I wasn't surprised to receive an email from The Old Frees' Association office a few days ago requesting for my presence at a meeting this afternoon. After all, today is D-1 days till the launch of FIDELIS, the commemorative book of The Old Frees' Association.
But more importantly, tomorrow will see the official launch of the Penang Free School Bicentenary Celebrations by the Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail, at the E&O Hotel in George Town. He shall be launching the Bicentenary celebrations first, followed by that of the book.
So by 3.15pm this afternoon, I was already at the OFA clubhouse. I sauntered in and was met by William and Boopalan. Pretty soon, Rafique, Rajendren and the rest of the Bicentenary Committee members arrived. There were also representatives from the E&O Hotel, the PFS and two or three others.
I could see clearly that there were lots of concern over the organisation of the Gala Dinner function at the E&O. The committee had rightly worked themselves up into a frenzied worry over the past fortnight and I could see that the tension was most telling on Ban Seang, who was the organising chairman for this Gala Dinner. But he's used to it, I am sure, and all his experience came in very useful.
He was the one calling most of the shots at this meeting and he, together with Rafique and Rajendren, wanted to ensure that everything went according to clockwork. This was one occasion where nothing, absolutely nothing, could afford to go wrong. He went through everything in his checklist and made sure that the persons in charge of every little detail fully understood their roles and responsibilities.
Everything single action and consequence was being anticipated, from the playing of music, the grand entrance of the guests of honour, the order of the speeches, the serving of the dinner, the movements of the hotel's waiters, right until the careful choreography of the launch which would include the firing of confetti from the toy cannon and the unveiling of FIDELIS. Oh yes, including the singing of the School Rally. Everything that could be thought of was brought out for discussion in detail.
To me, there was a lot of underlying frustration over the protocol that everyone was required to observe. So far, it would seem that the ADC from the Penang Governor's office had been the most demanding, insisting that this could be done and that couldn't be done, and the Bicentenary Committee was powerless but to agree with them. But I can tell you that once the ADC from the Palace in Arau comes into the picture later, all of that will become useless in the face of final instructions from the Palace's ADC. Even the Governor cannot over-ride the Raja.
Suddenly, I found myself without a significant role to play at the function. Originally, part of the plan at the launch of FIDELIS was to call the co-editors to meet with the Raja of Perlis on the stage but with the insistence from the protocol people that only certain designated persons would be allowed on the stage - and the co-editors are not among them - all that's left for my wife and I to do at tomorrow night's Gala Dinner will be to enjoy the occasion and our food! Others may feel miffed with this new development but to me, it is no great deal whether I'm allowed on the stage or not. Such things have never bothered me much.