food, photography

We eat, we read, we explore

Tanjong Pagar conservation area. Ann Siang. Duxton.

Yes, I know these places are so… yesterday.

“You’d know about them if you were in tune with the times,” you say.

These times – when age is hip and vintage is current once again.

I have been to the Tanjong Pagar part of town before – but usually by myself, and never all the good parts at once. This time, I made a list, got a couple of good friends together, and played tour guide. Books. Cakes. Cafes. > The highlights.

Traipsing around gorgeous old shophouses, wolfing down sweet treats, sipping lattes, discovering new nooks and reads – we did all those last saturday.

Such fun, when the thrill of discovery is shared amongst like minded folks.

More Photos here

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food, Random schtuff

Butterbeer

Left: with club soda.   Right: with cream soda.

In conjunction with the upcoming Harry Potter movie finale, I tried making butterbeer with the mugglenet recipe today.

It was way… way…way… too sweet to ingest.

So I topped it up with a whole lotta club soda. and rum.

And made my brother share it.

He actually finished his, after adding more rum. (I didn’t)

Some say this other recipe tastes better.

I think I’ll wait for a day when I’m feeling more adventurous.

writing / writers

Lift Lobby

This piece won a runner-up position in the Two Voices Competition, organised by Writing the City. It’s a great place to meet fellow writers, share your work and get critique. Also – they hold monthly themed competitions – so you get an incentive to start writing, and a launchpad for your story ideas. A useful resource – if you need an excuse to start writing.

For June/July, they’re having another competition – winner gets an e-reader. Sounds pretty cool.

Lift Lobby

It was Mr Chan. Lily recognised him the moment she exited the lift. Immediately, she felt the desire to flee. Hospitals were the worst places to meet anyone. Plus, she had always hated the awkwardness of small talk. She lowered her gaze, not wanting to meet his. He probably didn’t remember her.

“Excuse me?”

She turned her head towards his gravelly voice. He was frowning, as if trying to recall her name.

“Mr Chan!” She stopped. Feigned surprise.

He smiled, kind eyes wrinkling. “You’re my student, yes?”

“Lily. Class of 2006.”

“Yes! Lily. I remember you. One of the good students.”

Despite herself, she smiled. “I didn’t expect you to remember.”

“Oh, I remember faces. Just have trouble with names.” He glanced at the closing lift doors.

“Do you need to go?” She asked, a little too quickly.

“It’s okay, I’m in no hurry.”

She stifled a sigh, then glanced at her watch.

“Do you need to go?” He asked.

“I’m going to see my grandma.” Inwardly, she grimaced.

“She’s in hospital?” Concern radiated from his hunched shoulders, forming new lines on his pale, drawn face. “Better hurry, visiting hours are almost over.”

It was the perfect excuse to excuse herself.

“No, she’s not here. I mean, I’m going to her house. I was just dropping off … her stool sample at the clinic.”

“Oh.”

So much for avoiding awkward conversations, Lily thought, I really should learn to keep my mouth shut.

“They’re testing her for dementia.”

“Oh. … I’m- “

“Why are you here?” Lily interjected. Her eyes darted to the corridor behind him.

Mr Chan sensed his ex-student’s reluctance to continue the conversation. The polite thing would be to let her go on her way. Instead, he continued.

“I’m visiting my wife. She broke her hip.”

“I’m so sorry. I hope she’s okay.”

“She has Parkinson’s.”

He wondered why he was telling her this. But then, being childless, he had no one to tell. Suddenly, he envied her grandma.

Lily was silent. Annoyance flashed in her eyes, then awkward sympathy.

“I’m sorry.” She bit her lip, searching for words, not finding any.

He wondered what he wanted her to say. For a moment, he pitied her, being caught here, wrong place, wrong time.

The lift dinged, the doors opened and a crowd streamed out, replaced quickly by a new bevy of nurses, doctors and hushed visitors. Her eyes glanced longingly at the door as they closed without him.

“Are you alright?” She asked, finally.

He shrugged. “How’s your grandma?”

She sighed. Restraint vied with a sudden urge to commiserate.

“Grandma… forgets things. Forgets she has eaten. So she’s always hungry. She scolds the maid for starving her. She scolds almost everyone. My uncle has given up. Mom has to check on her everyday.”

“You visit her too, don’t you?”

“… Not as much as I should.” She was looking away now. Her eyes followed the movement of the lift doors, opening and closing, ferrying stream after stream of people in and out of the hospital’s sterile belly. “Grandma hardly scolds me. Sometimes I think she doesn’t know who I am.”

“It’s confirmed? Alzeihmer’s?”

Lily shook her head. “She has her lucid moments. But her memory is failing.“ She put her hand in her pocket, fishing out a small bottle of red nail polish.

“What’s that?”

Lily smiled, a small thin smile. “I was going to paint her nails tonight. After dinner. It might help her to remember when she’s eaten.”

“Sounds like a good idea.”

“Grandma’s always liked her little vanities. I thought it’d amuse her.”

“You’re a filial kid.”

Her fingers tightened around the tiny bottle. “Maybe it’ll also help her to remember me. In case – you know, she forgets.”

He wanted to pat her hand, tell her it would be alright. But he wasn’t sure it would be.

“How serious is it?” She asked.

“What?”

“Your wife? Parkinson’s?”

“Stage Two.”

“I guess… there’s still some time…”

She pushed the bottle of nail polish into his hands.

“For you. Paint her nails. Help her feel pretty. Make new memories while you can.”

Holding the tiny red bottle, he felt a sudden flowering of heartache.

“I’ve kept you for too long. You should get going.”

She smiled at him, a warmer smile this time. She seemed happier somehow, her eyes lighter.

“It’s alright. I hope you’re okay, Mr Chan.”

“I will be. Thank you.” He held out the polish to her. “Your grandma-”

“I have another bottle.” She waved then, flashing another smile before turning away and disappearing into the crowd.

The lift doors opened. He stepped inside.

photography, Travel

when the journey matters more than the destination

“Let’s take a train from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station before it closes in July!”

Grown adults we were – but only one of us had ever been on a Singapore-Malaysia rail journey. So a date was set. 4 June, 2011. There were 6 takers.

The train was delayed. When we first got onto our second class seats, we were hit by the smell of stale upholstery and takeaway fried breakfasts.

“Smells… old.”
“Actually, I think it’s pretty clean.”
“Sit down everyone, let’s take a picture!”

Out whipped the cameras, bringing forth a glut of photos.

“Look here!”
“Here!”
“Hey, this one’s bad. Look here again!”
“Are you done already?”
“My turn!”
“Oi, take the train, not me!”

Snappity snap went the cameras.

More time passed. At 8.30am, we heard wheels moving, gears shifting. There was a sudden, welcome jerk. The train started chugging along, taking its own sweet time.

We discovered, to our dismay, that our seats were facing the wrong way. Trains, HDB flats, the causeway, fields, appeared without warning, looming large before receding back into the horizon. No biggie, except for one of us, who got slightly carsick. She fell asleep. The rest of us yakked like ducks throughout, despite having to wake up in the wee hours to catch this train.

We reached Kluang at 11.30am. Left for home at 6.55pm, and arrived back at Tanjong Pagar Station at 10.30pm.

One full day.

photography, Travel

Passage to India

This gorgeously shot Anthropologie video makes me miss India. Granted, I’ve only just come back from that trip, but it was a veritable learning experience, full of fresh images, vibrant colors, exotic food, incredible architecture, mostly friendly folk… but also of dust, grime, heat and far too much social disparity. The abject poverty I passed by so regularly was heartbreaking.The way the caste system is so entrenched in their society, the way being the child of a carpet weaver often means that you’ll automatically be inducted into the life of one, no questions asked -it is an impossible thought for someone like me, born and raised in a meritocratic society. Whatever gripes we have about our living conditions, at least we aren’t denied an education, and the opportunity to raise above our station. Many of the folks in India have no choice. And what of love? Arranged marriages are the norm. Luck of the draw then.

Eat, Pray, Love? Not really, but it was a wake-up call to never take things for granted. And a reminder of how lucky I really am.

The favourite part of my trip?

Kashmir – a land so beautiful some call it the Switzerland of Asia. And it deserves the accolade. I stayed in a houseboat in Dal Lake, hosted by the friendliest of Kashmiri folk. I loved Dal Lake, a blue sapphire cupped in the mighty hands of the Himalayas. There, on the waters, days slowed to a relaxed swing, there was not much to do, but surrounded by so much beauty and hospitality, it was the best place to end a trip to India, a place that doled up time to relax, reflect, and write.

Snapshots of Srinagar, Kashmir

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