It doesn’t smell like victory

I don’t know how, but we got La Serpiente out of the house fairly quickly this morning and bustled downstairs, intent on visiting the Tiong Bahru Bakery for another pain au chocolat. Stepping out of the lift, I smelt the unmistakable odour of fresh human sewage, and gagged. La Serpiente carried blithely on.

We went round the corner to the steps down to the road, and found there was a fence blocking our way: they’re painting the outside of our building so the area was blocked to stop things dropping on people’s heads. So we went around the block, past the kindergarten, to another lift lobby to get down to street level. The stench persisted. Could it be that every child had dropped their guts at once?

The smell was so strong that I began to think it was the paint, somehow smelling of shit. I tried to explain this to my daughter, and then we went downstairs, crossing the road, still smelling that pungent scent.

I checked my shoes: clean. I began to worry that there was a phantom turd hidden in my backpack. I got on the bus with La Serpiente and thankfully the smell abated.

When we got off the bus two stops later and the smell was still there, I began to grow paranoid. If you meet somebody who smells of shit first thing in the morning, they have a hygiene problem. If you can smell shit all day, every time you meet somebody, the logical conclusion is that you have the problem. This preyed on my mind as we entered the bakery (no smell of shit), bought pastries (smelling only of pastry and chocolate) and then headed to school (smell of shit returning as we made it outside).

Inside the school: no smell of shit.

Outside the school: strong smell of shit.

I checked myself again, took a bike to the station, got on the train, went to work, and only had my feeble self-esteem repaired when a coworker who lives in Tiong Bahru began to complain about the terrible smell he’d endured this morning as well.

But as to what, and why, I’m still in the dark. It doesn’t smell like victory, that’s for sure.

A Night At The Races

This evening we went to watch the horse racing. The races are at the Singapore Turf Club, far north near Krangj. Unfortunately our taxi driver, breaching at least one stereotype, didn’t know where the Turf Club was and drove us erratically through rush hour traffic, lurching with every lead-footed stomp on accelerator or brake, for an hour, until we arrived tired and nauseous at the Turf Club. Hardly the most glamorous of starts.

Betting on horses makes everything more fun: do you choose based on prior form? On the horse with the silliest name? (Our pick of the night, Sir Reginald, placed, though we’d bet on him to win, a consistent mistake throughout the evening.) Or do you just choose completely at random?

Whatever and however you decide, you have to bet in cash. And there’s no cash machine onsite, a canny move by the Singaporean authorities, no doubt, to ensure nobody empties their bank account and maxes out their credit cards trying to win a fortune on Mr Ed in the final race.

That did mean that we went through all our cash (well, all my wife’s cash) in four races, not winning anything to offset our losses. Then all that remained was to eat copious dessert (sesame strudel, a dark and strange combination, beloved by my wife but revolting to me, alongside profiteroles, eclairs, sundry other cakes…) and then mosey down to the trackside to watch the final race thunder over the finish line.

After that, we took a car home to bed. I’d drunk as much beer as I could (carbohydrate loading for tomorrow’s run) so I felt a little dyspeptic, glad to be back from the wastelands of the far north, ready to sleep.

Not too much fun at the waterpark

This afternoon we went to the Gardens By The Bay to meet friends at the children’s play area. Before going there, we popped over to the Star Wars event, where there were some demented cosplayers dressed in heavy black uniforms from top to toe, just the thing for tropical weather. La Serpiente decided she was scared of ‘the black turtles’ so we bid a hasty retreat to the children’s area.
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Partied out

This morning I awoke feeling crapulent, apparently the result of one pint of beer last night. We went downstairs to a 4th birthday party in the mezzanine area of our building, on an incredibly hot, humid day. The girls ran around playing with water pistols, or drew with chalk on the ground, or slid around in puddles of soapy water, for two hours until La Serpiente faceplanted and we all went home for a nap.
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Great World City and a calm afternoon

An enormous chicken mural at Camp Kilo
An enormous chicken mural at Camp Kilo

This morning we went to Great World City, another mall in Singapore that’s not very different to the rest. There’s a Toys R Us for the kids to buy branded doodads in, there’s a Cotton On to buy their clothes in, there’s a Marks & Spencer and a Typo to buy kitsch nick-nacks. We went to the toyshop to buy the girls new toy cars; La Serpiente got a metallic purple VW bug and Destroyer a Beatles-themed Mini. And i got a 67 Ford Mustang, so I was happy too. This excursion took us a couple of hours when you factor in stopping for a croissant in Tiong Bahru, changing a nappy and all the other mucking around, which meant that the kids were ready for their naps. So tired, in fact, was La Serpiente that she ran around me screaming that she was too tired to walk and needed to be carried. Heartless parent that I am, I pointed out the discrepancy in this and made her walk to the bus stop.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that all places, at all times, are envious of the South​ London suburb of Crystal Palace, and that given time, for any particular place, you’ll always be able to amass evidence to prove this. 

And so that was that we went to Singapore’s attempt at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Gardens By The Bay, to find this maxim proven once more. 

It’s the Children’s Festival until April, and because children love building-sized monstrosities that tear and eat flesh, a large number of dinosaur statues have been erected through the gardens. Just like in Crystal Palace Park, they peer out from between shrubberies and frighten the young and impressionable. Because it’s the 21st century, instead of being in drab neutral tones or covered in moss, they’re all neon shades of pink and green and purple, and most of them are motorised and either growl or move their heads left and right, eyes and mouths twitching open. I guess the Victorians didn’t have access to modern animatronics. 

There were blood red velociraptors sprinkled through the park, and we saw a girl of two or three reduced to tears and screams, while her father held her close to the enormous mouth of one such specimen. It’s always nice to see total disregard for somebody’s peace of mind. La Serpiente and Destroyer were unfazed though. 

That was because they were more intent on collecting stamps in a free booklet. There were brightly coloured eggs dotted through the gardens, and if you could find each one and its attendant stamp, you could check it off. We found most of them, but as the day ground on and we began to succumb to heatstroke, patience grew short, until my wife was accosting random passers-by and demanding to know whether they’d seen the eggs. Good times. 

As well as schlepping around in the sunshine, we got to see a half hour music show, where seven unlucky thespians got strapped into enormous foam rubber dinosaur costumes and had to dance under the blazing sun, encouraging the watching children to clap their hands and dance. Our kids were spellbound, although they may just have been out of their minds after eating a whole ice cream each. But whatever works, works. 

We got all our stamps by 530 and then beat a retreat. (The last egg is hidden up some stairs, behind an out-of-commission lift, which is suspicious in this city of super high efficiency and no broken infrastructure. Maybe the dinosaurs nobbled it.) I don’t know if we qualify for a prize, but i was just proud that the South [London] would rise again. 

Just give it a few million years and some fossilisation, that’s all. 

Pasir Ris Park

This morning we went to Pasir Ris Park. Pasir Ris is right at the end of the East West MRT line, so the name had a passing familiarity, although it’s never somewhere I’d been before. I wasn’t feeling that great: two hard days of running behind me, and we’d been out til midnight at a friend’s 40th. I don’t think I had that much to drink (3 beers and a glass of champagne) but the combination of the heat, the humidity, the standing up on tired legs for four hours, the being a lightweight… So the thought of traipsing around in the sun didn’t fill me with joy. 

It’s a good park though. You sit on the train for 40 minutes then walk five minutes more to get to the first part of the park; a large lake with people fishing in curiously organised manner, and a short walk after that takes you to a path next to the canal. It was low tide and, below the locks, we could see herons striding about (and later a huge monitor lizard too). There’s also a huge tree full of birds; mynahs, orioles, even a kingfisher. My spirits began to lift. 

Following the Park Connector route brings you to a boardwalk over a mangrove swamp. Once La Serpiente was persuaded that a boardwalk isn’t a bridge (and therefore doesn’t conceal any trolls) she was happy to walk down it and look at the fiddler crabs in the mud beneath us. There were quite a few mosquitoes around but we were liberal with citronella patches and didn’t get bit. 

Coming out of the mangroves there’s a small vegetable garden to explore, then the park widens again; there’s lots of grassy space and paths to run or cycle on, and a good view of the sea. Pasir Ris is down the same end of Singapore as the airport, but it’s surprisingly peaceful. One thing to shatter the peacd is a nearby water park, where small children splash one another while Also Sprach Zarathustra is played at ear splitting volume. No, I don’t know why Wagner is appropriate accompaniment to water slides in Singapore, it just is. (The water park is hidden behind some trees so we never actually saw it, just heard its Terrifying Presence.)

I jumped around on some steps to amuse Destroyer, then we retraced our steps. We stopped at the station for lunch and to listen to an inept busker, then home. Today I was meant to put in a two hour run, but hangover and walking around with the kids and a huge rainstorm and being exhausted put paid to that. I hope this doesn’t signal the disastrous end of my marathon training efforts.