Writing English

I have an English character in my book. Because. Well, because I’m a die-hard anglophile and I have this delusional belief that one day, just one day, when my book becomes published, David Tennant will play my main character. Since he’s free from Doctor Who.

Hey, a girl can dream right? We all need some sort of motivation when we slog through Nanowrimo. Although right now, my Nanowrimo novel is more akin to a pile of crud whereby characters sit by the River Thames and the beach and have long philosophical discussions rather than actually solving the crime.

You’d be amazed how many times I’ve written food into the novel just because I’m hungry. For instance, “Edward grabs a Krispy Kreme and hands it over to Alistair” and since I have been craving nachos since forever, it’d be a matter of time before on my characters grabs a nacho snack from 7-11. Even though they don’t really sell nachos in Malaysia in 7-11.

But I digress. I have an English character. Actually two. Right now, I have two English characters sitting by the Thames river (as all Englishmen do during their spare time. Just as how all Malaysians sit by the beach and collect coconuts during our spare time) and they are discussing about…well, life. And something is severely off about my characters. They don’t feel very…English.

I figured that my interpretation of English-ness is based on my short three years in the UK. And by reading the Guardian. And watching Doctor Who. Occasionally I’ll get my inspiration on BBC Entertainment but not that often, because if Englishness is defined by BBC Entertainment, the average Englishman not only spends time on the Thames river, they also try their hardest to appear on “The Weakest Link”. And by default, that means the average Malaysian angst away about our farm crops dying just like every Malay drama. And evil city girls stealing husbands away from the sweet village girl.

And we do stuff like ban yoga. Of which, if you’re curious about my stand it’s a “I don’t care. Really. I haven’t been to the gym in ages anyway.”

I was watching this clip off Neil Gaiman’s blog, it has Patterson Joseph, the most likely candidate to replace DT as the Doctor and I figured that’s what has been missing on my wriiting. Being eccentric. The British are so deliciously eccentric (really, a time travelling alien…who travels in a phone box. Take that J.J Abrams. Who needs millions of dollars to spend on concept art when you can just make Captain Kirk ride a bus all over space) and that is essentially who they are.

But capturing this eccentricity is as easy as the average Westerner writing about the average Malaysian’s paranoia and whiny-ness. You could easily overdo it and then it looks like nothing like the real thing. Which bothers me and now, my two English characters are sitting down by the Thames river, a shadow of their real-life couterparts.

The alternative, would be to British-fy them the American way. I can so tell if a book is set in England is written by an American. Usually by the copious amounts of tea the characters drink. And they are all related to someone posh, Lord something or rather even if they do something very common for  living. They also have a very strange way of speaking, something I’ve not heard in my three years that I was there.

So worst case scenario, my two characters by the Thames river. If I don’t find them to be British enough, I’m going to make sure they’d be drinking tea and eating crumpets and staying stuff like “Cheers” every other word so that we know, dammit, that they’re British.

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Proscratination is Key

It is 9:35am and my cat Miki is looking to jump onto my table with great trepidation. It could possibly because that it has quickly deteriorated into a mess since I last tidied up (which would be oh, three weeks ago). Or it could be it’s because he’s quite fat and there’s always this possibility that he’ll jump and fall spectacularly to the mess on the floor. So he’s taken to sleeping on my  bed, next to Sammy, my other cat who is stretched out.

The lovely thing about working from home of course, is having your cats distract you when you try to work.

I am super, super busy. I have a few million projects in my plate, and few million others that I’ve not even dared to look at. It ranges from Nano, two projects going on simultaneously and possibly planning for three other projects that some of my friends have expressed interest in doing (business and arts at the same time). So when I feel overwhelmed by the number of things to do, I open my blog up, write a few nonsensical paragraphs and then read the Guardian. When in doubt, procrastinate.

Recently, I’ve noticed that a few of my friends have been involved in some sort of political activism, one way or the other and they are angry. There are a lot of angry people out there, people who are angry about the government of Malaysia, angry about finance (well, that was me, but it’s borderline apathy again), angry about Prop 8. It’s not for me to criticize their anger but I am so, well not angry that it makes me wonder that in 4 years post-graduation (has it been that long?), I’ve stopped being angry and just become completely apathetic?

Apathy is bad, I think. But not being angry is also quite nice, makes it easier for me to keep focus and get things done as opposed to worry about changing things I cannot change. Or does that mean, my apathy keeps me from getting involved because I don’t believe things would change? Have I become that cynical that I do not believe in hope for the humanity? No, we can’t?

I’m confusing myself.

Philosophical and mindless thoughts exercise aside, Eizwan has finally come home! And he’s not a frozen Popsicle as everyone had suggested he might be. He brought home for me lots of goodies (hooray! I’m like a little girl who loves presents) of which includes a puffin with the Norwegian flag on it, a calendar to replace John Simm for 2009 and face wash from the Blue Lagoon. To which my brother looked at it and said, “Is he trying to suggest something?” Hey!

We ate Chillis to celebrate his homecoming and thus begun my overeating for this week. Chillis tends to do that to you, one minute you’re eating a burger, the next you’re scarfing down pisang goreng (banana fritters) and char kuey teow. Okay, not all at the same time, but in a shot time-frame. And I’ve yet to go to the gym since my head oscillates from being completely fine to the room spinning around and me falling off my chair from a dizzy spell. I think it’s a sign of an infection or some sort of funky virus those children might have carried when I was volunteering at a kindergarten concert.

And about kindies? Instant birth control! Despite the little children looking adorable running around and dancing about in their super cute outfits, I cannot help but feel very tired trying to catch up with these mini-human beings. Having said that, the instant birth control comes from the parents in kindergartens. I’m sure at one point these people were decent human beings, but having children have turned into some scary and selfish monsters. Some of them were scarily aggressive and downright mean, that it makes me wonder how on earth do you educate your children to grow up to be well-mannered and thoughtful adults? The kids emulate you and when you push small children aside to grab toys for your child, your kid will just grow up learning that it’s okay not to queue, it’s okay not to say thank you, it’s okay to shove another child off the stage to get what you want.

I think it’s offensive but then again, what can you do when a parent thinks those ARE the right values to teach their child? Being nice means being last? Courtesy is a sign of weakness and the best way forward to succeed in life is to rightly grab what is yours? Would I turn into one of those aggressive and selfish parents the moment I have a child and then assure myself, I’m not like one of them? The thought frightens me.

Anyway, enough of the rambling for this morning. It is now 10am, enough procratisnation for the day. I have to get back to work and make sure my head does not explodey in between. Ciao for now.

Who Children In Need preview!

To be honest with myself, post the season finale of Season 4, where I bawled my eyes out at the ending, I found myself losing interest in Doctor Who. Shockingly, I was not checking the DW News website everyday (shut up, David) and then I found myself less and less searching for new rumours. When David Tennant announced he was leaving, sure I went weak in the knees and spent my last day in Langkawi mourning his departure as opposed to actually looking at the island but I did not watch the videos of his leaving. Although that might be due to me being in denial.

Hell, I did not even wake up at 6am to download the latest Children In Need episode like I did the last time (really, stop snickering David. I know I’m a geek).

But having remembered that the CIN episode had finally aired, I made my way to Youtube to find the latest episode, the sneak preview of the Christmas special. And I can feel myself smiling (really David, it’s unbecoming of you) and I am SUPER, SUPER excited for the Christmas special now. Now, I’m more than err…convinced that I should go to the UK next year for Christmas just so that I could watch the Christmas special when it happens.

Aaaah! Christmas can’t happen soon enough! After the lousy financial year, all I want for Christmas is Who!

***

Today I’m about to do something I am completely unused to. I am volunteering myself as a torture victim helper at a kindergarten concert. It is completely unlike me since well, I’m not comfortable around children all that much.

But this would be an entirely new experience, and I’m all for new experiences. I think. I have to say, I’m dreading this more than a dental visit.

I’ll write if I survive tomorrow.

The BBC Curry Experiment – Failed!

Motivational story of the week.

I am a failure when it comes to making traditional Malaysian dishes. The thing about local dishes is that there are few tried and tested recipe books. Most of the best cooking comes from mother to daughter, passed on for generations, that sort of thing.

And obviously, since I actually learnt to cook via the internet (Google! I love you!), I’ve been too proud to ask my mum or my grandmum on how to cook. That and the fact that it took my grandmother ages to accept that I can cook. She used to look at me and go, “You?! Cook?!” and laugh as though it’s the most hilarious thing she’d ever heard. Once she accused me of peeling an onion like a Westerner. I’m like, “There’s a Western way of peeling onions?”

But I digress. I’m a real failure when it comes to Asian cooking. My family has long lists of my failed attempts, the most famous one was referred to as the BBC curry incident. It happened when I um, decided to cook curry following a BBC website recipe (hey, the BBC website had yet to fail me!). It came out more like…a spicy soup rather than a curry. No, a mildly spicy soup. Needless to say, it went down very badly in the house.

So each time when I offer to cook Malaysian, everyone in my family would say not the BBC curry! Loudly, as though they’re in pain. So I tend to decline and I rarely cook Eastern stuff.

Except!

Two days ago, we ran out of food completely in the house and the only that was left was curry powder. Mum was sick and so I offered to cook instead. My mum had this slit eyed look on her, she was thoroughly unconvinced that I could cook it. Finally I said, “Fine, just stand behind me and tell me what to do.”

Okay, so with my mum standing behind me, I’ve figured out exactly why I’ve failed Eastern cooking. They have probably the vaguest description on earth. Like my mum’s “Traditionally, Lin, Malaysian cooking requires you to fry the curry paste until the oil breaks.”

“The oil what?! Breaks into what? How can I tell I broke the oil?”

And then she looks at me wisely. “Except since we don’t use that much oil, so that old adage doesn’t work.”

Gee…that helps. Will write a recipe book that way. “Oil will break sooner or later, please stand and watch out.”

So okay, when I do put in the chicken then?

“Oh, we add it in when the curry paste does not smell so powdery.”

Alright. Define smelling powdery. Curry powder generally smells of curry to me.How does one separate curry smell and powder smell.

“Oh you know! You will learn.”

And then of course, my favourite piece of advice:

“Now, Lin, we add the chicken into the curry paste. Stir them in and leave them for a few minutes, until you know the curry paste is one with the chicken.”

Oooohhhmmmmm. Curry paste is one with the chicken. OOoooohhm.

Surprisingly, I cooked a kicked-ass curry that afternoon. So, there is a possibility for success. There really is. And thankfully, the curry I made has finally stripped me off the “BBC curry reputation”.

So here’s to success and perserverance.

Oh, to anyone who is curious about my kick ass curry, here is a recipe, with the vague Asian directions included:

Chicken curry

  • 4 pieces of chicken. Whatever size. Not a whole chicken. Preferably small-ish.
  • 1 big onion.
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6 tablespoons of curry powder – this shocked me. I thought two tablespoons would suffice. Apparently not. Preferably Baba’s Curry powder because Adabi’s one suck.
  • Enough water to make the curry powder into a paste.
  • 1.5 cups of water (if you’re cooking for four). More if you have more chicken (like duh! Obviously!) You can replace this with coconut milk if you prefer.
  • One potato – cubed. Yes, we mix starches here in Asia, so get over it.

Directions:

  1. Chop the onion and garlic. Fry them in some oil. How much oil is up to you. If you like oily food, add more in. Fry till the edges of your onion browns a little.
  2. Add the curry paste in. Fry them till…well, either your oil breaks or it doesn’t smell as powdery. Hey man, I can’t help you there either. I don’t know how it looks like.
  3. Add your chicken pieces. Cover your saucepot to allow the chicken pieces to become one with the chicken. Apparently, you’ll just KNOW when that happens.
  4. Add water. The 1.5 cups.
  5. Oh yes, add salt. 10gms for four people. 15gms for a little bit more than 4 people. That’s probably the most accurate part of the recipe. I think it’s best to throw the potato in at this point too.
  6. Leave it to simmer till the sauce thickens. The thicker the better.
  7. Once it’s done (oh you know when it’s done), serve with rice. Yes, we mix starches and proteins. It’s the Asian way of doing things. Eat.

***

And I’m still nanowrimo-ing. So much so that I haven’t had time to write the script I’m supposed to hand-in for NIDA. Nanowrimo is so much fun, I’m encouraging people to join in as I write. And now, for an excerpt . I’m going to try put in one every day.

If Edward’s brain had not been addled with as much alcohol as he had consumed that evening, Edward would have seen the young man’s fist coming and perhaps stepped out of the way. But he had, ultimately, spent the entire evening nursing his sorrows over champagne and when the fist came flying towards him, he was powerless to avoid it.

What happened next

It felt like the entire holiday was a dream. Did David really come over and we dragged each other halfway across the country? Sometimes I’m quite sure I made the entire ten days up in my head, that the entire part up the cable car was made up for drama, in between my struggles for plot ideas for my story.

Speaking of plot, I am officially trying for Nanowrimo this year, as you can see on the widget on the right hand side of the blog. Of course, it seems a little mental when I’m also trying to squeeze in work that I have been leaving behind for a while (which as always in Malaysia, requires chasing, chasing and more chasing) and then further chasing other people. I’m getting unnecessarily stressed but then again, when have I not been stressed.

Other than all that, I have been suffering from a bad headcold since Thursday with an irritating little cough that sort of goes like, “eh, eh, eh”. I’ve been loading up on medication and pain-killers. Occasionally I start veering off-kilter from so much medication, but I like medication, so there’s no complaints. Sure I start to sound a little druggie-like, but why should I detest stuff that make me feel better when my body breaks down.

And bodies should not be breaking down, they should be like the Tefal frying pan or something, good for thousands and thousands of uses.

***

And something I’m just going to do for fun, if I can bare to look at my writing. Writing something like Nano means the writing that comes out of it tends to be super rough and a little cringe-worthy. But at least y’all know that I’m actually doing something with my life as opposed to sitting on my arse and wishing the day away.

So here it is, in all it’s unedited glory.

The two of them sat together, next to each other on the pool chairs as other guests crowded around them. He hated to stereotype but most of the women guests were crowded amongst each other, whispering fearfully whilst the men gathered in front of their women in their vain attempts at protecting them against the hordes of insurgents that had crashed their party.

“Is insurgent the right word to use in this context?” Edward asked as he looked at the masked men with the banners and the placards.

We Don’t Do Sappy

Exasperated people at the Raffles hotel

Exasperated people at the Raffles hotel

It had been a manic 10 days, where David finally (!!) fulfilled his promise to come visit me in Malaysia. From the moment he arrived, it had been an absolute whirlwind with non-stop bantering, insults and eating. I made David  eat assam laksa, nasi lemak and the infamous durian.  He did so without flinching. He made me walk, and when I mean, walk, he made me WALK Kuala Lumpur at the height of the mid-day sun. I did so, with lots of whinging.

But I survived! We survived, really. We survived stares from people, people who wondered if I was dating this not-bad looking white dude. We survived walking KL on foot, lounging by the beach and the pool, climbing up the twin towers, taking an overnight train to Singapore, driving to Shahira’s open house for a traditional Eid do (and getting lost), hiking up to a few waterfalls, staring at tacky Asian sculptures, giggling like teenagers at a fish spa and David survived my driving (although he did shout like a little girl most of the time).

I can’t believe it was ten days ago he touched down in KLIA, after not seeing him for a year and I can’t believe he had just left.  It seems too soon, and even though we don’t do sappy, I miss you tons already and I can’t wait to see you again.

P/S: And! President Barack Hussein Obama. Icing on the cake for an awesome 10 days.