Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas Eve, the candles are lit, fairy lights twinkle, the choir of Westminster Abbey sings carols quietly in the background, the Christmas cards from friends and family deck the sideboard, tops of paintings, and book table, MasterB is paying misdirected carnal attentions towards his newest toy, a yellow feather boa that Octavia brought him from Melbourne.

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Little Innocent

I know there’s a term for this, people who are turned on by inanimate objects such as lamp posts or handbags, which though odd and somewhat disturbing, is probably no less odd than people who develop phobias about inanimate objects such as lamp posts or handbags. How common a condition these lusts are in cats I don’t know, and why this toy should have sparked such desires in MasterB I have no idea.

I’m spending the evening at home, just me and MasterB. This morning was work, last night nibbles and drinks here with some neighbours. I should have asked more people, but the flat is small and there’s limited seating. Reinhild came before joining her husband at the theatre; my lovely neighbour Lawrence who broke the news to me that he is moving in a month; Charlie (Mr Celia); B&J: Celia a bit later.

Charlie’s arrival was the signal for MasterB to go into hiding. He’s accepted Lawrence, but is deeply suspicious of Charlie. J was bereft. I have a feeling my invitation was only accepted as she wanted to see Himself again. It is a humbling experience to be less socially successful than one’s cat. She tried coaxing him out with biscuits, no luck. Eventually I opened the drawer in which he had secreted himself under the bed and he hopped out. Little Star, he not only conquered his fear of Charlie, he actually rubbed his face against Charlie’s feet, and spent the rest of the evening with us.

December has passed in a blur, hence the lack of blog posts and comments. I finally downloaded my holiday pictures, and looking at them has brought details of my trip flooding back. I probably say “when I was in Australia..” annoyingly often, and I know I should like to return there. Equally I should like to return to Singapore.

Here and in the US, as well as other countries in the west, we are increasingly seeing the politics of division on the rise; there is much talk about our differences, less about our similarities. More in Common became a rallying cry in the wake of the murder of MP Jo Cox by a right wing extremist. In Singapore I saw diverse communities living together in harmony. As a white westerner I was just another ethnic minority, accepted and welcomed. When I looked online at reasons why the crime levels in Singapore are so low, I found articles citing the heavy penalties for anti social behaviour: ten year prison sentences for graffiti for example. The slip of paper handed me by immigration when I entered the country warned of the death penalty for drug smuggling. But it didn’t feel to me as though Singaporeans were only behaving because they feared the consequences of stepping out of line, and I reckon there must be more carrot than stick that makes this society work. People seemed to have a real pride in Singapore, they wanted me, a vistor, to feel welcome. When the rain poured down I was offered the shelter of an umbrella to cross the street; people smiled at me and I smiled back.

One of the things that caught my eye was the Art Connector, a series of seats celebrating fifty years of independence, and all quoting lines from the National Pledge which says, in the four official languages of Singapore; English Chinese, Malay and Tamil:

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity
and progress for our nation.

The Art Connector

The Art Connector

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The Penultimate Leg part 1

I was going to call this the last leg, but that will be Heathrow to Home, and even this penultimate leg divides in separate parts however you look at it.

I was early to bed and earlyish to rise. With only five Singaporean dollars to my name this morning, the hotel blow out buffet was never an option. But I had a very good vegetarian selection at a nearby Indian café last night for a princely almost five dollars, and had the sense to ask if they did breakfasts. The answer being in the affirmative, once washed and my bags rearranged for the nth time, I set off.

It was obviously a breakfast venue popular with locals too.

You may not find Dynamic Dining in any of the eating guides to Singapore, but I recommend it for good food and friendly service. There was a slight hiccough with my coffee which was served already sweetened, but my food was great from the word go. It turns out one of the cooks used to work for P&O as a chef. The before and after pictures of my meal tell their own story.

 

This chap arrived by motorbike just as I was paying.

Then back to the hotel and a quick trip to the eighth floor for some last views of Singapore.

 

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A Day in Singapore

So here I am with an almost empty bottle of water and a half peeled satsuma bought in Marks and Spencer on the Walworth Road, banished from my room before I got back into it by a smiling maid who says she needs forty-five minutes to finish the room she’s doing now and then mine.

I’ve opted for an outdoor seat. Air con is all very well, but after spending most the day thus far walking about in 88% humidity and sheltering from a sudden but predicted thunderstorm, this almost feels cool.

The view from here

I like Singapore. I like it a lot. It enjoys London’s diversity with a sunnier, more relaxed temperament. By relaxed, I don’t mean laissez faire. Everyone seems to be working terrifically hard, but quite happy about it. There’s a lot of smiling. The hotel staff have been superb. I was given maps, they were drawn on, bus routes inked onto the streets; my boarding pass was printed, every question I have had so far has been patiently and conscientiously answered. The manager came to my room to reset the safe which wasn’t working. She chatted, and I mentioned I hadn’t had breakfast as the choice was a vast buffet or nothing. I just wanted something small, a cup of coffee and a croissant or equivalent. The next thing I know she’s back in the room with a cup of coffee and two small croissants. She also gave me her card in case I got lost as I told her that my sense of direction is not the best. So forget the bathroom, I would , come back to this hotel happily. I feel like a welcome, valued guest.

There’s a huge prison complex, I discover, just a couple of miles from the hotel. A big sign outside says Captains of Change. Rehab, Renew, Restart. You’ll never see that outside Pentonville or Wormwood Scrubs. The size of the prison is something of a surprise. Apart from one bit of graffiti and some litter that is negligible when you compare it to what blows along the average street in London every day, I have yet to see evidence of anti-social behaviour. The only hints are in the frequent notices – Pick Up Your Dog’s Poo being my favourite so far – and threats of fines or even the death penalty for those who disobey. I can only surmise that enforcing these notices is something of a priority, but all the same, not everyone in the prison complex can be a repeat Dog Poo offender. Though now I have mentioned dogs, I am wondering if Singapore’s dark underbelly includes the dog meat trade and the horrific cruelty that perpetuates. And if it does, then I very much hope the rehab works, nd is not just an airy fairy wish.

Not much sign of rebellious youth either. I have seen a couple of boys with those mega black ear studs that don’t so much pierce a lobe as dig a tunnel through it. Maybe the prison complex is full of teenage rebels. I’m told that chewing gum isn’t on sale to stop people from leaving it stuck to the pavement. Now that is an idea I should happily see replicated at home. I am now very curious about social structures here, and if Singapore dies have a dark side.

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In the Pre Dawn

Someone in the room next to mine has an early start. I imagine like me s/he has opted for sleep in a bed between flights, and a pre-dawn trip to the airport will be on the itinerary.

I am in Singapore. Though having only seen the airport and the hotel, I can’t say I have much of a sense of the place. Tomorrow I fly on to Melbourne, so this is a funny little hiatus where at 4.30 am local time, I am wondering how much money need to change, and indeed where I am going to go. Last night, before I fell into bed, I had been thinking of heading into Singapore City. Now I am wondering about staying local where it seems like there are coastal walks and a boat ride to an ‘unspoilt’ island.

However, if I don’t go back to sleep soon, I may be lying around the hotel reading my book. A bit of a waste, and I realise now I should have considered what I was going to do here and got organised some time in advance.

The plane ride was fine. At Heathrow someone called my name and I turned to see a woman with whom I had worked on a project some five or six years ago. We stood and chatted for about half an hour, and then it was time to slog out to my boarding gate. Heathrow is massive, but I still hadn’t been able to find any small bottles of face cream for sale that had the leaping bunny symbol. Continue reading