27 Oct 2009

Visiting Sazlina

Sazlina is much better now judging from her speech. At least I can understand much of what she said - though she still can't really talk normally. I think she has improved so much - she's almost 50% better now. Zahedah came along with me to see her but I had to pick her at the college and send her back. In fact I'm still with her now, using her computer. My friendship with Zah is such that we can not see each other for months on end and in fact years but when we do meet its as if the time in between is nothing. I guess true friendships are like that. I've missed seeing her, Gita, Gurnam and all the others.
Zahedah talked to Sazlina and she managed to answer - at least can or cannot. She showed us where she fell ( a few months back she fell from her bed and had to have a few stitches!)
We spent about an hour with her and the time just flew. Since Zah had a meeting with her pengarah we had to leave.

17 Oct 2009


Its the Festival of lights today and we are going to Dr Selva's house. Of course today we are in Malacca - after a long absence the house needs to be given a proper airing and cleaning.
Our plants are generally ok unlike our neighbours . Bakar has been discharged but Norlee, EDy and Shima as well as Nazreen are still in hospital. We visited them yesterday and today - they seem to be better but Norlee still has low blood platelets.
I left Mum and Yati in Malacca while Repin and I went back to KL to visit Dr Selva.
His house is somewhere in SEction 12 - quite a nice place and very near to the university. I wish we could live here but most of the houses are old. What I like about this place is the land - most houses have lots of land - hmmm more gardening space. I've already run out of space in Malacca!

13 Oct 2009

Going around London

Today we decided to just take the tube and travel to the various interesting places. It was kind of interesting and a good way to explore London. Yesterday we had lunch at this Malaysian place called "Jom Makan" at Bayswater Road. It's more expensive but not as nice as Melur. It catered more to European tastes, I think.
WE also went to Covent Garden and had a nice time looking at the wonderful shops there, though I didn't buy anything. Nothing tempting anyway.
Next stop was Regent's Park and Buckingham Palace. This took a while because we walked from Regent's Park all the way to Hyde park Corner and thought of walking to Oxford Street but Repin said he legs were aching so we took a tube back to our station at Marble Arch. Then more souvenir shopping after which we went back to our hotel to pack. Tomorrow we are going home.
I miss my cats - Chi Chi and Ginger, especially.

11 Oct 2009

In London with Nurul

Repin at Covent Garden

Today we met Nurul our niece who is here studying Dentistry at King's College, University of London. We had taken her out for dinner when we arrived on 3rd October and lunch on the 4th. Today we'll just go for a tour of LOndon - the normal sights - Tower of London, Westminster, Big Ben and Tralfalgar Square and perhaps go to the British Museum. We spent a whole day with her - I'm sure she's tired - I am! Lunch was at another Malaysian restaurant in Tralfalgar Square - called "Jom Makan". It's not as nice as Melur but the place is bigger, better decorated and I think has more English patrons. Melur is more authentic Malaysian cuisine anytime!

With Nurul at Trafalgar Square

We also went to the British museum and spent a lovely 3 hours there - just wandering and looking at the various exhibits. They really have so many interesting things to see!
With Nurul at Big Ben

Charing Cross was great but we couldn't really buy so many books - not enough place in our luggage. After lunch we walked over to Westminster, took pictures of the Abbey and the houses of parliament as well as Big Ben and the London Eye. The weather was beginning to turn rainy so we decided to go back to our hotel where we could all rest and pray then later go for dinner at Melur.
Tomorrow is Monday so Nurul will not be able to spend the day with us. Repin and I have decided we'll go window shopping instead after our walk at Hyde Park.

10 Oct 2009

Stamford and back to London

Today is the last day of the tour. We all have mixed feelings about leaving the tour. For one thing we've met some wonderful people on the tour. No doubt there are some who still are very outdated and have snobbish outlooks - one of them is Val (don't know her full name) who is from Australia. She has this upper class look and is quite snobbish - hardly talking to Repin and myself. Her husband though is a very nice and friendly guy and told us that they had visted Kuala Lumpur and enjoyed their stay at the Palace of the Golden Horses. The majority though are really friendly and I made a number of friends among them - Joy from Ohio, Charmaine and Barbara from Sacremento, Dot from Florida, Buddy and his wife from St Louis. There's also a lovely Japanese- American couple from San Francisco who are sisters and are such dears. I think this is a wonderful way to meet friends.

From York we went on to Stamford, a small market town in rural England. We had lunch here - pasta for me and tuna sandwiches for Repin. We were joined later by Penny and her sister who also did not want to visit the church there. Stamford is a charming town - so typical of many English country towns - narrow cobble streets, small but beautifully designed shops,a small river that flows through - the Tweed I think -and a village green where we can see people basking in the sun. Lots of quaint looking English pubs with funny names - like The Stag's Head, Queen's Arms and so on.

The huge dining room

Our last visit is Belvoir Castle - a beautiful castle which still has the original owners staying there! The castle was originally built during the time of William the conqueror, by one of his close friends, a knight. The Duke of Rutland (who is the owner) still lives there with his wife and four children. Its really quite awesome - not just the castle but the family itself. Imagine being able to trace your family way back to 1066!

With Repin in the garden at Belvoir Castle

For a building that's been around for centuries, it's remarkably well kept and beautifully maintained. According to Hugh the Duke's family made their millions during the hey day of the wool trade and clever investment and cannyknowledge of economics have built it up. I'm sure it needs a lot of money to maintain a castle this size!

We were given a guided tour by the manager of the estate - a woman. The halls are so luxuriously furnished and it seems every monarch from the time of William had stayed here, including the present queen.

There were so many paintings - originals by Constable, Gainsborough and many others I did'nt recognise. There was also a painting of Henry VIII - an original done during his time at the time when he was still handsome.

The dining room is so huge - with 24 chairs at the dining table. You can't talk to the master of the house if you are sitting way down for sure! And the bedrooms - gorgeous four poster beds that Queen Elizabeth 1 had slept in.Imagine that! They must be super rich to live in a real castle and to be able to maintain its huge grounds. There are even peacocks in the garden.Part of its maintenance come from these guided tours - it costs about 6 pounds sterling to visit the castle.

At last we are on our way back to London - The Hilton Metropole in Edgeware Road. We arrived about 3.15pm and were quickly checked in. Both Repin and I did our prayers and had a rest after which we walked to Oxford Street for some souvenir shopping. Tomorrow we are meeting Nurul again and go and visit the British Museum and perhaps the L0ndon Eye, Covent Garden and some used books at Charing Cross Road.

9 Oct 2009

Sir Walter Scott's house and York

The Abbey in Bath

On the 9th morning we were out again - this time to York. But on the way we stopped at Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott's house. It's a lovely old farmhouse which he renovated and enlarged. There's a huge library full of really old books, mostly first editions, because he was a collector. He also had a bust of Wordsworth in his study. He must have really liked Wordsworth! Somehow I thought Walter Scott was older than Wordsworth, mainly because of his poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel which I had memorised when I was in Form 3! I also loved his novel Ivanhoe. Abbotsford is actually in the border country between Scotland and England. This is a truly beautiful part of England - with lots of old villages, woody hills and streams.

After Jedburgh we passed through the moors - just along the border. It is a rather bleak and lonely region - with craggy hills and poor-looking brownish grass. They look stark and lonely with no human habitation for miles around except for some sheep. The main economic activity here is sheep rearing because the soil is not very fertile - rather chalky we were told.

We stopped for lunch at a rest area just off the highway near Newcastle - fish and chips again! Our next stop will be York, which is another very old town. It used to be called Yorwich (Jorwick) . Because of a huge jam on the highway, our coach driver took evasive action and used the country lanes. This is more interesting actually because we drove through James Herriot country. I could see apple trees, pastures where cattle are grazing, beautiful English cottages and we even passed the veterinary clinic that James Herriot used to work in although he changed the names in his book. His real name was Alf White and the town is called Thirsk. I've read some of his books and enjoyed them very much, especially All Creatures Great and Small.

The town of York dates back to the Romans and some parts of it are even medieval. Constantine the Great was actually born in York - in a garrison where his father was a soldier. After the Romans came other Germanic tribes and later the Vikings who actually gave it its name. In 1066 though, The Normans conquered England and William the Conqueror made York his base. He found that the Roman walls were strong and made use of these ramparts and the castle, strengthening it even further. So the buildings in York have an interesting mix of eras. The guide told us that York has some of the most truly medieval architecture in the whole of England!

We had a walking tour of York and passed through a very narrow street called The Shambles. This place used to be the slaughter house for buthering animals and entrails as well as other animal parts could be seen strewn all over the street. The meat that has been butchered would be hung on hooks outside the shops. As there were no forms of refrigeration in those days the meat would be left hanging on the hooks sometimes for days until someone bought them. This place in those days was a mess, hence the word 'shambles' which still carries the same meaning today.

Since the beginning of the 20th century however, the meat industry has become more hygienic and the Shambles was no longer used as a slaughter house. Today it is a kaleidoscope of beautiful arty shops and glamorous boutiques.

Our hotel in York is also the Ramada but it is a renovated Manor house. It gracious beauty is charming and welcoming. The dining room is the original dining room of the former owners and has beautifully panelled walls and dates back to the Georgian era.

7 Oct 2009

Chester, Lake District and Edinburgh


Early the next morning, after breakfast we all trooped out to visit the historic town of Chester. Chester, according to Hugh is actually built later than the Tudor era. It was built in the hey day of the wool trade in the early 18th century although much of its buildings are Tudor in design - the black and white timbered buildings so prevalent in Stratford which is the real deal.I'd been here before of course - back in 1993 when I attended the testing course at the University of Lancaster. We were given an hour and thirty minutes but most of that hour was taken by Hugh for his walking tour of Chester. Its a beautiful town, especially the town centre where most of the "tudor buildings" are situated. There's a boardwalk around the buildings, a kind of second story with a corridor all around the outside of the buildings. This is the first of its kind since before this there weren't any shops with second stories or a verandah around them. I've always liked this beautiful place - especially the Tudor architecture. But after going to Stratford I think I fell in love with that place already.
From Chester we went to the Lake District which is only about an hour and 30 minutes away. We spent the whole lunch hour there. I was here too before in 1993 but that time we had a boat ride on Lake Windermere and tea and scones at a teashop there. This time around Repin and I had a pizza at a small cafe beside a river or a stream. It was quite chilly (by my standards) but Repin loved the weather of course. The place is beautiful and so tranquil - with the lake and the Autumn foliage just beginning to colour the landscape . The surrounding hills were just turning gold and red with autumn. Its so beautiful Repin is thinking of having a holiday by the Lakes the next time we visit!
The tranquil lake with some students kayakking

The beautiful autumn foliage in the Lake district

From the Lake district we went on to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is another city that I've been to but this time around we are staying here for 2 nights! However I was quite unlucky because that night I developed a igh fever and had to stay in bed. In spite of the fever, we did take a walk and Repin and I found this delicious Muslim food shop - Kebab Mahal, somewhere a few blocks from our hotel. It was the most delicious lunch I've ever had! And they gave us huge helpings too - so much so we had to take back half the chicken.

6 Oct 2009

The Cotswold, Stratford upon Avon, Llangollan

Today we drove through the beautiful Cotswold countryside. The land here is slightly hilly with beautiful rolling hills, pastures full of fat roly poly sheep and black and white cattle grazing lazily in the rich green fields. We stopped for an half hour at a small country town called Stow on the Wold. Wold actually means a small river so Stow on the Wold means town beside a small river! The weather is still drizzling - fine rain drops that seem innocuous but can still get you wet. Luckily we got our umbrellas now. After the brief stop we drove on through the Cotswold countryside. We passed picturesque looking country towns, small stone cottages that are so typical of England - surrounded by stone walls, lots of colourful flowers and climbing roses. How I wish we could take our time to enjoy all this beauty. Stratford upon Avon
Our next stop is a beautiful little town so well- preserved you could think that Shakespeare is still alive. Yes, its Stratford upon Avon - Shakespeare's birthplace. His parents' house is quite small by today's standards but at that time in the 14th century I suppose it passed for standard. The Avon is a river that passes through the town and is one of the most beautiful places in England. We had a walking tour of Stratford and had a group photo taken in front of Anne Hathaway's cottage. Anne Hathaway was Will Shakespeare's long suffering wife. Lunch was at a little Italian place in Stratford and was it yummy! Even Repin enjoyed the spaghetti which had a tangy sauce. We spent an enjoyable hour here looking at souvenir shops and taking pictures.
Llangollan, North Wales

From the Avon valleywe passed through to Northern Wales. The country here is more dramatic, with higher hills and shaggy crags. For lunch we stopped at Llangollan (pronounced as Sthlangothlan), a little town in Wales. Here we had a barge ride on an aqueduct - a kind of canal built by a Welsh engineer. It ran for many miles and parts of it is so high we can see the countryside around us for many miles. There are no aqueducts like this in the world so this is kind of a wonder. The ride took us an hour and after that we all trudged in the rain to a pub where all the others had drinks (of the alcoholic kind) so again Repin and I felt left out. Anyway after that we drove back to England and arrived in Chester our next stop by 7.30pm. After checking in we had dinner which was already prepared for us. It had been a fairly tiring day so we were quite glad to rest after that. Tomorrow is another early start!

5 Oct 2009

Hampton Court, Stonehenge and Bath

A view of Hampton Court

Our tour begins today. We all gathered at the hotel lobby. Looks like the rest of the tour group consists of Americans, Australians and Canadians. We're the only Malaysians in the group.Most of the people seem to be about our age or slightly older. There are also one or two young people - a couple on their honeymoon and a mum and her young daughter.
The weather today is not as kind as yesterday. It was drizzling slightly when we started out. Thye first stop is Hampton Court palace which was the favourite seat of Henry VIII. Its situated on the banks of the Thames and was a present to him from Sir Thomas More, the man in "A man for all seasons".
The rain got heavier as we walked in the gardens of Hampton Court. Neither Repin nor myself brought umbrellas so we both got wet. However most of our group were also wet as many had forgotten the vagaries of the British weather. It took us slightly more than an hour walking around the garden - it is beautiful no doubt, but so structured and rigid in its lines. One interesting thing was the vine that supposedly had been planted more than 200 years ago, during Queen Mary's reign - and is still alive. In fact there are some grapes hanging from some of its vines. Its really old!

Our next stop was Stonehenge - the mysterious prehistoric monument that have stood in the fields here for more than 5000 years. We spent roughly a half hour walking around the stones and taking pictures. I think I saw a Malaysian family there - a husband and wife.Mr Hugh Davies our guide said that not all the stones were from there originally. Some had been carted from as far as Wales and were put there later. These stones seem to be some kind of prehistoric tribute to the Sun - a kind of religious tribute. At least by he time we arrived at tonehenge the rain had stopped and the sun could be seen again. The weather was cool but not too cold.
FRom STonehenge we drove to Salisbury a beautiful old English town, (Its pronounced as 'Salzburi)which is dominated by one of the oldest and largest cathedral in England - the Salisbury Cathedral. Our lunch was here and for the first time Repin and I had lunch at a pub called the White Hart. We had fish and chips and hot tea which was lovely because of the cold weather. I also managed to buy an umbrella for Repin which costs 4 pounds!

Bath, UK

After an hour here we drove on to Bath where we would spend the night at the Bath Hilton.
Bath is a lovely town - full of gracious and beautiful buildings. I can imagine it during the Georgian period in the late 18th and 19th century when all the 'ton' would come here to enjoy the 'waters' and go to the Assembly Rooms. It is a town redolent of the grace and romance of the past - think Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer!
But this town was also famous in an earlier period of history - during Roman times the Roman garrisons used to go to Bath for vacations. Evidence of this only came out much later in the 20th century. While excavating the site of an old Georgian mansion, archaelogists found evidence of a much earlier period. The romans baths were finally fully excavated only after digging much deeper where they found columns and rooms where the roman soldiers were supposed to have stayed. It seems that over the years these baths had been covered by other buildings. Today Bath is as pretty as ever and the architecture of the period well preserved. Bath was a well known resort city to a lot of Edwardians and Victorians.
The hotel is right in town and after dinner we decided to go for a short stroll round the place. Its very quiet and its only 9pm. I wonder what the people here do at night?

4 Oct 2009


The weather today is bracingly cold -perhaps about 17 degrees F. After breakfast, which was scrambled eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and baked beans - that was all we could eat because the rest wasn't halal -we decided to walk across to Hyde Park. Today is Sunday 4th Oct. We'd planned to meet Nurul for lunch and then we thougt of walking to Oxford Street for a bit of shopping. I hoped to get a woolly jumper at Primark. Hyde Park as usual is a lovely place to walk - lots of green. Of course this place has no flowers. For that we'd have to go to Regent's Park or maybe St James but also I think most of the blooms would have gone because of the colder weather. It is not really that cold - just a bit bracing. Fresh and brisk but a bit too chilly for me. After about an hour of walking we decided to go over to MacD's for a cup of hot chocolate. By that time it was already almost 12 noon - time to head back to the hotel and wait for Nurul then go for lunch.
LUnch was again at Melur - but this time Nurul was with us so we ordered the set which had sambal udang as well as a plate of rendang. Nurul seemed happy with the food and happily tucked in. Well she hadn't eaten home cooked food for some time so I'm sure she misses all that.

3 Oct 2009

London, first day

So after weeks of anticipation, Repin and I are on our way! We're going to UK for a tour (sampler) of the UK- England, Wales and Scotland. Our flight to London was Saturday and we were off very early in the morning - 6.45 am to be exact. We arrived at the airport about 7.30 and the queue was already very long. In fact it took us nearly 40 minutes to check in - so long was the line! Then another wait in the lounge but this was not so bad. Once our baggage were in everything was easy. The flight took off about 10 minutes later than scheduled. Our seats were right at the back - numbers 56 D and E I think. It was a long flight and I couldn't sleep either so luckily for me I had my book ready. By the time we arrived at Heathrow I had finished reading the two books I broughht with me! Immigration and customs was another long wait - more than an hour! Then we had to wait for the transport to take us to our hotel which is the Hilton Metropole. So by the time we arrived at the Hilton Metropole it was already 7pm.
The Hilton Metropole is not a big hotel but its very comfortable and situated right in town, close to the main centre of attractions, such as Oxford Street, the tube and so on. Its very accessible and what's better very close to a lot of halal shops so its easy for us to eat.
Anyway after checking in and getting our rooms, we did our prayers then quickly changed to go out and find dinner. We're lucky the Metropole is in Edgeware - its so near to all the places we like for example Oxford Street and so on. We found a nice Malaysian restaurant - Melur which is actually the old Mawar! They had changed owners and so the old Mawar is now another flower! Food is ok - great because we already missed Malaysian cooking! After dinner we walked around a bit and then retired to the hotel for an early night!