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Thursday, September 9, 2010

A World Full of Colour

The children and I were reminiscing today about life in our HDB flat. To be honest, we've only just left that flat behind... and when I sold it and pocketed the proceeds some years back, I felt that I had lost a part of me. And as we sat giggling in the car over the neighbourhood weirdos, a wave of nostalgia washed over me and I somewhat regret that my flat is no longer mine.

There were quite a few notable weirdos. There was a man with a tic who once or twice lurched towards me with a blood curdling yell, sounding like some Red Injun with a tomahawk. With his lopsided face and pock marked skin, and lolling tongue... he gave me quite a start. I quickly learnt to walk an arch around him.

Then, for 2 years of our stay there, the kopi tiam downstairs employed a skirt-wearing man. He was a very professional server. Very efficient. But he wore a tight top and a denim mini skirt. The server freaked The Husband out so bad that for the 2 years he worked there, The Husband refused to eat at the kopi tiam. I was made to go downstairs and buy food back instead.

After that, it was my turn to be freaked out because the server after that had these eyes like Mona Lisa. I could feel his eyes on me all the time I sat down to eat... or sometimes even when I passed by the kopi tiam on my way to another shop. It's hard to feel comfortable when a pair of eyes seem to be gazing at you the whole time. Now I know why people find the Mona Lisa spooky.

When we moved in, the shops looked nothing like those shops I had gotten used to in the East of Singapore. Even in my 20s, provision shops in the East had aircon and a cash register. The shops downstairs our HDB flat made do with an old Milo tin can attached to a rope and pulley to the roof. The shopkeepers kept their loose change there. Bags of rice and onions were on display... there was the old style coconut grater for grating white coconut flesh into a bag... It was all very backward... and a walk down the long walkway of shops was an assault on the nostrils. You could smell all sorts of unidentifiable smells.

The kopi tiams only just got upgraded by more modern kopi tiam chains a few years ago. They now look neat and clean. The stray cats we used to feed with scraps from our table have disappeared. All the shopkeepers have put on weight and have iron in their hair. A few provision shops now have aircon... 7 Eleven set up shop.

Where we stay now, there is a weirdo too. He can be found in one of the many large fields in Woodlands strapped to a huge parachute trying to run and catch the wind so that he can fly like a kite I suppose. I've never seen him actually fly up very much but he never stops running and stopping as his parachute balloons out behind him. WHAT is he doing?!

Woodlands is a nice place to stay. We're all weirdos here... it's part of our history and our charm.

6 comments:

Blur Ting said...

Hehe, why so many weirdos there? Maybe I'm just not observant enough. Our estate is boring compared to yours.

auntielucia said...

I've never lived in an HDB estate but have several yrs been hankering after one, after contemporaries ditched their private housing for 3-roomers in Marine Parade and Zion Road. They turned their tiny 3-rooms into veritable designer pads. Those at MP even have million$ views.

However, there were major drawbacks. Many neighbours were not just weirdos but true sad sacks, probably made weird by the cruel hand that life has dealt them. Many don't have enough to eat or even know whether they are hungry or not.

I couldn't think of living so close to so much misery and being so helpless to help.

Oh yes, somewhat more frivolously, those 3-roomers had only one bathroom cum toilet and that's another incovenience I couldn't live with..

Now by the latest decree, the Govt has put a stop to my HDB-dreaming, probably for good!

petunialee said...

Auntie Lucia - We had a 7-roomer with 3 bathrooms. It was actually 2 4-rooms combined into one... was 2000 sq ft in all. I stayed there for 14 years plus a bit because I couldn't find a private that big... and all the landed properties we could afford were far from amenities. I have a very soft spot for that flat. I even went there to look at it about 6 months ago. I know it's no longer mine. But in my heart, it's still mine.

The larger HDB flats aren't so poorly.

Wen-ai said...

Oh, my new flat is a jumbo too! Only with a HDB flat, I can adopt Cookie, the void deck cat. She comes over in the evening at night when we're home, and during the day when we're out, she'll chase birds and hunt lizards at the void deck. I doubt I can enjoy such arramgement if I ever live in a condo.

cannon said...

very true of what you describe, worked for a oil industry and the MD was so arrogant that he keep putting everybody down, me included and you just curse at him for life!!!

edith said...

My first home was in Woodlands too. It was still relatively underdeveloped with no trains. Couldn't wait to leave after 5 years.