Sunday, 30 November 2014

Goat's head and bri-ia-a-ak

You need to press once at the red spot
 (no need to press until shiok)
and it would go "br-riing".

WAS sitting in a double-decker yesterday, on my way to Orchard Road to soak in the Christmas decorations. For some reason, I recalled what a Pre-U friend recounted. She has encountered a  very conscentious bus conductor who shouted "Br-i-a-a-a-k" (brake!) at every stop, then "goats-head" (go ahead) when all the passengers have alighted.

The driver wasn't so great, she continued, because each time the conductor shouted "br-i-a-a-a-k", he would do an emergency brake and send everyone plunging forward.. My friend finally figured out why this conductor was going on so (after going with the flow up and down the bus aisle a few times) -- the stop bell wasn't working so each time a passenger indicated that he was going to alight, he would do his "br-i-a--a-AK!" thing. The sustained "br-r-r-r" prelude was supposed to give the driver some warning but perhaps not enough. Hence another jerky stop.

Just an aside: Talking about emergency brake, my driving instructor used to tell me that it would only be a good "brake" if all those iron poles he stored behind in the boot (for practising parallel parking), rolled about and "clanged" against each other loudly. Otherwise, I wouldn't have executed a good emergency brake. Of course, I am talking about an era which was quite long ago, I seem to hear that no poles are needed these days for practising parking.

And of course too, stop bells (or rather buttons, as they don't go ding-dong any more) work very well these days. There being no bus conductors today, I can't imagine passengers having to shout "br-i-a-A-AK" for themselves when they want to alight.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ride the waves

Clifford Pier (the white low lying building with the tirangular pink roof) looks almost the same as I knew it from this angle. So happy to go on a river taxi ride with my friend early this year. The weather was perfect and there were no irritating taped commentaries like those rides for tourists. We took the taxi from Jiak Kim to Marina Bay Sands, and then back again to Jiak Kim.
MY DAD had a rather adventurous spirit. One day, as we were walking past Clifford Pier (it might be a Sunday afternoon, I couldn't really remember), he suddenly had a brainwave and wanted to take a sampan all the way to Kallang Park.

We were stepping onto the boat when mum noticed that there were ominous black clouds in the horizon, where presumably, the sampan man would be rowing towards. Dad poohed-poohed away her concerns and we hopped on board.  Sure enough, just as we were in the middle of the sea, little raindrops began to fall. The waves were rocking the little sampan quite a bit.

Passing cloud, Dad said. But the raindrops got bigger. Mum insisted that we turn back. The sampan man said we would be reaching Kallang Park soon. But Mum was petrified and told the sampan man to row towards the nearest land and let us out. Sampan man said the nearest land would be Kallang Park.

So since this boat ride, each time Dad suggested another sampan ride, Mum would give a very firm NO.

View from Marina Bay.

Interesting sights from a different perspective. Also brought back some memories for my friend. She remembered that one of her first jobs upon getting her A levels, was to work for a little Chinese company with office in one of the godowns along Singapore River. She was doing accounts for the company. The pay was miserly. The hours were long.  The boss was grumpy and naggy. And she had to climb this narrow wooden staircase up and down several times in a day.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Old gables II

"Dragon" gables of the old Thong Chai Building, Eu Tong Seng  Street. Picture taken September 2014.
HOW can I miss blogging about these famous gables of the old Thong Chai Buiilding of Chinatown? Instead of straight slopes, these gables have wavy slopes. (Besides spiral staircases, one of my other fond subjects is gables.)

The Thong Chai gables belong to three main halls, built in the Southern Chinese architecture style. Constructed in 1892, the curvy gables were not characteristic of the style (so I read from the write-up in Wikipedia). But I like to think that they depict the serpentine body of the dragon (like the dragon kiln?). Just my guess and not based on any in-depth study of architecture and culture :)

The building's former address was 3, Wayang Street which had disappeared from present day Singapore Street Directory.

Meet you at the "calculator building"

Still a very outstanding building. 
My trusted Sharp calculator (given  to me by a former colleague).
No need battery -- works using solar energy. Hi-tech, eh?
 IT is an impressive landmark by any name. The OCBC building at Chulia Street was nicknamed "calculator building" when it was the highest building during the era (the 52-storey skyscraper was completed in 1976).

The nickname is certainly apt. It is indeed shaped (with buttons to boot) like one of those calculators which were so handy in those days -- when handphones were not around (and even when they came into the scene, the early day handphones, though the size of an elephant tusk, did not have such features).

And OCBC being a bank, there must have been a lot of calculating going on. So my friends and I agreed wholeheartedly that the nickname suits the building to a T. I haven't gone into the building too many times though -- only once when I met a friend there who was working as a public relations officer at the bank..

Taken from North Bridge Road. 

View from a backlane off North Bridge Road. 




Former OCBC Bank at South Bridge Road.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

"Cook" a cake


Success at last -- sponge cake "baked" with a rice cooker. 
CHRISTMAS is round the corner. My childhood Christmases, or rather the days before Christmas, were usually spent (enjoyably) making cakes as gifts for the neighbours. I enjoyed whisking eggs with the egg beater -- those springy ones with wooden handle.

The flop, flop, flop sound of egg beating would go on late into the night.  I also liked creaming butter and sugar till the mixture turned white (as required by recipe). Not too fond of folding in the flour though, nor scraping the bowl clean and making sure all the mixture goes into the baking tin. The most wonderful thing was the smell and sight of the cake rising in the oven.

Best thing, not much washing up to do as you
use the rice cooker pot as a mixing bowl.
Last night, I baked a cake using the rice cooker. I have read up a lot on this "trick" in cooking blogs. Since I don't have an electric cake mixer, I used a "manual" egg beater. Actually I couldn't find those springy ones I used in my childhood. But I did manage to find an egg whisk. I don't have an oven either. But you can use a rice cooker.

First, I whisked three eggs with two tablespoons sugar till quite stiff. Then you fold in about two cups of floor mixed with 1 teaspoon baking powder. That's it. As all these are done in the rice cooker pot, you just have to pop the whole thing back into the rice cooker "case" or whatever you call it. Switch on "Cook". When the switch pops up to "Warm", press it down again until the cake is cooked. Then you invert it onto a plate... and eat.

By the way, last night's attempt was the third one. The first time, it was rather oily as I had added butter in the mixture. Second time, I was lazy and creamed eggs and flour, as well as melted butter all at the same time. The result looked and felt like the iron discus we had to throw during sports.

But last night's cake was a success! Apparently, you can also "bake" a cake using the crockpot. I am going to try that next.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Siakson Spiral

Siakson Buidling, next to Bras Basah Complex.
THIS spiral staircase has always held a lot of charm for me. It has always captured my attention each time I passed by it in the bus to town. It is part of the Siakson Building on 3 Miller Street.I wish I know how Miller Street got its name. The earliest Eurasian enclave was around the area -- Waterloo Street, Bras Basah Road and Middle Road. So it could be named after an Eurasian. ( Cashin Street nearby, was named after the first Eurasian millionaire in Singapore, Mr E Cashin.who started his career as a lawyer's clerk.) I know of a few Eurasian friends with the surname, Miller. This is just my conjecture of course as I couldn't find any information on Miller Street -- yet.

Just an aside, there was a song popular in the 30s and 40s, made popular again by Manhattan Transfers in the 70s, called On a Little Street in Singapore. One of the singers who sang it was Glen Miller. But of course, it couldn't possibly be named after Glen Miller. After all, Frank Sinatra sang it too,and the street wasn't named "Sinatra". But Miller Street is indeed a "little street".

Anyway, I would not have done justice to myself, my ramblings and pictures on spiral staircases, if I did not include this spiral staircase at Siakson Building (which I have never stepped into and got myself a coach tour, by the way).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Chinatown, where seniors are happiest


My brother told me of a survey he read somewhere, that senior citizens are happiest at Chinatown. I couldn't agree more. It's a place where old timers do not feel displaced. It's a place where they can still sit around and stare into space (if they so wish, with no one giving them queer second looks). And it's a place where they can sit around and yak -- and put their feet up, fiddling their toes.

The place always makes me happy, whatever time of the day. On weekdays, the buzz of office workers at lunchtime gives the place an extra breadth of vitality (not that it is lacking). The hustle and bustle is what I like about the place too.


Here are more photographs which I hope, capture some snippets of life in Chinatown.
Sorry, just got to have this picture in this post again. My favourite -- Trengganu Street  intersecting at Smith Street, 2 March 2013, 5.15pm. 
With so many yummy eateries in Chinatown, it isn't a wonder why there's a Cooks' Association here. Wonder whether they exchange recipes :)
The iconic 1939 building at Teck Lim Road which brought many to tears when the old coffee shop had to move out.

Coffee shop at Keong Saik Road corner. Good place to sit and watch the buzz.
Old lady who asked me for directions to Amoy  Street at the Ang Siang Hill Park.
The board walk at Ang Siang Hill Park offers good
respite from the heat and crowds.