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The Virtue of Plodding
This familiar term "plodding", though nearly synonymous with seven other words, has a certain significance peculiar to itself. No doubt it implies perseverance, diligence and constant adherence to purpose, but it has a homely sound about it, as if it were some great virtue in work day clothes.
We all know in a general way that we mean by a plodder one who has no personal endowment in the way of brains or original genius, but who sticks grimly to his task, never complaining, never flinching, and never grumbling. He possesses an exaggerated conscientiousness, a sweet humility and a never-failing diligence. If he fails, it is simply through lack of time or ability. His progress is very slow, so slow in fact that we can hardly tell whether he is progressing at all.
There can be no doubt that, in human life, in school life, the human tortoise very frequently justifies its traditional character when matched with the more gifted but less persevering hare. What is true in school life is also true of the life of the world. The plodder can always be relied upon, but he is certainly not a lovable character. Some say that the most popular folks are generally those who have fairly pronounced failings - "The best of men are moulded out of faults". Plodders, then, are not as a rule popular. Their character is cast in a dull commonplace mould.
The lack of genius is, however, the chief cause of all the plodder's short-comings. It is unfortunately true that such an individual never reaches the highest position in any line of life. Diligence, no doubt, will always secure a certain reward, but the plodder has no original impulse.
Not everybody, however, can achieve success. There are forms of work in which there is really no scope for brilliancy of talents. A retail grocer can hardly look to achieving dazzling distinction but, if he is diligent and persevering, he is sure to gain a fair share of esteem and worldly success. We cannot all be geniuses; indeed, it is a moral certainty that only the smallest fraction of any given generation will have this distinction. Yet the claimants will always be in excess of the number of vacancies.
But to the plodder such dignified positions are not for him, as he tells himself. So he ceases to strain his eyes towards the snow peaks of distant renown, and proceeds to examine carefully the monotonous flats that lie at his feet. The plodder is despised by nearly all, but the world has been said to be fertilised and benefited by plodders.
Pop goes the Tube
Those know-alls talk all over the place about rolling stones gathering no moss and that sort of thing, but a cyclist knows that rolling wheels (over stray tin tacks) do collect punctures!
You are bowling merrily along on your old bicycle which creaks at unexpected times, perhaps, but otherwise behaves properly, when you hear a bang and you know the feeling you get when the front tyre punctures like that - that vague feeling of shame, the feeling that the world has grown uncomfortably flat all of a sudden, which it has, and that you look very much of a fool.
Well, if you are an amiable and affable sort of fellow, the sort that does not pull the cat's tail for the sheer love of it, you grin a little sheepishly at the gaping small boys: there are always bound to be one or two gathered round - but if you are of the type which goes purple in the face at the slightest provocation, and a bicycle puncture is a provocation enough, you say a few sad things under your breath and glare at the small boys.
The thing to do, however, is to trundle the machine home, if you are near home, that is. Otherwise a bullock-cart might help. It is a funny thing about punctures. Tubes seem to take a malicious pleasure in puncturing just when you are miles from anywhere.
Once home you start hunting for the screw-driver and spanner which you were sure you put in your tool-box a couple of days ago. Finally you find them in the drawer of the writing-table in your brother's room where it has mysteriously gone to. Well, you roll up your sleeves and start to pull the front wheel to pieces, or so it seems to your younger brother who has come to watch, encourage and criticise your efforts. Before starting these war-like assaults, however, you must remember that you are not seeking revenge on the offending tube by cutting it up but are doing just the opposite, so it is best not to wrench too hard at the tyre. It is all very easy, "To remove tyre, thrust spanner A into opening B then etc. etc." so goes the handbook you found, which explains all about the intricacies of that marvellous invention, the bicycle.
I do not say the average cyclist is not intelligent, but directions are apt to be confusing, and a spanner in the hands of an inexperienced chap is liable to be more destructive than constructive. You continue to wrench and heave away, and owing to a misguided sense of direction perhaps, do the jolly business the other way round. Instead of spanner A at opening B, you might find that it has strayed to the region of opening Z or so, in which case you are getting on.
By this time you will have worked yourself into a lather, sweating freely and maybe grunting profusely. The tyre will not budge, the nut will not turn and the tube will not get repaired. After doing a bit more damage, knocking at the wrong places and scratching the enamel off the mudguard, you give up in disgust and haul the whole thing to the cycle repairer round the corner. It is all very simple really!
Daydreaming is not uncommon among schoolboys, to most of whom life is nothing but perpetual joy. Indeed, all suffer from this universal "disease" before they have to reckon with the hard facts in life.
Schoolboys usually indulge in daydreaming during dull lectures given by teachers in a monotonous tone, and when they have some time to while away. Their bodies and faces become sphinx-like; seriousness and gravity cloud their youthful brows when they are occupied in weaving those grandiose schemes in which they are the heroes.
What they dream depends on their life ambitions which in turn depend on their natural inclination and temperament. Some of those possessing scholarly aptitudes dream of becoming doctors, scientists, literati and lawyers with worldwide reputations; others imagine themselves as great statesmen walking political tight-ropes with unparalleled skill and making speeches that sway millions, or as Midases of finance. Those with the adventurous spirit think of entering Sandhurst and becoming great soldiers whose names will be engraved forever in the corridors of time. And those born with an easy-going nature dream of their being proud owners of Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Packards and Lagondas. Whatever they may talk about, Bentleys and Rolls Royces are their chief topics.
It is very pleasant and, indeed, useful for the mind to rove now and then for an idle half-hour. It is a form of recreation and relaxation. This building of grand castles in the air tends to enhance a strong driving force urging the dreamer to do his best to realise his dream. This impulse or incentive acting in conjunction with certain good human qualities - perseverance, rigid tenacity of purpose, bulldog determination, patience and guts - may enable the dreamer to reach his goal. In trying to make his dream a reality, the dreamer is endeavouring to build solid and concrete foundations under his castles in the air. In this effort - turning his dream into reality - he may have a Homeric struggle raging in him.
For example, consider the case of the dreamer of wonderful cars. By nature he is an easy-going soul and a great pleasure lover. To get money to buy his Bentleys and Rolls, he has to work mighty hard. Here then is the clash! Indulge in a bit of daydreaming, and the level of existence can be slowly raised.
Alas! As with many things, daydreaming is a double-edged weapon. It has uses as well as abuses. A dreamer always has a tendency to dream of the same things repeatedly, thus eventually becoming a slave to daydreaming. When this results, daydreaming is a definite drag on his progress and work, from which he eventually drops rapidly astern, because life, not daydreaming, consists of actions and work in the teeth of opposition. Furthermore, when daydreaming is excessive and becomes the order of the day it results in an unnecessary drain of the person's energy and resources. Also, when he is aroused from his reverie, say, by a question from a friend, he is very irritable and his temper is usually ugly.
Hence, wisely and carefully used daydreaming may be one of the factors accelerating human advance.
This is War!
A thick fog hung over Berlin and the lights shone dimly through it. Everything was still and there was a feeling of expectancy in the atmosphere.
Berlin seemed to be waiting for something to happen.
No wonder, it was war time.
In a street a little away from the centre of the city, there stood a big building. The house was comparatively brighter than the other houses and from it voices could be heard. There was a small garden in front of the house and through it ran a path leading to the door.
At the door stood a man talking earnestly to a woman. The man was a tall, handsome-looking individual, whose age might be somewhere near forty. There was something about him which showed that he was a man of high birth. The woman was of nearly the same age as the man and her English had a slight foreign accent. There were tears in her eyes and she wore a melancholy look. Her beautiful face was overshadowed with grief.
"Oh! How cruel they are to take you away from me, John," she cried and burst forth a flood of tears.
"This is war, dear, and the feelings of a single woman do not matter to them, for an Empire is at stake," replied the man.
"But they can surely let me and the children go with you," she cried imploringly, "I've the right, I'm your wife."
"I've told them that, but they said they would not trust a German woman," replied the man sadly. "Besides," he continued, "if I stayed here, the Nazis would make short work of me. I'd rather be in England, than see you and me in a concentration camp."
"Hush! Do you want them to hear you?" she whispered and fear was in her face.
"I must go now, before it's too late. I..."
"No! No! John, don't leave me all alone."
"I have to, Marlene, it's safer for you."
He gave her a kiss, whispered goodbye and was gone. She watched him get into a taxi and drive away. She burst into tears again and sobbed as if she would break her heart.
She hated the war and the greed of a single man who, through his ambition, had caused misery to thousands. She remembered vividly how, as a young girl, she had fallen in love with a young English Lord who had come to Germany for higher studies. She also remembered the day when they were married and the happy years they had spent together. Now the war had robbed her of her happiness and she was left all alone.
Lord Bedham reported his arrival to the English authorities, and was warmly welcomed. A few days later, he joined the Royal Air Force. He spent a year of intensive training and attended innumerable lectures. After he had been thoroughly examined, he finally became a full-fledged pilot and was given the post of a flight lieutenant.
Day followed day and weeks followed weeks. Lord Bedham was on active service and he worked hard. He did his work well and had a good number of German bombers and fighters to his credit. He had been into many an air battle and he knew the terrible things that pilots had to face. He shuddered at the thought. But he also realized that the loss of a few men was nothing compared to the loss of thousands of women and children. He tried to correspond with his wife, but the censors would not permit him to do so.
Then he received a shock. He was asked to bomb Berlin. "Bomb Berlin! Why, that's where my wife and children are staying," he almost shouted. But he had to suppress his feelings because firstly it was his duty, and secondly because he wanted to give the Nazis a taste of their own medicine.
That night he made ready to go. The night was dark and cold. The plane was going at a great speed and the wind was making control of the plane difficult. After some hours, he was informed that Berlin was below them. Lord Bedham swallowed the lump that was in his throat and released the bombs.
Suddenly there came into sight a host of German fighters. What followed next, Lord Bedham remembered not. He had some idea that he was in the thick of a fight. Suddenly, he felt a piercing pain in his right shoulder and he stumbled forward on the steering wheel. The plane went crashing earthwards and Lord Bedham could do nothing to stop it.
Crash! The plane was in flames. Lord Bedham was thrown out of his seat and landed near a house which was also in flames. He lay on the ground and after a while he groaned and looked up. He saw his old beloved home in flames and he knew his wife and children were killed - perhaps by the very bombs he had dropped.
Lord Bedham murmured, "This is war," and fell back dead.
Like a bolt from the blue, a brilliant idea came to me the other day. I asked myself, "Why not contribute something to The Victorian to enlighten its readers, cheer them in their distress, recreate their tired minds, etc."
No sooner thought than done, as the poets did say. With pencil poised in one hand, a sheet of paper in the other, head erect and eyes raised in meditation, in fact, in an attitude in every way conducive to deep thought, I set my brainbox going. After a few minutes' intense concentration, the title of what I was going to write about, came to me: "Building Castles." With a big sigh I wrote down the title of my "masterpiece." After that I once again set my mental machinery in motion to gather more harvest for my subject.
Stray thoughts flew here and there, ideas flashed past my mind, but these being over-elusive, I was as wise at the end as I was at the beginning. One hour later, a minute's sober reflection reminded me that the total of all my mental labour was just "Building Castles." How on earth could I enlighten any reader of this magazine with these two words.
With grim determination, I once again rallied my thoughts and this time succeeded so well in falling into what poets would call "the deepest of concentrations" that I lost touch with all material things - in other words, I fell asleep!
Three hours later, I woke up to find that I was still at "Building Castles." I wondered if I should keep on trying. "Despair not and you'll suceed at last." I had, indeed tried, but good gracious, it would have been ridiculous to suppose that what I had written, could have been called a success.
Finally I threw down my pencil in disgust, and without the least regret left my desk for more congenial surroundings.
This gives a glimpse of the tortures I have to undergo when I start to contribute to The Victorian. Imagine a novice starting on his literary career. He starts and - thank heaven, if he ever finishes. He writes on and on, page after page, burning the midnight oil, and, finally, with a sigh of relief and overwhelming satisfaction, leans back in his chair to read over what he has written. But I ...........
Grow More Food
As we all know the principal economic weakness of Malaya is her dependence on imported food supplies, especially rice. Rice is consumed by the greater part of the population, and this fact makes the much more important.
In these critical times it is easy to realize that we should grow more food. Before the war the Malayan Government held an exhibition annually where agricultural products were exhibited and prizes were given for the best exhibits in order to foster public enthusiasm. Since the declaration of war thousands of posters have been distributed throughout the country encouraging and urging the people to grow more food, and sometimes giving accompanying directions for the growing of the foodstuff. Although many have started doing so there is still not enough food being grown. This is because a lot of people think that it would be a waste of time and money to grow food when it can be obtained easily from provision shops and markets. But these people do not stop to think of the consequences which may result from a shortage of food.
Although there is little likelihood of a famine in Malaya we may lose our supplies by other means. For instance, if the enemy were to occupy Burma or Thailand or if supply ships containing food bound for Malaya were to be intercepted by raiders and sunk there would be a shortage of food in Malaya; in which case Malaya would be helpless, for the army would be weakened by hunger. But if we grew more food we should certainly be able to check the invasion until supplies could reach us.
True to the well-known proverb "Charity begins at home," we, as schoolboys, should set the example by doing what we can in our own gardens, no matter how small they may be, and help to strengthen the defences of Malaya in our own way.
Take up gardening as a hobby. It does not cost much; besides, with patience and a little hard work we can get more than our money's worth from the produce of the garden.
The War on Rumours
When His Excellency the High Commissioner, Sir Shentoii Thomas warned the public that all rumours and rumour-mongering must be stop, we were of the opinion that the warning would be heeded. Some months have already passed but we are more than surprised to see that the hint has been disregarded. There still exist in this country many types of rumour-mongers, ranging from the defeatist to the overconfident. Between them there are the man who 'knows everything the government is doing,' the person who 'predicts' and when his 'prophecy' comes true, will say 'I told you so' and lastly, the 'military experts' or 'arm-chair politicians'. These persons are a menace to the country for they create alarm and despondency in the hearts of the illiterate. These are the very persons who are Hitler's agents. The war today is against Nazism. It is a war on which depend our independence and freedom. We appeal to the rank and file for volunteers to fight rumours. The weapon is in our hands, in our hearts and in ourselves. It is calmness, clear mental vision and common sense judgment on the war. Turn a deaf ear to the rumour-monger and if he still persists in his 'pet trade' then him over to the proper authorities. In this war we shall repay what the gallant band of R.A.F. youngsters are doing for us. "Never in the history of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few."
If there is one thing that one should dislike more than going to the barber's shop it should be going to the hair-dressing saloon. But society demands of you a haircut every fortnight or so, after all it is just not done to go around with hair creeping all over the back of your neck and floating gently about the ears - and so to the barber you go. There you sit for the better part of an hour, moodily, contemplatively, and all wrapped up in a piece of cloth while the barber fusses around your head. He starts with a pair of scissors with he insists on using with short but snappy snips - a snip, snip here, and a snip, snip there and all upon your unprotesting hair!
Then come the clippers when he has tired of the scissors. With dexterity and smart flicks of the wrist he sends the instrument ploughing through all obstacles: it careers around the base of the neck, clambers up the head and finishes with a triumphant "clip, clip" round and above the ears. In all a pretty movement to watch! The brush next comes in handy, usually a brush with stiff bristles, the sort that you would never dream of using on yourself, but the barber does! He sends all stray bits of hair off and away. He wields the brush with gusto, determined to see the end of every strand he has cut off. You sit mutely - it is his job, he knows it best.
"Ah, it's all over at last" you think, but barbers are persevering chaps and this one starts all over again - brushing the hair down, ruffling it again and generally playing havoc among the strands. He finishes at last but the critical moment is still to come. "Shave, sir?" He expects a "yes", you hesitate and give him a "no". He smiles pityingly. He thinks you are missing something wonderful. He has a reputation of being a top-notch shaver and here is a young fellow who says no to an offer from a barber whose every move with the shaving brush is the move of an artist, and whose every stroke of the razor marks the perfect hair-dresser!
The customer is always right, however, and with a "I-don't-know-what-young-fellows-are-coming-to" look, he turns to putting the tangle of hair into some semblance of order. He mixes a concoction - some water, some "hair lotion" of species unknown, a dash of Eau de Cologne, and there he has the barber's lotion all ready to rub into your scalp. He does so, combs the hair slickly and flatly down, makes some final trimmings and you get up with a yawn. You survey yourself in the mirror. That obstinate tuft of hair which had a nasty habit of sticking up at the back of your head has been coaxed and cut into submission. You always had a sneaking respect and affection for it because it never obeyed your brush and comb in the early morning struggles, but barbers are not sentimental and - well, it is not there anymore!
The barber looks on patronizingly. What he would call perfect hair-dressing and what the vulgar would call, to his disgust, "hair-cropping", has been done all for your especial, ungrateful benefit.
Last update on 28 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng