28 Apr 2010

Book sale!

There was a booksale at Kinokuniya and BookXcess  and as normal I bought a number. Managed to get a few really good ones fairly cheaply:

(1) Irish Stew by Andrew M Greeley
(2) Kindred In Death by J.D. Robb
(3)Beauty by Raphael Selbourne
(4) These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
5) Aphrodite's Workshop for Reluctant Lovers by Marika Cobbold
                             (6) The Writing on my Forehead by Nafisa Haji
                             (7) Reading in Bed by Sue Gee
                            (8) Being Elizabeth by Barbara Taylor Bradford
                            (9)Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts
I've already read the first three titles - now reading These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer. Otr should I say re reading? I have read this one before  - way back in my teaching days when Repin was away at university. That was when I discovered Georgette Heyer and started looking for her booksevery time I went to the bookshop. I still enjoy her and love her style. Like Austen, one cannot have enough of her, whereas for JD Robb (aka Nora Roberts) I can only read one of hers at any one time. Too much of her and I'd feel like -enough is enough! However those books that Nora Roberts wrote much earlier - the ones about family (The Quinn Brothers)
 I really enjoy reading and don't mind re reading. Some of her novels which are my favourite are the ones about family - the sisters - Born in Fire, Born in Ice and Born in Shame  as well as those about fantasy and magic in Face the Fire and so on.

18 Apr 2010

re-awakening an old love

I used to love reading poetry for fun and also for relaxation. Sometimes to relax myself from work stress I'd read Frost or Emily Dickinson - they work wonders on my stressed-out soul. Then when I started teaching Literature at the University of Malaya, it sort of made my stress worse. The kids hated poetry and having to teach them poems made me quite sick - not of the poems themselves but just teaching. And when I stopped teaching that subject for a while I also switched off poetry too. But meeting a fellow blogger who is into poetry rekindled that love, especially when she posted Neruda's beautiful and touching poem - "The Saddest Lines" on her blog. It made me want to read Neruda again and its so much nicer reading the poems without having to explain it to students who just cannot appreciate them. Today I re-read my book of poems by Robert Frost and realised how much I've missed reading him really. And Emily Dickinson too. Langston Hughes is another of my favourite poets. The other poets that I love are John Donne and Andrew Marvell (To My Coy Mistress), also William Shakespeare's sonnets (Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?) and of course Robert Frost and Dickinson.

Below is one of my favourites by Emily Dickinson:
’Tis so much joy! ’T is so much joy!

If I should fail, what poverty!

And yet, as poor as I

Have ventured all upon a throw;

Have gained! Yes! Hesitated so

This side the victory!

Life is but life, and death but death!

Bliss is but bliss, and breath but breath!

And if, indeed, I fail,

At least to know the worst is sweet. 

Defeat means nothing but defeat,

No drearier can prevail!

And if I gain,—oh, gun at sea,

Oh, bells that in the steeples be,

At first repeat it slow!

For heaven is a different thing

Conjectured, and waked sudden in,

And might o’erwhelm me so! "

Thank you Naida for re- introducing me to the delights of poetry!

15 Apr 2010

View from the top

For once the skies were clear and we could see Kuala Lumpur again. See the Twin Towers!

14 Apr 2010

New books

There is a dearth of new books right now so I'm re reading some books that I have already read. Megan Whalen Turner 's series - The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and the last in the set - The King of Attolia aregreat reads. Set in an imaginary country - Attolia and Eddis, The Thief is about a young man Eugenides - a daring and cunning thief. But Gen as he is called is no ordinary thief - he is also cousin to the Queen of Eddis a country not unlike Greece in description and climate. Through his boasting, Gen is captured by the King of Sounis and thrown into jail. However Gen has a particular skill which the king wants to make use of and Gen is released by the Magus and told to steal a  special stone from the temple of Hephestia, which is found in Attolia, the neighbouring country. The myth is that the stone of Hephestia should never be removed from the temple. If it is removed Attolia would no longer be invincible from outside threats And Sounis wants Attolia. Will Gen be able to steal the stone?

These three books are so cleverly written you are surprised by the twists and turns in the story. Nothing is as it seems, least of all the main character Gen. Even though I have already read the books, I still find it convincing and  engaging.  In fact the second read allows me greater insight into the characters. Even though these books are classified as young adult, I find that the plot, political machinations between the characters are very much adult. The characters that Turner creates are not just plain characters but are definitely very real. Eugenides for example is a very complex character and turns out to be a master at disguising himself. When I first read  The Thief which is the first book, I thought he was a wishy washy person. He is skinny, small sized and appeared to be a bit of a braggart and a fool. But as we reach the end of the story we finally get to know the real Eugenides and realise how intelligent and masterful he actually is. These three books are great reads, and although they may appear a bit slow in the beginning, the plot thickens pretty fast and we find out all the while Gen the thief and later the King of Attolia knows what he is doing.

11 Apr 2010

Slow train to Singapore

On Friday night Repin and I took the train to Singapore to visit with our grand daughter, Sophia. Since we took the night train, I slept all the way there. However the bunks we got this time around were not really good - both were upper bunks and too near the door, which kept opening and closing throughout the journey. Some passengers dont seem to be able to read the notice on the doors - " Please Keep the doors closed".

Anyway we arrived the next day  in Singapore to a wet drippy morning. IT was aining quite heavily and the queue for cabs were a mile long, so Repin and I decided to take our brunch at the beautiful and warm cafe they had there. As we walked towards the cafe, I was again struck by the beauty of the station's architecture. This station was built during the colonial era - by the then British administration. It is Victorian in design, with very high domed ceilings. In fact the on the walls are still inscribed the words F M S R - which means "The Federated Malay States Railway". I hope they preserve this fine building and not destroy it . There is a long history of  dissension between our two countries over the Railway Station. The station itself is in Singapore but the Malayan Railways belong to the Malaysian Government. Neither country wants to budge over who owns the land and right now there is a sort of uneasy peace. As for us consumers, we wish whoever is in charge would maintain the place. I think if the Singapore Government had been given the station they would have modernised it and made it a gleaming and highly efficient mode of transport. Right now, the building is the only thing that looks stable - typically British made - big, strong and reliable.

Singapore has not changed much. I love looking at the greenery as we drove along  Nichol Highway. That's what I love about Singapore - inspite of its fancy looking buildings and modern lifestyle there are lots of green areas. Huge rain trees line the highway and almost every street has trees planted along them. Today Sophie has a friend's birthday party, so Repin and I made our way to Parkway parade for lunch and a bit of shopping. We went to the little Indonesian restaurant there - great Indonesian food and also some Nyonya dishes, especially the desserts. Delicious!

                                                                                                           The beautiful hall of the Railway station

Sophie now is into the Mr Men and Misses nowadays - just like Rizal was when he was young. In fact there is a revival of the Mr Men accessories now - lots of Tshirts and other Mr men toys. She loves the books of course.

6 Apr 2010

My cats

I came back from the university today and found the two felines on my bed. They know they're not supposed to be there so the moment they saw me, Chi chi sat up and looked abashed. Ginger on the other hand purposely rolled over, exposing her tummy for a rub. I can't help it - I'm a louzy disciplinarian. So I gave each of them a rub and scolded them a bit but they know me better I guess.

Looking at Ginger reminds me of the kitten I found in my backyard last weekend. Its also ginger in colour and so skinny. But I can't take it with me because we already have six cats - imagine 6 cats living in the apartment with us. We have more cats than people in the house. This weekend I'm not going back to Malacca so I don't know what will happen to it - will it still be there? I hope so - maybe I'll take it to the vet then for a vaccination and after that get someone to adopt it.

4 Apr 2010

English lessons

Its Friday and I've been spending my free time marking Lesson plans. It irks me no end when I see these "teachers -to - be" making grammatical errors. Sometimes I wonder why these girls who have had 11 years of learning English cannot remember simple grammatical rules. Yesterday I asked them whether they read anything outside of the texts prescribed for them and only a handful put up their hands. For the majority of these English teachers to be, reading is "boring". So that became a lesson on how to become a better teacher - if teachers don't read, I told them, how can you encourage students to read?

So today's lesson was actually a lesson on the need to read or the importance of reading. I gave them some group tasks and got them to find  as many titles of books as they can find - the group with the most titles, the names of the authors and a short description of the book gets a prize.
It ended up quite fun for them and they were in a hurry to get their prizes.

So even if they hadn't read the books they at least found out the titles and a bit of the story. Hopefully that will lead them to actually read the books.

3 Apr 2010

Tree outside my window

The tree outside my window
has long since been swept by night,
You have returned to the Darkness
that hides the leaves,
the branches..
Gone into the nothingness of Despair.
The howling wind growls
roaring at the the blackness  within.

a fire glows,
nurtured by Hope and Faith,
small, flickering light.
Will the winds of despair
drown out the flames 
and leave behind
that is your name?