Monday, August 31, 2015


Spent a fair amount of the day considering what exactly it is that Dostoevsky and Dickens share in common, having made the comparison the other day. Obviously a concern with the world of the underdog, occasionally in ways that are disturbingly subversive, despite the apparent conservatism of both writers. (I use the term 'conservatism' here not so much in a political as in a social sense.)
Less obviously, but more tellingly, an ability to see people, and render them on paper, as what they really are. Monsters.

This accounts for the feeling that both writers engender that somehow we are not dealing with realistic fiction in the usual sense despite our recognition of how uncannily real it all is - a kind of hyper-reality.

This came home to me very powerfully today in three conversations I had, quite disconnected from each other, each one concerning quite different people, in which I immediately recognised accounts of behaviour that would not be out of place in The Idiot or Little Dorrit. So often we normalise, as it were, the behaviour of those we come into contact with, or even ourselves, to make it all seem reasonably sane but Dostoevsky and Dickens are there to remind us that it isn't (and that we aren't.)

And isn't it striking how obsessive both writers were about the idea of murder? FD seems to find a way to bring accounts of real life murders into The Idiot at regular intervals despite them having nothing to do with the plot in any direct way. Spooky.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

On The Edge

Finally finding enough space to get on with something akin to sustained reading. Made reasonable progress in The Idiot today and got to the end of Part 1. Gripping stuff, by the way. The sequence of Nastasya Filippovna throwing the money on the fire in front of a house full of visitors on the evening of Prince Myshkin's first day in Petersburg is Dostoevsky at his edgy, scandalous best. On the surface it's impossible to understand or predict how his characters will behave, yet there's a strange dream logic to it all that makes events appear inevitable, no matter how crazy things get.

It's lucky I chose to read The Idiot over this recent period. I think I would have officially abandoned almost any other novel. But even just reading a couple of pages in a day has been enough to hold me tight to the novel and its strange story. Dostoevsky, like Dickens I suppose - I can't think of any other writer to compare him to - creates his own world. It runs parallel to ours, but seems to operate on somewhat different rules. But there's nothing of Dickensian comfort in the Russian Master's odd world. Things always seem to be teetering on the edge of some necessary disaster.

And what exactly is it all supposed to mean? Like Kafka, I'm not sure I really want to find out, even if I could.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Words Of Wisdom

Found myself speaking to a lot of very bright young people today, mainly about the writing of poetry, but I strayed into a few other areas as well. Of course, it's a situation I find myself in most days of the week, but the difference was that most of today's young people had not had to listen to me before, so there was a distinct sense of the unexpected - at least on my part.

Looking back on today's experience three things strike me, in retrospect as it were:

1. I've become extremely opinionated in my old age, and most of my opinions are a bit odd.

2. The young people I come into contact with here talk a lot of sense, and don't really need too much of other people's opinions (of which they get more than plenty.)

3. I hope they take the opinions of their elders, self included, with a super large grain of salt.

But that's just my opinion.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Too Much

Made myself go to the gym a couple of hours back for thirty-five minutes of torture exercise on the pedal-thingy machine. Thought I'd feel better for it. I didn't.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Bit Of A Wander

Wandered out this evening just across the road to see the doctor. Or, rather, I accompanied Noi who needed to have a very sore finger checked out. She's been on antibiotics, but they've had little effect in terms of reducing the swelling, and as it turns out she'll need to go to the hospital tomorrow so they can drain the nasty stuff out her swollen appendage.

But this is beside the point. I just wanted to say how pleasant it is to walk out on an evening in the tropics. No wonder the coffee shops fill up around this time. The one time it feels like the pressure's off, even if it isn't. Little kids being taken out in their pyjamas. That says it all really.

Time to breathe.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Real Thing

Had very little opportunity, if any, today to listen to music of the recorded variety. Fortunately, however, heard plenty of the live version, and was well pleased as a result. Isn't it odd, and possibly pernicious, how we've come to think of music as something essentially recorded? In one way of looking at it, or, rather, one way of hearing, only the live experience is 'real' music, an act of making in which the possibility of the components not quite coming together gives real life to the experience of listening.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Poor Folk

The poor are always with us, or so the Good Book in some translations tells us - a line that certain smarmy commentators of a conservative bent love to quote whilst grinning at their ingenuity in somehow justifying poverty (for others, of course) on the grounds that it's an essential part of the human condition. I must say, I'm particularly glad I'm not amongst their number - the poor, that is - in the country to our immediate north. The ringgit seems to be in free-fall at the moment, and whilst this is good news for those of us who get paid in Sing dollars and can gain considerably through the conversion to our neighbours' currency, I'm sure the repercussions for those struggling at the bottom of the food chain over there are/will be not pleasant.

When I was a kid I was vaguely aware that ensuring the family got through the week without running out of money before the Friday pay packet came was a concern for my parents. And I was also sort of aware that there were families around us who didn't always quite manage the trick. As an adult I look back with a sense of admiration at those who coped with those kind of pressures and got through it all. There's something heroic about those who count their pennies and somehow make them last. But, like I said above, I'm glad I'm not one of them.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Going To Extremes

Once upon a time I vaguely regarded restraint as some kind of artistic virtue. Not anymore.

That's what reading Dostoevsky and listening to VDGG at around about one and the same time does to you.

Fortunately I'm too busy to administer either other than in small doses, otherwise things could get very extreme.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Good to see a fair amount of publicity of late surrounding the publication of Go Set A Watchman, the sort of companion novel to Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, simply on the grounds that any recognition of the power of literary fiction in the media is a good thing.

I haven't read the new one yet, and I'm not in any great hurry. I'm not a huge fan of Mockingbird, even though I've taught it a few times for 'O' level, so I haven't felt it imperative to get hold of the more recent publication relating to it, as it seems so many fans have. Actually the oddly passionate interest in Harper Lee's first, and, until recently at least, only novel seems to me to spring from two differing sources. The first is the simple fact that many readers, I suspect, encounter it in school and, thus, it has a peculiar impact as one of the few texts they'll ever read so closely. And second we have to take into account the strangely mythic power of the whole confection - captured beautifully, of course, in the movie. (Gregory Peck at his magnificent best.) But the truth is that in some ways it's a rather clumsy novel and distinctly over-written in places. (Try reading some of the weaker sections aloud to a class and you'll see what I mean.)

I remember in the late 80's an attempt of sorts being made to 'replace' it in schools (in the UK) as the canonical novel on matters of race in the American South with Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, partly on the grounds that as a black writer Ms Taylor's portrayal of such material was the more authentic. This sounds a bit overly politically correct, I know, but I must say I was a lot more comfortable teaching Cassie Logan's view of the world than I was that of Scout Finch. Cassie struck me as by far the more 'real' of the two children, but I'm not sure that Roll of Thunder plugged into that strangely nebulous mythical power in its evocation of childhood that I mentioned earlier. I can't quite imagine any reader being besotted with it in the same way that some manage with Lee's opus.

But I suppose we've got both, so there's really no need to choose.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Of Immediate Concern

At war with my own foolishness today as to whether I'll allow the weekend to be blighted in spirit by the pressures created by simply having so much to do (in relation to the Toad, work that is.) Managed to get out this afternoon to a Haj class at Bras Basah, and then onwards to tea and a muffin at the Raffles Hotel, no less. Ended up paying a small fortune for parking at the hotel but it was worth it just to breathe more easily.

Returned to get on with some more work, but with a greater sense of equilibrium, finding time to listen to two of Van Der Graaf 's more recent albums (the ones featuring the Jaxon-less trio). Though as to whether I'm entirely balanced remains uncertain.

Friday, August 21, 2015

No Comparison

Picking up on the news from the UK I couldn't help but notice, with some slight bemusement, the national outpouring of grief for Cilla. Then this morning, on the daily review of the papers on Sky News, someone made a comparison with a similar phenomenon in relation to the death of Diana back in the 90's. It suddenly struck me that I might have actually stood in line to pay final respects to the lass from Liverpool who was, after all, genuinely warm and personable and had really made something of her life coming from those mean streets. Can't say I had any similar feelings in the other case. Quite the opposite, in fact. That helped to put it all in perspective.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Too Much

Largely owing to the arrival today of an order I made in late July from the good people at I find myself overwhelmed by having too much to read and too much to listen to. Further contributory factors in this excess were an accidental visit to the Kinokuniya outlet at the Jem mall which resulted in the entirely necessary purchase of two absolutely necessary tomes and my recent sighting, and pocketing, of a couple of intriguing volumes on the exchange table in the staffroom.

Oh reason not the need, as I reasonably expostulated to the Missus earlier this evening on her sighting of some of the forbidden fruit. It's possible, I'll admit, to have too much of a good thing, but I'm not there yet.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Not So Happy

It's my sister, Maureen's, birthday today. It doesn't come at a good time, though, for her that is. The roller coaster of her health is at a low, as it was in late April of this year. Recovery is possible, as it was then, for a time, but difficult to sustain. I get the feeling sometimes, from a distance, that she prefers the solving emptiness that lies below.

The thought that there may be no solutions is a frightening one, but thinkable. I just hope it's wrong.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Going International

Earlier this evening I had to attend a rehearsal for a school event taking place tomorrow involving a number of our foreign scholars. The event is intended to promote understanding between nations - a laudable cause. I was there to carry the Union Jack for the marching in of the flags, the idea being for a citizen of each nation finding itself represented within our little community to carry in their nation's flag to the applause of all - to the accompaniment of the theme from Chariots of Fire: cheesy, but fun.

The flags follow in alphabetical sequence, to be fair to all. As a result this year the Vietnamese flag is adjacent to the Stars and Stripes in the final formation. As I looked at them so innocently together I felt strangely moved, a feeling that gained more rather than less power from the fact that nobody else present was aware of the significance of that juxtaposition, nobody else having grown up in the 1960's.

History is a nightmare from which we sometimes awake.

Monday, August 17, 2015


It's deeply fashionable these days for those who know pretty much everything there is to know about pretty much everything to decry people - those who are reckoned to not know half as much - uploading their pictures on the Internet and filling cyberspace with accounts of their insignificant lives. (Insignificant, that is, in the eyes of those who know; deeply significant to those who happen to be living them.)

For the life of me I can't see anything wrong with it, if it makes people happy - which it generally seems to do. And I really don't buy all these, This is the end of civilisation as we know it, arguments.

Ordinary happiness may be trivial but it's a big deal. Possibly the biggest of all deals. And if goofy photos and silly interchanges help it along that's fine by me.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wiped Out

It's been a day on which the Toad, work, came to squat, effectively putting an end to any other sustained activity. Four hours of marking followed by four hours of administrative endeavour: not room for much else except a delicious encounter with a slice of the perfect cheesecake and a cheerful pot of tea as essayed by the Missus, a few stolen minutes watching the highlights of the footie, and a trip to the gym to attempt to iron out the crinkles resulting from the aforementioned squatting.

Not that I'm complaining (even though I am.) It pays the bills and keeps me off the streets.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Today marks the end of Syawal, the month following Ramadhan in the Muslim calendar, and will thus see an end to the traditional visiting of friends and family that characterises the period. Noi is already out at a friend's where she'll be meeting various of her Qur'an-reading group who'll then be coming to our place (the Missus having prepared various goodies in advance), and then the whole lot of us will be off to various other houses to feast and mingle and mingle and feast.

Unfortunately I found myself with too much work to do to accompany Noi to Rohana's, but I'm now gearing up to enjoying the rest of the afternoon. I'm often asked whether there's an equivalent period given over to such visiting in English culture. The sad fact there isn't, aside from some limited aspects of what goes on around Christmas, always surprises folk here. They don't expect such obvious deprivation in this day and age.

Friday, August 14, 2015

An Odd Sort Of Chap

Gosh, wasn't Fyodor Dostoevsky strange? Reading the deeply disconcerting opening segments of The Idiot has reminded me of just how very, very odd he was: the fits, the murdered father, the manic gambling, the imprisonment, the mock execution, the crazy radical ideas, the loopy conservatism, the sheer intensity. And I'm probably missing a lot out, being no expert on the subject. Would you invite him to dinner?

I would. In a grey world we need more like him.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Bit More Beethoven

One of the less successful features of Beethoven's Hair was the biographical stuff on the great composer. The idea of studding the book with vignettes of his life at key moments was not inherently misplaced, but Martin never really rose to the occasion in any of the sections. I found them interesting but kept thinking that I sort of knew all this, even though I'm no expert on Ludwig Van. It all felt a bit second hand without the moments of insight that might have brought it all to life. The guy suffered monstrously and marvellously rose above it, at a height that seems to leave mere mortals behind, but this is not exactly news. 

But I did feel keen to follow up on the composer's life, and here's the weird thing. In the middle of reading the book I went to Kinokuniya to cash in some randomly acquired book tokens (getting hold of Dostoevsky's The Idiot in the process, which I've been reading with huge enthusiasm for the last few days.) In the bookstore I came across a hardback of a recently published Beethoven biography by none other than Jan Swafford. Now that name might not mean a lot to you, but boy was I excited. Swafford is the writer of the best musical biography I've ever read. His book on Charles Ives is as good as it gets, and  the thought that he's written on Beethoven sets me all a flutter, I can tell you. As soon as this comes out in paperback it's going to be mine!

(Bit of a weak confession here. Swafford has also written a very well received biography of Brahms which I've always intended to get hold of and never have. I can't really account for my reluctance except to say that Brahms has never gripped me. Stupid of me. I've got a feeling that if I read Swafford on him I'd become a fan, he really writes that well.)

(And another odd thing. When I wrote the bit above saying The guy suffered monstrously it came out as The gut suffered monstrously due to a misplaced digit. And of course Beethoven's gut did suffer in that fashion; or at least, he suffered as a result of it. Spooky.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Last Ten

Last ten!! is the cry that goes up as a Sunday League football match moves beyond the eightieth minute. Well, it is in South Yorkshire where I played years ago in a league centred on Rotherham. The actual purpose of the cry is somewhat ambiguous. For old fellahs like me, in my final years of turning out, I assumed it was a welcome reminder that the ordeal of getting through the full ninety minutes was approaching its close and you just needed to keep going somehow. But in earlier days, when I was reasonably fit, it felt like a call to arms, an indication that there was time to seize the game by the throat as the opposition weren't going to be able to muster the necessary staying power (especially if they'd been in the boozer before the game - a not unheard of occurrence, especially as the season approached its end.)

My playing days are long over, as you know, Gentle Reader, but I found some comfort in the old cry the other evening as I dug deep to complete my thirty-five minutes on the elliptical trainer in the gym. Mind you, that last ten felt longer than any I've passed on a playing field.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Found Beethoven's Hair to be a lightweight sort of affair, as expected from the info on the jacket. I wouldn't have read it had I not picked it up for free, but there was enough substance to make traversing its 270 or so pages reasonably worthwhile.

The most striking sections by far for me were those dealing with the attempts of the Danish people, the Gentiles in the population, that is, during the war to protect their Jewish neighbours and other Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution in central Europe. There's a particularly gripping section on the events that transpired in the coastal town of Gilleleje in 1943 whence quite a number of Jewish refugees escaped to neutral Sweden. It was here that author Russell Martin surmises that the lock of Beethoven's hair, around which his book revolves, passed hands from one of those refugees to the Danish family who later put the item up for auction. The quiet yet resolute heroism of the Danes as a collective whole in protecting the victims of persecution is striking and uplifting.

Yet we need to set it against the cruelty of those persecutors. In one chilling aside Martin notes that those in charge of the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, the camp that received some of the unfortunate Jews who didn't escape to Sweden, arranged a performance of Verdi's Requiem by the orchestra set up by inmates of the camp, along with an ad hoc choir, before shipping almost all the performers off to Auschwitz, sadistically making those involved play the great mass for the dead for themselves.

Martin doesn't explicitly make comment regarding the contrast in behaviour here between the heroic humane Danes and the Nazi thugs. But I will, because it haunts me. I believe that we have a great measure of free choice in our actions as individuals, though I'd be hard pressed to definitively prove this intuition. The example above seems to me to point to the fact that as collectives - tribes, nations, whatever - we also have choices in terms of our  collective ethical behaviour. And I'd like to know what led to so many from one nation making dreadful choices (or at least it seems so) and so many from its tiny neighbour doing the right thing.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Opening Up


It's that time of year when we open our doors to the usual suspects. Noi's been up all night (at least I think she has - I'd been soundly asleep) involved in matters of a culinary nature. I'll be on hand to sample her productions and wield the camera in a vain attempt to capture the present moment.

All over bar the shouting - and the cleaning up. A good time had by all, I reckon, and certainly by myself. Pictorial evidence above.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Of National Concerns

I can feel the atmosphere, announced the Missus as we were on our way to give Hamza and Sharifah a lift to the airport. The atmosphere to which she was referring was that generated by this nation's 50th National Day, snappily summed up as SG50. My heart is with Singapore, she observed, slightly to my surprise, even though my IC isn't.

It's easy to see why she might be swept along by it all, after all she's effectively lived here pretty much all her life. And I must say the celebrations have been done well, as one of my colleagues observed to me when we sitting together for the celebration in school last Thursday, he being not an uncritical sort of chap when it comes to straight talking about the deficiencies of the government here. The triumphalism has been reined in, though understandably there are distinct elements of it, and there's a genuine sense of community about the proceedings, or so it seems to me. Actually, a sense of fun, which is always good for a nation's soul.

These observations I'm afraid serve as a mere prelude to the real meat of the day: England's triumph in the Ashes series after just four tests. Just where are Australians when you need them around to mock? Hiding, as usual. Funnily enough I was chatting to Peter on the corridor at work just a couple of weeks ago and he was bemoaning having doled out the shekels to get the Cricket Channel on cable for the series only to see the Aussies draw level after the second test. His analysis at that point, and he is a man who knows these things, was that we were likely to get beat by the sheer pace of the Australian pace bowlers. How wrong he was, and happily so as he'll no doubt agree.

And, looking out to yet another nation, Hamza's sense of indignation over events north of the Causeway in regard to the finances of his nation has been both audible and palpable in the last three days. He reckons it's possible we'll see a new PM over there in the next three weeks, but I'm not quite sure how that's supposed to work.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


I was hoping to finish Richard Adams's The Plague Dogs yesterday, having managed to get some reasonably sustained reading done with the long weekend break for the National Day celebrations in this Far Place, but it was not to be. Instead we spent the afternoon and evening in the company of Hamza and Sharifah who are taking a short break themselves in the city state, and a very jolly time we had. But that left no time to read the last eighty pages.
Normally this would have been of little significance, and it wasn't in any way a massive issue, but I did find myself desiring urgently to find out how the novel was going to be rounded off, having completely forgotten the resolution from my first reading of several decades back. This morning my memory was suitably refreshed (I remembered that it was essentially a happy ending but couldn't recall how it was contrived) and I must say that the strength of the ending, despite it being somewhat contrived in the more pejorative sense of that word, reinforced my feeling that the work as a whole is really quite remarkable - not the out and out almost complete perfection of Watership Down to be sure, but a novel that deserves to live well beyond its era despite its faults.
The faults are obvious, to name just three: a narrative voice that's not exactly under control and often reflects fairly nakedly the under-processed opinions of the highly opinionated Mr Adams (though he's such good company that the attitudinising is almost attractive in a convivial sort of manner); way too much quotation from various literary classics, and sometimes less-than-classics, thrown in almost at random (what the sudden quotation from the libretto to Britten's Peter Grimes in the final sequence has to do with anything relevant to the story I have no idea); chunks of satire of contemporary political and cultural concerns that come off as decidedly heavy-handed, and not in the least funny (though with moments of splendid indignation.) But none of this matters put against the glorious story-telling and sheer power of the whole confection. Anything involving the two dogs and their extraordinary temporary companion the un-named tod (the lower-case is deliberate) is superlative, giving access to that mythic level Adams achieved with his rabbits in his first novel, but at a far darker, more adult level.
One thing I noticed about my reading of the novel on the most personal front was just how often I found my mind straying to concerns outside the book that nonetheless connected powerfully with it and became integral to the experience. I suppose this is the reason why the reading of novels generally has to be the most severely compromised if not contaminated of all artistic experiences: the mind has so much time in which to stray into other concerns. Fortunately I care little for the notion of aesthetic purity so I embrace the digressions.

With regard to The Plague Dogs there were two broad digressive territories I kept blundering into. The first was one I'm sure a number of other readers have found themselves thinking of. I couldn't help but keep mulling over broad questions of animal rights and our often frightful treatment of other creatures. Since encountering the philosophical work of Peter Springer (name-checked in Adams's preface) in this domain some eight years ago I've found myself developing a clearer set of ideas about Animalkind and our relations to them, though I don't entirely accept Springer's utilitarianism. I now feel obliged to get these ideas as clearly sorted out as I can and, possibly, consider, acting upon them in some sense.

The second territory is entirely personal. The wonderful drawings and maps of the Lake District by the incomparable Wainwright that pepper the text made me think almost constantly of my dear friend Tony who went to his long home in the early part of this year, as did simply the names of the various hills. I can't read the simple place name 'Great Gable', for example, without hearing his voice. So he was a haunting presence for me throughout. And a strangely comforting one.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Easing Off

Nodded off this afternoon listening to Stravinsky's Symphony In C and then a John Williams's (the guitarist not the composer) compilation. Then took myself off to the gym to make me feel I'd achieved something.

Very atypically indeed Noi and I found ourselves at a meeting of sorts in the evening involving matters financial. Understood hardly any of it. Much as I have a healthy appreciation of what the green stuff can do, it holds little if any interest for me beyond that. No wonder I'm no good at it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Time To Think

There isn't any. (See title of post to explain this gnomic observation.)

Not today, anyway.

Puts me in mind of Dylan's No Time To Think off Street Legal, a criminally underrated album. Not one of the Bobster's best lyrics (nothing on the album is) but I love the genuine rush and drive of the music.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sound Worlds

I was listening to Stravinsky's Les Noces late last night and when I got in from work today. Amazing piece. Can't think of anything else that sounds like it. Operatic Russian voices - well, it's in Russian, anyway - over four pounding pianos and a load of percussion. Not exactly lyrical, at times it sets the teeth on edge, but sonically beguiling somehow. Once or twice there are reminders of Orff's Carmina Burana, but Stravinsky's ballet will never be anything close to as popular.

In fact, the realisation that this is ballet music adds to its fascination. Difficult to imagine what a full-blown theatrical production might be like, but I'd love to be there when someone does one.

The version I was listening to is one I've had a while: Bernstein with the English Bach Festival Chorus and the English Bach Festival Percussion Ensemble from way back in 1977, which I picked up as a cheapo cheapo CD when reissued by DG under their budget 20th Century Classics series in the 1990s. I mention this because on the same CD there's a stirring account of Stravinsky's Mass (of 1948) and this sounds so different from the more famous piece that in some ways its difficult to believe it's the same composer at work. Here we get the Maestro composing for wind ensemble and voices and the combination is astringently satisfying - something that escaped me before. It's taken a couple of decades of on and off listening to unlock its secrets, for this listener at least.

The funny thing is that though I have liked everything I've ever heard from Stravinsky (eventually) there are still quite well known compositions out there about which I am essentially clueless. I suppose that's partly because so many of the pieces involve new sound worlds that take some assimilating and I haven't always been prepared to rise to the challenge. Now considering just how much I may have missed out on as a result.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Great Days

Was checking my journal from 10 years ago just now and found this on the equivalent date: A jolly good night at Bussorah Street - the Turkish restaurant. Excellent food. (I can be pithy on occasion, no?)

Realised just how prominent good grub is in my mind with regard to what makes life worth living. And then further realised we'd been in the company of my cousin John, Jeanette and Kate all those years ago. Suddenly a whole sequence of days and events therein formed in my mind, most pleasurably so. Food and friends, eh? A great mix. All very Epicurean of me, and unapologetically so. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fed Up

It's been a fine weekend for feeding the old face. Today Noi invited around a number of my colleagues who live round and about and prepared mightily for the occasion. And highly enjoyable it proved to be when taking into account the fine comestibles and the correspondingly fine company.

It was noticeable how the conversation, like that at Norharyati's yesterday, quickly veered towards a consideration of political events north of the causeway and the frightening degree of cynicism involved in both. Put simply, everyone assumes some degree of corruption at the heart of the neighbouring government, and everyone assumes that degree is considerable.

It's difficult to see how business as usual is going to go on in the current climate and there's a real fear it won't. But I suspect ordinary, decent folk will pull through somehow. They so often do. Good food helps.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


It's funny the speed with which the warmth of human kindness tends to dissipate when you're standing in the overlong queue for the cashier at the Giant Supermarket at IMM. We've had a very good day today, featuring a splendid nosh-up at Nahar & Norharyati's in the company of Mei & Boon, and I had just enjoyed a most palatable plate of prata accompanied by a fine rather large cup of teh tarik, yet after just five minutes or so in the aforementioned queue I'd had enough. And this despite having my copy of The Plague Dogs with me and being able to read a paragraph or two.

I suppose that might have made things worse. I'd got to a fine set piece description of the terrain at the heart of the Lake District and found myself pining for just a bit of that solitude. It's a terrible thing to say, but I couldn't help think of D.H. Lawrence at his most impressively fascist in his lovely poem on the Mountain Lion when he's contemplating the pleasures of culling our over-populated species. I knew exactly how he felt.