Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
He was a funny, charming, kind man, and so generous to accept me as a highly unusual son-in-law (from his perspective.) It was easy to love him.
Our conversations never quite managed depth - his broken English and my even more broken Malay, didn't allow for that - but I like to think they achieved an understanding beyond mere depth. My last words to him were uttered just last Sunday afternoon as I bade him farewell. I said, as I usually did, Salamat Tinggal, which very roughly translates as Peace on your staying, or Be safe here. Normally he would reply Salamat Jalan, which, again, very roughly means Peace on your way, or Safe journey. But I don't think he did on Sunday, when his voice was unusally soft. He'd been very quiet all weekend, in fact, though when we arrived and Noi asked him if he knew who I was he replied Ibrahim Connor! reasonably confidently. (That's most of my Islamic name, by the way.) It felt good he'd remembered.
So now my final unspoken words to Abah, according to our formula, are Salamat Jalan - have a safe and peaceful journey, to that place where all names are remembered.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
There was a sequence in Goodbye, Chicken Little, when the protagonist's elderly uncle expounds on the idiocy of claiming that life has no meaning, which made me laugh out loud. It should be included as an appendix to every novel and play by Sam Beckett.
And speaking of the great man, I also read Waiting For Godot (officially serious, and wonderful) and fell in love with it again.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Our device comes with two voices, male and female. We opted for the female as being gentler on the ear. But she didn't seem to have much idea of how to pronounce Malaysian place names, which is where much of the entertainment came for us. Her attempts at Petaling Jaya and Gombak were a hoot. I know it was cruel of us to mock, but she didn't seem to take it badly. And, after all, you'd hardly consider these dreadful tongue-twisters. As far as I'm aware, they sound how they look.
Anyway, we'd better prepare something to occupy us in what I suspect will be an ultra-long jam on the way in to the Malaysian checkpoint. I'm still recovering, mentally, from the three-hour jam coming over of a couple of weeks back. Wish us luck.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
We've been keeping the news from Mak & Abah but obviously they'll need to be told soon. The family will, of course, play it down, and in a sense it seems small enough to do that - but I don't think I'd be using the term 'small' if I were the one facing today's procedure.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Just had something to eat at brother-in-law Aziz's sort of shop/stall/restaurant at Rembia - a bit off the beaten track, at the kampong house of Aziz's wife Wati's family. Far enough away from the main road to remind you that main roads are not the be-all and end-all of this country. A bit of authentic Malaysia - how it was most everywhere fifty years or so ago. Not sure why anyone thought to improve upon it; which, of course, they didn't. The azan for the evening prayer sounded from the nearby mesjid as we were eating. The muezzin sounded about ten years old. Practising for the future, I suppose. Hope there will be one for such places.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I imagine that, apart from being in some pain, the poor guy is worrying about his future given the physical nature of the work he does. He got the job partly through his elder brother Saadon, who is almost contemporary with myself, and Noi tells me Saadon also badly injured one of his thumbs in his early days on the rigs. Fortunately that didn't affect him going on to make a successful career out there - and we're hoping the same will be true for the younger of the two.
When I was a little lad I always imagined work when it finally came along was going to involve something physically demanding. (I remember Dad covered in muck from the heavy-duty rollers at Rotunda and the exhaustion that involved.) But I've been spared that, and been lucky enough to keep going in the job with no undue mishaps. Blessing-counting time again.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Today, in contrast, has been one of almost complete peace. A squirrel in the tree branches has been the most active thing around the house - though Noi has concocted some tasty scones. (Yesterday's lamb dinner was a triumph in my eyes, but Noi has been oddly critical of it for some reason.) We're now at the Wangsa Ukay cafe on the Hill, basically to get on-line and eat a couple of prata, but we'll be going back to a couple of lamb wraps to conclude yesterday's grub, and I'm relishing the prospect.
The thirty minutes leading to the maghrib prayer was as restful a half hour as I've ever spent. The sun orange-red across the valley; the birdsong shimmering; the heart blossoming.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The last time I was disturbed by a book in this manner was when I read The Shining. I didn't even like having the paperback in the room, other than when I was reading it. Also, now I come to think of it, when I read Peter Straub's Ghost Story - though the sense of unease wasn't sustained as it was right to the last word of King's masterpiece.
I haven't read anything in the second volume of American Fantastic Tales (edited by Straub, by the way) that's made me even glance at the windows. Straub's own story left me indifferent, whilst the King offering though good in its way struck me as something of a literary exercise. Oddly, the story that I've enjoyed the most (so far, got another six or sven to read) was Joe Hill's Pop Art - genuinely moving. This was odd only insofar as Mr Hill is Mr King's son and I've read comments by King on his children before, when they were definitely children, so it's odd to think of him as an accomplished author in his own right.
Maybe that in itself is the really frightening thing.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Meanwhile the missus has put the house in order, which makes me feel mildly guilty. But, then, nothing registers more strongly than mildly in my current state.
The telephone line is down, by the way. So we are officially off-line. And sort of out-of-time.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
And slipping down with even greater ease, to the extent that I finished it in two sittings, Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger proved to be both very funny and distinctly disturbing - a good mix. I suppose its most disturbing quality, from the point of view of this reader, was the degree that I found myself enjoying the utterly immoral success of its protagonist at the end of the novel. The underdog biting back has a sort of energising quality. I suspect real social change for the better feeds more on this than the efforts of its more worthy proponents.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
The standout of this collection for me was Doctor Startsev. At first you assume the eponymous doc will be making a big mistake if he marries the pretty awful, in fact, awful and pretty, Catherine Turkin, aka Pussy. She turns him down, which she comes to see as a bad mistake. Then you realise that her understanding that she is mistaken tells us the marriage would have been better than the bleakness of Startsev's life once he is saved from her. The moments in which he gets a vague inkling of this before deciding to have nothing more to do with her are about as poignant, and real, as it gets.
It's Chekhov's recognition of the possibility of simple happiness that makes his characters' lack of it so painful.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
To my surprise and gratification we have a working telephone line, which means I can get on-line from the house for the first time in yonks, which means you are reading this. Assuming you are.
Still seriously considering using broadband though as the speed of this connection would make a tortoise look snappy - and I'm talking about an elderly tortoise here, not one of those young whippersnappers.
Friday, June 10, 2011
When we get old enough, time pretty much stops. Real time that is.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Which begs the question, of course, as to why we don't simply throw the stuff out. The answer, from both of us, as we're equally guilty on this one, is that something there might just come in handy. In Noi's case she's thinking recipes, for the most part; in my case it's material related to the classroom. For example, for some reason I generally finish useless workshops with some sort of material to remind me I attended and for some even more obscure, indeed unfathomable, reason I find it difficult to part with said documents.
Oddly enough I never used to have this problem. I have hardly anything with me from my time teaching in England, yet some of what I did have then was genuinely useful. I suppose I'm somehow shoring these fragments against my ruins, but when the fragments themselves are little more than ruins it's not going to count for much.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
We're intending to get into gear this evening though with Arab Street in our sights. We've got Mei & Boon coming round to shake us out of our well-earned lethargy.
And we got ourselves over to our former stomping grounds on the east coast earlier today, basically for me to get the critical bits of my machinery checked out by the Doc at East Shore. His verdict: I'm good at least to December. We followed this by engaging in some switching of currency at Parkway Parade (the rates there being the best you're likely to get anywhere on the island) and eating the kaya toast they serve at the Kopi Tiam which is a many splendid thing, as they don't say.
Oh, and we got the big fat purple chair we sent for repair back which means the living room is complete again. A good thing this as we intend to do some good living in it.
Monday, June 6, 2011
The main reason for this is straightforward enough: I have enough unread books to last me the rest of the year and exploration of the music I own, insofar as it's own-able, demonstrates I don't know it well enough - well a fair bit of it anyway. But there are subsidiary reasons for my inertia on the purchasing front that are becoming more apparent the more I explore what is available on-line. There's just so much freely and legally available out there!
The site for Radio Three is of itself a remarkably fecund source of the kind of thing that keeps me more than occupied. And that's just one tiny island in a vast, seemingly limitless archipelago. Not so much spoilt as ruined for choice.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
The problem lay in following the intricacies of the story. It gets more than a bit complicated mid-way, and having the whole thing delivered through the uncertainties of Ned's narrative didn't help. Yes, it's a great bit of ventriloquism, and the voice is itself rewarding poetically and in terms of conveying the textures of a way of life, but it's a struggle to make sense of on the simple level of information - and there's an awful lot of that thrown at you.
The pace picks up considerably once Ned becomes an out and out criminal and the gang actually forms, and the last two segments are brilliantly successful. This reader at least found himself cheering the bushranger on in his war against the colonial authorities and genuinely saddened by his losing that war.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
I've also tried to watch a bit of tv, but it's not the same without the missus around. We have around five Midsomer Murders to catch up on, all recorded in recent impossibly busy weeks, but these need to be viewed in company otherwise there's no fun in making all the wrong guesses.
So here I am getting things done but not really doing much of anything, if you see what I mean.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
I wondered how he might react to me if I were to share my conviction that teaching is at best a sort of sullen art. And then I had the happy thought that it might best be seen as a particularly dubious form of performance art. So not such a wasted day after all.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
All this begs the question as to why the test can't be administered in Indonesia to save the poor girls the huge headache of an expensive journey for nothing - well, not just expensive but for many life-wrecking. As far as I understood the answer provided by the Ministry here that runs the testing, it would be too expensive for Singapore to provide the service. Hmm.
There's not much positive to take from tales like this, but I console myself with the idea for some of the noble souls who come to places like this in search of a better life for themselves and their's (usually its their's, I suspect, rather than themselves) will achieve even more than that and in a generation will lift themselves and be sitting round the table at our banquet getting much more than their fair share.