Thank you, Lion Cubs

I must have been one of the biggest skeptics of the inaugural Games, but over the last 12 days, I’ve been treated to some of the best things it has brought to our shores.

I’m just hoping we’ll forget trying to show the world how we can do this and do that – it may take several more decades before we break the stupid inferiority complex that makes us call ourselves ‘the little red dot’ – but instead savor and remember the enthusiasm and joy some of these kids have shown the older cynics like me.

If you’ve been hiding underneath a rock, let me tell you now, that Boys’ Own stuff was demonstrated in the bronze medal football match by our own Lion Cubs even with their captain Jeffrey Lightfoot having been taken off early in the game for a nasty gash that required stitches.

Our boys went and, according to their coach, overplayed their hand, disobeyed coaching instructions, and smacked four goals past the boys from Montenegro.

It’s been a long, long time since a local football team’s photo graced the front pages of our news broadsheets, and just as long since one packed a stadium. I’d have bet that if the National Stadium had hosted the Cubs for the Games, the Kallang Roar would’ve made a comeback and scared the crap out of people riding in the Singapore Flyer.

Thank you, our home-grown boys.

Day 5 Football (19 Aug 2010)

Ah… Capella

My wife is nuts. She knows I’m under the gun with deadlines looming, and what does she do? She goes and books a villa at Capella Singapore, so that I’ll have nice, tranquil surrounds to do work in while we celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. How to be all angsty and writer-like, like that?

Work beckons. It’s almost 1am, she’s asleep and so’s the baby. Tell you all more after a dip in our personal pool in the morning.

Capella Singapore villa

Banker!

We’ve been very lucky to have a baby boy who’s so easy to look after. He eats well, is able to play by himself, and sleeps mostly to a schedule, and when we’re eating out, he’s able to sit at the table for up to an hour – enough for us to finish our meal without fuss.

Because Naomi is the one that does the details, we have a log of Kai’s daily doings like waking and sleeping times, eating and excreting times – although I’m sure there are other parents like us, with computerised logs that offer an instant audit if so required.

We also have a live-feed list of Kai’s vocablurry, which currently includes such food related words as “eat”, “pasta”, “chicken”, “bread”, “apple” and “hot” and “cold”. That’s about the same as an SQ stewardess’ operating vocabulary at cruising altitude – because at take-offs and landings they have to learn to read other complicated things from a card.

A friend tells us to be very careful what we say in front of Kai from now on, as they’re at the “storage of information” stage. Her 18 month old daughter shocked her last month by parroting a rude word she heard her father say.

So we are now at the next stage of parenting where we have to start spelling things out. Or pretend we said something else.

“Banker! Papa said Banker!”

More than half of toys tested unsafe

The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) tested a basket of 50 toys sold in Singapore, and more than half were found to be unsafe. Naomi and I are not surprised.

But what I’d like to know is, what kind of crap toy is this?

The pictorial list of toys is here, and I kinda agree with the toy gun / cuff set being unsafe. A friend of mine handcuffed himself to the fence when he was five years old, and was only released by his laughing parents when they got home several hours later.

A few days later, he shot himself in both nostrils with the dart gun. Actually, he was the sort of kid who’d manage to injure himself even if you put him in a straitjacket in a padded room.

Gold for Singapore football?

OK chope. I’ve only just discovered that there are only 6 teams competing in the Youth Olympic Games football competition. So it’s not exactly a world stage for our boys due to a ruling that each country can be represented in only two team sports at the Games.

That means the chances of a gold medal for our Lion Cubs are pretty high indeed. OK, maybe with just a little bit of luck, like when Steven Bradbury won Australia’s first Winter Games gold medal:

Very full now, just ate my words

I watched snippets of the YOG opening ceremony, and spent another hour on the Youth Olympic News Channel on Starhub TV watching interviews and re-runs and wondered why they didn’t have that on earlier. I learned many things about the Games and the athletes participating which should have been in the local media but wasn’t.

But back to the Opening Ceremony. It was very impressive, right down to the giant monster that a boy, who was later interviewed on YON Channel, described as “very fluffy”.

You guys pulled off a great show – which was the only thing needed to get this bloody country to rally behind you. No need for calls to be gracious and fines to be imposed should those calls be unheeded.

The icing on the cake this weekend for me, a non-soccer fan, was the home-grown Singapore youth football team beating, nay, thrashing the daylights out of the hitherto cocky Zimbabweans, who had earlier predicted a 5-0 routing of our Lion Cubs. I was thrilled to see such an exuberant performance from a team from our shores.

If they grow up playing like this, we might just hear the Kallang Roar again (ok, and after they demolish and rebuild the National Stadium, and ask to be part of the Malaysia Cup again too).

Keep at it, boys. Show the older sporting folk how it’s done – by throwing everything at the opposition.

Top points also to the 12 year old boy who ran after the torch and single-handedly restored meaning to the Olympic torch relay after it had been inexplicably given legs by Mediacorp (yah, I know, WTF?) artistes on the first day.

My words go down well with a tall glass of wheat beer, by the way.

Games of the 1st Youth Olympiad, Singapore 2010
Har? #sgflood again?

My National Day Parade

I remember National Day Parade 1990 the most because it’s the NDP I was involved in.

It was held at the Padang, and it featured the most impressive mobile column display since independence, involving all the military hardware and soldiers (like us) of the day.

At the beginning of that year, my battalion mates and I were in our second year of National Service – and for some reason, there was a what was called a “lull period” in our training program. By May, it became clear why that was so, as plans for the Padang parade were passed down through the combat and support companies. Our battalion was to supply one company sized mobile column/marching contingent and three companies of construction labour to build the spectator stands for the parade.

I’m not sure how it works these days, but in our time, the method of divvying up the work was this: the worst performing combat company got the marching duties. It might seem strange that the worst get rewarded by being in the limelight. But look further and you’ll realise that the mobile column/marching contingent has copped the rawest deal – hours and days of rehearsals, starching of uniforms, polishing of boots and armoured vehicles.

We moved in to the Padang in June, helping to unload the metal tubes that made up the grandstands, and then building the grandstands. It was like a giant Ikea assembly project as our sergeants and officers argued over the engineers’ manuals and instructed us to build the several storey tall structure by trial and error.

When night fell, guards were mounted from our ranks and we patrolled the Padang to ensure no one stole or sabotaged the grandstand. It was great fun.

Across the road from the Padang, where the Esplanade now stands was a hawker centre known as the Satay Club. We’d stray from our route and buy food and drink (with the blessing of the guard commander ensconced in a command tent on the grounds of the St Andrew’s Cathedral) and eat till our hearts’ content.

With the wee hours came some unusual encounters for the patrols. A group of transvestites used to frequent the Satay Club nightly, and it wasn’t because they liked to eat satay a lot. When day broke on one of the first few days we were at the Padang, our Regimental Sergeant Major had inspected the construction site and discovered condom wrappers, used condoms and other associated debris strewn around the grandstand area – people had been using the nooks and crannies made by our stacks of building material to explore their own nooks and crannies.

The order was put out unequivocally – we were not to allow any such monkey business to happen, and we were to apprehend (nicely) any civilian who were caught doing so, and ask them to leave the area and get a room. If they were to resist, we were to call our guard commander via our walky talkies, who would then call the cops via telephone at the cathedral.

So we patrolled a lot more diligently, shining torchlights into dark places and asking couples in various degrees of undress to leave the area for their safety. Thankfully, on my patrols, most did without resisting. But there was the incident of a patrol who encountered a group of belligerent transvestites who threatened them with bodily harm. By the time the police arrived, the guard commander was cowering under his table while the ladyboys sat on top and ransacked the things that were there.

I also celebrated my 21st birthday while serving a weekend guard duty at the Padang. That night, my buddies left the compound to buy a cake, some satay and lots of beer. We passed out drunk somewhere on the field and only got woken up when some transvestites wanted to trespass again.

More good times were had after the grandstand was built and when the other participants in the parade arrived for dress rehearsals. After being asked to test the grandstand by jumping up and down on them (and not causing a collapse and killing ourselves) we hung out near the Singapore Airlines contingent and asked the Singapore Girls how they had been selected to march – whether they had been rated the worst among their peers or something. They mostly ignored us.

On National Day itself, I was tasked to take my recce motorcycle and station myself at a car park somewhere in Raffles Place and guide VIP vehicles in and out of the area.

So, apart from seeing the aircraft of the RSAF perform their flypast, I missed the entire parade.

Troopers from 46SAR celebrating the completion of the spectator stands, July 1990 (I'm 3rd from left)

At La Petite Cuisine with le petite canard

La Petite Cuisine

Four years have passed since Naomi and I first dined at La Cuisine – when she was still my fiance – and I had a chuckle reading that blog post about it.

Neither of us smoke any more, the maitre’d has since mellowed, and the restaurant itself has since transformed itself into a much more casual affair called La Petite Cuisine. It’s more what a bistro should be like in Singapore: no pretense (t-shirt, shorts, slippers), just good food served quickly and eaten slowly.

Well, it does slow you down when you have to hang on to a glass of iced-water that your 15 month old insists on drinking from.

Is the YOG really a shambles?

For a world’s first ever event, the PR efforts are really really poor. I had to ask around several times where the opening ceremony was (because I have a nephew visiting from Canada, and he’s really into his sport), and no-one knew.

Some said the Padang, some said the National Stadium Oh Wait They Took The Grass and Seats Off Already.

The website took me several clicks before I found for sure where it was going to be held.

By now, I should have known at least some of the star athletes competing, some of their stories of triumphing over poverty and other odds, but I don’t.

By now, I should have known what the medals look like, where it was minted, how heavy it was, but I don’t.

It’s as if MCYS took on the project thinking, “if we host it, everything else will fall into place”, forgetting that you’ve got a press who’ll only print what you give them to print, and won’t be motivated to look any further.

The only interest I have in the YOG right now is how much of a shambles it’s going to turn out to be, and how embarrassed we’re going to be for hosting it.

I do hope to eat my own words though.