A(nother) sunny morning in August

It’s been wet.  And dry. And hot. Then very hot. But there still isn’t much weather to speak of.  The sun is out most days for a bit, the air is warm, clothes dry and flowers on the balcony need watering. But one thing that is different is that I am learning to be still, for a little while at least.

I haven’t changed my character completely. I still miss going out to the theatre, the cinema, to dinner – but if I don’t I am minding less and less. I can sit and read, I can sit and paint. I can just sit – but that’s the hardest, and I won’t be doing much of that. I am learning though, and it feels rather good when I manage it.

On the doing front, however, I continue to fill my days. Before 6.30 pm or so, when the sunset streaks the sky with purple and gold again (we’ve had quite a cloudy time of it for the last month or so), I do Pilates, I do pottery (bliss), I try to improve my Bahasa Malay (slow and steady, slow and steady), and I have found an art school where I take myself and my paints, puff up three steep flights of stairs and try to do something with a blank canvas.

I have coffee and lunch with new friends (they’re all new except for visitors from the UK, of which there are going to be many, hooray), and do the shopping which involves markets and several shops in several different places.

Today, I had my weekly Malay class, which reminds me how little I really know, and I am about to make caponata for supper, with local vegetables and various adapted ingredients.

I have done a bit of of my novel, which is growing steadily. I haven’t reread anything as my first aim is to get most of it out of my head and on to the computer. Then starts the real draft, in every sense.

My friend Susan and I have had an idea, which we call #WordPower Sabah, about every possible way of using English to communicate, and we want to show that all disciplines can learn from each other, and learn how to use the language well. Not just a book festival, more a way of life…

We have drawn up a proposal and are flogging the idea to anyone who will listen and who might give us some money. Nothing concrete, but it’s early days: we need to be affiliated with an NGO in order to collect funds and we are edging nearer to this.Response, apart from actually cash to date, has been pleasingly positive, so we are working away on all fronts. I am giving a workshop at a SPARKS event next week (Society for the Performing Arts) which I hope will contribute to a bit of WPS profile raising.

Now I’m off to the hairdresser which is always fun. This country has more public holidays that any other I have ever heard of, so a girl has to look her best to do nothing much, non?


Oh how I love the NHS!

A while ago – three years – I had a breast cancer scare. It turned out to be a small lump that had to come out and be followed with a bit or radiotherapy and all that – nothing terrible. Before, during and after my treatment, I did not come across a single health professional who was anything but kind and supportive and skilled and informative. True, there were some waits to see them, but all that was irrelevant compared to the treatment I received. For nothing.

I am now here, and so I went for my third year scan as instructed by my doctor in the UK to the fancy Gleneagles Hospital . As I am away for more than six months at a time I am now off the NHS list alas, so this is the alternative.  I told the woman on the phone that it was a follow-up from a lumpectomy.

When I arrived, I went through the swishing automatic doors and made my way up to the Radiology Dept as directed.  I was seen immediately, and the woman who did the X-ray could not have been quicker and nicer.

I had been told I would get the result in half an hour. It took double that – nothing in UK terms I know, but I had been fooled by my surroundings.

I was given an envelope containing a report and a CD.  I asked if everything was OK. They couldn’t tell me. The report was only to be read by a doctor. Could I see one please? No, the doctor doesn’t take consultations.  Oh doesn’t he? I walked up the corridor to the office, and asked to see someone who could translate the report. I had of course had a look at it; it was vague, and ignored everything I had told the nurse and the woman on the telephone. The doctor who appeared, looking rather nervous in the face of this irate white woman, showed me his computer screen and explained that it was fine (for a year, anyway).  I told that breast cancer (however small) is frightening, that coming for a check-up is scary and that it wasn’t fair to send people away  with an envelope and a question mark.  He agreed politely, and seemed to sympathise.

Maybe I was unlucky, maybe I didn’t make myself clear, maybe a lot of things, but they were much more focused on my payment than my reassurance, which this doctor at least knows did not impress me…

Whether it will make any difference is debatable, but my goodness, it made me miss the NHS and value it more than ever.  As we all should.  Fancy machines and ritzy surroundings do not a health service make.

Blasts from the past and present

My friend Jemima has just left after a two week stay.  It was completely delightful. Lots of exploring, catching up on the years we have not seen each other, remembering the years when we did. Never a cross word or a moment’s irritation. I think I must be growing up. It showed me that I am pretty settled here now in the sense that I was able to fill her time with lots of interesting stuff to do and see, and also how much I miss laughing. Not to say I go around like the End of the World but mining shared past experience is very profitable, especially when it is connected to present goings on.  Anyhow – she’s on the plan to London and she tells me she is feeling very rested.

One place we visited was Sepilok, of which I have written before – orangs and proboscis and walking in the forest.  And delicious seafood, although disconcerting to eat it in front of large tanks that contained it only a few moments ago.

Kuching was another trip.  In Sarawak (pronounced without the final K) and very different from KK. Gentler, prettier, and with an old quarter that has not been flattened in the name of modern development. It is a national treasure and so won’t be.  The art and craft was there in abundance – woven carpets, baskets of all kinds, fabrics woven and mass produced.  Didn’t matter. It looked lovely and we returned to KK with several purchases that we are thrilled with.


Here is a box of tattoo materials,








with its contents including this rusty pin to put the ink into the skin.  Mmmm – such fun!IMG_2259







It came with this note carefully written while we waited by the man who sold it to us. It could be old and could have been made yesterday – who knows, who cares?  He painstakingly wrote the information, wanting to share the knowledge, with a ruler to help him keep the lines straight.






Kuching felt very different to KK – busy, but not too busy. There is a picturesque waterfront, with trips across the river to the Istana (palace) which I believe was built for the Brookes, who were the Rajahs of Sarawak for a while.

The Rajah Brooke heritage is present but not too present, and anyhow, it’s interesting. Hollywood thinks so. There is apparently a film in the works.

I shall certainly go again, with room in my suitcase.