I brought my friend along for a pre-Chinese New Year shopping excursion in the heat of an equitorial sun. Since the open market was part of our plan it was convenient to drop by to see the elderly Chinese tailor opposite the Pork Market.
My children used to go to him for alteration of jeans (shortening and tightening)! For shortening of trousers he has been charging only RM5 . This tailor has not upped his price for the last 20 years! How kind of him. But his tailoring fee has gone up "just a little and not too much" .
All these years my family and I find him to be very honest and he also has an interesting and remarkable way of keeping tab of the clothes his customers bring in to alter without name or number. The clothes are always kept in the plastic bags they come in. He never labels them. Good thing his customers are also very honest people. Once I brought three pairs of trousers my son wanted altered. When I came to collect the trousers he "double checked" . He asked me these questions :"Three - two blue and one black in foreign looking plastic bag?" and " All the trousers had price tags on? " I said in the affirmative and then he took out the plastic bag without a blink of an eye and asked me to check again. Sherlock Holmes?
I think he has a very good memory.
Here he is being very chatty with us as most of his "business" has been done and most of the CNY clothes have been taken. He has met all his deadlines for Chinese New Year. His clients include all races in Miri and the Baram. Sometimes he makes school uniforms too. "Anything if I can make it" he said.
"This cupboard is 60 years old! and I have been here for that long too! I designed all these cupboards..."
This is the Singer sewing machine. He changes the piece of cloth every now and then. For this new year this is a new piece of cloth to "cover " or screen the legs (for decency and modesty) of his lady helper . When we arrived at his shop his helper has gone off to do Chinese New Year shopping.
This is the old block of (belian) wood for making of button holes and hammering of jeans buttons.
Western suits he made for customers but unclaimed for a long time.
This type of hanger is more than 40 years old. Made from very good European wood. Imported from England. How I wish I can buy them from him. Not for sale he said.
This is real English textiles. Real wool.
His shop is half shop lot and his neighbouring shopowner's daughter was very eager to tell me about his business too. So I made her my model. Sweet girl who is very articulate. She told me that this table he designed is very "practical" and he cuts his materials there. Project Runway? I too think that his specially designed table is very ergonomic. Can be extended by raising the flap on the right if he needs to cut longer materials or making a bigger pattern. There are two drawers for the tools of his trade. An iron is on a lower shelf. The front portion has two sliding doors with two shelves . This too is 60 years old.
Here after our conversation he posed shyly to show the whole space he has been working in for the last 60 years!! Well in terms of convenience of service I would consider him one of the angels of Miri.
His shop is really convenient for most of us. We can walk in from the back of his shop after we park our car. If we are in a hurry we can easily park in front for a short while. Even though the shop has no air conditioning we enjoy passing through and saying hello.
This block of shops is the only shop block which is one storey designed in the European style constructed to serve the original oil drillers of Miri in 1903. The shops are the same level as the road outside. Considered the oldest block of shops in Miri and is owned by a Malay Consortium. This is in fact very original and very historical.
As I stood there observing life passing by I did let my imagination run wild and imagine a horse cart tied to the front and an oil driller going into the central market for a cup of coffee with the Hainanese family surnamed Wee. Life in 1903 must have been most interesting.
Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year to him and his family!!