Other than home or work place, I usually spend my free time at Elias Mall coffee shop. I prefer to drink my beer there whilst I relax with frens from the neighborhood, read a book or write a blog there. I could just simply walk back home. I follow faithfully to the maxim of “Drink don’t drive or Drive don’t drink!” As such, I rarely venture out of the neighborhood. If I have to go elsewhere for my drinking session, I usually take the bus or taxi home. Sometimes I would get Alan Taxi or Caveman to drive me home cuz they never touch a drop of alcohol. They are allergic to alcohol.
There are all kinds of people gathered at EM coffee shop. Most of them are regulars there. Different timings of the day or night attract different types of people there. For example, if you go there between 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm, most them are taxi drivers waiting for their taxi. It’s changing shift time. They would usually take their meals there and chat amongst ourselves whilst waiting for their taxi to report there. From there, they would go make their living as cab drivers. Some of them even drop by once in a while when they happen to send passengers back to Pasir Ris. Alan Taxi last week bought so much “special” prawn crackers from the vicinity of old Jackson Food Centre (now demolised) and started to sms us to partake at 9.30pm when he took a driving break. It’s a lively close knit community where we know each other intimately or by looking at “faces”. There are rarely outsiders amongst us. We shall know if there are unfamiliar faces amongst those gathered at EM.
I would like to introduce our grand old veteran Ronnie Wong who is a permanent feature in the evening at EM. He is about 68 years and a retiree. Before his retirement, he was working in the construction industry. He typically sits at EM coffee shop alone with both his legs raised on another chair holding his favorite pipe sipping a big glass of tea. He rarely in the mood for small talk when all around are busy discussing the latest horses or soccer stars. Sometimes, a conference on the latest happenings i.e. the latest murder cases or itchy monkeys getting hauled up in court etc. Ronnie is oblivious to all these chatters or rants around him. He is always wishing for his illusive nirvana “pipe dream” whenever he is indulging in his solitary sordid affair with his beloved Lady Nicotiana Tabacum on his hand crafted self-made pipe. Never in our minds that our great Ronnie would have video taped himself on his timeless hobby of pipe crafting with a limerick of himself thrown in! He says that he is leaving a legacy for posterity.
Permission was sought from him to re-produce the self made video on youtube but on one condition that I shall not attempt to translate or paraphrase his soliloquy in Cantonese. But it is for the benefit of non Cantonese audience. Yet he refuses to adhere to my request maintaining that the entire meaning and nuances would be lost if it’s translated into English. Just too bad for the non Cantonese audience. He would rather lose a much larger audience than commit atrocity against his beloved Cantonese classic! Sigh!
Let’s hear what our legendary Ronnie Wong has to say …
I like to do things with my hands. In the midst of my hobbies and handiwork my mind drifts. You see, I am a dreamer. Random frivolous thoughts run wild. One of several favorite spots where they converge is an era of my childhood. Back in the 50’s Cantonese raps were popular. Folks in my village constantly mouthed a line or two. Some composed their own verses. They were funny. Some were sordid. Frequently both. That was to be expected at the time when Queen Rose ruled the erotic waves.
Click here for the video on YouTube.
To make an amateur video of my pipe carving it would be nice to have a ditty go along with it. Better still, if it were my own original sound byte. The old village (gone forever) provided inspiration. Hands busied, fantasies in high gear the lines slowly piled up. And so, after a year carving and thirty pipes later this crazy Canto rap surfaced, took shape and I did the honors. In your pipe smoke may you find satisfaction and peace.
Pipe enthusiasts may contact me over common interest.
Answers to my pipe carving FAQ.
1. Ebauchons are premium Grecian plateau briars expertly drilled by the renowned Tim West of USA.
2. All tools are hand tools. None electrical or mechanical.
3. Professional sandpapers for wood, grades 150, 280, 400, 600, 800, 1000 (6 courses).
4. Final polishing is by burnishing with a bamboo strip. This is a unique method known to very few.
5. There is no buffing, gouging, fills, stains, varnish, oils, wax, etc. to the finishing. Nothing at all.
6. The surface is bare wood in its most naked state. Gorgeously smooth.
I don’t think I can translate the entire “song” even if he allowed me to.
Hi Dr Chan,
I understand that you are a Cantonese. If you find it difficult to translate I can understand why our fren is apprehensive of the translation. Anyway, I just heard from some EM members that someone commissioned him to carve 4 long pipes for “大二爷伯” whom is known for his love of smoking pipe. I also heard that some of his hand carved pipes are sold in a boutique souvenir shop in a local hotel. The manager of the said hotel is a regular in EM. Thks for your comment.
The wit and rhythm in Mr Wong’s recital are inseparable. That’s why if you lose the rhythm in translation, you’ll also lose all the wit. Like Dr Sun Yat Sen, my ancestors were Hakka people who migrated to Guangdong.
Ronnie Wong is now at EM sitting at next table. I showed your comment to him. Your earlier comment resonated with his opinion. He appreciates it. But he insisted that Dr Sun is not Hakka (not Cantonese also). He came from a place near to border of Guangdong. He named the place in Cantonese to me. But I’m sure Thaksin is of Hakka ancestry – same as your good self.
Don’t know about the others. For argument’s sake, Dr Sun’s birthplace was the village of Cuiheng, Xiangshan County (now Zhongshan City), Guangdong Province. Therefore he had a cultural (and linguistic) background of Hakka and Cantonese combined. Ronnie could be right because the Cantonese dialect itself has many “variations” since the word “Cantonese” is often used in a broader sense for the entire Yue branch of Chinese, including related dialects such as Taishanese. So there’s lots of room for discussion, debate, arguments, jibber-jabber, etc – things that people hanging out at kopi tiams will indulge in. For sure Lee Kuan Yew is Hakka, though his family is very westernized (his grandfather was educated at Raffles Institution, imagine!) Traditionally, the Hakkas lived a nomadic lifestyle, settling when the circumstances favor them, hence their moniker “Hakkas” – the word is derived from a term meaning “guest.” There are many Hakkas in Thailand, in Sarawak, even in Taiwan and of course here in Singapore too though the Hokkiens dominate in Singapore. Some are good “guests:, others just use this place as a transit point and use the opportunity to stir shit and cause trouble. Just sharing a little of what I know.
Actually, Sun Yat Sen’s Hakka ancestry can be very easily verified. They were the original northern Han people of China who migrated south and scattered all over China and throughout the world. Hakka means “guest” as they were once nomadic people. Today, there are Hakka people in every province in China. The famous circular forts are located in Fujian. My surname in Hakka should be “Chin”. “Chan” is Cantonese. My forefathers adopted Guangdong as their new home some 4 generations back. That’s why I’m often mistaken as Cantonese.
Other famous Hakkas include our former PM, LKY, former Finance Minister Richard Hu, former actor Xie Shaoguang, China’s Deng Xiaoping (Sichuan), Thaksin (Thailand), Abhisit (Thailand), Taiwan’s Lee Teng Hui, Hongkong’s Chow Yuen Fatt, Eric Tsang, film-maker Raymond Chow.