Nine months in and I’ve…

….done a season in choir. Joined an Aquafit class. Learned how to switch off the air con. Become expert at switching it back on again secretly. Discovered weight loss is futile. Been to Malaysia, Indonesia, Sentosa (Sentosa is not a foreign country but since you cross water to get to it I like to think it is). Bought running shoes. Started getting up in the dark to use them. Stopped mainlining coffee. Started drinking teh tarik, which is probably worse. Stopped obsessively looking at pictures of the cats. Stopped obsessively counting down to holidays.*

*almost: see you in -37 days, UK, and -14 hours, Tioman

The S word

Something really weird is happening in the PC household. There are pink running shoes on the top stand of the shoe rack and a small pair of muddy boots underneath. There’s a ladies’ running top drying beside my husband’s big old sweaty one and a new iPhone armband holder for girls. This weekend I found myself screaming on the sidelines as our son played in a huge international football tournament with 79 other teams. Proper tents, first aid areas, water stations, loudspeakers, all that. There was our boy, trudging out for game after game with the rest of them, and there was me, watching with proper interest and not once getting out my book or wandering off for coffee. Sport has entered our house.

Mr PC is stunned and delighted that his family might finally be learning a language that has so far only been used by him. Up to now I have borrowed his neon wristbands for 80s parties and used his running headphones on long-haul flights when mine have gone missing. But to take part?

My mum dined out on how I avoided Sports at school, was secretly proud when she discovered I’d been using her typewriter and forging her signature to rattle out sick notes every week. She would have been properly proud, though, to learn that I am at last getting some kind of physical routine worked out, and even more so to see her grandson belting a goal on a pitch in the middle of the famous Padang with Singapore’s iconic skyline as a backdrop. Major result.

I talk about running with other runners. I put soccer dates in my diary. I clog my Facebook page with line-up shots from SmallMonkey’s football games and plaster them with proud captions (friends will soon start filtering my newsfeeds, no doubt). I didn’t once leave the field this weekend to go shopping or find lunch. I even left a weekend drinks party early so that I could get up in the dark for Part II on Sunday. I have no idea what’s going on here, and can only put it down to that classic expat thing of trying out new things in new lands. I’m still not sure whether SM really understands the glorious game or might stick with it. So far it’s just something we’ve told him we think he’ll enjoy and so far it’s working.

The team is adorable and wonky; when they started out just two months back they were assorted and random, flinching when the other team came towards them and sprinting with the ball towards the wrong end of the pitch. This weekend they bravely spent the first day taking annihilation from teams who had been training together for years. They got up at 6am on Saturday to stagger around in the hot mud under a brutal sun then did it all over again on Sunday. By the second day the groups had filtered down to even levels and at last they got a chance to play against kids of the same calibre, working together like little machines, winning or drawing every single game and smashing the opposition for two out of three. Who scored that glorious first goal of the day? SmallMonkey, that’s who – the same boy who only recently used to duck when the ball came his way – and he didn’t just place it in the net, he scored a blinder, belting it in from the side with the ease of a well-drilled player. Meanwhile I’m bellowing on the sidelines like one of those mums who actually knows what she’s shouting about (sometimes I do have to ask what’s going on but the high fives at the end are always worth it).

Tomorrow I’ll set my clock for 6am and tiptoe out of the house in the dark, enjoying the neon pink of my running shoes and the feel of my new fluttery shorts as I pound my way round the block like a proper road-runner. I’m secretly on my knees when I get home but if the eight-year-old can get to like the S word then so can I.

Adventures in time and space

Pretty tiles at the entrance to the Singapore Art Museum

Pretty tiles at the entrance to the Singapore Art Museum

I’ve been gallery going, partly to shake off a spot of homesickness and partly because I felt I owed it to the city that is temporarily housing me to do some research. I threw in some art for good measure and have managed to get three recent visits under my belt, one of which I did with Dad and two just on my own. It was definitely more fun with Dad but I do find that being alone allows you to lose yourself entirely if you so wish, or to get out quick if it’s rubbish. The following list must be added to and expanded if I am to make any sense of the place that I currently call home.

Peranakan Museum, Armenian Street

I had high hopes for this one, which was was nicely laid out in a proper old schoolhouse down an arty street, but it didn’t quite do it for me. Telling the history of the bubbling social melting pot that is Peranakan culture in Singapore, the museum uses stories to discuss what the term ‘Peranakan’ means. In a pub quiz I now think I could do it: the term describes the descendants of Chinese and Indian immigrants to Malaysia and Singapore, is it? The fact that I’m still not sure perhaps indicates a need for clearer slides next to the photos. Either that or I wasn’t concentrating.

Most rooms offer simple examples of family trees that weave in and out of neighbouring countries and cultures and the room that starts you off has photos of modern-day Peranakans all around the walls, with a quote under each one. This was a nice intro but would have been a great chance to really explore how each family collaboration occurred and to dig about beneath the roots of each family tree. Instead we have simple items under glass (a cloak here, a wedding tiara there), single signposts towards the blend of cultures that has formed Singapore, but the descriptions are only surface. More details please.

The exhibition is slightly uneven, with an entire floor dedicated to weddings and a funeral room with a wailing soundtrack that could have been shared with last year’s Harry Potter exhibition down at the Arts & Science Museum. I will go back for another look because I really do want to crack this subject, but I might take some earplugs.

Singapore Art Museum, Queen Street

I went to art college for four years and I’ve always been a bit sad that I never got on well. I wasn’t very good at it and didn’t much like going to art shows and it’s put me off, on the whole. This place, though: what a find. I loved the building and I loved the current show, President’s Young Talents – doing just what it said on the tin and showing off rising stars.

You can never really tell, with modern art, how seriously you are meant to take things. Should you nod sagely, squint-eyed, or can you just shrug things off and head next door if you don’t like it? Such is the beauty of lone visits: do what you want. So it was that I stared for hours at the flock of birds drifting up into the air from a line of Chinese text on the floor; giggled at the emergency box that asks you to break the glass if you have a ‘good idea’; peered hard at a room full of would-be pop art before doing an about-turn (not on my wall, mate). Another beauty of an old building, peaceful and cool, and a team of helpful, happy staff. I’ll be back here too.

Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place

This is the winning entry so far, just along from the Fullerton Hotel. Up the grand staircase and to the left is a little set of rooms that houses the ‘Singapore River’ exhibition, and here I was lost in pages of books and little wooden cases showing snippets of colour and noise from the short river that gave Singapore its long story. This is a compelling and gentle start to an amazing collection of artefacts, and I need to go back because an hour and a half in and I’d still only been down the river and back, let alone crossed the border to other countries in the main rooms of the museum. I’ll have to give it at least a day next time because there was so obviously a huge amount more to see.

Singapore houses its art so well and just hanging out in these places is a treat. Watch this space: I could get quite cultured.