Monday, May 31, 2010

Journey's End

Finished Amin Maalouf's very readable Leo Africanus yesterday. I read it on the hot recommendation of the guy who ran the IB workshop back in April 2009. It wasn't quite what I expected, even though I did enjoy it. I thought I was in for something a little more inward-looking than the rather public narrative it turned out to be. To some degree Maalouf seems to have modeled the novel on travellers' tales of the period - early sixteenth century, starting from the fall of Granada to the Christians of Castille. The central character, essentially Hasan but with a variety of other names, wanders through the Europe and North Africa of the period, coming into contact with a wide variety of characters, some historical, and generally getting involved in the moving and shaking of the age. By the time he reached Rome, in the last quarter of the novel, I'd given up on trying to follow all the alliances and just settled for what was going to happen next.

I think it was being recommended as a text for the IB's English A1 course by the worthy gentleman who brought it to my attention, but I can't see it working in that context. It's far too complicated on the level of plot and the characterisation doesn't leave much for analysis of the sort beloved by examiners as it's almost deliberately two dimensional, simply I suppose to cope with the plethora of characters stepping through the pages. But in terms of giving a sense of the Islamic culture of the period I suppose it'd work well. One gets a genuine feeling for the textures of everyday life despite the somewhat elevated background of some of Hasan's acquaintances. By the end we're hobnobbing with a couple of popes.

There's a worthy sort of message involved as well. Hasan is a tolerant sort - he has to be to keep his head really - and it's easy to see that Mr Maalouf rightly believes the world would be a better place if we could all just get along. But the very real nastiness involved when we don't is powerfully conveyed also, so the novel gets beyond the merely platitudinous. The question is whether this might be historically accurate. Could a convinced believer of the period (Muslim in Hasan's case) genuinely see beyond the boundaries of his faith to recognise the merits of those of others? I'm no expert, but from what little I know I suspect he or she could and with no enormous difficulty. Much like today, for those of intelligence, curiosity and goodwill.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Waxing Poetical

A curious thing happened to me a couple of weeks back at work. I was walking near our leader boards - at least, that's what I think they're known as - you know, the lists they put on school walls of the names of past prefects and the like - when my attention was captured by one headed Poetical Leaders. The old heart leapt for a very few moments, long enough for me to realise I was looking at a far more mundane, but vastly more reputable, list of worthy Political Leaders. And then I got to considering that the (presumably accidental) production of poets is something that any sensible institution would remain stoically silent about. I know my own secondary school remained firmly tight-lipped about the fact that the supremely disreputable Anthony Burgess was an old boy, or at least when I was there it did. (Not exactly a poet, though the poems that sometimes punctuate the novels are rather good, but a novelist and musician which is just as bad.) It's reassuring to know there are fields of endeavour that cry out to be disowned by the great and good.

Not really in connection with the above, except at a very steep tangent of the type these poetry wallahs excel in, I found myself drawing up a list the other day of poets on my shelves who are crying out to be read over the next few months. It's an impressive little list (well, in truth, not so little all in all) and I must say I'm struck by how few of those on it would find themselves welcome at the typical school speech day: Frost, Hughes, Blake, Gunn, Causley, Larkin, Pope, Shelley, Walcott, Wright (James), Williams (William Carlos), Merill, Melville, Plath. A completely useless but vaguely entertaining exercise is to figure out which of them would be most likely to say something on such an occasion which would guarantee they'd never be invited again. I reckon Blake leads the field.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Big Loser

We're playing host tonight to Rozita & the girls as Fuad is running some sort of marathon overnight. When I first set out at this Far Place it would have been difficult to imagine writing that just over three years later. My brother-in-law was simply one of those naturally overweight people who were made that way and would stay that way. Except there's nothing natural about it, and he didn't.

With a judicious mix of a sensible diet and lots of exercise he has, with a kind of gradual, determined, inevitability, lost an entire body in weight, now weighing half of what he did then. He's a few, and I mean a very few, kilos heavier than me at this point and about ten times as fit. And all this without the aid of a reality tv programme to explore and exploit his every move. (Actually the 'exploit' thing is a bit unkind, but you've got to be aware of a degree of exploitation even if The Biggest Loser is based on a generally noble premise.)

The possibility that people can remake themselves in the most unlikely ways, rising above the scripts written for them, is one of the few hopeful things our species has got going for it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Side By Side

Today marked a bit of a break in the usual routine. It's a public holiday here, for the Buddhist feast? festival? of Vesak Day. So after a morning spent marking scripts from the May IB examination it was off to my local mosque, Mesjid Abdul Aleem Siddique for Friday Prayers. The mosque is within reasonable walking distance - it takes about fifteen minutes to get there - and happens to be right next to a small Buddhist temple on a sleepy little side street off Telok Kurau Road. It wasn't quite so sleepy today though. Parking is usually difficult there, the mosque itself being a small building with no car-park, hence the fact that I invariably walk to prayers there, except when it's raining. Today parking was next to impossible with both temple and mosque going full throttle.

And what a delight it was to witness the ease with which worshippers at both locations negotiated what elsewhere might have been regarded as the awkwardness of their proximity. There was merely a sense of business as usual and a mild curiosity on both sides as to what the other was up to. I suspect each was up to pretty much the same thing.

The intense heat of a post-noon Friday leant a strange sense of almost stepping out of time to the proceedings, for me at least. And the fact that the experience is in the best sense a shared one - shoulder to shoulder in prayer - heightened the welcome otherness of it all.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Heading For A Fall

One bright spot in an otherwise fairly bleak day: I got the results of the health screening I did a couple of weeks ago and the level of bad cholesterol has significantly reduced from what it was last year. It looks like cutting back on the voluminous quantities of teh tarik I imbibe has had the desired effect, and that's heartening considering how much I miss said amounts. If the level hadn't come down I'd have implemented some drastic changes in terms of what's on the old diet sheet and I wasn't really looking forward to that. As it is I can continue to enjoy the odd cuppa and reasonable helpings of epok epok and the missus's baking in an almost guilt-free manner.

I'm also looking to find some way of taking a bit of exercise in addition to climbing the stairs at work more often than is strictly necessary. If only I had world enough and time, as a particularly bright geezer lamented in quite another context.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


There now seems to exist a whole sub- sub- sub- genre of television programme that deals with people whose houses have become complete, and generally disgusting, messes due to the astonishing amount of clutter they have generated in their time in them. The obvious laziness of these householders, evinced by their seeming inability to clear up after themselves, is a further characteristic of the genre.

It's strange, and telling, just how often people in this situation struggle to part with their clutter despite the fact it's clearly screwing up their lives. We find ourselves watching with a sort of baffled incredulity, the missus being quite a fan of the genre and myself nothing loath to enjoy the spectacle of others messing up - literally - on a grand scale. Having said that, I do enjoy seeing the positive effects of whatever 'makeover' (note my familiarity with the jargon) is effected to restore some sense of order and sanity.

The sense of watching a sort of metaphor for the ultimate ends of Capitalism also generates its share of fascination. Painfully out of control we lurch to our dooms, one cannot help but cheerfully think.

I've also got the oddest sense I've written about this before in this Place and just can't remember. The sign of a wonderfully, painfully cluttered brain.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Spell Is Broken

Now back from Prospero's enchanted island, having completed the voyage yesterday morning. Of course, I'd been there before, so to some degree the sheer novelty of the trip had worn off - but a deeper sense of satisfaction emerged from the familiarity. I suppose we go to these places in search of some kind of transformation for ourselves, but as is the case with all the characters on the island, nothing really changes. Art enchants, but changes nothing.

This time round, though, I saw more of myself in the clowns than ever before, which was more a little disconcerting. And the sheer, rather unpleasant, bad temper of the mage was obvious in a way it had never been quite so much before. What he can't bend to his will is a source of immense irritation and there's not much that can be genuinely bent in that direction. Which, I suppose, is a sort of lesson for us, in a play that's full of lessons that don't quite teach us anything we didn't already know.

Now I'm off to Islamic Spain, and other tasty locations, with Amin Maalouf - quite a new journey for me, and the more welcome for that.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


The other day Noi was reacting to some clothes in a shop somewhere which had met with her approbation: Simple, she said, regarding the designs. The word spoke, and was intended to speak, volumes. It's become a kind of code between us, representing a quality we look for in just about every area of our lives.

Today I was stuck in marking (scripts from the May IB examination) whilst she attended a wedding in JB. She left behind, as provisions for yours truly for the day, a flask of tea and some chocolate chip muffins (I use the word in the American sense) that she cunningly drummed up last night. She's just started making the muffins based on a recipe she found in a nice, simple little book about cooking for two. By three-thirty this afternoon, marking completed, I entered a little, simple, heaven of tea and muffins.

None of this is of any importance, yet curiously seems to mean everything.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


The thing about irony is that when you go looking for it, you find it everywhere. Ironic, isn't it?

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Sort Of Greatness

The flags in school have been at half-mast this week to mark the death of one of modern Singapore's founding political fathers. It's been fascinating to witness the more than determined efforts to engender a sense of nationhood through the establishment of a sort of collective memory. Judging from the genuine sense of respect for the gentleman in question one senses from the students I think it's working.

Initially I was telling myself that this is something my childhood was largely free of, and then realised just how far off the mark that notion was. To cite but one example - I found myself thinking of the funeral of Churchill (Winston - he of the big cigars) which took place when I was nine or ten years old. What passed for the media in those days certainly went to town on that. Little as I was, I had a melancholic sense of the passing of greatness from the land.

It was roughly seven years later that Lou Whittaker sort of spoilt the effect by telling me of how he had come to hear the news. He was walking down the street when he found himself approached by an old buddy, an old-school radical of the type that Denton bred in those days. According to Lou. his pal told him the big news and drew this colourful moral: Well, Lou, when we finally get to hell and there's a war on, at least we'll know which bastard started it.

Funnily enough I've now reached an age when an understanding of Churchill's many faults if anything increases my respect for him. I rather think, for example, that he would have quite enjoyed Lou's story.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Unavoidable

A chap at work seems to have been avoiding me all day. I can't say I blame him though. I'd frequently like to avoid me myself, if possible.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In The Forest Of Arden

The first Arden edition of a Shakespeare play I ever picked up was that of Macbeth from Denton Library. I don't think I made it through the first witches scene. Almost two full pages of densely arcanely academic notes for about twelve lines of text (which, if played in a hurry, can take less than a minute of stage time.)

That's not the way to read Shakespeare, not when you're twelve. In fact, you shouldn't read Shakespeare at that age, except to act it.

So why have I been happily wading through Frank Kermode's introductory material to his Arden edition of The Tempest? Because it's wonderfully informative stuff once you know the play, seen the play, felt the play. But then it should be back to the play - don't get lost in the forest; don't mistake the wood for the trees.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Critical Factors

I don't know who Chang Tou Liang is but I can only have the highest of praise for his? her? (pardon my abysmal ignorance of gender in relation to Chinese names) reviews of classical music in The Straits Times. There was a lovely piece today on a chamber concert featuring material from Brahms that made me wish I'd been there to take it in - always the sign of a good review. Chang usually manages to say positive things, but in a precise and judicious manner that shows a genuine listening ear at work. And there's also a sense of the reader being actually informed by the reviews. You could learn a fair bit about the nature of Brahms's music itself from today's review.

And this was a review of a little concert, as it were, with nothing terribly prestigious or glamorous about it. One of the soloists had only just graduated from a local conservatory. I imagine it's extremely heartening to read supportive criticism of this sort when you're just starting out.

And that leads me, circuitously, to the main point of all this. Much as I distrust critics/reviewers, they are integral to the development of a culture. At the least they can nudge things in fruitful directions. It's a pity there aren't more here with the class of this one.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Seeking Sobriety

I suppose I consider myself a reasonably well-informed sort of chap. So it's extremely sobering to remind myself once in a while just how wide of the mark this perception is. Case in point: only last December as we were counting our euros in gay Paree I was telling the missus what good sense the currency made in terms of the stability it could afford to smaller nations who'd got on board. I think my pontifications sort of impressed the poor, misguided girl, and I'm hoping she doesn't remember too much of them now.

Mind you, I'm also aware that though I know so little, it happens to be more than most folk manage. Which is kind of funny and scary at the same time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Seeking New Worlds

Finished reading Frye's Anatomy of Literature earlier this week and Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher this morning. Both were rewarding in their different ways, so much so that I found myself protracting my reading of each beyond what was strictly necessary - though I finished the real life tale of the Road Hill murder in quite a rush today, carried away by the stories of William and Constance Kent in the years after the murder of their little brother. For what it's worth, Ms Summerscale's 'solution' seems to me wholly satisfactory in the necessary way of such solutions.

Just at this moment I wish I had a good murder on the shelves to move onto, inspired, I suppose, by the various telling points made about the classic detective story in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. But recent successes in the War on Capitalism have seen me walk out of various bookstores heroically empty-handed. Thus I find myself without an obvious candidate for a fictional world to escape into. It looks like I'll be turning to a bit of Shakespeare, I'm thinking of The Tempest which has lodged in my mind since seeing it last month. That should more than fill the gap for a day or so.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Sort Of Silence

With Noi popping over to Melaka this morning for most of the weekend I'd been hoping to spend a good deal of the day listening to soothing sounds from the stereo to make up for her not being around. It was not to be. Even though I'd mentally lined up a number of items - involving Elvis Costello, some Fripp soundscapes and Led Zeppelin & its various alumni - these took second place to the sombre necessity of reading and grading a pile of Theory of Knowledge essays.

For some reason I require silence these days for this kind of work. I seem to remember being able to watch television, listen to music and argue with anyone who happened to be around whilst writing essays as a younger man, but those days are long gone. I wonder just how coherent those essays were though.

So the music has largely gone by the board, though I'm intending an intense encounter with the Page/Plant No Quarter album a little bit later, just to salvage something from the wreckage of time.

Friday, May 14, 2010


For the first time in years I find myself interested in how the country of which I am a citizen is being, or about to be, governed. The fact that the coalition doing the governing looks about as unlikely a combination as you can get points to the odd possibility it just might work. I must say, I enjoy the idea of nobody quite being able to get their own way.

I reckon the press will turn nasty in about four months, and then we'll see what the guys at the helm are made of. I rather hope it'll turn out to be something solid, despite supporting neither of them. I must be mellowing in my old age.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Not Asking For More

A couple of weeks ago I was teaching Chekov's Three Sisters to a class and found myself rhapsodizing on the stunningly modern sense of futility, disappointment and general failure therein when I became aware that there two or three (at least) thoroughly disconcerted young people in the room. It seems that my fleeting observation that such futility is what lies in store for most of us was seen as strong stuff. I don't think it helped that I radiated cheerfulness at this bracing thought. In that moment it came home to me that a mode of thought to which I have been habituated since my early teens is really quite foreign to an awful lot of other people.

I think this is why failure and disappointment are so useful to us - as glimpses of real, indeed likely, experiences to come. I don't buy into the idea that they are necessarily character forming. It's really quite easy to deal with them in the generally harmless modes in which we encounter them in the comfortable worlds most of us inhabit. But the discomfort of dealing with them helps remind us of a bigger reality in which we are no longer the centre around which all else circles.

I suspect Gordon Brown is a better man for screwing-up as PM, and I rather think he already knows that. That little resignation speech was the best thing he's said in years and the rueful half-smile when he spoke of an awareness of human frailty was the only time I've ever seen him smile naturally. It made him almost human.

And the best disappointments are those when you know you've done your best, curiously enough. They are the ones that say, well this is the human condition - and there's no option of rejecting it. So just get on with it.

No one likes to see kids disappointed. I must admit, I felt a bit guilty in my Chekov lesson. Some of our rugby guys faced defeat this week, and my wonderful drama guys had to accept not getting what they understandably wanted and had worked hard for. But playing well and doing good work can be, should be, its own reward, if you let it. And if you don't let it, then all will turn out to be futile. Even if you win.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Asking For More

Just a quick word about Chicago, which we watched last Sunday at The Esplanade. I can't do justice to the excellence of the production in a few words so I'll just say that the quote about the production being near flawless from an Aussie review was no exaggeration. Everything worked - simple as that.

In fact I was surprised at what a wonderfully constructed show Chicago is. I really had no idea that it was going to be that good - just a vague awareness that the film-makers seemed to have been considered hard-pressed to match up to what worked in the theatre. Actually in the theatre the way the story plays out in a sort of metaphorical cabaret works on every level conceptually. There's only one thing the show lacks - and I don't mean this as a complaint, rather as requesting the almost impossible. The songs are very, very good, beautifully constructed, but they lack genius. Nothing in there is transcendent in the Sondheim/Richard Rogers sense. It's completely unfair to imply that the music should be that good, but it's a sign of the brilliance of everything else that I felt the lack (ever such a little) of that ultimate fulfilment.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Of Course He Forgave Her

It's embarrassing to admit it, but it's taken me since late February to read Trollope's Can You Forgive Her? and that time included a week's holiday when I really should have made more progress. The funny thing is that, despite various discontinuities, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, which is of almost uniformly excellent quality. In fact, I found it genuinely difficult to put down for the last three hundred pages or so - regardless of the fact that I was sure of the direction of almost every narrative strand involved. The only exception was my uncertainty as to what Trollope would do with Kate Vavasor, and in the end he pretty much does nothing.

Over the final stretch of the novel it seemed to me that Trollope starts to come alive to the possibilities of a serious exploration of the world of politics. Prior to that the idea of being an MP simply seems to function as a backdrop for the rather splendid ruin of George Vavasor. He's certainly a gent who would have been up to his neck in it in the recent expenses scandal, and for a good three-quarters of the story Trollope seems to deal with our political leaders at that level, cynically distancing himself from their doings. But then as Plantagenet Palliser begins to assume real depth - with his forgiveness of Glencora - masterfully done - suddenly the Parliamentary world takes on a new light, and there's an extraordinarily powerful conversation between Palliser and John Grey that seems to go to the centre of Trollope's concerns regarding the necessity of a public life.

Here's one peculiarly resonant line: 'I don't see why a man should not live honestly and be a Member of Parliament as well,' continued Mr. Palliser, when he had been silent for a few minutes. That hesitant, pregnant, shared silence says a great deal about Trollope (and his creations, Palliser and Grey) as men of the world who've been around more than a little, but who somehow contrive to keep some kind of faith.

I'm hoping that the guys who are currently negotiating for power in the UK have something of the decency and perspicacity of their (fictional) forerunners.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Artistic Developments

Spent an afternoon feeling sort of arty down at The Esplanade. Basically we were there to enjoy the excellent musical Chicago, and enjoy we certainly did. But after that we found ourselves in the Jendela visual art space and, by a stroke of good fortune, got chatting with one Tan Chwee Seng, who was the artist-wallah whose works were on display.

He'd called the set-up wasteland which of course put me in mind of Old Possum and the bleakness of modernity, fisher kings and such like. But it seems Mr Tan had nary a thought of all that. His wasteland seemed to be a meditative space within, where the empty land was simply waiting for transformation. This all sounds terribly philosophical, but generally our confab was practical, down-to-earth stuff. For example, he explained it took around three hours to put the orderly dots (a motif appearing on quite a few prints) on the freedom of the earth/waste below. And the problem with the freedom was you didn't know when it was finished.

Come to think of it, I've never had a conversation with any kind of artist that didn't get down very quickly to the nitty-gritty of things.

Oh, and the stuff on display was really appealing. The textures emerging from some of the monochromatic prints were gorgeous. But, sadly, the exhibition finished today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Wow Factor

After coming back from a trip down town, in the course of which I happily bought no books or CDs or anything, we elected to put on the first episode of Planet Earth. Noi had not had a chance to sit down and watch yet, so we put that right.

Her comments for the first twenty minutes: Wow... Wow... Wow... Run, run, run, oh... Beautiful, wahh. All of which were devastatingly appropriate.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Triumph Of Democracy

Listened to some sullen Labour-johnnie on the radio on the way back from work grimly attempting to burst the celebratory balloons of the other main parties by pointing out that no one had done as well as they thought they might. Enjoyed his pettiness enormously. It gives one a sense of warmth and general well-being to think that pretty much all the politicos are going to be kicking themselves as well as each other in days to come.

I love a mess and this election seems to have delivered big-time. So we can look forward to some necessary compromise, lots of fudging and none of the strident leadership that the folks who own the media love and does nobody any good at all.

This will be almost as instructive as watching City shoot themselves in the foot - yet again (they've got big feet) - by getting rid of Mancini.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Election Fever

Unusually for me I was in England at the time of the last General Election, when Blair got in, in what seemed an inevitable fashion. Much has changed since then. The Tories are finally deemed electable - I'm not too sure why, but I think it's something to do with hiding their differences for the moment and some good PR. But then, that's what got New Labour in originally. And for those of us who remember the seventies we're back to coalition politics and a screwed economy.

I've not actually voted in any election since I've been in Singapore. If I did vote it would be for Labour and since the constituency my vote would be counted in is rock, rock solid Labour there has never seemed much point. And that, I suppose, explains the mystery of why I would vote Labour, even today, if I did vote. It's a sort of inheritance. It's akin to supporting the better team from Manchester. It's something visceral, in the blood. Voting Conservative would be a physical impossibility and whilst I could contemplate a vote for whatever brand of Liberals/SDP sit in the middle it would be without any great enthusiasm.

In fact, voting for any would-be politico would involve no enthusiasm as I don't trust any of them. I accept they're probably necessary, but it's fairly obvious they have more in common with each other than they do with any of us.

I suppose the honourable tradition of radical dissent has appeal. But that died with the advent of PR men - as so much that was culturally vital did.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On Board

Spent a small but fruitful part of the day considering the mediaeval trope of the ship of fools, inspired by a question from Bernard. This involved discovering a image from Bosch I don't think I've seen before and an Auden poem, a late one I think, that I'd not read until today. Ironically I think I'd considered to be well-versed in both these great artists. Not well enough, obviously.

I did manage to half remember that Foucault has got a lot to say on the matter of said ship in Madness and Civilisation, which is sitting invitingly on the shelf behind me and which I really must encounter once more. Fair forward, voyagers!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Paying Off

There are two great rewards of an involvement in drama. The first is the joy of getting the work to work. The second is the joy of working with the people who get it to work. I experienced both today. Lucky man.

Curiously, I didn't feel too well first thing this morning and I don't feel so good now. Rasping throat, headache, aching limbs. But all was well when it needed to be.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Living Art

Got back from rehearsal early enough to treat myself to the first episode of Planet Earth, the first of the two sets of Attenborough DVDs the missus cunningly provided for me as my birthday present. I'm probably the only fan of nature documentaries in the world who's not seen the series already, so I'll spare readers a review. Except to say that if you wrote 'stunning', 'jaw-dropping' and 'stunningly jaw-dropping' in various combinations for a few paragraphs you'd probably get somewhere close to approximating the viewing experience.

But a sort of novel thought did come to me as I picked up my jaw from the floor and wiped a tear or two away. (The lost elephant, separated from the herd as a result of the dust storm in the Kalahari, tracing its mother's tracks in the wrong direction still haunts.) The thought was this: given the stunning jaw-dropping images, stunningly edited, with jaw-dropping music and commentary - well not really, just perfectly blended - then clearly what we are dealing with here is not Nature but Art. So why isn't it in the galleries and art festivals?

Do our categories regarding what is and isn't Art matter when faced with this kind of perfection? The temptation to just keep slinging it on and watching over and over again is almost overwhelming. But since there're a lot more episodes to go and delights in store I'll resist. For now.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Not Quite Routine

Dug deep to find the self-discipline necessary to keep chipping away at the marking and other work-related goodies whilst stepping a little bit out of the routine here in Melaka. Will be heading south in an hour or so to resume life as usual, a little lighter for a haircut from the missus, and a little heavier with the morning's epok epok and prata on board.

Made some progress with Can You Forgive Her? now moving into the final quarter with George Vavasor now emerging as the cad one always suspected he might turn out to be. But I seem to have temporarily abandoned Anatomy of Literature for the delights of Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, an unexpected but extremely welcome birthday gift from Karen, who has a very shrewd idea not simply of what appeals to me but of what I find irresistible.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Now temporarily, unexpectedly, in Melaka. Family illness brought us up in the afternoon but, happily, things don't look too bad.

Replete with cream crackers, thick mee sup and several sticks of satay. Plus lashings of hot sweet tea. I have a medical coming in early May and I've got a feeling that my cholesterol levels might make for sad reading, partly as a result of jaunts like this.