Just Like My Dad Did

I’ve been packing to move office for a fortnight now, and it’d have been faster if it wasn’t for my office being a treasure trove of museum grade paraphernalia. Today alone I found my Dad’s old passports spanning three decades.

My parents had their offices in and around Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar from 1966, the year after they got married. My father knew the streets like the back of his hand. To shake off his afternoon lethargy, he used to take long walks spanning the waterfront, then at Shenton Way, to Beach Road, to North Bridge Road, to Chinatown, Tanjong Pagar, and then back again to the office.

About a decade ago, before Parkinson’s got the better of him, I joined him on his walks. These walks were often dotted with stops for a drink or a meal. Restaurants at Purvis and Seah Streets, stalls at Amoy Street and Maxwell Road food centres were our ports of call.

He’d shuffle towards an available seat, sit, look up at a stallholder/waiter and make eye contact. A nod was exchanged, and his usual dish from the stall/restaurant would arrive at our table a few minutes later. Sometimes, it was a raising of a palm – a silent Hainanese greeting – that would signal the transaction.

Every crappy work day I’ve had at the office in recent months, I’ve had the respite of some similar walks, clearing my head, getting some air. Then one day last week, I stopped at Amoy Street food centre, and sat down at a table. I looked up and saw the chicken rice hawker and he saw me. We exchanged nods. A few minutes later, he served me a plate of chicken rice – drumstick with gizzards. My usual. My father’s too.

Crazy Ting Tong Belles Christmas

It is an honour being part of an event that’s become a Christmas tradition. I remember the first shows I was asked to write for at Dream Academy. One of the then producers tried to calm my nerves by telling me, “You think being asked to write a song in two days is a big deal? The Dim Sum Dollies can write lyrics two hours before opening night! You can do it!” Of course, I still crapped my pants.

If you’re not already familiar, Crazy Christmas is an annual variety show comprising songs, skits and dance, and Dream’s rehearsal studio is Madness HQ in the weeks before opening night. Original songs, adapted songs, scripts and dance choreographies are tried, tested, discarded, reinstated, retested and then arranged and rearranged in the show’s rundown. There is a lot of Blu Tac and recycled paper used.

Then comes opening week, and more madness at the Esplanade, as what’s known in theatre as bumping-in happens two days before the show opens. Sound, lights and the set are assembled (I swear there are gremlins messing with the tape measure – parts of the set are always the wrong size). Everyone’s always nervous, but it always comes together even when some bits are still not perfect by Preview Night, thanks in no small part to the mostly unseen technical people.

I wish for everyone to be able to see how hard the production crew of theatre shows work. There is so much grit behind the glitz.

Of course, it also helps that you have the most talented and professional assembly of performers on the show.

And this year’s opening night was special because it marked the return of the Dim Sum Dollies.  I doubt Selena, Pam and Denise would have been thinking too much other than getting their lines and moves right, but maybe after this show is done, they’d reflect on how they’ve brought  DSD magic back to Singapore’s theatre scene.

There’s just something there I can’t put a finger on. It’s been like that since the first Dim Sum Dollies show, and I’m so glad Selena decided (quite late in the creative process) to relaunch the franchise in this year’s Crazy Christmas.

And to Denise Tan, a big, warm welcome to you, Newbie Dolly! I can’t imagine a more appropriate stage troupe where you can showcase your talents, which are amazing, by the way.


Crazy Christmas: Ting Tong Belles runs till 22 December. Tickets available from Sistic.



Countering The Crap About #LittleIndiaRiot

To counter the shameful crap that has populated the #LittleIndiaRiot hashtag, here are a couple of things worth reading:

“When I made the Sexy Island documentary, one episode was on foreigners. I played an impromptu game of cricket with some Indians on a patch of grass in the shadow of the SportsHub that they were building (not mocking it, ridiculing it, dismissing it, I might add, but actually building the bloody thing.) They said they were proud to be building a new city landmark. Some Bangladeshi workers gave me a tour around “Bangladeshi Corner” (within Little India, near Mustafa, but proudly distinct).

Two of the workers had lost their jobs after falling off shoddy scaffolding. They limped in some discomfort. Their employers refused to pay, saying the accident resulted from their incompetence. They couldn’t pay their medical bills. Building site pals were chipping in and they were relying on human rights/voluntary organisations to fight their case. They were sleeping on friends’ floors and eating cheap meals as Samaritans fought their case on their behalf. We couldn’t use the footage about their case because it was considered too sensitive and we couldn’t corroborate in time.

Throughout our brief tour, they proudly showed off run-down coffee shops, provision shops and hangouts that most folks wouldn’t go anywhere near. I asked them: If they had a choice (and money), where would they go? No bullshit. They picked Singapore. They were underpaid, overworked, injured and ripped off by unscrupulous employers. They still wanted to make Singapore their home.”

Neil Humphreys

“That violent “Bangla” last night throwing fruit at paramedics? He may have been the Town Council cleaner cleaning up the trash in our neighbourhood so pests don’t overrun our precious HDB flats and bring disease to our family.

Maybe that destructive “ABNN” who last night flipped over and damaged SCDF vehicles could be that friendly grasscutter clearing overgrown fields so that mosquitoes don’t breed and cause dengue to our loved ones.

That angry alcohol-fuelled “foreign trash” who joined his compatriots in a mob last night could have been that smiling hawker center cleaner making sure our plates cleared and the spaces clean so we can eat in peace and not get food poisoning.

Or that “orh-lang” who smashed the windscreen of the private bus could be that hardworking electrician working at the nearby construction site putting his skills to making sure the wiring in that flashy upcoming condo won’t end up electrocuting our elderly. And that our future generations have a new place to live.

Perhaps that “ah-neh” who threatened the sanctity and peace in our beautiful city last night was just the day before sweeping up our roads so no stray pebble thrown up by a speeding car hits and damages the windscreen of our car or worse, hits and injures a passerby – maybe our young ones.

But no. Some of us are calling for these people to be sent back to where they come from, because they “threaten our safety”.

If only we knew what they mean for our safety.”

Daniel Goh

And check out the FB page: Behind The Borders, Behind The Men

Home Team Restraint

Like a few others, I’m really impressed that the Singapore Police Force, under quite a bit of danger, what with an estimated 400 people involved, several cars flipped over and burned, did not fire a single shot (of either lethal rounds (metal jackets) or non-lethal rounds (rubber bullets) or teargas) in anger or in defence.

It would have been different  in any other jurisdiction. Good job, guys. That went a long way in diffusing the situation and not escalating it or causing more injuries.