Thursday, 25 April 2013

Brockhampton Drive 1955 or the 8th lane

WHEN its postal district number was still 1955, this was a long lane...

A long lane still today by any standard, except that it looks so alien to me and no longer feels like home. Most of the low terraced houses and the single-storey bungalows with pink roof tiles have vanished. In their place, stood houses and bungalows that seem completely out of synch with the ambience of the neighbourhood. But perhaps I am living in a time warp.

This was the lane where I've been living in since I was born -- known to most taxi drivers then as the 8th lane (because it was the eighth lane along the right side of Chartwell Drive as one was travelling up from Serangoon Garden Circus).  I have walked up the rather steep slope (when leaving home) and down the slope (when returning) for some 30 years. The slope along this road proved to be rather memorable especially if you were in a hurry. It could be quite an agony to run up the slope if you needed to nake an urgent call from the public phone (which was next to the bus stop  near Carisbrooke Grove along Chartwell Drive). Double anguish if you reached the booth breathless only to see a pair of legs peeping out from under the door of the booth.

The phone booth was something after Superman's own heart. Painted a glossy royal blue, with two wooden swinging doors for complete privacy, it was not at all like today's transparent booth. It cost 10 cents to make a 3-minute call. You have to keep inserting coins to talk longer. My friend said he experimented by drilling a hole in a 10 cent coin and putting a thread through it, so that it could be pulled out after a call. He said it worked!

Good to regain a few 10 cts this way. Because we had dropped a few along this lane while taking walks in the evening. My dad liked to take evening walks with my brother and me. We would walk leisurely to the Indian stall at the mouth of the lane (Chartwell Drive end) to buy a few sweets. On many occasions, dad would be the one stepping on the tail of this cat which seemed to be a resident there. There would be a loud protest from the cat and some defensive scratching. Dad would mumble something about the fury of animals. Then, each sucking a sweet, we would walk down the lane to the other end where it met Berwick Drive. Sometimes, we would hear a tinkle, and dad would say "There goes 10 cents to kin loong wong (Cantonese for god of the underworld)!" Those coins were often lost for good as it was too dark for us to find them. It wasn't his habit to carry a wallet, so loose change would flew of his hand sometimes, especially if he swung his hands too hard. Dad always said it was a sign of health to swing your hands when you walk.

We loved to peer into all the houses to see what families were up to. They all glowed with yellow light and the warmth of family togetherness -- dad seated reading the newspaper and the kids playing around in the living room. One of my primary school teachers lived further down the road. But her doors were always closed and though there was light from the windows, all there was to indicate that the family was in was the red Austin Mini parked outside.

We liked to see the kind of furniture they had in their houses, too. Dad would often remark on how such and such a table or shelf would be useful, but how it wouldn't fit into our own furniture scheme and so on. These walks were thoroughly enjoyable and we were never tired of them even if we did it every evening.

We seldom went all the way to the end of the lane towards Berwick Drive -- it was just too exciting for an evening to end that way.  There were very wide drains at Berwick Drive. In the dark, peering into those wide and deep drains was as exciting as being on the edge of Victoria Falls. Mum always warned us not to go near those drains in case we fall in and get washed away. Which apparently happened to a little boy who fell in during a heavy storm. Or this could be a tale my mum told us just so we don't go near those drains. (I think those wide drains have been covered up now.)

This is one sweet that did
not change. Even its wrapper
 remains the same .If my dad was
here today, he would recognise it
 without trouble -- though he may
nor recognise Brockhampton Drive.
When we reached home, we would happily offer the sweets we bought to mum. Mum and I loved the huge rounded ones (the size of a 50-cent coin) wrapped in cellophane. It came in various colours with different flavours. My mum's favourite was orange. Mine was lemon and the green one, though I was not sure what flavour it was. Dad though, did not like this "fruity" sweet. He always took Hacks instead. I think my brother also preferred Hacks.

Such a perfect ending to the day.

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