Sunday, September 24, 2006

Living and leaving Singapore

Final Notes from a Great Island - Humphreys is very well-known among the Singapore newspaper reading public. For the last few years, he has been entertaining and informing Today readers through his regular columns. I must say that I am a fan of his, having been tickled often by his observation and experiences of life in Singapore. However, he has just left for Australia's Geelong to start the next phase of his life with his wife though, thankfully, he still writes the weekly column for Today. And why not. The internet has made communications so much more convenient. The only thing that the internet cannot do is to give a person a feel of life in a certain place while being in another. Neil certainly will not be able to write about Singapore as often and as intimately as he used to. But he has left behind for Singaporeans, and the wider expatriate community in Singapore, and perhaps the world, a book about his travels and observations in the oft neglected parts of this tiny island of Singapore.

In his inimitable way, "Final Notes from a Great Island - A Farewell to Singapore" relates his journeys and discoveries into places such as Lim Chu Kang where all sorts of farms, such as organic farms, goat farms, frog farms, etc., still exists in this otherwise highly urbanised island. Locals as well as expatriates should give Orchard Road a miss on weekends and public holidays for these farms, if nothing else, as a therapy against the hustle and bustle of city living. In the same vein, Neil writes about his Singapore Challenge of 'circum-navigating' Singapore's lush rainforests of reservoirs and nature reserve smack in the middle of the island. Indeed, as he notes, this is the green lung of the island. If quaintness is what you are looking for, then follow him through Queenstown, the Chua Chu Kang cemeteries and Haw Par Villa Park. If for titillation, then Geylang is a, ahem, must-go.

Personally, I was delighted that Neil visited Sembawang and wrote about the many places that I am familiar with, including Sembawang Park and the Jetty at the end of it. It brought back a lot of memories of my childhood. But I do have a gripe with his history. Neil mentioned the Terror Club as originating from the Americans. While the Terror Club near Admiralty Road East is now the domain of the American military personnel, the name originated from his countrymen during the time Singapore was its impregnable fortress and the Naval Base its home. 'Terror' was a wholly British invention. My dad used to work in the Naval Base in the 1950s and 1960s for the British, and he would often mention 'tear-lah', which is the Cantonese transliteration of 'Terror', in his conversations with mother. I didn't understand who or what he was referring to until much later. I have some links in my singaporelifetimes blog which document all these.

Notwithstanding this slight historical inaccuracy, Neil has done Singapore a favour with his book. I only discovered that he had written two other books, "Notes from an even smaller island" and "Scribbles from the same Island" on the same subject earlier, and they are probably well worth reading too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I first visited the Terror Club in 1979 and was told it was a former Royal Navy Officer's Club. I imagine, from the photos I've seen lately, it's not even the same building. Warm beer and a cool pool, is what I remember.