Wednesday, April 27, 2011

25% fat

I half-jokingly said I should keep a tally of my weight after I move here since the food is so good. After my medical check up this week I think it's probably actually a good idea. In my final year of uni I was 58kg and am now 68kg; and at 25% body fat it's difficult to convince myself it's all just 'resting muscle'.
I've been reading Sherlock Holmes on my Kindle though, and so instinctively making incisive deductions about everything (whether true or not) and my understanding is that the bioelectrical impedance test basically measures your conductivity, linked to your water content, so inferring your fat content (fat is low in water); meaning if I was required to fast for 12 hours before the check-up, this may not really help my water content. I might bring this up with them when I go back to get my results but get the feeling they might just see it as fat-man's denial.
Nevermind. I guess all I can do is console myself by playing guitar to my new biggest fan (above), tucking into some delicious, hilariously named, snacks, and maybe going to enjoy the views at the gym (below, view from gym at Suntec City of Singapore flyer and Marina Bay Sands resort).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

to make me feel at home

As well as the regular rain, there have been a few things I keep noticing around the place that might fool me into thinking I'm still in England. Particularly this week when I've been spending a lot of time in and around the 'colonial quarter' and near the Fullerton Hotel (above). The Fullerton is a telling relic of the colonial legacy in that, although the British may have had a hand in shaping Singapore even the most British of places, the post office no less, has become something quite different. The same could be said of the 'Ye Olde Fish and Chip' stalls in the shopping malls. A cherished British institution, but perhaps unrecognisable here with calamari on the menu, and no mushy peas to be had.
While the media here is just as obsessed with the English premier league, and the bloody royal wedding, I could be forgiven thinking that I've not gone anywhere at all; especially when I find a place that makes mushy peas curry just like Mahesh's!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring cleaning

The start of April (around 15 days from the spring equinox) in traditional Chinese culture is the Qingming festival. This is a time for remembering ancestors and visiting their resting place to make sure it's clean and tidy. Lyn and her family were nice enough to let me tag along when they went to visit Lyn's ancestors last weekend. I'm afraid some of the Taoist symbolism may have been lost on me (e.g. burning paper replicas of cars and iPads) but as a family and community activity it was quite touching and nice to be a part of.

I think it's fair to say that Singaporean culture puts a lot of focus on food and it's perhaps unsurprising that this entends into the afterlife as well. Food and drink are offered to the spirits and while they are eating, this gives plenty of time to clean the urns (cremation is preferred since Singapore's housing shortage also extends beyond the barrier). Depending on how hungry the spirits are, there may also be time to fold gold-coloured paper into nugget shapes for burning later, and, as at family gatherings the world over, to rehash old arguments and berate the youth for their generation's shortcomings.

There could be a temptation in modern society to think such practices are no longer relevant, but to me it just highlighted the capacity for anthropomorphising of issues beyond our understanding, which happens as much now as ever before; and more than ever we need to ensure that we stay grounded and don't lose touch with where we came from and where we will ultimately go. Whether the dead need paper 'Rulex' watches, trillions of dollars of Bank Of Hell currency and the latest Apple products I'm not so convinced, but it at least provides Singaporeans with one day per year where they can legally make a mess and burn stuff. It seems that the spiritual concepts that prevail in a society generally reflect the aspirations and values of that society so on one hand its nice to acknowledge that we are where we are now, and have the comfortable lives we do, because of those who have come before us, but on the other hand, money isn't everything and inflation at the Bank Of Hell must be a killer.

Top: Bright hill Buddhist temple in Bishan, next door to the columbarium, just before a big thunderstorm hit.
Left: Monks like aubergines

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I will accept cheques and postal orders as thanks for bringing the weather here with me. I joked when I got here that it was glorious sunshine and hadn't rained for a week, but that the weather wouldn't take long to catch up with me. Every day since has had a thunderstorm. If I wasn't currently reading Paranormality by Richard Wiseman (on my new Kindle, thanks R305), I might be tempted to think I have some kind of X-men-style psychic weather-control power; or at least possess prescient sarcasm. Can't complain too much though since it keeps the temperature down and stops me getting an even worse t-shirt sun tan; which would actually make the back of my neck look like the Singapore flag. And I gather the weather has picked up considerably in England since I left...I'm sure the same thing happened the last time I left the country as well...maybe I should get Richard Wiseman's email address...

As an 8-days-in update, I can say things seem to be going well. I've met most of the people I'll be working with and they all seem like good craic. Managed to not miss the bus to work again, but will soon get a reputation as the weird British guy at the bus stop who asks where every bus is going.
I should take a clipboard, stupid questions always seem less threatening with a clipboard. I'll cease being one of those illegal immigrants you read about in The Express when I collect my Employment Pass on Monday. Tried out our corporate gym membership today in a gym overlooking the Singapore river which is nice. And a bite from a mysterious unidentified fly which had caused my right foot to swell quite alarmingly (instant cankles) seems to have disappeared. That bite, many previous bites, and the fact that Lyn's dog has taken to licking my feet at every opportunity, suggests my feet must have some particular allure that makes them irresistible to the mouths of animals. I can add that to my list of superpowers.

Singapore's riverside architecture and a pigeon

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

typical, you wait ages for a bus.....

...then several come at once...and you don't get on any of them.

Efficient, and business-savvy as always, several years ago the Singapore government dredged up a vast plain of reclaimed land on their westernmost point and sold plots to pretty much every big pharmaceutical company you can think of. Not bad for a landfill. Image from As a further masterclass in getting something from nothing, they have also packed Tuas South with refuse incinerators who's ash waste is taken by barge to be carefully poured out on Pulau Semakau; so generating electricity from the incineration and gradually increasing the size of Pulau Semakau, now a popular tourist, and wildlife spotting, destination. On a more personal note, as a result of this process, the view from my new workplace looks just like my last workplace (albeit with less smog and more palm trees than Middlesbrough) thus helping ease my transition.

Wonderful though this whole enterprise is, it means that the Roche Singapore Technical Operations site is a little bit out of the way to say the least. Subsequently, after waiting until 8am for a bus that I must have watched arrive and leave sometime around 7:15, along with a score of other buses, my Monday commute meant riding the MRT to the end of the line and then a further 20 minute taxi. I'm no expert on etiquette but I would think being 90 minutes late on your first day of work is probably not the best way to make a good impression.

I could blame myself for missing the bus, I wanted to go to Roche, but perhaps I should have known that, as I learned today, the Roche bus is actually labelled for Mayflower Primary School. How silly of me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

so....this is what a blog looks like

I'd like to think anyone who know's me might think i'm not to type of person who reads blogs (true) or would write a blog (we'll see). The idea of people thinking the minutiae of their wacky lives being worth publishing and necessary to the public consciousness seems arrogant at best. HOWEVER, I appreciate the irony of a trivial blog post wining about trivial blog posts, but without self perpetuating contradictions, where would we be? And at least I'm not tweeting about it.

Anyway... I just recently made a slight relocation from North-East England to South-East Asia and thought it might be cathartic to have somewhere to vent my culture shock, and to have something for family and friends to see how I'm getting on without having to wade into the mire of facebook. All I can promise is that updates will be infrequent, and there's a small chance they might contain sarcasm.

Marina Bay after mocktails and cocktails at Harry's bar.