Friday, July 29, 2011

Missed by a whisker !

After finishing my previous blog on the tip from my wife about the old steel bridge at Bukit Panjang, I showed the missus the pictures I took yesterday and said that the bridge was not the original design.
The current bridge at Bukit Panjang

Another surprise from her, "That's not the bridge I saw."
Me: ??? "but that's the only bridge that's there now, exactly where your old house was."
So I tried googling for a streetview and guess what, she was right again!

There was a 1st generation steel truss bridge at that proximity but it was taken down recently and replaced by a newer temporary bridge at the exact location where she used to live. It was this newer bridge that I photographed yesterday.

Here is a screen capture from Google earth showing the original steel truss bridge.

Click on picture for a closer view.

Sadly, I just missed the opportunity to photograph the bridge myself.
The MRT contractors had taken down the bridge as it was right above the spot where the tunnelling works were being carried out.

Here is a shot of the same location taken from the new bridge yesterday.

The new bridge is located about 50m further down the road.
My only consolation is that at least I now have a photograph of the 1st generation steel truss bridge, albeit taken off Google Earth.

One more bridge to add to my database. Click to see them here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A bridge too far.... gone?

Some of you may know that I have embarked on a quixotic adventure to photograph all the overhead pedestrian bridges in Singapore. My wife thinks I have gone bonkers going after these windmills.

Anyway, I have already started the project and doing a temporary website to collect this database.
If you wish to follow my progress, I have another blog to do the drafts while I prepare the website.
You can see them here. This project will probably take years to complete as I will snap photos as and when I come across the bridges.

The reason why I am doing this is simply for posterity.
To capture the images before it becomes history and only in people's memories.
This resulted from the interest that people had shown in seeking pictures of old bus stops in Singapore.

I mentioned to my wife that it was a shame that the first generation steel truss bridges, the very first overhead pedestrian bridges, can no longer be seen today. And guess what she said?

"I think I remember seeing one still at Bukit Panjang where my old house was"
"No way!", I said, "they demolished your old house and the bridge a long time ago!"
She insisted she saw one just recently there.

So this morning, before going to office, I made a detour to Bukit Panjang.
When I was approaching near where my wife's old house used to be... OMG! she was right!!!

From afar, in front of me, I could see the old type steel truss bridge !
it was not the first generation type that was built in Singapore.
But it was almost an identical replica.

It is a temporary overhead bridge built for access across the road due to the MRT tunneling works going on at Bukit Panjang. Here it is....

The difference is apparent when you get near.
The steel trusses form a box 2.5 metres high, whereas the original bridge only had side trusses about a meter high and didn't have supports over head.
The original bridges also had wooden steps and floorboards.
But I must say that from a distance, it really looks like the original 1st generation bridge.

The old steel truss bridges were replaced by concrete types from the 1980s onwards.
This was due to the difficulties in maintaining the steel bridges which corroded easily and needed very high maintenance compared to pre-stressed concrete.

I really wish I can find one in service still so that I can complete my database.
Does anyone know where one may still exist? In some forgotten corner of Singapore?
That will be my one bridge too far!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Before its all gone

I checked the traffic on my blogs today and, for some reason which I am unaware of, the most read article is "Old bus stops in Singapore" which I wrote 2 years ago.

When I looked deeper into the statistics, I found that most readers arrived at that article as a result of Google search. People were searching keywords like 'old bus stops' & 'Singapore heritage'.
I guess that for these people old scenes and heritage of Singapore are an interest.

Perhaps the interest is due to the fact that these things are fast fading from the scene.
I had thought that bus stops were pretty much mundane.

I was thinking perhaps I should start taking and keeping photographs of another mundane object which we take for granted - overhead pedestrian bridges. Should I?

When you look at the new Helix Bridge, Henderson Waves bridge and the Alexandra Arch which are all pedestrian bridges, perhaps one day, the typical bridges we use daily will just be a long forgotten memory.
Already the 1st generation steel truss pedestrian overhead bridges are no longer seen,  having been replaced by the concrete types.

I looked up the LTA website and it stated that there are 480 pedestrian bridges in Singapore under their care.
So I'll try and capture as many as I can. It will be a long ongoing project.
Perhaps one day in future, someone will do a search for 'old pedestrian overhead bridges' and laugh at the current designs.

Here's a bit of trivia.
Which was the 1st overhead pedestrian bridge built in Singapore?

Here's an archive photo of it.
The Collyer Quay pedestrian bridge opened on 8 April 1964.
The same bridge eventually evolved into the Change Alley Aerial Plaza.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I can't get it up !!

No, it's not what you think. You've got a filthy mind!

It's my middle finger.
I started suffering a medical condition termed as tenosynovitis about 2 months back.
What we layman  call a Trigger Finger.

My left middle finger occasionally locks into a bent position and it hurts like hell.
It takes a lot of muscular effort to try and straighten it back up.
Alternatively, I can pry it open with my other hand but this hurts a lot more, especially when it 'clicks' back into position. Oowwww!

I went to the doctor this morning for a blood test review.
The diagnosis was that the trigger finger wasn't caused by any infection or rheumatism, nor a reaction to the statins I am taking.

So the next best course is to get a jab of cortiscosteroid into the joint.
But this can only be done at NUH hospital Hand Surgery Unit and not at the Polyclinic where I went this morning. Appointment for that procedure is pending.

Strangely, the cause of trigger fingers is still unknown medically.
They can only treat the symptoms and relieve the pain or do minor surgery to release the pressure on the tendons. If the injection of steroids doesn't help, then the final course is surgery.

Here is a clip on how they do the trigger finger surgery. DO NOT WATCH if you are squeamish!
My stomach churched just from watching it. You have been warned.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bring or take, what's the difference?

My sister and her husband recently bought a fish farm at Lim Chu Kang.
Already it has generated so much excitement from friends all asking to bring them there for a visit.
Bring them there?

Take me there! I wanna go!  (pic stolen off my niece laura-lynn)

This piqued me to start writing this piece about the wrong use of words again.
Many are confused over the difference between BRING and TAKE.
More so in our multi-cultural environment as bring and take can be used interchangeably in Chinese or Malay, from which many of us adapt its grammer resulting in Singlish!

When to use bring or take should be seen from the speaker's perspective.
Bring usually involves another person and an object to be moved TOWARDS you (the speaker).
Take involves an object moving AWAY from you.

Here are some simple examples.
Please bring me the file. (movement towards you)
Please take this file to the manager. (movement away from you)

Will you take the children to their tuition classes? 
Will you bring the children to their tuition classes? is wrong. Here you don't say bring as the movement is away from you. This is usually where most people get it wrong.

As I said, bring or take depends on the speaker's point of view.
The same scenario can be either bring or take depending on who says it.

You say, Please bring me the accounts records.
She replies, Ok, I take it to you in a while.
(note she doesn't say bring it to you because she's speaking from her perspective).

Use this simple rule of thumb and you usually won't go wrong.
Just remember when you order MacDonald's, it's take-away not bring away,
though it's the same in Chinese!

But...there are exceptions!
That's just to add to your confusion, however,  that's another story. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Useless Signs

I've started a new page for collating USELESS signs that can be found in Singapore.
What I want to show are signages that are redundant, ridiculous,  ignored or just simply useless.

I don't mean signs that have wrong translations like hand chicken for sale (hand phones), or singlish or bad grammer, which are commonly found at most heartland places, but genuine signs that might as well not be there. These are signs that actually have a meaningful purpose, except a lot of the time, it's simply ignored.

I am doing this just for laughs and not as a social commentator.
I'll lead off by showing some examples.
I would love to get more contribution from others as well.

25 July 2011
Another commonly ignored sign.

Life would be that little bit better if only everyone  do their part.

21 Jul 2011
At the MRT bicycle park.

In other countries, you are REQUIRED to slow down.
Here it seems to mean there's probably a school somewhere around here?
Ignoring this sign can be so fatal!
19 Jul 2011
No swimming on the grass at the HortPark.

At the MRT stations train platforms.

I have yet to see a single parent not taking the baby-stroller onto the escalators.

The most ignored signboard on the road.
Imagine the amount of money spent to put up thousands of these signage everywhere in Singapore !

You can't 'pay' when you exit, whether it's the correct or incorrect fare!
Technically,  the bus deducts the maximum amount when you board
and returns you the unused balance when you exit!
The bus gets extra money from you if you don't tap out.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I am more gracious than you are !

It such a telling statement of the level of graciousness we seemed to have arrived at.
I feel really sad indeed.

A recent survey by the Singapore Kindness Movement, as reported by the Straits Times on 4th July 2011, showed that 43% of Singaporeans perceived that they are more gracious to others, while they feel that only 15% are gracious in return!

Click on picture to enlarge

We Singaporeans seem to have lost our souls in the quest to move ahead technologically.
Perhaps, sub-conscious social engineering over the years have made us into selfish uncaring digits in the great machinery of enterprise.

Today we are measured by our status, by our country GDP, profits, KPIs, scholarship awards, etc.
People feel that they have 'made it' once they are on their way towards their 5 Cs (Cash, Car, Credit Card, Country Club Condo).  Ideals about family, others and country seemed to be placed on the back burners.

Recent disturbing signs of this 'graciousness' include the infamous "get out of my elitist uncaring face"  diatribe by the daughter of a senior civil servant, and the recent call by "Samantha" for heartlanders (esp those from Bukit Batok, hey that's me!) to stay of out Holland Village.

Acts of self-centeredness can be seen daily at the MRT train stations, bus terminals, supermarket checkouts and even on the roads. My pet peeve is the tissue paper packets 'chope-ing' seats at the food courts.

I also notice a trend nowadays to put the all blame on the 'foreign talent' workers and expatriates working here. It's so easy to blame others for not getting your own way.

I just feel so sad over all these hypocrisy.
I feel so helpless with the whole downward spiraling situation.

Sigh sigh sigh.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You never know what you're gonna get.

".... like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get". (Forest Gump)

I went on a vanity exercise last Sunday and did a bit of egosurfing.
Egosurfing is what you do when you send your own name through the web search engines, what some folks say "Have you Googled yourself?"

What I got back were pretty much expected.
Most of my entries on my blogs and Facebook and my reviews of hotels in Tripadvisor.

Even then, it was still a pretty amazing feat.
I can still remember those days when we used Netscape and did basic searches with Gopher and Archie... ok,ok, I'll stop talking of those days! Sigh, it comes with age...

Then for amusement I thought, let me try searching the National Archives.
Maybe I can trawl something there?

What returned truly surprised me.
The results brought back snippets I assumed would just be forever locked within  my own personal memories.

In the National Archives, I could find only once when my name turned up.
This was in The Straits Times of 24 Oct 1977 when the results of a photography contest was published.
I was placed 4th in the Adult Section (sounds pornographic today haha!)

BUT the most amazing thing was that it was able to link my name to my father and father-in-law and brought out articles that I would never have thought survived to this day.

There were actually quite numerous articles about my father since he was linked to the dramatic and arts scene circle back in his days. Mostly about the plays he performed in those days, but here's one that was about his career.

Straits Times, 12 July 1967

The most mind blowing find was about my father-in-law.
How did it ever make the connection I will never know.  You'll get a blast over this one!
It was from the Singapore Free Press (now defunct) of 17 May 1960.

The article was an interview with my father-in-law, Mr Francis Teo, who after 12 attempts managed to get his 1st born son!
What were they thinking in those days? Guess he really was a staunch Catholic.
My wife Juliana is ninth from the right of the row of girls in the picture.

Search engines like Google and Bing today use such powerful mathematical algorithms that nothing appears to be hidden from it and it can tie in the minutest details and link it to your query.
I dread the day when privacy is a long forgotten word.

Try egosurfing the National Archives yourself, you never know what will turn up.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Who is Chia Eng Say?

Strange, but lately small coincidences seem to keep popping up in sequence for me.
Somehow they all seem to be adding up to....... I don't know !
Maybe I am dreaming Inception or I gotta stop reading Sophie's World...

It all started with the KTM railway closure. (click on link to go there)
Visiting the Rail Mall led me to Fuyong Estate and to Jalan Asas.
This then led me onwards to the old shortcut to the Singapore Quarry Park.
At the quarry park there is a plaque that reads "....Chia Eng Say..."?

The plaque at the Singapore Quarry Park.
Click to read the Ode mentioning Chia Eng Say.
Then just last night, I chanced upon a blog by a Kevin Lee mentioning a disused 'nameless' road running by Rail Mall train tracks. He wondered why it was there.

Wow, just what are all these significances ???
It has finally come full circle for me and the common link to them all is Chia Eng Say!

The mysterious 'nameless' road Kevin Lee mentioned in his own blog is the now disused, disconnected and abandoned Chia Eng Say Road that joins to Upper Bukit Timah Road.
This road led directly to, and was exclusively used by, the old Singapore Quarry !

There!  See how it all ties up?

The original Chia Eng Say Road ran beside the railway truss bridge.
Now abandoned and covered with detritus.
Chia Eng Say Road was a private road built by the quarry company for access to their quarrying operations. I recalled trucks with their load of huge granite rocks rumbling along the road, off to some construction site somewhere in developing Singapore.

The road ran through a Chinese kampong known to us 'locals' as Kampong Chia Eng Say.
The kampong has been demolished and the homesteaders have been resettled in HDB housing, I presume. How sad.

Two of my old schoolmates used to live in that kampong, Quek Chee Ling and Wong Bee Leng. Alas, I've completely lost contact with them after our school days ended.
I can recall visiting them often at the kampong, especially during the times when the Chinese wayangs played during some religious celebrations.

A footbridge ran from Chia Eng Say Road over the KTM railway line.
This gave the kampong folks and quarry workers an access to Upper Bukit Timah Road.
The cul de sac at Jalan Asas. The playground stands where the old kampong was.
The secret shortcut to the quarry at the end of the cul de sac.
The man, Mr Chia Eng Say, must surely be connected to the Singapore Quarry somehow.
In what manner I do not know. I only know that after the government closed the quarry, the entire place was abandoned and the road became derelict.

The only references I managed to dig out on Chia Eng Say was that he was what we would call an entrepreneur today. A multi millionaire contractor from Fujian, China, who established businesses in Penang and Singapore in the early 1900s. He apparently lived in Katong with his large progeny, believed to be 7 sons and 15 daughters in all!

However, Chia Eng Say's legacy still lives on.
Besides being mentioned in the ode on the plaque, his name is now firmly entrenched nearby.
When Rail Mall was re-developed, the little access path in front of the shops was widened to a 2-lane road and the name Chia Eng Say Road was transferred to this upgraded stretch.

The road in front of Rail Mall is now renamed after Chia Eng Say.

 So with this little bit of local history explained, I can now close my circle and return to the real world!

Can Tom Cruise kick me back from his dreams now?
or would that be Jostein Gaarder who has to write me out of his novel?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In those days.....

Yesterday I took a last look at the old railway bridge at Upper Bukit Timah Road.
This bridge is due to dismantled soon, with the return of the railway land to the Singapore government.

The visit also brought me back to the old housing estate where I used to live back in the 1970s.
Called Fuyong Estate and located just bedside the KTM truss bridge. I lived there during my teen years.

This is a small freehold estate of around a hundred units, sandwiched between the old Diary Farm and the now defunct Singapore Granite Quarry. It lies on the western ridge of Bukit Timah Hill. So while I was heading to the bridge, I dropped by the estate just to see the old home and reminisce.

I could watch trains passing everyday from my house.

What was a once a simple estate of single storied bungalows, semi-detached and terraced houses has now morphed into a sad jumble of independently re-designed and re-built buildings. While there are still some single storey units, most have been redeveloped into 2, 3 or even 4 storied hulks. Some look so monstrous beside its puny neighbours.  I guess the owners are maximizing their land use. The old village atmosphere is completely lost now.

I used to live at no. 71

No 71 is at the top of the slope on the left.

Rail Mall which fronts the main Upper Bukit Timah Road was redeveloped from a row of old shop houses.  I still remember vividly the old neighbourhood provision shop and the laundry (dhoby) shop now taken over by modern MNCs like Cold Storage and Coffee Bean. Looks much better now actually.

One of the things few people ever realise is that the row of shops that now makes up Rail Mall was one of the last few places in Singapore that had the old 'bucket system' of sanitation. 'Night soil'  buckets were carted off manually everyday by the sanitation dept  in their '36 doors' lorry as we called it.
(look up Night Soil in Wiki, you'd be surprised Singapore is mentioned prominently, full of shit, haha)

I recalled that the old shortcut from the estate to the main road ran past the back lane of the shophouses and woe be you if you encounter the night soil carrier at that time! The dilemma was that you either held your breathe and continue quickly through the backlane or make a 500m detour.

The backlane. The sewers are all modern now.

The old shortcut which was just a dirt track in those days.
This was how it was done even up to the late 80s.
Salute and respect to those workers!
(Picture from National Archive database)