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Efficient Singapore

How efficient is Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA)? I noticed a pedestrian crossing traffic light at a road junction near my house was 90 degrees out, perhaps having been hit by a lorry, so I emailed LTA. I told them that the green man was now facing the entrance to Tanglin Trust School's sports field and was inviting kids to walk out into four lanes of speeding traffic. Not good. Anyway, the LTA fixed the light within about 4 hours of me sending the email, somebody from LTA called me to confirm the light had been repaired and, I believe, we didn't lose any kids from Tanglin Trust School. Job done.

Olive and Leo

Father’s Day

Today is Father's Day in Singapore. We went for a swim in the morning, followed by a picnic in the park. Thanks for the chocolate, kids.

Cold Storage Run


Olive (4): Daddy, am I a carnivore, herbivore or omnivore?
Daddy: You tell me, Olive.
Olive: Well, I can't be an omnivore, I don't eat curry.

Straight As

Olive received straight As for all Chinese subjects in her mid-year school report. Only when we took a closer look did we discover A stands for Average.

Olive and Grace

Olive (4) wants the whole family to say grace - in Chinese - before dinner. The version she's learnt at school goes on forever and the rest of us have to wait, with our hands clasped in prayer, until she's finished, meaning our rice is usually cold. I'm happy Olive's attending a Christian school and is appreciative of the food placed before her but I think we might have to teach her a shorter prayer.


Olive (4): Daddy, my bear can speak many languages.
Daddy: What can he speak, Olive?
Olive: English, Chinese, Malay, France, Greece and Saturn.


Olive (studying her poo in the toilet): Mummy, mummy, come here!
Mummy: What is it Olive?
Olive: I won!
Mummy: Won what, dear?
Olive: The smelly poo competition!
Mummy: Well done, Olive.
Olive: But Daddy can probably beat me.
Daddy: Charming!

Leo’s 2nd birthday

Leo celebrates his second birthday with sister Olive and friends Blake, Dylan, Don Don, Julia and Jill.


Olive: Daddy, what work does Mummy do?
Daddy: Olive, that's a very good question.
Olive: I know Daddy, Mummy goes shopping.
Daddy: Wise words, Olive, wise words.
Olive: Oh, now I remember. Mummy's work is going out to meet her friends!


Leo (holding the hind legs of a plastic pig in the jaws of a plastic t-rex and looking smug): I did it!

More Leoisms when he learns more words.


Olive spinning on the beach at koh Lanta, Thailand.


Daddy (at a salad bar in Holland Village): Olive, which salad would like to have for lunch?
Olive: I don't like veggie.
Daddy: This is a salad bar, Olive.
Olive: OK, you eat the salad, I'll eat the salad bar.


The kids gave me a giant bubble maker for my birthday a few weeks back and we finally got the solution to work. Great fun!


Mummy: Please eat your greens, Olive.
Olive: Mummy, when I'm your age I will like lettuce and salad. And when I'm your age I will like sausages and beans. No, wait, I already like sausages and beans!


Following a serendipitous meeting in a bar, I was invited to join the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race crews in Marina at Keppel Bay during their stopover in Singapore. Sandy, the kids and I went aboard the Visit Finland yacht and were amazed at the sheer scale of the 68-foot-long racing yacht. The boats are large but they've been stripped out for racing with no luxuries at all. Ten canvas cloth bunks sleep up to twenty crew, in two shifts, and wet wipes make do for showers at sea. After a quick interview for a Nat Geo documentary on the race and a picnic on the grass facing the marina, I dropped by the race office to give the race office manager a gift from Monsoon Books: "The Boat: Singapore Escape, Cannibalism at Sea"!

[Click Charles Dickens to visit the official Charles Dickens 2012 website]

Dickens 2012 is a worldwide celebration of the life and work of Charles Dickens to mark the bicentenary of his birth. In Singapore, the British Arts Council is putting on a number of events in early February. For more information, click here.

One of Monsoon's authors, Alison Jean Lester, is the great great great-granddaughter of Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne, Charles Dickens's illustrator). Apparently, Phiz and novelist William Makepeace Thackeray both submitted portfolios of their work to Dickens's publisher and Dickens chose the drawings of Phiz. Phiz went on to illustrate ten of Dickens's books.

The bicentenary is a good excuse to revisit or discover afresh the works of Dickens. I've been listening to audiobook recordings of A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Christmas Carol and Nicholas Nickleby on my iPhone while jogging home from the office. Probably not how Dickens envisaged his work would be enjoyed.

the whole nine years

I returned home on the eve of my wedding anniversary to find my son sucking green ink from a colouring pen, my daughter in the bathroom trying to pee standing up - "But this is how you pee, Daddy" - and my wife making dinner plans with a girlfriend for the following evening because she had forgotten it was our anniversary.

Sandy's dinner date duly postponed, she acquiesced to accompany yours truly for a simple Chinese meal with the kids to celebrate nine years of marriage. When we explained the reason for the dinner to Olive, she said: "Mummy, when you get married again can I wear a princess dress?" Gee, thanks kid.

Happy 9th Anniversary Sandy! I love you very much ... and Olive can dress like a princess when we celebrate 10 years next year! (Not in the local Chinese restaurant.)


life is sweet


Oh, the dilemmas of a parent ... This morning’s dilemma — there are several a day — is concerning sweets or candy. Olive has just started at a new preschool and now takes a school bus to kindergarten. It’s a small bus, actually an MPV, and she has close friends on the bus, and a very kind driver and a ‘bus aunty’ to look after the kids. The problem is the bus aunty dishes out candy to the toddlers every day and even helps the little ones unwrap the sweets. We consider this rather odd but evidently we are alone. We only allow Olive to eat sweets as a treat, she has to understand they are not things to consume daily.

So, what do we do? After two days we asked the bus aunty not to give our daughter sweets and this morning Olive alighted from the bus looking very sad and said Aunty So and So didn’t give her a sweet but all the other kids received one. OK, I can see we made a mistake there. It must be pretty traumatizing to be excluded like that. Do we plant a banana grove and offer to supply the bus aunty with fruit for the kids? Do we tell the bus aunty she can give Olive a sweet but she must ask Olive to put it in her pocket to take home? We could then make a game of collecting all the sweets at home in a jar and just give her one on special occasions? Or are we just food Nazis and we should allow, even encourage, our kids to eat junk food?

This morning Olive donned a new school uniform and caught the school bus for her first day at Maris Stella Kindergarten. Located opposite the Botanic Gardens at the entrance to Dempsey Village on Holland Road, Maris Stella is a Catholic preschool established by Franciscan missionaries in 1954. Olive has been so excited about taking a school bus "without Mummy and Daddy" and this morning she was thrilled when a bright red Merc MPV pulled up to collect her and her buddies Jill and Julia who live next door. I dread to think what mischief these three monkeys will get up to on the school bus. Sandy followed Olive to school this morning and sent the following photos of Olive. Best wishes to Olive's friend Poppy, who also starts at a new preschool this morning!



Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Phil, Sandy, Olive and Leo. We celebrated the final day of 2011 with barbecued sweet potatoes and sparklers and we spent the first day of 2012 with old friends at Singapore Zoo.


Daddy (reading from "You Can't Eat a Princess"): I like [eating princesses] on toast with a bit of ketchup.
Olive (laughing): That's not right!
Daddy: What's not right, Olive?
Olive: You can't put ketchup on toast!

best of 2011

Best movie of 2011:

Best dining experience:
The highlight of the year was walking up through a forest with Phil, Susie, Jaques, Rose and Pomme to a medieval chapel at the top of a hill in Alsace, France, where, on weekends, a medieval-looking lady serves starters of local toxic cheese, wild boar jambon and cured pork belly and for main course an incredibly delicious, creamy tarte flambée, a local Alsace pizza (Alsatian pizza might upset some readers). Washed down with white beer from over the mountain range in Germany this was a perfect dinner. For pudding we piled into Phil's Landrover, headed up the side of another hill, drove off-road into a field with spectacular views across the valley and parked under a cherry tree. As the sun was setting we wound down the windows, reached out and had our fill of fruit.

Best holiday:
Oh, that's easy. My surprise 40th in Sri Lanka. Sandy told me to keep 10 days free in Feb for a surprise holiday to celebrate my 40th birthday. I arrived at the airport with no idea of the destination and no clue as to what Sandy and the kids had planned for me. I guess I imagined we would pop up to Thailand or down to Bali, but at Changi airport we checked onto an Emirates flight to Dubai via Colombo. Three hours later, at 3am, we disembarked at Colombo and checked into a hotel near the airport. No Dubai then. I thought perhaps we would transfer to the Maldives but we were met by a car and driver in the morning and we took the coastal road south of Colombo. We were going to Galle! The trip down to Galle took longer than the flight from Singapore and I had only slept one hour in the last two days. By the time we finally pulled up at a huge villa and were greeted by the staff I was a walking zombie. The driver pointed into the entrance hall where a "Happy Birthday" banner was hanging and for a second I couldn't think whose birthday it was. But that wasn't the surprise. I caught sight of people moving towards me from the side of the room and ... there was my sister Holly with Nel, Oscar and Ralph, and my parents! Ooooooh my god! As you can imagine, it was all rather emotional.

Favourite You Tube spoof:

First for the real video: an English guy is caught on camera running after his dog, Fenton, who is happily chasing deer in Richmond Park, London.

The original video above spawned loads of hilarious spoof videos involving Fenton the dog and his unfortunate owner. Two of the best are:

Olive is in the centre of the screen wearing a pink raincoat.

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