The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

It’s best I do drive

on April 14, 2015

Nine years of travelling on the London Underground in conditions we often complained that you wouldn’t transport cattle under, certainly makes you appreciate a transport system that has air conditioning and big wide train carriages. I still shudder at the memory of bumping sweaty arms with the next commuter. There is no observation of personal space on the Tube.


The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT or Mr T as Husband likes to call it), is the Singapore equivalent of the Tube. 

That is where all comparisons end.   

The Mr T is sleek, shiny and new. So shiny, I couldn’t quite get a good grip on the seat in the trousers I was wearing when I was on it the other day. I felt like I needed anti slip grips on my bum to secure me to the seat. 


As I missed out on the invention of the selfie stick, which is very big in South East Asia, I propose to invent the Self Stick (patent pending, already registered trademark and have logo to boot). This is a portable rubber pad to aid commuters in getting a good grip on the Mr T or any mode of transport that has shiny seating. A luxe padded limited edition version will also be available.


Additional lines are popping up (very slowly) across the island connecting the up and down and left to right places of Singapore. It will be so much more convenient and property prices will become so much more expensive. So that when the new station just 500m away from our new place opens, I can guarantee when our lease is up, we probably won’t be able to afford the renewed asking price.


Ranking top in the global table of having the highest cost of living isn’t something to be overly proud of and neither can it be sustainable Singapore. But that is by the by.


So, travelling by public transport in Singapore is clean, cool, comfortable (once you have purchased your own Self Stick) and cheap. It really is. Bus rides cost less than a $1 and the Mr T less than $2 for a single journey to most places. 


Singapore isn’t very big but then neither was my journey from North London to Covent Garden that far either. The cost of travelling in London is extortionate in conditions you wouldn’t transport cattle under. Fact. And there are mice. Late at night I would tactically choose not to take certain exits from Finsbury Park tube station because the mice would have taken over the platform for a rave. Also fact.


So, if travelling by public transport in Singapore is so fabulous, why don’t I do it more often? Why is a trip on the bus or Mr T considered a special treat for #1, 2 and 3? Even a cab ride brings whoops of delight and can you imagine what taking a maxi cab is like? The equivalent of an amusement park ride. 


I know. Simple pleasures.


We have a car (leased) that would cost the same price as a small house and the make of it doesn’t even end in an ‘I’. 


We could have two cars and a luxury caravan for the same price in the UK. Our last car was a beautiful Alfa Romeo 147. Colour red. For you cannot picture a car without knowing the colour. Same as you cannot picture a newborn baby without knowing the weight. 


At the time I remember saying to Husband how it seemed so expensive and shouldn’t we get a more modest car. But he had already forethought this and said this would be his only chance because when small children with no regard for good leather interiors and big monster car seats come along, there can be no luxury transportation. By the time said small children do not require a double decker bus to transport them and their paraphernalia places, he will be too old for any luxury transportation and will look like Middle Aged Man Having a Crisis. 


There is a surprisingly large number of high performance vehicles in Singapore ending in the letter ‘I’. Driven by Middle Aged Men who may need a hand getting out of the almost to the ground seats. I often wonder how can people afford a car that costs half a castle in Yorkshire. 


To supposedly curb the number of cars on the road, the Singapore government imposes a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) that grants a legal owner the right to own the vehicle for a period of 10 years. It currently costs $70,000. Before you’ve even considered the value of the car. So we lease ours. You can of course buy second hand but even then it’s extortionate and then the extras on top.


Anyways, I just realised my Singapore driving license had expired by a couple of days and I needed to renew. Thank goodness converting your license didn’t require a practical test as I most certainly would have failed after the habits I have picked up over 23 years. It did require taking the Basic Theory Test. 

50 questions on your basic Highway Code with an allowance of getting five wrong maximum. I still remember the pressure whilst taking the test. I already thought I had 4 answers wrong with another 35 questions to go. I felt like crying. But well done me I passed.


So without wanting to be on the wrong side of the law, I went to the only place you can get your license renewed in Singapore. It had to be located in the back of beyond that you actually would need a car to get there. But I thought it would be bad form to drive to the Transport Police HQ on an expired license. So I parked the car at a shopping mall with a Mr T directly to the nearest station to the Transport Police HQ. With just a mere 9 minutes walk between the two.


I was looking forward to this journey so much I brought a book with me. Even though you get uninterrupted 4G and mobile signal. I was going to enjoy the old fashioned travelling pursuit of reading a proper book and not playing some cartoon city building app or listening to music that everyone else can hear clearly too. My other favourite travelling pursuit is having a 15 minutes power nap. Quite impossible without the use of Self Stick as you’d end up just sloping off the seat in a heap. 


I didn’t get to read my book because I was distracted by three down to my left blaring out ‘thumpin’ tunes and because I was more fascinated by the row of six commuters opposite me who were enjoying a power nap in very different styles. I wish I could have taken a photo. And I was also revelling in aircon luxury.


So I arrive at the Mr T station I have never heard of and get out above ground to an area not quite finished. This is nothing new in Singapore to be honest. Within seconds, I no longer feel the benefits of the air con luxury I had just left behind. I’m waiting for traffic lights to change and I set off on my epic 9 minutes walk. 


I’m doing ok 5 minutes in. By 7, I can feel I’m developing what Beauty Editors in magazines call a ‘youthful glow’. It’s not. It’s just sweat. By 8, I’m beginning to feel I need to shower. 


I used to scoff, I still do, at the snail’s pace most people walk at in Singapore. I do understand why though. You try not to overly exert yourself causing needless extra perspiration. But what’s worse? To walk faster and sweat but be indoors sooner. Or to walk at a less than leisurely pace and be out in the heat and humidity for longer? 


Anyways, I arrive and obviously look a bit gormless as I’m quickly assisted by the person in front who helpfully presses the right queue for ticket button. Upon hearing a non local accent I immediately have a new waiting room buddy.


I can tell you all about his knowledge of the naval navigation system developed by the company he works for that uses maps put together in the UK to helps ships get from any A to B, all over the world. Fact.


In return, he has walked away with my rather extensive business acumen in the field of where would be the most profitable location in the UK to open a hair salon. Indeed. I take back previous observations that you can’t have weird and wonderful random conversations with Singaporeans.


It’s like when you tell the taxi driver you come from the UK and they ask you whether you know their neighbour from 12 years ago who also lives in the UK. But actually, it is such a small world that you most probably do.


I’m happy to say that I was granted another five years of legal driving on the roads of Singapore.

Even though public transport in Singapore is cheap, cool and comfortable (with Self Stick). It’s the 10 minutes walk outdoors either side that just causes me to unravel and I’ve been acclimatising for 6 and a half years. 

It is a huge luxury to drive one’s own mode of transport in Singapore. I know that. When #1, 2 and 3 can all walk 20 minutes without one bleating ‘Carry me’, we will definitely be using public transport more often. Do you think it’s acceptable to refuse on the grounds of ‘No, you can walk because Mummy can’t carry you as it will make her all hot and bothered and rageful.’ Rageful Mummy in the tropics is not good. I am more rageful in the tropics than I was in the UK. I do blame the heat. 


So in order to keep Rageful Mummy at bay and to save more people from throwing their pension fund into ill advised business schemes in the UK, I think it’s best I do driving for now.

  





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