Monthly Archives: December 2015

Encore For Bad Performance

Up till the mid-1960s or so, all motorcars and even trucks came equipped with a quaint piece of accessory, called a hand-crank – to be used as a standby in cases of battery let down.

This crank was to be inserted  through a slot in front of the car, to engage the engine.  Using sheer muscle power, several rotations of this tool had to be quickly effected to coax the engine to fire up.   Usually several tries were needed.    Quite dangerous actually.

The local term for this action was “ang kor” which I thought sounded pretty close to the word “encore” – what a way to salute a bad performance.   Linguistic purists may lambast me …. but let’s get moving first.

Fly-By-Night Hooters

Up until the mid 1960s, there was no public lighting in our kampong.  It was pitch black after about 8pm at night.   The main road was about half-a-mile to our house.  We had to use a torchlight to find our way through.

At times when had to come home late in the night, it was rather scary……” …maybe there were bad guys lying in wait, or unfriendly dogs running around…”  But one of the more eerie sounds we often heard while our hearts went boom-bang-a-bang were the sudden “hoot-hoot-hoot” calls from somewhere above our heads.   Experience told us they came from the “cat-headed birds” – but we dared not look up….the thought of seeing two glowing eyes against a sinister silhouette already sent a chill up our spines.

Big, Strong and Boxy

Those were the heydays of the Volvo Cars….starting from the 144…240…244 …264 – all embodying the trademark features of  unmistakable Viking precision engineering and supreme obsession with safety.

I had the experience of driving one of my cousin’s 240GL back in the early 80s.   A bit sluggish though, but the low-frequency soft growling sound that reflected back from the road during acceleration felt like real power – raw and refined at the same time.  It had power steering but the Swedes had deliberately made it a bit on the heavy side.

Alas, changing consumer tastes, stricter environmental regulations and economic considerations took a heavy toll on Volvo Cars, and in 2009, the company landed in the hands of Geely Auto – a PRC company.

The classical Volvo design has vaporized;  latter-day models are indistinguishable from the myriads of “me-and-you-lookalikes” and also-rans.

Killing Me Softly With His Salt

Aarrhhh !   Snails – those detestable slimy creatures.    In the kampong where I spent my childhood, these were everywhere.  Not contented with the freedom they had roaming in the open, they often made stealthy incursions into the house – leaving behind tell-tale tracks that shimmered against light.

Such flagrant violations of sovereignty of home space had to be decisively dealt with.

Upon sighting of these trails, we would track down the invaders and catch them, and put them into a pail.   Found guilty, they were sentenced to chemical execution using a handful of Sodium Chloride.   I thought I heard them sing, “Killing Me Softly With His Salt”…as they fizzled out and finally dissolved away.  Justice melodiously meted out!

But they never learned – and more kept coming, alas.  Very geram, so needed more garam.

D.O.M. Leave Mums Without It

As far back as I can recall,  in Chinese homes, mums during confinement were “required” to keep themselves from all “wind & dampness”, and that demanded the best of the traditional goodness from Europe – the much venerated (or should I say, vaunted)  D.O.M. Benedictine herbal liquor.

A small cupful after dinner was almost mandatory.   All my female relatives who had children have experienced these “drinking sessions”.  The strange thing is : why do they trust this Western brew so much – can anybody explain ?

Anyway, it is not cheap.   But it does taste nice !

Cobbler Cobbler Mend My Shoes

Get it done by half-past two.  Recall that nursery rhyme  ?

When was the last time you got your shoes mended by a cobbler ?  I have not done that for a long long time.

In my years of growing up, a new pair of shoes would be worn till the front started to gape like a hungry crocodile, or holes started to appear in the soles.   Then off we went in search of a cobbler to patch them up, perhaps a with new sole.  A pair of shoes would have undergone a couple of repairs before it got discarded.

It is a very different world today, as shoes morphed from “footwear” to “fashion statements”, with the womenfolk being specially vulnerable.    They get thrown out long before they get worn out.

Old Brooms Swept Clean

Since the day when I came into planet Earth till the time I emigrated to Singapore, the family had relied on 2 types of totally “green” tools for keeping the home clean.

The Straw Broom was used to sweep the floor, remove dust, sand particles and little pieces of junk that had been accidentally dropped on the floor.

The other was the Penyapu Lidi – mainly used to sweep dead leaves away in the fenced compound around the house.   Also deployed in the kitchen for clearing away water after washing.

Have not used either type for the last 20 years, ever since they were deemed “sapu-non- grata” in face of the vacuum cleaner.  Haiz….my contribution to global warming.