Sunday 20 April 2008

Manchester Musings

For once, I was half an hour early and that afforded me some time to buy not one but two mushroom croissants and hot steaming tea for the more than 3-hr journey to Manchester Piccadilly. The 0731 was still not ready for boarding and the early morning passengers all stood around, craning their necks looking at the departure board, waiting for the platform number.

The fare to Manchester Piccadilly was £62.00 a hefty sum that burnt a hole in my pocket. Even while most of London was still stirring in their sleep, I had already parted company with £16 for a minicab ride to the station. London is expensive, I kept telling myself.

I found a comfortable seat with only a Nigerian woman and her newborn in her sling sitting at the next table. Hubby had suggested I brought along my new laptop anyway in case I needed to finish some work and I readily agreed. By the end of the journey, I had finished about 10 games of Spider Solitaire – won four and lost six! Damn!

It seems a little strange that I had been in UK all these years and yet my journeys to Manchester only started about last year.

After the loss of the first game, I remembered the first was a visit to a friend’s house. Her mother-in-law had passed away after just a few days’ visit. Then there was the trip with my sayang mama. We stayed at a posh hotel and we were treated to Manchester Utd Vs Inter Milan. It was a very educational trip, football-wise, making my third trip, a lot easier when I watched Manchester United vs Blackburn Rovers.

But most of the time, as the train snaked its way through the British Midlands, I found my mind meandering back to the late eighties, for that was the first time that I had actually come face to face with him. It was the summer of 87, but summer in Vienna was like spring in London. And my heart was racing at the thought of meeting him in the city that inspired The Third Man, the city which evokes thoughts of the Vienna Boys Choir, grand museums, concerts and long street names such as Mariahilferstrasse.

I remember the hurried walk with one child in a pushchair and the other walking two steps at a time trying to catch up with mama who wanted to work and be a mama at the same time. My husband had called to say the man was ready to meet me and hubby would take over the children while I went to the conference room to do the interview. It wasn’t a good first meeting. He was not well and his answers were monosyllables. Rumours had it that he was nursing a flu and the good doctor was prescribed roti canai.

I was so nervous that I forgot to check the level on my tape recorder and my fumbling with the machine that the BBC provided me for the assignment left him quite unimpressed. You usually know from his facial expressions that he wasn’t impressed and after years of following him around, I can safely say, that was one unimpressed look.

One week in Vienna and the Malaysian contingent were already wilting from missing rice. And Pak Non found a restaurant – Rasa Sayang that not only served rice but also sambal tumis and kicap. He very kindly made reservations for all of us on the last day of the two-week conference so that we could all eat to our hearts’ desire. For that we were grateful.

One winter, it was in Paris. According to schedule he was to have only a 20- minute meeting with Jacque Chiraq at Élysée Palace. While he was having a tet-e-tet with the president, the temperature outside had plummeted and we stood in sub zero temperatures, our legs frozen to the ground. He emerged 40 minutes later and was driven to his hotel room where he was to brief us about his meeting. But true to form, when we finally defrosted our tongue and asked him questions, he said: Why can’t you all wait for me in Norwich tomorrow? (for that was where we were to meet him the next day). And how do you answer that?

One warm summer it was Budapest. And Budapest in summer is beautiful, with its enchanting architecture that tells stories of its rich culture and its embittered history, and gypsies playing their violins as you walk along the riverbanks running parallel to the Danube. It would have been more beautiful had it not been for work, at the end of which, he looked at the troop of hacks, looking more like fallen soldiers and asked the obvious: Aren’t you all tired of following the PM around?

Only one of us dared answer. Someone from the back of the room said: Kalau PM tak penat kami tak boleh penat, he lied.

But most of the time it would be London and once or twice in Cambridge or Oxford. Once it was during the rumoured fatal fall from riding in Argentina, and then when he was interviewed by Al-Jazeera in London, which was quite funny, actually, watching him being made up and powdered.

But yesterday, we met up again in Manchester; clued up as ever, very much focussed and very much missed. And very much Tun M.

The Somali minicab driver who had taken me to the station earlier, took me home and was very impressed that I met the man. “Ooh, you are very lucky. Everyone in my country knows him and would love to meet him”


D said...

Kak Teh, that's one person who will never be forgotten - and no one can deny his contributions to the country. Lucky you eh!! *wink

Anonymous said...

Salam KT, yr musings on trains pun dah boleh buat satu buku. Blook macam AG's. Its fascinating the events/people that you covered.


ZABS said...

Salam Kak Teh,
Ingatkan siapa lah yang Kak Teh nak jumpa tu. Pernah jumpa Tun dan bersalaman bebrapa kali dengannya, tapi tak pernah bercakap. Despite apa yang orang cakap tentangnya sekarang, I still have a high respect on this MAN. Thanks for the visit.

Madam Tai Tai Again said...

Hi Kak Teh, are one lucky lady to have the privilige to meet the former premier AND travel around Europe in addition to that!!

I'm sure when you are ready to write your memoirs, you would include these memorable meetings you have had with the great man.

And..your train rides stories reminded me so much of my own train rides (Canterbury-Victoria Station route) oh..20 long years ago. Thanks for reigniting my memories of it!

Anonymous said...

Lovely. More musings on your travels, please, Kak Teh. Your last one has already inspired me to write some of own musings on travel and find the perfect track...

Could we have some more, please? ;)

jaflam said...

Salam KT,
Dr M is one person that the history and people will never forget whether you like him or hate him. One hell of a person, full of good deeds and full of controversy.

Kak Teh said...

D, from minicab drivers, bus conductors and people on the streets - and we are talking about England - they know of him and his contributions.

atn, hehe - dah banyak nampaknya buku nak kena tulis. Actually, i plan for my train journeys to be a chapter in one book - just a chapter - insyaallah.

zabs, ya - the meeting yesterday was memorable - many people came to show their acknowledgement of his contributions - and that he is not forgotten.

Kak Teh said...

madam tai tai, thanks for the visit. I will have to look into my diary and see what else I can write..and must write them soon before memory fails me. The interesting thing about following these people around - are the stories behind the scenes .

kenny, yes, certainly - will have to dig up the archives!!

jaflam, - yes, full of controversy indeed. In Manchester he was sharp, witty and focussed. It is sad how some people can just turn their backs - like he said: melayu mudah lupa.

ms hart said...

Kak Teh, this is one thing very 'alluring' about being a writer like get to meet all these great personalities often! Tun M is extremely outstanding and always makes us proud. I can imagine your feelings when the cab driver gave that remarks!

Anonymous said...

Like any other teen, I'd say, "Coolness." :)

Tun M is currently the Chancellor of the university I'm studying in, so far, I've only seen him once, when he was giving a talk at the Chancellor Hall. As a kid who has only seen him on telly, I have to admit I was in awe to watch him even from the balcony seat. And then to shake his hand...sweet.

Oh, and one more can actually lose in spider solitaire? No offense, but... hehehe...

Kak Teh said...

ms harts, people in the streets do know of him and they feel that we were fortunate to have him as PM before.

Vern - losing at spiders solitaire - well - the highest score was 2000 something , i think and i couldnt get to that - kept trying to...or had to stop halfway because no more moves! That I would consider losing laaaa...and am still trying. am a bad loser!

rajawali art studio said...


HSMN said...

hi kak teh,

i don't remember from whose blog i bloghopped from, but i've been reading your blog for quite a while. it surprised me that you were in town for Tun's talk because it just so happened that I was on the committee and following the Tun's every step of the way. could we have passed each other without even knowing? hmm..

were you at the lunch?

Kak Teh said...

hi hanie, yes, i was at jati for the lunch after the talk at the lecture theatre. Stayed back to talk to fatimah of jati and the rest untuk about five before leaving for the train station. yes, we could have missed each other - but i was the one interviewing him with the other journalist.

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh,

I ni slalu komen out of topic. Tolong gi baca my comments kat AG.

Nah, how about sama-sama masuk pertandingan tu.

MrsNordin said...

Just read in The Star about his interview with the BBC World News. His responses were quite cynical, yah? "I'm a doctor. If one leg is becoming gangrenous, I remove it." Only he has the guts to say such things.. :)

maklang said...

Salam kak teh...

Lama tak masuk sini...SAje nak kabo...bulan lepas dah beli GUIT tu...tapi sampai hari ni baru sikit dapat baca...he..he..

Nanti kak teh buat buku pulak ye...:)

Kak Teh said...

has, i know and i read - memang teringing sangat!!! will email you abt details.

mrs nordin, ya - he said the same thing at the talk - abt how BN must find the cause of the defeat. He said as a doctor, he would want to know what's the cause of a certain illness, kalau dok bagi panadol saja tapi tak tahu sebab - there's no point. ya - i watched the interview on hard talk too - i know he didnt flinch but tapi geram juga the way he was questioned. I like it when he said, the westerners dont like being criticised. they can criticise us..

maklang - aaah, bagus dah beli GUiT. Masa kak teh ke terengganu dulu, teringat juga di mana Maklang - rupanya kerteh tu jauh, ya dari KT.

MrsNordin said...

That's so true.. the Westerners criticise everyone else but themselves!

I always admire DrM for his straight forwardness. Simple, yet very deep. I hope Malaysians in the UK still look up to him. It's sad to hear/read people's negative comments on him after what he has done for our country. But then again, this is subject to differing opinion, of course.

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh
Were you in the Main Hall of the Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick, which was brimmed to the full with Malaysian students who came to listen to TDM’s speech in 1997, a few months before the Asian financial crisis?

I remember one perceptive student asked him about the possibility of Malaysia experiencing the bubble burst after a decade of miraculous growth. He answered using the mechanics of a car as an analogy .. in the internal combustion engine, the carburettor (he pronounced this word without blushing, I don't think I can) is there to prevent overheating. He was so confident and didn't sniff out the impending attack on the currency.

He also displayed IT-savviness, peppering his talk with cutting edge word such as download. Oh by the way, KI and Haliza Hashim (I'm her fan .. I wrote something about her in Men's Review in 1994/95) were there too.


Theta said...

TDM is such a charismatic, not to mention quick-witted, leader that Malaysia is so lucky to have flourished under his rule.

The succession of leaders to follow him has a really big pair of shoes to fill.

I think the only time I had come that close to seeing TDM face to face was during that PWTC Raya Open House, a few years back. It was nice to salam him and Dr. Hasmah. :)

rendrazaleigh. said...

kak teh, emak sudah pesan, belajar rajin-rajin nanti boleh duduk london *envy*

wanshana said...

Kak Teh,

I want your job!!!

But, I think if I were to interview him, I would be stuttering or my mulut ternganga and making a fool of myself from start to end!

He has that certain aura about him. Very charismatic, a no-nonsense leader.

* No pics?

All The Cars In The World said...

I saw someone commented something like this in youtube:

"..aku dulu pergi sekolah 1972/73.tanpa buku sebab tak dak duit nak beli.minta 5 sen kat orang tua macam nyawa.... tapi dr mahathir masa tu memteri pelajaran dia bagi bantuan buku teks.harum bau buku masih terasa sama lah harum nama mu tun.ALLAH BALAS SURGA PADA MU MAHA THIR. .."

That's really true. Tun Dr. M is the best

ManaL said...

Kak teh,

When I was reading (apa nama) your entry, I was (apa nama) trying to make head and tail of it till I (apa nama) began to sniff some clues before u then mention Tun M in the last para.

My last meeting with him was in 2003 at the SOAS brunei hall before he stepped down. Whatever perception of him as leader, I do think that he is one of the sharpest, most wittiest person/leaders (not to mention sly) I have ever encountered judging by the way he answered his interviews/questions impromptu/speech/vision and so on. He made me LOL in that hall before i hurriedly tutup my own mouth as ppl there were merely sniggered/giggled/chuckled/making little noise as possible out of respect.

Btw, which level of difficulty u play on the spider solitaire, if u dont mind? I dah lama tak main, sbb i am more a freecell person, and now kinda into Scramble on Facebook.

Kak Teh said...

mrs N, I think he is the only one so far who is daring enough to stand up to the west. he has nothing to lose...champion of the 3rd world countries.

aMiR, oh i did nt go to that one but I know my husband did. aaaah, now i know the person behind the 'babe' think in Men's Review!

Theta, well said. He has his flaws but i think the country did well under him.

Kak Teh said...

azizul, kak teh tak belajar pandai pun, tapi dapat dok london. Tapi tak pa - rezki tu di mana-mana saja. Insyaallah.

wanshana - hahaha! you dont want my job! there were times when he actually gove one word answers...ha! so very difficult one!

all the cars in the world - that's truly touching!

Kak Teh said...

manal, actually, apanama, i was also there at apanama soas. i did the coverage there, apanama too.

oh about the spider solitaire tu - kadang-kadang (actually most of the time) salah langkah dan sampai jalan buntu. very infuriating!

Mama Rock said...

kak teh, i have a soft spot for tun M. his character and some of his features are sooooo like my arwah abah. met him once during the ansara raya gatehring and a few times bumped into him in klcc. oohhhh, i missed my abah.

Kak Teh said...

Mama rock, same here. I must say I was sad when the AI episode took place and how things were done and there are still lots of question mark but yes, I do have some soft spot for him.

HSMN said...

yes yes Kak Teh, we talked for a bit after I got back from sending Tun at the airport... i was in all black shirt and pants, with a Tie-Rack-y tudung, silver in colour with some patterns. with glasses, do you remember? my sister was the one in the cream baju kurung with VERY ORANGE flowers. no tudung.

Kak Teh said...

hanie suriya, yes, i know. there were just a few of us after tun left. and i just wanted to while away the time before going back to the station. but Din and this architect took me to his building - the tallest in Manchester - what a sight from up there.

HSMN said...

well, if you're ever in Manchester again and want to while away the time, you know where to find me!

p/s: can you bring over some tempe as well heheh :D

Kak Teh said...

hanie, that is so kind of you. Will take up your offer some day. but cant promised to bring home made tempe as we have closed shop!
We can still eat at Jati cos I missed the nasi ayam BBQ that day.

Anonymous said...

kak teh, saya marniza dari kuala lumpur. Saya dapat maklumat berkenaan blog kak teh daripada my head of department. Sebenarnya saya ingin minta pendapat berkenaan penempatan di london kerana saya akan melanjutkan pelajaran di King's College London-Guy's campus pada penghujung julai. Saya sangat menghargai sekiranya kak teh dapat memberi pandangan berkenaan rumah/kawasan yang sesuai untuk disewa dan berhampiran dengan universiti.
Terima kasih.
Berikut adalah email saya :

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