Thursday, 22 September 2016

Dittisham, here we come


I received a very interesting proposition from Allen Choong last seventh of this month at the press conference called by the Bicentenary Committee. I walked into the Pinhorn Hall and bumped into Allen who said that I should be joining the group of people who would be going to Dittisham to meet up with the overland convoy of cars. You would be very appropriate for the trip, he said, since you are so involved with the history of the Penang Free School, he said.

Me? Going to England? Going to Dittisham? It's not that I haven't been thinking about it. Even at the beginning of this year, I had longed to participate in the two-month overland drive from Penang Free School to the St George's Church in Dittisham but I knew that I could not afford the time and money.

But with the overland drive almost reaching a conclusion and the excitement with the Bicentenary reaching almost its pinnacle, I was already thinking: why not join up at the end of their drive in Dittisham? After all, there would also be quite a number of people from Penang, Kuala Lumpur and even some residing in Europe who would be there too.

So when Allen's suggestion was made to me, my mind was already half made up to go. A week in London and Dittisham would be affordable, especially with the price of airfares being so competitive. My wife encouraged me to go. Why not, she said, its important to you during this celebration. But what about you, I asked, come with me. At first she was in two minds about following me. No leave, she said. Work to do here, she said. Too cold over there, she said. 

Then we had to go to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysia Chess Festival. The London trip was pushed to the back of our mind. When we came back, the trip took centrestage again. Then she went to see her boss. Quah is going to London? You must go also, he told her. But I don't have enough leave already, she said. Don't worry about it, he replied, just go. And that's how she is now following me to London. And Dittisham.

Now came the issue of the flight tickets. Because she had encouraged me to go alone earlier, I had actually booked my flight tickets first. But now that she would come with me, I had to ensure that she could come on the same flights and we could sit together. Luckily, there were still tickets on the same flights and we could still choose our seats. That was the main problem thus resolved. Anything else would be secondary from now on.

So Dittisham, here we come.




Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Birds birds birds


A very interesting Saturday for me. I joined a group of Olympus camera enthusiasts at an outing at the Penang Bird Park in Seberang Jaya. It has been ages since I last stepped into this tourist attraction but I can say that my re-visit to the Bird Park was well worth the RM24 spent on the entrance fee, plus camera fee. It was very educational indeed to see all those colourful birds. But more than that, I met this chap, Robin Wong, from whom I learnt new things about my Olympus EPL-7 camera as well as tips on shooting birds. Here are some of the results of learning from Robin:




















Sunday, 11 September 2016

The OFA chess adventure


It took three months of planning before I managed to bring a team of four players from The Old Frees' Association down to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysia Chess Festival. The tournament in question would be the ASTRO Merdeka rapid chess team open tournament. This annual event has been organised for ages and it pulls possibly the most sizable and diverse crowds in the country.

At first, I thought that each team could consist of five players but changing regulations meant that the organisers did not want any reserve player on the teams. As such, the players were required to play every round without rest. Could I stand the strain, I thought to myself. But never mind, here's a chance to see whether I would still have the determination to play nine rounds without faltering.

So we arrived in Kuala Lumpur by train on 9 Sep 2016, Chuah Heng Meng, Terry Ong, my wife and I arriving at KL Central and we found our way to the Cititel MidValley, the chess festival's venue. Colin Chong, being KL-based, joined us sson later.


For much of the two-day event, we experienced a roller coaster ride. The first round saw us pummel an inexperienced team by 4-0. Then we happened to be paired with a team of experienced players and that saw us receive a 0-4 drubbing. In the third round, we won by 3-1 but the fourth round saw us losing 0-4 to a team of female chessplayers from Indonedia. That, fortunately, was the last time that we lost by such a wide margin in the tournament.

We recovered in the fifth round with a narrow 2½-1½ win and followed up with a 3-1 win in the sixth round. A 1-3 loss occurred in the seventh round, a 2-2 draw in the eighth round and finally, a 1½-2½ loss in the ninth round saw us settle at 47th position in a field of 96 teams.

I guess we couldn't complain much about our results because when I brought the team down, I told them that our main aim was to enjoy ourselves playing in this event. We had no ambitions about winning a prize as we knew that the strong teams were all going to be more formidable than us.

Chuah used to be the bedrock of chess in his younger days but he is no longer the stubborn player we used to know. Colin continues to be plagued by time trouble and Terry's game was not solid enough. As for me, my competitive days are behind me too. Playing for fun is all we have left. But we are glad to have come to KL. The Merdeka event has enabled us chess players to meet and renew our acquaintances all over again. We are, after all, one big chess family. Gens una sumus.

The Penang Chess Association vice-president, Tan Eng Seong, caught three-quarters of our team in a jovial mood in the hotel's lobby at the end of the first day.

This was before the fourth round got underway. Note our opponents: all lady players from Indonesia. We couldn't stop them from annihilating us.

However, the drubbing did not affect our mood at all. Here we are, still looking rather cheerful (or at least, Terry and I are.)

I can't quite remember who we were playing against, but we were playing on Board 13, which was as high as we could climb.

The report would not be complete without a picture taken with the grand old man of Malaysian chess, Tan Chin Nam, who is now 90 years old. He has been in a wheelchair for some years already and had a health scare in December 2013 when we were all so concerned about him.




Thursday, 8 September 2016

Penang Free School on commemorative stamps



There will be First Day Covers and commemorative postage stamps to be launched by Pos Malaysia on the occasion of Penang Free School's Biceentenary celebrations 21 Oct 2016. This will be the second time that Penang Free School will be honoured by having commemorative postage stamps issued to mark two significant milestones in her long, 200-year history. 

The first set of postage stamps was issued in 1966 to mark the Sesquicentenary. Fifty years later, we are now on the threshold of the Bicentenary and another set of postage stamps are being readied for issue. No other school in Malaysia has been so doubly honoured.

The new stamps' denominations shall be 70sen, 80sen and 90sen. There is also a special RM5 miniature sheet which features the school crest. 

I am happy to say that my picture of the school buildings, as seen from one of the quadrangles, will be used on the 70sen stamp. The classrooms are in the left-side building while the school hall takes up the right side of the stamp. The dome stands prominently in the background. The 80sen and 90sen stamps depict aerial views of the school and they were taken from a drone operated by David Wong.



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Different level


Obviously, the world chess champion from Norway, Magnus Carlsen, definitely operates on a different level from everybody else, as is shown in this second round game from the Baku Chess Olympiad, played four days ago.

[Event "WCO 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.09.03"]
[Round "2"]
[Board "5"]
[WhiteID "1503014"]
[White "Carlsen Magnus"]
[BlackID "10200649"]
[Black "Hossain Enamul"]
[Result "1-0"]
[BlackElo "2431"]
[WhiteElo "2857"]
[LiveChessVersion "1.4.8"]
[ECO "A00"]

1. e3 {1:30:57} Nf6 {1:30:50}
2. Nf3 {1:31:18} e6 {1:30:15}
3. c4 {1:30:06} b6 {1:29:05}
4. Nc3 {1:28:05} Bb7 {1:28:59}
5. d4 {1:28:03} Bb4 {1:26:47}
6. Bd3 {1:25:28} Ne4 {1:22:49}
7. O-O {1:24:09} Bxc3 {1:21:57}
8. bxc3 {1:24:37} O-O {1:15:55}
9. Ne1 {1:19:02} c5 {1:04:21}
10. f3 {1:18:47} Nf6 {1:02:39}
11. e4 {1:18:59} Ne8 {1:02:52}
12. d5 {1:17:34} d6 {0:54:27}
13. Nc2 {1:04:47} Nd7 {0:52:02}
14. Ne3 {1:04:29} Nef6 {0:43:49}
15. a4 {1:04:05} a5 {0:40:06}
16. Ra2 {1:03:25} Qc7 {0:35:24}
17. f4 {1:01:03} exd5 {0:31:26}
18. exd5 {1:01:25} Rfe8 {0:29:54}
19. g4 {1:00:46} Nf8 {0:21:39}
20. g5 {1:01:02} N6d7 {0:21:06}
21. h4 {1:01:21} Rad8 {0:14:35}
22. h5 {1:01:04} Bc8 {0:14:41}
23. Ng4 {0:56:51} Re7 {0:12:09}
24. Rg2 {0:55:17} Kh8 {0:11:14}
25. Qf3 {0:54:17} Rde8 {0:05:24}
26. Qg3 {0:54:39} Rd8 {0:02:15}
27. Bd2 {0:51:55} Rde8 {0:02:03}
28. f5 {0:49:57} Ne5 {0:02:11}
29. Nxe5 {0:50:17} Rxe5 {0:01:49}
30. Bf4 {0:50:45} Nd7 {0:01:03}
31. f6 {0:50:57} g6 {0:01:06}
32. hxg6 {0:51:20} fxg6 {0:00:53}
33. Bxg6 {0:51:38}

1-0


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

History of the Old Frees


This story appeared in the Star2 section of The Star newspaper's print edition yesterday: an early account of Penang Free School celebrating its 200 years this October, which is not too far off actually because today marks only 45 days to go before the Big Bash itself on 21 October 2016.

Although I'm chuffed that Arnold Loh called me the school's unofficial historian - I'm quite certain that it was Abdul Rafique bin Abdul Karim, the chairman of the school's Board of Governors, who suggested it to Arnold - many of the comments attributed to me in the story were not exactly quoted verbatim. But they were close enough and they conveyed the correct message.

P.S. The online version of this story had two more pictures that failed to go into the print version because of space constraints. My handsome side profile is there. :-)


  

Monday, 5 September 2016

Do pigs fly?


In case anyone asks whether pigs do fly, just show him this picture. Never thought we would see the day when two foes can greet one another, right? But anything can happen in politics, and this happened this morning. Now, I wonder where this will lead to?


Graeco-Roman mythologies


There was a time in my life when I could never get enough of Graeco-Roman mythologies. That period would be in the mid-1970s. 

I don't know how I got into that situation but over a period of about three years, I devoured nine books on Greek and Roman mythologies from the Penguin Classics series. 

Writers like Virgil and Ovid (they were the odd ones out as unlike the other writers, Virgil and Ovid were Romans), Aeschylus, Apollonius, Homer and Sophocles. Titles like The Aeneid, Metamorphoses, The Oresteian Trilogy, The Voyage of Argo, The Odyssey and The Illiad. With that kind of output, it was no wonder that Greece was once considered as the centre of European civilisation in the long distant past.

Then there were other fascinating books on other mythological works that interested me too - notably Tales from The Thousand and One Nights - but these nine books formed the bulk of my reading; and I enjoyed them immensely. 

And I just managed to dig them up again from the storeroom. Will I read them again? Probably not. That phase of my life is over. I'd be falling asleep first, before I can complete any chapter. 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

A story about stereotyping


Soo Ewe Jin's column in The Sunday Star today makes a fabulous read. He recollects fondly his days of growing up in Jelutong and threw in a story regarding a teacher during his secondary school days. Only Old Frees like me will know that he would be referring to Penang Free School. We had great teachers in the past: teachers who were thoroughly dedicated to their cause of imparting knowledge to their charges. But in his column, Ewe Jin tells a tale of an English teacher who was man enough to correct his own stereotyping and apologise publicly for it! Here's is the excerpt from his column: 


Another Jelutong memory was when a teacher who taught me English in secondary school made disparaging remarks about the “gangsters and trishaw peddlers” of unsavoury areas like Jelutong.
Back then, the rule was for children to be seen and not heard, so although I was hurt by his remarks, I did not make my objections known.
The next lesson, we were given an essay topic that gave us free rein to express our thoughts. I took the opportunity to let my teacher know how I felt.
I wrote that just as one should not judge a book by its cover, we should not label people simply based on their origins. I pointed out that many of my Jelutong neighbours were decent people who made an honest living.
To his credit, my teacher did not take offence. He gave me an A and asked me to read out the essay aloud. What’s more, he then apologised to me in front of the whole class.
That incident taught me two things that have remained with me to this day: we can dismantle stereotyping when we stand up against it, and that it is an honourable thing to admit to a mistake when one is wrong.
I'd like to add one further tale. I've written in the past that during my youth, I stayed at Seang Tek Road. The back door of my home opened directly into a wide alleyway that led to Perlis Road. Thus, though technically not one, I can associate with being called a Perlis Road boy. Residents will know the notoriety of this place. During the nights, the unlit alley would be populated by all sorts of unsavoury characters soliciting for business. Not an ideal place for a boy to grow up in, but I survived.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The Wu Lien-Teh bust



About 10 days ago, I had made a post in The Old Frees' Association facebook group asking people to guess where this bust of Dr Wu Lien-Teh was located. There were several replies but only two guessed the location correctly.

The Wu Lien-Teh bust stands prominent today in the grounds of the Penang Institute in Brown Road, Penang. Anyone driving into the premises of the Penang Institute should not fail to notice the bust since it stands tall near the entrance, although many will fail to recognise who it is supposed to resemble. But yes, that's a fine representation of Wu Lien-Teh himself, the plague fighter that fought and eradicated the disease in China in the 1910s.

In late 2011 when I was co-editing Fidelis, the commemorative book of The Old Frees' Association, it had come to my knowledge that there was a bust of Wu Lien-Teh outside the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Memorial Museum in Harbin, China.

Knowing that Wu Lien-Teh was the famous plague fighter was one thing but to learn that the man was still revered in China almost a century after the eradication of the disease was startling.

And Wu Lien-Teh wasn't even a Chinese Chinese although at that time the overseas Chinese still showed a strong allegiance to their fore-father's motherland; he was a Chinese Malayan (or a Chinese Malaysian, to be more politically correct) -- born in Penang, studied in Penang, had his further studies in England, returned to work in Penang, then worked in China, came back to work in Ipoh, retired to Penang, died in Penang and cremated in Penang. A true son of the Malaysian soil.

In April 2011, I began writing stories about Wu Lien-Teh in my blog. Like many of my other writings, the stories on Wu Lien-Teh weren't meant to be anything more than to fill my space with my opinions of things. One year later in May 2012, I was a bit surprised to learn that Think City was organising a Penang Story talk on Wu Lien-Teh, the main presenter being a lady from Singapore's Media Corp which had produced a documentary on Wu Lien-Teh's life some four years earlier. Among the audience were three gentlemen representing the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in China. After the talk, Think City's Anwar Fazal suggested that a bust or statue could be made of Dr Wu and placed at a prominent location in Penang, which Dr Ye Tian of the First Affiliated Hospital readily replied that China stood ready to donate a bronze bust anytime. By October that year, the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society had been formed in Penang. In January 2013 the bust - sculptured by Dong Doudou - was unveiled to a group of visitors from Penang and Singapore.

However, it was not until March 2014 that the bust was transported from China and erected on a pedestal near the front gate of the Penang Medical Centre in Sepoy Lines. In the early days of the Wu Lien-Teh Society, the Penang Medical Centre had played a pivotal role in the club's activities, notably in assisting to organise the first Wu Lien-Teh Symposium. But with a change in the medical centre's management, their focus drifted away. Together with their loss in interest in the society's activities, the bust was relocated to near the back entrance of the medical college, looking over the Polo Ground.

For much of 2015 and the first half of 2016, the Society laboured to find a new home for the Wu Lien-Teh bust. Various alternatives were sought, including moving the bust to the Armenian Park at the corner of Acheen Street and Armenian Street, but eventually, it was settled on the Penang Institute grounds after it was offered by the Penang Government. The relocation exercise was completed in June 2016.



Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Chaos, by Gerard Nolst Trenité


The Chaos is a poem by a Dutch writer, traveller and teacher named Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870–1946). In the poem, there are about 800 examples of irregular spelling in the English language. This version below is the most complete, published by The Spelling Society in 1992–93, with 274 lines of text. 

I think if you can get through the poem with less than 20 mistakes or hesitations in the pronunciation, you will be speaking better than most of the English themselves.

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you'll tear;
Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!

Just compare heart, hear and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word.
Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it's written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say - said, pay - paid, laid but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak,

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
Woven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.
Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
Missiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,

Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.
From "desire": desirable - admirable from "admire",
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
Peter, petrol and patrol?
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.

Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
Discount, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward,
Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation's OK.
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Is your R correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes with Thalia.
Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
Buoyant, minute, but minute.
Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
Would it tally with my rhyme
If I mentioned paradigm?
Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?

Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
Rabies, but lullabies.
Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
You'll envelop lists, I hope,
In a linen envelope.
Would you like some more? You'll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
Does not sound like Czech but ache.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice,
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,
Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with "shirk it" and "beyond it",
But it is not hard to tell
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the A of drachm and hammer.
Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but desert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
Cow, but Cowper, some and home.
"Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker",
Quoth he, "than liqueur or liquor",

Making, it is sad but true,
In bravado, much ado.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.
Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
Mind! Meandering but mean,
Valentine and magazine.
And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
Tier (one who ties), but tier.
Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?

Prison, bison, treasure trove,
Treason, hover, cover, cove,
Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn't) with nibbled.
Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.
Don't be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
Evil, devil, mezzotint,
Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)
Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don't mention,
Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
Rhyming with the pronoun yours;
Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,

Funny rhymes to unicorn,
Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.
No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don't want to speak of Cholmondeley.
No. Yet Froude compared with proud
Is no better than McLeod.
But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
But you're not supposed to say
Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.
Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
When for Portsmouth I had booked!
Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,

Episodes, antipodes,
Acquiesce, and obsequies.
Please don't monkey with the geyser,
Don't peel 'taters with my razor,
Rather say in accents pure:
Nature, stature and mature.
Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
Wan, sedan and artisan.

The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.
Say then these phonetic gems:
Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.
Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget 'em -
Wait! I've got it: Anthony,
Lighten your anxiety.
The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight - you see it;

With and forthwith, one has voice,
One has not, you make your choice.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,
Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry, fury, bury,
Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.
Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
Puisne, truism, use, to use?
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
Put, nut, granite, and unite
Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.
Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
Bona fide, alibi
Gyrate, dowry and awry.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Rally with ally; yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.

Never guess - it is not safe,
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.
Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
Face, but preface, then grimace,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
With the sound of saw and sauce;
Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.
Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable, but Parliament.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,

Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.
A of valour, vapid, vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
I of antichrist and grist,
Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

Pronunciation - think of Psyche! -
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
Won't it make you lose your wits
Writing groats and saying 'grits'?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington, and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?

Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??
Hiccough has the sound of sup...
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The dedication page


To our Founder,
Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings,
All Past and Present
Headmasters, Teachers and Staff
and
the Diaspora of Old Frees
For their Contributions and Sacrifices
Towards the Growth of the
School and Nation




Monday, 29 August 2016

Janet and John



Memories are made of these. I came across these pictures on the Internet recently. They were taken from a book; a book which brought me back to the year when I attended kindergarten. While this was not the very first book that I owned, it was certainly from this book that I learnt story-telling. Through a series of pictures, I learnt how to spell the names of the characters, and how to tell a simple story. From that time on, I have been fascinated with books. And through the years, books have been my constant companion in opening my eyes to the world. Thank you, Janet and John.




Friday, 26 August 2016

Reviewing the book's mock-up



I have been spending the past two days looking through the mock-up of Let the Aisles Proclaim. Searching for some last-minute errors or enhancements to the pages before giving the word "Go" to the printers to proceed. A nervous process, this, as once the go-ahead is given, there is no turning back! So far, everything looks good. I did uncover some minor improvements and the layout designers have already accommodated me. At this late stage of the book production though, I have uncovered one more picture which would be nice to have been included into the book but the deadline is looming and I can't afford any more delays.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

White-breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)


For a long time, I had been planning to bring along a camera during one of my morning or evening walks around the neighbourhood but never really gotten round to doing it because I hated to carry a camera bag with me. But a few days ago, I bit the bullet and brought along my camera bag because I had been noticing often a brilliantly bright blue bird perched on a railing. As a blue-coloured bird is not so often seen in my neighbourhood, I knew that this visitor - a white-throated kingfisher (alternatively known as a white-breasted kingfisher) - must be photographed.

So I stalked that particular area of my walk and soon enough, I was rewarded with not one but two separate kingfishers. They didn't fly together and kept themselves apart, as if they were territorial. My efforts are taking photographs of them did not go too well though as many of my images were blur. I also had to keep my distance because the birds were suspicious of people creeping up on them. Hence, my images were relatively small although I had used the telescopic end of the zoom lens. Here would be my best image. Sorry, still not sharp enough.




Monday, 22 August 2016

356 pages


During the layout and proof-reading processes of Let the Aisles Proclaim, so many changes were made to the manuscript that after a while, I lost count of my total output in the book itself. The choosing of the pictures for the book, adding captions to all the pictures, adding or removing certain information, correcting the spellings and grammar, checking the layout, etc, all had contributed to it. 

At the last count, I had almost 146,000 words committed to paper. My original manuscript, which excluded any picture, had spread over 265 pages on A4-sized paper. This would consist of the front material for the book (inner title page, contents pages, ISBN page, foreword and preface), the 12 chapters of the book, four appendices and a bibliography. Initially, I had hoped to include an index too but gave up the attempt after realising the amount of work that would go into compiling it. And I was working on a very tight deadline.

My preference would have been to adopt an A4-size format for the book but the chairman of the Bicentenary Committee, Abdul Rafique bin Abdul Karim, preferred a slightly smaller format. "It's more book-like," he tried to persuade me. In the end, we agreed to his suggestion. One of the consequences of his choice was that the book being smaller, the number of laid-out pages would increase. Also, adding in the pictures would bump up the number of pages even more. 

The problem with an historical book like Let the Aisles Proclaim was that there were going to be very few pictures from the long distant past. In fact, there were none from the 19th century that I could uncover. The earliest picture was provided by the local historian, Marcus Langdon, who gave me a picture of the third School Master, George Porter, who happened to be one of his ancestors. 

I then decided to see how many of the pictures from the old school magazines could be used but unfortunately, the first issue saw light only in 1909, and there weren't any pictures in them until possibly 1916. Moreover, many of the issues from the pre-WWII era, that is, between 1909 and 1941, had been lost or destroyed. Whatever school magazines from that period which I could still lay my hands on from the School Archives were also in a tremendously delicate state. Brown, brittle pages made it impossible to even photograph them. I gave up after a while. But yes, I still managed to retrieve many grainy pictures from those magazines.

The post-war magazines were no better. The pictures were still grainy right up till the 1980s. And it was still a wonder that post-WWII, the School Archives could not have a complete set of school magazines starting from the 1946 issue. I had to rely on friends and acquaintances to look at the 1964 and 1965 issues. The 1954 issue remained missing despite all efforts to trace a copy. Although pictures from the 1990s onwards were plentiful, frankly, I couldn't use any of them because they were not historical enough. Nevertheless, at the end, there are at least 180 pictures and illustrations, big and small, in the book.

Thus, with all the layout and pictures included, the book has now grown to a respectable 356 pages. There will only be a hardcover edition with an accompanying jacket in full colour. The book will be launched by the Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail on 21 October 2016, which is the 200th Anniversary of the School. I hear that the Bicentenary Committee has priced the book at RM80 each. 



Sunday, 21 August 2016

A lesson to learn


When I was fleetingly watching the semi-final match between Chen Long and Viktor Axelsen last Friday, I did not give a thought about who the Danish player actually was. But then I was surprised to learn that he is currently placed Number Four in the whole badminton rankings. It was actually very befitting that the badminton world's Numbers One to Four players would be contesting in the semi-finals of the men's singles tournament at the Rio Olympic Games 2016.

However, more surprises were to await me. At an interview that Axelsen gave to China's CCTV5 channel, he spoke in what I was told was flawless Mandarin. It had taken him slightly more than two years to learn this language. Why did he do it, that is, learn Mandarin?

In a 2015 interview, he hoped that learning the language would be a key step in securing future sponsorship and lining up potential coaching jobs when he retired from the game. “I started to take it up last New Year (2013),” Axelsen had said. “Coming into 2014 I had a talk with my former coach and he thought it was a good idea to begin learning it. I wanted to start something new and ever since it has been a one-way street. I am just getting better with each week and I hope that it will open some doors in Asia with sponsorship and work.”

This revelation comes at a time when certain quarters in the Malaysian society are retreating behind Bahasa Melayu and refusing to open up to learning international languages such as English and Mandarin. They just don't get it that knowing an additional language can open vistas for their children, or even themselves, to improve in their work and life. Their own Bahasa Melayu will never suffer but knowing English or Mandarin will offer employment and business opportunities originally not available to them. How can they ever improve just knowing your own language? They'll be stuck in a rut forever. and don't go blaming others for overtaking them.





Saturday, 20 August 2016

ISBN received


As I had mentioned in facebook two days ago, happiness is receiving the ISBN approval from the Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia. Yes, finally, we have received the last piece of the jigsaw to complete our puzzle. Not that we had to wait long for it.

On Monday, the layout designer had faxed across to the National Library a copy of the ISBN application form (Form B2) for Let the Aisles Proclaim. The ISBN was a necessity or otherwise the book would only be confined to an internal circulation and we would not be able to sell the book publicly. Not after all the hard work that had gone into researching and writing it.

However on the day itself, I received a call from someone there who said that as the Penang Free School Foundation (the publisher of the book) had not been registered with the National Library before, we would be required to submit another form to them. The Form B1, they called it.

But wait a minute. The Form B2 had been signed by the Foundation's president who is based in Kuala Lumpur, whereas we were in Penang. Could someone one sign on the Form B1, I asked, and I crossed my finger while waiting for the lady at the other end of the phone to assure me that that would be okay. A sigh of relief. So I managed to get this form signed in Penang and faxed over to the National Library on Tuesday itself.

Wednesday passed with no word from the National Library and then on Thursday, I received an email from them to inform me that the ISBN approval had been obtained. 

So we can now proceed with the printing. The layout designer is in discussion with the printers to iron out the technical details while I await them to give me a mock-up to check. Once we approve of the mock-up, the actual printing, binding and wrapping will proceed.



Friday, 19 August 2016

Not doing enough homework

Last Saturday, The Star newspaper published an article on our Malaysian cyclists being gagged from talking to the media until their events were over.

Soon later, a reply purportedly from John Beasley, Malaysia's Head Coach Track Cycling, surfaced on social media. Whether or not it was for real, the story highlighted one of the most common faults of newspaper writers: the lack of doing some or a bit of homework before attending media conferences. I should know, because although I don't speak much to the press people, I've met several of them who had simply asked basic instead of probing questions.

Not that I blame them, of course, because their news editor could have given them the assignment only the evening day before - or worse, on the morning itself - but a bit of homework or background check would have put the occasion into its proper perspective.

But this purported reply from Beasley is worthy of reproducing here in full:
Good afternoon Phuah, I am sorry you feel that way, I just read your story and it is very typical of the Malaysian press. I gave you full access to the athletes during the press conference though very few questions were asked, why? Because you guys don't do your homework, why is it that the Malaysian press come to press conferences without doing their homework? All the performance data is out there accessible on the net and yet still you ask us what is your records?
Further more we get asked the same old questions every time we are interviewed. I think it's you guys that need a big kick in the back side to do some preparation before coming to interviews. I can only speak for cycling here and honestly you guys call your self professional, it's more like a holiday as there is rarely a story worthy of reading as there is no substance in your stories.
The Malaysian press are like a broken record, we are always open and available to you guys. Let me point out one fact, you got the opportunity to speak to us when we arrived, where is that content, Oh sorry I had a moment lapse of memory, you did not ask many questions did you? if you ask me it is your fault. Yes, we train over sea's, I have been well noted for pointing out the reasons why and this is only to give your athletes their best chance to perform on the big stage,
We also educate them off shore also something you guys need a lot more schooling on. We are at the Olympic games, do you know what that means? We are racing the best of the best from all around the world, every body is a champion that has just qualified to make the games team. Most athletes train a life time and never get to represent their country, though in Malaysia that is not good enough for you guys, our athletes you have the hide to call them failures, what is wrong with you people.
Regardless of what happens here in Rio we have left no stone unturned on our journey to get here and we have provided Malaysia with some great results over our journey, now grow up and let us get on with doing our job.
Sincerely
John Beasley Head Coach Track Cycling

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

August full moon


I haven't had a moon shot grace my blog for ages. Here are two. The first was taken yesterday evening at around 6.35pm while the second was taken just a few minutes ago at 9.45pm. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, it is the full moon tonight but....according to calculations, full moon over George Town is only supposed to happen tomorrow (18 Aug) at 5.26pm.