We left Singapore last Thursday. 

It had to be by land crossing if we wanted to abide by a newly signed agreement between Kuala Lumpur and the Republic.  

So, we decided to drive home by way of the Tuas crossing. 

At the Malaysian checkpoint, we both had to download the My Sejahtera app and, numerous questions later, followed a pleasant, female Immigration official to the medical tent where a guy decked out in full PPE regalia sat awaiting us. The poor guy: it must have been at least 32 degrees in the shade and for all that, he was remarkably good natured. 

He took two swabs from each of us: one from the throat and the other, from deep within our noses. For each, he had to change gloves. 

No wonder Top Glove shares are rocketing. 

The official said the tests would come back in 2-3 days and we would be quarantined for the duration. For the record, the tests cost RM200 each.  

Since we’d asked for a hotel, the only one serving as a place of quarantine was a KSL Hot Springs Resort in Johore Bahru.

It turned out to be in Tebrau and the “Hot Springs” business may have been in the copywriter’s imagination. In any case, we signed some forms, paid the deposit and were promptly locked up in a room on the 9th floor. 

There was a chair placed immediately outside the door. Our meals, towels etc, were placed on said chair after which the doorbell would be rung. It was like getting to know your food, Pavlov-style. 

The two days that passed were interminable and I shudder to think how it would have been had we attempted an earlier crossing and undergone the whole two-week quarantine. 

At 11.30 am on Saturday, we received a call from the authorities telling us we’d tested negative and could leave. Even so, we had to take our temperatures and answer a series of questions on our My Sejahtera apps every day for the next two weeks. We were free to go but it was made clear to us that we would be “under surveillance” for a fortnight. 

As is her wont, Rebecca turned out to be a minor celebrity there and, after we’d signed the necessary paperwork, everyone including the cops and the immigration authorities wanted to take pictures with her. 

As is my wont, I stood off to the side and, sure enough, no one noticed! I only wonder if anyone found it ironic that everyone in the pictures was masked.  

There were about 30 of us quarantined in the hotel and while we never met, we were placed in a single WhatsApp chat group which my wife kept track of. 

One of the guys, Fahmi was back from Singapore because his father was critically sick. On his first night of quarantine, unfortunately, his father died. He had to wait another day before he was found negative and allowed to go. 

It’s nice to be home and even the traffic isn’t as irritating as it used to be. The My Sejahtera app is also a distinct improvement on the one we had to use in Singapore. It’s faster and more efficient with much more common-sensical usage. Example: in Singapore, you have to both check-in and out while it’s just one way here.  

Everything’s ok except the politics and the new government which I believe the majority of us did not vote for. That sucks big-time. 


No post this week as dad is currently in quarantine with mum in Johor while they wait for their COVID test results (nothing to be alarmed about, just standard procedure). They’re finally back in Malaysia after being stuck in Singapore for five months. Please keep them in your prayers!

Thanks for checking in!



Stay drunk all the time

But on what? On wine, or poetry, or virtue, whatever.

But stay drunk 

(Charles Baudelaire, 19th Century French poet)

According to the Bible, Jesus Christ turned water into wine during a wedding ceremony at the urging of his mother, Mary, after the host’s supply ran dry.

Apparently, the assembled guests thought it was a very fine vintage too. They assumed the host had left the best for last. 30 AD had been a very good year after all. 

Now there’s a power some of us might love to have. Actually, it’s a distinct possibility and just waiting at a Cold Storage outlet nearest you. You no lomger have to gaze mournfully at your empty glass and wish for more. 

What’s more, it’s easy-peasy. No grapes. No fermentation. Nor do you need to sterilise equipment for the sake of hygiene. 

The brains over at Victor’s Drinks have created a MySecco kit which comes with all the ingredients you need to make what they describe as a “beautifully fresh and crisp sparkling wine with delicate citrus notes”.

Citrus notes?

Making prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) from the comfort of your own home. Imagine that! As Stephen Stills might have said: if you can’t be with the one you love, “love the wine you’re with.”

All you need to do, according to its creators, is to pour warm water and the included yeast and syrup sachets into the bottle provided, and give it a swirl. Fourteen days later, you have sparkling wine with fruity flavours; a do-it-yourself vintage, a sort of champagne-meets-the-21st-Century, Rube Goldberg trick.  

What will they think of next?

Each kit is priced at £19.90. And the firm has this tagline – “A man has got to believe in something, and I believe I’ll have another glass of wine.”

In these days of Covid-19, that’s not hard. 

But before you dash out to purchase said kit, you’d have to think long and hard. When it comes to wine, you have to take things on a case by case basis.

This is generally good news all around. Penicillin may cure, but wine makes you happy. Listen to Baudelaire.

It could also trim costs.  Imagine what it might do to government budgets the world over. Embassy booze bills would shrink dramatically while the United Nations might actually go into surplus.

And where would that put traditional winemakers? Economics dictate that they would have to cut prices but who’s complaining?

Of course, one should be careful about drinking excessively. I once heard of a fellow who, after a night of carousing, drove into a ditch. No big deal? Well, this fellow stopped at the ditch, looked right, then left, and then drove into it.

On the other hand, there’s the late, lamented W.C. Fields, who once famously quipped “I don’t trust camels or anyone else who can go for a week without a drink.”

Let’s face it. Wine is here to stay. It’s even crept into literature. There’s this new book out called The Wine Hangover: The Grape Depression. Or that classic the Wrath of Grapes.

And did you know there’s a new Mexican translation of that great Harper Lee classic, you know, the one about Atticus, Jem and Scout Finch.

It’s called Tequila Mockingbird.


The Raffles Hotel in Singapore is located on what seems to be a misnomer of an address because there isn’t a beach in sight. 

But the imposing colonial-style building eponymously named after Singapore’s founder still squats along Beach Road. That’s because when it was built over a century ago, the sea was visible through shimmering palms in the malarial heat of an island Sir Stamford thought might be a nifty port. 

The malaria is gone but the heat is still around although it’s dispelled by the many ceiling fans that line the route our guide takes to lead us to The Courtyard. 

We have now been stuck in Singapore for over five months largely because we landed a day before Malaysia imposed its movement control order. 

Then, just when it seemed that we could return to home quarantine, some idiots were taped breaking home quarantine and that loophole got closed.  

So, we thought we’d have a drink at the Raffles which was, at least, vaguely historic. I mean, Somerset Maugham staved off the chills via stiff G-and-T’s at the hotel’s Long Bar. 

Alas, the Long Bar was closed due to the virus, Rudolfo regretted but assured us the Courtyard would be just as good. 

We are led to a table amid the strains of the Stones’ Paint It Black, which I suppose is sort of par for the course for six in the evening. Rudolfo is from Chile and he’s here because he “followed my girlfriend home.” 

You have to suppose that’s as good a reason as any. 

We scan the menu and that’s when you realise how good the island is at branding itself internationally.

We learn that the Singapore Sling was invented in 1915 in the Long Bar by one Mr Ngiam, a bartender whose verve with gin-based cocktails endeared him to so many British hostesses that it made his at-first-shyly-offered pink confection an instant hit. 

We didn’t have one though: they were priced at S$35 a pop. 

But the guy who dubbed it the Singapore Sling was a genius who put the drink, its origin, on the map. 

Why can’t we do the same thing?

Malaysia is supposed to have invented Yee Sang so let’s just christen it the Kay-El Toss and get on with it. Why not Seremban Eggs for Foo Yong Tan? Tambun pomelos, anyone? And so on, ad infinitum.

And the thing that simply screams out to Malaysians visiting the Raffles Hotel is this: Malaysia has a zero history – zilch, nada, zip – of preservation or maintenance.  

The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station could be every bit as colonially imposing as The Raffles but history hangs shabbily on its frame. It is grubby; it has Ficus (a parasitic vegetation) growing in its cracks and it’s downright embarrassing given the billions squandered on wasteful projects or outright theft. 

Remember the country’s rest houses? They used to be quasi-motels where you could get a good meal relatively cheaply and a clean bed/toilet for the same privilege. These used to be looked-forward-to staples back in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now ask yourself: where are they now? 


There but for the grace of Beijing go I, breathed Felonious and shuddered so violently that he required two more goblets of soothing Dom Perignon to restore his customary good cheer. 

The chortling char siew, as he was fondly described in Hollywood circles, once thought there were lessons to be learnt in this instance. 

Crime did pay – for nine years at least – until you got caught. And it could have been worse, he told Hairy, his moustache-flashing father, “it could have been me.”  

Or me, thought Hairy Low, his moustache flashing triumphantly because in their case, it was still paying and then some. 

The object of their ruminations was Felonious’ one-time taiko and old-round, best buddy Fearless Leader who had been found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million to boot. 

Fearless had the finest lawyer money could buy in the form of Scruffy A, a pit-bull with a beard. Scruffy’s fees alone might have been punishment enough for Fearless, but the man had also come up with a compelling legal defence. 

Shorn of its legal rhetoric, and there were a great many, it boiled down to three phrases: “Who, me?”, “I didn’t know anything”, and “It was all Fatso’s fault.” 

Scruffy was proud of his erudite counsel and thought the latter defence especially brilliant. Alas, his brilliance was extinguished by a no-nonsense Judge Nazlan who dismissed it as “far-fetched, defying logic” and “lacking in credulity.” In short, what Scruffy thought had been lucid reason and sweet clarity, Judge Nazlan ruled as bunkum, hogwash and – his last offer – poppycock.

Indeed, the judge privately thought that even the Boston Strangler had put up a better showing. Still, after all the sound and fury, the tale told by an idiot signifying nothing, it had taken the better part of two years for Fearless’ trial to wend its way through court. 

Even so, the gallant Fearless remained undaunted and promised that an appeal would clear his name. Instead of waiting for said appeal, Scruffy enumerated Judge Nazlan’s “many mistakes” to the media although he magnanimously conceded that the mistakes had all been “honest”. 

But for all of Fearless smugness outside the court, he must have been dismayed by the international headlines he provoked the day after. 

An Australian newspaper ran “Plundering idiot” on its front page while the New York Times had “The fall of Malaysia’s Man of Steal” as its headline. 

On a note of accuracy: If you thought the NYT was punny, you should think local cartoonist Zunar, whose original it is. The paper had written to him asking permission to use it and he’d agreed. 

Fearless had liked Zunar well enough when he was busy skewering Dr M or Abdullah Badawi, but he’d thought the reference to a Super-thief had been in poor taste.

Fearless had been surprised when his coalition lost the 2018 election. But in truth, it wasn’t so surprising: the people had simply read between the lies.

It was that loss that had undone them both, thought Felonious sadly for he longed for the glory days of Equanimity and ice-cold white wine on its moonlit deck. 

The dumpy dim-sum concluded that the secret of success lay in not getting caught. And Felonious resolved to do so by emulating Teddy Roosevelt. 

Henceforth, he would always speak softly and carry a big wad of cash.