28 December 2012

A Full Table

'Twas a good table, 'twas!
All I could say on that grey morning of 22 Dec as I walked out to the dispersal was "Hi there gorgeous!!"
It had been more than a month since I last had control of the aircraft, and the ground confinement was beginning to inflict its own kind of cabin fever. Therefore I was grateful indeed to be called in for a flight test, and with that to wedge in my last flight for the year. It's more than most EC225 pilots can ask for of late due to the circumstances.

Hello there 9M-SPF!!

The requirement was for a flight test, for the HUMS device. 40 minutes of airborne time inclusive of maximum continuous power level flights were needed to get the HUMS analyses running. It had been a while since I had looked upon the face of the east coast from the air. It was a cloudy day, swift carpets flying in laden with rain, normally scattering precipitation over the range and into the Klang valley, but these were the incipients of the monsoon that would send Kuantan into its worst floods in 20 years.

Through the veil of mists, mother earth shows her face
There were many other helicopters in the air that morning. Since the company was not flying clients, our rival company across the tarmac had to work four times as  hard, and the traffic density reflected this quadrupled effort. I listened to the familiar sounds of departure calls from the pilots and the voice of the air traffic controller providing separation whilst accounting for our aircraft tracking the coastal route to Dungun at 2000 feet. His instruction to us was to remain over the land whilst the rest of the boys headed offshore, simplifying the separation process, and I reassured him that we would keep feet dry.

Gazing towards Dungun and a rain-swept shoreline
After establishing our location at Dungun at 2000 feet, I made the position report to the tower controller. Looking at the clock, I quipped to the captain that we had at least 20 minutes in the area to burn for the flight test. We adhered to the flight test profile, alternating between 100 knots and maximum continuous power, punching in the HUMS to record the flight regime conditions accordingly.

On a coastal route with that much time on our hands, I kept an eye on the Distance Measuring Equipment from Kerteh, to make sure we didn't stray out of the zone boundary at which we would come under Kuala Terengganu approach control. As we approached the 25-nautical mile mark, looking down, I saw Penerak for the first time since I joined the company. It was an airstrip, used as a reporting point between controlling authorities for the handing over and taking over control of aircraft. It has been used by various armed forces in joint training especially under the Exercise Bersatu Padu, but from the air it looked pretty disused, somewhat the way the Kuala  Penyu airstrip looks.

Sandbars enfringing the coast
Eventually our flight time was satisfied and I was given control of the aircraft for the approach to land. I noticed that I was not as tense as usual, even though I bore in mind the nature of this French machine as a less than willing partner than an American aircraft. As I completed the paperwork, I realised that this would be my final logbook entry for 2012. With Christmas on the horizon and predicted dates for the EC225 to be back on line being mid February, that closing thought was pretty much conclusive.

No chestnuts. Sigh....but there's  lamb!!!!
Christmas itself was a novel event. I had foreseen the usual, as we had done last year. A mundane attendance at mass. A sermon to pay no attention to. A drive to Kijal and its non eventful restaurants, with its unexciting menu at hand. But as it turned out, Christmas was to involve more than just the family.

Support your barbequeue Chef!! Pour him a Drambuie neat on the rocks!!
Mum-in-law was down, and so was Ethan on his Christmas break from the foundation course. Even though in the past, weeks of choir practice and a rousing midnight mass was what lent us the Christmas spirit, this diasporadic Catholic existence in Dungun made me consider that the spirit was to be sought elseways.
Thrills at the Grille
The visit from Father GT was a sure ripple in the monotony. He brought along a guest whom we had seen in our Dungun shoplot church, and well, we got to know her. We had a home-cooked lunch, and as I looked around the table where we nine were seated, I realised that I shouldn't have so foolishly pre-empted God's ability to turn a day around on its head. Brenda's own table was one that could only be described with words of satiety. Which was all good as Tina, Father GT's guest did invite us for a dinner following Christmas mass at Dungun. Which in turn was good because she and her mother, Mrs Gomes turned out a table so good that one would forget the existence of the various Arabic restaurants along the east coast. The Indian ginger pickles continuously called my name, and toasting after dinner with ginger wine warmed the belly as decently as any hearth could.
And he called for his pipe and he called for his bowl...
Then there was Christmas night itself, when two workmates and one parishioner dropped by armed with a bottle of red each. They stepped into the house and started on the hummus and celery while I fanned the barbie coals to embers before grilling loads of beef and lamb to succulent perfection for a loud and cheery dinner.
And they brought unto him gold, frankincense and myrrh
In all this, wouldn't I want to share good cheer with more of my friends? It is a day when frailty and humility was the choice of the supreme power of the universe, to befriend creation's most recalcitrant breed.
Would I not seek to bridge what gaps there may be? Indeed should I not??
Yet it is at this time of the year that the mouthpieces of the executive should seek to injure all and any manifestation of goodwill. We are not to be wished Merry Christmas. It is haram. Such edicts are no more God-ordained than the intent that drove the slaying of babies after Christ's birth in the hope of wiping Him out in the process: that innocent good is a mere pawn in the hands of those who wield power and authority.
I am speaking not against anyone, but speaking up for my friends across the faith divide. I was not deprived in any way, of Christmas wishes from my friends whatever  faith they professed.
For this, I thank you. What you do represents the way you believe your Creator to be. And come to think of it, just as was described in the Gospel of Matthew that the infant Jesus survived Herod's infanticide, the good we harbour shall survive the evil that is inflicted upon us.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year my friends. May your days ahead be blessed.


  1. Hi gorgeous..happy new year and merry christmas..! :)

    1. Hi gorgeous, thank you so much and it means a lot to me, coming from Windsor's finest. :) :P

  2. I can understand why you missed flying. Hey, it is absolutely gorgeous up there, looking down to mother earth,God's spectacular creation is indeed awesome..I am speechless!! Love all the pictures.

    Smiled at your description of the monotonous sermon which reminded me of my own experience this Christmas Service.

    But I am appalled at the small-minded of some people about the 'haram' wishing thing. Thank goodness, I too have not been deprived of Christmas wishes from friends of other faith.

    Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  3. Oh, by the way.. have you seen the latest movie The Hobbit, the sequel of the LOTR? A MUST see.. I don't know about you, but I love it! haha..

    1. Much have we forgotten Angie, about what we are doing in any faith we profess. So many have in utter bigotry, conceded that faith and religion constitute a membership where only those who subscribe to and pay the dues will have the right of safe passage into paradise.

      We are not here to advertise and recruit a club membership. Merely professing a faith doesn't make us right. We are here to show by how we live, the life we aspire to in the hereafter. We are called to be today, the life that is to come. Or at least, in my humble opinion, even if not humbly expressed after all the clamouring everywhere, even as far down as Australia.

      Therefore (!!), yes, I am finally getting to it, I am glad that both you and I have friends who have not bought into the idea that righteousness leads to supremacy, but that in giving we are thereby bound to receive.

      Yes I finally took the kids for The Hobbit (no pun intended), and splurged in 3D too. The Hobbit actually precedes The Lord Of The Rings. In fact, Tolkien's book on Creation is contained in the very first tale, The Silmarillion. That one was too difficult a read for me, and I actually found A Brief History Of Time easier to digest.

      We all enjoyed it immensely. Before watching the movie I wondered why on earth Peter Jackson would want to expand such a thin and playfully written book into a two or three part movie.

      But after watching it, I realise that whilst departing from the chronological proceedings of Tolkien's book, Mr Jackson has actually connected the dots to the other books, even to The Silmarillion, so that a more dimensional understanding of Tolkien's concept of Arda could be represented on the big screen.

      And he managed to capture the roguish attitude of the dwarves, whilst preserving their individuality from Thorin to Bombur to Fili and Kili. I think there is more British culture reflected in the dwarves' rambunctious rollickings than the entire two seasons of Downton Abbey, to concur with John Hurt. We were laughing out loud in our seats throughout the movie and were quite sad when it had to come to a close just about where I thought Mr Jackson would end the first serving.

      Loads of fun. Would recommend it to a friend!

  4. Whoa, you are truly a LOTR or Hobbit's fan through and through.
    You know what, my fav part of the movie was when Gollum and Bilbo exchanged riddles. I thought that was hilarious!! hahaha..

    1. If you really considered that part, Angie, you would find that this in fact is the most critical part of the story. Were it not for this fracture, all the events of the LOTR may not have come to pass.
      This is where Bilbo convinces himself that he won the ring fair and square from Gollum. Gollum, much earlier, claimed the ring as his birthday present and seized it illegally by way of slaying his cousin Deagol while they were both fishing.
      Therefore, the Ring being altogether evil and manipulative of anyone who touches it is evident in the riddle game. It was a funny exchange yet a most dark episode from which even more foreboding was to come upon Middle Earth.
      So all in all, it is interesting that you should mention this :)