Monday, July 31, 2006

Everybody likes pizza

Even stray dogs.

There's this stray that we've met now and then when we're walking HRH. Thin mutt, still juvenile, with lovely clear golden-brown eyes. She has always wanted to play with him but like most strays, he never has play on his mind. He quickly marks and trots off on his own business. The first time they met though, he stood still and gazed at her. She was delighted but I kept her on a short leash because he had tufts of fur missing from his flank and I was leary of sarcoptic mange. After that first encounter, he never stopped long enough for me to go back upstairs and bring down some food and water.

Last night when I came home from work, I saw him rooting around the garbage dump. At least he was at one spot long enough. I thought of bringing him down some Eukanuba. But L grabbed the pizza box instead. So Stray Guy feasted on a good half of a 12-inch Meat Lovers and a container of water.

Think of it from HRH's point of view: Hooray, Mummy's finally home. I'm gonna attack her with kisses. Wait a minute, she's going out again. And taking Daddy with her. And he's taking the pizza with him. Hey! Pizza comes into this house. Pizza doesn't leave this house. What's going on here?

L is quite taken in by Stray Guy. He thinks if it comes back often enough to feed, it might start to trust us, and maybe, just maybe, we could see if it would take to four walls and a roof. And then HRH will surely have something more to say.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Kaypohing* the neighbours


(*kaypoh = busybody)

The thing about staying home with a bum knee is that you spend a lot of time looking out the window -- especially when the rabbit-ears antenna on the TV picks up only one English language station.

When you just can't stomach Yan Can Cook, the block of flats across the field is more interesting than TV. You can't actually look into anyone's windows -- they're too far away. But you can catch a glimpse of life when someone stands at the window. And because the flats are laid out linear so that the living room window is next to a row of two or three bedroom windows, it's like looking into a live-action doll's house.

You can tell who's home and who's not, whether someone's in the living room watching TV with the lights off from the flickering coming from the window, or a child in the bedroom studying from the glow of a desk lamp. The ground floor flat has a white dog that hops on to some furniture under his window to stick his head out and check things out. There's always karaoke drifting out on Saturday nights -- we can't hear from our flat, thank goodness, only when we're at the foot of the block when we walk the dog. There's Malays songs coming from a corner flat. And once, Old Rugged Cross karaoke-style from the white dog's flat. I didn't know hymns come in karaoke, but I shouldn't be surprised.

The apartment on the second floor directly across the field from us -- which makes it our opposite number -- has been under renovation. It was quite interesting to watch from our perspective. It must how the other neighbours saw our renovation. And it's sort of like tracing our own steps of three months ago.

About four or five weeks ago, we saw all the windows flung open and people standing at them, pouring over charts. Ah, the design stage. A few days later, we saw naked bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Ah, the electricity's in. Some days later, we noticed when we were walking the dog one night that the harsh light had given way to warmer lighting. Ah, the lights have been put in. That was pretty quick work. A few days later, we saw the windows thrown wide open, and newspapers sticking out where they had been pasted round the sides of the window frames. Ah, they're painting the walls now.

There has been little activity in the past week. Yesterday afternoon, someone was cleaning the windows and the window grilles. When we came home in the evening, light was pouring out from all the curtainless windows until past midnight. I think we're getting new neighbours pretty soon.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Home with HRH

You'd think that HRH would be happy to have her Mummy home for three days (if I hadn't been on the e-mail to you recently, I fell on Monday evening, landed awkwardly on a knee already wobbly from the torn ligament in previous similar fall). Apparently not. That's three days of foregone afternoon naps for her. Although having her human home means that she can demand that I take her down during doggy social hour at the field in the late afternoon, dicky knee or not. I've discovered that she's learnt how to push her head under the curtain so she can look through the window and bark at running kids, growl at the tricycles and whine at the dogs.

She's quite sweet. When I fell, I was bruised, winded and in pain, so remained on the kitchen floor for a while. Then I wasn't sure if my knee could take the weight (the last time I damaged it, I tore a ligament and the knee buckled completely when I tried to stand) and I was terrified of that so I crawled out the the living room. She was napping on the sofa, and the back of the couch prevented her from seeing what I was doing, but she knew it wasn't something I usually do. When I hauled myself up on the sofa, her ears were stressed back. My Tshirt was soggy from the cold sweat I was in, and the little dear just lay by me and licked me till I calmed down.

The knee is much better, thanks, everyone.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Schnauzer social hour

... and I have no pictures of it. Wail.

I'm home for a few days with a bum knee, saw a pair of Schnauzer parents walking their furkids downstairs, so HRH of course had to go and join in the fun. And of course every Schnauzer had perfectly white paws except mine. Sugar's Dad says hers are brown, between the toes. I didn't see any brown.

I thought HRH was tall for a mini-Schnauzer because the ones that we see here are the really small ones out of Asia. The Taiwanese breeders are coming up with mini-minis, even. And then we met Junior yesterday. Towering above the others and he's only eight-months old. He's going to be even taller when he's all grown up. Sits perfectly too. Put HRH to shame.

We didn't get any human names of course. Everyone was either Queeni, Sugar or Junior's Mummy and Daddy.

You had to be there. Or you had to be a Schnauzer parent.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Blog-worthy


... to fans and subjects of HRH, that is. L took this picture and said I had to blog it. So here it is. He had gotten out of bed, and as always, HRH rolled over onto the warm spot. I had turned over and still half-asleep, automatically gave her a tum-tum rub. It's a Pavlovian thing --- you see a dog belly, you rub it, whether you're fully awake or half-asleep. I guess I'm a well-trained dog-owner. And L a well-trained blogger's husband.

We were debating whether to bathe HRH on Saturday because she's been scratching a bit. When was her last bath, I asked. L's answer: Check your blog. I just knew there was a purpose to this blog. :)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Before and after



HRH had a haircut a few weeks ago. I meant to post the picture then but every day, there was something else to blog about. I've surprised myself, I've actually managed to maintain this blog, there's actually stuff to write about.

HRH gets a puppy cut, not a standard Schnauzer cut. And when she starts to look like an Ewok, she gets cut again. We used to have her shaved, much to everyone's horror, when we were novice Schnauzer parents, but now we've discovered the puppy cut and a patient groomer. Still, it means she hovers between a sleek greyhound look and a fuzzy teddy bear look.

I know some of the other Schnauzer folk, especially the show people, hate me because my Schnauzer doesn't have the Schnauzer show cut -- no eyebrows, no beard and no belly fringe. I have no real defence other than I don't much care how HRH looks, as long as she is comfortable. The beard is murder to comb out and belly fringe knots something horrible. And she's a girl, I don't really want her to look like Fu Manchu.

So why did I chose to have a Schnauzer? The simple answer is: I didn't. She chose to have me. As did the Jack Russell before her. I was ready for a dog, the dog was ready for a home, it mattered not what breed the dog was. So she arrived a Schnauzer. And she arrived at a Chinese home. I don't think it mattered to her what race we were, as it didn't matter to us what breed she is.

I know some people do a lot to further their breed. Which is fine, really. I'm just not a show person and I don't need a show dog. At best, Kennel Club standards are just something that some dead white men once put together. At worst, the breeding circuit is like someone's idea that only blonde and blue-eyeds are the only ones that should be allowed to breed and look where that idealogy led to some 60 years ago.

If you ask me, I don't think HRH cares whether she looks like a Schnauzer either. She doesn't look in the mirror much. And she doesn't seem to care how the other dogs look. A good sniff at the butt does more than a good haircut. It's all olfactory to them, they're not going to bother who does your hair.

And I don't think Schnauzers ever decided one day what they had to look like. A person made that decision, somewhere along the way, it became a Kennel Cllub standard and now they have to live with the beard and fringe, like the poodles have to live with their pouffe cuts, the poor things.

It's also like stereotyping during Racial Harmony Day in school when the Chinese show up in qipao, the Indians in saris and the Malays in baju kurong. And then the next day, everyone goes back to jeans and look like normal people again.

So my Schnauzer just doesn't wear a Schnauzer costume. This also sorts out the dog people who're in the know, the ones who can look beyond the closely cropped standard dog look to ask me if she is a Schnauzer. Yes, she's a Schnauzer. More importantly, she's all dog.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Racial Harmony Day

Yesterday must have been Racial Harmony Day because all the primary school kids in the train were out of school uniform and the Chinese kids were in satin qipao tops, the Malay kids in baju kurong and the Indian kids in saris.

If you ask me, that's more like Racial Costume Stereotyping Day.

We didn't have Racial Harmony Day when I was in school. I guess we didn't need to. We intermingled without realising what race we were, and after school, were in and out of each other's houses, eating each other's food. And it wasnt just during Chinese New Year or Hari Raya.

Some time in the last 10 years, the education ministry realised we were going to have a serious problem if the Chinese kids didn't have Malay friends and so on, and instituted Racial Harmony Day.

I asked my nieces and nephew what they did. They said they could wear costumes to school and not school uniform. That's what the qipao, baju and sari were to them -- costumes. Because nobody wore stuff like that on ordinary days. They also said they had the day off classes and sometimes got to watch concerts where the Chinese kids would stage a Chinese fan dance and the Malay kids did a Malay harvest dance and the Indian kids did an Indian dance. Ah, Cultural Show for Tourists Day, then.

When I was in junior college, we had a lot of oversea students, so we had an Overseas Students Day when the Malaysians, Indians and occasional Korean and Japanese would show up in national costume, perform a few folk dances and passed around home-cooked goodies. The Singaporean students thought the foreign students shouldn't have all the fun, so they started turning up in national dress and brought along food that you would normally see during their festivals. Only being Singapore, there was no national dress, so the Chinese kids turned up in something Chinois, the Malay kids dug out their Hari Raya baju and the Indian kids turned up in saris. And later on, it got boring wearing your own costume, so we switched. Indian girls who would normally never wear qipaos borrowed one from a Chinese friend and that was when I learnt how to tie a sari. Now that, if you ask me, was truly Racial Harmony Day.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wow! We're in the papers




Our flat got featured in Shin Min (local Chinese rag that has the scandalous headlines and pixellated pictures). We're safely in the inside pages though -- the interior pages -- way at the back, past all the tabloidy Seven Deadly Sins stuff.

Fancy that, our home made the cut for coverage. OK, it's Shin Min, not Martha Stewart's Living, but by our standards, that's still a golly gee event.

What happened was that the reporter, who had featured some of the homes our interior designer/builder worked on before, asked him if he had done a resort home recently. So he e-mailed her pictures of flat, and the surfboard, picnic table and cloudy ceiling apparently qualified. Though I still maintain that ours is a Beach Shack look, not a Bali Resort look she was probably hoping for.

The reporter came round with a photographer last week. I meant to take pictures of the photographer taking pictures but during the shoot, quite completely forgot to do so. I didn't want to be in the shots, but thought HRH should, only she wasn't very co-operative. She wouldn't stay in the frame but kept coming towards me so the photographer gave up. The shoot didn't take as long as I feared -- it was newspaper click and shoot so there was no styling, no props that they brought along, no lighting. I only had to move some unpacked boxes out of sight. But you can see some of the unpacked plastic bags stowed at the bottom of the closet. I didn't know the photog opened the closet to take the pix.

We're the page lead with three little sidebars across the bottom -- the bit going down on the right side isn't us. The headline says something to the effect of: Home and Beach, with a deck that says: Blue sky, white clouds, surfboard.

Basically, the reporter just repeated what I told her -- that we were beach bums, that we had a beach wedding, so it wasn't surprising that our house took on a beach look in the process of renovation. HRH got honourable mention in the bit where she goes on about how the dog has the run of the house. Hmm, I guess ruling the house doesn't come across the same in Chinese.

The rep got some things wrong though. She said the designer came up with the "skylight". Hey, that should be properly credited to me! And she said L and I met in Hawaii. S says I should ask for a correction. Hawaii wasn't where L and I met, that was where we got married. We met in the newsroom. In Teeline class (or goofing off at the back of Teeline class), which I bet that reporter doesn't have to pass at 100 words a minute. She didn't have to go through all the annoying dumb questions I used to have to ask, like full name, age and occupation.

L was at work during the photo shoot and the interview, so the reporter never met him. She's probably under the impression that he's a tanned, bronzed Hawaiian surfer dude. Hahaha.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ah, balls


I have been shamed. I'm a bad mummy. Last Saturday, all HRH got was a bath and I posted pictures of it on my blog. Last Saturday, V got a bunch of new toys and M posted pictures them on his blog (2andhalfcents.blogspot.com).

Not that I'm mounting a defence but here's one reason why HRH doesn't get new toys very often. See these two balls? They're identical, only one is older and has lost most of its markings to play, Schnauzer teeth and saliva, and countless throws, retrieves, aching arms and the wear and tear that comes with a ball being dropped on your face in the middle of the night when you want to sleep but HRH thinks you should play because she is up.

And when V finally killed its squeaker, I bought a new one -- completely identical -- to replace it, thinking that HRH would prefer the new squeaky one since the old one has been silenced. Nope. She won't have anything to do with the new ball. You can throw both at the same time and she'll take off after the old preferred one. And anyway, the squeak in the new ball didn't last long anyway. V killed it the last time she was here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Festival

This morning, there was no sign of the festival that was going on in the field downstairs yesterday. I still don't know what it really was. The family who lives downstairs from us organised it. One of them is some sort of Chinese medium or priest or something, and the festival is for the goddess that she represents.

Yesterday morning, there was intermittent music wafting up -- wailing erhus, Chinese pipes and boinging gongs and cymbals, and some chanting. There were fairy lights strung about the trees so it looks quite pretty at night. But in the daytime, it was a bit hazy and smoky from the burning joss. It was festive though -- there was a food tent by the side of the central tents where the altars are set up, with a towering steamer belching out nice with the clouds of steam. In front of the whole setup, there was a painted facade erected along with the canvas shelters, and it says (in Chinese): Celebrating the lady in white's thousand autumns.

I took a couple of photos using my cellphone but when I tried to download them today, I couldn't find the photos. I think I didn't store them properly after taking them. See, I should best leave cellphones to make calls.

I do wonder who the lady in white is. On the facade paintings, she's pictured sitting on a lotus. L thinks it's Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy but I don't think so. Kuan Yin is always standing, and holds a vial and a whisk. This lady in white doesn't.

Downstairs Family speaks no English and my Mandarin is limited so I can't ask them more. So far, we've only nodded, waved and talked about the weather and that classic Chinese conversation starter of: have you eaten yet? They're friendly with HRH and once, the lady asked me what sort of dog she was but I didn't have the Chinese for Schnauzer. She made cooing noises at HRH who wagged back. The language of friendship is quite universally straightforward.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Shrinking world

Last night, we got the newsbreak of the Israeli attacks on Lebanon not through the wires -- we'd done a night's work and were on the way home in the transport van -- but from a call to E's cellphone. It was from a distraught relative. His sister was due to fly out of Beirut but the airport was being bombed. E thought she might drive to Damascus and fly from there. I hope not, now. We now know that the road has been bombed out too.

How small the world has shrunk. Shelling in Lebanon and E is shitting bricks. Two planes fly into two towers in New York and P is on the email about what's happening as her city collapses into confusion. Bombs go off in the London Tube and I worry all the way home until I get R is on the phone, having found her home number on the Internet. Bombs go off on the Mumbai trains and N freaks until his mother is calls to say she's OK.

You always know somebody. It's less than six degrees of separation in a global village.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Stereotyping

"I said do you speak my language?
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.
I said oh, you're from Down Under."
- Men At Work, 'Down Under'

OK, so I've been told of my food rights and that I'm well within them to expect curry devil and feng at an Eurasian do.

So food stereotyping is good stereotyping? Well, thank goodness it's permissible then because when I go to an Eurasian Christmas, I look forward to the devil and feng. I look forward to Hari Raya because the neighbours make some solid rendang. And at Chinese New Year, my mouth waters for bak kwa, pineapple tarts and love letters. Everything is defined by food. Oh dear, I sound like such a glut.

It's got to the point where bak kwa *is* Chinese New Year. You can get bak kwa all year round, but it just doesn't taste as good as it does during Chinese New Year even though you know in your head that it really is the same thing, from the same shop, prepared to the same recipe.

Just like how Vegemite sandwiches (yes, I actually do like the stuff) tastes blah here but like heaven on a diveboat off Cairns. I suppose it's food association.

It's funny how a bite of something that you don't normally eat takes you instantly back to another time, another place. Branston pickle on cheese sandwiches takes me back to lunches at the university chaplaincy. And when I'm away from Singapore, chicken rice instantly takes me back.

More food memories. I can still taste that potato soup full of fresh herbs from that shop between Tahoe and Sausalito -- which L doubts we'll ever find again when we go back because we had no idea where it is, we were driving and stopped where we felt like it.

Outside of Singapore, different foods take on a sort of gastronomic welcome that says, hey, you're here, now have a bit of what we're eating. And it's good, eh? Although, context is all. I shudder at chip butties now but I'd eat one happily in Blighty. Same with spam wusubis in Hawaii.

I'm getting nibblish...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's over

Italy has won the World Cup. Hurrah for them. Now go away and leave me alone for another four years.

Actually, two years if I take the European Cup into consideration.

As you can tell, I don't care very much for football. Or any manner of sport. But sometimes you need to feel like you must keep abreast of the greatest game in the world tournament. I slept through the third and fourth placing match on Saturday. On Sunday, when I left the house, I had no idea who won. So I tried to decipher that from the Shin Min the guy on the train next to me was reading. Never would I have imagined that I would read a Chinese newspaper for football scores. I surprised myself that I knew the Chinese for Germany and Portugal.

On Sunday, since I still was up at that late hour, I felt I should watch the Cup Final. I lasted until half-time and that's when I fell asleep, lulled by 15 minutes of ads. The funny thing was that L, who was asleep earlier, got up to watch the second half. So you could say that between us, we watched the whole match. Great partnership eh? I watched Zinedine score the penalty. I watch the Italians equalise. At this point, I realised that I did not know the name of a single Italian player. The only thing that went through my head as I watched them running up and down and around was: Who designed their jerseys? That swath of dark blue under the arms make them look like they all had sweat patches under the arm pits. And what's the font for the players' names on the back? Nice font.

Guess this is how a woman watches football huh?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Eh, where's the devil?

W's wedding dinner on Saturday night and it was stressed that it was an Eurasian affair so it had to be formal dress (L dusted off his suit and I was wailing "I have *nothing* to wear!") and there would be dancing.

It's a nice change from the 10-course Chinese banquet, after which the bride and groom and their families form a line at the exit so you could shake hands down the line as you leave. This one melted down into a disco party and you could come and go as you pleased. We left to Village People and YMCA spilling out of the hall and into the rest of the building. Only thing missing was curry devil and feng. The wedding cake was a yummy sugee cake, made by one of W's aunts. I didn't wait to bring my piece home. Waste of good sugee cake to put it under the pillow (or don't you do that any more if you're no longer a young girl?), I ate my little parcel of cake there and then, for dessert. Is it like typecasting to expect curry devil and feng at every Eurasian do? It's like you'd expect a solid rendang at a Malay wedding feast.

This was a buffet followed by dancing. Which was nice. Except that the DJ probably prepared his playlist according to tempo and never listened to the songs he was playing. After W and N led a couple of slow dances, he upped the tempo with that insipid song whose title and singer aren't worth my remembering, it was basically about a little bit of this girl, a little bit of that, and a chorus that goes a girl here, a girl there, a girl everywhere. Followed by That Thing You Do -- which has a nice upbeat tempo but is really about breaking hearts. I mean, how apt are those for weddings? It's like people in discos jumping and partying to Gimme Hope, Joanna. Or when the DJ wants to turn down the tempo in the slow segment and they say they're putting on a song for all the romantic couples to slow dance to, only they're smooching to Tears In Heaven.

Is there such a thing as song lyric illiteracy?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hamstrung by technology

We activated our land line's voicemail last Friday. Yesterday, the Big Phone Company -- OK, Only Phone Co here -- turned it on. Very efficient. Except they didn't tell us it was turned on or how we would be notified if people left voicemails. All we knew from our end was that yesterday, our dial tone suddenly turned from a continuous dial tone to a beeping dial tone.

Which the modem did not recognise. Which meant I spent my day off frustrated by the lack of Net access and a Big Phone Company operator who couldn't understand how a dial tone can change, why the phone line can still dial out but the modem can't. She'd send a repairman round.

The repairman came round today and didn't find a fault in the line, of course. Just the funny dial tone. Which he can't do anything about. Back to calling Big Phone Co. Only now, I got a bright, helpful operator who though it must be the new voicemail. The break in the dial tone is to alert us that there's new voicemail. So I tried to access the voicemail. It needed a 4-digit password. Which I didn't have. Because Big Phone Co gave no instructions when they helpfully turned on the voicemail, remember. Back to Helpful Operator. Got default password, cleared the voicemail, dial tone's back to the continuous sound that modem is happy with. I'm back online.

But I didn't need all that aggro from yesterday and this morning. And the repairman wasted his morning too.

All because someone left out instructions.

The following was to have been yesterday's blog had I been able to post:
Happy Fourth of July to my friends who celebrate. Over here, we've already had our share of fireworks. On Saturday, at the al fresco grille for M's birthday dinner, fireworks lit up the distant evening sky. We told M we had it specially arranged for his special day. Although of course it was probably for the National Day Parade rehearsal. Or for Youth Day, as G pointed out as her sister was there for those festivities and couldn't make the dinner.

Having moved out of range of the National Day Parade, I'd quite forgotten that now is about the time the rehearsals warmed up. Last Saturday, at my parents', jets screamed overhead in formation and then in a starburst. HRH did not appreciate it one bit. All she heard was the supersonic reverb and it didn't occur to her to look up at the display. Ah, just like the generation of dogs before her. She missed the helicopters too, just barked at their annoying chop-chop sound.

I'm sure the air force can do a good job keeping the peace when required. But they sure cause a lot of disturbance in peace time.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The couch is not enough


Royalty must lie on cushions. And the spot must in the cool aircon draft. Overlooking the view from the window is also necessary.

HRH would have a fit if I told her that Driveway Dog that lives opposite P sleeps on concrete.

Last Friday, went past Yellow Dog and his friend again. This time, they were almost up by the road and I could take a closer look, particularly as roadworks meant that the traffic slowed to a bottleneck right by them. There's a construction site that has just been set up at the edge of the field, and it looks like the dogs came with the construction people. So they're construction site dogs then, which is pretty common. Some construction site dogs are actually quite well taken care of, they've had their shots and stuff. But I didn't see a collar on Yellow Dog and Friend so I wouldn't assume that. At least they must be fed, they certainly don't have the lean and hungry stray look. Bet cushions aren't in their vocabulary. HRH has a lot to be thankful for.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Not everybody speaks football

And if they did, the conversation is drawing out to an end pretty soon. Whew.

On Friday, I came home to an empty house. L had given notice and decamped to a friend with cable TV. He took HRH with him. She was quite the party animal, I later heard, demanding biscuits and bellyrubs from everyone, little slut.

I pottered happily round an empty, quiet house and went to bed early. Next thing I knew, there was a scratching at the bedroom door and I opened my eyes to that split second of two paws and a furry face in the mid-air, inches away before I felt the crashlanding and had the wind knocked out of me. Oof. Guess my doghter loves me. L said she spent the last hour of their visit sulking in her carrier with her tail down because she wanted to go home to Mummy.

Yesterday was M's birthday and family, friends and furkids all descended on our favourite dog-friendly grill. I'm sure the pix will be on M's blog pretty soon. This place is tucked away in the depths of the old Seletar camp and it's like a secret place -- like Heidi Klump keeps saying in that Runway show, "you're either in or you're out" -- you either know how to get there or you don't. It's got no aircon, no frills, no TV and definitely no World Cup.

Very rare, a World Cup free place. Even the kopi tiams in the heartlands of Ang Mo Kio have a TV or two blazing away to crowds of bleary-eyed football fans.

And then, as we drove out of Seletar, past the black-and-white bungalows, there was Portugal vs England, glowing in the dark, large as life and twice as natural. Someone had a projection TV thing set up and was using the side of his house as the screen! Talk about a block party. That guy must be a real hit with his neighbours.