3 March 2005

Ah. The unifying power of football. MAS flies to Manchester directly, and one reason they do so, I bet, is because so many Malaysians study there or thereabouts. Put all the blame on one Manchester United, that's what I say. That's how most Malaysians know about English geography - through their football teams. If it wasn't for weekly premier league on Astro, the names of Charlton, Portsmouth, Fulham, Bolton and - yes, Manchester - would be lost on most Malaysians.

For those who are wondering, I am indeed now in England, and will be for the next two weeks, while I fulfill my fratenal responsibilities, watching my brother get his call to the bar, seeing him grow into a man, as well as sponge off him for a free-ish two week holiday. After all, he now earns much more than I do (poor ol' me, penniless writer that I am).

The plane journey was uneventful (apart from those brief moments of doubt when the wheels part and then later meet the ground). Incidentally, Lost will be showing on AXN starting next... Thursday, I think. It starts with a plane crashing into an island. Actually, it breaks up in mid-air and then falls in many distinct separate pieces. And yet, still more than five dozen people survive. It's something to remind yourself of while bumping through turbulance.

After wheels down (does it show that I watch too much West Wing?), I surprisingly sauntered through immigration without any problems, and my bags were one of the first off the carousel. That's one advantage of travelling via Manchester - it isn't so busy, and the airport is much nicer anyway.

However, I was only ten steps away from freedom when I encountered my first ever in-depth customs interrogation. All my life of travelling, and I've never ever had more than half-a-minute's worth of conversation with a custom's officer. It's this uncouth, unshaven, unkempt look I carry with me these days that attracts the attention, I tell you. Like Jose Mourinho, but without the dapper Italian styling.

I think I was visibly nervous. I don't like being questioned. It makes me feel guilty. Just imagine what I would be like if I really had something to hide.

First came the nonchalant, cursory look through my passport. He seemed interested in my immigration chop from my trip to Singapore.

"Isn't like Singapore and Malaysia one bit of land."
"They're different countries."

The nervousness won out, and I began babbling a semi-incoherent stream about how Singapore used to be in Malaysia but isn't now, and how the two countries are part of the same peninsular, and how they're joined by two bridges. And on, and on...

While I was doing this, he rifled through my clothes. He paused to read thourgh a letter a friend wanted me to post in England (which I thought was a little off). As much as I wanted to say, "You know, that's private and you should keep your prying, peeping, piggy eyes off them", what came out was "Singapore. Always stealing our water and silting our land."

You should have seen his eyes when he saw the DVD booklet. (As a favour to my brother, I brought with me a few DVDs. Just twenty or thirty, you know, to pass the quieter moments during this trip.)

"These are films, are they?"
"Yah. My brother wanted me to bring a few over."
(flick, flick, flick)
"Some of these look pretty new."
"Some old ones, some new ones."
"You've got quite a collection here.

Damn. Stupid Intellectual Property laws. Damn you, Berne Convention. I half expected the words, "right mate, you're nicked" to come out. It was a little unbearable. I kept trying not to look at the plastic bag of ikan bilis, sambal and pandan leaf that seemed next on the list.

I kept babbling about Singapore. Like, you know how intense the football rivalry is between the two countries.

"Watch a lot of football, do you?"
"Oh, plenty. Lots. Get the Premier League every weekend on the TV."
"Oh? Which team do you follow?"
"The Villa."
"Hah, what did ya think of last week's game?"
"We lost."
"You're right. We beat ya. Everton."

We spent the next minute talking about how well Everton was doing this season, and whether they would make the Champion's League. There was no more talk of contraband, and certainly no close-up inspection of my instant nasi lemak package. Pretty soon, we said goodbye, with me wishing the best of luck for the rest of the season.

Ah. The unifying power of football.
posted on Monday, March 07, 2005 - permalink
Have football, will travel!
You're lucky he wasn't a Birmingham supporter - you'd be blogging from prison then....
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