Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Giant's Bread

The more I read of Agatha Christie's work, the more I want to read... I think the production of several of her books as movies in the 70s did her a disservice, even if that makes me sound pompous. Her writing is so intelligent, expressive and advanced that the film versions of her books don't half do them justice. Granted, she had a gift for turning out plots filled with suspense and drama (perfect for film), but that's only a tenth of the appeal of her writing.

My first exposure to her work was through the film version of Murder on the Orient Express, during that time in the early 90s when Malaysia's RTM2 (as it was then known) must have thought that Victorian period crime movies were the choice of the people, because they showed one or two every week. I was too young at that time and I thought it was just another boring, draggy British drama. Only later did I make the acquaintance of the real Hercule Poirot between the pages of Murder in Mesopotamia and Lord Edgeware Dies, and discover the charm in his personality that only Christie's words could have brought to life.

A couple of years ago, I was browsing in the bargain aisle of a popular bookshop in KL when I came across Agatha Christie's memoirs, Come, Tell Me How You Live.

Reading it is like being given access into her private journal. You get to see what her "everyday" was like, living on a Middle Eastern archaeological dig in the 30s. There is mention of violent inter-clan fights among the workers; the painful necessity of deciding which half of the discovered artefacts to surrender to the co-sponsors of the dig that makes my recurrent "Dark Chocolate Fantasy or Mango Sorbet?" quandary at the ice-cream store seem even more stupidly frivolous than it is;and pushing this book even higher up my personal rankings, there's even a cat. Not just any cat, but a professional cat.

Giant's Bread was the first of a series of non-crime novels that Christie wrote under the pen name of “Mary Westmacott”. It surprised me at almost every corner with how current and modern it was. If someone had told me it was a World War I period novel written in the past few years, I would have believed it.

I could tell you about the characters and the plot, but the weaving of the story is so intricate that if I do, I might compromise your enjoyment of the story. Trust me, this book is worth reading, even if you're “not the reading type”. You'll see how the trials and pains of growing up are practically universal, whether you're in pre-war England or '00s anywhere. You'll love her dry irreverence:

“The living don't all want exactly the same thing, so I don't see why the dead should either. There must be heaps of selfish dead – if they exist at all they must be very much the same as they were in life. They can't be full of beautiful and unselfish feelings all at once. It always makes me laugh when I see a bereaved widower tucking into his breakfast the day after the funeral and saying solemnly, 'Mary wouldn't wish me to grieve!' How does he know? Mary may be simply weeping and gnashing her teeth (astral teeth, of course) at seeing him going on as usual just as though she had never existed.”

I laughed at loud when I got to the parenthesis about astral teeth. I'm glad I read alone these days.

Anyway, I'm having a hard time returning this one to the library. It's like potato gratin on a draughty winter's day: once it's finished, you still want more.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Things we talk about

"I got my TV!"

"Really? What, you bought some $10 second-hand one ah?"

"No, it was free! It was left outside one of the houses near uni."

"Good lah. Well, we picked up a fan from the roadside too." (said with obvious pride)

"But mine's a TV."

"Well, ours is a fan."

"Fine. Watch your fan and tell me how interesting it is."

"OK lah, you win... this time."

Friday, August 15, 2008


Losing a practically brand-new mobile phone is not fun. Especially when one has just, the day before, spent hours transferring contacts to it from one's old (and therefore non-computer-connectible) phone. And when one isn't exactly in a position to keep buying new phones.

I'm so very thankful that some honest soul turned it in. Apart from the phone, I am also very fond of the frog that contains it, a gift from my brother who knows my taste in the cute and quirky.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Light at the end

I swallowed the tears as I watched the effects of a brain tumour at work. I swallowed my questions and vented my faith. I swallowed the "why?" as I looked at the "this is".

And finally, it's over.

"In this world, you will have trouble," was the promise. That's not the usual pep talk you'd get from a leader. Fortunately, there's more. "But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wish come true

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life."

Tree: shade, nourishment, respiration, life. How good it is to see it all sprouting from the soil of weary, sickened hearts.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


I am so happy for Anthony, my ex-colleague who's just got a scholarship to do his MBA in the UK! Happier than words can express. All the best, Anthony, and it's fish 'n' chips on you when (if) I see you in London!

Overheard on a street in Pyrmont: "Got any spare change for drugs and alcohol, miss? I promise you I won't spend a cent of it on food."

Talitha made an early appearance in class today... or did she? I can't remember how much about her I'm supposed to disclose, so maybe I shouldn't be blogging about her yet.

I think one of the best compliments you can ever receive is an unsolicited hug from a boisterous and usually unfriendly-with-strangers toddler, of the type where they run towards you at full speed with arms outstretched and lunge right into your arms. It made my hour, definitely.

I miss my nephew.

Friday, August 01, 2008

TGIF and other stories

Yes, thank you, God, that it's Friday and I can spend today filing my lessons, doing my readings like a good postgrad student, and watching a free movie.

Also, thank you, God, for Gore-tex,

for jackets made out of this beautiful textile,

and for the lovely people who gave me one of them,

so that when I absent-mindedly threw it into the wash one day and forgot that my mobile phone, house keys including electronic front door pass, and a friend's thumb drive were in its pockets, all of these items remained safely dry;

for that is how I found them after I had jumped up with a shriek halfway through the wash, run to the laundry room as fast as size 7 feet in treadless fluffy house slippers could take me, stopped the washing machine, and recovered the said items with trembling fingers.

You do take extremely good care of me and the things I have charge of. Thank you.
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