At Last - the Sun

Having chosen the worst possible time to be in Singapore, weather wise, it's been really annoying to watch the Asian regional weather forecast each night and to see that everywhere from Japan and Hong Kong to Thailand and the Philippines is having lovely sunshine - the only exception is Singapore with rain all the way. So today dawned cloudy as usual, but slowly a little brightness appeared until at last the sun made a tentative appearance. Enough for me to head towards the pool. While lying on my lounger, and in between sipping mango juice and enjoying a 'gula Melaka' I glanced up into the sky and was amazed to see two birds flying in complete formation - each one performing exactly the same manoeuvre as the other. My gaze then moved down to the far side of the pool and there I saw a couple of girls walking along wearing identical bikinis. It was then that I realised that without my glasses on I was seeing everything in double. The second image was only slightly lighter than the original and it completely fooled me. It's such a long time since I took my specs off for any length of time that I'd forgotten my eyes work independently without them on.
This club has wonderful facilities - and they get better every time I come here. In the new sports centre take a look at the outdoor tennis courts (four)

... And the 2 indoor ones

But best of all - as I now have joined the Henley Bowling Club - is this full size bowling green on the third floor. Pity I'm not here long enough to have a game.

I've just received an invitation to go to the Royal Palace in Johor (Malaysia) to have lunch with Sultana Nora. She's another friend from the past when I was 'Court Painter' to her husband the Sultan. Sadly I've had to turn the invitation down as it's for next Thursday and I'll be back in Henley by then.
Yesterday I took Stephanie, from Craft Print International, to lunch at the Tavern here at the club before she took me for a tour of her company in Jurong, which is in the industrial north of Singapore. It's where I've had all my books printed. Very impressive with over 250 employees and many printing machines running continuously for 24 hours. This is also where that beautiful big book on miniature painting through the ages, that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, was printed. On the way back from Jurong I took a trip round one of the latest shopping malls, called the ION. So spectacularly modern the design is almost vertiginous with all the various levels and walkways - some leading to the MRT (underground). There's even a way to go inside this enormous lilac Christmas tree.

A few of the Christmas decorations are lit already but I'm hoping all the lights will be turned on tomorrow night. Singapore loves lights - especially at Christmas and Chinese New Year. Of course they always have an eye towards profit and Singaporeans love shopping. However if a Singaporean wants to gamble at the new Sands Casino they have to pay $100 to get in, whereas we foreigners can get in for nothing. I was told meals were also free for us but I'm not likely to try it out as I'm reserving my gambling (and losses) for Sunday when I go to the races! Having lived here on and off for 20 years I've gathered many friends from every walk of life. Tonight I'm going out for dinner with Shamsuddin - one of the artists I worked with in the early sixties. But last night I met up with yet another old friend and her young friend who I used to call 'Dolly Daydream' for a reason I've forgotten - we landed up in a Western styled restaurant in the countryside called North Border.

I could barely read the menu it was so dark under the flickering candlelight, and as usual my request for Brandy Ginger Ale with NO ice materialised with a glass half full of ice. Another of my dislikes (allergies) is garlic and these days so many restaurants seem to speciallise in putting it in everything. Last night they just didn't give up. "We'll bring the garlic separately" they said, as if they were doing me a really special favour. I gave in eventually and the steak was lovely. The garlic and honey sauce (as a special treat) they brought just stared at me from the table, daring me to taste it. I didn't!
We raced around the Marina Bay area later so I could see all the buildings at night, Dolly Daydream drove too fast for me to take a decent picture, so this will have to do.

It's now about 11pm and I've just come back from a really interesting evening with Angus, a historical lecturer, together with Sham and his charming daughter. Expecting a brightly lit Malay restaurant, as we were dining at a restaurant called Bumbu, we were ushered in to what looked like an old traditional Chinese house, and up a dark staircase till we came to this room

Hardly Malay. And each table was divided by it's own carved Chinese screen. It was a lovely evening with many reminiscences of the old days when artist Sham and I worked together in Papineau Advertising. I hadn't realised what a taskmaster I was in those days, always expecting perfection in everything the artists did. It's taken this long to discover what a pain in the neck I must have appeared! We were the only customers and to my great surprise at the very moment I was telling Angus how I came to live in Singapore in the first place, the song 'Love is a Many Splendored Thing' wafted our way. That film totally changed my life as I saw it when serving as a National Serviceman at the camp cinema and immediately put down to be posted to Asia. My life would have been completely different but for Han Su Yin's classic love story. After the meal we passed by this wall of old photographs as we made our way to Arab Street.

It was a warm and tranquil night and the air was heavy with the aroma of the various flowers and trees dotted around the quiet streets surrounding the Sultan Mosque.

But as soon as we reached Arab Street everything burst into life. Hundreds of crowded stalls lined all the little streets. Most of the drinkers and diners were smoking through big and ornate 'hubble- bubble' pipes which seemed to be the centre piece of every table. This picture is a bit blurred as I didn't want to upset anyone's reverie by using flash.