NaBloPoMo #1

NaBloPoMo: one post every day throughout November

Welcome to November (‘rabbits’ as they say in our family on the 1st of every month). At a blog event last week someone told me about NaBloPoMo, the NaNoWriMo equivalent for bloggers. If I want to take part I must post an entry every day for a whole month. I must be mad: to-do lists from the course are keeping me awake at night, but here goes with the first of my daily observations about life in Singapore:

Never try and hand-deliver anything to MOM

That is all. Yes, I will try and make them a bit longer.

Singapore Sundays

It’s a starry day, twinkly weather with a hot blue sky, a light pleasing breeze. From where we sit in the back of the cab, sun points ping off the cars up ahead, hot metal stacking up at the lights. Heavy rainfall the night before has cleared the air leaving it washed, fragrant. It is almost Spanish, this weather.

The cab driver is an auntie and she wants to talk. That’s fine. I am sure it is because of the good weather that the three of us engage in happy fluid chatter while SmallMonkey quietly reads his book between us. We are all in the best of moods.

When we reach the pitch there is a heat haze coming off the grass and sun cream slides off damp skin. Wind ruffles the sleeves of the ref when he points, and his whistle peeps are sharper, carry further.

Our kids lie around at half time, wet through and panting like dogs on a beach. We pipe water into them and send them back out. The good weather carries its happy luck right through the game, seeps into the little sinews and drives the football the right way down the pitch, gets it out from tricky footknots and bounces it from head to head, toe to toe, arcing through the blue and sliding towards the goal until it pops right in: poc. Sweaty hugs and high fives. A quick dispersal today as the sun is baking through our tops.

At lunch we have piles of fries and a victory ice cream. All through our meal the sky stays blue – I can see it through the mall window, and I notice the hot wind ruffling ferns by the road. We take our time, and when we reach our side of the island the rain has already been and gone because the streets are wet and steamy. We jam open the patio doors in time to hear the thunder slide away across the rooftops. I wish for the hundredth time that I could bottle them, these happy days.


Every project gets to a point where you have to wonder where things are going. I feel like I’ve come to a crossroads with this diary – I can’t call it a blog, it’s never acted like one and it still isn’t following the blog rules. I’m not entirely sure, these days, what its purpose is and so I just wait around until I have something to say, and sometimes that will be three things in one week, and sometimes it will be one thing in three weeks. I suppose, as a family, we have come to a crossroads of where we all are, and that is throwing shadows over everything else that we do and making us all question our time here in Sing, and making me question this blog.

I seem to be getting feelings these days, rather than ideas for postings, and I wonder if it’s a halfway house thing where you’re at a junction so your brain can only take in snapshots of instructions for what to do next. Writing this thing should be easy, I have lots to say: I have a bit of work, the course, busy family life, travels, news from home keeps me on my toes… But still I can’t think of anything more to say than to post snapshots, because it is only the image of an idea that I seem to be able to get hold of, and such images are the things that are flavouring the days and the weeks. So I take them on board and try to process what they might mean.

I’ll be honest, I do think about going home, especially on bad days. After 15 months plugging away at the expat game the one thing I can be sure about is the word ‘home’, a tricky concept that I struggled with at first. To me it hasn’t changed a bit, my real home is still London, and that’s a huge sign in itself. But it’s not that simple, as life never is. It’s not that I don’t adore it here – we are on a roll, to be honest, chugging away quite nicely. But I look at my watch now and then because I know the clock is ticking. It’s still a clock with no set alarm – we don’t know when the buzzer’s going to go, but we know one day it will.

What about this thing, then, this diary of mine? Since I’m not new any more there are fewer topics to post about. Life is more normal and there are bad days as well as the good ones, and those days remain private because who wants to read about the rubbish stuff? (and given all the upbeat, fluffy stuff I post on here, I suspect none of you would believe in the bad stories for one minute).

The good days, these days, are not so much days but more like snapshots, little vignettes of pure happiness that I want to bottle and market, and the snapshots remain in my mind and I can bring them out and savour them whenever I want. Here are three that I’ve enjoyed in just the last week:

1)    I’m on a beach in Bali. It’s that simple. The air is hairdryer-hot, there’s the kind of salty sea breeze that you remember from childhood, and the sea is warm. That’s it, end of image.

2)    I am standing on the side of the football pitch watching SmallMonkey’s team battle it out on a hot, wet Saturday morning. The other parents around me are the kind of people I want to take home with me when we eventually leave. I have found true friends. That is all.

3)    I am in a good restaurant in a leafy enclave with a friend and her ex-teacher. He is helping me with my Peranakan course. I know my own father would love to meet him. The food is amazing, the chatter comes easily – it is a good day.

There is nothing more to say about these three snapshots other than the fact that they make me feel happy, grateful and very secure.

When this course ends in January and I get my life back I want to wind things down a bit. In taking on a project that I thought would help me learn more about where I was, I have ended up having no time to enjoy that very thing. I can’t wait until I can make discoveries and assessments of my own without having to write a paper and then discuss it all in front of my fellow students. Perhaps that’s why I have nothing but brief images left. I hope I get a chance to discover things in person before the bell goes. At least when that time comes I can take my snapshots with me.

Out of the office

Don’t hate me. I’m going to Bali. Three days of unadulterated rest for the brain cells on account of half term. I’m taking SmallMonkey, three tankinis, a sarong for ‘theme night’, some college readings (yeah, right) and my earplugs, and I’m travelling with three other mums and kids: no dads. Mr PC will as a result be able to enjoy the Singapore Oktoberfest at his leisure so it’s a well-timed trip. I doubt I’ll see any culture; numerous snaps of SM’s bottom against clear blue skies as he rebounds on the Kids’ Club trapeze, perhaps, but I’ll save those for FB. Sorry about ignoring your wonderful bounty, Southeast Asia, I just fancied a pool package this time round. Please pass the cocktail menu.

Dark thoughts

I just walked back home from the shops on my own after dark. It was a completely innocuous experience, if anything I rather enjoyed it. I’ve never been able to say that with such certainty – in fact, in most parts of the developed world the statement is outside of the norm. Don’t we shroud ourselves in psychological armour when we step out of the house after dark? I know I do in London, but not here.

This is one of the best things about living in Singapore and for me it houses an important message. Every carefree step I take after dark, without fear, hammers the point home: that freedom to wander at whatever hour is something we should all be allowed to do: it is OUR RIGHT. Is any city ever really safe, though – hasn’t crime always been part of our lives? In the bubble that is Singapore it’s just not something you see very often.

I’m not saying life is a bowl of cherries out here, we know that sh@t does happen, that it’s not entirely an episode of Trumpton. Now and then you will see a propped up police placard asking for help with a ‘Housebreaking’ matter, or the bizarrely worded ‘Outrage of modesty‘. I’ve heard first-hand accounts of housebreaks, bicycle thefts, bag snatches, one or two sightings of odd blokes, such stories always accompanied by the phrase: low crime is not no crime. I can think of several friends who would be justified in jumping right onto this post and setting the record straight. More than one chatty cab driver has alluded to dark stories that confirm the cops do indeed have a job to do, more than rescuing cats from trees. Once me and SmallMonkey sat next to a nutter on a bus: but in reality he just wanted to chat… Still the rules and codes by which Singapore citizens must abide give the whole place a veneer of peaceful harmony, the bad stuff tucked away seemingly neatly and without fuss.

There’s a patch on my morning run that’s a bit deserted, no bus stops, the nearest HDB block set back from the main road and nothing more than a field of croaking bull frogs chirruping into the night. That’s about as spooky as it gets for me. I don’t want to think about the undercurrents too much, I just want to know what the model is for Singapore’s surface success, then bottle it and take it home.

Cold feet

So this course, then. Wish I’d listened when they told me it was a tough one. What was I thinking? There are around 30 pages of dense text to be read each week. Plus visits to be made to keep you up to scratch with what’s what. In terms of lectures and practicals these take up roughly six hours out of the house on Tuesdays and about five on Fridays. Soon there will be tours to shadow, with trained docents and trainee docents. There will also be trips around relevant places of interest and our own talks to prepare. I’m to submit my first paper in about a week’s time – that’s a finished draft of the first five minutes of my actual tour, encompassing the first bit of the talk. I should probably transcribe my notes from the last month, plus take a look at the postings that have popped up online from my fellow trainees – it’s all on our system to be looked at. If I add that little lot to the rest of the diary (social life, chores, visiting guests, freelance work, school stuff) there’s not a lot of time left. My only remaining lunch slot until late November has just gone. I think the last time I was this busy was when I tried to go back to work after SM was born. Yeah, I was rubbish at that too.

I’m growing more and more terrified of getting out there in front of the pack and acting like I know what I’m on about. So far I’m a bit swamped by what there is to memorise because it’s not all easily understandable. I don’t get half the cultural references and have to work that much harder on understanding icons, motifs, religions, social codes. I think I thought that if I could use my baking skills to make local kueh to impress people at snack time, pop in to the galleries a few times and choose some favourites to point at, employ my big mouth to fill the tour’s hour-long time slot, chuck in some jokes for a laugh and buy some pretty ‘tour’ clothes I might be able to get away with it, but I now think it’s rather more serious.

Is it too late to get off?