The International Steam Pages


Winds of Change, Painting the Flat Blue, 2010

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:


This page is just one of several describing aspects of our '2010 new life', for earlier and later pages use the Penang link above, but see also from this period:


As of  August 2010,  our Seaview Garden flat is still best described as 'work in progress'. In China, we have the services of a builder/decorator called Wang whose idea of time-keeping was taken from one of those long forgotten anonymous works of fiction also known as the Turkish Railways timetable. However, when he does finally turn up and gets the job done, it's perfectly good and the price is better than fair. Here in Penang we have inherited Ismail who must share some genes with Wang from long ago. When we got back from Java, the carpets that had been there since the flat was new were gone and the bedroom floors had been relaid with a semi-synthetic wood surface which was the best we could afford. The former owner 'KL' , a Chinaman who could make the average Scot look generous and who had left the flat largely untouched in more than 10 years would not have recognised it. He had removed the #1 bed instead of #3 as agreed, so until we take delivery of a new one, we have to use #2.

The existing wooden floor in the hall had been sanded down and the living room room tiles had been sanded to remove the stains.

Our sea freight from China was delivered exactly as agreed at 09.30 the morning we arrived back - 7.4 cubic metres was extracted from over 40 packages and everything was exactly as it had left us except, sadly, for one of the marble table tops given to Yuehong as a leaving present which the shipper had failed to encase in a wooden frame as had been promised - he'll be paying for the replacement. The packaging was sent for recycling and we set about planning what 'extras' would be needed. The kitchen is almost beyond redemption but sorting the cupboards is something for later and the cooker is used only for warming bread as we eat out at one of the numerous outdoor eating stalls. It's as cheap as cooking at home especially as we have weekly bus passes at MYR 20 (GBP 4) each and get up far too late to go to the market. However, we do have a new fridge/freezer and washing machine. The view out from the kitchen is not too bad though, compare the view with that below with the curtains up.

Indeed, the big jobs had all been done, but the devil was in the detail and lots of little things remained unsorted and Ismail has carefully avoided us since we paid him! So the various brass plates and our Wayang Kulit have yet to be hung. 

Any marriage is give and take and according to your point of view I took or Yuehong gave me the use of #2 bedroom as a study. It didn't take me long to throw out the dresser which was fit only for firewood and move in although my Ph.D. came in useful in sorting out how to re-erect the IKEA desk - it was another gift from Yuehong's best friend.

I immediately attached my badge of office to the door and laid out the rest of the brass plates (the main 80% plus was then on the high seas heading for the UK): 

There was a price to pay for after Ismail had sorted the front door and rusty outer grill, I had to give the door copper/brass its first ever polish, unlike China, 'Brasso' is available in Malaysia. If you look at the incomplete part on the bottom right you can get some idea of the work involved as this was yet to be done when the picture was taken. Since then it has been made as shiny as the rest and I am well on the way to sorting every one of the 17 door handles in the flat, each of which was also a green black 'colour'.

Our last 'improvement' before we had to return to Beijing was the fitting of curtains, I have to congratulate Yuehong on her selection. As you may guess, she has taken to Penang like the proverbial duck to water, I have already had to agree to advancing our return date here by a couple of months. That trip should see the installation of the proper furniture which is currently 'under construction' at the last rattan / cane manufacturer on the island (see http://www.unicanefurniture.com - I bet not many of Mr. Wong's customers turn up, as we did, on the 206 bus). It's costing a fortune but it's what is needed here, we never use air conditioning and western style stuff from the shopping malls which the Malaysians love just wouldn't do the job for us.

I anticipate this blog taking a break now as we shall be in Jiaojiehe till mid-September 2010 and then we have the more mundane task of spending a month fitting our container of sea freight into a bungalow in the Forest of Dean, UK and then trying to get the garden tamed after having been left for most of the summer growing wild...


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk