I like to consider myself an incurable optimist. I mean, I used to think the laundry guys had to be doing something wrong because my pants kept getting tighter.

Like everything else these days, blame it on the pandemic. There comes a time in a man’s life when the only important question to ask oneself, after yet-another tedious day at home, is the searching: “What’s for dinner?” 

And you can imagine what a surfeit of said questions can do to a man’s waistline. 

These days, I need to work out like a fanatic just to maintain my svelte chubby figure. Or, let me put it this way: if I had remained in journalism, I can take comfort in the fact that I still have a face for radio. 

I think we all get heavier as we age because there’s a lot more information in our heads courtesy of all our reading over the years. OK, I’ll concede that my working hypothesis isn’t biochemically self-evident. But, hey, it was a good try.

No, the increasing heft has more to do with metabolic rates and the law of gravity. As we get older, apparently, our metabolic rates slow – in my case, it may have plummeted – and it takes longer and longer for our bodies to burn off excess calories. And that’s when you get fat:  energy gone to waist. 

In gravity’s case, tissues at rest, well, sag: they droop, stoop, they dangle…I think you get the drift. 

But have you noticed that corpulent people make for dignified figures? Indeed, the said droop is in keeping with nature and is considered “solemn” and, truth be told, is the source of the word “gravitas” which, of course, means “dignity” or “solemnity of manner”. 

Let me paint you a picture:  Jho Low in judicial garb?

I suppose it would be too much to swallow, even for Jibby. In the interests of full disclosure, I admit the etymology of said word might be yet another working hypothesis on my part. But, hey, no loss, no foul. 

As I get older, I take comfort in the words of Abraham Lincoln. “Common looking people are the best in the world,” he once observed, “and that’s the reason the Lord made so many of them.”  

And Singapore is the worst place in the world to be overweight. For one thing, you notice very few overweight young men here. A mandatory, two-year national service requirement puts paid to that. And I suppose the habit clings because you don’t see any overweight, fat old guys either.

That’s depressing where I’m concerned because even slightly overweight guys see me in restaurants, feel reassured and order another beer. In my dotage, I’ve become a symbol of reassurance, that letting it all hang out is not only fine, but dandy. 

Who’d have thought? 

But a word to the wise. You don’t get a body like this overnight. I mean, you must work at it. It takes years of neglect.  

It isn’t wholly my fault. Rebecca was always a good cook, but this pandemic is turning her into a serious contender. 

The Food Network Channel has transformed her into an X-Chef, as it were. Our kitchen now boasts a cast iron skillet, a thermometer for the perfect steak and her sourdough loaf is a thing of beauty and a fleeting joy, until the next one.  

So, no, I don’t suffer from over-indulgence: I enjoy every minute of it. 



Maybe it’s the pandemic but Malaysians are beginning to act mighty strangely these days.

Take the case of the Datuk and the Datuk Seri. Now these fellows were neighbours and, if they are to be believed, friends. The latter opinion is dubious and something of a stretch.

It was the Datuk Seri who started the whole ball of wax, apparently. The area of Puchong in Kuala Lumpur is a grimy, industrial district so you can imagine the consternation when Datuk Seri punctured the lazy, suburban quiet of one of its posher neighbourhoods by parking his helicopter in his porch.

It isn’t clear why.

Maybe, he was feeling depressed that the current movement control order in place over much of the country prevented him from using his machine. Maybe, because he could. The fact was that there was a helicopter inscrutably parked in a porch in Puchong.

His neighbour, a Datuk, also possessed a chopper but it was in his kitchen. He wasn’t amused and may have even entertained thoughts of chopping.

What came next was captured by a 38-second video clip that should embarrass each enough to want to migrate to Outer Mongolia. It was pathetic to say the least.

Shouting. Shoving. Profanity. Datuk Seri reminds neighbour that he is but a Datuk. So there. Like school kids. Rich people acting poorly.

The pandemic seems to be bringing out the worst in us. A woman was recently assaulted by her neighbour over a guava tree that shared airspace between the properties.

She said she’d written a note to him asking him to cut off a branch jutting into her garden because, she claimed, it was a source of insect infestation.

The neighbour’s reaction was to come over and beat her up. The police aren’t taking it with a grain assault but are pressing charges.

I wish my neighbour had written me a note about our durian tree all those years ago.

We used to live in Petaling Jaya then. My wife, had planted a dwarf durian tree in our garden and it had grown pretty well. What we didn’t know was that another had been watching the tree’s progress as well.

At the time, we had a Neighbour from Hell next door and she’d spotted a tiny spur of said tree poking into her airspace.

Did she write us a note? Did she lean over the fence to complain as neighbours might?

Nope. She hired a handy-man who climbed over our fence early one morning to chop the tree down.

We were in bed then and my wife woke me about the chopping noises. But we were too late and the tree was down and out by the time we investigated.

It was the first time I’d ever seen Rebecca lose her temper.

In her defence, NFH said the part jutting into her space had been “raining ants.” And the handy-man, clearly not the sharpest tool in any shed, confessed that he found it “strange” that he had to climb over but stoutly insisted that “she” said it was all right.

It was all very dramatic. Our other neighbour, a lawyer, offered to take a case against NFH. He said it was a simple “breaking and entering and “open and shut.”

Meanwhile, his wife was making howling-wolf noises and pointing at the moon, a reference presumably to NFH whom everybody suspected of being a couple of popadoms short of a curry. It was a rare treat for the entire neighbourhood so early in the morning.

Of course, we did nothing. They were old and, in fact, I helped the husband carry out the tree’s remains as the handyman had vanished.

And to think it happened during pandemic-free times.