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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Memories - Outram Sec School

During my teens year, I spent a lot of time in the Outram area, especially in my secondary school, Outram Secondary School. Those were probably the most memorable years of my life, where I made a lot of goods friends, some of which still remains today. It was where I accepted Christ, where I attended and served in my first church, had my first brush with the law and of course as any true blue teenager, had my first crush.

The area around the school, namely Jalan Kukoh and York Hill unlike Margaret Drive had not changed that much - if it had, it was for the better.

The first thing we see on my way to school was this long flight of staircase.
We used to race up and down the staircase on our way to and from school. Now, on my way down to take this photo, I had to walk gingerly and panted badly while going up. Where have all the leg power and energy gone to?

This block of rental flat is typical of the flats in the area.
The residents who stayed there are mainly in the lower income group and they lived in a dingy small little flat most of which do not come with a bedroom. For privacy, there is a small curtain or for those who can afford it, a simple plywood wall but most time, it is just a bed next to the dining table and all the children sleep on the floor. All the doors opened out to a common corridor where the lights are switched on only at night and made the whole place looked dark and scary. Yet despite the living condition and poverty, I never hear any complaints from my classmates.

Further down or rather up the road, are slightly bigger flats.
These are predominately 3 rooms flats. I remembered that we used to play football with a small plastic ball on the top of the multi-storey carpark which was between the blocks of flats. Back then, it was just a big bare piece of concrete. Look at what it has transformed into!
Looking down on Havelock Road was this row of flats.
In design wise it was similar to the flat I stayed in Margaret Drive. I remembered one time I was in this classmate's place and her dad continued walking around the house in his crocodile brief as if there was no guests there!

And while the area was supposed to be an area of gangsters, during my 4 years there, I never had any bad experience with gangs or even know anybody who were part of a gang!

Finally, school.
The main entrance used to be right at the end of the road but it has now been moved down to the main York Hill road. School was where I spent a lot of happy time there especially during the upper secondary school years.

Back when there was still such thing as morning and afternoon session, I could go to school in the morning and evening. At around 7pm, those who lived around the neighbourhood were allowed to go back to school to self study. Even though I didn't live so near, still I made my way back. Of course, study was actually just an excuse and most of us was just there to hang out. And to make things worse, instead of sharing the few opened classrooms, we would climb up and go to the upper floors leaving the school caretaker fuming mad!

We had a swimming pool in the school - in fact we enjoyed the fruits of our seniors; they raised the money to build the pool but it was completed when we were there. I learnt how to swim there from classmates. My brother who also studied there told me that his classmates used to go skinny dippy after their 'night study'. I wondered what type of study they actually did! Our class was more 'kua'. There was one time the PE teacher was too lazy to conduct PE and told us to 'self study'. The minute she left the class, all of us boys grabbed our trunks and rushed to the pool. Sadly, within a few minutes, the class monitoress was sent to catch us all back and in our haste we just put on our uniforms over the trunks and went back to class with a trail of water behind us and of course our pants soaking wet!

In Sec 2, we were occupying the ETV room (if anybody can remember what ETV was) as our classroom. The room was located on the ground floor and behind it was a small piece of empty land. Somehow we discovered a loose piece of glass wall at the back of the class and we used it as a secret entrance to the classroom. Of course, nobody told the teachers about it. One morning we came back only to be hauled up before the Principal. Apparently in the middle of the night, there was a break in and items in the room were stolen. A few of us, me included were asked to go to the Central Police Station to give statements. It was most unnerving sitting for hours in the cold hard atmosphere of the Central Police Station. But to this day, we didn't know what was stolen or who took it.

Up on higher ground, in the technical room overlooking the pool, we would hold our weekly lunch time prayer session. Somehow the school must have known about it but choose to close a blind eye but in my sec 4 years when we had a new Principal, the prayer sessions finally came to an end after he banned it.

Talking about the new Principal, I had the 'honour' of being the very first student in the entire school to be scolded by him on his very first day in our school! I still remember it clearly. As usual, a few of us were in the carpark kicking a ball around when he drove up in this old souped up car. When he stepped out of the car, the first thing he did was called me over and he went: "Boy, why are you wearing coloured shoes?" I was stunned monetarily before I went meekly: "Cannot meh?" And that was the biggest mistake I made. While my classmates who had retreated to a safe distance were laughing their head off at my plight, I stood there and was lectured by him for 10 minutes on the sins of wearing coloured shoes (I was wearing a pair of bright red Panther shoes) and not to talk back to teachers blah blah blah. But this new Principal really got on everybody nerve. He claimed discipline was lacking under dear old Mr Chan, the ex Principal, and started to clean things up. One morning during assembly we saw a group of bald Pre-U boys. All of us were wondering why they had cut their hair bald. Our curiosity was answered when the Principal came and he saw the bald heads. He went ballastic and went up to the corridor of the hall which faced the car park that was our morning assembly area and began lecturing the whole school on respect (or rather lack of). Turned out he had caught the boys for having long hair and asked them to cut it short but the boys as a protest went all the way instead.

Sighed so much memories, so much things to write. Those were the years. Now if only I had not throw away the Year book!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gays got no righst!

"next time people will want to get married to monkeys. And they will want rights"

Who said that?

Ha ha ha no prize for guessing.

But it is not a joke. And I am not laughing. In fact I pity the poor chap and I completely agree with him on his comments.

This has nothing to do with bestiality as alleged by the pro-gay/lesbian community.

It is about basic rights and as far as I am concern, in Singapore, if you are a gay/lesbian, you have no rights. The vocal minority voices of the gays are getting irritating and annoying. And it is time the silent majority come out loud and tell them to shut up and if they are not happy with the treatment they are receiving in Singapore, fine, leave and go to the US, Netherlands or wherever where there are no morals and there they can do what they want!

So I hope the police throw out the complaints. I don't see any merit in it at all or what grounds they have. To accuse Pastor Rony Tan of creating unrest among the different class of people is stretching the truth too far. In the first place, who was it that deliberately uploaded a 9 months old video in the church domain to the public domain? What was the motive? Is it as one gay leader was quoted as saying "this might be an opportunity to establish gays and lesbians to be a class of persons to be protected under the law"

But seriously, if we bow to the voices of these 'minorities', do we want a situation where we allowed gay marriage in Singapore? Or allowed 2 gay men to adopt a child? Or what if everybody demands that they have the right to practice what they believe and everybody must respect their rights, all in the name of basic human respect? What if a man demands to marry his daughter? Or 2 siblings claimed they are in love and insist on getting married? Are we going to allow that? And he is not so far off in the monkey thing. A guy in Japan married an anime character; a guy in India married a dog; another in Sudan married a goat while one in England married a sheep and a French lady married a dead man!

So it is not gay bashing. It is about what is right or wrong. Not just in the eyes of God but in the eyes of the law and what is acceptable public moral and last I heard, homosexuality is still illegal in Singapore!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Margaret Drive - Part 4

The Margaret Drive Food Centre. A drab looking place where time stands still and the government has forgotten to upgrade. It is here that I watch many of the hawkers grow up or old in some cases like the 2 sugar cane brothers at the corner stall. They started helping out when they were kids and continued to sell the sugar cane even after they grow up. However, the stall seemed to have closed the last time I was there.

My favourite stall is of course the Char Kway Teow. A nondescript one man show, long queues formed every evening to get a taste of the char kway teow which he cooks individually plate by plate. I liked to joke that the CKT taste so good because he perspires a lot and all that sweat goes into the CKT to give it that extra favour. He will be moving to Telok Blangah soon so catch him before he goes off.

Another stall that I remember fondly is the Laksa Yong Tau Foo stall. It was my first experience of eating Laksa yong tau foo and I absolutely went crazy over it although true be told, it wasn't really that great. Today, the Uncle is still hemming the stall.(clap).

One of the more famous stall there must be the you-tiao stall. It used to open only in the evening and was the most favourite snack for many of the punters who gather there to place there stakes with the illegal bookies. But seriously, they have one of the better you tiao around.

On the 2nd floor is probably Singapore's first Shanghai cuisine in a food centre and people used to come from all over Singapore to buy the fried dumplings. Later, they added a hot and spicy soup to the menu but to this day, their specialty is still the dumplings.Also on the 2nd floor but on the other side of the centre is Sin Kee Chicken rice. There is a clone of it in Mei Ling Street and exactly which is the better one - well the verdict is still out but go take a look at the people eating away at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. It has to be good right?

One other stall that survives but will soon be moving to Mei Ling street is this fish ball noodle stall.There used to be another stall facing them and both sell equally bouncy delicious fish ball but that one is no more and soon this will be gone too. Maybe back in those days I haven't tried any other version else where but I swear this stall had the best fish ball.

Finally, the popiah stall - one of the few places where one can get ingredients and popiah skins for a popiah party. The popiah skin here is hand made and taste great even on its own. From one stall at the market and one at the former market, the owner now has 2 stalls at the food centre, one downstair and one upstair. The stall will be around until the place is eventually torn down so there is still some time to go to order your popiah party.

Sadly the food centre will be closing - exactly when - even the stall holders doesn't know. The closing has been postponed a few times already but while I will miss the food, I think looking at the pathetic crowd, I think the stall holders will be better off somewhere else. Just let me know where!

Read more about the food at Margaret Drive Food Centre here

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Margaret Drive Part 3

When I was in primary school, I walked all the way from home at Margaret Close to Birkhall school which was located approximately in the middle of the stretch of Margaret Drive. It was a good 3 bus-stop away and we the children would walk to/from school on our own. I can't imagine any modern day parents will allow their primary school children to walk that distance especially as it involves crossing roads.

But I enjoyed the walk. In those days there were many block of flats along the way and we would invariably meet up with classmates or stop at classmates home to chitchat and play. Right now, it is all empty piece of land.Here where there were several block of low rise flats was where most of my classmates stayed.
Behind as can be seen in the picture was the imposing Queenstown Remand prison. That is one area that we seldom venture near. Cannot remember why though. (Unfortunately I couldn't get a close up photo of the prison even though it is now no longer in operation as the security guard loudly and forcibly shouted that no photograph was allowed. Why?)

But closer to home was this little path (in those days it was just a small track)
and it leads to the biggest and beautiful 'ang mo chu' or English house I ever seen. We spent a lot of time among the forest here catching spiders, grasshoppers and later in my teens, running away from the dogs! It was also here that I was nearly robbed but then we didn't have any money in those days and they got nothing after I assured the 3 robbers that my pocket was indeed totally empty.

Back to school. My alma mater, Birkhall Primary School.
School in the early years was just a single block with the canteen, staff room, music room on the ground floor and classrooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor. We shared a field with Queenstown Primary School and Strathmore Primary. The understanding was that each school children keeps to their own side of the field but sometimes territories are crossed and fights will break out frequently. I remembered being very impressed by this boy who did a 2 legged flying kick on one of my classmates but the most vivid memory was of the same classmate - blood pouring from his head when he was hit by a stone threw by another kid and he just sitting there as if nothing was wrong. Those are what we called tough kids not the wimpy kids of today. The school is no more. It has merged with Queenstown Primary Sch and is today a brand new building. So sad.

Across the road from the school is a small little chapel.
I only entered it once when I was invited by a former classmate to attend a concert. Unlike the many older buildings, this little chapel has grown and now has an extension although the main hall is still pretty intact.

Of the 4 post sixties HDB block in the areas, Blk 6A, 6B, 6C and 39. Blk 6A where I stayed when I was 17 until I married and Blk 6B are no more.
Where they are now is an empty piece of land waiting perhaps for some developers to breathe new life into it.

Blk 6C used to be a vibrant block with shops on the ground floor.
Today, there is only 1 shop - the evergreen Go Sports probably the most famous skate board shop in Singapore
but when it first opened - oh how I hated it! Although we wasn't so near to it, the sound of the skateboarders skating away would wake me up every weekend and drives me nut. It was also in front of this block that one of Singapore's most dangerous and wanted criminal was shot dead by police.

Blk 39 right next to the Fairprice supermarket was originally
ringed by a row of 2 storey houses. where there were a Maybank, a Standard Chartered Bank (or was it Hongkong Bank) and the famous Tony bookstore. Blk 39 itself had many shops but today there are no more shops and I presume soon no more flat.

Many of the buildings in this neighbourhood had disappeared or undergone major transformation. The only remaining intact place where time seems to have stand still is the Margaret Drive Food Centre
where some of the most delicious food can be found.......

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CNY Goodies

A giant plate of raw fish salad. The bowl only luckily otherwise won't know how to eat the rest of dinner.
A table tennis ball, a pineapple tart and another pineapple tart. But just look at the size of the tart in the middle. It is touted as the golf ball tart but I think it is a tad smaller. But it is good. However at 100 calories per tart - not something that can just eat non stop.

More about the golf ball pineapple tart here

Unfortunately, no sponsorship for this write up. In fact had to order in September just so can get early bird discount otherwise it is $1 per tart.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Huat Ar!!

Wishing all my friends and readers a Happy Bountiful and Prosperous New Year. Huat Ar!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Margaret Drive - Part 2

Continuing my walk down old home town
This was where we saw our very first 'modern' department store. It was in those days a magnificent 3 storey building. On the ground floor was a modern bakery Mon't dor (or something like that) and a supermarket. There was also a bank where we go to pay the PUB bills. On the 2nd floor was the Tah Chung Emporium. I loves to walk through it whenever I passed by - not that we could afford a lot of stuff there but for the air con. On the 3rd floor was a Chinese restaurant. Sadly like most of the HDB blocks in the area, it is now demolished. Fortunately, so far this was the only major building that was demolised.

Still intact is the very quaint looking wet market.
It is a 2 storey structure with the ground floor selling wet produce on the inside and 2 rows of food stalls on the outside. The upper floor was where the dried stuff were sold. My favourite stalls there were the duck noodle and the aquarium stall. I used to just go there and gawk at the fishes displayed in the tank. They also sell the cheapest and beautiful guppies.

Crossing the road, and still standing is the Queenstown Polyclinic.
Now I simply love the layout of the place. It was airy, spacious and had a resort feel to it nevermind that there was always a strong smell of disinfectant. It is now a foreign worker dormitory.

Next to the Polyclinic is the Queenstown library.
I think I spent the most time there. I loved to read and I must have borrowed hundred of books in those years. Back then, the library don't stock magazines, comics and paperback novels and most of the books are what I considered 'serious fiction' but still a book was a book. Fortunately, the library is still operating and has in fact been renovated and modernised. Of all the current libraries, I still prefer to come here. Why? Because it is the most quiet. No noisy kids running around and plenty of chairs to sit.

Across the road is the 2 youngest building in the neighbourhood - the 2 cinemas cum bowling alley
and the building where the Fairprice supermarket is now.
For the life of me, I cannot remember whether Fairprice was the original occupier there and I do remember there was a KFC outlet at the cinema building. The 2 cinemas Queensway and Queenstown didn't last too long like the bowling alley and though still standing, the whole building looks derelict and is probably haunted as well.

To be continued........

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rental Flats' Shock

First it was foreign workers dormitory in Serangoon, now it is rental flats in Pasir Ris and Tampines.

I am shocked and outrage, not at the decision of HDB to build rental flats in these estates but by the objections being raised by the residents.

What bladdy crap:

"The field has provided much needed space in a cramped HDB environment, and adding another two blocks of flats would not only deprive the residents of greenery, but also their privacy. This is only some of the concerns of the residents."

"41 year old Mr Lim is worried that the tenants living in the flats may bring some social problems to the community. Another expressed concerns that the foreign workers building the flats will affect public safety and order in the vicinity"

What social problems? Is Mr Lim saying people who lives in purchased flats don't give problems? Foreign workers building the flats will affect safety and order? My God - who built his flat in the first place or is he implying workers who build rental flat are different from the workers who build the purchased flats or condo?

Get real. What type of people are we breeding? Perhaps they should join forces with those in Serangoon Garden and Sin Ming and go buy an island from Indonesia and have their little utopia there! Oh wait they can't because they cannot tahan foreign worker and no foreign worker means nobody to build their houses!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Memories - Margaret Drive Part 1

Back in the sixties and seventies, Queesnstown was the 2nd busiest town after Toa Payoh. Margaret Close and then Margaret Drive was where I spent my growing years. Although I drive by the place every now and then and sometime go there for the char kway teow, I had never stopped to ponder what was missing until recently when I read a blog post about the place.

This used to be where my first home was. Sadly it is now a vacant piece of land waiting for some rich developer to buy and build condominiums but in the sixties, there were many blocks of 1-room rental flats. This part of Queenstown was situated at the corner of Margaret Drive and Queensway facing the Queensway Sec School. I grew up in a 1 room flat. The block of flat was in a H shape and our flat on the 4th floor overlooke a badminton court/sepak takraw court. I spent many happy hours outside the flat looking at the many sepak takraw matches and joining in the street soccer or just playing badminton. My best memories was the roti man going around delivering loaf of breads to the household and the fried char kway teow guy in his stall. I sweared char kway teow never tasted so good!

We moved over to Blk 6A along Margaret Drive when I completed my secondary school after the government decided to tear down the rental flats at Margaret Close. Mum was determined to own her own home and so she worked 2 jobs and beg and borrowed from auntie and her close friends to buy this place. Sadly the flat is now no more - another piece of vacant land. My best memories of this place? Going to JC every morning with a neighbour and trying to avoid the Principal at the bus stop. Why? Because the Principal, the Rev Tan Teng Wai could stop and pick up any students on his way to school and as students, we definitely did not want to be seen coming to school in the Principal's car. So uncool!

This used to be the Venus theatre. I remembered going there with a neighbour to gawk at Hongkong movie star Chan Poh Chu when she made a stage appearance. It is now a church - Church of our Saviour.

Another cinema that went the way of the church was the Golden City cinema. It is now the Church of Fisherman of Christ Fellowship (or something like that). I spent a lot of time here watching Taiwanese martial art film so much so that I now got a phobia of going to the cinema alone:)
Of course the most important place in the area and still standing was the hawker centre.
Unfortunately its days are numbered and soon it will be following in the footstep of the emporium. More of the hawker centre in another post.

This canal was where we children used to go to catch guppies and worms. In those days, it was so common for us kids to go down to these 'monsoon' drain to catch fish but nowadays I don't think any parents will allow their kids to do so. Anyway, I think there are no more fishes.
To be continued...

Thursday, February 4, 2010


"One of my parents behaves like a 5 year old kid all the time and the other acts blur all the time"

Gosh is that the way to describe one's parent. Sound like the poor parent has dementia. No manner and so disrespectful.

But then again which one is which?

And this quote from which naughty child?

No prize for guessing though.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fly and Pee

Here's what goes on in front of the urinal.

No. 1 Most common: Unbutton, unzip, pull open front of trouser and pull down underwear and let go. Visible from back: nothing

No 2. Frequently used by middle and above aged men: Unbutton, unzip, pull down trouser and underwear until bum is exposed. Visible from back: Half of the backside

No 3. Method adopted by most fat man: Unbutton, unzip, pull down trouser and underwear until knee level. (wonder how they manage to keep the trouser from dropping all the way to the floor?) Visible from back: backside and whatever dangling between their legs

Latest (just saw this morning): Unbutton, unzip, pull down trouser and underwear until bum is exposed. Pull up shirt. Visible from back: half of backside and half of back. (Now's that a new one which prompt this post)

Correct method: Unzip fly, pull down underwear (if wearing) and pull out the little brother and pee. Gee wonder whether anybody still do this?