Let’s be honest – it’s all about the food

OK – so Malaysia has beaches and sunshine.  It has history too, and the rainforest/jungle is a walking zoo – but all anyone here is interested in is food.

Malaysians talk about food in much the same way that Brits talk about the weather.  “Have you eaten yet?” is a common morning greeting, which switches to “What did you have for lunch?” in the afternoon.

Street food is huge over here, and there’s so much of it that you wonder how the stallholders sell enough to make a living – especially since every second building in town is a restaurant too.

There’s so much variety here that it’s taken me months to begin to get my head around the various types of cuisine and what all the dishes are.

Char Koay Teow is hugely popular, and is cooked in a wok over such fierce heat that it’s a health and safety hazard.

But punters are prepared to risk a bit of singeing, as they wait patiently in the queue –

It’s a noodle dish with prawns, cockles, beansprouts, chinese sausage and chives – plus whatever the chef’s signature additions are –

– and jolly yummy it is too.

Rice porridge is something I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to try, but this bowlful was eaten by an adventurous colleague

It’s served with Century eggs (the black ones), salted eggs (the white and orange ones) and a raw egg which is just beginning to solidify in the hot porridge.

An alternative to the egg medley is this one –

I haven’t tried this yet either.  Although, as a francophile, frogs don’t faze me in the least (but don’t tell Mr Toad).

But it’s not all street hawkers, there’s posh food too.  Last Friday we went to a Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant, to try their famous xiao long bao – or pork dumplings.

There’s a whole ritual involved with eating the pork dumplings, which are seasoned with vinegar, soy sauce and ginger, and then eaten whole.

Here they are on a plate with some jellyfish salad, which was delicious too.

The whole restaurant was very swanky, but I couldn’t help feeling that the staff looked like the latest Ebola Emergency Response Team, rather than waiters in a restaurant.

 

We had dinner in the jungle last week, which was a fantastic experience.  Who would have known that there’s a patch of virgin jungle on a hillside in KL suburbia?  Not me, even though it’s only a ten-minute drive from the condo.

The restaurant has trees growing up through it and greenery everywhere.

We had a local dessert called sago – pronounced sargoo over here – and nothing like the hot milk pudding served in England.

This one was cold, green and coconutty –

– yep, it looks like frogspawn, but tastes a whole lot better.

And just to prove that we really were there …

Here we are with the lovely Julia, who works with me, and her parents, who have introduced me to a whole range of different restaurants and food styles since I arrived.  So much so, that I may have to invoice them for my new XL-sized wardrobe.

 

In which I discover that David Attenborough is a tad prudish

Penang Hill is 833 metres above sea level, and is reached by a funicular with an ascent which seems almost vertical in places.

The top of the hill is a strange mix of ancient and modern; the man-made world and the natural world clinging together on a hilltop.  If you imagine an English bluebell wood with Mr Blobby’s World jammed right up against it, you’ll get the idea.

After you’ve admired the view –

And wondered what all the instructions for weight lifters could possibly mean –

You can visit the tunnel of lurve –

where you can have your photo taken inside a heart-shaped arch – choosing the most appropriately titled one for your circumstances.

I looked for the heart labelled ‘Gin’, or even ‘Sauvignon Blanc’, but as I couldn’t find either I declined a photo.

Another photo opportunity is the padlocks of lurve.

Presumably inspired by by the Pont des Arts in Paris, you can attach a heart-shaped padlock to the railings and then take a photo.  But unlike in Paris, it doesn’t seem to be restricted to couples here.

And perhaps it can also mean ‘I’m looking for lurve’ …

And if all this is just too subtle for you, you can always opt for the lurve installation –

just to make sure you hammer your message home.

But for me – not being a lurve-seeker – the most interesting thing on the hill was the rainforest.

It’s partly equatorial and partly tropical rainforest, and is thought to be 130 million years old.  It has some of the oldest plants known to man – and to dinosaurs –

such as this fern, which is one of the oldest species in the rainforest (can’t remember exactly how many millions of years old it is).

Our guide showed us monkey cups

which collect water inside to lure insects to pop in for a drink.  Then they slam the lid shut and eat them.  Vegetarians please note – plants are hardly the pure, selfless, oxygenating victims they make themselves out to be.

The Amorphophallus Titanium was not in flower when we visited, but our guide showed us pictures.

It only flowers very rarely, which may be a good thing because it smells like a dead rat – which apparently attracts pollinators.

When it’s fully open, the flower is the largest in the world –

… just imagine how a dead rat that size would smell.

The flower is always referred to by its common name of Giant Deformed Penis in Malaysia, and if you look at the bud –

you can see why.

However, the guide told us that when David Attenborough arrived to film the flower for his TV series, he refused to call it the Giant Deformed Penis, and insisted on referring to it as an Arum Lily.

Whoever would have thought that a naturalist would have such a puritanical streak?

 

How to get away with murder

Have visited the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang.

 

 

It’s set in an idyllic location on the coast with tantalising glimpses of the sea through the greenery.

 

 

Our guide showed us all sorts of exotic plants –

 

 

plus bats –

 

 

snakes –

 

 

and even the cat’s whiskers –

 

 

used to make a type of tea.

 

 

This long, flat leaf smells and tastes exactly the same as coriander, but looks nothing like it.

 

 

Ginger flowers are just as delicious as the root, but much prettier.

 

 

And this is what nutmeg looks like on the tree.

 

 

The real eye-opener, however, was the poison garden, where I learned that practically anything that grows can kill you.

For example, a single Oleander leaf is enough to kill a person. So the average Mediterranean resort contains the wherewithal to wipe out most of Europe.

 

 

 

Or, if you fancy a zombie-like slave in your life (and who doesn’t?) … just invest in this small shrub

 

 

originally from Brazil, but I’m sure it could be enticed to flourish elsewhere with enough TLC.

 

 

Cerbera odollam is also very useful – especially for disenchanted new husbands.

 

 

Although – as its common name is the suicide tree –

 

 

I’m not very clear as to whether it’s the husband or the wife who decides that marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I was also interested in the rosary pea

 

and its ability to predict weather conditions

 

 

… wonder if it could also predict lottery numbers?

 

All plant orders to me, please, and I will command my zombie-like slave to post them off to you.

 

Pottering around Penang

Spending a few days in George Town, capital of Penang.

It’s full of cutesy architecture –

– and wacky street art.

The most famous piece is Children on a Bicycle, which is a photo-must for the cutesy

and the humorous.

Hunk on a Honda is pretty popular too.

There’s also a series of cartoons made of steel rods throughout the town, reflecting the nature of the different areas.

Love Lane is backpacker central nowadays,

but used to be famous for mistresses’ love-nests – complete with useful little ledges under the windows for the men to hide if their wives came calling.

And Muntri street honours its most famous son – Jimmy Choo –

Then there’s the beach …

white sand and the most beautiful warm turquoise water, and since the Malaysians don’t like swimming …

I had the whole beach to myself.

Trying hard not to sound smug here – hope I’ve succeeded.

Hitting the tourist trail

A week’s holiday from school – hooray!

Anthony has arrived from the UK for a visit.  He attempted to cut his costs by disapparating –

but unfortuntely couldn’t manage it without splinching, so had to resort to a more mainstream form of travel.

We visited the Batu Caves today – a holy Hindu site guarded by a 42.7m gold statue of Lord Murugan –

– with a large bubble machine in front giving him a bit of a disco vibe.

His backside was nearly as impressive as his front.

The souvenir shops would rival Lourdes for their imaginative reworking of religious images … no table lamps shaped liked the Virgin Mary here,

but these pictures have flashing lights all around them AND they play music.

We had to climb 272 steps to reach the main cave

which is a huge limestone cavern

with monkeys scampering around everywhere.

This one was optimistically going through someone’s old lunch bag –

but didn’t find anything to its liking.

And one particularly belligerent animal was sitting inside the shrine itself and refusing all efforts to shoo it away.

There is also the Dark Cave at Batu

 

– home to hundreds of bats, rare spiders and various other creepy-crawlies, so we put on hard hats, grabbed a torch and joined the tour.

Our guide showed us pictures of all the creatures we could expect to see –

and took a fiendish delight in frightening us more sensitive members of the group

We saw centipedes, millipedes, spiders and rats – but the bats were invisible, we could just hear them squeaking high up inside the caverns.  Apparently the whole ecosystem inside the caves depends on bat poo for survival, so I hope they are aware of their enormous responsibility.

 

A bad dose of the wordsh*ts

The dreaded ‘pupil reflections’ bandwagon has reached KL, and my school has leapt enthusiastically on board.

Just like in the UK, the children have no idea what to write apart from stating-the-bleedin’-obvious comments about working harder, trying harder etc.

But I could certainly empathise with this girl and her issues with wordsh*ts –

And it would appear that ‘sorry’ is no longer the hardest word –

And as for imporved spelling … how could I possibly imporve on that comment?

 

As I read this one I wondered whether the boy’s mother has realised that she’s paying for her son –

– to make progress in wrong spelling.  He’s doing very well at it, because next term he’s going to work hardest on ‘kitter’, which is spelt so wrongly that I have no idea what he means.

Oh well – another day, another dollar … while we wait for the next bandwagon to roll into town.

Tree yelling … a potential new hobby

In the interests of research I have been lurking in the bushes this week.

On my way home from work one day I heard shouting.  Hurrying along a tree-lined path, thinking someone was in trouble, I saw a red umbrella pushed in between two trees at a rakish angle, with an elderly lady standing in front of it shouting.

She didn’t appear to be in imminent danger, so I stopped and watched for a while, wondering what on earth she was doing – cat stuck up the tree?  grandchild hiding in the trees?

Then she took a step back, did a couple of stretches, moved forwards into the trees and shouted again.  It was a strange type of yell – slightly burbling – a cross between Tarzan and a good old gargle with TCP, and certainly not an ‘I am in mortal peril and need help immediately’ type of yell.

As I stood there watching she moved back a second time and spotted me, so I walked forwards, surreptitiously trying to get a good picture of her, and asked her what she was doing.

IMG_0434

She explained that she has to get rid of all her excess energy, so she shouts in the trees for somewhere between two and three hours every day.

Maybe I have too much of a Western head to cope with this sort of Eastern thinking, as I immediately thought of a hundred more productive things that she could do with all her excess energy, such as mending some of the pavements that she must have to pick her way across every day in order to get to ‘her’ tree.

But perhaps that’s not the point.

I resolved to do more research on the best ways to get rid of excess energy, and asked a Malay neighbour about the whole tree-yelling experience.

‘She sounds mad to me,’ she shrugged.

So perhaps there’s a problem with being too open to other cultures; you may end up taking lunatics seriously.  More research needed here too, I think

 

A revolutionary new approach to housework

Everyone in KL has a maid.  It’s a bit like having a cleaner in the UK, but they do more, cost less and call you ma’am.

What’s not to like?  I resolved to hire one immediately, but then found out about the drawbacks – they can’t be trusted on their own in the house, and you have to have a good idea of what’s in each cupobard and drawer so you can check that they’re not filching things whilst whisking a feather duster around your walk-in wardrobe.

If I was going to have to stay in and stare at my maid for several hours a week, I decided that it was all more trouble than it’s worth, and I would do my own cleaning for the first time in years.  Necessity being the mother of invention,  I have now perfected a minimalist approach to housework which is poised to take the world by storm.

Rule number one: never use the kitchen.

I have discovered that cooking leads to a disproportionate amount of cleaning, and is best abandoned as a pastime.

I am proud to say that I have never even opened the oven in my kitchen –

let alone used it.

Considering that I used to be a keen cook, the ease with which I have taken to this new Delia-free lifestyle is slightly alarming. But apparently new condos in South-East Asia are being built without kitchens, so perhaps I’m just ahead of the curve.

Rule number two: embrace Food Panda –

Food Panda allows you to order food to be delivered to your door by a courier, from a selection of nearby restaurants.  They charge just under £1 for delivery.

As you can see, I have plenty of restaurants to choose from –

– in fact, I could try a different one every day for almost three months, if my maths serves me correctly.

Rule number three: washing up is so last year.

 

Rule number four: never sit on anything which requires fluffing or plumping afterwards

sit on something low-maintenance instead.

 

Rule number five: bedlinen is quite unneccessary in a warm climate.

Rule number six:  no need to fill bins and then empty them laboriously on bin day.

Just tip all your rubbish over the balcony

into the swimming pool below

where the cleaner will pick it all out piece by piece

and throw it away for you.

Simple and foolproof.  I shall sit back and await a lucrative book deal.

 

Life at the chalkface – week four

This child had to be consigned to the recycling bin after asking me whether I had a baby in my tummy, and could she listen to its heartbeat.  May possibly start diet on Monday.

On a more postive note, my portrayal of an Egyptian explorer received rave reviews.  Heavily influenced by Mr Benn, I disappear into a cupboard and am unrecognisable when I reappear in whatever role the day’s drama lesson requires.

‘Miss Louise, you look just like Indiana Jones!’ said one girl, and I positively preened, assuming she was referring to my acting skills rather than the hat.

Have spent a frustrating day today trying to teach my two youngest classes about rhyme.  The conversations went along these lines:

“So which one of these words rhymes with suit?”

“Green.”

“No.  I know that the suit in the picture is green, but the two words have to sound the same at the end to rhyme.  Does ‘green’ sound like ‘suit’?”

“Yes.”

“No it doesn’t.  What about boot, which word rhymes with boot?”

“Sock.”

“OK (takes deep breath) – let’s try a different one.  Which word sounds the same as dog?”

“Bone.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Well, what about frog – what rhymes with frog?”

“Green.”

I wonder if there are any famous Malaysian poets?  Somehow I doubt it.

 

 

 

 

 

A stroll around the grounds of Toad Hall

Malaysians are not fond of swimming; in fact they don’t seem fond of exercise at all.  I walk to school every day, which only takes about 30 minutes, but any locals who discover this are appalled.

‘Is so far!  Why you no take bus?  Why you no take taxi?’

If you imagine telling a Londoner that you swim up the Thames every morning from Canvey Island to get to work, then you’ll have some idea of the strength of their reaction.

They exercise by strolling around the grounds of the condo in the evening when it’s cooler – many in full lycra outfits and trainers as they amble past the flower beds or stand and raise their arms above their head on the porch.

This is great news for me, because it means that the two pools are nearly always empty and I can decided whether I want to use the second floor pool –

slightly cooler, but with a lovely view of the sunset (notice the cleaners … will come to them later) –

or the ground floor pool –

warmer, but slightly further to walk … I’m beginning to sound Malaysian already.

Everything is kept immaculately clean, with cleaners working all day washing, wiping, scrubbing, and even picking every single leaf out of the water by hand.

There are some very exotic flowers around

and even a lotus-filled pond

and plenty of tropical greenery.

Plus more than enough bougainvillea to shake a stick at –

– if shaking sticks at shrubs happens to be your thing.

I love this orange flower growing across the poolside pergola, and I asked a local lady what its name is.

‘Oh, it’s just a weed,’ she said.  ‘I don’t think it’s got a name.’

The new gym, next to the cool pool, opened last Monday.  It’s very splendid with lots of shiny, new equipment.

See cleaner in the background, ensuring continued shininess of all equipment.

Mr Toad – hugely excited at the thought of a potential new enthusiasm

– was gutted to discover that his feet wouldn’t reach the pedals.

Underwear and toast: an unusual housewarming

Somewhat unusually, I decided to host a drinks and toast housewarming party.

Toasters are pretty hard to come by in KL, and I had to send away for one in the end, such was my determination not to live a toast-free lifestyle.

My colleagues at school were all very envious of my toaster so, not wanting to miss out on the opportunity for a bit of gluten-laden one-upmanship, I generously offered to provide toast at my housewarming.

And jolly successful it was too – we had toast and marmalade, toast and marmite, toast and peanut butter – minimal preparation and washing-up … highly recommended.

Then the evening got even better when I managed to induce wardrobe-envy as well as toaster-envy.

They were just as enthusiastic about my walk-in wardrobe as I had been when I first saw it, so I shamelessly pulled open my underwear drawer to show them one of the highlights … the individual compartments which ensure that your undies are classified and organised at all times.

No more rummaging for me, I told them. I’ve taken a good ten seconds off my dressing time in the morning and am one step closer to becoming a domestic goddess.

I’m hoping that the sudden silence following this unveiling was due to speechless envy of my storage facilities and not dumbstruck horror as the new member of the team flaunted her underwear.

Sussing the supermarkets

Depressingly, there are several giant Tesco stores in KL.  They look similar enough to UK stores, although their everyday products make ours look a tad dull.

But I haven’t come all this way to shop at Tesco, so I looked elsewhere.

There is a giant shoppping mall – fourth largest in the world, actually – within walking distance of my new condo and it has two supermarkets, so I decided to give them a try.

The first one, Aeon, has a baffling layout.  Some aisles have what I would consider to be sensible combinations of products.

Whilst others are frankly bizarre

 

or lead to unfortunate associations in the mind of the shopper

 

It certainly worked in my case, and I went scurrying off towards the relative safety of the bakery department  –

 

– Irish Patisserie??

 

Supermarket number two is the rather unattractively named Cold Storage.  I left it until last because it sounded like a Malaysian version of Iceland, but how wrong I was …

It’s not totally Waitrose, but then again, I haven’t come all this way to shop at Waitrose either.  So I skipped home happily with my tea and marmalade plus some coconut buns and Uncle Saba’s Lentil crisps, and felt that I had the best of both worlds.

Toad Hall

Mr Toad has finally moved to his elegant new flat, and can be seen here relaxing on his king-size bed, charmingly furnished with imported French cotton bed linen.

And relaxing with an aperitif on the balcony before dinner –

 

The new Toad Hall is on the fifteenth floor, with a somewhat vertiginous view of one of the swimming pools

and a view from the balcony of the city skyline –

 

– which I prefer at night.

It’s a far cry from the bucolic charms of Holt, where the only things lighting up the sky at night are the illicit cigarettes of a hundred rebellious teenagers.

What I like best about the flat is the walk-in wardrobe.

Although it’s slightly galling that – for the first time ever – I have enough wardrobe space, with four double wardrobes all to myself … but only one suitcase-worth of clothes to put in them.

Likewise the living area

and the kitchen

are all full of empty shelves and drawers.

For the first time ever, I feel truly minimalist.

Sexting pandas and my new alter ego

Have really taken to my new role as a drama teacher, and put in a stellar performance – though I say so myself – as Professor I C Stars in the Space Mission role plays last week.

Any resemblance to Worzel Gummidge is entirely coincidental.

 

Another role play involved a cocktail party – not sure they quite got the hang of the ‘cocktail frocks/lounge suits’ dress code –

And then there was the shocking discovery of the panda’s favourite pastime.

 

After a lesson researching pandas for a piece of writing, my class of 8 year-olds had to produce a report on ‘My Life as a Panda’ and one girl had obviously gone to a great deal of trouble to plumb the depths of panda depravity in the 21st Century.

So much for the panda’s reputation for extreme fastidiousness in the bedrooom department.  Am wondering whether to contact David Attenborough.

 

Pitch Perfect: The Sequel

I have a vomiter in my class.

Her mother – armed with plastic bags and a worried expression – explained to me that when this child feels stressed, she vomits.  With one eye on said child and another on my possible escape route, I tried to look sympathetic and caring, instead of repulsed.

Normally she walks into class, takes one look at me, and chunders. I try not to take it personally … after all, I’ve taught hundreds of children in my time, and not a single one – up until now – has felt the need to deposit their partly digested breakfast at my feet.

I’ve taken to eyeing her very warily if she comes anywhere near me.  Thank God for my extra-wide female peripheral vision, which I make full use of, scanning the classroom as though I’m manning a watchtower in Colditz.  I’ve also mastered the art of pushing the bin surreptitiously in her direction with my foot whilst readying myself to leap backwards out of spattering distance at a millisecond’s notice if necessary.

Who needs exercise classes when you have your own personalised dodge-the-vomit routine to keep you nimbly skipping round the classroom on a daily basis?

Petronas – and I’m not talking Harry Potter

Having been here for a week already, I was slightly embarrassed to have to admit that  I hadn’t seen the Petronas Towers yet.  It’s bit like spending a week in Paris and failing to spot the Eiffel Tower.  So a trip downtown on my day off was a must.

Feeling a bit Ubered-out, I decided to take the train to the city centre – they have a sort of overground underground here, called the LTR – and the single ticket cost approx 50p, with a train every four minutes or so … Transport for London, please take note.

And here they are, viewed from the base –

– where I felt rather overwhelmed and insignificant.

Particularly after I learned that: The towers are ‘intelligent’ structures, built with a system that seamlessly coordinates telecommunications, environment control, power supply, lighting, fire and smoke control, and building security.  I have yearned for seamless coordination for years – how come a building can manage it when I can’t?

Nestled at the foot of the towers – think Alpine village but with much less snow – is a giant shopping mall.  This is a city that views a day without retail therapy as a day wasted.

 

There are five floors of retail therapy here, including Marks and Spencer –

– which has lots of clothes and a tiny food hall selling nothing but biscuits.  If you ever come across a Malaysian who’s convinced that the British diet consists entirely of shortbread, you’ll know why.

The security guards look endearingly like British policemen with their caps  with checked hat bands … not sure if that’s a truncheon or a gun he’s holding behind his back.

And I was rather taken with this fruit stall in a nostalgic-for 80s-synth-pop sort of way.

I popped outstide to see the fountains, which are a prime photo spot.

Two men offered to take a photo for me in front of the fountains, but I declined.  I’m not sure whether I was more worried about them running off with my phone, or the possibility that I might turn into a narcissistic selfie-taker, with my face bobbing up in front of every tourist spot I visit … Mr Toad would not approve.

 

 

 

In which I decide not to become David Attenborough …

Mr Toad and I were relaxing poolside on a sunny afternoon –

–  when suddenly I heard a thud … a tiny little squirrel had fallen out of a large palm tree and landed next to me.

He gathered his wits, turned his head and then saw me and started scrabbling wildly, trying to get his footing on the smooth tiles around the pool. He shot behind another tree and hid there, peering out at me from time to time, obviously wishing I’d go away so he could scamper back to his family somewhere in the trees behind me.

I got up and started nosing around the tree, so he climbed to the top and hung upside down, staring at me.  This went on for some time –

–  until I got fed up with staring back at him, waiting for him to do something, and went off for a swim instead.

These squirrel pictures were taken by someone who goes out squirrel watching armed with a camera, rather than someone like me who is randomly suprised by squirrels whilst doing something else entirely.

 

The most expensive phone call in the world?

As my poor old phone has definitely seen better days

I decided to upgrade to a shiny, new, rose gold iPhone.

I rapidly installed email, added apps, put in a U.K. clock as well as a Malaysian one and felt very tech-savvy and pleased with myself.

Then I thought that I should add the number of this new Malaysian phone to my old phone and vice versa, just so that they could get to know each other, in a non-threatening way.

I was busy doing this in a blasé, technophile fashion when my old phone rang.   I didn’t recognise the number, so answered ‘hello’ in my best polite-to-strangers voice.  I was very surprised when I also heard my hello coming from the new phone on the table next to me.  ‘Is there an echo on the line?’ I wondered.

Then the realisation struck … I had just phoned myself; making an international phone call via England and back, in order to make contact with a phone that was approximately ten centimetres away.

Perhaps I’m not quite the digital native yet.

Free Plant Sprayer With Every Meal …

The Kuala Lupur Botanical Gardens, as one might expect, showcase a magnificent variety of lush tropical species.

The Oasis Garden

 

even has its own water nymph elegantly perched on a rock.

And I do love a pretentious sign, so I was delighted to read all about the Oasis Garden

I would have said it was more ‘ the symbiotic harmony of flora and aqua creating a synergy unrivalled in the natural world’ … but then, what do I know about oasis gardens?

 

There is a strict code of behaviour displayed at the entrance, and I really must learn some Malay, because a couple of the pictures made no sense at all

The top right looks like ‘no fire extinguishers’ – but you wouldn’t need one anyway, because bottom right is ‘no matches’.  Then the one next to the fire extinguisher – is it:

No couples? No cameo brooches? No speaking to a member of the opposite sex? No silhouette artists?

I decided to avoid all of these, just to be on the safe side.

There is a beautiul orchid garden

and a hibiscus garden, where I managed to listen in on a tour guide telling his party that the hibiscus is native to Malaysia and Hawaii, and the red one is Malaysian

while the other ones are Hawaiian

There was a particularly beautiful, dark pink frangipani

And an impressive corrugated roofing plant.

And so to the plant sprayer …

The restaurant is called The Horbill Restaurant, and it is picturesquely sited next to the bird park, with the deck outside overlooking the birds.

The disadvantage of this is that the hornbills perch on the ledge next to the deck giving you evil looks and waiting for a chance to swoop over and grab your food

So every meal arrives with a plant sprayer

As soon as you spot a bird inching closer to you, you squirt it with water and it retreats … genius.

I feel that there are many other untapped uses for the plant sprayer, to repel all sorts of unwanted intrusions, and I will be investing in one immediately.

The Year of the Cat?

No – apparently it’s the Year of the Rooster.

So I was rather puzzled to see an installation at Doha airport with approximately a thousand waving cats, wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

You may not be able to see clearly from the photo, but they are all waving their left paw stiffly up and down in an unsynchronised manner, like a mass physiotherapy session for feline frozen shoulder.

And I just wondered why.