Monday, 17 October 2016

Ringing in the cash

The owner of this provision shop is very proud of this shiny tin. While many shopkeepers have swapped their rusty Milo or Ovaltine cans for the cash register, this shiny tin has remained, very much treasured, more or less the family heirloom.

It keeps its shine through two generations of handling -- the bell making a nice tinkling sound when being pulled down from the ceiling, whenever change is needed. Then, it slides smoothly up again to a safer height. Works faster than the cash register, says the daughter of the owner.

This tin was customised for him by a skilled crafstman.  It took some time to make, as it had to be hammered into a smooth, round shape. You probably won't find such crafstmen today in Singapore.

Yes, the tinkling of the bell sounds better than the kerching of the cash register -- anytime.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Hail Hartono, for the Milo idea

I think Sing! China finalist Nathan Hartono has a really good idea. He said he would treat everyone to a drink (or more I hope) from the Milo van if he wins. And now the Nestle people say it doesn't matter whether or not he wins, the van will go round Singapore anyway. How cool.

The Milo van spans so many generations. The drink itself, according to Wikipedia, was developed by Thomas Mayne, an Australian chemist and inventor -- way back in 1934. So indeed, the drink has been around and been places.

The first time I drank Milo was at a sports day during primary school. There was a long queue of sweaty and panting kids snaking to the green van. You gulped down the drink in one fell swoop and then dumped the pointy cup into this humongous bin next to the van. I thought it was the best drink I had ever tasted.

My mum bought Ovaltine for the house and so I didn't know Milo until then. Later, mum also bought Milo but always insisted that we drink it piping hot.

But I think it tastes best ice cold and nothing comes close to the Milo served by the van. Hartono is right, the Milo van folks must have put in something more. Don't know what it is.

Wonder whether he will he be paraded round Singapore in the Milo van when he returns a champion?

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The essential software of neighbourhood shops

This neighbourhood shop is rather big and has bright and neat window display. Well and good. Some may not have such orderly display, but that's ok too, because the service inside is usually warm and friendly. What's important for neighbourhood shops is their software.

Some time ago, Bharati Jadish and Keith de Souza (Talkback on radio) were getting opinions from the public on how neighbourhood shops can be improved to attract more traffic. Government has given these shops funding. Which is a good thing.

Some said window displays can be improved. Some said the goods can be better packaged. And one said there should be more promotional campaigns by these shops.

We heartlanders go to neighbourhood shops, sometimes in our pyjamas, for practical reasons -- and for a touch of warmth. So, they don't have to look like a mini Cold Storage or mini NTUC Fairprice or even a mini Seven-Eleven.

The charm of neighbourhood shops lies in their haphazard window display -- a hodgepodge of items not arranged aesthetically nor even neatly. And stepping on the tail of the shop's resident cat is all part of the happy experience  (maybe not for the cat) of shopping at a neighbourhood shop.

The wares they stock are not exactly brand names unless you count Ayam brand or Mei Ling. So I don't really care how glam their window displays are.

What do I usually get from these shops -- heavy or unwieldy stuffs like toilet rolls, washing liquids (giant sized), mops and brooms, pails, bottles of various sauces including my favourite Bull Dog brand vinegar for making trotters. You don't want to be carrying these around town while doing your shopping.

I do buy smaller things from these shops too, like Brands essence of chicken, tissue paper -- and canned drinks (which are much cheaper than those sold at coffee shops). DIY items are fantastic. A provision shop near my place also sells sliced fruits and freshly squeezed juice, so that's great. They even sell pet food. If you browse around, some actually stock a whole lot of things like needles and thread, rubber bands, raffia, face powder, hair sprays, colognes, baby powder, Panadol... the list goes on.

I know in some neighbourhoods, there are furniture shops too. That's excellent because I can lug a stool, a foldable mattress, or even a shoe rack home without having to take a cab.

These shops deserve whatever funding they can get -- and I think some of the money can go into maintaining the personal service they have been providing so well. Hopefully, this would include maintaining the health and welfare of the proprietor too -- the smiley old man sitting outside on a crate -- so that he will be around for a long time. He is so much a part of the shop and he is the best window display I can think of -- and the best promo the shop can get.

It would be a sad day if these shops are ousted out because of rising rents. They are important to our lives.

Monday, 22 August 2016

77 years of grandeur and still counting

Tranquility reigns on the top level, with a great view to boot.
Clean lines and elegance.
Concrete blocks and airy awning, a pleasant contrast.
This building has been around 77 years and two Fridays ago, it was the first time I entered it. It is of course, the National Gallery now.

You won't regret spending a long afternoon at the Gallery. So many things to see, so many cafes and makan places... Many quiet nooks with nice seats and books which you can browse.

Both adults and kids can have fun painting (digitally) and then have your finished works projected and animated on the wall. I found that immensely fun.

A national monument, the place used to be the Supreme Court  -- and the building was as stately as its name sounded. 

Now, the stateliness has taken on an overtone of breeziness and modern chic while retaining its old elegance. So cool. 
View from one of the many splendid windows on the ground floor.

A rehearsal in progress. Don't you love the red grand piano?