03 October 2020 | Penang, Malaysia
Most years we rack up somewhere between five to ten thousand miles. So far this year we’ve done ninety, maybe a whole hundred. It’s having an impact, some good, we’re fitter and skinnier, pretty much zero wear and tear on the boat; some bad. We’ve watched more Goggle Box than an Olympic qualified couch potato, we’ve walked the soles off some pretty expensive shoes and...... pretty much zero wear and tear on the boat. I’m bored.
When I was a kid, Saturdays in Scotland, outside the sailing season, could either be frantic, action packed fun and games or........deadly boring. And as the sailing season only ran from end April to early September, that was a lot if time to kill. The Scottish weather had a lot to do with it, especially in the depths of winter; usually from early September to end April when a “ good day” meant just vertical rain.
Up at about eight, creep downstairs while the house slept, collect the weekend's milk bottles from the front step and head for the kitchen. Pour out a large bowl of Cornflakes, then, with the dexterity and cunning of the Artful Dodger, I’d remove the foil cap from each of the bottles, pour the cream from the top of each bottle onto my ‘flakes then replace the missing volume in with ornery milk and cunningly replace the foil cap and put the bottles, apparently untouched into the fridge. Perhaps the world's first Skimmed Milk?
Fed and watered I’d then head off to play rugby in freezing weather wearing only a thin top and short shorts, the kind so favoured by many of the young girls out here. They were so short it’s a wonder we weren’t given warnings by the police. We’d play on a pitch that was invariably sodden, frozen or, usually, both. And always against guys that were bigger than us.
Post match, having trudged back home in the tipping rain, uphill both ways, I’d have a sandwich and fruitlessly try and find something on the television other than painfully tedious horse racing.
Fast forward to our Malaysia lockdown where, like most people, occupying one’s day is becoming an “ongoing, relentless exercise in creativity”. (Name that movie).
Our latest “thing” is to finally, yet somewhat timidly, immerse ourselves in the street food culture, visiting the many “Hawker” stalls that abound everywhere there’s some spare ground. We’ve eaten in a good few now and are getting rather bold. The dining pleasure enhanced by the taste and aroma of exotic spices brought together in a fusion of exotic aromas and new textures, not to mention the battered plastic chairs and tables nestling under old advertising banners and/or leaky tin roofs. The fact you can also get the full meal with drinks for about half the price of a Starbucks further enhances, indeed, rounds off the experience.
Occasionally we’ll even order and buy foods of unknown origin - although usually this is down to Google Translate than culinary boldness on our part. Being deep in Asia, as previously mentioned, the food is somewhat spiced up. To help Anne avoid a scalding and inspired by reading the exploits of my climbing friends, I’ve adapted the British climbing grading system to rank the dishes - the Hawker Vesuvius Scale.
S - severe
VS - very severe
HVS - hot, very severe.
It’s not very complex and really, self explanatory. The only thing is, you really don’t need rankings one to seven. These three will do.
So, fed, mouths blistered and wallet barely dented, we’ll head back to the boat and possibly, stop off at the pub where, on their wide screen TVs, you can get to enjoy............horse racing.