Friday, February 26, 2016

Calling for a Consult

Perhaps it's time for a Botox.

If anything, the following events that happened just this morning certainly impressed on me how very dodderingly ancient I am! Immediately brought back uneasy recollections of a scenario that happened when I was a terribly green junior registrar way back when. For ease of reference, our strictly followed medical hierarchy at work - regardless of specialty - goes a little something like this.

Houseman --> Medical Officer --> Registrar --> Specialist --> Consultant

So after a particularly exhausting round at some ungodly hour in the intensive care unit, the senior doctor turns to me to draft out her plans. Let's just call her Jane.

Jane : That should be the plan for the patient. Just write it down and I'll confirm the changes with the consultant on-call. 
Paul : You're the consultant on-call. 
Jane : What? You must have read the roster wrong. That's years away. I'm only the specialist. 
Paul : No, you're the consultant on-call. Take a look at the roster. 
Jane : OMG. 

Yeah, it suddenly just hits you. Like a bleeding sledgehammer right to the face. I could have sworn there was downright panic in Jane's face when it finally sank in.

Damn, you mean we're the consultants now? 

Didn't find it quite as funny when it happened to me though. Exactly this morning when I paid a cordial visit to the colleagues in my previous hospital. Certainly a welcoming bunch with coffee and nasi lemak but I simply couldn't shake these fellow specialists from the infernal habit of calling me boss. Medical peers after all with no need to pull rank in the break room.

Paul : We're all doctors here, you can call me by name. 
June : Actually, no. You remember Ebullient Eve and Nervous Nancy
Paul : Sure, they were my medical officers way back when. 
June : They are my badgemates. We all finished our specialty training last year. 
Paul : OMG. 

For us, it would be the equivalent of finding out that the toddlers you used to babysit have graduated college! Didn't I just sign their papers to apply for the training just yesterday?

You mean we're supposed to be the consultants now? I think I need to sit down.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Takes A Village

Bringing up a child is no easy matter. Even with two parents around, it's an unenviable - usually thankless - task that takes up endless time and effort.

However lately we seem to have forgotten that the upbringing of a child isn't only wholly dependent on the already overwhelmed parents. Lest we forget it takes a village. Problem is the modern villagers these days seem to think the entire hardship of childrearing shouldn't be their burden to bear.

Even when the child is a part of the family.

The children return to Castle Borgia. 

Something I find difficult to fathom. Especially when it comes from Benedicta Borgia. Seems like the new year brought a real nian 年兽 to their door.

Calvin : Actually we spent the new year babysitting a monster. 
Paul : Not the monsters from under the house
Calvin : No. 
Benedicta : You wouldn't believe how obnoxious the child was. Screaming and wailing all day long.
Paul : Well you should have reprimanded the child. 
Benedicta : How could I? 
Paul : How could you not? 
Benedicta : But it's not my child. 
Paul : She's your niece. 
Benedicta : Still not my child. 
Paul : She's part of your family. A quick scold would have sufficed. 
Benedicta : What would the parents think?
Paul : They should know better. 

And if they think otherwise, really I would have given the parents a stern lecture as well.

Despite being seemingly conservative Confucian, the Borgias surprisingly don't seem to hold to all that many traditions and attitudes. Apparently even a niece doesn't count entirely as part of their own. Which I find odd since in my own loud boisterous family, my uncles and aunts - possibly even random unknown elderly folk who aren't even vaguely related - would have walloped me swiftly if I'd stepped over the line. Certainly kept us all in check.

Something I've been doing as a crotchety uncle these days as well; so far, none of the rugrats have defied my evil eye.

Actually cross the line and I would have threatened the proverbial cane. Never believed in sparing the rod. Steadfast child educationists might screech in horror but really, have their namby pamby methods actually produced a finer, better behaved society?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New Year Doldrums

It hasn't been a very good new year here.

Fear not though; nothing untoward has happened. Just been feeling a bit... off lately.

Have I fallen prey to the same seasonal malady like the rest of my peers who find themselves utterly disinterested with the unique charms of the festive season? Doubt it since I still find the time to decorate the house in bold colours of red and gold along with the mandatory spring couplets wishing luck and prosperity at my front door. There's even a papercut diorama of a Chinese lion dance on the cabinet.

Even play the occasional drum-and-cymbals Chinese New Year anthems without cringing.... too much. 

But this year hanging up the red lanterns does seem to be a bit more of a chore than usual. More a matter of habit than pure enjoyment. Perhaps the elders are right to say that the Chinese New Year celebrations were made purely for the young. All the flash, the colour, the noise - all seems to be geared towards celebrating the brash and the bold. 

Everything seems a bit darker this year. 

And admittedly without my brother and his family - who have moved way down south making it harder for them to confirm their attendance year by year, it has become quite a little drearier. Let's not even rehash the increasingly distressing political news in our country. 

Friend : Eh how long will you be back? 
Paul : Probably just a couple of days. 
Friend : So short ah? Why not take longer wor? 
Paul : Really, after the third day of new year, exactly what do you do? 

Really, there's only so much mahjong and kuaci you can take in after one week!

Sigh. Guess I am turning into a regular Scrooge this time of year. So do they have an equivalent for 'Bah! Humbug!' in Chinese? 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Go Dutch

Kiam Siap.

In colloquial Penang Hokkien, that basically means being stingy. Hardly a complimentary epithet but one that is irrevocably linked to the Penang islanders who have gradually gained disrepute for being overly frugal.

Since almost my entire family hails from there, I'm inclined to deny the entirely malicious slander .... but it's almost impossible to do so when examples of such miserly behaviour abound. As a matter of fact, an older auntie proved the maxim right repeatedly last weekend when I was back home.

Let me give you some pertinent details first for this lady who I shall call Auntie Kaya since she's obscenely wealthy. Not only was she born with an engraved silver spoon, it probably came encrusted with precious stones and pearls as well. One would think that money wouldn't be an important life's goal for her yet Auntie Kaya seems preternaturally obsessed with cautiously guarding her hoard of gold. Only several months ago, she astonished the lot of us when she demanded a hefty discount from a surgeon who basically saved her life.

Paul : You're certainly active tonight.
Auntie Kaya : I paid for the band and I'll dance all night to make it worth every penny.
Paul : You don't sound like you're joking.
Auntie Kaya : I'm not. 

And this from a bonafide nabob with several properties in Hong Kong and Singapore. Before you scoff at such meagre earnings, let me tell you it's all landed properties.

So you can imagine my consternation whenever she displays her renowned economy.

Picture perhaps a group of ten intent on exploring the island in pursuit of great street food - something Penang is rightfully world famous for - and before we've even decided on our first stop, Auntie Kaya stops everyone mid-stride yelling 'Go Dutch.'

For once I actually felt quite mortified. For her. Evidently that wasn't what she was feeling in the least since she didn't stop insisting on going Dutch despite the horrified silence that greeted her pronouncement. Not only did she say it once, she said it repeatedly from person to person.

As if we hadn't heard her the first time.

Kiam siap enough? I'm certainly no saint of charitability but Auntie Kaya takes the cake. With such fanatical parsimony, I guess it's no wonder she just keeps getting wealthier by the day. Doubt she even knows you can't carry it beyond the grave. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

All Fried Alfresco

I love my niece. Despite her oddities and idiosyncrasies so far different from my own, I do adore Chatty Carmen.

And if ever there were any doubts of that all-encompassing love, it was painstakingly laid to rest in the scorching baked earth of the residential park a few weeks back. Under the burning rays of our unseasonal El Nino 'summer'. Rather than the thankfully cool weather most of us expect during this season, climate change - and the ever-unwelcome El Nino - has brought about the hottest days recorded here.

Aptly enough coinciding with the birthday of my niece.

Something my sister-in-law intended to mark with a special celebration. It's not everyday that someone turns twelve after all.

Sue : Let's organize a birthday party!
Paul : Of course!
Sue : Any ideas? 
Paul : Something elegant and classy; tea time at a posh place? Ribbons, lace and parasols? 
Sue : Umm... I was thinking more of a picnic in a park. 
Paul : In Malaysia. 
Sue : Yes.
Paul : In our tropical heat.
Sue : Yes. 
Paul : In our sweltering jungle. 
Sue : Yes. But more residential park.
Paul : Oh. 

Oh dear God was my actual response.

Sure, having a late morning picnic in the park sounds absolutely lovely when you're in the cooler temperate countries. Sandwiches and scones; champagne and lemonade - who could possibly say no to all that especially when it comes in the most delightful picnic baskets?

But in Malaysia?

Calvin : I don't think I can go any further. Save yourself.
Paul : Have to agree it's very hot though.
Calvin : You're still in a coat.
Paul : Gotta maintain a reputation!

Umm. No.

We aren't lazing around in the rolling hills of Kent. Blazing heat aside, we also have to contend with the ubiquitous pests, both large and small from the crouching monkeys to the hidden mosquitoes. Not to mention the ever present danger of tropical diseases. See why having picnics have never actually caught on in the tropics?

But for Chatty Carmen, I braved the hellfire. Ditched the jacket though. Even our sense of style has to give way to our terribly unforgiving weather.

Paul : So did you enjoy your birthday party? Was it all you wanted? 
Carmen : Why did we have it in the park? 
Paul : @$#%@