Monthly Archives: July 2016

Half A Can Was Better Than No Dustpan

Can anyone recall those squarish 20-litre*  kerosene tins ?  The fuel that we needed in our kerosene stoves came packed in this form, routinely bought from the neighborhood sundry shops.

Empty tins were usually returned to the shops, but sometimes we would retain one, and cut it diagonally into two halves.  After trimming the edges nicely, a wooden pole (could be an ex-broom handle) would be fixed to the back wall, and voila,  we got a nice dust pan. Two sets, in fact.

Almost all of the kampong folks used this type of D-I-Y dust pans.  No waste, re-use, re-cycle …. we knew about that long before the modern-day experts were born.

*note : cannot remember the exact capacity

From Rags To Rugs

Once Upon A Time in Malaysia during my teen days, there was a fad involving gathering discarded odds and ends of colorful fabric, and then intricately folding the pieces and stitching them into arrays of various shapes — circular, oval, rectangular, or anything else that fancied the creator.

The resultant rugs — ahh, actually pieces of art, were simply too beautiful to be trodden under foot.  Really, sayang lah !  So, in many instances, they ended up as seat covers in cars.

Nowadays, I seldom if ever, come across any lady who does this stuff.  Too laborious perhaps for the hectic lifestyle of modern day.  Maybe some among us can breathe new life into this art and, who knows, create a Rags-To-Riches story in the process.

A Touch Of Grass

Before the advent of super cheap plastic raffia strings,  we used a humble and environmentally friendly, 100% organic and biodegradable “string” called “咸草” or “kiam chao” in Penang Hokkien.  Not sure what it is called in Malay.

These grassy strings were sold in bundles of about a metre long, and they were used everywhere — at home, in sundry shops, wet markets, etc — for bundling up loose goods that had not been factory-prepacked.

Cannot remember ? Perhaps recall the old days how bak chang dumplings were tied up.   Haiz, these days we can hardly find these kiam chao anymore.

I understand that a lot of these kiam chao have gone into high fashion, where they are turned into hats with a touch of class for ladies.   That could be the reason for its scarcity !

Cool Outside, Hot Inside

In old times, to boil water was an arduous time-consuming task, considering that one had to start a fire in a stove (using either firewood or charcoal).

Thus, almost every household had one or more Thermos Flasks, to keep the boiled water hot and handy for dispensing at any time.  I remember we had two big ones which were used to hold plain hot water, and a smaller one to hold hot coffee.  But the coffee always had a sourish taste after a while — I disliked that.

Oh by the way, every now and then, one of us would manage to drop a flask on the floor and shatter the glass inside, because some lizard would emerge unexpectedly from behind the flask while it was being carried, and cause panic. Cicakphobia, I suppose.

Coming To A Head & Exposing The Lice

In the old days, perhaps due to lack of knowledge of hygiene of the crowning glory, infestation by lice was quite common.

A cousin came back from school one day, scratching her scalp non-stop.  By the third day, her sister and her mother were also affected.  Things came to a head, when they discovered some tiny whitish creatures clinging onto their hair.

Fortunately, Grandma had a secret weapon, called the Sikat Kutu.  She ran the formidable fine-tooth comb through the tresses of all 3 ladies — one swipe after another, and many lice were exposed, dislodged and summarily quashed.

But that was not enough.  Kerosene was rubbed onto their hair to make sure there were no living remnants.  Other folks even used a very pungent antiseptic white powder.

Crouching Feline Hidden Rodent

That seemed like ages ago, in the earlier years of my childhood in the kampong.  When was the last time you saw a cat stalking and catching a rat or a mouse ?

We had one lean & mean Tommy boy, living on fresh rodent sashimi three meals a day. Alas, one day he went out and never returned.

The later replacements did not seem to be interested in hunting rats, mice or birds or anything that was alive.   They were contented to purr and brush their tails against our legs, waiting for some nice fried fish or meat or papayas (yes, papayas). Otherwise, they would do day-long siesta on the sofa with four legs facing the ceiling.

Had they made peace ?  Or eating rats wasn’t feline chic anymore ? Let us see if we can get an explanation in Lee Ang’s next blockbuster.

Liquid Terminator

Dettol came into my life very early on, as I had to use it to wash the wounds on my limbs that I received frequently from  outdoor rumble-and-tumble play activities.   Being a kid I watched with much fascination as the brown liquid turned into a milky white color upon mixing with water.

Unknowingly, I also developed a strange liking for the smell !   The smell of death perhaps — for those unseen minute creatures of mischief.

All germs and bacteria would immediately recognize this fearsome mass killer whose vicious genocidal tendencies had wiped out 99.99% of their ancestors and relatives since 1936.

But alas for all folks,  the 0.01% that escaped went on to multiply and mutate and, returned with a vengeance — generating more sales for this liquid terminator and other copycat killers.