Thursday, September 23, 2010

Big Moon Mid-Autumn

Was walking home late tonight and the moon was so big and bright. It shone gloriously in a milky glow with a big star by its side in the dark blue-ish autumn sky.

Sense of deja vu of a big celestial shining sphere once seen on the dark forest edge in Sweden; was walking home too from Mariehem to Alidhem - it was dark and the little roads were lonely and sparse. Little kindergarten-looking houses with candlelight were very quiet in the night.

Another memory was the big moon nestled in the dark silver lined clouds , this time a much younger teenaged me outside the Fraser's Hill bungalow - listened a lot to 'A Whole New World' from Aladdin and felt like I was in suspended 'animation' with my whole life ahead of me.

The mysterious power of the moon - makes one strangely happy especially when you're admiring it quietly.

Happy Mooncake and Mid-Autumn Festival to everyone !

Favourite 'Moon' Songs
Debussy - Clair de lune
Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata
Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini - Moon River
Rodgers and Hart - Blue Moon
Teresa Teng's "The Moon Represents My Heart"
King Harvest - Dancing in the Moonlight

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Stop All the Clocks" - W.H.Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

ps. After more than 17 years , I revisit Four Weddings and a Funeral - watching it in secondary school I'd never thought I'd be living it now.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Day the Underground Stood Still


The Tube Screamer is an overdrive pedal. The most popular use of a tube screamer is to push a tube amp to make it overdrive more. The pedal has a characteristic mid-boosted tone popular with blues players

Stepping out of the station, suddenly a melange of bodies met me standing in great crowds outside Paddington station; I wondered if an accident had happened but walking further on, realised these people were waiting for their buses. "What a waste of time," I thought. Meanwhile the rest were in movement, preferring not to wait out their time on the sidewalks for what's left of the remnants of the public transport of London, and instead took charge of the commutes in their own hands. They came out in cycles, walked, biked, ran - hence the multitude of people on the streets, in their smart business suits, brief-cases and white adidas trainers; and the sudden burst of cyclists out on the streets with their helmets, sporty riding gear and neon Hump rucksacks.

Where there was not a soul, dark and empty, the park silent with the deepening of the trees and bushes as twilight falls; now there was a merry atmosphere of movement, laughter and talk, as people moved along the greens, walking -almost ambling- to their destinations on their merry way. The autumn evening was cool and the skies were clear - this was a very different Hyde Park today as of yesterday.

What a difference London was without the Tubes running - suddenly the population on the streets exploded not akin to disturbing an ants nest and having the ants spill out of the cracks in millions. Most Londonites are indignant but I'm sure most were thankful for the chance to stop and smell the roses and walk in the sunshine instead of rushing off in the stale air of the underground. I knew I was.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Airport Homeless

Read an article recently in the Evening Standard:

"The Dispossessed: How this woman was saved from a life of sleeping rough with Heathrow’s homeless"

Which reminded me of an evening a few months ago when I did just that.I was working in Gatwick airport and had gone on a short trip to France and at the end of the trip arrived back to my 'work' destination. I'd arrived late and by the time I got out of the snaking midnight immigration queue, had already missed the last train. The funny thing was I didn't think of staying in a hotel (my student-save-money instinct kicked in) but decided to wait it out so that I could just get into the office in the morning. After all, it was only for 6 hours and I could go straight to work which was in the Longbridge House building in the North Terminal.

Gatwick was one of those airports which didn't shut down - no flights operated- but there were plenty of people waiting it out by sleeping. Some slept on the uncomfortable wooden benches, claiming the entire row like a settee....some curled along the walls, under escalators. The smarter ones went upstairs and slept on the Costa Coffee sofas. What I I had no idea was that some of them were genuine homeless people who'd found a 'safer' place to sleep than the streets.

It was the most uncomfortable night I've encountered - was upright most of the time (which was terribly bad for the back) and couldn't sleep which produced a buzzing lightheadedness compounding into a headache. My only consolation was that it would only last a few more hours. Passed the time checking mail on the internet terminal kiosk (which had a crappy screen) and looking for a better place to sit. By the time sunrise came at 4am, I had a genuine urge to flush my head in the toilet - the dazed, headachy feeling was that bad.My colleagues couldn't believe nor understand why I didn't want to check into the Yotel at least...Right now I don't understand it either.

After that one night in the airport, I have genuine sympathy for these people. I think I was meant to read this article and understand the overall terrible sufferings of being homeless. (which sleeping in the airport is only just a small part of it) If 6 hours was that bad, I couldn't imagine a few weeks, a few months of not being able to sleep in peace. I count my blessings for having a proper bed to lie in everyday.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Summer songs

For some reason this Swedish kinderlieder is playing in my head. It couldn've been triggered by the visit to IKEA with Jas last weekend in Huddersfield which brought back fond memories of life in Umea, or it could've been seeing the word 'Sommer' on Facebook. It was funny to see the Princess Tarts, Marzipan rolls and Swedish Meatballs sitting in the IKEA cafe display just like how Princess Tarts, Marzipan rolls and Swedish Meatballs would in Samhallsvetarhuset cafe, except this was a memory 30 months ago and a few thousand miles away.

My local 'mentor', Lorentz Edberg, gave me some music song sheets as I told him it would be nice to learn some Swedish songs. This was on the front page -which also happens to be the 'unofficial' closing song Swedish school children sing before the summer holidays.

I like the lyrics as it shows the happiness of summer through a child's eyes - sun, flowers, bees, birds, trees and freckles.

The child in the song wisely reminds us ; 'The summer is ours" - and so we should enjoy it.


Och nu så vill jag sjunga
Att sommaren är skön
Och träden är så fina
Och marken är så grön
Och blommorna är vackra
Och höet luktar gott
Och solen är så solig
Och vattnet är så vått
Och lilla fågeln flyger
I boet ut och in.
Och därför vill jag sjunga
Att sommaren är min.

Och jag vill också sjunga
Att fjärilar är bra
Och alla söta myggor
Dom vill jag också ha
Och jag är brun om bena
Precis som det ska va
Och därför vill jag sjunga
Att bruna ben är bra

Och jag har nya fräknar
Och prickigt sommarskinn
Och därför vill jag sjunga
Att sommaren är min.

Summer Song
And now I want to sing
The summer is beautiful
And the trees are so fine
And the land is so green
And the flowers are beautiful
And hay smells good
And the sun is so sunny
And the water is so wet
And the little bird fly
In the nest and out.
And so I sing
The summer is mine.

And I also want to sing
The butterflies are good
And all the sweet mosquitoes

Dom, I would also have
And I'm brown on the bone
Just as it should huh
And so I sing
To brown the bones are good

And I have new freckles
And dots summer skin
And so I sing
The summer is mine.

Written by the ingenious Astrid Lindgren, creator of the beloved Pippi Longstocking.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Free Words for the Morning

He stands there calling 'Good morning' to everybody entering the station but most would ignore his greetings, the morning fixture at the door of the tube, with his cap and hi-viz jacket (neon yellow on Tuesdays and orange on Wednesdays). In the midst of all that rejection, I would be one of the few who would acknowledge him where most would walk past him without a glance and after a few mornings, he's come to recognise me.

Sure enough as I approach, the boy turns, sees me and smiles. I will be there at 7.15am like a sure-shot, Tuesday to Thursday, taking that newspaper off his hand like a peace-offering, my apology for the rudeness of the capital. He's my salvation for the dreary trek to work by tube and train, and little does he know, I look forward to seeing him and his newspaper and would actually be pretty disappointed if he didn't show up.

Each capital has a free publication of some sort but there's no doubt on the quality of London's free print which could equal if not better the paid-for publications. There's some pretty good material in them from health to beauty, sports, fitness, travel and business. The ones that I mostly pick up are the widely distributed Evening Standard, a weekly evening paper published by Daily Mail and General Trust recently made complimentary last year.

On Monday to Friday mornings there's the 'tabloidy' Metro published by Associated Newspapers Ltd. I'd pick this up only if I can't get anything else to read.

Limited area distribution financial newpaper 'City AM' (owned by CityAM Ltd) is published Monday to Fridays however I only get this if I go through London Bridge station in the morning.

On Tuesdays, Shortlist Media prints The Stylist, a female magazine targetted for women aged 20-40 and on Wednesdays, 'Shortlist' the men's equivalent. I look forward to the witty Danny Wallace's article which never fails to cracks me up.

On Thursdays, TalkSport(UTV Media) publishes the Sport magazine.
Since I've started travelling to work by train, I'd bring a book in my bag to ease the boredom otherwise it's hi-viz guy at the station to my rescue for my 15 minute reads.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Guest House

A colleague shared this with me today...she lost both her parents last year. A cheerful and strong girl, she found this and liked it very much. Funny how messages come in a time when its needed. Must remember to look out for the signs.

This human being is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house;
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

- Jelaluddin Rumi (translation from Coleman Barks)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Basting Hot July- Priscilla, Pimms, Pools and Play-offs


Sunday, 11th July 2010

Time Now :Publishing this

1940: and kick-offs for the World Cup is about to begin. I'm not much of a football fan but here's my best wishes to the two nations who've never raised but fought their way through to play the match of the year.

1300: Lunch and Movie 'Father's Day' with A & B

0930: Thanks to my GBF again for going to Tooting Bec with me. I've always wanted to go there but its more fun to go with some one.

Saturday, 10th July 2010
2200: Reach home

1800: Cranium again -the winners won the last round with the blue card 'Creative Cat'.

1730: The Pimmska comes's never too early to drink:P

1430: Reach Kals - it's serious face-stuffing about to begin. It's boiling hot and the bbq is flaming

0700 Tower Bridge to Greenwich run - L's always rewarding us with OJs and Lattes. Good stuff

Friday, 9th July 2010

And so this weekend started with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert with L,V,Jo and Ji - thanks guys for coming out tonight. Such lovely costumes - am starting to fantasize wearing some glitter/feathers/big hair. I've found SUCH a theme song from MacArthur's Park - it has cake baking in it!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Racing for 'Everyone'

They moved like ants all over the brown hill - pink ants. As I approached, the pink ants transformed into ladies - ladies of all shapes and sizes - small, big, thin, not-so-thin, in all the shades of pink you can imagine. Slowly but surely they run, walked or jogged in undulating lines traversing the brown hills of Blackheath Common.

This was the 'Race for life' run by the Cancer Research Association of the UK. Every year since 2003, 50k men and women who've run the Race for Life have helped raise 5 million GBP in aid of cancer research.

Rita and I wanted to do a run together so we signed up for this one - a ladies only run - and ladies coming out to run is a whole different experience together.

It's non-competitive - every lady comes out to run for a reason. Each one has a little pink square piece of paper pinned on their backs stating 'I race for life for....' - filling in the blank space.

Some had pictures of their beloved friends/family printed on them -
'...Grandma and Grandpa';
some stating '..for a cure for cancer'
'..Papa and all the Papas in the world'
' mom'

As you run, one can't help but think that everyone of these ladies have been touched by cancer in some way - whether through their families, friends, partners, themselves. How far-reaching are the effects of cancer - everyone knows someone who's had cancer.

And I thought of my own mom who survived it....and K's mom, Aunty Nora and all those who didn't.

What better way to help by this beautiful action of running (and raising money while running).

And so we run the race of life for...(the best one yet stated )'...Everyone'

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Play Me I'm Yours

"What's the plan for the weekend then?" asks V, "You sure banyak activity wan"

I don't really plan my weekends nowadays till the 11th hour but it still gets filled up. These past few weeks were confined within London : parks, bbq's, gardening and a few random musical/theatre performances. I'm not one to run away for the weekend to a neighbouring country and London has plenty to offer which suits my austerity drive anyway.

Its liberating to finally walk out of the house without a jacket on - I could even wear sunnies:) Love the long days of summer too - sunrise at 4.30am, sunset at 9pm....lots of activities to cram within the day. Everyone seems happier in the summer - roses and lavendar bloom, a different variety of fruits appear on shelves.

I'd admit that summer weekends come fast and furious - another hot weekend forecasted this week end woo hoo!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Oat and Eggs

Ever tried microwaving oats and egg in the microwave? I'd highly suggest you not.

Have been stressed at work and planned to get into Heathrow at 6am the next morning so went to bed pretty early at 11pm. Skipped dinner and all since I just got back from frisbee at about 10pm. Must've have been more highly strung than I thought - woke up at midnight; hungry and worrying about Earned Value.

Breathing deeply and doing the 'Savasana' didn't help so I went to the kitchen to at least quieten my growling tummy. It was a debate between instant noodles or oats - didn't want to feel terribly full thus the oats won - microwaved a cup with an egg in it.

After a few minutes, took it out of the oven and stirred in some soya sauce. There was loud 'Pop!' and the whole thing exploded in my face.

It must have been an almighty blow-over as it was all over the floor, counter and ceiling. No matter that my shirt, face and hair had an instant oat-egg mask. Had to get on my hands and knees to scrub the floor and then climb the counters to clean the mess off the walls - at 1 am. If there's anyone feeling dumb and dumber at this time of night, it's me.

It's half one now and I'm still hungry.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Peckham Finishing School for Girls

I'll start with an analogy as I like them so much. London is like a lady decked-out in the latest togs; tight low-cut blouse and big branded handbag. From afar, she looks posh and loaded; come closer and you'll realise she's not a sweet-young-thing - closer to middle-age in fact but with all that bronzer on she's like a brassy potty beacon.

And so that's my first impression of London - no high-tea rooms, Royal Albert Hall Concerts and Burberry bag shopping - I came on a bus passing Croydon and saw a lot of coloured people.

Looking for accommodation in London is very educational in terms of Geography and Anthropology. Well-meaning advisors tell me -

East = Dodgy
West = Good
South = not good
North = better

So I found a place West - and realised I was practically in East Europe (other wise known as East Acton) Lots of Poles, Hungarians, Czechs etc. And so upon looking at the demographics, it roughly goes like this so I'm told:

North East - Vietnamese, African, Carribean
Central West- Middle Eastern, Indian
South East - African, Carribean
No English people live in London.

The commute to work was long and I didn't really like the Tube so against all the noise, I moved South East i.e. dodgy.

Telling my colleagues and friends where I live is a fun experience. My jingle goes like this,

Acquaintance: So where do you live?

Me: Oh, I live in the ghetto

Acquaintance: Really? Where's that?

Best answer - I live near London Bridge
2nd best answer - I live near Bermondsey
2nd least best answer - I live near Elephant and Castle
Worst answer(not recommended) - I live on the Old Kent Road

To be fair, I've lived where I live for more than a year now and I love it. I've never been stabbed nor shot-at. Though I've had to call the police a couple of times for being followed home and harrassed by a bunch of white kids. Otherwise, its not so bad.

So with great glee, I came across this BBC Programme entitled Peckham Finishing School for Girls: Four affluent girls from the countryside have their credit cards removed and given 6.50GBP a week to live on in not-so-posh Peckham - cluelessness will guarantee amusement.

I live 20 mins walk from Peckham which I do when I can btw - it's a nice stroll in a former canal through a park. Main reason: Peckham has a great library which opens Mon - Sunday.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Of Uniformity

Was off on the bus this morning a little later than usual as I had to run a few errands at the post-office before work. It always amazes me how a difference of a few minutes can quickly transform the density of the buses from 'lightly-squashed' to 'sardine-packed'. It was then that I realised that the additional unit of bodies were contributed by the school-going population of the city strata. I'm pleasantly surprised that the English schools still implemented the school uniform: boys in gray/black shorts and trousers, cardigans, long-sleeved shirt and tie; girls in blazer/cardigan, shirt, plaid skirts and long socks. (see M&S sales poster for uniforms)which brings forth my childhood images of Enid Blyton's schoolchildren i.e. The Naughtiest Girl in School, Malory Towers and St Clare's.

It would seem that the school uniform is still viewed as a positive method in instilling school ethos, discipline and pride in young people as encouraged by the Department of Children, Schools and Families (a UK Government agency responsible for issues regarding children up to the age of 19 until 2010). Although not all schools do it, there is encouraged implementation of uniforms for school children in England and Wales.

In Europe for example Germany, the traditional school uniform is never proposed in earnest but 'school clothing' such as t-shirts collections and set-clothing in a contemporary sense is often used.

And thus, the uniform is dying out as a perceived method of discipline - only implemented now in countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Malaysia.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sweet William - 22 months

I brought my Sweet William over when I moved to Rolls Road in October 2008. It was still in the little pot which it was seeded in for a few months, the poor thing. It grew quite a lot as it was straining out of its perch so I hijacked one of the hanging pots outside my door (which had nothing it in - guess the previous inhabitant died) in hope that it would have a little place to grow.

It's been developing into this green mess. This is how it looks like outside my door -

And that's how it looks like every day, every evening and every morning, day-in, day-out. It blends into the background and every day life (sometimes I forget to water it). Occasionally when I come home from work I wondered if it was ever going to flower. It never did.

My surmise was that

a. it was still too young
b. the soil was infertile
c. the seeds are a dud

or maybe a combination of two or more factors. I mean, I still water it (and I give it more water than the other two plants outside the door which probably belonged to the previous tenants of the place just because it's mine) and sometimes I don't until I see it turning a little yellow and thirsty and then I hurry to the tap to get a little H2O and dump some water in the pot. I've even started seeding another little pot of Sweet William but that one died at my window sill because I forgot to water it.

So it sits there every day, every evening and every morning, day-in and day-out.
Until yesterday I noticed that it's been growing flowers (the sneaky little thing)!

I mean it's nothing like the picture on the packet which looks like this

but I'm happy for the flowers that it's yielding. I'm quite proud of my little Sweet William (Well done boy!). Despite them being tiny flowers I'm feeling pretty grateful. It's funny how life gives you a nice surprise when you least expect it to.

Now I have been harboring feelings for a certain person for about the same amount of time but that hasn't yielded any thing. Maybe

a. the relationship is premature
b. the conditions are not right
c. the seed is a dud

Should I take a lesson from Sweet William? But plants are not people and people are not plants. Maybe I should just grow plants instead - heck at least after 22 months, the plant yielded some flowers. Yeah, I'm picturing a little old spinster lady with her plants, baking cakes and scones and listening to sad Carpenter's songs like this one:

I'm doing all three pretty well now (heavens and horrors )... at this rate who knows what I'm capable of when I reach that age.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays - The Carpenters

Have been listening a lot to the Carpenters lately. I daresay Karen Carpenter's signature voice stands unrivaled to this day - bell-like, subtle but powerful. Such an unfortunate loss of a great singer but the duo's music still lives on after all these years.

Have chosen this song in conjunction with the rainy days in London befelling us.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Of Malaysia

"Malaysian politics" is like a big old building - it sits there too big to move, an eyesore, UGLY, painful but with very very deep foundations. You destroy the foundations and you destroy the building - for good but could possibly adversely affect the surrounding environment.

You could say I fit the stereotypical Chinese person who's apolitical and apathetic - I have very little knowledge on the going-ons on who's who and what's what, rarely read newspapers, watch TV or surf the internet on these issues. I have a scattering knowledge of cow's heads, castles in Klang, DVD sex-tapes and a Mongolian model being murdered.

Recent discussions and contact with some fellow Malaysians who are in the UK have emphasised 'Malaysian political' issues which intrigue me now than when I was in the country. Not sure why but maybe when we were back home, things were 'as it is', it was still possible to live without looking critically at the issues and how it was bleeding the nation.

It does take some time to come to a realisation that some of the things that are going on at home ARE disgusting, obscene and outrightly 'wrong'. Now how did that happen all of a sudden?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Anyeong Ha Se Yo

Read this article on the BBC news on life in North Korea. I wonder if it's really possible to mass-brainwash millions into happiness

Which reminded me of a conversation I had over drinks with my well-read colleague and she so happened to be reading a book on North Korea which jogged my memory on the one I read by Hyejin Kim entitled 'Jia'.

'Jia' is a part fiction-part autobiography of a little girl brought up as a dancer for the military regime in North Korea - her life, love and finally escape from North Korea into China. There are very few North Korean novels ( or any at all as this one claims to be the first to be published in the West) and I was very pleased to pick this one up while browsing the Peckham library. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Magnificent Obsession of Fred Lebow

Here's a striking story from a book called 'The London Marathon: The History of the Greatest Race on Earth' by John Bryan of Fred Lebow, one of the founders of the New York Marathon.

Fred Lebow was a fascinating and an energetic man, but when you met him you could be left in no doubt about his obsessive nature. He told me that at various points in his life he trained himself off regular meals and, in one particularly bizarre experiment, deliberately went without sex for a year to see what effect it would have on his body, his mind and his running.

He also set himself the target of competing in a marathon every month and confessed that a number of his relationships with girlfriends had hit the wall because of his running. Lebow became fixated with counting the number of miles he ran and logging them in a running diary. 'When I was living with one girlfriend,' he said, 'I set myself a goal to run 2,500 miles for the year. It was my New Year's resolution and maybe I was a bit obsessive about it.'

Towards the end of the year Lebow knew that he was getting close. On New Year's Eve he spent the day flying back from the West Coast where he'd been on business and on the plane he checked his running diary, adding up his mileage and concluding that he was 19 miles short of his total for the year.

'My girlfriend and I were off to a dinner party in Central Park West,' said Lebow, 'and when I got to her apartment around seven o'clock she had my suit and tie and shoes and all ready and she was trying on her evening gown ready for the party. But as soon as I got in I told her that I had just checked my diary amd I was still 19 miles short for the year. "I'll have to go and run," I said.'

Two hours or so later, after pounding his way around Central Park in the cold and rain and adding an extra mile just to be on the safe side, Lebow returned to find his girlfriend in tears. He got dressed and ready, fast. They made the party around 10 - too late for dinner but in time for the dancing and New Year resolutions. 'Way after midnight we both danced with other guests,' said Fred. 'Then later when I looked for her, I couldn't find her. Somebody said she went home.'

Unable to get a taxi at 2 a.m. in New York on New Year's Eve in the pouring rain, Lebow ran the couple of miles back to the apartment. When he got there, soaked and frozen, he found a suitcase in the hall outside her door, a bag with his running kit in it and an envelope.

'There was a long note kind of summing up our relationship, saying that she was kicking me out,' said Fred. His girlfriend had also added a PS. She had found his running diary, gone through it and added up his mileage. Fred had got that wrong too. It turned out that he had already run 2,531 miles for the year - over 30 miles more than his target. He didn't need to run at all that night.

Six months later the girl was married - but not to Fred Lebow

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hurt - Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

The legendary country musician Johnny Cash fought a lifetime of drug addiction before returning to Christianity. I didn't realise how popular he was in Sweden until I saw 'Hurt' being played almost every instance at the student cafeteria (Skogis) in Umea University. It's one of those dark songs which border the fine line of 'depressing' or 'deeply personal' depending on when you listen to it. Recommended if you know the story of Johhny Cash or have watched 'Walk The Line'

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tooting Horns

Oh well, although monetarily the promotion doesn't work out to much, nevertheless its heartening to be recognized for a job well done (although I suspect my line-manager really wanted me to have an iPhone since I whined about having one all the time and this is his way of shutting me up) For those who are curious to know what I do now, I came in as a lowly graduate in a British firm starting from scratch.

Not one to blow my trumpet, I'll let my ex-line managers and client do it for me here. Below is a compilation of testimonials which was submitted last year for the Women in Construction Starter Award (which I didn't win but unabashedly felt proud for)

My first line manager at the Shard, P.R.'s, testimonial
"Fiona has done an excellent job as Project Controls Assistant at the Shard where she has designed, implemented and taken responsibility for the timely issue of various dashboard reports, formal monthly Steering Group reports and other necessary reports. Through her approach and ability to work with others, she ensures that the reports are issued on time with consistent and quality data. She has been openly praised by both the T&T Project Director and the client for the quality of the Steering Group Report.

From a learning perspective, she has played a role in developing the project programme, and has learning on the job to use the software and understanding the construction process.

From an overall perspective she has very quickly become an integral member of the team, respected and relied upon by both T&T team members and the client"

My first client at the Shard, Mr B Ainsworth's testimonial (who so happens to be the man who constructed the Millenium Dome - now called The O2 ):

"I have rarely seen someone grip a task, shape it, own it and deliver a result that would shame many of those who have been in our industry for many years.

Fiona joined our team in July and since that time the quality, content and timeliness of the teams reports and dashboards have improved dramatically. She has understood the criticality of reporting /information on a major project and has demonstrated the patience and commitment required to gather the information from a large number of sources ensuring the output appears when promised. All this achieved with the disregard to how at times it eats into her own personal time.

In additional to this ‘day job’ Fiona took the task of collating, setting out and producing an information booklet/ quick guide to the project. The quality of this has led to our marketing department adopting the same, and its overall popularity means it is heading for its third production run. Fiona also has taken on a further task of creation and management of substantial sections of our developer’s programme, a not inconsiderable task when you consider this is a £ ¾ billion inner city high rise project sitting within one of the busiest stations in London.

I find Fiona always ready to assist and somebody I can always rely on for quality, understanding and speed of output and I look forward to seeing her develop inside of my team, to her benefit as well as that of the industry"

And finally from my current line manager A.T. at Gatwick Airport (whom I thanked upon promoting me)

"You are most welcome Fiona. You thoroughly deserve it. Keep up the good work (now you can buy an iPhone)"

Just when I thought it was too tough to handle, things do come around. I have my colleagues and team to thank who've all made this journey worthwhile.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Promise - Tracy Chapman

I'm embedding this because it's the 4th time someone's told me about this rather beautiful song. It's not in my list of Tracy Chapman songs but since serendipity called, I cannot ignore her.

Little India Hot Spots in London

Had some great South Indian food last weekend with Thina and Taps in East Ham. We went to Saravanna Bhavan (the same branch as the one in KL) and was mighty chuffed to see 'Gobi 65' (deep fried spiced cauliflower) on the menu. It's my favourite item on the menu in the branch back in Bangsar, KL. Yin Li and I would go to the Saravanna Bhavan on Jalan Maarof after Ashtanga Yoga on Sundays and put back what we've burnt with yummy Indian.

The last time I had south indian was in Wembley. There were lots of shops there but the one we ate was Shiv-recommended Sanghamam (vegetarian). Very nice chilli paneer.

I also understand that Tooting would also be another good place for South Indian food.

Otherwise, rows of vegetarian restaurants can also be found on Drummond street near Euston station. Priti recommends Ravi Shankar, a vegetarian restaurant(mostly North-fare). There are a couple of Indian grocery stores there as well.

The other well-known restaurant would be Pakistani 'Tayyabs' in Whitechapel. Really crowded in the evenings especially on weekends and you'd have to bring ur own corkage as they don't serve alcohol.

Brick lane has tons of Pakistani and north Indian along the road but not sure how authentic they are as they seem pushy and 'touristy'

Went to Southall today as its on the way from Heathrow to Paddington. Lots of clothes shops and North Indian restaurants here. Blew my grocery budget off with spices in the big 'Quality' store - the biggest Indian grocery (aptly a'super-store')which sells everything you need to make for paneer, ghulab jamuns, kerala, bendi, chutney and whatever you name it. I wanted to get a crate of mangoes but it would be ridiculous carrying it all the way to Central London, on the way to dinner.

Being Malaysian, I recognize the symptom of obsessive-food exploration. Will sometimes find it hard to explain to non-Malaysians about this tick. Nevertheless I'm proud that we are so varied that appreciation of the spices and styles of cooking is in-built within us. Love live all the Malaysian bellies.

More English 'English'

More on English 'English'

Both buttocks = A complete arse

Raspberry = cripple (Ripple)

China = Mate (Plate)

Trouble = wife (and strife)

Taking the piss = Make fun of

Snake and Pygmy Pie = Steak and Kidney Pie

Saturday, May 08, 2010

2 vs 4, Us = Me = Ridiculosity

2 vs 4

Had another game of ultimate last friday and it was just 6 of us on the field this time (2 pulled out at the last minute) 8 is a passable number but 6 is pushing it for a game and push we did. Anyway since it was Ian (aka frisbee king)we had to split it into 2 and 4. It was a pretty relaxed game, too relaxed as we found ourselves losing anyway (either the 2 were really that good, or 4 of us were really lousy or a combination of both). The windy conditions didn't make it any easier either and we called it a day to go for a nice dinner at Hare and Tortoise (where I dumped some banana skin at the door in protest of the long queue and Ali tries to chat up the waitress - although I don't think asking for something more expensive than what's in the menu would do)

Us = Me = Ridiculosity

You know things are getting ridiculous when people don't express their expectations and when you don't fulfill them, you've 'failed' somewhat.

And then you find yourself apologizing for something which is not entirely your fault.

You also realise that you were always alone in it from the start and begin to wonder how big have you built this castle in the sky.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

She's Always a Woman - Billy Joel

To all my girls out there....

She can kill with a smile
She can wound with her eyes
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child,
But she's always a woman to me

She can lead you to love
She can take you or leave you
She can ask for the truth
But she'll never believe you
And she'll take what you give her, as long as it's free
Yeah, she steals like a thief
But she's always a woman to me

Oh--she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants
She's ahead of her time
Oh--and she never gives out
And she never gives in
She just changes her mind

And she'll promise you more
Than the Garden of Eden
Then she'll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you're bleedin'
But she'll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she's always a woman to me


Oh--she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants
She's ahead of her time
Oh--and she never gives out
And she never gives in
She just changes her mind

She is frequently kind
And she's suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases
She's nobody's fool
And she can't be convicted
She's earned her degree
And the most she will do
Is throw shadows at you
But she's always a woman to me

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Everly Brothers - Dream / Cathy's Clown

Vini came over and we sang to retro- hits (Are you Lonesome Tonight - Elvis, Jambalaya, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, Close To You - Carpentars etc.) which brought back memories of childhood when dad would put on his tapes in the yellow Ford station wagon while he and mom sat in front, me and sis would be at the back. He played all these 'then' hits, probably re-living his hey-days as a rocker, bowling champ, body-builder dude (he still keeps his Elvis bob till today) - me and sis were subjected to the 'oldies-but-goldies' the whole way through the car journey (sometimes repeatedly).

I grew to love these songs and had my particular favourites e.g. The Carpentars "Yesterday Once More", Cliff Richard's "Living Doll", "Evergreen Tree", Everly Brothers'"Cathy's Clown","Dream",(almost all in the record actually', Elvis "Devil in Disguise","Suspicious Minds" to name a few. When mom or dad parked the car and left me in it to run errands I'd reach over and 'touched' (which I wasn't supposed to) the tape player to fwd/rewind to my fave bits

Here's my favourite oldy-but-goldy band, the Everly Brothers singing my all time favourite "Dream" and "Cathy's Clown"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This Week in April

Well it's another month gone - salary's in.

I've been to 5 person's houses this month alone. Had 1 potluck in one, a big roast in another. Since last week have met quite a few new people (in life and in work)

Been sleeping late and neglecting exercise recently so that's the "not-good" bit. Get really cranky then.

Started playing ultimate which is the 'good' bit.

Worked in 2 airports - it's a time of change at work and am going to be moving from one to the other. Commute is really expensive and time-consumning but I look forward to the new development.

April was also the month of the London Marathon - quite exciting.

Celebrated Easter by playing for the church

Went on a mystery date

Finally went to Brighton with the girls and we had a lovely time.

Had some really good news from friends about
a. moving house
b. getting hitched
c. baby moving into 2nd trimester
d. found a boyfriend
e. Going home for good
f. coming back to the UK from home
g. changing career
h. buying a car

The weather is getting really warm now and I can't stand wearing a coat in the train. Now moving into the mid of the 2nd quarter of 2010 - you know you're enjoying life when it moves so quickly.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

To all the Marathon Runners- Past, Present & Future

Tomorrow will be one of London's greatest days in the year, and probably one of the greatest in the sporting calendar- the Virgin London Marathon. If this is your first marathon, you'd been training for the past months now and have had your trial run around London.You probably have some sort of ailment i.e. sore knee, aching ankle or shints but what's more worrying is not the physical ailment but the risk of not finishing the race. For all you marathon runners, whether fledgling or veteran, the same feelings will be there: anxiousness, trepidation, excitement, anticipation. You've probably noticed that it has been a week now since they've put up signs on the road 'Road Closure for the London Marathon April 25 2010' Pubs are displaying free grub for marathoners - you start off on the Sunday morning on the DLR with the fact that the whole of London and the world will be cheering you on.

As a writer wrote "We're all involved in this somehow - we all know someone who's taken part - who's succumbed to, overcome, or been overtaken by, some guy dressed as a llama'

For all you london marathoners out there, past, future and present, whether running or not; the pain is temporary but the pride is forever.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

God gives

Got a really nice message from Lat today

" I miss my friends. When I see some other gang sitting around, caring, slapping each other, their mischievous smiles switching to loud laughters. Though stranger to me, they represent a part of my life I lost somewhere. I miss my friends. I like you, love you all and miss you all"

I miss you all too! (to the Kajai gang) and also to Angie and the girls.

Getting nostalgic now with a few friends leaving the UK in the coming months. Especially being single in a foreign land, your friends tend to become your family here. There's also the realization that people are likely to move in and out of our lives quite frequently with London being such a transient city. (Am also coming to terms with the fact that some friends are also leaving Malaysia and I'd probably not see them for a very long time)

On another note, I spoke to my mum last week about Aunty Nora. Somehow I thought about her (funnily enough, mum was thinking very much about her too) She and Uncle Ibrahim used to come over and play golf with mum and dad, hang out at our place in the evenings playing 'pok-kuat', go on holidays together many years ago when I was a teenager (I remember the great East Coast road trip where a few families drove to Banting to Kelantan to Pahang, to Terengganu and all the way back to KL). I grew up, went to university, started working. But Uncle Ibrahim and Aunty Nora would still now and then come to play golf with mum and dad but less so. Unfortunately she is not here with us today as she's passed away a few years ago God bless her.It seems unreal that people move on from this earth but you'd expect to see them one day.

So the next time someone hurts or disappoints, makes us laugh or cry with happiness, we can comfort ourselves with this phrase:

"God doesn't give you the people you want, he gives you the people you NEED. To help you, to hurt you, to leave you, to love you and to make you into the person you were meant to be."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Happiness is a by-product"

How ironic it is that in the pursuit of happiness, we become unhappiness in itself.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Unforeseen Circumstances

The station concourse was practically vacant this morning - the 3 coffee shops were open (WH Smith was shut - due to an electrical fault) and there were a few millers and airport workers grazing the floor.

Everything else seemed alright, the sky was blue, check-in counters open, bus transfers active on the forecourt, but passengers and travellers strangely absent. Felt like a scene out of a Stephen King movie, "The Longaliers" where a handful of plane passengers land in a mysteriously deserted airport from another dimension.

According to my colleagues, it would be chaos to fly, as the planes were all crazily parked all over the piers. On the flight information screens, all flights were shown as 'Cancelled' or 'Check with airline'(north-bound ones)

All this is due to a 200-year silent volcano with a funny name a few thousand miles away which decided erupt. It seemed strange too as the weather looked so nice outside; bright sunshine, blue skies and fluffy white clouds.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Work fun

My colleagues are a really funny bunch - we all have nicknames for each other (can't believe they're all propagated by 40 somethings)

Andy Tarrant - Commission Manager - Tarantula
Tim Chopping - Senior Planner - Choppers
Rita Dunauskyte - Planner (North Terminal) - Rita Skeeter (ala Harry Potter)
Steve Arnold - Planner (South Terminal) - Steve (:P)
Me - Cost and Programme Reporting - Psycho Ninja

There's a printout of an arrow with the word 'Blame' and it's pointing at me. I put up another one pointing towards Choppers.

Every once in a while, Rita and I would play a musical toy (which amy's given me) to entertain or annoy the others. When it's serious, it gets serious but when it's balmy, it's just really funny.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Quantifying the Intangibles

A friend of mine came up with the concept of quantifying friendship by 'points'. It all started off with a discussion on one of the concepts from Covey's '7 Habits" i.e. the EBA (Emotional Bank Account. If we counted utilities derived from the friendship in 'points' and these 'points' are stored in a 'friendship account', and as time passes, we'd have a steady input(or even output) in the 'account'. The higher the balance, the loftier your friendship status is; and the lower the balance, the lower the ranks you become amongst other friends.

How simple it is to give a measurement to an intangible by representation but cynical upon the friendship on that part.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Off to France: Strategy, project management, communication etc.

Off to France tomorrow for the Erasmus Mundus Conference. Thanks to Amy for letting me know about it and encouraging to apply. Surprisingly they've selected my and Hedi's theses paper for one of the workshops and I'd have to deliver it in a 30 min presentation.

Whilst preparing for it, I recalled the summer of 2009, I was in the AIG offices in Milan with the Financial Lines department - I've been there for 3 weeks - it was August and the weather was surprisingly cool. Ferragosto is a quiet period for the Milanese but the team in the office never has a dull moment. and Solaro, Florian, Antonio and a few of the other guys have been super-cool to me. They've put me on the IT system to vet some contracts, taught me a bit about underwriting some of the products i.e. PI (Personal Indemnity, Engineering, A&H. It's a whole different world of insurance compared to my professional experience back home.

Fast forward to the winter of 2009, I'm now in the AIG office in Stockholm. I'm working on the same systems again but it's in a quieter environment (Stockholms' offices are smaller). I'm on my own lap top in a hot desk (used to be owned by one of the staff who's on the Xmas hols) and everyone is quietly hunched over their desks. I'm next to the Financial Lines department again but not working directly with them as I did in Milan but with another department (Underwriting)- more data entry than anything. I feel the atmosphere is more relaxed and calmer but always an underlying TOD.

Despite what's happened to AIG, I still am amazed by my moving through 3 different offices in 3 different countries (paid a visit to La Defense in Paris to speak to Jon Noel, head of OOC too for a day). That's what I call a global company.

I owe my thanks to Ms Ariela Camis de Fonseca(Milan), Muhaini Musa (Malaysia), Aiken Yuen (Hong Kong), Berit Adolfssen (Stockholm),Dawn Cheyrouze (Paris). And for the theses writing, my partner, Hedi Yousefi-Zadeh and our supervisor (now Vice Chancellor of Sundsvall University, Sweden) Anders Soderholm.

Today I fly off to Bordeaux to share this experience.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A wound won't heal if you keep opening it up.

J, this is for you:

It's been 3 weeks now since 'the cut'. It was in anticipation of happiness; the reason for it happening but all it led to was a slice so deep that it really hurts. It really hurts doesn't it? We try to be brave and move on, but it's another thing to keep revisiting it. Wounded flesh takes time to heal - the only way to do it is to really leave it alone. Do other stuff, distract yourself, get busy, anything but get the injury hurt again. It may take a long time, a lifetime, but we need to heal - we owe ourselves that much. I have good news, consolation for you; the body is an amazing creation - it can, and it will.

(and that is for me too)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ping Pong

Suddenly have an urge to play 'round-the-table' ping pong. Used to do it a lot back in Umea with the Swedes. We were about 7-8 people running around the ping pong table and seeing who'd be final champ. I wasn't bad for a start(must be my Chinese genes). Popped over to Sportsdirect and the bats weren't really expensive (about 2.50GBP). There's a club in Brick Lane that does that (The Young Offender's Institute - might pop by one of these days)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Spring 2010
16th March,22.50pm, Monday, London, Rolls Road

The weather is starting to get warmer - 10-12 C - is it me or is there less rubbish wind to seep into your coat and then your bones. It's starting to get brighter now - I walk to London Bridge station in broad light instead of the grey light. The dawn breaks at 5.30am now (I am awake by now usually) and I wonder if I should be happy or sad that the day has caught up with me. My coat is too warm now when it was not too long before that I used to chastise myself for not having layered enough. I know its spring when I see the flowers start to bloom on my morning walk - crocuses and daffodils especially. The purple ones look especially vibrant. I remember a conversation with a bunch of Europeans; I hadn't been abroad before and asked which seasons did they love the best. Most them said 'the spring' although I expected them to say the warm summer. Now I understand why; It's the feeling of new beginning, new hope that permeates the air.

Spring 2009
13th April, 9.48pm, Friday, Amsterdam, Stayokay Hostel Vondelpark

Pooped- I spent a total of 65EU and it's only been a day. Met up with Eleanor and Chew Ping this morning at the station and they were happy enough but it's now 8pm and we've just arrived to the pier on the ferry...12.50EU. Struggled to stay awake throughout the float but failed several times.

Met up with Boris after so many years and he still looks the same. He has a baby girl named Lisee now. What a big difference from the hazy crazy trainee days in Malaysia....he's a daddy now. Good to meet up with old friends.

Spring 2008
20th April, 4.50pm, Sunday, Umea Sweden, Fysikgrand 3H-101

Just came back from Skogis with Bimal. This Sunday was one of the more interesting Sundays of my days in Umea. I woke up at 9am which was rather early considering the party at Malin's (birthday)....ate breakfast and then fell back asleep again. Woke up at 11.45am again when Bimal called to tell me that we had an appointment with Anders at 1pm in the business school. Anders had been away for his new job as Vice-Chancellor of Sundsvall University. We had a nice walk to the uni in the new spring weather. Spring finally arrived on Tuesday mid-of-the-month with the sunny days and mysterious evaporation of the snow. The past few days have been blue skies and sunshine and birds singing in the trees

Spring 2007
15th April, 4.45pm, Milan, Parco Sempione

'Ty' in the park. Actually sandwiches, cornflakes to munch on, apples and orange juice. Jas and I are sitting on a blanket in the park. Haven't done this since Ela and her bf and I went to Ulus Parki in Istanbul. It was 2002.

Spring is here; the air is cool and the sun is shining. Green, green, green everywhere. Dark aquamarines, white daisies, purple flowers, birds singing...Italians are starting to come alive; families play ball; couples sunbathing in the grass. Far off, there's bhangra music playing (bhangra??) and drum beats, urgent, ushering the warm weather in celebration. I like best the daisies; dainty delicate things poking through the grass as if to say 'hello'. I used to think they were special since they were rare in Malaysia. Plucked them to press in books, later immortalizing them in my bookmark collection. Now they are everywhere around me; where there's green, there are the daisies. They never stand alone; if they did, it didn't look right. Two or three balanced in the picture and there was always a cluster; never a 'one'.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Ludivico Einaudi - I Giorni (The Days)

It was 12 plus in Rolls Road and here I was baking in the night (consequences of sleeping too much in the afternoon) Was tuned into the BBC Classic channel and this beautiful gem came on. Listening to this in the calm, in the clear and in the night came to me in a revelation that sometimes we are meant to find happiness when we least expect it even if it's only for a while.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


The term is applied generally to a person or group that has great influence in a royal or political succession, without being a viable candidate

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year

Food, red, fireworks, food, friends