Cherished memories…

Everytime it was my parents’ birthday, I would buy something for them and maybe a cake as well, perhaps and at times, flowers for my mum too.

I remember buying this very nice casserole…

Casserole 1

…for her but I cannot for the dear life of me remember where or when. I don’t remember how much I paid for it either but I guess it was not much, probably something in the region of RM50.00. With my measly salary as a teacher, I wouldn’t be able to afford something very costly, that’s for sure.

All I can remember is I thought it was very nice and I was quite sure that my mum would love it. I do not know if she did. Typical Asians like us do not express our feelings all that much and all through the years, I did not see it in the display cabinets at the house and I don’t think I ever saw it being used either.

Anyway, the other day, I asked my sister if she had seen it lying around anywhere in the house and if it was still in one piece, I would love to have it back and she said yes and promptly sent it over to my house…

Casserole 2

When I bought it, I never checked the place of manufacture even. I only remember it looking quite classy, somewhat English or continental with images of ladies and gents dressed in clothes from the Dickens era like those on the lovely Quality Street toffee tin in the good old days but no, there were fruits by the side with lots of roses and leaves all over.

There was a plate…

Plate

…underneath and when I turned it over, I saw this sticker…

Sticker

Now, that’s interesting! It was made in Japan!

I turned the casserole over and I saw this…

Bottom

SANYO? Maybe it was a free gift with some SANYO product and they put it up for sale? And maybe that was why it was at a price quite affordable to the likes of me? I am pretty sure that otherwise, it would be mighty expensive.

At this point in time, I am not sure whether I will ever use it but I have  rearranged some of my collection in my cabinet to make way for it…

Casserole 3

…and there it will stay in its special place, in the meantime, cherished and treasured for the precious memory it holds of one so dearly loved.

Answered prayer…

This was sometime ago when we got wind of the news that my girl had been successful in her application for a transfer from her school in the jungle to one right here in town. Because of that, we decided to offer some flowers at the church that we frequent as a gesture of thanksgiving that our prayers at the weekly novena on Saturdays had been answered.

That was why I dropped by the florist I usually went to and I asked for five white lilies to signify the five decades of the Holy Rosary and ten red roses for the ten Hail Mary’s in each decade. What I did not know was that to her (the florist), five lilies meant five stalks and actually, on each stalk, there would be three or more lilies. In the end, I just let her do as she liked though I was not all that pleased with the end result…

Flowers 1

…and furthermore, the newly-arrived lilies had not bloomed yet. When I got home, I added some wild non-edible ferns from my garden and I felt that it looked a little better after that. That was on Ascension Thursday and by Saturday, a few days later, all the lilies had fully bloomed…

Flowers 2

…and yes, in my opinion, it did look much nicer after that.

Talking about those ferns, they sprout out of nowhere, here, there and everywhere, all along the fence at the back of my garden. This…

Fern 1

…is a different variety that I do not quite like so I would just pull them out and throw away whenever I do the weeding.

I prefer this one…

Fern 2

– the leaves have a nicer pattern so they look more attractive…or to me, at least. When I spot any, I would pull them out by the roots and transplant them in my pot of ferns…

Pot of ferns

…and they do seem to grow pretty well there.

There was another variety, the creeping kind that actually looked very nice, dangling from the pot but I hated how the tendrils would reach out to the neighbouring plants and start strangling them. In the end, I had no choice – I pulled them all out and threw them away.

You don’t bring me flowers…

I was delighted when I saw my mint flowering…

Mint flowers

…the other day. Generally, I do not have flowers in my garden – I would only plant things that I can use in my cooking or are edible so whatever flowers there may be are purely incidental or coincidental.

However, I have decided that I could do with a bit of colours in my life, not all green and I started working on this…

Floral circle

…what I call my floral circle.

These…

Golden showers 1

have yet to flower…

Golden showers 2

…but I think I will have to keep an eye on it. There were some lilies originally and my missus went and planted these at that same spot. They grew fast and furious and the lilies did not stand a chance against them. I have since planted the bulbs elsewhere in my garden and they do not seem to be doing too well – it has been a long time but they have yet to flower.

I have planted a couple of periwinkle seedlings here too and they are starting to flower…

Periwinkle

I don’t know where it came from originally – they just appeared out of the blue.

My missus planted these balsam plants as well a long time ago and the ones I have in the circle look very “fertile”…

Balsam

…but they have yet to flower. They are called cheng kak hua in Hokkien or fingernail flowers and are believed to be a natural remedy for fungal growth in toe nails. I had that problem once and a distant relative by marriage, a doctor in Australia prescribed some medicine for it – he said it was not a big problem just that the toe nails were a ghastly sight. Well, I went and googled and saw a list of the side effects of the medicine so of course, I did not bother to go and buy and take it. Thankfully, for reasons unknown, the problem just disappeared by itself eventually and because of that, I have never tried these flowers so I do not really know whether it works or not.

These were weeds that grew out of the cracks in my driveway and I took some to transplant in a more orderly manner and they have been growing well all this while. The purple flowers…

Purple

…are very nice but sadly, they will bloom in the morning and wither away when it gets a bit too hot. The good thing is they flower in abundance and there will be quite a lot at any one time every day.

I got the cuttings for this giant hibiscus…

Hibiscus

…from my girl’s school in the jungle. The mother plant that I planted in a big pot is doing well and I planted some cuttings from there here and they have started to flower. What caught my attention way back then was their size – bigger than a saucer, around the size of the plate by the side for your dinner roll in a western table setting or a bit bigger!

I do hope I will be able to add more flowering plants to the aforementioned circle so if anybody has some seedlings to give away, I shall be glad to accept and take them off your hands…

It doesn’t matter anymore…

In the late 70’s, I was posted to teach in a school in Kanowit. I stayed in a small rented room above one of the shops with nothing else other than a bed and a writing table…and a small table fan. I was literally living out of a suitcase and no, I did not have a tv.

Those were the days of black and white tv and being musically-inclined, there was a weekly programme that I particularly liked at around 5.30 p.m. on Sundays, Ready To Roll, a top hits chart show from New Zealand, if I am not wrong, and I do recall that this song, the cover by some girly singer, was Number 1 for a few weeks.

In order that I could watch the show, I had to go to a coffee shop in that little town to join many others there and because this song was not the favourite of everybody else except me and it was very long, they would all moan and groan and declare that when the song came on, it would be a good time to go to the washroom.

Anyway, the title of the song that I have used for this post makes me think of what we had to go through week after week after week picking my girl from her school in the jungle and bringing her home on Fridays and sending her back on Sundays and to say that driving on the still-under-construction Pan-Borneo Highway, otherwise known as the Pain-Borneo Hellway, was a nightmare would be an understatement. Well, the good news is, as the song goes, it doesn’t matter anymore!

The official letter was released on Tuesday, 11th June, 2019 and my girl was supposed to report in her new school on that day itself. However, it so happened that even though a copy of the letter had arrived at the office in Selangau, there was nobody dropping by that day to collect the mail so she could not leave her station just yet.

That was why on Wednesday, 12th June, 2019, my missus and I made our way to the school, stopping by the office along the way to get the official copy of the letter, duly endorsed by the officer…and before school was dismissed that very day, there was a special assembly to bid farewell to their teacher and she would be walking along that wooden bridge from her quarters…

SK Sg Sepiring

…to the car one last time after over 6 years since the day she reported for duty in March 2013.

I did notice when we sent her back to her school on Monday, after the two-week mid-year break, that the road had greatly improved…

PBH 1

…unlike the horrendous conditions in the first half of the year and it was getting worse by the day.

Now, many parts have been completed…

PBH 2

…and are open for use…

PBH 3

…already and even though there are still those sections that are in a rather deplorable state, these good stretches…

PBH 4

…are indeed a welcome relief.

I don’t know if these are going to be part of THE highway eventually or only temporary but whatever it is, I will no longer be going that way again, praise the Lord, and I’ve said it already and I’ll say it again – it doesn’t matter anymore!

Better way…

When my girl was first posted to her school in the jungle in March, 2013, the Sibu-Bintulu Trunk Road was not all that good or maybe I had no experience driving long distance then so I drove very fast there and back for fear that I would not get home before dark. In the meantime, there was an on-going upgrading of the road and the construction of some overtaking lanes and after a couple of years, I started to enjoy the leisurely drive every week.

We would leave home early and stop at Stapang or Selangau, roam around the market to see if there was any jungle produce that might tickle our fancy and have a bite to eat at one of the coffee shops at those places before proceeding to our girl’s school before lessons ended for the day.

Then came the construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway or what we would “affectionately” refer to as the Pain-Borneo Highway or Hellway. It has been gong on for a few years now and it sure does not look like it is ever going to end. Usually there are not many people working, just a few here and there and I simply cannot imagine where it is going or where it is coming from.

It would not have been so bad if they did not make a mess of the original road plus there are so many lencongan (diversions), one after another so one would be driving in a zig-zag manner all the way so what once was a 99 km drive is probably now at least 200 km. Talking about the diversions, I can go this week and find some very nice new ones and the following week, they will look like an earthquake has struck! Such poor quality work! I certainly hope that if ever they get the highway done, it will not be like this.

Anyway, sometime ago, I was at my regular petrol station and I was chatting with my friends there, the petrol attendants and I was telling them how horrible the road conditions were. There was a boy there wiping and cleaning the pumps and he suggested that I used Jalan Pasai Siong…

Jalan Pasai Siong

…adding that the road would be a whole lot better, no potholes, no diversions, nothing. However, it was only after my girl’s colleague mentioned that same thing to her that I decided to give it a try.

Not far after Stapang, you would get to a junction – you can see a road sign pointing right to Jalan Teku Pasai Siong and to Sibu/Sarikei straight ahead and a little further up, there is a bigger signboard with one arrow pointing to Sibu and the other, Bintulu/Miri. Instead of going straight like what I usually did, you turn right. You can see from the above photograph that it is a very narrow two-lane road, one coming and one going, not too winding but kind of hilly so one would go up and down smoothly as the slopes are not steep.

Before I embarked on my little adventure, I logged into Google Maps and went on a “drive” along that road. It felt so very long, nothing but jungle on both sides of the road and frankly, it does feel that way when you are driving along this road, like it is never going to end. However, I kept track of the distance and found that it was only 35 km (21.7 miles) and if you are driving along the Sibu-Bintulu Trunk Road, SMK Luar Bandar is 21 miles away – and that was before they had all those lencongan (diversions), still quite a distance away from this Jalan Pasai Siong/Sibu-Bintulu Trunk Road junction. Maybe I was not driving very fast as I was not that familiar with the road yet so I found that we did not really make good time, perhaps by 15-20 minutes only.

Not far from the aforementioned junction, you will pass by this very nice temple…

Temple

…and along the way, other than the oil palm estates, the pepper gardens, the pineapple farms, you may see some country houses…

Country house

…and padi fields and some longhouses…

Longhouses

…too.

If I remember correctly, there are two streams and bridges…

Stream and bridge

…to cross and when you get to these shops…

Shops

…where the 1Malaysia Clinic, Teku is, you will know that you’re almost there.

When you get to this roundabout…

Roundabout

…turn left into Jalan Ling Kai Cheng and go straight ahead to the traffic lights at its junction with Jalan Deshon (Selemo junction), the sole traffic lights the whole way and none of those horrendous lencongan (diversions), none at all to make your driving a horrible nightmare!

Besides, there are hardly any cars so you can just cruise along happily – no F1 Grand Prix driver-wannabes, no road bullies tailgating you at a dangerously close range when they cannot overtake, no excessively-overloaded lorries, long trailers and inter-town buses behaving like it’s their grandfather’s road, overtaking when they please – no signal, no horn, no warning whatsoever, never mind right or left and scaring the living daylights out of you. Here, along this somewhat deserted/quiet road, if you come across one that is slower than you, it is so easy to overtake because there are no other cars, none on-coming and none going.

There is a part somewhere in the middle where the patching and repairing have made it kind of bumpy so the ride would not be all that smooth but that is chicken feed compared to the torture you have to go through when driving through those diversions. Do be careful and watch out for unexpected curves, just a few here and there – you may be speeding uphill and when you reach the top, you may find that suddenly, you have to turn right or left and not go straight over the edge!

The school holidays are here, praise the Lord so I will not have to drive to my girl’s school in the jungle for the next two weeks but when it reopens, no prize for guessing which road I would take!

*Photos taken from Google Map and adapted/edited for use in this post. I did take a few that I shared on Facebook sometime ago but when one is driving, the photographs taken may not be all that nice.*

I don’t care…

I had those garden shears from Mr DIY that I found very handy for trimming the grass when I do the weeding…

Weeding & trimming

…in my garden. Unlike those huge ones whereby I would need both arms to use and end up with muscle aches all over my shoulders, I could conveniently use the ones from there single-handedly.

Unfortunately, the last one that I had was no longer sharp and I think I got the blades all crooked when I tried to cut a little bit more than I should so I had to throw it away. Much to my disappointment, when I went back to all the outlets here in town, I found that they no longer sell those. Finally, I tried the hardware shop near my house and I found this brand…

Garden shears

…for a whopping RM50.00 plus! The ones from Mr DIY were only a little over RM10.00 each. I have the garden scissors, this brand too, from a shop here and they were over RM30.00 each. It sure looks like everything from them does not come cheap but I must say that the quality is really good and long lasting.

Talking about prices, do you go around here and there making comparisons before buying something? I don’t…and I don’t care if what I buy is a little bit more expensive than what others have paid for it. If it is something that I want, I would just grab, pay and leave like these cans of luncheon meat…

Porkies luncheon meat

…that I got from the supermarket near my house. My friend, Annie, in KL was in town at the time and she got those for around RM6.00 a tin only but that was on offer in conjunction with the opening of a new supermarket in town but I sure would not want to join the crowd – the cars were all queued up along the road to go inside that big place so I could imagine the long lines at the counters, no, thank you. I paid over RM8.00 for mine.

These…

Highway corned beef

…cost more than my favourite brand, over RM11.00 a can, but by around RM1-2 only. I did not see the latter at places where I went to – not that I actually went round in search of it so I settled for this instead. I think I did try it before and it was good as well. Well, I was at the grocery store here the other day and I saw a whole lot on the shelves. Maybe the current stock has arrived so they are easily available now. Of course I did not buy any as I still have my two cans in the pantry, yet to cook and eat it.

While I was there, I asked them about those canned clams in soy sauce but they told me they are no longer available. They suggested this…

Sunstar clams in soy sauce

…instead and insisted that it is the same. I remember a friend sharing on Facebook a photograph of the bihun she fried and when I asked her, she showed me the photograph of what she used – it was this same brand. We use their satay sauce to cook our satay beef dish and it is very good, as good as the brand we used before but is no longer available. I decided to grab a tin to try but I have not got round to doing it yet. When I do so, if it’s any good, I certainly would blog about it.

Finale…

Finally, after three days of merry-making, feasting and endless chattering, so much fun and laughter and thousands of selfies and wefies, we reached the end of our Sacred Heart & St Elizabeth’s Class of ’69 50th Anniversary Reunion celebration.

Somebody went and complied a souvenir booklet…

Souvenir booklet

…to commemorate this auspicious event and inside, you will see, in alphabetical order, photos of all of us who took part  and a short write-up of what went on in our lives after we left school in 1969.

Well, my name starts with an A so there I was, right in front…

Front page

…with my family photograph taken six years ago at this same event

Family

– the Sacred Heart (SHOSA) & St Elizabeth’s (SEOSA) Old Students Association Annual Dinner at a leading hotel here. Of course, we grabbed the chance and had another snapshot taken together again this year for remembrance.

We only had two tables that time but this year, we had a record-breaking eight tables altogether…

Altogether now
*Friend/ex-colleague’s photograph*

…including spouses and in my case, I did bring my girl along the whole time over the past three days as well.

We had a group photograph of us boys taken too…

Just the boys

Sadly, not everyone came back to join in and I can think of a few residing right here in Sibu who, for some reason or other, were not with us.

I did not spend time taking photographs of the food…

Steamed fish

…but I thought it was not as nice as on previous occasions when I had dinner here, whatever the occasion was. I guess it all depends on how much you are willing to fork out per table but anyway, we weren’t there for the food – it was a night of happy reunions with classmates, schoolmates, ex-colleagues and even, teachers. There were two of my teachers there that night!!!

The previous time, I was feeling kind of bored so I marched up to the emcee and told him that we would like to sing…and we did (song starts at 1:00) and brought the house down. This time around, I heard from our organising chairperson, Robert, that the emcee informed him that we would be given the privilege of singing not one but three songs, probably because we were the largest group…so over the three days, we went through a number of songs and finally, decided on three.

The first one was not all that exciting and probably, that was when this photograph was taken…

Singing
*Friend/ex-colleague’s photograph*

It was some kind of a warming up before the ladies took over the frontline for a song from the disco era, the late 70’s and early 80’s – somebody behind me asked me to call my daughter to go up on stage and join us and so I did. That was why she was up there with us at the time…and for our third and last number, we went all the way back to our time, the rockin’ and rollin’ 60’s and sang this song by The Beatles! (I think if you are my Facebook friend, you can click the links to go to my posts there to watch the video recordings of us singing. Just click the PLAY icon!)

No, we’re not such great singers, that much I would say, but nobody cared – it was the spirit of togetherness, all of us getting up on stage to sing our hearts out and have a whole lot of fun – just like in the good ol’ days back at high school and that mattered the most to us. We most certainly did have a ball and it was something we would remember for a long long time.

Well, all good things must come to an end and that climax brought our grand celebration to a close. On behalf of everybody, I would like to extend a BIG thank you to the people in the organising committee and all who have helped in one way or another to make this memorable event a  roaring success. Till the  next time we get together again, next year perhaps, may the Good Lord bless and keep us all. Cheers!!!