Writing funny from Borneo.
When my daughter was eight, she declined to eat spinach. Now you must understand that, years before she had grown cleverer than me and won every argument we ever had.
So I almost never got the better of Smartypants.
Regarding the spinach, I found something called Swiss Chard in the supermarket and let her see the label before I prepared it as a veg for dinner. She was taken in and ate it like a lamb.
Gotcha, I thought. I’m one up on you.
But after six weeks of her eating spinach called Swiss Chard, my fourteen year old son could no longer contain his mirth and told his baby sister she was being had.
Boy, did I get into trouble. She didn’t speak to me for months.
Then I sometimes found myself writing funny too. Hard to know where it comes from. It just appears on the page.
After Faith and I reached Kota Kinabalu in northern Borneo, having crossed the South China Sea on our little sailing boat, we needed to overhaul our 34 year-old Volvo auxilliary engine.
Caption to pic: Open air symphony concert on the very northern tip of Borneo. You are looking toward Hong Kong but can’t see it because it’s a thousand miles away across the South China Sea.
We don’t use the engine much, but it was really getting old and many
parts needed replacing.
The spares were airfreighted by a Volvo agent in UK but never reached Borneo. Their shipping company dropped them off in Kuala Lumpur, Peninsula Malaysia and told us it would cost us double to send them on to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo.
This wasn’t very nice, because they had quoted the Volvo agent delivery to Borneo. For weeks, Faith and I tussled with the shipping company, but they treated us like dirt. This was hard on us because we didn’t have much money.
Exasperated, we e-mailed the parts manager and despatch manager at our UK supplier about what their shipping agent was doing to us.
They must have threatened their shipper with something terrible, because, lo-and-behold, two days later, our spares arrived in Borneo.
How to thank our supplier? Writing funny, tee-hee. Somehow, this is the letter that emerged on my laptop and got e-mailed to Volvo.
Dear Patricia and Martin,
What sort of a rocket did you two put under the bods in Kuala Lumpur? I mean, it was like the Queen’s Birthday Parade here in Kota Kinabalu. The parts arrived, accompanied by a procession all the way from the airport. I mean, like outriders wearing white gloves, astride motorcycles with blue lights flashing and sirens wailing.
School children got a half holiday and pavements were crowded with people waving the Sabah flag, the Malaysia flag, the Union Jack, the Swedish flag and the South African flag.
Our engine spares were displayed on a velvet cushion atop a gun-carriage accompanied by a guard of honour. Multitudes waved from balconies with ticker-tape fluttering from buildings. On the city-hall steps, the London Philharmonic played Rule Brittania. People were hoarse from cheering and many had tears in their eyes.
Church bells pealed, there was a fly-past of supersonic jet fighters, and the navy gave a booming twenty one gun salute. We couldn’t believe the fanfare. The Swedish ambassador came, the Queen sent Prince Charles to represent her, and Thabu Mbeki, the South African
president arrived to accept the consignment of engine spares on our
behalf. I tell you, it was very moving.
This evening, they’ve laid on a champagn gala dinner followed by a
spectacular fireworks display at midnight.
You two must have a lot of clout. You are better then Emma Peel and John Steed.
And all we wanted to do was carry the parts back to the boat on the
petrol tank of our motorcycle. Anyway, they’re safely on board Senta
Thank you very much, but we do think you overdid it.
Pierre & Faith
(The Volvo agent told us they printed and posted our e-mail on their staff notice board for months.)
Some snazzy pics of Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.
This you won’t believe. Kota Kinabalu regulary holds eisteddfods. Faith and I spent a morning at one held in the Pacific Hotel overlooking the Sutera Marina.
There were twelve conference halls and in each one was a grand piano. At each piano was an accomplished high school boy or girl competing in the event.
They played Chopin, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, beautifully.
In some of the events, other children, some as young as six or seven,
accompanied the piano, playing the violin … less experienced, but