Friday, September 14, 2001

On Helen's Secret Service

I am now working at the New Zealand High Commission for the Defence Advisor, regrettably I cannot say much more than that. My dilemma is I could tell you what I do but I would then of course have to shoot you all and as I am not yet licensed to kill, it could be messy.

So now we get to go to glamorous ambassadorial parties. We have been to one New Zealand reception and one for France. Without wanting to cause an international incident all I will say is that at one of the aforementioned embassies is one of the rudest people I have ever met. I must also disappointingly report that there was not a Ferrero Roche in sight, which is a complete swiz.

I am getting used to working in arctic air-conditioned conditions and have to take a collection of winter clothes to work with me, scarf, gloves, balaclava and socks.
OK I exaggerate slightly; so far it's just the scarf although I am considering socks.

I have a wonderful boss and some transportation problems yet compared to London Underground it seems hardly worth mentioning, nonetheless I will.
Albeit I now take a taxi to and from work, I did try the public transport option, and it was great, it was just a major hassle to get to, not that that put me off. I had happily travelled on it about 10 times before I realised the reason it is so fantastic is that it is the longest fully automated line in the world – no drivers. That would be why I could stand at the front of the train with a view unimpeded be a train driver then. Not that that put me off, indeed London Underground should try it.

What really got me was the fact that umbrellas don’t work when it rains. The roads turn into rivers, complete with floating branches from trees hit by rain (it's that hard), and cars turn into speedboats cutting a metre high wake through the river, I mean road. Which is all very well for wakeboarding but not if you are walking along side the road on one of the few footpaths (people aren’t encouraged to walk here). Under these circumstances, nearly every day as we approach the rainy season, your umbrella acts as a cunningly devised barrier to stop the water getting away and directing the water down, with the effect of being in an shower enclosure. Resulting in getting completely drenched from head to toe not, in fact to dissimilar to a shower.

Speaking of bad hair days, I had a very scary hair experience recently whilst having my monthly manicure/pedicure. I was happily sitting there being pampered reading Hello magazine (well what else are you going to read in a beauty salon), when I was asked if I would like to have my hair done. I had heard of this before and in the interests of research, I said yes. So the deal is this: you get a big squirty bottle of water (similar to a Fairy Liquid container) and a bottle of shampoo (also very similar to the aforementioned Fairy Liquid container). You stay where you are, that is, sitting in a chair having the manicure/ pedicure. The hairdresser squirts a little from each bottle, and proceeds to lather, yes, while you are sitting in the chair. The only time you move is to rinse (obviously it’s only a matter of time before they figure that one out), but to compensate for this your manicurist will continue to work on you whilst having your hair rinsed. I was then covered in Velcro rollers, well my hair was, and stuck under a dryer. This was the really scary bit, and I hope you appreciate this was purely for your entertainment that I did this. For those who don’t know, I like my hair very, very straight (preferably ironed). Unhappily I have no before/after pictures to show what happened when I came out from under the dryer, still I’m sure you can imagine, it was big, very big, Texas big, and very scary. Unfortunately, it was completely flat again by the time I got home – about 300 metres, that’s the hell of humidity (it’s not always a bad thing).

But I digress; I was speaking of transportation. The beauty of taxi drivers is that you get from door to door without getting your hair wet or flat (if you are a big hair person). I also feel I have my finger on the pulse of KL as taxi drivers seem to be remarkably well informed on matters of sport, religion, and the government. Additionally there is of course the sense of danger and excitement (that a thrill seeker such as I require at least 5 days a week) that comes with getting in a taxi being driven by a Malaysian on Malaysian roads full of cars being driven by other Malaysians. I have only been involved in one accident so far. The taxi driver decided that a car trying to cut him off need to be rammed into, so that’s what he did. He then continued on his way, stopped at the lights, hopped out to check the damage and got back in again, he never said I word as I sat stunned in the back of the cab.

The GM’s answer has been ‘if you can’t beat em join em’, and consequently drives like a Malaysian (there isn’t a road rule that can’t be broken).

I have only recently discovered another of the reasons for traffic jams in KL, and that is accidents on the motorways. I know this causes traffic jams all over the world, usually because cars in the opposite lanes will slow down in the hope of seeing horrific injuries. In KL they don’t just slow down, they actually stop cars in the middle of the motorway and run across 4 lanes of traffic to look at the accident on the other side.

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