|Drive behind the Executive Centre, Fusion Spoon just to the right|
|Halls. Balconies at night|
The next stage of the Singapore residency is moving into the University for the next three weeks. Alvin saw us off and Barrie Sherwood, writer and assistant professor, drove us the distance to Nanyang Technical University. It's a fairly long drive from the centre out to this western point of the island, mostly multi-carriageway. We arrive at the Executive Centre where we find two rooms plus bathroom etc, all perfectly comfortable. We unpack as much as we can quickly, eat a lunch at Fusion Spoon restaurant just behind the Centre. We have to eat it outside on the terrace rather than in the air conditioned interior because there is a private dinner going on there. More on the Fusion Spoon later. Enough for now that the sign for it features a fork rather than a spoon.
After lunch Barrie returns for us and we take a walk. The campus is beautifully laid out with paths, walkways and streets, a large sports centre with running track and pitches, a swimming pool. It is quiet, the last week of term before exams and people are studying. The paths wind to one canteen then to another. There are shops and halls of residence. The university was closed down at an early stage because it was supposed to be a hotbed of communism. It is hard to imagine that now. Since its reopening it has spread itself comfortably in less than austere surroundings.
Here be large kingfishers, hornbills, parakeets, mynahs, crows and snakes. So far we have only seen the kingfisher, the crows and caught a glimpse of parakeets. There are crickets by the million. Beyond the boundary of the university are the remnants of a jungle that is the province of the military. Singapore spends heavily on its military. It would be dangerous to enter its terrain.
We walk over to the College of Humanities where I am to have an office. It is a very recent, light building. It feels as though it could be made of thin translucent card. Barrie introduces us to colleagues and gives us coffee in his office since the keys to mine are yet to be found. We meet New Zealand poet, Jennifer Megan Crawford and share coffee with her.
Then we return to the Centre and work a little before returning to Fusion Spoon for late dinner. The menu is essentially western, intended for foreign professors and visiting staff. There is some linguistic confusion about our order. We get one soup instead of two, the second arrives late. I get to wait. When it comes to the second course again one arrives later than the other. This time Clarissa waits. It's all friendly but a little desolate, like the restaurant at the end of the world. It looks like a squash court turned into a disco with a line of incongruous chandeliers. It is where we are to have our breakfasts.
I don't want to disparage it. I don't want to disparage anything because it is a truly attractive campus and I am lucky to be here. I might even grow fond of Fusion Spoon. Perhaps I already am.
In the meantime there is the constant possibility of the monsoon unleashing a furious devout drench on us. Thunder mutters, the sky darkens and lightens, the clouds clot then vanish to be replaced by more cloud.