Sunday, 11 November 2007

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(as at November 11th 2007 - source GOOGLE Analytics)

Beethoven With Fried Onions

I no longer sing in the shower.

It's not that the vocal chords that once fronted a rock band have lost any of their timbre. Nor is it decreasing lung power. It is simply a case of living in a condo.

Rarely is one made aware that there are 700 other people living in our Queens Condominium. Once the front door is closed the proximity of others ceases to be relevant. I have come to really enjoy living in this manner.

The only place in our condo that remind one of other lives going on around us is the bathroom. Open the window in preparation for an evening shower and the beautiful notes of a concert pianist in full flight greet you. I am not sure who she or he is, but they are certainly gifted and have a wonderful touch. I now shower to the solemnity of Beethoven or the exuberance of Mozart.

But the sensations are not all auditory. The open window also reveals the smell of various ethnic cuisines in preparation around us. Thus I often have Beethoven with fried onions and garlic or Rachmaninoff with a pungent Indian curry.

On the rare occasion there is even a dash of Liszt with Chinese herbal soup.

There are many Japanese families who rent apartments in Queens. They tend not to mix with other occupants and form collective huddles as they await the arrival of their children on the returning school buses.

They do however have a passion for barbeques and from our other bathroom window, we will from time to time catch the odd whiff of over-done steak.

The Japanese restrict their shopping activities to two Japanese (and very pricey) supermarkets. The ingredients and basic food stuffs in places such as Isetan are very expensive, compared to the supermarkets that we and most Singaporeans frequent.

A trip today down to our supermarket of choice for western style foods (Carrefour), was memorable in one regard - the Xmas decorations are already up along Orchard Road! And this being early November. In addition, the faux Xmas cottage and plastic reindeer that embellish the frontage of Tanglin Mall have returned. This same cottage incorporates a small water feature and coloured lights - 'nuff said.

Even though I no longer celebrate the festival, I cannot help but think that the commercialisation of Xmas has become an absurdity. It might get merchants excited but my memories from distant childhood remind me that it should be bells and not tills that are jingling.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Tales from the Marble Bar

My main meal of the day is lunch.

This taken at one of the local hawker centres or during the working week, at the student canteen at NUS. The pattern of dining out for lunch is not one that is practised in New Zealand preferring instead to take home sandwiches to work.

The quality and price of bread in Singapore precludes this option. It is difficult to find good whole grain bread at a reasonable price. Locals prefer soft white bread or bread creations from such outlets as Bread Talk .

The only other time in my life when I regularly partook of bought lunches was as a very small child.

I can recall at the age of two, when my mother was giving birth to my sister, that I was in the tender care of my father. He and I used to bike down to a local eating house in the main street of the small NZ provincial town where we lived.

This eatery was rather grandly titled, The Marble Bar. I cannot recall the naming rationale but I suspect it referred to the counter top. The waiting staff were dressed in neat and uniform attire and the food was the standard NZ fare of the 1950's - fish and chips, sausage and vegetables etc.

Food in the NUS student canteen is markedly different. There is an excellent Nasi Padang stall which serves Malay food. Here you can get two choices of meat and two vegetable on rice (with a nice curry sauce) for the princely sum of $3.

Nearby is the Fruit and Juice stand where for $1.20 a large glass of freshly blended Papaya juice is to be had.

Someone has even published a blog site dedicated to NUS Canteen food so they are as equally impressed as I with the quality and selection.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Today's Prints

The Malay

Fish - Baconesque

Monday, 15 October 2007

Rotting Sandals & Worldy Affairs

T'is the season of the Rotting Sandal.

In other words the wet season looms once again, although it is noticeable that as yet we have not had the deluges experienced last year.

Why rotting sandals?

Well, the uppers on leather footwear tend to part company with the sole after prolonged wet weather. No amount of glue seems to remedy the situation and it is entirely desirable to choose footwear that is sown rather than glued.

Then there is the 'mould surprise' where, after a period or prolonged storage in a non-airconditioned environment, strange fungi-like growths of varying hues sprout from the sandals. The moral is to frequently air any stored leather goods, especially shoes.

A visit to Isetan today revealed that the insidious American commercial culture is alive and well in Singapore. Halloween is gaining a strong following amongst the young.

Given the foothold that fundamentalist Christianity has gained in Singapore in recent times, it seems an odd juxtaposition of values.

Not to be outdone, the Brits have sent us a container load of out-of-season Xmas puddings. These are now proudly displayed in that most British of establishments, Marks and Spencers. Mind you, at $19 per modestly sized pudding, there are few takers.

So a year and a bit on, what are the thing I miss from my former life in the 'West' ? Firstly life in the 'West' is a misnomer. It should be 'Life Down South'

Not a great deal. In my day to day life, probably the ability to hold an in-depth discussion on world affairs - in fact hypothesising on anything in a global context.

I am not sure why this is so (and it certainly doesn't apply to everyone I live and work with), but it is often very difficult to strike up a conversation of any topic beyond the boundaries of Singapore.

I don't think this is because Singaporeans are any more insular than other races. Perhaps there is a level of prosperity and contentment here that narrows their focus?

It would also be wrong to suggest that all Singaporeans respond in this way - they do not. I have met many who have travelled or lived overseas who are more than happy to put the world to rights.

My second observation relates to hierarchy. At times there appears to be an almost a departmental paralysis when it comes to decision making. I have experienced this inertia in the telcos and banks in particular.

Few are prepared to stick their neck out on an issue or make a creative suggestion for fear of being wrong. Decision making is often governed by a desire to please those higher up the pecking order.

There is however hope in the creative contribution now being made by the better educated young. They have been prepared to ask questions of politicans here on the matters that they see of significant importance.

I am currently reading the first autobiographical volume of Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs entitled "The Singapore Story".

Having seen the Minister Mentor in action on local television I have marvelled how a man in his eighties still has such a sound judgement of world affairs and Singapore's opportunities.