Tuesday 30 October 2012

A Summer Road Trip (cont'd 2)

Jottings from the pages of a road trip journal ...

1977 August 22 (Mon)

At 9.15 am we got up and the proprietor came around to collect the camp fee of 80 pence. After a cold breakfast of cereal, milk plus bread and jam we packed up the tent as it looked like rain again. Not forgetting our cagoules this time, we put on our walking boots and headed for the Cheddar Gorge again. Indeed Cheddar has capitalised on the attractions of the Gorge and numerous gift shops line the road before the Gorge. It was pretty crowded and traffic was ever flowing. We too contributed our share - we bought Cheddar cheese and 'genuine' Somerset cider. The cheese was good but the cider a bit strong.

At 3 pm we left for Wells and after some driving around finally got a parking space just opposite the famed Cathedral. This beautiful Cathedral, with its beautiful carvings in the west front fast deteriorating, needs some 1.5 million pound sterling for restoration!

We left for Glastonbury after an hour, only passing it and catching a glimpse of the famed Tor. On our way to Taunton the unexpected happened - our wind screen was shattered by loose chippings on the road thrown up by a passing car. For a moment we were shocked, me imagining the worst. Then we pulled up at a petrol station nearby and they called a mobile wind screen replacement Unit for us. We had to wait two hours for it to come and another hour for the screen to be replaced. So finally at 8.30 pm and 32 pounds 40 pence poorer we left for Taunton. After passing Taunton, we parked for some dinner of Cheddar cheese and biscuits  Then we sped off for Barnstaple. The moon was bright and the sky was clear. At Barnstaple, we parked and went into our sleeping bags.

Notes: Glastonbury Tor - hill with the roofless St. Michael's Tower; Barnstaple is a river-port in North Devon

August 23 (Tue)

(CNB 1977)
At 6.30 am we left for Bideford, and by 7 the sun was bright and beautiful. We stopped by a river to have breakfast. On the way we picked up a hitchhiker till Newquay. From Newquay we went to the seaside town of St. Ives and stayed overnight at a farm camp there. We explored the town centre for two hours till 10.30 pm before calling it a day.

Notes: St. Ives is in the South-western tip of Cornwall; remember the nursery rhyme "As I was going to St. Ives"?

August 24 (Wed)
St. Ives
Around 2 am we had to abandon tent - it was raining cats and dogs! Only at 11.45 am did we head towards Penzance, a port/harbour town in Cornwall. At the Promenade we had our lunch of Cornish pasty and chips. By 3 pm there was great sunshine as we left towards Lands End, the most westerly point of England. We then went to a caravan park with a great sea view at St. Just but had to forget about spending the night there because it started raining again with the occasional strong wind. So we chose to double back to St. Ives to spend another evening in the town - playing Bingo! It was rather quite late to go back to the farm camp so we found a quiet spot to park and slept in the car.

August 25 (Thu)
In the New Forest (MB 1977)
We were up at 8 am and went on to Hayle, a small town at the mouth of the Hayle River. There we had a wash up and breakfast. Then on to Bodmin, and Exeter in Devon.  The Exeter Cathedral was impressive to say the least. We went into the shopping centre, where off the High Street, we had our lunch at the 16th century Ship Inn (said to be one of Sir Francis Drake's favourite tavern).  We then headed towards Salisbury. In the New Forest, we set up tent at Lyndhurst, a village of Hampshire.

August 26 (Fri)
At 11.30 am we set out for Bournemouth, another seaside town along the coast, with nice sandy beaches and a pier. Then we went on to Salisbury, the city famous for its cathedral. After that it was on to Amesbury before finally reaching the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain at nearly 6. After spending some time gawking at the stones, we went back to Amesbury to overnight.

August 27 (Sat)

Brighton Pier CNB)
Only in the afternoon did we leave for Winchester, Chichester, and Bognor Regis  for our final destination of the day - Brighton. This town in East Sussex is popular for its beach with day trippers from London, being less than an hour away. We walked into the town centre, going by the interesting lanes and shop fronts. The Royal Pavilion of Indo-Saracenic architecture and Oriental interior never fails to impress although this was my third visit. We walked the Brighton beach before having dinner of fish and chips near the Brighton Pier.

August 28 (Sun)
We had an early morning breakfast at the seafront before leaving Brighton for Margate (in Kent), which we reached at noon. This seaside town, another traditional holiday destination for Londoners, was infamous in the 60s for gang violence (between mods and rockers). We set up tent in a nearby camping ground, before walking the town and beach till late evening.

August 29 (Mon)
From Margate we headed for the neighbouring seaside town of Ramsgate at mid-morning. We spent many hours at the seafront, especially at the Ramsgate Pleasure Park.

August 30 (Tue)
12 - Tunnel?  3.30 - B? (Journal entries incomprehensible/missing from here on; but we got back home to Chorlton-cum-Hardy alright!)

Monday 29 October 2012

A Summer Road Trip (cont'd)

Jottings from the pages of a road trip journal ...

1977 August 20 (Sat)
After a good night's sleep in the hotel, we left at 9.30 am for a day look at Cardiff, capital of Wales.The shopping centre was busy and looked not unlike any other in other cities of England i.e with department stores like Littlewoods, M & S, etc. We also walked by the City Hall which looked quite different now in daylight - less beautiful. We went to see a part of the docks and clearly this part of the city is not very new - in fact it looked deserted!

Tintern Abbey (CNB 1977)
Then we left at 11.30 and headed for Newport, another port after Monmouth, for the Wye Valley. For the length traversed between Monmouth and Chepstow, we followed the Wye River and the views were magnificent. At times the trees made a natural tunnel of green! We turned back from Chepstow and stopped at Tintern to look at the famous Abbey ruins. Then retracing the road we made camp at a farm - there were no facilities except a cold water tap and ... a ground toilet!

After a meal of tinned soup and salad (very crispy and nice) we went for a walk along the Wye River bank but for a short distance only because of 'Keep out' signs which M thought was very disgusting. Then we walked up to Cleddon Shoots and Waterfall but as it rained lately so the path was slippery. But we made it up another way. As it was getting dark (nearly 8 pm), we made our way down again. I must say I felt quite afraid as nobody else was around and the sky was really getting dark. We got back to camp and made kuku (Persian omelette) - must say its a bit tedious but it was interesting to cook and eat in the open by candlelight. Then M read a book while I cleaned up and we went into our bags.

August 21 (Sun)
It rained a little in the night but in the morning it was fine as we headed for Chepstow to cross the Severn Bridge at 11. In Bristol we walked an hour in the city centre, quite near the docks. We saw the civic centre with the two golden deer on its rooftop and the cathedral nearby.

Clifton Bridge(CNB 1977)
Then we went to Clifton to see Brunel's famous suspension bridge over the Avon Gorge. It was a piece of engineering genius started in 1836 but only completed in 1864, after Brunel's death. After this we headed for Bath, the lovely Georgian city with its famous Roman Baths. It was indeed more beautiful than last I saw it in in 1975. There were flower baskets everywhere and indeed impressed M to say that its the loveliest city he'd seen in England. Likewise for me too.

We passed the shops on Pulteney Bridge and entered the Parade Gardens. Then we walked the little streets between the rows of shops. Later M went to see the Roman Baths while I waited outside the Cathedral (I had seen the Baths before). Then we saw the famous examples of Georgian town planning - the Circus and the Royal Crescent.

We left at 4.30 pm for Cheddar to pass along the Cheddar Gorge. Indeed it was an impressive sight of steep rugged rocks with some green ivy and foliage growing. We set up camp at Church Farm camping ground, on the eastern end of Cheddar, a little town famous for the cheddar cheese. There were many other campers and 'caravaners' there. After a dinner of packet rice, eggs and salad, we played some badminton. After the game we walked in the town and had drinks at a pub. But at 9.30 pm it rained and we had to run back all the way to the camp. As we didn't have our cagoules or the umbrella, we had a thorough drenching because the rain was quite heavy and there was also thunder and lightning occasionally. After changing in the car we got back into the tent and went to sleep.

To be continued ...

Friday 26 October 2012

Thursday 25 October 2012

A Summer Road Trip

Jottings from the pages of a road trip journal ...

1977 August 15 (Mon)

Chorlton (CNB 1977)
After some hectic shopping and getting the MOT for the car, we left Chorlton-cum-Hardy at 8 pm, heading for Shrewsbury. After passing Northwich and Whitchurch, at 9.50 pm we set up camp near Wem, 4 miles off the A49. Must say it was not easy putting up the tent quickly by the car headlights. After some tea we got into our (sleeping) bags.
Notes: Chorlton-cum-Hardy (a suburb of the city of Manchester) - our home from 1977-mid 1980; Wem is a small market town in Shropshire

August 16 (Tue)
(MB 1977)
It was nice and dry and we left Wem at 9 am, reaching Shrewsbury half an hour later. This city looks a bit like Chester with black and white buildings. Leaving Shrewsbury we went on to Church Stretton. Here we spent four hours walking up The Long Mynd, coming down via a stream valley, and the Old Radnor Forest. The weather all along has been nice and cool. I must confess that my new walking shoes hurt a bit although M felt 'nothing'. After passing Ludlow, Leominster (cities again reminding one of Chester), and Kington we crossed the border into Wales (at 5.30 pm), and spent the night in Walton. By this time it was raining and even by the next morning it was still doing so. 

Notes: Shrewsbury, birthplace of Charles Darwin, is a beautiful Shropshire medieval market town lying on the River Severn; Church Stretton - another historic market town in Shropshire; The Long Mynd - part of the Shropshire Hills area of great natural beauty; Old Radnor Forest - a rock dome.

August 17 (Wed)

(CNB 1977)
The rain just fell and fell and by 2 pm we got fed up of being caved in the tent and got out for Kington, about 4 miles away. Here we walked up to Hergest Ridge along the Offa's Dyke path. There was rain, wind and mist but it was a wonderful experience walking amidst the bracken and watch the mist rising up. We only met three other people on the lonely ridge. At 4.30 pm we left and after packing headed for Rhayader to spend the night near Devil's Bridge. All along, the Mid Welsh countryside were beautiful - lowlands of grazing sheep and farms and uplands of heather. The camping ground which was owned by a farm was quite full, especially of families with
caravans. The wind was particularly strong.

(MB 1977)
Kington is a market town in Herefordshire; Hergest Ridge - a large elongated hill which traverses the border between England and Wales; Offa's Dyke is an earth bank built around 1200 years ago and runs along/near the borders of England and Wales; Devil's Bridge or Pontafyrnach in Welsh is 'the bridge over the Mynach'.

August 18 (Thu)
(CNB 1977)
After breakfast we walked to Devil's Bridge, picking raspberries along the way. At DB we visited the tourist attraction there - the waterfalls, but it was far too 'touristic' for us. At 2 pm we left for Aberystwyth some 13 miles away. Aberystwyth proved a nice little seaside town with narrow streets and a very long promenade. It was quite a busy town with no doubt tourists welling up the 12,000 population. The sun was out but still it was a bit chilly.We left Aber for Fishguard, passing Aberaeron and Cardigan. The coast road enabled us to see Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea.

On reaching Fishguard at 6.30 pm (after some very winding narrow streets!) we stopped by the harbour and saw what I thought was a sinking ship. Then we retraced the road to set up tent at Fishguard Bay. The wind was ever so strong and was keen to blow the tent away! But luckily there was no rain ...

Notes: Cardigan Bay is a large inlet of the Irish Sea; Fishguard is a coastal town in Pembrokeshire

August 19 (Fri)
I thought too soon, because just before morning there was rain which stopped only at about 9 am. Then we went on a two hour coast path walk. It was really splendid to see the little bays and steep cliffs. All the way there there were blackberries and heather galore! At one spot the yellow gorse and purple heather growing in between the rocks was a lovely sight to see. At the end of the walk we were quite near Fishguard town and from this point could see clearly what turned out to be a sunken Liberian cargo ship (I found out it was grounded in December but because of insurance problems, was still lying there to be recovered).

We left Fishguard at 2.30 pm and intending to spend the night in Brecon, we traveled through Haverfordwest, Carmathen, Llandeilo and Llandovery. But there was no camping ground in sight at Brecon (a market town) or Abergavenny or nearby Pontypool. In fact it was getting dark and the areas around were not too inviting (Brynmawr and others looked like industrial ghost towns!) so we sped for Cardiff which by night almost reminded me of Paris. We stayed at the Balkan Hotel (Bed & Breakfast), draining 8 pounds sterling from our pockets. But the shower (and breakfast the next morning) did us some good because M was very tired.

To be continued ...

Wednesday 24 October 2012

SA Garden Catalogue: Frangipani

It has been raining daily lately so no need to water the garden except for the plants under the porch. Both the pink and white/yellow Frangipani have been in flower for some time already. Only the two planted in containers. The one on the ground seems quite reluctant after one initial burst of blooms. Anyway, some Frangipani facts:

SA Garden pink Frangipani in July (CNB 2012)

Common name: Frangipani
Malay name: Kemboja
Scientific name: Plumeria acuminata (for the Pointed frangipani) & Plumeria obtusa (for the Rounded frangipani)
Family: Apocynaceae, Periwinkle family
Origin: Tropical America

The Pointed frangipani are hybrids that come in many exotic shades of pink, red, yellow and white. The leaf tips are pointed. The Rounded frangipani has white flowers with yellow centres, ant the leaf tips are rounded. Frangipani loves the sun and is easy to propagate by terminal shoot cuttings. But personally, I have not been successful in planting any red ones.

This Frangipani planted in the ground flowered only once in
March and not since (CNB 2012)

In the 1940s, Frangipani trees were commonly planted in graveyards. Traditionally the Malays do not like to plant Frangipani in their gardens because it is deemed bunga kubur, the graveyard flower. So if you are anywhere near a graveyard you can often see the trees of mainly white flowers, and sometimes you can smell their fragrance, especially at dawn and at dusk, the supposedly 'eerie' hours of neither day nor night. (Ooooo... Just hope you do not come across a pontianak or two! Just kidding ... Mana ada hantu?).

For the Hindu, especially in Bali, India and Sri Lanka, the Frangipani is "temple flower" because the trees are planted near temples, and used in temple ceremonies. The Hawaiians and Polynesian islanders have used these beautiful flowers as leis of welcome and to adorn themselves since a long time ago. Of course the fragrance of the Frangipani has led to its commercial use in aromatherapy; perfumes, essential oils, soaps, lotions, and candles.

The potted white-yellow Frangipani in October. Flowering
since June, this is the second bunch (CNB 2012)

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Mind Our English ...

I saw this at the cafeteria of an institute of higher learning!
(CNB 2012)

Friday 19 October 2012

A BC Seminar in Spring

Of the four seasons, Spring is the best for me - because the daffodils are in their glory. The spring equinox is also Nowruz (new day), the beginning of a new year for some calendars.

When I was offered a place at the British Council Programme 4102 in Southampton, England in the Spring of 1995, of course I accepted (sorry B & A, tak boleh ikut! Official, ma!). What was the programme all about? Entitled 'Libraries in the Development of Higher Education', it was to equip participants with the skills required to prepare library development projects which take account of the requirements of international funding agencies and of the needs of their own particular settings. Participants were mainly librarians from East Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Participants and facilitators of the BC Programme 4102

To make the most of the long trip, I made arrangements to officially visit the British Library & British Museum, and also the De Montford University in Milton Keynes. All to check out the update of their online systems. Good excuse, ha?

The Farsian children (CNB 1995)

In London I stayed with some Persian friends, the Farsians who live in Highgate. It was great because I got to celebrate Nowruz with them and their very posh (quite snooty) relatives. We also had dinner at a Turkish Restaurant where I was introduced to belly dancing on the tables. Its a wonder the tables can stand the weight of the rather heavy gyrating dancer!

The British Museum (CNB 1995)

In Southampton, we were accommodated at the rather old Polygon Hotel, which had wooden floorboards that creaked when you walked around. With some fellow participants, we did a walking tour of the city. Although it was Spring time, it was still rather chilly but there was beautiful sunshine everywhere. I could not resist buying some sunshine daffodils for my room. After all it was my birthday. (Thank you B & A for the beautiful  card and present, how thoughtful! Rindu terubat...)

On our walking tour of Southampton (1995)

The Polygon Hotel was interesting in that everything about it was very old and very English. The meeting rooms were just adequate for round table discussions and use of basic presentation tools. But the dining experience was hilarious. We had very, very old English ladies with trembling hands serving us . It was just a matter of time before one of them dropped a whole stack of plates with a huge crash! I felt for the ladies but I guess the hotel management was having problems with recruitment of staff and got their own mothers to help out. Just guessing... Anyway their dessert cart was just fabulous!

Lounging & Dining at the Polygon (1995)

We were taken to visit the Centre for International Development at Oxford University, and also given a guided walking tour of the University town. For me it was a third time in Oxford, and yet it still fascinated me with all the beautiful old buildings around.

The Centre for International Development (1995)

Our guided walking tour of Oxford (CNB 1995)

When in the counties of Wiltshire & Hampshire, of course you also get to visit that English wonder of the world - Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument on the Salisbury Plain of Wiltshire (even though it was my third time, it was still awesome to look at). Then there is Beaulieu (where the Castle and National Motor Museum are) and Bucklars Hard (a pretty 18th century village/hamlet with Georgian cottages and a shipbuilding past, on the banks of the Beaulieu River in the New Forest, Hampshire).

Aah.. the daffodils at Beaulieu (1995)

Aah... the Stones, the prehistoric Stones (1995)

Back in the meeting rooms at Southampton, we continued our presentations and discussions. The BC Seminar facilitators acknowledged Malaysia as a 'developed' country already, 25 years ahead of 2020. So we in fact should be funding and facilitating library development projects in the developing countries around us, especially in Southeast Asia. I was glad to report that we were already doing that.

In Southampton, our days were spent in the meeting rooms and also visiting the various Institutes and Libraries. In the evenings we had our welcome/farewell dinners and three nights out together; one at the Museum & Gallery, one at the Red Lion (typical old English Pub), and another at the Nuffield Theatre ("And a Nightingale Sang"). So, who said librarians do not have fun?

At the Southampton University Library 
At our closing/farewell dinner (1995)

After the BC Seminar, I went back to London to stay with the Farsians. From there I made my visit to the Library of De Montfort University at Milton Keynes. I was interested in ELINOR - their electronic information online retrieval project which would be the impetus to their fully electronic library.

No caption needed except to say that the T
had dropped off  De Montfort!

Before leaving for London, I met up with Stella Lowe (my ex-boss from Salford College of Technology). We had a great time catching up over tea (of course, when in England what else?) at a hotel coffee house nearby the Milton Keynes Railway Station. Then we said our farewells at the station and Stella went back to Salford, and I to London before flying home the very next day.

Tea with the Queen Stella (1995)

Milton Keynes Station platform
(SL 1995)

The train arrives at Victoria Station,
London (CNB 1995)

                       March-April 1995


Friday 12 October 2012

The Joy of (Point & Shoot) Photography

I love photos and taking photographs, to 'freeze moments' of our life on earth as it were. It all started with posing for my father's camera at the gardens of the Istana Anak Bukit in Alor Star in the 1950's. But I hate all the technical jargon associated with sophisticated cameras, so give me a point-and-shoot (compact) one anytime. Nowadays high end compact cameras produce technically great pictures anyway. I find compact cameras great for travel because they are unobtrusive and need not be dangled around your neck like most DSLRs! (A sure target in some countries, as M knows well enough, having lost two, or is it three already.)

But for me the most important is the composition, to capture the 'raw' moment as aide memoire. No post editing of photos for me, its like cheating, right? Eer ... maybe its the computer laggard in me.

John Hedgecoe's Basic Photography (1993), published in the days of the 35mm cassette film, has been of great help, especially his 'Twenty ways to improve your photos'. I note them down here to remind myself that pictures I take should have "eye-catching quality, something that makes them enjoyable to look at".

1. Look for the light - the basis of all photography, because photography means 'painting with light'. I usually try and take photos in the 'sweet' light of morning or early evening.

2. Use colour for best effect - because colour effects the mood of photographs. Use the effects of dominant colours, colour contrast, colour harmony or just a touch of colour.

A colourful photo taken from the National
Geographic magazine 

3. Make shape the subject - make shape more apparent by removing/suppressing surface details. My favourite is taking silhouettes against the setting sun.

4. Bring out subject form - a trick of the light can emphasize the three-dimensional aspect of the subject's form and make the image seem rounded rather than flat.

5. Emphasize subject texture - one of the elements in a picture that adds extra interest and information about the subject. So take close-ups to show texture. Most of my flora pictures are close-ups.

6. Find and use subject pattern - to add extra strength and sense of purpose to photographs. Pattern may be a repetition of shapes or colours, or a play of light and shade. For me a group or plenty of whatever (children, people, fauna, flora, even shoes/slippers or canoes always make delightful photos).

Another National Geographic picture showing colourful
shape pattern

7. Give your pictures depth - use the visual tricks of linear perspective (as parallel lines extend into the distance they appear to converge), diminishing scale (as things get farther away they appear smaller) or aerial perspective (the tendency of colours to appear more blue the more distant they are).

8. Turn the camera around - decide whether to frame your subject horizontally (landscape view) or vertically (portrait view).

9. Change the viewpoint and angle - find the best viewpoint and camera angle for your subject. I remember the days when an interesting subject in the background is completely obliterated by people posing in the foreground; also of tree branches, and whatever else sprouting or even water spouting out of a person's head. Still happens I guess, like in the picture below.

Help! Something is sprouting out of my head! Oh, its only a
hand holding a telephone - a Sri Lanka telecom sculpture at a
Colombo roundabout (MB 2012)

10. Shoot around the subject - check the composition from every angle to find the best.

11. Keep it simple - make sure the composition is simple and does not contain too many competing elements.

12. Lead the viewer's eyes - a well-composed photograph is one in which the viewer's eye is led from one part of the image to the next until the entire subject matter is taken in.

13. Frame your shot - look for ways of introducing a frame within the broader picture frame, with the object of emphasizing a particular part of the image and heighten the impact of the photograph. Example - doorway, window, verandah, body (hands, hair).

14. Position your subject - a 'rule' of photography is to position your subject off-centre in the frame. The 'Rule of Thirds' is the most well-known principle of photographic composition. Place your subject at one of the four intersections when you divide your picture area into thirds both horizontally and vertically.

15. Decide what to include for a portrait - remember the fundamental rules of taking portraits: do not cut off part of  the subject's head, ensure feet are not cut off at the ankles for full-length portraits, do not crop off at the knees, etc. Ensure also the framing of the figure appears natural and comfortable (within their surrounding).

My eyes! My head! Pic taken by a travelling companion
in Bentota, Sri Lanka. I did notice she was nervous just
 holding a camera! & I forgot to check if it was ok (2012)

16. Pose your subject for a portrait - go for relaxed poses and suitable backgrounds.

17. Alter the pose - for close-ups, get the subject to do several varying poses, to see which suit them best.

18. Look for alternative shots - apart from the standard shots, try alternative views and isolating details from overall views..

19. Create a sense of movement - a little blur due to subject or camera movement (slow shutter/panning) can add extra dimension to a photograph.

20. Use on-camera flash - concentrate on small details within the operating range of your flash in dark or dimly lit spaces.

In these days of digital photography it is easy to delete (and retake) or even edit photos that are not to one's satisfaction. But I guess the most important thing is to ensure that a picture tells a story and is indeed worth a thousand words.

My photography books:
John Hedgecoe's Basic Photography (Collins & Brown, 1993) Ex Libris CNB 0246
Conceptual People Photography 6 (New York Gold, 1993) Ex Libris CNB 1027
Peter Cope: Digital Photography for the Over 50s (Hodder Education, 2010) Ex Libris CNB 1915
Travel Photography; How to Take Striking Images (APA Publications, 2010) Ex Libris CNB 1895
Peter Brooke-Ball: George Eastman dan Kodak (Terj. Asiah Salleh; DBP 1995) Ex Libris CNB 1471
**Update: The Daily Book of Photography (Walter Foster, 2010) Ex Libris CNB 1998

Wednesday 10 October 2012

SA Garden Catalogue: Hydrangea

Its been some time since I wrote about my handkerchief garden. (Actually its more a 1/2 handkerchief!). The plants have matured well, the green foliage plants are greener than ever, while some plants are constantly in bloom. The fauna that visit have grown in variety, and most recently I noted a couple of new small red feathered birds feeding on the berries of the Straits rhododendron. I hope to catalogue both the flora and fauna of my tiny garden, to record and learn more about these natural wonders that give me so much joy.

In this first SA Garden Catalogue entry, I shall focus on my favourite flower, the Hydrangea or Bunga Tiga Bulan/Bunga Zaleha.

SA Garden Hydrangea bloom in September (CNB 2012)

Common name: Hydrangea
Malay name: Bunga Tiga Bulan/Bunga Zaleha
Scientific name: Hydrangea macrophylla
Family: Hydrangea
Origin: Japan

The plants in my garden now have blue flowers. The showy sepals then turn purple, very light blue, then rusty pink, also green! And contrary to its Malay name, the flowers last more than three months. I first acquired two potted plants each of a different colour (pink and blue). But for quite some time after the first blooms were gone, there were no more, despite some 'cajoling' on my part (including feeding them rusted nails, as advised by a garden expert!).

The above bloom in early October (CNB 2012)

When I balik kampung (PP) a couple of years ago, I visited my former neighbour Mrs Tan. Her handkerchief garden also had hydrangeas, the blue blooms in profusion. She said she had no secret, maybe just good luck! So she kindly gave me a plant then which I placed in more sunshine than partial shade. Today I'm proud to say this plant has not disappointed me.

Although the first two plants still have not had any blooms after all these years, I console myself with the fact that they are the highland variety that have difficulty producing flowers in hot and humid Shah Alam.

The Hydrangea bracts go rusty pink in late October
(This pic added 23/10/2012) (CNB)

Note: Whether the flowers are blue or pink depends on the acidity of the soil. I have observed that pink seems very rare in our urban gardens. Luckily the blue turns many colours including a rusty pink!

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Books I Love: Lat's Caricatures & Cartoons

Some of Lat's comic books I own (CNB 2012)

Who does not know of Lat or Dato' Mohd Nor bin Khalid? Our most famous Malaysian cartoonist has been creatively producing cartoon strips and comic books for more than 40 years! His cartoons in the New Straits Times newspapers then (starting in 1974) was something I always looked forward to. In his graphic drawings and with the very minimum of words, he provided apt commentaries on our Malaysian life. He still does (The NST, Mondays).

I have acquired what I hope is almost all of his published works. In fact some are yellowed and almost in tatters, from years of me and the family thumbing through the pages, that entertain without fail. (I feel that Lat cartoons are the equivalent of P Ramlee movies - almost always evergreen, and appealing to all ages). Appropriately, Lat has been honoured for his work, including with the 'Datukship', a Doctorate (UKM), and other prestigious awards.

'Lat Kampung Boy the Musical' was staged in 2011 at Istana Budaya. I was lucky to be able see this musical and it was truly memorable, with the real Lat himself appearing on stage at the end. In fact Lat and his cartoons are leaving his (their?) mark on many things, from two Air Asia aeroplanes to postal stamps, to sardine cans.

Cover of Budak Kampung

A Bibliography of my Lat comics:
Keluarga Si Mamat (1968)
Lots of Lat (1977)
Lat's Lot (1978)
Budak Kampung (1979)
With a Little Bit of Lat (1980)
Town Boy (1981)
Lots More Lat (1982)
Lat and His Lot Again! (1983)
Entahlah Mak ...! (1985)
Its a Lat Lat Lat Lat World (1985)
Lat and Gang (1987); its missing from my library, anybody borrowed and forgot to return?
Lat with a Punch (1988)
Better Lat than Never (1989)
Mat Som (1989)
Lat as Usual ... (1990)
Be Serious Lat! (1992)
Kampung Boy Yesterday & Today (1993); I also have a 2008 9th reprint copy.
Lat 30 Years Later (1994); contains 'Lat on Lat', Appreciation by Piyadasa, & Retrospective 1964-1994 of Lat's caricatures and cartoons.
Lat Was Here (1995)
Lat Gets Lost (1996)
Lat at Large (1999)

Lat at 17 on the cover  of  'Lat 30 Years Later'

Lat, whom I have had the privilege of meeting in a few 'art programmes' in Pulau Pinang (USM) and KL is a contemporary, born in the same year and month.  So his Kampung Boy and Town Boy stories are especially nostalgic of my childhood era too during the 1950's and early 1960's. Although I was more a railway child and living in towns, but spending school holidays in the kampungs of Pulau Pinang.

Ex Libris CNB

Sunday 7 October 2012

Magical Fireflies & More in Kuala Selangor

Its been a few years since we were in Kuala Selangor, especially to see for ourselves the magical flickering firefly colony in Kampung Kuantan. I remember that before going, there were 'warnings' about crocodiles in the area where the berembang trees (favoured by the fireflies), were along the Selangor River. But we dismissed these because after all if so many have gone there before us, why not us?

So one evening in Kampung Kuantan, about 15 minutes from the coastal town of Kuala Selangor, we gamely donned life jackets and got into the sampan (traditional small Malay boat), oared by a man who has guided so many tourists, local and foreign along the Selangor River to witness the lights of the kelip-kelip (fireflies). Indeed when we got to the berembang trees so favoured by the fireflies, there they were like flickering lights on a Christmas tree. No, they were better - they were magic! (Pity my camera was not good enough to do any justice to this magic, hence no firefly photos.)

Waiting at the jetty for a sampan (2007)

Apart from the fireflies at night, there are the fascinating Lutung or silvered leaf monkeys on Bukit Malawati (Malawati Hill) in the daytime. Even more fascinating, their very young are a golden orange colour! These creatures are so docile, quite unlike their rather aggressive cousins, the long tailed macaques. (Later our guide at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park would joke about the monkeys leaving their nature park home in the day for 'work' at Bukit Malawati - 'entertaining' the visitors there and waiting for their just rewards!)

Some adult leaf monkeys and a golden baby (CNB 2007)

The peaceful primates even line up for food handouts from
visitors (CNB 2007)

Silvered leaf monkeys swarming a car (CNB 2007)

Bukit Malawati has many historical relics including Kota Malawati (Fort Malawati), seat of the first rulers of Selangor. The Makam Diraja is a royal mausoleum with the graves of three Sultans. Other interesting relics include the Perigi beracun (Poisoned well), Batu hampar (a stone execution block), a 100 step path and cannons. Kuala Selangor being at the mouth of the Selangor River (kuala=estuary), was once a thriving trading post. Many battles were fought between the locals and foreign seafaring invaders. The Dutch left their mark in the Kota Belanda (Dutch Fort) and the Altinsburg Lighthouse.

Bukit Malawati relics: The lighthouse and a
bronze cannon (CNB 2007)

The ancient Dutch fort is on the nearby Bukit Belanda/Bukit Tanjung Keramat. The area is not so well cared for but we were really more interested in the 'legend' of the pious maiden Rubiah, who disappeared on her wedding day. She had, probably drowned herself (to avoid the arranged marriage) in the small pretty lake in the lee of the fort. Her parents discovered her clothes hung on a tree near the lake, and later built a grave for her, which became known as the Makam Anak Dara or Virgin's Grave. (Note: I first became aware of this 'legend' after a Yasmin Ahmad movie - Mukhsin).

On the steps leading up to the Virgin's Grave
(AB 2007)

Within walking distance from Kuala Selangor town is the Taman Alam Kuala Selangor or Kuala Selangor Nature Park. This is a 296 acre wetland sanctuary with secondary forests, mudflats and mangroves. The fauna includes 157 species of birds and a brackish lake there provides a roosting and feeding site for a variety, including migratory birds. There are bird hides and towers to better aid viewing. The mudflats are rich in wildlife including fishes and shellfish.

The Park is managed by the Malaysian Nature Society. Being a paid member, we were provided with entrance tickets and a guide at a discounted rate. Wohoo! The guide (I cannot recall his name, I'm so sorry) was pretty knowledgeable and pointed out the various wildlife and their features we would otherwise have missed. Kudos to this well-trained young man.

A & our KSNP guide (CNB 2007)

Mangrove trees at the KSNP (CNB 2007)

A beautiful turquoise mudflat crab (CNB 2007)

Before leaving Kuala Selangor, most people go to Kampung Pasir Penambang, a fishing village with its bustling market and seafood restaurants lining the river bank. This is either to buy fresh fish or fish products, or to partake of the delicious seafood. We shopped at the market and had a very late lunch at the recommended River View Seafood Restaurant. It was a fitting end to our Kuala Selangor sojourn.

Cooling coconut water to quench your thirst (CNB 2007)

Dining at a seafood restaurant affords this nice view of the
Selangor River estuary (CNB 2007)

At the market in Kg Pasir Penambang (AB 2007)
May 2007