Thursday, March 30, 2006


Shirley is the title of a classic, written by Charlotte Brontë right after the death of her brother, Branwell, and two sisters, Emily and Anne. On the back cover of the Penguin Classics edition that I own, it is said that she "poured out her feelings for her dead sisters". One would naturally expect a novel comparable, if not more passionate and intense than Jane Eyre, her first-published and greatest novel ever. On the inside of the cover of my copy of this novel, I had written, in my own handwriting, the date and place where I bought it. The year was 1994. In the last 12 years I had attempted to read this classic no less than 3 times. And each time, I couldn't get past the first chapter itself, before giving up. The storyline was presently so slowly, so subtly, and the descriptions of characters, places and events so extensive and elaborate, that it is an effort keeping my concentration on it, for more than a couple of paragraphs at a time.

Recently, I undertook the challenge to read (and complete reading!) this book again. The title character, Miss Shirley Keeldar, did not make appearance in the text for the first 10 chapters - that is, about the first 200 pages of the book. And I thought it was bad that David Copperfield was not yet born within the first 20 pages of David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. *wide-eyed*

I am right now in the midst of Chapter XII of Shirley, and I do hope I will complete the novel this time - finally.

(Image above taken from Richmond, Yorkshire by JMW Turner)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Big Mouth's Big Mistake

Just felt like writing about this incident which happened somewhen last week. The Big Mouth in my class who can't seem to stop talking, nor turn down the volume of his unwelcome speeches, said something which would make all dead English teachers roll in their graves.

So there I was, showing the class how something is to be done, and upon completion, asked the customary "All of you done?". Mr Big Mouth, who happened to think that he has a superb command of English with a flourish, replied immediately (which is a habit that irritates me like mad!) in a loud and obnoxious tone "Yup! Been there, done that!"

It was so revolting I nearly fell off my chair! Does he even know what that expression means? Is it just me, or are people who think they are so smart (but are not, actually) simply unbearable? I marvel at myself for having put up with his nonsensical comments for as long as I have. Come end of semester, quickly, please!!!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Wedding Tales

I do not strive to be discriminating, but I have developed kind of a strong dislike to attending weddings of my husband's connections. By that, I mean wedding invitations that arrive bearing only my husband's name, such as "To (hubby's name) and wife" (what, like I'm a possession or a pet?) or the more civilised "To Mr and Mrs (hubby's name)".

The first time was that of his cousin's. It was to be a Christian "church wedding" in a hotel ballroom - and since I'd never attended a church wedding before, I was rather excited. Excitement soon gave way to boredom when after walking down the aisle, the bride and groom were asked to stand aside, and a "wedding singer" took over, commanding the (some over-zealous) crowd to sing half a dozen songs of praise. Not that I minded the songs - they were rather nice ones - but sung during a wedding? Then, the priest or pastor or father (sorry, I'd never known the similarities or differences among these terms) gave a half-hour sermon - on general qualities we should practice in life, such as kindness, understanding, bla bla bla.... and NOTHING on LOVE or MARRIAGE. I don't oppose to any religious practices - but the whole "wedding" was a little too weird for my taste. (I wholly appreciated the extent of its weirdness when a couple of years later, I attended a church wedding of my colleague's, complete with the ceremony, hymns and short sermon in which the pastor talked about love, marriage and a good home - it was a much more romantic and beautiful affair). That wedding indeed was not a truly enjoyable one - but it was still not bad, for we were sitting in the same table as my in-laws, and we got to roll eyes together. At the end when we met the bride, I complimented her on being very beautiful, and she replied a curt "Thanks!" and turned her eyes away - the way one would address another way below one's station. Whoa! Did I say something wrong? Aren't we supposed to compliment brides on their wedding days?

The second wedding was that of one of my husband's close friends from university, which was held in a typical crowded chinese restaurants where relatives love to abuse the karaoke facility. On that occasion, we were seated on the same table as some former classmates from university, and it would had been grand to had conversed with them, if only we could had heard each other. The abuse of the karaoke facility began before the first dish was served, and lasted continuously until dessert was over. The aunties and uncles all took their turns, and whenever there was a gap in the line of aunties and uncles, the gracious MC (provided by the restaurant) took it on himself and serenaded pain into us. My ears rang all the way home after the dinner. Before we left, we met the bride and groom - as is usual - and I complimented the bride for looking ever so beautiful (it's funny, buy nobody usually pays attention to how the groom looked on his wedding day). She smiled and blushed and said thanks. Now that's what I call a lovely, blushing bride!

The third, and most recent wedding, was that of a mutual friend, but he was closer to my husband than to me, such that he is his friend on most accounts. It was held in a grand hotel ballroom, complete with flower decorations and a red carpet, much like my friend Kate's. Unfortunately, he didn't have as many siblings or decade-old friends to help him organize seatings or keeping the events in order, so we ended up not getting seats at the table "meant" for us, but had to hunt another on our own. After we sat down, and made ourselves comfortable at a secluded table at the end of the ballroom, with only a middle-aged couple at it besides ourselves, a waiter approached us and "politely" told us that we had taken a "reserved" table and so the bride had requested that we move to another table (I seriously don't believe the bride had the time to notice or to bother la, ok!). The uncle at our table then told the waiter that we had nowhere else to sit, and the waiter said fine, he'll check with the bride, and then walked off and never came back. Silly fellow. Shortly before the dinner began, a family of 4 came and joined us at our table. The food was fairly palatable but the waiters want lots of spanking. Really. Not only we had to wait ages for anything we asked for, they didn't have the sense to stand aside during a video slideshow of photos of the bride and groom - but continued walking through and fro on the aisle and in-between tables. It irritated me to no ends! (To the groom: if you are reading this, ask the hotel management to give you a discount on account of their staff's misbehaviour!!) During the course of dinner, a really funny incident occurred though. There was a dish of roasted duck, and when it was served, nobody at our table dared touch it - I heard whispers of "chicken!!" and "bird-flu!!". Someone then looked at the menu and confirmed that it was duck, not chicken, and they "ohhh" with relieve and started eating like nobody's business. I didn't know bird flu affects only chickens (or that chickens are the only bird species in this world). Cool. There was also karaoke facility but thank goodness it was not abused this time (except by the over-bearing MC who thought people soooo wanted to hear him "sing"). In fact, my husband so appreciated the vocals of an uncle called "Ah Guan" that he mentioned it a few times even on the next day. Before we left, we had a quiet chat and photography session with the bride and groom. As is my custom, I threw a compliment on the lovely bride in her elegant blue evening gown. She shook my hands, smiled and thanked me. Now, I am quite convinced that it is customary to compliment brides on their wedding days.

**I was thinking of how I always complained about people singing horribly at other people's wedding, and remind myself of how we were singing horribly at Kate's wedding, and I thought - hey, what comes around goes around! :D

Thursday, March 9, 2006

KTM Blues

This morning, the train I was on missed a stop - yes - the driver shot way past the station, and had to reverse the train right back up. Funny? It's the third time I've experienced that within these two months! I don't know what's wrong with these drivers - can't see a station up ahead? Why yes, these days it's still rather dark at 7am but hey, don't all trains have headlights, and a very bright spotlight in front? No wonder commuter trains are almost always late - the drivers have a habit of missing certain stops, and then reversing the trains back to the stops, along the way. How really sophisticated. And because the train missed a stop and reversed back this morning, I was a little late to catch the bus, and as I was walking (really fast) out of the station, I saw the bus pulling up, and had to run all the way to the bus, which is about 30-40m away - on my 2-inch heels, as usual.

In the evenings, when trains arriving late don't affect me as much as they do in the mornings, something else bothers - smoking on the platform. A lot of times, when I was fortunate enough to get a seat on the platform while waiting for the train, some idiot would sit right next to me and go puffing away. And I'd have to give up my seat (by no means unreluctantly, though) and stand at a substantial distance from the air-polluting lung cancer-loving mobile chimney on two legs. Sometimes, when there are too many of them, and they are scattered all over the platform, it just irritates me to no end, for I would be unable to find any spot with fresh air for myself.

However, considering the escalating cost of fuel and not to mention highway tolls, probably a few crazy drivers, running after the bus on high heels and walking second-hand smoke dispensers on the platforms are not such serious problems afterall. Sigh.

Monday, March 6, 2006


I am very susceptible to static-charge shocks - meaning I actually can feel static charges that will usually be oblivious to most others. I first knew this when during a shopping trip with my bestfriend, as we were walking side-by-side, and as our arms nearly touched, I heard a tiny crackle and felt a pin-prick. The charges jumped from one of us to the other. And it happened several times. Later, I realised that it happens when I walk with anyone in places with lower temperatures (usually air-conditioned shopping malls). Although the other party don't usually feel the static, I always do.

And then, I realised I also very frequently get static shocks when I alight from a car - whether the journey had been a short or a long one. The moment my fingers touch the metal part of the car door, whether or not my feet have touched the ground, the charges fly. Sometimes, the crackle is louder and the pain is more acute - sometimes, not so. Sometimes, I even see the spark! It's traumatised me so much, especially when shocked off-guard, that sometimes, upon reaching home in the evening, I'd not touch the car doors, but use my foot (protected by the shoe) to kick the door close. Once, when I did that, I got the static shock from the metal gate instead. $*&%#!@

At another time, when I tried to connect the signal cables (for video, L- and R- audios) from my DVD player to the TV, I got a mild shock from touching the metal pins (well, I was stupid enough to have turned the power on before taking hold of those cables). Luckily that was a one-time thing only.

And today - gosh! I finished my lecture, and I shut down the computer. Then, I turned the power off, and I pulled the CPU cable plug from the wall socket. As I prepared to keep it, one of the pins on the plug zapped my hand! It felt like a sharp stab and wasn't it painful! I was sure my hand was numb for a while. It went wobbly and trembly for a while more after that. After I had washed off the stains of my marker pen ink from my hand, I could clearly see a tiny red spot - the burnt mark - on the inside of my palm. Man, this is serious! I still can't believe it actually happened!

From now on, I've gotta be real careful when handling stuff with current - but hey, that's almost everything! Argh!

Little Treasures

Yester-night, while I was looking for a key-chain to hook my portable semiconductor memory I/O device (that's my own, super-long term to mean the USB memory drive - or more commonly mis-termed as thumbdrive or pendrive) to, I remember the tin box of key-chains that I'd collected over the years. Inside a cardboard box buried under layers upon layers of dust, I found it.

And there lay all the things I hold precious since so many years ago. There were those I bought on family vacations - one of the map of Langkawi island, one of wood from Malacca. There were those I got as souvenirs from functions I attended - a gold-plated one from the wedding of one of my father's business associates, with the names of the bride and groom etched on it (sadly though, the pair had divorced), another bearing the official logo of The Star newspaper, which I got when I attended their workshop on children's story writing with my bestfriend. And there's the one I made by myself, using a piece of scrap plastic which I smoothened, drilled a hole through, and attached the chain - using machinery from my father's workshop. There are also those I handmade from tying pieces of colourful strings into knots. Each key-chain comes with a story of its own.

Next to the tin of key-chains, I kept a smaller tin of metal badges that I collected since primary-school, including my school badges. The most precious is that of Convent Rahang - for the school no longer exists, and the ground on which it used to be is now a theology school. I have also several small pin-badges of the logo of "Visit Malaysia Year 1990" which was also made partly in my father's workshop. Then there's a couple of St John Ambulance collar-pins - all of which I believe are not to be found easily anymore.

Going through these things which may worth nothing, but are priceless treasures to me on a personal account, I thought about what will become of them upon my death. Will my husband or daughter toss them out like pieces of junk that "mom has kept for years"? What about all the other stuff that I still keep? (I am, I admit, an ardent keeper). Even if my children continue keeping my junk after I am gone, what about their children after they are gone? Things other that jewels don't usually get passed down as family heirloom. Really. It was indeed a disheartening thought.