Sunday, 9 November 2008

Leaning To The Right And Languishing Libido

The libido of Singaporeans has been in the headlines again. This is not a new topic as the government grapples with how to encourage Singaporeans reproduce themselves at a faster rate than they are at present.

Perhaps I should qualify this by saying it is really certain sections of society that are not doing their bit to grow the population. From what is reported in the papers the Malay population is doing rather nicely but the Chinese are lagging behind.

It has now been revealed that the sperm count is part of the problem. The solution, a band aid of testosterone, although the media doesn't report which part of the body this aid should be adhered to.

Could it be that the years of compulsory military training under the hot sun have been a contributing factor to the lack of libido? A combination of tightly fitting uniform and exhausting humidity would be enough for any self respecting sperm to call it a day.

Apparently and in a more serious vein (if you will excuse the pun), burn-out and obesity are significant contributing factors.

Whatever the cause, one in five Singaporean men are suffering the effects which are striking the male population in their mid forties rather than the expected sixties.

Better news this week from an expatriate New Zealander's perspective, is the change of government in that country. I am particularly delighted to see the demise of New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters.

This right wing group had actively sought to alienate Asians from society and played to the baser instincts of older generations and the insular-minded who feared that they were being overrun by 'foreigners'.

Thankfully Singapore does not entertain the ridiculous MMP system of representation, which sees minority parties having power over policy development well beyond the realities of their election results.

In short, a small party can hold a major party to ransom and there is little stability - an essential building block for a cohesive and prosperous society.

A contributing reason for my leaving New Zealand two years ago was the political environment at that time and I now look forward to seeing what a National government under John Key can do.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Nervous Nurse and Miss Gongeniality 1950

Nervous Nurse and Miss Congeniality 1950 were sitting at the bus stop again today, metres yet worlds apart.

The former casting a furtive glance at her companions while vigorously massaging her temple and earlobes.

Clad in a tired yet well pressed blue uniform, she was heading for work in Orchard Road.

Miss Congeniality 1950's wardrobe was of a different cut entirely. A ray of faded sophistication, she exuded a prim confidence with her piped black dress and matching jacket, a designer handbag of doubtful vintage and a tightly permed bouffant hairdo.

We were lost in thought while waiting for our morning bus to arrive, planning the day in our heads as beads of perspiration formed on our foreheads.

With a sharp clack Miss Congeniality 1950 opened her handbag and extracted a primly folded paper tissue which she proceeded to dab carefully over her powder caked face.

Being on the plumpish side, the rubbish bin at the far end of the seat proved a singularly unattractive proposition so she deposited the used tissue back into her bag.

These then are my regular companions each morning. Impervious to my cheery greeting they neither salute the day nor each other.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Five Score Years And Ten

This day has dawned with a singular lack of salutation.

Not that it matters in the broader scheme of things, but I am entitled to reflect upon the fact that sixty years ago I came into the world.

At that time a person retired from the workforce but in this day and age we aim for a longer life and shorter retirement period.

I was born in Waitara, a small town in Taranaki which is a regional province of New Zealand. Waitara's sole claim to fame was a large and very dirty river on whose banks a freezing works had been placed. This slaughterhouse processed the livestock from the agriculturally rich hinterlands.

In its early history sailing ships and other small lighters would ply their trade up the river to the wharf braving a treacherous bar at the river mouth. Each spring tide would in later years reveal the steel bones of those who perished doing so.

As a youngster my school friends and I would take our large muslin nets and go whitebaiting in the river or using a treble hooked 'spinner', jagging at the Blood Shoot. The latter action meant hand casting one's line as far out as possible into the offaly murk and then pull it back in swiftly in a jerky action. There was no finesse about this fishing but it brought results.

My father was the town's barrister and solicitor and in later years, a Judge of the Maori Land Court. My mother was an English bride who met and married my father as a result of their meeting when he was in service in World war Two. Captured in Crete he spent several years in Prisoner of War camps in Germany, an experience which he rarely spoke about until much later in life.

I recall I spent my formative years in a modest weatherboard house at 90 Brown Street and would make my way to Waitara Central school when I was a little older, descending a set of steps near Clifton Hill, known as the Zigzag.

Entertainment was kicking a rugby ball around the front lawn and abiding passion for conjuring with pocket money saved and purchases made through deLarno's Magic Centre in Christchurch's Chancery Lane. Our next door neighbour at the time, Jack Oliver, was a gifted amateur magician who proved added motivation. My other love was entertaining my friends with handmade puppets courtesy of my mother's sewing prowess.

Circuses also figured highly in my aspirations at the time and the visiting Worth's and other large circuses are fond memories. I recall being able to balance broom sticks on the tip of my nose from an early age which probably explain a lot about my nasal profile in later life.

Another thing I recall from my first decade of life was an interest in radio. Blobs of hot solder etched their way into my bedroom floor as I struggled to make crystal sets that could pick up the local New Plymouth radio station 2XP. An enormously long aerial wire was strung up from my bedroom window to a pole attached to the chook house.

The value of ceramic insulators was reinforced when I experiences a riveting 'tingle' during a particularly severe electrically storm. Hand winding coils on old toilet roll cylinders was another skill I mastered and they served as a crude tuning apparatus.

Learning to make crude gunpowder out of saltpetre, sugar and charcoal was another lesson in life. Motivated by each passing Guy Fawkes Day we would pack this explosive into old golden syrup tins, insert a wick and detonate the crude devices with glee. Not that my parents were aware of this and we were lucky not to blow ourselves up in the process.

Now sixty years on I am living in Singapore, surveying the world from a marbelled condominium and commuting each day on a doouble decker bus.

It seems a lifetime away from a small Taranaki town and today at sixty reminds me that it is.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Man Savages Chicken


Nothing happens in Singapore without a celebration of food. As the picture above testifies the potluck luncheon is still very much in vogue. Yours truly is depicted coming to grips (quite literally) with a large and slippery roast chicken.

Friday marked the conclusion of my first week in a new job at the British Council in Singapore. I have enjoyed it although, as with any new employment, there is always plenty to learn.

In the middle of next month there will be a lengthy flight to Manchester and London for a conference and meetings and without doubt a shock to the system to experience the chill of a late British autumn. Luckily the warm winter coats we purchased during our holiday in San Francisco at the start of this year will come in handy once again.

I have a new cell phone - an HTC Touch Diamond. It's a sophisticated device that does just about everything except making coffee (and no doubt they are working on that in the test lab as I write). The Touch Diamond uses touch technology which means there is now an excuse for the greasy finger marks that usually decorates every appliance in the tropics.

I discovered its camera yesterday on a trip to Carrefour and it is amazing how the technology has developed, as this little gadget has a camera that is more than 3 megapixels. In 2001 when I purchased a digital camera for a university, 3.1 megapixels was the industry standard for camera and mobile phones were still the size of half a brick......well alright let's be generous, a quarter of a brick.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Gorilla In The Mall


In the main, the mall architecture in Singapore is impressive as is the interior design. There are however some rather obvious exceptions.

Our nearest mall, Anchorpoint, has sprouted a very strange juxtaposition of a kangaroo, a gorilla and some pirates - a sort of spot the odd one out if you will.

The gorilla in question is crouching by some articial shubbery in the basement level of the mall. In contrast, a mouse of the Disney variety occupies one of the upper level restaurant areas and is attracting youngsters of all ages to its fare which is billed as 'healthy'.

Quite why Captain Hook is guarding his dubloons while eyeballing a kangaroo remains a complete mystery?