part i:

"our mp came by today," my father tells me at dinner.

mm, i said, am i supposed to care? i didn't vote for him, you did. anyway, it took him long enough, the elections were in may, has he only just got around to visiting us?

"he is collecting old things for the hougang memories: singapore story project ... so i showed him a bunch of old photographs we've got."

me: and you let him take them away like that? he's a politician, it's not like he's a civil servant you know, with his heart as pure as galahad's because of taking social studies**.

part ii:

my father puts his head around my door: "our mp rang up and said he showed the photos to someone at national archives. they seem to be interested..."

me: don't get excited, he probably says that to all his constituents.

father: "but someone from the national archives did ring up, they want to come and see the original of this world war two photo we've got."

me: oh, when are they coming?

father: they've come! they seemed very interested in it so i told them they can have the photo but could they please make me a soft copy on a cd? they immediately took out a document for me to sign to say it's theirs.

me: hah, they must think you're a soft touch. perhaps they'd been prepared to acquire it. you should've pretended to refuse to part with it just to see what would happen.

part iii:

my father sees me in the hallway. "oh, the people doing this hougang memories project are coming to interview me tomorrow."

me: what, more people? haven't you run out of old photos for them yet?

father: they're not taking any photos away. they just want to ask questions.

me: i see, it's an oral history project. good luck to them. are you sure you're an expert on hougang? i mean, apart from living here for 40 years, i mean.

father: yes, i've been thinking that i'm not the best person for them to interview about hougang, but i do know who they could interview....

well what he did was, he made a list of all the people he thought were important to the history of hougang, who had more local knowledge than he did, and came into contact with more people, such as:

-- the french missionary who came to singapore in the 70s and who has been the hougang parish priest for as long, who has been chatting to his parishioners in hokkien and mandarin for decades

-- the old man who had run the oldest and certainly most well-known provision shop in hougang, that place where my family and everyone else's went to for anything needed in the household, until the coming of the supermarkets. whose little (and definitely ailing) little shop is still run by his daughter.

and so on.

and then, he bicycled off to see each of these people, asking them if they'd mind helping these nice young people with an oral history project. so what will happen is that when these people show up tomorrow, my father has for them a short but neatly written list, complete with contact numbers, of the people who had agreed to be interviewed.