Monday, 10 May 2010

All That Glitters

Got some spare gold lying around? A branded watch or two?

The government, I have belatedly discovered, runs and alternative chain of pawn shops to the private enterprises.  These are run through Singpost and are called Speed Cash outlets.

In the past gold jewellery (which is usually 99% pure here) would be trade back to the goldsmith at point of purchase and for a commission of 15% it could be cashed in.

Chinese families often carry gold as a hedge against bad times.  Watching the gold being tested for purity by the smith is also inetersting as they rub it against a small stone and assay it.

Speedcash offers a better deal to Singaporean families, so a friend of ours has informs us. Instant cash is paid out for valuables witha 6 month redemption period and a modest interest rate is charged. If one doesn't claim it back then the company will auction the item.  If at auction the article raises more than the previously redeemed rate they will send you the balance,

This seems a fair and equitable system and I suspect with the opening of two casinos in Singapore that business has been brisk.
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Saturday, 8 May 2010

The New Suit

Street sign for Orchard Road in Singapore.Image via Wikipedia
I have very good friends visiting from New Zealand and today we had the pleasure of taking them to partake of some of the shopping sites along Orchard Road.

Orchard Road has been featuring for other reason this past week.  A small plague of rattus rattus has been disrupting the shopping frenzy near Orchard Plaza.

This is not exactly the publicity that any city desires so the pest control offciers have moved quickly to eradicate the vermin.  Bad publicity may have had an impact on local business but hopefully the green belt along the roadside is here ot stay.

In fact it is the greening of Singapore that drew much praise from our guests today.  They enjoyed the flowers and trees as much as the malls.

Falling Towards England (Picador Books)On the shopping list was a men's lightweight suit.  One of the many tailors in Koek Road won the right to tailor the suit in an imported herring bone pattern, for the princely sum of $Sing 330.  This being Saturday, the suit will be ready for its one and only fitting on Monday.

I look forward to seeing the result of this craftsmanship upon our return to Auckland in July.

Having read Clive Jame's hilarious account of his Singapore suit purchase in "Falling Towards England", I mused as to what the result might be?

The author only had a day to get a suit made as his liner was stopping over in Singapore.  It was duly delivered to his cabin in a small bundle of brown paper bound in string.  He did not unwrap it until he was in London and rushing to his first appointment with a Fleet Street editor.

As recounted, he was forced to shake hands from the elbow as he didn't dare rasie his arms for a full saluation; the tailor had not sewn the seems under the arms!

I am sure my friends will be very pleased with their result.  It has been lovely to see them and to share a few of the sights and sounds of Singapore.  It is very easy when one lives in a country for a period to time to adopt a jaundiced view.   So re-living the 'joy of the new' through someone else's eyes is a reminder as to just how vibrant the Orchard Road thoroughfare is.

A very fine bottle of New Zealand wine was also gifted to us and I intend to sample when the time is right.
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Today's Print

Tanglin Leaf...........................Roger Smith  May, 2010
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Thursday, 6 May 2010

Aircon Blues

With uncanny timing, the air conditioning at work has failed and the welcome respite after a 20 minute wait at the bus stop each morning is sadly missing

This would not be hugely problematic in more temperate latitudes but in the middle of hot spell in Singapore it is most unpleasant.

At least at home we have fans to move the breeze about; a mechanised version of the punka wallah.  Here in the office we are without even this creature comfort.  I am beginning to realise why most offices in Singapore provide a shower cubicle.

Not that opening the windows brings any respite as the air is very still and the humidity around 100%.  An open window simply bring a cacophony of traffic noise from Orchard Road.

Not everyone is enamoured about air conditioning and there are some fairly extreme theories attached to it.

One guru states that "one of the things that can affect your cholesterol levels as well as your blood pressure levels is having to go in and out of an environment that has air conditioning."  Based on his prognosis my blood pressure this morning should be climbing rapidly.  It is, but not for the reason he states - I simply hate being hot and sticky.

At least the bus this morning was in full working order so I managed to cool down en route.  I shall miss my short trip to and from work when I leave Singapore.  It has been an opportunity to observe my fellow passengers as they slumber.

Oct.In true Sherlock Holmes fashion I play a little game of trying to ascertain what lifestyle they lead.  Not that I have been very successful in the art of deduction.

Just today I discovered that one of my fellow passengers whom I thought to be simply reserved was in fact profoundly deaf.  I observed her delight as she recognised a friend with a similar affliction and they spent their journey signing to each other.

The temporary loss of air conditioning somehow pales into insignificance when compared to a major disability such as deafness.

As I writ, a bevy of technicians are walking around the building scratching their heads and looking skywards.  I remain confident that will be a temperature drop in the near future.
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Sunday, 2 May 2010

Crossing Merdaka Bridge

Concourse level, Queenstown MRT Station on the...Queenstown MRT                      Image via Wikipedia
In the old days a funeral procession always included a trip to Merdaka Bridge to encourage the soul to cross over to the other side.

Nowadays the procession in Queenstown detours near the MRT over-bridge as a substitute.

If one believes in a spiritual presence (and I am not sure that I do) then a good proportion of my spirit will forever be in Singapore.

Arriving at Changi airport has always felt like coming home and this has been particularly noticeable during my time with the British Council as I have been travelling frequently in South East Asia.  It is a strange experience as I can honestly say that I have not felt that about any other port of entry.

This is also my first entry typed from the Queenstown library using the free wireless@sg network. I am in the "quiet" reading room of the library which has just celebrated its 50th birthday.

Yesterday we went back to the food court at Anchorpoint; hadn't been for several months since the free bus from the Queenstown MRT re-routed to Tiong Bahru. They do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I was really looking forward to my favourite - Village Smoked Chicken. A bit of a misnomer as an entire village isn't involved in the culinary process.

The stall no longer exists!  The long hours didn't mix with a young family and so they have closed down.  A tragedy and I will leave Singapore with happy memories of the meals they produced.

So perhaps it is time to go, as the places I frequent change hands.  Where and what we will eat when we return to New Zealand mid year has yet to be decided.

We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tanglin Morning

Tanglin Morning...................................Roger Smith, April 2010

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Morning After

This morning I awoke with the realisation that I had handed in my notice the day before and had made a commitment to return to New Zealand by mid year.

After four years it is time to re establish ones roots and to do so before one qualifies for the pension.

So I leave a job that I have thoroughly enjoyed with the British Council, as well as the many friends that I have made in my time here.

Naturally there is a feeling of sadness but this is tempered by the reality that one day I would have to return and it is probably better to do so while being still  'hearty in mind and  limb'.

Today we ordered a new Dell laptop and I paid an unexpected visit to the dentist -  total cost well over $2,500!  This is the sort of thing that always comes out of the blue at a time when you are facing financial pressure.

I can also never work out why a one way airfare is so expensive compared to a return ticket? Singapore Airlines is no exception to this rule.

We will cope nevertheless, having been frugal in our habits during our time in Singapore.

On the subject of returning home I note in today's paper that the PM is hoping Singaporeans based overseas will realise the country's developments and economic growth particularly after the financial crisis and return home soon.

To be frank I doubt if this inducement will work to any great degree.  Many of the Singaporeans I have talked to yearn to live and work overseas but they are unable to do so due to family commitments.

Selling Condos

The market has been picking up so we decided to put our condo on the market.  Loh and behold within a month we had an offer we could comfortably accept.

Singapore Real Property GuideThis new reality makes life considerably easier as we consider our options for the future, unemcumbered by the need to sell a property.

As a seller one pays an agent 2% of the purchase price as a commission.  In our particular complex there have been several 3+1's sold during the past month but 2 bedrooms units such as ours (2+1 to use their popular title) are harder to find.

In the current market one aims to get over $1,000 per sq foot.  Unlike New Zealand, the property market swings in Singapore are far more pronounced.  Having bought in just before the start of the last boom we have made a nice capital gain over the three years of our occupancy.

The purchaser first secures a fortnight's option on the property and if still satisfied at the end of this short period, the sale is then confirmed.  Most settlement periods after eight to ten weeks after the sale confirmation.

As our buyer has since confirmed, this means that we move out mid June.  The Singapore property market is like riding a wave with larger peaks and troughs than one finds in New Zealand.  We were fortunate to buy three years ago before the last buying frenzy took hold. Fortuitously we are also not selling in a cycle of depressed prices.

Now comes the joy of packing up although in our case we have given the buyer all of our furniture.  To pack furniture and freight it overseas is simply not economically viable.