October 31, 2010

Stratford to Picaddily for Dim Sum - from Cyberspace to London

Friends like Sarina are rare. And we have been friends since school time. Sarina's sisters taught Judy and I in school and Sarina's brothers were our school mates although Sarina herself went to a different school. We sort of grew up together in Sibu under the big Methodist umbrella. Our common ground was the church and perhaps music.

I have not seen Sarina since 1970 when I left for KL. A few years later she left for London. And then I moved to Miri and she went back to Sibu once every few years. Somehow our paths never crossed.....

She found my blog last year and guessed I could be the owner of the blog....A few questions later she indeed found me.....And we connected in Cyberspace. Now it is food and good memories which bring us together in London!!. So Judy and I met up with Sarina (who will soon retire from her nursing days) at Piccadilly Circus.

It was a normal London day - YES!! Rainy and wet and cold...and the roads were so damp and every one was out shivering and carrying their umbrellas!! You can't leave home without your brolly in London ....

And we also included my son-in-law's brother Ah Soon who is working in London....

It was nice to be warm in the Chinese restaurant....and somehow getting reunited was such heart warming occasion. We wished we had more time to swap stories and share the laughter!!

Thanks Sarina! Thanks Ah Soon for braving the rain to drop in on us....he had to cross the 30 year gap....and chatter.









The Stratford Tube Station is very modern and all set for the Olympics. I saw lots of people in their wheel chairs feeling very comfortable travelling to the station...and even getting into private vehicles which were waiting for them at the station. And as you see in the photo it is modern and very clean. It is not always like this for all the stations.







We were happy to meet up with Sarina Mamora after so many years! We were in Sunday School and her mum taught us many things including some traditional dancing. And of course her dad Rev Mamora was a very good preacher conversant in both English and Bahasa Indonesia.


We had dim sum in Chinatown...kai lan...faboulous fresh crunchy and tasty.

This is duck which melts in the mouth. All chefs are from Hong Kong..may be second generation!




Trolleys like these pass us by very often.


This is yam puff...excellent.


And the light as feather prawn dumplings with its transparent swallow skin.

This is a true extended family from Malaysia




Parting was just for a moment...because we are definitely going to meet up again in Sarawak!!

October 30, 2010

Scouting and Compost Making in London

This is a beautiful place. And so near to the new London Olympic Stadium....


When Kevin and Margaret first bought (about 14 years ago) the place they were impressed by the quietness and the Scouts' Meeting or Club house just opposite. Their son became a scout (but of course) as Kevin himself was a keen scout in his youth!!

Now Matthew after a happy life as a scout is  a college student and about to set foot in the adult world!!

The cubs and the scouts continue to greet their familiar and friendly neighbour Kevin.....


Scouts Plaque.






Rhubarb.....Huge leaves but not edible. You only eat the root.


Pumpkin....lovely really.

Vehicle for the Scouts and Cubs


Compost making....this is a wonderful idea....

The parents come in droves to send and pick up their boys at this place and you can see how happy the parents and children are!!

The gardening project is simply brilliant! And in just a small plot in London the project is really thriving. In Spring...flowers will grow in their brilliant colours...white and gold have been selected.

Be Prepared!! It still jolts my heart when I read or see this. Once a Guide always a Guide. Once a Scout always a Scout....

Dedicated to all my cousins and friends  who were scouts before....sweet memories...


October 28, 2010

Interesting Tree from our childhood books : Horse Chestnut

When we were kids our English class teacher and the music teacher as well taught us the song "Under the spreading chestnut tree". We sang and hummed the tune in the old days...and later try to remember all the actions what went with the song!!


Finding chestnuts in the Isle of Wight reminded me of those happy days and happy children....and of course the happy classroom atmosphere...learning was so good in those days...and our teachers were our heroes.... Here are the lyrics to jot your memory...

Under the spreading chestnut tree,
Where I knelt upon my knee,
We were as happy as could be,
Under the spreading chestnut tree.


Verse 2:
Under the spreading chestnut ____,
(Replace 'tree' with action:
Place arms close to side, bent upward
from the elbow, hands spread, with palms up)

Where I knelt upon my knee,
We were as happy as could be,
Under the spreading chestnut ____.
(Replace 'tree' with action as above)


Verse 3:
Under the spreading chest___ _____
(Replace 'nut' and 'tree' with actions:
For 'nut', pat head with hands.
For 'tree', do action as above)

Where I knelt upon my knee,
We were as happy as could be,
Under the spreading chest___ _____
(Replace 'nut' and 'tree' with actions as above.)


Verse 4:
Under the spreading ________ _____
(Replace 'chest', 'nut' and 'tree' with actions:
For 'chest', tap chest with both hands.
For 'nut' and 'tree', do actions as above.)

Where I knelt upon my knee,
We were as happy as could be,
Under the spreading ________ _____
(Replace 'chest', 'nut' and 'tree' with actions as above.)


Verse 5:
Under the _________ ________ _____
(Replace 'spreading', 'chest', 'nut' and 'tree'
with actions: For 'spreading', spread arms wide.
For 'chest', 'nut' and 'tree', do actions as above.)

Where I knelt upon my knee,
We were as happy as could be,
Under the _________ ________ _____
(Replace 'spreading', 'chest', 'nut' and 'tree'
with actions as above.)


Verse 6:
Under the _________ ________ _____
(Replace 'spreading', 'chest', 'nut' and 'tree'
with actions as above.)

Where I knelt upon my knee,
(Replace 'knee' with action: strike knee with hand)

We were as happy as could be,
Under the _________ ________ _____
(Replace 'spreading', 'chest', 'nut' and 'tree'
with actions as above.)


The soft dry ground covered with the shells of the horse chestnuts....animals and birds would have picked most of the chestnuts by early morning. (Chestnuts cost a bit in Beijing - especially in winter when stalls selling chestnuts can be found all over the street corners of the Chinese capital.)


The fruit covered with its protective skin of soft thorns.













October 27, 2010

Mrs. Frederick Mawar

Do you like to get connected ? Today in the digital age it is much easier. In olden days as a student I had to queue up to make phone calls home (after we had a house phone). Otherwise we had to write letters trot to the post office and mail the letters. That was the slow slow life style then. Today we use terms like flash back...fast forward...click and see....even dialing seems to be a slow word.

Yesterday Flor and I arranged to visit a friend of mine from 1974.

Here's the story.

All of us in these photos are connected in one way or another.

I was newly married and teaching in a government school in a small town of Limbang in 1974.

One of the best times during the week was to visit the established families and households in the government quarters near St. Edmund Primary School . Another favourite past time was a sit in a nice coffee shop and wait for the kuihs to arrive...just in time for the civil servants to enjoy their "happy hours". In those days those were the happy hours...not jug of beers or dangdut girls.

And one of the most important families of the day was the Mawar family. Mrs. Mawar is very perceptive and gentle. She has several young children in those days and the youngest was about 9 years old - Jacqueline. Christabel was slightly older. Gregory was already quite a young man by then.

I would always remember the bag of buah kedundong she sent to me when she heard that I was expecting. I ate only those fruits for three days as I could eat nothing else. I could not tolerate the smell of frying onions. And when my husband played Ringo Starr's music...I got more sick. To this day I would associate Ringo's music with bad pregnancies.

Buah Kedungdung is a saviour and a balm to me whenever I am sick until today. I really remember Mrs. Mawar for that. And it has been almost 36 years since we were together in Limbang.

Gulang - or Mrs. Howell is Mrs. Mawar's niece. The daughter of her sister.
Gulang and I have known each other fairly well well over the years since our children went to St. Columba's Secondary School together. We met as parents and at times at social gatherings in Miri. But I never thought that she is Mrs. Mawar's niece!!


Mr and Mrs. Mawar have indeed brought up a fine family. The children are very proper and hold good jobs and help improve social development amongst the Ibans and the public. Gregory Mawar is a good writer and has put a lot of traditional knowledge on paper. Jacqueline keeps traditional Iban music and culturre alive through her active service in DAM and other organisations. Amazing children indeed!!

florence Enau is the Headmistress of my children's kindergarten. Well it seems I have known her forever here in Miri. She is someone we can always depend upon. She definitely has a broad shoulder to cry on.

florence is Mrs. Wawar's sister-in-law. Or rather Florence was married to the late brother of Mrs. Mawar.

I exclaimed to Jacqueline and Christabell that we did not have the chance to take photos in 1974 to remember our good times together. Today we have handphones and digital cameras to snap moments of good memories!! Their father Frederick was a civil servant and they were transferred out of Limbang. Frederick worked in many places and finally retired in Saratok. However there was one occasion in 1980's when Christobell and her father came to stay with us in Sibu...after she finished her Form Five. And then like every one else we were busy raising children and "cari makan". We heard that Mr. Mawar was not well. We had news from time to time through some relatives.

And now these "kids" are in their late forties!! How time flies.

By God's grace Mrs. Mawar came all the way from Betong this week to be with the family. And I have just come back from overseas to grab this opportunity to meet up with her. It has been 36 years!!

Indeed it is a small world....but it takes the culmination of 36 years to get this group photo taken...in 1974 I did not have a camera to take photos....we depended on one family - William Ting's family to take studio photos and school photos.

Today...William Ting is still a friend...and someone I can call upon to take photos....Again...once more....

We are still connected today .....Ties that bind us cannot be broken as the hymn goes.

October 26, 2010

The Garlic Farm (part two) - Lunch at the Cafe

Written on 29th Sept 2010.

We got up early and excited to do the whole island today!!

It was a different kind of waking up - cool quiet air outside and flowers below our windows. The glass on the widows was icy cold. Outside the hotel wooden door was a chill which tingled the skin. But nevertheless I went for a lovely autumny English morning walk to wake up the soul.

A splendid afternoon was a hot lunch at the Garlic Farm Cafe. Perhaps not many Asians are googoo ga ga about garlic which is so much part of our diet. But to find a whole farm dedicated to GARLIC and a whole CAFE offering special menus with GARLIC chutneys and relishes....37 Vampire chutneys? Well that was quite unique. And all four of us being garlic lovers we were led to an outside table first. The kind waiter promised us an "inside" table aSAP. But we had a good waiting time - watching some hens getting near us and enjoying the cool farm air. Even the rain had a special welcome touch !!

The cafe was full so we were placed on the patio with a promise of a table inside when it was available. The waiters were really busy and a few of them were new. But we were happy customers from overseas. Kevin and Margaret are Londoners who are not "difficult" customers. Above all Kevin was a good "teacher of all things English...I mean all English Food!!" We really appreciate that. No tour guide I have come across can do better.
In less than 10 minutes we were seated in the main dining area with 1950's music in the air and quiet conversations all around. Waiters and waitresses were busy and couldn't keep eye contact long enough!!  The diners were almost elbow to elbow and tables very close but politely distant enough to each other. 


A bowl of tomato soup served with lovely farm fresh bread and lots of butter!! The table has a lovely jar of fresh flowers.



Our huge lunch plate - good club sandwich with lots of salad on the side. Butter and chutney come in lovely little bowls. Note the huge slice of cheese on the left!!



A beautiful plate of salmon with great garnishing and farm bread of fantastic texture.


Just nice and tender fish with a large slice of lemon and side salad makes a wonderful lunch.



Lovely chutney.



Fresh garden salad from the farm.

 Chili Con Carne - excellent and full bodied tomato taste.

Yes there is even Garlic Ice Cream for you if you are keen to explore new tastes!!

Coffee was lovely.


The cashier was chatty  but the full house did get into his head a little.
 Any way it was a lovely afternoon and the place was warm and spirited!!
 Excellent business idea of the family which has been running the farm for more than 30 years. Any one visiting the Isle of Wight should make a few hours  or even a half day stop here. And especially those who have come half way round the world.

Compliments to the chef!!

October 25, 2010

The Garlic Farm (part one)

The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight is a remarkable place to visit even if it is on a wet and cold autumn day. I had to take out my flimsy made in China umbrella which however surprisingly did not open up the wrong way in the strong wind. The umbrella did keep me out of the rain.

We had a meal there (next post) and I learned one new word -  alliophiles.

The photo below is from the pamphlet: The shop offers free tasting of many products . And there was a range which many Malaysias would like -
Vampire Pickles
Besides there were also Chutneys, Pickled Garlic & Mustards
as well as an array of locally sourced & artisan produced products. One cannot be more spoilt than getting one's hands on those products. One can also order them on line.

The visit to the farm was really awe-inspiring for a garlic lover like me.








A huge natural wooden "sculpture" of a garlic.


Perfectly formed Garlic all tied up for sale and display.



Farm house.


Another of the farm house on this property.



Part of the shop. It was really full of shoppers and impressed visitors



The entrance to the Garlic Farm shop - beautiful wooden frames matching the special concrete slabs.



The farm is owned by Colin and his wife Jenny. Their five children are also involved in the farm business. The farm offers a variety of activities for the visitor (farm walk and good meals).The interior decor of the shop is extremely natural and has a special healthy aura.



Special garlic with nicely handwritten labels. Garlic is not cheap!


Even the hay stacked under the tool shed needs to have its photo taken!!


Splendid visit !!

October 24, 2010

Isle of Wight....more photos.

A man and his three dogs on a walk. This nice young man was pleasant to tourists like us and introduced us to his lovely dogs and a little more about the Isle of Wight. He loves his dogs so much that he could not give away all to friends. He ended up keeping three when one would be good enough.



Little bundles of love and joy.


These red leaves are pretty creepers which keep a nice house colourful and looking good in autumn and early months of winter.


Judy pointing to a new species she has not seen before.



Are these Daddy Long Legs or huge mosquitoes? I did not remember to put a coin next to them...they are actually still alive...but in a "daze". May be getting ready to hibernate.

This is a sign we Malaysians should start having.


There are lots of interesting wells like these all over the UK. Not many people drop coins and make a wish but a little goes a long way to help.....and it is a nice way to get support.


Instead of asking people to buy up lots of booklets of coupons for parking...you get to pay and display in a car park. Most counties (daerah or pekan) use this method. There is a good human touch to it and you do not have to be hounded by councils to pay surcharges.

Judy and I found Charity shops very intriguing. I picked up one or two items of antiques and there were lots of second hand books (but too heavy to carry all the way back to Malaysia). Little bits of ceramic ware would be nice to purchase at very low prices and again...the items would just go into pieces due to poor cargo handling at some points. It has happened!! There are other treasures for you if you have the time to look for them. Coffee and tea was served to people who drop by and you put some money in the collection box for the refreshments offered by the volunteers who were so chirrupy and humourous in the English manner.





October 22, 2010

Crossing the Solent

Dukes and princes crossed the Solent to meet with Queen Victoria at Osborne House ....and the Isle of Wight became a popular holiday sport for politicians and wealthy heiresses....

Today the IOW is one of the most visited islands in the world. So my friends and I too crossed the Solent to see for ourselves what the whole island is all about!!

We have come from Borneo and travelled to the British Isles and crossed a stretch of water to visit another island. The ferry crossing was interesting in the cold autumn afternoon.

We used the big ferry. Not the catamarran or the hovercrafts which are the other options.



Leaving Portsmouth we saw these lovely buildings in soft colours. Lots of lorries cross the Solent too.

One of the ferries. They have names like St. Cecilia etc.



Spice Inn...nostalgic places and place names.

Superb English architecture and nice sandy beach.



Clean and clear water....

The cold autumn wind blowing at Kevin....He prefers the Sarawak weather.



One of the four Spitbank Forts. Called Palmerston's Follies. No gunshot was ever fired from here. This was built to defend England against Napoleonic attacks.

A beautiful scene - nice yacht against beautiful white cloudes and an island.  I wish I had a more powerful zoom lens.







Sarawakian Local Delights : Tapioca (Ubi Kayu)

Ubi kayu or tapioca used to be one of the cheapest snacks Sarawakians could have. Tapioca is easily grown wherever farmers grow their p...