For the past few days I've settled in around my new digs near the botanic gardens and the Mcritchie Reservoir, trying to get a writing routine going. But there's been no less to discover. In the back garden of the house is a ravine where macaques live. Here's what they're up to at lunchtime today:
1. A monkey takes to the heliconia -- for a moment he sits higher than the forest in the full blessing of the sun -- copper silk hair turned precious gold -- as he stretches his back trying to increase his riches, the giant plane leaf bows for him and he drops back into the forest.
2. A large monkey excuses herself from the ravine and climbs a nearby tree. In the shadow where the trunk splits into branches she lays down, with her face on the bark and her arms folded under her belly for a nap.
3. On the path than runs like a seam between the house and the forest a mother and her almost-grown child sit together. The mother pushes the child's shoulder as she tries to pick through the fine brown fur on his back,until the child tips over. The mother continues, kneading the little monkey's back while he lays comfortably in the sun.
"No need to ask, these are all treasures..."
The Substation is a little hub of contemporary art in Singapore, but for the month of September the centre has been taken over by an art collective called Post-Museum. The usual door is closed and visitors are invited to find the red door to enter behind the scenes.
I get a kick out of only getting to see the Substation in its new temporary taken-over state.
In one corner the Foodscape Collective plants herbs in a row of broken egg shells. In another is a new take on taxidermy, the natural slump of the dead Myna preserved on a page.
My favourite pieces are by Jennifer Ng, called Treasures. "No need to ask," Jennifer writes next to an intricate tower, made with such obsessive care and particularity that it seems as personal as a dream or a diary entry, "these are all treasures."
The shrine to the sultan is deserted, except for the pigeons, who have created a heirarchy on the rafters, and one by one come and visit the Shah, checking on his pile of yellow flowers.
On my first proper day in Singapore, I find myself in Fort Canning. The fort is a hill — carefully kept green grass, a winding brick path, and the summit protected by trees and gardens. As I wind my way up, in the humid air that I’m not quite used to yet, I take a roundabout route past the fancy Hotel Fort Canning, a colonial building with a palatial white facade. It was built in 1926 and housed the administrative offices of British Military members. Just like Singapore, the building was occupied by the Japanese Military in the last years of World War II, and then again by the British.
I can only peer over the wall at the swimming pool and spa, trying to catch sight of the guests but there’s no one around.
The fort itself is just as empty. A single lunch-break jogger comes through the massive iron gateway. In the distance a man in yellow wellies shifts some plants around. As I follow the trail around the fort, just as I hoped would happen, my mind turns from planes and Airbnbs and bus stops and Skype calls into nature.
There are vast trees every so often, with branches like ribbons falling down to the ground. There are patches planted like vegetable patches, but instead of carrots and potatoes it’s cinnamon and ginger. The air is spicy.
In Malay culture, a mountain or a hill is said to be where our ancestors rest. For that reason Fort Canning was called the Forbidden Hill before the days of occupation, because it was said to be the resting place for the kings of Singapore.
When I find the shrine I’m not surprised. The fort seems just right for a place of peace. The dim tiled square and the roof with its dark wooden rafters, and the quiet keramat in the centre, loved on by pigeons and leftover offerings, fits right in among the spices.
The number two thing to do when you're stuck for a day in the airport is the rollercoaster...
The number one thing to do if you're stuck in San Francisco airport for a day is the Aviation Museum...