Saturday, 31 May 2014

SA Garden Catalogue: Cordyline Fruticosa

Cordyline fruticosa in my SA garden (CNB 2011)

Scientific name: Cordyline fruticosa (Syn: Cordyline terminalis)
Common name: Ti tree
Origin: New Guinea and South West Pacific

Verbatim from 'Tropical Horticulture & Gardening' by Francis S. P. Ng*, the Cordyline fruticosa are "Sparsely branched treelets with terminal tufts of leaves. There are numerous forms, which vary in the size, shape and colouration of their leaves. The variegated varieties have leaves tinted red, purple, pink, cream, yellow, white or bronze. The intensity of colouration varies between individuals. In the interior of Borneo, plants with large green leaves are grown for their leaves, used for wrapping cooked food, especially rice, to carry on a journey."

Another form of Cordyline fruticosa in my garden (CNB 2011)

As recommended in the above mentioned book, I have grown the two forms I have in my garden, in full (or partial) sun. I have regularly taken cuttings for vases indoors and when roots appear, I just take them out to propagate these plants, both in containers and on the ground. These plants grow well without much fuss, but I have yet to see any flowers on them.

About May weather; the late afternoon rains and thunderstorms occurred quite regularly early in the month, though abating towards the end. The humidity remained high and when one is out in the garden, it is like being in a perpetual sauna - which must be good for our bodies, I hope!

*Ex Libris CNB 1866

Friday, 23 May 2014

Inaugural KL Highland Games

Last Sunday we went to the inaugural Kuala Lumpur Highland Games which was held at the Bukit Kiara Equestrian Centre. It was hosted by the Selangor St Andrew's Society* and featured some traditional Scottish sports events and entertainment. It was touted as one of the biggest expatriate sporting and family-friendly events of the year.

One of the opening acts (CNB 2014)

There was a stage for cultural entertainment, including dancing (Scottish, Malaysian, etc.). The traditional sports events of the Scottish hammer throw, caber toss, etc. were also entertaining, because you get to see big, burly men in skirts kilts work hard at throwing and tossing! In fact it was kilts, kilts everywhere - on burly men, spotty teenagers and even little boys. There was lots of fun and entertainment for children too, and of course, loads of food and drinks for everybody. The food and drinks were a bit on the pricey side, but hey, its all for the good cause of charity.

Burley men of Scottish traditional games (CNB 2014)

The competitions in piping and drumming seemed intense as many bands around us at the stands practiced loudly (and noisily!?). I guess pipe and drum bands cannot help being loud, but entertaining nevertheless. Among them was the Kuala Lumpur Pipes and Drums (who won), the bands from UiTM, St John's Alumni, Sri Dashmesh Pipe and Drum Band (?), etc.

A gathering of men in skirts (CNB 2014)

Last minute practice ... (CNB 2014)

The only girl band in the competition was all the way from Pulau Pinang - A and B's alma mater St George's Girls School (SGGS). A also got to meet with her former teacher Cikgu Aswan who was in charge of the band. We were also introduced to the instructor who flies from Bangkok to Pulau Pinang to impart his skill and expertise.

The St George's band play for the judges (CNB 2014)

A and her alma mater's band instructor (CNB)

The sky had been downcast since early morning and of course it all poured down for a while in the afternoon. We left before the end so we missed the massed bands perform at the conclusion to the KL Highland Games. That should have been a fantastic spectacle and really, really loud!
Note*: The St Andrew's Society was established in 1887, and is one of the oldest Loyal Societies in Malaysia. The membership comprises the Scots, descendants of Scots and people who are interested in Scotland and Scottish culture.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

I Remember (Some of) My Teachers

It was Teacher's Day on the 16th May, so inevitably we recall the times we were being educated by our many teachers, some great and some not so. Mostly though, I cannot recall exact names but some incidences remain etched in my memory. I don't remember my kindergarten teachers in Alor Star at all but thank you anyway for starting me off on the long journey into the education system. I enjoyed kindy really, or so I gathered from my parents.

The start of primary school was interesting at the Sultanah Asma, Alor Star. There was Mr Rodishes Tan (should it have been Rodriguez? But he was definitely not Latin!) the art teacher who even came to our house to give us extra art tuition. Only my sister CY became the artist - of architectural drawings. Till today I appreciate art and still very, very occasionally dabble in paintings but never come up with any worthy of exhibit. Mr Lim Say Aun taught us Arithmetic and the reason I remember his full name is because I have this b&w photograph (below) that he gave us, duly signed at the back. I wonder if teachers still wear bow ties to class?

Mr Lim Say Aun, one of my primary school teachers

At the Tuanku Abdul Rahman School in Gemas there was Cikgu Md Zain who gave us tuition on almost every subject at his home. My sisters and I remember the many quizzes he gave us to beef up our general knowledge. We knew the capitals of countries, even their flags, among other facts. When his sister got married in Kuala Pilah we were invited to his kampung, for our first adat pepatih occasion. Then there was Miss Arumalar Kandiah who was my class teacher (I think). I still have a photo of her and I remember her most for the very neatly pressed clothes she wore.

My secondary school teachers were the most memorable. Among them Miss Sobita Sinha with her very expressive ways during English Literature classes. There was never a dull moment and till today I love books and literature. Puan Hasnah Ali taught us Biology but I remember that the subject of reproduction was dealt with in just a few sentences. We had to supplement our knowledge about the birds and the bees from other sources as well. When it came to dissecting a frog she never found out that I could not do it at all and left it entirely to my partner in class to do it. So that put paid to any hopes of  medical aspirations, not that I had any! There were the expatriate (Peace Corps, VSO) teachers Miss Black, Miss Vaughan, Miss Bergan and Miss Ellis. And their enthusiasms certainly made school very interesting. Also quite memorable was Mr Chee Peng Lim with his "master piece of distortion" remarks on our Economics essays.
(In progress)

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Real Bruce Lee ...

One outstanding mural of the Cats 101 Project in the George Town inner city is that of Bruce Lee seemingly inflicting flying kicks on helpless cats or kittens. But the title given to the piece, "The real Bruce Lee would never do this", assured fans of the late martial arts exponent that the man would never harm a fly.

This is the real mural Bruce Lee with his flying kick stance.

The tabby cat that gets the brunt of Bruce Lee's kick.

The Siamese cat on its way down.

An additional 'little blue kitty' looking up at the spectacle.

Finally, the full mural ... with us of course, heh-heh! Our thanks to the young Malay girl who kindly asked if she could help take a photo of the two of us together. How could we refuse such a nice gesture?

11 May 2014

Saturday, 17 May 2014

An Inner-City Giant Cat and Rat

The mural of a giant cat called Skippy was pointed out to us by a friendly George Town inner-city local. And he kindly reminded us that there was also a giant rat to look for. Why Skippy? I remember Skippy as a bush kangaroo from an Australian TV series during the late 60s, do you? Never mind, maybe you will if you are my age.

Skippy the cat is the largest of the 101 Lost Kittens Project, part of the George Town Festival 2013. There are 101+ cats/kittens painted on 12+ murals by three 'Artists for Stray Animals'. We never really attempted to look for them all, being content only with finding Skippy (how can anyone miss a giant cat?) and another interesting one involving a martial arts exponent. It will be in my next post.

And we did find the giant rat - just around the corner from the giant cat. I cannot confirm this, but it seems that this rat graffito has been furtively executed by an unknown artist. Cute!

Location of giant cat (and rat) murals: Armenian Street Ghaut

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Zacharevic's Street Art: Boy on a Motorbike

This particular work of Ernest Zacharevic, a boy on a motorbike, is definitely my favourite. Due to wear and tear, the boy now seems to be 'floating' on the mobike. This art piece is found in Lebuh Ah Quee. The crimson red door certainly adds to the charm of it.

There is usually a queue to take pictures at Zacharevic's street art, so while waiting, it is interesting to observe all the various antics and poses of people.

This man (below) is not passing by, he is actually posing on his mobike!

Finally I get my turn!

Note: Another of Zacharevic's art work of  'a boy walking his pet dinosaur' is on the left of the 'boy on a motorbike'. Unfortunately, only parts of the little boy's lower body and the leash and pink collar remains (spot these in the above pictures 2 and 3). The mobike also seems to be disintegrating, no thanks to heavyweights like me sitting on it, heh-heh! Ces't la vie!

Zacharevic's Street Art: Reaching Up

Zacharevic's art work of a boy 'reaching up' is found in Lebuh Cannon. A chair that is part of the work has probably been replaced a few times (noted in the pictures taken by the artist's fans in the past, available on the Internet). Again there are queues ... So wait your turn.

I noticed that many parents bring their children here and cajole them to pose 'reaching out' like the boy, but some were very shy.

I also brought my child here and believe me, I also had to cajole her to pose, hahaha!

Note: I think the plastic container/mug has been added by the cafe that has come up there.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Zacharevic's Street Art: Little Children on a Bicycle

Ernest Zacharevic, is no stranger to Malaysians who like street art (or even graffiti). The London-trained, 27 year-old Lithuanian artist has certainly made his mark in Malaysia, especially in Pulau Pinang and Johor.

"I do not carry out any straightforward messages with my art ... I try to provoke people to find their own meanings." - Ernest Zacharevic.

Although his works in PP was carried out in 2012, it was only recently that I managed to seek them out. This is his most popular work, found in Lebuh Armenian, Georgetown. Street art is transient, so the need to put ourselves in the picture too, heheh!

Note: We took the above pictures in the afternoon so the shadows of branches of a tree over this wall were long and marred the visuals.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Arts and Eats on Mother's Day

We were in Pulau Pinang, and it was a beautiful Mother's Day Sunday when B and I went into Georgetown to have another one of our 'artsy-fartsy' outings. But first its makan-makan before our jalan-jalan; we had a wonderful lunch at the Kapitan Restaurant in Lebuh Chulia. Kapitan is well-known for its tandoori and briyani. We had our tandoori chicken with naan, and believe me, the taste is really very syiok!

Kapitan's tandoori chicken and cheese naan (CNB 2014)

We walked around the inner city to seek out the famous street art of Ernest Zacharevic done for the 'Mirror George Town'  in 2012, and the Cats 101 project (of the George Town Festival 2013); all certainly deserving their own blog posts. We also came across other street art, even graffiti, and some of the 'Marking George Town' wrought-iron caricatures (with anecdotal descriptions of the streets that they are on) which I did not find artistic at all. Also as Timothy Tye of the Penang Travel Tips website wrote "... the caricatures are too Chinese" and he reminds us that "George Town is more than just a Chinese city. It had a cosmopolitan mix of Malay, Indian, Eurasian and many other ethnic groups before the Chinese became the dominant group in the city."

We were walking under the blazing sun for some time before retiring a while for a nice cup of hot chocolate, coffee and cakes at the China House cafe. The passion fruit and coconut cake we had was most delicious. But when we wanted to order another slice, there was no more. Ces't la vie.

B at the China House cake table (CNB 2014)

By a blue door of China House (BB 2014)

Hot chocolate, coffee & cakes (Man in the mirror, 2014)

Here are street art or graffiti as the case may be, of two that we found rather interesting. The 'blue boy' is trying to teach Hokkien, while the turquoise (stray) dog is waiting for a succulent steak to fall into its wide open jaws. As the artist Kenji Chai intended, many pose interactively 'handing out' the piece of meat to the mutt, as did we!

B and 'Kah lu kong Hokkien' (CNB 2014)

A dog & yum, yum juicy steak (CNB 2014)

Our last stop of the day was at the shop that was selling a snack food (is ice shaving food?) from our my childhood days of the 50s - ais kepai/kepal. Luckily the compacted ice shaving (covered with my choice of sweet, sweet syrup and sarsi) was served in a plastic plate and skewered with bamboo sticks, else you'd get frost bite from holding it with bare hands, like we used to before, in those good old days.

Ais kepai and I (BB 2014)

A note on the trivial: The shirt I'm wearing is a 20 year-old favourite, bought in Robinsons, Bangkok. But of course every time I wear it, I get the "oh no, not again" looks from my family, heh-heh!

Monday, 12 May 2014

A Nephew's Wedding Kenduri in Pulau Pinang

We just got back from our kampung in Pulau Pinang, having attended my nephew's wedding kenduri on the 10th May. Wan Haslem is my older brother's youngest son and he recently tied the knot with a girl from Perak.

Our road trip enabled us to use the new Penang Bridge 2 or officially the Tuanku Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge. It is longer than the first bridge, but architecturally less pretty I think. (An architect would surely cringe at my using the word pretty to describe a bridge!)

The Penang Bridge 2 (CNB 2014)

We seemed to be the only car on the bridge at times. I guess the bridge benefits people from the south because you get into the island faster. But ... as soon as you reach there, you drive straight into the usual traffic jam to get to town.

B & I and the newly wedded couple (2014)

The wedding kenduri was a good occasion to catch up with family members and old friends in the neighbourhood.

B & her cousins (CNB 2014)
The couple with the groom's aunt, sister & niece (CNB 2014

Congratulations and all our best wishes to the newly wedded couple.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Retro: Batu Feringgi, Pulau Pinang

Going through some old photo albums, I came across these photos taken at Batu Feringgi, Pulau Pinang. My eldest sister SP had the use of a bungalow there by the beach so we all made a day of it during one weekend sometime in 1986.

Two sisters and seven cousins

A and cousin NI

The whole gang at the bungalow by the beach

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Books I Love: The End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club is another interesting book about books and how reading them enables lives to be made richer. The author Will Schwalbe and his cancer-stricken dying mother share their love for books and reading. Together they go through the last years of her life spending time (usually at the care centre/medical facility) discussing books they have read and inevitably their own demanding lives as well.

Author of PS, I Love You, Cecilia Ahern wrote, 'At last a book that celebrates the role books play within our own story ... a tender, moving and honest portrayal of the precious relationship between a mother and son - an ode to that beautiful thing called love.'

The Library Journal deems it 'A perfect book-club book about books and the community they create that also portrays the love between mother and son.'

The End of Your Life Book Club / Will Schwalbe. Two Roads, 2012.
Ex Libris CNB 1993