Go big or go home…

Archive for May 2009

J and I both guessed his age as 50. He claimed to be 68.

Eat good food.
Do tai chi every morning.
Make love every night.


Here’s a suggested itinerary. For the best results, get two lovely friends to fly into Singapore on a Tuesday evening, and out again on Wednesday evening. Remember to take the day off work!

First, stay up until 3am on Wednesday morning, drinking pink Champagne, eating wedding cake, looking at wedding photos, watching wedding videos and giggling. (NB, this part of the tour works best if one or more of you recently got married.)

Get up at 8.30am with a hangover.

9am – Pop down to the pool for 10 reviving and invigorating lengths. After four and a half lengths pretend you have finished and get in the jacuzzi. (If you’re an unfortunate soul without a pool or jacuzzi perhaps you and your friends could run around the block and then shower together. Nothing weird about that.)

10am – Head out to Clarke Quay. Catch a riverboat cruise from Sir Stamford Raffles’s landing place.

Messing about on the river

Messing about on the river

12pm – Stroll through the CBD to Lau Pa Sat. Hope to beat the lunchtime rush. Fail. Force your friends to eat carrot cake.

1pm – Become hot, bothered and too hungover to cope with the sun. Decide air-conditioned pursuits are a good idea and take a taxi to the National Museum, to see the History of Singapore exhibit.

3pm – Attempt to catch a cab to Haw Par Villa. After the first empty cab drives past, move to a better spot. Once the second empty cab fails to stop, find an official cab rank. Get in a cab and immediately get ejected by a driver who’s about to change shifts. Reject the next cab because it doesn’t take Nets. Take the next cab to your destination. Remember, don’t accept anything less than the fifth empty taxi!

Haw Par - you have to go there to really understand the craziness

Haw Par - you have to go there to really understand the craziness

4.30pm – After delighting in the absurd kitschery of 70-year-old morality statues, make your way to Raffles Hotel for obligatory cocktails. Realise that the hotel is next to the museum and that maybe the order of your itinerary is flawed. No need to say anything! Stash that map in the bottom of your bag and your guests will be none the wiser.

6.30pm – To bastardise Dorothy Parker, one martini is too many, two is never enough. Hey, you should, like, eat, or something? To the Banana Leaf!

7pm – Singapore is famous for many different dishes. If one of your guests is a recovering pescaphobe, why not pick fish head curry as the dish to showcase.

Fish head curry

Fish head curry

8.30pm – Enjoy a leisurely stroll through Little India, before returning home to pack.

9.30pm – Wave your friends off. It’s common for grit or dust to get in your eyes at this point, don’t worry if you find them watering.

Congratulations! You are now a Singapore tour guide!

The beach on Pulau Dayang, Malaysia

The beach on Pulau Dayang, Malaysia

I can catch a bus after work on Friday evening and dive here at 8am on Saturday morning.

I saw a woman on the MRT this morning clutching a thick Aran jumper.

Now, people do sometimes wear warmish clothes here – the occassional cardy, perhaps a hoody or a fashionable jacket. But really, cable-knit?

For what eventuality was this woman planning? A sudden hail storm; a deep-sea fishing trip? In either of those scenarios, she’d probably find her flip-flops somewhat lacking.

We're almost on the equator. It's unlikely to turn a bit nippy.

We're almost on the equator. It's unlikely to turn a bit nippy.

I haven’t subconsciously picked up any Singlish yet, but I do find myself deliberately modifying my speech.

On my way to work this morning I had the following exchange with a cabbie:

Me: Nets can?
Him: Ah, money can?
Me: Eh, no money for lunch, ah!

Which means:

Me: Please could I pay using my Nets bank card?
Him: Waiting five minutes for the card reader to process is something of a hassle. Perhaps you could pay by cash?
Me: Well, I *could* pay cash, but I don’t have much on me at the moment, let’s stick to Nets shall we?

Incidentally, if the card reader were actually broken (or he pretended it was) it would have been:

Me: Nets can?
Him: Nets cannot. Money can.

The definite ‘cannot’ changes ‘Please could you pay cash’ from a question to a statement.

The grammar in Singapore is more Chinese, yet the alphabet and vocabulary is more English. Which is the sensible way round – combining English verb declensions with Chinese characters could trigger some kind of language apocalypse.

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Regular readers, ambushed listeners and those who provided sanctuary will remember that our bloody buggering London flat tried to burn down at Christmas.

I think we can say that fate (that malicious and imaginary card shark) dealt us a bad hand. The fire screwed everything except our letting agent. The letting agent was screwed by the bus that drove through its offices.

But we’re smart cookies, right? Smart cookies can play a bad hand well, especially if an army of friends and family step in to make three months of dual home ownership manageable.

Wrong. We played a bad hand really, really badly.

Two weeks ago there was finally light at the end of the tunnel. A friend of a friend was in situ, acting as caretaker in return for very low rent, and ready to move out at a few days’ notice.

Another friend of a friend, S, was waiting to view the place. We were happy to offer her cheap rent given that we knew her, she knew us, she was likely to be an amenable tenant, and our mutual friend would be on hand to mediate.

Finally, we had a potential tenant via the letting agent – the first they’d produced in four months of showing the property. Sticking with the agency would leave us (slightly) better off financially, but the tenants wanted us to remove the bed. And the sofa. And have the place ready to move into within three days.

Our instincts told us to hold out until S had viewed the place. The agency hadn’t instilled us with much confidence anyway, having lost a lot of paperwork and sent us survey results for the wrong property – it would be good to cut the apron strings.

But they leaned on us. Hard. “You have to move now, you can’t rely on getting another offer,” all that crap. We panicked and jumped. Bed moved. Sofa moved. S viewing cancelled.

In the frenzy, favour-doing caretaker was forgotten. She was evicted in the worst possible way – removal men arrived at 11pm to take her bed, just as she as about to get into it.

We disregarded the efforts of many good friends at the agency’s say so, and now we have tenants in place, the agents are agitating.

– We didn’t leave enough keys

Why did no one from the agency ask us for extra sets at any point during the past FOUR MONTHS?

– The paint work is shabby and needs re-doing

Too true, my friends. I believe this was also the case before the contract and inventory were signed – shoulda mentioned it then.

– The floorboards are old and worn

The floorboards are indeed old, being one of the few Victorian features to survive the conversion. If you think I’m covering ‘em up with Ikea laminate to satisfy the fickle demands of the rental market then you can go suck my… oh wait, this is the non-sweary blog, right?

Gah. I know I’m being unnecessarily stroppy, but it kinda makes me feel better. Being angry at the agent lets me pretend that I didn’t treat my friends badly or make a stupid letting decision that I’m stuck with for the next 12 months.

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Posted on: May 7, 2009

The old man leaned over while I was eating.

“You hold your chopsticks better than I do,” he confided. “How my mother tried to teach me as a child.”

I wonder how the woman would feel if she knew her standards lived on as crude illustrations on the back of chopstick wrappers.

I think this is a Japanese game that teaches kids to use chopsticks

I think this is a Japanese game that teaches kids to use chopsticks