Monday, February 18, 2013

Back in Australia

Well after an extremely tumultuous 2012, we're now back in Australia and finally it's time to re-emerge from our bolt hole and engage with the world again - 1 member of the family larger!

Charlie was born on Christmas day 2011, and 2012 was a whirlwind of post-natal depression, leaving the lab in Singapore, moving back to Australia to get Jo better again, focus on Charlie at the same time, and finally get around to re-evaluating what's important and where I really want life to go.

So, new baby, new (old) country, new house, new job, new car and old bikes. 2013 is going to be a great year!

hat for two


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The streets of Singapore

at your service

shoeless smoker


Still fun to get out and about with the cameras, and remember there are still places that haven't yet become sterilised incubators of conformity.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A city that eats itself


Almost a year ago (?) I shot a couple of rolls of film at the old shopping centre at Pasir Panjang as it was being demolished. We'd walked past the night before on our way to dinner and taken some instagram pictures, but I definitely wanted the higher res capabilities of the bronica and MF film... So at 6 the next morning I jumped on the bike and spun down South Buona Vista hill (it's not really that steep) and started clambering over the rubble, just as the soft glow of pre-dawn started to illuminate the concrete and steel reinforcing.

The film lay in the bottom of the fridge for ages, and I've just got around to devving and scanning it. Really love how these turned out! As it happens, construction of the new mixed use condo / retail development has started - will have to wander over the ridge and down the hill soon enough to check out its progress. Very conceivably they will have finished it - which says a lot about how documentary / typology photography here very quickly becomes archival / archaeological photography.

I hope the Japanese supermarket / fresh fish shop is one of the tenants again...



(yes, this neg needs to be washed and rescanned...)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Some videos from my bike of the Park Connectors that run from near our place along the "Southern Ridges", out to the Singapore River Quays, the Kallang Basin and then the East Coast. More to come soon of the west side...

We just returned from a great weekend away up in Melaka. Think of this as a reminder to self to post pics when they eventually get developed and scanned.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Orient expressing

take kopi

Seeing as I missed June, July can have two posts. And this is going to be the third, and last, based around the KTM railway. (Thank the gods, right?)

I'd been talking with anyone who'd listen about taking a train trip up to the East Coast of Malaysia after hearing about the demise of the railway. Unfortunately people either weren't up for it, or had already done it. Then some South African friends suggested we 'do' the Eastern & Oriental Express dinner train. They'd had a great trip (obviously they thought it was great - he proposed to her and she said yes). So without telling J I booked it in as a surprise - it was going to be the (second) last train ever from downtown Singapore - an opportunity too good to pass up!

Oh oh. She wasn't feeling great all that week and sadly had to bow out the day before, so in came the pinch hitter, our mate S. Wondering if people would think we were a gay couple out on a first date (love that pink dollar), we suited up and headed down to the KTMB's Tanjong Pagar Station. The waiting room was pretty sparse (and hot!) but soon enough we were on the platform for some exterior pics, through Malaysian immigration and then into the train's bar car and a nice cold glass of ... Tiger. Or some dodgy Australian wine ('red' or 'white'). I had a Tiger. Honestly after the amount of money you pay for the ticket, you'd think they could serve an imported beer and decent wine at least. Then again, I guess they usually cater for people who've flown into Singapore and are heading up to KL or Bangkers, who are looking for that local flavour. But our fellow passengers seemed mostly to be expats and locals. Maybe it was the "occasion"? We got stuck in to some more Tigers before having to detrain to go through Singaporean immigration at Woodlands. A smooth affair as always but I imagine a pain for the chefs and stewards who were trying to prepare dinner.

talking cock / smoko


walking inside

Back onto the train and into one of the four dining cars. We had a table for two (how romantic!) while other couples had to share with strangers (on a train...) at four-tops. Unlucky for them. While the beer and wine was a let down, the food I have to say was fantastic. A molecular concoction of tom yum 'cappucino style' as entree, then some huge tandoori lamb chops done old fashioned. Big, meaty and rare. Yum. Dessert was.. I think a panacotta style thing, but to be honest desserts are rarely my thing. No food pics. Puhlease. The couple adjacent to us was getting very amorous during the meal, even (I'm not kidding) going around the table and climbing into each others laps at some points. S had his back to them but I found it hard to concentrate on the lamb. Glad they had a good time though! The guys let us into the kitchen (galley?) for a squiz after dinner, and then it was into the bar car where I made friends with the Italian-Chinese piano player by requesting some Dave Brubeck (he was sick of playing Top40). S then kept the whisky flowing (although again the selection was extremely disappointing) before we headed out to the observation car for the trip back into Singapore. Of which a lot of it was just the teensiest bit blurry. All in all a fantastic night and one to treasure, especially now as it can't be repeated!

button up

big city lights

We Saved It!


So it looks like the uniquely Singaporean way of 'protesting' can achieve results, too. I must admit I was extremely skeptical of the Nature Society and Eugene's (of The Green Corridor) strategy of staging guided walks on the railway and gradually attracting more and more 'fans', leading up to getting some Minsters to walk and experience the opportunity for themselves. This was apparently how the Chek Jawa intertidal zone was preserved instead of being turned into another petrochemical processing terminal, but still, it just seemed to me that the allure of the filthy development lucre was going to be a far stronger persuader than a bunch of hippies in sandals and floppy hats going for walks. But I was wrong.

Or, was I? I still think that the government might have had this plan, or something like it, up their sleeve the whole time. They have been saying for years that there will eventually be a 'continuous' network of park connectors encircling the Island, and if they weren't going to use the railway land, how else were they going to complete the western section? The Mandai loop is too central, and the far west is all military reserve. Then again, perhaps I should never underestimate the ability of Singapore's bureaucracy to fail to see a obvious and simple solution to a problem they hadn't yet created, but would have.

But whatever and however, it looks like there will at least be a continuous stretch of greenery incorporating a PCN, and that's an acceptable outcome. I'd like to think that the letters I wrote to Minsters and encouraged others to write, the snarky comments and goading remarks, and links of alternative possibilities from around the world I left on facefuck contributed in some small way. Even better of course would be to hold an International Design Competition to subtly develop the corridor in harmony with the jungle and the cycleway, and offer residents and tourists an alternative to bread and circuses architecture, gambling, and consuming. Hopefully.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

When does a city become a home?

Yet another soulless shopping mall

In a radical departure for this little corner of the web, I'm going to talk about something a little bit abstract - that moment when the place you live becomes a place you feel at home.

Having been in Singapore for almost 4 years now, it's interesting to observe our changing response to the place. Going from the time where we loved the differences to Melbourne and saw the good in everything, such as; a thriving urban, globalised city that has managed to retain some unique cultural flavour and preserve at least some of its natural and built heritage; cheap, reliable, safe and useful public transport; a young and burgeoning cultural and scientific scene with the opportunity to both observe a generation opening its eyes to the possible, and to leave our own mark; and a government that actually has a view to the future instead of making unborn generations pay for the priveleges the Boomers are enjoying now, to seeing the not-so-good side of Singapore.

This includes things that don't impact on us directly so much, but affect the overall quality of life here. Things like; the incessant building noise, evident almost absolutely everywhere except the nature reserves and thankfully in our tucked away condo (but not for long...); the "blur"iness of 90% of drivers here and their blatant flouting of road rules (speed limits, staying in lanes, drink driving, stop signs, zebra crossings ...the list goes on); the bureaucracy, red tape and petty rules that you have to periodically battle though; the fluctuating housing rents that can increase 50% in a year (who can say, "hyperinflation"?); the constant bombardment with advertisments, SMS and telephone spam, and commercialisation of public space - because all commerce is good commerce; the slavish devotion to development that means more and more malls with counterintuitively increasing rents - meaning rising cost of goods and diminishing returns for tired, worried and cranky shop owners and customers; and a population who just accepts decisions from corporations and the government with a shrug of the shoulders and a resigned "what to do?" without asking for a discussion, justification or alternatives and a self-perpetuating assumption that nothing can be changed. And I could go on...

But then amongst all the negativity (and amazingly I have been told I often have a gloomy outlook on life, haha) you hear about an opportunity that you just think is an absolute no-brainer, and want to fight for its implemention. That point, I think, is when you go from being a resident, to being a 'citizen', regardless of the colour of your passport.

Such an opportunity has arisen with the transfer of the KTM railway land from Malaysia back to Singapore. This railway stretches from Woodlands in the North, down to Tanjong Pagar - the heart of the financial district and soon to be gateway to a massive waterfront park, once the heavy container terminal has been moved to the West. Part of the deal involves handing land parcels for development over to the Malaysian partner in the deal. Fair enough, you have to give to get. But the rest of the land, a narrow corridor not suitable for large developments, would be perfect as a Rails to Trails conversion like those seen in the UK, US, Australia and Europe.

The Nature Society of Singapore along with other interested parties has submitted a (.pdf) proposal to retain the land as a "Green Corridor". While the government has yet to commit to any course of action, time is running out to persuade them that this once in a lifetime opportunity should not be wasted. Another group, "The Green Corridor" has set up a webpage and facebook group to garner community support.

My suggestion, as I wrote to the Straits Times, is to use the land to connect the Southern, Western and Northern Park 'Connectors'. As can be seen on the Nparks website, at present the "network" is more of a disjointed series of short trails, often just a glorified footpath, cut into portions by major roads. Were the corridor to be used as a cycleway, it would connect commuters from the outlying towns directly with the city centre, bypassing any major road intersection, and keeping them separated from fast flowing traffic. This cycleway would also pass directly by the One North developments of Biopolis, Fusionopolis, and Mediaopolis (who comes up with these names?!) - all areas with a high proportion of environmentally aware employees. On weekends, it would provide an alternative leisure route to the crowded East Coast Parkway, and give cyclists the chance to venture farther afield into Johor Bahru and beyond, as well as catering to walkers who want to tramp in a jungle setting. For those who say that no-one would commute in 30 degree weather, I tell you it's vastly preferable to cycling in snow and ice, which is the reality faced by many of our northern cousins who manage to do just that ;)

I sincerely hope that any Singaporean reading this doesn't view me as an interfering foreigner who should just bugger off back to where I came from and mind my own business. That would be to deny the reality of a globalised workforce, and I hope that my time here means more than just eating chicken rice and learning to talk cock in a few Singlish phrases - I hope to shape this city in ways that make us not want to leave, and I think that helping to preserve this land is probably one of the best ways to go about doing that. It won't be easy, but I think it can be done.