Monday, September 17, 2018

Mother Knows Best

One of my mother’s favourite dinner table stories is how she literally did not know how to boil water till the day after she got married. “I walked into the kitchen in the morning, turned on the tap and then I just stood there because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next! Can you imagine that?” she will ask and burst into peals of laughter.
            My brother once whispered to me, “I’m surprised she even knew how to turn on the tap!”
            Which more or less describes my mother’s privileged cocooned life in a nutshell. And it also explains why, over the years, her less than enthusiastic attempts to cook invariably ended with Father packing us all up in the car and taking us out to lunch at the Goodwood Park hotel.
            As children, we were never encouraged to cook, much less step into the kitchen for fear that we would get in the way of the cook. We knew where the kitchen was, but we knew this in the vague way that you know which direction is north, but you never really want to bet your life on it. 
            I remember once wandering into the kitchen, attracted by the noise and wonderful smells. I stepped in to find the whole place bustling with activity. Pots clanged and fires blazed. At the big marble bench top, Ah Ying the cook was busy rolling out what looked like a thin sheet of dough. She then cut out neat circles and scooped up a teaspoon of filling from a big pot of minced pork perfumed with shaoxin wine. (Even aged seven, I could tell my wines.)  
            When Ah Ying caught sight of me loitering at the door, she told me to go away. “You’re in the way! Get out!”
            Later at lunch, as we wolfed down the steaming baskets of pork dumplings, I remember wondering by what strange magic that unappetizing sheet of dough and pink meat had miraculously turned into this wondrous parcel of soft textures and flavours.
            You know how this story ends, I think. 
            One day, we all grew up and moved out of home. I ended up in Australia where I woke up one morning and realized that I didn’t know how to boil an egg. I couldn’t bear the thought of McDonalds. A lifetime of good home cooked meals had instilled in me a horror for fast food. But I also knew that I couldn’t subsist on a diet of Maggi mee, or a ham and cheese sandwich even if it was made with Provolone and honey-baked ham.
            And that’s how I learnt to cook. I bought a Delia Smith cookbook, turned to page one and started from there. I learned how to boil an egg. After a few tries, I progressed to an omelette and then scrambled eggs. The day I attempted my first soufflé goes down in history as a culinary triumph greater than the invention of the bread machine.
            When I’d exhausted Delia, I went out and bought Jamie Oliver. Then the Joy of Cooking. I’m currently working my way through The Silver Spoon. 
I became more confident. I peeled, chopped, sliced, and diced and then I stirred, opened and shut oven doors, lifted lids and tasted. Many times, I threw out entire pots of food that turned out to be duds and, once, an entire cake that didn’t rise because I’d forgotten to add baking powder. 
            To my surprise, I love cooking. I love the magic that came from taking all those different raw ingredients and turning them into something hot and fragrant. I love the simple pleasure of eating dinner at the kitchen table, while reading a book or Skyping a friend. 
Sometimes, friends drop by for a meal. I love their surprised smiles as they arrive, expecting a pizza takeaway and find, instead, a steaming pot of beouf Bourgignon with buttered pasta on the table. 
At the end of a long day staring at the computer screen, nothing spells comfort and relief more than the idea of a pleasurable hour or so in front of the stove, letting the simple act of slowing stirring the pot release the stress of the day at the same time as the sweet smell of sautéed onions fills the apartment. 
The other day, Saffy looked up from the bowl of spaghetti carbonara I’d made for lunch and sighed with pleasure. “If your Mother could only see you now.”
“She’d ask where I learnt to boil water.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Careless Whispers

Amanda’s good friend Cecilia has a shih-tzu. Bonbon is 12-years-old which apparently is very old and lately, he’s been moping about the house. 
            “He’s not eating!” Cecelia told Amanda over tea at the Ritz-Carlton. Her eyes moistened.
            “Well, he is12,” Amanda pointed out. “That’s like almost 90 in human years.”
            “Yes, but still. He just looks so sad all the time!”
            Later, Saffy said she’s always wondered why people have shih-tzus as pets. “Don’t you think they look really snooty? And they’re so yappy! Snooty and yappy! That is not a good combination for a dog.”
            “You just don’t like them because they remind you of your mother,” Amanda said. 
            “Yes, that’s very true. That woman,” Saffy sighed, her bosom trembling like a freshly baked castella cake. “Talk about snooty and yappy!”
            Meanwhile, Cecilia had invited a dog-whisperer to her house. Jane came highly recommended from another mutual friend Pei-lian whose Alaskan Huskie had gone missing from their Binjai Rise home a few weeks ago. Apparently, Ralphie had wandered out the open front gate when the helper was accepting delivery of champagne for a party Pei-lian was hosting that evening. 
            Amanda said Pei-lian alternated between screaming at her hapless helper and dissolving into floods of tears as she sent out the entire household to scour the neighbourhood’s narrow streets. Eventually, her daughter remembered that her school-friend’s mother Jane was a dog-whisperer.
            “Maybe she can help find Ralphie, Mummy?”
            Which is how Pei-lian found herself WhatsApping Ralphie’s picture to Jane. After a few minutes, Jane called back.
            “I’ve made contact with your dog,” she reported in her clipped Katong accent. “He’s very frightened but I’ve managed to calm him down. Seriously, Pei-lian, you have to stop crying! It’s very hard to focus when you’re this hysterical, you know!”
            It took a while, but once Pei-lian and her daughter had stopped screaming tears of joy, Jane said Ralphie said he didn’t know where he was, but he was outside a red house which amazed everyone, not least Saffy who, when she heard the story, wondered how that could possibly be. “I thought dogs were colour-blind!” 
            “Apparently not,” Amanda said.
            “And all this happened by canine telepathy? Amazing. So what happened then?”
            “Well, Pei-lian’s maid got in touch with the local Maid Mafia and one of them said that about three blocks away, her neighbour was renovating his home and had just painted one of the front walls red!”
Saffy’s eyes were saucer-shaped. “Oh my God!”  
“I know, right? So everyone rushed over and there was Ralphie sitting in front of the house with the red wall!”
“Seriously,” Saffy sighed. “That is just the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard! But imagine if Ralphie had said he saw a whitewall!”
“That’s why Pei-lian says it was impossible for Jane to have made any of that up. How could she have known about the house renovation let alone guess that Ralphie would end up there?”
Which is how Jane, now famous amongst the SCGH Old Girls network, found herself in Cecilia’s home speaking to Bonbon about his lack of appetite. After a few minutes of stroking the dog’s head and staring gently into his eyes, she turned to the anxiously hovering Cecilia and said, “Your helper!” she said. “Bonbon says she’s injured her left elbow!”
Apparently, Maria who was also hovering, gasped and immediately crossed herself and dropped to her knees. She scooped up the dog and clasped him tightly to her chest. “Mother, Mary and Joseph!” she moaned. “Bonbon!”
“You never told me!” Cecilia said, frowning. 
“It’s not too bad, mum!”
“Bonbon says,” Jane went on, stroking his head as he struggled to escape Maria’s bosom, “he’s very sad he’s getting so old. He’s worried about leaving you guys alone. He wants you to get another dog so you won’t be lonely! Also, he wants to be put down.”
At which, Cecilia began wailing, and Maria dissolved into full-blown Filipino hysterics, invoking every saint she knew and shouting, “No! No!” It took a while for Jane to make it clear that she meant Bonbon wanted to be released from Maria’s embrace and not be euthanized. 
For days, it’s all we’ve been able to talk about.
“That is just so amazing, isn’t it?” Amanda said. “First Ralphie, and then Bonbon!”
“The best part is,” Saffy said, “you can actually make a career out of it! Imagine the huge tips you’d make.”
“You tink?” Sharyn said. “Singaporean so kiam siap. They ask you for discount, ah!”
“Oh, that’s so true,” Saffy sighed. “You really are the Singaporean Whisperer!”
Sharyn preened. “I oh-so say.”

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Wedding Favours

Even now, months after the event, it's difficult for us to accept the fact that Rachel Zane finally married her Prince Charming. For real, too, and not that pasty boy wonder, Mike Ross. 
            For reasons that escape anyone, in the little flat I share with Saffy and Amanda, none of us has been able to separate fiction from reality. To us, Meghan Markle, the new Duchess of Sussex and Countess of Dumbarton, will forever and ever be the gorgeous, loyal and feisty paralegal Rachel Zane.
            For the longest time, amongst TV junkies, ‘Suits’ was one of those secret society handshakes. You either watched the show religiously, or you had never heard of it. We’d been fans from the beginning, though for different reasons. 
I love it for Louis Litt, that foul mouthed, twitching, shouting, hurt, open wound of a man who can make me laugh just by raising his eyebrows while he soaked in his mud bath. I also love it for Harvey Specter, a handsome, smooth-talking, charming, smart and ever well-dressed man who never seems to do any work except walk in and out of offices threatening people. When I die, I want to come back as that dude.
            The girls, meanwhile, literally moan every time one of the main women characters come on screen. 
            “Seriously,” Amanda said once. “I work in a law firm and I have never met a secretary who looks and dresses like Donna. I mean, look at her outfits! And don’t get me started on Jessica! I bet she doesn’t eat a thing. Nobody who eats can have a body like that.”
            Next to her, Saffy sighed. “I love the way they walk. They just stride with such confidence and purpose, even if they’re only going to the photocopying room. I want to walk like that. When I walk, I look like I just did a number two in my underwear and I’m trying not to let anything fall out of my undies!”
            Amanda pulled a face. “Seriously?”
            Saffy shrugged.
            So, when news broke that Rachel was marrying Prince Harry, there was a collective sigh. “Another random stranger marrying a prince!” Amanda said. “It’s just so unfair!”
            “Ay, what you expect?” Sharyn demanded. “You tink you can meet han-sum single royal prince when you always have lunch at Maxwell Food Court, issit?”
            “Or work in the HR department of a crappy law firm,” Saffy added.
            Sharyn nodded, her glasses almost slipping off her shiny flat nose. “Hannor!”
            The day of the wedding, the girls threw a Royal Wedding party at home. Amanda catered scones and pressed sandwiches, while Saffy put up Rule Britannia banners all over our living room. One of their girlfriends, Maxine, somehow managed to rustle up life-sized cut-up dolls of the bride and groom for the occasion. 
            “That George Clooney is aging like really expensive fine wine!” observed Saffy as she stuffed an entire scone into her mouth. 
            “Since when did Harvey Specter wear glasses?” Amanda asked.
            “Wait, that’s Harvey? Why’s he so thin?” Saffy said, concern etched in every syllable. 
            When Rachel finally emerged onto the steps of the church, there was a collective moan. 
            “Oh my God, that dress!” Saffy sighed. “It’s gorgeous!”
            “It’s a Givenchy,” Amanda reported flipping through her Instagram account. 
            “Wah, so nice, hor?” Sharyn said. “Ay, I wonder how much this wedding cost, ah?”
            “Forty-three million,” said Amanda, royal accountant. 
            A shocked silence descended on the room.
            “Rupiah?” Sharyn finally squeaked. 
Amanda barked out a laugh. “You-ess dollars!”
            “Wah lau, eh!”
            Apparently, Sharyn went home and told her husband it was an absolute scandal how these ‘xiao ang mohs’ had no ‘cow sense’ when it comes to budgeting for a wedding. “Wah, you give me forty tree million, I trow a wedding for the whole of Singapore, ah, and still got extra to send them on honeymoon! And fly Satay Class, some more!” she added indignantly. 
            “Yah, but, dey must also pay for security, right?” her husband Leong said. 
            Sharyn waved her hands. “Aiyah, you tink Victoria Beckham and Oh-plah don’t have their own security, meh? Dey so rich, confirm got own security, one! What for must pay extra?” 
            Meanwhile, back in our flat, as we were clearing and cleaning up, Saffy announced that she was officially obsessed with Rachel’s wedding dress. “So chic!”
            Amanda who was still flipping through her social media feed whilst picking up cups, paused and looked up. “That dress cost $268,000! You-ess,” she added, just in case it wasn’t already clear.
            For days, it’s been all Saffy can talk about. “$268,000!” she told the tea-lady at her office. “Can you imagine?”
            “Ay, xiao mei!” Auntie sighed, “I’m very busy, hor! I still go another floor to serve. You want coffee, or not?”

Retirement Benefits

In the little flat I share with Saffy and Amanda, nothing preoccupies our waking lives more than the idea of retirement. Now, alert readers out there might pause and think, “But these people are just barely out of puberty! They still have decadesof CPF to contribute to! Why would they be thinking of retirement already?”
            These are all undeniably accurate sentiments, but, nevertheless, they do not detract from the fact that we are all essentially bored with our lives. 
            The other day, Amanda said being a lawyer just made no sense. “I mean. It’s not as if I’m an engineer or an artist. At the end of the day, you’ve got a bridge and a painting to show for your hard day’s work. What do I have to show? A pile of paper.”
            Not to be outdone, Saffy said Amanda should trying being in HR. “At the end of my day, I am surrounded by very unhappy people. They’re unhappy when they join the company because they’re still emotionally scarred and bitter from their last job. And when they leave this job,” Saffy said, pausing to suck in breath, “they’re even more scarred and bitter because they never got that promotion they were promised when they joined in the first place!”
            “It’s almost like dating, isn’t it?” Amanda suggested.
            Saffy’s eyes brightened at the A-Ha moment. “It’s exactlylike dating! You know it’s all going to end in heartbreak, but you go on the date anyway and when it’s all over, you wonder why you bothered in the first place.”
            “And then you go out and do it all over again,” Amanda said, “because if you didn’t, you’d be sitting at home on a Friday night watching an old episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ on Netflix!”
            “So, the solution is to just walk away from it all!” Saffy said, her enormous bosom inflating with enthusiasm. “Give it up and call it a day!”
            “But then, what would you do?” I asked.
            “I would do yoga all day,” Saffy said.
            “But you can’t even touch your toes,” Amanda pointed out.
            “Which is why I would be doing it all day!” Saffy sighed, thinking, not for the first time, that it was an absolute scandal Harvard ever gave Amanda a degree in the first place. 
            “What would you do if you could retire now?” Amanda asked me.
            “Absolutely nothing!” I replied. 
            “Well, you can’t do nothing,” Saffy said.
            “Of course, I can. That’s the whole point of retirement! So you don’t have to doanything! I would just live off my CPF and sit around the apartment all day!”
            Amanda looked astonished. “But you’d be bored!”
            Which, in turn, astonished me. People seem to have this idea that being bored is a bad thing. #Notme.
            Because I read the news. And it’s telling me that it’s a scary world out there. All this excited talk about nuclear wars and trade wars and biological warfare makes me nervous. Today, I was informed that Facebook has weaponized the data it collects. I don’t know what that means exactly, or how anyone could weaponise a picture of my lunch, but I’m glad I’m no longer on it. And apparently, Ebola is back. Just thinking that I could catch Ebola gives me indigestion.
            Apparently, an old Chinese curse is to tell someone, “May you live in interesting times.”
            Which is just a very fancy way of saying, “May you never have a moment’s peace.” And it’s such an effective way of hating someone. Because nobody has ever cursed anyone by saying, “I hope you die of boredom.”
            To my mind, being bored means you’re safe. There is no imminent danger of something awful happening to you. If I wanted that kind of excitement, I’d still be a lawyer. 
            “Well, that’s a very strange way of looking at the world!” Saffy said, her bosom trembling like a pot of simmering soup. 
            “It’s true! Bored people have no stress!” I told her.
            “Yah, is very true, what Jason say!” Sharyn piped up. She pushed up closer to Saffy. “You look at all the line on my face! All cause by my husband and my chil-ren! Before I mare-ly and before I give birth, when I was single and got no ploh-blem, my face smooth like Fann Wong! After I mare-ly and give birth and got mortgage, my face become like Christo-per Lee!”
            “Ooh, he’s hot!” Amanda said with approval. 
            Sharyn sniffed. “Where got? He got so many wrinkle now. Like me, lor!”
            Leave it to Sharyn, Saffy said later, to come up with her own version of #metoo.  


Monday, August 27, 2018

Passion Made Possible

The other day, Saffy walked into our apartment with a bunch of mail she’d collected from the letterbox downstairs. As she kicked off her shoes at the door, she stopped flipping through the envelopes, looked up and announced, in ringing tones: “OK, I am now officially an auntie Ah-Soh!”
            From the comfortable depths of our sofa where she was paging through the pages of Vogue, Amanda looked up and stared at Saffy. “I’m glad you’ve finally come to your senses. I keep telling you that dress does you nofavours!”
            Saffy turned pink. She opened her mouth, but her heart really wasn’t in it for a sarcastic retort. Her bosom deflated back down to DEFCON 5 level.
            “Look at this!” She waved an envelope in our direction.
            “We don’t have X-ray vision, Saff,” Amanda murmured.
            “It’s a PassionCard!” Saffy announced in the same fear-struck tone that Sigourney Weaver used in ‘Alien3’ when she ran hysterically into the cafeteria.
            I sucked in my breath. 
“Yay! It arrived!” Sharyn cheered from the kitchen where she was unpacking lunch she’d brought. 
Amanda looked puzzled. “What is a Passion Card?”
            Saffy paused and stared. “How do you not know what a Passion Card is?”
            “It’s a discount card,” I told Amanda, slowly and carefully articulating my syllables. “It’s usually carried in the purses of aunties who shop at Sheng Siong.”
Saffy nodded. She sat down in the armchair next to us. “And it gets you discounts at Guardian and Giant Tampines!”
Amanda struggled up onto her elbows. “And so why do you have one?”
It turns out that for the past few months, Saffy has been on an austerity drive. One consequence is that rather than buy her facial cleanser and moisturizer and other beauty accessories from her usual pit-stop at Sephora, she now haunts the brightly lit aisles of Guardian. 
“You buy your toiletries from Guardian?” Amanda asked in a tone that suggested Saffy might as well use day-old hummus for a face mask. 
Saffy stiffened. “Well, excuse me if I can’t afford a five hundred dollar jar of La Mer eye cream like you can! And this is what happens when you are on an austerity drive. You have to make sacrifices!”
            “Yes, but still. Guardian?”
“You make it sound like it’s a Patpong wet market!” Saffy complained.
Apparently, each time Saffy rocked up to the till at Guardian, the same bored Malay cashier would ask, “Are you a Passion Card member?” And each time, Saffy would say, no, until eventually Sharyn said, “Ay, why you not Passion Card member, ah? You can collect points you know and spend at 7-11!”
Saffy frowned. “But I never buy anything at 7-11!”
Sharyn waved her hands. “Market Place also can use!”
“But I’m on an austerity drive! The last time I shopped at Market Place, I spent $80 and came out with two oranges and a box of tissues!”
“Where got? I was with you dat time and you oh-so bought that pee-not gig-oh!”
“What?” Amanda asked. 
“Pinot Grigio,” Saffy translated. “Honestly, this woman has the memory of an elephant.”
“And the pronunciation of a lisping rabbit,” Amanda added.
“Wah, you all, ah, so rude!”
For reasons that escaped everyone, Sharyn happened to have a spare Passion Card application form in her handbag, which she now fished out and made Saffy fill in on the spot. “Nah! You just fill in, I send in for you!” she instructed. “Later you tank me when you collect one point for every dollar you spend!”
Which is why a month later, the red and black card arrived in our mail.
Saffy turned the newly minted plastic over. “Hey, look, it’s also an MRT card!”
Meanwhile, I was scrolling through the website. “Oh, and look, you can also use it at Yun Nam Hair Care and Eagle Eye Centre and London Weight Management!”
Amanda, whose retail experiences are usually confined to gratifyingly expensive experiences within the LVMH group, looked blank. “Should these names mean anything to me?”
“I’m being supportive,” I told her. 
“It really is amazing all the places I can use this card at!” Saffy mused as she glanced through the accompanying brochure.
Sharyn glowed. “Yah, lor! I tell you, you don’t believe me! Dat day, hor, my husband sign up for Hokkien karaoke course!”
Amanda stared hard at the ceiling before looking back down. “What is that?” she asked, but you could tell she was already regretting asking.
“Is same as Ing-grish karaoke, but you sing in Hokkien!”
“Well, that’s a useful life skill,” Saffy said.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Sleep Cycle

I know some hotels make a big song and dance about how quiet their rooms are. One website I was on recently mentioned ‘whisper-quiet cocoons’ which, for some reason, made me imagine a parasite alien might burst out of my chest in the middle of the night. I wanted to write to Trip Advisor and say that at ‘Hotel XYZ, no one can hear you scream’. 
            Me, I like a bit of light noise in my room. A distant traffic hum from, say, the CTE is ideal. I have tinnitus, which, for those of you who aren’t hypochondriacs, refers to the ringing in your ears. In Singapore, I don’t notice it much, but when I’m in the English countryside, I can’t sleep at all. It’s so quiet the volume on the ringing is maxed up. 
            “Seriously, it’s no wonder all the Brits just packed up and moved to India!” I told Saffy the other day at breakfast. 
            She cocked her head and gave the matter some thought. “This tinnitus thing,” she said, her bosom trembling gently like a perfectly made tau foo fa. “You say it’s a ringing noise. But what does it sound like?”
            “What do you mean what does it sound like? It sounds like a constant ringing! You know those old-fashioned phone ring tones that go ring-ring? With tinnitus, it’s just riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing. It never ends. It’s awful!”
Saffy pursed her lips and nodded sagely. “Interesting.”
            It turns out I’m not alone. Later that day at lunch, Sharyn announced that for the first fifteen years of her life, her family moved five times and every single home had been next to a construction site. “Wah, day and night, hor, they got piling and jackhammer andtang-tang-tang!”
            Amanda turned to Saffy with a raised eyebrow.
            “Piling machine,” said Saffy, justly famed Sharyn Whisperer. 
            “So, now hor,” Sharyn went on, “if got no noise, I cannot sleep. Dat’s why when my new neighbour play karaoke all night, wah, so shiok!”
            All of which explains the slight frisson of excitement that swept through certain members of the Sleepless in Singapore Club when news hit via various social media channels that easyHotel had just launched a new lullaby service for its guests.
            I WhatsApped the screenshot to Sharyn. “Did you see this?” 
            Apparently, the world is full of people like me and Sharyn for whom total silence equals a bad night’s sleep. So, the thoughtful folk at easyHotel have pulled together a playlist that includes the sound of a washing machine in the next room, someone vacuuming, a clothes dryer in full spin. My favourite, of course, is the sound of traffic.
            Sharyn pinged back: “How cum got no construction site?”
            “You should write in and suggest!”
            Leave it to Amanda to read the fine print. “First of all, I’m never ever staying anywhere that’s called easyHotel! I don’t have anything in my wardrobe that will go with that. And secondly, it says here the service is only available in Glasgow, Newcastle and Croydon! Do I know where Croydon is?”
            “Isn’t that where they had those riots in 2011?” Saffy piped up, surprising even herself by her steady grasp of historical events. 
            “Oh God, yes, that’s right,” Amanda sighed, grateful that she now had two valid reasons to never try out this new-fangled promotion that the easyHotel is calling a ‘nodcast’. 
            “It’s just genius though,” Saffy went on. “Just think about it, the permutations are endless! When I was growing up, I fell asleep listening to my parents yell at each other. It was my lullaby. I think it’s why I always fall asleep during a horror movie! Like ‘Saw’! Theoretically, I’ve watched all seven. Or is it eight? Anyway, the truth is, I’ve no idea what happened in any of them! I’ve fallen asleep right after the first death! In every single one of them. It’s really tragic!”
            “You and Sharyn should write in to easyHotel,” I urged. “This is good customer feedback.”
            Apparently, Amanda doesn’t think so. “Can you imagine,” she told her friend Margaret, “if you check into the easyHotel and one side, there’s the sound of a construction site, and on the other, it’s someone screaming as they’re been sawed in half?”
            “Wait, they made seven movies about people being sawed in half?” Margaret asked.
            “I have no idea. For all I know, the movies are about orphans who get adopted by Oprah!” Amanda told her. 
            “I would sleep so well if I were adopted by Oprah,” Margaret observed.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Mixed Messages

It’s so interesting to me how people can have such different personalities. For instance, Amanda will freely admit to anyone that she’s an avowed follower of trends. When the bubble tea craze started, she was the first in line to investigate opening a franchise. When castella cakes wobbled into our lives, she scoured the island for the finest version. And when Céline started selling its US$600 plastic bags, she loyally bought two, so that like a true blue Sheng Siong auntie, she could double up by putting one inside the other. 
            Saffy, on the other hand, waited till the iPhone X came out before she committed to the iPhone7. “I just want to make sure all the kinks have been ironed out first.”
            “Wah lau, eh,” said Sharyn. “What for you buy two model old phone? No discount, some more!”
            Saffy shrugged. “I don’t see the point of getting what everyone else has.” To christen her new phone, she downloaded Candy Crush.
            Sharyn was astonished. “Hah? Candy Crush? This is not 2016, you know!”
            Saffy shrugged again. “I don’t care. I’m on Level 35 now and I’m completely stuck! I can’t get rid of all the fruits in 17 moves! It’s driving me insane! And the stupid thing keeps telling me I’ve used up all my lives and I have to wait half an hour before I start again!”
            “Why you don’t buy more lives?” said Sharyn, Singapore’s undisputed Candy Crush Queen.
            Saffy sucked in her breath. “No way. I’m not giving some random website my account details. Who knows who they’ll sell it to?”
            “Facebook probably,” Amanda said, darkly. 
            Saffy’s bosom inflated. “Exactly! Hey, so, can you help me win, Shazz? I’m sure it’s just a matter of me using some hammer or anvil, but I can’t quite figure it out.”
            Sharyn’s eyes, magnified to the size of a dinner plate behind her Coke bottle-thick spectacles, squinted. “Cannot. I have to go to my Thermomix demo-stration now!”
            Saffy paused. You could practically see her mentally rewind the sentence.
            “Uhm, what?” she said eventually.
            “My Ther-mo-mix demo-stra-tion!” Sharyn said slowly. “I tink I am going to buy one.” She noticed Saffy’s look. “Ay, you don’t know, ah? Thermomix! My sister got one and she say change her life.”
            Nobody was the least bit surprised when Amanda piped up with: “It’s a cooking appliance. It chops, stirs, simmers, cooks, sautes, and blends. It’s the latest kitchen craze, and if I actually knew how to cook, I’d be getting one too!”
            Sharyn nodded. “Yah, what Amanda say! Ay, Saffy, you come with me, lah!”
            Which is how Saffy found herself accompanying Sharyn to Bedok where their friend Ann was demonstrating the life-changing qualities of the Thermomix. Imagine our shock when Saffy came home later that afternoon lugging a brand new TM5. 
            Amanda sighed. “Oh. My. God.” 
            “This thing is amazing!” Saffy panted, blowing a strand of hair from her face, as she dragged the box into the kitchen. “It can even cook congee! And you know how I love congee!”
            Amanda followed Saffy, shooting a glance behind her shoulder at me. “But the last time you made congee, you set the machine on fire and nearly burned down the whole flat!”
            “Well, the TM5 does it all for you. It even weighs the rice and measures the water!” Saffy straightened up and sighed. “At least, I think that’s what Ann says. Oh, it was so life-changing that demo! She made kaya and custard. The most divine rempah. She even made bolognaise sauce. She just threw in the raw ingredients and the machine just did the rest. The best part?” Saffy paused to draw breath. “It even cleans itself!”
            Apparently, Ann’s husband, who also sold the machines, had offered to deliver it and set up a private demonstration, but Saffy was so emotionally overcome by the TM5 that she told him to come another time. “I need to be alone with this,” she told him, her bosom straining dangerously against her tight tee-shirt. Apparently, Mok later told his wife, who told Sharyn, that he was concerned Saffy was going to do something with the TM5 it was not engineered for. 
            “Like what, ah?” Sharyn asked. 
            Meanwhile, the machine has been carefully unpacked and lifted, like the Holy Grail, onto the kitchen counter. And there it sits. A single onion has yet to be fed into its maw. Every so often, Saffy will stop and stare at it in adoration. 
            Amanda thinks it would be so funny if someone told Saffy the TM6 is coming out next week. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Class Action

My friend Maya was fretting the other day at lunch. 
            “I don’t know what to do with Daniel!” she said, picking at her kale salad. 
            “What’s he done now?” 
            “His school has mid-term holidays in the US, so he’s flying home, but I don’t know what to dowith him.”
            Saffy looked up from her roast cod. “You make it sound like you’re assembling an Ikea cupboard!”
            Maya sighed. “He wanted to go skiing in Niseko, but the season is over, so, I was thinking I could take him to Taiwan.”
            Saffy frowned. “Why don’t you just leave him to it at home? Why do you need to do anything?”
            Maya looked astonished. “We have to dosomething! It’s his holiday!”
            Saffy put her fork down as her bosom inflated, once again confirming my suspicion that she can’t breathe and eat at the same time. “You know, when I was away at school in Australia, I never came home the entire five years? My parents said they weren’t spending a fortune on my school fees andairfare three times a year! Back me up here, Jason!”
            I shrugged. “I’m with her on this one, Maya.”
Maya’s eyes widened. “What, so you guys never saw your parents the entire time you were away?”
“Oh, no, I saw them plenty. It was a great excuse for them to hop on a plane for a holiday. But they just never saw the point of having me come home at such great expense. Although,” I added, as a memory resurfaced, “my sister once wheedled her way back to Singapore in her second year, but my parents decided they wouldn’t be around and went off on a month-long Mediterranean cruise leaving her all alone at home.” 
Saffy leaned in. “Don’t you think this would be a great opportunity for Daniel to travel around America with his friends?”
“He’s only 17!”
Saffy looked triumphant. “My point exactly! He’s 17. Raging hormones. Hot temptations. Pool parties and wild drunken orgies! He should be living it up!” She noticed our look. “What? I’ve watched ‘Riverdale’! That’s how kids roll today!”
Later back at home, Saffy said it just amazed her how spoilt some kids are. “Can you imagine being able to come home for mid-term holidays?” she said, lying fully flat on the sofa and staring at the cobweb on our ceiling. 
“And then being taken skiing!” I added. “And he’s only 17!”
“At 17, I was lucky if I got a phone call from my parents on my birthday,” Saffy sighed. “They only ever called me if something bad happened. Of course, now, they can’t do a number two without calling to tell me all about it.”
When I was growing up, we didn’t get on a plane with our parents till we were started high school. My mother was of the view that her children should not be allowed to see the inside of an airport till she was absolutely certain they could sit still in economy class without fidgeting, complaining or fighting for at least five continuous hours. 
“Wait. Your parents flew economy class?” Amanda asked. 
I barked out a laugh. “Yeah right! Are you mad? Of course not! But when we were finally allowed to fly, we flew economy while they turned left into Satay Class.”
“Ay, I ask you,” Sharyn piped up. “Business class really got satay, ah?”
“Only on SQ, Shazz,” Saffy said. “Or so I’m told, since I’ve never flown Satay Class.”
“I oh-so!”
Amanda waved her hands. “Wait, wait! So you’re saying that your family flew in separatecabins?”
“Still do,” I told her. “My parents think it’s disgraceful the way my brother, sister and I get on a plane. My mother once said we dress like we’re on our way home from laying sewage pipes in Paya Lebar. The last time I scrapped together enough points to fly Satay Class with them, they upgraded themselves to Wedgewood Class just so they wouldn’t be seen with me.”
Sharyn paused. “Hah? Wedgewood? Sim-mee dai chee?”
“The Suites,” I said. “They serve you food on Wedgewood fine bone china.”
You could tell Sharyn was impressed because her eyes were abnormally enlarged behind her Coke bottle-thick spectacles. “Wah! Issit?”
“Your parents are real bad-ass,” Amanda said with approval.
Meanwhile, Maya texted to say that she’s upgrading Daniel to Satay Class for his flight home. “Poor thing, it’s nearly 20 hours. How to fly economy class?” she wrote.
“I would have hated Daniel if we’d been at school together,” Saffy decided.
Ever competitive, Amanda said she’d have hated Maya.