Monday 30 May 2005


I will be on my back for a while doing not very exciting things like contemplating cracks in the ceiling or that annoying cobweb that I suddenly noticed in the corner of the room.

This morning while I was bending down to pick up something, I felt a twinge in my back and I knew that I have done it again. Once you get slipped disc, it’ll never go away.

Thus it is with great pain that I am sitting here, typing this, pushing the last entry down.

It must be exactly ten years ago that I inflicted this injury. I remember the occasion very well. The then Prime Minister of Malaysia was visiting Cambridge University and we were hot on his heels, running after him, in case we missed anything. He, to tell you the truth, has more energy than all the journalists he left huffing and puffing behind him. I remember when we were in Budapest, at a press conference, he took one look at us looking like war casualties and asked: Tak penat ka ikut Prime Minister? Now how do you answer that?

Coming back to that fateful day in Cambridge, he was visiting the campus there but decided to walk and enjoy the beautiful buildings on foot instead of being chauffeured around. I took pity on my camera man and volunteered to carry the huge hefty camera which weighed a ton. Now, isn’t there a rule that you must bend your knees as you bend down? Yes, but did I heed those wise words? No. Trying to be a superwoman, I bend down from the waist, took hold of the camera and felt the first twinge of pain in the spine, already sore from an epidural injection I had some ten years back. But superwoman must soldier on, right? Anything a man can do, I must show that I can do as well.

So, I bravely carried it before Tan Sri Nordin Sopiee, my former boss at the NST, came to my rescue and gallantly carried it for me. Hah, what a relief. Assignment over but the pain persisted. And back in London, I was in the kitchen trying to reach out for something, when I had the fatal sneeze of my life. With that sneeze, I doubled up in pain and it was in that doubled up position too that I was carried screaming on the stretcher to the hospital.

There’s nothing really one can do with slipped disc, except to sleep on a wooden floor, no mattress and no pillow and not even husband's arms. One move even labour pain seems like a mild period pain . So, there I was for five days, flat on my back, contemplating the ceiling.

Suddenly, the picture frame on the wall needed straightening up, the books on the racks are not properly arranged, the hems on the curtains have come undone, and I couldn’t move!!! How irritating can that be!!! I could have read War and Peace twice. I could memorise names of characters in every soap on telly and did crossword puzzles even the difficult ones in The Guardian! How I wish I could get up and strip the wall paper and tile the bathroom.

It is strange that when you are in that position and not allowed or not able to move, you think of the most unimaginable things that you want to do. I thought of getting up to do the break-dance, and vowed that once I am back on my feet, I’d take up badminton again and perhaps enrol in one of those belly dancing classes. In fact, exactly five days after that I was on my way to Birmingham, again with my crew to cover another story. You can’t keep me down for ever. And a few weeks after that joined my children ice skating.

Anyway, while in pain, just how do you get to the toilet to do number one and two? With great difficulty and excruciating pain, of course. The preparation to get up alone would take up to ten to fifteen minutes. We tried different positions, my husband and I (and don’t let your mind roam any further!) Under any other circumstances, I would certainly have enjoyed it. He’d either pull me straight up and carry me piggy back to the bathroom, or scoop me up like a baby. Either way, it is a torture and always ended up in tears. My pain threshhold is very very low.

This time is not that bad ‘cos I can sit down and pray while sitting down. But I do miss the piggy back!

Sunday 29 May 2005

Happy Birthday & God Bless!!

Her entrance caused not a small sensation. She has eloquence and mastery of words that make you rush for the dictionary. And the first subject she broached was nothing less then the departure of Singapore from Malaysia. Wow! And I only blog about what I do on my Sundays, my verbal somersaults and trivial family matters.

It was thus a little disappointing that the comment she made on the above subject in someone’s blog, just disappeared, thus the important link to track her down (at this time the gender of the commenter was unknown) also gone. But I didn’t have long to wait as the new blogger made another appearance, with a more impressive anecdote that stirred my curiosity to no end.

So, a click on her nick led me to her blog, which I did so apprehensively looking for clues for her real identity. Its rather like going to someone’s house while she is not there and you look through her belongings, her address book and diaries. But I was ill equipped on my first visit. I didn’t need just a dictionary, but a medical dictionary to be able to understand what her entry was all about.

It seems that she does have some problems with her insides, that being her colon but if she’d use more semi colons in her postings, it’d help me understand better. So, at that point I speculated that at the very least, she’s a medical student or at the most, a doctor. Whatever it is, someone with somekind of medical problems that bothered her enough to dedicate an entire blog to it.

And from her blog too you get very strong whiffs of Jiffs, detergents and Dettols, which one suspects she gets very high on, while she religiously scrubs her floor and bathroom. You get the impression that she lined her disinfectants as lovingly and meticulously as she would her Chanels and other fragrance.

Fed by whisperings in the bloggers’ world, I came to know that she’s a songwriter, whose command of the Malay language causes jaws to drop you can almost hear the clanging and feel the tremors. Her first waxing of Malay lyricals made me reach for Winstedt and Wilkinson. Dewan Bahasa and Mohamed Hj Salleh and all his pronouncements on beauty alone won’t do.

It was enough anyway for me to post my first comment in her blog, fishing for information as to her identity. In fact, cunningly, I insinuated that I knew her, to which came the reply, “Muahaha, and I visit you too, and quite like your white foundation!” referring to my silly attempt to conceal my face in one of my postings. Thus started a strange relationship between this blogger and me, which developed into something which I have come to cherish.

She stalks my movements while I wait for her witty yet wise comments. In my late afternoons I keep her company while she waits for her husband’s return from late night work. We prod each others’ brains and bounce off ideas for issues that bug us for that particular moment in time. We help soothe each other’s stress and pains, and listen to each other’s life’s little whoops and woes.

And soon, we realise that the world is such a small place, the bloggers’ world even smaller. Her mum knew me and my brother in law was her former professor of English.

Our regular chats left me feeling as if I am talking to an eldest daughter, who has become a friend, with whom I can share everything, from perfume to baggy T-shirts, whose wisdom I have come to rely on. Please join me in wishing her Happy Birthday and God Bless!

Friday 27 May 2005

A Day At The Chelsea Flower Show

A Malaysian Garden at The CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW Posted by Hello

It was such a hot day and summer is definitely here. The Chelsea Flower Show certainly heralds in the summer social calender for the British. This is the first time after so many years since I last set foot here and I had certainly forgotten how crowded it can be. The British are certainly flower enthusiasts - they came in droves. Tickets are sold out and are so very, very expensive. But no one wants to be left out. There were lots of people in wheelchairs and walking sticks but they still went to admire the wonderful and beautiful flowers and foliage from and around the world. Every inch of available space was filled with visitors enjoying the sun and sight.

I was there with a friend, Diana, to see the Malaysian Garden by Stephen Hendry in collaboration with famous chef Raymond Blanc of Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, Malaysian Landscape designer, Lim In Chong and MAS. Eating food such as crab claws and salmon in herbs from the Malaysian garden, on the verandah of the Malay house, we felt very much at home. There was the waterfall with beautiful orchids at the back, lots of palm trees (flown in for the ocacssion)...and don't I wish my back garden is like that.
Image hosted by
Anyway, I am still experimenting with hello here and cant seem to put all the pictures in one post. But enjoy them!
Breathtaking! Posted by Hello
Welcome to my back garden...(yeah, right) Posted by Hello

Yes, me pottering around in my backyard...Now, where shall I put this orchid?
If only I can persuade MAS to transport this piece of Malaysia to my back garden!!!
Mini nenas Posted by Hello
Will have to look up name of these. Posted by Hello
Strawberries? Where's the cream? Posted by Hello

The strawberries are simply georgeous and I simply had to stop my hand from plucking one. You can smell them even from a distance! The only thing that is missing is the cream...lots and lots of cream , pleaseeeee!!!
Don't know the name...but its beautiful Posted by Hello
Beautiful Posted by Hello

Wednesday 25 May 2005

Kecek-kecek is gone!!!!!!

Help!!!! I woke up very early this morning to do some work and I found a message from Kampo saying that he could not open my husband's blog on Terengganuspeak, "". I tried opening it and true enough, its not there! This is so strange because my husband had just updated his blog just before he went to sleep and I saw his latest posting. Woke him up and he too is puzzled about it. Does anyone know how this can happen? How a blog can just disappear like that?
Got to get back to my syaer.

Can the person responsible please put it back?
So, everyone, pls save your files.

hmmm..bini saja dok kalut, yang cik awang goneng teruih tidork balik.
(translation: aaaah, such a caring wife (konon) while husband continues with his sleep) It is, afterall, 4 am London time.

Blogspot buat syaer tergendala.

Syaer untuk Blogspot
tersebut kisah sebuah lelaman,
di pagi hari membuat kejutan,
mendapat warta dari seorang teman,
terkejut tergempar gundah gunawan

Blogspot buat hal di pagi hari,
kak teh tak jadi kerja menggigit jari,
awang terus tidur, why lah you worry?
Bila dah pulih, tersenyum sendiri..

dare'kampo bersuara
Tersebut lah kisah
Isteri yang gundah
Mendapat khabar resah
Blog suaminya punah

Dikejutkan si suami
yang lena bermimpi
tapi hampa di hati
suami buat tak reti

Lalu si isteri
menulis di sini
meminta simpati
tidak terperi

Setelah lama menanti
dicari akar dan umbi
si isteri tersengih sendiri
Blogspot buat hal lagi...

lilheaven menambah:
rancak berseloka
merawat lara
tersenyumku membaca
kalian hebat berkarya

alamatnya ini
jemputlah mari
tak seberapa isi
justeru segan berkongsi

kak teh membalas:
menengar kisah di sini situ,
blogspot buat hal memang selalu,
ramai pengunjung komen dan merapu,
kak teh malu tersipu-sipu

cik wang oi, blogspot buat angkara,
bukannya apa biasalah perkara
manis berseri dia mula bersuara
you saja nak bersandiwara!

tunduk kak teh tidak terkata,
mengenangkan nasib diri yang nyata,
nasib blogger yang merata-rata,
mengharapkan blogspot taklagi sengkita.

dare'Kampo bermadah lagi:
Kisahnya tiba bermula
nun jauh di tanah rata
Negeri yang Beraja
Melangkah tujuh benua

Suami dan isteri
penulis sejati
Mengarang luahan hati
penuh berseni

Si Suami digelarnya itu
Pok Awang Terengganu
Si isteri pula mahu
di panggil Makcik Blur gitu

Mereka berdua
Seiya sekata
menjadi umpama bara
membakar rasa jiwa

Memberi satu semangat
penuh ilmu makrifat
Semua pembaca terpikat
Dari jauh dan dekat

Terbongkarlah rahsia
di alam cyber
Mereka berdua
Excellent Bloggers!

sumbangan dr lilheaven:
Bersyaer peri masih bertatih
Pok guru keliling lama doh fasih
Sungguhpun sumbang ku bantai melangkah
Saja nak turut kasik meriah

Blogging mengumpul kenalan merata
Asalnya sekadar ingin bertinta
Kini menjadi teman bicara
Berkongsi kisah suka dan duka

Kecek-Kecek terdahulu dikenali
Choc A Blog Blog kini diminati
Rupanya pasangan suami isteri
Nukilan bermutu kami hayati

Cerita ceriti yang teramat berharga
Mari hormati pendirian empunya
Jangan la ada yg tutup blognya ya?
Kita berkongsi sekadar yang ada

Teruskan berkarya
Moga maju jaya
LindunganNya tetap bersama
Nawaitu kita kerana Dia


Saturday 21 May 2005

A Time to reflect...and Goodbye Mak Andeh

I was suffering from a very bad jet lag when I started my first blog. Thus it was like a haze of confused ramblings and disjointed accounts with no proper beginning or logical ending. It was so boring that I myself fell asleep and finally conquered that jet lag. But what emerged was something more frightening. I was getting addicted to this habit of self exposure and self indulgence fed by comments from new found friends in blogsphere and a somewhat positive report by blogpatrol.

The initial feeling of apprehension was overtaken by something more daring, with the ego rearing its ugly head, egged on by voyeurism which seems to be the order of today’s entertainment, judging by popular tv ratings today. I remember getting one comment from Pak Adib, a veteran in the blogger’s world and smiled that someone actually read my posting. Soon, there was a surge of comments, and this was when I learnt the term ‘bloghopping’. Bloggers were bloghopping from ‘Pok Ku’ the well known blogger,who apparently had dedicated a posting to “Welcome Kak Teh”. You get a mention in Pok Ku’s Rang Ikang Kering, you have sort of made it in this blogger’s world, I thought, and that boosted my confidence a bit. There was no turning back then.

For this I am glad. Blogging came at a time when I was very confused. I had just stopped writing my column for a newspaper because I needed to concentrate on my studies. But I found I was grappling with the style of academic writing that was totally alien to me and a feeling of uselessness was about to consume me. I used to sit at the computer willing words to flow from my brain to the fingers and then to the keyboard, forming sentences that make sense on the screen. Blogging made it so easy. And I rediscovered my self confidence. But that’s not the only thing I found.

Rehashing old articles, accounting little silly anecdotes, recollections of stories from childhood days…all the while leaving clues and bits and pieces about me, the blogger, Kak Teh the person, enough for people to piece together and make a profile. These are the bits that I expose, that I choose to reveal to the world. The rest, they make their own judgements, perhaps, from the way I go on and on about my sardine rolls, or my crazy ramblings about the Alley Cats, the way I mispronounce names and so on and so forth. In your eyes, I could be crazy or I could be a fun mama, but you can be sure that I am enjoying myself because I find this therapeutic, just like ironing my clothes, while wacthing Eastenders.

A lot of people write for a lot of reasons – many to purge the demons in them, some to share recipes, some to talk about hobbies. Many to find an outlet to express their feelings, good or bad, their fear, their anxiety. And many, many read and keep on reading because certain postings touch them. There are certain issues they can relate to but have not been able to verbalise them.

And there are very few people who can write in a way that touches a lot of people. And this is where I feel a certain sadness today as I write this. Mak Andeh, a popular figure in the bloggers’ world has locked up and taken her brood and her stories elsewhere. She is no longer there at a click of the mouse. She has her reasons for going and we have to respect that.

I have come to know of Mak Andeh through someones’ comment in my comment box. It simply says, you want to read good blogs got to…and among them Mak Andeh.
Why is she a popular read? Mak Andeh is one brave young woman who is living proof that being a single mum is not a stigma and being divorced is not necessarily bad for the children, nor for her image. She is resourceful and she is resilient. And many want to read a first hand account of how a single mum can single handedly juggle a career and her children.

Mak Andeh wrote and wrote and wrote because she found writing to be therapeutic. It gave her back her confidence and self worth. While exorcising her demons she was also helping others in the same predicament. But in this still lawless state of blogger’s world, Mak Andeh has fallen victim to her own popularity.

Mak Andeh’s departure signals a time to reflect. Have I been opening up too much, revealing clues about me for all to see? Suddenly I feel vulnerable and exposed. And suddenly I feel scared. And suddenly I feel the need to step back.

Monday 16 May 2005

A Hair Raising Evening with The Alley Cats!!

Image hosted by

When I got news that The Alley Cats were making their way to Londra, I tried to remember their songs. They have some wonderful hits but I just couldn’t remember any cos I think I must have left the country just as they burst onto the music scene. So, I badly needed help to enjoy my dinner and dance with Malaysia’s famous boy band last Saturday. It so happened that some friends were visiting and I enlisted their help to jog my memory. So, while sipping tea and eating crepe au chocolat with banana at a café in Whiteleys, one by one tried a few lines unsuccessfully. But everyone remembered …..Masseehhhhh!

In desperation, I called up kak cik who managed something like this…de de de de de de…which sounded more like an old engine revving up without success. I gave up and made a quick phone call to Aberdeen and still nothing remotely Alleycatish. I suddenly remembered my brother ajie who used to haunt karaoke lounges in the city. He was shopping at Bintang Walk but obliged me with a nasal rendition of Hingga Akhir Nanti, complete with .. Trima Kasehhhhhhhhhhhhh reverberating in the mall.

Right, with that I was ready to enjoy my evening. I even have the perfect nasal voice for the do, with the annoying hayfever that has been with me since the start of spring. Set off for the Royal garden Hotel with JC and wife RC. JC actually remembered that the Alley Cats hail from Penang….haiyaaa…Penang mali, and more importantly from the same area! So, I tried my luck and asked JC to do a rendition of an Alley Cats number…all he managed was an embarassed ha ha ha ha!!! Well, these Penangites have each carved their names in different areas. The Alley Cats sing while JC makes shoes. JC somehow noted rather sadly or enviously that the brothers still have their famous Afro mops while he is already thinning on top.

We all knew someone with that hairstyle; a brother, a cousin, a friend – or even an uncle. But they all outgrew the Afro look and opted for a more conventional short back and sides especially those who are now corporate figures and government servants or even politicians. But I bet they still treasure pictures of themselves with that hair do, complete with platform shoes and bell bottoms and big medallions around the neck!

The diners and revellers who turned up that night were what you would say in Malay “yang sewaktu dengannya”. Those who slept, breathed and grew up with these unforgettable tunes and lyrics that made their courtships all the more sweet and memorable.

Thus we couldn’t gobble our dinner fast enough and even waved away the dessert. But it was worth the wait. The cats marched in – all six of them, but only two original - David and Logan, and belted out: “Sampaikanlah salam cinta ku pada nyiaaaaaa…….” David was the vocalist or rather the nasalist while Logan arched and swayed like a true cat on heat, working the crowd to a frenzy.
Image hosted by

We really couldn’t get enough of their “Hingga Akhir Nanti”, “Jika Kau Bercinta Lagi,” “Kerana Mu” and “Sekuntum Mawar Merah”. And of course there were many many more.
I simply had to get their “40 Hit Nombor 1” and since then kids and cats had to endure “Hingga Akhir Nanti” until I get it out of my system.

Image hosted by

By the way, they are also making an appearance at Oriental City, North London this Saturday. You can bet your last dollar that I’ll be there swaying away with Logan. Must go to Portobello Market and get one of those Afro wigs just to get in the mood while I jiwanging away! It'd look odd on me but what the heck. So, as a born again Alley Cats fan, I'll sign off now by saying...Trima Kasehhhhhh"

Friday 13 May 2005

Just Messing About A Date

I had a date, well, more of a janji to meet my shoemaker friend. Approaching his shop, I noticed a lot of people, movie people, busying themselves like what movie people do. With big cameras, and cables all over the place. Didn't know what it was all about and proceeded to knock on door of shoemaker shop.
When the door was opened I saw shoemaker at the end of what must seem like miles and miles of legs. Those long shapely pins belong to, (I was told later) actress Debra Messing, who happened to be filming "The Wedding Date" outside.

Anyway to cut story short – the result of that filming is this movie which I must now make a point to watch. Image hosted by The beautiful actress (I was later informed by my children) stars in "Wills and Grace", the popular American sitcom. Shoemaker and I were duly, albeit, quietly informed of her illustrious background before we could make intelligent conversation. Actually Debra,…er, Ms Messing didn’t know they were filming in front of this ‘shop’ and was so thrilled that during her break, she decided to knock on the door. Thus started what must look like a comedy. Shoemaker opened the door thinking it was me. He was of course delighted it wasn’t....cos right there on his doorstep was this apparition – six foot and something with that long flowing hair and famous flash of a smile (instead of a frumpy makcik blur).

Before she left, I said: Er, my children would really love a photograph of you.(For your info, I have used this line so many times before on Natalie Umbruglia, Ivana Trump and others I met there. It is so well worn, like my shoes. Must really find another line.) Image hosted by Anyway, my children were so disgusted with this one. They think I was wrapping myself too tightly around her in case she struggled and broke free…..
She escaped from my clutches, with a pair of JC shoes, I think, and was heard to be muttering, "Get me way from Mak Cik Blurrrrr!"
Err..that's the long and short of it.
Have a nice weekend.

(PS I should have also wrapped myself around her delicious co star Dermot Mulroney...ish! tak malu Mak Cik Blur!!)

Wednesday 11 May 2005

Sardine Rolls......

My way of saying "THANK YOU!!"
During the last few days, as I worked myself to a frenzy trying to reactivate the old brain cells, I was constantly bugged by a craving I thought I had long flush from my system. It came back gnawing and gnawing at me mercilessly as I struggled with my exam papers. Image hosted by So I decided I had to purge this demon and share it with you…my Sardine Rolls. Sardine Rolls, in my neck of the woods, is synonymous to Kak Teh, as pies to Mr Kipling, and succulent turkey to Bernard Mathews. Bootiful!

Its not fair to claim the credit all to myself, so I must mention my Domestic Science teacher, Mrs Wong who had such vision to hand down her own recipe to the likes of me knowing that one day, these sardine rolls will be the talk of the town and grace a blog for the world to see.

The reason I go on and on about something simple a child can do is that my culinary skills or the lack of it has been of some concern among my siblings who still suspect that I subject my family to takeaways. Yeah, I know it was a mistake to wash keropok before frying them, but how was I to know?

I admit that I know very little about cooking but what little I know, I do it to perfection. Thus, a whiff of my sardine rolls, to borrow phrases from our old hikayats:

yang capek datang bertongkat,
yang buta datang berpimpin,
yang bulat datang bergolek,
yang jauh datang dengan bas

Still dazed from the deep concentration I subjected my brain to in the exam hall, I came back with the necessary ingredients, with the intention to treat my long suffering family who patiently allowed me to pursue my ambition. This is to thank Taufiq, my fourteen year old, who during the two years that I buried myself in the books, has learnt to make nasi goreng and chicken curry, to my husband who resorted to cookery books and came up with chicken kiev and roasted leg of lamb to surprise me everytime I came back late and tired from the library and to Rehana and her grilled chicken, Nona and, what was that? and Hafiz with his couscous. And thank you also for making do with pizza, nandos and kebab takeaways.

I know, its just sardine rolls but, this has been my life saver at office parties where only nuts and cheese biscuits were served. It is also something the congregation at the surau look forward to during our morey throughout Ramadhan, and something children and mums alike beg me for their birthday parties: "Aunty Kak Teh, Aunty Kak Teh, can we have sardine rolls, please??? So, here it is:

For the pastry (pls do not use bread)
250grm butter (NOT margarine)
500 grm plain flour
a pinch of salt
cold water

Use rubbing in method to mix flour and butter until they become like bread crumbs. Add the salt and pour in the cold water and knead it into a dough. Leave the dough under damp cloth.

For the filling
1 tin of pilchard in tomato sauce
chopped onions
one chilli – chopped as well
a squeeze of lemon
a pinch of salt

Mash the pilchard in tomato and add the chilli and onions and salt and a squeeze of the lemon.

Roll out the dough and cut out into rectangles. Put the filling and roll.Do little cuts on the rolls before brushing egg yolk on top. Bake for about 40 mins. Have fun!

This is for Che Ngah
Image hosted by Bought the set (Royal Stafford) - one cake plate and six side plates - at an antique shop in Exeter for a mere £8.00!!!! I don't normally use all these - usually its just Royal Plastic.

Thursday 5 May 2005

Exam fever

The wooden verandah creaked and groaned under the heavy weight of the stream of visitors, who seemed to be arriving by the dozen. My siblings and I, dragged along by Mak, took our place in the queue patiently, clutching bottles of air zamzam in tumblers and fruits bought at Pekan Rabu for the host. At this time of the year, Pak Haji Y’s place in Pendang was the place to go. Anxious parents dragged reluctant, protesting teenagers to what must seemed like a clinic of last resort to score those A’s or at the very least calm the nerves and open the hearts and minds. Our turn came after what must be like an hour long wait and within just three minutes, we were making tracks home, Mak’s nerves suitably calmed while ours, at the very least, reassured after hearing the wise dulcet tones of the Pak Haji.

If anyone was affected by exams, it must have been Mak. She did all the worrying. We were quite, er what’s the word? Cool! She arranged for tutors to come to the house, woke us up early in the mornings for at least two hours of revision while she prepared sandwiches, milo and constantly checked to see that we had not gone back to sleep. And of course, the compulsory visit to Pak Haji Y in Pendang, whose blessed water, we dutifully sipped every morning before going to school. Me suspect, Mak would sneak into our bedroom every night on the pretext of checking the mosquito coil. But was I dreaming, or was it Mak stroking my head and reading some ayats? The wet patch on the pillow and my damp patch of hair must surely be one of her efforts to make sure that whatever I read went straight to the head. Such was her dedication, (or was it lack of confidence in me?). Out of frustration, she’d mumble: Ish, kalau Mak boleh buat periksa, Mak dah buat dah periksa untuk anak-anak Mak.

Right now, I could do with Mak’s doa and support and that reassuring touch of her soft hands on my forehead. Cos right now, I am also worried about my children who are facing their own exams. And of course, Mama must also show that she can do it!

Who was it who told me that juggling work and study wasn't easy? Well, that person is $£"^! right and I am now kicking myself for believing I can do it.

Last year, at this time, I was a bundle of nerves as I prepared for my first ever exam in what must have been more than 20 years since I sat for my last paper. I nearly didn’t make it after staying up all night trying to absorb theories and facts that seemed to whizz past my head. But hubby persuaded me like he would a 9 nine year old and waved me off with some doa’s.

This time around its supposed to be better but its not. The revision class yesterday didn’t help much. Class swot lugged in a thick file of notes, complete with colour-coded stickers and impressed us with a list of questions (which seemed foreign to me) she predicted. For all I knew, they were discussing Greek literature. Rushed to the library and collected an armful of books and managed to concentrate for about an hour before my mind wondered to more pressing matters like what to cook for dinner. Note pad looked something like this:

Sidaoru’ang – born 1943 – from Phitsulanon District –left home at 12 to go to Bangkok- writings initially autobiographical – must buy chicken, toilet rolls, cat food, must update blog....

Never been much of a swot or the mugging type. Cant remember how I got through all those exams but I supposed the results were enough to see me through high school and college. The earliest and first important exams was the Lower Certicate of Examinations. And I remember it was the first time that objective tests were introduced. Multiple choice answers meant that some of us rolled up papers with A, B, C and D written on them and tossed them in the air and the one we picked would be the answer. Or play pin the donkey's tail on the alphabets with the 2B HP pencil.

And one solution to anxious moments outside the exam hall. A last minute tactic was to pick a book, close our eyes and open a page. And that page was meant to be the chapter to read. God help us all if questions from other chapters came out. (And God help me if my children were to read this! No, sayang mama, it was mama’s friends who did this!)

Finding time to study in between work can be quite a problem. I try reading in the bus, on the train, in the tube. I’ve tried the osmosis method for the brain to absorb whatever I am reading, as suggested by Pok Ku, but almost always ended up with bumps on the head and more damage to brain cells. I’ve yet to try burning the book and drink the ash mixed with water. I'll probably call Mak on the morning of my paper. I wanted so much to blog about her for Mother's Day, but that will have to wait and today 05 05 05 a special date for that special person in my life and I cant even do anything special.

But all things considered, I've made a start - I’ve now got myself lots of pens, pencils, erasers and notecards with colourful stickers. There’s a pile of books waiting to be devoured and digested in a very, very short period of time. So, now I need to get my priorities right and this means: Clean toilet, scrub the bathtub, rearrange the books, cook, make coffee...and more coffee.

So, think of me, dear friends, while I try to sort myself out. Will resurface for some fresh air when I can. And think of me in your doa’s for these tired old brain cells ain’t functioning well anymore!

Tuesday 3 May 2005

A Malay Experience in Roman Exeter

I was so unprepared for Exeter in a way that Exeter was for me. Usually, I’d read available materials on the place of my destination to familiarise myself with any particular attractions the place has to offer. But this time, it was right at the last minute that I saw on the map, where Exeter really is. Image hosted by Photobucket.comAnd as you can see from the postcard, an afternoon after the three-day conference could hardly do justice to a place with plenty to offer.

The journey
The train journey was uneventful. It was packed with holiday makers heading for the seaside on the south west coast of England as it was a long weekend break. A beautiful day with promises of more sunshine over the weekend. Outside the window, whizzing past us were carpets of bright yellow rapeseed fields surrounding clusters of quaint villages and secluded farm houses with neat patchwork of greeneries. Flocks of sheep looked like balls of cotton dotting the green canvas with cattles grazing not too far away. While travelling, I am often reminded of what my husband once told me: If the cattles are sitting down, it’ll surely rain. Well, some were and some were up and about. I supposed they were still undecided about the weather. Once in a while when the tracks ran parallel to the motorway, I caught sight of a few Eddie Stobbards and was reminded of the game I used to play with the children while we drove around the countryside; that is to see who gets to chart the most Eddie Stobbard lorries along the way.

Less than an hour before reaching Exeter, a vision from a distance caught my eyes. Image hosted by A large white horse, carved on the hillside. Its the Westbury Horse, the oldest of eight in the region. This 182’ high piece of art had been restored several times since the original was carved out in honour of King Alfred’s victory over the Danes in 878.

Exeter somehow reminded me of Dover, another seaside town. The fresh smell of the sea from the English Channel, the doves flying above, the hilly slopes. At the station, my friend Ida and I met up with other friends and my Professor from our University and together we made our way to the hotel, before the registration at Crossmead Conference centre.

The Crossmead Conference Centre was simply breathtaking - formerly a Victorian Merchant's house, it stands within four acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. It is considered the "jewel in the crown" of the University's venues. Sadly, Exeter University will lose this centre very soon. Image hosted by
It was here that we met up with other participants who had come from as far as Malaysia, Indonesia, Germany, Hawaii and Australia. The 22nd conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Studies (UK) kickstarted with several cultural performances to whet our appetites.

Image hosted by Image hosted by Image hosted by

The conference
The conference had brought together experts in various fields of the Malay studies as well as PhD students who presented part of their research papers for discussion. Image hosted by
Participants from the Malay manuscripts Panel
I was especially delighted to have the company of Dr Russell Jones, an expert on watermarks and the Malay and Islamic world. A former MCS officer, Dr Jones worked in Malaya in 1953 as an immigration officer and came back to study Malay at SOAS. His paper on the use of the Arabic tashdid in Malay script will definitely help me a lot in my transliteration of the syair that I am currently working on.

Another interesting hightlight of the three day conference was the paper presented by Dr Uli Kozok of Hawaii University who reported on his discovery of the oldest known Malay manuscript in southern Sumatera. Before this discovery, the oldest known Malay letters are said to be from the Sultan of Ternate, written in 1520 and now kept in Lisbon. This fourteenth century manuscript is said to belong to a clan which received the manuscript 700 years ago from the Maharaja of Dhamasraya.
I managed to do a bit of panel hopping (a change from bloghopping) and found some interesting papers being presented by other panels – such as those concerning sexuality. Interesting to see the similarities in themes between Vietnamese poems and Malay syairs. The Vietnamese Ca Dao – a genre of Vietnamese folk poetry consists a lot of poems about the fate of women. Here’s a few lines to ponder on:

When a man becomes rich, he can have 5 wives and 7 mistresses,
If a woman becomes rich, she just keeps her chastity and
Prays for her husband after his death…


It was especially nice that I got to meet some old friends as well – those from the BBC days and now they have the Dr already attached to their names, each specialising in their areas of expertise. Dr Annabel Gallop, an expert on Malay manuscripts, is the Head of the Indonesian and Malay Collection at the British Library and very much the force behind my returning to university. Dr Janet Cochrane is now research fellow at Leeds Metropolitan University. I certainly have a lot of catching up to do.

After the goodbyes at lunchtime, we headed off to the Exeter Quay, Image hosted by with its old buildings and warehouses dating back to Charles 11. Pubs, cafes and antique shops lined the cobbled road along the canal. It was here that much damage was inflicted on my wallet as I succumbed to several collections of old plates and and a tea set.
According to the leaflets that was given to us at the hotel, Exeter Quay was once an international port thriving through mainly in export of woolen cloth, but by 13th century sea craft could no longer reach Exeter by river, so a canal was constructed around 1563. This canal linked the city to the estuary again and the port trade began to prosper once more.

Then, of course you cant miss the Exeter Roman & Medieval City Wall. It runs around the the city centre. And huffing and puffing up a path leading up the wall I was afforded a bird’s eyeview of Exeter. The walls were built by the Roman legions in the 2nd century and work continued through the Dark Ages. It is really interesting to see how history is preserved in other countries. Even some old buildings right in the modern city centre blended in well with the new buildings.

Image hosted by Image hosted by
The cathedral and Mol’s Coffee House

Image hosted by
Part of the ancient Roman wall

With feet aching and hands weighed down by last minute shopping at the Quayside, we decided to have just a look at the cathedral before heading off to catch the 1700 to London. But as fate would have it, one of the participants at the conference, PhD student Rushdan who lives right in the middle of the city centre, invited us to have tea. If you must know, we have not had rice for three whole days. Even if he had not pointed out to us his house, my nose would have led us there, following the smell of ayam masak lemak and crispy fried fish. Rushdan’s wife had prepared a feast for later that night inviting other Malaysian students there. We were offered an alas perut which we (in true Malay style)politely refused, once , twice, but readily accepted after the third offer. Suffice to say, it was a very Malay experience that we had in the ancient Roman city of Exeter.