Thursday, August 31, 2006

Life in Welwyn Garden City

It has been nearly 2 weeks since returning to UK. The weather has been lousy. It has rained almost everyday since our return. I guess it is better than the heat and humidity of Singapore. The rain is also good for the garden. The underground water table which is very low at the moment would require to be replenished. The weather in the UK as in all regions around the world is going crazy. Global warming has been blamed for all these extreme weather we have been experiencing.

August is coming to a close and come September we should be slowly getting into autumn. I like the autumn colours. The leaves of trees will start turning yellow, brown and gold. The weather will slowly get colder and we can all start preparing for winter and Christmas. I think we will be in Singapore for this Christmas. However, before returning to Singapore in early December we will be spending a few days in Chicago inn September d a week in Spain in November. Looking forward to these trips.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Back in UK - August 2006

Security checks at Changi Airport before departure were very thorough and because many were caught off guard, there were delays because extra time was needed to sort out what could and what were not allowed as cabin baggage. On arrival at Heathrow we were again delayed because no one knew what had happened to the items that were confiscated from the cabin baggage. After much to-ing and fro-ing we finally located our belongings and were able to depart Heathrow. The whole journey was quite an experience.

Our home in Welwyn Garden City was as we had left it, except that we had difficulties opening the front door owing to the amount of mail that has piled up behind it while we were away. Owing to the dry couple of months while we were away, the garden was in a terrible state. The fruit tress looked dehydrated. The fruits on them are small and dry. Well, not going to be a good harvest this year.

All things considered, it is good to be back in UK again. We can go for our daily walks which we can’t do in Singapore due to the hot weather. It is good to shop at the supermarkets again without having to fight for parking. These are but a couple of things that I miss when away from UK.

The garden is now sorted and with the additional water from the kitchen waste and the rain, I hope the fruit trees will revive and provide us with a few fruits. While we are away, the garden birds have not been fed. Now they are back feeding on the bird feeders we have in the garden. It is relaxing to sit in the conservatory and watch the birds.

Oil painting is another hobby of mine that I do when in UK. I have just embarked on touching up some old seascape paintings I did years ago when I was working in Iran. Now that I have gained a little more experience in painting with oil, these old paintings are beginning to look rather amateurish.

Life is beginning to get back to the UK norm. It will be another 4 months before we have to leave for Singapore again. During this time we have a trip to Chicago planned and another to Spain in November. Looking forward to these.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Nasty Experience at Changi Airport

I was caught up in the upbeat security at Changi on August 10 on my way to London. The security at Changi was a total mess. No one knew what was happening. You ask 10 airport personnel, from check-in staff to security officer, and each will tell you a different story and procedure. On the flight before us to London also, they were not allowed to take on board cabin baggage, not even handbags. Everything must be checked in with only passport and money going into transparent bags. On my flight we were allowed cabin baggage. Why the change in procedure all within an hour, we were not told. On arrival I met some passengers from the earlier flight still trying to find their lost cabin bags that were taken off them by check-in personnel. One lady in particular could not find her handbag which contained her car keys, house keys, jewelry and all the items a lady normally carry in their handbags. On top of all that she had with her a young child who was tired and was crying his eyes out. The mother was literally reduced to tears.

Singapore airport is one of the best operated airports I have seen. However, when caught off guard, the whole airport just went into a state of panic and everything seems to fall apart. I dread to think what it will be like if there was indeed a real emergency.

At Heathrow, things were not much better. No one seem to know whether the confiscated hand baggage were loaded on the plane or still in Singapore. It was left to the passengers themselves to go through a mountain of unclaimed bags to seek out their own missing properties. A few were lucky and found what they were looking for. However, many were rather desperate with no one to turn to and not knowing what to do next. One cannot blame those who lost their temper, and many did. After a long haul flight of 13 hours, with children crying because they were tired, parents not knowing what to do, whether to leave the airport or wait till their lost properties turn up.

All in all, a very nasty experience at Changi and also at Heathrow.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Final days in Singapore

Goodbye Singapore – Hello London

August 6, 2006

I am writing this while still in Singapore and counting down the days when I will be able to wave farewell to Changi Airport. Date of departure is August 10. Well, after nearly 2 months here I have just about reached my tolerance level of this little island. I must admit in some way it is nice to be here. I have part of my family here and seeing them and being close to them is great. Malaysia is just across the causeway which is also good for my fortnightly visits. There are a few things I will miss when I leave here. On the other hand I am also quite looking forward to returning to UK.

Today we went to Chinatown for a dim sum buffet. Food was good and I must admit I had a little too much. No dinner tonight. The most important thing I have to do when I get back to UK is to go on a strict diet and to go for our daily walks. The daily walks will not be a problem; however going on a diet might just prove too difficult. Will just have to wait and see.

August 8, 2006

Visited Orchard Road for a little last minute shopping. Dinner at Food Republic along Orchard Road. The place was quiet considering that it is the eve of the Singapore National Day.

August 9, 2006

Today Singapore celebrates National Day. There is a National Day Parade at the stadium but it is by invitation only. I am really not bothered anyway. I certainly am not interested. Can’t see why they make such a big fuss over it.

We went to the Singapore Swimming club for lunch and then went on to the IMM Mall for some last minute shopping for the wife.

August 10, 2006

Today we leave Singapore. Booked on the night flight on BA016. Really looking forward to our home in Welwyn Garden City. Wonder how the garden has turned out with the lack of rain for the past few weeks. The bird feeders would all be empty and the poor garden birds will have all left. One of the first things that has to be done will be to top up the feeders. Then there are the fruit trees. Hope they are all OK. Looking forward to the fruits from the 3 plum trees. They should be just ripening around this time of the year.

My next post will be from UK.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Singapore customs officer at Causeway

Returning from JB last night after a day of shopping, I was at the Singaporean customs area where they check the vehicles. It is a standard practice that all vehicles entering Singapore must undergo a visual inspection by the Singaporean authority. When it was my turn for this inspection, I got out and open the boot of the car. The boot was full of bags of shopping and various kinds of fruits. The usual type of questions asked are, "do you have any cigarettes? do you have any drinks, meaning beer, spirits or wine?" My answer has always been "No, I do not drink or smoke".

Last night was somewhat different. None of the usual questions were asked. Instead this customs officer, with his unsmiling face looked at me and poked around the boot. The conversation went like this,

"What have you got in the boot?"

"Some shopping for food and fruits in JB"

More poking around, opening up bags and digging deeper into the pile of shopping bags.

"You got meat?"

"No, I do not have any meat in my shopping bags".

He reached into a bag containing a few sachets of curry powder and came up with a pack that says, "For meat curry". He held this up in infront of my face, almost shoving it up my nose, pointing to the word "meat", and said.

"You have meat, SEE?"

"No, it does not contain meat, it is for cooking meat, it does not have meat in it at the moment".

"It is meat, it is here on the packet".

"It is curry powder, no meat". I said.

Looked at me to see if I was shivering with fright. I was not, but quite amused by this ignorant twit.

Grudgingly he threw the pack back into the bag and poked around a quite a lot more, obviously still not satisfied that he did not find anything. I could see he was out to catch me on something and because he did not find anything he was quite unhappy. Stared at me a little more to see if he could detect any guilty twitch. I smile back and muttered under my breath, "have your fun, you ignorant bast***. With a wave of his hand as if to dismiss a slave, he indicate that I could close the boot. With that he just strode off.

Well, if he had bothered to look into the car, on the back seat I had 500 cartons of cigarettes, 100 bottles of bootleg liquor, 250 live chickens, 50 pigs, 45 cows, 300 sheep and a partridge on a pear tree.

What an experience !!!