Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Mass drill at SGSS

WE practised almost every day. The performance wasn't called "mass drill" for nothing and involved massive number of students from various classes. Each class practised individually and then on certain days, all the classes together -- in the PE field.

The big performance was for Youth Day celebrations held at the stadium at Jalan Besar in the 1960s. Each of us (in white SGSS t-shirts and blue PE shorts) would hold a red plastic ball to perform calisthenics in time to recorded piano music blaring from loudspeakers. It was a sight to behold -- if done in perfect unison.

Each form teacher was responsible for the performance of his class. Our form teacher had a brainwave. He said we were all taking cues from each other, hence our timing was all out. So he told us to close our eyes and to do the steps from our own memory.

The results were worse.

"Alamak! Aiyo! Open your eyes... Open your eyes..." I can remember him saying, his tone a combination of desperation and despair.

However on the real day, we did a good job :)

Sand patch at SGSS

SGSS which stands for Serangoon Garden South School, had this little sand patch near the tuck shop. This little patch of sand, located near the canal side (the canal flowed along the length of Kensington Park Road) was part of the huge school field which united SGSS with Serangoon Garden North School.

Usually, this sand patch was not too clean -- either students treated it as a vast dumping ground -- or that litter strewn along the rest of the field was not as obvious being hidden by grass.

Anyway, I was loitering around the sand patch after my "da mee", waiting for my best friend when I was suddenly jotted out of my daydream. First, I was pulled by the corner of one of my sleeves. Then a huge pair of eyes glared at me. A stern voice said "You! Pick it up and throw it into the dustbin!"

The eyes belonged to my cheongsam-clad principal. I looked at where she pointed and saw an ice-cream stick. Horrors! I wanted to tell her that I didn't throw that. But she had stalked off, looking left and right for erring students.

I felt very wronged and my day was ruined. On reflection, it was right for the principal to ask me pick up the rubbish (whether I was the culprit or no). But the manner she did it was so wrong. AND, she could have shown an example by picking it up herself and throwing it into the bin.

Return of the Condor Heroes

TRIED in vain to search for the Return of the Condor Heroes (1960) starring a young Patrick Tse as Yang Guo and Nam Hung as Xiaolongnui. That would be great to watch!

The current  series on Ch 8 (weekdays 11pm) have been heavily criticised by netizens as not sticking to the original storyline... and featuring a Xiaolongnui who is too fat and not an ethereal beauty as the character was supposed to be in Louis Cha's swordfighting trilogy.

I have not read the original novel before. But my mum had. I remember stacks of these novels lying around (they have lst part, 2nd part...). It was unfortunate that mum sold them all later to the karung guni man, along with the Southern Screen movie magazines. The covers had Chinese brush sketches of swordfighting heroes in various gongfu poses. And inside, only one or two illustrations -- much to my disappointment.

Back to the current series shown over Ch 8. I think the criticism on Michelle Chen as Xiaolongnui is rather unfair. (There was one comment that she might be too fat for Yang Guo to carry.)  I find her a very unique Xiaolongnui. Certainly not a drop-dead beauty, but has a certain innocence, gentleness and simplicity.

People said that the MediaCorp (or was it TCS then) production starring Fann Wong as Xiaolongnui (with Christopher Lee as Yang Guo) was a great choice. My votes go to Michelle Chen though. And I should think Nam Hung would be a great Xiaolongnui.

Patrick Tse would take my votes any time as the perfect Yang Guo.

Aside: There's something about that bird, that condor that is rather hilarious -- in all the versions. I don't think they have hit upon the right "bird" to star as the CONDOR. If all the bird stars fail, I think they should enlist Big Bird of Sesame Street.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Pork belly

THE memory that sticks most, of following mum to the wet market is how the butcher cleanly sliced a piece of belly pork from the chunk hung on a black metal hook. And the way the meat wobbled when thrown onto the huge wooden chopping board -- after it was weighed on the daching. Then with deft hands, the butcher would wrap it up with newspaper.

Once, I went to the market on my own. And returned home to discover that there was an extra newspaper-wrapped packet of minced meat in the straw basket we used for marketing.

"Hey mum, we can have steamed pork today!" I said happily.

"You go and return it right away!" mum said.

"Must I? I don't think the pork man (gee yuk lo)  would remember," I retorted. It was a very long walk to the market.

"Go now!"

Aside: Everything was wrapped in newspaper in those days... from meat to vegetables to biscuits. Today, we know this is not very healthy :)

Another aside: Gee yuk lo of yore do live up to their name. Their white t-shirts usually rolled up to expose their pot bellies. Such a figure, holding a huge cleaver, was how cartoonists depicted the hardworking butcher, king of wet markets.

There were of course some slim gee yuk lo who did not roll up their t-shirt -- there being no pot belly to keep the rolled up t-shirt from slipping down.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Foot reflexology, anyone?

Lots of places to get foot reflexology along this row of charming old shophouses at Jalan Sultan. But my favourite no-frill massage place is at People's Park Centre. However, according to netizens, Feet Haven gives the best massage. May try that one day and let you know.
WHEN my friend first introduced me to foot reflexology, I was very doubtful. I said I would just take half an hour, even 15 mins -- but was finally persuaded to take half an hour.

This was at a nice "spa" at Jalan Sultan, a ground unit of a row of shophouses. (They actually have two branches along the road). They soaked your feet in a bucket of hot water first. Then followed a vigorous rub-dry with a thick towel. After a few "not so hard" from me and with the masseuse saying that he was hardly applying any pressure, the session progressed rather well.

So now, this foot reflexology thing is one of my greatest indulgence. My favourite masseuses are at this shop next to my optician or rather ophthalmologist (would never be able to spell this word without Google) at People's Park Centre -- its front has neon lights forming the shape of a foot. All their masseuses (in pink polo t-shirts) are great (save for one, my friend said, after a very unsatisfactory session where she said she didn't even feel a thing).  Even my ophthalmologist would pop over to get a good massage occasionally.

There is one lady masseuse there who is particularly strong and would give you the most robust massage you would ever have in your life, unless you tell her "softer... softer... SOFTER!" But she is good -- and has become my friend's favourite.

Steps & path to great food

This short path definitely worth exploring.
THIS short flight of steps and path lead to great food -- to a host of old school coffee shops juxtaposed along hip cafes and eateries. But it was the Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre where I rested my feet. 

This is the food cerntre which many bloggers have written about -- famous for its hawker food. The queues were still rather long, though it was past lunch time. Tried the duck rice stall on the second floor, whose signboard said it was the original from Chinatown. The lady lovingly carved out the meat from the bones and arranged them neatly on my plate. Then she sprinkled the whole thing with the black gravy, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Very tasty, very tender. Pity I was too busy gobbling everything down to even take a picture. 

I found there were lots more young people in this estate than Tanglin Halt. Two teenagers lugging groceries and hurrying down the steps were busy chatting. "I jogged twice a day, is that too much?" one asked the other.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Where cold drinks once shook hands with hot drinks

This itinerant electrician and plumber was "parked" at the old Tanglin Halt Road estate which is now undergoing selective en-bloc redevelopment. Wish there is one in my estate. It costs a bomb each time you call a plumber, even if it's just to change that U-shaped thing of your sink. BTW, this bicycle may be a fixture at Tanglin Halt. When I visited again recently, it was chained to the railing, at the exact spot, in the exact manner, with its front wheel tilted in the exact angle. Its owner, as usual, is no where to be seen. I can only assume that hie is having his long daily cuppa at a nearby coffeeshop while waiting for his business calls. 
I HAD wanted to have lunch at the Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre but ended up at Tanglin Halt Market and Food Centre nearby. Just as well. People have blogged about it as having the "best food" in Singapore.

When I was there, many of the stalls were closed and shuttered. Perhaps I was rather late, around 2pm. Or perhaps the stalls have moved out due to the impending redevelopment. One of the few stalls which was open still was the soup stall. I had a big bowl of chicken soup with rice. Not bad. A group of sweaty kids appeared, with one of them saying "Let's find my favourite stall!" and then ran past my table, eager for his food. I wonder which is his favourite stall :)

I occasionally visited this place if I happened to be nearby. My first visit was in the 90s when my friend and I laughed over a signboard showing cold drinks on one end and hot drinks on the other -- with a pair of hands shaking each other in the middle. A very warm-hearted signboard -- "cold drinks" greeting "hot drinks" with a hearty handshake.

I looked in vain for this signboard that day.

A sleepy afternoon. The area seems nice, neat and clean. Very 60s,  

Something about Patrick Tse

JUST as familiar to me as the MGM lion, is that beacon and its signature fanfare before the start of many black and white Cantonese movies made in Hong Kong around the late 50s and 60s.

I have been watching quite of lot of these movies which some kind souls have uploaded on YouTube. Especially those starring Patrick Tse with Nam Hung and Kar Ling. If there's anything unchanged about Patrick Tse, it is his inimitable style of walking -- a stylish saunter (especially when he turns around, reminding me of a model doing a catwalk). And that smile (which his son, Nicholas Tse also sports). And of course, his voice -- a little high-pitched and nasal (unique in a nice way, not shrilly nor squeaky). No one else has that voice.

A scene from an old Cantonese movie showing Kar Ling and Patrick Tse. Notice Kar Ling has a bob hairstyle that is quite the in-thing today. 
The credits for those old Cantonese movies were at the beginning instead of the end. And they always started with the director, the script writer, even the light and sound man before they came to the cast. And instead of those fine prints we see today, the credits were huge and bold. No wonder even directors were household names then, not just the stars. Anyway, the names in the credits were almost the same for every movie -- and it might be a bit difficult to forget them!

There were just two words: 再会 (good bye) at the end of the movie. I can imagine the audience in those days getting up from their seats as these two words flashed, dabbing their eyes (if the movie is a tear wringer).

Not sure if I was wrong, audience in Hong Kong seemed to be more emotionally drawn into the movie than those in Singapore. When I was in Hong Kong (a long time ago in the 80s to catch the Alfred Hitchcock festival with a friend), the audience was clapping and exclaiming or screaming.. I didn't see such reactions in Singapore.

But I seem to recall how we used to joke about the audience in the good old days crying out "Helor lai lor! Helor lai lor!" (here comes the hero) when the good guy appeared to bash up the villain. This would be followed by clapping.

Where did this audience disappear to?

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Old gables again -- along Havelock

Godowns along Havelock Road, near Saiboo Street. I think these godowns have really interesting gables -- there is the typical triangle on top, and then one round window followed by three square windows, neatly aligned -- all with sturdy iron grills. I would think the round windows would let in interesting shafts of sunlight when coolies worked in the dimly lit days of yore. (But I guess coolies working so very hard, would not have the time or the heart to admire them.) These old godowns are marked for conservation. All pictures here taken in Dec 2014.
After note: There was a report in The Straits Times a few days after this posting that the warehouses will be converted to a boutique hotel. The area is all hoarded up now. 
Just an aside: the junction at Saiboo Street and Havelock Road seems to be one of the widest yellow box junctions in Singapore. Can't confirm this though. There may be wider ones.
This is the Geok Hong Tian Temple -- or temple of the Jade Emperor, built in 1887, one of the oldest temples in Singapore. It is pretty near to the popular Havelock Road bak kut teh restaurant, by the way. 

Close up of one of its gables. The temple's roofs are decorated with figurines of the Sun, Wind, Rain and Thunder gods. 

Watching the tide

Mao2 keeping a lookout for me, to see whether water level is falling during a water test at my bathrooms which were filled up to about 1 inch of water .
MY cat loves to help out. She keeps an eye on things for me.

For example, the other day, the HDB needed to conduct a water test for my two bathrooms. The blocks in my area are going to be upgraded soon. And those who opted not to have their bathrooms re-tiled, would need to undergo a water test to see whether the waterproofing (I am not sure whether the previous owner has re-tiled, but if they are original tiles, then it would be about 30 years old) is still good -- that no water leaks down to the neighbour's unit one floor below.

So the workers came at 8.30am. They sealed up all the drainage and filled up the bathrooms to about one inch height of water. I was instructed to watch the water level -- if it so much dropped a centimetre, I was to inform them straight away. They would come back four hours later to check.

The test was a little unnerving. Because if they found seepage, I would have to re-tile my bathroom floors and that would mean hacking, lots of dust and hassle. Fortunately, I passed, or rather my bathroom floors passed!

 Mao2 relaxing -- a well-deserved rest.
But you can be sure that she's ever vigilant, either resting on a bed or....
... a handbag.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Quest for great tau sar piah continues

AND now, my verdict. The skin is great. Nice, a little crumbly and crispy. But the fillings are too sweet, and rather dry. (I think I know why, because no lard is used. They are all made from "100 per cent pure" vegetable oil. So they are probably healthier!)

My favourite is the salty version of those with mung bean fillings. But I would prefer the fillings to be a bit more moist. I've also tried the peanut one (marked with an 'N') and the red bean one (marked with 'R'). A bit disappointing as I couldn't taste their natural flavours. I haven't embarked on the other versions, example, those with coffee flavoured filling (marked with a 'C') or the yam-durian ones (marked with a 'D').

My all-time favourite are still the Tambun biscuits from Penang (their version of tau sar piah). They are bite-size and can be popped into your mouth in one go. And the fillings are of the right consistency.

Will continue to look out for great tau sar piah -- before they disappear from our streets. I wonder if I can find any that are fresh from the oven, still hot. That would be great, washed down with hot green tea.

Postscript: Last night, tried the yam-durian. Actually not too bad!

Another PS: The coffee version was terrible ( to me). Others may like it I supposed. Just like I have never liked coffee pork ribs, but many do. I don't like coffee cakes or ice cream or coffee anything for that matter. Coffee is best taken as a drink (for me).

Tau Sar Piah, anyone?

The House of Tau Sar Piah is at the ground floor of the corner unit of the row of shophouses next to the Kuan Yin temple at Balestier Road. Reminds me of  the Ch 8 9pm drama series "Blessings" shown last year, starring Shaun Chen,

A little history on the House of Tau Sar Piah. It was started some 40 years ago in Seletar Hills. It moved to Balestier Road 20 years ago.
ALTHOUGH it is rather well known, I have not heard that Balestier Road has this traditional shop selling tau sar piah (you can read all about this Chinese pastry here: http://ieatishootipost.sg/special-feature-tau-sar-piah-singapores-very-own-pastry/). Until I heard my colleague talking about it when we happened to lunch at the Balestier food centre one day. (Why we travelled there so far from our place of work for lunch, is another story.) But she said she wasn't sure where the shop was.

Today, I was there again (all in the name of work, to collect an exhibit from our vendor's warehouse which was at Jalan Rajah) and I spotted it next to a temple. So I braved the heat, took an umbrella, crossed the road, and visited this shop. Bought all 10 different types (one filled with red bean, another filled with green bean, pineapple...) for my colleague (the one who told me about it) and of course, another box for myself. I even bought a packet of "pig's ears". These are crispy brown and white biscuits. The white parts are seasoned with the Chinese five spices while the brown swirls have got fermented bean curd (nam yu in Cantonese) mixed into the dough.

Authentic "pig's ears" are hard to find! And of course, home-baked tau sar piah which are not mass manufactured in factories, are disappearing (as depicted in the TV series, Blessings.) However, according to bloggers, there are five tau sar piah shops along Balestier Road -- all baking their own pastry.

Can't wait to taste those piahs after work. l let you know whether they are as good as they look tomorrow.
Very busy packing my two boxes of tau sar piah.
Looks like they have a fair bit of media publicity.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Good people around

ONE of the best advice I had was a line thrown casually at me by a colleague (from another department). The line was: "Don't under estimate what people are willing to do or can do. You won't know till you try."

Another memorable line was from another colleague (an ex-colleague) who said we often use ourselves as a yardstick when gauging the action of another. For example, "If I were him, I probably won't give $1,000 to a stranger." The thing is, he said, you are not him (or her).

Good to be optimistic about one's own potentials -- and others'. The morning news are full of those who bully, cheat and lie. Not so optimistic eh?. But there are good people around. Today's earthquake stories on Mt Kinabalu are a testimony to good, selfless people.