Unburied Nuts from 17th November 2006: Goodnight, Mrs. Legatt

on Sunday, March 29, 2009

The "Unburied Nuts" series is an unashamed effort to recycle some of my earlier postings when I am too stressed out to create something new to post. This offering is certainly from the earliest period when the Lone Grey Squirrel was not so grey but going through a mid-life crisis anyway. I hope you like it.

As we travel through life, we pick up a lot of junk. Not surprising, I am a bit of a pack rat and will not allow things I collect to be put out for a yard sale without a fight. For me, these are more than just items, they are symbols of my life journey. More than things though, we each meet a whole host of people. Some have been a big influence on our lives while others less so but they all touched our lives and were part of the shaping of who we are and what we believe. Some of them taught us great life truths and yet others got us wondering about life.

Tonight, I find my mind traveling through time and space until I find myself sitting by the bedside of Ms. Legatt. My younger self was a thin insecure teenager who found himself thousands of kilometers away from home in a strange and cold place called Brighton, United Kingdom, so as to have the opportunity to study. Once a week, I took part as a volunteer in a community out reach project. My assignment was to visit shut-ins. These are elderly people who are pretty much bed-ridden or house bound. Food is sent to them by Meals-on-Wheels which are run by other volunteers and they get a visit from the community nurse a few times a week. Very often their only other visitors and social contact was with volunteers like myself.

Brighton Pavillion

The truth was that for many of the community volunteers, visiting shut-ins were the least desirable of assignments. There was always the smell of urine or worse. The rooms or apartments were generally unkept and you might be asked to clean mouldy dishes or throw out the rotting garbage. Many felt that the hour spent there was the most boring way to spend 60 minutes.

Not for me. I was able to ignore the lack of hygiene and cleanliness and perhaps I was also alone in a strange land, I was genuinely able to enjoy the fellowship and because of that I was able to learn quite a lot. So I spent many hours visiting and sharing a cup of tea and a cookie with Ms. Legatt at her bedside. Ms. Legatt was pretty much alone in the world. She had no close family. She was diabetic and bedridden with an amputated leg.

However, we made a connection and in her tales and stories, she was a young girl with the world at her feet. She was thrilled to learn that I was Malaysian. It seemed that she spent the best part of her life traveling in the Far East. She was adventurous for her time. She took on a job with the British Foreign Service and left the dreary British shores soon after the end of the Second World War aboard a warship. Her first port of call was in Singapore where she served in the British Administration and took part in the post war rebuilding. I know many British, like Ms. Legatt, were really carrying out their imperial and colonialist duties. Yet, I believe Malaysians inherited a relatively prosperous and peaceful country at independence and in part it was because of the services and sometimes sacrifice of these servants of the setting Empire. So in all sincerity, I wish to say thank you to all of them.

Ms. Legatt spoke of some girlfriends of like mind and spirit. They made Singapore their playground. They partied and attended all the social events. They rubbed shoulders with high society and my eyes opened wide at some of the adventures and hi-jinks that she related that she sweared involved the crown prince, heir to the Sultanate of Johor.

It was a colorful and exciting life. Ms. Legatt was one of the flowers that shone brightly at the twilight of the Empire in one of the most exotic parts of the world at that time. Somehow she never married, eventually came back to Britain and grew old alone. Somehow she was forgotten.

I remember Ms. Legatt tonight and wonder about my own life. How would I be remembered? All my memories, the victories I celebrate, my loves, my friends, my struggles, my fights, what would they mean when I am old. Who would remember? Who would care? What would my life really count for? Why am I pondering these things? Well, I am about the age where I am due to have a mid-life crisis and as one of my friends is prone to say, “it’s right on time.”

Seriously, I think it is good to take stock of our lives from time to time to see if the things that occupy us, whether it is our work, careers, hobbies, friends, dreams, problems really remain as important against the test of time. As for me, I think you lived a full life, Ms. Legatt and you contributed to shaping a great country. Many may have forgotten but I remember and I enjoyed tea, cookie and friendship. Good night, Ms. Legatt, wherever you are.

Fuzzy and the Travelers' Divorce

on Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Who is your archetypal Englishman? Who best represents that icon that is the representative of all things English? I refer to that stereotype of that gentleman's gentleman who is impeccably dressed in pinstripes or suit and is complimented with a bowler hat; who is unflappable, honest to a fault; has that queer sense of fair play; has a dry sarcastic understated sense of humor; is so patriotic that he wears the Union Jack as his undies; speaks the Queen's English better than the Queen; defender of tradition and fine etiquette and stoically holding up the stiff upper lip, eh what! Oh yes, and always has time for a civilized cup of tea.

For many, it is Sir John Steed of the Avengers. Sir John Steed was played by Patrick MacNee for many years on the British television series and more recently by Ralph Fiennes in the 1998 movie version.

For me, the archetypal Englishman is represented best by my friend Fuzzy (name changed to protect the guilty). Apart from all the characteristics mentioned above, he is also smart, charming and chivalrous in the ancient sense of the word. Well, alright, I'll admit that I have never seen him in Union Jack undies but it wouldn't surprise me if he had them. Fuzzy is so English, the big surprise is that he is not Anglo-Saxon. Nor is he Norman, Welsh, Irish, Scot, Celt or any tribe of the British Isles. In fact, although he was born in England, his roots is actually Egyptian Coptic. He does not look English but Egyptian. Nevertheless, Fuzzy could out Steed Steed, if you know what I mean.

To prove this, I shall relate a little tale from our travels backpacking and train tramping through Europe. I call this story "Fuzzy and the Travelers' Divorce".

My big European adventure started out with Fuzzy and I traveling together. I was prepared to rough it out. As we had both bought train passes for the whole month, we planned to save money by traveling and sleeping on the trains as much as possible. We expected most of our meals to consist of bread and cheese or pate and supplemented with an apple or banana . For eating utensils, I had packed one plastic knife in my backpack.

To my surprise, when we arrived in Belgium at the start of our adventure, Fuzzy calmly walked into a train station cafeteria and emerged with a full set of plastic cutlery and I do mean a full set of cutlery. Subsequently, whenever we stopped to have a meal, whether on the train or under the open sky, he would spread a napkin between us where we would place our bread and cheese. He would then ceremoniously lay out his cutlery. There were forks, spoons and knives for both of us. There were even dessert spoons and teaspoons. All were neatly arranged as if in a restaurant. He did this even if all we had was stale bread. "There's no need to eat like savages" he'd say.

Now, we had intended to travel together for the entire trip but we had very opposite goals. I wanted to go to Norway and he wanted to go to Greece. After much discussion, we agreed to go to Norway first and then to go together to Greece. What can I say? I defaulted. After going to Norway, we were traveling through Austria on the way to Greece when I just made up my mind that I did not want to go to Greece. I reasoned that at that point, I had only about 10 days left in my holidays and did not want to spend half of that time just sitting on the train to and from Greece. I broke this news to Fuzzy and he was not happy but reacted in his typical stoic stiff upper lip form.

As we were about to part ways, we took stock of what we had to divvy up. We had been sharing a single travel guide book that I had bought so I took it on myself to tear the book so as to give Fuzzy all the sections on Greece and other places that he needed. Fuzzy received those pages with appreciation.

Fuzzy then ceremoniously took out his cutlery and started to divide the cutlery. I kept telling him that I really only needed a knife and maybe one spoon but he would not have it. He insisted that each of us should have a full set of cutlery and he divided between us what he had and raided the train restaurant car to make up what was missing. And so when we finally parted ways, we were both fully equipped and "There was no need for either of us to eat like savages".

Fuzzy is the ultimate English gentleman, don't you think? I will relate more Fuzzy stories in the future, including why I call him Fuzzy.

Faces and Places

on Saturday, March 21, 2009

Norwegian Guide, Bergen

I just got back from a week in Indonesia. Although I enjoyed the experience and meeting up with both new and old colleagues on this trip, I missed my family badly and couldn't wait to be back home. This wasn't always the case, of course. In my younger days, before I got married, I was quite excited about traveling.

In fact, when I turned 21, I went backpacking through Europe for a month and never felt anything but the thrill of the open road. That trip was and will forever be a defining moment in my life. In a way, it was an important rite of passage to adulthood and a declaration that I could go out into the wide world and take care of myself. In those few, precious, glorious autumn days of my youth, I left the coast of England and made my landfall in Belgium; crossed through the Ardennes into Luxembourg; went through Germany on the way to Denmark; took a long train and ferry ride to Norway; retraced my path and went to Austria; thought of heading to Greece but bailed out into the then Republic of Yugoslavia; finally returning to Belgium.

The earth has circled the sun many times since then but as I reflect on that trip, I realise as much as I had enjoyed the scenery, the architecture, history and culture, the fondest of memories are the people I met along the way.

  1. Belgium. There was an English father with his teenage son who were spending two weeks cycling through Europe. We met quite a few times as we chose a similar travel route. It culminated with a quiet but beautiful evening on the verandah of a small Youth Hostel in the Ardennes sharing stories and several rounds of beer with other fellow travelers. It was great. There was also that Youth Hostel in Namur with its hippie American staff and their wonderfully bohemian barbeque party.
  2. Luxembourg. I met up with the son of a famous cartoonist. Together we had some wild adventures in this ancient kingdom which would have made the authorities frown with disapproval but which make the memories all the more precious. You can read more about it here.
  3. Germany. It was a long train ride so my traveling companion and I decided to practice a few choice phrases in Hebrew on a couple of unsuspecting Isreali youths. In fact, we only knew about three phrases but it was enough to have one of them enquire if there was a large Chinese Jewish community. We enjoyed playing with their minds!
  4. Norway. I will always remember that very sweet and friendly guide at the cultural village in Bergen. It was pouring with rain and the two of us were the only ones mad enough to show up but she still graciously took us around. A fun interaction and a very fond memory.
  5. Germany. The visit to Herrenchiemsee was interesting but spending a rainy afternoon doing laundry with two Southern Belles from America was special. One was a nurse and the other a student of politics. Somehow, we got talking about the Kennedy era and the American Camelot.
  6. Austria. Arriving late in Salzburg, I teamed up with an American student to find a beer garden for food and drinks. We had a wonderful time under the stars talking about politics and life in general. We also had a great meal and liberal amounts of beer which resulted in a mad adventure trying to find our way through the maze of streets to our Hostel. It did not help that neither of us could walk straight but bouncing off the walls of the narrow cobvled streets was fun in its own way.
  7. Yugoslavia. This was a nation of colourful characters. Starting with the bus conductor that insisted in speaking to me even though I did not understand a word he was saying. At Plitvice Lakes, I enjoyed the company and the stories of my B&B host who was an elderly Dutch lady who had lived in Indonesia and had now found her heaven in Yugoslavia ( I often what happened to her during the war). Then I actually ran into a group of dissidents that printed an underground newspaper. They actually kept me company for a couple of hours while I waited for a train. On the train, I then met an attractive and vivacious Aussie girl (Kate) and the Yugoslavian soldier who commandeered my phrase book so that he could hit on the former.
  8. Austria. Back in Vienna, I spent my time in the company of two Aussie girls, Kate and Gai. We made a good team. One girl could be counted on to find great shopping, the other was an expert at finding coffee and cakes and I was the one who could actually read a map and navigate. We all had a very interesting but scary encounter with an elderly man with wild eyes who kept prodding us with his walking stick while asking, "Hitler gud, ya?" We did the culture vulture thing for a few days and promised to keep in touch, buddies for life and look each other up.......but never did.
  9. Belgium. My second time back in Belgium and I was caught by a nationwide transport strike. I celebrated my 21st birthday with a Canadian student, a Welsh Parole officer and an Irish Artist. I wandered the streets of Brussels with a Moroccan student even though we communicated only by sign language. Finally, I made a run for the ports and back to U.K. by hitching a ride with an American pastor (the driver), an American couple and a British student.
Finally though, I should not forget my friend, partner in crime and occasional travel companion (although we started the trip together, we split up a couple of times before finally separating as he went on into Greece and I stopped at Yugoslavia). Now he, is a great character indeed but I think I will elaborate in my next post.

Big News

on Sunday, March 15, 2009


I don't know if I will be able to blog in between all my re-decoration work while evading missiles and fighter planes. So the Realm of the Lone Grey Squirrel will regretably be entering a communication dark zone. See you at the other end of the dark zone at the coming weekend.

In the meantime, stay well and .......stay away from giant squirrels.

Ciao baby.

Suffer Little Children

on Monday, March 09, 2009

I spent this weekend attending a workshop on Christian Counseling. It was a mixture of learning about counseling as well as receiving some counseling as part of the process. A great portion of the weekend focused on our responses to events in the early part of our lives which resulted in us adopting inappropriate defence mechanisms which in turn cause us to develop self-destructive behavior. For many of the participants, bad reactions to certain actions of our parents was a very common factor.

The workshop is not blaming parents for what happened because being parents are a tough job and yet a single slip at the wrong time can have a major negative result in the child's life. For example, in one case, the child was anxious after seeing something spooky on television and goes to the father for reassurance but the father teases the child by pretending to be scared himself and said "Scared, scared". A seemingly innocent incident but the child becomes easily spooked by almost anything because she does not feel secure.

Another example is when a harassed mother promises a young child to get her a long desired toy but fails to do so due to the rush and busyness of the day. Again something that can easily happen but the child could develop an unwillingness to trust people as a result.

And so many of the participants had such experiences with their parents which have led to some hangup or another.

Later though, I had the opportunity to take part in an informal conversation with some of the participants and one of them was a full time Christian worker with abused and abandoned children. He shared this story about a eleven year old girl. Her mother brought her one morning outside a Christian Shelter for Children and told her that she would be back to pick her up that evening.

Two and a half years later, this quiet and shy girl finally opened up to a student volunteer and told her that she still hoped each day that her mother would come for her one evening. Then after a short silence, she asked the volunteer, " What do I have to do to survive the reality of my situation?" It was as if she was finally coming to terms that her mother may never return. The volunteer was herself from a broken home and was able to share her own experiences. The little girl thanked her for not avoiding the question.

Needless to say, I was greatly touched by the story and it put all of our gripes about our parents in context. Not that some of the problems arising from actions of our parents were not serious but clearly, we were all reminded that having caring but imperfect parents is so much better than being left behind by your parents or having no parents at all.

I think I will do something for the kids in the shelter.

An Introduction to Bollywood Movies

on Saturday, March 07, 2009

I understand that a certain movie filmed in Mumbai, India has made it big time in Hollywood and is really making waves. I refer of course to the Oscar winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Now I have not seen this movie yet but I am not unfamiliar with Indian movies. In fact, I understand that Hollywood and Bollywood plan to increase collaborating on more movies.

So on the verge of a Bollywood invasion of Hollywood, I have decided to provide a public service by preparing the world for this up-coming cultural treat. Don't worry if you are unfamiliar with Indian culture or the Hindi language. I have selected two videos of Indian movies' famous dance sequences. With the help of subtitles prepared by Bufflax, you will find that these movies are really quite
attainable and enjoyable.

Just in case, you will find the first video a little too much of a culture shock and unfamiliar, I have included the second video which is an Indian adaptation of the musicvideo "Thriller". So at least that will be somewhat familiar.

This is a public service for world peace and understanding. No thanks needed. Enjoy.

Weird And Wonderful

on Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Regular readers will know that I have an unhealthy fascination on the strange things that go bump in the dark, murky waters. If you missed them, then follow these links and find out why I am "Still not going swimming soon" or why I have "More reasons for not going swimming soon". I haven't quite decided if I found myself swimming next to the Pacific Barreleye fish (above) whether I would be enthralled and fascinated or if I would jump out of the water screaming.

However, since I am safely in my dry bed as I write this post, I do find this animal really weird but wonderful.

To read more about this and other recently found species, visit "Free Your Imagination" which most appropriately invites us to see that nature does exceed the limits of our imagination.

The Lady in the Cafe

on Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Automat (by Edward Hopper)

The Lady in the Cafe (by LGS)

I saw her again today,

As she took her regular seat,

In the corner of the café,

Her early morning retreat.

She’s always so neatly dressed,

As if every fold was in its place,

And every crease perfectly pressed,

A picture of quiet, elegant grace.

With her soft and gentle voice,

She places her breakfast order;

It’s almost always the same choice,

A couple of eggs easy over.

Though for a drink, she orders coffee,

Her eyes are not dreary from slumber;

Rather, they seem bright and perky,

Lying about the emptiness within her.

While she waits, she sits proper and prim,

Her hands resting upon the table,

Her painted smile begins to pull thin,

As her façade begins to crumble.

She sits there, hoping no one sees her,

Yet really wishing someone does;

Her heart sorely longs for adventure,

But cannot bear to face her fears.

She hopes that no one pities her,

For she has loved and been loved;

When she closes her eyes and remember,

She can feel the touch of her beloved.

And so she is there every morning,

Sitting in the corner of the café,

Never letting others come in,

Lest she allows him to fade away.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin