Thursday, December 30, 2010

Double, Double Toil and Trouble

SCENE I. A kitchen. In the middle, a boiling pot.

Thunder. Enter the three Witches

First Witch
Thrice the weeping boy hath mew'd.

Second Witch
Thrice and once the weeping boy whined.

Third Witch
My psychic powers say 'Tis time, 'tis time.

First Witch
Round about the boiling pot we go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

The witches three?

They say it takes time for a broken heart to heal. I could only wish there was an instant cure.

Till then however Kool Kat has taken to boiling soothing porridge with frog's legs. Claims the frogs would act as a panacea. Served best with the occasional hug in the kitchen. We all have our separate roles to play after all. Piratin Patty acts as the sounding board while teaching him all the intrinsic healing magic of Big Fish Small Fish Cardboard Box.

While I hold the unforgivable Slap of Shame card. Simple enough. Tears are to be confined to a one-week period after which slaps will be administered. Haven't had reason to use it yet though.

Fortunately Fabulous Felix will have none of it so he has asked for a new project to play with. The better to get his mind off things. Hence the Santa project. Nothing like buying gifts galore for his nearest and dearest. And to fill up our Christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's a Lush Christmas

With my new colleagues generally being saintly do-gooders ( not to mention regular church-going, God-fearing Christians ), it's quite obvious that we share nothing in common apart from work. Even cracking an inappropriate joke at wholly appropriate moments would earn astonished stares from the grim lot.

Belonging as they do to a previous generation - yes, they are men of a certain age! - they have different preoccupations in life.

Paul : Good God. I don't think that crotchety old lady would survive a sneeze!
Doctor : But we must try our best. God willing she will survive!
Paul : God willing she would be having tea with St Peter's right now.
Doctor : Goodness gracious me! We cannot speak of such things!

Definitely a tough crowd.

Time to synchronize our schedules!

So I knew I needed to touch base with more like-minded folks. Or at least ones who didn't think Lady Gaga was the name of a toothbrush brand. Hence my annual Christmas dinner with the Lushes.

These days though it's getting ever harder to round up the entire lot. Takes a whole lot of time, patience and serendipity to get us all in the same place. Statueque Sarah busy tormenting the interns down south while Shameless Shalom's terrorizing her share up north in the land below the wind. Fabulous Fiona's busy canoodling with her newfound beau McThai.

And of course Lissome Lorelei's nowhere to be found. Though last we heard our lady of leisure had rejoined the ranks of the working class!

Still they all managed to make it down for Christmas - something I count as a miracle all in itself.

Me, I had news about my new career. Statuesque Sarah talked of her daily work garrotting feckless interns while Shameless Shalom shared with us her news of travelling in search of Christ ( or his hunkier servants ) sometime in July.

And from out of the cold, Lissome Lorelei appeared with a Christmas fruitcake baked with her own fair hands. Without setting the house on fire. Now if that's not a Christmas miracle, I don't know what is.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Midnight on Christmas

The clock just struck midnight.

Family's reading in the dining room. Charming Calvin's almost asleep upstairs. I'm by the window typing this, idly watching fireworks burst in the night sky tellin us all that it's finally Christmas :)

For those who actually wonder what today is all about, we have the social network to thank :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You're a Mean One, Miss Grinch

Damn Shakespeare seriously.

No doubt his endlessly sentimental sonnets - along with dozens of anonymous troubadours - is to blame for the inescapable habit of associating love with romance. Two very different - and totally separate - entities. Unfortunately very few of us can tell the difference. Even the wise dating guru Carrie Bradshaw stumbled over the complex definitions.

You mean there is a difference?

Obviously still a hard concept for Whispery Wilhelmina to grasp as well. For her, lusty romance is love. So is getting punched in the face but that's an entirely different story.

Fortunately... at long last, she has found a reasonable beau who doesn't berate her publicly. Hell, he even paid for the drinks. Per the usual for most ladies but really a monumental step up from her usual garbage train of jackasses.

Wilhelmina : I don't know if he's the one for me.
Paul : How so? He's nice, treats you well, seems to like you.
Wilhelmina : But he isn't as affectionate as I would like. Doesn't proclaim his love for me every morning, noon, evening and night.
Paul : A dozen sonnets whispered into your ear? Gotta be kidding right? The fact that he likes you with your manifold faults should be considered true love already.
Wilhelmina : He has even more faults! See the way he drinks la. So damned sloppy. Just think I could do better leh.
Paul : Then you should let him go.
Wilhelmina : I should?
Paul : He deserves someone better. If you only see his weak points without appreciating his good ones, then you should let him find someone else.

Yes, he really does deserve better than her.

Love is having a partner who will support you through thick and thin. Someone who loves you with all your faults and flaws. Someone who puts you first before themselves.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Hope Wilhemina actually finds that special someone.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's Not Christmas Without You

Christmas is always a time for those close to our hearts. Friends, family and yes, those significant others special to us.

Conveniently flexible hours during the holiday season only provides a reason for us all to spend the time reconnecting to one another. And to share just a little bit of gossip. Me, I had a half hour chat with one of the Lushes to plan our Christmas getaway.

Paul : Run! I see McThai coming with a big sack of toys!
Fiona : But I want to help tie him up... oops, I mean tie his gifts up!

Obviously I had ulterior motives at hand. Yeah, I needed my lil wrapper girl, Fabulous Fiona to do some giftwrapping. Which she thankfully offered despite the fact that she has double the wrapping to be done this year! And yes, folks, the faithful boyfriend's still in da house!

Fiona : Someone said my boyfriend's a little clingy.
Paul : Well I don't think so. I think your boyfriend's lovely.
Fiona : Oh yes, I think so too. Hee hee. I was just wondering.
Paul : Guess we are both a little bit commitment-phobic. All depends on how you lool at things. I mean would you call Calvin clingy?
Fiona : Well, I don't see how he could be anything but clingy. You walk too fast all the time! Surely Calvin has to hang on somehow.
Paul : Heh heh heh. Never looked at it that way.

Just to put things into perspective.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman

At least that's what I'm hoping.

Though at the rate he's going with the year-end work projects, the renovation at Pemberley and lately, his pre-Christmas gym routines, I don't think Charming Calvin is finding much time to rest at all. For the usually indolent fellow, that's an overwhelming snowstorm of activity.

December is turning out to be a busy month for everyone including me since the beginning of the holidays seem to usher in a slew of elective ( nonsensical? ) surgeries from nose jobs to double eyelids. Endlessly exhausting but not as tiring as trying to figure out what everyone on my list would like for Christmas. :)

Still I do manage to micromanage my schedule - cool as cucumber - compared to a more frantic Calvin who has been cramming every second of his day with mindless activity. This unmerry gentleman hasn't been taking any rest lately. Been telling him to take it easy - let nothing you dismay as it may - but Calvin's far too carried away with devilish talk of curtain railings, paint chips and door jambs to listen to such sweet tidings of comfort and joy.

That Santa better get cracking!

The curse of Pemberley I call it.

Calvin : I want everything done perfectly after Christmas!
Paul : Painting? Wallpapering? Lighting? Furniture? Kitchen cabinets?
Calvin : Yes! Immediately!
Paul : With a snap of Santa's magical fingers? Even the enchanted elves would need more time than that.

Poor Santa is on a deadline this year. With Calvin's frenetic rush to get things done, I am starting to wonder if he actually intends to make ready his home for the arrival of blessed Christ our Saviour!

Amen to that.

Miles away in the relative seclusion of Netherfield, I have been trying my best to lend a hand but alas I might as well be that faraway star of wonder, star of light, for all the help I've given. Still I do try, westward leading, still proceeding, trying to guide him to the perfect IKEA lamp light.

Maybe gift-wrap a chandelier for Calvin this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'll Be Home for Christmas ( or perhaps Housewarming )

I am dreamin' tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know it's a long road back
I promise you

At least I had hoped I'd be home for the housewarming party!

Two weeks back after sorting out the mundane necessities for Netherfield such as the contracts, rents and bills for the estate, I figured I might as well have a little fête at home. After all, I'd already taken the time and trouble of decorating for Christmas this year so why not show it off a little?

You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree

Got that covered already. Surprisingly this year I actually have a trusted catering company at hand. Have been using their company to prepare meals for functions in the hospital before; haven't had any complaints so far. Caterers are handy folks to have around, just have them come over to serve and clean up after. Wonder whether it is a faintly troubling sign of adulthood to have a caterer on speed dial!

Unfortunately they said no when I asked for hunky, sexually available cater-waiters.

Did Paul set out an obstacle race for us...

With the food settled, I only had to enjoy the company of my friends here. Only to have an unfortunate lady break her ankle barely two hours before the party which led to an unavoidable surgery.

Kat : Where you going? Our guests are arriving soon!
Paul : Going to the hospital.
Kat : But we don't have ice yet! And not enough paper plates for sure!
Paul : Let them eat cake.
Kat : But ice! I need ice!
Paul : Go get the ice first then.
Kat : But the guests are arriving soon.

A perplexing conundrum I couldn't solve since I was in a hurry. So yes, while my guests were busy chowing down on cake at the housewarming - no doubt with Kat frantically searching for ice cubes, I was at work muttering curses.

So yes, the host of the housewarming came two hours after all the guests had arrived. Didn't someone say it was fashionable to be late?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

To Be Naughty or Nice?

Santa Claus is coming to town and supposedly he has a secret list of those who have been naughty or nice according to his mystifying resources.

So much easier to confess here rather than wait for his arrival. I haven't been nice and I know it. Flaws I have aplenty; thinking I actually know what's best would be a major one. Certainly a lamentable by-product of my obsessive control freak personality. A strident failing I'm sure has led to many of my more unfortunate peers to cower from my interminable lectures.

But at least I do admit to such a fault - and if reasonably called upon, would try my best to amend my shortcomings.

Maybe if I run away very very fast...

There are others far more devious. For instance, my new colleague at work - a certain Dolores Doolittle. A new administrative officer that's sweetness itself. One would expect little bluebirds to fly to her call when she lifts her melodious voice in song. Little dwarves and forest animals to lend a hand when she does her daily chores. Surely someone so obviously angelic would never be so conniving.

Paul : I said no.
Dolores : Aw, just a little change. I am sure you will like it.
Paul : No.
Dolores : It's for your own good. Think of all the advantages! I could show them to you on presentation.
Paul : You can sing, dance and mime the entire show and it's still a no.
Dolores : You will grow to like the change, I'm sure. Actually I promise!
Paul : You just want to have your way, don't you?
Dolores : Maybe tomorrow you'll be in a better mood. Will tell you then. Or maybe in an hour?
Paul : Do you want the door slammed in your face?

Next to her, I'm positively Satan himself.

Like they say, never judge a book by its cover. I've seen dastardly agents like these at work. Looks like butter wouldn't melt in their mouth but hell, they wear you down with goodness.

Like any wily Disney villain, our sweet admin Dolores means to get her own way no matter what. From what I've seen of her, she has certainly proven to be as slick at maneuvering as the smoothest steamroller. Sure, she asks nicely and politely to run you over - but believe me, she will run you over whether you like it or not. Forget about compromise. Her seemingly innocent inquiries are merely statements of fact. Dolores is all about zero compromise.

Poisoned with sweetness, I call it. So positively nice even when she's naughty.

Wonder if Santa's wisened up to her wily ways. Perhaps a lump of coal this Christmas?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Carol of the Elves

Don't believe the hype that sweet olde Santa sends all his Christmas gifts on the mysterious eve all by his lonesome! Surely you don't believe he has a magical FEDEX - pathways / portals / time machines - stashed up there in the North Pole. What the wily fellow has are indentured elves aplenty.

And I have proof of that.

With carols playing in the background and me caterwauling away, I almost missed the once-in-a-lifetime magical sight. Just as I was driving out of a junction, I saw a white truck literally bedecked with gifts with a tiny little elf hunched at the wheel. Trying his best to remain inconspicuous though failing quite miserably. How could anyone not see his tiny elfin face with the sharp pointed ears surreptitiously hidden beneath a jaunty lil red cap?

Elf : Look! I am a fully grown adult male! Check me out if you don't believe me!
Paul : Don't mind if I do.

And the fact that his truck also had a christmas tree squashed into the back made it all the more obvious. Just short of a red-nosed reindeer to announce his arrival.

Paul : OMG. Is that an elf?
Patty : Sure looks like it. Then again it could have been a kid.
Paul : A kid driving that big truck?
Patty : Happens all the time here. They learn how to drive way before they are eligible for it.
Paul : That would certainly explains the lousy driving.

Well, maybe it wasn't an elf. Fine, it could have been an adolescent child at the wheel as well.

Which would have been much worse than an unlicensed elf from the North Pole. At least presumably the elf would have had centuries of experience with driving on the roads. And let's not forget about the inherent magic.

What amazes me most are lackadaisical parents who allow their unschooled children free rein with their automobiles. A nervous, inexperienced pre-teen holding the wheels of 1500kg worth of mass destruction. Talk about endangering society at large! Certainly reminds me of the other juvenile rebel joyriding on the streets only to be gunned down.

Such unworthy parents should be caught and whipped soundly.

Or perhaps have the bells fall on them to awaken them to the painful responsibilities of parenthood.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Little Match Boy

'Tis the season of giving.

Charity abounds this time of year as miserly folks are reminded - constantly - that there are others out there in need of a little help. Certainly no need for a fearful trio of ghosts to scare the change out of Ebenezer these days.

Hard to forget with a philanthropic Kool Kat busy canvassing for donations for an orphanage. Wanting to do our own little bit for society as well, we hiked over to the usual spots in town to find the tree. The tree. Always one somewhere in town with the names of those less fortunate festooned on the tree wishing for a special someone to reach out to grant them a wish.

What we found was one full of little match boys and girls from a local orphanage. Or so I thought. Flipping through the tagcards, I found to my dismay that as usual, cutesy toddlers get snapped up real fast. Leaving the older December boys on the shelf.

Paul : I'll look for an older kid then.
Felix : The ages tend to go up as you go higher on the branches.
Paul : OMG. There's a 21 year old boy here.
Felix : Wanting donations?
Paul : He wants a tracksuit.
Felix : Ooh.
Paul : Sounds like quite an athletic fellow. Wonder if he's hot. Can I get him a skimpy Speedo instead?

Maybe the Little Match Boy would prefer a cosy bed this Christmas? Preferably mine?

All I Want for Christmas...

Yes, I get salacious when it comes to virile 20 year olds.

But then as we went up the tree, we noted even more kids above the age of consent. Checked it twice to be certain. Started thinking that it could be a correction home for troubled children ( worrying that! ) but the mewly infants at the bottom belied that fact. Surely the innocent babies couldn't be guilty of committing crime and felony before they could even walk!

Took a while before I realized they had to be special children - which would explain including the older kids on the wishlist as well.

So Little Match Boy, no naughty, wildly inappropriate propositions from this particular Santa. Looks like you just might get the tracksuit you wanted this year.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

The lights are up.

The presents are under the tree.

The invitations have been sent out.

Sipping wine in my cosy chair by the window while it storms outside, nothing gets me quite as sentimental as a chilly December. The whiff of hot cocoa. The flicker of the cinnamon scented candles. The age-stained pages of my book of sonnets.

Times like these it's nice to know that somewhere out in the wide, wide world there might be someone who is thinking of me. Even with crowds of people milling about him. That thought certainly keeps me warm.

But that's me. Doubt assails him when he's so very far away that he starts worrying that our love can't possibly sustain such breadth of time and distance.

Long, long distance love affair!

No doubt Charming Calvin feels just a bit cold and lonely at times like these.

Calvin : So why do you love me?
Paul : So there has to be a reason?
Calvin : I would just like to know.
Paul : You want me to put that into writing? Sonnets perhaps? Or even a limerick?
Calvin : A sonnet would be preferable I think.

So why do you love someone? I think lovesick poets throughout the centuries have been trying to figure that out. So I might as well leave with something sweet that I read many summers ago when I was young in love. A little sonnet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote about her own true love so very long ago.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Is there even a measure of love? Is there even proof that you can see? Baby, I know it's cold outside but you should know that my love remains constant and unchanging.

Baby, it's bad out there. So why not hold on to thoughts of me and feel warm inside?

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Really Pink Christmas

I'll admit Christmas came here just a little early.

treeCouldn't help it really. Over here in the wild frontier where God-fearing Christians abound, it's natural that baubles and tinsel appear in the stores from October onwards. Barely glanced at the vivid orange of All Hallow's Eve before the red and green garlands of Christmas came along. Hard not to be swept along with the holiday craze especially with evergreen carols on constant replay in the background.

And then my first Christmas package appeared at the door two weeks back. Brown paper packages tied up with strings. Books? DVDs? Who knows? The delicious anticipation before the day itself is the best, don't you think?

So how could I resist?

Faced with the harsh carmine wood panellings of Netherfield however, I really didn't have much of a choice but to tone it down a notch with a splash of pink. Wasn't easy looking for material though. Despite the obvious Christmas cheer about, the local folks here are still pretty traditional when it comes to their tinsel and they only come in the primary colours.

Certainly couldn't stand having more garish red in the house so I had to DIY a few ornaments. Think pink ribbons, dusky rose posies and folded origami cranes on the tree. Baubles from the softest pastel pink to the deepest cherry. Even a couple of shocking pink disco balls that I just adore!

Kat : It's so pink! I don't think I'd be able to show my face in town again!
Paul : Two gay boys and a girl in one house. Of course there'd be pink!
Felix : That's pink? I thought it's gray!

Christmas decorating can be so exhausting!

Severe colour-blindness on Fabulous Felix's part aside... I'm far from your bon-bon loving Marie Antoinette so I actually balanced it out with a bit of green. But even that concession wasn't enough to stop Kool Kat from worrying that she'd lose her street cred with all the girly-girl pink on blatant display. Doesn't mean I didn't forbid her from buying presents wrapped in any other colours but cream and brown to match.

Naturally all my gifts are wrapped in pink.

Now I wonder what I should do back home for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Borgian Knot

Carrying on a long-distance relationship has taken its toll on the both of us.

With one of the more obvious solutions to a relationship meltdown being Charming Calvin's transfer back here, he has been busy for the past few weeks searching for job openings. And since I already vetoed the idea of him being the sole househusband, he has laboured through the weekends perusing the classifieds. His initial plans to have a change of career has actually helped in this regard since it has significantly widened his options.

Unfortunately still no jobs available in this market.

Of course, such zealous, single-minded persistence on his part has garnered the attention of his ever-observant mother, Madame Borgia. With Calvin making plans to return and flying back on a regular basis.... it has placed Madame Borgia on instant high alert. Didn't the boy once claim that he would never return to the countryside? There had to be mischief afoot.

Q & A time at the Borgias!

Didn't take long for her to make a move.

Madame Borgia : I am surprised you are so eager to return here. Weren't you quite desperate to leave for the city?
Calvin : Things have changed.
Madame Borgia : After all my endless entreaties before? I confess I am curious, exactly what has changed?
Calvin : Things have.
Madame : Why, is it because Paul is here now?
Calvin : Umm. Uh.

Imagined Calvin looking like a deer in headlights with his mother interrogating.

I have to admit I am surprised Madame Borgia actually took so long to ask that question. Like a knot in her belly, no doubt that nagging mystery has percolated in her wily mind for weeks. Seems she has even taken to questioning the rest of her children to ascertain Calvin's true intentions.

Guess I underestimated Madame Borgia. Obviously she requires a disembarkation questionaire from Calvin before he comes home.

Though I'm sure Calvin tried his best to evade her incessant probings after, I have no doubt Madame Borgia caught his initial stumble. Superspy he certainly isn't. Wonder if she's going to come knocking on my door to find out more.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Boat People

Pride and prejudice obviously still has its place in Malaysian politics. Even now - more than a century after our Chinese forefathers stepped on our shores, we are still labelled the same by narrow-minded bigots.

As immigrants newly arrived. Pendatang they call it. No doubt these banal politicians would still be repetitively beating that same dead horse a hundred years from now as well - not realizing in their blind idiocy that some of their own ancestors probably arrived on boats as well.

Despite the vicious racist epithets spat out in their overzealous rancor, I sometimes find myself paradoxically smiling. Intolerant bigots usually advance the hackneyed assertion that the original Chinese immigrants travelled here purely to garner wealth to send home to the mainland while maintaining tenuous ties to their adopted country.

Well, perhaps true for some but certainly not for my grandparents.

Aarif Lee
Now what was that you were saying about immigrants?

Especially my shockingly vehement grandmother. Once she wilfully shook the dirt of the dusty mainland off her stockinged feet, she vowed never to return. When questioned on her historical inconsistency, she has two answers to give. The more reasonable reply which comes with a quaint zen-like idiom.

Paul : Ever thought of going back to China?
Grandma : 好馬不吃回頭草!!
Paul : A translation for our avid readers please?
Grandma : A good horse never grazes on the same old pasture!

Or the more vitriolic reply which comes complete with lively hand-waving gestures.

Paul : But some of the older generation always wish to go home, don't they?
Grandma : Go back to China? Traitorous old fools. If it was so great, why did they leave in the first place?

Followed by a patriotic speech on loyalty to the country. Seriously, you'd expect the national anthem vigorously playing in the background as soldiers march past in salute.

And you still dub her grandchildren boat immigrants? Don't let this angry granny come after you with her walking cane.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All Batty Over Potter

Despite being sidelined in oh-so-many ways, this little town still manages to keep up with the times when it comes to the movie theatre. Came here half expecting to be confronted with the 1950s version of the movie experience with rickety wooden seats and ceiling fans rotating noisily overhead while kuaci and peanut shells snap, crackle and pop underfoot.

No such thing of course though I was reasonably informed not to keep my hopes high. I didn't - and was surprised. Cushioned seats, popcorn and even THX, if you can believe it.

I don't of course. I'm flabbergasted enough by the fact that the movie selection here's pretty current.

Hence our night out with the recurring boy wizard Harry Potter. Though calling him a boy when Harry's all of eighteen would be wrong, wouldn't it? Since I still felt like playing with his magic wand all throughout the movie, I was glad that Harry Potter ( and of course the actor Daniel Radcliffe ) had gone past the age of consent at least.

Harry and Hermione!

Though I seemed to be the only one to think so. In fact even the winsome Hermione Granger seemed remarkably composed even when he had his arms around her during a dance.

Paul : I'd jump him like now!
Patty : Harry Potter?
Paul : Simply can't understand how Hermione would pick someone like Ron over Harry!
Patty : Of course she would pick the redhead. Ron's cute!
Paul : Seriously! Harry looks loads better.
Patty : Harry isn't cute! Ron is so handsome. Those freckles and that wide mouth.
Paul : Large enough to swallow Hogwarts! Harry is a gentleman with buckets of gold in Gringotts and a crumbling mansion!
Patty : Ron has freckles!

Which seems to be the clincher for her. But come on, Ron Weasley?

Bear with me, those who haven't actually read the books - but I've never actually understood how courageous, intelligent Hermione could have fallen for Ron Weasley instead of Harry Potter. Boggles the mind. All I can conclude is that J.K. Rowling had the beginnings of what I term the Laurie Lawrence Syndrome where said author steadfastly refuses to allow two characters to be together - despite how much everything, including the characters and the plot, seem to be heading that way.

Paving the way for insipid, lacklustre Ginny Weasley to step in as the romantic foil for poor Harry. A sad pale imitation of a heroine if you ask me.

Harry, you deserve better. Call me, yeah?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dog Eat Dog

I think it is an undisputed fact that I am not an animal lover.

Only use I would have for a dog is to have it hot between the halves of a bun with mustard sauce. Even domestic farm animals such as poultry turn into targets for me.

So when our new boarder Fabulous Felix came by with a stray canine in tow, I stared aghast. Slobbering jaws, shedding hair and 50 pounds of gregarious, rambunctious golden retriever. Attack dog, he ain't.

Good God. Are the sacred grounds of Netherfield ( though it be a work in progress ) to be thus sullied? Closing the gates to the marauding wild beast didn't seem to be a viable option. Unmannerly fleabags rough-housing all over the dainty cushions in the living room could mean the end of Netherfield as we know it.

A boy and his dog!

Though I yearned for immediate banishment with an imperious lift of my finger, I restrained myself and settled for shutting the doors on the drooling dog with a stern shake of my head.

Paul : Not in the house.
Felix : Awww. Little Widdle Puppy wants to come in.
Paul : Puppy will get my boot in his face if he tries.
Felix : Awww. So mean.
Paul : Not if he slobbers and sheds all over the floor.
Felix : Little Widdle Puppy says pretty please.
Paul : No! Backyard. Shoo.

Seriously. What is it about dogs and their fawning owners?

Though I'll have to admit his Little Widdle Puppy is endlessly adorable - and quite lovable in his own way. Although Felix - and Kat - do tend to go a little overboard with their endless baby coos! Seems like they spend more time playing ball and stick with the dog rather than offering any sort of stern discipline.

Hence the dog has none. Zero puppy training. Hardly listens to orders. Chases after everything that moves. Leaps madly into erroneous conclusions.

Paul : Time you trained him.
Felix : But he's okay la.
Paul : Until he runs into a snake? Or even a bus?
Felix : He won't la.
Paul : How will you stop him even if he does? Time he listened to orders.

He doesn't even listen to Stay.

Think it's about time the Little Widdle Puppy went to school for some obedience training. Finally had to sit Felix down and warn him of the inherent dangers of letting an unruly mongrel go untrained. Poisonous snakes, larcenous robbers and the like. Raising a dog isn't for the fainthearted. Takes a whole lotta love and commitment.

And though I bear but little love for him, at least I gotta stop the pooch from gamboling headlong ( and heedlessly ) into a speeding lorry. Wouldn't want the horrific blood spatter on my fence.

And I really hate scooping up roadkill.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Breakdown of a Breakup

Even when it seems ultimately beneficial for both parties, breakups never come easy. Inevitably someone gets hurt in the process.

Ever since high school, I've watched breakups happen from the sidelines. Certainly felt much safer when the emotional fireworks began. In the quiet aftermath when the last spark has fizzled out, I'd offer a crying shoulder to my buddy, at the same time wondering how I'd actually fare through such emotional upheavals.

Wistful thinking. As it turns out, it didn't take very long to find out for myself. Although I only recall trying to break one measly lamp ( it was ugly! ) in my simmering rage, my ISO claims a raging Krakatoa would pale in comparison. What I term my very own psychotic break. I barely raised my voice though. Of course my silence is inversely proportional to my rage.

We all grief for our lost relationships in different ways. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

For me, anger always comes first. A veritable tsunami of almost-broken lamps, tossed books and burnt photos. Only months later in the silence ( and relative privacy ) of a movie theatre, I would spontaneously dissolve into tears without warning. Even then I'd warn myself not to shed even one more tear over a careless heel not worth crying over.

Time for some tough love!

So this time as I witnessed my friend going through the painful inevitable, I realized that offering a shoulder wasn't what he needed. For that he already has a choir of soothing sob buds in the form of Kool Kat and Piratin Patty offering sympathy by the drunken barrel.

Didn't think he needed more from me. Heavy dose of reality with a spank of tough love to follow was what he got from me.

Kat : Awww. Poor thing.
Patty : Awww. Poor thing.
Paul : What poor thing? Don't leave it hanging forever! It is unfair for the both of you. Make a decision and stick to it!
Boy : Umm...
Paul : It is not that difficult. If you see a future with him, then work doubly hard to make it happen. If you don't...
Boy : Umm...
Kat : Awww... that was uncalled for. Give the boy some breathing space.
Patty : True also, the boy needs to make up his mind.
Boy : What if I break up?
Paul : All you get is three days to weep and whine. After that, the slap of shame is coming from me.
Boy : Only three days!!
Paul : Okay. Maybe four.

Yeah, I'm not the huggable sort.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shooting Chickens

So how many ways are there to kill a chicken?

And mind you, I don't necessarily have to administer the killing blow according to wholly halal methods.

My killing eye's out for the fowl next door. Look, I always knew Netherfield's right out there in the boondocks but I never knew it's smack dab in the countryside. Which means everything that it entails; yards, barns, stables - and that damned chicken coop.

Oh yes, cock-a-doodle-doo. Going back to their peasantry roots, my neighbours have opted to keep a chicken coop in their backyard. But rather than have meek little chicks hiding behind curtains in the henhouse, we have a rebellious rooster who crows loudly at all hours. Irregardless of daybreak. Once the aggravating monster even squawked for no apparent reason during the wee hours of the morning. No doubt he got confused by the glare of the full moon.

It's time to hunt!

So what's the best way to get myself some fresh chicken chop by morning? Death by garroting? Death by gunshot? Death by poison? Idiotic foolhardy rooster leaps to the top of the coop every morning - placing itself as the perfect target since he's in direct range of my bedroom window.

Perhaps a bow and arrow?

Of course having a fowl murder happening within weeks of our moving in wouldn't bode well for future neighbourly relations. My more murderous plans will have to wait. Have a slingshot so perhaps a warning shot would do. I think one rock at its head each time it crows at the wrong time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Two's Company

The conduct of neither, if strictly examined, will be irreproachable; but since then, we have both, I hope, improved in civility.

With Netherfield being such a vast estate for a single fellow, I actually searched for someone to co-share the place with me. Certainly didn't have much of a criteria ready in place at the time so when a friend piped up that she'd be moving here as well, I readily agreed.

Kat : I'm moving to Miri.
Paul : Wanna share?
Kat : Sure.
Paul : Okay. Tell me when you arrive.

Seriously. It was that fast. And Kool Kat was my housemate.

Sharing the place seemed like an excellent idea after all. Even more mundane chores to do in such a big place - not to mention the endless repairs - and having someone else on the premises would certainly help allay my security paranoia. Financially speaking having a housemate would also help cut costs at least marginally.

That's what I initially thought. Of course I hadn't realized that I'd become an adult since my college days. And that I haven't actually had something close to a housemate in a really long time. Even less a roommate.

Even back in school, I only had the one roommate, and since Father John - the erstwhile community leader - spent his time preaching to the rest of the ungodly heathens about Jesus, I found myself by my lonesome most times. Good times that. Then as we moved on to our senior years, we graduated from our twin-share dorm rooms into cosy 4-bedroom apartments with a measly handkerchief-sized common area that no one bothered to use. Still pretty much left to ourselves.

The Paul & Kat Show?

Always had my own place ever since I started work as well. So when Kool Kat finally arrived to knock on my door, I didn't actually know what to think. Nervous wreck like me starts to worry whether we'd grow to hate each other after co-habitating. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

Fortunately it has been nothing of the sort. Yes, it takes some getting used to. Some of my personal habits have probably irritated her. Some of her idiosyncrasies has grated as well. Kat likes the ambient lighting stadium spotlight bright while I prefer mine as dim as moonlight. I'm a pillow arrangement fanatic while Kat likes to go casual.

And I gotta love the girl but Kat can really talk a mile a minute! Who called me a Chatty Cathy again? Come over here and I'll prove that Kat can actually match me word for word. Hell, she can edge in five to my measly uno.

Certainly will take a while to adjust. Till then thank God for dimmers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rock and ( Accidental ) Roll

Lately I've given up on trying to understand the inexplicably boorish behaviour of the poorly-schooled local motorists here. Not only do these eccentrics find roundabouts a mystifying puzzle, they tend to mistake brakes for pretty playthings to step on according to whim.

Let's not even talk about their vestigial signal lights.


When I first transferred here a year back, I once saw - to my abject horror - a driver literally sliding into a ditch at 20 km/H. Thought that was the worst to come but I was proven wrong. What happened today certainly takes the godawful cake for idiot drivers out on the road.

Good boy, if you can't drive, you'd better hitch a ride instead.

Or perhaps godawful idiotic passengers.

Coming off from work at lunchtime, I saw a car making a slow, lackadaisical turn in front of me only to have the passenger door accidentally coming ajar. The very next moment, the side passenger comes tumbling out onto the asphalt.

And you had all this happening in John Woo slow-mo style. The car rocked and she rolled, as simple as that. Even accidents take their own sweet time here in Miri.

Turns out the silly lady in a printed green sarong had forgotten to lock her seatbelt, hastily tried to shut the car door - and then got flung out by sheer momentum. Since the vehicle was comfortably moving at 20 km/H therefore she trundled out at the exact same speed. No doubt embarassed by her sheer carelessness / stupidity, she hastily dusted off her dirtied sarong and leapt back into the car that surprisingly sped off with enviable speed.

Obviously ignominious shame helps the acceleration.

So I guess it's time for a bad limerick.

There once was a lady from Miri,
Who was just a little bit silly,
Took a turn in her car,
Left her door quite ajar,
Got flung out of her car in a tizzy.

I could only stare disbelieving, wishing that I'd had a camera ready to make her youtube famous. Fortunately for her, I was only driving at half my usual speed or the unfortunate dame would have been instant roadkill.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A November in Netherfield

Certainly turning out to be an eventful November for me. What with my moving house to Netherfield followed by the recent emotional setback in my relationship!

Spoke of the ramshackle estate Netherfield as the ultimate fixer-upper - and that particular premonition has certainly come true. Not a day has gone by that I haven't called up the much-harried landowner to gripe about some minor botheration. Already have Mrs Elton's number on speed dial to ring up first thing in the morning to recite my daily litany of complaints.

From the leaking water heater to the broken locks to the chipped ceiling tiles. With many more to come.

Master of all he surveys?

Starting to feel as if I've inadvertently stepped into the shoes of Archie MacDonald, beleaguered laird of Glenbogle! Which explains the endless armies of cleaners, plumbers and repairmen traipsing in and out of the house with errands to run. Even hired a gardener to tame the feral growth of bougainvilleas by the gate.

Although our tastes differ greatly, I assured Mrs Elton that Netherfield would have a conscientious custodian in me. A worded guarantee that certainly relieved the anxious lady who worries that her ancestral estate - once out of her own able hands - would fall into a sad state of disrepair.

Paul : I've packed some of your belongings into the boxes over there.
Mrs Elton : You don't want these ornamental cats?
Paul : Don't even like them in the flesh, much less breakable porcelain ones.
Mrs Elton : You don't want this lovely, lovely peacock?
Paul : It's black, feathered and scary. The only use I would have for it is to scare away overly familiar neighbours.
Mrs Elton : What about pretty lacey tablecovers?
Paul : With roses and lilies? I'm not Victorian.

In return, I'm sure the conservative Mrs Elton had her own reservations when she stared aghast at her living room literally awash in a shade of dusky rose!

The walls might be freshly painted but the house is still a massive refurbishing project that will probably take weeks to set to rights. Picture frames to be placed on the walls. Always a broken cabinet that just needs a spray and a glaze. Some withered plants that need repotting. Torn curtains that need just a few stitches.

Netherfield's quite a big larger than I first expected. With the guest rooms, dining room, study, maid's quarters and even an annexe to the bedrooms, it's far more spacious than the cosy country cottage I lived in before. Whereas before the kitchen rests only a door away, now it takes quite a hike from the dining room!

And lets not even think of the mundane such as the eletricity / the water / the gas bills to reconnect. Certainly given me enough chores to keep me occupied for quite a while.

Netherfield shall shine again!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Headache Excuse

'Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.'

Alright, I'll accept that banal cliché-ridden excuse. Since I've never actually had sex with a woman - nor walked in their six-inch heels, I certainly wouldn't know how to refute that particular claim when it comes from them. Don't think the ladies would appreciate being told that a wild headboard-banging night of sex can actually cure a massive migraine!

But what about the boys?

Since time immemorial, the male of the species has been branded the insatiable hound dog ready to go any time of day. Our gay brethren included of course.

Oh baby I think I've got the headache!

So when such an old hackneyed excuse of the headache comes from a guy, you gotta feel just that little bit suspicious. Just a few weeks back when a friend of mine tried to make a move, the younger fella came up with this.

Boy : Oh I have classes this week. I can't spend the night. Gotta hit the books.

Seriously. A youthful, vital twenty year old forgoes sex for books? Look, I don't care if you're swamped with textbooks, workbooks and notes for the finals - but when you're a virile college student with a chance to get your rocks off...

There's almost no saying no to that.

So any excuse to get out of a making out session just sounds like the perfect kiss-off. The gentle prelude to a goodbye.

At least to me. I don't think I'd have said no back in my early twenties. Hell, I'd skip my own damned convocation for a good fuck. Definitely missed a few soporofic biochemistry lectures, that's for sure.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Hit at Starbucks

Nothing's better than a fresh cup of coffee in the morning.

Even better when it's served with a wide welcoming smile - and a dark twinkle in mocha chocolate brown eyes.

Is it any wonder that cute baristas are hit on every other day? If you ask me, the customers are hardly to blame. Standing at the line at Starbucks, there is nothing much to do in between placing the order and receiving the java.

Paul : One caffe mocha. Tall.
Barista : Yes, sir. Would you like whipped cream with that?
Paul : Only if you get slathered up in it.
Barista : Now that would be wasting cream!
Paul : Not if I lick it all up.
Barista : Well it does taste good.
Paul : Now if I could only get you on a muffin to go.

Cheap thrills, I know. And it almost always scandalizes the God-fearing customers standing right behind me. Of course their shocked expressions only goad me further. Turns out getting hit on is pretty common at java chains. No doubt a dangerous combination of jazzed-up customers high on coffee courage paired with adorable post-teenage baristas in forest green aprons.

Coffee, tea or me?

Been chatting them up a little too often these days since I've recently decamped to Netherfield. Unfortunately it takes at least a few days for the internet connections to be reconnected. Hence my recent Starbucks hauntings. While I was lazing about waiting for my mocha, I chanced upon an interview for a fresh new barista.

Of course the senseless questions are always forthcoming.

Interviewer : How would you describe teamwork in your own words? How would you define community?

Seriously. Buy a dictionary why don't you? Does the Human Resource Dept sit together by committee to come up with such inane questions? Is there even a correct answer to all that?

But I digress. Then the interviewer started ane ntire long spiel about customers, their wayward habits and how they are always right.

Interviewer : So would you be alright with the customers hitting on you?

I know the reasons they ask is to gauge a prospective employee's response - but does anyone actually dislike getting hit on?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Monsoon Rains

Into each life a little rain must fall.

Always struck me as a particularly poignant phrase. Even though we hope for the best, we can't all have sunny days the whole year round after all.

The inevitable rain will come. Lately it seems my relationship has been suffering an unseasonal monsoon on par with the thunderstorms battering our northern states. Dark clouds have been gathering with our time apart - and it seems Charming Calvin has started developing doubts about our relationship. Time by the darkened window sill with the relentless raindrops battering the fragile pane has given him time to brood - never a good thing - which has led to a disturbing puddle of misgivings forming.

Get the umbrellas out, boys.

I'm a shockingly low-maintenance boyfriend. At least I like to think so. Don't require much apart from knowing that I have someone out there who will support me when I stumble on occasion. Otherwise I can stand tall on my own very well, thank you very much. Sure there are some things I'd love to change about Calvin. But though I love the occasional fixer-upper project, I draw the line when it comes to boyfriends. If you want a DIY project, go get a broken-down chair, don't get a boyfriend.

Turns out I haven't fulfilled his expectations when it comes to a boyfriend. Like the pouring rain it came. More time. More affirmation. More romance.

Of course I blew my top. Though I don't mind the occasional downpour, storms that roll in unexpectedly to leave me drenched and dripping always piss me off.

Then an ex called. The urge to drown him with my own complaints was there but I managed to hold in the flood. Some things you just don't discuss with an ex.

Paul : Just some problems with the boyfriend.
My ISO : Whatever you're thinking, don't.
Paul : Don't what? I haven't said a word.
My ISO : I know you. You get the occasional irrational leap of insanity. Whatever it is, don't.
Paul : I have no plans to ...
My ISO : Take a day off.

It's been a day. So yes, I've calmed down.

Ironic, isn't it to get advice from an ex? Guess my ISO has had some experience with my mercurial moods. Bet that bump on his head still hurts.

And Charming Calvin did make some valid points. Yes, into each relationship there has to be rain. But it also cleans out the dirt and clutter - so hopefully there'll be better, brighter days ahead.

Get the umbrellas out, boys. Looks like there'll be rain.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

All About Jiwang


A colloquial Malay word that encompasses anything, and everything, dealing with a nauseating surfeit of emotion. A terribly apt term I've surprisingly come to associate with much of Mando-pop.

For a taciturn race seemingly tough, unemotional and pragmatic, the Chinese have come up with a bewildering anthology of music dedicated to heartbreak with all the affliction, agony and anguish. Sentimental mush if you will.

Or what I call weep, whimper & whine wails.

Can't I wallow just a bit longer?

Rather than the liberated cries of freedom from the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Pink, over here on this side we have the stereotypical Mando-pop music video featuring the sad, lonesome figure manfully trying to hold back tears while sighing / languishing in a dimly-lit abandoned residency. Crouched in corners. Staring at mirrors. Occasionally juxtaposed with lingering views of a desolate, bleak, windswept landscape.

There could be impending storms as well.

Once exposed - and hooked - to such regrettably jiwang music, I defy anyone to remain unmoved by such pathos. Certainly explains the extreme sentimentality of the regular listeners of Mandarin radio.

Hell, even the usually feisty A-Mei 阿妹 has an entire set of heart-rending sob stories for your listening pleasure. Staples of karaoke fans such as Charming Calvin. :)

Paul : Umm... Was A-Mei weeping over her lost kite in the video?
Calvin : No.
Paul : Why are they always weeping in dark, lonely rooms?
Calvin : Heartbreak lo.
Paul : They can't turn the lights on?
Calvin : Heartbreak lo.
Paul : Wallowing in self-pity won't help. Stop whimpering pathetically in dingy corners and go buy a new dress dammit!
Calvin : They don't have such songs in Chinese.
Paul : Buy dumplings then?
Calvin : No.

In direct contrast to the music I usually listen to. Never listen to wimpy James Blunt with his tearful tour de force of You're Beautiful of course. Sure I do have the occasional lovey-dovey strains of a winsome Taylor Swift but even Miss Goody-Two-Shoes has her angry moments.

Doesn't that explain the differing views on what constitutes a relationship?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Weaving Rattan Baskets

Girl : He stays with his parents.
Paul : Well they are ancient. You expect him to toss them in a rattan basket and leave them by the hillside?
Girl : Well, no, but he could always get his own place.
Paul : And leave them in that big old house?
Girl : Perhaps at the retirement home?
Paul : We're Asian. We don't do that.

I meant it as a joke.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true it was for me. Certainly a given for me - as I'm sure it is for many of my peers. No matter how screwed up, your parents raised you; so when you’re old enough, you do the same for your parents. Turns out Confucius is alive and well in my home.

Yes, we are helluva conservative when it comes to this.

So when exactly did this change? When did we start following the Western style of parenting? When did the kids start thinking of moving out right after school leaving the elderly folks in a nursing home? When their parents gave them the boot right after college graduation?

Does filial piety mean handing out monthly fees for the retirement home?

Of course, advocates of the Octogenarian Nursing Home would cite proper nursing care, a greater sense of community and increased autonomy for the elderly. The advantages are clear but I think it's an easy cop-out. I don't see why they can't have all that while staying with their children as well.

I'm not saying dealing with old folks approaching senility is all that easy. I've had more than my fair share of forgetful senior citizens in my life - so yes, I understand they can be quite a burden ( ouch, I know! ) at times.

But come on, life isn't meant to be easy. Some responsibilities you just can't shirk. Till you really have exhausted all resources, you should make that little bit of effort to try. If your parents had wanted life to be easier, wouldn't it be simpler to just ship you off to a nursing creche / boarding school the second you started crawling as well?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Bikes, Rempits & Thieves

The thing that struck me while I was in Hanoi - or should I say brushed by me a half dozen times a day - was the thousands of motorcycles on its streets. Almost overwhelming in number, noise and sheer chaos.

In an ancient city with narrow streets, lanes and backalleys bisecting the endless tubehouses, the motorcycle is the most efficient, cost-effective and cheapest mode of transportation around. Think it's pretty safe to say that the communist government hands every loyal Hanoian an itty little bike at birth. :)

Not as common on the streets here as you'd think.

Yet there are not as many snatch thieves and mat rempits around. At least none that I saw.

Paul : No mat rempits here?
Hanoikid : What are those?
Paul : Bored young idiots who prefer to die young by racing bikes on the streets at midnight.
Hanoikid : Hanoi people work hard. No time to do all that.
Paul : That's actually quite profound in a way.

Same goes for the bustling Chinese megacities as well. Countless numbers of motorcycles on the streets yet not as much street crime.

Which is something I can't say for our country.

Sadly a perennial social problem here. Unruly thugs-on-wheels who participate in illegal street races, snatch thefts and assaults with impunity. A handful smash head-first into walls during their midnight runs but five more hooligans spring up to replace them. Unfortunately our government is a soft touch when it comes to such juvenile delinquents, preferring to spare the rod when it comes to such rotten children.

So much so that our streets aren't at all safe anymore. Even the soft purr of the motorcycle is enough to have us watching our backs.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saving Grace

Graceless Grace and I have always had a prickly friendship. Of course her rude in-your-face abrasiveness has led me to keep her at a comfortable distance - preferably a few hundred miles - since any closer would inevitably lead to a grisly murder with one of us butchering the other. Despite the apparent shortcomings however there is little doubt that I still consider Grace one of my closest friends. Certainly a close associate I can rely on in desperate straits come hell or high water.

Just not too much familiarity since it undoubtedly breeds contempt.

Which is we get along just swimmingly online. As it turns out the painfully caustic barbs Grace occasionally fires ( at random? ) tend to lose their acute sting over the internet. The lack of verbal abuse - coupled with the added distance between us - is the reason why I've been able to offer counsel on her latest disastrous dating debacle.

Encroaching senility on our part has some of us seeking out greener pastures for ever greener youths. 老牛吃嫩草 as the saying goes. Our Graceless Grace - ever the nonconformist maverick - has decided to head for the opposite extreme instead.

By trolling the nursing homes.

Okay that was a little mean. But you can imagine the consternation on my part when she told me she was dating a much older gentleman.

Grace : I'm dating someone. It's getting serious.
Paul : That's great news! Who is he?
Grace : He's a little older than us.
Paul : Age is no matter I'm sure. Only a number and all that.
Grace : Glad you said that since I'm going to be meeting his children next week.
Paul : Children?
Grace : And a grandchild.
Paul : You're dating a grandfather?
Grace : Umm. Yes.
Paul : Umm. That's great news?

Followed by half a dozen inappropriate geriatric jokes especially since it turns out our grandpa here has a fear of commitment, especially with one failed marriage on his resume. Cold feet apparently after that unfortunate mesalliance several months years decades back.

Paul : So will you be serving poisoned apples for lunch when you meet the kids?
Grace : You're going to be making jokes fr a very long time, right?
Paul : Right you are, stepmom.

Despite the evident pitfalls ahead, I told Grace to go for it. So what if the crusty old coot's hobbling on a cane! With no one else in the horizon at the moment, anything would be a marked improvement over the abusive bum she once dated. Advice she heartily took in good stead.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hiring Moneypenny

In our first ten years as a child, we go through all sorts of firsts. Our first word. Our first walk. Our first bicycle ride.

That indefinable sense of achievement gets a little less common the older we get! Though that doesn't necessarily mean we stop having our firsts even in adulthood - just that those around us don't celebrate our accomplishments as much anymore. Our first job. Our first paycheque. Even our first staggering loan. Since I've struggled through all those important milestones in my mid-twenties, I figured I was rapidly running out of firsts.

Till today.

My first hire. A secretary as it turns out.

My very own Man Friday. Yes, I need a secretary since I'm in the midst of setting up a private limited company. Didn't have the time to sort out the various candidates available so I left the crucial choice to my discerning parents ( at least I hoped ). Rather than depend on the capricious classifieds, my parents decided to rely on the time-honoured tradition of knocking on the door of every acquiantance they knew - no matter how remote - hoping to chance upon a suitable applicant.

Pulling a needle from a relative haystack as it were.

A bewildering stunt that surprisingly worked when they uncovered the unfortunately named Master Moneypenny. Despite the understated glamour associated with such an archetypical name, it would be hard to imagine a more unprepossessing personal secretary. A dishevelled, shirt-untucked hayseed from the countryside complete with a teasing drawl.

Justin Bartha
Moneypenny : You want me to take off my shirt? B-but why? Is it part of the interview?

Alas, they couldn't find one that vaguely resembled a nerdy but oh-so-adorable Justin Bartha.

But Master Moneypenny had a determined earnestness - and a crafty twinkle in his eyes - that drew me instantly. Though sadly not in a licentious manner. So much for my licentious fantasies of debauchery with the hunky male secretary over a messy, disorganized writing desk! There goes my tawdry offers to debrief my secretary.

Wistful wet dreams aside, it was all business before pleasure for Master Moneypenny. A plenthora of files, folders and documents were strewn all over the table from the little leather pouch he carried. What with his surprisingly respectable qualifications coupled with the affordable rates offered, he was immediately hired.

Which led to the inevitable paperwork.

Moneypenny : Shouldn't take very long to get it up and running.
Paul : And how long does it take to get you up and running?
Moneypenny : Excuse me?
Paul : Ignore that. You mean just a few squiggles of the pen and that's it?
Moneypenny : That's all it takes. So have you decided on the name of the company?
Paul : Whoa.

Seriously. A dozen names flashed before my eyes in blindingly bright tacky neon. With accompanying logos and catchy taglines even. Even had a ludicrous yen to christen the company Golden Prosperity Mountain Towers Above Them All - though the astonishment in Moneypenny's eyes stopped me then.

My company. Turns out that's another first right there.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Let Me See His Western Nose

Despite a century of heady French Indochine with Hanoi as the cherished jewel of its farflung empire, the Gallic influence is not as palpable as you'd imagine. Sure you have the charming side-walk cafes, the distinctive pastel-yellow colonial buildings and the ubiquitous baguettes sold on every alley. Even the picturesquely dilapidated chateaus speak in hushed tones of their former occupants.

But the lingering traces are few and far between.

The Tudors
You mean this used to be French?

My recent stay in Hanoi left me astounded at the dearth of French influence and language. With American dollars and Chinese salesmen on the streets, you wonder what exactly happened to the much-touted allure of French Indochine?

Surely communism happened. Seems like after Dien Bien Phu, the liberated Vietnamese were desperate to rid themselves of anything even vaguely colonial. Almost all traces of the hundred years of French colonialism have been slowly, methodically erased from the maze-like streets. They don't read Voltaire and Rosseau in the cafes. Attempting a bit of 'Parlez-vous français?' would only earn you suspicious looks from the ornery locals. Hardly any of the tree-lined avenues carry names that hint at French influence.

A marked difference from Malaysia.

Despite the gleeful joy our overzealous nationalists take in disparaging their former British overlords, it turns out we have much to be thankful for.

Just take a look at French Indochine. Even the Dutch East Indies. Compare the violent uprisings in the neighbouring nations under their iron-fisted rule to our far more amicable separation from the Brits. A gentlemanly divorce with much fewer bloodied battles on our side. Though we have managed to muck the whole thing up, the Brits initially left us an efficient civil service, a respectable legal system and a functioning parliament. While hardly any French is spoken on the tree-lined boulevards in Hanoi, English remains the lingua franca for the aspiring middle-class bourgeoisie here in post-colonial Malaysia.

Although the colonial British Malaya regime was far from perfect - after all, they maintained power through the cynical manipulation of ethnic and religious division ( a bitter legacy which remains till today ), we were still better off than most.

Unfortunately we just never improved on what they left behind.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Heat is On in Hanoi

From the austere hush of a haughty French restaurant to the raucous din of a frenzied bike-infested Asian street. From the dainty crust of a dusky rose macaroon to the piquant, spicy tang of a beef pho. From the bold flash of the distinctive lacquerware to the demure pastels of a perfectly rendered counterfeit Monet.

That's Vietnam for you.

Is it any wonder the besotted Americans found it impossible to leave? Hell, even the French had to be forced at gun-point to vacate. But a short vacation spell for me could only mean somewhere close by. Since French Indochine remained a beautiful mystery for me, I figured it was time to discover more in Hanoi.

Learning that the remarkably accomodating Vietnamese actually allow shabby foreigners to waltz in without a visa ( or even a measly embarkation card! ) certainly brightened my day.

Offering prayers

Sadly however that's as far as their hospitality extends. Though service remained near impeccable at the hotels, that couldn't be said of the commonfolk. Little of the gentle grace of the neighbouring Thais or the simple warmth of our countrymen. Brusque sullenness from the locals, even those involved in the tourism trade.

With their communist doors opened wide not too long ago, obviously the local Hanoians haven't exactly gotten used to the wild unpredictability of the capitalist world as yet. Bewildered they are, and still a bit crabby at the unwelcome intrusion. Not even the demure ao dais of their maidens can hide that.

No denying the intricacy of their handiwork though. Remarkable embroidery, beautiful lacquerware, detailed woodcarvings etc... the list goes on. Look no further for oil painting reproductions on the cheap! Plenty of items to buy. Though the decided lack of enthusiasm on the part of the dour, uncooperative shopkeepers certainly lessened the fun of bargaining.

Spent half of what I would have otherwise.

Fortunately I have perfectly good Vietnamese coffee ( and croissants ) to sustain me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Edward Eerie and the Cryptic Message

Stalkers can be a problem.

Even more so when they insist on swearing their undying love on a daily basis. Like a lovestruck bug, Edward Eerie has been flitting about Piratin Patty hoping for something more.

Patty : Edward was introducing me as his partner.
Paul : Of course he was.
Patty : And he had a clingy arm around my waist.
Paul : As his partner of course.
Patty : It was irritating. I mean, keep your hands to yourself buddy!
Paul : Well, you were his partner.
Patty : Dinner partner.
Paul : I think he wanted more.
Patty : Hello, I didn't get the memo.
Paul : He asked you for dinner! That's the memo.
Patty : I need more words than that.


Words can say so much but sometimes actions matter so much more. So listen up girls - and boys who are that way inclined. A cute boy asks you out. He buys you dinner. Then he takes you as plus one to a wedding with his closest friends?

Was that Eerie following me?

Let's put it simply. He's interested.

You don't need to have it dressed up in pretty flowery haikus. You don't have to have it translated on Google or Babelfish. Obvious enough actually. No need for it to be written in flashing neon lights billboard size, is there?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Pooh of Tao

Searching for a teacher isn't as simple as it used to be.

Gone are the mythical days you trudge along a dusty trail till you turn that serendipitous corner to find a suitable master sketching words into the sand. Turns out you don't find Confucius that way! What you do is spread the words amongst the snoops, the gossips and the internet for someone suitable.

Said a flat no to the kindergarten tutors. Although my knowledge of the language is sadly rudimentary, that doesn't mean I'd want to sit through a school lesson with babbling toddlers around me. Had enough baby spit at work, thank you very much.

Would be great if they'd be able to find a serious, buttoned-up - but terribly shaggable - Mr Siao for a Mandarin teacher.

Sure enough a name comes up.

Friend : Found someone for you.
Paul : A teacher?
Friend : Yes, he teaches adult students. Even a couple of foreigners.
Paul : Sounds great.
Friend : And his name is Teacher Tao.

At least it's not Lao Tzu.

Was that Tao, Mao or Pao?

From the mysterious name on my cell, I expected a wizened, humpbacked octogenarian harrumphing and dry-coughing throughout the lecture even as he added bits of esoteric oriental wisdom to the crumpled notes along with the green tea he served. Wondered if Tao the Yoda carried a bamboo whisk.

Tao : Learn Mandarin, you will.
Paul : Yes?
Tao : Good student, you will be, grasshopper. A cup of tea, you will get me.
Paul : Will caffe mocha do?

All wrong of course.

Teacher Tao. Relatively young. Probably a few years older than me. Few wrinkles. No humpback. Definitely no dry cough. Had the crumpled notes and tea though.

And so the classes begin.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Speakee Chinese

Hands up all those boys who recall the horrid extracurricular lessons we had called POL classes!

Or Pupils' Own Language as they called it. Ostensibly a noble yet misguided attempt by the government - urged on by the strident minority communities - to teach the young their own mother tongues. Mandarin / Tamil lessons two hours a week for only a year. Lofty national aspirations doomed to failure due to a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the disinterested students.

And the uninspired, lacklustre teachers. A fatal combination.

My ten-year-old classmates weren't exactly budding Einsteins but they didn't walk with their paws dragging on the ground either. I'm sure a Mark Thackeray would have been able to inspire us all to pick up our tedious Chinese textbooks. Rather than follow the conventional teaching methods of making us drone on, reciting dull passages in endless mantras.

Hardly motivating for a bunch of rowdy schoolboys.

No wonder we only received 5 out of 100 fr our weekly exams - a consolation prize for being able to scribble our names in complicated Chinese. Meant as a pitiful sop for the unlettered, especially since the rest of the paper ended up with unforgiving red slashes that essentially signified a big fat zero.

Write like this, grasshopper!

So that forgotten chapter in Mandarin remained closed till I started work. Invariably there would be that one stubborn patient who remained stoically uncommunicative until a doctor of Chinese origin happened to stumble by. Then unbidden an impulsive string of Mandarin would come pouring out from the previously taciturn fellow describing terrifying symptoms vaguely forming a multitude of incurable diseases.

Short of claiming Tibetan / Korean ancestry - or making a quick, ignoble escape abandoning the dying man, I really had no choice but to attempt a deplorable display of my incompetence in the language.

After several inarticulate misadventures with purely Chinese-speaking patients, inevitably I picked up a couple of useful phrases, 'Are you dying?' amongst them. The painful fact that half of them haven't managed to learn a word of any other language in ten years of formal schooling galls me but I usually keep my mouth shut on that point.

Though it did goad me into finally learning Mandarin.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sharks Fin Yum

Yes, I still partake of shark's fin soup.

No doubt horrifying the conservationist advocates - amongst them my friend Lanky Lex. There is no need to remind me that the highly endangered sharks are being slowly hunted to extinction - and then massacred in a horribly inhumane manner. Valuable fins methodically sliced off while the rest of the dismembered bodies are tossed back into the sea for a slow painful death.

Certainly makes that bowl of soup much less appetizing, doesn't it? Well, it depends on how you look at it. While I wouldn't go around passing out passionate flyers urging patrons to eschew shark's fin, I certainly wouldn't say no to a bowl placed in front of me. I do think however that the fishermen should assist the chefs in coming up with palatable dishes based on the other parts of the fish. Rather than throwing the fish back, wouldn't it make more economic sense to consume the rest? Surely some ingenious chef out there should be able to come up with something. Shark sushi? Shark burger anyone?

Maybe if he asked me to stop, I would consider it.

Of course the more zealous advocates of conservationism would still raise a hue and cry. Hell, some are already stalking out of establishments serving shark's fin soup. Leaving a formal wedding dinner as a protest? Even this quote from a vehement environmentalist campaigner.

“I also made it very clear that he would get a much smaller hongbao if he served shark’s fin.”

And that loaded red packet comes with a blatant message urging diners to boycott the delicacy. Surely a horrified Miss Manners would have something to say about it.

I would have quietly disinvited such a guest of course.

This is carrying political correctness just a tad too far. Not only do we have to cater to the religious and medical requests of our guests, now we also have to keep an eye out for ethical / environmental issues?

Good God. What happened to restraint? Plain good manners for goodness sakes. Rather than march around with a raging placard, show some respect for the host! Just politely say no when the dish is offered. Refuse the beef / pork / chicken if your religion so dictates. Your preferences should remain your preferences without having an impact on anyone else.

Seriously. Don't impose your rules and beliefs on others. Does that mean if I'm an avid meatatarian, I can rudely stalk out when broccoli is served? Throw a huff whenever peas make an appearance? Set fire to the table whenever bok choy appears at the end?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thousand Dollar Favour

Seems things have been going well lately for my friend Beercan Boy. Certainly no more hazy, drunken nights bemoaning the loss of his once true love, especially not when he's finally made it clear that Damsel Dimwit is the girl for him.

And I'll admit the two simpletons deserve one another.

Although the disreputable in-laws might present quite a problem. Seems her shoddy old folks have a peculiar penchant of using poor Beercan Boy as an automated teller machine. Easy enough system I think. All it takes is teary eyes, a weepy spiel and two pokes to get a thousand dollars.

I'm almost tempted to do the same.

Paul : They borrowed money again?
Beercan Boy : Just a little bit.
Paul : Again? Did you recently open a moneylending institution?
Beercan Boy : No? They did return the cash they borrowed previously so I figured there's no harm.
Paul : That was after a year! So what is the money for?
Beercan Boy : Umm. Don't know.
Paul : And you didn't bother to ask? Are they paying off the moneylenders? Paying for drugs and hookers? Paying off a hitman? Buying a new chandelier for the manse?
Beercan Boy : I asked. They just didn't tell me.
Paul : They don't have friends of their own to ask from?
Beercan Boy : Umm... no?
Paul : Money given, no questions asked. Umm... can I borrow a thousand as well?

Obviously Beercan Boy found alternative employment as a benevolent Ah Long when I wasn't looking.

Song Seung Hun
Maybe if I throw in some roses they will love me!

Borrowing from your daughter's idiot boyfriend is suspect enough - but I guess I can overlook that particular social faux pas. What I can't understand is the inexplicable reluctance to explain the murky reasons behind the loan. Unless the money's being used for shockingly nefarious purposes, I don't think divulging the reasons should be a problem!

Especially when the one asking is the moneylender.

Okay, I'll readily admit that Beercan Boy's a simple fellow. But the fact that he happily accepted their flimsy excuses without pressing further leaves me speechless. Beercan's not hurting for money but he's certainly no philanthropic Bill Gates. Starting to wonder whether the boy gleefully tosses cash bonuses about the back alleys.

And why haven't I gotten any yet!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rents and Sensibility

A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

Sometimes I think men should try every bit as hard as well.

Seldom, very seldom does a long-distance relationship work. Had my own foolish experiment back in the past which fizzled quite spectacularly - so this time around, I decided to forestall a repeat of my past mistakes.

Especially since it turns out my temporary transfer gig here might change into something a little more permanent. With me choosing to stay here - and Charming Calvin working way on the other side of the Big Pond, the resultant circumstances seemed unsatisfactory.

Calvin : Umm... so you want me to lie?
Paul : No, I want you to avoid answering the truth.

Which is why I've been talking Charming Calvin into coming back. And maybe sharing Netherfield with me.

Till now he's been a bit resistant to the novel idea. With the deed to Pemberley his dream apartment almost in hand after numerous unforeseen obstacles, I can almost understand his reluctance. Surprisingly though, that's not the reason he dreads returning. Having the prodigal gay son return doesn't seem to be the issue here - in fact his mother would be over the moon ecstatic!

But it turns out sharing a rented house - with another man! - would be potentially problematic. Seriously how did Bingley and Darcy do the same without arousing suspicion amongst the gossipy villagers?

Calvin : It is impossible. How would I justify moving in with you when I have a perfectly good family home barely five miles away?
Paul : Just tell her you hate driving home in the dark after work? Or tell her your workplace would be much closer to Netherfield.
Calvin : The office is actually closer to my home.
Paul : She wouldn't know that now would she?
Calvin : I wouldn't feel good lying.
Paul : It's not lying. You just don't mention it. Just tell Madame Borgia it's easier for work and leave it at that.
Calvin : I can't tell her that!
Paul : And why would she ask that many questions? She's your mother, not the Gestapo Chief of Interrogations!

I knew that wily matron Madame Borgia would somehow creep into our everyday lives.

Seriously, what happened to the art of concealment? Never been a paragon of moral virtues myself so I've always found that little itty-bitty white lie amongst family wholly acceptable. And in this situation, it's certainly not lying per se - let's call it a partial omission of the truth. Madame Borgia won't ask, he won't tell. Surely his loving momma wouldn't scrutinize his motivations to return that closely so such probing questions shouldn't even arise.

Madame Borgia's a wicked schemer herself, surely she would understand.