First, coat your elephant liberally with mud …

Have just returned from a few days in Chiang Mai, where I learnt two very useful new skills  – firstly, how to give an elephant a mud bath, and secondly, how to wash the mud off again.

The elephants at the rescue centre have been rescued from performance venues in Thailand – all except the baby, who is three months old and was born there –

– he’s absolutely adorable.

First, we had to feed the elephants with pieces of chopped up bamboo … and that was when I felt something long, sinewy and warm snaking around my waist …

… they have no qualms at all about invading your personal space if there’s food involved.

Then we took them to the mud pool and covered them in the gooiest mud I’ve ever come across.

The elephants loved it, but I wasn’t quite so keen; mud wrestling has never been high on my list of possible hobbies.

After the mud, we washed them in the most beautiful clear water – well, it was clear before the elephant washing began – in the pool beneath a waterfall.  The water was freezing –

and the elephants – sneaky rotters – kept sucking up trunkfuls and spraying it all over us –

I was not amused …

But I managed to get my own back by feeding them their medicine –

which they weren’t too keen on – even though he does look as though he’s smiling in this photo.

After that it was a quick shower with a bar of soap under the power-shower waterfall to try and get rid of the worst of the mud

and then back into town, upskilled and upbeat. What a great day!

 

What do Donald Trump, the Prince of Wales and three ugly-looking ladies have in common?

The answer could well be that they all have names that I find easy to remember – which is a definite bonus these days.

The new school year has brought with it a whole set of new name problems for me … and I used to think I was good with names.

Having finally got to grips last year with the unfamiliar Chinese names, and got accustomed to the retro British names, I now find myself back to square one.

For a start, I have a whole set of names that haven’t been seen in a school register in England since the 1950s.  In one class there’s Valerie and Clive, who sound more like veterans of the golf club than nine-year-old children.  Then there’s Muriel, who is always referred to as Unfortunate Muriel, for a variety of unfortunate reasons.  Marvin and Mervyn sound like a couple of second-hand car dealers, while Audrey must be the mad maiden aunt who’s probably into spiritualism.

Bryan is still the single most popular name in the school, and I have at least one per class.  Then there’s Dim Keith, Fat Ian, and Kayleb, whose parents are obviously into phonetic spelling.  Cherbelle and Crystalbelle sound so like Disney characters that I wasn’t surprised when a boy accidentally referred to Crystalbelle as Tinkerbell one day, much to his embarrassment once he realised his mistake.

Then we come to the Chinese names, and I seem to be beset with Xs and Ys this year, with a few Js thrown in just to add to the confusion.  In one class there’s Yu Xin, Xin Hui, Xin Yen, Hao Yen, Ya Jing – and in another there’s Chui Yi, Jia Yi, Shu Yi, Jian Jie and Jia Min.  I just call out a name and try not to look as though I have no idea which child I’m talking to.

Another difficulty with Chinese names is that there seems to be no way of distinguishing between boys’ names and girls’ names – so Li-Ann is a girl, but Lian-Ann is a boy – and what’s more he’s a boy who I accidentally called Denise one day, because he and Denise have the same surname … oh dear!

And finally – what do Donald Trump, the Prince of Wales and three ugly-looking ladies have in common?

The answer is, of course, that they have all been unmasked as robbers and are now banged up in prison for the next ten years – what an interesting thought.

 

 

You can wear any colour you like … as long as it’s red

Things are hotting up for Chinese New Year next week.  Interestingly, it’s always called Chinese New Year, or CNY, even by the Chinese.  In our usual imperialist way, the West seems to have commandeered the term ‘New Year’ for 1 January – so perhaps we should embrace diversity, acknowledge that other New Years exist and start calling our celebration Gregorian New Year?  Just a thought.

CNY is a bit like Christmas is for us, and the celebrations start weeks ahead.  Last week I managed to gatecrash the KL Senior Citizens’ Karaoke Club CNY Lunch

and a jolly fine time we had too.

There are decorations everywhere – my local mall has gone for the Japan-in-the-Springtime look, with blossom-laden trees

and a bridge which Monet would have happily given gardenroom, I feel sure –

plus the ubiquitous Chinese lanterns, of course.  I’ve lost count of how many of those I’ve seen over the past few weeks.

Even Marks and Spencer is offering CNY hampers

and has a fetching display of cardboard lanterns in the entrance –

The local market has gone for dragons and lanterns –

with individually wrapped CNY mandarins –

or – more impressively – apples with a festive greeting branded onto them –

Children are given money in small red envelopes called ang pau, and the local Chinese restaurant has gone all artistic and tied them to their trees

So let’s hope it doesn’t rain between now and next Friday.

 

There’s something about Tuesday …

I was in the midddle of explaining an activity in my phonics class yesterday when a five-year-old boy looked up, pointed to my head and asked, ‘Is that a wig?’

I was astonished.  Does he really think that I’d pay for a wig that looked like this?

If I buy a wig it’ll be long, straight and glossy, and will ripple seductively down my back as I shake my head – there’s nothing glamorous about looking as though you’ve just stepped out of a wind tunnel, in my opinion.

But as I was pondering the strange nature of his question, I realised that it was Tuesday, and strange things happen on Tuesdays …

Last Tuesday, I was followed by a stalker on my way home.

I contemplated hitting him with the baking tray I’d just bought –

but decided that I’d be safer dashing to the nearest security post, where security guards man the barriers for entry into private roads.  The guards gave me the number to call the police, and I rang them.

‘Are you Chinese?’ the police receptionist asked.

‘No!’  I said indignantly.  ‘I’m English!’

I don’t know whether my nationality had anything to do with it, but within five minutes three police cars, all with flashing blue lights, had arrived.

The stalker had disappeared, but I was given a lift home in a police car, still with its blue light flashing …

… so that’s something ticked off my bucket list.

Another strange Tuesday experience this month was a cake, baked by an Irish poet who has started a writing circle in my condo.

It looked relatively normal from the outside, but when she cut into it, there were strange green lumps and bits of stringy stuff inside, and it had a solid, yet squidgy consistency –

– if you imagine khaki playdough, you wouldn’t be far wrong.

‘What sort of cake is it?’ someone asked trepidatiously.

‘Okra and chilli relish,’ came the reply.

If you are ever offered cake by an Irish poet, I recommend that you decline politely.

Next Tuesday I’m thinking of staying in bed.

I think I’ve found my ideal home

When I saw this place, I knew I had to move in immediately –

Anyone else care to join me?

Rant for today …

When you land in KL all you see around the airport are miles and miles of palm oil plantations

According to a report online, Malaysia and Indonesia produce 85% of the world’s palm oil.

There have been rumblings about palm oil for years in England, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that the EU is planning to ban it from 2021.  What did surprise me, however, was a report in the local newspaper this week expressing outrage at the ban, but making no mention whatsoever of environmental issues.

The writer fumes and rants (perhaps he’d like to join me in my new home) but makes no attempt to explain why the EU is banning palm oil.

There’s a tedious list of the committees who voted for the ban, but no reason as to why they might have done so.  It gives the impression that the EU was feeling a bit snippy one day, and decided to take it out on Malaysia …

‘I’ve got a good idea – let’s ban all biofuels beginning with the letter P this week!’

‘That’s an absolutely brilliant plan!  And then we can ban all green food beginning with the letter C next week.’

But luckily for Malaysia, the Prime Minister has waded in and threatened retaliation –

So, yah sucks boo to you, EU.

Meanwhile, last week the Goverment degazetted 4,515 hectares of permanent forest reserves in Terengganu, an area the size of 4,500 football fields apparently, and this land is going to be given to a government-linked palm oil company.   ‘Degazette’ means to remove the official status from something by publishing it in a gazette, according to my online dictionary.

I heard the Chairman of the Malaysia Nature Society being interviewed on the radio yesterday, and he asked how the government can just do that without discussions or consultations.  Plus, the UN has pledged to halt deforestation by 2020 – so Malaysia isn’t exactly making itself popular by doing this.

According to Chairman Wong, Malaysia is recognised as one of only 12 mega biodiversity countries supporting an unprecedented wealth of wildlife, and there are even tigers in that area – although not for much longer, obviously.

It’s not only fauna and flora, but Terengganu is a flood prone state, so that will only get worse once the forest is cut down.

How can Malaysia be so short-sighted and so out of tune with the rest of the world?  It’s perfectly possible to make money sustainably through ecotourism, medicines and sustainable timber, while protecting the tropical and equatorial rainforests for future generations.

Yes, Mr Journalist – destroying the forests affects the ecosystem; lessening carbon storage, air and water purification, and flood control, as well as endangering wildlife, including many already endangered species like the tigers and orang utans … and that’s why the EU is banning palm oil.  Perhaps you should have mentioned that in your article.

OK – rant over – I’ll go away and leave you in peace now.

 

 

Malaysia … home of witchcraft and wizardry

According to a newspaper report, in Malacca alone last year there were 2,492 cases of spells, jinxes and other forms of witchcraft reported to the police.  They usually involve bomohs, who are a type of witch doctor/shaman.

Now, I’m no medical expert but …

… I’m pretty sure there’s a medical term for this which doesn’t involve the word ‘witchcraft’.

And it’s not just men seeking to blame witchcraft for their problems –

My suggestion here would be that if holding hands makes you feel naughty, then keep your hands firmly by your sides at all times.

And it’s nice to know that witchcraft is keeping up with the times and embracing technology –

And I love this case of the Siamese medium and his henchmen –

A Siamese medium …

… it must be the eyes.

And what about his henchmen?

I’d definitely pay up if they turned up on my doorstep.

But I was a little disappointed in the anonymous medium who accused other bomohs of using ghouls to harm people –

As any Harry Potter expert knows, ghouls are harmless creatures, who are only viewed as a nuisance because of the noise they make.  I’m thinking of writing to the paper to suggest harrypotter.wikia.com as essential reading for all future bomohs.

The School of Hard Knocks

In Malaysia, the School of Hard Knocks is not a precursor of the University of Life and an essential component of any I-dragged-meself-up-by-me-bootstraps success story.  It’s actually a workshop where you can go and learn how to make things out of pewter.

I already knew that Kuala Lumpur’s fortune was founded on tin.  KL was just a small unimportant town, playing second fiddle to Malacca and Penang (or maybe that should be third fiddle?), until the late 19th Century, when Chinese prospectors found tin in the river.  Despite the fact that 69 of the 87 original prospectors died of horrible diseases in the swampy jungle, they pressed on and established tin mines and the town began to grow.

Today I learnt that tin is used to make pewter –

hence the very famous Royal Selangor Pewter factory and its workshop.

The factory museum shows the earliest Malaysian currency – tin money in the shape of animals –

– cute, but not very practical for a trip to the supermarket:

“That’ll be a crocodile, an elephant and four tortoises, please.”

“I’ve only got two crocodiles – do you have change?”

“Hang on a minute – I’ll just go to the other tills and see if anyone can change one crocodile for ten elephants.”

So they switched to the money tree, on the right in the picture.  As it’s made of tin, they could just twist off as many little Polo mints as they needed.

Then it was time for the fun –

learning to make our own funky designs out of molten pewter.

Anthony made a lovely bracelet … for me –

While Sam made himself a hipster man-band –

And despite being blessed with the manual dexterity of an earthworm, I even managed to make a few things myself –

But we didn’t have time to create replica Petronas Towers –

made of 7,062 pewter tankards

or the largest tankard in the world

which holds 4,920 pints of beer and the Guinness World Record … and is yet another example of the identity crisis which seems to be a permanent, rather than temporary, stage of development in this Islamic country.

Still doing their own thing in Myanmar

On my travels around Myanmar, I was struck by the fact that traditions are still woven into the fabric of everyday life and not just resurrected for the tourists every night at 8 pm, with a matinee on Saturdays.

We were lucky enough to see a novitiation ceremony in a small town that we were driving through en route to Mandalay.  We had stopped for a break and spotted some very fancily dressed children –

I thought this was a girl, but it’s actually a boy – dressed as a prince for the procession through the town before he goes to the temple to become a novice monk.

Everyone in the town had turned out either to watch

or to process

The novices all process using whatever means of transport their family can afford to provide for them.

So they might be on horseback

in a horse-drawn cart

or a bullock cart

or even on an elephant

Our tour leader was chatting to a local, who told her that the father of the boy on the elephant was a street vendor selling betel nut, who had probably saved up for his whole life to hire this elephant for his son’s big day.

The sisters of novices are allowed to dress as princesses, and they parade too –

but no horses for them … just Shanks’s pony.

And bullock carts aren’t reserved for parades – it’s quite common to see them out on the roads –

And there are so many other traditional skills still being practised every day

making umbrellas by hand –

A two-hundred year old lacquerwork studio –

producing beautiful pieces –

Cheroots – made by the local women –

and smoked by the local crones –

On Inlay Lake there’s a third-generation silversmith at work in a studio on stilts in the water

making jewellery out of pure Myanmar silver –

The lake dwellers have developed the most bizarre method of rowing, where they twist their leg around the oar –

and the lake fishermen balance precariously while they drop their nets into the water –

although I have to say that I wasn’t overly impressed by the size of their catch –

But I ate his big brother for lunch, and he was absolutely delicious …

 

In which I discover that I’m a guinea pig …


Myanmar is apparently the most devoutly Buddhist country in the world.

There are temples everywhere and it’s a country where anyone who’s anyone builds their own stupa, so wherever you go there are gilded spires rising up into the sky

Sometimes there’s a thousand of them all together

Or just a few –

When I arrived in Yangon, one of the first questions I was asked was what day of the week I was born on, as I needed to know which day shrine to pay homage at in the temples.

There are 8 days in the Buddhist week, as Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon count as two separate days.  Each day is associated with a different exotic animal – tiger, elephant, lion, serpent, Garuda the mythical birdman – until you get to Friday … which is the day of the guinea pig.

So, in every temple I had to complete the ritual of pouring water first onto Buddha and then on my animal.

And after a while –

I began to notice that every guinea pig had a faintly depressed expression

I wasn’t sure whether this was due to the constant unflattering comparisons with the other more noble creatures in the temple, or simply the result of being drenched in cold water several hundred times a day.  Either way, I began to feel rather sorry for the poor bedraggled things, and mutter a brief apology before dousing them with yet another cupful of water.

Oh well, at least a dejected guinea pig is less of a threat than a seriously pissed-off lion or tiger.

It’s a man’s world …

I went to the ballet in Laos – the Ballet Theatre of Luang Prabang – to see a show called ‘The Return of Princess Sida’

The unhappy princess was separated from her husband due to war, and pined for years.  Her husband also claimed to be unhappy to be separated from his wife.

Finally the monkey king intervened and arranged for her to return home

Overjoyed, she embarked on the long and hazardous journey

But while she was making her way home, her husband, egged on by his sycophantic minions,

decided that she’d been away for so long that she couldn’t possibly have remained faithful to him for all that time –

so when she finally arrived, he sent her away with a flea in her ear –

Bloody typical, I thought.

 

 

Luang Prabang – Wats and wiring

Laos is a country that loves wires –

This picture was taken in Vientiane in a not particularly attractive area, but it was the same story in Luang Prabang, which is a UNESCO world heritage town, full of monks and magnificent temples, called Wats –

all gilded and carved and generally very splendid.

So I wondered who decided that the ambiance and picture-postcard quality of the town would be enhanced by massive quantities of overhead wiring –

Even Buddha thinks it’s a bit much and has resolutely turned his back and closed his eyes.

It’s hard to get a picture of some of the Wats without a crisscross of wiring around them, which spoils the effect somewhat.  And since all the monks in the thirty-plus Wats are supposed to lead a simple life, begging for food, praying and meditating, why do they need so much electricity anyway?

Then I climbed a hill to watch the sun set over the Mekong –

And I was pleased to see that they haven’t strung any wires across the river … yet.

The gardening monks of Laos

As I walked past a temple in Vientiane I was pleased to see that the monks were out doing a bit of topiary and trimming the hedges.

There’s something very homely and unthreatening about Buddhist monks, and I’m pleased to be back in a Buddhist country again – if only for a couple of weeks, as I make the most of the school Christmas holidays to do a bit of travelling in SE Asia.

The children from the school attached to the temple were all outside lining up as I walked past –

each clutching a toothbrush, they waited for their turn at the mass tooth-brushing trough

while the teacher wielded a big stick and blew her whistle unnecessarily aggressively.

Then it was time  for communal handwashing –

The soap is in what appears to be popsox dangling down on strings, which the children squeeze and then  rinse their hands under the water.

The buckets of dirty water were then emptied onto the flower beds by the older boys … all very environmentally sound.

Everywhere you walk there are barbecues set up on the pavement, with hawkers selling –

– grilled bananas

– little fried coconut cakes, which are divine … hot, puffy and crispy

– whole fish coated in salt, and baked over the coals with leaves in their mouths

– and steaming vats of sweet potatoes and yams.

I’m also loving the French influence –

good coffee, good bread.

This is a toasted goats cheese and walnut baguette, which I got far too excited about at lunchtime.

I also loved this sign –

If we were in Malaysia, this sign would say  ‘Drive Don’t Drink’ or, more realistically ‘Sit in a Traffic Jam Don’t Drink’.

A dilemma …

What do you do when you’re out for the evening and you bump into a chap from work and he’s clearly wearing eyeliner and lipstick?

… Go and watch him in his panto, of course!

It was my first experience of expat amateur dramatics and there were the usual cheesy jokes, songs and topical references along the way, as Dorothy from KL – wearing her ruby flippers –

tried to make her way to the wonderful land of Singapore.

At one point she found her way barred by two very camp trees –

who also told jokes whilst flaunting their codpieces

… and I’m predicting a global shortage of purple Lycra once these pictures go viral.

The show was held in the theatre of the British School, and was easily the most impressive school theatre I’ve ever been in.  It was a very un-cosmopolitan audience and an American friend remarked that she’d never before seen so many British people all together in the same place … she’s obviously never been to England, as we tend to specialise in that sort of crowd.

We even managed a groupie fan pic at the end.

It was the most English evening I’ve spent since I held a Wimbledon, Ascot, Henley Pimm’s evening in July, and at one point I found myself explaining the concept of panto to someone from KL who’d never been to one before – leading man is actually a woman, older woman is actually a man, people on stage are unable to spot a wicked witch right behind them, audience contradicting the actors loudly and repeatedly etc etc.

I wasn’t surprised when her eyebrows went up and up and up – it really is a bizarre form of entertainment, and if you don’t understand the rules, you’re liable to think it’s just anarchy with fancy lighting and plush seats.

Maybe that’s why we’ve never had an actual revolution in Britain – we prefer our anarchy in comfortable surroundings for a couple of hours at a time, and then we can go home for a nice cup of tea.

 

On a foodie tour of Malacca

On a trip to Malacca last week I rekindled my love affair with the Peranakan culture.  The Peranakans were also known as the Straits Chinese, and were the first wave of Chinese immigrants from the 14th Century onwards; wealthy merchants who traded in Malacca and intermarried with the local Malays.

They had their own culture, traditions and food, and cendol was their dessert of choice, so in the interests of objective research, I felt compelled to try it twice.

The cendol maker begins by putting a huge block of ice into a machine and shaving off a large bowlful –

Then the sous-chef gets to work –

pouring, swirling and dribbling, just like the best mixologist –

until you get to the finished dish –

It is the most ambrosial mixture of pillow-soft, shaved ice topped with coconut milk and raw palm sugar, and it’s just like eating a billowy, sweet cloud of snow.  There’s a side serving of green jelly worms and some red beans hidden under the ice for a bit of texture and colour, and the whole thing costs just over £1.  Budget friendly bliss – what more could you want?

Peranakan women didn’t go to school; in fact they weren’t allowed to leave the house at all.  They spent their childhood learning to cook and sew, until they were considered competent and married off at the age of 14 or so.  Consequently there are a lot of very complicated recipes in their repertoire, as they had nothing else to do all day except devise fiendishly difficult dishes to impress their menfolk.

One such dish is called ‘ayam buah keluak’ and is so difficult to make that it’s practically impossible to find a restaurant that serves it – but we found one –

so we went in to try it.

The keluak nuts contain cyanide, so in order to make them edible they have to be buried in the ground for 40 days and then soaked in water for ten days.  Who on earth invented this bizarre recipe, I wondered, and was old-time Malacca full of squirrel-like women dashing out into the garden to bury their nuts every autumn?

The nuts are then cooked with chicken and a mixture of spices, to make a fragrant stew

You need a special thin knife to scrape out the softened centre of the nuts, which is pulpy and black and tasted rather musty to me, although afficionados say that it tastes like truffles

It looks like caviar, but doesn’t taste like it.

I’m glad I’ve tried keluak, but I don’t think I’ll be dashing to try it again – unlike cendol, which I will be devouring on a regular basis whenever I can find a cendol supplier.  I’ve been wondering about making my own at home, as my fridge has an ice maker, but I’m not sure whether you can make shaved ice with a Lady Shave – more research needed here, I feel.

 

 

Little Bo-Peep and her helicopter sheep

I’m still getting to grips with Malaysian education.  This week a parent asked me to look at his son’s exam paper, to see why he hadn’t scored particularly highly.  The exam paper contained several language errors – but the boy already knew that if he didn’t repeat the error in his answer, he’d lose marks, so that wasn’t a problem –

And then there was an interesting choice of text for the comprehension passage –

Hardly the most useful language for the 21st Century:

Me: ‘Why haven’t your parents come to pick you up?’

Pupil: ‘Still they all are fleeting, Miss Louise.’

Me: ‘And what are your goals for this year?’

Pupil: ‘I’m determined for to pass my exams.’

Me: ‘Who’s that small man beside you wearing a mask?’

Pupil: ‘He’s my little crook.’

etc etc.

Not only that, but the poor child had answered the question correctly, then the teacher had made him change it and turn it into a complete nonsense.

As far as I’m aware, no sheep has ever managed to move by tail power, no matter how hard they wag them.

My second educational experience this week was the Discovery of the Body Exhibition in Malacca.

It is designed, the advertising blurb tells us, to teach us ALL about the human body.

But once we got inside, we realised that they would not be teaching us about every single part of the human body; some parts were most definitely off-limits –

Note the scarf – carefully chosen to co-ordinate with the decor.

And the modern equivalent of a figleaf –

or two –

Queen Victoria would have thoroughly approved.

Then last month, there was the story about a teacher who was conducting inappropriate relationships …

… in the student affairs office.

Best rename the room to avoid confusion, I thought.

 

 

 

Ahead of the curve … yet again

I see in the UK press that Nigella is predicting that the next hip ingredient – essential for every foodie refrigerator and food-related hipster conversation – will be pandan.

Well – sorry, Nigella, but I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt to prove it … or the photos, at least.

Here is Mr Toad relaxing at home in the shade of our very own pandan plant –

And here is the onde-onde that I made on my cookery course earlier this year

They are made from pandan flavoured paste, filled with palm sugar and rolled in coconut … yum!

This is the tour leader on a market tour, extolling the virtues of pandan –

– apparently pandan can lower blood pressure, eliminate dandruff, heal sunburn, repel mosquitoes, reduce stress, inhibit cancer and even cure impotence … so, as they say, what’s not to like?

Apparently when it comes to a new food trend, it’s essential to be able to say that you liked it first.  So just remember that you heard it here first, folks.

Meanwhile, my salted egg fetish continues, and I’m hoping that Nigella will pick up on that next, so I’ll be able to indulge when I return to the UK.

Recently I’ve tried a salted egg roll –

which is actually a straight croissant (an oxymoron, if ever I heard one) rolled around a salted egg filling, and topped with even more salted egg.  I managed to stop devouring it just long enough to take a picture.

The local bakery needs this much salted egg every day

and to make sure that you don’t miss out, you need to check the board to see when the next batch of deliciousness will be ready –

And another equally delicious discovery –

salted egg sweet potato fries … heaven in a takeaway box.

 

If you go down to the woods today …

This week I was highly disturbed to discover that, in a long blond wig, I look just like a transvestite –

I spent the entire weekend in an itchy, sweaty wig pretending to be some sort of dodgy, senescent version of Goldilocks – and all in the name of Hallowe’en dress-up weekend.

Have you ever spent considerable amounts of time with your hand stuffed up a large bear?  That’s also a very sweaty experience, believe me.

But once I’d sorted the wig and the bear, I just needed a frock, frilly socks and a bowl of porridge and I was good to go.

Oh well, at least the children knew who I was … unlike Frodo – back row far left –

who was mistaken for Ed Sheeran.

But the whole thing was a bit much for Daddy Bear, who went AWOL on Sunday evening and was later found in the staff room –

– rather the worse for wear.

And it turns out that I didn’t need the wig anyway – the children think my own hair is golden.  Any colour lighter than black is described as blond or golden; there’s no such thing as ash, platinum, honey, caramel, auburn, mouse … we’re all blond.

Meanwhile, rehearsals continue for the end of year concert.  The younger children get together every morning to form the Choir of the Damned (their teacher’s description, not mine) and then howl and screech their way through the repertoire of songs for the show.

If you’d like a taster, just click below –

 

and if that’s whetted your appetite, the CD will be available in time for Christmas.

 

 

 

Phew, what a scorcher!

The temperature in Malaysia doesn’t seem to stray far from 32 degrees, with humidity around 70%.  It’s usually sunny in the morning, and there’s often rain later in the day – but this week has been an exception.

Last Tuesday we went to the Helilounge to celebrate Julia’s birthday.  It’s a helipad by day and a bar by night, with no shelter at all, so we were hoping for good weather to enjoy the sunset and the views in the evening.  When we  arrived  we congratuated ourselves on having chosen such a wonderful evening:

sunny to begin with –

 

then a spectacular sunset –

and finally, a perfect balmy night –

Little did we know that this was the beginning of a whole series of hot sunny days, spectacular sunsets and balmy nights … and they’ve been getting hotter and balmier every day.

I couldn’t walk to work, it was too hot – even at nine o’clock in the morning – and there was no rain at all … unheard of in KL.

Then finally on Monday, after a week of heat, messages started appearing on the Internet –

 

Heatstroke and exploding petrol tanks sounded rather alarming, so I went online to do some research, and discovered that we had all been the victim of fake news.  The Met Office vehemently denied the stories circualting on social media, and said that the temperature was merely 36 degrees, and one degree short of an offical heatwave (try telling that to the Brits – we have a heatwave at 26 degrees).

 

 

But the Met Office did concede that the weather has been, and will contine to be, unusually hot.

But far from being due to strange movements of the sun as it shimmies across the equator, it’s simply the fallout from a typhoon in Japan.  Fake news is always so much more exciting than real news.

So we’re set for a few more days of excessive heat, and for the first time since I arrived, I’ve found myself thinking wistfully of fog and frost and even a light sprinkling of snow.

Oh well, time for a swim to cool down, and then a nice chilled evening in front of the air conditioning unit.

 

 

The oldest Viking in town

This week one of my pupils asked how old I was when the Vikings invaded Britain.

I like to think that this is because my description of the Anglo-Saxons standing on the cliffs watching the long boats heading for the shore was so vivid that she  thought I was actually there myself – rather than because she thinks I look over a thousand years old.

And anyway, if I am ageing at an alarming rate, it’s these children who are entirely to blame for adding so much stress to my life.

This week the Vomiter returned to my class after an absence of about four months.  I’d got out of the habit of leaping out of her way as she began heaving and chundering in my direction, so it was a bit of a blow to discover that she was returning, and once again I need to make sure I am never cornered without emergency access to the bin, the book box or – as a last resort – her school bag.

Although on the plus side, the two criminal masterminds in the class, who take delight in disobeying me and crawling into the cupboard to hide, soon crawled out again when the Vomiter crawled in behind them, complaining loudly about the smell of vomit.

But I have discovered a new game which will be ideal for this class –

 

– anyone ever played hide and sick?

And whoever thought that finger painting was a suitable activity for a class of three and four year-olds, was either inexperienced, idealistic or just plain warped.  It took more time to clean up than it took for them to meticulously cover the entire table in paint –

But these kids do a great job of confounding any potential gender stereotyping.

Here is one of the boys working on his finger painting, each finger carefully dipped into a different colour, to keep all the colours separate –

And here are the girls at work –

 

Am thinking of putting this masterpiece up for sale, but can’t decide whether it should be called Frenzy in the Fonics Class, or Phrenzy in the Phonics Class.