Monday, July 26, 2010

'Rock Fever'

Today, Monday July 26th, 2010 we had another disappointing white blood count result; too few neutrophils (the cells that fight off the billions of bacteria that threaten our bodies) to have another session of chemo.

So we will try again in a week's time. Sigh.

These delays - resulting in not much to do and too much time to do it in - just advance the onset of 'Rock Fever' which every island dweller experiences, no matter how idyllic their little isle.

Singaporeans in Singapore are no exception. 

Most people take breaks from life here, whether it is for a weekend in Phuket or Bali, or to shop and eat in Johor Bahru. During our lifetimes, most of us would have contributed our fair share to Singapore Airlines' earnings.

However, for us, this antidote for 'rock fever' ceased to exist in May when we returned to Singapore for Lin's chemotherapy.

Feeling a little restless, Lin asked Prof Wong about taking a short trip in view of his enforced break from chemotherapy. This did not sit well and he said he really wanted Lin to be at most an hour from ER in case his temperature spiked. 

An hour from the hospital doesn't allow us to to leave the island in case we need to return in a hurry and there are traffic jams at the causeway. We could fly somewhere, but then check-in  and airport transfers make that a flight only in our fancy.

What's left to do? There is just so much reading or watching of tv that one can or wants to do.

Besides, after telling the Prof about hitting 40-50 golf balls on the range, Lin was warned that he should not - at his age - injure himself by straining or spraining a muscle.

Thus, at this rate, Lin is going to be as familiar with Daiso as I (because a gentle walk is permitted). Since he needs to avoid crowds, window shopping expeditions have to take place early, when there are no crowds and most certainly not on weekends.

At least I have been able to go to the movies or a play (the local production of the Full Monty was excellent)! But Lin has had to stay home most of the time and settle for lunch with some buddies on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the golf club.

Sometimes I go to Tiong Bahru market to buy fish, fruit and veg. or to meet my Tuesday morning walking friends (they walk, I join them for apr├ęs walk) for a cup of local coffee and tou fu fa (a bean curd dessert). 

I have tried going to market on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but find the whole place too crowded.

It follows that if one is late, parking is a problem and all the produce has been 'picked over'.

Strangely enough the HDB car park at Tiong Bahru market doesn't seem to turn away vehicles even when it should be overflowing; two Sundays ago I drove up and saw cars parked on any reasonably flat surface including those not marked for parking. And still cars kept coming up the ramp.

And only last Saturday I walked up the stairs to return to my car when I saw a VW Beetle parked smack bang in the middle of a walkway meant for pedestrians - as if the spot had been reserved for it.

At first I thought what a lovely parking spot, then I realised that it wasn't a parking space at all -because it was not marked for parking and did not have the customary wheel stops.

I immediately knew that 'Rock Fever' had set in because I was 'ticked' (and still am incensed)! 

Normally, I'd think "good for you, mate", because parking rules are not as stringently enforced as before - and it was not parked in a space reserved for Handicap/Special Needs Parking, or blocking anyone.

The constant irritation, 'rock fever' or not, is the blatant flouting of no waiting and no parking signs and road markings. This blocks roads and creates safety hazards.

Nowhere is it more apparent (because we live close by) is that well known entertainment hub, Orchard Towers.

There is a stand for one or two taxis (that's what is posted on an official sign) but routinely several are queued up - along double yellow zig zag lines. I think those double yellow zig zags denote a clearway, so it's been a waste of effort and tax payers' money since no one pays them a blind bit of notice.

During the Towers' busy night hours, taxis line up on Orchard Road itself. 

And on my way to Tiong Bahru market last Saturday there was a Silvercab pulled up (no driver in sight), effectively blocking one lane, at the junction of Claymore and Orchard roads. This was a first, but probably not my last sighting.

And all day long, the length of Claymore Road from Orchard Road to Claymore Hill is lined with cars and coaches - parked, double-parked and belching fumes. Often obstructing driveways and the view of drivers turning out of the condominiums.

Every now and again a smartly uniformed male or female 'officer' will come by on a scooter or motorbike and issue a few tickets, but clearly not often enough to make a difference.

In that sense Hong Kong's police and traffic wardens are far more aggressive and avaricious; they seem to be everywhere. Maybe they have better incentives.

And as for Ponte Vedra, there are usually more parking spaces than cars seeking spaces so it's a joy to drive and shop.

While Singapore is enhanced by an influx of immigrants and workers from around the region, some of their less attractive and desirable habits have also travelled with them.

Mind you, true blue Singaporeans are sometimes every bit as much to blame!

I was looking out of the front passenger seat the other day when I saw a female tourist wave a magazine or newspaper clipping at the taxi driver on my left. We were all stopped at the traffic lights at Shaw Centre/Wheelock Place/ION.

The taxi driver waved the woman into his taxi but, after scanning the piece of paper she proferred, asked her to leave. As she cracked open the door to disembark, she nearly collected two motorcyclists, one after the other!

My fear was that she would hit one of them and then they (motorcycle, rider, pillion and all) would fall against our car. But thanks to the motorcyclists' reactions and nimbleness this accident was averted.

The lights changed and they sped off, I don't know where. And we turned right onto Paterson Hill Road, unscathed. Whew, the stress of being on Singapore roads!

The local papers sometimes provide a distraction; one of them commented on an advertisement featuring a man picking his nose. It was meant to show us that our personal habits might not be attractive to visitors or something like that, I don't recall exactly.

What a contrast to the clean and green Singapore that people have come to picture whenever the name 'Singapore' is mentioned!

Yet it is not uncommon to see taxi drivers grooming themselves in their cabs. 

Just the other day we were stopped beside one who held a huge pair of scissors in his hand, a pair of shears really, and was trimming his celia (nose hairs). After he'd inspected his handiwork he proceeded to hold the blades against his chin and snip away (two handed - on on the handles and the other on the blades) as if he were trimming stray bits of wool from a sweater.

Unfortunately the lights changed so I could not see whether he attacked his sideboards next! 

Not so many years ago, it was not uncommon to see Singapore taxi drivers with ultra long nails on their little fingers (all the better for improving the hearing!),  Vicks inhalers dangling from their noses and coins stuck in their ears.

Whether they have improved or not I cannot say, but recently a taxi driver was charged in court and punished for kissing a female passenger's hand!

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