Saturday, 20 April 2013

KUALA LUMPUR IS HOT, HOT, HOT

How could you come to somewhere as exotic as Kuala Lampur without visiting the city?  I now know why Noel Coward wrote “mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun”.  With temperatures of 40oC and 90o humidity it is not a good idea to do a “City Tour” but, you know what, that’s exactly what I did yesterday. 

“So, what attracted you to do this City Tour Ann?” “Oh I don’t know, maybe the fact it was a 90 minute couch journey to the city in an air conditioned coach which would give me the opportunity to see some of the countryside along the way”.   The “countryside” was a main highway through vegetation, but the coach was comfortable enough and I even managed a quick snooze along the way. 

Kuala Lampur feels like another “crouching tiger”, ready to spring into action and take over the world.  It has the same air of prosperity that Singapore has due mainly to its strategic position between East and West.  Again, this was recognised by the British who colonised the area and the architecture in some areas of the City is spookily more British than Britian! 

One interesting fact:   Rubber trees have a life span of 30 years.  When the wood is processed it looks exactly like pine and the biggest buyer of this wood it IKEA.  So your IKEA pine wood furniture is probably rubber!

My friends Jill, Angelo and I have recognised many people from our trip last year.   It’s like the people who did the backpacking thing in their youth morphed into respectable even, dare I say it, prosperous citizens and have taken to the high seas instead!  We are thinking of requesting a reunion call being put out over the tanoy!  That would be interesting.

We now have 5 “at sea” days and tonight is one of our four formal dressing nights when everyone (apart from the men of course) put on they pretty dresses.  I’m not a “dress up” person  so I wear just plain evening trousers and a top and feel totally out of place. Horses for courses, as they say

 Today we are sailing up the coast of Samoa and, thankfully, there’s not a pirate in sight.  I was asked before I left what should be done for me if I got abducted.  I told them wait a few days to see if I enjoyed it or not before making any decsions.  Who knows, a handsome pirate might spice up the action.  But they assured me that it wouldn’t be like that.  Drat.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

SINGAPORE SLING

Remind me never to take excursions to these faraway places with strange sounding names that take forever to get to.   First stop Frankfurt where I encountered your atypical, “I have no sense of humour, I work in Border Control and you are an idiot”, German.

My first infringement was to cross over a non-existent line “get back”, “me?” “Yes you, get back over that line”, “what line?”  He looked so angry I decided to keep my mouth shut. 

“Do you have any liquids?” “Only sun block that I bought in the departure lounge at Heathrow Airport” says me, trying to look old and frail.  “Show me”.  I dug into my rucksack.  It hid from me, he scowled and I thought “shit, I had better find this quickly otherwise I’m for the high jump”.  Finally, I dragged it out.  “Ah ha! Too big, I have to confiscate”, but I bought it at the airport”, “I don’t care, you are not coming through here with it”. “OK”, I try to smile sweetly, he looks outraged.

The onward plane to Singapore was an A380-800 capable of taking up to 853 passengers.  It’s not natural.  An object that heavy shouldn’t be capable of flight. It’s not natural.   I had an aisle seat next to a charming French couple.  When he realised I was English he was delighted.  “Now I can practice my language skills on you.” Great!   We had such a fun time trying to understand each other. 

As we neared take off time he started looking around for spare seats that he and his wife could move to because, as he said, “I am a big man and need more room”.  I finally twigged that he was actually looking for a seat to move me into and immediately volunteered.  He leapt at my proposal and pointed out that there was a spare seat just across the aisle “that would be good because we could still converse with one another”. 

Feeling very magnanimous I asked the young man across from us if that seat was free. “No, I’m just talking to my friend, but that is my seat”, that meant that he and his friend had an aisle seat each with 2 seats between them.  That didn’t seem fair, but after my experience with the German I wasn’t about to argue.  OK, there was another aisle seat behind him so I asked the family taking up the other 3 seats if they would mind me joining them.  “Why would you want to do that?” Oh hang on, there’s a common thread going on here.  “Because this gentleman is very tall and could spread out if I moved”  “but what about my son, you will then make him uncomfortable” The son was about 6 and skinny, but maybe she was referring to my corpulence and anyway she did have a point.  

When I returned to my seat the first young man asked why I wasn’t moving.  I told him that the family behind didn’t want me.  He replied with a deadpan face “That’s very unfriendly of them isn’t it?”  My NBF then decided to trawl the plane looking for a suitable seat for me and found one. By this time I was beginning to feel as though I was in the middle of a chapter of Alice in Wonderland . 

Finally I arrived at my hotel exhausted and was shown into a room that was so small you couldn’t walk around the bed and had to ask for an upgrade costing another S$40 a night.  Not an auspicious start.  However, after waking at 2.00 am thinking I wouldn’t get back to sleep again, much to my surprise I did and the next thing I knew was that it was 9.00 am and I had had the best sleep for years.

Despite all that palaver my first impressions of Singapore are good. The people at the hotel are delightful, the streets are clean and there us a general air of optimism about the place.  Today I went on the hop-on hop-off bus and get a feel for things.  Tomorrow I might try to get to grips with the underground train service.  Tally Ho!    

Oh! One other thing, I can’t get my pictures to upload properly.  I may have to wait for “an expert” to help me out and that may be on the ship where wi-fi  is exorbitantly expensive.  What I’m saying is I am taking photographs, but whether or not I will be able to post them until I get home is another matter.
Oh and one other thing, I had a Singapore Sling (S$30 outrageous!) in Raffles and threw my peanut shells on the floor.  Another on off the bucket list!

TAX - WORK IT OUT



Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100...
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this...

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7..
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.

 So, that's what they decided to do..

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by £20". Drinks for the ten men would now cost just £80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.  So the first four men were unaffected.  They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men? The paying customers?  How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

They realised that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).
The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33% saving).
The seventh now paid £5 instead of £7 (28% saving).
The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% saving).
The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% saving).
The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% saving).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.  "I only got a pound out of the £20 saving," declared the sixth man.  He pointed to the tenth man "but he got £10!"  "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a pound too. It's unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!" 
"That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get £10 back, when I got only £2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"  "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison, "we didn't get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!"  The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works.
The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction.  Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore.  In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier

Saturday, 6 April 2013

LOVE: TRUTH, MERCY AND JUSTICE

I believe that this post speaks for itself.

When Nelson Mandela left prison after twenty-seven years and became South Africa’s first democratically elected president, he called upon his old friend, Desmond Tutu, to chair The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This commission was a series of hearings – some of them public – in which both victims and perpetrators gave testimony about their experiences and actions during apartheid.

At one of the hearings, a policeman, called van de Broek, told of how he and his fellow officers shot an eighteen-year-old youth, then burnt the body. Eight years later they went back, took the father and forced his wife to watch as he was incinerated. She was in court to hear this confession and was asked by the judge what she wanted. She said she wanted van de Broek to go to the place where they had buried her husband’s body and gather up the dust so that she could give him a decent burial. Van de Broek agreed.

She then added a further request. ‘Mr van de Broek took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can be a mother to him. And I would like Mr van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God, and that I forgive him too. I would like to embrace him so he can know that my forgiveness is real.’

Spontaneously, some in the courtroom began singing ‘Amazing Grace’ as the elderly woman made her way to the witness stand. But van de Broek did not hear the hymn, he had fainted, overwhelmed.

This extract comes from my daily reading "Bible In One Year" [bibleinoneyear@htb.org.uk]. htb stands for Holy Trinity, Brompton which is the church from which the Alpha Courses eminate.



Tuesday, 2 April 2013