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Desert Melodies

Subhanallah. This and other old “irama padang pasir” (desert melodies) had been playing at the back of my mind for many years now. The instrumental music used to be played over RTM radio in the 1960s, several minutes before “buka puasa” (Ramadhan breaking of fast) when I was a kid living with my grandparents, uncles and auntie in Jerteh, Terengganu.

Tonight, I had an inspiration to search YouTube, using keywords “irama padang pasir instrumental”. One of the results caught my eye – “InstrumentalArabLama”, a collection of 22 videos for which the uploader on Jul 16, 2009 wrote:

“Kelembutan alunan musik yang mententeramkan jiwa dan perasaan kita. Irama musik arab yg asyik sekali…….Dari Album Arabian Night conducted by Sir Ron Goodwin”

(Soft musical tunes that soothe our mind and soul. Mesmerizing Arabian musical melodies…From the Arabian Night album conducted by Sir Ron Goodwin)

I would like to share “Ron Goodwin’s Old Beirut“. The other tunes are also highly recommended – Return To Paradise, Arabian Night, Bazaar, Wedding Dance, Farewell To Lebanon, Journey To Damascus.

I trust my school and hostel friends and many here would also find the tunes soothing, enjoyable and bring back gigabytes of memories.

Tiles, Cement, Milk

After 20 years, four of the wall tiles in my home kitchen were loose. Something needed to be done. The fastest way was to do it myself. But I had never DIY’d tiles before. And wall tiles were more challenging. My main worry – would the tiles stay fixed to the wall, 90 degrees vertical, defying gravity?

I did what I usually do in facing unknowns – search for information, as much as possible. Nowadays it is very easy. Information on the fingertips. All one needs is a data plan, or wifi.

After the search I felt more confident. At a neighborhood hardware shop I saw a bag of cement, not the normal portland cement but one more suitable for my job – Tile Fix. That was encouraging.

The shop assistant, noticing that I was intently reading instructions on the Tile Fix bag, offered me a tip – “Bang, untuk lebih lekat, campur ni dengan susu” (Bro, to make this more sticky, mix it with milk). Huh? Milk? No kidding! “Susu ni la, bang” (THIS milk, bro).

He showed be a bottle of the milk – Latex Admix. “A synthetic latex-based cement modifier admixer and bonding agent to improve cement hydration, adhesion, workability, durability, bonding strength, and reduces drying shrinkages and water permeability”. O, this was not a normal cow’s milk then, heheh.

Back home I started work. Removed the loose tiles. Chiseled out the cement underneath. Very hard, sweaty, noisy and dusty work. And cleaned the tiles many, many times. Then came the time to mix the Tile Fix cement with its milk and water. The first round, the mixture was horrible. Looked like a runny paste. Then I added more cement, and more, until the mix became thick and looked like it won’t flow down the wall.

Then using a makeshift trowel, I scooped a small amount of the mix and pasted it on the bare wall. Pressed and smoothed it. And surprise, the paste stuck to the wall and did not fall down! I covered the area for one tile with the paste, and then put the tile on. The online tutorials I read told me to tap the tile. I used a hard rubber mallet to tap the tile, making it even with its neighbors.

Then more tile cement paste for the other tiles.

Then it was done. The tutes said I needed to wait for 24 hours before grouting, i.e. filling the inter-tile spaces with white cement. But I could not wait.

After all was done, it looked alright. It is now nearly three days after the DIY. The tiles still looked OK.

Now I do not fear broken or loose tiles any more, hehe.

And now I know that tiles, cement and milk go well together 🙂

A more civilized age…

My first office. When Office was not yet invented. 1987. 10 years after Star Wars: A New Hope. 30 years ago.

The desktop was glass lined and did not require any electrical power. It only had a landline phone, desk calendars, a diary, and papers. Real papers.

No personal computers. No laptops. No mobile phones. No smartphones. No tablets. No Facebook. No WhatsApp. No Twitter. No Instagram. No Google. No internet. No phone cameras.

It was the age when android was a humanoid robot and not yet become a smartphone OS software.

Looking back, I felt like it was the age of lightsabers – “Your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon… for a more civilized age.
— Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).

Ready For Adventure

The new Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40 rear tire.

The new Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40 rear tire. With a new drive chain.

Several days ago, during a service visit to a usual bike shop I was told that the rear tire was about to “go”. So I asked the shop owner his recommendation. “For this bike and you, this one”. Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40. “Good and long lasting”. I said OK.

This was my third tire replacement. The first was replacing the stock Dunlop Sportmax, at 16,000 km, with a Metzeler Tourance EXP. This lasted 37,000 km, when I replaced it with a Metzeler Tourance NEXT. The EXP was no longer produced and NEXT was its replacement.

After some 170 kilometers' ride in drizzly weather.

After some 170 kilometers’ ride in drizzly weather.

But the NEXT lasted only 19,500 km. Hopefully this Battlax Adventure A40 can match the Tourance EXP’s endurance.

Adventure tire for a commuter rider, huhu...

Adventure tire for a commuter rider, huhu…

With the side luggage boxes and the bold-threaded rear tire, the bike did look like it could take the rider to an adventure.

With the side luggage boxes and the bold-threaded rear tire, the bike did look like it could take the rider to an adventure.





A Tale of Three Cards. The Sequel.

Card 1 and Card 2 – case closed.

Card 3. Now this one made me angry.

Today, 3:43 PM. Has been waiting for 5 weeks for the temporary PIN to come via snail mail. On 29 January I phoned the bank’s card center, explained what I wanted, and was promised that the PIN would arrive in 2 weeks. Now 5 weeks later still no PIN.

Thinking that the bank’s official facebook page would be faster, and trusting the statement in the Messenger dialog box that the bank “typically replies instantly”, I sent a message.

More than 6 hours later, still no reply.

I phoned the bank’s call center again. And the agent weakly responded “it should have arrived”. Wrong response. I retorted “It should, but it did NOT, that’s why I’m making this call”.

Long story short, the agent said another PIN will be sent. And it will take 2 weeks! The irate customer had been waiting for 3 weeks MORE than the promised 2-week duration, and you are treating this as business as usual?

He asked the customer is it urgent to get the PIN? Another wrong question. Do you want the card cut into two? Of course it is urgent.

He got the drift and said he’ll request urgent action.


Form 3C2

1976. The year before Hasta La Vista (

I was one of 10 boys in a girls-majority Form 3C2 class at Sultan Sulaiman Secondary School in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.

3C2 was a Commerce class. Not exactly a favorite subject among boys at that time. Most of the other boys were, if memory serves me right, in Industrial Arts classes.

Today, 40 years on, our class monitor Abdul Halim Mat Zin started a WhatsApp group, to get us back together.

It has been a long journey going our separate ways. And on the journey we had seen wonderful things being invented – personal computers, mobile phones, dial-up internet, digital cameras, smartphones, always-on internet, social media.

Wise people say there would be no future if not for the past. So looking back every now and then gives us a lot of good.

Members of Form 3C2 1976 Sultan Sulaiman Secondary School, Kuala Terengganu were:

1. Engku Adibah
2. Kamariah Omar
3. Mariam Faridah
4. Wan Roziah
5. Jamilah Hashim
6. Noraini Zakaria
7. Safiah Yusuf
8. Hapesah Salleh
9. Rohani Abu Bakar (A)
10. Norlia Ahmad
11. Tg. Marina
12. Faezah Darjab

13. Ramlah Daling
14. Norhayati Zakaria
15. Zuraina Ghafar
16. Azimah Osman
17. Junaidah Abdullah
18. Khalipah Ibrahim
19. Madiana Ismail
20. Salmi Harun
21. Zaleha Ngah
22. Mahani Sudin
23. Rohana Ali
24. Rosiah Mohamad
25. Zarida Zainal Abidin
26. Rahimah Embong

27. Muhammad Muda
28. Nordin Ibrahim
29. Muhammad Awang
30. Maidin Mamat
31. Abdul Halim Mat Zin
C1. Cikgu Muhammad Embong
32. Razali
33. Zulkifli Mohamad
34. Ahmad Ashaari Hj Awang
35. Mohd Fauzi Omar
36. Wan Zakariah Wan Muda

The list was the result of a joint effort by the SS78 Hostel WhatsApp group.

Reap The Wild Wind / Strange Magic

1970s. Sekolah Pusat Jerteh, Besut, Terengganu.

I was in class at the primary school when my classmates and I heard a thunderous roar in the skies above our school.

Ignoring the teacher in front, we rushed out and gazed skywards. What we saw amazed us. A couple of black triangular things were flying above us, very fast and climbing into the sky. Some time later they came back. As if they knew we were admiring them.

Later we came to know that the things were fighter jets.

And much later I got information that the jets were Mirage III Royal Australian Air Force jets based in Butterworth, Penang.

I had been looking all over the internet for pictures that resemble the silhouette of the jets I saw during my childhood school days.

Only last week I found them, in an unlike place – in a video clip of one of my favorite songs Reap The Wild Wind by Ultravox, a 1980s new wave group from the UK.

I captured several frames from the video, which features a couple of Mirage 2000 jets, which was based on and looked very similar to the Mirage III of my childhood days.

While writing this blog entry, in the context of objects flying high, I remembered a lyric from another of my favorite songs, Strange Magic by Electric Light Orchestra, ELO.

“You’re, sailing softly through the sun
In a broken stone age dawn
You fly, so high

I get a, strange magic
Oh what a, strange magic
Oh it’s a, strange magic
Got a, strange magic
Got a, strange magic”

To me, ELO was singing about an object flying high in a stone age dawn, perhaps referring to speculations that at the dawn of the human age we were visited by extra-terrestrial advanced civilizations.

On a personal note, the magic of the high and fast flying Mirage jets inspired me to make becoming a pilot one of my early ambitions. But as can be seen now, that did not materialize. I am no pilot, haha.

A short reign for the longest reach twinjet

Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Several days ago.

On my way out on one of Malaysia Airlines’ 56 regional-ranged Boeing 737-800’s, saw this Airbus A330-300, a medium-long haul aircraft.

This was one of the 15 A330-300 in the current Malaysia Airlines fleet. After the retirement of 17 long haul Boeing 777-200, the A330 became the longest reach twinjet in the airlines, although its range of 10,000 kilometers could not match the 777-200’s 12,779 kilometers.

It would be a short reign though, as it was planned that sometime in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the second quarter of 2018, Malaysia Airlines would take delivery of 6 new Airbus A350-900, which have the range and efficiency to be used on routes currently serviced by the twin deck Airbus A380 and previously by Boeing 777-200.

Ms Mary Paul, our Form 5 class teacher

Two days ago, on Saturday 24 December 2016 at 3.52 p.m. I saw a post in my high school WhatsApp group, quoting a short message from Ms Mary Paul, my 1978 form teacher. She addressed the message to SMS Terengganu’s 1977, 78 and 79 batches (English medium) informing that our Additional Mathematics teacher Mr Roger Porkess now lives in Devon, UK, and contactable at a mentioned email address.

Later that day I sent a message to Ms Mary Paul. And I was very happy that she replied. Not just a reply, she mentioned that many of my classmates had contacted her to reconnect and she was so happy to hear from all of us.

Ms Mary C Paul was the teacher who drafted for me a glowing testimonial letter, signed by the school’s Head Master. The letter was partly instrumental in sending me to Australia well ahead of the publication of results of the 1978’s Malaysia Certificate of Education examinations.

I knew she was the one who drafted the letter, by a small code “mcp/” at the bottom left side of the letter. “mcp” stood for Mary C Paul, her name. That was the way we wrote and type letters back then. Very systematic.

I am forever indebted to her for the letter as well as for her teachings and guidance as a class teacher. I wish her well and hope I could meet her again, together with my former classmates.

Jerteh, Memory of a Bygone Era

The past ten days had been very eventful. It started with my return to Kuala Terengganu to visit my mother. I went there on a motorcycle. More economical that way since I went there alone, could not bring my family along because it was still school term.

The next morning I decided to ride 110 kilometers up north to Jerteh, the town where I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and attended primary school. My intention was to visit my uncle Hassan. And also to meet my long-time schoolmate, classmate and village buddy Baharum, whom I had not seen for many years.

I wrote my intentions in our primary school WhatsApp group. When I arrived at Kampung Raja I saw on the phone that apart from Baharum, another classmate Rehani was also available to meet me. That was great. I had not seen Rehani since we parted ways 44 years ago.

We met at a restaurant in Seberang Jerteh, chosen by Rehani.


A meet in Seberang Jerteh. L-R: Nordin, Baharum, Ramli, the granddaughter, Rehani.

Rehani, living nearby, came with her husband Ramli and granddaughter. Baharum, Ramli, Rehani and I talked of many things, including a plan to have a gathering of our classmates in December.

When I returned to Kuala Lumpur, Rehani messaged me to track another classmate, Zaiki, whom she had not seen also for 44 years, ever since he left Jerteh for a premier secondary school in Negeri Sembilan. I met Zaiki at an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur many years ago. But we lost contact after that.

I did a Google on my phone and found Zaiki’s office phone number and email address. I do not enjoy receiving cold calls, so I would try to give others the privilege as well by not giving them cold calls. In this case the email address made it possible. I wrote an email to him, introducing myself, informing that I was tracking old friends and passed the message from Rehani. At the end of the email I made an apology in case I got the wrong Zaiki.

I then messaged Rehani that I had sent the email, and informed her that looking at the Google search results it looked like Zaiki was a very busy person, so I did not expect an answer for several days.

At the office during a meeting with some business partners from Japan, I checked my silent mode phone, and saw I had a missed call from a familiar number. I checked my Google search results. It was Zaiki’s office number. Several minutes later another call came. It was the same number. Excusing myself and going out of the room, I took the call. It was indeed Zaiki. And he sounded like the Zaiki I knew, and very friendly like before, even though 44 years had passed and he had now become one of the big figures at a nearby university.

For the next several nights our WhatsApp group became very lively. Many other classmates were brought into the group by those already in. We talked about our childhood at Sekolah Pusat Jerteh, our primary school. And about our childhood in Jerteh.

About many things, which I would like very much to write about later –

Cikgu Suzanne/Keith (American Peace Corp teachers), jet Mirage, air batu tepi jalan bulan puasa, air batu abuk gergaji, tanah liat sungai, lastik burung, jebak burung, bedil buluh peleting, laga biji getah, helikopter biji getah, usung pindah rumah, mandi air telaga dengan timba, mandi sungai, cari etok sungai.

(I’ll translate the above topics, in Bahasa Malaysia, to English later 🙂 )

Since were were in a reminiscing mood, tonight I thought I would try my luck again searching the internet for photos of our childhood Jerteh. I had tried many times before with no success. But tonight I found several picture in Facebook, which I’m going to share here.

The original pictures in Facebook were small, between 480 to 960 pixels wide. I used a freeware digital image processing app GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) to increase the size of the pictures to 2,000 pixels wide, enhanced and sharpened them, and put a legend together with a credit to the Facebook page.

Here they are, pictures of Jerteh from a bygone era. Objects in the pictures are no longer in Jerteh, and reside in the memory of my classmates and I, and others of a similar era.


Our school, Sekolah Pusat Jerteh, flooded during the 1966 flood season. This was one year before we entered the school as Standard 1 pupils.



Jerteh Bridge. Infamous for cutting off road traffic from Kota Bharu to Kuala Terengganu for many days during flood seasons. The buildings to the right were the Registration Department office, where we went to make our first Identity Cards.


Jerteh Bus Station. This site is now an approach road to the new Jerteh Bridge.


Part of Jerteh Bus Station, with the Jerteh Market in the background. Rare items in this picture are the “teksi” (local name for trishaws, now extinct), a Vespa (very chic at that time) and black bicycle.