Posts filed under Memories

Grandpa Chin

Filed in Family, Memories

For some reason, I’ve been thinking of my grandfather today. I didn’t know him very well, if at all; I was only learning to walk when he passed away.

But he was a big part of the shop that was a big part of my life, so I guess he has had some influence on my life.

Something came up recently that brought the shop to mind. I’m thinking whether to post about it. If I do, someone will get hurt (well, only if they know about this site and come to read it). But if I don’t, my parents’ side of the story won’t get told. I’ll think about this further.

Back to Grandpa Chin. He was quite a well-known figure around Kuala Lumpur in those days. Just how well-known? When he passed away, he had a grand send-off which included a parade through the streets. The entire family also gathered in front of the hearse for one last photo with him:

I’m in there, a little round-headed kid in my nanny’s arms.


For Rolly – I’ve added a link to a bigger picture, just hold the mouse over the picture above and click to view it. My family is identified in circles, and I’m the one in my nanny’s arms (she’s family, too).

Winter Solstice Food

Filed in Food, Memories

My sister says it’s tomorrow, but I say it’s today.

What is?

The Chinese Winter Solstice festival.

I think she’s right, altho her household seems to be celebrating it today cuz there was tong yuen for dessert this evening. Or maybe they made it one day early to coincide with my nephew’s return from Melbourne this morning.

These glutinuous rice balls in syrup are very much a part of my childhood. I remember helping to make them on the day of the festival each year. Someone (I think it was my nanny, the old lady who took care of us – brought us up – while mother went to work) would make the dough, divide it into a couple of batches or more, leave one white and add colour (red was definitely one of them) to the others, and then have the children help shape the rice balls that would later be put in boiling water to cook before being added to the syrup.

Looking at this year’s batch of tong yuen at my sister’s just now, I was vividly reminded of those days:

The whites and the reds were there, but the greens and the yellows a little unfamiliar. Still, they made a pretty picture so I decided to do a Marita Paige (pale, pale imitation, tho – sorry, Marita). As I was aiming my camera at the bowl, my nephew walked in, saw what I was trying to do and burst out laughing. He asked if I was going to show the picture to mother. Well, no – it’s for my overseas friends, lah!

There is another tong yuen memory somewhere in the recesses of my mind.

During my first winter in England, there was a small winter solstice gathering, and a friend and I decided to contribute some tong yuen. We went to the one Chinese shop in Norwich to get the flour. According to my friend who was from Hong Kong, we needed two types of rice flour – lor mei fun (glutinuous rice) and something called jeem mei fun (I don’t know the English name for this). The shop proprietor’s wife looked at us blankly when we asked for the second. She’d never heard of it. Altho she was Chinese, she was originally from Guyana and was not familiar with the Chinese language.

I think we managed to find both types of flour and went back to the dorm kitchen to make the tong yuen. We also bought some red bean paste which my Hong Kong friend said was needed to fill the inside of the tong yuen. It was my turn to look blankly at her. The tong yuen of my childhood were 100% flour with no filling whatsoever inside. I acceded to her wish for some red bean paste tong yuen and we proceeded to make the dough. The first round of dough broke into pieces when we tried to wrap it around the bean paste. After some trial and error, we eventually found the right combination of lor mei fun jeem mei fun for the dough. And then came the next surprise.

I wanted to put the cooked tong yuen into some syrup we’d made. My friend said no, the syrup would be poured over the tong yuen only when we were ready to eat. And then not a lot, but just enough. That was not how I remember eating tong yuen as a child – drenched in syrup (the tong yuen, not me).

These days, you can buy frozen tong yuen in supermarkets. They come with fillings, either red bean or lotus paste. As for the ones I ate earlier this evening, they were 100% glutinuous rice. Same as the ones eaten in my childhood. Drenched in syrup.

Tale of a Clock

Filed in Family, Memories

My father had left a message inside the old grandfather’s clock that said (in Chinese) “Open tap to speed up the clock. Close tap to slow it down.”

My sister had found the piece of paper when the clock was moved from our house to hers. For a bit, she was puzzled. Then she saw the little knob inside the clock and realised what the message meant. The actions of opening a tap and closing it refer to turning the knob counter-clockwise and clockwise when the clock is running behind (to speed it up) or ahead (to slow it down).

The clock has been in the family for longer than I’ve been alive. It was in the shop from before we moved out of there in the early 90s, altho I can’t remember if it was downstairs in the shop itself or upstairs where we lived. There were two, actually, and this is the bigger of the two. When we moved, we gave the smaller one to a relative who’d asked for it. This one moved with us, first to our rented house in Subang Jaya, then to the current house, and now, to my sister’s house.

Apart from striking every hour on the hour, the clock also has the most amazing set of chimes – once for the quarter hour, twice for the half hour, three times for the three-quarter hour, and finally four times for the full hour before striking the appropriate number of times for whatever time it was (once for one o’clock, all the way to 12 times for 12 o’clock).

We grew up with the clock as part of our daily soundtrack, never bothered by its various chimes and hourly strikes. It only bothered my brother after he’d moved to work and live in Singapore. During one weekend visit home (this was after we’d moved from the shop), the clock bothered him so much that he got up in the middle of the night to stop the pendulum so that he could have some uninterrupted sleep.

Yes, our old grandfather’s clock has a pendulum in addition to the usual clock face. It looks like the clock in this picture here.

In addition to running ahead or behind, it would sometimes stop running, and not by human hands. Apparently this happened when the clock is out of alignment hanging on the wall. My father was the only one in the family who knew how to get it just right so that it would run uninterrupted. It stopped shortly after he left us in April. When my brother came home one weekend, he wound up the clock, it ran for a few days, and then stopped again. I left it in that state until it was moved to my sister’s house recently. While it hasn’t stopped since then, it has been running ahead, often by five minutes everyday.

Our old grandfather clock had at least two other quirks that I remember well.

One time many years ago, when we were still living in the shop, the clock would strike one more than the actual hour. Nobody knew why and it couldn’t be repaired. We got used to it, so that when it struck 4 times, we knew it was only three o’clock. I can’t remember what happened but the clock eventually corrected itself and went back to striking the correct number of times each hour.

For the other quirk, the clock would strike 12 times even though it was 1 o’clock. This meant listening to it strike 12 times twice in one hour. This was one quirk I never got used to. Again, the clock eventually corrected itself and stopped striking 12 times at 1 o’clock.

When my sister told us about the “tap” message in the clock, her husband’s niece commented that the “open tap, close tap” analogy doesn’t apply these days as many taps run on the lever function where you push it either left or right or up and down to turn it on and off.

For some reason, after the clock stopped and I never bothered to wind it up, I could still “hear” it striking every so often, whether on the quarter, half, three-quarter or full hour. Guess I miss the old clock, despite its various quirks.

New Lease of Life

Filed in Family, Memories

As I was driving towards the gate into my sister’s house this evening, I noticed a familiar blue car parked to the left of the road. It was the Langley, given a new coat of blue, and literally new lease of life.

The Langley now:

The Langley about a month ago:

I had a word with NG about the colour and he said he’d followed the original blue. Well, actually, that is not the Langley’s original colour. I’d mentioned in an earlier weblog entry that the original was a nice midnight blue, but after googling the Net for a colour match, I found a colour sample (see below) and realise that the Langley’s original blue is a lighter shade than midnight blue, but definitely darker than its current “groovy” blue.

Goodbye to an old friend

Filed in Family, Memories

There’s an empty space in our driveway where a car used to be.

That car was my father’s Toyota Corolla. He used to let me park my Sunny Extra in the main space, which was straight in from the road. The Corolla had the space next to Sunny, which was a little difficult to drive into, as it meant driving it between the gate and the pillar.

Where we live in Bandar Utama, the houses have short driveways that would not accommodate two cars lengthwise. And while the houses are wider than the usual, standard-size houses, the gates are not. So, before we moved in, my father had the gate widened so that a second car could be driven in and parked next to the main space.

Shortly after father passed away, my sister asked me to take over the 5-year-old Corolla and sell the 13-year-old Sunny. I started driving the Corolla about three weeks ago, after I got my nephew to swap the two cars so that the Corolla now occupies the Sunny’s space and vice versa.

Well, no more.

I’ve sold the Sunny and its new owner came and fetched it earlier this evening.

How do I feel?


It was the first car I owned. My brother helped with the downpayment, after which I made the monthly repayments out of my own salary.

Why the Nissan Sunny Extra?

I used to work for the Malaysian distributor of Nissan cars. So I knew all about the Sunny Extra’s legendary bumpers.

I got retrenched from the company in the mid 80s. But instead of simply settling for another job, I went overseas to fulfil a lifelong dream of studying both in England and the States. I was able to do that, thanks to my sister. But that’s another story, and yes, I am digressing.

When I came back after dropping out of grad school in the States, I got my driving licence and set about getting a car. The Sunny Extra came to mind, I called up the sales department, told them I used to work for the company, so could I have an extra discount “for old times’ sake”? And what do you know? I got that extra discount. Every little bit helped.

When I got the Sunny Extra, I told my father to let me drive the Langley. I was still a fairly new driver at the time, and did not want to dent or scratch a new car (but felt no qualms about doing likewise on the older Langley). I drove the Langley for about a year, before one fine day when my father literally ordered me to drive the Sunny from that day onwards as neighbours were wondering why he was driving my new car, etc. That was my father for you.

I’ve driven the Sunny for about a dozen years now. I’ve had my share of “accidents” with it. Not major ones involving another vehicle, but usually “solo” mishaps involving me, myself, I. The funniest one was the morning I turned a corner too close to the curb and hit it. I remember seeing a wheel cover fly across the front of the car and wondering which car it belonged to. It was only after I arrived at work and parked that I noticed a missing wheel cover and realised the earlier flying cover was mine. After work that evening, I went back to the same spot and found the cover lying on the side of the road. A little scratched, but I retrieved it, just in case it could be used again.

Yes, for old times’ sake, I did take some pictures of the Sunny in its “new” , and as it turned out temporary, space in the driveway. Here are two, showing the front and the “backside” :

I think the two pictures give a fairly good idea what a tight space it was, too.

Bye, dear old Sunny.