Friday, August 25, 2006

Farting at the Ritz-Carlton

Much to the amusement of Amanda and me, Saffy has recently taken a real shine to a guy in her office.

“Jeremy?” Amanda laughed when she heard about it. “That weasel from your office?”

Saffy puffed up, her heroic bosom straining against her tight tube-top. “Excuse me, but you’re talking about my potential future husband. For your information, I happen to find him very attractive!”

It wasn’t a particularly convincing act. Saffy’s type tends towards the Nordic look – tall, blond, muscled, blue-eyed, chisel jawed and usually with lots of vowels and consonants in their name like Birkeland and Grundtal. Kind of like the models in an Ikea catalogue. Jeremy Chin, on the other hand, is mousy thin, bad-skinned and somewhat height challenged and definitely not Nordic.

“Not that I think you shouldn’t date short people,” Amanda said, her brow wrinkled, “but all your boyfriends have been six feet and above. Jeremy is about four feet tall! You might as well get him to clean your shoes while he’s down there!”

“True, but he’s got a nice manner about him,” Saffy said firmly. “Besides, he’s just about the only straight and single guy in the entire office! Do you have any idea what a rare thing that is in this town?”

A few days ago, I was reminded of Saffy’s predicament when I was in a lift in Takashimaya. As I patiently watched the numbered lights shift between floors, the two office girls next to me were in full conversation mode about the perils of millennial dating.

“So, your date how?” one asked the other.

“Aiyohh!” came the reply. “You know, ah, he had to fart on our first date in the Ritz-Carlton hotel.”

The other girl squealed. Instinctively, I held my breath.

“Some more, he so cheap skate, one. We pay half-half for dinner.”

“Hah? How like that?” You could feel the outrage factor ratchet up in the little lift

“I also say! I ever go on a date with someone like that, everything half-half, even the coffee! But after two times, I say bye bye! Udderwise, cham ah, I tell you.”

“Yah, lor,” her friend said in companionable sympathy as the lift arrived on the ground floor and they got off to tour the Shisheido counter.

When I told Amanda, she sighed. “See, this is what we single girls have to work with. I’m telling you, it’s a lousy stack of cards. If the guys are already farting on the first date at the Ritz-Carlton, can you imagine what they’ll be doing after ten years of marriage?”

I could tell by her furrowed brow that Amanda was trying to imagine it, but even from my perspective, it was not a pretty picture.

Meanwhile, in the cold, harsh, sober daylight, Saffy is wondering whatever possessed her to think that Jeremy Chin had suitable genes to contribute to her unborn child. “He’s a lovely guy,” she said at breakfast this morning, “but the reality is that I’m practically a midget and he’s not that much taller. Our kids would be microscopic!”

Then as she slowly munched on her cereal, a thought occurred to her. She turned to Amanda. “Why don’t you go out with him?” she suggested. Amanda actually hiccupped. She had not seen this one coming. “No, really!” Saffy said, warming up to her theme. “You’re what, seven feet tall? Your kids would have a great chance of turning out with average height.”

“Are you insane?” Amanda spluttered. “I’ve already got a boyfriend!”

“Cockroach?” Saffy said referring to Amanda’s insectile on again-off again beau. “Puh-leeze! He’s an unemployed bum,” she said kindly. “Jeremy, on the other hand, has great career prospects and when you’re a little drunk, he’s actually quite attractive! And I’m sure he won’t fart at the Ritz-Carlton!”

And no, I’m not making any of this up.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Perfect

There are, in a writer's life, few things that are more inspirational (or depressing) than coming across a perfect piece of prose. Where every word belongs, every sentence has a purpose and the entire piece, from beginning to end, mends seamlessly.

For a long time, I felt John Irving's "Hotel New Hampshire", David Sedaris' "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" and Terry Pratchett's "Small Gods" fit the bill.

But then came the day I read Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain". As a technical piece, this short story is humbling. That it also resonates on every emotional level...well, the rest of us who claim to be writers might as well be mere journeymen.

Here's one of my favourite passages:

"Later, that dozy embrace solidified in his memory as the single moment of artless, charmed happiness in their separate and difficult lives. Nothing marred it, even the knowledge that Ennis would not then embrace him face to face because he did not want to see nor feel that it was Jack he held. And maybe, he thought, they'd never got much further than that. Let be, let be. "

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Prince

My sister, Michelle, rang me this morning from London: a trans-Atlantic call filled with sobbing tears and wails. It seems that in a fit of misguided good intentions, our Mother had spring cleaned and sent Michelle a childhood photo album.

“It was filled with pictures of Prince!” my sister hiccupped between heaving sobs. And just like that, the ghosts of the past all came flooding back, joyful and painful all at once, almost tactile in their intensity.

This is my first memory: I am three years old and my sister is five and we’re playing in our garden with Prince. We’re laughing as he pushes us into the grass, jumping back and forth with a wide stupid grin on his face. My face buried in the newly shorn grass, I inhale the warm green. This is also the first memory I have of being completely happy.

In the distance, our Mother sits on the porch gossiping with her sister as they pluck a huge bowl of bean sprouts for lunch. Their low murmur floats across the lawn, washing over us as we lie on our backs, the thick leaves prickling our exposed arms and legs. High above, a dome of sky, the colour of crushed sapphires. Then, Prince looms over us and pushes his nose into Michelle’s face. It’s wet and unbearably ticklish and she shrieks in laughter.

When my father first brought Prince home, Michelle had just turned four and it was her birthday present. I have no memory of the event; the faded photographs that Michelle scanned and emailed to me show a small brown bundle of fur lit by two soft moist eyes. The pet shop claimed he was a pedigreed Alsatian but Father had his doubts. Prince did not have a shred of aggression in him, barking only at mealtimes when we emerged from the kitchen with his food-bowl.

“He’s a useless guard-dog,” my Grandmother announced the moment she laid eyes on him. “Wherever did you find him?” she asked my father. She, of course, fell in love with him and, for the rest of her life, she would fish dog biscuits from her handbag.

By the time he was one year old, Prince towered over us. Standing up, we came up to his ears. He followed us everywhere as we wandered around the house, poking our heads into the kitchen for a snack or just sitting on the porch, drowsy with the tropical heat, him lying on the cool slate panting with effort while Michelle and I lay our heads on either side of him. And when we started school, each afternoon, he would always be there waiting at the gate, ears and tail alert, eyes searching the school bus and then doing a little dance when we got off.

Another photograph: he’s just been washed, his fur freshly brushed. Michelle had borrowed Mother’s hairdryer and blow-dried him for an hour till he had the canine equivalent of an Afro.

“Oh God!” Mother exclaimed when she saw her daughter’s handiwork.

“Smile!” Father shouted as we threw our arms around Prince, who immediately bared his teeth in a wide grin. For a dog, he was incredibly vain, recognizing the camera and always smiling on cue.

Prince died of cancer at the age of nine. He outlived my Grandmother who, even as she died, kept asking if she still had a pack of dog biscuits in her handbag. Father buried Prince in the garden under the Angsana tree where Prince had spent so much time happily digging up the lawn till there was only a big sandy patch. “What is that stupid dog looking for?” Father shouted after Prince had dug up a big hole, a spot that, ironically, years later, would be his final resting place.

Michelle spent the better part of a year moping, breaking down in floods of tears whenever she saw a puppy or, God forbid, another Alsatian straining on its leash as it dragged its owner for a run. I don’t think she ever recovered, which may explain her hesitancy around my beloved adopted mongrel dog, Pooch, whenever she comes to visit me.

And now the photographs and a phone call.

“He was so cute!” Michelle said. “Remember how he followed us everywhere? How he’d just sit outside the toilet door and wait.” Here, she paused, her voice trailing. “It was like he had all the time in the world.”

When I finally hanged up the phone, I picked up Pooch’s leash and rattled it to attract his attention. He came running, tail wagging, ever happy for an excuse to go for a walk. I stooped down to give him a big hug, and as he squirmed, I whispered into his ear, “Poochie, Prince says Hello.”

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Book Mark!

Another shameless plug coming up...

The second book, "Table for Three: More Tales of Saffy and Amanda" will - so the publishers tell me - be available from Borders and Kino from tomorrow; and in all major bookstores by next weekend.

JH

Friday, August 11, 2006

Things I Learnt from a Dog

Over the years, I have had my fair share of dogs. Each came with his or her own unique personality. Some were lazy good-for-nothings that were really just furry foot-stools in disguise. Some were so hyperactive they needed a sedative mixed in with their breakfast in order to see the day through. Some were needy and clingy, and some just wanted to eat all day.

But all of my dogs seemed to share common traits that I have come to think of as basic canine values. Values that, in this topsy turvy time of our’s, we humans could stand to learn a lesson or two from. And in so doing, perhaps we may end up in a slightly better world.

1. Everybody loves a good hug.
2. If you see a puddle, splash in it.
3. Love your family unconditionally.
4. To your enemies, be vicious unconditionally.
5. It’s always a good time to get a massage.
6. Be unwaveringly loyal.
7. Sniff first before you say hello. You might not like what you smell.
8. Clean up your plate and then look around for seconds. You never know when the next meal may be coming.
9. Be grateful.
10. Be patient with children. They don’t know any better.
11. If all else fails, a little growl and bared teeth will usually sort out an unpleasant situation.
12. Regard every tree as an opportunity to pee on.
13. Never pee on the furniture. For some reason, people tend to get a little upset.
14. There’s no problem in the world that can’t be overcome with a nap.
15. Assume everyone is your friend.
16. Until they give you reason to decide otherwise. (See No.7.)
17. If you stare long enough at a person, eventually they’ll weaken and give you a snack.
18. Assume that everyone thinks you’re cute.
19. And know that you are.
20. Be sad when saying goodbye.
21. Greet with enthusiasm.
22. Stay close to the ones you love.
23. Be alert in the presence of food.
24. There’s never a bad time to tell someone you love them.
25. Always be up for a long walk.
26. Especially if good friends are coming along.
27. Always say hello to everyone you meet. (But see No. 7.)
28. Wave when saying hello.
29. And good-bye.
30. Smiling at everyone is a cheap way to get what you want.
31. Sometimes, bad things happen even to good dogs.
32. But that doesn’t mean you have to obsess over it.
33. And sometimes, it’s good to clear the mind with a nice, deep-throated bark.
34. Not all cats are your enemies.
35. But approach with caution.
36. Or better yet, let them approach you.
37. You may see nothing wrong with licking yourself in public, but not everyone shares the same opinion.
38. It’s natural to fret when you don’t know where your loved ones are.
39. Always make time to stop for a quick chat.
40. The vet is not a good place to be.
41. But he will make you feel better.
42. Usually.
43. Take every opportunity to show someone how much you love them. A smile, a lick, a wave. It all works.
44. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
45. Sleep soundly. Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Speak Good England, Please

I like to sleep on the bus, though my friend Matt loathes people who sleep anywhere in public. I’m still not quite sure why this so. After all, if you don’t sleep, there’s not much to do on the bus. Especially if it doesn’t have a TV screen. Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed that they only have Chinese and English shows on the bus TV? There are no Malay or Indian programmes. I guess this is because Malays and Indians in Singapore do not take the bus. They must walk everywhere.

Anyway.

The other thing I like to do on the bus apart from sleeping is to eavesdrop on people’s conversation. I was lucky enough to overhear this golden moment the other day on the 58 to Bishan:

Girl on handphone: OK, lah, we meet you after the church service. Otherwise very crowded, lor! I’m with my brother! Yah. Bye.

(She turned off her phone and turned to her brother)

Girl: That was Gerald. I’m not being mean, but you know hah, I don’t think his relationship with Siew Fern is going to last.

Boy: Really, ah? Why?

Girl: They come from different worlds! She’s English educated and he’s Chinese stream. How like that?

Boy: Cannot, meh?

Girl: Not say cannot, but…she like use vocabulary words, you know!

Boy: (Silence, which his sister took as an encouraging sign to continue.)

Girl: For example, he don’t understand what she mean when she use the word ‘croaky’!

(I could feel her radiating satisfaction.)

Boy: What?

Girl: Croaky! You know, like when you say, ‘Ay, why your voice so croaky, hah?’

Boy: What?

Girl: Your voice…how you say…Like ‘Why your voice so croaky, today?’

Boy: What?

Girl: Like your voice go…kack, kack, kack! (She actually hacked out a cough.)

Boy: Oh! Got word for that, meh?

Girl: Anyway, he doesn’t understand vocabulary words like that. How the relationship can survive?

(Just then, a promotional scene for Peter Pan, the stage show, came on the bus TV. It was in English. Not Malay or Tamil.)

Boy: What show is this?

Girl: Dunno, is it Midsummer Night’s Dream?

Boy: Maybe…oh, no, it’s Peter Pan!

Girl: Oh, yah.

(Silence settled in as they watched the commercial. Then…)

Girl: Ay, who wrote ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’?

Boy: Was it Shakespeare?

Girl: Yah, I think so. You study before, right?

Boy: I think it’s a bit like ‘Days of Our Lives’.

Meanwhile, I was in the seat in front of them frantically memorizing this conversation and cursing myself for not bringing my notebook and a pen. I missed the rest of it because just then, the Junction 8 stop pulled up. The instant I got off the bus, I rang my flatmate, Saffy.

“Write this down, word for word!” I instructed her and began dictating.

“ ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is like ‘Days of Our Lives’?” Saffy gasped. “What version are they teaching these kids in school! It sounds so much more interesting than that boring old crap they made us learn in drama class!”

“Shakespeare is not boring old crap!” our other flatmate Amanda retorted later that night when I replayed the conversation on the 58. “He is a genius!”

“Why are you using the present tense?” Saffy demanded, her twin-peaked chest inflating provocatively. She’d had a bad day at the office and wasn’t about to be bullied at home. “He is dead and he wrote boring old crap! All they do is talk, talk, talk! Sometimes they play a song and then they talk some more! If you could bottle the boredom energy from watching a Shakespearean play, you’d make a fortune selling it to insomniacs and manic-depressives!”

“How can you say that!” Amanda squealed. I felt the temperature in the apartment drop a few degrees. “Romeo and Juliet was full of action!”

Puhleez,” Saffy said, disdain dripping like acid. “That’s only because Baz Luhrmann changed it beyond recognition, added an ass-kicking soundtrack and Leonardo di Caprio was in it!”

“I’m talking about the Franco Zeffirelli production with Olivia Hussey!” Amanda huffed, Elizabethan outrage leaking from every pore. “That was a fine rendition of pure, emotional love, one of the best artistic interpretations of the Bard’s masterpiece!”

I blinked. This was new. Amanda only ever used the words love, pure and masterpiece in the context of the latest Dior and Givenchy collections.

Meanwhile, Saffy was not about to let a little change in linguistic direction derail her momentum.

“I honestly did not understand a thing you just said,” she said primly. “Please don’t use your vocabulary words on me!”

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Answering the Telephone 101

Hello! Welcome to my very popular class on ‘Advanced Techniques on How to Annoy People on the Phone”. This week’s lesson is Basic Telephone Etiquette. Let’s begin.

Lesson 1: Never answer the phone with your name or the name of your company. Because if you did, that would immediately clarify for the caller that he or she has called the correct number. A simple, bored ‘Hello’ delivered in a flat, emotionless tone is precisely the right note to take. Remember, a complete lack of interest in the caller is the message you are trying to convey.

Lesson 2: Never say more than you have to. For instance, if someone asks, “Yes, hello. Is that, uhm, Cannon Ball Events Management?”, the proper response is “Yah?” and nothing more. Some beginners will add, “Can I help you?” This is the wrong response as it creates the incorrect impression that you actually care about the caller’s needs.

Lesson 3: Monosyllabic answers are key to the success of any telephone conversation. In fact, the preferred response to any question is “Yes”. For example: -

Caller: Hi. Is this Monogram Pte Ltd?

You: Yes.

Caller: Do you have Model XYZ?

You: Yes.

Caller: How much is it?

You: Yes.

Caller: No, how much is it?

You: Yes.

Caller: I don’t think you’re very bright. Let me speak to someone else. What’s the name of your supervisor?

You: Yes.

Remember, your goal is to encourage the caller to hang up.

Lesson 4: If the person that the caller is calling for is unavailable, there are a number of possible responses. One is “Not in”. Another is “He outstation”. My preferred response is “You call back.” Studies indicate that most will not call back. This is your ultimate goal, because you do not want to be bothered with a return call. Especially, since this is not your company and you could care less if it folded up tomorrow.

Lesson 5: Some callers will be very rude and persistent. They will insist on leaving a message. Such situations call for some psychological finesse. You must create the impression that you are diligently taking the message, when all the while you’re surfing the Net with one hand and scratching your bum with the other. To do this, you say, “What’s the message? Uh huh, yes, uh huh, how do you spell that, uh huh, great, I’ll give Mrs Kwan that message when she comes in.” Hang up the phone and get on with Google-ing that hot guy you’re going on a date with tonight.

Lesson 6: Pretend you don’t speak whatever language that person is speaking in. The ideal response is a shrill “Hah?” So, for instance, most callers will speak in English. This is your cue to say, “Hah?” and then mutter something in Hindi. If, by pure bad luck, the caller is fluent in Hindi, switch immediately to Hakka. Studies show that the odds of someone actually being able to speak both Hindi and Hakka are one in two gazillion. If all else fails, shout, “Hah?” several times at the top of your voice. And then hang up.

Lesson 7: Install an automated phone system. This is an established favourite of all government departments and banks and is guaranteed to ensure that all frivolous calls are screened. Buy only the best system. How do you tell if it’s the best? The easiest way is to check the number of options that are available for each command. The rule of thumb is – the more the better with the most commonly used option at the end. Eg, “For Latin, press 1. For Swahili, press 2…And for English, press 55.” Important note: if the system you are looking at has the following option, “To speak to an operator, press 0”, put it back on the shelf. Speaking to an actual operator defeats the whole point of an automated phone system.

To summarise this lesson, this is what a good phone conversation should sound like:

You: Hallo.

Caller: Oh, hi. Is that Power to the People Pte Ltd?

You: Hah?

Caller: Uh, is that Power to the People?

You: Yes.

Caller: Can I speak to Buay Ta Han?

You: He not in.

Caller: Where is he?

You: Out station.

Caller: Can I leave a message?

You: You call back.

Caller: When?

You: Yes.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Wrinkle in Time

My flatmate Amanda hates people who lie about their age. I know this because the other day, she exclaimed, “Oh, I hate people who lie about their age!”

And then, as if that statement didn't quite convey the full extent of her displeasure, she added, “It shows such little self-growth!” She spent the rest of our lunch ranting about how shallow some people are.

Personally, I don’t know what the big deal is. Everyone I know lies about his or her age. I myself have been 28 for the longest time. And this year, thanks to the miraculous age-defying effects of SK-II, I’m turning 27.

My own mother has been 55 for years now.

“I don’t see why I need to tell people how old I am,” she once sniffed as she inspected an application form for a credit card and firmly ticked the 50-55 age box. “It’s all so intrusive. Shouldn’t my credit history be more important than my birth date?”

“You’d rather tell complete strangers how much money you have than to tell them your age?” I remember asking at the time.

“Oh darling, don’t be na├»ve!” my Mother said calmly. “I have no intention of answering any of these questions truthfully. I lied on my marriage certificate, you think I’m going to start telling the truth on a credit card application? Really, you young people!” she laughed and, for weeks after, entertained her mah-jong friends with the story.

And then the day I turned 26 - just a couple of years ago – I found myself filling up a contest application form. One of the boxes required me to tick a box for my age. Without even thinking about it, I ticked the 23-25 box.

“How is it that you’re only 24?” Saffy asked me the other day as she read a bio I’d written of myself for a magazine. “If you’re going to lie about your age, can you please be a little more realistic?”

This from a girl who tells every man that she’s ever dated that she’s still a virgin.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

BJ


I’ve never understood people who like to tan. Especially those who devote entire days slowly roasting away on the blindingly hot sand. To me, it’s quite possibly the worst case of wasting-your-time since the invention of the bikini thong. It’s like, why bother? You might as well stick your head into a microwave. It’s faster and less time consuming.

My mother, who has spent her entire life indoors or hiding under a silver reflective umbrella, brought up her children to run screaming for the shade like well-dressed vampires at the first hint of solar activity. As a result of which she has flawless skin.

“You have such lovely skin!” complete strangers will tell her, marveling at her porcelain complexion.

“That’s because I stay out of the sun, dear!” Mother will tell them, while discreetly looking at the wrinkles on their faces. “As you should too! And you shouldn’t frown so much.”

“Your mother is just plain weird,” my flatmate Amanda recently told me as she got ready to go downstairs to our pool for a session of sun therapy. From the depths of our sofa, I mumbled, a little distractedly, into my latest issue of Men’s Health, “If you say so…I’m sure these stomach muscles aren’t real! What freak has eight-packs?”

“And anyway,” Amanda continued as she surveyed her latest Tomas Meier bikini in our lounge room mirror, “a nice tan goes with every outfit.”

“So does melanoma,” I muttered as I mentally did five sets of sit-ups. “I’m sure these pecs are computer generated!”

Just then, my friend Barney Chen walked in through our front door, dressed only in the skimpiest of Speedos and baby oil. Briefly, I wondered what mode of transportation he’d taken our apartment and why he’d not been arrested for indecent exposure. He took one look at Amanda and growled, “Girl, you look fabulous! You know, you really should lock your front door. A rapist could just walk in and ruin your day. And why are you reading that magazine?” he asked me, pausing for breath. “Everyone in there has been airbrushed!”

For the past three weekends, Barney and Amanda have - since discovering their mutual adoration for the sun - been tanning buddies, gently pushing each other to reach richer shades of mocha. “She’s amazing!” Barney rumbled to me after the first session. “She really knows how to work that sun-bed!”

But, I protested, what was the point of a tan, which was really slick marketing spin for severe skin damage? “You get all wrinkly and leathery and how unattractive is that?” Apparently, I am the only one who has this opinion.

“I wish I could tan,” Saffy said, coming out of her bedroom. She stared at Barney and Amanda with the kind of deep envy she normally reserves for honeymooners and Heidi Klum. “Five hours in the sun and all I’ll get for the effort is coral pink. It’s just not fair!”

“Come down with us anyway,” Barney said kindly. “You never know, you might meet your future husband there, which P.S. is why I’m currently wearing the flimsiest of Speedos in my wardrobe. You like?”

Put on the spot, Saffy hesitated. “It’s, uh, it’s, uhm, it’s very figure hugging!” she said eventually. Later, she wondered to us how anyone with Barney’s assets was able to walk in a straight line, to which Amanda replied that it was Barney’s boyfriends that she worried about.

After Barney and Amanda had gone downstairs, Saffy settled into the sofa next to me and channel surfed while eating Ben & Jerry’s straight from the tub. “It’s not fair that I can’t tan. And it bugs me that you,” she turned to me accusingly, “have perfectly good tanning abilities but here you are indoors.”

“I don’t want wrinkles,” I said comfortably. “It’s the one neurotic hang-up I’m grateful my mother passed onto me. When I die, I want people to walk past my coffin and say, ‘Gosh, he looks terrific for 98!’”

Saffy looked at me sideways and frowned. “You are so weird, you know that? You and your entire family!” she pronounced.

Meanwhile, down by the pool, Barney had struck up a conversation with the man tanning next to him and Amanda. “I don’t know how he does it,” she said later. “We hadn’t lain on the deck chairs more than two seconds before this guy, oh hello gorgeous!, comes up and lies down next to us. How does he do that?” she wondered again.

According to Amanda’s report, the man was American, a single ex-pat banker living on the fourteenth floor. “And he’s gay!” she exclaimed when Saffy showed immediate interest. Saffy’s formidable bosom deflated. “Well, of course he is!” she sighed heavily.

“We’re going on a date next weekend,” Barney gloated over the phone that evening. “His name is BJ. And all day, I’ve been wondering if it means what I hope it does!”

Walk This Way

I read this definition the other day in Alan Richman's great book "Fork it Over"


Schluff: A deliberate form of locomotion commonly seen in Mississippi work farms where prisoners' [feet] are restrained by ball and chain.

W
hich makes me wonder why Singaporeans are so fond of schluffing, especially when wearing slippers and loose fitting shoes. It's practically our national walk.

Saffy's Congee

There are, in this world, two kinds of women: those who can cook and those who can’t. Even then, the line between the two categories tends to blur a little. My flatmate Saffy, for instance, will tell you that she can cook, but upon further questioning, it will become perfectly clear that she can’t. Not unless one considers making congee – and nothing else – knowing how to cook.

“That is cooking! I wish you’d stop defaming me to people!” Saffy cried the other day over the roaring sound of water as she labouriously washed the rice. Our friend Rachel was dropping off her five year old daughter for Saffy to baby-sit while she picked up her in-laws from the airport. True to form, Saffy quickly worked herself up into a state as she suddenly realized that she didn’t know whether she was up to entertaining a child for a period of time slightly longer than The Lord of the Rings.

“Well, you’re the one who’s been begging Rachel for a chance to babysit Sharn,” my other flatmate Amanda said unsympathetically. “Here’s your chance to get clucky!”

“My biological clock is ticking!” Saffy insisted, her bosom trembling with doubt. “I need contact with children!”

Later, she complained to me that Amanda was so unbearably bossy. “Who is she to say that I’m clucky? She’s the one who’s got an Anne Geddes baby on her screensaver! Oh, God, what have I gotten myself into?” Saffy asked suddenly. “What do five year old girls eat, d’you know?”

I told her that I was not getting involved. This was one hare-brained project that she was going to have to do by herself. But by this time, Saffy had turned her considerably short attention span to scanning the recipes in Martha Stewart’s Kids magazine, mumbling, “Cookies, no, too much work! How about tortillas? This looks simple enough, oh maybe not, I have to slice lettuce?”

In the end, Saffy decided to make chicken congee, reasoning that no one could possibly stuff up something so simple.

“She’s cooking?” my friend Karl asked me doubtfully over the phone. “Saffy can cook?” He was thinking of the time Saffy brought spaghetti alio oglio to his pot luck and all of us wound up in the emergency room on account of the severe gastric pains induced by the raw red chillis Saffy had so proudly and lovingly tossed through the pasta.

“Of course, she can’t cook!” I snorted. “I’ve got the ambulance on standby to whisk Sharn to the hospital!” Of course, Saffy somehow overheard this comment over the rush of water as she cleaned the rice.

“I can cook!” she shouted over the roar, her face flushed with the effort of rinsing and draining rice. “My congee is famous! Ask anyone!” she added vaguely.

Half an hour later, Saffy emerged from the kitchen holding up a measuring mug. “I’ve got four cups of rice here. How many cups of water should I use?”

I looked up from my magazine and blanched. “Four cups? Who’s coming to lunch? I’m not eating!”

“Me, neither!” Amanda’s voice sailed out from her room.

Saffy’s brow crinkled with worry. “Is that too much?”

Out of curiosity, I wandered into the kitchen to watch Saffy prepare her ‘famous’ chicken congee. She tore chunks of meat off a roast chicken she’d bought from Cold Storage and threw it into the pot with the washed rice and tossed in a handful of salt while muttering, “Is that too much salt?” She then carefully poured in three cups of water, plugged in the rice cooker and stepped back expectantly.

“How long is this supposed to take?” she asked me worriedly. Within fifteen minutes, a smell of burning filled our kitchen. “Is that supposed to happen?” Saffy screamed, as she hurriedly turned off the cooker.

Attracted by the commotion and smell, Amanda came running out from her room, passing on the way, my dog Pooch who, sensibly, was dashing the other way for the safety of my bedroom.

“What are you doing?” Amanda shrieked when she arrived in the kitchen.

“I’m making congee!” Saffy shouted back.

“Then why does it smell like burnt bak kua in here?” Amanda yelled.

By the time everyone had calmed down a little, Amanda had pieced together Saffy’s recipe. “Three cups of water?” she asked, her eyes wide. “I thought you’d done this before! Four cups of rice needs about eight or nine cups of water to make congee!”

“Are you mad?” Saffy cried. “I’m making congee, not soup!”

We managed to salvage some of the congee for Sharn’s lunch, though later that night, the child told her mother that she didn’t ever want to eat at Auntie Saffy’s again.

“That ungrateful brat!” Saffy yelled when she found out. “I’m never having children!”

A Shameless Plug for My Next Book!

How about that - book two is out end of August. Please mark your diaries!

I'm attaching the press release from the publishers. There's actually a picture that comes with it, but I've not figured out how to do attach pictures just yet. They tell me though that the Marshall Cavendish website has a pix.


Table For Three: More Tales of Saffy and Amanda
by Jason Hahn

Praise for the first book, Asking For Trouble: Tales of Saffy and Amanda

“Hahn has an amazing eye for funny details…The next logical step would be a TV sitcom based on the book.” – The Star (Malaysia)

“Hysterical.” – Lime magazine

“Artful close-up observations about the feminine condition.” – SilverKris magazine

“A fast, funny read.” – Female magazine

About the Book

What makes a happy home?

According to Jason, it’s definitely one that doesn’t include his terrible flatmates, Saffy and Amanda. Between Saffy’s insistence on “airing” herself at the window of their tiny apartment and Amanda’s unique perspective on sun-tanning, life is just a little too stressful. Especially when even his beloved adopted mongrel dog, Pooch, is up for a little discipline.

Each day brings its own unique drama. From questionable tattoo parlours, lecherous old men and the unexplained appearance of a red g-string behind the couch to an unfortunate close encounter with a French woman’s underarms plus the ongoing hazards of MBA (Married But Available) men – the drama just keeps building. And building.

Will it ever stop? Could this life get any worse?

Like you wouldn’t believe….

About the Author
Jason Hahn quit his day job as miserable pond scum (ie, a lawyer) when he realised that life really was too short to be spent helping other people become rich at the expense of his sleep and sanity. As a writer, he misses the money but is hopeful that a bountiful inheritance will save the day. He also hopes to one day be Oprah’s best friend.


Chapter Headings
1. “Who cares why women do what they do?”
2. “All he does is yell and torture us!”
3. “But surely that’s not where the G-spot is!”
4. “But did you have to scream like that?”
5. “You should be on Oprah!”
6. “Isn’t your mother, like, uhm, dead?”
7. “It’s a war out there! It’s every woman for herself!”
8. “You’re amazing in bed!”
9. “Oh what’s the big deal! I’ll be wearing gloves!”
10. “You know what really offends me the most?”
11. “Oh dear, she’s in the Turkey Position!”
12. “How do these things happen to you?”
13. “We guys aren’t complicated that way.”
14. “Oprah is a goddess!”
15. “From now on, it’s all about the Paris Rule!”
16. “My God! Why are you so freakishly strong?”
17. “It’s like Cambodia!”
18. “He’s the only guy I’ve ever had deafening sex with!”
19. “If you’re a thirty-year-old single gal, you might as well be dead!”
20. “Is that any way to talk to your future wife?”

Target Audience
• General and humour readers
• Fans of his first book, Asking For Trouble, and his popular First Person column in
8Days magazine.

Key Selling Points
• Humourous/ tongue-in-cheek
• This book is a sequel to his first book, the best-selling Asking for Trouble
• Prominent columnist/ author who is well known in Singapore and Malaysia

Related Title by Same Author
• Asking for Trouble: Tales of Saffy & Amanda by Jason Hahn

Pub date : End-Aug 2006

Retail price
S$16.00 (excl. GST)
RM33.00
US$10.50

For further information, please contact:
Singapore Office
TAN JOO SIN
Tel: (65) 6213 9197
jstan@sg.marshallcavendish.com
ARIA TING
Tel: (65) 6213 9314
ariating@sg.marshallcavendish.com

Malaysia Office
CHRISTINE CHONG
Tel: (603) 5628 6828
cchong@my.marshallcavendish.com

Hello

Right, I'm astonished that I have even come so far on this. Technology is not my strong point, but a friend of mine said that even a congenital idiot can set up a blog. Which turned out to be a challenge that even I could not resist.


So, it's done, I've surprised everyone with my hi-tech know-how, and I'm live on air.

So welcome, and watch out for the next post.

JH