Sunday, 7 January 2018

Desker's gable

Gable at Desker Road. Pic taken 4 Jan 2018.

I haven't been gable hunting for some time in Singapore. But recently I came across this nice one at Desker Road. See, it has a nice design on the side. The steep knob at the tip of the gable suggested wood element or water element.

In Chinese architecture, the five different shapes of gable ends denote the five elements: wood, fire, metal, water and earth. (Reference: Handy Guide for Appreciating Chinese Architecture). Apparently, different gable ends were employed to counter the adversity of the land which the houses were seated on.

The region around Desker Road was once swampland, so the wood element depicted by the gable ends may be used to counter the earth element. (Purely conjecture on my part!)

Desker Road, with its rich history, was named after a butcher, Andre Filipe Desker, a resident in the area who opened Singapore's largest butchery during the 1860s. BTW, I have great respect for butchers since I was a kid when I trotted to market with mum. The butcher with his blood-splatted white singlet rolled up to his rounded belly, would nearly always slip a bonus piece of pork into the the lot that mum wanted, quietly wrapping them up with newspaper. (Many a times, I would be sent back to the market with the "bonus" as mum insisted that we need to return it to the dear old butcher.)

Anyway, back to the story of this Desker Road butcher -- he was from Malacca, married in Singapore and eventually had 13 children. He was known for his generous donations to schools and churches.

Old Gables Again:

Old Gables:

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Lost child, lost tune

A slope at Fort Canning Park overlooking Liang Court and Clarke Quay. Pic taken 21 Oct opening of the Downtown Line 3.

ONCE there was a child who was lost here -- long, long ago -- on one of these slopes. Here, at King George the Fifth Park (now known as Fort Canning Park of course).

My parents, my brother and I were seated on a slope when the announcement of the lost child was made over the loud speaker. There were massive crowds there that day. Maybe it was a fun fair. The loud speaker (the type that looks like a fat trumpet) was blaring out songs after songs.

I asked my mother what it was all about as the music suddenly stopped and the announcement took over. My mum explained to me, adding that children must behave and stay by their parents' side.

I kept wondering whether the poor child was found. All the music from the loudspeaker suddenly seemed very sad after that. I still remember one tune because it was a familiar one and played over the radio rather regularly. I later thought it might be Je ta'ime (with snatches on the electric organ) but this French song wasn't written till 1969 when I would be in secondary school. But dad was with us then that day, so I should still be in primary school at that time.

That tune still plays in my mind sometimes. An elusive tune with no title.

Today, it is still a very nice walk at Fort Canning. The numerous slopes are as appealing as before. But the River Valley Swimming Pool is gone. The old changing rooms are still there, and the pool has been converted into a playground with slides and swings.

Also gone of course, the National Theatre and the Van Kleef Aquarium,to make possible the construction of the Fort Canning MRT station.

Interesting walls  -- many of them at Fort Canning.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Did she drive a 36-door limousine?

It used to be a standing joke during my school days, this riddle that went: Why is so and so grander than even one who owns a Mercedes? Because he owns a 36-door limousine.

I haven't heard anything about this "limousine" for the longest time till I was queuing for my drink at Alexandra Village food centre recently.

The lady owner of the drink stall had a visitor, another woman who was boasting that she could drive any vehicle, from motorcycles to lorries. With a flourish of her hands, she was describing how she always drove a lorry during Chinese New Year, ferrying her relatives and friends around.

"All but one kind of car I haven't driven," she said, raising a finger and pausing for effect.

I was all ears, keen to know the answer. But another old man joined the conversation and chipped in:"Hahaha, was it the 36-door car?"

I eventually got my Coke, and I didn't catch the woman's reply. Maybe it was really the 36-door car which was for collecting night soil in the good old days when some areas still did not have flush toilets. These "limousines" had 36 compartments each, for storing night soil buckets. Each compartment had a small door.

But why 36, I wonder.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Sungei Road laksa

Sungei Road laksa at Yuhua market.

GRACIOUS, Sungei Road laksa has travelled far and wide in Singapore. My last Google search yielded five such stalls -- two in the vicinity of Serangoon area where Sungei Road is -- one in Chinatown, one in Jurong East and another as far as Bedok!

The signature taste of the Sungei Road laksa which started out in a pot on a trishaw at Sungei Road, was its soup -- brewed over a charcoal fire. I am not sure whether this is still being done at all the five stalls.

I always thought that the one at Jalan Berseh is the real thing -- but somehow I always missed it and ended up eating some other stuff. I tried the one at Hong Lim in Chinatown, but it was only so so. It tasted ordinary to me, sad to say. Not so different from Katong's laksa.

Recently, I stumbled upon the one at Jurong East, at the Yuhua Market and Hawker Centre. There wasn't a queue at all. The soup was a little bland and thin. I guess I should stir it more because some tasty bits were at the bottom. I always liked those tasty bits which I think could be pounded hae bee (dried shrimps) and spices like ganlanga and lemon grass.

Well, maybe this is the old school taste after all. We could be too used to modern day laksa -- much richer and thicker soup -- compared to the prudent old days.