Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Penang Free School's relocation to Green Lane

I'm attempting to revisit the history of the Penang Free School's relocation from Farquhar Street to Green Lane.

This has been something that has been bothering me for quite a while because there are a number of anomalies that do not add up. The accepted stance, taken from the School Magazine 1966 which was compiled by Mr Leong Yee Foong and edited by the History Sub-Committee, was that:
"Construction of the new building commenced in 1924 with the quarters for the senior staff. Meanwhile, at the request of the Board of Trustees, the member of the Old Frees Association convened a meeting during which it was decided to rename the old buildings of the School in Farquhar Street as Hutchings' School and this was to serve as a feeder school. The new Free School buildings in Green Lane were officially declared open by the Resident Councillor, Penang Mr Ralph Scott on 9th January 1925 during the Headmastership of Mr DR Swaine." 
However, I do doubt the accuracy of the facts here for three reasons:
  1. DR Swaine was not the headmaster of the school in January 1925. At about this time, with RH Pinhorn sick, the school was in transition and the acting headmaster's role could already have been taken over by W Hamilton (Headmaster 1925-1926). The school magazines specifically stated that Swaine was Headmaster in 1927-1928. 
  2. Ralph Scott was Resident Councillor in Penang only from June 1926 to 1928. In January 1925, the Resident Councillor's position in Penang was vacant. Stewart Codrington was Acting RC until October 1924 and William Peel was appointed RC from July 1925. So there was a period of eight months where Penang did not have an RC, acting or otherwise. 
  3. It was also peculiar to me that the buildings in Green Lane would be officially declared open at the end of a week. The date "9 January 1925" was a Friday. I would assume that if any function was held it should be on a Monday which is the start of any school week. A bit more checking showed that "9 January 1928" was indeed a Monday. It was also possibly the first day of the new school year. 

With these three reasons, my educated guess is that the school only moved to the present premises in Green Lane in January 1928 and not in January 1925. This is more than a hunch and definitely will need to be verified, which I shall intend to do so very soon.

As a final comment, we all know that it is quite easy for anyone to misinterpret the numbers "3", "5" and "8" when writing or typing. Could have happened when the History Sub-Committee was trying to edit the compilation of the school's history. A typographical error since accepted as "fact", I would say.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Home-made chicken pie

Would you believe that my family has been craving for home-made chicken pies for a very long while? It has been quite some time since we embarked on this baking expedition.

It wasn't for lack of time that we hadn't done so. The reason was that it was now almost impossible to find ready-made pie pastries in the supermarkets.

Previously all that we had to do was to stock up on the pastries and whenever we felt like it, my wife would cook the filling and I would roll out the pastry.

So for at least three years now we hadn't been baking any chicken pie at all. It reached a stage where I was being pestered continually by my 22-year-old son till the point where my wife and I agreed to make pies today. But frankly, we were yearning for the chicken pies ourselves....

The first challenge, however, was to learn how to make the pastry from scratch. Our chicken pies are all double-crusted, by the way. The usual self-doubt questions nagged at us. What if the pastry flopped? What would we end up with?

I found a pastry recipe on the Internet. Actually, the Internet was full of pastry recipes and I had a rather difficult time deciding which one to use. Eventually, I did end up with one but now, my refrigerator is filled with excess baking material such as flour and shortening.

There's one lesson to be learnt from the experiment today. I discovered that if the recipe asked for a cup of *anything*, I've to make sure that the cup was filled to the brim with it or otherwise, like what happened to me, I ended up with not enough pastry.

Apart from that, everything else went smoothly and we had a real satisfying and filling lunch today. Burp....


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Old news is better than none, actually!

It has been about three months since the Jawi signboard at the entrance into the Penang Free School was replaced by this new signboard but only now has it been reported by one of the local newspapers. Better late than never, I suppose.

And oh yes, the other newsworthy news about the school is that its name remains officially as the Penang Free School and not by some bastardised version like Sekolah Menengah Penang Free. Horrors!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Extraordinary meeting requested under extraordinary circumstances

Am I missing something or is something quite not right with Malaysian chess?

I may be out of the chess picture for a while now but developments such as this still do catch my attention. This "something" referred to above had been brewing for quite some time now and about three months ago at the Malaysian Chess Federation annual general meeting, it was thought that the elections of a new set of office bearers would see the shortcomings addressed and then a new course of progress for chess charted in this country.

Unfortunately, not. The elections -- by itself already stormy when there was a dead heat in the first round of voting to choose the MCF president and which resulted in a second round of voting that saw the incumbent pulling through -- have proven not a watershed. It was just a reprieve brought by several of the old team members to get themselves re-elected or re-appointed.

Three months into the MCF elections, I have been hearing whispers that the MCF has fallen back into its old unchangeable ways. And the old ways were not good. Always, everything boils down to money. Or should I say more bluntly, the alleged misuse of federation funds.

I mentioned whispers. Yes, two days ago on facebook I was puzzled and curious by a brief one-liner that said that seven state chess associations had requisitioned the MCF for an extraordinary general meeting. Then yesterday morning, I received a scanned image of the EGM request letter itself:

Startling. Never before have I known of any circumstances that warranted public calls for an incumbent MCF president and deputy president to step down or be removed. No less, a vote of no confidence in the duo. No MCF state affiliate had ever requested for such an EGM no matter how inefficient the national federation had performed. And I can tell you, there have been instances when some of the affiliates had been downright unhappy with the MCF.

So for this to happen, well, what can I say? What can I conclude? The unhappiness and the rift must now been running very deep within the MCF and has come to a head. This is a chasm that can no longer be plastered over. No turning back? I don't think there will be one. 

The allegations against the pair are wide-ranging and I quote from the EGM requisition with my comments offered in brackets:
a) The president and his deputy have failed to carry out their duties to ensure the smooth running of the federation and this has affected the entire chess community in Malaysia. (But in my opinion, this allegation is rather vague as there is nothing specific given as an example of "having failed to carry out their duties.")

b) The president has appointed undesirable persons into the main committee before the elected main committee members were given opportunity to deliberate on the appointment.

c) The president and his deputy have so far failed to provide proper financial account and the same old method of accepting monies from players and bank into personal account still prevailed today. This is evidenced in the 2013 Asean Age Group in Thailand. The appointed treasurer has no knowledge to the monies collected and their whereabout. (In my opinion, this is a rather serious allegation. By right, all monies for events arranged through a registered organisation should go through that organisation's bank account, and I'm not talking about chess alone. So what term would best describe this mode of operation? Conversion?)

d) The president has failed to maintain a good financial standing with FIDE and arrears in June 2013 has led to all Malaysian players to be delisted in the FIDE rating list on 1-7-13. (Not the first time it has happened to us but it should not have happened again. Why can't our officials ever learn not to take such things lightly?)

e) More importantly, the president and his deputy have failed to respect the wishes of the majority state delegates and advice given to them by senior committee members to rectify the situation has been ignored completely.

And what would happen should this motion of no confidence be passed? For one, there will have to be an election for a new president and deputy president by the delegates in the EGM. And with the new persons on board, the delegates are asking for all appointments by the past president to be rescinded.

From what I understand, the extraordinary general meeting will have to be carried out within a month of receiving the requisition from the state affiliates and delegates. That means the EGM must be held by 23 August 2013 latest. From what I also understand, the honorary secretary of the Malaysian Chess Federation will have to give 21 days notice to the affiliate members. That means, the notice of EGM must be date-stamped by 2 August 2013 latest. All this, I hear, are stipulated in the MCF constitution.

And what if the president and his deputy choose to ignore the call for the extraordinary general meeting? I would then say that there is recourse through the Commissioner of Sports. The COS will have to come in to mediate. That is the ultimate. But before then, I would hope that with so many state affiliates and delegates already ganging up again the duo, they should do the honorable thing and stand down.

After all, in registered bodies such as clubs, societies, associations and even this federation, all elected positions are filled voluntarily. The elected officials should know that they are there because they are voted in to work for the common good of all members sharing in the same cause. And finally, I'd like to mention that an elected position is not a kingdom unto itself. And neither should it be the means to all ends. But you'll have to digest those statements yourself.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Buah keluak curry again

We just felt that it was time for buah keluak chicken tumis curry again as the daughter was expected back and we still had several of the black nuts lying around in the kitchen. So after soaking them for several days - traditionally, my mom would soak them for at least a week, which my wife still does diligently, while others say that two to three days would be enough to rid the nuts of the poisonous arsenic - it was time for the cooking pot. As can be seen in the second picture below, the curry came out glorious and delicious. Yummy!

It's not necessary to do this but if you must, crack the buah keluak open, remove the kernel and mash it up with chopped prawns and a little salt, and restuff everything back into the keluak shells.

If the curry looked a little dark, it was because the colour was imparted by the keluak. To give the curry an extra tangy taste, just add enough tamarind water according to personal preference.

That's the last of the batch of buah keluak. Will have to hunt for them again. Problem is, they are not available in Penang. We had to ask a friend in Malacca to buy them.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Long road to KL

I can't exactly remember the last time I ever drove to Kuala Lumpur and back. Must be quite a long time ago. Possibly more than a year because if I were to go down to Kuala Lumpur nowadays, I'd prefer to take the inter-city train.

Just the last weekend, I found myself having to travel to Kuala Lumpur again but since the train tickets for the sleeping berths were all sold out, I decided that this was perhaps the time to take the Prius C for its first long-distance spin. Finally!

So on Sunday, my wife and I set off from home at about eight o'clock in the morning. We filled up the tank at the petrol station near Simpang Ampat which was to be the reference point for our petrol consumption.

I must say that it was a most leisurely, pleasurable and smooth drive with us working the cruise control on the vehicle so that we could take our foot off the petrol pedal most of the time. The interior was so well insulated from the external noise that I really enjoyed my type of music all the way, wife's complaints not withstanding. By 12.30p.m., we had reached the Cititel at MidValley.

Similarly for the return drive, we left the hotel at 2.30p.m. on Monday and reached the same petrol station in Simpang Ampat at seven o'clock in the evening.

All in, we covered a distance of 666 kilometres and spent RM55 on petrol and RM84 on highway toll. Another RM3 on toll along the Sprint highway. I still remember moaning away that the cost of petrol with the Avanza was something like RM120 every time that we drove to and fro Kuala Lumpur. Thus, the RM55 spent on the Prius C was a revelation. It worked out to be something like 23 kilometres per litre of petrol.

Monday, 8 July 2013

IMO, government doctors ARE professional

I was a bit upset when I read this news item in Malaysiakini last week. It pertained to an allegation made in the Penang State Assembly by an UMNO opposition member that there were Chinese doctors at the government hospitals in Seberang Jaya and Kepala Batas who were not treating Malay patients fairly.

It just can't be true. A bumkum of a statement. Drivel. I had a first-hand experience of the professionalism displayed by the doctors at the Kepala Batas Hospital when my late aunt was sent there last May in critical condition. It was by fate that she ended there.

If anything at all, I have to commend the doctors there for their dedication attending to so many patients in the Critical and Non-Critical Wards. There were three doctors on shift work everyday at the Kepala Batas Hospital and I could see that they were overworked even on a Sunday. The line of walk-in patients was long and between attending to them, the resident doctor had to rush to check on the patients that were wheeled into the Critical Ward.

I don't even know how he managed to find the time for his dinner, for his shift started at 2p.m. and would presumably end at 10p.m. When I went back to the hospital the next morning at 11 o'clock, there he was back at work on another shift.

Although the patients were mostly Malays at the Kepala Batas Hospital and apart from my aunt, perhaps there were only three or four other Chinese or Indian patients there on that Sunday, the attending doctor saw them all and took the time to attend to them to the best of his ability. This is more service than one or two doctors I know in private hospitals who wouldn't care two hoots about their patients' welfare. But not this doctor in government service. Maybe it was only one doctor that I noticed but I was hanging around long enough in the Non-Critical Ward and at no time did I sense any unfair treatment as had been claimed in the State Assembly sitting.

Normally, I wouldn't like to mention names but in this case, I would like to thank this resident doctor, Yong Shin Shen, for the good work he had done at the Kepala Batas Hospital. It is people like him whose tireless work should be acknowledged, not criticised.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Forty-nine days tomorrow

I can't believe that tomorrow is already the 49th day since the passing of my aunt. Time does fly, doesn't it? Anyway, we shall have a busy full morning's programme ahead of us, starting with a visit to the columbarium at the Batu Gantong cemetery where her urn of ashes has been placed next to those of my parents.

We don't intend to spend too much time there. Just some minutes of prayers before we make our way to the Buddhist Triple Wisdom Hall in Pangkor Road. That's where their memorial tablet is located. Thanks to the ingenuity of the temple monks, each memorial tablet can actually accommodate more than one person's name. And so back in 1985, my father had ordered a tablet with all three names and pictures engraved.

For a long while, only my parents' pictures were displayed; that of my aunt was covered by a piece of red paper. But this paper was removed when the temple's monks recited prayers to commemorate the seventh day of her passing. I thought it would be some sort of ceremony involved to remove this piece of red paper but the monk just coolly took the tablet without much of an "excuse me", ran it under the tap to soften and wash away the glue and then placed it back on the stand.

From Pangkor Road, we intend to make a detour to the Kuan Im Temple in Pitt Street before we proceed to the Sri Mahindarama Temple in Kampar Road. The short trip to the Kuan Im Temple will be to distribute some food and fruits to the vagrants there. We shall be wiser now, and we shall repackage the food and fruits before going there. When we first did this six weeks ago without repackaging the items, it caused a little stampede there as the vagrants simply grabbed everything from us before we were ready.

After that, we hope to be at the Sri Mahindarama Temple before the dana offerings start at about 11.30a.m. Just some prayers by the monks to acknowledge that 49 days had really passed by. By 12.30a.m. or so, everything should have completed and my family can then spend some quality time together before heading back home.

When I was reflecting on my aunt's passing recently, it struck me that while tomorrow is the 49th day of her death, we will not have her around us for 60 days already. Where did the extra 11 days come from? I now consider the 11 days that she spent at the Institut Perubatan dan Pergigian Termaju (Advanced Medical and Dental Institute) in Bertam to be a sort of practice for us to prepare for the time when she would no longer be with us. True, we had visited her often at the IPPT but we still had to return home every night to an empty and quiet house.

When she was alive, every afternoon and evening would be her quality time in front of the television set. Whether she was watching her favourite serial shows or simply dozing off, the television set would be turned on. Nowadays, the TV set is more often switched off than on. That reminds me, I shall need to see the satellite television provider soon in order to readjust my packages. Time to unsubscribe from the Chinese channels.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Old friends

After a long while, I managed to catch up with some of my old school mates yesterday. The occasion was the Penang Free School Homecoming Carnival 2013 at the school field. Bumped into so many people that I knew but the icing on the cake could only be meeting those guys whom we had happily bummed around with since some 40 or 50 years ago.

This picture below was snapped in front of the pavilion. The banner was supposed to have been held up by balloons but it was my fault that I inadvertently released them. Oh, well....

Just take a look at that Subra, will you? At first, we thought that he had dug out his old school uniform and played a oneupmanship game on all of us but on second thoughts, no. But it would have been hilarious if he had actually donned the old school tie as well.

That's us again at lunch. Among the seven of us, I do meet up with Oon Hup, Andrew and Kah Theang occasionally since we are all moving around in Penang but certainly less often meeting up with Abu Huraira or Abdullah Sani. As for Subra, the interval has been even longer. If I'm not mistaken, the last we saw one another face-to-face could be in November 1972 when we were all nervously sitting for our Higher School Certificate examinations. Yes, it was actually that long ago. But he has a good memory. He actually remembered the old apom seller beside my home in Seang Tek Road.