I like to stay busy, even at my age. I get to work at 7am for classes that start at 10:30 and work on marking and prep until I go to class. I get home around five and mark supper and clean up the apartment before I settle down to a book maybe by 7 pm. I get up at 5:30 on Saturday to mark essays and don’t quit until six that night, and then after church on Sunday I will mark until 10 o’clock at night. And the odd thing is, I like it!

Understandably with such a schedule some things get pushed back to a later time, which bothers me intensely. I hate mess. I can hear the contents of the cupboards shouting at me (you understand I am being figurative here, don’t you) through the wood panelling. Yesterday was the birthday of the Buddha and we had the day off. I decided to put the cupboards (and myself) out of misery. I will say in my defence that this was not my original intention. I had planned on helping a friend put together a bookcase. But those plans fell through and there I was with a toolbox in hand looking to satisfy some primeval urge to remodel the cave.

I started by taking everything out of the cupboard and measuring the optimum height for the shelves of that cupboard. Then I drilled the holes for the brackets, cleaned the shelves and put them back, treating them with disinfectant to dissuaded the ants. Then I moved on to the next cupboard. By the time I was done, four hours later, I had shelves I could live with. They are all quiet now, and so am I. Two weekends ago – a long three day weekend in honour of May 1 – I sanded down and painted the security grillwork outside the apartment a mocha brown to match the floor tile in the hallway.

I do miss being able to work with my hands. Like riding a bicycle, Malayasians disdain what smacks of anything less than success. Renovating, even fixing your own car, is seen as lower class. I rather like the Jewish teaching, that a man without a trade is not properly educated. Sure, realigning some shelves and painting the grillwork is nothing like renovating an entire three story, one hundred year old house, but it will do to keep my itching hands quiet for a while. I don’t know why I need to do these things, or drive myself so hard, but I have given up wondering why I am wired this way. I just am, that’s all, and there is no point fighting it. I do feel for those who have to put with me, especially my long suffering wife, who would like nothing better than a quiet husband and a relatively quiet life. Sorry Babe, you got a raw deal. But look on the bright side; at least you have storage space even you can reach and some freshly painted grillwork in the hallway.