Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Over and Out

this is my last post from London - that most wonderful and gorgeous of cities.

i've had a wonderful two weeks here and Edinburgh (another wonderful and gorgeous city), and i've come away very impressed with so many things. there was plenty to learn and to take away from my two weeks - and plentier (?) to aspire to.

i'm sorry that i have to leave, but we will not know what a good day is if we don't have normal days and bad days. so i'm happy to be able to go home where i will go back to work and do the things that i love.

i loved London's parks and wide open spaces, providing such respite from a busy city. i was in Regent, Hyde, Green and St James Park - i can't decide if i love them more than i loved the second bench from the Westminster Bridge facing west and Houses of Parliament? that same bench where for the first time i fell asleep in the sun, in public.

i loved London's energy, and how everyone seems to walk faster than me, and how i couldn't keep up even when i tried so hard. and every few minutes, there was always someone wearing iPods jogging past me.

i loved London's excellent transport system. they deliver you almost to the doorstep, and everything is highly integrated, and the London Underground is a world-class icon. i felt safe, there were plenty of directions, and the stations were all so personable and alive (they had Sherlock Holmes pictures all over the walls of the Baker Street station).

i loved the theatre and the myriad shows available all year long. they had Waiting for Godot as well! there is so many things to do - comedy clubs, pub quizzes, concerts and bands. and so much shopping - all the brands in the world are here - except Bata. and despite Jimmy Choo being malaysian, the best place to go Choo-shopping is still London!

i loved walking in London. i walked from Westminster to Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus to Bond Street. i walked from Emirates Stadium to Kings Cross, Twickenham to Richmond, i walked from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge, park to park, tube station to tube station. it was sunny, it was rainy, it was cold and it was windy - i walked all over this city!

i loved the purchasing power in this city. if you don't multiply by 5, London is amazingly cheap. you go shopping in Tesco and fill a cart, you only spend £25. you buy a tee for £8, and books for £9 and a Sony laptop for £399 and a BMW for £11,000, things that cost RM35, RM42, RM2399 and RM300,000 in malaysia. but the amazing thing is, you earn the same amount over here!

i loved the amazing variety of food. i am haunted by my significant other telling me about rotten bananas she saw in Giant Penang, but here everything is large and colourful and abundant and cheap! i had African, Mediterranean, Vietnamese, Italian, English, Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, microwave - all in one city, for very reasonable prices.

i love London. i guess it's clear huh? :-) but i'm glad to be going home, and to the one i love.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

and this is very impressive

i watched the debate this afternoon in the House of Commons. i'm not sure if NST or The Star will report on the ongoing claims crisis in the UK, but it's a big thing over here and is the subject of many column inches, from highbrow magazines like The Economist down to the popular flicks like FHM and Cosmopolitan.

basically, it's a bunch of MPs who are claiming too much money from the government (and by extension, the taxpayers) for frivolous items - like diapers and fixing water pipes under their tennis courts. the worst offender claimed thousands of pounds to pay for interest on a loan he took to buy a second home. the trouble is, he had already finished paying for that home.

that was probably the only legally wrong claim. most other claims are legally right, but morally very questionable (you'd expect that from claims for a toilet brush holder). you can see a spreadsheet here:
http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=rvWgEEGK9xuUQBR1EFcxHWA

so the Speaker faced lots of pressure to quit today. he dealt with it poorly:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/18/gordon-brown-michael-martin-speaker

here are my impressions, compressed into soundbites:

1. every country has corruption. even Malaysia, and we must not hide from this fact. the wonder in this country is that the media is actively exposing corruption and the public is actively getting angry about it. this will never happen where i come from.

2. only in a First World country can an MP say this to the Speaker, and not go to jail, and rather become viewed as a hero:
"When will Members be allowed to choose a new speaker with the moral authority to clean up Westminster and the legitimacy to lift this House out of the mire?"
this is right after that MP proposed a motion of no-confidence in the Speaker, but it was postponed to tomorrow.

3. everybody from both Conservative and Labour agree that they have been wrong and have committed morally wrong and legally questionable claims - and are profoundly sorry and appear apologetic and ashamed. this is a bit much - praising those thieves who are caught with their hands in the cookie jar - but nevertheless, acts of contrition are the least anyone can do when caught. again, it'll take something special to incorporate this (or is it indoctrinate this) into malaysian mentality.

***

on the bus coming back tonight, i overheard two people talking behind me. this isn't a bus heading to a swanky part of town, it was a bus headed to a suburb, which means that these two are the average Joes of London. their English sounded a little foreign, like they've been here not too long. they don't look white collar at all.

what were they talking about? modernisation, industrialisation, Egyptian pharoahs and their pyramids and how they managed to build them without tools - finally agreeing that tools are the building blocks of modern society, without which we are lost.

this is the conversation between two 20-ish year olds, in the back of a bus, around 10pm, on a Monday night, heading home.

what are our Malaysian 20-ish year olds talking about as they head home?

Monday, May 18, 2009

London Irish

imagine if you were displaced to another country, and that country wasn't very friendly to your own - declaring wars and whatnot on your country.

imagine that you wanted very much to express yourself but you really couldn't, because to do so would be to jeopardise your own safety.

in effect, you're an exile. and what do you do? form your own rugby club, that's what!!

so that's how London Irish was formed, more than 100 years ago. and they've never made the finals of the Guinness Premiership before, but here they are in Twickenham Stadium, facing the Leicester Tigers, who made the finals the previous 5 years in a row!

don't you just love the underdog? i love them - about as much as i love their history too. plus, i am fond of the Irish, having close associations with some of them who are fantastic La Sallian Brothers and taught me in and out of the classroom.

so there i was in Twickenham, the temple of rugby, seating 82000 people, and seeing 81000 people come to see London Irish narrowly lose 10-9 to Leicester. the result didn't matter - the atmosphere was fantastic!

i saw a grandmother, kids, families, gorgeous blondes, wheelchair bound folks - the crowd was a lot more diverse and interesting than Arsenal's. and 81ooo people - you have got to be there to believe the atmosphere! i have never seen so many people in one place before!

Adam Duritz was charismatic, and the concert was even better! tomorrow, i'm going to watch a day's worth of debates in Parliament - at the height of the MPs' claims crisis. live entertainment!

Friday, May 15, 2009

these are my encounters of the third kind

1. i finish watching Star Trek last week, and i walk around Piccadilly looking for the tube (it was around 10.30pm), and i pass a club, that in retrospect, was probably gay. balding guy in late 40s (though their ages are difficult to guess - schoolgirls look like grownups there) sidles up to me and asks "hey, how're things?".

that wouldn't be so strange if it weren't for the fact that he walked across the road to do that.

my response: i'm doing alright.
my reaction: walk faster and ultimately he couldn't keep up. phew!

2. then i walk past this young couple in front of a shop in Edinburgh, and they were French kissing quite amorously. i smiled in their direction, which in retrospect, was a bad idea. he looked drunk, and suddenly he was screaming obscenities at me. again, my solution? walk faster!

3. this is the best yet! again i was walking (yes, but one day i will be chauffeur-driven in London, New York, Paris, Tokyo AND Milan), this time along Baker Street, on my way to the Sherlock Holmes Museum (yesyes, i'm a geek/nerd/dweeb).

guy comes up to me and says "my friend, d'ya wanna buy a laptop? it's a brand new one week old Sony VAIO. in the shops it's £980, but i'm selling it to you for £200".

my immediate thought when he got to the word 'laptop' was 'stolen property', and his next few lines merely confirm my suspicions.

the price fell to £150 to try to tempt me! and of course i was tempted. but also, of course i didn't buy it.

although i should have. i feel certain that i can track down the real owner, and i can return it to him/her and get paid £150 for my troubles, and better yet, earn an undying friend for life haha!

so in the last 10 days - i've been mistaken for a gay, the moral police, and a criminal. i think i need to repent.

***

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a famous Spielberg movie about alien abductions.

obviously there are close encounters of the First Kind as well as Second Kind. First Kind encounters are when there is a sighting of an UFO or alien.

Second Kind encounters are when you have some sort of effect from that exposure - radiation, amnesia, changes in the surroundings.

Third Kind encounters are when you have direct contact with aliens, up to and including abductions.

just thought i should clear the air there. Kirk out.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

i have been very busy

1. cramming a trip to Edinburgh, where i walked a grand total of 22km in 36 hours - until my inner thighs have chafed! i love it love it love it! the old buildings were gorgeous, the accent impenetrable (but charming), the weather was biting cold but fantastic! i shall return, to climb the Crag and watch the sunset.

2. i will be very busy tonight - sister and i will be watching the Counting Crows at Wembley!

Monday, May 11, 2009

I was there!

i was there when Chelsea beat Arsenal 4-1, and i must say that the stadium was fantastic!! okay, it may not have had the character of Highbury (i did see it when i came over in 2004), and it may not have the character of Old Trafford or Camp Nou, but it was still quite a sight to behold. 60057 people made the trek to Emirates this afternoon, with gorgeous weather and sunshine. it was a perfect day for football, and i am glad i was there, although the result was a bit of a disappointment (plus i lost my £5 bet with Ladbrokes). i should have kept to my traditional annual Arsenal-Tottenham bet, sigh.

today i also pampered myself with the newspapers - read in the sunshine! it's so pleasant to be able to read in the sunshine, without sweating like pigs. the weather was cool and windy, and the sun just pleasantly so.

*****

and then it was time to go home, and when i did, i saw this man who fell down the stairs at the Tube station. he was conscious, but had a laceration over his head. he was a little tipsy, and his son was there (tipsy too). so i stopped and helped, and the paramedics arrived in no time at all.

and they were fantastic - took control of the situation, stabilised the spine, gave oxygen, inserted a 22G cannula (the largest there is - the orange one), log-rolled him onto the spinal board and carried him upstairs and onto the ambulance.

i am very impressed! they were obviously well-trained, with excellent bedside manners, and calmness under pressure. okay, one will argue that they deal with drunken falls 7 times every night shift, but this belies the fact that they handled the whole event very well.

the moral of the story? if you ever fall down the stairs in London, you can be reassured that bery competent help is on the way.

my only hope now is that no one will sue me for being a Good Samaritan.
(http://uk.news.yahoo.com/blog/editors_corner/article/9758/)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

London Town

i am blogging from London - !!

this may be my first foreign post (hopefully not my last), and there's so many things i want to say, but so little time, so a scattergun approach will be something like this:

1. the sun rises very early over here. at 5.14am when we landed, it was already as bright as 8.14am in malaysia. which is kinda nice - you can wake early and have some daylight to work with before you go to work.

2. everyone in the Tube reads. even the ones who look violent and angry - their noses are buried in various newspapers. the malaysian equivalent is sullen looks and text messaging, and no reading at all (but i can't blame them, because unlike malaysia...)

3. the newspapers here are really good! but of course i already know that. before lunch i had already polished off The Guardian (and one jacket potato), and i've got three more to go. i am in heaven, with broadsheets and berliners!

4. tomorrow, i shall go to the park benches opposite Westminster and sit there and read tomorrow's newspapers, while drinking coffee and enjoying the Thames breeze.

yay!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

i never know what's good for me...

i have mock exams tomorrow, and i should be studying and resting. something told me that i should wake up to watch the Madrid-Barcelona game this morning, but i didn't.

this is despite opening my eyes to switch off the alarm, and my mum waking me up as well - by shaking me violently (like you shake that banned Apple app).

but i was too lazy and therefore went back to sleep.

what an idiot!! Barcelona won 6-2!!! away from home!

okay, briefly here's why i love the team: fiercely Catalan, they embody a different language and cultural ethos from the rest of Spain. used to be in Franco's time, Spanish was spoken everywhere, and Catalan was banned (so was Basque and other dialects). but the only place Catalan was spoken was in the Nou Camp - where even Franco's soldiers dare not step foot into.

for the longest time they refused to put a sponsor's logo on their jerseys - even though you make millions of euros from this business deal. Madrid had Teka and Samsung, MUtd had AIG and Sharp, even Arsenal has Emirates. but not Barcelona - they played with empty jerseys.

until a few years ago when they had a "sponsor" - UNICEF. and they gave away their shirt space for free! which (money-making) football club have you seen give away advertising space for free?

i like independent teams with their own philosophy and ethos - Arsenal with their emphasis on youth, and Barcelona with their emphasis on their roots.

i'll wake up for the next Barcelona game. in the mean time, i'm going to hit the exams hard tomorrow!