It’s weird being back in my old Singapore neighbourhood. So much is the same, but so much has changed.
All the market and food stalls still cluster around the surrounding streets.
The pungent scent of durian still wafts through the air.
The same waiters still grimly take my order at Fatty’s as my old apartment looms above.
But my husband – we’d just married when we moved to Singapore – is on holidays with his girlfriend and my kids in Italy; DD is home in Australia and I am alone.
Spending time by myself in such familiar/unfamiliar territory has lead to reflection on my past.
Were we happy in those first Singapore days? I must have been, but I can’t remember much about our life back then.
Just brief flashes: going on food adventures via far flung MRT stations; hosting an Aussie-style party with just a few bowls of chips that horrified the locals, who define “party” as meaning Bain Maries heaving with food; being invited to endless glam launches in my role as editor of CLEO; heading to Borders on weekends to browse the book shelves; dinners at Fatty’s …
I was excited to show my old stomping ground to DD, so high I didn’t have jetlag that first night. It felt like MY town. DD noted that it must have been a good place for me to have energised me so much.
It didn’t have quite the same effect on him – he’s STILL exhausted – but he enjoyed seeing some new sides to the city.
I wasn’t sure how I’d handle being here alone, but I’m managing to adult quite well so far – I wandered back to the hotel at 8.45pm last night after a very full day.
It started with a bit of Starbucks free wi-fi and caffeine at Clarke Quay, followed by lunch with a lovely former colleague called Charlotte.
Charlotte and I worked together at Singapore CLEO – she was marketing manager. We reminisced about the good old days while I marvelled that she didn’t look a day older. She also managed to look totally amazing with a buzz cut – she shaved her head for charity last month.
We both enjoy vigorous conversation, so we didn’t come up for air for 90 minutes over a lunch of Nasi Padang food – beef rendang, sambal squid and kangkong belachan.
We gave each other a huge hug and promised to stay in better touch, then I ambled off for a shop on Orchard Road. My heart wasn’t really in it though, because I have about eight kilos to lose before I’m prepared to try on pants again.
Happiness has made me rather plump … I did try on a plunging maxi-dress at Abercrombie and Fitch that I quite fancied, but a selfie in the mirror confirmed my fear that the boobs don’t really stand up to being shown off in plunging, strappy sundresses any more.
I forlornly recalled my pride at being able to go bra-less in tight T-shirts at 35 (pre-kids) because I was all B cup and perky. It’s a very different story 13 years and two babies later …
I wandered past a cinema and spotted that a session of Florence Foster Jenkins was starting in 15 minutes, so I slipped into the air-con for the bargain price of $8.50 and had a therapeutic laugh and cry. Filthy rich, eccentric and convinced she could sing like an angel (when she actually sounded like a cat being strangled), Florence threw a concert at Carnegie Hall for 3000 people who laughed at her. Poor, poor woman. I hope the Hugh Grant character – who played her doting, unfaithful husband – did genuinely love her in real life.
Then I wandered back to the hotel with a stop for some solo char Kway Teow at a food stall on the way, grabbed myself a cider from the 7Eleven and settled into bed for some FaceTime with DD – who’d popped by my house (unprompted, bless him) to check on the renos for me and take some snaps. I was a bit terrified by the thought of seeing the pics, but it’s looking great (if not quite as finished as I might have hoped …)
As for today … since shopping isn’t doing it for me, I may be forced to do something touristy to fill the hours before going out for an early dinner with some old friends tonight.
My ex sent a pic of the girls clowning around in Vernazza. They look very happy. I miss them.
I hear there are big storms in Oz – hope you are all safe and well.
Catch you tomorrow.
PS That’s my old home sweet home in the pic