Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A birthday and a forum

Okay, this is rather a self-indulgent post, since I am writing about my birthday. I'll keep it short.

It was a Saturday like any other - marketing in the morning, ferrying the kids to various assorted classes.

KH and I had a nice 2 hours having morning brekkie in the lovely Botanic Gardens. This is not unusual or special because we usually do this every Saturday morning when the kids go for Berries. To kill time before picking them up, we usually hang out at the Botanic Gardens, or we head for the nurseries to pick up gardening supplies or the odd plant or two. Time alone, and time at the Botanics is always a pleasure. This time, Trin came with us. KH and I always get a kick out of grinning at each other and saying: Today, we are a one-child family!

Trin ran ahead of us all the time. Its always hard to keep her with us and she's always frantic to be let loose to run freely ahead. But the problem is, she goes so far and so fast she's usually out of sight. By the time we catch up, we are usually the recipients of annoyed glances from other parents or adults who tsk away at our 'irresponsibility' in letting a 2-year-old run ahead like that. I wish they would try taking charge of Trin for half an hour and just see!

The afternoon was spent at a residents' forum with the MP because of estate upgrading issues. They want to 'upgrade' our estate. And they plan to do this by putting up a godawful looking 'estates marker' at all the various entry points to our estates, pave the entry ways with red brick to make it 'distinctive'. They plan to upgrade our tiny park by adding exercise equipment too. But the worst of it is that they plan to COVER all our drains with cement slabs. That would be the end of my lovely moss-covered drain.

I have this thing for lovely glossy saturated green moss in the slopes of my drain, on the pavements etc. We live in an old estate and all these little things give it a dignified patina that newer concretised estates lack. So I will be very very sorry to see all that go. That also means they will take away all our 'ledges'. Right now, as with the design of old terrace houses, every house comes with a concrete ledge just outside the gates. This has been a lovely place for us in the evenings to just shoot the breeze, chat with neighbours walking dogs, pick up our children as they emerge from the school buses etc. These concrete slabs/seats have different treatment - some neighbours pave it over nicely with ceramic tiles, others leave it concrete but paint over it. It will be sad to see this go.

Why on earth can't we leave things be and enjoy the distinctive and unique characteristics of old estates? Why must Singaporeans have this insatiable urge to 'upgrade' everything old they see? Not everything new is nice or tasteful. Don't even get me started on the big joke they call 'conservation' in heritage districts like Chinatown!

I wasn't the only one who pleaded for things to remain as they were, a very articulate Ms Dawn Kua (whose name I recognise from the Cat Welfare Society) and another gentleman also stood up to say this. He said, rightfully, that we live in a tropical society and we have lived with open monsoon drains for decades. This has worked well because it is easy to maintain. So why rock the boat with closed drains which may present a maintenance problem?

I couldn't agree more but the powers that be seemed to have made their minds up. This seems to be quite common in Singapore. Both Dawn and several others suggested that votes be taken on this and other contentious issues such as the removal of the traffic restrictions. But all this fell on deaf ears. They said they had sent out one survey form, conducted this current forum and that's already very 'consultative' and to bring the issue to a vote would only make the process more protracted than it is.

I wonder what the rush is. But I think this is very typical. Conduct 'surveys' and congratulate themselves on being 'consultative'. Hold a forum but instead of spending time listening to what people have to say, they are busy being defensive.

I left the forum feeling quite annoyed and defeated. I have decided to talk to some neighbours and see what they think. If they agree that the drains should not be covered and if they vote against the road widening (all of 20cm for crying out loud!! What on earth would be the bloody point of spending thousands of tax dollars, create noise, disrupt traffic etc just to widen the road 20cm barely the width of one tire!) then maybe we can bring this up to the MP and his pals and say we don't want this, leave us out of it.

But my sad guess is that Singaporeans want anything 'new' and 'new' is automatically assumed to be 'better', so I am likely to stand alone in this. Sometimes I wonder that I am Singaporean!

Luckily my day ended on a nice note. We had to go to my cousin's housewarming. Midway, a cake was brought out and birthday song sung by all my relatives, my family etc. It was lovely. I thought it was very sweet of KH, who sneaked out while I was at the forum, to buy the cake, drive all the way across the island to my cousin's place to store the cake in the fridge before returning to pick the rest of us up. Also, very sweet of Gillian who had the same idea of surprising me with the cake, but who was one step behind her daddy.

So just like that, the day ended.

And now, I am 40.


makeupmag said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, dearest Pat! I wish you happiness and good health.

May you continue to be richly blessed. :)

Dawn's an old friend! If she and you can't persuade tptb, I don't know who can - you both speak and write beautifully. Is there nothing you can do? Write to the papers, perhaps? ;)

PS: I had no idea you lived in the same estate as Dawn.

barbs said...

hey, happy belated birthday :D barbs