Friday, April 28, 2017

Step Back In Time

Paul : Hello.
Lady : Good morning, young sir. And how are you doing today? 
Paul : I'm doing quite well. How about you? 
Lady : Not very well, I'm afraid. You see, my dear beloved husband finally went back to the Lord just last night and I'm preparing for his wake. 
Paul : Oh dear. 
Lady : Yes, he caught a terrible fever down in the mining camps and returned home looking quite peaked. Not much the doctor could do unfortunately, not even with all the new remedies and balms that just came by coach from Melbourne. 

Sounds almost like an English primer from school, doesn't it?

Though what is far more remarkable would be the fact that the lady in question finds herself appropriately dressed in severe Victorian mourning clothes with a delicate lacy black veil over her ashen face. After having been vouched earlier for having an irreproachably respectable character by a suitable chaperon, I was admitted to the heretofore sacrosanct ladies' parlour for a brief conversation. Any longer and it would certainly have given rise to gossip in this small town. From what I gleaned from her words, it was no surprise that her husband succumbed to whatever mysterious ailment struck him; given the meagre - and oh so doubtful - medicinal supplies then available in the mid 19th century.

And yes, it was the 19th century.

Or at least everyone there would have you believe it so.

Lest you think I've inadvertently fallen into a bafflingly spooky M. Night Shyamalan thriller, I didn't really buy into their far fetched stories either. After all this was Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, a living museum set on a goldfields town dedicated to life in the 1850s - and frankly one of my favourite places in Victoria. Thoroughly enjoyed myself there the last time I visited and wondered whether I would feel the same two decades later.

With much relish, I can wholeheartedly confirm that I love the place quite as much as I did the last time I was here. Perhaps even more, now that I have the time to explore every nook and cranny of the lil town without being rushed by my friends who had little interest in such make-believe historical proceedings.

Having that extra coin in my pocket helps a bit too since I can finally afford a pie or three rather than the packed sandwich I brought along that last time.

Thankfully the charms of Sovereign Hill seemed to extend to all ages so it didn't take much to persuade Rambling Raoul and Chatty Carmen to go. Ever so kiasu Chinese in search of that treasured nugget of gold, our hellbent Raoul spent half the afternoon earnestly panning for gold in the little creek with yelled instructions from his sister.

I however walked down every alley in Sovereign Hill, chatted to as many costumed townfolk as I could and just enjoyed the life in the 1850s. Wonder if they need an extra hand over there!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Loco-Motion

Though plenty of folks, especially here in Borneo, rave endlessly over the spectacular wonders Down Under, I've always found myself a tad underwhelmed. Had my trip there way, way back during my university break years and to me, it's just another extensive Pacific Island - not all that different from the one I'm currently on - with just a little more development, far more Caucasians and lots of scorching desert.

Close enough it should come as no surprise that we have lots of amicable two-way travel between Borneo and Australia; with more than a few proper migrations!

After what amounted to a tedious three month stint over there, I never actually thought of repeating the visit. Hit most of the big cities there from Melbourne to Sydney, checked out the sights from the Great Ocean Road to the Blue Mountains, caught the penguins and the koalas. Didn't really see much point of making a return... till Sassy Sue and the kids finally made their move over there to what's apparently being termed the world's most liveable city.

I beg to differ of course.

Though this hot Aussie bloke could certainly convince me otherwise!

But it's hard to say no to family so I planned the trip to coincide with niece and nephew's Easter break.

Like every doddering elderly person, I gotta say this. It really is amazing how quickly kids grow up. Almost in the blink of an eye, Chatty Carmen has turned into a veritable young lady; though not in ribbons and lace as one would expect. Far more sober than I would have imagined, Carmen's more likely to be found in utilitarian sweatshirts and jeans than flouncy skirts and dresses. However her budding creative side has found life and expression in her artwork which I adore.

Which Carmen loves as well - despite repeatedly denouncing her supposedly astringent art teacher.

Several years junior, Rambling Raoul remains pretty much the same. Such a sweetheart that I'm sure he's the delight of all his classmates and teachers. Though I do wish he would attend to his school lessons just a little more - but then that's the kiasu Asian in all of us.

Dragged them all down to the city for a quick walk down Swanston eventhough I was feeling quite woozy from my usual wretched after-plane effects. Soldiered on I did!

Don't think I can say I've fallen madly in love with Melbourne like so many have but I did find myself reluctantly charmed by the Melbourne style architecture favoured by the inner city suburbs with the delicate lace ironwork applied to the balconies and balustrades. Obviously I was far too involved before with staring at my tourist map to look up at the pretty terrace houses all over Melbourne.

Then again they probably did undergo some gentrification.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Trimming the Teenage Thicket

Times have certainly changed. Coming from an all boys school, I can tell you that the eagerly awaited coming of puberty with the initial first spring of facial hair is greeted with much more than aplomb. Honestly the high school equivalent of a raucous street parade is thrown, along with well-wishing admirers all ready to admire that teeny-tiny sprig of negligible chin fluff.

As all fastidious biology teachers are wont to explain not very long afterward, that brief onset of puberty is later follower by the lightning-quick advancement of hair growth in many other regions, from the armpits to the nether regions. Proud of their hormonal over achievements, more than a few brutish teenagers are all too willing to flash the teeming forest under their armpits with very little persuasion.

Well that was before.

Quite thoroughly unlike the current fashion of going napalm all over.  I've said it before and probably would say it again. Overly precious pruning and manscaping to resemble something close to a hairless prepubescent I find utterly emasculating.

Not what budding teenagers these days are thinking about though. In the quieter moments of his increasingly overcrowded tuition classes, Charming Calvin gets asked the most awkward questions sometimes, fielding the usual complex mathematical conundrums to the more... unusual philosophical examinations of young life.

Seriously when you look this hot, no one cares about the armpits.  

Like whether to shave. And we're not talking about the jawline.

Calvin : My student was wondering whether to shave off his armpit hair.
Paul : Unusual.
Calvin : Thought so too.
Paul : I mean, the child barely has any hair anywhere!
Calvin : True.
Paul : And he's already wanting to shave? What next? A boyzilian

Wow. So these are the things teenage boys these days are preoccupied with?

I gotta say I have to pity them. Not only do they have to contend with their studies, their hormones and the ever-present teenage angst, now they all have to appear on point as well! Guess it's harder to compete with the other gelled, glossed and groomed teen heartthrobs these days - and we're not even counting the amazingly picture-perfect Instagram boys yet. Body image issues much?

What's a boy gotta do!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bapa Borek Anak Rintik

No doubt that particular Malay proverb would make little sense to some - but the saying translates closely to Like Father Like Son.

Though generally not applicable to my workplace, today it turned out to be surprisingly relevant when it came to my own nurses. Honestly it still surprises me but I've been working in this hospital with the same staff under me for more than five years. Talk about the blink of an eye.

Really small, tight team here in the hospital; so in all those years working together day in, day out ( sometimes even night out ), we have mostly gotten used to each other's little foibles, freaks and frenzies. Basically all the seemingly insignificant idiosyncrasies that make up a person.

And yes, we have learned from each other as well.

Though as it turns out, my own trusty nurses didn't only learn about medical physiology from me. Not content with taking to heart the pharmacological gems I occasionally mutter, their keen observational eye has picked up even more than I could possibly imagine.

Since the expeditious marriage and subsequent exile of Pretty Panacea to the northern wastes, her role in our hospital has only been replaced by someone far inferior that we've taken to calling Reasonable Remedy. Everything about the new girl is just... less.

And that includes her execrable style of dressing.

Nurse : Can you imagine what she wore to our soiree?
Paul : The less said, the better. Maybe she's here as the help. 

For a while though, I imagined I was the only one who noticed - since it's hard to believe anyone else in my workplace could be quite so judgemental. After all, only a handful here would even question the dubious sartorial instincts that would lead our fashion-forward Remedy to don a ratty tee and peasant pants to work, paired with a pair of worn beach sandals.

Perhaps Remedy made a reasonable effort when it came to more formal dinner, I thought to myself trying my best to be wholly magnanimous. Much to my consternation though, she proved me wrong yet again. Although this time, I wasn't the only one laying judgement on her deplorable fashion sense.

There we all were, my nurses and I, in the elevator waiting to head up to the dining room when she came along. Almost on tandem, my nurses turned to stare her down as Remedy waltzed down the hallway in her flip flops. Imagine eight judgemental, supercilious stares suddenly aimed your way. While my nurses were all dressed to the nines with heels, hair and make-up done impeccably, our oh-so-sloppy Reasonable Remedy had just thrown on whatever was closest in her ever-convenient laundry basket, sadly wrinkled and tattered though it may have been.

Then just like any Mean Girls movie, one of my nurses - they vehemently denied doing it after - pressed the elevator button to shut the door on a dumbfounded Remedy.

Nurse : Oh no. She is not sitting with us. 
Nurse #2 : Does she think she's headed to the wet market in that outfit? 
Nurse : Let's not take a selfie with her. 

Couldn't have said it better. I think I had a proud tear in my eye.

Bapa Borek Anak Rintik indeed. 

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Push and Pull

First-time crushes are always a bit hard to deal with. 

Perhaps a little different for me since I've always favoured the ... let's call it the Attila the Hun Method of Courtship; that full- on rampaging barbaric assault with lots of wanton pillaging and ravishment after. Simply put, it's all about 'You're hot. Let's fuck.'

Definitely very little time left for coy sophomoric mating games which I find a bloody waste of time. And if the unfortunate object of my affection doesn't share my lustful feelings, then it's just a quick farewell handshake with no harm and no foul on either side. Life's far too short, no? 

More tapping, less talking!

Don't worry if you're feeling terrified and ready to run for the hills. Obviously I'm in the sad minority when it comes to my tempestuous courtship style; undoubtedly quite a handful of well-favoured yet painfully meek villagers have already been scared off into said hills by my overly aggressive approach. Sad lack of cojones that. 

Of late though I've had more of a chance to observe some of my other friends at work, even a few who lean towards a more unusual method of courtship. Perhaps what I'm starting to term the passive-aggressive style started by the acne-riddled freshman boys back in high school; you know the brash unthinking sort who reach out to tug on that special girl's braid hoping to get noticed?

Tim : Oh man, she's so pretty, I can't believe she isn't the prom queen. Just look at her. 

Then the very next instant when his dream girl finally arrives, our friend here abruptly makes an about-face and does quite the opposite.

Tim : Gosh she's so vain. Always all about her looks. Though there's not much there to work with. 

Like what the hell, man.

Though the inherent drama of the persistent push and pull does provide quite a lot of script fodder for Hollywood rom-coms, it doesn't translate all that well into real life. On the big screen, there's the sizzle of a well-written repartee between the warring couple but in reality, it's just insults and abuse hurled both ways which does little to promote any sort of lasting relationship.

Hair pulling? Rock tossing? Name calling?

Really, how does that schizophrenic love-hate personality work on that dream girl? Short of being a freaking narcissistic queen, she's quite obviously going to think he dislikes her immensely. Perhaps it's time to lay off the sophomoric push and pull for something a little more traditionally adult? Flowers and chocolates maybe?

Monday, April 03, 2017

Comfortable Enough?

'You can never be overdressed or overeducated.'
                                       Oscar Wilde

Time and again, I've harped about the importance of dressing well, though obviously to apparently deaf ears. Tragically, the immortal words of Oscar Wilde seem to have conveniently slipped their collective minds since even my own friends, who really should know better, habitually schlep their way to dinner in flip flops and ratty shorts.

Or even worse, the ever ubiquitous, sweat-drenched active wear. Before you even need to ask, no, you can't wear musky sweat-drenched gym tees and stained sweatpants to dinner either! Is it so terribly hard to ask for a quick shower and change? Quite a few times we've caught our own Mad Madison committing just such a sartorial sin.

Even our perennial transgressor,  Diffident David, begrudgingly admits dressing well does make everyone look just a tad better, which only leaves me ever more puzzled by his insistence to join the devil-may-care tatterdemalion movement.

Paul : So you're saying you prefer to look terrible? 
David : No. 
Paul : Then what could possibly be the reason? 
David : Sometimes you just don't want everyone else at the table to feel uncomfortable because they are underdressed. 
Paul : Perhaps they should have thought better then. 

Flabbergasted I was.

Admittedly it was quite an epiphany on how the rest of the world thought - nevertheless it did little to change my general outlook on looking presentable. Dress way down just to fit in?  Really? Though it is generally important to have all your friends and guests feeling utterly comfortable at the dinner table, I certainly wouldn't advocate dressing down just to suit them. So if they were to make their attendance in generic garbage bags, should we all hurry off to change into similarly disastrous ensembles to match?

Perhaps they should have thought harder instead on their unfortunate accoutrements.

These days you can't even try blaming economical constraints. With industrialization and mass marketing making readymade clothes easily available to all, what cheap excuse is there to be bundled up in a raggedy tee-shirt and rattier shorts out in public?

When you could be dressed like the gentleman below!

Dress badly? How is that even a thing?

I'm not saying preen for an hour before the mirror picking the perfect outfit to head out. There's no need to splurge a month's pay on something sinful just to waste it on an evening either. Simply dress to fit the social occasion. Just as I wouldn't jog on a treadmill in my bespoke three-piece, neither should you arrive for dinner in your omnipresent active wear! Or even that rumpled layabout shorts and tee you wear to laze about at home.

Seriously when did it become totally alright to wear the same sloppy togs to work, to the gym, to dinner and to work? Has Casual Friday turned into a Dress Down Week?