Still counting higher and higher to reach 100.
The Mesian-message is soaring up to the 100 number.



The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. They lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while.

 Pot On Stove

Hence the rhyme, Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.

Here are some more facts about the 1500s:
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of the bride carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.

 Baby in Bath Tub

The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the came turns for the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water".

 Raining Cats and Dogs

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats, dogs and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof when it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying: It's raining cats and dogs.

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

 Wheat Bread

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying: Dirt poor. In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, bring home the bacon. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat. Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

 Lead Cup

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

 Bell in Hand

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a ...dead ringer....

And that's the truth. Now, whoever said History is boring !!!

Z      O      O       M      S       IN

He was once the favourite, the lucky one chosen. For what? For a tour of the United States of America in 1956! How we envied his good fortune. Mr. Miles took Shamsuddin Salleh along with him when he went back to the US for his furlough.

So far Shamsuddin had been mum on his travel story. No, neither have I nudged him to bare it all. But then out of the blue, Shamsuddin sent me a letter, and another, a third one, a fourth one and I am expecting more letters from him. In these letters he pieced together the episodes of his travels in the US. Here it goes......

STORY NO. 6 - BACK TO 1956
by shamsuddin salleh

On 24 March, 1956 Mr. Miles and Shamsuddin were sent off at Port Swettenham (now Port Klang) by a few busloads of teachers and students from MES. There they boarded a ship and sailed through the Malacca straits. After 12 hours of sailing and might be stopping, the vessel arrived at Penang. From there the cargo ship they had boarded set sail bound for the US via the Indian Ocean.

Now Shamsuddin remembered his sea voyage. As soon as the ship set sail into open sea, Shamsuddin had the first taste of being at sea. He was knocked out with sea-sickness. Who would not fall sick, when the ship rolled from side to side and lunged forward tilting and dipping its behind, like a whale of a fish.

 Seasixk Man

He said, he felt his headís contents or his brain was also shaking! Unlike on land, when you feel your head spin, you could just lie down and get back you balance. But out in the open ocean in a ship, while lying down the ship rolling from port to starboard and pitching forward and backward would disrupt your brain. That was how he felt according to Shamsuddin.

In his own words in a series of letters to me Shamsuddin said:

"Whatever I swallowed (solid food and liquid) instantly they were thrown out. The ship captain gave me medication and dried biscuits to live by. Luckily I recovered before reaching Colombo, Ceylon then (now Sri Lanka). There the ship dropped anchor for a few days. We went ashore and found a restaurant that served rice and various types of curries. We had a good meal."

"They served no rice and curries in the ship. Instead there were only Norwegian foods mostly consisted of various types of fish. Those dishes I could eat but only a little. Other foods were mostly western: meat, bread, potatoes and chicken. As meat was a dubious item due to my religious inclinations, I avoided it. The rest I ate to my heart's content especially potatoes for I like potatoes," he said so.

"We headed for Cochin, in India after leaving Colombo. On the 30th of March we arrived at Cochin. The ship anchored way out in the sea but somehow we managed to go ashore for a good look see. We did some sightseeing. I noticed that bales and bales of cashew nuts were loaded into the ship for shipment to the USA."

That must be the most important port for cashew nuts export!

 Homeless in Mumbai

People sleeping in the streets of Mumbai
"After Cochin our vessel stopped at Bombay (now Mumbai) for four long days. Mr. Miles and I went ashore several times. One of the interesting tourist attractions we visited was the Hanging Gardens of Bombay. It was not much of a garden, anyway. Sometimes we returned to the ship late at night. As we walked along the five-foot ways we had to be very careful not to trample on somebody for the five-foot ways were packed with sleeping people," Shamsuddin wrote.

From Bombay the ship sailed across over the Gulf of Aden where it dropped anchor at a port of Djibouti in Somaliland. We crossed the Red Sea heading up towards the Suez Canal. We passed the Suez Canal in a convoy of ships at night. The view was magnificent. We stopped at Port Said. Then the ship sailed across the Mediterranean Sea (how some of us had found difficulty pronouncing that name) without stopping at any port.

We sailed passed the Straits of Gibraltar and headed into the Atlantic Ocean," in his letter Shamsuddin mentioned. They ran into stormy sea and even Mr. Miles lost his breakfast. Everything he swallowed was thrown out. Shamsuddin could take it no more, for all day he laid in bed half awake.

In the middle of the ocean, Shamsuddin felt that the ship was still but it was in motion. Once in a long while, he saw wisps of smoke yonder, over in the horizon. Then ships' funnels appeared and the masts became visible. The approaching ship might pass by or just went in another direction.

 Flying Fish

Other than that there was nothing in the middle of the ocean. Only a few flying fish sometimes took to the air and then dropped back into the water again. I asked if he saw birds. "No, there's none in the middle of the ocean," he said. "When we saw birds, then we knew we were nearing land."

"Conditions inside the ship and especially in the cabins were extremely hot." Said Shamsuddin. I presumed that air-conditioned vessels were still on the drawing board.

On calmer days to while away his time, Shamsuddin read a lot as there were reading materials available, like magazines, books and newspapers. I presumed they were all out of date editions. Then when he felt bored, he swam in a sort of makeshift swimming tub. It was filled with sea-water and often the salty water got into his ears that made him felt some excruciating pains. The captain nursed him back to health by giving medications and several jabs with a much-used blunt syringe. Shamsuddin must have felt great pains. But what was that compared to all the rolling, pitching followed by vomiting!

"After sailing for six weeks, our ship anchored in Halifax, in Nova Scotia in Canada. It was April 30. It had been a long journey. Even my hair had grown into tresses. So I went ashore and had a hair cut," continued Shamsuddin.

"From Halifax the ship sailed to Boston. (Hey, remember the story of the Boston tea party in our textbook on World History?). Boston was the first port of call in the USA. There we had to disembark," Shamsuddin remarked.

 Ship Anchored at Boston Harbour

The ship anchored at Boston Harbour
From there I began my visit on land across the vast USA , first from east to west. I will tell you all about that wonderful visit in the next dispatch. Just hold your breath.


14 AUGUST: I drove out before 8.00 am. I hit the Federal highway heading down to the capital city. My intention was to pick up Zulkifli. He is a Mesian who had descended from the Cameron Highlands leading the Pahang team to play hockey. As they were off today, last night he called me hoping to see some of his MES old buddies. I have arranged with Zainal Lisut and Bahari Shafie to meet Zulkifli. That was why I was down to pick him up and whisk him to see his buddies.

I swoop down on Brickfields and snatched up Zulkifli in my jalopy. Then I drove him up to Kalana Jaya to see Zainal and Bahari. Zainal came on the dot at 9.00 o'clock. Zulkifli and Zainal had missed each other a lot. After about half a century, Zul still recognised Zainal. Immediately they started to talk about old times gone by. Then came Bahari in his Mercedes. We were whisked off by Zainal to our intended rendezvous the Royal Selangor Golf Club. Zainal is a member there. Over a sumptuous breakfast we reminisced of old time in the l960s. Zulkifli and Zainal were old time soccer and hockey players so was Bahari.

Zul said, "if I were to meet you in the street, I would not know who you are!" He told Bahari. When they were in school, they were only teenage boys, commended Zul.

Zainal is a chatter-box so he rattled off. He knew of many Pahang people around in Kuala Lumpur now. He was somebody in the inner circle of some political melting pot. In his younger days, he ran a lot, talked a lot, did a lot and people he knocked into him were lots and lots. He liaised with those down at the bottom of the social ladder and people high up to the top.

Bahari, Zulkifli, Zainal, Suy 


Bahari Shafie, Zulkifli Arrifin, Zainal Lisut, Chan Suy Sang

Once Zainal was supplied with three lorries full of cigarettes and he distributed that to the smokers who were begged to just scribble little pencil crosses on little pieces of paper. Since many had never smoked real cigarettes so beautifully packed, they accepted the packets. Normally they rolled cigarettes on nipah leaves and smoked the tobacco, known as rokok daun. Now free cigarettes in packets were something new; something of standard. So after smoking them they were so intoxicated that they would do whatever they were told. They just crossed the sailing boat - not deleting it but selecting it. Who would not if they got things so good? You have to be familiar with the political climate those days to try understanding my metaphor.

From the conversation I came to know that Zulkifli started school as a bin Pandak. He was raised by his aunt - his father's sister. When the old lady died, he returned to his father. Then only he knew that he was a bin Ariffin for his biological father's name was Ariffin. His father was a Tok Mudim much feared by the boys around who were going to turn into adults. But as they had lost Zulkifli's birth certificate, dresser Ariffin had to swear and declare officially that Zulkifli is a bin Ariffin and not a bin Pandak.

How did Zulkifli end up to study in MES? Thanks to the LCE that weeded out Zulkifli. He came in to continue his Form 4 studies and then learnt more especially shorthand, bookkeeping and typewriting. No government school those days taught those things. Those days school leavers who started working knew nothing except the 26 letters of the English alphabet, and some combinations of the mighty 26 that carried some meanings. Now Zulkifli is a somebody in the Pahang hockey fraternity. He leads the state team to play throughout the country.

Bahari spoke a lot about his hometown Kuala Lipis. Many Kuala Lipis people have left their hometown. They are doing well in Kuala Lumpur now including Bahari himself and his spouse.

For me nothing came out of my mouth except to answer their questions and interjected short comments during their intermissions. Only my ears were taking in all the conversation.

When we dispersed, there were lots and lots of things that we had had no time to brag more. We promised to see one another more. I ferried Zulkifli to the train station to board the LRT. I felt that it was a good experience for Zul to return to his hotel by the 20-minute train trip than I inching my jalopy through the heavy lunch hour traffic that might take an hour to reach. Cheerio buddies.


The October diary of his was full of names so I would do a literally name calling: There were mentioned of How Seng, Tengku Rahim, Othman and Goon Ting. I heard Zulkifli mentioned of seeing one Tan Goon Ting in Kuantan the other day (12.8.2009). How is that he is still left out from my list? It is because nobody has given me his address nor his phone number.

Then there was mentioned Tengku Nizan, Miss Madden, Lucy Kwan, Kwan Soon Leong, Ponniah, Aziz, Nyit Chin, Bala, Beserah, Khir Johari, Kanagaraj, Chow Yin, Mohd Noor, Kamarulzaman, Fakhruddin. Some of these are with the Al-mighty, the rest are still around, might be.

Santa is gone but Anthea is holding on. Yeng Kee, Cheong Yuet Ngor, Chong Foi Lan, Amiruddin, Brian, Samah, Sabaruddin, Sunny, Cheng Yoong, Tengku Ahmad, Ismail, Wong Kam, Nadzry, Nik Hassan were all mentioned. Only Yeng Kee remains kicking around in Bentong. Somebody said Brian is stayed put in Ipoh. The whereabouts of the rest nobody knows.

There were also mentioned Tengku Ibrahim, Ah Sui, Sharif and Zahid. And Tengku Jamil, Jeevanantham, Victor Dass, Mahesan, Muttukumaru, Ragwans Kaur, T.S. Nathan and Krishnan were mentioned too. Some of them were not students but Bentongís prominent residents.

MES shot into the limelight in games. The school wrestled the Pahang State Inter-school Hockey Trophy the Selvanyagam Cup. On coming back to Bentong, the hockey players paraded and waved the Cup round Bentong town. The proudest of them all was the hockey master: Brian Foenander.

There were a few squabbles in the hostel, but much diplomacy and heart-to-heart talks did the magic to dissipate ill-feelings and restore understandings. One punishment meted out (doing hard labour in the garden) was actually beneficial to two recalcitrant students, who after getting it said they like working in the garden. Did they become gardeners later in life, wonder I.

--- He writes six, he types click, clack as his cerebrum clicks ---
 Smiley Love

In the May 2009 issue of MYC!, a magazine for college students, there is an article entitled "How to Entertain Yourself on a Long Journey". Before I even started reading it, my mind went back to those days when we rented buses, packed them with students and teachers, and traveled to places like Kuala Lipis and Temerloh to give support to our Hockey and Football teams. Remember? We would sing all the way, me on the accordion and various students with other "instruments" such as tins with corn kernels inside to shake like maracas. Makeshift drums provided the beat, and there were always plenty of those. The music got louder when we drove through towns on the way; I guess we wanted people to notice us. We probably didn't sing on the way home if we lost the game, but if we won we sang even louder when we got back and drove around Bentong the School Song, of course: "M.E.S., we pledge unto thee bonds of loyalty...."

Sometimes we would play games. "Concentration" was one of the most popular. It consisted of slapping the knees with both hands, then snapping fingers, first the left hand, then the right. It took concentration, all right, because everyone had a number and had to snap his fingers in rhythm when his number was called. (Slap slap one three, slap slap three six, slap slap six four and so on.)

Those were the memories that the title of the article in MYC! brought back to me. So then I read the piece and was jolted into the 21st Century with these suggestions for entertaining yourself on a long trip: 1) Bring your Maxis Broadband USB along, chat up a storm on your msn, and surf to your heart's content.
2) Reload your phone and SMS your friends.
3) Splurge on a Philips Portable DVD player and throw yourself a movie marathon.
4) Bring your MP3 players and i-pods and sing along loudly if you dare.
5) Try to get yourself to the final stages of "Resistance: Retribution" on your Sony PSP, and then start all over.

(My readers, do you know what they're talking about? I certainly don't. You're probably thinking that I shouldn't be reading a magazine meant for college students anyway.)

I just hope the USBs, the DVDs, the MP3s and the PSPs give the young travelers today as much fun as we had with tins of corn kernels back in the last century.

Ted Miles

Deepavali Light
Deepavali Light


Birthday Cake Green

OCT 10
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OCT 16
OCT 17
OCT 24
OCT 25
OCT 26
OCT 31

 Book and Quill
Partly written and edited by Chan Suy Sang

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