Category Archives: relationships

The Ending

I recently attended a wake for an 89 year old woman from my neighborhood.  I did not really know her but once I happened to be on hand when she had a blackout in the street and I had accompanied her to hospital.  She spoke no English and my very poor Mandarin meant our communication was very limited.

She was often seen walking around the neighborhood, going to the shops for her meals.  She had no children, her husband passed on quite some time ago and she had long outlived the rest of her immediate family.  Some of her distant family had taken care of her out of family obligation but it was an uneasy arrangement and something of a burden to them.  It is said that she was  difficult, cranky and hard to like but I wouldn’t really know.

Then her health failed and she spent her last two years at a facility for the elderly where she had few visitors.

At her wake, there was no one who had a memory or a story to share.  No one wanted to give an eulogy.  Those that attended seem to be just going through the motions.  The minister leading the service had a real difficult time.

On the coffin was a picture of her in her youth.  She was a beauty.  I reflected on how it must have seen to her when her picture was taken that the adventure of life still lay before her.  What dreams she must have had, what hopes. I sat there at the wake feeling really sad at how at the end, she was being sent off, not by loved ones but by those who hardly knew her or those that did not particularly care.  But the worse was yet to come.

The wake service was being held in a building adjacent to the crematorium.  Actually it was more like a shelter with a roof but open on three sides.  As the minister led us to sing a final hymn, a stray dog came in and before our unbelieving eyes, peed on the pedestal on which the coffin lay.

We were all stunned.  It was like the world gave a final insult.

Like the minister shared, our hope is that she is  in a better place now where she is enjoying the love and care of her Creator.

I found the whole thing quite unsettling.  I realise that the reality is that for many, the final years may be ones stripped of dignity.  It is sobering to know that “there but the grace of God go I”.  But it also reminds us to be thankful for every loved one and friend that we have and to treasure them like jewels.

A Happy Post

Yes, this is a Happy Post as advertised above!  The previous post was a bit of a downer and may have appeared a bit morbid and depressing to some of you sensitive readers, so here is something completely opposite and life affirming.

Actually, it’s a love story.  It all started with a shy, quiet guy at his older brother’s wedding, where he spied with his little eye a gorgeous, radiant and vivacious young woman and a new and unknown feeling stirred in his heart.  It was love at first sight.

At least it was love at first sight for him.  For her, mmmm….. not so much.  They seemed as different as oil and water, as night and day, as steak and veggie burger, as cat and squirrel ………. you get my point?

The girl is known to her friends as “Hap” a nickname given to her because of her constant state of infectious happiness.  Yes, you could get infected with happiness just by hanging out with her.  What chance did the “shy guy” have?

Ah, but by sheer unblinking persistence, determination and most of all sincerity, “Hap” began to see the Prince Charming qualities of “Shy Guy”.  (at this point, LGS wishes to apologise to all diabetics for the high sugary sweet content of this post but it was unavoidable when it is about this couple).  And to cut a long post short, they got married last week.

Now it seems like a happy cosmic convergence that Pharrell William’s song “Happy” is so big on the airwaves right now;  just in time for a bunch of creative hacks from our little church family to put together a video with their version of “Happy” for Hap and Shy Guy on the occasion of their happy day.

So enjoy and be happy.  Also watch out for the Lone Grey Squirrel as he makes not one but two short cameo appearances in the tradition of Hitchcock and Stan Lee.  See if you can spot me! (Clue: I am not covered with fur nor is my bushy tail visible).

Bloody Rose Red

So how was your Valentine’s Day?  Was it romantic?  Did it make your wallet substantially lighter?

A female friend sent a text message to my wife and asked what we were doing for that special day.  My wife replied that while I might have once upon a time, some 20 years ago, planned some exciting dinner and surprise, she would be surprised if I remembered and if I did remember, she would be surprised if I planned anything.  When asked what her plans were for the night, the friend replied that they would just be having some home cooked rice porridge.

I guess after that, the two ladies let out a collective sigh.  Now as it turned out, I later went out for dinner with my wife AND my mother-in-law.  Now, dear readers, isn’t that love?

Despite going out rather late, we found every restaurant and dessert place jammed packed with suckers romantic lovers.  We chose one of the few rare places that did not jack up the menu prices.

While waiting for the food to arrive, I made a few observations. 

Firstly, just outside the restaurant were some unscrupulous capitalistic opportunists Cupid’s helpers selling little teddy bears hugging hearts and flowers (both single stem roses as well as elaborate bouquets).   I had a look at the prices and gagged.

A rose that would normally about cost USD 1-2 was now selling for USD 7.  Or perhaps the 10 stalks of roses and teddy bear combo would be more appealing ……. at only USD 110!!!

I actually saw a guy buy one of those for his girlfriend and she carried it in when they sat at the table next to us.  But the funny thing was that after that, the two of them spent the evening looking at their mobile phones.  One can only hope they were romantically tweeting each other.

Later as we were walking home, we came across a scene of utter destruction.  It was a massacre of red petals everywhere!  It would appear that someone (presumably female) had pummeled someone  else (presumably ex-boyfriend) with the USD 110/- bouquet.   Care to venture a guess as to  what foolish remark got him the rose acupuncture treatment?

I am so glad I am in a long term, steady and fulfilling relationship and not on the dating scene anymore.  I’d hate to get those rose thorns under my skin.

20 Years With Trouble and Strife

I know it’s been awhile since I posted and it was not due to a lack of material but from a lack of time to put mind to computer keyboard.   So for my catch up post, I thought I would  stick to the theme of romance in honor of Valentine’s Day  as well as touch on the fact that this is a new year according to the Chinese lunar calendar – kill two birds with one stone as it were (this was a phrase that always got the hackles up with my birding enthusiast friends whenever I used it while still working for a nature conservation organisation)!

First, I wish love and happiness to all young lovers ( and old ones too) on the occasion of Valentine’s Day.  Of course, I wish this for every day of the year.  For me, this year is a milestone in my marriage and last month, my wife and I marked our 20 years together as man and wife with a small dinner at a small restaurant with a few friends who have cheered us and helped us in our life journey together.  The “Trouble and Strife” in this post’s title is the Cockney Rhyming Slang for “wife”; or more specifically … wife.  Before I get in to trouble, it is meant as a term of endearment.  You know, like “ball and chain”.  Ummm.  Maybe I better move on.


I have had 20 years of happy marriage with the love of my life.  I am a firm believer in marriage and it grieves me to see so many marriages today  in trouble or ending in divorce.  Marriage has been a great blessing but as with all good things, it requires work, commitment and self-sacrifice.  It has not been easy going all the time.  Yet, for the most part, most of our problems were from external sources – family relationships being one of them, but we found the strength in our love and trust in each other to weather all the storms thus far.  We had a few fights and quarrels along the way but truly they were but a few and we have a rule never to let the sunset on our anger.  This has been a good rule.  Life is too short to waste on being angry.

Anyway, I shared with the dinner guests the story of how we first met; my wife’s generally poor impression of me that first time; our deepening friendship; my getting cold feet and running away and how God brought us together again while I was studying for my doctorate in Ottawa, Canada.  I proposed to her in front of the Eternal Flame on the grounds of the Canadian Parliament while kneeling in the snow.  We got married almost exactly a year later in much warmer circumstances in Kuala Lumpur.  At the dinner, I also made a spectacle of myself by singing “our song” to my wife.  (the song is Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes”) which I think also impressed the serving staff of the restaurant.


And so, I thank God for blessing us both and guiding us these twenty years and pray that by His Grace, we will continue to love each other as we age into hopefully a fine vintage.

That concludes my romantic section of the post and as promised, I will now touch on the Chinese New Year aspect of the post. As you may know, this is the Year of the Snake. This is of significance as this is my wife’s year! Yes! She is a Snake. Now the interesting thing is that when we were courting she misled me into thinking that she was a Rabbit. Now more than 20 years the wiser, I realise that my darling Rabbit speaks with forked tongue!

Guilt Weighs Heavy

Since my last post, I had spent a lot of time thinking of something humorous to post.  Instead, I had a really, really bad weekend and am feeling quite down.
For a few years now, I am part of a group of 8 who take turns to fetch an extremely sweet elderly lady, Mrs. T, to church for Sunday services.  She does not live that far from the church (perhaps a 20 minute walk) but given her advanced age and the bad state of road pavements (or even the often lack of said pavements) we had arranged to transport her to and from church.

This Sunday, it was my turn to fetch her but for some reasons I was not able to go to church at all.    So that Sunday morning, I got a call from her early in the morning and only then did I realise that I had forgotten to inform her that I could not go.  She was gracious and told me not to worry and that she would call someone else to fetch her and I left it at that.
At noon, I got a call from a church friend to tell me that Mrs. T had had a fall while walking to church and was taken to hospital.  I rushed over to see her and learned that after calling me, she tried to call 3 others and somehow that day she was not able to reach two of them and the third also said she was not able to come that day.  Mrs. T then decided that she could walk to church.  Well, she made it almost to the last 100 m or so but then she tripped and fell  and as the doctors later confirmed, broke her arm in two places and also fractured part of her shoulder socket.

Needless to say, I was horrified and felt incredibly sad and guilty that my action or lack of action had led Mrs. T to such a painful calamity.  Mrs. T , on the other hand, was extremely cheerful and positive.  She focused on how God provided two women, both strangers, who came to her aid and sent her home.  She talked about how quickly someone from church called and learned about her accident and arranged for two brothers to come and send her to hospital.  Doctors expect that she will need up to 6 months to heal.  Despite it all, it was she who lifted all our spirits by her positiveness. Praise God.

But this squirrel still feels awful about the whole thing.  If only, I had taken the trouble to arrange alternative transport instead of letting Mrs. T try to call others by her self.  Stupid squirrel! Bad squirrel!

The Big 5 -Uh Oh!

Judging from the noticeable lack of comments on my previous post and the content of the few comments that were there, the political situation in the USA remains tense and is a topic that is either offensive or uncomfortable with readers.  So I decided that for this post, I should stick with a topic that should be offensive to no one but myself …….. i.e. my recent 50th birthday.

It was actually in September but that was right in the middle of my big house-moving exercise and blog break, so I did not post on it earlier.  Of course, I got my expected portion of “50 year old” gag birthday greetings like “You are now officially an Oldie” or “Don’t worry – once you are over the hill, you pick up speed”.   Sadly, that was about all I got.  Not a single present. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

My wife was trying to plan a surprise party for me with some friends but with all the packing and the rush of moving house, it did not materialize.  I don’t usually celebrate my own birthdays so it was not really missed.  Some say that turning the BIG 50 is an important milestone that should be celebrated but I think they are just hoping for a party and some cake.  Besides, I don’t think of myself as 50 but as 18 with 32 years of experience!



Anyway, to celebrate the additional 32 years of being 18, I tried to trace how my tastes and directions have changed during that time.  As you see, I am still a work in progress and still changing……..



Music: Anne Murray , Clannad , Sinead O’Connor , Billy Joel, Sarah MacLachlan , Shania Twain , Adele , The Black Eyed Peas

Reading:  James Herriot , Ray Bradbury , Douglas Adams , Richard Adams , Sue Townsend , Stephen R. Donaldson , Arthur C. Clarke , Neil Gaiman

Art: Monet , J.M.W. Turner , Klimt , Andrew Wyeth


Valentine’s Day Jailhouse Blues

I am no big fan of Valentine’s Day.  My wife and I think it is silly to celebrate our love on the one specific day of the year when all the florists, shopkeepers and restaurants have their knives out to slaughter lovers with exorbitant prices.  In the modern context, Valentine’s Day is just another over-hyped, commercial event.    Historically, the romantic associations with Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with Saint Valentine who was not remembered as some patron of lovers.  Valentine is remembered on that day because he was a martyr who was brutally killed for his faith.  Inspirational, maybe.  Romantic? No.

Apparently, the first known association of  Valentine’s Day with romance and love comes from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem “Parlement of Foules” which was written in 1382.  In the poem, he wrote;

“For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate”

So, apparently, Chaucer was referring to a special day when birds in Britain choose their mate.  And even then, he may also have exercised poetic license cause February 14th is way too early and cold for returning birds to be turning to thoughts of love.

So, Valentine’s Day to me is just a load of hogwash.  Still, I respect the right of the gullible to fall for the modern marketing gimmicks and the right of hopeless romantics to knock themselves out to celebrate the loves of their lives. Hey, it can even be fun watching some of their antics.

Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
Celebrating Valentine’s can be costly,
And land you in jail too.

However, be warned that since 2005 Muslims in Malaysia can be arrested for celebrating Valentine’s Day and in fact more than 100 Muslim couples were arrested last year.   Proponents and supporters of this “law” give three main reasons;

  1. Valentine’s Day is associated with elements of Christianity.
  2. Celebrating Valentine’s Day leads to immoral acts (they call it sinful sexual gratification day).
  3. Asking someone to be your Valentine is akin to idolatry.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) is pushing for more arrests this year for Muslim couples out on the town celebrating  this terrible Day.  They are also asking the government to ban hotels from offering any Valentine’s Day specials which they say may lead to couples spending an illicit night at the hotels.  Finally, they are asking the government to place public service announcements on national television to warn Muslims from celebrating the Day.  What killjoys!

Perhaps the ladies are more romantic cause the Sisters in Islam (SIS) spoke out against PAS’s anti-Valentine’s Day campaign.  One of SIS members was quoted as saying, ““It will be better for them to concentrate on other important matters like the backlog of syariah cases in court or the payment of alimony to wife and children.”

Right on, ladies.  As I said, I am no big fan of Valentine’s Day but I believe that those who want to, have every right to pay five times the normal price for flowers or blow a month’s salary on a romantic dinner.  After all as they say “love makes fools of us all” and “fools and their money are soon parted.”

Happy Valentine’s Day young lovers wherever you are.

Unburied Nuts from 9th February 2007: Love – The Early Symptoms

Squirrels love to bury their precious nuts so as to uncover them later to enjoy at leisure. In the same way, this blog, from time to time, brings an old post back for another short period in the sun. This one happens to be one of my earliest post and a special Valentine’s Day re-post.


Today I shall pretend to be an expert on “love” and shall attempt to give a discourse on the subject, focusing on the affliction in the early years of life. My credentials, you ask? Have I ever behaved erratically around girls? Have I been compelled to do something stupid which is as embarrassing today as it was then? Have I tortured flowers by plucking their petals ? (“she loves me, she loves me not”). Did my dad ever talked to me about the phone bill? Have I contributed to deforestation with all the failed love poems crumpled in the waste bin? Has my heart ever ached? Did the power of speech ever leave me? (Err, Em…Ah…That is… I mean…). Yes to all the above, which is why I believe I am qualified.


Puppy Love:-

Photocredit: lopsidedsmiley


This is the earliest manifestation of the ailment. Wikipedia says, “Puppy love is an informal term for feelings of love between young people, especially during adolescence, so-called for its resemblance to the affection that may be felt towards a puppy dog.”

Hmmm. Just imagine. “Sugar, I love you just as much as I love Rex. You’re both so cute although he catches frisbees better than you.”

Photocredit: jonlewis1975


I beg to disagree with Wikipedia. I think the term merely means a love between two extremely young and immature kids who don’t know better yet. What I mean is that when we are very young, our knowledge of the world is constantly expanding and growing bigger. We might fall “in love” with someone until we realise there’s more fish in the sea. For example, I may only have tried vanilla or chocolate ice cream and decide I “love” vanilla. Later I discover Baskin & Robbins, Ben & Jerry etc and I forget vanilla and chase after pistachio almond fudge instead. (Actually, in real life, I still actually love vanilla ice cream. I am faithful to my first ice cream flavor).

Okay, to summarise:- Puppy love does not last because it’s like making a choice from the appetisers section because you haven’t yet seen the whole menu.


Wikipedia says, “Limerence, as posited by psychologist Dorothy Tennov, is an involuntary cognitive and emotional state in which a person feels an intense romantic desire for another person (the limerent object). Limerence can often be what is meant when one expresses “having a crush” on someone else. It is characterized by intrusive thinking and pronounced sensitivity to external events that reflect the disposition of the limerent object towards the individual”


I think a crush is when one of the puppies (see above) dumps the other puppy because she realises how cool the leader of the pack is. She likes it when the alpha dog shows her attention. The huge age gap does not matter. Alpha dog is just the greatest creature that ever lived. But this cannot end well because when the alpha dog runs with the pack, the puppy just can’t keep up. She’s still got some growing up to do.

By the time, she comes to her senses, puppy love has discovered pistachio almond fudge and moved on. This leads to an important cross-road in life. She can either choose to be like Avril Lavigne and write angry young woman angst or she can seek comfort in the collective sorrow of country music.


As we mature, we actually take a few steps back. I think in puppy love and crush stages, we actually care about the whole person. For example, alpha dog cannot do wrong. He’s got good fashion sense; he’s cool, he’s kind, he’s the smartest, he’s everything you ever wanted to bring home to meet mom.

Infatuation is going backwards; it’s not about the whole person. Some may say focused; others, more shallow. The afflicted will spend hours day-dreaming about his or her nose; or some other superficial physical feature that has tugged the heart strings. Maybe this is “desire” or “passion” learning how to crawl. Okay, I confess, my very first infatuation was with someone’s hair.

Infatuation is empowering. It makes you feel that you have supernatural powers. You can slow down time and watch her hair move from side to side in slow-motion. It makes you invisible (or so you think, until her mother catches you in the bushes) as you stalk her with your camera to take her photo. It gives you super energy that you are willing to cycle 10 kilometers to her neighborhood.

Unfortunately, the kryptonite in this scenario is when you realise that the hair is attached to other less attractive parts and the final straw is when you discover she thinks basketball (your other true love) is boring.

Thankfully for everyone and especially parents, we then progress into remission and go through a period of staying away from the “stupid” other sex.

This concludes my discourse on “love ….the early symptoms,” as told by a squirrel and illustrated with dogs.

Two Funerals Past and a Wedding Soon

Over the last couple of days, I spent some time with my friend Porgie and his two kids, John (13 years old) and Meg (11 years old).   Porgie and family live 1,600 km away and seldom come to Kuala Lumpur.  The last time they were here was more than 3 years ago when Porgie’s wife was hospitalised for chemotherapy treatment of cancer.  Unfortunately, soon after she returned home and passed away.

This time, Porgie’s visit was with a happier purpose.  Porgie had found a new love and they are planning a life together.  This trip was to introduce his two kids to her two kids from a previous marriage.  My wife and I were privileged to be part of the introduction process and to back Porgie up in case the meeting of families did not go well.  However, as it turned out, there was nothing to worry about.  All four kids got on well and when we met up with them (a day after they actually met), they were already behaving like life-long friends.  Perhaps it helped that Porgie’s kids have long been concerned about their father’s loneliness and had hoped that he would find some new love.

So we had a riotous weekend with them, taking them shopping and sightseeing and generally giving them opportunity to have fun together.  However, in a quieter moment, when everybody else were busy shopping, Porgie reminded me that the next day was the 3rd anniversary of  his wife’s passing.  It was something that did not surprise me.  Porgie would never forget.

Coincidentally, that same day, I received an electronic message from another friend, Charles.  The message noted that that day would have been the 5th birthday of his wife since she passed away from cancer.  It celebrated everything that he had loved about her and thanked friends that have helped him in his grief all those years and continued to make her memory real for him.  Charles will never forget.

I don’t believe that Charles will ever re-marry; that’s just not him.   He will have only one love in this life.  At the same time, I fully understand and appreciate Porgie’s decision to remarry (and he seems to have chosen well, his new partner).  I don’t think it in any way diminishes the love that he will always have for his first wife.  Charles and Porgie have just chosen different paths.

I am thankful for my wife of 18 years and look forward to many more happy years together.  Still, thinking about Charles and Porgie, I wondered how I would have reacted in their position.  I believe that I am more like Charles but who can really be sure?

This squirrel is just pondering the imponderables.

(The names have been changed to protect young lovers all over the world).

Romancing the Screen

People tell me that I am a romantic.  I don’t think I am.  I suppose I believe that romance can be wonderful but I place no faith in its staying power.

I certainly have little patience for what passes for romance movies nowadays.  A quick survey of recent romance movies will reveal highly contrived and unrealistic story lines.  Let’s see, there’s the story of a woman who is always the bridesmaid and never the bride…..27 times (27 Dresses).  Or it could be that the man realises he loves his long time best friend but only after she gets engaged to someone else and asks him to be her honor attendant (Made of Honor).  Or where hot romance only occurs with stone cold brooding vampires (Twilight).  Then there is a tale of the career driven executive woman who needs to be posted to a factory in the Minnesotan winter wilderness before she can find love in her arch enemy, the union representative (New in Town). Or she is a school teacher who is having an affair with a student’s father and having a baby with her estranged husband (Then She Found Me).

I am not saying that these are not necessarily bad movies.  They may be good to watch but   they are stories of an idealised sense of romance under very unique circumstances which quite frankly  relates to very few of us.  I certainly hope none of us have been the bridesmaid for 27 friends or had to run a plant in the frozen north or are so awkward, we find understanding only from the undead.  Similarly, none of us age backwards like Benjamin Button or have had the extraordinary talent and life of Forrest Gump.

But would you watch a movie about  a boy and a girl meeting on a train and then spending the day talking to each other until they part the next morning.  Yup, they talk and they walk and nothing much else happens except that they make that rare connection of the souls.  Well, I watched such a movie and I think there was a rare confluence of talent from the writer, director and actors which resulted in the movie that I consider one of the greatest romance movies ever.  There is nothing special about the boy or the girl.  It could be you.  It could be me.

I refer to the movie, Before Sunrise.  This 1995 movie was written by  Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan, directed by Linklater and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  Ethan’s American character, Jesse, is traveling through Europe on a railpass when he meets Julie’s French character, Celine, on the train on the day before he flies back to the USA from Vienna.  The movie is just entirely about how they discover each other in the few hours they spend together walking around Vienna.  The ending was cleverly left open-ended until the sequel, Before Sunset, picks up the story 9 years later.

If you have never watched either movie, I totally recommend watching both, one after the other.  The video clip below comes from near the end of Before Sunset and Celine sings this wonderfully simple song to Jesse.  It was a great way to end the story.  The song was actually written and sung by Julie Delpy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

What are your all-time favorite romantic movies?