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".


AuntyN said...

Wow, best ni, being the firat to comment in Kak Teh's entry.

Although Christmas has no memories sweet and sad like yours, but anyhow, it is a holiday for everyone.

Last year we were invited by a newly arrived colleague from the UK He and his family had just been transferred here. We were wondering why there were a massive jam on the way to their apartment in Batu Ferringhi only to be told later that there were a few people dies at the beach near their house.

Hope you and family is having a god break Kak Teh. Happy 2006 new year.

LifeBloom said...

KT [or shall I say Ratu Elizabeth ke-II? :-))]

Wow - I beat the traffic and came in 2nd!

When you look back at those times -I am sure you feel blessed to have been a part of someone's life and experience.

May you and yours have a bountiful year ahead! Panjang Umur, Murah Rezeki & paling utama - Sihat Tubuh Badan.

P/s: I wonder whether you will be ringing it in with the rest at Trafalgar Square?

anggerik merah said...

Happy new year to Kak Teh and Family.

Kak Teh said...

auntyN - dah dok sini lama banyaklah pahit manisnya.
lifebloom - no way am i going to be in Trafalgar square - the new year will still come without me there..hehe
AM - happy new year to u too!

CV said...

yes, xmas was more sombre this year, but you wouldnt know it looking at the packed malls. oh well, natural disaster or no natural disaster, life goes on. here's to a more meaningful year ahead and all the best in 2006 for you and your family.

p/s: how's the weather in london? am heading there in end of january. am prepared for a bitter winter.

may said...

I'm not a fan of turkey myself, heheh! some wonderful memories of Christmas, some sad. may there be many more to come for all of us. happy new year!

Ordinary Superhero said...

Hail the queen! Masa you baca teks tu, tak da tambah2 ka?

Have a good break.

Kak Teh said...

cv - weather a bit funny - yesterday it was warm, and just this morning - it snowed for a while. but the siberian wind has been blowing this way...
may - yes - a lot to write abt - maklumlah 26 years.
jane - hahaha - next time you see me, pls dont forget to curtsey! and yes, hardly any secret - it was broadcast loud and clear.
OSH - aha -kak teh tambah juga - dan jangan lupa, seyum-senyum lah selalu!

Anonymous said...

it was sad to share my birthday with something so tragic last year.

Anonymous said...

rugiler kalau tak pergi trafalgar square.boleh kiss pipi awek mek salleh and jepun.kak oi..saya nak pi bulkeh dak ?

mama irma said...

Kak Teh, I didn't get to listen to the queen's speech, I'm in Malaysia!. What was the snub on the daughter-in-law? Takpe, kak teh boleh cerita in malay, dia tak paham!

Justiffa said...

Kt - you life is so colourful rainbow pun kalah :) my fondest memory of christmas was in massachusetts when a kind soul gave me a kitten to help ward away some of my homesickness. it really helped.

have a great new year KT

Unknown said...

Kak Teh,

Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to Kak Teh and family.

Bergen said...

Salmon, air asam. You know how to eat, ma'am.

Sidah Salleh said...

tak perasan pun xmas dah lepas until we were told to collect our present in conference room. hehe...

Kak Teh said...

ariza - a belated birthday wish...awww every year u are reminded of this tragedy, kan?
roh-adiejin - kalau kak teh pi pun tak dak sapa nak cium pipi!
mama irma - the snub tu - dia tak sebut pun nama menantu dia yang baru tu...
redkebaya - aww that is sweet - my cats were all around us - maklumlah sejuk!
jiwa- happy new year to u and family too.

Kak Teh said...

TTG - Hapy new year to you too - i will be looking out for your plane!
Bergen - salmon bakar and air asam on a bitterly cold day - a must!
PS - eh dapat present jugak no?

MA said...

It didn't snow on Christmas day here in KL but it poured cats and dogs ! Sedap merengkok tidur sampai terlupa nak wish my best friend May Merry Christmas, siap kena perli - " oi almost boxing day already la."

Have a merry one, Kak Teh and a Happy New Year :-)

Anonymous said...

KT, (aka The Queen!!!)lama tak baca blog, ME cuti...christmas day is my wedding anniversary...yang ke 24...lama dah tu, tapi 'mcm' baru jer...he...he...thanks KT atas ucapan tu.Anniversary tahun ni ME and hubby tak gi mana2 or pi dinner , kat rumah ramai tetamu...last year we were in Penang and end up with the tsunami....ME dah hilang no. tepon kak Joyah kat Melaka tu..yang kat U.K pun hilang...biasanya dia tepon ME kalau berada ke mesia, (adik dia tolong teponkan....)dah tak ingat jln pi umah dia kat U.K tu....sejak dia pindah gi a few times...masa anak dia kawin ME gi...missed kuih apam dia!..

Anonymous said...

ur majesty kak teh...
my fondest memories of x'mas was when I was 4 and living in JB where we had access to tv cinciapoe. There was this particular coke commercial that they would always show during x'mas... "i'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony... i'd like to buy the world a coke and keep it company...", at 4 I couldn't speak English, so I hantam the lyric and became the longest standing family joke because of it. And of course there was the Donnie and Marie X'mas specials... yg mesti ada Andy Williams and Paul Anka... my teenage sisters all had crushes on Donnie, and I get the feeling so did Kak teh.... hehehe... ngaku jelah kak Teh... oh please don't let me go on.

nadya.s said...

wah,jadi queen kejap kak teh.. apapun HAPPY NEW YEAR kak teh + family.

Mrs Mum said...

Hello Kak Z

Love to read your blog, macam that daily caffeine that I need. You have such an impeccable writing style, and somehow you just make me want to know more abt you. Maybe you can write a self-autobiography, "Once I was a Queen..." Mesti bestseller punye!

Korakora said...

kak teh,

tan sri dr nordin sopiee kembali ke rahmatullah hari ni. bekas boss kak teh saya kira masa di nst dulu.


Christmas always makes me a bit light headed. I know its another religion's celebration, but I don't think I go overboard when I say that I enjoy the period very much. Some cynics would indeed scorn at my revelation. Can't help it. Who doesn't love presents?

ezrynn ismail said...

hi kak teh, been reading ur blog for quite some time now, u r living my dream of experiencing life in a foreign land.

Queen Of The House said...

The Queen's speeches in Malay? This I must hear :) You sure have lots of stories about Xmas over there.


Count Byron said...

Kak Teh. Hit and run during festivities.. sounds familiar. Many years ago, the same happened to 'our' girl in Loughborough. She did not gain consciousness, and her parents came to look after her in the hospital, courtesy of MSD London.
I feel sad for Azmah.
I feel sad for Sandra.
I feel sad for you ( Hi aunty.. Not anymore.), and I feel sad for Nona.

Angah said...

kak teh,

ni one of your silent reader have spoken.. tadi ket tv ada cite di balik tabir of siti masa kat RAH. rasanya, i saw your face among the reporters masa kat press conference dgn cik siti.. dok depan sekali.. ye eh? it must be good to get the chance to meet her up close and personal.

btw, last xmas i was in london. and was in scotland when tsunami hit asia. tak tau pun that it was so horrible until, masa dah 7 hari lepas the incident, i saw that BBC still tunjuk cite tu.. barulah realised that it must have been devastating.

happy new year kak teh. may this new year be better than the last.

Honeytar said...

Her Majesty Queen Kak Teh,

Dengan limpah kurniaNya saya mengucap Selamat Tahun Baru 2006 kepada Kak Teh seisi keluarga.

ps: One of the two Ronnies died? that's the one jadi abang dia in Only Fools & Horses kan? That's a great loss indeed. :(

Honeytar said...

btw Kak Teh, I envy the "Salmon & air asam". Never thot of that before!

ps: I'd vote for Wales, anytime! I just love that place. Ni rasa nak balik UK nih...:(

Anonymous said...

Wishing you Happy New Year, Kak Teh!

mokciknab said...

Queen Kak Teh,
Happy Belated Anniversary!! Wanted to comment on your piece about the Family Law, tapi dah terlambat. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't we supposed to start a petition of some sort? Not that it'll come to any good, but at least ada jugak tempat melepaskan geram.

At the moment, my poor husband's getting all the flak. Walaupun bukan salah dia.

bibliobibuli said...

hi kak teh - think i copied down your phone number wrongly ... am free the rest of this week and most of next to meet up ... could you give me a call at my sister's house 020 8930 0784


HH said...

"The end of writing is to enable readers to enjoy life, or to endure it" (Samuel Johnson, Voltaire).

It was in the 18th Century that the English started to travel in their search of a meaningful life. I guess, it is the second wave (or third or fourth) of transmigration. After all, knowledge is scattered every where and that is what the people in your life move away.

Ordinary Superhero said...

Your Majesty Queen,

Your subjects are in dire need of updates...please.

OOD said...


SimplyMas said...


Kak Teh said...

MA - thanks and happy new year to you too.
ME - kalau u nak nombor dia, I can find it for you. Just let me know.
Noni - okay lah , kak teh ngaku- memang pun Donnie Osmond and brothers favourite dulu. Remember Puppu Love? menyanyi dengan penuh emosi!
nadya - I reigned for abt 12 years - hehe - tak berdaulat!

Kak Teh said...

afzalmom, thanks for visiting. hehe ! I am already revealing too much abt myself!
bukunota - thanks. I heard the sad news too on that very morning, but i was away from the computer for so long. Will want to write a tribute to him.
Ummi - ish ish ish - its abt time you update yr blog too - that's a royal decree!
pu1pu3 - i think there's a certain magical feeling abt Christmas - the music in the air, the sound of the carols, the lights..i dont think it is wrong to enjoy. We are not participating in anything religious.
ezrynn - insyaallah one day- you will be here!
QOTH - from one Queen to the other - Happy New Year!
Count - I think I know that story! It is indeed very sad.
Honeytar - the one that died id the bigger one - the one who played Porridge and Open all Hours.
Anakmalaya - u saw? aiyooooo
apples4me - thanks and same to you.
Mokcik - mine got an earful too and disappeared even deeper into his duvet!
Anim - yes - I suposed people have to move away.
Sharon - I did and we will meet up.
YB OSH - its done!

Kak Teh said...

mamiharum------ same to you and have a wonderful and prosperous new year!