Driving Ms. Honey

November 23, 2007 at 11:20 am (Driving, Uncategorized)

I think I have finally found someone prepare to teach me to drive. I promise it’s not such a daunting prospect. My technical driving is actually fine. I was up to test standard in the UK, the only reason I didn’t sit my test being that it was snowed off and I simply ran out of time to re-book and re-sit.

Obviously when I have tried to explain the concept of snow here I have pretty much been greeted by blank faces but I have pressed on regardless. However my reputation obviously precedes me and I have so far had several near misses with driving instructors.

I now have a driving instructor (hoorah) but here is a list of what could have been.

When I first arrived here, I tracked down (via our wonderful school secretary N.) a driving instructor who spoke English and taught driving. You may be wondering why it is necessary to say she speaking English and taught driving as what else would a driving instructor do? Read on.

I rang her to arrange some lessons. When I explained where I lived and she drive she asked if I had transport, I told her no and explained this would be the reason i wanted to take driving lessons, then she asked if how I would get to the lessons. I asked her if she could pick me up and she said no. I explained that in the Uk it’s customary for instructors to go to pupils as the pupils (obviously) have no independent means of getting around. If that wasn’t the case here please could I pay the extra to have her come to me. She said no, it was too far away (how? How is it too far away? From anywhere. The entire country is only the size of Bristol!) She told me to ring if anything changed and then put the phone down on me.

Obviously that was quite nice, since then I have been to the Land transport office and obtained my Brunei provisional driving licence. This is also where there is a list of driving instructors. I took a list of all the numbers of driving instructors and have texted half a dozen to ask if they are English speaking driving instructors that would be able to come to me and give lessons around my working hours. I have had no responses.

I tried a number somone had got for me and when I rang I maganed to get through to someone offering drawing lessons. This there may have been a communication mix up there.

I have e-mailed the lands transport office and asked them if they can recommend anyone or at least let me know the procedure for taking a test over here and they have not responded. I went back to our school secretary (who obviously knows everything) and asked her what to do. She rang the driving instructor and asked her if she could pick me up from home or work. The driving instructor agreed to it and asked me to ring her myself so we could make the arrangements as to passing on the information I needed to sit my theory test .So I rang her. Then I had the exact same conversation with that I had last time I called her. In spite of having had someone ringing her last Thursday and arranging this, she has now decided that I am too far away again and that I want to start the lessons too early, and that my work schedulable doesn’t fit around her 8 – 12pm 2pm – 6pm schedule. Even if I am prepared to pay for her time to drive out and pick me up, it’s too far. If I organise a taxi to get myself to her (before or after school) then she’ll do it but she won’t be happy about it and not until December at the earliest and to be honest she’d prefer January.

So I have managed to find someone else, who is pretty close to where I live. I went there last night, with Kim, my loyal (and very expensive taxi driver) and C. My moral support. We went to the house and the door was open, se we knocked and there was a man, sat watching telly in just his shorts. He sent us around the side of the house, in the dark and over the pond and building work, obviously to the office. We knocked on the door and he opened it. He’s gone through the connecting door in the house. At least he had now put a shirt on. I’d thought it was odd but had been managing to not giggle until C lent over and stage whispered *that’s the same man!* as if I might not have noticed. I was at this point looking round for hidden cameras but no, he seemed completely serious. Even when C asked iof the pictures of car crashed on his wall were inspriational?

I need to do a theory test ($110) before I’m allowed to start lessons and I need to do three practice papers at the driving school before I can sit my theory (well, he said three but then he lent over and winked and suggested that we could probably get away with one, actually he didn’t wink at all, that’s blatant exaggeration on my part) Once I have that and have done the theory, I can start the lessons.

I can book a course of 10 lessons but he will come and collect me for a little extra cost. Why is this not standard practice in Brunei? This strikes me as odd, if someone had transport, they wouldn’t need to drive would they? I haven’t started them yet so I don’t know what my instructor is like to drive with but I have signed up for the theory. I am going to have to go back to his to do a practice paper. I thought I might try and do that tonight and probably Tuesday next week. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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“It is better to be beautiful than to be good, but it is better to be good than to be ugly.”

July 13, 2007 at 9:44 pm (Abandonment issues, Beauty, Humiliation, Pants)

I have just been for a massage, where she broke down, not only my cellulite but my dignity too. It’s quite possibly more terrifying than my first Thai massage which I documented on my Sshhh (just before scary stalker man terrified me enough to wipe it) to refresh, I have transferred it over from my last blog, warts and all.

My first Thai massage was fabulous, I am very clicky clicky but on the plus side my hips feel more evenly balanced than they have in years. My Swedish massage on the other hand was a little more disturbing. I have had massages before in the UK; I am not a complete novice. So when I went in, I had a sauna, a shower and hopped up onto the bed in my pants and lay on my front. I was stroked and squeezed and even a little bit pummeled. At one point I was even pinched but my snort of disgust soon put a stop to that. I turned over, on request and my legs and shoulders and arms were done. Then slightly more unexpectedly, my breasts. Obviously I lay back and thought of England but I was in a state of mortification. This was in a genuine beauty spa; the masseuse had certificates on the wall and everything. I hadn’t accidentally walked into one of *those* massage parlors. It wasn’t erotic (anything that may have hinted otherwise was actually a result of the air con) in the least, just a little disconcerting and certainly quite unexpected. Later that evening I sidled up to one of the other girls I had gone on holiday with and asked her if she’d had the same and you can imagine my relief when she said yes. It’s just a shame the other girl with us hadn’t had her breasts massaged too as she had been in for a stroking session and now wanted to know exactly what was wrong with her breasts and why they didn’t qualify. In all honesty, none of us are small girls and I suspect by the time she got onto the massage table that the poor masseuse was exhausted and simply not longer had the strength or energy left for another pair of English breasts.

So all things considered, I was feeling remarkably blasé about my Slimming Massage + wrapping (cold gel with cupping massage) and hydrating ampoule and strawberry soft mask. The cupping should have given it away. I arrived in eager anticipation, was shown to a room and asked to take everything off. I double checked *everything* meant *everything* and when we confirmed *everything* I stripped off and put a towel round me.

I was quite pleased with the body scrub, which really was a scrub. It’s a bizarre feeling to have two Thais women rub you down with something that feels like sandpaper and even more disconcerting to have them place you in a shower. That was the dignified part. The cupping and the wrap are a little harder to describe. 

After I was showered, I was put into a heat blanket. This is a cross between a sleeping bag and an electric blanket, and it’s heavy, really heavy. I was wrapped up in this, my masseuse popped my iPod into my ears (the headphones obviously, not the whole thing, that would have hurt) and went to attend to the friend who was having the same treatment 15 minutes ahead of me. An hour later, I was still wrapped in the heat blanket. I’d finished this weeks Broadcasting House pod cast. I was also starting to feel a little trapped, when I said the heat blanket was heavy, it was really heavy so heavy in fact that I couldn’t move my arms and it was hot. Hence it being called a heat blanket I suppose.

Around this time, I started to hallucinate, imagining I was lost in a tropical dessert and was sweltering, with no water. Once I got to an hour and a quarter I was sure I had been forgotten about and started mewling. By the time the beautician came back to me I was as weak as a kitten, lying in a puddle of my own sweat and to weak to ask why she had abandoned me (whoops, the abandonment issues are resurfacing).

I was also too weak to stop them, when they took me into another room, lay me down naked and smothered me in something that felt like tiger balm. A first the heat was searing, I asked if it was supposed to feel this way and I was told “yes ma’am” I asked if it was supposed to burn, to be told “yes ma’am” Knowing the SEAsian attitude of agreeing to everything, I asked if my skin was peeling off. Guess what? “Yes ma’am”
Having been smothered in a burning liquid, it suddenly went very cold, like menthol. Apparently this cooling effect burns fatty tissue, while you’re being massaged to break down cellulite.  All the time I was squealing I was being pummeled and smacked. Apparently this is a cupping massage but frankly I think the girls were sick of me making a fuss and were smacking me out of spite.

And did I mention I was still naked?

At this point the head masseuse got out something that looked like a short pneumatic drill, with what looked like a pillow on the end. I had been half expecting this. It had been explained to me at the consultation before, that a pounding vibrator would be used on me (can’t wait to see the stats results *that* little gem pulls up) the pillow was covered in cling film the run up slowly over the back of me legs, my thighs, my bottom, then my back. Then I was flipped over and it stated all over again on the front. By this time the cooling effect was slightly more obvious. I was after all still naked. My finger nails turned blue and I started to shiver and my teeth started to chatter. Having had another good pounding with the vibrator and another smacking from the front, I was stood up, spread eagled (still naked) and wrapped in mud (naked except for the mud). In case any of my dignity was left, I was then wrapped in cling film (naked except for mud and cling film) and put back into the heat blanket.

Having been gently baked for several Woman’s Hour podcasts, (only ten minutes each, not the expected hour you might think Woman’s Hour would be) I was taken and showered off. Knowing this was pretty much the end, I washed and dried and put my knickers back on and waited for the beautician to measure me.

Which she did, to make sure she didn’t accidentally make my hips seem larger than they were, she grabbed both sides of my knickers and pulled them down. Gosh. That 5mm of material might have made a huge difference to the overall stats. At this point I had been beaten, baked, burnt and frozen for five hours, still I lost 5cm around my waist for the mere cost of $80 (around £25) so I would obviously do it again.

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“The art of the police is not to see what it is useless that it should see.”

July 13, 2007 at 1:13 am (Driving, Police)

So last weekend I spent an evening at the border. As designated driver,  I wasn’t drinking.  This has nothing to do with legalities (how can you be done for drink driving in a dry country?) it’s simply that I don’t drink and drive. No lectures (this is a lie, I’ll sound off to anyone who so much looks at lambrini when they have the car) it’s just my choice.

Knowing I was sober,  makes me sure what happened on the way home was both real and surreal.
We pulled up at some traffic lights and the car next to me was a police car. I looked over and caught the eye of the passenger, who smiled. I smiled back, then he waved, so I waved back. The I noticed the driver of the police car was wearing a motorbike helmet. In the car.

I understand I’m a relatively new driver but I’m not so bad that drivers in the surrounding areas need to wear crash helmets.

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Driving round a bend and skidding on a mat of dead toads is very unpleasant for all concerned.”

July 13, 2007 at 1:06 am (Driving, Swifty)

My breaks failed the day before yesterday. I was heading to the Seri complex on a busy, busy, busy dual carriageway and was on the bend round to the right, when the brakes felt, well nothing really. I knew I had put my foot down but as Swifty hadn’t slowed at all I assumed I had touched the accelorator. So in my minort confusion, I touched the accelorator with my foot.

Imagine the scenario, I now still have no brakes but I am going a little bit faster. Thirty seconds later I approached a stopped car at a junction, by this time I’m stamping my foot like a show pony, with no response from the breaks at all. I did try gesticulating madly at the car in front to move but I suspect if he saw, (checking mirrors while driving not being a huge thing here) he merely thought I was disco-ing. (“Mad Western women, always dancing, always provocative”) I didn’t have time to use the gears to slow down but fortunately I managed to use the hand brake to stop before I hit him, .

‘S funny really, normally I just need to look at traffic and I stall, the one time I could have done with stalling and I completely lost the ability.

Swifty is now feeling much better, comparing it to a 24 hopur hour bug and swearing it will never happen again. Hhe’s going in for a check up anyway.

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“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

July 13, 2007 at 12:57 am (Mowgli)

Am not seeing Mowgli anymore. It was nice while it lasted but I never got to see him, he was always at work and when he wasn’t at work, I was on holiday. He’s a lovely boy, pretty, charming and courteous but not for me.To begin with we didn’t really have anything in common. Not even our sense of humour. I am funny goddamn it. I know I’m funny. I have to be funny because I am neither pretty nor clever.

Secondly I couldn’t get my head around dating a jungle warrior who built elaborate forts for a living. He did try to explain to me how hard it was being in the jungle, where you sweated so much that you’re camouflage cream needed to be replaced every 15 mins and I’m not sure he liked me comparing it to a night clubbing in central London.

It’s disappointing for the fact I don’t really like the social scene much here and he was one of the few things I could look forward to. One of the other things that is a bit rubbish is if I’d split up with someone in the UK, I’d have phoned around and we would have got a group of people together and we’d have gone out on the piss. By 8pm we would be discussing going for a civilised meal to discuss the situation and offer appropriate sympathy. By 9pm we would be poo pooing the automatic reminder that appears on all our phones to tell us that quavers are not an appropriate stomach lining for a night of heavy drinking and we’d be picking up strangers from the legion to ballroom dance across the pub with.

I want my break up party. I’ve done the hard graft, now I want my reward.

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A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone

April 9, 2007 at 10:57 am (librarians, libraries, Rubbish managers)

I have a whopping great budget to spend on new stock as part of the renovation of the library. I have spent some time setting up suppliers and writing policies regarding the selection of stock, and the weeding of existing stock and have started to order. My boss has no idea about this. I know this because I arrived at work this morning to this e-mail from him

“I was rather disappointed to hear from the bursar that you had only spent about $15,000 dollars. Can we talk about this please? Can you come to the meeting with a plan?”

Had the man been able to read a spreadsheet, he would have realised that we have a number of orders which have been placed but which we have not yet been invoiced. Short of me going to the suppliers in person and ringing the stuff up on the till, I cannot make them invoice any faster, especially as the school will not put me down as contact name for the orders. Instead they put down the head of maintenance, for all orders, so when I try and chase things up I get a “I have already spoken to Mr. Eddee about this La” and no further information.

As for the $15,000, he has made that up. I have actually spent $58,477.92 from the– New Library materials budget and have completely spent the Information centre budget of $25,000, well actually I have spent $2,000 more that we have from that budget – that he would be justified in telling me off about but not for spending too little.

Firstly, my boss knows nothing about running a library, nothing. His suggestion is that I buy some books. I am reassured he also offers the counsellor equally valid advice (“Have you tried talking to her?” )  Secondly I am fuming as I feel he’s brought my professional judgement into question, thirdly I am furious that he felt it was Ok to tell me off via e-mail copying in three other people and finally I am full of rightous indignation that he was wrong. He told me off and was wrong. I’ll take a telling off if I deserve it BUT HE WAS WAS WRONG.

Hurumph.

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I have not yet begun to fight

April 8, 2007 at 11:02 am (Abandonment issues, Mowgli, Relocation)

Mowgli has spoken to his boss/manager/commanding officer/ whatever  and has told him of his intention to leave (1 year notice period) and looks like he’ll be spending the remainder of his contract in Singapore. That would be a different country then. He’s just told me and I know I should be pleased because he’s been hating his job but I’m disappointed. It was only supposed to be a fling but I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him and I don’t think we’ve been seeing each other long enough or know each other well enough to be able to carry this on long distance.

 He thinks we’ll be able to see each other more when he’s in Singapore than we do right now and he might have a point. I was supposed to see him this weekend and he didn’t get out of the jungle until this morning. He’s off to the UK – wasn’t supposed to be until the 27th it’s now been changed to the 10th. Now he gets sent off all over the place at a moments notice so we never get to plan things and every moment is snatched but deep down, I suspect it’ll fizzle out.

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“In diving to the bottom of pleasure we bring up more gravel than pearls”

March 28, 2007 at 3:18 am (Diving, Kota Kinabalu)

I have just spent a week in KK (Kota Kinabalu), the north-west coast of the island of Borneo. It’s been hot hot hot and I am Brown brown brown. I have sucessfully completed my PADI Open Water Diver certification and am now a certified diver. That’s diver spelt D I V E R, not D I VA .

The past week has been spent deep sea diving around Pulau Sapi & Pulau Sulug, the uninhabited islands which are part of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park . I have seen some amazing stuff, including coral reefs and Nemo and all his friends.

It’s pretty cheap to dive here, in comparison to the UK obviously. It’s not free or anything but the travel expenses etc. are much less. However this may still be far too expensive a hobby to maintain back in the UK and I’m not sure the north sea holds the same appeal as the tropical waters of the South China sea.

My only concern is that with learning to drive and learning to drive, is that this new knowledge has to go somewhere and I am afraid it may push out the old knowledge out and I may forget something really important like, how to read. 

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Driving is a spectacular form of amnesia. Everything is to be discovered, everything to be obliterated.”

March 15, 2007 at 2:15 am (Driving, Swifty)

suzuki_swift_blue_vr.jpgI did buy a car! A Suzuki Swift GA hatchback ,  it’s red.  Very sadly, one of the staff  has had a mental breakdown of some description and is being shipped back to the UK. His boss is selling off all his stuff quickly so he has some money to go home with. Sad for him but bargin car for me. I checked with the counsellor and you can’t catch mental from a car so I should be fine.I went for a test drive yesterday with someone and then drove home ON MY OWN! I did follow someone (who lives in my block – he had offered –  I wasn’t stalking or anything) just in case.Then I did my first border run last night, while my passengers gripped the chairs and let their knuckles turn white!I drove to work this morning. Not following anyone or insisting that I had someone in the car with me or anything. Just me and my Swift. I am parked in the car park and have just invited everyone I have ever met to come and admire my parking skills. I’m in-between the lines and everything. Bet that doesn’t happen twice. I’m still a little over cautious but I don’t know that’s such a bad thing, especially as we don’t have pavements here so if for any reason someone does try and walk, they do it on the hard shoulder. I know most of you went through this at seventeen but please cut me some slack, I have been a phobic driver ever since my driving instructor when I was 17, asked if he could see my underwear then at a later date told me that he had put his fist though a window after an argument with his wife where she accused him of fancying me. Then there was the instructor with the false ear. Can’t think why I developed such a terror of learning to drive.

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Drive carefully! Remember, it’s not only a car that can be recalled by it’s maker.

March 10, 2007 at 10:43 am (Driving)

The latest saga in the tale of my driving lessons. In case you thought that the seven hours of driving lessons taken could be covered in one (admittedly extremely long) post, you are wrong. I have resurrected my posts from my now defunct blog so I can share the joy of not just learning to drive here but the additional treats o finding an instructor in South East Asia. In a rather self explanitory manner, all can be found under the category Driving.

I have been taking lessons and it has been hard, especially because I’d had lessons in the UK so on my first lesson here, I checked my mirrors, blind spot, signaled and moved out, to hear my instructor ask why I had looked behind. They don’t check their blind spot here (I’ve seen how the locals drive, I should have known that) and you can get penalty points on your test if you do. That is what your mirrors are for apparently. Even when reversing, you have to look in your mirrors, not anywhere sensible, like behind you.

I have also been quite surprised to find out I need the right hand lane to take the first exit on a roundabout. I don’t need to cut anyone up though; I just have to go round the round about twice. This is route one for the test and if you try and take the left hand land for the first exit, you FAIL.

Suddenly the appalling driving makes so much more sense.

I know now that having accused my driving instructor of trying to kill me was on reflection an overreaction. This is just how they drive here. He may manage to kill me but it’s probably not on purpose. However I did listen and when he told me not to cry in front of the examiner ( I can’t believe I needed to be told that, how embarrassing) he told me to smile so I did a practice smile for him and he just shook his head and said “not like that”

Another invaluable piece of advice from my driving instructor *don’t have a drink before the test* He was picking me up at 7am. Does he think I have special brew for breakfast? I could go into more detail about the whole driving thing, including the fact that when the examiners watch you doing your maneuvers they do if from the inside of an air-conditioned office. Obviously they have no idea if you stall because they can’t hear you. On the plus side, you can keep the window down and if you forget what to do, your instructor shouts through the window to you!

Anyway, I took his advice, I smiled nicely and didn’t cry and passed my test this morning!

One of the staff had a mental breakdown and is being shipped back to the UK. His line manager is selling off all his stuff quickly so he has some money to go home with. Sad for him but bargain car for me! It’s a Swift. I’ve taken it out lots already, Just me and my Swift.  I checked with the counselor and you can’t catch mental from a car so I should be fine.

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