Poms At The Proms

Summer in London? Go to the Proms, of course! A family friend, Daniel Kidane will open this year’s Last Night at the Proms with his world premiere Woke, a nine minute composition to be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. No doubt the audience will be wide awake for that. Prom is short for Promenade Concert, it’s origin was concerts held outdoors in London’s pleasure gardens. Today, promming means the use of the 1,000 standing places inside the Royal Albert Hall, for which ticket prices are considerably cheaper, at £6. It’s a great way to attend otherwise sold-out concerts, but you’ll need to queue on the morning of the concert, tickets on sale from 9am. It would be a dream of course to be invited to sit in the BBC Radio 3 box, a ticket would easily fetch £6,000. Can you imagine the sound clarity being right there? The Proms is the world’s greatest and oldest classical music festival, held over eight weeks in central London every summer since 1895, yes, even during the two Great Wars. Music lifts our spirits, you have to have great music to win the great wars.

I once went on a holiday with Daniel, in Paris in fact. All expenses paid for him, why not, he is a celebrity. It is rather rare for me to spend my holiday with one, as rare as hen’s teeth you could say. We had a great time, even though it was on a tight budget. I was brought up by my Ningbonese mother in Penang, sorry about that, Daniel. You see, Ningbo people (of Wu Han ethnicity) are also known as the Mingzhou; Ningbo being once the capital of the Ming Prefecture. Ningbo people are also “fondly” known as the Chinese youtai (Jews). The Chinese like being Jewish. Jewishness is short and sweet for a person who values education, is tight-pursed, and has business acumen. Penangites aka Penang-lang have gained an unshakeable reputation as tight-fisted. Someone I know only recently gave up the practice of BYO eggs to the Char Koay Teow street vendor to save 10 sen. What? Why use a 30W globe? 5W will do nicely. Just yesterday, a Penang-lang refused to pay 20 sen for a bag at a food stall, but let’s say he was being environmentally friendly. Another thing, foods past their expiry date do not mean they are inedible, e.g. chinese tea, salted fish, kiam-chai and dried fruits. A lifelong discipline honed in Penang coupled with her Ningbo dna, meant my mother bore the great traits of the two cities, Appreciating Bargains. Thriftiness was a necessary way of life for anyone who lived through the 2nd Sino-Japanese War in China and the Japanese occupation of Penang during WW2. At 96, she naturally still appreciates bargains. I am grateful she imparted such a sensible habit to me. I described Ma as thrifty, it is right not to be wasteful; but perhaps as an admission of guilt, my Penang-lang friend said he was frugal. Frugality requires a person to use everything as little as possible, that to me is wasteful of life. So, Daniel, I hope you understand that it is not how much we spend on our holiday but how we spend it. It is magnanimous of you after our holiday to want to compose a piano trio for me or was it a cello duet? You know I love the cello. Daniel, if you don’t mind, can the theme be based on 432? My father’s favourite number at the bookies. He won a tidy sum of $20,000 with that number just before I was born, a very good omen. 432, or D,C, B will be the recurring theme. Pa passed away in 2007, I want to dedicate your music to him. His ashes are interred in a niche, his memorial tablet is in column 4, row 32. I think he is still smiling.

Daniel Kidane, Composer

2 thoughts on “Poms At The Proms

  1. Very interesting indeed, promming at £6 for a standing place in the Royal Albert Hall. Never mind the long hours of standing but one get to relish world-class performances. Daniel Kidane does the opening on the closing night on 14 September. So, do I see you there?
    You are absolutely right, Penang lang would scuffle for such offers if they are in London, even if they have to compromise on comfort and to forgo pride but able to be part of a unique age-old tradition. Value for money, eh, some would say. But, are Penang lang so tight-fisted as you think they are. That’s fake news.
    I think you are misguided, I think you have missed the forest for the trees, I think you’re utterly confused. You have mentioned, not in random order, about tight budget, tight-pursed, thrifty being good attributes that you possessed but thought Penang lang’s frugality and tight-fisted habits as wasteful of life. Aren’t they all one and the same?
    The reality is that the majority of Penang lang are middle to lower income earners and they really do not have much to spend even though the standard of living is relatively lower than the other major towns in Malaysia. Penang has enjoyed tremendous growth since independence days amidst marked and pronounced social economical changes of her populace.
    During our times, things were so much easier. Hardly any issues with food, amenities and other necessities of life. Food were of good quality as you so often remembered because quality ingredients were used then. But now, while recipes didn’t change, ingredients do and are substituted with that of lesser or even inferior grades. But many a times, this is because the quality ones are no longer available and are replaced by cheaper versions. That why returning Penangites who had been away from Penang for a relatively long time are convinced that Penang food has lost its authenticity, deteriorated in quality and taste. This has to happen because traders in Penang know that Penang lang are short on cash and undue increases in the price of meals would bring about dire consequences to many households. Why are Penang lang short of cash?
    Since the last decade or so, the social economical landscape in Penang has changed. The price of land and properties has increased manifold. But you can’t say the same for wages and salaries. The increase has not been considerable, not concurrently with premium increases in housing and other related amenities. A substantial portion of household income goes to paying for housing loans, car loans, insurances, children education, travel expenses and utilities. Penang lang always want the best for their kids, top notch tuition, super fast broadband and internet connectivity, and the like. Ultimately, only a very small proportion of the monthly income is left for food and clothing. There is practically nothing left for lavish meals. As for footwear and clothing, you would have noticed that items on display in shops are usually a season or two behind those in the Klang Valley and Penang lang will only shop when there are bargains.
    In every sense of the word, Penang lang cannot afford to splash money. For Penang lang, how they spend their money is a dead set, how much to spend is the biggest concern.


    1. Thank you for alerting me to the many challenges of the modern Penang lang. Am I misguided and confused about the difference between thrifty and frugal? For me, it’s necessary for most of us to be thrifty (due to our tight budget), we do not waste anything but do we want to be frugal? To spend as little as possible on everything? That’s being miserly. That to me is the difference, we can be thrifty but still be generous. N.b I did not refer to Penang lang as frugal, only that a friend described himself as one


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