Saturday, January 31, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Five days after

winter storm 2009 pictures

Max in his own thick coat
Roo in her blue sweater
Dumdum does not need a sweater
Buddy too can do without one

Rose bush

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lest I forget: How we lived through winter.

As I am writing this the ice and icicles are falling off the trees and roofs. We have been icebound for the last 2 days. The days before the freezing rain, we have been dry but cold, with temperature below 0 Celsius. Then the warm moisture moved in from the south and the cold front from the north. There was enough moisture to have a thunderstorm. The rain started to fall accompanied intermittently by lightning and thunder. It rained the whole night which then freeze into ice the moment it touches the cold surface. The next morning sleet has started to fall and accumulating onto the ice. I thought it was going to snow, but it did not. The sleet covered the ground about 4 inches thick. The cold temperature compacted the sleet and ice and it became one hard surface, nice to slide.

This afternoon the temperature got above freezing, and thus the beautiful ice crystals are falling to the ground. I can hear the sound. Thus I felt like writing about my first winter experience.

Coming from Malaysia where 15 degree Celsius is considered cold, London 5C was extremely cold. London is actually not very cold if not for the humidity and the wind that comes with it. Where I live now 5C is actually pleasant to go out without a heavy coat. Winter time where I live now is very pleasant because it is dry and only occasionally when there is extra moisture in the air, we get snow. Otherwise we manage to live below freezing for weeks with no problem. The problem begins when there is warm air and moisture comes from the south and then we are in big trouble. We will have ice storm like today where drizzles and rain freezes the moment it reaches the frozen ground. I t is hard to explain to my young nieces and nephews that we are cold but no snow. Everyone of them expects it to snow the moment we move into winter months.

I arrived in London in the Autumn. The real bitter winter was not yet to come. I was prepared with thick and warm clothing but was not prepared with sleeping in the cold room at night. We had many layers of blankets but none of then kept me warm. Thus the fun of feeding the gas meter with coins. The coins ran out fast and I was still cold. Then I decided to get a sleeping bag and a hot water bottle. Throw the hot water bottle filled with hot water inside the sleeping bag to make it warm before getting inside it. Then snuggled inside and sleep good. The heater made me dry and I would keep a bottle of water to drink by the bed.

The houses we students could afford were the cheap ones and were always drafty. There was no proper heating system, and since were poor we had no choice but to live in those run down houses.

The wind, oh the wind the gusts could easily blown me away. At 89 pounds, I was skinny. I usually carry a bag full of my stuff and a long black umbrella as a walking stick. The umbrella came in handy when it rained and as well as a protection.

I lived through 2 winters in London but we did not see snow even though there was plenty of rain. We had some dusting of snow on the grass, but nothing like a 10 inches accumulation. Minimal of snow but plenty of rain. dreary weather, cloudy and very few sunny days. London was gray and depressing in winter.

We were hard up to experience snow, so the first winter during the Christmas holidays, my friends and I rented a car and drove up north. My first roommate, her brother and sister in law (parents to a national bowling champion) drove up to Scotland. (This couple loved to bowl in London). We stopped at a few places and slept the Christmas night in Edinburgh. There was no snow there, so drove on until the the northernmost town and drove across the lakes including Loch Lomond to Fort Williams.

We stopped at a small skiing town near Aviemore to go skiing. We stayed at a bed and breakfast for a couple of nights. I remembered falling many times on the slope. It was an experience.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lest I forget: student's life in London

My life as a student in London back in the mid 1970's was nothing much to to tell. I guess that life was just school/classes and home. Classes usually started at 8 in the morning and ended at 4 in the evening. When I lived in Finsbury park, I had to leave early and queued at the bus stop along side regular office goers. Most time i did not get on the bus until the the fourth one came. The buses were regular but they were always full. It was much easier when I lived in Highbury Corner. I was more in control of my schedule. I only had to walk for 20 minutes to my classes, taking short cuts. The only bus that passed my house to my classes was number 270. It ran on 20 minutes schedule and always full.

I walked through the church garden and a short jump across a duck pond and I arrived at my classes. Some of my classmates had to take a few buses or change a few trains to get to classes. I was so lucky to live near my school and all the convenience. I lived just off Holloway Rd. I walked past the Polytechnic of Central London (PCL) almost everyday to the nearest grocery shop. (I think PCL now is called Royal Holloway University).

What did we eat? I think for breakfast I had whatever was available and ate lunch at school. Most of the time, on the way back from school, I stopped at the fish and chips shop and bought a takeaway. I stopped too often there and my woolen coat smelt like fish. Beside the regular fish and chips I had burgers in the fridge for supplement.

We had our milk delivered twice a week. I not am too sure which kind i had the gold top or the silver top. The gold top i think had heavier cream. We put our empty milk bottles outside the door and get a new bottle of milk when the milkman passed our route. We left money by the bottles when it was the time to pay.

To heat my room, the landlord installed an electric heater. The old man also gave me a propane heater in case I needed more warmth. The truck that sell propane came every week. The landlord would buy for me if i put my can outside the door. I paid for the propane.

I went to Woodgreen or Finsbury park to get halal meats from a Pakistani shop. I bought enough to last me a few days. I bought my other groceries at Sainsbury's on Holloway Road. I went to the Pakistani corner shop if I ran out of things. The corner shop charged double.

My life as a student revolved around classes and home and what to eat. I did not have a lot of money to spare. I only went to central London once a fortnight just to browse around or watch movies at Leicester Sq. Some weekends I went to the park walked and watch people in St. James park or just walked by the Thames.

I did go to the Kew garden for a couple of times because they had a lot of tropical plants. I managed to bring home some daun karapole and pandan (curi of course). There was not many places that sold oriental food. Perhaps i did not find them. I only knew one place that I could get belacan, sepat kering and durian etc. at this small Penang Chinese grocery shop down in Kilburn. I can't remember its name, but I went there when I needed my supply, not that I cooked much. I think the little shop now is a huge supermarket.

What else did we do? oh, we attended parties at friends' houses and celebrated new year at Trafalgar Sq.

I was a loner and i did not have many friends and kept much to myself. I observed that Malysians tend to stick together. I did stick with a few friends, but most of the time I was by myself and my flatmate. I kena kutuk with my friends who were waiting for a bus after school because i chose to walk home with a matsalleh classmate. I made some friends at school, including one from Ghana, one from Turkey, one from Australia. Local students seemed to avoid foreign students. I also made friend with my tutor who liked to give tutorial at the Hospital where he worked, a one to one tutorial. So after tutorial, i would walk to SOAS just to read Malaysian newspapers and to read some old Malay manuscripts.

My computer lecturer was unhygienic, he would bring his long french bread minus the wrapper or bag to class and put it on the table and started to teach. He would use his saliva on his fingers to clean the white board. Then after class he would pick his bread and go.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lest I forget, 2

The house we rent was on the other side of Finsbury Park and the nearest tube station was Manor House. We still had to walk quite a long way to the house. We rented a small flatlet, that has a room with 2 beds and a small kitchen and a shared bathroom on the landing. If I am not mistaken, the flat above us was occupied by a couple of Chinese from Hong Kong. The girlfriend was a nurse and the guy was studying law. The landlady lived in the basement. The little kitchen had a table for two and a stove, with a skillet and a milk pan.

The room was heated by a heater that worked on the coin operating machine. The heater would turn off when the money was gone. So, we had to feed the coins ever so often to keep warm. The meter took a 25 cents coin if I am not mistaken, so we had to keep all our quarters handy.

One day my housemate decided to cook some vegetables with dried shrimps, and guess what happened? The landlady came screaming up the stairs and opened all the windows and doors. We decided that dried shrimps was a big no no.

On another occasion, we cooked chicken curry, and we opened all the windows and doors, but the good smelling chicken brought the landlady upstairs again to check. We offered her some, and she liked the curry and wanted my friend to teach her to cook.

After the first term, my friend decided to go and live with her brother and sister in law a little ways down the road, nearer to Wood Green. I moved to another flat nearer and within a walking distance to where my classes were at. The landlord was a little hard of hearing and lived in the basement. All the rooms in the house were rented out. The top flat was occupied by an Italian family and the rest of the rooms were occupied by students who studied around London. This house was near the Islington public Library which was just across from the Highbury tube station.

When I moved into this new place, I occupied the front room which had a bay window. It had a big bed, a big fireplace and a table and chair. It was enough for my need and I had to make do with the bare room. Later in the year, a friend from the same course joined me and rented the room above me. The kitchen and the bathroom are at the landing. We shared both the facilities with another student from Central London polytechnic.

Not much later, the family that lived in the attic flat moved out. My friend and I decided to share the flat which had 2 bedrooms and a kitchen. The room down stairs were taken by other students and one of them was a daughter of a prominent judge in Malaysia who recently got a big payout. This young lady did not stay long because the landlord did not like her social life. She brought home all kinds of people and all of them were men. I was not happy too when one morning I was going to the bathroom, a black guy popped out of the bathroom. I was glad she left. We didn't see her often because, she left the house later than us and came home late at night.

The rent was quite high for that time. We paid BP7.50 a week per head. Most Malaysian undergraduates at the time were getting about BP75 a month. Since My friend and I were getting more, we could afford to share a flat. This was no posh place, but mostly a rundown poor area in the London inner city. We had to live in the poor slum like area as our finance was limited. We lived cheaply, mostly preparing our own food or on occasion buy fish and chips. I think even now our students who are government sponsored still live in poor rundown areas outside the city. I lived in Highbury Corner for the rest of my student days in London.

Highbury Corner was near to everything for me. It was near to my classes and near to the tube station and near enough to walk to Holloway Road and Seven sisters road to shop. I usually took a bus from there to Marble Arch and walked the Oxford street when I felt bored. I think we mostly walked those time. I did not have the monthly student pass because I did not need it. I went to Malaysia Hall only a few times to eat, other than that I tried to keep away. Not very friendly people there. Most Melayu I met on Oxford street hardly had a friendly smile on their faces. Did not reply my greetings, so I just ignored them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lest I forget

These days my memory is lapsing and I fear that soon it will be gone. I feel that i remember all the good times I had had, but few of the pain I endured.

Three decades ago, I ventured out for the first time to seek knowledge to faraway land of the white men. Visiting Singapore before and after it left Malaysia, or to Thailand do not count. This is really, really far away. I left Malaysia at the prime age of 22 to further my studies after a first degree at University of Malaya. My first long haul flight that made funny stops. I remember my flight first went down to Singapore, then caught another flight to Bangkok, then from Bangkok change the flight and aircraft to Bombay then to Paris, then landed at Heathrow. Today nobody would want to take such long winded flights anymore.

One incident that I still remember is that we almost got lost at Charles de Gaul's airport. We could not speak french and nobody could understand us. Well, got onto the right plane of course with minutes to spare. Remember we had to run on the tarmac to board the plane.

I think we arrived in late fall/autumn and the weather was chilly, yet we did not have enough warm clothes on us. I only had a light jacket on. My friend's friend came to meet us at the airport and we took buses to his place for the night. We were not met by any of the MSD people since we were post graduate students and i was not financed by the government. The wind, it was the bone chilling kind that I ever experienced. After we arrived, this friend took us to Mark & Spencer to buy us some warm coats. But i think it was a little too late as I was shivering uncontrollably. I could not sleep on the cold carpeted floor and I was sure the friend did not have the heater on since, to them the temperature did not call for the money eating machine to heat the house.

The very next day we took the tube to go to MSD to register or to let them know that we have arrived. i don't think they cared about me, but they had to register my friend who was a JPA scholar. That was how we were treated at MSD. Since school or university did not start until the coming week, we went shopping buying warm clothes. I was so grateful that a cousin of mind stuck a roll of pound sterling inside my pocket at the airport in Malaysia. The money that JPA provided for their students was so meager that one could only buy a not so warm coat. However i think post graduate students got more allowance than the undergraduates.

For the orientation week I stayed at the university hall of residence, but discovered i was paying double the local students and there was not many choice of food for me to eat except the potatoes. So, immediately after the orientation, i went looking for a flat. A friend and i decided to stay together at least for the first term. So, we went every where to look for a small flat. On our first trip by ourselves, on the bus using the bus routes and the London A_Z we visited so many houses. We decided to take up a flat near Finsbury park near the Grayhound racing stadium.

Some thing unpleasant happened when we were on and off the buses. My friend left her bag containing all her documents in one of the buses. So we got on a bus and told the driver our sad story and to our utter disbelieve, this bus driver took us from one bus depo to another. There were just the two of us and driver of the red double decker criss crossing London. We then found the bag at the last depo. We thanked the driver and the whole bus people for their kindness.
sambung later

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I am a pesceterian lalalalala

Who are the pesceterians? If you eat only veggies and fish, you are one of them. I am oh I am a pesceterian. I am not a new follower of this new diet craze, since I am allergic to red meat, and i suppose I can do without poultry as well. What a glamorous group I am in. My diet, my eating habit and my lifestyle has a recognition now. I am a pesceterian. I have yet to get used to spelling the term.