Monday, October 25, 2010

Appeal for Eye Witness : Hit and Run

This a similar looking car which was hit

A grey Volkswagon Polo was rear ended while parked overnight along Seng Poh Road (towards the direction of Tiong Bahru Road) between 14-15th October 2010.

The car owner suspects a low profiled car is likely to have hit his car as the damage crumples upward, meaning the offending car went under the rear.

The impact was so great that the axle broke. (That means this idiot was driving at a break neck speed and someone could have been killed!)

If you have witnessed the accident, please let us have the information so that we pass it to the police.

The poor VW owner will be carless for the next 2 months because of some cowardly reckless driver.....and that driver is still on the road!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Voices at Central Singapore : CIVIC LIFE: TIONG BAHRU

Civic Life : Tiong Bahru

Two Irish filmmakers are recording the changes in this old part of Singapore


WHEN FILM MAKERS Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy visited Tiong Bahru, they were immediately drawn to the hawker centre. The London-based Irish duo wrote in an e-mail: "When we arrived there and saw the architecture, heard the noise of the place, witnessed the range of human interaction, to say nothing of the great food there, we immediately fell in love with it."

The duo, who are married, met in Dublin in the early 1980s and began working together in 1986, calling themselves the "Desperate Optimists". All their ventures back then were with community groups. They worked in a range of media, including video, theatre and radio.

They explained that their initial efforts were made against a "pretty miserable economic background". "We don't believe creativity thrives in difficult economic times, but when people have no work or prospects they often turn to the activities that interest them, which can lead them to creating art or at least engaging with creativity."

It was in 2003 that they started to focus on films and were recognized for their "Civic Life" series shot in 35mm cinemascope. In these ventures, which tend to take months of planning, a few days to capture, and which range from six minutes to 28 minutes in length, they get communities to explore issues important to the community being filmed.

The first two efforts were set in the Irish capital, the rest in England. To date, they have done nine, one of which, "Who killed Brown Owl", won the Best British Short Film award at the 2004 Edinburgh International Film Festival. The Tiong Bahru film is the first to be shot outside Britain.

On their films to date, the directors said: "It's not like our first "Civic Life" film came fully formed but rather it came, not unlike Dolly the cloned sheep, on the back of many years of searching, exploring, experimenting."

"Civic Life: Tiong Bahru" is about "transition and change". It revolves around the relationship between a rebellious teen and her foster mother; the young boss of a drink stall who wants to set up a Mexican tapas bar; and a grandmother who insists on staying in Tiong Bahru despite her son's pleas to move in with him.

As with the other films in the series, the 150 "actors" appearing in it are ordinary people from the community. Invitations are extended and "actors" volunteer their time, depending on how involved they think they can be.

One of them is Madam Lim Ah Way, 86, who was spotted while she was attending her weekly handicraft gathering at the Tiong Bahru Community Club. The grandma. who plays the grandmother and has been living in Tiong Bahru since 1966, said jokingly in Teochew: "They chose me because of my white hair." Her kakis at the club also got pulled into making cameo appearances.

In real life, Madam Lim's five children respect her decision to continue living in Tiong Bahru rather than move in with one of them. "This is the place I'm most familiar and comfortable with, and where all my friends are," she explained. There are many old people here who feel the same, she added.

Mr Leo Mak, 24, plays the drink stall boss, and his reel character is somewhat similar to his real persona. His father has been running a stall at Tiong Bahru market for the last 10 years and he has been helping his dad.

While he may be looking for other business opportunities outside of the market, a tapas bar is not on his to-do list. Meanwhile, he has made firm friends with the other hawkers and residents, and said: "Many of my good friends are much older than me, and we can talk about almost everything under the sun."

"Civic Life: Tiong Bahru" is a collaboration between the National Museum of Singapore and the British Council. It will be screened at the National Museum throughout October with a series of 90-second videos.

The above article was extracted from VOICES at Central Singapore, Issue 54, September + October 2010.

VOICES is a Central Singapore Community Development Council publication.

Voices at Central Singapore : Youthful Outlook


Lin Xiaoling wanders the streets of Tiong Bahru and finds the area, despite being in its 70s, still spry and engaging.


QI TIAN GONG stands at a corner of Eng Hoon Street, which leads to the heart of Tiong Bahru. The temple, in the evening, basks in the soft orange glow of street lamps. Lights off, shutters down, incense burnt. Gone is the bustle of the daytime, when crowds pray to the Monkey God for the well-being of their loved ones.

Shophouses line that street. One has edgy graphics in bright colours which glimmer through the dark on its inside walls. It is a communications outfit. A group from the company crowd the five-foot way outside. Lights positioned, cameras snapping, ideas flowing.

The two faces of the old enclave, a stone's throw from Chinatown and the Singapore General Hospital, are more accentuated up the street. Here, two of the shophouses retain the mosaic tile flooring laid years ago. Local fruits spill out of one, barrels of rose, merlot and chardonnay beckon from the other.

Walking the streets and back alleys of Tiong Bahru, roughly bounded by Tiong Bahru, Tiong Poh and Kim Pong roads, is never boring. The little estate comprises many of the old Cantonese-style shophouses which once lined most roads in town. Go further in, in the horseshoe-shaped area around Moh Guan Terrace, is yesteryear's version of posh public housing, because these homes had a flush toilet. These three-and four-room flats are just a stone's throw from today's top of the line, towering HDB homes in Duxton Plain.

The older version is four-storey blocks of walk-up apartments, built in the 1930s. They are the first mass housing project undertaken by the Singapore Improvement Trust, the British colonial authority's version of the HDB. They boast rounded balconies, spiral staircases and light wells, practically nonexistent in public housing now. Twenty blocks have been gazetted for conservation.

Before World War II, the precinct was favoured by the upper class. The rich kept their mistresses there. After the war, the population tripled, undermining its exclusivity. In the 1980s and 1990s, many younger residents saw the flats as too old, too small, too old-fashioned and moved out.

Mr Nai Yong Chew, 52, grew up in one. He and his nine siblings, hawker dad and housewife mum enjoyed two living rooms and a bedroom. "It was a squeeze," he admits. Still, it was considered better than the neighbours' attap houses.

Children played hide and seek at the bomb shelter at Block 78, now a storeroom for cleaning equipment.

Hawkers plied the streets with their wares. When they were rounded up for illegal peddling, they banded together and appealed for licences to carry on selling. It led to the building of Tiong Bahru market in 1950, a modest single storey centre.

Once smokey and cramped, this one-level gastronomical haven, known for its chwee kueh, for mee and roast pig, was replaced four years ago with a round three-storey building complete with escalators - wet market on the ground floor, hawker stalls on the second and a car park to top it off.

Today, the market is still the heart of the estate.

While his siblings have since moved out, Mr Nai has taken over his father's fruit stall at the market. "Tiong Bahru has changed a lot, mostly for the better," he notes. "It's funny, I'm getting old, but Tiong Bahru has become more youthful."

Mr Huang, dried goods stall owner

The two primary schools he and the neighbourhood children attended have gone - because there were not enough pupils! The many corners residents would gather at with their singing birds have been pulled down to make way for an expressway and fancy boutique hotels.

The new has merged with the old, the flamboyant and the nondescript sit cheek by jowl. Each street has its own character. Those lined with eateries are crowded and boisterous, but just turn a corner, and you are back in a quiet lane, never knowing what you will stumble upon.

At Yong Saik Road, some shophouses still carry the wooden signboards of yesteryear. One has a painting of a woman with coiffed hair. The Chinese characters on it invite passers-by to climb a dark narrow stairway to a hair salon. Knocks on the door of this are unanswered.

A man from the ground floor unit explains the salon has closed, but if needed, a girl from China who rents a room nearby can offer a haircut.

At every junction of the estate's short streets are old-style coffee shops, the kind where customers were once served by men in sleeveless singlets and striped pyjama bottoms. The tables and chairs still spill onto the sidewalk, the morning still orders kopi and eggs, friends and families still --ather in the evening for a hotpot meal.

On Guan Chuan Street. where the U-shaped, red brick Block 78 is an architectural artwork, there are a sprinkling of art galleries and studios. a hint that the neighbourhood is looking beyond the basics.

What made the estate charm in the past is working again, and over the last decade, a younger professional crowd and expatriates have been moving in. Like Mr Kelvin Ang, 38, who spent six years living near London's Portobello Market and who wanted to continue that experience of contemporary village life at home.

The low-rise buildings and smallness of the estate comfort him. He appreciates the many opportunities for interaction with the neighbours, especially the older ones, who hang out in their backyards, tend to their gardens and chit-chat with friends. "If newer residents make the effort, most of the older ones open up fairly quickly," says the civil servant, who has been offered home-cooked dishes.

Madam Lee, resident

The community spirit which attracted him is palpable. Madam Tan Ghee Chang, 75, a resident for close to 40 years, does not hesitate to invite this stranger in for tea and a chat. She says in a mix of Chinese and Hokkien: "Some people are wary of others; they don't trust people and they don't open their hearts. But I'm not like that."

Like others her age, she knows her neighbours by name. by their dialect group, by the number of children they have, and can sketch out their family trees as well!

Despite what Tiong Bahru has to offer, Australian Emily Hills, 29, "hated the place" at first. The white walls were too glaring. Six months later though, the arts lecturer is full of enthusiasm about "the people, the food".

Clutching a bottle of wine to her chest, she proceeds to dinner with friends, the smack of her flip-flops echoing in the back alley. It is a strange combination of old and new, but so Tiong Bahru.

The above article was extracted from VOICES at Central Singapore, Issue 54, September + October 2010.

VOICES is a Central Singapore Community Development Council publication. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Singapore's Only Typainter.

I was in a terrible rush for time on Thursday when I spotted this queer guy seated at the corner of Block 76 Guan Chuan Street.

He looked like he was writing a novel with a typewriter and Tiong Bahru Estate was probably his source of inspiration.

I cannot properly describe to you how frustrated I was on Thursday because I was very sure this guy would have been a good blog subject and I just did not have the time that evening to interview him.

And they say opportunity never comes a knocking twice? Wrong!

Today I was presented with the opportunity.....again! Yipeee!

As I was seated on some stairs across Block 76 Guan Chuan Street, frying my brain cells with the Blackberry next to my ears for the longest conversation ever, I noticed this guy setting up his table and typewriter!

And while I was still happily turning more of my brain cells into cinders, this guy was happily typing away in the hot afternoon sun.

After my telephone conversation ended, I promptly walked over to greet this guy.

Since he has put up the signage like those Lemonade stall in those Charlie Brown's comic strip, he is probably friendly and won't mind me interrupting him.

It was a very fruitful conversation and I was happy to that I open my mouth to speak to him.

Ricky is very willingly to share and is very sincere about it.

Ricky told me he pioneered typewriter art since 1973 and even won a national art award in 1975. (He has a lot more awards after that and has a folder to show you if you talk to him)

How he discovered his talent was purely out of a curious mind and probably some itchy fingers (sorry, just got to add this part in).

He is the number 6th child in his family and after his 4th brother was done with the typewriter for his studies, Ricky starting toying around with the typewriter and discovered a whole new possibilities for it.

He proudly proclaimed to me that in the future, typewriters will be manufactured purely for the artist and not for "typist" anymore.

"Typist?"....Wow, that sounded so 1970's. I wonder if you can still find this word in the jobs classifieds these days.

"Can you still find typing ribbons these day?" I asked.

"No!, I looked for them like when I'm in Japan." Ricky said.

''Japan? The land of never ending innovations and inventions?" I asked in a very skeptical manner.

"You will be surprised what you can find there, young man." Ricky said.

"But still, it is not easy, you gotta ask around and it may be time consuming." Ricky warned.

Since these ribbons are so hard to obtain, Ricky tried to reuse the ribbons for as long as possible.

I always thought there were only red and black ribbons but Ricky told me there were green, brown and one more colour which escape my fried brains now.

He also said he could see which characters could be overlapped to form certain effects and how you should control the roller.

He has perfected his skill that he know which could be overlapped to get the curly hair effects or the leaves on a trees.

What amazes me while he was working on his artwork was his ability to produce those sloping lines to show these Tiong Bahru art deco apartment features.........effortlessly.

This guy is truly passionate about his work and has probably spent a long time perfecting it.

He might be at the same spot again tomorrow afternoon even though he said he will finish his piece by today.

Judging from the numerous interruption he has been getting after I left him, I have my doubts that he could finish by today.

This could be your opportunity to go and see how he produces artwork and caricatures with a typewriter.

All the best and I hope you have a chance to interact with this artist and oh yes...he was once upon a time a Tiong Bahru boy as well.