End of winter, and the world. And zombies

Ah Balling

Fancy this for a last meal?

Next time could someone please, as a matter of basic courtesy, inform me in advance if the end of the world is nigh?

After all, I’m not one to catch up on my daily horoscopes, nor pay much attention to visits by celestial beings. So imagine my horror to read in the news today that Apocalypse will be upon us this Dec 21. What does that leave me — four days? Four days to sort out all my affairs and prepare for impending doom? Surely that cannot be sufficient. I would have sold all my belongings and gone travel the world, so I guess that will have to wait for now.

My biggest concern at this moment is if I purchase one of those Apocalypse Kit they are selling on the Internet, will the delivery come in time for the day of reckoning? Chances are not good with the high demand for gift delivery this month. You know when bad things happen, people start to get irrational and lose their common sense altogether. I mean, if the world is going to end before we get to Dec 25, why bother sending any Christmas gifts? Though I must admit that the news has affected me somewhat as well. Having written so much on the serious stuff (worker strikes, inequality, what have you) in the past few weeks, my inner looniness is all stymied and itching to be released. I can already feel myself veering towards the nonsensical and corny as I type.

And to think that I actually looked forward to this day, Dec 21, for it marked the winter solstice. It’s the shortest day of the year. For people like me who loathe short winter days, it’s a sign that the worst of winter is over and things can only get brighter going forward. It does get depressing when the sun sets at 3.55 pm; I feel almost like I’m working overtime every day. But strangely, even as the days start to get longer, the winter grows harsher as we move into January and February. So somehow, somewhere along the planetary timeline, the movement of the sun and Earth must have misaligned.

The Chinese called this day 冬至, meaning end of winter. In Singapore we celebrate by eating 汤圆, or Chinese glutinous rice balls also known colloquially as Ah Balling. Word has it that the unusual name came from an ang mo who visited a stall at the Beach Road hawker centre selling these rice balls. That was a long time ago. Something must have gone terribly wrong on that visit because when asked what he thought of these cute and delicious little darlings, the ang mo uttered with a heavy British accent “Appalling!”. Not particularly versed in English or facial expressions, the stall owner must have thought it meant high praise and thus named his stall as such, believing that it sounds more atas to have an English name.

Or maybe the stall owner simply chose to ignore the hurtful comments from the ang mo. After all, his beloved rice balls have fillings too.

Not the ones my mum and grandma used to make in our kitchen when I was young though. Those were pure solid glutinous for the gluttonous, devoid of fillings and absolutely nothing touchy-feely in them. Oh yes, I remember those days well. I was never a big fan of 汤圆 with no fillings, so my reciprocal love went to the soup that came with them. And I recall with fond memory too a ditty they played on our Rediffusion box affixed to the wall just by the kitchen entrance:

卖汤圆 卖汤圆 小二哥的汤圆 圆又圆 一碗汤圆满又满 三毛钱呀买一碗
汤圆汤圆卖汤圆 汤圆一样可以当茶饭 嗨哟
汤圆汤圆卖汤圆 汤圆一样可以当茶饭

I guess if you have to pick a day for an apocalypse, winter solstice would be it. End of winter, end of the year, end of the world — how poetic. Honestly, I’m not sure why the end of the ancient Mayan calendar will signal the destruction of Earth. Good thing that NASA has assured us that all will be well. I’m sure they are all ready if zombies do break out and attack us. If there’s any lesson to be learnt from all this, it is that when you draw out new calendars, make sure they go on indefinitely to keep out doomsday zombies and stray planets. Or you can just buy a new calendar every year. Ideally those with Dilbert cartoons you can put on your desktop for a daily laugh.

Oh well, there’s nothing to worry about then. As my favourite band used to sing, it’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. It’s back to more serious business, like Christmas and sociopolitics.