Wilted grass lay brittle,
the earth cracks in frustration,
longing for moist.
Parched, the thirst remains un-quenched.
The undercurrent of hot blood,
surges to the brink of relentlessness,
alas, it is bridled.
How do you unravel a dry spell?
with a deadpan.
Gone are the cool months of rain. Since the lunar new year, it’s been sweltering hot. But the upside is unadulterated sunshine and plenty of reasons to go for a ride!
Because blue skies, fluffy white clouds and the love for the wind on two wheels open up the heart just a bit more.
Near Sungai Serangoon
25km into the ride I had a flat with no spare tube on hand. Though this isn’t a bad place to end the ride. Don’t these coconut trees look like lanky ladies with crazy winds sweeping through their hair?
Pasir Ris Park. The sea separates Singapore and Malaysia.
How clichéd are photos of clouds taken from a plane? But I love looking at these clouds. I want to sprawl on this white fluffy cotton mattress, roll in daydreams, live on ultra thin air.
The plane descends. Transporting from the sea of white into a swathe of green and geometrical rows of palm oil plantations as far as the eye can see. The river meanders so romantically in the glow of the morning sun, even though I know the weather outside swelters.
These photos were taken while I flew home for the Lunar New Year. My other home that is. After all, I have lived abroad for more than half my life.
Sunday morning. Cycled. Then came to P’s place. Tinkled the piano. A man walks by with his two-year old son and stopped at the door. I looked up. Man says his son loves listening to the piano and there is a “Welcome ” sign on the door. That sign was from P’s Christmas party.
Note to self: what a great conversation starter that sign makes!
Leftover food lie in a sea of styrofoam plates, like carcasses of a voracious hunt. The aftermath of a massive lunch crowd. Pigeons and crows swoop down with gusto, like scavengers in the wild. The collateral damage? Splatters of what used to be somebody’s lunch: curry, laksa, unknown black gravy. Food wastage. Tipping bowls. Utensils clanking on the floor. Scraps sent flying.
Grease and fumes in thick swirl, bloated by the trapped air under a large terracotta roof. Even a vigourous December breeze fails to temper.
Then there is the drudgery of clearing what looks like a swathe of garbage in wasteland. In that moment, a hawker centre cleaner’s job is the most uncoveted in the world.
*I wrote this after taking a shortcut walking through a hawker centre one windy Saturday afternoon. It was after lunch. At that time, that shortcut felt like a tramp through wasteland. For those of you who don’t know, a hawker centre is a centre for food stalls, born of public policy to remove hawkers from the Singapore streets and house them under a centralised area back in the 70s-80s: see this paper here. Today, the hawker centre is considered a typically affordable, down-to-earth dine-out place. Much has been said about “returning one’s tray” and having the facilities for people to do so in these hawker centres. Apparently not enough is being done yet, both by those who lay out the infrastructure, and by those who frequent these hawker centres. Ironically, this is a community that takes so much pride in its cheap delectable eats: just look at the obedient queues at the food stalls and the plethora of food blogs on webspace. The passion for eating just doesn’t quite seem to gel with the respect for food and the facilitation of its consumption which would include cleaning up thereafter.
This morning I rode past the river. The river looks clean only because it has been cleaned up. Something to think about the next time you think Singapore is a clean city.
Year end. The air is cooler. It rains every other day, if not incessantly. A constant waft of moistened freshness, before, during and after the rain. The grass is greener. Everything seems a little bit more lustrous. I want to be by the window, closer to the lingering companionship of pitter patter. I will miss it when it stops. I turn on some music, something velvety and buttery by Zee Avi: ”The turtle moves slowly and is happy with his pace of life. The flamingo walks with elegant grace, she knows she’s one of a kind.” For a brief moment I am not what other people think of me nor in a tangle of other people’s problems.
The calendar is down to its last pages. Each event past archived in the diary. The year concludes either with a bang or mediocrity, provided one only believes in two possible conclusions.
For me, I only hope I have learned a bit more about myself. Here’s to a new year, new journeys and new discoveries ahead.
The whole of last week was filled with coughs and splutters. The nose suffered from smell “amnesia” (the proper word for which is actually “anosmia”. No, I’m not that smart, Google told me that). The flu season has returned. And so did the rainy season, at least in this part of the world. To think that just less than two months ago, I was gallivanting in the colours of autumn elsewhere.
Colours of autumn. Seoul, late October 2013.
After a week of using up lots of tissue paper and mentally swatting the flu bug, a friend and I met to catch up. It had been a while. On a whim, we decided to watch a Christmas concert by Vox Camerata. This is a community choir which accepts members without auditions. Kudos to them this year as they tackled some challenging works: Poulenc’s 4 christmas motets, Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, and a beautiful piece by Elizabeth Poston.
Elizabeth Poston was a composer and musicologist who collected folksongs and was an editor for carols and hymn collections. Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (sung in the video by the King’s College Choir, Cambridge) is one of her most well-known works. But did you know that the composer of this sweet music served as a secret agent during World War II? While working for the BBC, she used gramophone records to send coded messages to Resistance workers in Nazi-occupied countries.
If you like reading about music and coded messages during war time, check out this article.