Interlacing v2

There it goes again, Singapore doing that deja vu thing, only it’s always real deja vu, never imagined. Last time it was a Dad memory that repeated itself from a different vantage point: oh, it’s too hard to explain, take a look here (it’s not a long entry, don’t worry).

That one was a Dad-based memory and this one’s Dad-based again, only rather than being set in the woody enclave of last time (see link, above), when it happened this time I was on a bus going to SM’s school, when the bus I was on pulled out a little in order to get around a rugged corner of construction work. As we sidled past I noticed that part of the hoardings had been taken down, or pulled to one side, and I peered through the gap.

And there it was, at last. In the time it took us to squeeze past and be on our way, I saw the food court that I’ve spent the last three years trying to recall, explaining and describing it to countless people in the hopes that I might find it and go there again. It was John’s aunt who took us there – me, Mr PC, SM and Grandpa – on our first trip to Singapore in winter 2011. I liked the place a lot, for some reason. When I have tried to describe it, people always try to help. ‘Oh, that’s Newton,’ says someone. ‘Maxwells,’ says another. ‘Bukit Timah,’ said my map-voice when I shut my eyes and tried to recall the car trip and the route in relation to that journey’s starting point, but my map voice was wrong, I was too far east. To make it more complicated we had visited the food court at night, so describing it to anyone was always going to be tricky.

Anyway, thanks to this city’s wonderful way of taking you right back to places you’ve been to before, without you realising it, we can now all relax, because this is just what had happened. All we have to do is wait until they finish building the MRT line by those food courts and then we can hop on the No 75 and go and get our bowls of noodles. I love your interlacing, Singapore, you do it so well – you’re like a mystical puzzle in a very safe setting, with kway teow in the pot at the end of the rainbow instead of gold. Brilliant.

Double happiness

Small Monkey is definitely not so small any more: double digits in the PC house at last. A year ago, I presented nine years’ worth of monkey-related quotes. My notepad wasn’t quite as busy over the last 12 months but I managed to get a few things down. Happy birthday, SM – ten years old and chattier than ever:

Me: ‘I’m sitting next to you, please don’t pick your nose and eat it.’
SM: ‘Then don’t sit next to me.’

[‘Imagine‘ gets played at school graduation day, and after school SM is keen to talk about the life and times of the great songwriter]
‘Oh poor John Lennon, it’s a shame, I’d like to have known him.’

[I collect SM from summer camp and attractive young group leader Josie tells me about a conversation she had with him earlier on]
“He said to me: ‘I’m single, you know.’ I said: ‘Really?’ He said: ‘Yes, I don’t have any brothers or sisters.'”

[walking to summer camp we discuss Tregeagle, a Cornish legend, and how Grandpa has told the story to all of us in turn]
‘And I’ll tell it to my kids, too.’

[imparting random advice en route to the toilets at Changi Airport]
‘Whenever you feel guilty and you feel like you’ve done something wrong, just think about all the exciting things to come and what’s about to happen. That’s my encouragement.’

[watching the penultimate World Cup game]
SM: ‘Oh, they’re doing The Honka.’
Us: ‘The what?’
SM: ‘Where they all dance about and chant before a game.’

25 AUG
[watching me send an SMS at breakfast]
‘You know why grown-ups are so addicted to phones? Because they weren’t invented in the 1960s. But *I* have always had them. Kids right now, in the present, are used to it.’

26 SEP
[at the doc]
‘This place creeps me out sometimes. Usually there are nice things around but here it’s just [gestures at the leaflets]: “All your dentals will fall out”.’

DEC 14
[after a chat about Xmas]
‘Mum, I’m FREAKIN’ excited. Not physically. That would be embarrassing.’

Dec 15
[Mr PC is overseas]
‘I’m really missing Dad, you know. I mean, I don’t want to be a sissy but…’

JAN 20
[a cake discussion the day before the birthday]
‘Can you make it the best cake ever? You know like in SimCity where you build the sewage factories and make everyone happy 100 per cent? We need to do that with the cake.’

Coming right up, SM xxx

She made me do it

I’m moving forward, and I really think I’m going to do it. We are 25m off the ground (that’s 75 foot for any old-fashioned counters out there). I step onto the metal grid and we proceed. She is in front of me, and she sets a nice calm pace and squeaks with elation as we watch the ground bend slightly, far below us. I follow her, inventing an odd walk that seems to help – it involves bending at the knees, gripping the bars on either side and loping forward, staying low. I feel like Basily Fawlty. It’s odd but effective, and with giggles, squeals and plenty of eye-shutting we get to the end, at which point she admits she is terrified, too, and my knees agree, finally giving way to tremors and continuing to knock together for a good 20 minutes. No one came up behind us and the group in front moved off quickly, so we had the bridge all to ourselves. We did it! We’re alive, giddy with relief, hooting and cooing with the brilliance of it all: a textbook canopy walk.

‘She’ was my sister, and the canopy walk was the one in MacRitchie. The words ‘canopy’ and ‘walk’ don’t equate with someone who is terrified of heights, but strange things happen when family come to stay, you end up reverting to form – she made me do it, basically.

When family’s around I’m no longer the 45-year-old mother of a nearly ten-year-old boy with a husband, a nice little career in freelance journalism and a tour guide habit on the side. The plane offloads whoever it is that’s come to stay and suddenly I’m nine years old again, playing the little sister role just like the girl with the curl in her forehead – sometimes I’m lovely, sometimes I’m hideous, but always I am younger than the person who was in front of me on that metal gangplank. On the beach at Sentosa on her last day, beer beside her, sarong underneath her, my sister said: ‘It’s a pity you’re not just down the road, this would be fun to do now and then’, and that’s just it – we don’t want a condensed amount of time in each other’s pockets, we just want to hang out like we would do in the UK. She didn’t make me have beer, that day, by the way, I had cocktails instead. But she did make me sit on the beach and wade in the ocean with my skirt hitched into my pants.

Back to the point, though, and that crazy treetop walk. Anyone who had done the walk before had always told me it was perfectly OK, offering words of encouragement like: ‘The sides are boob-height, you’ll feel perfectly safe,’ and: ‘It doesn’t really wobble,’ and: ‘It’s fine.’ I didn’t believe any of that and I was never going to do it, but there we were at the sign that tells you either to go for it or to go home, and my sister said, let’s just walk to the entrance and see how it is, and if you don’t like it we can go home. In the end, what swung it for me (quite literally) was a nice young guy who directed us to the entrance then said, as a parting shot: ‘it’s totally fine, I’m scared of heights and I did it.’ Well, you can’t argue with that. Half an hour later, I was doing it too.

I’m not going to lie, it was terrifying, it did wobble, and if we hadn’t been in Safe As Houses Singapore, where I knew that a bridge like that would be safety tested to within an inch of its hideous steel chain-link girders, then I would have run a mile through the jungle.

‘Do you ever watch I’m a Celebrity?’ asked my sister as we crossed the mid-point and I peered through the slits in my eyes at the miles of sky around me and the tiny leaves on the very tops of the very tall trees. Her voice seemed to come from a long way away, even though I was practically treading on her heels with my odd loping walk, and even though I thought I replied ‘yes’ out loud, it felt like I was talking out of the side of my mouth like a puppet. She heard me though, because then she said:

‘Well, think of yourself as doing that canopy walk out of the jungle, only without the fireworks.’

See what she’d done there? She’d reverted to form, too, playing the role of older sister even though she was shaking with fear herself. She’s always done that; she’s good at making sense of nutty stuff, and she’s also good at bullet points and instructions, and actually I’m not so bad at that sort of stuff, too. I’m tempted to go back at night and graffiti the sign with bullet points:

  • Don’t look down
  • Don’t stop
  • Bend at the knees
  • Bring a friend

Really, though, what you need to make you do something like this is an older sister. I’m so glad I’ve got mine.