Saturday, 15 December 2007

Chicken Cutret

The English language can prove difficult to a Chinese tongue.

To break the monotony of having the same diet each lunch time I have taken up the habit of having the occasional meal from the 'Western Food' stall. The interpretation of "western" in this case being a desert spoon sized portion of luke warm bake beans and an equal portion of coleslaw cringing on a wafer thin slice of tomato. I use the term slice in the singular.

This accompanies a handful of thin potato chips ('fries' for those with a US bent) and a crisp section of crumbed chicken. Although slightly thicker than the tomato, the meat too has been run through the mangle of life before reaching my plate.

Upon receiving my order the proprietor yells to the kitchen at the back "Chicken Cutret!"

She, for it is a she, has a powerful voice that resonates around the walls of her hawker stall.

While the difficulty of pronouncing "l" for a native Chinese speaker is reasonably well documented, my attempts at Mandarin are far more comical and my Hokkien (a common dialect in Singapore) virtually non existent.

Despite all of the above mentioned , I confess to enjoying my fare at the 'Western Food' stall.

It will however be a different fowl that graces my Christmas dinner plate. Turkey and goose are on the menu at Le Meridien.

Christmas reminds me of the gifts I received as a boy from an Aunt Nancy, my Mother's sister. Nancy lived in various exotic places in Africa (and other far flung outposts of the British Empire). Here husband Ralph was ex-British Army and a senior member of the British Civil Service.

There was always something exotic in my Christmas stocking from Aunt Nancy - a beaded leather belt from Tanganyika or a multi-hued conch shell from African shores, crafted into a bedside lamp. The lamp remained in my parent's house until the day they passed away.

I sometimes think that my dreams of exotic places was first engendered by the gifts received from my far off Aunty. It was she who gave me my sense of wanderlust and I am wandering still.

Chicken Cutret anyone?

Monday, 10 December 2007

A Calendar for 2008

I thought I would produce an art calendar at this time of year so friends, colleagues and readers of this blog could download and print up a larger version if they felt so inclined.

I have placed the image on a free virtual drive for ease of access. Click on the caption below the image and feel free to share the link for the free download with friends.

The Dancing Uncle And Running Goats

Anaheim has come to Redhill.

There is a hawker at the Redhill Food Centre who specialises in desserts. Not that this in itself is unusual as most hawker centres have at least one outlet that provides local delicacies such as chendol (an iced concoction covered with green 'worms' of a gelatinous texture - pictured), soursop and iced kachang.

This gentleman's claim to fame is that he is a Mickey Mouse fanatic. His stall is festooned with Mickey collectibles and all of his decoration echoes the same theme.

His modus operandi is pure theatre. We observed an hour of set up which involved turning on a set of snake lighting, various illuminated signs and a driving dance beat from a set of battered speakers. A mini Las Vegas in the heartland of Singapore.

Standing at the front of his enterprise he moves between customer and consumables with rhythmic ease. There is a certain frenetic pace about his actions that in itself attracts the crowds.

And crowds there are. They queue up to sample his wares like moths attracted to the pulsating bright lights. The locals refer to his stall as 'the dancing uncle store'.

The only other stall at the Redhill Food Centre that attracts similar patronage is the satay hum stall, which I have mentioned before. There are many versions of satay to be found in South East Asia including one called Satay Torpedo, made from goat's testicles that have been marinated in soy sauce. I have not yet tried this variation - the goats run faster than I do!

In the past a rather gruff old man took the Satay Hum orders and relayed these to his son and grandson who did the cooking.

As the Centre has been closed for the past month for renovations we have been unable to patronise it. Yesterday when we visited, the old man's place had been taken by two youngsters of the family - the next generation. Upon enquiry we learnt that the great grandfather (for this was he) had passed away.

The other event of yesterday was the confirmation of our Xmas Day lunch booking at Le Meridien. This is our second Xmas in Singapore and we decided to go back to the same venue as last year. They have an excellent spread, including treats such as roast goose to which I am very partial! For $38 ++ per person this has to be the best value for money in town and the quality is excellent.

One other booking confirmation occurred last week - our Chinese New Year trip to San Francisco and Vegas. CNY happens early February so it is going to be cold in the States. Based on my winter holiday in Perth this past July, I suspect I will find the plummeting temperatures a challenge.

My body seems relatively acclimatised now to Singapore and last night for the first time, I was even cool enough to get up in the middle of the night and pull a duvet cover over myself.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

The Beast Of The Night

I am the beast of the night
my yellow eyed
steel jawed existence
at runway's end
Preying, preying

I am at at ease with the night
and a blood red Singapore moon
In the solitude of my thoughts
Praying, praying

You are asleep to my right
quiet 'neath air blanket blue
and a family below
Staying, staying

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Our Daily Bread

You have no idea how difficult it is to find good, wholesome bread in Singapore. Most of the bread sold in the small bakeries is of the very soft white variety.

We bought some breadrolls at a local Chinese bakery last week and were looking forward to the cheese-topped buns. On closer inspection however we noticed that as well as cheese there was an additional white chrystalline layer - white sugar!

If you are in search of a wholesome, wholegrain then you need to dilgently search the supermarket shelves.

With rice being the staple diet in Asia one simply does not get the variety of breads that are found in the West - a solid slab of German pumpernickel is unheard of.

There are some exceptions. In the basement food hall at Takashimaya we discovered Spek, which sells Italian style bread of good quality. Not cheap but a pleasant change. Our local supermarket, Fairprice also has a 'wholemeal' loaf which has a modicum of grains and linseed in it.

On the subject of shopping, we regualarly stock up our coffee and muesli from Carrefour - a large French chain which is spread throughout Suoth east Asia

Friday, 23 November 2007

15 Seconds Of Fame

So said the US artist Andy Warhol referring to "fleeting condition of celebrity that attaches to an object of media attention, then passes to some new object as soon as the public's attention span is exhausted" (Wikipedia). In my case it has so far proved to be a mere one second.

A local media channels in Singapore is currently soliciting entries for a show called 'ArtLander'.

I thought I would enter a work and sent off an enquiry with a couple of examples of my work. Yes they were interested could I send an official entry, which I duly did.

Lo and behold as I sat in front of television last night looking at the channel in question - Arts Central - two of my 'enquiry' images flashed across the screen.

This morning I checked their web site and spotted the following on the front page:

Interestingly, the print that I submitted as my 'official entry' was "Can Can" and that does not appear in the tv promo.

The second print of mine that they used was "MRT" (below)

Not that I am reading too much into any of this as I also note that the deadline for entry submission has been extended until early December. Presumably they were not overwhelmed by entries.

I did not pay too much attention to the paramaters of the Artlander promotion but have since discovered there is a public vote with a prize attached at the end. I am not holding my breath about the result of my entry! Still it is fun to enter.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Sudoku Man and Architectural Revelations

Sudoku man was on the MRT again this morning.

Gaunt and leaning against a glass partition, a position that many Singaporean like to adopt in transit, he was studiously studying the puzzle torn from the Straits Times.

I have decided it takes an intellectual focus to endlessly pursue sudoku solutions and I have neither the motivation nor the mind set to spend the time in doing so.

Looking out the window and observing Singaporean life is much more to my liking.

This morning, after passing Commonwealth station I noted once again the collection of headstones which are surrounded on three sides by HDB flats.

It transpires that this is the Yin Foh Kuan Cemetery and they were the first Hakka clan association in Singapore.

Click here to view map
Yin Foh Kuan Cemetery

According to Wikipedia the Hakkas constitute 8% of the Chinese Singaporean population. Probably the most famous Hakka alive today in Singapore is Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew.

I noted as I passed today, a young man in track pants and a yellow T shirt paying his respects so clearly this is still a place of veneration.

One of the principle puzzles of Singapore is not Sudoku but the challenge to discover what remains of the traditional Chinese architecture. Much of it was pulled down in the past for the sake of commerce and renewal.

There are now blog sites dedicated to this rediscovery. One such example is Historic Chinese Architecture in Singapore devised by Kent Neo and I commend him for his excellent work.