Monday, November 24, 2008

St Patrick's School Chapel

St Patrick’s School is one of the older boys’ schools in this part of Singapore. It is a Roman Catholic mission school established by the de la Salle brothers. My mum’s and dad’s brothers, my brother and two of my male cousins are all Old Boys of the school (my father went to St Joseph’s, other cousins went to another Catholic primary school). And note that this excludes my grandfather (formerly principal of the primary section, now shifted over to St Stephen's) and my aunt (former teacher). So it is very much a family school.

My acquaintance with St Patrick’s School is obviously of a more distant nature. But I did at one point go there every week, when the Holy Family church was being rebuilt and the masses relocated to St Patrick’s School hall. I’d go there and look at the huge hall, and the huge school field (where my brother and cousins spent many happy hours kicking a ball to and fro), and think of the small relatively cramped grounds of Katong Convent. Then the church building was completed and I stopped going to St Pat's.

Indeed St Pat's is fortunate, for old Katong Convent building in Martia Road has been demolished and rebuilt twice. St Pat's on the other hand retains its old buildings, so old boys returning to the school still know every last nook and cranny.

Last Friday, I went back to the St Patrick’s School chapel for the 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration of my mother’s cousin and his wife. The chapel is a small, intimate room near the Brothers' Quarters (in front of which stands an Ng Eng Teng sculpture of Mother and Child). Stained glass windows line both sides of the chapel, leading up to St Patrick at the front the chapel. Of course, there is a shamrock on one of the windows. There used also to be a beautiful sculpture by Brother Joseph McNally in the chapel, but it seems to have been moved. It was the perfect small chapel for the renewal of the couple's wedding vows.

The ceremony itself was beautifully done. My uncle and aunt did their own readings, and renewed their vows in the presence of friends and family, some of whom had travelled from Australia for the occasion. The small 4-person choir filled the chapel with their voices. The priest (an old family friend) reminded the couple to remain in God's love. The concelebrating priest (another Old Boy) helped out with the mass and turned off the lights and closed up the chapel after.

What charmed me was that there were so many little elements from their wedding 25 years ago, which had been incorporated into their day. The cover of their programme booklet used as a motif the covers of the programmes they had had 25 years ago. That evening at dinner, they gave out a chocolate with their old wedding photo glazed on it, in black and white. The invitations for the event had been printed at the same time as their wedding, for use on this day. What confidence they had in their love for each other and God's love for them that they would be put to use. Sometimes it's useful to remember, in these days when one in three marriages end in divorce, that it's good to start with the end in mind for surely it helps you to get there.

May they be blessed for the next 25 years.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Katong Shopping Centre

Katong Shopping Centre (KSC) has been a feature at the junction of East Coast Road and Amber/Haig Road for as long as I can recall. It is an old shopping mall - probably one of the first few in Singapore. In fact it was featured a few years ago in the Straits Times. I won't call it a beautiful building but I've always liked it for the characteristic circles down the length of the building (that's the car park floor). Not so long ago, the Rose Garden apartments were directly opposite KSC but they have just been emolished for en bloc development. I was probably about a week or two too late to photograph them before they went under the wrecker's ball. So I guess I need to step up the pace on this blog:-)

As a child, I remember my family going over to KSC fairly frequently. The old Emporium Holdings had a supermarket and a department store at one end of the building. We'd do the weekly supermarket shopping there and run other errands at the same time. There were a few boutiques there (my mum's favourite dress shop was there). I used to buy my school uniforms there. And something far more glamorous too (at least I thought so). There were also a number of textile shops there as well - so my friends and I bought the material for our JC prom dresses there and brought it up to the dressmaker on one of the upper floors to make it up into a dress of our own choosing. These were clearly before the days Daniel Yam started making pretty and low-cost prom and evening gowns for the teenage and young adult market.

Even today, KSC is my auntie's favourite shopping centre where she gets everything she needs and more besides. Some of the old shops are still there, plus a few food outlets, maid agencies, interior decor firms etc. Plus one ghostbuster - as I said earlier, you can get anything at Katong Shopping Centre! There have been attempts to refurbish and update the building. It is no longer a nondescript grey colour but a cheery blue and yellow (IKEA colours!) and there is a imitation Starbucks in one corner.

But KSC is indeed past its prime, outclassed and completely eclipsed by the nearby Parkway Parade. Rumour has it that it is slated for redevelopment. Admittedly, I seldom go there these days but when it goes, another little piece of Katong's history and heritage goes too.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Grandma's Chicken Tempra

I've said it before and I'll say it again - my grandmother is a good cook. She doesn't do much nowadays, as she is slowing down with age, but in her day she really put tasty meals on her table.

My mother does use a few of her recipes. Not that many - my grandmother is a traditional cook, which means her recipes are generally from her head and she "agaks" everything, i.e. she flavours her food through instinct rather than bothering herself with writing down how many tablespoons of sugar or pinches of salt she requires. This chicken tempra recipe is one of her special dishes and, it appears, quite unique. Net searches for this recipe turn up one which is quite different from hers. But I guarantee that this recipe will knock anyone off their dining room chairs - it's that good.
6 Small Onions (shallots)
4 cloves Garlic
3-4 Cardamom
3-4 Cloves
3 cm Cinnamon
1 Star Anise
2-4 onions (depending on size)
4 tomatoes
1 chicken, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons tumeric powder
1 tsp salt
Chicken stock cube, black soy sauce, vinegar, sugar
1. Sprinkle the tumeric powder and the salt over the chicken, rub in. Fry chicken in frying pan. When done, place in pot.
2. Fry the small onions, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and star anise together till fragrant. Sprinkle over the chicken pieces in the pot.
3. Add water to frying pan to de-glaze. Add the water to the pot till about to cover the chicken (don't put too much). Add the stock cube, 1 lug of black sauce, 2 lugs of vinegar, and sugar to taste.
4. Cut the tomatoes and big onions into quarters. Add to the pot. Simmer till cooked and chicken is tender. Gravy should be thick.


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