The versatility of cutlery

I was very impressed a few years ago when Olivia managed to dismantle two single beds and then reassemble them in another room, using just a spoon and a knife.  It struck me then that cutlery is very much more versatile than it would have us believe; just lying there passively on a table for hours on end, waiting to be put into someone’s mouth.

So when I was faced with a dire implement-shortage this week, I remembered the bed-dismantling episode and thought – aha … cutlery.

I decided when I first arrived in KL that I was a transient, passer-through; travelling light, pocketful of dreams, leave only footprints and all that.

But the problem with travelling light is that everything looks bare and characterless, and more like a safe house in the witness protection programme than a home.  So I decided I needed to personalise my flat.

After some thought (well, very little thought, actually) I turned down the headteacher’s offer of an abandoned kitten with scabies, and decided instead to create a balcony garden.

I arrived home with plants, pots and compost –

– but no tools.

So, resourceful Barden – ever mindful of the bed dismantling – got out the cutlery and did a jolly good job of potting up the new plants –

So I now have my own personalised balcony –

As well as my statement plants from the garden centre, I also have some smaller plants given to me by kind neighbours, and am very excited to have my own pandan plant (repels cockroaches) –

and Indian borage (repels lizards) –

Now all I need is a plant that repels recalcitrant, small children, and my happiness will be complete.

 

 

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A new life goal: bathing in gin

Imagine the excitement of reading a review in Time Out of a fab new cocktail bar, and then discovering that it’s just around the corner!

As soon as I’d read it, I was determined to visit The Pawn Room, but it’s one of the new, secret, speakeasy-style bars, which are very difficult to find.  In the end we had to phone them for the exact location.

‘We’re on the second floor at number 46 – but you can only come in if you can find the door.’

So we climbed the stairs and tapped the panelling in true Secret Seven style until we located the door.

 

And then it was cocktail time.

There was a lot of …

pouring –

shaking –

straining –

and muddling –

 

The ‘Big Sin’ had coconut aroma wafted all over it in a very theatrical way by the the barman just before serving and smelt like a tropical paradise –

Best cocktail name had to be Dead Poet 2 –

No idea what happened to Dead Poet 1, but he’s no longer on the menu.

But the best thing in the bar was the bath – tucked away in the corner was a genuine Hendrick’s Gin Bath –

Yeah – suck on that, Cleopatra.  I bet you’d have preferred gin to asses’ milk … if only gin had been around in 50 BC.

Cheers everyone!

 

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Keeping up standards in the colonies

As a belated celebration of Ascot, Henley, Wimbledon and the whole English summer season, I hosted a Pimm’s party last night.

I had originally planned it for 4 July – but an American friend cut up rough about that … can’t think why.

I held my ground, insisting that 4 July was a perfect day for an all-things-English party, but was then struck down with food poisoning (karma, possibly).

I was surprised by how many people have never tried – and sometimes never even heard of – Pimm’s … even Brits.  And one Aussie asked ‘so what is this Tim’s exactly?’ which I found rather endearing.

Strawberries in Malaysia come from the Cameron Highlands, the famous tea growing area where the climate is slightly cooler –

– but I have to say that they’re nowhere near as good as English strawberries – much crunchier and more acidic; there’s no fragrant lusciousness there at all.

However, despite the lack of luscious berries, a good time was had by all.

And with a very non-English twist, we went to our favourite local Chinese restaurant for dinner afterwards, where I discovered yet another ‘all time favourite dish’ – butter chicken –

plus a lot of the old favourites – marmite prawns, yam basket, salted egg squid, fried aubergine.

All in all, given the myriad opportunities for delicious feasting in Malaysia, I’ll forgive them for the slightly second-rate strawberries.

 

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Don’t pee in the forest!

I went on my first jungle hike this week.

‘Don’t pee in the forest,’ Frankie said sternly as he drove us out to the jungle.

I promised that I wouldn’t, thinking that this was a very sensible rule, given all the snakes and spiders and other nasties that you wouldn’t want to find attached to your nether regions as you squatted in the jungle.

But it turns out that this has nothing to do with health and safety; you mustn’t pee in the forest because the spirits don’t like it.  And I can only say that I sympathise with them – anyone peeing in my house would be given a mop, a bucket and a very stern look, with no excuses accepted.

‘Soo Wei’s coming with us – and the good thing is that she’s a trained nurse,’ Frankie went on.

I began to feel rather anxious at this point.  How dangerous was this hike going to be, if we needed a trained nurse?

I didn’t have much time to fret about this though, as Soo Wei led the way at a cracking pace, and it was all I could do to keep up with her.

We went past rubber trees, and even found some of the cups they fix onto the trees for the latex to drip into.

They hold regular paper chases in the forest, and the marker papers are still strewn all over the ground.

The others tutted about the litter, but I thought fondly of The Railway Children and the injured hare they rescued, and took a photo.

We took a survivors’ picture on the track –

which doesn’t show how sweaty I was – before heading off to get a cold drink.

The cafe was full of locals

and some were playing carrom, a game I’d never seen before and which I can only describe as a cross between draughts and snooker.

You use a sort of puck to flick your draughtsmen into the pockets on the corners.

and there is apparently a lot of skill involved … or so the chaps in the photo told me.

And just to make me feel at home, there was the owner’s most prized possession – a genuine Manchester United towel from Old Trafford, and a television showing Wimbledon.  I could have almost been back in England … apart from the heat, the sweat and the jungle just outside the door.

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Succumbing to the lure of dental tourism

I’m starting to realise that I’ve never been particularly vain;  I’ve always prioritised being healthy and in (relatively) good shape, rather than wanting to look 20 years younger than I am.

This approach to life, which I can only attribute to serendipity rather than wisdom, must have saved me shedloads of cash and endless trauma over the years – as I discovered last week, when I gave in to a moment of vanity.

My new dentist, Dr Chew, had a special offer on a super-duper teeth-whitening procedure, and he showed me the brochure with its tempting photos –

It was so much cheaper than it would be in the UK that I decided to go ahead and have it done.

The first indignity was having to wear a mouth guard that made me look as though I had a blue beak.

Just as well I’m not vain.

Then I got the Santa Claus beard look –

and finally the shades –

Then my teeth were covered in foaming white bleaching solution, which made me look as though I’d got rabies –

And finally, I settled back to wait for the magic to work, with a futuristic blue light fixed to my duck’s bill.

At first it was very boring, lying there completely still, but then my teeth started to complain.  It was the sort of pain you get if you bite on a piece of silver foil with a filling in your tooth – unpredictable, sudden and very painful.  I sat there tensed up, and either jumping with sudden pain, or wondering where the next twang was going to hit.

Finally the torture was over and Dr Chew was delighted with the results

But I spent the rest of the day twitching and whimpering as the tooth agonies continued, and had to spend 48 hours eating pale-coloured food only, and no coffee … yet more torture.

So, in short, I paid for 48 hours of torture and deprivation – but never again.

I plan to start a new trend …

… black is the new white.  Another glass of red wine, anyone?

 

 

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Another must-do ticked off the list

No expat should pass up the opportunity to spend a couple of days in hospital in another country, just to enhance the immersive experience.

My weekend jaunt to the local private hospital cost about as much as a weekend at the Dorchester, and was considerably less fun.

The view from my room wasn’t bad

But it was still the same old bare room with hospital bed.

Mind you, the menu was considerably more exciting than the one I had to endure at the Norfolk and Norwich two years ago.

Here’s the breakfast selection

Not a hint of soggy cereal or leathery cold toast.

So I spent a very dull weekend sitting in bed reading the local papers and taking note of the more unusual stories … dog poo jelly anyone?

Luckily my suspected appendicitis turned out not to be and I got parole on Sunday night.  The doctor now thinks it was probably food poisoning – so the long list of restaurants I compiled from my hospital bed reading will have to wait a while until my gastronomic appreciation bounces back to 100%.

 

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