Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Final goodbye to BRS (my primary school)

Oh  no! Did you read this article in yesterday’s Straits Times? The day that I had dreaded has finally arrived. They are going to tear down the buildings that once housed my primary school, the Braddell Rise School. According to the report, a new six-storey Assissi Hospice will be built on the site where a few remaining blocks of BRS still stood. 

It’s quite ironic actually. During the 4 years that I spent in BRS, from 1960 to 1963, I actually saw the Mount Alvernia Hospital being built from scratch next door. After BRS moved out, the current Assissi Hospice was built on what was formerly our sports field. And now, our ‘neighbours’ have completed swallowed up what little remains of our beloved BRS. It would be even more ironic if someday, some of us ex-BRS boys and girls were to come back and spend our ‘sunset’ days in this very place.

Still, I am thankful that they had not done this earlier. When I first blogged about my memories of BRS in November 2005, I had speculated that, with the construction of the nearby Lornie Viaduct, they would surely tear down the old buildings soon. Since then I have had the opportunity to visit this place with two of my former classmates; and many former BRS students have also visited the site and shared their comments in my blog. Some have suggested that I write another book, collating memories of former BRS students. I told them I was too busy and it would be too much work. Perhaps that’s one project that we cannot postpone any more.

PS - Here are links to previous posts related to Braddell Rise School.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Nostalgia trees – Albizia

Oh  no! Did you read this article in last Saturday’s edition of the Strait Times? It seems that the authorities have declared war on my favourite ‘nostalgia tree', the Albizia. They plan to "cull" them (I thought culling only applies to animals?). Hope that they will leave some behind for us enjoy.

I love the sight of the Albizia. Partly because they are so beautiful, so majestic. And partly because, like the Casuarina, they belong to a category of tree, I call a ‘nostalgia tree'. These are trees that my mind automatically associates with memories of my childhood.
I am not sure why, but  I think it’s because next to my primary school (Braddell Rise School) there used to be many beautiful Albizia trees growing at the Braddell Heights next to our school. If you were to travel along the Lornie Viaduct, you can still see many of these majestic trees.
Below are some photos that I have taken of the Albizia. Can you identify these places are?

Here’s an article written by another lover of the Albizia tree giving good reasons why we should preserve them.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nostalgia plants – Bryophyllum

There are some trees and plants that my mind automatically associates with memories of my childhood. I call them nostalgia trees/plants. One of them which I have blogged about is the Casuarina tree. Another is the Bryophyllum.

From our garden

There are two things that I remember from my childhood days about this interesting plant.

1)  Tiny plantlets start to sprout at the edges of the leaf after it is plucked from the plant. My wife tells me that when she was young, she used to use this leaf as a book mark, and even when the leaf had been pressed between the pages of the book, roots would still appear. Thus one can understand why the common name for this plant in Chinese is 落地生根  (luodi shenggen) – translated literally; “grows roots when falls to the ground”.

2)  Among the kampong folks, it was believed that the leaf of the Bryophyllum has medicinal properties, in that it is able to promote healing of wounds. That’s why, in Hokkien, we called it Ti Tan Heok – literally, “iron nail leaf”. I cannot remember the details; but you’d probably have to pound it and apply it to the wound with the bandage. (Check out my story of childhood accidents here).

Saturday, July 06, 2013

My holidays in UK

Last month, I went for a holiday in the UK with my family. We had a great time. My youngest daughter, who was studying in Edinburgh, joined us in London where we spent two days. In London, we watched the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Unfortunately, my daughter’s good friend, who is studying at the Imperial College in London, could only get tickets for Friday evening (at a very special price apparently), the same day our plane landed. Tried as I did, I could not keep my eyes open throughout the whole show. As I was sitting near the centre of the second row, I fear that the ‘phantom’ and his colleagues must have spotted me dosing off and thought; “Stupid China-man. Why come here when you don’t know how to appreciate beautiful English music”. Actually, I enjoyed the show tremendously; especially the life orchestral music and the two well-known songs, Music of the Night and That’s All I Ask of You.

Besides viewing a few of the usual tourist attractions like Big Ben and London Bridge, we also attended Sunday worship service at the Metropolitan Tabernacle which is pastored by Dr Peter Masters. Many years ago, as a young Christian, I had already come to know of Dr Masters through his articles in the publication Sword and Trowel. I was surprised that he was still preaching and was so glad that at least, I had the chance to listen to him preach in person. As my wife and son are avid plant lovers, the Kew Gardens was another compulsory stop for us.

After London, we drove north in a rental car, stopping in Cambridge and York to visit my friends Brian Mitchell and John Harper who had been blogging regularly here in Goodmorningyesterday; and who I have already met in person here in Singapore.  Unfortunately, due to time and geographical constraint, and the fact that I had four other members of my family with me, it was not feasible to meet up with other blogger friends like Tim Light, Mike Robbins, Derek Tait, Geoffrey Pain, Stephen Harshaw,  and Tom O’brien.  I had arranged to meet Tom Brown in Edinburgh where we stayed in my daughter’s rented flat, but due to communication problems, that meeting did not materialize. Anyway, I hope that Tom and my other UK friends can make their way to our shores one day, and we can still meet here in tiny Singapore. Singapore’s smallness has its advantages after all.

With Brian and Tessa Mitchell at their home in Cambridge
Being taken for a ride by the Mitchells ..... down the River Cam.
With John and Ann Harper at the York old city wall with the River Ouse behind us.
From York, we drove westward to our next stop, the renowned Lake District detouring on our way to see Malham Cove in Yorkshire Dales National Park. After spending two nights in Lake District, we proceeded to Edinburgh stopping briefly at some sections of the Hadrian Wall. After a couple of days’ rest in Edinburgh, we drove to the Scottish Highlands visiting places like Inverness, Loch Ness, Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Loch Lomond and the Wallace Monument.  Of course, in Edinburgh, we visited many places, such the Scottish National Gallery, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh University, Carlton Hill and Arthur’s Seat. We returned to London by train before boarding the Emirates flight back to hot, humid and hazy Singapore.

The driving was surprisingly easy as the UK drivers were generally quite disciplined, and their system was similar to ours. I was particularly happy with the car allotted to us by Sixt, our car rental company. It was a Skoda that came with a very user-friendly navigation system. I had always thought that Skoda was a lousy car, and was surprised that it was such an easy car to drive; and the diesel engine was very powerful. One strange thing about the car that took a bit of getting used to, was that the engine switched off by itself every time you stopped the car at a junction or traffic lights; and then automatically started when you took your foot off the brake pedal. I think this must be part of the effort to reduce air pollution.  There must be a way to override this auto-off function, but I did not bother to find out. And of course, having been driving Japanese cars most of my adult life, the position of the indicators and wiper switches took quite a bit of getting used to.

By the way, if you intend to go on a similar holiday in the UK, please note that you do not need to get an International Driving Permit. Prior to the trip, I had visited many websites which all said the same thing; as long as your driver’s license was in a language that used Roman alphabets; such as English, you do not need an IDP. But, being a kiasu Singaporean, my wife checked with the agent who booked our rental car, and she told us that we needed the IDP. And when I went to the Automobile Association office in Kallang Leisure Park to purchase 2 licences at $22 each, the lady there said the same thing. However, when we collected our car at Sixt, we were informed that had we checked with them directly, they would have told us that we did not need the IDP to drive in the UK. There you are … $44 plus time and petrol down the drain through no fault of ours.

Anyway, all in all, I have really enjoyed my two weeks in this lovely country that I already knew so much about. I loved the beautiful scenery; especially the lakes and mountains (In Chinese, we say, 山明水秀). We were also blessed to have fine weather with the sun out on most days, although it was surprisingly cold for summer – at Fort William it was down to 12 deg C. Even though I generally disliked crowded cities, I enjoyed seeing the ancient architecture of the many heritage buildings like churches and castles; such as the Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie and the Urquhart Castle in Loch Ness. Last, but not least, the beautiful flowers that we saw everywhere were a joy to behold. You can view the photos that I have uploaded to Facebook here.

I was very happy to be able to see the Urquhart Castle looking exactly like what I remember from documentaries of the Loch Ness Monster I had seen years ago.

Another interesting surprise was this train station. Readers will probably recognize this as the famous Waterloo Station from the movie, the Bourne Supremacy. With my two 千金’s.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

When Will I See You Again? (By Peter Chan)

Usually this kind of subject would be frowned upon by many because it’s considered taboo or too sensitive. We can’t fault people for their opinions because we grew up in a very conservative era.  Some were and are still very ‘churchy’.  Yet it’s like those saucy Chinese B-grade movies where we know Chinese people are supposed to be very conservative but at the same time appreciate eroticism.

I did promise Chun See not to dwell on those itchy and erotic stuff, which some people like to hear.  And so, I shall handle this with care and objectivity (hopefully).  Remember we are two very “clean-type” adults in our Silver Tsunami Years. So here’s our story.

Our paths crossed when we were both busy with our careers; she was in banking, whilst I was in IT. I was Singaporean, and she was an Indonesian Chinese residing in Singapore at that time. Looking back now …. how time flies.  We had lost contact with each for over 30 years. Meantime, we had separately raised children who are already working adults (but from different spouses).  By “jodoh” we were re-united by the founder of Google Search who developed this wonderful software that enables one to find almost anything under the sun.  She has actually been following Lam Chun See’s GMY blog and thought my writing style and my childhood memories reminded her of someone she knew from the past.  Furthermore she recognized me with that unmistakable deep voice on Foodage.

So the re-connection was agreed and both were eagerly looking forward to meeting again, not knowing how the other person looks like today.  I didn’t have much of her on photograph but was very surprised to hear that she still kept a card from me.  What card?  My business card?  It was in pristine condition (when I saw it) because it meant so much to her; and the only memory of me.  Gee I must have left a great impression on her.  The card was kept in a safe place at a bank vault until KeppelBank was acquired by OCBC Bank.  That night she showed me the card.  With a bit of teary eyes, I took a long hard look to read what was written.  The card was given through the courtesy of NOEL the Hamper and Flower People and accompanied the bouquet of flowers for her birthday.  Hmmm, this was the first and only time I ever dedicated flowers to a girl. 

To be honest we were not worried about meeting again.  Certainly, we would not “die of shock” upon looking at our new body contours; unlike the case of a friend of mine. He told me he almost fell off his chair when his turn came. And that 'meeting' only involved an exchange of photographs over the Internet.  Some women friends I hear simply refused to meet their x-bfs for fear of rejection.  Some would never want to meet because of a bad fall-out. 

Photo 1:  [Top] The Kasbah at the Mandarin Hotel Orchard – now the Meritus Mandarin (c 1983).  [Bottom] The “Kasbah” today opposite the Mandarin Court Restaurant.

At that time, I must have fallen for her.  In Malay they called this lemah-lembut.  Where did we go for dates?  Since we loved dancing, names rolled out easily but the Kasbah was where we liked best - it was our first date here.  There were also meals at Jack’s Place over in Yen San Building below the Citibank Orchard.  She didn’t forget the car-rides to some quiet far-off corners of Singapore.  Funny thing; we didn’t do the movie circuit.  Now these are historical places gone forever.  We realized the cost of living has gone up; the food prices looked so atrociously expensive.  Back then credit cards were not so widely used, NETS Payment had not arrived; cash payment was the order of the day and that’s where I realized my folly, I forgot to top up my wallet and sheepishly had to “borrow” money from her to pay for the date.  “Ah you didn’t repay me after you borrowed”, she said.  This was the most embarrassing moment for me that evening.  “OK I now repay, how much was it?”

Photo 2:  This really made me looked so gundduh.  First look who I ordered the flowers from?  I wonder whether this firm still in business.  Next, did I send the card during CNY period – the image reminded me of the festive season?  She called it Sweet Innocence.

My question for the evening: What (lasting) impressions could I have left on you?  Gentle person, caring and soft-spoken - traits which should have helped us make it through the years.  So how come we never got married?  “You were always a busy man, jet here, jet there.  You never said those magic words nor showed commitment.” 
It was true I didn’t say those 3 magic words (ILU) to her though we dated very frequently.  It was certainly not the case of commitment to a HDB flat which we get to read these days in the Straits Times.  I equated the fact since I saw her often, it was sufficient evidence that there was no need to do anything more.  Little did I realize that a woman wants to know what is at the end of the road in a relationship. 

We met one final time in Hong Kong after I got the much-coveted regional job.  We had lunch at a place near the Bank of America Tower before I flew out of Kai Tak International Airport for San Francisco the next morning.  It was here I found out the hard truth and the Kailan dish didn’t taste yummy.  Yes she was my old flame and I would have proposed to her if not for the miscommunications; I don't mean we had fights of that sort.  We missed each other because I was then busy with my career and embroiled in office politics.  I wanted to get out of the Singapore market and go regional in my career.  I already knew something about her; she had the good qualities of a life partner, very typical of strict Indonesian Chinese families who spoke Dutch and Bahasa Indonesia.  Indonesian Chinese girls are something.  In the old days they are taught to be well-mannered, discreet and are usually very polite by nature.  She was in that mould.  By the time I arrived in HK, I was married, there was little choice and she found someone else.

Photo 3: Strange thing though, we were both in Hong Kong at one time, we didn’t meet again after that final meeting.  She was working in the Bank of America Tower and I was staying at the Furama Hotel Inter-Con, both near Statute Square area.  Ten years ago, we were living in the same neighborhood in SG but didn’t know that either.  Photo of HK waterfront (c 1988).

Now listen to this verbatim during an exchange of messages to determine our ultimate meeting venue.  Even Silver Tsunami babies got problems finding their way around in the New Singapore.
P: Wanna test me?
S: Test you on wat?
P: whether I’m still romantic?
S: Yes.....
P: Can try
S: What would you consider a romantic date?
P: U like mosquitos?
S: Unfortunately, no.
P: Next question, in SG or outside SG?
S: S’pore
P: SG very dry leh
S: Romantic dinner, then?
P: Huh? Always eating. Heheheh. 
S: What else to do in Spore?
P:  Ah, u have to use a bit of imagination.  Most people think of candle-light diner and the commercials advocate it.
S: And you?
P: ask yourself how can one ever enjoy romantic @dinners? Most time looking @food and praising the food or the chef.  Dats dull.
S: So what is romantic evening?

Indeed Singapore today is considered expensive for entertainment.  Meeting somebody revolves around food and the same familiar settings.  Soft relaxing music not punishing on the ears is lacking and replaced by noisy pubs and clubs.  We ruled out Ku De Ta and Dempsey Hill because they were not conducive places for a quiet evening. 

When we got up to dance at the Kasbah, Rahimah Rahim sang, “When Will I See You Again”. Tonight a different band played the same song just when we were about to take leave.  We still joked about who would make it to the other’s funeral wake first.  “Better to have more friends to send you off than be the last person”, she commented.  “Makes sense”, I replied. 

Thanks for the beautiful memories Syl, her pet name I still carry with me. Through this, I came to bury much of the disappointments of the past.  I said sorry to her - it should not have happened that way.  On a more positive note, I promise not to show our faces (Then & Now) but only this card which you have preciously kept all these 30 years.

This time no more flowers but this song is dedicated to you Syl. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

From my inbox (12 June 2013) – Karen Jane’s video of kampong in Sembawang

Hello Chun See

I have at last managed to edit some footage I have of Singapore around Sembawang area in about 1964. I really enjoy reading your posts and viewing your photos. I have started to post on some Facebook sites and am happy to share this with you, if you would like to put this on your website. I have uploaded it up on You Tube
At last I have managed with help to get some video footage up. I have tried to read the beginning writing at the start of this footage but cannot make out the above S'pore which may help to identify the kampong. I look forward to your comment and information about this. I lived in Sembawang in Queens Avenue and Thomson Rise between 1962 - 1964. P.s does anyone know my Amah?

Karen :)

Thanks Karen for sharing this precious video. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with that part of Singapore. Hope some of my readers able to help.

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