The year 1980.
My work was about synthesizing and developing new materials for soft contact lens manufacturing, a branch of applications of Dr Huglin's interest in synthetic hydrogels. John was in slow release drug delivery system, the matrix of which was a hydrogel based on polyhydroxyethylmethacrylate. I depended on him at the beginning since my basic raw materials and method of polymerization were similar, i.e. irradiation via a Co-60 gamma source. His invaluable help was in tutoring me familiarising the procedures to open and to close the radiation cage housed on the basement floor of the Cockroft building, after being certified by Mr Evans that I was qualified to operate the cage on my own, at any time I like, day or night. It involved a series of precision position key exchanges, using one key to get the key that open the key to unlock the two-tons solid lead door into the source room. Once the door is opened the source is shielded and one can take his own sweet time to work the preparation in it. To close then the procedures were reversed, and for safety reason must be completed within ten seconds, the failure of which would prevent the source to get unshielded to begin irradiation, and the procedures has to be repeated.
Throughout last winter I worked hard to establish the compatibility of the raw materials mixtures, vinylpyrrolidone, butyl acrylate, methyl methacrylate, hydroxyethylmethacrylate, OH-terminated polybutadiene, and silicone rubber, and ready for its polymerisation. By first week of January, I was given the radiation safty badge to use the radioactive gamma-source. I had to do the glass blowing myself as well since I had to use a lot of ampouling, freez-thaw cycling using liquid nitrogen on the vacuum line, breaking and reasealing, and that I quickly learned from Ken the glass blower. Luckily all the equipments needed were available in the lab including plenty of borosilicate test tubes, and teflon o-ringed glass arms. I had a minor accident on April 22 Tue morning, the ampoule imploded when I hot-spotted it, apparently peroxide free radical chain reaction, the source-oxygen of which was trapped yesterday while sealing under incomplete vacuum, and generated under irradiation last night. Dr Huglin rushed to my rescue, but fortunately I had only a small cut on the finger, but caused quite an alarm to all workers on the first floor.
Around our residence, apart from Md Soot, there were several more students family, all post graduates. Sulaiman, a Sarawakian, UPM tutor in the middle of his PhD at Manchester, and Mahadzer the USM tutor. Below my flat was Pak Sjahril, an Indonesian pursuing a master degree in electrical engineering for his Sumatra branch of LLN-type, alone at the beginning, then joined by his wife and daughter. Azizah got along very well with their wives who happened to be all accompanying husbands. Sometimes, when they congregated, they exchanged information and compared notes on the developments of the siblings. Further to Eccles there were many more student families, Mohamad Osman - Kak Ton and Khir - Ina families, of Telekom pursuing PhD at UMIST, and Misri - Rubi of UPM, later Mustafa of UM, another Sarawakian, Izwar of UPM in Half Edge Lane, Zaini - Sham of Ibrahim's batch in Liverpool Road, and Hamid-Esah of UM in nearby Peddleton. In Cheetham Hill, Khalid and Zaharuddin families of PUSPATI shared a flat (kitchen and bath) and amazingly they did so to their end of doctorate study in Salford, Jumali Suratman of MARDI, Hasan and Husin also of PUSPATI, and many others. There were many bachelor post-graduates as well as undergraduates who more or less known to us very well because they were of a batch with one of us. We were very close to each other, that in Ramadan 1400 beginning July 13 Sun, I had the iftar in friends' house more often than I ever had before in Malaysia. All together, a legal society existed since a few years ago, Muslim Malaysian Manchester Students Society (3M2S).
Whalley Range was a white area, but the street I stayed bordered with Moss Side, a black area. Md Soot, Sulaiman, Mahadzir and myself happened to rent flats of the same landlord, Mr Sony, a neutralised Jamaican. He talked a lot with a loud voice, many times with alcoholic breath that scared Azizah and other wives when he turned up in our absence, to collect rent, some times even to use our hot water tap to wash his black cab. He kept a key to the main door of every flat, and he used it. His savannah approach to the tennants scared off every one. Sulaiman was lucky because by March he finished his doctorate and returned home on March 29 Sat. Md Soot moved to Cooper House on May 29 Thu, apparently 'invited' by its warmer rooms and closer to UMIST, on the next day after a real row with Sony, in drunk the night before that the police was called for help, followed eventually by Mahadzir to Trafford Park on November 1 Sat.
I had to have a lot of patience against the drive to move, at least for the moment, for Azizah had been arranged since early February to deliver in Witthington Hospital, nearby. I should restrain from giving her physical stresses; and I would prefer to stay around Eccles, a pure white area and closer to Salford. In that I admired very much her endurance and her mental strength in unyielding the pervading stresses. Pak Sjahril downstairs was very kind, he loaned his car every time I needed to take her to hospital for routine monitoring, that by early March I obliged to take over his CSN565K Fiat127, three months before he packed for home yielding to the stresses of being away in cold country without family, and without the degree. Although Harun and Maimunah left for good on March 15 Sat, we were continuously accompanied by the friends and accompanying friends, near and far, from all over Britain, and Azizah never complained that she was tired. On February 7 Thu, I met my former lab-mate in 1975, Aslam, a Dr then, at the bus stand near Argos. He stayed in Blakeley with his wife, still childless. Since then they visited us very often. We went to their place too. We even went as far as Quanah's Quey in North Wales, in groups in early April to the place of bachelor post-graduates (mostly my former students in UKM), passing Liverpool on the way back for any acquaintance we could meet.
Eventually our second baby, another girl, Siti Malini, arrived in the late afternoon of a summer Wednesday, May 14. My sister in law, Num's wife came down from Aberdeen to help Azizah for the first two weeks, and especially to tend Rubaini, then already capabled of running in every direction. I took a week off during the time, in fact Dr Huglin insisted to do so as long as I needed. Having a baby in Britain was very convenient, almost "stressless". We were accompanied at home from time to time all the while by the district mid-wife, local staff nurse and even the family doctor, Dr Rasheed from the NHS clinic where we were registered. The nurse, a Malaysia Chinese asked Azizah to adopt Malini for she said I had already have two daughters, and she had not got even one after four years married. You know that we took it as a joke; but I did not know whether she knew or not that she was passing a joke to us.
In early September the Fiat fall into pieces and forced to be scrapped (GBP15). With two small daughters tagging along every time we moved I had to acquire another car, two weeks later, an Estate Marina GVU354N on which I spent all the late autum to touch up in order to make it last for another two years, interspersed with occasional daily trips, once to Knowsley Safari in August 18 Mon with Azahari's family including his parents in-law who were visiting us from Colchester, then another time in September 21 Sun with Md Soot's family to Bradford to visit Yusof's family (UKM's Math Dept). By then Malini was big enough to enjoy the British air, strong enough to be carried even on my back. I had my first hair cut since coming to Britain, by Azizah, on the eve of Eid Adha October 19 Sun. And we spent another winter in Upper Chorlton Road infront of the gas-fired stove, but no longer on the 'mengkuang' mats like last winter; the mats apparently had long been powdered by the heated dry winter air in the room infront of the stove last year.
In the lab, we received another Malaysian in October, Ishak, my senior (SAS-Bandung) from SIRIM. He would pursue his MSc, based on refinement of my finding of the compatibility of the monomer mixtures. Just before Christmas break, ending the year, Physical Chemistry Group held its one-day Annual Poster Session, in which the post graduate researchs were assessed for the year work. I posted mine accordingly, for the assessement even though I was not under such a pressure since I had already got my Master Degree from the same university, and then for the public. Although the public response was very poor, the faculty staff turnup was very good as the table infront of the poster room was full of wine and beer bottles, and naturally the session closed when all the bottles were empty.
Through the year we attended two weddings of fellow Malaysian. First, Mustaffa marrying Jamaliah on February 23 Sat, in Upper Chorlton Road, and Ibrahim marrying Noraini on November 15 Sat in Eccles. All four of them were course-mates, my former students in UKM. We also attended to confort Wan Fuad and his wife in Leeds on November 8 Sat who were in deep sorrow for his two years old son passed away from a fatal viral infection. We also met in February a middle age divorcee, Nora, staying in Moss Side Precint, with a son, 16 and two daughters, the youngest 8, from Terendak, Melaka. She married a British army many years ago in Malaysia, but then her British husband deserted her for another woman not long after they moved to Britain. I invited them a couple of times to have dinner in my place. She told me that she wished that one day some Malaysians would marry her daughters and took them back to Malaysia, the alternative way, since her former husband's signature was needed in order to get a possport for them to return to Malaysia on a one-way ticket and stay with their grandma in Melaka. She had to stay on in Britain for the son and daughters who were legally in the custody of their father, otherwise she would had long been back home.
Edition dated Jan 2000