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Sunday, July 31, 2011

SAF Yacht Club

The SAF Yacht Club has some beach side facilities in Sembawang, just a 5 minute drive from our place. The thing about Sembawang beaches is that they're mostly deserted. The restaurant at the SAF Yacht Club overlooks the beach and few know that it's a really nice place to chill out (and that is open to non-members like us). It isn't as chic as some beach eateries in the east of Singapore but I think its serenity more than makes up for its lack of style. It's hard to find anywhere in Singapore where you can sit by the beach to smell salt air instead of salt bodies.

We've all been working so hard that I thought the beach might bring some zen balance back into our lives. Previously, the food was nothing to shout about but this time our tastebuds really applauded the choice of dining... and the portions were so large that we had to bring food home.

Little Boy's carbonara was creamy and full of umami flavour. I had oxtail stew and The Daughter, a beef goulash. A full-bodied and robust beef goulash to shame the one I once had in a forgettable restaurant at Rochester Park, that was big on style but small on taste and portions. The Daughter's plate of beef goulash was half the price and double the portion.

The menu has Asian favourites and Western delights. The Western food reminds me of Hainanese Western cuisine i.e., Western food made by Hainanese chefs who trained in the kitchens of English Ma'ams. The salad came with Thousand Island dressing which is really not done in any aspire-to-be-chic restaurant these days (where salads are tossed in vinaigrette). A modern Western trained chef will probably hang himself if required to serve Thousand Island dressing with salad. The tea came in a pot that I remember from the 1970s staying at the Seaview Hotel in the East. No one serves tea in pots like that these days so it felt like the 1970s all over again.

Would I go back? Yes! Everyone likes a bit of nostalgia now and again... and with the yummy food, quiet surroundings and some moments back in time, I would go back.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

To Ghost or Not to Ghost

We all agreed that it was an idea that would only ever occur to little boys. Little Boy waved the 2m long bamboo rod (that we had trimmed from our bamboo plants) over the tall wall (that separates our compound from the area behind it which holds the water tank). Guards patrol that area a few times a day and especially in the dead of the night.

Little Boy thought that it might be fun to drape a white bedsheet over a small ball topped with a wig of long hair, and dangle it over our wall... and then wait around to see how the guards would respond when they made their way around the water tanks with their torches, in the deep of the night.

The Daughter and I thought it was a marvellous idea, and we thought we might do it on the last night of our stay here in our penthouse. The Husband guffawed heartily and joined in the merriment of our naughtiness. Then he realized that we were quite keen to embark on this hare-brained scheme.

And he forbade it. Some of the guards aren't exactly young you see. There's one shaped like 2 Santa Clauses in one man. Quite conceivably, they might have heart problems and a scare like that could very well cause a fatal myocardial infarction. The Husband speaks from experience (no... not with myocardial infaction)having once been so badly scared by one of my pranks that he leapt half a metre into the air, and gave off a deep blood-curdling yell that was halfway between a bellow and a scream.

You see, The Husband often works late and he likes to thread his way up the stairs in the dark to conserve electricity. This was simply asking for trouble because it wasn't long before his crazy wife devised a prank. I stood at the top of the staircase in my nightgown and let my long chestnut brown hair trail over my face. And I waited quietly as he hummed his way up the steps.

It was a fright he never forgot, and he told me to NEVER do that to him again because one could very well die from the shock. And since I do love The Husband very much, I've never done it again. And I also agree that we should not do it to the guards. It wouldn't do to scare 2 Santa Clauses worth of one man into a heap...

Not So Ugly House After All

Now that the house is taking shape, part of the awful suspense is over. At the very least, I don't find my own house ugly anymore. It must be said though, that I am easy to please. It is hard for me to conceptualize and imagine fancy designs so the plain colours and straight lines are pleasing to my eye.

I suppose this is just as well because The Husband and I almost quarrelled over the colour of the walls. He had gone to site at dusk and thought he observed a sort of bright yellow on all the walls... and he wasn't happy at all. I kept explaining that I had chosen a sort of evaporated milk colour, at most as dark only as condensed milk but he could not shake off the sense of what he had observed in the half dark. He was not happy but had no time to go in the day to disconfirm his worst fears.

So, I brought along The Daughter to bear witness that I had not put Sunflower Yellow on the walls of house. The Husband wants a plain house in neutral colours, which is really what I am capable of anyway. I now find that I have built a plain and simple house which calms my spirit and allows me to breathe easy (well ventilated) and see well (plenty of sunlight) and if I can ensure that family members keep away their considerable clutter, it will be a house decorated with nothingness.

That's a really cheap way of making a statement because given the trend towards shoebox apartments, nothingness could well become the new statement of luxurious living eh? At least, that is one way to rationalize my decision to stop worrying about the house... shopping for the house... spending time on the house.

You see... I've had it up to here with this house. I have been doing everything that I dislike for months and months. I have had to match colours, and choose textures, and inspect works, and run after deadlines, and shop, and spend money, and I've been anxious and frustrated and irritated and afraid. I can't wait to lie on my bed inside that house, hug my pillow and know that it is all over.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Whirlwind

I got to the worksite at 2.30 pm and did not get to leave till after 6.30 pm. I had no idea where all that time went.

The site was a whirl of activity. The tilers were laying tiles in bathrooms and staircase. The head tiler was making good progress on one huge wall. One of the 2 kitchen floors was being jack-hammered into some semblance of smoothness in preparation for tiles. Someone drilled something in the bomb shelter and the dust clouds choked me and left a layer of gray on my face. The electricians were placing finishing touches to their work.

2 quarrelsome workers worked on the ceiling boards. I'm not pleased with this pair. They're even better looking than Mr Scrawny and his 6-pack abdomen but they talk too much and work less fast. When you're waiting to move into a house, looks and talk aren't as important as fast and accurate work. You don't really want eye candy to work on your house.

Wrought iron grilles came in on the shoulders of 3 men, who drilled and cut and soldered and hacked. Doors came in and were being stained by a quiet and careful man who examined each brush stroke like he were Van Gogh.

The carpenter came in and installed some louvres. I love my carpenter. He is a tall and dignified man with a round face and eyes that look like they belong to a toddler. You know, toddlers have these black sparkling eyes that look like dew drops? Well... my carpenter's eyes are like that. What is wonderful about Freddie Liang of Jit Fa (S) Pte Ltd is that his workmanship is excellent and his sense of professionalism is very well developed. He talks straight and walks straight and does what he says he will do. And he wields a screwdriver like a magic wand.

Before I knew it, it was 6.30pm.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oooooh... Bodies!

There is a fat fellow who is at the moment tiling the staircase at my new house. Staircases are not easy to tile because the edge of the tile that meets the edge of the step needs to be ground to a round edge, else people walking up the stairs might cut their shins on the sharp edge of the tile. Tiles are hard to cut. You need a diamond edged cutter. They're even harder to grind. You need a diamond sand panel affixed onto a machine that spins the panel around at high speed. You need a steady eye, a steady hand and laser-focused concentration to achieve a consistently rounded edge.

Mr Fat Fellow at work ties a towel about his head, doffs his shirt, and shuffles about in bermudas. Rolls of fat jiggle as he walks, and his man boobs look like feasts for hungry breast fed babies. Beads of perspiration sparkle off this ensemble of bare flesh topped with towel. After days of observation, I now know what the towel is for. It prevents the beads of perspiration from flowing into his eyes as he holds the diamond sand panel to the edge of the tile.

I tell you, this guy tiles beautifully. That staircase of mine has more rounded curves than a woman. I really like Mr Fat Fellow and always greet him loudly when I go by so that he can hear me above the whirr of his diamond sand panel.

One day though, I went by the worksite a little later than usual. Mr Fat Fellow was all dressed and ready to go home. I wondered who this portly man with glasses was. He kinda looked like my dad. Very dad-like. Then I realized that this was the very same fellow who normally looks like every breast fed baby's idea of a good feed.

There is another fellow who works on my ceiling. When I first met him, he looked rather scrawny. He had on a loose t-shirt and when he smiled, his teeth were horribly stained with goodness knows what. He was a fast and silent worker. Then one day, I looked up at the roof and saw a man in jeans and no shirt. Sitting atop those jeans was a 6-pack stomach that I thought only exists in magazines. And the whole morsel was marinated in glistening sweat.

Whoa! Mr ManHunt 2011 had dropped by my house! As my eyes travelled up from stomach to face, I realized that it was Mr Scrawny. He was not smiling then (so you can't see his bad teeth) and he looked down at me with the smouldering intensity of... of... of... Tay Ping Hui in C.L.I.F.? It was hard not to stare at his abdomen. I don't usually get a chance to examine a 6-pack abdomen, and it was quite fascinating. It was all I could do to stop myself from grabbing a stick and giving it a good poke.

I never ever looked at Mr Scrawny again without imagining what he looked like without his shirt. Good thing he doesn't come around anymore.

For anyone who is thinking of going into building construction, please dun be a tiler because tiling works your hands and the rest of your body turns to flab. Think seriously about being a ceiling board installer because you gotta work every muscle in your body to balance and climb, and so you end up looking lean and mean and you know... just whoa!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Sunbird's Larder

There is a sunbird around my place that has struck gold in the form of my constantly fruiting curry tree. Most people know that curry leaves add a distinctive flavour to curries, but few have eaten its berries. I used to wrap the clusters up with plastic bags and pick the berries for my father-in-law. The old man loves it. Lately though, I have been too busy being a bitch (see post before this one) to be a gardener.

The sunbird concerned is very large. Much larger than the run of the mill sunbird... you know, the lowly sort of sky denizen that has no privileged access to curry berries on penthouse roofs. This bird is so fat that I am amazed that it flies. And it gets bigger everyday.

Curry berries taste really good I tell ya. There is spice that goes up your nose and a burst of sweetness that fills your mouth. But seeing the size of that bird, I am staying away from curry berries forever. That is fattening food.

I have been observing this bird's comings and goings for many weeks, too lazy to step out there and wrap the clusters up. It is a very discerning bird. It picks the berries that are just ripened... still firm but bursting with flavour. They get that way when they turn a rich purple black. With an expert twist, Little Sunbird snaps the berry off the tree and holds it with its beak open wide and then in a toss of its head, the large berry disappears down its seemingly small throat.

One less berry for me and father-in-law.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Being Bitchy

I huddled miserably between the bedsheets 2 nights ago, cringing at the memory of the words I had said to some men that morning. There they were trying to resolve a problem on site of a staircase railing that did not run parallel to the steps. You know... a group of men, with their rumbling voices discussing an issue in a language I only half understand, and talking to each other above my head (since I am only short enough to see clearly up their nostrils when I look up at them). My small and squeaky voice made no dent on the hard shell of their rumbling conversation.

Words fell over each other in the interior monologue inside my head. "Gosh! I have NO idea what they're saying, and they don't seem to care what I think." And before I knew it, words formed in my throat and exploded into their midst like a torpedo, shattering the shell of their rumbling conversation held something like 300mm above my head.

"Just because I am a WOMAN does not mean that you don't have to listen to me. I am talking now and I expect you all to listen." I declared with a level stare at each in turn.

3 out of 4 men looked at me, shocked and embarrassed by my outburst. One said "I was listening to you all along." One said "No, no... we don't mean that. The third man's mouth popped open. The Husband, the fourth in the party, looked amused and waiting. Then I said, "I don't care what is done as long as the result is (1) the slope of the staircase railing runs parallel to the slope of the staircase, and (2) each staircase step is of exactly the same height.

You know how guys are. They're loud and their voices go boom-boom, and a woman's softer tones are lost in their sound waves. Normally, I would reach out to pat an arm or a shoulder to get their attention but I was feeling crabby. You would too if the bottom of your staircase where railings meet step, looks like the sharp pointed corner of a triangle, and you weren't sure whether this could be fixed in time to ensure that you can move in before you have to vacate your penthouse.

So... I huddled in bed miserably and sought solace from The Husband's approving eyes. "I'm a bitch huh?" I said, actually fishing for the comment "No, you're not. You're a sweet and gentle thing, and I love you and protect you." Instead, The Husband said "You were just being you. And that is good. A mother must know how to protect hers and her own."

But every woman wants to be a princess of sorts, where you spend your days looking gracious and kind and elegant. One would like to believe that soft power can bring results. The reality though, is that women have to look soft and BE tough, else the world will deal her kids and her family a bad hand. Sometimes, one just has to be a bitch/tigress/lioness... but this dark persona is just not something one wants to admit, even if the mirror shows her existence.

The good thing about The Husband is his acceptance of me, warts and all. And when the staircase railings were properly installed, he said "Good job, my wife. It is good to make your point heard when you have a good point." But well, I still wish I weren't so bitchy.