Thursday, August 17, 2006

Blind Faith

Block 13 had narrow corridors, which was the stage for one of our most risky games. We usually played this game on the highest level to add to the danger and exhilaration. This game involved a blindfolded catcher who would, beginning from one end of the corridor, walked backwards towards the other end of the block. Our job was to slip past him and evade him, which was no easy task considering that there were apartments on one side of the corridor and railings on the other, beyond which was a ten-stories fall to the ground.

I cannot remembered who began climbing over railings first, but once he did the rest of us had to follow suit – we were not “chicken” enough to be left behind, nor did we want to lose the game. It was sheer folly – perhaps being young and male had something to do with it – but we did it all the same.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Kite Fighting

Kite fighting was a competitive sport in those days. With the right wind conditions, we would be found along the verandas and staircases flying kites. Unlike today where kites were flown in parks, we flew them from the corridors, usually on the highest floor. A highly competitive sport – where we tried to severe the lines of our competitors.

Having a reinforced and serrated line was the key. We would come up with all sorts of concoctions to reinforce the line. A common practice was to mix finely ground glass with glue to form a sticky paste and coat it on to a light gauge thread. Richard has a younger brother who was crazy over this sport. He took his mum potal to pound fluorescent lights glass to a fine grade and sieved it through a piece of cloth to ensure a uniform calibre. According to the experts, fluorescent light glass gave the best result. Using an empty milk-can, shoe glue was heated to melting point and the ground glass stirred in.

A roll of thread was thrown into the concoction and we secured the free end to a tree and with one hand holding the can, the other holding the thread; we coated the thread using the two trees as temporary anchors to dry the thread. The result was a reinforced serrated thread that cuts easily, most of the time having our fingers cut.

Kite fighting was serious business, anything that could improve the performance of the thread was considered. We tried all kind of crazy formulations to reinforce the lines, going to the extent of trying out iron fillings, which was a bad idea as iron rust.

‘Snatching’ kites provided endless fun. In a kite fight, kite going astray was a prized trophy and a source of cash as they were worth a few cents. Snatching runway kites was an art as you pit against others. One had to be fit and daring to win the odds against the big boys. With a little wit and knowledge of wind dynamics, you can position yourself favourably. Obviously, most of the time it ended in fights and torn kites as there were usually a number of competitors when the kite floated down gracefully.

Sometimes the concentration was so intense that we forgot to look out for cars and dashed across the road. There were many near misses fortunately nobody got knocked down by a vehicle.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Roller Boys

One day, William’s dad brought home a pair of roller skates. William shared it with us and soon we got obsessed and started yearning for a pair. They don’t come cheap and we soon found out that William Senior got it from Sungei Road – the infamous thief’s market where second hand and stolen goods were put up for sale. Depending on the conditions, it cost about two to three dollars a pair. A bowl of noodle was ten cents back then, so the skates were beyond our reach. We cut back on food to save for a pair and thought of ways to raise the money. Scrap metal sold well in those days and we collected cables and burned away the rubber sleeve to salvage the copper wires. We searched for thrown away pots and pans for the metal and sold them to the ‘garung guni’ or ‘rag and bone’ man and raised the money.

The gang was rather good at skating and started a craze in the neighbourhood. We were the stars in the community centre. To impress girls, we tried stunts like jumping over boxes, graduating to having some of us lying down on the ground and the better ones would hurl down the basketball court and leapt across the bodies. Not for the faint hearted but we were there to impress. William and my brother, Francis were really good.

They ended up coaching folks who are interested but somehow, the males got ignored and every one of us concentrating on the girls. As for me, I’m pretty bad with wheels under my feet and ended up with jersey number thirteen, the water lad for the roller boys.