Atchafalaya Swamp

Thursday, July 9, 2009

London in June ... and a treat by AG

It turned out I wasn't the only one feted by Awang Goneng. Pak Zawi was already there days earlier terrorizing AG's wallet and relieving our confounded host of his Great British Pounds.

Yes, that AG, the famous anok Tengganung, master wordsmith of both English and Malay (albeit of the Tengganung Kite kind), an all around great guy and a thirty-five year veteran of living on English cod and salmon. Apa? Ikang tongkol tok cukup sedap ke?

Awang Goneng, for some reason or other, had decided that Mat Salo was worth his time. My own boss at work once said behind my back, 'That Mat Salo . . .he ain't worth killin'. For AG's selfless random act of kindness . . . I thank him from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, Sir!

Surreptitious e-mails were sent, (again, Pak Zawi had a hand in this), and a note by Kak Teh in this blog soon found me walking to Whiteleys in Queensway where AG would lie in wait at a bookstore (where else?) on the first floor.

Interestingly, according to AG, Whiteleys is one of the oldest department stores in London, which makes it one of the oldest department stores in the world in my book. As I trudged my tired limbs upstairs - I had been cycling for some days - I happened to pass Lillian Too's Feng Shui shop. It was shut and looked to be out of business. Now, don't you think the Queen of Feng Shui would have known better and sited her store at a more, shall we say, auspicious place? What hope then, for mere Feng Shui deficient mortals like us?

Anyway, the reason he asked to meet there was so we could have lunch at Malaysia Hall, which happened to be around the corner. Now that was a revelation
to me because the last time I looked Malaysia Hall was someplace else. But that was twenty years ago. I didn't know it had moved since.

I was a bachelor then, traveling from Malaysia to Aberdeen to attend a week long seminar. The circumstances surrounding my presence at the old Malaysia Hall two decades back was harrowing to say the least. I was there to meet an ex and her newfangled main squeeze, to get - what
today people would refer to - as "closure".

I'm not making this up. At the time I hadn't really planned to see her at all. Why should I? After all she had dumped me in a terrifying "Dear Mat" letter some time soon after hitting UK shores. And over a year had elapsed since her posting that "Dear Mat" letter and my sudden, unexpected visit . Anyway she was not in London but in some city up north, hundreds of miles away. But Brother Fate, and its sister Miss Coincidence are about to rear their ugly heads.

Clawing my way from the Banks of the Clyde to Malaysia I decided to stop in cold windy London for the night. Having nothing to do I decided to call a mutual friend, a girl who went to boarding school with the ex, she giggling excitedly over the phone, 'Eh Mat, know what? Your ex is in town with her boyfriend lah. She's on her way over, let's all go to Malaysia hall for dinner tonight - you know where, right? See you there!'

Hah. She's in town! How about that? In a fair, just and perfect world it would have been cause for celebration. But the world isn't round or fair or just. It's horribly flat, square, with sharp serrated edges. No. This can't be happening. But there you go. Brother Fate, Miss Coincidence . . . how do you do?

Now that friend probably doesn't understand the intricacies or nuances of messy break-ups, especially long-distance ones. Perhaps she hadn't experienced any. Or was privy to my fantasies involving throttling and wringing necks. Anyway, those thoughts had long passed and converted to . . . what, I don't know.

To say that the reunion was "awkward" was an understatement. A meeting of ex-es can never or will ever be described as "joyous". Reigning in flat out murderous impulses would be closer to the mark. As I stood there outside the former Malaysia Hall, one hand in my jacket to keep that London chill out, lighting cigarette after cigarette, passed an old VW Golf. Or was it the Rabbit? I wondered (belatedly) if I shouldn't just abandon this meet altogether, for it really served no purpose at all. Except perhaps, to tear old wounds.

In the rusting blue VW was our mutual friend driving, carrying inside what once held my dreams, hopes and object of er, lust. And not forgetting too beside her, hands on thigh probably, was The Guy who helped take those whimsical notions away.

It took a while for them to show up at the entrance, and it wasn't for lack of a parking space. Perhaps they needed to huddle down, figure things out at this rather unexpected entrance by Mat Salo, stage left, blindsiding them. To them perhaps, I was some kind of monster, a jilted raving maniac of some kind, bent on retribution. And they may be right. Anyway it was the girls who appeared first and true to Mat Salo's form, pretended like there was nothing ever between 'em, just a meeting of some old flames, er, friends. The Guy, they said, would join us "in a bit".

"In a bit", huh? Now how about that kiddo? Got cold feet?

Eventually Adonis, God's version of the perfect male form, came hurriedly in from the cold like a surreal scene from a Peter Lorre movie; scarf flailing, eyes shifting, looking nervous. Being the older and more mature guy, a cool and calculated Mat Salo turned up the charm (until the knob could go no further or else the potentiometer valves would blow) and set about putting The Guy at ease, joining him for cigarettes while the girls go inside to order food . . . and to gossip perhaps at the scene about to unravel outside?

'Fraid not, he's not the Adonis.

Sorry to disappoint but there was no scene "about to unravel" outside. We'll me and The Guy won't ever be buddies, that's for sure, but at least there was a semblance of civility. The art of conceding defeat, being a gentleman, that sort of thing, part of being a man in a woman's world.

For the life of me I don't remember his name or what happened to him eventually but I do know that the ex, after getting her Bar and a stint at LSE, went home, met a Mat Saleh bloke and eventually became an American. Perhaps it's fitting that I eventually met the woman of my (real, rational and practical) dreams, married her and became an Indonesian. That's a joke, by the way.

Bloody hell, and I thought we were supposed to be talking about AG here . . . and how did my post get mixed up with trips down memory lane?

AG and MSD's deputy director, on his left.

Some photos of me and my boy below, occasionally finding ourselves lost. Real men, they say, don't ever ask for directions. Not ever. They just blow 200 quid on some gadget called Garmin, and still can't find their bloody way home.

Seriously, part of the fun of travel is getting lost. But don't tell that to the spouse who pre-approved the Garmin purchase at John Bloody Lewis, eh?


Kata Tak Nak said...

Funny, I was in London at about the same time you were meeting AG and reminiscing your ex.

I was looking for belacan there. They say England have the best belacan, better than Pulau Aman.

Waa, you cuti-cuti England naa.

Pak Zawi said...

Bro Mat,
Another masterpiece from you! This is the piece I have been waiting. There will be more to come right?
You cycled with your son around Europe? That is a real adventure. I wish I could do that with my children. It would be an enriching experience for them.
Please let us have more of your narrations about your travel. Anything from Mat Salo will be interesting read.

Pi Bani said...

Cuti-cuti Europe eh? Bestnya. I juga yang tak sampai-sampai lagi that side of the world. Next month sekadar gi seminggu ke Bali... itupun for a Congress, fully sponsored. Kalau tak, dok je lah kat rumah.

Anonymous said...

Ahem! Tsk tsk tsk.. while the world is riling in the worst economic crisis of the decade, you went off philandering around in London? Saw AG & Kak Teh some more...

Some people, I tell you.

And Ahem again, that some city up north, hundred of miles up north of London, was my playground too, ok? Easy there. What was the road she lived on? Ecassal Road, right?

I don't like all this exes stories. They are often dark, secretive and not worth the pain to look back. Hah gotcha there.

Lastly, again, that boy is wayyyy too good looking to be yours.

Love you all the same.

p/s: I am bragging about the book you got me from London to everyone who cares to listen *smirk*

Anonymous said...

Bila nampak je basikal tu, "Wah! Mat salo kayoh all the way there?!!"

galadriel said...

Talk about meandering!

Meeting with AG is just an excuse for you to legitimise the flashback eh? tak aci.

So how are u? Ur boy dah besar dah ya.

I am so much better now. Thanks for being the hardhitting yet ultimately wisdom-laden teh tarik night. Because of your stories, the advice has much legitimacy.

Thailand was eye-opening for me. But that is a story for another day. Yearn to see u again bro. I owe u one.

Elviza...u mean "reeling", don't u?
Btw, didn't u go splurging on the Moleskine urself while the rest of us were hesitant to even hang out at mamak these days?

Mat Salo is an Orang minyak la. So long as the powers keep us hooked on fossil fuel, the intrepid Mat Salo will bring us gonzo tales of romances from days past and places distant.

Btw Mat Salo, I fell in love with Mr Glock in Thailand.

mamadou said...


Great Mat Salo. Cycling in London and meeting AG!

tokasid said...

Salam Bro:

U in UK now? Drilling something there?

I don't think I'll ever set my feet there.Maybe some other UK, like Ulu Klang.

Mat Salo said...


Aduh.. Actually citer reminiscing nih pun ntah camner boleh kluar. When I was there sikit pun dok teringat kisah silam. I'm happily married, remember? But last nite when I wrote this kat atas kapal dalam paya ... suddenly the words just flew off my Dell laptop.. and the story wrote by itself. Aneh sungguh.

As for the belacan, definitely everything tastes better here sebab masa jumpa AG tu, dah seminggu tak pekena lauk. Ikan yang AG belanja tu 4 GBP Chegu! Tak masuk nasi, sayur dan teh tarik lagi.

Next time cuti sekolah back to Pearl of The Orient lah and hope to pekena Kandaq pulak.

Mat Salo said...

Pak Zawi:

Just like the illustrious Awang Goneng, you are too, too kind.

Actually not true, Chegu. I didn't cycle around all the time, but rented bikes here and there. Plus I had my three year-old princess and the eight year old boy, so me and the sulong can't gallivant around for too long. In London I had it for a week, kena pulok ada dua hari tube mogok so perabih lah round round. Syiok juga ciluk sana sini in-between traffic...

As for further stories... takut Bang. Nanti ntah apa lagi yang keluar. You know how my mind wanders and start to digress, kan? Haha..

Mat Salo said...


Actually we went to London and Paris, and some of its outskirts, not macam Bung Zawi who conquered most of Europe. Ha.

Bali? Best nya.. apa lagi kena sponsor. Congress apa tu? Belum cerita dalam blog lagi ke? You will love it. Kuta, Legian or up in Ubud?

Mat Salo said...


Oh woman, my heart skips a beat whenever... heh heh.

Er, I didn't get to see Kak Teh as she was down with Hay fever, just AG. And AG was ever so gracious.

As to the that city up north, where you too were once young and truly, madly, deeply.. Ecassal road did not ring a bell. Filey Street was more like it.

The postman there must have, for a brief moment in history, sent hundreds of letters to house No. 5. Ah, the folly of youth.

We think we know the ones we love? Think again. :)

As to the boy, yes he takes after his mother. The second one is more like me, and so's the girl... God forbid!

Mat Salo said...

E of acciaccatura:

Kayuh ni E, sesuai dengan sempena the greatest sport on earth (mengikut pendapat saya) happening right now - Le Tour De France. Imagine, for 22 days, day in day out, up and down mountains to cover something like 2,220 miles in total. Aa.. itu baru kayuh namannya.

But I saw the King and I sama anak sulung. Daniel Day Kim yang 'Lost' tu tunggak utama. Tak sangka pulak ada dua 'kakak' dan adek' dlm cast dia, anak kitab-atuk.blogspot.com.

Royal Albert Hall, the orchestra, the acoustics... superb!

Mat Salo said...

Sis AR of Galadriel:

Glad things are looking up after having your senses cleared in Thailand. See? Take a break, and then you get a whole new perspective.

But really, I know, it's a constant battle. I spar with my demons all the time, until some say I'm beginning to be one. Whatever.

Ah, now you got my worry lines all creased up. Mr. Glock? You mean the ones that goes... BANG!?

Walk away. It's not worth it.

My favorite line these days seems to be: 'You think you know the ones you love. Think Again.'

I've never heard a truer sentence in my life.

Mat Salo said...

Waalaykum salam kepada brothers Mamandou dan Tokasid:

Mohon ma'af Bang M, ga sempat ketemu kemarin. Udah dipanggil boss buru buru pulang ke KALTIM. Lagi di atas kapal ni Pak, ngebor, ga jauh dari Samarinda.

Pilpres udah selesai, Pak. Kayaknya SBY-Moediono meneng, Alhamdullilah. Sebab Menteri Energi ny bisa mempersambungkan kontrak kami Pak.


Ha ha, Ulu Klang. Dok eh, masa cuti sekolah kemarin aja, Pak. Kan saya SMS dari kantor temennya Pak Doc Ortho itu? Bilangnya rumah barunya ngeri Pak. Renovasi aja udah cecahin 6 angka. Waduh!

mekyam said...


impeccable wit, as usual. absolutely adore your lane mixups, even if it did end up stranding poor AG on the pavement. :D

p.s. gosh i HAVE been remiss at visiting yr blogs, ms. your boy must have added at least some 20cm since i last saw yr pix of him.

elviza said...

Scuse mua, Mat.

Yep I meant "reeling" and also I shd write "centuries" instead of "decades".

Help, I can't write to save my life.Imagine that goes to print *shudder*

And yep, Mat, it's Filey Street! It sure does ring a bell...

Leaving for Alor Star this weekend to visit Mama's friend.

P/s: Mama thinks you are my age! Hu hu hu! You cheater you

Mat Salo said...

Mek Yam!

I disagree Ma'am. No, you have not 'remiss-ed' at all. But yes, without meaning to, I had unintentionally left AG high and dry, heh heh.

Gald you noticed, MY, the boy has grown leaps and bounds, and I know it's not coming from my genes. Is it the junk food and never having a green leaf in his life? Perhaps it is. Thanks for coming ya?

To the woman masquerading as Elviza:

Really? You Mama said that? Wow! I'm over the moon.

Cheater? No. A healthy regard for self-deception is all it was. But being the vain pot I am (Carly Simon could've written 'You're So Vain' with me in mind), I will sleep with a wide smile on my face tonight.

Have a safe trip ya.. and my best wishes, regards and salaam to your Mama... :)

galadriel said...

Yes Mat Salo, it is indeed Mr Glock who goes bang bang bang. I was utterly seduced by the smoky maleness of gunpowder.

And the slight recoil was strangly intoxicating too. BTW, I'm a woman with a plan and no, it doesn't involve a homicide.

But some fates are worse than death innit?

Btw, I came here to tell u that this para abt u "meeting the woman of your life and becoming an Indonesian" made me laff to the point of incontinence.

I love the wistful, self deprecating humour. Poignant.

Pak Zawi said...

Mat Salo,
Please check my new site where I have placed some pictures of refurbished bikes available for sale at http://bikespasirmas.blogspot.com.
Please tell you biking friends about it.

Salt N Turmeric said...

Bercuti pun sempat berbasikal. Did madam do as well or just you and the kids?

Still refuse to ask for direction huh? :P Michael doesn't either but now he would stop the car and let me go out and ask somebody for direction. lol.

Yesterday we went to a store looking for an air mattress and guess what did he do? He went round and round the shop looking for it. I just walked up to the staff and ask for it. 2min and I found it! Men! sigh....

Mat Salo said...

Sis AR of galadriel:

You really know how to stoke my ego. Heh, heh. Thanks.. you kno how much I terangkat jubor when you pass those ultra-kind remarks. :)

"...I was utterly seduced by the smoky maleness of gunpowder...And the slight recoil was strangly intoxicating too." Now that's what I call poignant!

Good thing firearms are outlawed here. I'm in love with these things myself. I've had the privilege of trying the AK47, M-16s and the the bigger sibling - forget what it's called - and the RUSH was incredible!

OK enough. I'll be shooting blanks next.

Princess F:

Of course laa my beloved ikut, kalau tak how to gallivant around, siapa pulak nak jaga anak. Ha-ha.

So true about men, kan?

Atok said...

thanks for your visit to my very-much-neglected blog (since i joined FB at the end of last yr).
hope u enjoyed the show and london.

Tommy Yew said...

Helloo Mr Matsolo,

WTF!, I was expecting an updated expansion of Pak Zawi guided tour of London in pictures & what did I get??? I felt sooo short changed lah. Anyway, this is more exciting than PZ’s yada, yada, blah, blah, blah, heheh. {Hey no offends PZ, I did truly honestly luv all those photos u posted}. But, however, short attention span ‘cheh kai’ fella like me prefers saucy human relationships stories (read: gossips) than ‘documentaries’ type of stories.

Talking about exes, my ex ran away with my best buddy & u know what? I missed my buddy more than I missed “what was her name, again?” (Now don’t get any wrong ideas, ok? I’m 100% straight!)

Before I go mate, one word of advice; Don’t cycle too much, especially mountain biking, it gives u hernia.


P/S – Lillian Too’s sciences were all correct, it flawed due to human error; i.e., she based all her studies & calculation on the sun, moon & stars on ‘Malaysian time’, not taking into account the time differences in London.

Awang Goneng said...

Pak Mat Salo,


Here I am stranded on a Desert Island with twelve musical discs, the Good Book, and that bird chirping beastly music in the background...

But never mind. Your return to the ol' flame story is more gripping than any adventure of Mat Sprong's. Should I be happy that I brought them all back? Donno whattosay there, but the blog's a terrific read.

Never mind the ikang in London, I enjoyed meeting you. And to be pulled to your blog to be among so many friends is terrific. Thanks.


Mat Salo said...


Wa'alaykum salam. Fuuuh, didn't know... but yes, we enjoyed the show very much. And the kiddie actors of course. Whaddyaknow? I think it's great, Sir and I wish your wonderful daughters lotsa luck. I think fast forward twenty years from now, if we live long enough that is, and we can only look back in awe and wonder.


Mr. Tommy Yew:

Hellooooo! Hey, you know I can never compete wih PZ or KB (kbguy.com). Now they are masters of the good 'ol travelogue. So I gotta come up with something else, heh heh.

Appreciate you leaving your thoughts, Sir. And as for getting hernia, it's the least of my problems, ha ha. And perhaps Queen Lilian should double-check all her research vis a vis time differences as per your suggestion..:)

Mat Salo said...

Bang AG!

Now I'm curious. You mentioned the musical discs. Care to share, Sir?

As for the adventures for Mat Sprong, Mat Salo can never or will ever be anywhere close to that intrepid character.

But in my stories you can detect healthy doses of "lebong" I'm sure. Wondered if I was under the undue influence from something I read in "kecek-kecek" you wonder?

Thanks for enjoying my story Sir, liberal doses of "lebong" notwithstanding. Ha ha.

Mat Cendana said...

Brader Mat Salo, Hold it right there! Saw your comment at Elviza (Kelantan Tengku etc and Indonesians post) - Had thought about commenting to that, but that means I'll most likely miss you - again [it's office hours... Remember that job from the KL interview last Nov? Well, I'm still holding it:-) That means I've not been sacked Haha!]

But seriously, your irregular postings is the source of my headache (okay, I admit I'm irregular too). That screwed up my RSS feed at the blog's sidebar. Then my desktop feed reader, FeedDemon broke down... Plus you have another blog at Wordpress (Again, I do too). Well, you see the situation?

Anyway, I'm setting things right again by adding you to the sidebar of one of my blogs (just did that - and you're near the top of "Non-Political". Heck, I don't care if you write posts about politics. BUT it's for the 10 latest posts, so those without one get buried - including my "Recovery" site Haha!)

This is actually for MY benefit, not really for the readers - I get reminded of new posts. So, I'm reversing to see the posts I've missed and working up.

Mat Salo said...

Hey Mat C!

I'm holdin' it right here! Glad you came aorund bro', sort of missed you. Am happy you're still holdin' on that job..

Eh, read all your previous comments, sorry for my complicating things. My attention's been diverted by so many things these days bro'.

Anyway, am happy to see you're doin' well, and you've picked up tons of new skills in the blog business. Hope more good things will come your way bro'. And er, that Zack, she's pretty cool.

arsaili said...

salam...waaaa nostalgia..malaysian hall..london...

zackzara said...

Dear Sir M.S

Kinda missed ya. Your blog is not updated for 6 months!! How have you been, Sir? Hope things are pretty kewl and ok with ya.

Do take care, yea.

ps:: hehe. pretty cool eh. *blush*