Monthly Archives: November 2015

Give That Mumps A Tiger !

Mumps is a disease that attacks the saliva glands, causing swelling to the side of the face below the ears.  Fever and pain are associated with it.   It is also quite contagious.

A visit to the doctor is most advisable.   In the case of male adults, the disease could spread quickly down to the testes and cause infertility.

In the old days,  the Chinese folks – not sure about other communities – called the disease Zhu Tou Pi or Pig Head Skin.   They believed that sending a “tiger” in would eat up the rogue pig.  Hence, they would use a brush dipped in blue ink and write the Chinese character for  “Tiger” on the affected area.   But I have also seen in other cases, where a patch of blue – presumably laundry blue – was painted over the swollen area.

No need for Tiger Beer !


Look Ma, No Nails !

In the old days, before the invention of the veneer ply or “plywood”, all wooden furniture – including cabinetry – was constructed from pieces of solid integral timber.

Even though machine tools were not available at that time, every piece was very precise and the work was finished to an artisan’s exacting standards.

Most amazing of all were the joints.  Almost none of these had a nail, or a screw – as dove tail joints were extensively employed.   How did those craftsmen achieve such precision ?

The work quality was “Rolls-Royce” grade, as compared to those of modern “instant-mee” generation workers, whose works by comparison are like beat-up,multi-crash patch-up jobs.

Ada Rotan, Pepijat Pula Membiak

Since the days of our nenek moyangs, rotan or rattan has been used to make furniture and a myriad of other items.  It is extremely strong and tough, yet can be coaxed into contorted twists and turns – properties which make it so endearing.

In younger days, we had several rattan chairs.   Nice to sit on, quite relaxing.  However, these were very prone to infestation by bed bugs.   These little pests liked to hide in the crevices between strands,  and once a nice juicy bottom settled in, they would come out to feast.  The itch would be unbearable and often led to rashes and some bleeding.

We would then overturn the chairs and bang them on the floor to shake out those bugs and then sprayed some Shelltox to kill them.    Enemy temporarily repelled but they would return, again and again.

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

It seems not so long ago, when I was still in my early thirties, neighbours (especially the female ones) with kids in tow walking past by me would nudge their little ones to say, “Call ko-ko”, hmm, and I was secretly and unabashedly pleased.

That went on for some time and then on one fateful morning a nice lady crossed my path and without any warning, told her little boy, “Call Uncle” !! What ? I remembered hearing all the air-raid sirens screaming around me.

Instinctively, I looked around me for some perhaps haggard-looking middle-aged guy who might had been shadowing me…nope, I was the only target for miles around. That was it ! Maintaining courtesy, I simply nodded sheepishly in despair, and quickly headed home for my mirror. “Oh mirror mirror on the wall,….,why do you need to tell it all ?”

Ok, never mind, just an occasional strand of stray grey hair and a little bit more of my forehead was showing up. Perhaps it was that cheap, “30% Extra” shampoo that I had been using.

Then, came the coup de grace ..sob sob. On my way down the lift that unforgettable day of reckoning, a gracious lady with a kid in the lift, uttered, “Call ah-pek” !! I thought there was a Richter scale 10.0, and the lift had plunged 11 storeys to the ground. It was that bad… the lady asked me, “ah-pek, you ok not, want some Axe-Brand hong yew (风油), or Tiger-Balm ?”

I could barely stagger out of the lift….. My day was ruined. I went home that evening …could not get over it, and wanted to pull out my hair… “how dare that lady call me ‘ah-pek’ ?” Then I went to look at my mirror again…..alamak, no need to pull my hair…. almost all gone already.

Great Mines Tin Alike, Pools Stannum Offered

Tin,  together with rubber, formed the backbone of the Malayan/Malaysian economy for decades until the late 70s.

In those days, a journey from Butterworth to KL through the Kinta Valley – by train especially – would take us past a number of big open pits which had powerful water jets blasting away at the side slopes and mounds inside.   Yellowish muddy water collected at the bottom of these pits  forming large pools. Later in our Geography lessons we learned that these were called Gravel Pump mines – and the precious stuff the people were looking for was tin ore.

(the other big time method was the kapal korek, or tin dredge).    Those were the ore-some days.   Now, many of these mines have been turned into recreational parks.

note : stannum = chemical name for tin

Hoe-some and Hole-some Fun

Does anyone still remember what a cangkul is ?    The nearest equivalent in English is “hoe”.

You might not believe this : in my younger days in the kampong, one of our favorite pastimes was to take the family heirloom – a legacy cangkul – and dig holes in the fenced compound surrounding the house.  My friends would play “war games” by digging two-feet deep craters in the soil, pretending we were some sort of WW1 trench soldiers, and then lobbying baby coconuts at each other.

At other times, we pretended to be animal-trappers, covering smaller holes with branches and leaves, and imagining some wild boar would be falling into them.  The squeals and screams of the “victims”,  of course came from some of us.

Of course too, our parents did not know whether to laugh or to cry or do both at the same time.  Hah, the fun was hoe-some, hole-some and awesome !

Green Green Bus Of Home 2

I called Butterworth home, from the day I was born till sometime in 1973.   And the most common public transport for the folks at that time were the buses of UTC, or United Traction Company.  The photo shows the livery as I had known it in that phase of my life – a mixture of Green plus a Dark Blue section towards the back.  We called it the “Chairne Kar” or green vehicle.

There were direct services from Mitchell Pier (later, Pengkalan Sultan Abdul Halim) to Bagan Ajam (my village), Teluk Ayer Tawar, Kepala Batas, Tikam Batu and Kuala Muda.

UTC also provided special “Bas Sekolah” versions which had a white stripe along the sides, with the words “BAS SEKOLAH” boldly printed on – only school children in uniforms were allowed onboard.

I remember UTC also ran a separate “premium” express service, which plied from Mitchell Pier to Alor Star.   The buses on this route had a distinctive Red & Beige livery.