English Grammar – Top 7 Commonly Confused Uncountable Nouns

A noun is a word that refers to a person, place, thing, event, substance or quality.  Seems simple enough but nouns can also be very confusing. For example, some people have a tough time distinguishing countable nouns and uncountable nouns. Certain words in the English language seem countable but are actually uncountable nouns. Let’s look at seven of them: 

1  Equipment 

♦  All medical equipment must be sterilised before use. 

♦  The photographer arrived at the venue early to set up his equipment.

NOTE: As ‘equipment’ is uncountable, we cannot say ‘an equipment’ or ‘equipments’. To refer to a single item of equipment, we say a piece of equipment. The same applies to ‘furniture’ and ‘luggage’.

2  Furniture 

♦  He likes to collect antique furniture

♦  We need to buy a few more pieces of furniture for the guest room. 

3  Luggage 

♦  You should never leave your luggage unattended. 

♦  Let’s drop our luggage off at the hotel and go sightseeing. 

4  Accommodation (mainly UK)

♦  There’s a shortage of affordable accommodation in major cities like London.

♦  The cost includes flight, accommodation and meals. 

NOTE: ‘accommodations’ (plural) is used in the US.

5  Feedback 

♦  The new programme received a lot of positive feedback from viewers. 

♦  Please give us your feedback by completing this questionnaire. 

6  Evidence 

♦  Scientific evidence shows a link between smoking and lung cancer.

♦  Two pieces of evidence incriminating him were found last week.

7  Research 

♦  They are conducting some fascinating research on animal languages. 

♦  It was a useful piece of research

 

Finally, in case you didn’t know, money is uncountable BUT dollars, pounds and other monetary units are countable. 🙂

 

Sponge ME, English Tuition (Singapore)

English Vocabulary – Five Pairs of Commonly Confused English Words

Commonly Confused English Words

1. Beside vs Besides

Beside (preposition): next to or at the side of someone or something 

The girl standing beside Tom is Mary. 

Besides (preposition): in addition to/apart from someone or something

Besides working as a teacher, she also writes freelance for a fashion magazine.

 

2. Principle vs Principal

Principle (noun; usually plural): a moral rule or a strong belief that influences your actions

Lucy will not lie as she has high moral principles. 

Principle (noun): a law, a rule or a theory that something is based on

The syllabus covers basic principles of accounting. 

Principal (adjective): most important; main

Tourist revenue is the country’s principal source of wealth.

Principal (noun): the person who is in charge of a school

John is the principal of Hillview High School. 

 

3. Compliment vs Complement

Compliment (noun): a remark that expresses praise or admiration of someone 

It is a great compliment to be asked to be the guest-of-honour. 

Compliments (noun; plural): polite words or good wishes, especially when used to express praise and admiration

Please give my compliments to the wonderful chef.

Compliment (verb): to tell someone that you like or admire something he/she has done, etc.

He complimented Betsy on her new hairstyle.

Complement (verb): to add to something in a way that improves it or makes it more attractive

The excellent menu is complemented by a good wine list.

 

4. Access vs Assess

Access (noun): a way of entering or reaching a place

The burglars gained access through a broken window.

Access (verb): reach, enter or use something

This room can only be accessed by authorised personnel.

Assess (verb): to make a judgement about the nature or quality of someone/something

The government will assess how well the new system works.

 

5. Emigrate vs Immigrate 

Emigrate (verb): to leave your own country to go and live permanently in another country

The family left India in 1975 and emigrated to the United States.

Immigrate (verb): to come and live permanently in a country after leaving your own country

About 6.6 million people immigrated to the United States in the 1970s.

Sponge ME, English Tuition (Singapore)

Teacher’s Day Card from Vera

Couldn’t resist posting this self-made Teacher’s Day Card from Vera (Secondary 1, 2021). Such talent and that hamster… OMG it’s way too cute! 😍 Is that suppose to be Tutor Leon on his motorcycle? He’s definitely no cutie hamster! 🤣 Thank you, Vera, for your heartwarming Teacher’s Day gift! 😘

Personal Recount Model Essay #4

Personal Recount Model Essay - I felt Liberated

“I felt liberated.” Write about a time when you felt this way. 

“Don’t be afraid, Rachel. You can tell me everything.” 

Mrs Sim’s warm chocolate eyes stared into mine, her soft, soothing voice filled my ears. 

The sea of calm inside me turned into chaos as I made eye contact with the “monsters” standing behind her. 

One of them mouthed to me, “Don’t… or else…” 

If looks could kill, I would have withered there and then. 

I ran as fast as my legs could carry me — left, right, left, left, right. I did not know where I was heading, but definitely away from my bullies. I did not have to turn back to know that they were hot on my heels. 

“You can run, but you can’t hide,” they taunted me from behind. 

Suddenly, my hair was yanked and immediately, I fell to the ground with a loud thud. Seconds later, three sinister figures towered over me, snickering. Tears rimmed my eyes as they stood there, calling me names, making faces and laughing at me. 

“Okay, okay, girls. Remember that’s not what we came here for today,” Stella, the leader of the three, held her hands out, silencing the other two. 

“So, Rachel, we need you to vandalise the canteen and blame it on the auntie from the chicken rice stall. 

My head shot up, eyes widened. 

“But… but that’s really evil,” I muttered. 

“Do it or I’ll ask my father to suspend you from school,” she said in a cold, contemptuous voice. 

I knew it was a promise, not a threat. Stella’s father was the chairman of the school board and he doted on her very much. If anyone got in her way, all it took was for Stella to tell him and that student would be suspended from school. 

With that, the three bullies spun around and left, leaving me in my thoughts. I felt trapped and prayed for liberation from tyranny. 

“Maybe I am the coward they say I am,” I thought to myself, and soon enough, I was drowned in my negativity. 

That night, I put on my black hoodie and grey sweatpants and made my way to school. My mother had fought hard to get me a spot in this prestigious school and I could not afford to get suspended. When I reached there, I did what I was asked to do and placed the spray cans back in Stella’s locker. 

The next day in school, I was in the toilet when I was suddenly pushed into a cubicle. Pain shot through my back as it hit the toilet seat. 

“What’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you shut my locker properly? Are you trying to get me into trouble!” Stella shrieked. 

At that, her two minions grabbed my arms and she began slapping me. They only stopped after a good five minutes, leaving me in tears and misery.

“Stop! Let me go!” 

I heard the familiar high-pitched voice and stepped out of the toilet, wiping my tears with the back of my hand. What I saw was completely unexpected. The discipline mistress and two prefects were grabbing the trio’s arms and dragging them in the direction of the general office. 

“What’s going on?” I asked a student nearby. 

It turned out that the student had witnessed Stella and her minions abusing me in the toilet and reported it to Mrs Sim. 

“Rachel, come with us,” Mrs Sim called out to me. 

I thanked the student profusely before hurrying after Mrs Sim. 

“Rachel, are you all right? Rachel?” Mrs Sim’s gentle voice brought me back to the present. 

“It’s okay. You can tell me everything,” she reassured me. I looked into her caring eyes and back at Stella’s menacing glare. 

Should I tell the truth? 

Yes. 

No. 

Yes. 

No. 

Yes. It was time to pull myself free from the bullies’ clutches. 

“Where should I begin? I asked. 

I had put up with the abuse for too long and I had enough. The moment I made the decision to tell the truth, I felt liberated. 

Secondary 1, 2021, English Tuition

Primary English Tuition Singapore

Primary English Tuition Singapore Sponge ME

Meet Mui Gek, our Associate English Tutor for Primary Level

Primary English Tutor Singapore Mui GekAn ex-school teacher and current private tutor, Mui Gek is passionate about helping all her students hone their writing skills as well as boost their confidence in the subject. Over the years, she has crafted a wealth of teaching materials for her lessons.

Education: Bachelor of Arts (National University of Singapore)
NIE Trained: Post-Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)
Teaching Experience: 9 years in secondary school (Lower Secondary English), 3 years in enrichment centre (Primary English and Creative Writing), 4 years as a private tutor (Primary English)

Contact us to find out more about Mui Gek’s small group primary English tuition.

Discursive / Argumentative Model Essay #4

What good shall I do this day cup

What are some of the values one can learn from the Values in Action Programme (VIA)?

In Singapore, it is compulsory for students of all levels to participate in the Values in Action Programme (VIA). The programme, which requires students to fulfil at least six hours of community work a year, was implemented with the aim of introducing youths to the notion of volunteerism and encouraging them to contribute back to society. As a student who has taken part in several VIA projects, I personally find the programme an educational one that cultivates many good values.

Firstly, VIA inculcates a sense of altruism in students. These days, many parents and educators use the carrot and stick approach to motivate the young to behave well or study hard. While the method has its merits, it also inevitably gives the wrong impression that a good deed should always be rewarded. Such self-serving mindset is unacceptable and can be corrected through VIA. As the programme requires students to volunteer their service for a good cause without expecting remuneration or other forms of reward, they learn to put the needs and happiness of others before their own. This fosters a sense of community spirit and teaches them to be selfless givers, not just takers.

Secondly, VIA nurtures students into caring and compassionate individuals. As Singapore is an affluent country, the majority of youths here lead a comfortable and somewhat sheltered life. Consequently, many are blissfully ignorant of the plight of the less fortunate. VIA awakes their social conscience and allow them to become aware of the problems that affect some people in society such as being poor or suffering from terrible illnesses. Through helping these less fortunate brethren, students will not only learn to show compassion, but also count their blessings and appreciate what they have in life. 

In addition, VIA instils the value of hard work into students. For instance, students participating in a flag day are given the responsibility to collect money in public places for charity. The task is a real test of their diligence and perseverance as they have to be on their feet for hours and overcome all kinds of weather conditions. To raise as much funds as possible, they also have to be bold and conquer their fear of rejection by actively approaching people for donation. Sometimes, they even have to explain what the charity is about and convince people to give generously. It is by no means an easy task but students can look back with great satisfaction that they have worked hard and carried out their duties to the best of their ability.

Apart from that, VIA teaches students the importance of good teamwork. Besides donation drives, the programme also involves students in other volunteer work such as visiting the homes of the underprivileged where they help to clean, paint and repair. These homes are usually in a state of dilapidation and a lot of work is required to improve their condition. Thankfully, many hands make light work and students will learn that with cooperative teamwork, they can get the job done swiftly and successfully. Through the experience, they will also learn to deal with different types of personalities and enhance their interpersonal and communication skills.

In a nutshell, VIA is an educational programme that develops students into caring and socially responsible individuals. Even though students are not financially rewarded, they will benefit from the programme in more ways than one and learn important values that money cannot buy through volunteering their time, effort and skills.

Secondary 2, 2018, English Tuition

English Grammar – Loss vs Lost

Both loss and lost have to do with losing. In this post, you will learn the difference between loss and lost.

When to use ‘loss’?

Loss is a noun (naming word) and is defined as the state of no longer having something or as much of something.

Examples:

  • I want to report the loss of a package (singular).
  • The closure of the factory will lead to a number of job losses (plural).

When to use ‘lost’?

Lost is the past tense and past participle of lose. To lose something is to misplace it or have it taken away by someone or something. Since lost is a verb (action word), you should expect to see it following a subject of some kind.

Examples:

  • I have lost my car keys.
  • Some families lost everything in the flood.

Lost is also an adjective that describes a noun.

Examples:

  • Your letter must have got lost in the post.
  • She is still looking for that lost cat.

 

Sponge ME, English Tuition (Singapore)

Narrative Model Essay #2

Expectations

Standing on the edge of the rooftop, Benson had a melancholic look on his face; as if he did not care whether he lived or died. Overwhelmed with despair, he suddenly broke into a loud cry, “Stop it! Leave me alone, please!”

“Why? Feeling like a loser? Wait, you are! You’re pathetic!” the little voice in his head continued to spew vicious insults.

“No! I’m not a loser! I’m Benson, The Flying Fish! I’m the best!”

“The best? Then what happened today? You’ve failed everyone! You don’t deserve to live! You should die! DIE!”

A feeling of emptiness gripped Benson’s heart as floods of tears streamed down his face. He covered his ears with his hands to block off the sinister voice in his head but it only became louder, drowning his sanity.

Benson was a professional swimmer. By the age of 13, he had already won countless gold medals in various national swimming competitions. The Singapore Sports School saw his potential and recruited him with the aim to mould him into a world class swimmer. Benson knew how lucky he was to be given such a wonderful opportunity. His family, friends and coach had high hopes of him and he did not wish to let them down. Thus, he trained hard and long, spending up to 12 hours a day in the pool. His efforts finally paid off when he not only came in first but also broke the world record for the men’s 100-metre freestyle race at the Commonwealth Games.

Overnight, Benson became a sensation. He had exceeded all expectations and everyone loved him. The whole of Singapore celebrated his remarkable victory and he was aptly nicknamed “The Flying Fish” by the media. Everywhere Benson went, he was swamped by legions of ardent supporters. Everybody asked if he would break his own record. Unknown to them, their high expectations brought him tremendous stress. Soon, pressure built up and he was losing sleep and appetite. He also became depressed and kept to himself. His teammates would often see him alone in the changing room, facing the wall and talking to himself. However, not realising that these were the early signs of schizophrenia, they would leave him alone.

The long-awaited race finally arrived. It was the qualifying round for the Olympics Games and Benson had trained tirelessly for this moment. He desperately wanted to do Singapore proud and nothing must go wrong.

Benson stood on the plunge board, waiting for the referee to blow the whistle. Thousands of frightful thoughts flooded his mind and he was talking to himself again. Suddenly, he plunged into the pool. The spectators were flabbergasted. Lowering his head in mortification, Benson returned to his position. One more false start and he would be disqualified. Cold sweat trickled down his forehead as fear gripped him like a vice. He started to tremble violently, as if another person had entered his body. Once again, he dived into the pool before the whistle was heard. His family, friends and coach gasped in horror, unable to believe their eyes. A humiliated Benson emerged from the pool and immediately stormed out of the stadium. His loved ones chased after him and everyone ended up at the rooftop.

Benson was in a state of fluster. The voice in his head was making all kinds of nasty remarks about him and he could not shut it out.

“Look, you loser. Everyone is here to laugh at you! You’re the joke of the century!” the voice ridiculed him.

Benson turned around and looked at his loved ones. All of them were very concerned and anxiety was written all over their faces. Nevertheless, the troubled boy saw an entirely different picture. They were staring at him wide-eyed, trying to stifle their giggles.

“I’m sorry to fail all of you. I’m sorry for not living up to your expectations,” Benson spoke in a faint murmur, gulping back his tears.

Then, he spread his arms and threw himself off the building. A flicker of smile crossed his face as the voice in his head finally stopped.

Secondary 3, 2011, English Tuition

Discursive / Argumentative Model Essay #3

“Money can’t buy happiness.” What are your views?

Can you imagine living without money in this day and age? Is it even possible to survive without money in today’s materialistic and cash-driven world? It has been said that money makes the world go round. Hence, it is no wonder that money has become the central focus of many people’s lives. Everyone seems to be working tirelessly for money. Even students are studying hard so that they can get a well-paid job and earn lots of money in future. Although I think money cannot buy happiness, it is something that we cannot live without.

It is clear that money cannot buy happiness as many people who work hard and long every day for money are often very unhappy. Most of them do not even have time to spend their hard-earned money due to heavy workload or long working hours. They have no time or energy for leisure activities and needless to say, their family and friends hardly get to see them too. This can make them feel lonely and depressed. Thus, working hard for money does not bring happiness but instead misery in this case.

Worse still, money is often the main culprit that ruins relationships. People frequently fight over money and this can become a very serious problem, whether it is between friends or family members. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear of family members fighting over inheritance or longtime business partners squabbling over money-related matters. In some cases, ugly lawsuits ensue and relationships are destroyed forever. What then is the point of having lots of money when there is no one to share it with?

However, from a different perspective, money can sometimes make one happy. For some, earning enough money to pay their monthly bills and put food on the table makes them happy. For others, it could be saving up enough money to buy things of their interests or go on a dream vacation. Having some savings instead of living pay cheque to pay cheque also gives one peace of mind. After all, a person cannot possibly be happy if he or she is constantly worrying about running into financial difficulties. Hence, money does buy happiness where one’s survival is concerned or when he wishes to satisfy his wants.

Mark Twain once said, “The lack of money is the root of all evil.” I agree with him as no one can survive without money in this day and age. Like it or not, money matters and one’s financial situation has a direct bearing on his happiness. That said, money does not guarantee contentment. Money often rears its ugly head and ruins relationships. One also has to make sacrifices such as lack of family time in the pursuit of wealth and material comforts. Therefore, to be happy, I think one must realise that there is more to happiness than money.

Secondary 3, 2017, English Tuition

The Family of Real Numbers – Integers

Enjoy this excerpt from Tutor Leon’s Secondary 1 Math tuition class. 😊

Tutor Leon: Can anyone tell me what real numbers are? Or… what type of numbers are considered real? Or… if you can’t explain it in words, you can give me examples of what real numbers are.

Student Ethan: I know, I know… they are not fake numbers! [Class giggles]

Tutor Leon: Haha… very funny, Ethan. But… it’s actually kinda true! “Fake numbers” do exist! [Bewildered look on everyone’s faces 😮  ]

Student Ethan: Huh!?!? Sure or not, Cher?

Tutor Leon: Well… put it this way – numbers that are NOT real do exist. However, we don’t call them fake numbers. They are called imaginary numbers. For now, you do NOT need to concern yourself with imaginary numbers as they are beyond your O-level syllabus. [Sigh of relief from the class] For secondary level mathematics, numbers that you deal with are ALL real. For now, just know that besides real numbers, imaginary numbers also exists. Ok?

The Entire Class: Ok!!

Tutor Leon: So… back to my original question, what are real numbers? [Class ponders… 🤔  ]

Tutor Leon: How about this. You can think of real numbers as a family of numbers, just like how your immediate and extended families are made up of various members like your father, mother, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, cousins, etc. So what are the different types of numbers that belong to the real number family? Megan, what do you think?

Student Megan: Err… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … and so on?

Tutor Leon: Hmm… that’s not a bad start. Yes, real numbers include the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on. Can you tell me what is the largest number you can think of?

Student Riley: Gazillion!! Just kidding… hahaha… err… I think it’s called infinity? 😬

Tutor Leon: That’s a decent answer, Riley! You’re kinda right. There are an infinite number of real numbers. However, infinity is NOT an actual number, but rather the idea that something is endless. Meaning that real numbers go on and on forever and ever. Does that make sense? [Class nods in unison] Ok, so the next question is… does anyone know what the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on are called?

Student Riley: Cher, you mean numbers have names?

Tutor Leon: Sort of… just like how in science, in order to make sense of things around us, we categorise or classify different types of animals, plant life, etc. So the same applies to numbers, especially since there are an infinite number of them. To help us understand numbers better. Wouldn’t it make sense to categorise the different types of numbers?

Student Riley: Guess so… err… so what are the numbers called?

Tutor Leon: Good question! 😉  Numbers starting from 1 then 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on are called natural numbers.

Student Megan: Natural numbers? Why natural?

Tutor Leon: Another good question! Do you remember the time when you were much younger, as a toddler, when you were learning your ABC’s and of course learning how to count? [Class nods] Didn’t we all start counting from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … [Class nods again] Exactly! It’s simply the most natural way for most of us to count numbers… hence natural numbers. Sometimes natural numbers are also known as counting numbers.

The Entire Class: Oorrrhh…

Tutor Leon: So imagine that the real number family started with natural numbers but was still not a complete family yet. More numbers were added to the real number family. Any idea what comes before 1?

The Entire Class: Zero!!

For more insights on the origins of the number 0, please read “History of Zero“.

Tutor Leon: Spot on! Yes, then the number 0 joined the family. However, since zero is NOT natural, we had to think of another category to call numbers from 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on. Can anyone tell me what these numbers are called?

Student Ethan: Artificial numbers!! Hahaha… [Class giggles]

Tutor Leon: That’s a little corny, Ethan. Come on, seriously, what are these numbers called?

Student Ethan: 😝

Student Megan: Whole numbers!

Tutor Leon: Bingo!!

Student Ethan: Wah… steady lah… 👍

Student Megan: 😏  Just guessing.

Tutor Leon: If it was a guess, it was an intelligent guess. Well done, Megan. With the number 0, the number family was finally made whole. In other words, numbers starting from 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on are called whole numbers. Is that it? Are there no other numbers in the real number family? Or perhaps are there other numbers smaller than zero? Hint… hint. 😉

Student Ethan: I know… I know… really… really… it’s negative numbers! Negative 1, negative 2, negative 3 and so on.

For more information on the origins of negative numbers, please read “History of Negative Numbers“.

Tutor Leon: Very good! That’s absolutely right! So… the question is: Are negative numbers natural?

The Entire Class: NO!!

Tutor Leon: Are negative numbers whole numbers?

Student Riley: Hell no!

Tutor Leon: So… what are numbers …-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … and so on categorised as?

Student Megan: I can’t quite remember… but I think it’s “inter” something.

Tutor Leon: You are very close. Anyone else wants to try?

Student Riley: In… ter… jar??

Tutor Leon: Good try… almost there! They are called… integers. I-n-t-e-g-e-r-s. In-te-gers.

Student Megan: Yah… yes… yes… integers!!

Tutor Leon: So now that we know a negative whole number is an integer. Is a positive whole number an integer?

The Entire Class: Yes!!

Tutor Leon: That’s right! Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on are ALL integers. How about zero? Is the number 0 an integer?

Student Ethan: Yes. Confirm! Zero is an integer.

Student Megan: I disagree! Zero is errr… errr… hmmm… actually I’m not sure. I don’t think zero is negative, or is it considered positive?

Tutor Leon: Awesome! I’m glad you guys are giving it more thought. Zero… is… an… integer! Yes, some do get confused as integers are often related to negative and positive numbers. How you can think about zero is that it is a special integer that is neither positive nor negative. Does that make a little more sense to you?

The Entire Class: Yesss!

Tutor Leon: Ok, great! Let’s summarise…

Tutor Leon then summarises with the diagram below and continues with a more in-depth Q&A session on real numbers with the math class.

To be continued…

Stay tuned for future blog posts on other real number family members, such as non-integers (i.e. fractions and decimals), rational/irrational numbers and last but not least, prime numbers.

Sponge ME, Maths Tuition (Singapore)

English Vocabulary – Top 5 Bizarre Terms by Students

1  Oftenly (instead of ‘often’)

  • Student’s sentence: People who smoke oftenly are more prone to lung cancer.
  • Get it right: People who smoke often are more prone to lung cancer. (‘Often’ and ‘frequently’ are synonyms, BUT unlike ‘frequently’, ‘often’ DOES NOT end with ‘ly’.)

2  Oning (instead of ‘switching on’ or ‘turning on’)

  • Student’s sentence: I was oning the TV when the phone rang. 
  • Get it right: I was switching on the TV when the phone rang. (‘On’ is NOT a verb! Use phrasal verbs like ‘switch on’ or ‘turn on’.)

3  Betterer (instead of ‘better’)

  • Student’s sentence: She is betterer at science than her sister.
  • Get it right: She is better at science than her sister. (There’s no such word as ‘betterer’. The correct comparative adjective is ‘better’.)

4  More worse (instead of ‘worse’)

  • Student’s sentence: My results are more worse this time.
  • Get it right: My results are worse this time. (‘Worse’ is a comparative adjective, so there’s NO NEED for ‘more’.)

5  Agreeded (instead of ‘agreed’)

  • Student’s sentence: Everyone agreeded that it was a good plan.
  • Get it right: Everyone agreed that it was a good plan. (‘Agreed’ is the past tense of ‘agree’. There’s no such word as ‘agreeded’.)

🤣  🤣  🤣  🤣  🤣

Sponge ME, English Tuition (Singapore)

Personal Recount Model Essay #3

Write about a time you did not take the advice someone had given you and you regretted it.

Our school’s photography club was headed towards Lower Pierce Reservoir for a field trip. Upon arrival, our CCA teacher-in-charge, Madam Toh announced, “You have two hours. Meet here at four-thirty!” I hurried off with my best friend, Albus. Our mission that day was simple. We were having a competition and the best picture with the most apt caption would win a prize. I was determined to win the “Best Photographer Award”. The flora and fauna at Lower Pierce Reservoir was stunning. Birds were twittering away gaily on the trees, bees were humming and dancing in the flower beds and the leaves on the tree branches were swaying gently in the breeze. I closed my eyes and felt the breeze caressing my face.

“Harry, let’s take a picture of that tree!” Albus suggested, pointing at an umbrella-shaped tree which was nearby. Just then, I saw a troop of playful monkeys near some shrubs. Having rarely seen monkeys, I was naturally excited. I found them so adorable and charming. A few smaller-sized monkeys were intimidated by Albus’ and my presence and scurried away. However, there was one bold monkey which was unperturbed by humans and shot us a curious look. The monkeys all looked scrawny and hungry. I saw a couple of them rummaging through the dustbin. My heart wrung with sympathy for them. Remembering that I had some leftover sandwiches from recess, I zipped open my bag and fished out my lunch box.

Albus seemed to have read my mind. “Harry, you are not going to feed the monkeys, are you?” That sign clearly states not to feed the monkeys!” Albus reminded me, his eyebrows creasing into a frown. I brushed off his concern and edged closer to the monkeys. “Harry, steer clear of those monkeys! They might become aggressive!” Albus advised. Once again, I shrugged off my friend’s warnings. Anyway, what could a mere small monkey do to me?

With a piece of bread in my hand, I edged closer towards one of the monkeys which was nearest to me. The monkey seemed to have noticed me and when it spotted the piece of bread, it started scuttling towards me. Albus looked worried and warned me again. “Harry, no!” I looked back at Albus nonchalantly. I was sure I knew what I was doing. The puny creature could not possibly do any harm to me. The monkey looked more curious and friendly than belligerent. Its piercing green eyes were fixed on the food which it was about to get.

I stretched out my hand and offered the piece of bread to the monkey, which wore a look of happiness. It swiftly snatched the bread over, which disappeared down its throat in two seconds flat. Then it stared at me, as if thanking me for the delectable treat. Victorious looks spread across my face as I whipped around and looked triumphantly at Albus. “See, Albus. It’s harmless. It’s all right to feed the monkeys!” I exclaimed proudly. Albus just sighed. My best friend still looked concerned. From my school bag, I pulled out a packet of potato chips, which was my snack.

Suddenly, I heard some monkeys chattering behind me. I turned around and almost jumped out of my skin. Dozen pairs of green eyes were staring at me. More monkeys had emerged from the shrubs and there were at least ten monkeys around us. Where did all these monkeys come from? I had no idea that my packet of potato chips was like a magnet to the ravenous monkeys. My heart started thumping frenetically, as if it was trying to ram its way out of my chest. The monkeys started screeching and all hell broke loose. Clearly, the monkeys’ target was my food. However, I was not going to give away my entire packet of chips. My mother only allowed me to indulge in junk food once a month, and my intention was to give a few chips to the monkeys and savour the rest myself. Oh-oh. How wrong was I! Within a few seconds, I was surrounded by a bunch of ravenous monkeys.

One bold monkey attempted to snatch the potato chips from my hand. I was not about to give up my favourite snack so easily. I tried to shoo the monkey away. Then unexpectedly, I let out a painful yelp. “Ouch!” The monkey’s sharp claws had dug into my flesh. I could feel an excruciating pain sear through my arm and I dropped my packet of chips. Instantly, the monkeys tore and ripped at the plastic wrapping. “Are you all right?” Albus asked me, a concerned look etched on his face.

“You were right Albus. I should have heeded your advice,” I mumbled softly, as regret gnawed at my insides. When we went back to the meeting point where Madam Toh was, she gave me a severe dressing down and our field trip ended abruptly. I was brought to the hospital for outpatient treatment. I was told by the doctor that if the scratches had gone deeper into my skin, I would require stitches. I was given an injection and two courses of antibiotics to complete. “You should have listened to Albus. He has always been more prudent than you!” Mother admonished me.

All these happened because I had not heeded my friend’s advice. If only I could turn back the clock. From that day onwards, I have always steered clear of monkeys. I had not expected the harmless-looking creatures to turn aggressive over food. Till today, horrors of that incident remain vivid in my memory. The “No Feeding The Monkeys” sign is there for a purpose and it was foolhardiness on my part to disregard it.

Secondary 1, 2016, English Tuition