Monday, August 24, 2009

Oldest pigeon on the blog

As many of you correctly answered, that structure pictured in my previous post was a pigeon house. During our kampong days, our family used to have one - briefly. I am not sure if my brother Chun Chew (Zen) remembers about it since he did not make any comments. Anyway, it was to the right side of our house looking towards the main road. Ours was slightly different from the one in the photo. It was taller; maybe 7 or 8 feet off the ground, and it had more ‘apartments’.

I don't remember what prompted my dad to rear pigeons. But quite a few of our neighbours did. Maybe it was for the eggs or maybe he wanted to cook them.

Have you tasted roasted pigeons before? When I visited Hong Kong some years back, our hosts brought us to a restaurant which served this dish. Tasted just like chicken. Funny not many people eat it in Singapore.

Actually just a few years back, there used to be some stray pigeons living in our present house. They made their home in the empty space between the false ceiling and the roof. At night we could hear them moving about and cooing softly. I was a bit worried about the droppings and the shed feathers and so when we renovated our house in 2000, we asked the contractor to seal off the access. But once my children caught one and managed to train it to fly from person to person. They named it Pigeonol.

Nowadays, it Singapore, it is quite common to see mynahs and pigeons around HDB blocks especially near the coffee shops.

OK. Here’s a quiz to round off this post. See the photo above. I took this photo of the pigeon in 1985 at a very well-known place - not Singapore. Hint: It was very much in the news earlier this month. Where is this place?

Just received in my Inbox:

Brian writes. (About my photo of the pigeon house in Cambodia) “It reminded me of the bird feeder we were shown in Old Ahmedebad in India where people built these structures to ensure that birds still visited their areas after all the trees had disappeared through intensive building.”

Thanks for sharing this photo Brian.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can you guess what is this object?

Nowadays the kids are quite fortunate in that they get to travel all over the world. My youngest daughter is only 17 and she has already been to Japan twice – and that’s not counting our family vacations. In comparison, I never set foot on a plane until my twenties when the SAF sent us for Ex. Starlight in Taiwan. I remember one of my section mates was so excited he asked to take a photo with the SIA girl.

During the recent June holidays, my daughter traveled to Cambodia as part of her school’s project and looking through her photos I found this interesting object. I doubt many of the younger readers, like Icemoon for example, will know what it is. Maybe a city boy ‘oldie’ like Victor also won’t know.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What are the holes for?

My blogofriend Frannxis has blogged about his old clock (I don't think this type is called grandfather clock; but never mind). In his photo you will see two round holes on the face of the clock.

Here is a question for those young people who have never used such a clock before. Do you know what functions those two holes serve? Please post your answers at his blog and not here because I will not keep this post for long.

Thank you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

We built this city

Did you read the Today today? There’s an article written by Brian Richmond titled; We Built This City … so don’t overlook the baby boomers”. Coincidentally, this is the very same title of an article that I submitted to the “50 years of self governance, my memories, my moments” blog competition a few days ago. You may want to read it here.

I did not cross-post my article here because it is actually quite similar to something I wrote a couple of years ago about the Dead Chicken River. Anyway, there are attractive prized to be won, so why not give it a try? It is always nice to get rewarded for doing something you enjoy don't your think?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Here one day, gone the next (1)

Below are two photos of MacRitchie. The top one was taken in 2005 and the bottom one last month, July 2009. Can you spot the difference?

The Buah Suntol tree at MacRitchie Reservoir that Chuck and I blogged about some time ago is gone. What a waste! This type of fruit tree is very rare in Singapore you know. I wonder why they chopped it down. It wasn’t blocking any traffic like this one. And it’s such pleasure to see monkeys plucking the fruits.

Lots of changes have been happening at MacRitchie. A new multi-storey car park has been built where the previous Car Park (no 2?) and children’s playground stood. Coupled with the completion of the viaduct linking Lornie Road to Braddell Road, the stretch of Lornie Road outside MacRitchie is now much quieter and the situation has much improved.

1) Now it is possible to turn right from Lornie Road directly into MacRitchie. Previously you had to go up a kilometer of so and make a U-turn; which was always a trying experience during late afternoon peak hour.

2) Coming out of MacRitchie is also much easier now. Previously, you had to be very daring and shoot out because of the constant stream vehicles racing down Lornie Road towards the flyover. On one occasion, after a big event and the jam was so bad that many cars turned around and went out through the entrance (near the traffic lights junction).

The children’s playground that had been removed holds sweet memories for me of the time when my kids were young. We used to bring them here quite often. Whilst the children played, I would go jogging in preparation for my IPPT.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older
When did they? ………
Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.
(Sunrise Sunset, Fiddler on the Roof)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ah Tiong, Ah Neh and Sip (by Peter Chan)

The last time we featured the female Foreign Domestic Workers working in our homes. I like to do another called Work Permit Foreign Workers (WPFW). I wonder why we got such long names but I suppose you have to leave that to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for an answer. There are approximately 485,000 of them. MOM classify them as those unskilled or semi-skilled who work in sector-specific industries for a monthly basic pay of <$1,800. These workers are very versatile and you can find them in construction, manufacturing and F&B; taking on jobs that your typical healthy, younger Singaporean will never consider. WPFW can be found in every corner of Singapore, including the public and semi-government sectors. I sense that even our Ah Peks, Ah Sohs and the physically handicapped are finding it tough to compete as they are edged out by these workers. In Economics we call this concept to be “import substitution”. **Foreign Workers can do this…..

Photo 1: Left to Right - A “kungfu” posture as he works and puffs a cigarette. “Speedy Ah Tiong” takes customer orders and serves drinks in a kopi-tiam. Ah Tiong stands by his Singapore supervisor at Changi Airport. Ah Tiong works “10 X 7” as a store assistant in a Chinese snack shop.

**….and this also.

Photo 2: From Top Row, Left to Right - Thai painters have no fear of heights. Banglas stenciling under the hot humid sun. Under darkness Giri delivers “The Straits Times” to your homes. Cleaners at Marina Barrage make sure Singaporeans have clean water to drink. Road drilling and facing the dust. Inhaling toxic fumes each time a vehicle comes for a fill-up.

WPFW in the “sweat industries” earn a basic monthly salary of between S$350-400; $700-800/month is possible after forsaking rest and recreation. Those in the service industries start around $700/month but with incentives thrown in, could take home close to S$1,800/month. However from discrete interviews, I found many were earning close to $1,000 with incentives thrown in. Many WPFW come from traditional sources such as India, Bangladesh, China and Thailand, and to a smaller extent from Myanmar and Vietnam.

**Different ways to have your meal.

Photo 3: Left to Right; Using fingers, chop-sticks and “No Hands”. “No hands” did you say? But this is not “Bangkok No Hands Restaurant”.

Sometimes I wonder whether workers’ safety has been compromised and why it has to take so many fatal road accidents to happen before concerted actions are taken by the authorities. I am also reminded of incidents where workers are dumped by their employers when they suffer serious work-site injuries because the workers are not covered by Workmen’s Compensation.

On a visit to a restructured hospital, I came across many foreign workers in our A&E department. You might think that many foreign workers are seeking medical attention but you later find out that it is a group of foreign workers comforting just one worker who needs the medical attention. Another typical situation I often get to hear is when the A&E medical officer asked the worker, “Where is the problem?” The standard answer would be; “Doktor, I got many, many pains. I, two day already cannot standing”. Did the foreign worker meant two days of pain or “today”?

Photo 4: Left to Right - Can nap and dream because someone else drives the pick-up. Who needs safety belt as this is approved by Land Transport Authority (LTA). Riding a bicycle reminds Ah Tiong of home in Hubei Province.

Ninety percent of our population lives in public housing, we are better educated, effectively bi-lingual, and our wages are comparable to those in Developed Countries. We hear of government officials and employers talk of the negative Singapore attitude, the arguments about foreigners taking away jobs from Singaporeans and the case for raising the foreign worker quotas. Do you quibble if these foreigners hold these jobs when you just lost your job? While there are some 16,000 vacancies this year in the service sector – finance, transport, communications, hotels, restaurants, food courts and social services - according to the Employment and Employability Institute (E2I), I wonder how many Singaporeans are actually rushing to grab at these – and if they will ever stay on if hired.

It is tough work for WPFW coming to Singapore? Is there life after work for them?”

**Progress from public phone/pagers to mobile phone.

Photo 5: Thanks to Sony-Ericsson for selling cheap mobile phones; 3-way talking, “SMS” and still can take 3 megapixel pictures

When Sunday comes, it means a lot to different people; ask any NS soldier whether he can forgo week-ends. Some WPFW go shopping at City Plaza, some choose sight-seeing of Singapore on a bus. Some might even think of the corner of Lorong 22 and Geylang Road or Flanders Square. Occasionally we might encounter some exceptions like the story of Raja and Rani. It will certainly make any employer “eye-ball” pop out. Fraternizing of this sort is not tolerated because it can lead to other undesirable consequences such as unwanted pregnancies. Most household employers prefer to terminate the maid’s contract and send her home but at the end of it all, Raja continues working in Singapore.

Photo 6: For Raja and Rani, language, religion, looks, color and no money are not important. You see life can be so simple with “You ok, I ok. Everything ok.”

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Pete’s Dragon

Last Sunday, I caught a few minutes of the movie Garfield on Channel 5. What do you call this type of movie, where the human characters are real actors but one or more of the animals are animated cartoons? I can think of two more examples, Scooby Doo and Roger Rabbit.

The first time I saw such a movie was probably Pete's Dragon. The year was 1977 and I saw it at Cathay Theatre. The movie was not that great - maybe 3 popcorns. But there was a song there that I simply loved. Do you know the title? Here it is; sung by Helen Reddy who also starred in the movie..

I'll be your candle on the water
This flame inside of me will grow
Keep holding on you'll make it
Here's my hand so take it
Look for me reaching out to show
As sure as rivers flow
I'll never let you go
I'll never let you go
I'll never let you go .....

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Return to “Police catch nuns”

The other day, I visited my primary school, the Braddell Rise School, with two former classmates Aii Chan and Sock Gek. Both Aii Chan and I have blogged about our beloved BRS here and here. It was also the first time that we have visited this place after more than 40 years. At that time, we used to call our school “mata lai siku” in Cantonese, which means “police catch nuns”.

When I blogged about BRS in 2005, the premises was occupied by MINDS (Tampines branch). This time, the tenant is the Society of Moral Charities (SOMC). Interestingly, whilst the ladies could remember much about our classmates and teachers, I fared much better when it came to places. Here is a sketch of the layout of BRS which I recall from memory, as well as some photos that we took.

Oops .. that should be 'principal'. But too troublesome to change lah.

I believe all the buildings within this complex are from our time. I don’t think any new buildings have been added because none of the tenants stayed for long. We were surprised to see that the place was much smaller than we remembered and the blocks were so close to each other. This reminds of a tall tale that one of my Primary 3 classmates told us. This chap claimed that he had seen a snake which was as long as the blocks in our school!

Can you see that huge tree? We spotted many red saga seeds at the base of the tree. I have a strong suspicion that this huge saga seed tree* is the very same one that was already there during our time. Many kids, including boys like me, liked to pick the saga seeds and play a rather girlie game which I will describe another time – or maybe one of you readers would like to take up this ‘assignment’. If my suspicion is correct, then this tree must be more than 50 years old! Can a saga seed tree survive that long? In that case, perhaps we should recommend to the National Parks Board that they gazette this tree as a "heritage tree". In fact it stands only half a kilometer or so from the famous Braddell Road Angsana tree.

This is a view of part of sports field. The second photo is from the National Archives collection dated 1955. I remember it was much bigger than this. Maybe part of it has been given over to the nearby Assisi Home or Marymout Road. On the right was a fence. Across this fence used to be some bungalows belonging to Caucasian families. As I mentioned in my earlier story, when we played hantam bola, sometimes the ball went across the fence and some brave soul would have to climb over the fence to retrieve it, risking certain punishment if caught.

I also remember this statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus perched on the roof of Mount Alvernia hospital. The hospital was constructed during the years when we were at BRS, which would be around 1960 to 1963. At that time, the statue faced the main road and when you passed by Thomson Road at night, you could see the statue bathed in soft blue light. Now they seem to have shifted the statue and it is no longer visible from the main road.

After we bade fond goodbyes to our former school, we made a short visit to the nearby MacRitchie Reservoir. Those days, our teachers often brought us for ‘excursions’ here. We would line up in pairs, holding hand and crossed the road to enter the park from a point just opposite the school.

Our last stop was the Saint Theresa’s Home. Aii Chan and Sock Gek were quite excited to see it because they used to live at a kampong just next it. At that time, it was called The Little Sisters of the Poor and the kampong was called called Hai Lam Sua (Hainan Hill). The present location of Hai Lam Sua would be around the Lakeview Estate. Even as I write this post, I suddenly recall that in those days, we used to call the Thomson Road area Hoi Lam San which is the equivalent in Cantonese. I was surprised to learn that there used to be a cemetery here which served as a playground for the two brave little kampong girls. Apparently, besides the huge, mainly Cantonese cemeteries at Bishan, there was also a smaller Hainanese one here.

As we bade our farewells, we promised to try and round up more former BRS students for a gathering to remember our beloved BRS. And one question lingers … would the authorities demolish it? I hope not.

*The saga seed has a very romantic name in Chinese. Do you know what is it? Answer here.

Response to suggestions that there used to be a badminton court between blocks 2 and 3. (posted on 04 Aug 2009)

Below is a photo showing Block 2, with Mt Alvernia Hospital in the background. On the left is Block 3, the highest block. As you can see, the gap between the two blocks is very small and the slope is very steep. Unless, block 2 has been rebuilt to bring it closer; it is unlikely that the badminton court could have existed here. And judging from the buildings which we saw on that day, I don't think anything new has been built. Mostly it was just retrofitting, I believe. Plus there simply isn't enough space to house 3 blocks and a badminton court.