Saturday, 15 November 2014

Singapore, Days Four and Five
Monsoon Rains and the Bollywood Veggie


Tuesday was quiet, exploring the campus, walking past the sports pitch, swimming pool, round the various halls and faculties, trying out a canteen, reading and writing. Nothing particular to note except the rise and filling out of the sky with ever darker squelches of cloud all threatening rain but skirting around us with a grumble or two.

Wednesday, by contrast, was very packed indeed. In the morning over to my office then to meet Alvin who took us on a whirlwind tour - first to Bollywood Veggie, set up by 'Poison' Ivy Singh as somewhere between a farm, a restaurant and an educational centre where people might be reminded where their food actually comes from. (See photos early posts below). Among Ivy's projects is an all female political party. The food was very good and we were looking round the gardens when the storm began.

We got into the car to move on but this was the real thing and soon we were right in the middle of it with lightning crashing all around us and parts of the road quickly awash. It is magnificent (see the movie clip below which does it nothing like justice) and it goes on for some time. But no one stops. Life goes on in the glowering dark with the furious drench and the regular crash of thunder.

By the time we were back in town - about half an hour's drive and more, because of the weather - the storm had just about blown itself out. We headed for Books, Actually, Kenny Leck's bookstore full of covetable books as well as those published by the shop itself, handsomely, plain but not too austere. Left with many more books than I had arrived with.

A quick coffee then on wit the tour, first of early Modernist estate, Tiong Bahru, a touch of Art Deco in some streets and straight Stuttgart Weissenhof of 1927, in others. I have never been to Tel Aviv but imagine its modernist period buildings might look a little like this. It is serene architecture but with the clean dynamic lines of an architecturally optimistic era.

From there to Blair Plain, old Chinese quarter, now a very expensive suburb.  Individually treated in terms of colour and some decorative features but loaded with symbolic pattern and imagery. Cages of songbirds hanging in front of one or two, the houses - as judged through open doors, much bigger than they look from the front. Round the corner in Neil Road we find the Nus Baba house which is, by a very lucky chance, open and a lecture is about to be given by, Kelvin, a friend of Alvin's so we are allowed in and hear his talk which is about the restoration of the house (overseen by him along with others) to what, in contemporary terms, was its former state, the whole rescued from damp and dereliction. The rooms remind me, not unsurprisingly, a little of those we saw in Shnghai in 2011. See latest photo.

Thence to eat at the vast street food court in deep Chinatown at the Chinatown Complex (Kreta Ayer) Food Centre? Most of it was shut for cleaning, unfortunately, but when fully open it must be one very packed market. We eat there and drink a beer before moving on to Altitude, the highest building in Singapore, the 96th floor where there is a party with strobes, pounding music and cocktails. It is free night for ladies. We squeeze between drinkers, dancers and circumnavigate the open top of the building taking shots of the city.

Thence home. My first good night's unbroken sleep, starting about 1am. I have been working I assure you. I have completed the poems for the Imperial College Archives Project, written another based here - I hope there may be more of these - and prepared for my master class and reading this afternoon, as well as for my undergraduate group tomorrow.

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