journalists young enough to be my children; whose energy and enthusiasm knew no bounds. I recognised those enthusiasm and zest for I once had them. And those were the days when the ministers I interviewed were much older than me.

Anyway, when I finally found a seat, and with about 10 more stops to go, and munching on tea-soaked almond croissant, I went on a journey down memory lane.

Just the week before, I was contacted by a youngish journalist who wanted to interview me because, according to her calculation, I could easily be the longest-serving Malaysian female journalist abroad.

Note that I did not use the word “oldest”, although that too could be true.

The reality of that proclamation hit me like a tonne of bricks. I don’t know whether this is true, but yes, suddenly I felt it had been quite a long time.

Suddenly, all of my almost 30-year career in this industry came rushing in like the early morning commuters.

There was a time when it was I who chased after old Malaysian veterans and old Malay sailors. My husband once joked that a young hack would one day turn up at our doorsteps wanting to interview the makcik who came to London in the late 1970’s. It is a joke no more.

These days, when I casually mention that we came to London in 1979, most of these young hacks would retort; “... but I was only a year old then!”

Next month, it will indeed be 30 years away; and for most part of the three decades, I had been a hack; in radio, in print, TV and even dabbling in online media.

I had started off carrying the German-made Uher reel-to-reel tape recorder on assignments and it weighed a tonne! Now I carry a small digital voice recorder that could easily fit in the palm of my hand.

And remember the days when we had to rush back after assignments to bang on the old Remington? Well, today, fitting snugly into my sling bag is a cool notebook with Internet connection.

I remember the day that the three of us — Ena, Fati and I — walked into the newsroom in Jalan Riong; conscious of the stares and wolf whistles from male reporters from the sports desk. Many contemporaries have moved up, moved away and moved on.

Last week, looking through my collection of paper cuttings and pictures from assignments throughout the years brought back the excitement and joy of being a journalist. I just love meeting interesting people with interesting stories to tell.

I just love how interesting human interest stories found their way to me.

Experiences of people like Datin Peggy Taylor, the Pak Cik Sailors, the British veterans and many more had served to enrich my own life’s experience.

Has it really been 30 years?

The announcement on the train signalled my stop. And joining in the crowd of commuters spilling onto the platform into the cold autumn air, I suddenly felt rejuvenated again.

Starting out...


 Reporting from all over Europe and with conjoined twins just before the operation

These last few weeks.............................

See the fresh faces?