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Archive for the ‘climate’ Category

I’ve spent a lot of time moaning about missing autumn – time to redress the blog karma. It’s a balmy, misty 29C today, and it’s December!!! Weird but wonderful.

Ten months is just enough to have covered a full range of seasons here. I arrived during the Northeast Monsoon – people told me it was uncharacteristically cold and dry. Having fled the coldest English winter of my lifetime, it was obvious the Singaporeans were wrong. That shit was hot! I fainted twice during my first two weeks, from dehydration I think.

From May it dried out and temperatures started to creep. I was forced to reconsider my idea of hot. Sidewalks shimmered, aunties took off their cardigans, I even switched from walking on the sunlit side of the street (tourist) to the shaded side (local). I forgot it had ever rained, and a trip to the UK mid-summer confirmed I would never live in temperate climes again.

Come autumn, those temperate climes lured me with their siren songs. The thought of being away from England as the days darkened (I NEVER thought I’d write this) seemed impossible.

But at some point in the past few weeks that changed. The Southeast Monsoon arrived. The days are cooler, breezes dance round the clouds. Each morning I’m greeted by a quintessentially perfect English summer day, the sort that could only be conjured by Wodehouse or Richmal Crompton.

I look at the sky and grin. My first tropical Christmas is less than three weeks away!

This is *exactly* what I can see from my living room window.

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Except we don’t break our necks. We somehow stick to the surface and everything is mostly ok.

Yesterday was our nine month Singapore anniversary. I never used to notice time much, but now it’s measured in missing friends, family and home it’s felt more keenly.

A few thoughts from the past three months:

1. National identity.

I still can’t pin an identity to this strange city. Sometimes it seems like the glittering skyscrapers are a mirage, borne by the heat haze.

I’ve embarked on a mission to better understand the place where I live, which involves getting my head ’round a complex, sensitive past.

The population here is ageing, like most affluent countries, so there are still plenty who remember the Japanese occupation, and the torrid 50s race riots.

Events like that must shape a new-born nation. I’m gonna try and talk to a few people and see if I can understand more – watch this space.

2. Work.

Takes up most of my time, and I dedicate fewer hours to it than many colleagues. Even so, my desire to sleep 10 hours a night means some days I don’t do anything except go to work then go to bed.

I’m learning a lot, which is good, but the curve is occasionally precipitous, which is hard. Sometimes things click and I feel like I’m getting the hang of it, but there are still days that feel like big fat fuck-ups. I’m trying to keep the fuck-ups in proportion though – at least I’m not a brain surgeon.

3. Autumn.

I’m crazily homesick for autumn. Obviously for a completely romanticised, in no way realistic autumn, where the leaves are always golden and every morning is crisp, cold and bright.

Autumn is by far the best season for cycling, especially at dawn and dusk. Coming home from work in London meant heading straight into the setting sun – at once beautiful and dangerous.

And it’s the season when cooking steps-up a gear. Long dark evenings mean eight course dinner parties that go on until 4am, Christmas is just around the corner (I hope you’re all feeding your cakes) and lots of gorgeous English veg is coming in to season.

My cravings seem to be tuned to this – last month it was apple cobbler and plum cake, now it’s kale and red cabbage. Ooh, and game, goose, Jerusalem artichokes, vacherin!

I remind myself that autumnal bicycles (baskets full of squash) pedal inexorably toward winter. The season of eternal darkness and frozen toes. Drizzling, grizzling rain and frayed January tempers.

Looks like it’s going to be 32 C and sunny here again today. I guess there isn’t TOO much to complain about.

Yours, ever-so-slightly homesick elle
xx


I wrote this a week and a half ago and only just got round to proofing it. How can such a simple life leave me with so little time?

Daily life

Posted on: June 7, 2009

And just like that, a quarter of a year turned into a third.

Month three was the worst so far in terms of being homesick; the fourth has certainly felt easier. I am more settled into daily life now, although my sister has pointed out that she doesn’t have much idea of what that means.

Here are the three questions she thought most pertinent:

1. Do I wear socks?
2. Do I eat chicken?
3. Do I own slippers?

These probably tell you more about her than they ever could about me, but for your delectation and delight:

1. Yes, I wear socks sometimes. When I first arrived I couldn’t imagine ever wearing anything except flip-flops and strappy summer dresses but now I wear jeans and everything, complete with shoes and socks. Only when it’s cloudy though.

(A point about the heat and weather – the air con in our living room cools the room DOWN to 26 C, which feels quite chilly when I first arrive home.)

2. I eat chicken but I hardly ever cook it. Lunch is now my main meal, eaten at one of the food centres near work, so I’m never really hungry when I get home and just eat salads or cheese and biscuits.

Favourite lunchtime chicken dishes include chicken rice and dosa. However, my sluggish European metabolism is struggling with all the carbs and the lack of veg so I’m trying to eat more packed lunches.

3. No I don’t own slippers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given I didn’t in the UK either.

It’s customary here (as with much of Asia) to take your shoes off before going into someone’s house. I’m not sure of the exact reason (internetz has suggested respect or fung shui), but J and I have adopted the habit at our flat. Our reason is that the floors are tiled and quickly get gritty if you stomp around in outdoor shoes.

A positive aspect of this habit is that you can wear beautiful but uncomfortable shoes to house parties, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be crippled by them for too long. The downside is that it’s embarrassing if your feet smell.

So, what else do ya want to know?

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 assumed the trees outside our condo looked a bit scrawny because they were young. Turns out they were thirsty.

Before After

Saturday was our first approximation of normal Singapore life. Woke with a hangover, lay by the pool, went shopping, all that jazz.

Our excursion took us to Tanglin Road, to a fancy French café for pastries and iced tea, and then on to the Botanic Gardens for a nice stroll.

A thousand leaves of tastiness

A thousand leaves of tastiness

We persisted with the garden part of the plan, even though the storm clouds were gathering as we got in the cab. Gardens, I’m sure I don’t need to explain, are inherently outdoorsy.

We were only 40 million years round the evolution trail when the heavens opened. Naturally, we didn’t have umbrellas, although I’m not sure they would have helped.

We sheltered among the first ferns, then took advantage of a lull to race for the early rainforest, where the canopy made good cover. We hoped to sit it out around 300 million BC but grew fearful of getting locked in the park.

Thunder rolled and crashed around us – it was definitely the biggest storm I’ve been out in (J says he’s witnessed bigger but was unable to cite examples, which does make his claim somewhat unreliable).

We made a dash for it, tens of millions of years dripping by with each footfall. By the time we got back to the present we were drenched, and decided to forgo our early evening martinis.

Lightning over Singapore

Lightning over Singapore

Instead we went back, dried off, tarted up, and set out. Destination: Home, underground (ish) club near Clarke Quay. Music: D&B; LTJ Bukem, and several good local lads (and one less good – sounded like he was making a mix tape).

It was a great night. The music was awesome, the drinks were cheap (ish), and we met some lovely Singaporeans. Had drinks with them again last night, am building up a good repertoire of Hokkien expletives.

Have also started work, going well so far and yesterday I went out with my new colleagues for an hour and a half lunch in a sushi restaurant – it’s comforting to know that advertising behavioural patterns transcend regional boundaries.

We’re one week in and doing well. J had to go straight into work after a single day off, which must’ve been hella hard – he certainly had my sympathy. (Especially as I have been swimming, reading & sunbathing, basically being an expat wife layabout.)

In between expatting and laying about, I have been busy house hunting. This in an arduous task that means asking myself many challenging questions: is two tennis courts enough; how much space does a maid *really* need? That kind of thing.

I’ve been to about 20 viewings in the past week, ranging from enormous but ancient apartments with peeling paint and a surfeit of dark wood to ridiculously pert new-builds with bomb shelters (“Only 30 minutes drive to the subway, mam”).

We’ve settled on one and are putting an offer in today, but I don’t want to say anymore cos I’m superstitious and fear that committing my thoughts to paper might jinx the deal.

We got to see a bit of the city over the weekend. On Saturday evening, one of my best friends from uni’s best friends from school (still following?) took us to Newton Circus for satay and carrot cake.

Both J and I assumed they were talking about the sponge-carrot-creamcheese frosting version of carrot cake, yet neither of us questioned the pairing of high tea components with grilled meat and peanut sauce.

Turns out high tea has nothing to do with it. Carrot cake is kind of a radish (white carrot) omelette, and bloody delicious. We also had stingray – that was for you Fry, now there’s one less in the world for you to worry about.

After that we put away a bottle of shochu in a Japanese bar (the budgeting is going badly), then found ourselves at the quays watching a rather rotund transvestite cover 80s rock classics. We definitely didn’t sing along to Bon Jovi or Guns N’ Roses though, and wouldn’t admit it if we had.

On Sunday a Singaporean friend showed us round Chinatown, where New Year’s celebrations are still in full swing, and took us to dinner at a Korean restaurant where the food came in hot stone bowls (and J ate mushrooms :-ooooo).

Today has been more pedestrian – got a bank account, got a phone, got some work to get on with. On that front, I’m temporarily borrowing my soul back while I do a bit of freelance journalism, and also have a second interview with an ad agency on Thursday morning. Phew on both counts, looks like J might not get paid until the end of March!!

In other news, I still haven’t got bored of saying “Ah, it turned out warm again,” every morning when I step outside. Hopefully I will tire of this before J puts an end to it by punching me fatally in the back of the neck.

Hope you’re all well. I hear it’s snowing in London, bad luck!

Elle xx