Wednesday 20 June 2007

A Weekend of sorts

Comfortable in our baju kelawar batik which clashed shamelessly with the chequered table cloth, we sat buttering our croissants at the breakfast table at lunch time. By the time we each had our third croissant, our conversation had taken us to who’s holidaying with who on the slopes of the Alps, who’s having a rest in Jo’burg away from the hustle bustle of the corporate world and why so and so fell from grace in the unpredictable world of politics. So, this is how the rich and famous live, huh, I thought, stuffing my mouth with more croissants to stop the jaw from clanking to the floor.

I chose to spend the weekend away from the hustle bustle of London, internetless, ymless and indeed blogless. Without much regret, I had packed my weekend bag for a work related trip that was to take me into a world so remote and so different from my own mundane tube to bus to tube routine where a rare treat would be a ride in a black taxi!

Anyway, hubby sent me off at the train station with a hug, a doa and with promises and promises to take the vitamins, the supplements that he religiously packs for me on every trip, I waved him off and immersed myself in the world of Dato Hamid and his delicious Confessions of an Old Boy. Indeed, his world in the prolific hands of Kam Raslan is not unlike that related to me at the breakfast table by my newfound friend.

I ooohed and aaahed as she regaled me with stories of themed parties with VIPs and VVIPs doing the rhumba and the samba, tripping into the pool while doing the hoola-hoola. I tsked-tsked as she intimated about goings on behind the scenes. All these chit chats and Kam Raslan’s book is taking me right back to the seventies and even beyond; Malaysia’s jet setting scene. Now I can’t help thinking that I am taking a fast drive back and back into time with the help of people who were there and had done it.

That was what took me to this remote village last weekend. It was a small quaint village in an idyllic setting, with small winding roads that only allow one vehicle to pass, a local grocery cum post office and a pub, surrounded by low-lying hills that go as far as the eyes could see.
I suppose at a place where time is almost at a standstill, you can afford to look back at leisure.
So, that was what we did the whole weekend. The only trip we made was to the kitchen and back.

We only stopped to switch on the TV to see the Queen’s birthday celebration, and even that took my friend, who had seen the independence of three countries during her lifetime, down memory lane. Watching the smartly dressed soldiers doing the Victory March, she joined in giving the orders. “I led the Victory march in Chittagong, you know,” she said, remembering it as if it was yesterday. And she marvelled at the sight of the Queen, who at 80, a few years younger than her, still looked energetic and strong enough to witness the whole ceremony.

“I was privileged enough to sit with Her Majesty on a settee for two when she visited Malaysia. Her Majesty was amused and highly entertained by the performances of the different ethnic groups in Malaysia the night before – but certainly it seemed to take forever,” she said.

Oh yes, she had been places, she had seen events that we read about in the media. And one weekend is certainly not enough. We talked and talked until she nodded off to sleep and I had to gently wake her up to help her to her room.

She is one of those ex-expat ladies who still remembers Malaya and Malaysia with fondness. Before coming to meet her, I had joined a group of other ex-expat ladies who didn’t want to miss out on celebrating Malaysia’s 50th independence celebration, by reciting pantuns on Malaysia. They had taken the trouble to research on pantuns, brushed up their Malay and went on their own poetic journey to remember Malaysia. I was touched.

On the return journey back I went back to the adventures of Dato Hamid, one I recommend everyone to read. From Swittzerland to Monte Carlo and seedy clubs of London – you will be highly entertained! I promise.

Like I said before, the hayfever and work schedule had meant that I had missed making entries on father’s day, someone’s birthday, the death of someone special and even someone’s wedding. I didn’t realise that when hubby met me at the station that Sunday, it was Father’s Day – but it certainly didn’t matter to him. He kindly took my bag, while I made a quick change into something nice in the ladies’ before I said goodbye to him again.

I was privileged that Sunday to personally wish Selamat Pengantin Baru to someone who had just recently tied the knot. And I can tell you, she is better looking than her pictures in the media! And very nice too!

Aaaaah...welcome back to busy, pollen infested London!

Sunday 10 June 2007

Sunday, Sunday, wherefore art thou, Sunday?

What can I say but a thousand apologies if I wasn't around when you came a knocking at Choc-a-blog's door. It has been a crazy sort of week with a promise of crazier weeks to come. I was supposed to write a birthday tribute to someone I truly admire, I wanted to write and produce a video clip to someone who is now gone but not forgotten, someone who entertained and kept me company in the kitchen, someone who will be sadly missed. I will certainly do so in the next few days.

With summer comes events, visitors and most annoying thing of all the dreaded hayfever. So, although I have been poorly, I have been atchoooing my way, covering assignments and witnessing events that have made this summer bearable.

Let me share certain moments with you in pictures.

Latest pix - cleverly done by my friend elva. What do you think?

Too far to get a nice shot - but this was the Malaysia Week Gala Night at The Ranaissance Hotel London on 5th June. Performance good - food? hmmm...

Got a shot of the dancers when they weaved their way nearer to where we were sitting.

Our DPM trying a hand at making satay.

DYMM Sultan Pahang at a stall, buying chilli sauce.

I first met and interviewed Tan Sri Jins in 1990 and on 5th June at the gala night, I couldnt believe my eyes when I saw him there! Met up with him again at Covent Garden and at the risk of being called a Jins Shamsuddin stalker - I asked him again for this pix - which he kindly obliged. He looked as dashing as ever. Will try to find old pix of the first interview.

17 years later, another interview.

Will find more pix.

Friday 1 June 2007

The Poloing Sunday

“Horses are not horses in polo games
. They are called ponies,” Helen said as her husband Michael expertly manouvered the car along the narrow lanes taking us right into the heartland of Surrey, the English stockbroker’s belt. Lis and I had just alighted from the 0930 from Waterloo to Woking and it was drizzling all the way, with not a promise of sunshine at all. But Surrey with its posh looking houses behind tall hedges and beautifully tended gardens in summer, is worth looking at in any weather. Busy, drab London was suddenly a million miles away.

“What a perfect introduction to polo”, I thought, shivering in my flimsy tunic which I foolishly matched with a pair of white cotton trousers. As one foot sank gently into the wet ground, I said a silent prayer, grateful that I had the presence of mind to wear sensible flats.( It was just as well, I later learnt that spectators at polo matches are expected to do their bit by trampling on the grounds in between games.) The weather continued to be unkind but the VIP marquee was warm and welcoming with lovely waitresses carrying trays of delicious canapes and drinks.

VIP guests were already muah-muahing each other on both cheeks, helleow-helleowing their friends and fast refilling their tall champagne glasses to keep themselves warm. I had to settle for something with strawberry and mint inside.

Helen persisted to educate me on things polo and mentioned something about chukkas, which apparently means the duration of time a game is played before the bell rings for a break. So, there could be 4, 6 or 8 chukkas in a game. I couldn’t imagine how the ponies could last 8 chukkas in this dreadful weather – but they did.

The Kuoni World Class Polo Cup offered a sprinkling of NAMES , this time we had Jodie Kidd the tall lanky model. Earlier it was also rumoured that Stephanie Powers of the Hart to Hart fame was also going play during the second game. But she must have thought better than to turn up in such horrible weather. There was an assortments of celebrities and society high-fliers with double barrel names. And if I had moaned about missing Eastenders this Sunday, I was more than compensated, for under the same marquee almost the whole cast of Eastenders, who had either been killed off or moved away or gone walking into the sunset, turned up. There was the rogue Johnny Allen, the lovable Alfie Moon, sexy Sam Mitchell and the delectable Dr Truman. Alfie didn’t disappoint me when I asked him to pose for me, for he consented in true East end fashion, “Oh, owite sweethark!”

I pulled my shawl around my shoulders and braved the cold wind and drizzle to walk out of the marquee. I suddenly realised this was thousands of years away from my world of old sailors and their adventures at sea, and a million trillion decades away from the world of syairs and hikayats and old Malay manuscripts that had consumed me the week before when I attended the seminar on Britain and the Malay World at the Royal Asiatic Society in London. Last week, I was in the company of scholars and experts expounding theories on Malay manuscripts, etymology and Winstedt and Wilkinson and a week later, I was surrounded by people watching players on horsebacks, oops, ponybacks (sorry Helen), chasing after a ball with something that looked like golf sticks.

As the rain poured relentlessly, I had visions of hot teh tarek and crispy banana fritters instead of bits of salmon and soft cheese on crackers. I began to yearn for some Pak Cik Sailors to tell me tales of their adventures on the high seas in between ports instead of some small talks with some jetsetters who had just made a dash around the world.

“Hey, I have been reading your blog!” I heard someone say in my direction. The words resonnated across the polo field and back and there and then, right in the heart of the English countryside that was Surrey, I suddenly realised that the person was talking about Kak Teh’s Choc-a-Blog. If it was any other person, I would have said, "Oh, get a life!” But this was Dato Mark Yeoh of YTL, who was instrumental in bringing me to the world of polo that miserable day in summer, to cheer his Pangkor Laut team.
There in the drizzling rain was Dato Mark Yeoh, flashing his boyish smile. He talked about how my entries on Pak Cik sailors brought back memories of his own Pak Cik Ibrahim who regaled him with stories of his sea faring days. This is the same person who read Hikayat Abdullah and insisted that his staff did the same. This is the man who had successfully married off old age tradition and modern day living. And suddenly, the two worlds of English polo and Pak cik Sailors, syairs and hikayats, didn’t seem to be too far apart.