Category Archives: childhood

Of Snakes And Ladders

This was the favourite board game of my childhood and the only one that I have ever mastered (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, please).

Unlike chess – both ‘international’ and Chinese types – very little (almost zero) cerebral prowess was needed to play this game.  Just rolled a dice or two, and let nature take its course, as whether to climb up a ladder or be swallowed by a snake.

Maybe this game is too old-school and a no-brainer for the young folks of today.

In a way, it represented my working life.  As I toiled to climb the corporate ladders, plenty of snakes – anacondas, pythons, etc – laid in wait to ensnare and pull me down, and tried to swallow me.  Therefore I always had to watch out in all directions, at all times.  Still, occasionally, the dice rolled unfavourably.

Carry On…Writing

Missing episode of the “Carry On” series?  🙂 As kids, we did all our writing with pencils, until sometime in Standard 5 or 6. 

Aaah! Each pencil had to be sharpened frequently with a “sharpener” (which seemed to have a voracious appetite for slender wooden things with a graphite core).  Every sharpening shortened the instrument by about 3 mm. Eventually the length was reduced to about 2 inches; then it became difficult to grasp properly in the hand and produce good handwriting.

Help came in the form of an “Extender”, into which the shortened pencils could be inserted and locked.  In that way, the short pencils were given a new lease of life, and we happily carried on writing, until all that remained of the pencils were stubs of half-inch lengths or so.

Are these Extenders still being used?

The Rides And Falls Of Our Times

Pampered kids of today have midget mounts with outrigger “training” wheels, but in our times, learning to ride a bicycle was inevitably a thrill-and-spill adventure on a huge “Grandpa” two-wheeler.

Grabbing the handle bar with the left hand, and the seat with the right arm, and right foot on the right pedal, one had to “half-push, half-pedal” to try and gain some speed.  After some trial runs, one would venture to also lift the left foot, onto the left pedal, and secure that elusive balance.   For a second or two, things got rolling,…and then gravity took over the game.   C-R-A-S-H !! 

A few bruises on the knees, elbows or palms perhaps, but no big deal.  We picked up our machines, and off we went again.  And there would be many falls before a bona fide ride was finally achieved.

Of Fauna, Flora and Bola…

This article may rile some folks.

Football (aka Soccer) is a game that is accorded a near-cult status these days – with the players almost being worshipped like gods. 

But strangely, to me it is nearly impossible to understand what is so exciting about 22 specimens of living Fauna chasing after 1 spherical piece of dead Fauna (footballs used to be made of leather), on a flat patch of Flora (the field).

My psychologist told me that perhaps it has to do with my childhood encounter with the game.  My skin was (still is) allergic to grass – once the bola* has touched grass and hit my legs, an unstoppable itch developed.  Haiz, this particular Fauna indeed has an aversion to some Flora.

So since that first day of Standard One in school, I had to avoid contacting grass, even in PE lessons. 

*bola = Malay word for ball

To Sir With Love

Those schoolboy days

Of telling tales and catching snails are gone…

But in my mind

I know they will still live on and on..

But how do you thank someone

Who has taken you from crayons to Brylcreem ?

It isn’t easy, but I’ll try

If you wanted the sky I would write across the sky in letters

That would soar a thousand feet high…

TO SIR WITH LOVE”

This photograph was taken with my beloved Standard One Form Teacher, Mr Francis Heng, at the 1st reunion dinner of the 1970 LCE-graduating batch of the Assumption Boys’ School, Butterworth. It was the first meeting after 45 years.

On A Nutshell, We Had Fun

Back in those days of the 50s and 60s,  we kids had a lot of time to be just kids.  Though we had very few factory-made toys, that did not stop us from having a good time.  We laid our hands and feet on whatever that were available  and made them entertain us.

Coconuts were plentiful in my kampong as my house was in the midst of a coconut plantation.  

So, one of the favourite pastimes was to put a coarse string through two-halves of tempurung and then we stepped on the inverted coconut shells and walked with them.  The string had to be pulled up and gripped between the big toes and the 2nd toes, like how one wore a Japanese slipper.  Klok-klok-klok….

Well, in a nutshell, we had great fun on a nutshell !