Things I’ve noticed after 4 years in Sing

The snails are huge.
The roads are long. FitBit city.
The escalators are high. Still can’t quite…
Does the taxi smell of lunch? That’s OK, it’s not your cab, drivers can do what they like, just remember that long drive + full stomach + hot weather = sleeptastic #avoidtheairportroute
Bubble tea = genius. Why did we not know about it before Singapore? Gong Cha, Each-a-Cup, Koi, we [heart] you.
It is hot. I tried to be all relaxed about this at first and I hated people saying: “Too hot for you, ah?” Well alright, yes, since you ask, yes it is hot. I give in.
You can have a good curry puff and a bad one. Know your puffs #killiney
Toastbox is actually fine for dinner #chickencurry
Cinema tickets are SO cheap! Dirt cheap. How can this be?
Mandarin will be something that I quite possibly won’t ever master.
No one will congratulate you if you say 你好 or 再见 (when you’re in England and a Spanish person is talking English, do you give them a bear hug for being clever? No.)
In Singapore, no one can see you trying out all the very fit sporty things. Result.
“Inside table, please” Did I really say that? Yes you did. It is hot.
Why does the milk never spoil and the bread never get mouldy? Do not ask that thing.
I don’t think “freedom” eggs does quite what it says on the box…
The business of being able to get to Indonesia or Malaysia and back in a day without having to get on a plane is something I will never fail to feel excitement about.
A country that’s the size of the Isle of Wight, yet east and west can seem as far from each other as Glasgow and London.
Going to school means getting on a motorway.
Time difference is better this way. I can start my day and be ready for all your messages when they start ping ping pinging at around 16:00.
There is crime. We just don’t see it, or choose not to, and the papers are *CENSORED*
I love the tankers, truly. And I always swim on Sentosa. But OK yes, #rubbishinthesea
Singlish is a language, a real one, with a dictionary. Why no one tell you this, lor?
Don’t feed the monkeys.
Don’t be mean to geckos, they eat mosquitos.
Don’t leave the plates overnight. Ants.
You possibly have had mycoplasma several times, you just didn’t know it.
Singapore is the unspoken theatre capital of the world, or on its way to being. There’s a seriously fast-moving drama scene out here, and I should be buying more tickets.
There is nothing on Starhub. NOTHING.
Plates will always be cold. And your food, often. And coffee lukewarm.
Go to the longest queue at the hawker.
If I’m a size 39 and would like a black pair, then trying on a blue size 36 probably won’t work, will it?
In department stores, don’t seek help if you need information on anything other than the thing the staff member is selling. Total mystery. DO YOU NEVER GO AND ACTUALLY SHOP IN YOUR OWN STORE, or is it just that you aren’t allowed to tell people the answers?
First World Problems can seem very real for us poor expats. Pop along to East Coast park and check out the view from time to time. You live somewhere a.w.e.s.o.m.e.
Buses run in all weathers, roads are built for buses, roads have proper bus lanes. #efficiencypersonified
If the MRT goes wrong, stand-in buses will immediately come and get you where you want to go.
Kids need travel cards, but travel is cheap.
Tagging on and off buses – inspired.
If five of us squeeze into a cab it is far cheaper than taking a bus.
If eight of us squeeze into a karaokebus then it’s not so much cheap as very loud.
There’s an emergency runway on the way to Changi – all those flower beds in the middle of that last long stretch of PIE? Portable.
Palm trees and lianas, right there by the side of the pavement. Now that’s what I call “hedge”.
Cockroaches chase you.
Buy the tissues off the old man. It is his actual job #pensionless
Have you had your lunch? You must.
I’ve yet to see (m)any homeless people.
Storms like whirlwinds, whiteout in five minutes flat with all the tall palms bent sideways, then twinkling and scorchio half an hour later? Bonkers.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: lightning makes noises.
I’m so often called ‘Lawson’ that I now quite like it. Surname first, always.
There is a reason that Changi is repeatedly voted best airport in the world, and that’s because it is.
This is Asia Lite, yes, but it’s still Asia and you’re not in Kansas any more. Respect the differences.
Great view? Cherish it, they’ll probably start the building work tomorrow.
On the construction plus side, the lifts usually work.
Get close if you want, but they might be gone in six months.
Singapore is very far from England. Still.








First Mud

The boys go on a hash run every fortnight, through various bits of jungle around Singapore on alternate Sundays. This is keeping it in the family for Mr Partly Cloudy, whose parents met through a regular hash run in Ipoh, Malaysia in the 1960s. He’s been enjoying a local kids’ version with Jonah, and they’ve both wanted me to come along too. ‘If you can do Bukit Brown,’ said Mr PC this week, ‘it’s not that much harder.’ I know, I know. We didn’t need a crystal ball to tell us that in this sort of weather, those might be famous last words. No matter, I’m now the proud owner of a pair of properly muddy post-hash trainers, and I’ve got vine splinters. And yes, there is satisfaction to be gained. And yep, I might even do it again. Talk about a baptism of fire, though. Or water.

You jungle-doubters, there is thick foliage here in Singapore, you just have to look for it. It helps to have a group of willing explorers happy to spend their free time trekking through the undergrowth, tying hankies around trees and bits of rope up steep slopes so that nutters like us can crash through a few hours later. The prize at the end is a back-of-the-van meal for kids and a beer tent for adults. Nice one.

It’s plain to see why the boys have been persuading me to join, but I have always had an excuse up my sleeve. This week, though, after Mr PC knocked his ribs in a game of football and began wheezing and slowing down, I decided that the only way to stop him running the course was to join in. Little did I know that my first ever hash would coincide with a whopper of a monsoon storm.

Stop a minute here and just take some time to think about what you need to do when marching through a bit of jungle. We’re told, don’t stray off the path, snakes are there. We’re told, don’t touch the tree trunks, you don’t know what’s perched on them, creeping along under them or slithering around them, and that’s before we’ve even started on the possibility of poisonous plants and huge giants crashing through undergrowth eating all the villagers. OK not that last bit, but the other stuff, definitely. Would you ever, in your stupidest moments, give a tropical trunk a full body hug, or lie down in thick jungle mud and slide your way from A to B? Course not, because that would be silly. But wet weather conspired against us and turned the course into a slipway, which meant that as cautious drops turned to full on downpour, not holding on would have been even stupider.

We all fell over, slipped along, tore our skin and got mud in our eye. Thorny vine? Give it here. Three-inch-thick mud slope? Sit right down and slide, why not? And actually, to begin with it was quite fun whacking through vines like Sylvester Stallone in First Blood, and Starskying across fallen trees in an effort to keep up. Fortyfive minutes of that, combined with comedy buckets of rain, and let me tell you I was limping along grabbing handfulls of sodden foliage wherever I could, crashing over trunks like a shot elk, pushing my shoulder into the bottom of the stranger in front as she limped wetly up an incline, in a desperate effort to just move the whole thing along. Time crawled, like us – it was all taking a wee bit longer than planned. My specs frosted over with rain; the kid in front of me noted the clouds of steam puffing up from me and Mr PC any time we paused. I began to wonder when it might get dark; if we’d ever get home. Jonah, at first a buoyant and proud guide, showing me the ropes, lost his bravado and took it in turns with me to alternate moods: one of us would nobly shout ON ON! while the other mewed about a sore foot or hurty shoe, and all the while Mr PC darted between us, helping us up and down steep banks and around spiky tree trunks. Fun for all the family.

All the normal people in our group took the short route, but Jonah chose the 5k signpost and so it was that we ended up sliding through thicker and thicker soup, wondering when the helicopters would start circling, and wishing we had opted for the home option, the one that came with telly and a nice cup of tea. I’d just been persuaded to stop sobbing for the third or fourth time when a big hoot went up from my friend up ahead, and out we popped onto the Green Corridor, an old train track and well known running trail. We ran the last 500 metres to the beer tent; Tiger never tasted so good.

I apologise to all the small children I pushed out of the way when I saw that patch of white sky as jungle gave way to clearing. I’m sorry to my friend and also to my husband for having a proper weep at that very tricky slippy bit. And most of all I’m sorry to my bottom for giving it such a very muddy afternoon when all it really wanted was to sit on the sofa at home. In the end we did a grand total of 2.4 miles. It took the best part of two hours. We forgot to pack bus cards and did not dare call a cab, so totally caked in mud were we, so we had to walk to a bus stop and pay a full ten dollars for the three of us just to go about 8 stops, standing in the pram space the whole way home, stinking slightly of mulch. A caterpillar appeared on my vest, and bits of mud fell off Mr PC’s arm every time the bus changed gear.

I might go back next time. I will have to think about it. I liked the crowd, the theory of it all and the beer. I do admit to feeling brilliant at the end, with that pleasing muscle ache a few hours later that lets you know you’ve actually done something with your body. Where would you ever see jungle like this if you didn’t follow such trails? I think the people who set the routes are amazing, and I love how they do it, and yes, it is organised, and yes, it is good fun. So I’ll be back for some more Rambo fun shortly. If it rains, though, you know where to find me: #sofaplease



Bukit Brown for beginners

Several tours are recommended if you live on the Red Dot. Today’s tour of Bukit Brown cemetery had been on my list for a long time – especially as the whole place is currently being cut up to make way for a big road, with ancestors being dislodged and moved to stacked vertical resting places (or worse, but we won’t think about that).
‘Whoohh,’ said my Mandarin teacher last night when I told her of this morning’s trip, ‘is it still there?’ And when I replied that it was, she said with a note of suspicion: ‘Er, we don’t really go to cemeteries very often.’
I know what she means, it’s not an obvious choice for a fun day out, but when you think about all the famous cemeteries of the world (Highgate cemetery in London with Karl Marx, Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris with Jim Morrison) then the prospect of a guided tour around some tombstones becomes a perfectly sensible suggestion.
And that’s why we found ourselves on a morning ramble, my friend and I, threading our way through thickets and brambles with 16 other guests, crashing to scare off potential snakes while our leader, herself a relative of some Bukit Brown residents, gamely pushed giant morning cobwebs out of our way (meanwhile my friend apologised to anyone we stepped on by accident).
It’s because we are tour guides that we were invited on the morning tour today, although you can always go round yourselves (and there were people dog-walking, horse-riding and scootering). Isn’t it always a bonus to have someone guide you, though? And not just to chase off the spiders.
Some might say you actually need a tour guide here, because Bukit Brown is a proper adventure – a thick, bushy maze of partially obscured graves scattered over several hillsides. In these hallowed acres lie whole families, grouped war victims, famous local personalities. The person showing us around is also a guide at the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, and it was invaluable to have her help decode the traditional Chinese lettering and point the way around the woody place. We found tombstones tucked deep in brambles. Other graves had been tidied up, untangled, so you could clearly see the stark geometric art deco carving, the orange brickwork and Victoriana tiles. Some were exposed all on their own by the road, others placed neatly side by side or dotted one over the other up and down the sides of the hills, backed with sweeping armchair-shaped walls and guarded by stone gods, creatures, figures.
Many had little rocks placed on top, some trapping a slip of paper. Don’t move them, we were told, this is a visitor’s way of telling the ancestors, I’m here – I’ve come to see you. I did a little Google of this when I got home and it seems it’s a Jewish tradition too. Some say it means the relative is anchored in place. Whatever the reason the stones looked reverential, thoughtful, an earthy equivalent to the cut flowers you see in western graveyards.
You’d need a hard heart not to have been moved by our visit but it wasn’t an entirely solemn morning at all, quite the opposite. Our guide lead her long-trousered chatty crocodile with energy: ‘This way!’ she would shout, suddenly off-roading to the left beneath a hanging curtain of lianas, with us scrambling along behind in a cloud of Deet.
She saved the best til last – the biggest grave in Bukit Brown. After a vertical stomp the jungle opens up to a clearing with the most enormous Chinese armchair-shaped memorial. This grave belongs to prominent businessman Ong Sam Leong, who clearly did very well for himself. Once surrounded by a fish-filled moat, the tomb covers 600 square metres, has its own skate-rink sized forecourt of beautiful tiles, and is guarded by stone lions and mossy soldiers. Most graves have their own earth stone deity off to one side – not this one: this one has an entire earth god tomb all to itself.
What a morning, one of the best tours I’ve experienced since moving here: fun, exciting, and very precious to be able to see the stones before the threatened eight-lane highway swallows them up. You can take yourself off to Bukit Brown; driving is best, and there are parking spots along the roads. There’s an unopened MRT station, but who knows when that will come into play (or if we ever actually want it to). Or you can hop in a cab and get dropped off for a stroll.
When I see my Chinese teacher next week I will recommend she pops by and says hello, before the ancestors melt away into history.
IMG_2284 IMG_2266 IMG_2255

The Haze – a call for clarity

While scientists step up the search for life on Mars, it’s all we can do down here on the Red Dot to see the outline of the MBS building on the horizon.
We shouldn’t really grumble, as we’re lucky here in Singapore. First of all, we’re lucky just to be here (I could stop there but I won’t). We don’t get typhoons, hurricanes, tsunamis or earthquakes. Dark things do happen but not half as much as in other countries. We get the odd Outrage of Modesty or Shoplift, but serious crime is rare. That said, to coin Adam Levene, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies, and we do have our own little menu of minor points:
1 Lightning bolts – we’re a topspot for this very real and present danger. There are alarms beside most public and school swimming pools and they sound out when they need to.
2 Flash floods – Orchard Road, of all places, floods every few years. That’s like Oxford Street being shut because it’s knee-high in rainwater.
3 Sunburn – another very real danger for idiots like me who go to Sentosa for the day but forget to ‘do’ their back. Am hiding from the skin doctor for a few months until the strap marks go.
4 Dengue Fever – we lived in a red zone for this last year, several friends caught it, one entire family checking in to a hospital ward together for several days: nasty.
Most of these things are avoidable though. You don’t have to go swimming in a storm. You can stock up on mossie stuff (though the buggers sometimes get you anyway). I’ll leave out snakes, spiders and monkeys because then we’re getting into household pets, sort of. Number Five, though, is a beast that’s hard to beat:
5 Yup, The Haze – smoke drifting across our country from seasonal crop-burning of peat fields in neighbouring Indonesia. Compared with other bits of Southeast Asia we are again lucky here, as it’s far worse for those living in the areas themselves than it is for us.
Here, it’s bad for those with dodgy lungs, but it’s mainly just a pest. At best the air smells smoky and you can’t see the sun. At worst, pharmacies run out of N95 masks, schools close and a small percentage of the population do feel properly ill in the lung department.
On really bad days, though, you simply can’t go out. You might sprint to a local shop if you need to, but you come back fast and wear your mask en route. You can taste it in the air. When it rains it’s dusty rain: very strange. Eyes prickle, throats hurt. Most schools had to close across Singapore last Friday – that’s an entire country of closed schools – and in parts of Malaysia schools were shut for three days on the trot, and still are closed on and off. Kids are running feral in the condo. We let them out to play on all but the worst of days, because we’re now in Week Four of the annual phenomenon that is only ever meant to last a week or so at most, and the children are all going bonkers.
Our school canteen – exposed to the air on several sides (as is the style here) – is closed every day this week, so children must take in food and eat in the classrooms. No huge hardship but a bummer if, like SM, you’re addicted to canteen pizzas and hate sandwiches, not to mention the knock-on financial effect for our catering supplier. Dogs and cats feel the choke too: no one escapes it.

Following it all online, and working out the PSI count (PM10? PSI? AQI?) is a sport for some, a dinner party topic for others, a real concern for those who need to see if and how The Haze is going to affect them that day/week/month. The fog brings out the best and the worst in people. Politicians go through the annual motions:
Singapore politely offers help. Indonesia accepts and then declines, pointing out that its neighbours are among the countries who buy into the whole farming thing in the first place, and noting that the same neighbours also don’t complain when it’s fresh air from Indonesia blowing their way. Fires are at last put out, sometimes after a longer while than usual, and then we do it all over again next year.
Meanwhile, monkeys die (as do some humans, according to the odd news report) and people’s houses burn down. Those who don’t have a computer at all won’t care about reading up on any of this, they’ll just want to survive another year of it. What the answer might be is beyond our guesses but frustrations are rising, notably amongst the expat communities who head to Bali and Phuket when things get really bad. This year seems to be an El Nino of a Haze, and flights to clearer skies can be had at the moment for the price of a bottle of wine here in Singapore (wine IS expensive, though).
This year the whole foggy business has touched base with fashionistas, as a natty range of fancypants masks is selling out across the island. We’ve got ours already: free 24-hour courier delivery, perfect fit and pretty trendy if I do say so. I don’t go anywhere without mine, though I do find it hard to enjoy a glass of white while wearing it.
I’m a some-time dodgy lung person so I don’t especially enjoy our foggy days but the worst that’s happened to me of late is that I mistakenly took my mask out to the school bus stop as well as a cup of coffee, then couldn’t decide on the best use of my mouth. October trips were planned this week for years 4 through 9 but camps were all cancelled, every single one of them. For the school it’s a huge headache, for the kids [OK, for some kids] it’s disappointing, for the camps I should imagine it’s a logistical and financial nightmare. For me it means steering a much more painful path through a three-day social marathon that would have been entirely doable had I not had to get someone up every morning and tackle the horrors of homework, shower and bedtime every night. And I can’t go road running, so my next planned event, in December, will be much more painful than previously anticipated. That’s it, though – could be worse.
We’re off to Japan in two weeks time and as our flight steers a carbon-ripping trail through hazy skies I’ll breathe a big old oxygenated sigh of relief at eight days of Nippon air. The best I can do on return is look for Palm Oil products in shops, and then ban them, and sign any petition I can find that needs signing.

Doctor dread

I took SmallMonkey to the doctor. Unexplained pains – I think he’s just stretching. The doctor was one we hadn’t yet seen: a classic local elderly medic, serious, very Singaporean and stern. He rattled out questions, directing them all to SM, who stuttered his answers. When I asked if I should leave the room while all the prodding was being carried out he shot back: ‘Why should you not be here? You’re his mother.’

The elderly doc worked his way around my small son’s skinny little form, palpating and prodding with wizened fingers, and when everything had been poked (standard appendicitis ‘push’ test carried out, a little sample presented and deemed negative), SM was prescribed painkillers and told he had wind. And at this point the elderly man totally changed demeanour like one of those Chinese New Year face-changers, breaking into a lovely smile and telling us how pleased he was that everything was OK, and making sure SM personally knew that he had to come back if anything at all was wrong again.

How I hate it when I judge books by their covers.

The saddest cab

Today I had to interview someone for a feature, which meant that instead of pottering down to the office on foot, I ordered a cab. It arrived straight away, unusual for a weekday morning.
‘So lucky,’ said the driver, ‘you are going exactly where I need to be, that’s why I picked you.’
The luck soon oozed out of our cab, though, because it transpired that the reason why the driver was ‘lucky’ was that after my fare, he was on his way to a funeral that was close to my location. His good friend, another cab driver, had been in a smash on Sunday (just three days before), killed outright after a cement truck cut a red light. Four kids. Youngest 6 months. Oldest 7 years.
‘We only had breakfast together that Sunday morning.’
The story was longer than that, and it came out in bits and pieces as we travelled, leaking out of the driver in sad little sentences as we nudged through traffic. He weaved a few HappyandGrateful comments into the tale (as we often do when we’re grieving) – what God had given him, how lucky he was to have picked my route – but the chatter kept on slumping back to sad silence as we digested each fact, him in front and me in back, and all the while he rubbed his eyes as he drove, apologising for the tears.

I know that a lot of cabs *are* in accidents, and I thought about this as we drove, and the driver gulped back tears.
‘We get so tired,’ he said, as if to confirm.
Usually I check the rearview mirror in a cab to see if the driver is falling asleep, but today I checked for tears. I’m not sure what’s worse.

Chickens on Orchard

A few months ago, thanks to a friend of mine asking for company, I volunteered to do a National Parks bird count. We went to the Botanic Gardens for a quick morning’s basic training (out of a total of around 40 trainees I think there were only about three or four of us expats), during which we learned how to spot around 30 birds. The course was led by a girl who looked around 12 but who spoke with such confidence and clarity that it made you want to a) be her best friend, b) do whatever you could to be the best student ever. Sadly for me, exams were never my strong point and during the spot test at the end, while my friend had her arm in the air the whole time (“I’ve been practising,” she muttered) I kept my head low and wondered how I’d ever tell a Scarlet-Backed Flowerpecker from a Brown-Throated Sunbird.
In the end, since the actual bird count day coincided with Dad’s annual visit, I roped him in to help, and we headed up to our allocated spot – a beautiful section of Jurong Lake – at dawn one weekday morning. An ornithologist since childhood, Dad doesn’t just have bird-watching eyes in the back of his head, they’re all over his body, and we easily recorded a good collection of species to add to the NP Bird Count archives, from Collared Kingfishers and Pink-Necked Green Pigeons, to Yellow-Vented Bulbuls and more, plus a final and very special off-the-list glimpse of a buffy owl in a palm tree – awesome. The bird-count morning came right at the end of Dad’s trip and it was one of the high points for us both.
I definitely look and listen for more winged creatures these days. Javan Mynahs and Asian Glossy Starlings are everywhere, and not so special (they’re the Singaporean equivalent of London pigeons and crows), but they’re still exotic to me. I see flashes of Golden Oriole at the condo and the odd sunbird here and there, and I have always, since arriving, listened out for the frantic rising cry of the Koel, which a friend of mine christened the ‘For Real’ bird, thanks to its bonkers bugle call.
There is one more noisy type that was on our list. It’s called a Jungle Fowl and it’s a chicken, basically. You see them in all sorts of unlikely places (like the other night, on my way to see a film in a park, a mother and baby pecking around the back of the National Museum in the centre of town). Somewhere near our new apartment, which is nestled just behind a big road heading into Orchard Road (the equivalent of London’s Oxford Street), there are chickens. They’re very active in the morning and at dusk. Sometimes we get a midday toot as well, though I’m not always around to hear it. They are somewhere around the back, or possibly up a small jungly side road where there are a few big old black and white bungalows. I can picture them pecking around the lawns; I suppose those houses are ginormous enough that the occupants can hide away and not hear the noisy old chooks, but out on my little balcony I hear them loud and clear and I love them – they remind me of Cornwall, a shrill touch of home.

Dad at dawn

Dad at dawn


We have now had around 50 lessons of Mandarin, at home or in the home of our 老师 (lăoshī – teacher).

Still today the best word I know how to say is goodbye and I use it widely – leaving shops, getting out of cabs, whenever I want to show off. The smugness never lasts long, because of course then people want to start talking to you, and that’s when the glaze emoticon replaces the smirk.

Tonight I’m saying a temporary zaijian for the third time to Singapore’s tropical breezes (I think we had a bit of a breeze today, no?) before heading back for the annual royal visit. Can’t wait to sip my first cup of London tea, stroll barefoot on the Heath (minding the dog-doo), have a pint in a pub.

I will be bringing my Mandarin homework and trying to finish off Chapter 10, which has been all about buying CDs and bananas in shops.

See you in August, Singers, save us some bananas!

New route round the block

After a three-week break from running (house move, end-of-term, mild dose of chest-bashing Mycoplasma), I laced up my trainers early this morning and set out on my new route. I say ‘running’, but I must admit I’m not much of a runner these days. Jogger. Hobbler.

I’m an early morning girl, preferring to get out there before the sun turns my lungs to liquid, and so I’m often doing my routes in that bit of dark before dawn. Singapore is essentially a safe town but you do hear of the odd incident, so I like a few people dotted about here and there, and I plot my routes carefully and accordingly. My new route looked good on paper – four right angles round the block, roughly 3.5k, through areas that looked quiet and green but still populated.

Having lived in the leafy Holland Road area for three years I wanted a run that took me under a few trees, but before you hit any greenery around here you have to first navigate the weird bit of land just before Orchard. It’s a funny old area – like the outskirts of any major city, the road loops along placidly for a good few miles before suddenly getting excitable just before the action of the city centre. Our nearest strip of main road has a line of odd buildings that look like they ought to be on the outskirts of a city, perhaps just approaching the main train station, or something equally noteable. There’s nothing wrong with the buildings, they’re innocuous, but when someone says ‘Singapore’ you usually have glitter or jungle in mind, not pink faux Tudor.

No matter. Once I’d turned away from the odd bit of main road I was in embassy land, and my route took me limping past vast houses set back from the road and swish condos with shiny gates – if you know Norf London then I might just say ‘Bishops Ave’ and leave it at that. In theory I had thought this would be a good road to go down, being semi-populated; in fact it was dark and deserted, and absolutely no one would have heard me being bundled into a car and captured, as they were all sleeping in the back of their 20-bedroom cluster apartments, with Fort Knox locks between me and them. So I turned down a side lane that I knew would lead me back a bit sooner and found myself galloping weakly along a leafy track that reminded me so much of Sevenoaks I immediately started constructing a letter in my head to my Aunty who lives there, before a passing car (YAY, people!) reminded me to keep my mind on the road.

After that it was back down to the Tudors for a wobbly sprint along a nice flat stretch before a last painful pant up the path to home. Just shy of three-and-a-half of your best kilometres, and a nice little notch on my Nike app for the month of June.

One nice thing was that I ended up skirting the Botanic Gardens, which made me think of Dad, who adores the place. So Dr P if you’re reading this hurry up and come back again, there’s lots more to show you. Promise not to make you run.

Young at heart

Does anyone know what I’m talking about when I mention the “Herald of Free Enterprise”? It was a ferry, and it capsized in the 1980s, killing a lot of people. Shortly after the event I found Mum standing in the kitchen sobbing as she listened to a news report. ‘It’s the children,’ was all she could manage to say.

It was the same when my uncle died suddenly, a decade later.  Dad told me and I went to find Mum and comfort her. Again I found her in the kitchen crying (she was career-driven but also domestic, so perhaps the kitchen was her comfort spot or maybe it just kept her busy). Again all she said was: ‘It’s the children…’ (meaning my three youngish cousins).

One of my ex partners exists, he used to tell me, because his father was one of the first reporters (or THE first one, depending on reports) on the scene after the Aberfan Disaster of the 1960s. I’m not putting any links up here, if you’re not aware of all these awful sad stories then all you really need to know is the keyword: children. There is something about a disaster on a major scale that involves any young loss of life, or affects children in some way – especially when those young lives can be easily relatable to your own – that makes the event just so much sadder for adults (any adult, you don’t have to have a child yourself). The weight is palpable.

On Friday, several climbers on Mount Kinabalu died after an earthquake. The event hit hard one of our Singapore primary schools, which lost several 12-year-olds in the disaster, plus a guide and many others. Parents pass things on, and this week I am channeling Mum, as news reports make my eyes prickle and my heart heavy.