Bishan’s brick-red HDB facade painted over with ugly colours

From ‘Some see red over colourful facade for Bishan’, 17 Sept 2014, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

A FRESH coat of paint usually brings cheer, but a splash of colour on Bishan’s beloved red-brick flats has upset some people instead. Some terracotta housing blocks, like those in Bishan Streets 22 and 24, will be doused in a medley of colours, with combinations such as grey, silver and golden yellow, as part of ongoing repairs by the area’s town council.

But the mishmash of colours has upset some residents, architects and heritage experts. Architectural and urban historian Lai Chee Kien said the paint job will change the feature of an estate known for its red-brick facade. “Red-brick panels and bands were probably chosen by the estate’s original architects to present a common, unifying aesthetic identity. Today’s town councils must look at this from a larger scale and keep the entire town in mind when making these changes,” he added.

…At Blocks 201 to 219 in Street 23, residents were presented earlier this year with three colour palettes starkly different from the original. They included a pink and purple combination.

Resident Charlene Koh, 27, a designer, was upset. “The rows of red-brick blocks evoke a sense of warmth… They are iconic and distinct. I don’t want to look out my window and see a horrible colour on the next block.”

HDB’s palette used to be restricted to neutral tones of grey, white or brown, but in the eighties some designers decided to boldly go where no bureaucrat has gone before, add a PRIMARY colour to the mix. Red, however, was considered too ‘loud’, and you don’t want a colour that’s universally associated with rage splashed all over your flat. Nor do you want to drop random stripey rainbow colours and end up looking like a rastacap, or some kid’s toy xylophone.

I personally don’t really care what colour scheme my block has unless it’s a genuine eyesore, like yellow polka dots. Some stark combinations like Rochor’s foursome of bright red, blue, yellow and green have become recognisable icons (though rated as one of the ‘worst buildings in Singapore’ by CNN), while others betray a dismal lack of imagination, or if they have no idea what colour to douse your house in, they add an orchid mural, or a giant Cupid. Overdo the cuteness and you’ll have people mistaking your block for a multi-storey kindergarten, especially if it has rainbows splashed all over it.

There’s even an FAQ on the Bishan Town Council page to address ‘awful colours’. The response is typical.

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What ‘experts’, exactly HDB? Are they the brains behind the Teletubbies? Maybe they’re psychologists who specialise in colour-mood matching who’ve done extensive research to determine what are the best colour combinations to lull HDB dwellers into a state of passive obedience. Granted, you can’t get two people to agree on a preferred colour scheme, might as well choose a combination scientifically proven to stop people from leaping to their deaths.

Here’s a quick list of things that HDB’s ugly colour combinations have been compared to:

1) Chocolate cake (brown brick with shades of darker yellow, Jurong, 1985)

2) Old people’s phlegm (green/yellow, unknown, 2008)

3) Menstrual/hospital sanitary pads (pink, green, unknown, 2014)

4) Pigeon coop, Lego, Tupperware

5) Puke

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 10.27.41 PM

6. Disneyland (suggested pink, purple, blue palette for Tiong Bahru, 2008)

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HDB suggesting debarking of noisy dogs

From ‘Dog disturbances, HDB suggests debarking…’, 28 Aug 2014, article in CNA

An animal rights group has voiced “strong objections” to a Housing and Development Board (HDB) suggestion that dog owners who are unable to keep their dogs from barking should consider surgically “debarking” their pets.

The HDB notice, issued by its Ang Mo Kio Branch on Aug 22, referred to a “dog barking nuisance in the middle of the night at Blk 601, Ang Mo Kio Ave 5″. It called upon dog owners to consider one of three options: Obedience training sessions; training collars to control and modify the behavior of their pets; or debarking the dog through surgery.

There are two ways to debark a dog in the vet’s surgery. One, yank its mouth open, pull its tongue forward, grab the vocal cords with forceps and cut them off. Two, make an incision over its voice box, remove voice box and tendons. The dog may continue to bark though effectively muted, but may display ‘neurotic behaviour’. Animal lovers have been long aware of the consequences of debarking, that it would turn the dog into a dangerous ‘monster’ who bites postmen’s crotches willy-nilly without warning. Well so would you if someone de-tongued you. Or if you were forced to do it yourself with a pair of sewing scissors like that finale scene in Oldboy.

Well that’s one way to take a vow of silence

Amazingly, this barbaric practice isn’t banned anywhere in the world. It’s a subtler version of the ancient torture gadget called the ‘choke pear‘, a device which is shoved into a liar’s orifice and unscrewed open slowly leading to severe internal mutilation. If a human being can’t seem to keep it down whatever the situation, to suggest making a few snips around the voicebox would be considered cruel even under general anaesthetic. We all know a few karaoke singers around the block who desperately need to be de-’sung’, but HDB wouldn’t dare suggest that we send these chronic screechers for ‘voice recalibration’. It would be psychological torture, because God gave us voices to sing and recite poetry under the moonlight so we can score mates and reproduce.

There are less invasive ways to make any yapping dog shut the hell up without taking the ‘dog-ness’ out of him. Give him something to chomp and latch on. Like the groin of some HDB officer on his dog-silencing prowls for example. Or pay hundreds of dollars to get on stage live with Cesar Milan when he comes to town, whose dog sorcerer magic can turn your boisterous, extrovert dog into a hushed, plaintive squeaker which just a single, penetrating stare. If dogshit became a rampant problem, we have it in our human ingenuity to surgically remodel a dog’s anus, creating an artificial defecatory delay so that we can catch its poo in time and avoid the nasty business of picking the yucky thing up from the ground.

HDB comes across in their notice as treating a dog’s voicebox as a switch to turn on and off, like an annoying leaky tap that a plumber can fix. In 1985, they even considered a blanket ban of dogs in general from homes because of complaints by residents. But it’s not always the Board endorsing the torture of innocent creatures. Some owners resort to turning their Wolverine cats into Hello Kittys by ‘declawing’, which involves some form of amputation of the feline’s digits so that their human babies don’t get disfigured by moody cats. All you World War POWs got off easy by just having your fingernails yanked out one by one. In agriculture, calves are dehorned by a searing hot iron so that they won’t gore farmers or other animals. Or remind people too much of Satan.

Let’s hope our MND Minister and well known Buddhist animal lover Khaw Boon Wan puts his money where his bark is and stop this debarking nonsense once and for all. As for those who complained about the dog nuisance, maybe this clip will change your mind about dog barks.

Fewer flats flying National Flag on National Day

From ‘Why fewer flats seem to be flying the flag for National Day’, 7 Aug 2014, article by Joanne Seow and Yeo Sam Jo, ST

ENTIRE blocks of flats awash in red and white in the run-up to National Day? It is a less common sight these days. More than half of the 15 Members of Parliament and residents The Straits Times spoke to said they have noticed fewer flags on display in recent years. Changes in the work of grassroots groups and public housing designs are two of the reasons for the drop in the number of Singaporeans flying the national flag from their flats, they added.

Some residents’ committees (RCs) now prefer to hold community events instead of going door to door to give out flags. Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari said some RCs in his GRC have stopped actively decorating housing blocks for National Day since two years ago.

“We feel it would be good if residents do it themselves so that it’s more heartfelt,” he said. He hopes that when residents realise fewer RCs are doing it, they will put the flags out themselves. Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said a resident told him he did not hang a flag as he did not want to be the odd one out.

New flat design is a factor too, said Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Chia Shi-Lu. He said newer blocks in Queenstown do not have common corridors facing the outside, making it harder to display flags.

Public servant Rachel Lim, 29, said her family stopped putting up the flag when they moved from a road-facing block in Chai Chee to a point block in Sengkang West nine years ago.

“There is no common corridor and the block is inward facing,” she said. “Even if you display the flag, there is no audience.”

‘This is where I won’t be alone…’

Naked flats on National Day isn’t new at all. In 1989, the Kaki Bukit Zone 5 RC were forced to come up with a brilliant solution to spur Singaporeans into flying the flag over their HDB parapets loudly and proudly: LUCKY DRAW AND FREE FOOD. If you bought a flag from your RC, you stood a chance to win a radio, TV or a table fan. You were also invited to a buffet breakfast so that you could ‘mix around’ with fellow flag buyers. No such luck these days. Today it needs to be more ‘heartfelt’ without us wondering if they’ll be serving free N-day roti prata at the void deck so that I’ll be the first in line.

Even if you take the initiative to fly the flag without any form of shameless inducement or pressure from your RC, you may be criticised for not hanging it correctly, letting it flap in an unruly manner in the wind, or even get charged for displaying a faded or stained flag. So if you happen to be the ONLY one on your block showing off your patriotism, you’d better make sure the flag is in pristine condition and salute-worthy condition otherwise you’d put the whole block to shame.

When a block of flats festooned in red and white becomes an annual symbolic staple on the nation’s birthday, it naturally becomes a visual representation of how much love we have for the country, or a scoreboard of how well the PAP is doing. You can imagine the various MPs checking each others’ constituency colours out like students comparing test results. Our MND minister Khaw Boon Wan is particular proud of his Sembawang residents. CHECK THIS SHIT OUT, BITCHES!, this post seems to be saying.

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 7.44.09 AM

The government is partly to blame for setting the standard in the first place. With RCs doing the dirty work for us all this years, we never learned how to buy a flag or even hang it up ourselves, not to mention coordinate them in a single perfect file down the block. It’s like parents holding a massive birthday bash for their kid with clowns, magicians and firestarters in one year, and then ordering miserable McDelivery at home for the next. This year, nobody even bothered to compose a new birthday song. You’d think your folks love you less as you get older, when the truth is you can’t measure love by how festive every birthday gets. Think of N-Day as Singapore’s Valentine’s Day, and the display of flags as the gesture of giving an obligatory bunch of roses. Not giving one this year doesn’t mean I love her less. Conversely, putting one up for the past few years doesn’t mean I won’t migrate to goddamn Perth the next.

There are all sorts of personal excuses not to do so, of course, namely:

1. Don’t have the time
2. Lazy
3. I don’t want to stand out if I’m the only one
4. My flag is faded
5. Don’t know where to buy the flag
6. I already draped my car’s sideview mirror in flag
7. I was away on vacation
8. I forgot
9. The dog ate my flag

There are also those who try to explain the phenomenon by summoning the tired ‘too many foreigners’ argument, while some of us would only put up flags as a show of defiance on days other than N-day, like a certain ‘Gulam’ who hung a Palestine flag to ‘raise awareness’ about the Gaza situation. Or another Singaporean flying a China flag for some damn reason.

Flags on flats or not, this is still home, truly. Happy National Day, Singapore.

 

 

Woman peeing in Pinnacle@Duxton lift

From ‘Caught in the act of urinating in Pinnacle@Duxton lift’, 18 June 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan, ST

The first photo shows the back of a woman in neat attire squatting down in a lift; the second shows the same woman, her hair tied up in a ponytail, in the same spot, but this time with a puddle near her feet in the lift. The photos were featured in posters put up this week by the Tanjong Pagar Town Council in the void deck of Block 1E at Pinnacle@Duxton, following complaints about urine in one of the lifts back in May.

The youthful-looking woman, whose face is not seen, was caught in the act by surveillance cameras in the lift at 8.22pm on May 23.

“The Town Council has received feedback regarding the stench of urine in the Fireman Lift in Blk 1E… This has caused much inconvenience to residents,” read the message in the poster. The posters and photos are part of what MP Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) describes as the town council’s “very effective” method of addressing such incidents, and have been employed several times at the Pinnacle@Duxton estate as well as elsewhere in the constituency.

…”We would never show people’s faces in the photos used, so only the person committing the act would know it is him or her,” she said. “We’re not trying to shame anybody, we put the posters up only in the affected blocks. Our job is not to make trouble, we just want to stop the urination problem.”

No one has stepped forward so far regarding the latest incident, and little is known about the woman pictured. “Urination in public places still happens from time to time in different areas around Tanjong Pagar, but thankfully it’s not that prevalent,” said Dr Neo.

This iconic housing project was indeed once the PINNACLE of international design, the first in the world with 2 skybridges linking the 7 blocks, creating what could be the LONGEST continuous skygardens in the world. A winner of the 2010 President’s Design Award, the Pinnacle’s skydecks have been described as ‘social dynamos’ encouraging communal activities, initiating an ‘innovative typology of public communal spaces that are metaphorically reclaimed from the air.’ A bit TOO communal perhaps. This, like how we deal with most social nuisances, calls for a CAMPAIGN, before someone brands the building The ‘Pee-nacle’ (Wait, that has already happened). The mascot could be a singing, dancing giant incontinence pad, one who goes around smothering people before they even unzip their trousers.

Peeing in lifts is a scourge that won’t go away soon, with exploding bladders, loose sphincters, alcohol and lack of public toilets often used as mitigation pleas when culprits do get caught. Most of these, to no one’s surprise, are men. In 1988, the ST ran a survey which revealed that of 112 pissers caught, ONLY ONE was a woman, and they were mostly adults within the age range of 36 to 54. These days, people seem to get away with urinating in lifts without having the media shout their name, age and occupations like they used to. An anonymous offender smearing a public amenity gets away with nothing more than embarrassment, while a blogger who smears the name of someone very illustrious gets hunted down and sued his pants off for defamation. Even getting caught EATING a damn sweet on the train is a worse situation than this.

You must be truly desperate if you’re a woman and need to resort to 1)pulling down/aside your underwear 2) squatting 3) answering the call of nature 4) risk soaking your damn feet while at it. No one seems to ever get remanded in IMH for such behaviour, especially one that has been fetishised by the authorities since Singaporeans began living in HDBs, with some MPs in the 80′s even suggesting a JAIL TERM for offenders. Peeing in a lift is an entirely different breed of public disgrace compared to say dumping litter or throwing cigarette butts out of cars. A grown adult urinating in a closed, moving compartment, especially one in which you have to eventually use yourself, seems to me more of a bizarre psychological disorder rather than a case of uncontrollable nerves, mischief, or even ‘vandalism’. It’s like vomiting on the side of your plate, and then continuing to eat the rest of your food like nothing happened.

The Pinnacle may boast one of the most panoramic, expensive residential skygardens in the world, but all the lifestyle frills and pledges of ‘sustainability’ aside, one thing that the building appears to be sorely lacking is a basic lift URINE DETECTOR, a gadget that stops the lift dead when someone takes a leak on the floor, sounds an alarm, and traps you inside until the cops come and whisk you and your vile bladder to court. A brilliant invention because it forces you to be confined with your own putrid stench for at least a good half an hour, and more importantly, catches you red-handed, with or without CCTV. Have we gone all soft on lift pissers lately? Will the Pinnacle management take more serious measures only when MP Lily Neo steps on a golden puddle during her walkbouts like what happened to former Speaker Tan Soo Khoon in 1991?

Urine detectors can’t do anything to prevent one from DEFECATING in the lift, though. Yes, it happens, I shit you not.

UDDs will give residents a piss of mind

Young couples not keen on 3-Gen flats

From ’3Gen flats? No thanks, we’d rather live on our own’, 9 June 2014, article by Yeo Same Jo, ST

YOUNG couples taking part in a dialogue on housing were largely against living in new jumbo-sized flats with their parents after marriage, echoing the preliminary results of an online poll that showed most young couples would rather live on their own. Most of the 20 couples taking part in the Ministry of National Development (MND) session were worried about the lack of privacy of such three-generation (3Gen) flats.

“Personally I value freedom and I want my own space,” said chemist Toh Ke Min, 24, who took part in last Saturday’s event, the first of three conversations held to find out how housing policies can help draw families closer.

Her boyfriend, transport operations officer Quah Hai Hui, 26, shared her sentiment. “I’m apprehensive about what my in-laws think about me. Living in the same flat as them might bring some conflict,” he said.

Others said the 3Gen flats, meant to encourage multiple generations to live under one roof, might be difficult to sell in future, as they can be resold only to other multi-generation families.

KhatibHDB03pic2109e_0

‘Jumbo’ is not as big as it once was. The 3Gen flats at Saraca Breeze @ Yishun come with 4 bedrooms, 2 of which with attached bathrooms, and has an area of 115 sq m. In 1990, a ‘jumbo’ unit in Woodlands had SEVEN rooms (150 – 165 sq m), created by knocking down the wall between 3 room and 4 room units. It was practically a presidential suite by today’s standards. Today’s 3Gen units are more ‘Grande’ than ‘Jumbo’, really.

With prices starting from $335K, calling these 3Gen flats ‘jumbo’ makes it seem like a steal, when it’s almost the same size as a 5-room flat, which your property agent will try to sell to you, along with your aged parents and kids, as ‘cosy’ despite the superlative tag. In 1986, if you wished to stay close to your old folks but prefer to retain your privacy you could get an extended unit with a ‘granny’ flat attached, a 40 sq m studio apartment with its own toilet and kitchen, the smallest of the range being 133 sq m, still more spacious than the current ‘jumbo’ flat.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 9.21.09 PM

It wasn’t long before Singaporeans began exploiting the extra space for other uses, as a ‘workout room’,  study, workshop and a maid’s bedroom among others. By 1992, the ‘granny’ project was faltering and HDB eventually put a stop to it, with some experts explaining that old people preferred to live away from their married children. Today, there is the ‘retirement village’ for those who would rather live alone than play nanny to Junior when Mom and Dad are slogging their asses off at work.

We all appreciate MND’s aims to meet the national objective of happy-family togetherness, but as the survey results show, perhaps there is a limit to how physically tight families should be when it comes to sharing living space. There are squabbles, and then there are, at the other extreme, horrific bloodbaths. Not everyone gets along and sits around being entertained by grandfather’s stories like the folks in Under One Roof, nor is every family as ‘kampung-spirited’ and accommodating as some 4 generation HDB households. In pure economic, White paper terms, squeezing an extended family in a 3G flat makes sense. Until, of course, it is decided it’s better to send the old folks to a nursing home in JB before someone gets killed, that is.

Toa Payoh HDB rooftop vandalised by graffiti

From ‘Roof of HDB block in Toa Payoh vandalised’, 7 May 2014, article in CNA

The roof level of a 22-storey Housing and Development Board block was painted with graffiti containing vulgarities and criticism of a political party in an apparent case of vandalism. Pictures of the graffiti were circulated on social media sites on Wednesday morning.

Police said they received a call at 6.47am requesting for assistance at Blk 85A, Toa Payoh Lorong 4. “Upon police’s arrival, it was established that a case of vandalism had occurred at the said location,” a police spokesman said.

A contractor at the scene told Channel NewsAsia that residents had called the Town Council’s 24-hour hotline to complain about the graffiti. The access hatch to the block’s parapet was locked when the police tried to enter the site on Wednesday morning.

According to a Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council staff member, who did not want to be named, the water tanks on the roof top had not been tampered with. “I don’t know how they managed to get up here. The police are investigating,” said the staff member.

My grandfather's rooftop

My grandfather rooftop

Graffiti and PAP go together like waffles and honey. Breaking into a MRT depot to spray-paint a train is nothing compared to this aerial spectacle of a middle finger to the ruling party, provided that the culprits abseiled the block rather than break their way onto the roof. (Incidentally, there’s a rooftop bar at Carlton Hotel called GRAFFITI SKY BAR.)

Those in the street art scene label such vandals ‘extreme taggers’, amateurs who risk life and limb to mark territory. One such tagger died from such a stunt hanging from a rope by the 16th floor of a building in Sacramento. Another in the same city fell to his death while trying to mark a bridge. No vandal here has died while pretending to be Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa so far, but we may see the first if this high-rise FUCK PAP mural triggers a spate of copycat HDB tagging. The moniker ‘Mike Cool’ sounds like a 80′s rapper, reminding me more of bright baggy pants and inverted caps than a mohawked punk with a taste for anarchy.

Artists have put roofs to more creative use in other cities, drawing entirely opposite reactions from residents, who view urban graffiti like how they view their child’s first scribblings on the wall. One even proposed to his girlfriend using 5 rooftops as his canvas. If you did this in Singapore, you’d be spending your engagement anniversary in jail, lashes on your back still warm to the touch.

In New York, high rise graffiti has assimilated into the urban landscape, and no one questions how the vandals got up there in the first place. Graffiti artists there are the stuff of fable and magic who sprinkle rainbow fairy dust while you sleep and then disappear before you wake. Maybe it’s because they don’t spray-paint FUCK OBAMA in CAPS all over the place.

Only in Singapore does one see this obsessive urge to deface the Government in public using the ‘language’ of graffiti.  Campaign banners in Aljunied GRC, for example, were subject to a blue streak of vandalism in 2011.

PAP, you’ve been Tagged

Then there’s the rampage of digital vandalism that culminated in the hijacking of the Istana website, with the hackers putting up unflattering comments about President Tony Tan. Well that’s one way to get noticed, but a silly risk to take since the Government knows your IP address and all. The tricky part about nabbing rooftop vandals is that the perpetrators are unlikely to be caught in the act by eyewitnesses, and nobody really sneaks up there unless they want to dispose a body in the water tank, have sex, or SUNTAN.  Maybe the litterbug-catching CCTVs would have some leads for the Police.

A minor embarrassment for the PAP really, but they should take comfort in knowing that for every dozen pieces of graffiti cursing the government, there’s always that rare, diehard pro-Government fan who would break the law just to declare his love for it. Like so.

UPDATE: ‘Mike Cool’ and his 4 friends were arrested within days of the incident, similar to the speed at which the Cenotaph vandal was captured. I don’t know what they were doing to the 17 year olds in the police van, because they seemed to be in some kind of pain. One of them was allowed access to a lawyer, but denied a gag order because the law ‘protects victims, not accused persons’. The last time a gag order request was rejected was an appeal made on behalf of a certain Cecilia Sue. Meanwhile, another infamous 17 year old’s identity remains gagged to this day, as more than 30 men and counting, their names splashed all over the news, get charged one by one for having underaged sex with the ‘victim’.

Or maybe it was just hot that day

 4 of them (Boaz Koh, Reagan Tan, Chay Nam Shen, Goh Rong Liang) were alleged to have committed criminal trespass, while David Graaskov has been charged of conspiring to commit vandalism, the latter also accused of ‘removing a reflective vest worth $5 from another rooftop in Toa Payoh. (Teens in vandalism case face more charges, 17 May 2014, ST). Boaz was also playing with a fire extinguisher at the Marina Bay Suites, causing $70 worth of damage to property. Why bother with expert witnesses to solve crimes when you have Instagram? (Boaz and Graaskov have since closed their accounts).

Hawt

New age construction worker

Jalan Jurong Kechil getting Singapore’s first retirement village

From ‘Ageing Singapore to get first retirement village’, 10 Nov 2013, article by Radha Basu, Sunday Times

After more than two decades of debate and deliberation, Singapore’s first retirement living community will finally be built at Jalan Jurong Kechil. Property developer World Class Land (WCL), a subsidiary of jewellery group Aspial Corp, told The Sunday Times last week that it plans to build the facility on a 10,170 sq m plot of land, roughly the size of 11/2 football fields.

…Singapore is among the fastest ageing countries in the world. The number of those aged 65 and above will nearly double over the next few years, from 352,000 in 2011 to 600,000 by 2020.

In July, NMP Lina Chiam suggested building such a village on Pulau Ubin, an idea which was shot down because it seemed like banishing the old to an island, especially one where charging wild boars roam free. Land shortage has also prompted Khaw Boon Wan to infamously propose that we look into casting our elderly away to Batam or JB which may be cheaper than sequestering them in gated communities. The Jurong site looks rosy on paper, like a nursing home with country club facilities, but one that the less well-off senior may be unable to afford. In fact, one of the village supporters cited in the article currently lives in a ‘spacious bungalow in Braddell Heights’ and is looking forward to a cozier apartment with ‘like-minded’ seniors as neighbours. Senior-living consultant Tan Hee Kian says many seniors in the ‘top fifth to 20th percentile of the income scale’ would gladly splurge on an RV (The Jurong project costs an estimated $70-80 million). The word ‘village’ may very well be a misnomer if only old, rich people live in it. It may turn out to be the Nassim Road for Senior Citizens. The only thing ‘village-like’ about the Jurong RV is that it’s inaccessible by train.

In 1985 when the RV was first brought up, it was intended as a ‘nest-egg’ for the AFFLUENT, mainly middle and upper income professionals and businessmen who were in the same ‘income bracket’ and common interests. Today’s model retirement villages also come equipped with golf courses and club houses.  If golf is the seniors’ game, how about converting one of our existing 18 golf courses to a RV instead of using up precious land then? What other benefits worth the price tag would one gain living in a RV compared to an elderly-friendly estate with easy access to medical care, public transport and an NTUC supermarket? With a ballooning greying population, finding elderly companionship in the general community shouldn’t be a problem, if the reason you’re considering the RV lifestyle is because no one shares your passion for gateball or gardening. If I’m a budding artist and need to live in a bohemian neighbourhood to spur my creativity even if I’m entitled to the living space of a closet, you can bet my calls for a Soho-esque ‘Artists’ village’ to be with ‘like-minded’ folk will be slammed for sure, because apparently young struggling artists are not as important as old retirees with actual savings.

Some elders would rather mix with all walks of life than see the same haggardly faces everyday waiting to see who dies first, or hear the same people grumble about politics or brag about whose children are more filial than others.  One can also imagine how every journey down the stairs would take an eternity if the lift breaks down.

No matter how you brand it, an RV is an enclave of people of a certain class and age, which is contrary to our national drive towards ‘inclusivity’ and integration. It’s not as if our current HDB estates suffer from ageist design. I see old people happily sitting at the void deck watching kids tumble down a ‘youth-centric’ playground where I live. There’s a church if you want to send your final prayers, a fitness corner to stave off venous thrombosis and a provision shop with a makeshift ‘kopi corner’ if you need to chat with random strangers. I’m content to grow old and die here as long there’s a patch of grass to feed pigeons, to feel appreciated by the general ‘townsfolk’, to flirt with the kopitiam beer lady and add to the communal diversity rather than be reminded everyday of my own mortality in an artificial environment smack in the middle of nowhere, where eventually if your house catches fire and you’re wheelchair bound, your equally immobile neighbour can only perish along with you rather than do anything useful.

If I really want to ‘get away from it all’, I’d plant my sagging roots away from this country if I could afford it. But of course if these 100 or so ‘villagers’ prefer it the RV way then no one can deny them a space they can call their own. Maybe they could call it ‘Silver Cove’ or something.

Postscript: The project has been quietly rebranded as a retirement ‘RESORT’ instead of a village, officially called the Hillford, with 1 to 2 bedroom units starting from $388,000 (Packed showflat at first retirement resort, article by Jonathan Kwok, 5 Jan 2014, Sunday Times). The bulk of those interested in the purchase, however, weren’t golden oldies, but those in the 40s looking for investment opportunities, just like they would for any spanking new condo. With a full time manager, 24 hour concierge service, the only things missing from the Hillford are spas, hot springs, a sea view and complimentary breakfast. And eventually anyone above 70 and ‘over the hill’ who would rather check into a nursing home nearer to civilisation than live in a 398 sq ft cell that costs nearly as much as a 3-room flat. No wonder it’s called a ‘resort’ then, by living in such ‘Mickey Mouse’ units, you can almost sense a hint of Disneyland right around the corner.

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