Trim in Sydney and Cairo

No, not fit. Matthew Flinders’ cat. 


Heralded as the first person to correctly map out Australia and identify it as a continent, Lt. Flinders had a short but well-lived life. Trim, a black cat with white paws, was his loyal companion till the end. 

Lt. Flinders left his wife of three months to pursue adventures in the Navy and didn’t see her till nine years after. During this time, he did many things for Australia, but not so much for his wife. He finally returned and had a daughter with his wife. The daughter married into the Petrie family and went on to have a son, William Petrie. 

Sir William Petrie became a famed Egyptologist who had a student named Howard Carter. Yes, the same one who discovered King Tut’s tomb. 

Six degrees of separation. How interesting. 

I learnt about Lt. Flinders after a brief lesson in Aussie history by a volunteer at the State Library of NSW. I had time to burn  so I hopped over for the tour – I was glad I did! 

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Memories from Facebook 

Facebook showed me a picture I took two years ago. It was one of my best friend and me when I visited in Australia. 

I am not sure the title of best friend holds for either of us. We have not spoken much since. For that matter, since she left Singapore after college a bit over twenty years ago, we have not kept in close contact. 

Our interests couldn’t be more different. She was the extrovert and had many friends while I, not quite social, kept to my small circle of friends. She was strong, independent and brave, and adventures followed her everywhere. I liked books, was more of a nerd and stayed close to home. I was just wilder spiritually. Heh. 

As life went along, we pursued different routes and established ourselves, families, habits. Communication was erratic at best. But at the back of my mind, even though she was miles away and we were caught up in our own lives, there was always her. 

Some time in our thirties, she made the extra effort to connect. I was happy not to be forgotten in her busy schedule to meet people when she flew down here. We’d make it a point to meet and catch up whenever and conversations flowed easily. We recovered. 

She got me an iPad for my birthday one year. I think that was the point when things got weird. 

I was elated of course because that was a WOW type of gift. All was good until I sank back on ground and couldn’t help but feel a little obligated to do the same for her. Her birthday was two months away from mine. I think I got her something from Pandora and/or Coach that she might like – I cannot remember. I didn’t think much of it after. But I was glad that I did not get anything expensive the following years. 

Then one day, we organized a family trip to Australia. I told her about it and set up a time to meet her family too for dinner. She kindly offered her SUV for me to use for our entire trip. I declined because I had already made the necessary travel arrangements. She insisted. I declined. And it went on. Then we had some words. She gave up. 

Her family whipped up a storm for dinner and were so gracious. I was so grateful to be welcomed. It felt like a family gathering.

Though the visit came and went, the SUV conversation, I knew, stayed with us. I have a reputation for being frank – I still am not sure what happened but I think she was offended that I refused her help and that I said I did not want to trouble her. I recall her turning it around to ask if she was when she stays over at my place. That didn’t end too well. 

Her business takes her to my part of the world often and I know she meets with a whole bunch of friends and then some. None with me though. She and the bunch organized a school gathering once and invited me – but I really don’t like parties, particularly with unfamiliar faces, so I didn’t go. 

The charade went on for a bit with neither of us saying anything besides a few likes on each other’s Facebook posts. Hers focused on celebrity friends, exercises and luxuries while mine had travel, history and food. Different. The drift had resurfaced and perhaps when we become old fogeys, we’ll gather to reminisce again.

********

It was bright and sunny on the day of the School Sports Meet. I was on the girls’ relay team but I had to drop out because I just had incised and drained a boil on my back that hurt like hell. For some reason, the reserve was also medically unfit to run. The whole team then had to forfeit the race and I got the full blame. I walked off in a huff, hurt at the unfair accusations thrown my way. 

The fingers of the new student tapped lightly on my shoulder and interrupted my quiet sobs. She spoke and I was reassured. She tried to make me laugh and then told me we’d be best friends.

Dim Sum in the Heartland

Tucked away in Block 325 of Clementi Avenue 5, a cosy residential heartland in Singapore, is Hong Ho Pang Hong Kong Dim Sum. 

At first glance, the shop looked like a forgotten task, things were spilled across the counter awaiting a helpful hand to put them in their rightful places. Other than patrons sitting at wooden foldable tables and red plastic stools, there was little sign of life at the front of the house. Until you step into the shop and peer into the kitchen where the Oompa-Loompas are busy whipping up little parcels of delight collectively known as Dim Sum.


We were there close to noon to take a look at what our cousin was raving about on our way to get a recently discovered jem of an apple crumble pie from a bakery along the same row of shops. We ended up having a bite to eat and coffee to drink while waiting for the pies to emerge from the oven. Their char siew paus and soon kuehs are pretty good. Comfort food.

The funny thing was that we are having a lunch appointment in half an hour. Not such a brilliant idea to go to a lunch buffet with our tummies partially filled. 

Singaporeans and our pastime. But …

… Yay to food!!

Play that Song, Train

Where have I heard this before? It took me only a short while to identify the familiar tune.

I do not know how to play the piano but this is one song I can somehow bang out after a lot of practice. “Heart And Soul”, written by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser – the one every learns when they first learn to use all their fingers to play the piano.

I learnt this song because I wanted to see what playing the piano would be like but the idea proved too ambitious for me because my hand-eye coordination, I realized then, was crummy. Still is.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear it on the radio with lyrics. It seems Train got permission and collaborated with the original composers to do this. Nice!

Sharing: A poem about Technology 

This should be something only those born in the late seventies and earlier can fully appreciate. 

Autographed and in Rare books collection @ Powell Books, Portland


Remember WhenJames Huggins

A computer was something on TV

From a sci fi show of note.

A window was something you hated to clean

And ram was the cousin of goat.
Meg was the name of my girlfriend

And gig was a job for the nights.

Now they all mean different things

And that really mega bytes.
An application was for employment.

A program was a TV show.

A curser used profanity.

A keyboard was a piano.
Memory was something that you lost with age.

A CD was a bank account.

And if you had a 3 1/2″ floppy

You hoped nobody found out.
Compress was something you did to the garbage

Not something you did to a file.

And if you unzipped anything in public

You’d be in jail for a while.
Log on was adding wood to the fire.

Hard drive was a long trip on the road.

A mouse pad was where a mouse lived.

And a backup happened to your commode.
Cut you did with a pocket knife.

Paste you did with glue.

A web was a spider’s home.

And a virus was the flu
I guess I’ll stick to my pad and paper

And the memory in my head.

I hear nobody’s been killed in a computer crash,

But when it happens they wish they were dead.
 

James S. Huggins’ Refrigerator Door http://www.jamesshuggins.com/h/tek1/remember-when.htm

Sharing: My Cup Has Overflowed

Knowing when you are in a good place and that you’ve made choices – easy and difficult ones – to get there is reason enough to give yourself a pat on the back. But we are never really alone on that journey. There’d always be supporters and naysayers- the former you appreciate and the latter you can shut out. We continue to do what makes us happy and do what we can to keep others happy.

Flowers @ Morning Market in Strefi Hill, Athens

I’ve never made a fortune, 

and it’s probably too late now.
But I don’t worry about that much, 

I’m happy anyhow.
And as I go along life’s way,

I’m reaping better than I sowed.

I’m drinking from my saucer,

Cause my cup has overflowed. 
Haven’t got a lot of riches,

and sometimes the going’s tough.

But I’ve got loving ones all around me,

and that makes me rich enough. 
I thank God for his blessings,

and the mercies He’s bestowed.

I’m drinking from my saucer,

Cause my cup has overflowed.
I remember times when things went wrong,

My faith wore somewhat thin.

But all at once the dark clouds broke,

and the sun peeped through again.
So Lord, help me not to gripe,

about the tough rows I have hoed.

I’m drinking from my saucer,

Cause my cup has overflowed.
If God gives me strength and courage,

When the way grows steep and rough.

I’ll not ask for other blessings,

I’m already blessed enough.
And may I never be too busy,
to help others bear their loads.

Then I’ll keep drinking from my saucer,

Cause my cup has overflowed.
By John Paul Moore

Hellenic and Minoan Greece

Who could go to Athens and not see the famed Acropolis and all its installations? Who could go to Crete and not visit the Palace of Knossos? Aye, Aye!

I knew I was going to see ruins and I read up before going so I’d know what I was looking at.  Perhaps I set my expectations a little higher than I should because I secretly (now not a secret) found the experience of Acropolis a little underwhelming. Or maybe I was wrong to be looking forward to being awed by architecture instead of what created it and what it stood for. Minds. Greek minds. Those of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. For the Parthenon, Pericles. He favoured democracy and wanted the Parthenon to represent the triumph of civilisation over forces of barbarism, and wanted to be remembered for it. And he is. Very typical of change leadership, if done correctly.

Of the buildings in the Acropolis, I like the Caryatids in the Erechtheion best – six statues of women that stood in wind and rain over centuries supporting the weight of the roof above them. The Erechtheion was supposedly lavish in design – seen in the Caryatids but not much else now. Which was probably why a Turk governor , when the Turks were in power, used it to house his harem back then. Luxury of the R21 kind.


Before Hellenic Greece were the Minoans. How could anyone not be besotted with the tale of the Minotaur and its Labyrinth? Palace of Knossos was the origin of the tale. Not much of the maze was left considering that it was built around 2000 B.C., but the palace complex was interesting in that it gave visitors a good feel of what it was like to live in a place like that. With a bit of reading up, you can go through the place without a guide, though I had to look up the meaning of the double-axe symbol (aka Labrys) so used in the Palace – its presence on an object would prevent it from getting destroyed/killed. Coincidentally, there is a brand of medicated oil widely used in Asia that has the same symbol – I use it for aches. Kills them! Ha!



I would love to know about the little stories that sometimes accompany a guided visit to the sites – like who lived in the Erechthenion before it was used for purposes not befitting a temple and why double-axes were used in Knossos. But it’s okay, I can guess or come up with theories of my own so I’ll never look at a bottle of medicated oil quite the same way again.

“Mighty indeed are the marks and monuments we have left. Men of the future will wonder at us, as all men do today.” – Pericles, 430 B.C.