Friday, 31 January 2014

Thank you, BBC :-)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Together again for Chinese New Year 2014

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Marching towards the Bicentenary

My schoolmates and I were among the last of the lucky batches of new student intakes when we entered the Penang Free School in January of 1966.

Although meeting up with old friends from my Westlands primary school days was probably topmost in my mind, there were also new friendships to forge with other Form One pupils that had entered Free School from the Wellesley, Francis Light and Hutchings primary schools. Probably Pykett as well.

We always knew that the Penang Free School was then the premier secondary school in the country and there was a huge tradition behind it. We had a big responsibility before us. Big shoes to fill. All the expectations. We knew we had to study hard and play hard too.

But until months later, there was nothing to prepare us for the fact that the Free School had a very long, illustrious history and it was going to celebrate its 150th anniversary in October. However, the Form One classes being in the afternoon, I don't remember much about the excitement building up.

But yes, I came to realise the significance of the anniversary soon enough when old Captain Tan Boon Soon, then the afternoon supervisor, brought forth a new word to roll around our tongues: Sesquicentenary, a word meaning 150th anniversary. And we - my schoolmates and I - would be part of an historical celebration.

Back then we couldn't envision as much but 50 years down the road from the Sesquicentenary, we would get to celebrate the school's Bicentenary too.

So do you understand why I say we were among the luckiest batches of new students in 1966? If we had joined the school one year later - and it was a great possibility if I had not been in an express class in Standard Two at Westlands School - I would probably enter the Free School in 1967 and missed the Sesquicentenary celebrations altogether.

Well, the 25th of January 2014 marked exactly the 1,000th day before our alma mater, the Penang Free School, would celebrate this very occasion - the Bicentenary - on 21 October 2016. Friends and other fellow Old Frees around the globe, are you ready for this Big Day?

To mark this remarkable occasion, a digital countdown counter was unveiled by the Bicentenary Committee chairman Abdul Rafique bin Abdul Karim. Anyone visiting the school today surely will not miss this prominent signage on the right wall beside the main entrance.

Apart from representatives from the school's Board of Governors, PFS Foundation, Parents-Teachers Association, headmaster, prefects and a few students, other guests that turned up for this special unveiling included members of The Old Frees' Association and representatives from both the Old Frees' Association Kuala Lumpur and Selangor and The Old Frees' Association Singapore.

It was very assuring to see that there was still a lot of pride in our being associated with this school, borne out by the boisterous singing of the School Rally outside the school gate. It was all rather spontaneous and I am sure that we had startled passing motorists who would have wondered what was happening.

Passionate support for an education institution that's even older than the state of Singapore itself.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Old and new friends

My wife and I had a marvelous time catching up with some old and new friends at a small dinner at The Old Frees' Association Restaurant last night.

Alan Phang had just arrived in Penang from Singapore, where he had been on transit from Christchurch. He was a former committee member of the Penang Chess Association in the mid-1990s but had uprooted his family from the country to migrate to New Zealand. Somehow, he was one of the few chess fellas that I had kept in touch with successfuly. When we went to the South Island for a short holiday in 2010, he spent a day to show us around the earthquake-stricken Christchurch.

How are the redevelopment efforts coming along in the city, I asked him last night. Bad and slow, he said. That part of Christchurch which he had taken us to has disappeared too. The area's been filled with cranes and construction material as the city authorities are taking the opportunity to tear up the whole of the devastated area and rebuilding the central buisness district. Effectively, their heritage is lost forever. Very sad....

Alan arrived for dinner with his former colleague at Hewlett-Packard, Leong Wooi Kit, who came with his wife. This was the first time we met in person, although we had been corresponding by email some time ago when he wanted some tips on visiting Christchurch for a golfing holiday.

My last guests at dinner were Yeap Leong Teik and Anna. Leong Teik and I both go back a long way to our teenaged years as classmates in the Penang Free School. He's now a true-blue Singaporean citizen but he is keeping his Penang roots very firm. As such, he returns here quite regularly. We managed to catch up over old times last night.


Joey Yap's Penang seminar

My wife and I attended the Joey Yap seminar on fengshui and astrology at the Hotel Equatorial in Bukit Jambul, Penang on Sunday. I would estimate a sell-out crowd of at least 2,000 people.

Apart from Yap's sessions, the counters selling his books and fengshui courses were enjoying fantastically booming business! In particular, I found many people milling around his range of new works on the Qi Men Dun Jia (奇門遁甲) (Mystical Doors) and some even buying the whole set of books on the subject!

Prior to attending this seminar, we had already promised one another not to buy another of his books because we simply don't have time to read them! And yet, I guess the temptation was too much for her as she came away stealthily with a book and a software. As I don't have the time to install the software yet, I don't know what it is all about....

Finally, I managed to get Joey Yap to sign on my well-thumbed copy of the 10,000-Year Calendar book. I had meant to get this signed by him several years back but always, it had slipped my mind. Not this year, though. I made it a point to keep the book in the car so that I could slip into my backpack on the day of the event.

We then lined up quickly to have our picture taken after the book was signed. But one of his staff was even quicker and managed to catch us off-guard as we waited for this chap to use our camera.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


This digital counter has just been installed at the main gate into the Penang Free School. It will be launched officially this Saturday, the 25th of January, 2014, to mark the 1,000th day before the school celebrates its bicentenary on 21 October 2016. God willing, I shall be there for the launch.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Hopefully, last words on my hospitalisation

Just for the record, I was asking my wife what exactly happened on that fateful evening of 28 Dec 2013 when I was stricken at home. The time was around 11.30p.m. I had already gone to the toilet three times to pass out watery stools laden with a lot of blood. The whole toilet bowl had been bloodied each time and I was feeling very faint and giddy.

My wife had called me out to the computer to seek my input on answering an email. I just sat there next to her and slowly, my head started leaning forwards. She asked me what was wrong and I told her that I felt faint and needed to lie down. So I slowly moved to the bed. She noticed that my face and lips were very pale.

A few minutes later, she came into the room and asked me to go wash up. I told her that I couldn't move properly as I had lost a lot of blood. She tried propping me up and I slid down onto the floor. My rectal muscles started relaxing and some bloodied stools passed out again. I think that I did black out momentarily and the next moment, my wife was bending over me and calling out to me to wake up. According to her, my eyes opened and I was looking blankly into her. That much, I remember. She was looking into my face and tapping me on the cheeks, asking me to wake up.

Of course, I couldn't get up. I told her that I needed to lie on the floor to clear my head and in the meantime, she had rushed downstairs and called my neighbour, Henrizohn Cheok, for assistance. He came running over, saw me on the floor and told my wife to call for an ambulance immediately.

So that was what had happened during that critical night. Strangely enough, when I was supposed to have blacked out momentarily, I seemed to go into a dream-like state. I felt very calm and I clearly recollect that some long dream sequences were going through my head. I was moving in and moving out of several scenes. Unfortunately, I cannot remember now what I was dreaming about but there was nothing fearsome about my dream. I felt so ordinarily calm during those few seconds.

Diagnosed as diverticulosis and what happened next: click here.

I was discharged from the Lohguanlye Specialists Hospital on New Year's Day. The surgeon had given me the "all clear" sign. My wife and son came, and we even went to nearby Rangoon Road for lunch. But definitely, I still felt very weak. My haemoglobin level on being discharged from the hospital was still hovering above the 10-plus mark.

At home, I was moving about gingerly and even had time to water the plants and receive some visitors. A very uneventful evening had come and gone.

The next morning (on 2 Jan 2014) at about 5a.m., I felt the urge to pass motion again, twice. Unsurprisingly to me, there was still a lot of fresh blood among my stools. I called out to my wife and decided that I wanted to be readmitted to the hospital. Luckily, my son had stayed back for the night and he could move me immediately to the hospital at about six o'clock.

Immediately on arrival, I was wheeled into the emergency ward and the medical officer and the nurses swung into action. I remember no pain as they extracted blood from my arm or when they attached the peripheral cannulae into my veins on both arms. Soon afterwards, I was wheeled into the High Dependency Unit (HDU) of the hospital. As the HDU shares the same ward as other patients who were in Critical Care (CCU) and Intensive Care (ICU), this is an indication of how serious my condition had become.

Sodium lactate compound was dripped constantly into the right arm from a bag hanging above my head. An oxygen tube led into my nostrils and an oxymeter was attached to one of my fingers in order to measure the amount of oxygen in my blood. All sorts of suckers were attached to my chest as my heartbeat was also being monitored constantly with an ECG machine. A blood pressure cuff was placed on my upper left arm to take readings automatically every 30 minutes, even through the night. I don't know how many bags of nutrients were fed into me through the intravenous drip but I remember that there were two bags of blood as well.

By nightfall, I was considered alert enough for the oxygen tubes to be removed and I could breathe freely. In the morning, I was well enough for the nurses to allow me to walk to the sink and freshen myself. By the afternoon, I was wheeled out from the HDU and into my own private room on Level 3A of the hospital's old wing. A third bag of blood followed as my haemoglobin level was still considered low. And that was where I remained until my discharge on 13 Jan 2014.

For some of my thoughts during the first few days after my re-admission to the hospital, click here.

And here is what I wrote about being poked, probed and pricked. It was at this time too, on 7 Jan 2014, when I decided that I should perhaps seek a second opinion about my condition as amidst going to the toilet, I had noticed that there were still some blood among the little amount of stools I was passing out. 

The new surgeon decided that there was no necessity for me to undergo any surgery. Instead, he ordered that I be given some fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate on the next day in order to help stem the blood leaks. These were administered to me through the intravenous drip in the afternoon. Let me say that there was some tense moments during the process. First of all, during the hour or so, my body temperature and blood pressure were being monitored every 10 minutes. While my blood pressure remained quite normal, my body temperature rose slightly above 37 Celcius. All in, two small bags of cryoprecipitates and another two small bags of fresh plasma were given to me.

And the day finally came, on 9 Jan 2014, when I was taken off the drip. I was allowed a soft diet but more importantly, I valued the freedom to move about without thinking about the drip again. Nevertheless, I was still feeling rather guarded about my stools every time I had to go to the toilet. It didn't improve my pride much when the surgeon came every morning to poke his finger into my you-know-where. But finally on 11 Jan 2014, he gave the welcomed prognostication that there was no more blood in my rectum. I could have been discharged on the next day itself but instead, I asked to remain until Monday just to ensure that my condition was really well enough.

All in, except for that brief time on 1 Jan 2014 that I was at home, I had spent 14 days at the hospital, and I sincerely hope that this will be the first and last time I do so.  My two in-patient bills added up to slightly more than RM17,000 and this amount still does not include the post-hospitalisation reviews as an out-patient. There will still be a few hundred ringgit to pay. I went for a first review on the 16th of this month and will have a second and final review on the 27th.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Simon & Garfunkel's 10 greatest hits

Rolling Stone magazine recently polled its facebook fans - and I took part - in order to determine which would be the 10 greatest hits by Simon and Garfunkel. The results are out and can be read here but I'd like to reproduce them too as a summary. Would I agree with the rankings?

10. For Emily, whenever I may find her
9. I am a rock
8. Scarborough fair/Cantivle
7. The only living boy in New York
6. Mrs Robinson
5. Cecilia
4. America
3. Bridge over troubled water
2. The boxer
1. The sound of silence

Actually, no. I wouldn't have ranked "The Sound of Silence" as the Number One but I accede to the choice of the rest of Rolling Stone's readers. Anyway, most of these songs had appeared on the duo's greatest hits album in 1972 and so, I should be very familiar with all of them.

Side One: Mrs Robinson, For Emily whenever I may find her, The boxer, The 59th street bridge song (feeling groovy), The sound of silence, I am a rock, Scarborough fair/Canticle
Side Two: Homeward bound, Bridge over troubled water, America, Kathy's song, El condor pasa (if I could), Bookends, Cecilia

Oh yes, I found this 15-minute video on YouTube, and it was quite a coincidence that they sang the three top Simon & Garfunkel songs on the Rolling Stone list:

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A deep appreciation

(This is a computer-generated collage)

An appreciation to my friends and family who had visited me during my 12-day sojourn at the Lohguanlye Specialists Centre in Logan Road, Penang following my re-admittance on 2 Jan 2014 for diverticulosis:

My family - parents-in-law Lee Soon Chye and Seh Chew Hong, brothers-in-law Lee Lai Seng and Lee Lai Kuan, sisters-in-law Lee Saw Bee and Lee Saw Choo, nephew Lee Chean;
My relatives - Lee Seang Aun and family, Choong Teik Hong and Alice Lee, Roland Choong and his brother-in-law Boon Sun;
My chess friends - Jimmy Ng from Singapore, Lee Ewe Ghee, Ung Tay Aik and Eric Cheah;
My former colleague from Ban Hin Lee Bank - Tang Long Kin;
My former colleagues from - Ted Targosz and Jeffrey Chew;
My friends from The Old Frees' Association - Tan Heng Swee and Alice;
My neighbour - Dato' Dr Ooi Eng Hock;
My old school buddies - Kee Thuan Chye, Lim Eng Siang, Lim Teik Wah, Ooi Ling Heong, Dr Tan Kok Hin, Yeoh Oon Hup;
My Kongsi brethren - Quah Chin Sun, Quah Chin Chuan, Quah Teng Hin;
My Rockwills friend - Ricky Khoo.

In addition, my appreciation too to relative Lily Lee, old school buddy Lim Siang Jin, former BHLB colleague Loh Soo Chin and chess friends K Nanis, Chong Kee Kian and Hamid Majid who couldn't come but had telephoned me, and text messages from Ooi Chen Khoon in Chicago. All the well wishes that I received from the scores of real (not virtual) friends through facebook.

And needless to say, a final appreciation goes to the doctors - Noel Yeoh Theam Lip and Lim Teik Mau - and staff of the Lohguanlye Specialists Centre at the High Dependency Unit (HDU), the third floor ward staff and those from the 3A floor for their constant care and monitor during my stay. I must mention too dietician Mah Lee Ping and customer relations staff Juenndze (June) Lim.

I love you all...

Monday, 13 January 2014

Why Lohguanlye?

One of my old secondary school classmates -- he visited me in hospital last week when I was just beginning to recuperate from an excessive loss of blood owing to a condition known as diverticulosis -- was very curious.

Being a doctor, he asked why I had chosen to come to the Lohguanlye Specialist Hospital in Penang when there were so many other private hospitals on the island. "Why Lohguanlye?" he was so curious to know.

I'll tell him why here. You see, the name has long been ingrained into my memory. This has been the one private hospital that I have been familiar with since 1976. It was in that year that my dear mother was sent here for an operation. For a long time, she had been seeking treatment from the Penang General Hospital for a pain in her abdomen but nothing much were being done by the doctors there. And in the meantime, her abdomen was getting more and more distended.

It reached a point where her condition grew so critical that my father and my maternal grandmother decided that the only option left was to admit her to a private hospital and have her operated on. There weren't many private hospitals in Penang then, and the Specialist Centre (as Lohguanlye was known then) was the closest to our home in Seang Tek Road.

So he admitted my mother and she was operated on almost immediately by the hospital's gynaecologist, Mr Loh Hun Yu, who was Dr Loh Guan Lye's son. It was really a matter of life and death, and there was little choice. If he had not opened her up, she could have died. There was really nothing to lose by operating and he removed a huge growth from my mother. When it was shown to us, I was visibly shocked to see that a Milo tin was just big enough to hold it. That was how big it had grown. Since then, my confidence in the public health system took a big dip.

My mother survived another nine years. During this time, we had moved from Seang Tek Road to Lorong Zoo Tiga in Ayer Itam and finally, to the Siakap area of Seberang Jaya on the mainland in 1980.

By 1983, my mother's health began failing again and she grew thinner. No amount of modern medication or faith healing could help. We knew that we were losing her slowly. In April 1985, her condition had worsened. One day we saw that she was barely conscious. Alarmed and very worried, I tried to carry her to the car by myself, and I failed this very basic test. Then a very helpful neighbour came over and with almost complete ease, alone carried her into the car. I drove all the way to the ferry terminal -- at that time, there was still no Penang Bridge -- and thence to the Specialist Centre.

My mother was warded immediately in very critical condition. Her blood pressure had fallen dangerously low and she was put on drip, half-conscious. I stayed overnight at the hospital but I cannot remember how long I was there in the room before my father arrived to relieve me in the morning. Not long after I arrived home, we received a telephone call from him to say that my mother had breathed her last in the hospital. I was numb but I remember my aunt bawling away.

That was how my mother had passed away at the Specialist Centre. We appreciated the great job by the hospital and their staff to care for her on both occasions. So do you see why Lohguanlye's hospital was so firmly ingrained in my mind until it was the automatic choice when I had to go for treatment myself? You just can't think of any other when you are in a crisis mode.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Beware of the Dumbo terrorists in our midst. My wife was at the Kampong Baharu market in Bukit Mertajam this morning and she walked right smack into a little orchestrated demonstration.

Led by a very vocal UMNO member in his red shirt, a few Chinese instigators (in particular, I recognise an MCA-supported trouble-maker among the crowd) had led some petty traders to protest against the Province Wellesley Municipal Council (Seberang Perai Municipal Council, MPSP) for preventing them from carrying out their small-time trade at the market.

All the noise were coming from the UMNO person and the instigators, while the illegal petty traders stood behind the banners more as lacklustre participants, obviously pulled in as reluctant pawns to further the UMNO agenda. These traders probably knew that they were wrong: they didn't have the licences and they were always at risk of being chased out from the market square by the MPSP enforcement officers at any time.

But why instigate the protest against the MPSP only now? Why not seven years ago, eight years ago, nine years ago or 10 years ago? Why not protest against their own Barisan Nasional government when they were still in power then? That is what I do not understand.

When Barisan Nasional was in power prior to 2008, the MPSP authorities were already acting against illegal petty traders at the market. Where were you then, UMNO and MCA? Why are you here now? Nothing much has changed vis-a-vis the policy of MPSP regarding these petty traders, right? Bugger off, you UMNO and MCA trouble makers; we don't need you suddenly become our torch-bearers!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Still guarded

My elation was guarded yesterday and I had every reason to feel that way. Just because the surgeon had ordered the intravenous drips removed from my arm and my return to eating did not mean that I was already out of the woods. It is too soon to tell. The observation period following my transfusions of fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate would determine my health status. Frankly, I dread this period....

UPDATE 1: The surgeon came in and told me that until I clear up everything, I cannot be discharged. And the reality was, there was still some blood among my stools. But the bright spark was that the surgeon said it wasn't fresh. (Confirmed when he stuck his finger up my you-know-where again.)

I asked him whether being on the drip  for so many days could have affected my internal organs. In particular, I was concerned about my kidneys. He said no, but added that he would order an abdominal ultrasound to check on my liver, kidneys, bladder and prostate. Personally, this was good for me; I looked forward to this check.

UPDATE 2: Ahh, just came back from the ultrasound check. Had to wait so long as I had to fill my bladder till the point of bursting. Then after I achieved it, I had to wait for the radiologist to do the procedure. And at long last, my turn came. Maybe I spent 20 minutes with the good doctor? And at the end, he told me that there was nothing serious to worry about. All the organs are in good order for a man of my age.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Off the drip

Guarded elation today, the eighth day of my stay at the Lohguanlye Specialist Centre in Penang, where I had been re-admitted for diverticulosis.

My condition has improved after a transfusion of cryoprecipitate and fresh frozen plasma yesterday. Admittedly, there was a slight tension during the transfusion process. I had to be monitored throughout the one hour, with my temperature, pulse and blood pressure monitored at 10-minute intervals for reaction. Luckily, there was none although my temperature rose slightly above 37 Celcius.

I did not feel any visible change the whole of last night but this morning when I went for my morning ablutions, there was no visible sign of further bleeding. The doctor confirmed it when he stuck a finger up my you-know-where.

He then ordered me to be put on a soft diet while still putting me under observation. He has also said that the intravenous drip line would be removed and all my medication would be changed to oral. More significantly, he said that I should stop taking the aspirin which had been prescribed by the doctors from the government clinic.

The aspirin, he said, was a possible cause of my condition as it is a known anti-coagulant. But since my blood pressure was not that much of a concern, he was wondering why I should be taking aspirin on such a long term in the first place. Why, indeed? I guess that goes for commercially available medical products like Cardiprin too, and various health products already in the market marketing gingko extracts.

But separately, I've also been cautioned by an old schoolmate friend that I should also seek advice from a cardiologist on how I should strike a balance between taking and not taking aspirin further. And I must thank him for catalysing the change of surgeons. He made me demand the right answers from the first surgeon, and I wasn't satisfied with what I heard.

[As a digression, perhaps I should also add that from our conversation this morning, this surgeon treating me turned out to be a member of The Old Frees' Association in Penang, just like me, but anyway, he is five years my senior in school.]

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Poked, probed and pricked

Both my arms are sore and aching all over from being poked with all types of needles. When I was re-admitted into the Lohguanlye Specialist Hospital last week, two peripheral cannulae were inserted into my lower arms for the intravenous drips.

Two days ago, one of them was removed from my arm when the flesh around it became swollen and tender. This morning, I had the other removed because it had become tender as well. But because I still needed to be on the drip, a replacement cannula was inserted into my arm. Ouch!

Apart from this, I've had been subjected to countless attempts to draw blood from my body. My haemoglobin level has to be monitored daily and I really dread having to face the lab technician every morning. Ouch, ouch!

And as if all this poking were not enough, there's the time that I had to subject myself to the nurses pricking the ends of my fingers in order to test for blood sugar. Three or four times a day, I've lost count. Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Last afternoon, I decided to seek a second opinion from the other surgeon at this hospital. I just felt that I was going nowhere with the first one. Already, this is my seventh day at the hospital and being monitored like what I've gone through so far, there must be something else that can be done. He had recommended surgery - and it would be major enough - but it was not what I wanted.

Luckily, I remembered that I do have an old schoolmate working at another private hospital here and I sought his advice. I told my friend that changing hospitals now may not be an option and he replied the next best thing to do was to consider a different consultant to look into my case. Luckily, he recognised that there was a seasoned second surgeon at Lohguanlye who was quite an old hand at this sort of thing. And this is why I made this decision. After all, it is my health at stake.

I was quite surprised that the first surgeon so brusquely removed himself from my case. A patient, he said, cannot be under the care of two surgeons and if my decision was to have a second opinion, he would no longer be caring after me immediately. And as far as I could make out, he was driving as he said that. A rather abrupt response from him, devoid of any warmth, I should say! Anyway, I asked the nursing station to make the necessary changes and so, I am now under the second surgeon's care.

The second surgeon came last night to see me and ordered some blood tests before he could decide the next course of action. I hope it is all smooth sailing from here. I really do want to be out of this hospital as soon as possible.

Moving house, literally!

Never thought that this can happen, right? Well, it does, although admittedly rather occasionally, when the whole village community chips in voluntarily to help in relocating a house from one area to another. This particular relocation at Kampong Bukit Rangin in Kuantan was the result of floods hitting the village recently. (Photo from Bernama)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Leong tan fish bee hoon soup, anyone?

Large grouper (or leong tan fish) caught in the deep sea waters off Kedah a few days ago, weighing around a whopping 200 kilograms and measuring 2.4 metres long. Sold for RM11,000 to a coffee shop owner in Weld Quay, George Town, for his popular food business selling fresh fish head bee hoon soup (RM20 per bowl) and fresh fish meat bee hoon soup (RM15 per bowl). See you at the Chew Jetty Ka Bee Cafe soon?

Kindergarten at the end of the road

One of my childhood memories was the year that I went to the kindergarten at the other end of Seang Tek Road in George Town, Penang. The kindergarten, whose name has totally eluded me now, was just a stone's throw away from the Anson Road Market. It was housed in a double-storey bungalow with a reasonably huge compound where we kids could run about. The master of the kindergarten was someone that we knew simply as Mr Poh.

Unlike nowadays when kids get to attend three or four years at nurseries or kindergartens, I attended this kindergarten for only one year in 1960. Yes, that was the norm then. A one-year pre-school to get us ready for Standard One in a primary school.

In my first few days at kindergarten, I remember getting to learn my ABCs and coming home proudly with my first workbooks where I had traced out the names Janet and John in huge letters before progressing to other simple words.

There were lots of music and singing sessions. I always loved the occasions where we were allowed upstairs to an open air balcony or verandah where the teacher would bring out vinyl records of popular nursery rhymes and we were asked to sing along. What fascinated me most were the coloured 45rpm records. It was the first time that I had seen coloured records; so different from the ones my father had at home.

The rest of the activities at the kindergarten is a huge blur to me, except the memory of a morning-long concert show at the end of the year. I would think it was the last day of the school year. The kids dressed up in various outfits to put on a show for the parents. Chairs were laid out in a big circle in the compound for the children to sit while their proud parents stood behind. Me? I didn't have to wear any outfit except a headgear of paper.

It was quite possible that this kindergarten operated until the late 1960s or early 1970s before it closed. I remember being quite shocked one day to see that some corrugated zinc sheets had been erected at the front of the compound. No way that anyone could have looked in and see what had happened to the building or compound.

And then just a few months ago, I saw that the corrugated metal sheets had been removed and some construction work had commenced. I would assume that the old bungalow had been torn down and some new building would be erected here. Well, that would be the last remaining evidence of the kindergarten I had attended in my childhood days.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Visits from relatives and friends

I'm not getting any better physically fast enough to be taken to the next step of recovery but visits from several friends and relatives have certainly perked up my spirits.

Although I was unable to take more photos than I wanted, I would like to thank Lee Ewe Ghee (president of the Penang Chess Association) for bringing along Jimmy Ng from Singapore to visit me at the hospital on Friday night. Tan Heng Swee and his sweet wife, Alice, and Tang Long Kin have visited me several times since my hospitalisation, as well as Lim Eng Siang who came to my house on Wednesday.

My wife's side of the family has been very supportive and I have received visits from my parents-in-law, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, as well as cousin Roland Choong and his parents, Choong Teik Hong and Alice Lee. Chess pals like Ung Tay Aik and Eric Cheah had turned up, as well as friends Ricky Khoo and Dato' Dr Ooi Eng Hock. Another old friend, Jeffrey Chew, turned up with a bouquet of flowers.

But the biggest fillip must be when four old school buddies - Yeoh Oon Hup, Ooi Ling Heong, Lim Teik Wah and Kee Thuan Chye - came to give me some cheer.

Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of everybody but here's one with my school buddies (Thuan Chye, Ling Heong and Teik Wah) together with cousin Roland.

Parking at Lohguanlye

I've a helpful hint for people parking at the Lohguanlye Specialist Centre in George Town, Penang. Just some surprising revelations, after speaking to one of the hospital's customer service staff, that could save everyone a few ringgit here and there.

First of all, parking at the hospital is available at either the car park at Logan Road opposite the old wing or the multi-level car park at the new wing. A ticket is issued automatically at the entrance into the car parks, and the parking fees are calculated based on the length of time a car is parked there. However, if the motorist leaves within 30 minutes of entry, then the parking is free.

Next, outpatients at the hospital can always get their parking tickets stamped at either the pharmacy or the respective floors where they see their doctors. The stamped ticket will ensure that a standard rate of RM2 is charged upon exit. And if outpatients then decide to leave the hospital and come back later to see the doctors, by producing the old and new stamped tickets together, only RM1 will be charged on the new ticket. So effectively, the parking fee will be RM3.

And finally, family members (and, shhh, friends) who visit inpatients at the hospital can get their tickets stamped at the respective nurse counters - if they can identify the patient and the room number - and only RM1 is payable upon leaving.

Helpful hints that are generally not known to people but which came to my knowledge only because we asked the customer relations staff this morning. But if you can save one or two ringgit, why not?

Sunday, 5 January 2014


Today marks the fourth continuous day that I am warded at the Lohguanlye Specialist Hospital in Penang. I am bored.

With me still on the drip and limited to drinking small sips of water, there is nothing else much that I can do except to be in the ward bed, watch television and surf the Internet. Even then, the hospital's Internet connection was down on Friday evening and for most of Saturday, and I had to rely on whatever limited access through my mobile. And the television channels ... limited channels too with the box fixed on the sports channel or AXN.

I've been diagnosed with diverticulosis, a condition arising from an inflammation of my colon. A colonoscopy procedure earlier last week had revealed this inflammation and thus, the source of my internal bleeding.

I was first discharged from the hospital on New Year's Day but had to be re-admitted when I bled again on Thursday. And this time, the surgeon has said that I should give my alimentary canal some time to rest and recover. It is because of this that I've been put on the drip with nothing by mouth.

The drip means that my mobility in the ward is rather curtailed. If I need to go to the washroom, I shall need the hospital staff to disconnect me from the drip stand temporarily. But thankfully for these short episodes of freedom, I've been able to wash myself, tidy myself and take short walks outside the ward.

The drip also means that I haven't gone hungry despite not eating. I'm surprised that a simple sodium lactate solution can do this to me. There is no hunger but if I were to have the drip disconnected for about a half hour, I can certainly feel some hunger pangs returning.

How long will I remain on the drip? Frankly, I do not know. I would think that even when fluids are given to me eventually, possibly from today or tomorrow, my condition will still be monitored closely. I can only hope that recovery is fast, the bleeding does not resume and I can then proceed to some solid food.

And finally, I'd like to say that being hospitalised means that I have been cut off from the real world outside. However, I am sure that when I do get discharged eventually, I shall face a world of inflated food prices. I've been hearing from friends and relatives that food prices in Penang have increased by some 50 cents for each plate of hawker fare. For a retiree like me, this is surely unwelcomed news.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

My early ambitions

When I was staying in Seang Tek Road in George Town, Penang, during the late 1950s, two of my most precious possessions were a tricycle and a huge stack of empty cigarette boxes, practically two or three hundreds of them.

As a small kid in a rather protective family - my parents and grandparents did not allow me to mix much with the neighbours' children - I had to keep myself preoccupied on my own. My tricycle and the cigarette boxes kept me busy inside the house.

I used the cigarette boxes as domino snakes. I would set them up to snake from one end of the house to another and take a thrill from toppling one end of the snake and watch the motion travel through the house till the other end. It took a lot of time to set up the cigarette boxes and this couldn't be done on windy days. There was also the frustration of making mistakes or accidentally toppling them while setting up the snake. So of course, this was a game that could not be played or repeated often.

As for my other mode of self entertainment, I would cycle up and down the house, negotiating the narrow passageways, going round and round the table in the centre of the front hall and ending up in the kitchen. As long as the floor was level, I could go cycling indoors on the tricycle. This gave me countless hours of pleasure.

It was no surprise then that when I was that age, my early ambition in life was to become a bus driver. Bus driver has routes to follow, right? Well, as a tricyclist cycling around the house, there were routes that I could imagine too. Later on in my young life, I thought that being a town planner, planning the roads around the city, would be a pretty interesting profession.

All these early ambitions ended when I started kindergarten at the other end of Seang Tek Road and thus, outgrew the tricycle and it had to be given away to one of my younger cousins.  I never got to know who benefited from my mother's giveaway or whether the new owner had countless hours of joy from it. As for the empty cigarette boxes, she simply threw them all away.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A guarded Happy New Year for 2014

I had no time to prepare a personal graphic for the New Year since I was laid up in a hospital, but this is an appropriate replacement. My New Year wish? Very simple: here's a hope that the increase in the cost of living in 2014 will not overwhelm average Malaysians like you and I.