Camp Craft

I was a bummer during my secondary school days. I went into a good class in QSTS with decent results in my PSLE. For unknown reasons, my school results nosedived from the first year all the way to Sec 4. Thinking back, I should be glad they allowed me to get there, for nothing in my report book each year showed I deserved to. Nothing much changed during Sec 4. I got a pass in English ... some C5 or something, a C6 in Chinese. The rest were pretty much strictly within the D7 - F9 grade. Out of curiosity, I added them up and saw my L1R5 much closer to my father's age than mine. I knew I was doomed for a Sec 4 repeat or ITE bound.

I have little to say about the quality of teachers during my Sec sch days. They say, if you have nothing nice to say, shut the gap so I will try to be nice. I don't think any of my classmates will disagree with my assessment. One teacher even told my buddy Uncle Wong, who was seated next to me in class, not to mingle too much with me because I would "drag him down." Thanks Uncle Wong for not listening to that bitch. But well, it goes to show what kind of student I was in my teachers' eyes.

Having said that, one teacher actually turned my fate around. My form teacher, Mr Aw was the classic nerd who was very good in his Physics but unfortunately we, or rather I, wasn't at a level to benefit from his expertise. I don't recall we ever talked. Not once. So, I was surprised when he called out to me in a class announcement one day to inform me he had selected me in the class to attend the Outward Bound School (OBS) course during the mid year. I didn't consider that as having a first conversation with Mr Aw. It was more like an instruction given to me. I nodded blankly to acknowledge his decision, not knowing what to expect.

So what the hell was OBS? I often wondered if it was a random or deliberate choice on Mr Aw's end to include me for the course. I'll never know. Whatever it was, that decision had a profound effect on me. Till the day I turned up at OBS, I remained skeptical. Instead of going camping, I should be studying for my 'O' Level, to increase whatever microscopic chance I had to make it out of secondary school 'alive'. I thought it was a dumping ground to send the crappy kids to, since the school had already budgeted for the course. However I saw bright kids with consistently good academic results from other classes joining me to represent our school in the course. What was that?! What was I doing there? I stood out like a sore thumb among the rest.

The details of the course remain vivid in my mind. There were too much to elaborate, I think I can write a short book just on that. Just by recalling this little part of my memory, I have the temptation to write about my entire secondary school life. I doubt anyone will really be interested so we'll fuck that for now. Back to the OBS, I probably did more things the first time in my life within that few days than any other period of my life. I learnt a lot and I met all kinds of strange people. Fast forward to life after the course, I bucked up, studied hard for that final few months and somehow cleared my 'O' Levels.

One of the things I learnt there was basic camp craft. Well the reason why OBS came back to my mind all of the sudden was that I was 'arrowed' by my MIL to create some kind of rack of her plants. My initial idea all along was using carpentry to solve her problems, until the morning when I was supposed to turn up. I changed my mind and decided to go back to basics. 

I bought some thin bamboo. They didn't cost that much, about $0.60 per piece, measuring 1.8m long. I thought the costing was in the decent range. I bought a roll of jute twine for $6. Then I began to do bind one joint after another starting from a clove hitch and a couple more combination of knots. That was how we tied much bigger PVC tubes together to form our raft during OBS and sailed it out to the sea. Our team's raft last the longest, before the rocking waves eventually took it down along with us.

"What the hell are we learning this shit for?" said one of the Ah Bengs from Christ Church Secondary School who was in my OBS team. I smiled at the recollection as I worked hard on my knots. Sometimes in life, you really never know.

I didn't note how long it took me but I ended up with a stable structure for MIL's passion fruit plant. She told me the structure was needed as a foundation to her future addition of twigs and shit to allow the passion fruit vines to hold on to. I shook my work to show her how stable it was. With 4 columns pegged to the ground, joints firm with a bit of cross bracing, that would 
stand its ground during strong wind.

My 'customer' also requested for something that could support her cherry tree, as well as something that could support some sun shade to create a green house effect to protect the cherry tree from the strong Australian sunlight. So I created a pyramid base and a simple gazebo shaped skeleton for her to clip her netting. The two structure were bind to each other, to enhance stability. The structure and tree will eventually end up supporting each other until the tree matures.

I ended up with a small blister on one finger due to rope burn. Jute is a really rough material. I was amazed with what a few thin bamboo sticks and some twine could create. Given enough material and time, I could build a house with rope and joints. but using much sturdier truss or space frames for higher strength. Really, if only the world hasn't advance to this bastardy state where human beings need approval to build their own home. This fucking shit isn't rocket science. Even pigs can build houses made of bricks. 

The whole thing cost me a little over $10.

Autumn task list update

  • watch a sunrise
  • intensively slim down for Winter (ongoing)
  • touch up the minor paint work issues around the house
  • help the MIL paint her gutters
  • erect a garden rack for MIL
  • complete the uncompleted paver areas around the side gate
  • address the mess in the garage once and for all
  • install shelving and racks in the house
  • get a large wardrobe for the wife
  • engage M as my interior designer to spice up the house
  • teach Albany how to cycle and swim (ongoing)
  • paint the planter box in front
  • convert the front verge into a dry garden


  1. no fret, mate! me too was a bummer worse off when i was in school. i see you have applied wht you learnt in the past, rather well. good on you. cheerios..


  3. Hi Nic, I sure would like to know which year you were in QSTS. I think I will link this post to Mr Aw's facebook. I did mentioned to Ms Chee the post you wrote mentioning her. I am an ex Queenstownian myself but I think I am way before your time.

    1. Dear sir, 91-94. Please extent my heartfelt thanks to Mr Aw.