The difference between nice and polite

It is difficult to like hospitals, and government general hospitals are even more unlikable because of their labyrinthine nature. You could walk for hours and end up in the same place and then ask someone in uniform where a particular ward is when it just so happens you’re standing right next to the ward you want to go to.

Today, during a particularly busy hour, I found myself jammed at the back of the lift going down to the third floor lobby. The passengers who got in with me on the top floor had just come from visiting patients at the maternity ward, and were naturally smiling and chatty. The lift then stopped at the floor with the oncology wards, and two passengers get on board, and it takes a couple of seconds before anyone notices that they’re sniffling, stifling sobs, and dabbing their eyes with tissue paper.

Later, the car valet at the National University Hospital’s Kent Ridge Wing car park says, “eh, boss how are you? Your wife ok already?”, because he’d seen Naomi and I go back and forth the specialists’ clinics at the hospital before our extended stay at the wards this past month.

The auntie who works behind the Delifrance kiosk at the Main Building’s semi-al-fresco food court knows me as “double espresso takeaway”, and the Prima Taste stall waffle auntie calls me “two peanut butter”. She also sees through my “my wife, who’s warded upstairs, really likes the peanut butter waffle, so could you make mine first please because she’s in great pain from spinal surgery?” ruse, and said to me yesterday afternoon, “don’t bluff lah, ownself want to eat don’t say you buy for wife lah”.

Then there’s the flower and gift shop auntie who asks me repeatedly if I want to wait for the dolphin, after I’ve just selected a dolphin balloon to cheer Naomi up, and because I keep answering repeatedly, “No, I want my dolphin balloon now”:

“You want weight for dolphin balloon?”

“No, I want dolphin now”

“No, you want weight for the dolphin balloon?”

“No, I want dolphin balloon now! Why I want to wait for the dolphin balloon?”

“No, WEIGHT for dolphin balloon. WEIGHT, WEIGHT, WEIGHT!”

Dowan! I want now!” What for wait?”

“No, I scared you don’t have WEIGHT for the balloon, later you go outside it will fly away. Many children lost their balloon like that!”

“Oh. Ooooh. Weight…. No need. I tie to my pants”


Then there are the staff nurses at the maternity ward which Naomi was lodged at for two weeks because there weren’t beds left in the orthopeadic wards. Don’t give them medals because medals won’t do them justice. Don’t give them food because they won’t stuff their faces with snackies because they’re too busy really, really caring for people. These are nurses who, when they merely overhear me talking to a doctor agitatedly, take it upon themselves to go to Naomi’s room and offer a listening ear and a consoling voice.

Ward 96 staff, you’re champions. If there’s anything that takes the edge off the pain of illness and hospital cock-ups, it’s your fantastic attitude and care. You are genuinely nice. And we thank you for that.

Men’s Health: Man2Man: I Quit!

Originally published in Men’s Health (July 2007)

 Magazine Images Mens Health
A few weeks ago I had a very bad dream. I was walking back home from Holland Village, just a stone’s throw from where I live. It was getting dark, and it was a bit drizzly, and between the knuckles of my index and middle fingers of my left hand was a half consumed cigarette. As I quickened my pace to get home before the deluge, I took deep puffs from the cigarette, exhaling from the side of my mouth. One of the drags was perhaps too deep. I coughed, and then I woke up.

Ordinarily, I’d forget this sort of dream. But because I am a newly-minted, fresh-breathed ex-smoker, I woke up in a cold sweat, horrified at the vividness of the dream, even remembering the taste and the spluttering cough.

In that sleepful way one stumbles around the room, I looked around for clues to what could possibly have triggered the dream/nightmare. Did I really light one up in my sleep? At what point during my walk did I start smoking? Where did I buy the pack from? What brand was it?

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Men’s Health: Man2Man: Fear & Loving

Mens HealthOriginally published in Men’s Health (May 2007)

You know how as kids, we were indoctrinated at a young age about how truth and honesty trump untruth and dishonesty? I was such a believer I decided to put that into practice when I was about five. And who else to demonstrate that new found knowledge to than Mummy.

We were dining in a coffee house (that was what cafes were known as in the 1970s) and because I was the clumsiest kid around, knocked over the sugar dispenser and spilled sugar all over the table.

Only thing was that my mother had turned away to get the waitress’ attention when it happened. And so, a moral dilemma presented itself, and just as quickly, what was learnt at kindergarten that very week suddenly sprang to my young mind and it was clear that I would tell THE TRUTH when the time came for THE TRUTH to out itself, or for untruth to push THE TRUTH off the stage after THE TRUTH had outed itself!

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My favourite colour is very nice

Far East Plaza Chicken Rice

This is an exercise in self-awareness. I still have the habit of not answering questions properly. No, let me clarify that. I still have the knack of not answering questions – by giving an incongruent answer.


Q: What’s your favourite colour?

A: My favourite colour is very nice.

Q: Does it taste like tomato?

A: It feels like tomato.

Q: Are you hungry?

A: I feel like chicken rice.

Anyone whose ever borne the brunt of such answers, please, accept my sincere apologies on behalf of answerers of a similar ilk. My wife sympathises with you too, because I unanswer questions like this several times a day.

Q: What time is it?

A: Not hungry yet.

I’m told some wars were started because of this.

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Out of sorts (please send some)

Out of sorts
Maybe I should look at the world through rose-tinted lenses or something

There are days bad enough when you’re not only not sure what day it is, you’re also wishing it were another day altogether, wishing you could turn back time (or bend space and time), re-do something you did wrong or just do the right thing again, or simply wishing you were someone else somewhere else.

I’ve been having many of these days lately. And by lately, I mean, a long, long time. And that partially explains why this blog has been so quiet.

As much as I loathe being introspective and gazing at my navel, I don’t have much else to blog about, and I’ll leave discussions about American Idol, Heroes , Rise of the Ministers’ Pays and other significant television events to others who’ve been paying much more attention than I.

But I know I (and this blog) will be back, and I know I’ll pay more attention to paying attention, just like I did while driving the other day, glum-faced as a um… glum-faced driver, when I saw a Army NSMan by the side of the road, waiting for a taxi, only for empty taxis to whizz past him because he was in his nice, new No.4 camouflage green uniform, standing on the pavement, next to a whole bunch of trees, which happened to be like, you know, camouflage green colour too?

So I laughed.

Out of sorts
Because sometimes the news really, really, really gets you down

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Oops, happy belated birthday, Curiosa Felicitas!

This blog is now 3 years old!

From when it first started in April 2004, till now, it’s seen many, many facelifts. Mostly because I’m easily bored and like to tinker around without any thought whatsoever as to whether I’d break the template and have to call for help. Thank you those who’ve helped me when my template has been broken.

But seriously, thank you very much, all of you who are reading, and all of you who have read, enjoyed, left comments, emailed, congratulated and encouraged. It is humbling, and very, very much appreciated.


Wayback to July 04

August 05

September 05

April 06

Previous birthdays:

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What weddings are about

Style Weddings Mar 07 - Real Weddings
Ours – Style Weddings March 2007

I’ve mentioned previously about the record number of weddings we’ve attended the past year, and how each of them was beautiful in their own way – which is like saying nothing, really, if you think about it.

But I know there’d be some among you who’d know what I mean when I say, there are these glimpses of moments at weddings (especially your own) – glimpses of when no words will do the moment justice, glimpses of when nothing else in this whole wide world matters.

And so, congratulations to Mika and Gary, on your wedding last Wednesday, and for inviting us to be involved in the preparations, where we saw more of these moments. And we know exactly what to tell you – like it’s ok if you don’t recall a single thing at your own wedding apart from each other’s faces, that’s what the videographer’s for.

And no matter how many times everyone tells you ‘everything will be ok on the day’, you’ll still feel like throwing up just before you get to the venue;

A million and one things can and do go wrong. Like what? Like the waiters not knowing when to stop using the ice-pick when the ceremony is under way; Like the music being piped in from downstairs is a bit hard to control; Like the boutonnieres swivelling on their pins because the centre of gravity is salah

But the things that mattered, mattered. You held your wedding at where you had your first date; You got married; You love each other tremendously.

Nothing else matters in this whole wide world.

Congratulations again.

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Always bring the weather

Brownie for a buck

It was really cold one morning last week, and I mean, like 24 degrees celsius type of cold. The type that makes you want to head out to a coffee kiosk and have a comforting cuppa coffee and an equally comforting piece of confection. Like a brownie or something, because they were going for $1. And that’s cheap.

You know how it is when you wake up some mornings and the weather’s dreary, and you find yourself telling yourself, ‘Man, what a gloomy morning, and man, do I feel gloomy too’?

Yah, so it was that kind of morning, cold, 24 degrees, hands in pockets, shuffling to the coffee kiosk, hair tousled by a stiff breeze. I ordered a black coffee from the kiosk for seventy cents, and contemplated buying the dollar brownie. But three sips into my beverage, a few beads of sweat formed on my nose, and it was no longer that kind of morning, but warm, stifling and uncomfortable.

It gets warmer as the day goes on, and next thing you know, you’re complaining about the heat, and wondering to yourself how people still order hot coffees and teas at the coffee stall across the street, and eat mee siam and mee rebus that you can no longer describe as steaming, because in this weather, if your bowl of noodles still steams, it’s gonna probably melt the bowl.

Gloomy in the morning, uncomfortable in the afternoon (or from late morning onwards), wishing for a late afternoon shower. These are things that one shouldn’t feel, unless one were a farmer or something and one really needed that thundery shower (isn’t that a great term for heavy rain?).

I mean, the weather really shouldn’t affect you otherwise, unless it caused flash floods, like the time I had a classmate in secondary school arrive really really late for his ‘O’ Level Mathematics paper, with still the best excuse ever: “I was swept into the Bukit Timah canal and had to walk back from Jalan Besar”.

Or like when my uni mates and I slept in fear of further hailstorms after the one that ripped through our suburb was classified as the most expensive natural disaster on record. Then again, that provided more of a perverse pleasure than any gloomy disposition, with weeks of stories that went like, ‘hey didja hear about that idiot Singaporean who went out with an umbrella because he hadn’t seen a hailstorm before and wanted to take a look?’ (he almost had parts of the umbrella embedded in his head, but was otherwise unscathed save for some bruises).

Yah, that was fun. In fact, we had further fun off that, because all you needed to do to freak a car-owning uni mate out was to pour a bag of marbles outside his apartment window, and count how long before he rushed out to cover his car with a blanket to protect it from the killer hailstones.


OK, what was it I saying about the weather?

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It’s been five years since I watched in astonishment on my mother’s television set the destruction of the twin towers.

That night, on the 11th of September 2001, I had just come home from I can’t remember what (this blog didn’t exist yet), and my mum’s study door was ajar, and she was sitting and watching CNN. Then, it had already been a tumultuous year as it was for my family, what with my sister having a long convalescence from childbirth-related illness, my leaving my much-envied job as a talent agent after almost a year of doing little inconsequential things like arguing over whether Fiona Xie should take up the Chinese sitcom role she eventually made her own.

The first plane had already hit one of the towers, and I remember wondering how ‘zhun’ the plane had been, to hit right into the tower as I watched the top few floors burn with the most acrid black smoke. Then the second plane, a flying black shadow, crashed into the other tower.

“The world is going to end”, said my mother, while I stood, transfixed, wondering if any more planes were gonna zoom in and hit any other building.

So many things have happened since then. So few things have changed.

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