09 June 2019

Please Forgive Me, Mr Randy Newman

Engraving by Gustav Dore
You've got a frenemy
You've got a frenemy!
When Zakir Naik is drooling in your bed
And Mazlee is more Mr Neuman instead
Just remember it's all in your head
When you've got a frenemy
O, you've got a frenemy
Courtesy of Google images
You've got a frenemy
You've got a frenemy
East for the east, so you stay on the West
We're not racists, we're simply the best
We'll behead you like we did to the rest
Yeah, we will aramaiti
When we toast to our frenemy!

While eagles and sparrows
Can't be bedfellows
They never fly eye to eye
Remember feathers can only fit pillows
Premier or prince will greet the Reaper guy

With polling years ahead
Don't wish the PM dead
Or curse the plans LGE has made
Just love your frenemy
Yeah, you've got a frenemy!!!!

10 April 2019

A Day Without Fire

And there you have it!

A No 1 Fuel Tank indicating zero. No fuel, no combustion, flame out!

I enjoyed this particular incident because it's not every day that anyone can jokingly claim that they flew back to mainland on an empty tank. Too many fingers would point at you for bad fuel planning, bad airmanship and a host of other skull-impacting insults. 

But you would also see the amber captions which traces the fault to a No 1 Fuel Probe, which is like the fuel sender in the No 1 Fuel Tank. Faulty sender means faulty fuel quantity indication.

With 310 kilograms of fuel in the No 2 tank and a connecting flange sitting above the 228 kilogram level between No 1 and No 2 Fuel Tank, hydraulic laws would mean that the fuel would equalise between tanks. This means that the No 2 tank indication was equal to the fuel in No 1 tank till the fuel drops below 228 kilograms in No 2 tank.

It was an interesting day, having theory being demosntrated in real life, and trusting the whirly bird to get us home.

10 March 2019

Thank The Monkey

That's the guy.

One of many which line the lane to the airport. They sit there at lunch and tea time, waiting for handouts from passers by or to watch the wild boar nuzzle for goodies between the roots and shoots along the very same road.

We know what good parents our Malaysians are when they feed these creatures from their parked cars for an evening of family amusement in ditchwater dull Kerteh, insisting on tossing the food scraps onto the middle of the road where the simians become a road kill hazard when the more humane option would be to toss the food on the grass, right where they are parked, engines running.

I ran over one of these one evening after a long day at work as I was heading back to my apartment. Of course I was remorseful, till five minutes after, when I heard painfully loud groaning noises emanating from my front suspension which I had already changed two days before, closer to home. Further investigations at a my regular mechanic's centre in Kuantan, not Kerteh, revealed that the suspension replacement  was carried out with incorrect suspension mounts. Lesson to self was to stick to one reliable chap instead of the closest at hand. And the epiphany was that if hat little fella hadn't dashed right into my driven path at the last possible moment no matter how I tried to avoid him, I may never have discovered the hidden hazard in my suspension.

Looks like the only morally right thing to do, in spite of remorseful roadkill, is to thank the monkey.

07 April 2018

The Fog's Liftin' , The Sand's Shiftin'

Passing the Terengganu Crude Oil Terminal en route to Tender 9
Many a time I've wondered whether nurturing this blog is relevant.

I've been made to acknowledge that people no longer bother with reading blogs. There is no time to yield for the purpose. Micro-blogging stole the show for a while and its flavour is now a mere aftertaste.
Corporate restrictions become more and more a reflection of the nation's muzzling regime, rendering even one's simple and private pleasures of self-expression painfully constricted.
However, to paraphrase Billy Joel, even "if you said goodbye to me tonight, there would still be music left to write".
And therefore, here I return after nigh a year of sporadic blog posts and absenteeism.
Post-monsoon surface streaks: looking more like scum than plankton
I have had an alteration of job description.
I now hold a secondary post in the base as Base Flight Safety Officer.
As a result I have to do an amoeba split between flying and safety management.
I have done this before. Back in my RMAF days ( rings of Fowler, doesn't it?), I was either Squadron safety Officer or Base Flight Safety Officer, bang from the start of my flying duties. This time around, the familiarity of taking on a job shunned by everyone else is an ample serving of same old, same old.
It's a year now since I took on the appointment. I've reached the borderlines of hypertension and diabetes. My intake of coffee has spiked tremendously in direct correspondence to my blood sugar and cholesterol while sleep apnoea startles me into unwelcomed wakefulness at odd hours of the night.
I feel old. Too little butter scraped over too much bread?
Cruising past the ever distinctive Tapis Romeo
However, when I do get to fly, I feel human again.  The self awareness that age is no longer on my side makes each hour I am airborne all the more a treasure to be savoured. Forget what Hollywood has done, having the laity believe that flying is romantic. The grotesque spin-off from this is the ever ubiquitous notion that pilots are sexy. I work with a lot of pilots, and uuurrghhhh, they are NOT!!!!!!!!!! The fact is, some of them are barely sensible, let alone clever.
Then when management starts prowling around like ravenous carnivores to ensnare those desperate for career progression to keep their families fed, you discover whole new world of deceit and loathing, mostly towards others and sometimes self, when you catch a glimpse of what you've turned into as you pass an importune mirror.
Anyone who is a mere link on the chain of employees cannot lay claim to knowing fraudulence if he's not had to sleep with upper management.
You think translations form Oriental languages are funny? Meet Hai Yang Shi You....later!!
Back to Billy Joel, likewise, shall I continue this labour of love, which is to do what I love: writing. It is not for popularity that I started this, but rather that my mind needs to empty itself periodically and for all I know this hammering away at the keys is what tempered my blood pressure for the many years I have been involved in the mired career of aviation.
Tracking outbound through Lane 4, Kuala Kerteh below.
And as ever, the sights from the cockpit are an unfailing reward.

16 June 2017

Serve To Lead

I have been away from this blog for much longer than I had intended.
I return to it in no happy spirit.
The death of a gentle soul, T Nhaveen, beaten and sodomised, raises many questions on the complete collapse of our moral fibre as a people. We had earlier the matter of Officer Cadet Zulfarhan, beaten and burned till he succumbed to his injuries. This has brought to focus the bane of our society. Bullying.

It does not fall as a sign of the times, or a trait of millenials.

Gauging from the outcry against these incidents of abuse against our humanity, very few people are unacquainted with some form of bullying or its other manifestations.

The incidence certainly does not justify the practise.

My alma mater, the Royal Military College in Sungai Besi, in particular Cadet Wing, was a place that had its own practice of applying pressure and organised violence in shaping future military officers. It no longer exists as a college for Officer Cadets, having aspired to mature into an academy, which it did as Akademi Tentera Malaysia. In its place now stands the Malaysian National Defence University or UPNM.

The recent meaninglessly tragic death of Officer Cadet Zulfarhan had many of us from that alma mater questioning what on earth had metamorphosed from the usual ragging we were familiar with into unequivocal murder. And many an Old Putra of Boys Wing RMC voiced that "We Are Not UPNM" on social media.

Indeed, the two entities are separate. The disassociation is not unjustified. I am not an OP, but having spent two life-changing years in RMC, I understand how we all believe that this would not have happenned under our roof.

I identify and resonate with this belief.

Ragging, as we knew it in RMC, was part of a larger system applied to newbies, Putras in Boys Wing or Officer Cadets in Cadet Wing alike, intended to deconstruct with surgical brutality. But right in the wake of that, would ensue reconstruction. As we were all trained by the army in RMC, I will openly say that the army was professional in breaking you first, then rebuilding you into a better version of yourself in terms of being a military officer.
I am no apologist for the practise of ragging. I do not support it in the public or private institutions of higher learning. That's because none of those are institutions of training for the management of violence. Graduates thereof will not be counting on each other for your survival on the battlefield. They will leave with their scrolls in their hand to fill up various job appointments which will have little to do with each other. The military on the other hand, is a close-knit organisation purpose built for the management of violence. I do not believe that you can breed a soldier by wearing kid gloves. There you have it. It has been said. It has indeed, been done.
But the kind of ragging I faced with my batchmates, whom I fondly call "Squad", was not concealed from the eyes of our instructors. Nobody was isolated from the rest and personally victimised away from observation by superior officers. If one erred, everyone would suffer. Everyone would have their knuckles bleed on the gravel then bake in the heat of the tarmac which made the parade square. Or clean the corridors of our seniors' company line with abrasive detergent and the skin of our backs. Or whatever ingenuity they could conjure to produce discomfort. The "starlight", "hammerlight" or "tongkat-light" were samplings of these. This is not a passage to describe the proceedings, and the life in RMC is far too rich to be captured in a blog post. But what needs to be said is, everything was done with flair. If the picture isn't clear, allow this to elucidate you: that after a ragging session was over, we juniors would be seated in a line on the floor, while at one end of the corridor a senior officer cadet would be boiling us tea in a bucket, while at the other end, another senior and most times a rank holder of Senior Cadet Sargeant or Senior Cadet Corporal, would be passing along packets of cigarettes for us to smoke. The spin-offs from military ragging were cooperation, quick-thinking as a group, comradeship, conforming to rank, maintennance of morale and much much more.
Yes, there were seniors who did occassionally "take it too far". Those were caught, and paid for it. Even commissioned officers who were caught or reported for ragging would be discharged if found guilty. Because we were raised in it, we had an eye for what constituted "corrective training", and what was going beyond reason. I respect the military I served in for having such a clear demarcation through experience and its justice system.
The fact is, ill-treatment of a junior officer (junior officer being subject to further interpretations under the Armed Forces Act 1972) remains an offence under military law. We were told, "You can order a soldier to march forward to his death, but you may not lay a finger on him". Well, of course there were always deviations from this rule, but the rule still stood.
While many of us servicemen, of today and of the past can recollect such days with a touch of humour entwined with nostalgia, this trip down memory lane can never enlighten us on the justifications for what happenned to Officer Cadet Zulfarhan.
For just as ragging is intended to deconstruct and subsequently reconstruct, without control, it becomes a beast bent on the sole purpose of destruction.
A murder has been committed.
We are in serious need of introspection and reparation.
I cannot help but see parallels in the way political entities have outsourced the culture of bullying to NGOs which discriminate and torment segments of our society who do not conform to their understanding of gender, orientation or religious practise. Differences will exist, with or without our approval, but to be inhumane to those who are merely different from us but do not harm us cannot elevate us to higher moral standing.
Until we come to our senses and decide that bullying should never be a mechanism for carving the electorate, we will fail to set the right example for the various microcosms of our society, down to our schools, whose only pursuit should be the moulding of young minds to be future stewards of this country.

Let us remember that it is in giving that we receive. It is in restraint that we liberate the truth. It is by serving that we show our leadership.
If we don't get this corrected, I wonder what manner of stewards we shall mould, and more significantly, what manner of country it will be that they inherit.

12 November 2016

Temperature Variations

There is an old joke, sourced before the ubiquity of mobile phones and Google/Web MD  that goes somewhat like this:
A doctor gets a phone call in his clinic bright and early in his workday, from a rather irate husband. "Doctor, what is this I hear from my wife about how you were rude to her last night? We've been with you for 12 years, with our kids from when they were born. Of all things I never expected you to use foul language on my wife for goodness sake!"
The doctor's brow furrows in strained recollection. "This is Vincent right? Right.....well perhaps there is some explaining to do on my part, and no less on the part of your wife, in the cold light of morning. If you remember I told you I would be outstation for a few days. Last night I had just survived a very long day on the east coast, drove back five hours in horrid traffic and blinding rain. If you understand that the monsoon has set in and I arrived at home drenched from the pit stops I had to make in the torrents and no let up on the weather on this side of the country. You do remember the weather last night yes?"
Vincent's silence suggested acquiescence. "What was my welcoming committee then at two in the morning but the phone ringing off the hook. As I fumbled in my satchel for my key ring I realised that I had probably dropped them at some pit stop and I had now no way of getting into my home, way past midnight. And there went the phone incessantly. I realised that now I had no choice but to break my way in, so I whacked the kitchen window panes with my satchel and all this while with the phone ringing after every disconnect. As I reached for the latch I cut my palm. Making my way in bleeding and clambering over the kitchen sink is no nimble feat either Vincent. Can you feel me on this?"
"Yes, doctor I can a bit."

"Then bleeding my way to the phone in the darkened hall, I manage to pick it up before the next disconnect to hear your wife asking me how to use to use a thermometer. Through clenched teeth to mask my pain, so that she wouldn't think I'm screaming at her, I merely told her."
Rain-obscured finals approach to Runway 16
With that thought in mind, the monsoon seems to be heralding its arrival in fits and starts, with the calm between them growing gradually more brief with each passing squall. What this means is that my cycling programme gets adversely affected. Along with the fewer night qualified crew for night MEDEVAC standby, I have been placed on day flying in the noons to proceed with night standby in rather perpetual motion. My monthly tally of hours clocked in flight is beginning to suffer. So it will till more crew are made current for night deck landings by the ever busy training captains.
The mornings are often wet with rain that began the night before. So it was yesterday as I gazed out from the rear balcony, assessing the likelihood of taking that 20km ride and coming back in one piece amongst the substance-infused drivers of the Kerteh metropolis. It wasn't raining, just wet roads and I realised that with the monsoon set to reign supreme for half a year, or so it feels for that duration of the worst 6 weeks of any monsoon, I had to go the wet road route rather than being baptised on every ride.
And so I set off boldly in my longjohns and skeletal patterned vest. Turning in to the Kijal coastal roads, things still looked like they would hold till I completed the remaining 14km home. Optimism can be myopic can't it?
Then the turn towards Al-Safinah's resort and restaurant through the rural lanes brought the coast and the fir lines into view. The sky and the sea were both black. The headwind over the single-lane bridge to the beach told me I would not get back without being soaked.

Ye Olde Bridge and Telekom Dish
Then it came down before I completed crossing the bridge. I often braved the rain because it is all part of being a cyclist. Today though I was to learn that I cannot take the rain for granted. As the initial pelts seeped through the spandex, the first sign of a difficult ride was that my riding glasses fogged up. Normal difficulty degree. Cold mornings, misty mornings, all do that. Pffft.
It took only 30 seconds before the sky lost all restraint and it just came bawling down. My eyes stung like I had been trapped in teargas. Hey, I know what that is like because I had done riot control training under the Public Order module in RMC. Blinking didn't work. The rain kept washing sweat from my scalp straight into my eyes and it was really painful. I started meandering as I cycled single-handed and tried shaking my glasses out to clear the nasty elixir out of the lenses. Realising the hazards of riding this way if a car should approach from  my 6 o'clock, I stopped at the Telekom dishes, wiped the glasses with my wet gloves and rubbed my eyes with my fingers in windshield wiper fashion. Relief. Continue!!
However, the moment I was moving again, the cycle of forward motion, rain and sweat repeated. Perhaps the design of these Limar glasses pooled the water-sweat mix over my eye sockets and kept  stinging and blinding me. I refused to relent. I would complete this ride without stopping aside for shelter!! I groaned and gasped in pain and pushed on.
As I passed Pantai Penunjuk and approached the Moslem graveyard, my cell phone began ringing...off the hook if there was one. Pedalling against pain and anxiety at what this untimely call could portend, I found a safe spot on the roadside just next to the graveyard gates where most people parked when they were out in better weather tending the graves.
I picked up the call by dabbing through the clear plastic of the top tube bag to the capacitance touchscreen, immediately hitting the speaker icon thereafter. It was the voice of the morning's duty Operations Officer.
"Cap!! Cap where are you? Can you come in now for immediate flight for Exxon?"
I suddenly had the intense desire to explain how to use a thermometer.

04 October 2016

Straighten Up. Fly Right.


Nobody knows what would have gone through your minds in those moments between heaven and earth.
Such experiences are the hallows of the privileged few who have encountered emergencies and system failures in the Nuri and brought the old bird back to ground without taking precious lives in the wake of the only means of reacting they had.
It is enough that you breathe yet. It is enough that you are all alive as a crew.
Whatever the political and service shenanigans may be that you must face, they are secondary to the fact that you're still here and have not lost any of your friends to your handling of a situation gone wrong, and likely unforeseen in the Nuri's aviation history.
Congratulations to the aircraft commander and the crew. Get up, get well. Get past this.
You're more relevant to the aviation world now than many who would stand as judge over you.

15 June 2016

Pissmops and Suspenders

I would be hard pressed to meet anyone from across the ages who isn't familiar with The Jungle Book, whether as a Disney remake or the endearing original works by Rudyard Kipling.

Next to JRR Tolkien, he is my favourite author. His letters from the warfront are eloquently moving. I particularly enjoy his Just So Stories, with How The Whale Got His Throat ranking as amongst the top of these tales. There is a line narrated by the 'Stute Fish to the Whale in describing how to find the shipwrecked Mariner, which runs, "you will find, sitting on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing on but a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, one ship-wrecked Mariner, who, it is only fair to tell you, is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.'' I'd say unashamedly that the best rendition of this tale is in the audiobook snippet by Ralph Fiennes. 
While I wish I were a man of infinite resource and sagacity, one episode in the offshore world sadly revealed that alas, I am not so, mostly because I did forget the suspenders, and had continued to forget for many a sector offshore. Or so the story goes, in a manner of speaking.

Build me a crude oil terminal worthy of Mordor!!!!
It was indeed a fine sunny morning last month, running an inter-rig sector from Kerteh to Lawit to Jerneh Alpha and back. The start-up and taxi to the pick-up point next to the terminal building was uneventful. Dull might have been a better description.
The routine is that once the last passenger has boarded the aircraft and they are all engrossed with strapping in, the non-flying pilot will provide the pre-departure brief. Normally it runs somewhat like this:
"Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard Weststar 203, with Captain Jack as the aircraft commander and I am Senior First Officer Jeffrey your co-pilot. We'll be flying you soon at 4500 feet and about an hour's cruise flight time to Lawit Alpha. During this time please ensure that you are comfortably seated with your harness on and get to know your emergency exits with further information on your safety leaflets placed underneath your seats. In the unlikely event of an emergency, take directions from the aircrew. If there is something you wish to bring to our attention, please come forward, tap us on our shoulders and we will respond accordingly. We expect fair weather on this flight so sit back and relax. Another brief will be provided before we land. Thank you." 

Silver linings and rose gold. The shore slips away as we head out for night deck landing
This pre-departure brief is given on the tarmac and on every deck when new passengers get on board the aircraft so that everyone is clear as to what to do and expect at any time, outbound from or inbound to mainland.
There are times when the passenger load is light, as was this day with only 7 passengers, leaving little luxury of time for me to provide such a mouthful of a brief before taxying out to line up on the runway became imminent. So after notifying them on the flight duration, I abbreviated the emergency drill to: 
"If there is an emergency, we will brief you as to what to do and if not, just sit back and enjoy the flight. Be talking to you before landing, thank you."
I always believed it covered the pertinent facts. But back to the flight, climb out to 4500 feet was expediently carried out and soon we were cruising through Kuala Terengganu's control zone and giving the air traffic controller our route details for transit clearance and traffic information. Lawit Alpha was indeed just shy of an hour's flight time away, where we were to drop off four lads and pick up another four back to Kerteh, while three were destined for Jerneh Alpha, a rough 16 minutes from Lawit, with approach time extending the inter-rig proceedings to 20 minutes.

The sun sets on a sleepy offshore world
The Lawit drop off also was uneventful. I got down on deck to oversee the passenger exchange while the captain remained on board to set up the flight management system for the next leg and brief the new passengers. I was already hoping that upon landing at Kerteh, this dull turn of events would eventually read as a split duty, meaning I could head back to Kijal with all the chance of a split for good.
Hardly had we settled at a low cruise en route to Jerneh Alpha when we heard voices from the cabin. A Ramli Sarip-ish passenger was beckoning wildly at us as if to pass a message. I gestured to him to write his message down, passing him the only expendible sheet of paper I had on my flight board: the rig weather report. Looking backward to understand the nature of his urgency, I noticed he was crouched over the cabin floor. Soon he was gesturing for more paper. Through vehement waving of arms and other uninhibited gesticulations, I understood that the poor lad had wet himself, and he was using the paper not to write anything down, but to clean up after himself.
The aircraft captain was at sixes and sevens over how to handle this. He suggested that the Helicopter Landing Officer at Jerneh Alpha arrange for rags to clean up the aircraft. I pondered this and realised that was not quite right. I considered that rigs were akin to ships dead in water; a maritime op, and more appropriately a swabbing of the deck would be the better an option. My radio call to Jerneh Alpha for that purpose was greeted with affirmative answers from the HLO and we went steadily in for finals approach.
Once on deck, the guys at Jerneh Alpha were ready to set to work with a drenched mop and to my impressed delight, aerosol Dettol. Our Ramli Sarip Doppelganger helped swab the helicopter cabin floor. He looked ruefully at me and shook his head as he bellowed into my earpiece, "I really couldn't tahan anymore." I nodded. It could happen to any of us. He then rushed below deck to a hurried shower and a change of clothes. We were longer on deck at Jerneh Alpha as we waited for him to return to the aircraft, but everyone, from aircrew to offshore brat, was sympathetic towards him.
I wondered aloud to my aircraft captain why the poor chap didn't just come forward and let us know he needed to take a leak instead of springing one. After all, the drill for us aircrew when facing any passenger with a bellyache is to radio the nearest rig and provide the fellow with speedy relief rather than he burst his bowels. I realised that in fact, he may not have known that options were available to him if the brief given to him did not include the part that he could notify us of any urgency mid-flight, if a brief was in fact given at Lawit Alpha. I do know of some pilots who keep mum while passenger disembarkation and embarkation is in progress. I decided then, that I would never again omit the part of the brief where I tell the passengers what to do if any of them were to have something urgent to bring to the pilots' attention.
Somewhere on the return leg to Kerteh, I clearly heard Ralph Fiennes saying most personally, "now, you know why you were not to forget the suspenders!"

And the pictures herein are like the plot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? They don't matter and their relevance to the post is utterly made up.

02 June 2016

Silence Isn't Always Golden

Sometimes, it is just plain yellow.
My mind and heart have had their hands at the plough for the last three months. Three months of fear and worry congealed into night after night of dreamlessness and timelessness, without texture or taste. I have not had the time to look back on my flying life as it took a back seat to Brenda's tussle with the possible Big C, just as I had with my episode with glue ear. In her case, it was a thymoma, and she is still recovering. She is however, a model patient and is progressing better than expected except for pain management. We will know more in three months.
And now that life seems to be creeping back to normal, I can finally break this silence.
Sunset for the EC225?
The helicopter world, especially those involved in offshore operations would have been shocked by yet another incident involving the EC225 about a moth back, this one being fatal, at Bergen Norway. An EC225 was returning to Bergen and on finals approach, the main rotorhead separated from the fuselage. All 13 persons on board perished. The horror of the tragedy carries with it the second time that the EC225 gets scourged by a media nightmare. Offshore workers' unions have been clamouring for the expungement of the entire Super Puma lineage from offshore operations, Those in the industry would remember the 11 months of grounding the aircraft type underwent in 2012, although the two ditchings were safe with the passengers literally stepping out of the buoyant aircraft directly into the rescue boats.
What this means for us across the tarmac is that we have now got to shoulder the vacuum left by our competitor's stop-flight instructions as the offshore flight ban has been applied across the world fleet. I'm not lamenting, as I do enjoy flying two sectors a day and raking up the offshore hours, especially since I haven't had profitable hours recently. The local oil and gas industry has reduced the intensity of flight scheduling in keeping with the global slowdown, keeping parallel with the world crude oil freefall. Even though the price of Brent crude has clawed up to 50 USD a barrel, the slowdown has not converted into an upswing yet. I do wish for enough time to cycle regularly though. With my annual aircrew medical coming up, I will have to cram in some miles on the Apollo Exceed even at the risk of heatstroke because sweltering evenings are all I have left, if I get evenings at all.
I can't imagine the offshore world without this workhorse
In fact I feel bad for my friends in what is now my rival company. I have been exactly where they are now, facing uncertainty. I was a pilot in their fleet back then. I remember the insanity of month after month of waiting for a lift to the grounding, the frustration at how our authorities played the waiting game, watching for who across the globe would set foot offshore first before letting us off the hook. I recall disillusionment, hopelessness and loitering at the company simply because I couldn't bear being inside the walls of home. I pray that they can remain calm and patient in this most trying of times. With any luck, this will not be an extended wait, since the industry rumour is that the investigation board has wound up their findings and concluded that it is not a design fault that led to this catastrophic rotorhead failure.
These doldrums are not unusual in the flying profession. It happened to Dreamliner pilots circa the same period the EC225 was facing problems in 2012 to 2013. Pilots faced loss of currency, loss of license and joblessness, with no marketability as their aircraft type was not flyable. These same sentiments were expressed by my old stablemates as they saw the almighty unions in the North Sea succeeding in their push to extinguish the Super Puma from the aviation world.
Let's hope that non-aviators do not prevail in determining what flies and what does not.

08 March 2016


The church at midnight mass 24 Dec 2015. Looking like gingerbread by moonlight.

How quickly we have moved away from the hushed celebration of Christmas, whizzed past the Chinese New Year and now we are squat in the middle of a rather un-austere Lent.
The acclimatisation from east coast to west coast takes its toll differently on each one of us, predominately in the availability of choices, and whilst we were all enrapt within ourselves, we overlooked the totem truth that what we are to each other matters more than what we can get out of the place we are situated in.
Antonio. So named was this kitten of a stray when he walked in,
 reasons being obvious
Eleven days of anguish visited us when Antonio took his late night walk on the 18th last month and failed to turn up at his usual spot at the front door the morning after.
Such agony over a pet, and the unimaginable horror over anyone's loss of a loved one formed the chromatography of emotions and memories that flogged our minds, such that the passing of another great life from my own, that of my grandmother, ran in somewhat muted parallel while we hoped and lost hope over Antonio. The fact is, I know what my grandmother's troubled life did to her, and this eternal rest was given in such timeliness at her laudable age of 92, to nobody better deserving within my little circle of kith and kin. I found more peace in being resigned to her going than the void of not knowing what happened to that infuriating but sweet feline. How true it is then that closure is a means to coping with, while not mitigating the sting of, loss.
My grandmother, the grand matriarch on my mother's side of the family, passed into the great beyond on the 17th of February, after a very brief struggle for breath, having survived a failing heart from as far back as 2008. With her departure, went also the only ally I ever had on my mother's side of the family. She may have needed someone better sighted than herself for the passage ahead, and took Antonio along with her as a seeing eye cat. The timing thereof seemed logical.
Or perhaps, as Brenda would put it in her irreverently macabre way, that Granny had already begun interceding for her grandson without so much as a siesta upon reaching the other shores. She would be in the know from her current seat, that the rosaries I offered during the nightly prayers for her over the week were rife with entreaties for Antonio rather than for her soul, which I knew had already found a good place in paradise. At least that would explain the utterly bizarre manner in which one week after Granny's funeral, Antonio meowed indignantly outside our bedroom window on the roof ledge no less, at 0300 Sunday morning. Just the night before, not four hours back did we toast the cat replete with a deserved eulogy, and awakened by an unbelievably familiar voice, we both literally leapt out of bed to reel him in through the window. Presented for proof before the court comprising our well awakened children, there were tears of relief and joy.
Life sucks. We really ought to be glad when it doesn't. And utterly jubilant when she beams at us.

Thank you, Grandma.