Buttery Summer-Yusuf Martin talks about the heat in Malaysia

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For the rest of the world it is summer. Hard working people begin to have their dreams of sun-drenched holidays realised. Here in Malaysia the sun, practically, always shines. So, while sun bathing beauties – male and female alike, relish their moment in the sun on pristine white beaches. And as they drip with suntan lotion and oils, cooling off by taking dips in the azure seas, the very same sun which glints off their bronzed bodies is also responsible for shrivelling our fruits, heating the inside of our cars and forcing our furry friends into the shade to lay sprawling, desperately trying to cool their overheated bodies.

The sun’s ferocity affects our behaviour too, encouraging some of us to behave a little oddly – like taking one’s newly purchased Irish butter for a walk. Okay, so it was into an air-con restaurant and I can justify my actions because of the heat and the likelihood of said butter melting into a pool inside the car.

Taking pats of golden butter for walkies was not my normal practise until I moved to Malaysia. In fact, in cooler climes, I had not the slightest desire to take any form of dairy produce for walks, saunters or promenades – be it butter, cheese, cream or indeed milk, but the heat, here, does this to a man.

It was hot. I bought the butter from the local retail outlet of a major international chain. I held it, in its distinctively coloured plastic bag, as I entered the Indian restaurant and marched straight into the air-con section to keep the butter and me cool as I waited for my meal, and after, while I ate.

At the time, that unselfish act of butter care seemed perfectly reasonable, logical even. I prided myself on quick thinking. However, on my return home, and after handing over all the shopping bags to my wife, she gave me a quizzical look – why was the bag containing the butter so much cooler than the other bags?

Like a husband caught cheating – I inwardly panicked. Self-doubt attacked me like a club. Had I behaved crazily, was I mad to have taken the butter, and only the butter, into that eatery? Matters got much worse as I looked at the sad sorry mess the cheese was in. Yes, I had forgotten that the cheese was in the other bag – the one not taken into the air-con. The Australian cheese lay, squashed in its plastic wrapper, oily, rubbery, fit now only for cheese on toast and forever to be shunned by the Branston sweet brown pickle. I too was in a pickle.

I had mixed emotions. I was glad that I had saved the Irish butter from a similar fate to the cheese, but guilty that I had no such caring thoughts for the Australian cheese. Was I subconsciously favouring my Irish heritage by rescuing that butter, knowing somewhere at the back of my mind that I was leaving the Ozzie cheese to a fate worse than death? Can you be retrospectively guilty of racial favouritism when it comes to supermarket purchases – was I therefore guilty of gross grocery neglect?

As I said – the heat does strange things to us expats. Remember this, the very next time you oil-up, ready for your sizzling summer holiday on the beach. Someone somewhere has a pat of butter to protect and, while he does so, in a climate like ours it is imperative that he does not forget his fragile cheese, lest he forever shun the idea of sandwiches and settles for Welsh rarebit cheese-on-toast.

Source: The Expat July 2011 Issue

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