Substation and dinner with Anita and Gion

Friday 15 June, 2001 – Singapore

The optical shop finally called to say my sunglasses were ready for collection (the lenses having been incorrectly made the first time around). They said that the laboratory had omitted to include the prism in one of the lenses. When I tried them on, they were certainly an improvement.

Had my hair cut in a salon in (I think) the Centrepoint Mall on Orchard Road. Tried making small talk with the Chinese hairdresser, but she had a very thick accent and it was quite hard. Still, she gave me a decent haircut. Finally made my way to the gym, after an absence of several days.

Met up with Lee Weng Choy, co-Artistic Director of The Substation arts centre in Armenian Street, and also a writer and journalist. Also met Russell Milledge and Rebecca Youdell, who are undertaking an Asialink residency at the Substation – they are performance artists. Spoke to Weng about various issues facing the arts and Singapore in general.

Raced home (stopping for a bottle of Brown Brothers Shiraz on the way) to change and catch a taxi to Gion and Anita Caviezel’s house for dinner. I flagged down a taxi on Stephens Road, but like most of the taxi drivers I’ve had in Singapore, he had no idea where the address I gave him was, and also hardly spoke any English. His first reaction, after just 100 meters or so, was to make me get another taxi. This I declined to do, as it was peak hour on a Friday night and the next taxi, if I could get one, was unlikely to have any better idea of how to get there. So he drove on, almost colliding with several cars on the way up Bukit Timah road, and pulled into a service station. I had to write the address down for him so he could bail up other drivers on the forecourt and try to find out how to get there. He didn’t seem to have a map, or even any idea of what one was!

We finally arrived at Cashew Road, and after unsuccessfully trying to find the correct number, I left the taxi and proceeded on foot. I was alarmed to find that the number corresponding to the address Anita had given me was a large complex of HDB tower blocks. I certainly had expected them to live in a house, and didn’t have any information about the number. I asked several people – gate keepers, security guards and on-site shops – for a phone book (having left my mobile at home) so I could ring Anita, but nobody had such a thing! I decided that I must have the wrong street. In Singapore, an area with a main road with a name like, say, Cashew Road, is likely to have a Cashew Terrace, Cashew Street, Cashew Avenue, Cashew Drive, Cashew Place and who knows how many other combinations, in the same area. This, naturally, leads to great confusion, but I suppose it does mean that you’re likely to at least be in the right area.

I wandered up a couple of side streets until I came to Cashew Terrace. Sure enough, the lights at number 85 were on and I could see Gion through the window. Greatly relieved, I enjoyed a most convivial evening with them and another Swiss friend, Martin, a civil engineer. Anita had prepared a wonderful meal, starting with a superb Mulligatawny soup, served cold. Delicious. Martin lived back in my direction, so we shared a cab home.


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