Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Little of This and A Little of That (Letting Off Steam)

The good news is that BOTH Jack Sprat and his wife are putting on weight; his wife as a consequence of eating to keep him company!

Seriously, folks, we have dined out most of last week thanks to friends who undertook to feed Lin up and thanks to friends who cooked delicious food and brought the dishes over. I will bet that "meals on wheels" had nothing on this.

We enjoy lots of helpings of fruit from the vast array available in Singapore, especially fruit that come from neighbouring countries - mangosteen, papaya, sweet mangoes, plump and juicy pomelos. And that's not all, just his favourites.

So, from the fruit point of view this is the right choice. Somehow these fruit and more exotic ones are plentiful in our grocery stores and markets and at a fraction of the price one would have to pay in Hong Kong. Wider choice, lower prices - hard to beat!

I was ruminating on some of the other similarities and differences between Singapore and Hong Kong.

We have traffic jams in both cities, usually at peak hours. But the jams in Singapore seem to be more evenly spread out - and they only get worse at peak hours. And it is not as if one does not pay to drive into the city; I wonder if it is only a matter of time before the ERP (electronic road pricing) gantries are all over the island, extracting money as soon as we drive out of our homes.

In Hong Kong it is possible to live without a car unless one's job or hobby necessitates trips to the New Territories. We often travel by taxis or the estate's shuttle bus - less hassle, no need to pay hefty parking fees. And when dining out there's no risk of a breathalyzer test.

We have tried public transport from the centre of our universe in Singapore, Orchard Road. Not so convenient.

MRT improves its spread but one still has a hot and sweaty walk or a transfer at the other end. Taxis play Hide and seek games to bump up the total bill. Buses are great for heading down Orchard Road, but otherwise one has to call the hotline to find out which combinations to catch. And there are no little green mini buses to fill in the gaps.

Drivers here in Singapore are ignorant (as if all the rules of the road were wiped from their memory cells as soon as they had passed their driving tests), "kiasu" (a Singapore word for 'afraid to lose out', hence they don't give way lest they lose one second or a place in the jam) and uncivilised (what can you say when they drive against directional arrows in car parks to steal spaces from those who drive the stipulated way round).

We seem to be short of policemen and policewomen on the streets - and short of them doing traffic duty so drivers park or stop with impunity. What a waste of the traffic signs and road markings!

We have the Land Transport Authority (LTA) which works in conjunction with the Traffic Police (so it seems from their web site).  The LTA erects the bus stops, taxi stands and road signs and paints lines on the kerbs and roads. The Traffic Police enforces the rules. Great in theory, but lousy in practice.

But from my observation of the traffic in our little acre, the LTA decides and executes from on high and then sits back, its job deemed done. Once done, the fact that a taxi stand could be enlarged or improved or re-sited doesn't enter their heads.

And there aren't enough traffic cops to mete out the sentences. Auxiliary police answer calls about illegal parking and then scoot in on their scooters or small motorbikes to write tickets.

Just the other day I suddenly noticed squads of motorbike mounted traffic cops, but they were only practising motorcade escort duty for the VIPS attending the IISS 2010 (International Institute of Strategic Studies). I guess that's why VIPS are so impressed by Singapore - the vista from motorcades is rather different than from, say, a Suzuki Swift.

Calf's liver would be a food source of iron but I have not seen any in Singapore; it could be (I have not asked) that we no longer allow the importation of animal carcasses so, for example the beef is already cut and cleaned before it is packed and shipped to Singapore. This would explain the absence of innards with the exception of those animals slaughtered in Singapore.

Anyway, I have not had the energy or inclination to check! We have enough to eat.

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