Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The dedication page

To our Founder,
Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings,
All Past and Present
Headmasters, Teachers and Staff
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.
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.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Roads named after Old Frees

Discounting three roads in the Green Lane area of Penang which are named after Penang Free School itself -  Jalan Free School, Halaman Free School and Taman Free School - presently, I have uncovered 53 other roads in Malaysia and Singapore that have been named after various Old Frees. This list would also include a road named after the School's founder and five roads named after three Headmasters and a towering teacher.

Prominent among these roads are the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman in Penang. In Kuala Lumpur, there are Jalan Syed Putra, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Medan Syed Putra Utara, Lorong Syed Putra Kiri, Persiaran Syed Putra and the five roads named as Persiaran Syed Putra 1-5.

Two roads in Singapore are named after the Old Frees, while there is one in Alor Star, three in Taiping, five in Ipoh and two more in Kuala Lumpur. But it is in Penang that I found the most number of roads, totaling 32, which reflected the prominent roles that the Old Boys had played in Penang's past.

Here then are the remaining roads named after Old Frees: Jalan Sir Husein, Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim, Jalan Aziz Ibrahim, Jalan Cheah Choo Yew, Jalan Cheah Seng Khim, Jalan Dato’ Dr. Cheah Toon Lok, Jalan Choong Lye Hin, Solok Choong Lye Hin, Tingkat Hock Hin, Jalan Choong Lye Hock, Lebuh Tye Sin, Jalan Foo Wha Cheng, Jalan Dato’ Khong Kam Tak, Lebuh Dato’ Khong Kam Tak, Jalan Khoo Sian Ewe, Jalan Seang Tek, Jalan Lam Looking, Jalan Lim Eow Thoon, Jalan Kek Chuan, Jalan Chow Kit, Jalan Chow Thye, Lorong Chow Thye, Jalan Ismail Cik Matt, Lebuh Noordin, Lebuh Ong Chong Keng, Jalan Saw Ah Choy, Lorong Saw Ah Choy, Kheam Hock Road, Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Toh Khay Beng, Taman Wu Lien Teh, Jalan Wu Lien Teh, Jalan Yeoh Guan Seok and Jalan Zainal Abidin, I shall leave it to readers to figure out which are the roads considered outstation to Penang. 

The ones named after the Founder and the old educationalists are Taman Hutchings, Jalan Cheeseman, Jalan Hamilton, Jalan Hargreaves, Lilitan Hargreaves and Jalan Pinhorn.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Joseph Schooling

I congratulate Singapore for their achievement. I applaud 21-year-old Joseph Schooling, a third-generation Singaporean, for his success in the swimming pool at the Rio Olympics 2016. Heartiest congratulations to him on sharing the podium with your swimming heroes. Kudos for winning the gold medal in the 100m butterfly final. Felicitations for setting a new Olympics record in your favourite event. 

Friday, 12 August 2016

Penang's place in the world

I was attending this Penang in the World Conference 2016 which was organised by the Penang Institute at their new conference hall in Brown Road last weekend. Turned out to be quite a crowd - about 300 people - who had come to listen to local and international speakers touch on key issues and challenges that are of relevance to this state of ours.

There were two highlights of the two-day event, both occurring on the first day itself. The first one was a keynote address by the Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, while the second one was a dinner lecture by Dr Muhamad Chatib Basri who is a former Finance Minister under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia.

While there were many other interesting talks, what I found most absorbing was the first session on Sunday morning, Penang's software: History, culture, liveability, which covered areas of great interest to me, which are Penang's local history and culture. Thus, I would say that Wong Yee Tuan of the Penang Institute and Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid of the Universiti Sains Malaysia did a more than competent job of educating the audience here.

I was surprised when one of the later speakers of the morning, Muhahid Yusof Rawa, the Member of Parliament for Parit Buntar, was introduced to us as an Old Free. I did speak with him after the conference was over, and he said that he finished his Sixth Form in 1983. "Green House," he said, but he couldn't remember the famous name that was associated with it. "It's Wu Lien Teh," I told him. I asked him about his father too and Mujahid gleefully said that Yusof Rawa had indeed studied in the Penang Free School in the 1930s. He also offered some other snippets of information about his father.

I was actually a bit relieved to hear all that. It just proved that my little entry on Yusof Rawa which shall be appearing in Let the Aisles Proclaim was not wrong. Of course, I am not writing so much about this man in the book but just for common knowledge, Mujahid's father had gone to Mecca after he finished school and worked in an export-import company there. He came back to take over his father's printing company in Acheen Street and later expanded the business. His own company, The United Press, printed religious books for schools throughout the country. He also printed books in Arabic and Jawi. Yusof joined the Pan-Malayan Islamic Party (PMIP) in 1951 and famously unseated Mahathir Mohamad from the seat of Kota Setar Selatan in the 1969 general elections. In 1983, he took over PMIP which by then had assumed the more commonly known moniker, PAS. When PAS joined the Barisan Nasional government, Yusof was appointed the Deputy Minister for Primary Industries. Later, he became the Malaysian Ambassador to Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey, and represented Malaysia at the United Nations. The dark side to Yusof Rawa was that he led PAS down the path of hardline Islam. Within the party that he led, he surrounded himself with the ulamas and adopted the concept of an Islamic state as official policy. The ideology Yusof Rawa spouted, and now adopted by PAS, made him a dangerous man and Malaysia is now starting to spiral down a path that is unpalatable to secular-thinking, democracy-believing people in the country. My regret is that an Old Free had to be responsible for all this. 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Let the aisles proclaim

I had a satisfying meeting with Rafique Abdul Karim and Gene Lim last Wednesday (3 Aug 2016) to discuss the Bicentenary book project. In the last 12 months, I haven't really written much in this blog about the progress of the book. Guess I was too busy to get myself distracted. But now that we are almost at the tail-end of the project, I do have a bit more time to disclose what's happening.

First, I have to introduce Rafique as the principal person in the Penang Free School Bicentenary celebrations as we move closer to the actual date itself, which is 21 October 2016. Rafique is the chairman of the Bicentenary Committee and he is also the chairman of the school's Board of Governors. He's pretty much hands-on with the preparatory work and can be available at short notice for meetings. I don't have any inkling of whatever's been going on in the main committee itself, but where the Editorial sub-committee is concerned, I can request for a meeting on any day after 5.30pm and he'll be there. Gene is an Old Free and she's the layout designer for the book. We've been working together on the production since around May or June.

Anyway, I had a satisfying meeting with Rafique and Gene on Wednesday. The layout for all the pages are more or less completed but there are still corrections to be made. Generally, little errors spotted here and there, and recommendations from Rafique to consider. All the photographs have been approved for inclusion, including a wonderful aerial view of the grounds given to us courtesy of David Wong who flew his drone over the school recently. Then there are the old, familiar pictures on the school which are all there, but we do have several pictures that haven't been seen for a very long time. These were taken from the old school magazines.

So at this stage, Rafique says that the book's title can now be safely disclosed to the general public but in particular, to the Old Frees. We don't have to keep it under wraps any longer.

Choosing an appropriate title proved to be difficult. Calling it Fidelis was out of the question since it had been used in 2012 in The Old Frees' Association's own publication. Strong and Faithful? Fortis atque Fidelis? For the Brave and for the True? Nah, they did not resonate well as a book title. For want of a suitable title, I was quite resigned to even accepting Rafique's suggestion of The Grand Old Lady. Until an inspiration struck me.

I looked back at the School Rally. Why not take something from there? After all, this was a stirring song and it really rallies the troops, which in this case means the Old Frees and the present Frees in the school. The line which inspired me came from the chorus of the School Rally: Let the aisles proclaim. Yes, why don't we use that?

Let the aisles proclaim. Proclaim what? Proclaim our heritage, proclaim our traditions, proclaim our long history, proclaim our successes, proclaim our allegiance to the School and nation. In fact, proclaim anything we want. and proclaim loudly too.

And so it came to pass that Let the Aisles Proclaim was agreed upon unanimously by the whole of the Editorial sub-committee and there were no objections as well from The Penang Free School Foundation when the title was presented to their committee in late June.

The cover of the book depicts a view from the far corner of the west quadrangle. While the main building and the hall can be seen from this angle, the school dome, resplendent in white on a most glorious day, is the most prominent feature of the photograph.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Re-setting up my HiFi system

Well, it's a long story today. Be prepared for it. In January last year, my wife decided to resign from the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers where she had been the manager of the Penang branch for some years. The working condition in the branch she said, was bad with back-biting and little co-operation between the staff. No amount of carrot-dangling and counselling can ever get the staff to change their habits. Although the pay was good, the hours were long. She would come home exhausted. In the evenings, there was no respite from work. From our home, she would have to catch up on her office emails. Her mood was glum and that was one of the surest signs that she had to leave the FMM's employment sooner or later.

Of course, I welcomed her resignation from her employer from hell, if ever there was a term I could use to describe the situation. I welcomed her presence in our home 24x7 because we can see more of one another. She began to work from home. The pay was less than what she used to get but we survived because she was much happier with lots less stress in her life.

The downside was that I had to surrender the desktop computer to her. She still had to work at the computer and basically, this was the fastest machine I had. So I surrendered the use of the desktop machine to her. My blog postings became affected because I had less chances of using the desktop to do my postings unless she was out of the house to meet her clients. But a bigger sacrifice was giving up the access to the home hifi system. You see, the desktop computer was located right next to the hifi set. This being so in order that I could run the cables to hook up the computer to the amplifier. With such a hook-up, it would be easier to channel audio from the computer to the amplifier and also music from my turntable to the computer where I could digitise my vinyl records and cassette tapes. With the left Wharfedale speaker sitting on the table top right next to me, it's easy to imagine how anyone would be affected with loud music blaring from a speaker that's a foot away. Music-in-the-face, so to speak. So I gave up listening to my records and my cassette tapes.

At first, I was wondering what I could do without the computer or music. Luckily, I had a project coming up. In the last 12 months or so, I have been involved with the Penang Free School Bicentenary book. I was commissioned by the PFS Bicentneary Committee to write a book for the occasion. The project had consumed all my free time. If I wasn't out of the house to visit the likely sources of information - this will be a separate blog story altogether - I would be writing the book.

For that, I had little choice but to resuscitate an old laptop back to life. The laptop doesn't even belong to me. I only have a small netbook which is slow. Very slow. Ultra slow. With a small screen. Well, you know how small netbooks are. Took ages just to boot up as well. No way that I could do my job on this machine. Luckily, my son had this old laptop with him. Still slow but nevertheless, good enough for me. After all, I was going to use Microsoft Word most of the time. Maybe the Paint application that comes with Windows 8, and maybe too, the Google Picasa program. That was all I required actually.

But I couldn't place the laptop next to the desktop. No place for the machine. My wife wouldn't like it if I were to say that she had commandeered the rest of the workplace for her work stuff. But yes, that was the reality. As there was no place for the laptop, I retreated to the bedroom instead. There, at least, I still have a table to use. Not the most perfect place though because while I could see right out of the bedroom window, I was facing west and sweating from the afternoon sun. Turning on the air-conditioner became a norm for me. Pull the window curtains shut and turn on the air-conditioner. Cool comfort for me and not-so-cool comfort for my wife because she wasn't going to be mobile with the desktop.

Did I ever disclose that my wife is a fervent follower of fengshui? She would never fail to attend the annual start-of-year Joey Yap seminars in Penang. I tag along with her, like a dutiful husband should, listening to Joey Yap, getting entertained by him, taking snapshots of all his slides. But much of what is said doesn't register with me. More of a process of getting older rather than not paying attention. This year, 2016, the north sector of our house is not that good for people, according to this year's fengshui reading. This disturbed my wife a bit because that's where her desktop is located. After a lot of looking at alternatives, which included re-locating the desktop in the bedroom, an arrangement which I wasn't very keen on for various reasons, we decided that a new laptop would allow her to be mobile as well. So now, she works in the bedroom as well. Same like me.

However, the production stage of the Bicentenary book project required me to use a lot of the printer which is hooked up to the desktop. I needed to print the pages of the book for proof-reading. Pretty soon I gravitated to using the desktop for more of my work. The bonus was that I realised that I could use my hifi system again. Out came the compact discs and the cassette tapes. Then the jewel among my music collection, the records.

But horrors! Because I had not used the turntable for a very long time, the stylus on the tonearm's cartridge dropped off when I began brushing it to clear it of dust. It just dropped off, leaving me with a stylus-less tonearm. Couldn't even re-attach it myself. It's such a fragile thing. No other choice but to buy a new cartridge for the turntable. So I phoned the guys at the Wisma Audio Central at the Penang Plaza in Tanjong Tokong to arrange an appointment to bring in the headshell. Darn, a simple act of replacing the cartridge set me back RM450. The cartridge is still the Ortofon MC-1 Turbo but I am very happy with it. When I play my music, the soundstage seems to have opened up. I'm hearing sounds which I'd like to believe that I haven't heard before. An incredible transformation of my hifi system.

First though, I had to carry out a few tweaks to the turntable. Basically, what I wanted was to reduce the vibration to the turntable. To do that, I had to place the turntable on a solid base that, in turn, would stand on sturdy spikes. Weeks ago, I had made an order for four brass-tipped rosewood isolating spikes for the turntable. Ordered on-line from Do Good Audio Ltd, which is based in Liverpool, England. The small package arrived within two weeks. But the spikes did not include the spike pads. My bad, actually, because I had failed to see that I had not included the spike pads in the order. I was quite prepared to use coins as the replacement pads when I happened to go down to Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago.

While there, a friend told me about the annual Kuala Lumpur International Audio Visual exhibition which was taking place at the JW Marriott Hotel in Bukit Bintang. I popped in, saw a vendor sell some audio accessories and managed to pick up the spike pads from him. While wandering around the exhibition, I also picked up a new cork mat for the turntable. Not that the original felt mat needed replacement, but I had read that cork mats would be better because for one, it doesn't trap dust as easily as felt mats. Buying these spikes and cork mats set me back another RM250 or so, but it was enough. Also weeks ago, I had ordered a piece of 8mm-thick glass pane from a vendor in town. Originally, I was toying with using a piece of thick plywood as the base for the turntable but later opted to use glass instead.

Having acquired these accessories, I set out to assemble them. I removed the turntable from the shelf, balanced the piece of glass on the spikes and then replaced the turntable on top of the glass. Took me about 15 to 20 minutes to do all that, and then there was the difficult task of re-balancing the tonearm, It's something that I haven't tried before because I've always had someone else to do it for me! For this this, I sweated out for perhaps half-an-hour before I managed to get it right. I hope so. With the Ortofon cartridge, I'm employing a vertical tracking force of 2gms which I balance with an equivalent amount of anti-skating force. For fine-tuning, I used a reference record that allowed me to lower the tonearm on a grooveless portion of the record to determine whether the tonearm would swing to the right or left. I think I've got it done pat. I hope so, again.

All these accomplished, I'm enjoying all my record albums again. With the volume knob on the amplifier turned up to the 11 o'clock mark, the music that's emerging from the speakers are, oh, so sweet and marvellous. Who says that vinyls are dead? No, records are very much alive. The vinyl record is receiving a revival among audio enthusiasts who know better, and I'm just lucky to be in possession of some 700 records that I've acquired through the years. Time to spin them again....

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

To Perth again and back: Fremantle (part two)

We left Serpentine shortly after two o'clock and proceeded to Fremantle. It was quite an uneventful drive except that it rained a bit just as we were approaching the town. Finding our accommodation proved a bit problematic. Although I had booked our stays in Fremantle and Margaret River through Airbnb, I never did have the time to key in the places into my Garmin. As such, I had problems trying to locate the road on the GPS map. But through trial and error, I did finally manage to locate Holland Road and the house.

Andrea, the house owner, was not in but she had told me where to find the key. Not hidden under the mat but somewhere else. I'm not sure that I would like to disclose where because I'm sure she would normally leave the key there for her house guests. It's her secret and no point revealing it.

I hauled in our luggage and was just preparing to unpack when Andrea returned. Andrea turned out to be a most perfect hostess, telling us where to go for our meals in Freo but more importantly, where to park the car discreetly and indefinitely to avoid parking fees. The next morning upon our checking out of her house, she also recommended to us a cafe just down the road from her place where we would have a nice meal before driving off.

But for our day in Freo - or what was left of the day - we drove to the town centre, left our rented car in an almost deserted private car park and walked into the central business district. The whole area had been closed off to traffic and street performers were all out to entertain the crowds.

We visited the Fremantle Market but couldn't see much as it was almost closing time and vendors and stallowners were packing up for the day. Still, we managed to buy four huge nectarines for an almost ridiculously low price of five Australian Dollars.

For dinner, we went to the Kailis Fish Market Cafe on the waterfront in the fishing boat harbour. The place was packed. We had been here once before and had found the scallops and lobsters very nice. This time, while my wife still selected her scallops, I plumbed for something else: grilled fish and chips. We also had a bowl of seafood chowder. Although it was a pleasant dining experience, somehow we agreed that there was something missing from dinner this time, but we couldn't figure out what.

That done, we went back to collect the car, drove around for a while and then decided to go back to Andrea's place. Luckily, I had saved Holland Road in the GPS unit, which facilitated my driving quite a bit. Truth be told, I was very tired at that point and after a quick bath, fell asleep very soon afterwards.

Perhaps I should give a word of advice to would-be vacationers. If you intend to drive around on your own, it would be preferable if one does not fly using an airline's red-eye service. Because, if you cannot sleep in the aeroplane - I could not sleep because i was too fascinated with the movies showing on board the aircraft - you are sure to arrive at your destination all tired and sleepy. I can assure you, driving around in an unfamiliar place while sleepy isn't the cleverest thing to do.