Monday, August 13, 2007

Not even a little bit country

12 Aug 2007, ST

By Tan Hsueh Yun

MUCH as I hate to stereotype people, least of all myself, there are some universal truths you just cannot ignore.

For example, I firmly believe that you're either a dog person or a cat person.

The Tans, my family, are dog people. Mutts or pedigrees, we love them all. We think people who love dogs are good people.

So we got a bit worried when recently, my sister took in an abandoned cat. She started spamming us with photos of said cat (I don't want to know its name). On phone calls, she'd describe its antics in too much detail.

We are not amused and have decided to stage an intervention. Mei has strayed, but she will be brought back to the fold.

Just like I reeled myself in recently, when I thought that maybe I could be a country person.

You see, I also believe that you're either a city person or a country person.

I'm the former. I like that restaurants stay open late, that I can watch a movie almost anytime I want, that I can go to Mustafa and buy a frying pan at 3am.

But I've also been watching British TV personalities Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall extol the virtues of country living in their programmes on cable television.

Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose River Cottage series is shown on the Asian Food Channel (StarHub Channel 69), went from stressed out city chef to growing his own vegetables and raising his own animals for food in Dorset.

Oliver's latest cooking show on Discovery Travel & Living (StarHub Channel 16), Jamie At Home, is set in his country home. He cooks just the most delicious-looking food using produce he grows with the help of a gardener.

It all looks so idyllic and peaceful. So desirable and doable.

I spun an elaborate fantasy involving an outdoor pizza oven, vegetable and herb gardens, and many, many trees. I pictured myself becoming a calm person. Fit and strong from all that gardening. Happy as a lark.

Of course, footage of some guys salting raw pork in the River Cottage bathtub freaked me out a little. There were also all those bugs crawling on and out of Oliver's vegetables. But I continued dreaming about retirement someplace far from the madding crowd.

The bucolic bubble burst when wild kingdom descended on my flat two weeks ago.

I left a bunch of bananas on the kitchen counter on a Thursday night and got a shock the next morning. Two had holes in them. Something had eaten into my fruit.

In a move that showed I have no future as a crime scene investigator, I panicked and dumped the whole bunch in the rubbish chute. I should, of course, have bagged it, tagged it and taken it to a lab.

At work, I couldn't stop thinking about it and worked myself up into a frenzy. What critters were hiding in my flat? Was there a swarm of something somewhere? I conveniently forgot that my flat is the size of a postage stamp with no place for anything to hide.

Worse, a colleague kept going on about baby mice busting in from either of the flats next door. All they need is a crack, he says with great authority.

A sane friend tells me this is impossible. 'Ignore him. It's not Die Hard.'

Okay, but what ate my bananas?

I got my answer that night. I was watching television when I thought I heard something flapping behind me. I turned and there was a brown bird in the middle of the dining room. I was so shocked I yelped in horror and it flew back out.

What kind of bird flies around at 2am, I wondered. Maybe it was a fruit bat. Bats! In my flat! I closed all the windows and went to sleep, feeling uneasy.

The next morning, I found a beetle on the kitchen floor the size of a coffee bean. A moth also flew in and taunted me by fluttering right in front of me.

Then the bird tried to get in again. Was it because I had a cheesecake cooling on the counter? I let out another startled yelp. It flew away but later, hovered just outside the window. I moved the cake to the living room, where I could eyeball it.

I don't know why I was suddenly invaded by all these creatures. Perhaps Al Gore's inconvenient truth cannot be ignored anymore.

But what I realise now is that someone who's borderline obsessive about neatness and order, and who hates dealing with critters that are not dogs, has no business dreaming country dreams.

My friend says I should hang up a picture of a cat near the window to scare the bird away.

Tell me, what's a dog person to do?

No comments: