Category Archives: A Little Bit of Love

The Imam’s Wife’s Funeral

Today I attended a funeral in bright pink socks. I woke up late, grabbed the only decent clean pair of socks available, missed the bus and stood ten minutes in the shower getting my shoes soaked before the next bus arrived. I was late in arriving at the funeral care centre but just on time as they had ran over time. The men stood outside waiting as the ladies crowded the narrow corridor inside. I barely made it on time for the first takbir of the solat jenazah. Then, the women took turns paying their last respects for the imam’s wife.

Apparently the mandi jenazah, or the cleansing ritual for the deceased took place at the centre as well. This was a pleasant surprise as the centre looks more accustomed to Christian funerals; I guess they improvised with what was provided. The little room where the body is resting in the coffin was packed and half the crowd prayed outside the room during solat jenazah.

I was told later the body was buried in the coffin with the bottom-inside of the coffin lined with a layer of soil to keep to the Sunnah (standard procedure for Muslim burial is the body lowered directly to the ground, no coffin, only several planks of wood to keep the body in place). The cemetery was mixed but they probably allocated specific zones for different religious faiths. The coffin was brought out in a black funeral car with a man in black attire in a black top hat and a black walking stick walking preceding the vehicle. I guess apart from the Muslim ritual to prepare the body for burial, the other aspects were pretty much British.

I said a little prayer and took a quick glance before letting the next in line to pay her respects. I can’t bring myself to look at faces of the deceased for long; I prefer to keep the memory of them while they’re alive.I ’ve never seen most of the ladies who turned up for the funeral before. Females are the minority during Terawih prayers in Ramadan and the large numbers only come during Eid prayers or the fortnightly family gatherings at the mosque where there’s abundance of free food. Today at least 10 families came. By family I meant those who came with their spouses or siblings and their children.

After seeing the body sent off for burial, I was treated to lunch before we were due to return to the mosque in a couple hours for another short prayer session. The Bruneian lady’s place where my friend and I rested for a while had assorted Malay kuih and we had kuih kapit and almond London (chocolate almond cookies) for mid-afternoon snack. We just came back from a solemn affair and yet if felt like Raya having tea in her living room. We returned to the mosque just in time as they were serving food to everyone who attended the service earlier, so had second lunch. It was lamb shish wrap earlier and then lamb curry. They gave me some of the untouched leftovers to bring home together with some naan. Mind you, I just made lamb curry yesterday, so that makes a week of lamb? Oh boy.

As usual, they gave generous portions of curry and rice to everyone, and most of the ladies only managed half their plate. The rest were thrown into the rubbish bag. I never liked having good food wasted, next time I’m attending another of their makan parties I’ll make sure I bring a stack of food containers. Maybe I should get several of the large metal food containers to donate to the mosque for them to serve food in so people are free to take as much or as little as they want instead distributing single portions of curry and rice on plates (which makes it very difficult to pack left overs).

People in mosques that I visit have always been very nice to me. Whether it’s KL, Seremban, Melaka, London, or Bath, I hardly return from my visits empty handed (or empty handed but with a full tummy), Alhamdulillah. Ramadan the year before the imam’s wife always made sure I had something to bring home after prayers. Every time she packs me the left overs it’ll last me a week. Her spirit lives on as I come home with ration for the next couple of days, insyaAllah.

May Allah bless arwah Nikhat Azami.

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Car Boot Adventures

I found these little vintage gems while scouring a car boot sale last Sunday somewhere in Cheddar. A little something for my grandfather. I hope he’ll love it! 🙂

The first set is a collection of black and white pictures of places in Nice, France.

I wish souvenir letter cards like these are still produced. Maybe I should design and print my own someday.

A “Traveltime Foldbook” depicting Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

Carboot sales are where one man’s junk can be another man’s treasure. Probably the only places which you can find everything in one place. When I say everything, I mean everything from polished mirrors to foggy ones with a tiny crack in a corner, fresh fruits to expired biscuits, cashmere scarves to used cosmetics.

I bought one of these for a friend ^.^ too cute I couldn’t resist!

If I had a bit more cash I would have bought the froggy watch.

Comic books and video games!

I was tinkering on a piano in one of the shop lots when the shop-owner asked if I took requests. I said sure, why not, and he asked me to play a tune on the piano. I may have played the piano since the age of four and passed six graded practical examinations, but if you’ve been off the keys for almost a year, your playing is bound to be rusty. Anyway, I played one of the three pieces I knew by heart and rendered (what I thought to be) a pretty good version of Fur Elise.

I got a job offer as a pianist afterwards.

The shop-assistant asked if they could hire me for the coming week to play on their piano. Woohoo! Would have loved loved LOVED to take up the job if only the place was in Bath.

I love pianos and I love to perform, despite my über-laziness to practice. Every time I see a piano somewhere you’re bound to find my itchy fingers on it if there’s nothing or no one stopping me. Hotels, museums, music shops, anywhere, any time. I’ve been told off by hotel managers and security guards, and I remembered once a music shop owner handed me a form to be filled in once I’ve fulfilled the required qualifications to return to the shop and work as a music teacher.

Haha! Horror, horror to the kids who sign up for my classes!

Apart from the picture cards, I bought two sets of vintage jigsaw puzzles for myself. Both at half of the prize written on the box. Hurrah hurrah! I bought it because I loved the illustration on the box. Those days, illustrations were hand-drawn before being sent for printing. There was no Photoshop and no tablets, just ink and paper.

I bought the picture cards for a total of 60p and the two sets of jigsaw puzzles for exactly £2.25.

I’m a happy camper! xD

Indian Summer

Truffles made, cinnamon rolls baked, rendang shared and finished as Year 2 looms closer and closer. I did well in my first year despite the frequent escapades to London or Oxford and the hours for procrastinating, but second year is no mean feat. I. Must. Do. Well.

No. Excuses.

The stress is not so much the amount of work, but more towards the concern that I have to maintain everything up to the level of achievement I have reached so far. Right now it feels like juggling glass spheres. I love the adrenaline rush and the sense of urgency, but I will miss the summer days when I could literally just do nothing and soak up every photon of the warm solar rays, bumming around in a park somewhere.

Toy Story 3 was screened outdoors at Victoria Park (just behind my flat) today and despite being so bloody exhausted, I whipped up a quick bowl of soba noodles with watercress and mango and found myself walking in semi-darkness, porcelain bowl in hand, dressed in pyjamas heading for the outdoor cinema.

And forgetting to bring the camera.

I didn’t stay long . Halfway through and my eyes started drooping and I began to be rather concious of a huge dog sitting about three feet away sniffing his surroundings. I didn’t want to get run over by the furry beast, regardless of how cute it is.

The night view of Bath from Victoria Park was lovely. I wish I have a USB port attached to my brain so I could upload the image here. The crescent moon hovering above the roof of houses was almost fairy tale.

I have been saying a lot of au revoir  the past couple of weeks. Time flies. It felt as if it was just yesterday I met these friends. At the same time, I have been welcoming a whole bunch of new people into my world. Bittersweet, but that’s a fact of life.

Wishing everyone starting or returning to university all the best and an excellent academic year ahead!  🙂

Aidilfitri Postcard for Atuk, London-style!

Today I got caught in the rain on Oxford Street on the way to Selfridges, ending up buying my fifth umbrella. This time it is a proper one (not the fold up version) with a nice wooden handle and a sturdy frame.

I wanted to get a set of pretty postcards I spotted at the stationary section of the high-end departmental store I saw the last time I was there, but to no avail. After getting in the second time (I went out, only to find it raining even more heavily, stepped back in and then bought the umbrella) I took a peek into Cath Kidson and found a nice set of postcards.

The cashier asked if it was a gift (it wasn’t) and if I would like to have it wrapped, I said yes and had them nicely bundled up.

It was tropical monsoon in London as I made my way to the post-office to get the stamps. Thank goodness for the large coverage of my brand new brolly, only the hems of my pants became slightly damp by the time I got back, but the paper bag containing my purchase was soaked. My purchase was unharmed though, thank God!

I pray hope the postcard reaches my grandfather in time, Godspeed!

“Baby, you’re a Firework!”

9th July and I was out of the house before 5am. Mummy and I were to attend a public speaking workshop – as facilitators – at English College, Johor Bahru. I was assigned to a group of lower secondary school children and was duly impressed at the level they were catching up to everything we taught them.

At the beginning of the workshop, a presentation outlining the steps to preparing a well-thought speech was given. The students were told about the importance of intonation and body language, and how it would engage the audience into the speech. The students were then paired up to discuss a topic they would like to write a speech about.

At the end of the presentation, the students were split into group of six consisting of three pairs each and shooed into separate classrooms.

The aim of the day’s workshop was to give a starting point to these students to speak in public. We started with them presenting their speech to their little group of six before voting the best among them to go into the ‘finals’ to compete with the best of the other groups.

I made all of them stand up in front of their group mates to present their speech. I didn’t touch the grammar or any technical English what not, but made them improve on not-talking-like-a-train-moving-without-stopping-at-its-station, intonation and minimise on rocking back and forth while giving the speech.

I told them to breathe at the end of every sentence. Count to two internally at every full-stop to keep from rushing to the next sentence. Express enthusiasm! There was one student who spoke in a flat, dry manner and I told him to say “Nasi Lemak!”, “Milo!” over and over again like he’s super excited about it and made him use the same intonation in his speech. My tip to them was to take single, large steps every time they start to rock front and back on the spot.

They picked up really fast! The boy who represented the group I was assigned to made tremendous improvement from the first time I asked him to present his speech.

During the finals, I noticed all the other competitors in the lower secondary category had brought prepared materials of essay samples from English textbooks. The boy from my group had just done his speech about 45 minutes before the round begun, and was purely original (sounds like me – epic last minute work FTW!)

He got first place, woots!

I was so proud. Haha! He never even expected to win.

The upper secondary students went all syok-sendiri and started to behave like emcees or presenters like you would see at a local concert. AIYOH! This workshop is for public speaking lah! It was evident few of them actually prepared their piece and once person received my exasperated look which clearly told them hurry up and finish! without my saying a word.

I found it a pretty good warming up for Projek Kalsom starting tomorrow in Melaka. Super excited! (but have yet to pack! just returned from JB this afternoon). Check out their documentary trailer. Have a good week peeps!

My Mummy, My Hero!

On my way to town, I noticed many fathers bringing their daughters for a day out.  I suddenly remembered today was Father’s Day and died a little inside, reminiscing the relationship between my father and I.

He has ceased into the background of my life, his most significant role being the other half of my DNA makeup and my surname. My parents divorced when I was three (I think ). My mother raised me up single-handedly from that point on, even providing for nearly all of our financial needs.

“Mummy” was my first word, “MUMMEYYYYHH!!!!” was the first thing I cried out when a stranger bumped into me – daddy ‘accidentally’ left me behind on a family outing in a shopping mall. My mother will be the first person I call for help once upon a time when I was absolutely terrified of cockroaches, and couldn’t get into our apartment for the intense fear of the icky creature sitting right in front of the door. My mother stopped some of my primary school teachers from constantly picking on me. I took counsel from her when one of my high school teachers tried making my life difficult.

Now that I’m studying abroad, I began to appreciate more of her efforts in bringing me up well. I used to get a decent scolding for being untidy and inconsistent with the house chores. After about nine months of living in a shared flat with four other guys, mind you, – who consistently leaves pots and plates unwashed for weeks, forgets to put out the rubbish, leaves lots of grease on the grill and stove and not bothered to clean up afterwards, inefficient in paying the utility bills, the list goes on and on- I realised just how much work she has been doing alone all this while.

She kept the house clean, prepared my meals, worked 9-to-5 (and countless overtimes), sent me to ballet and piano lessons until I moved into boarding school. Did anybody offer to help her? Few. We stopped hiring maids when I was 7 or 8 after many of them ran away, ran away with some belongings which weren’t theirs, and or siphoning off resources from the kitchen to share among the other foreign maids working with other families in the neighbourhood.

We managed.

We lived well.

As for my father, I only see him occasionally during Aidilfitri or any other times when we meet up. I would rather keep my distance from him, and I do not appreciate anybody trying to reconcile our relationship. Nothing is broken anyway. Reason being, having him close may see myself getting tied down with his 1903734682195 problems.

I am content with my little happy family bubble of my mother, grandfather, and several close family friends of ours. I have a little circle of friends whom I cherish. To all the single parents out there (including couples with kids who are technically married, but the other half is away for work more than half the time), you have my deep respect.

To mummy, Happy Father’s Day.

May God bless you always.

Cookies and Dreams

Its lengthy description would be chocolate cookie dough in vanilla cupcake topped with cookies and cream containing an Oreo surprise. The topping was made using double cream whipped to soft peaks, sweetened with a touch of icing sugar, kissed by a little essence of vanilla with crushed Oreos folded into it.

Two dozen of these tasty treats made its way to Oxford, went round a smoothie bar, the covered market, several book stores and museums before ending up in some happy people’s digestive systems.

The cupcakes were originally intended for Michii as a form of good luck wish for her finals. After giving me a wonderful tour of the town, I set out to explore solo (as she had to return to her revision) ending up with a pre-owned Dickens from a quaint second hand bookstore and killing time in the Ashmolean before heading to Keble for dinner and where I stayed for the night.

Once again the cupcake embarked on a merry-go-round of Oxonians (there were two dozens of them initially anyway) resulting in much needed merriment among the exam-stressed recipients.

I met up with a good friend of mine for supper where I related to him on my academic progress and my pleasure of finding a stock of classic reads for £2 each at a particular book shop. Unexpectedly I attended to a mini-lecture of why-I-should-stop-reading-fiction-and-must-read-facts-from-now-on. He suggested that I start reading biographies of successful figures (in business or politics I guess) alongside economic matters such Times magazine…blah blah blah.

My counter argument was that many of the biographies or autobiographies (of businessmen, world leaders or politicians) I have read tend to skew towards patronising or condemnation of the person being written about. Besides, why do I have to fork out tens of pounds for a hard-covered picture book when I can easily access a concise version of it by an interview in Times or speeches in TEDtalks?

The best autobiography I have read would be “Boy” by Roald Dahl. Wonderfully written with vivid descriptions. The reason why I love reading non-factual stuff is because sometimes, facts can be depressing. Fiction is an escape from the stresses of life. When I say I read fiction, I’m not reading itsy-bitsy fairy tales. Although I’ve just finished reading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, I have actually gone through the “introduction” parts and the additional notes which include a brief on the life of the author and references to the metaphors, sarcasm and jokes peppered throughout the book.

Currently going through a collection of short-stories by Kipling and then next will be Dickens. Will attempt to trudge the factual stuff once I’m done with my leisure reading. Until then expect flowery words and onomatopoeias from me.

Bryony Kimmings

If you are young, innocent, naïve, yet to have your first kiss and the territory of the land below un-ventured – the following review is to be read at your own peril. If you feel brave enough to discover what lies beyond these lines – fuck on.

Bryony Kimming’s Sex Idiot was a brilliant mind blowjob.  Full-on honesty and highly uncensored, she bares it all as she retraced her sexual encounters to find the contractor of her STD.  Little did I know what to expect when I redeemed the free tickets to her performance. I came out of the theatre feeling as if I had just lost my virginity.

She admitted to her problems with alcohol – drinking irresponsibly, ditching the contraception, partner after partner after partner and hello STD!

There were bird headdresses. There were bright red heels. She changed into a matador costume. And then a white lace dress. And then she took out her underwear. There was a contemporary dance called ‘Sex’. She demonstrated the expansive ability of a condom. She stretched it right over her head as you would wear a swimming cap. “If the guy tells you his dick is too big for it (the condom) it means that it is bigger than my head!”

Then, she started handing out scissors to the audience. Contributions of hair from you-know-where were asked for. When the cutting tool was passed around the guy next to me took it, slipped it into his pants and snipped off a little of whatever it was (I buried my face into my hands and was half-sobbing into my friend’s shoulder on the other side of me) and passed the thing right across me into a teacup which was used to collect all the donations. Another guy sitting diagonally across in the row before me did the same.

Oh the shock, the horror, the trauma! Right then, a bottle of Jack Daniels was also being passed around. I should have done with a large gulp of it to swallow the next to come.

Apparently the scissors have not been washed since her tour show in Edinburgh. She took a clear tape, stuck the donated hair onto it before putting it across the top of her lips to resemble a moustache. It was her way to telling us BE CAREFUL of doing what other people tell us to do. The ‘moustache’ was on her lips for almost five minutes while she sang a song of a douchebag of an ex-lover.

I would recommend every impatient, sexed up, pre-pubescent boys and girls to watch this show. It is not cool to be fucked and fuck up your future in the process. Best ever education on sex I’ve ever had. Vivid. Live. Sexy. Burnt into memory. Damn woman. You’re brilliant!

Now, I would like to take a shower, cleanse myself and pray.

Dear God.

Please grant me a safe fucking life.

Amen.

Saturday Night

It was 8.30pm and I was already seeing bouncers at the doors checking IDs. There were quite a bunch of noisy teenagers going about town and policemen and women doing their rounds on the streets. Saturday night in Bath. Quite happening, isn’t it? And I inadvertently dialled ‘999’ on my mobile phone and the emergency call centre actually CALLED BACK and I had to make up an impromptu story about a “friend” who had too much to drink and accidentally dialled the number. After profusely apologising on behalf of my “friend”, I was given a sharp warning not to do that again.

Anyway, I was out on a Saturday night to meet up with two of my favourite people from back in Mantin. I was tad early so I took a stroll to Sainsbury’s, wandered about the aisle, bought some pocket tissues and hit the streets again. I met a friend whom I just met a couple of weeks ago with his mates doing some break dancing and hung about five minutes to watch. I waited for another friend at McD before heading up to Westgate, a pub I suggested for the little meeting with my two favourite people from Mantin.

I was under Mr. Hitchman for about a year in my sixth form where he taught Biology. I never studied under Mrs. Hitchman, but we were familiar with each other ( the community was small where almost everybody knew each other, and I greet every other teacher I see everyday 😀 ).

As they said they were coming down to Bath, I suggested why not to Westgate (its a pub) if they wanted to have some drinks. As they served food until late, I thought it would also be a good venue for a meal. Then again, it was a Saturday night. Initially he was a little surprised that I would go to places like that. Then again, I don’t do alcohol but I do follow my friends for their rounds of socials. On weeknights the ambience is really nice for a dinner and a few rounds of drink.

I asked if they preferred somewhere quieter, and brought them to a noodle bistro down town. We had a good session of catching up with each others lives, and I got to hear names and stories of many people I’ve almost forgotten. The Hitchmans were really enjoying their retirement and who doesn’t when you live in the Mediterranean with your very own swimming pool in a beautiful house! Their love of life even extends to cycling across Europe for a total distance approximating 3500km in seven weeks (if I didn’t hear it wrong haha) last summer.

Epic people. Seriously. Epic people.

I’ll need to plan a trip to Cyprus.

Who’s with me?!

HAHA.

I love them both.

They. Are. AWESOME 😀