Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Hooked on a little shop of wonders

Some useful hooks and stuff which I got from a provision shop in Jurong West.

Big glass jars with metal lids containing all sorts
of biscuits. You can still find them today
at some provision shops.
I can spend hours in a provision shop, pouring over their goods and visualising what I can do with some of them. The bigger shops combine hardware with sundry goods -- which is great. So you wander around the shop, from Brands essence of chicken, dish washing liquids to pots and pans and then to one of my favourites -- various kinds of hooks for hanging various things. These days, there are hooks and hooks.

But thank goodness, provision shops don't try too hard to keep up with the times. They play songs you can tap your feet to -- like Sukiyaki -- though most of them have cash counters and even Nets service.

But I know of at least one which still uses a rusty can and pulley, operating in the heart of a HDB estate. The boss insists that this relic be used instead of the cash register. Probably in his late 70s, he has a full crop of white hair. Hale and hearty, you can see him almost every day, fanning himself and seated on a wooden crate while his two daughters managed the shop. His wife occasionally emerged to help out.

Did you catch "The Provision Shop" on channel 8 last Sunday? I think the idea is great -- with the provision shop and the characters reflecting a rapidly changing Singapore. Indeed, the provision shop is one of the last icons in retail (and service) with the "personal touch". (I once borrowed a ladder from them.)

The telemovie's centrepiece (for me) was the honest look into the relationship between a Singaporean and a foreign worker -- and the rapport and understanding that came too late.

Overall though, I think the storyline is a little contrived and doesn't capture my attention as much as the interviews given by Royston Tan. He is a great storyteller and very captivating -- like when he talked about his childhood at his family's provision shop in Lorong Chuan -- and when he talked about his philosophy in film making. I love the props (some he had saved from those days) -- tikum-tikum, packets of snacks (are they still edible?), etc.

Wonder if he kept some of those tubes of gel that came with a small straw? You press the gel (which came in many wonderful colours) into a ball shape at one end of the straw. You blow from the other end and voila, the gel grows into a balloon. (Alas, to the disappointment of many kids, the balloons being transparent were not as colourful as the gel.)

Perhaps I'll find them at Rosyth Road, the provision shop where the filming took place.

2 comments:

streetsing said...

Indeed the provision shops of old were interesting. I remember they had those green color weighing machines with copper scales for weighing sugar or rice. Played with those multi colored bubble balloon before too. A hole will develop after a while, pinched it with fingers to patch it then another hole appear elsewhere. Finally in frustration crumple the whole balloon, making those piak piak sound as the bubble burst :)

Tienyin Lo said...

Oh yes, those weighing machines. I remember them well too. Even in wet markets, the butcher would cut from a chunk of meat to the amount you want, then dunk it onto the weighing scale's metal plate and deftly wrap it up in newspaper for you.