It was early 1995 and we were preparing for the monumental task of vacating 800 Thomson Road, Singapore in preparation for a massive re-development program which, in partnership with Hong Kong developers, would give us a rebuilt headquarters, apartments for all our staff and a lot of money to be re-invested in facilities around the Asia Pacific region.
As 800 in Chinese thinking is a symbol for double double prosperity, and it was on a hill overlooking water, Macritchie Reservoir, it was indeed a prime location for our developers who’d build high rise apartments on site and find a lot of interest when offering them for sale. Very good fortune for those using that address.
We’d vacated the office buildings and were in the process of shipping furniture and equipment to schools around the region. It was a busy time indeed, and we’d already moved to one of the top floors at Suntec City as a temporary expedient during construction at 800 Thomson Road.
Now it was time to move those occupying houses on the estate to Shan Mansion, a high rise building which we’d purchased intact and finished off according to our specifications. It was a building with a glorious view around Singapore Island from the middle level I was to move into. Of course the building no longer exists. Several years later it was purchased and demolished to build an even higher building. Such is the way of Singapore, constantly re-inventing itself and constantly rebuilding.
It is at that point in time that my story begins.
As the work of managing vacating of 800 Thomson Road and attending office at Suntec City was a rather full on job, personal moves from the estate to Shan Mansions had to be done after and before work.
It was 4.30 am and I’d borrowed one of the mini-vans to make several trips to Shan with our personal effects. Fortunately apartments came furnished so that move could be done quickly and we’d be enjoying our new home with a view.
The girls were being helpful bringing our clothing and equipment out to the entrance from where I’d retrieve and pack into the van.
We’d had eight moves around the estate and between our corporate houses on a quiet street bordering Macritchie Reservoir. Sounds quaint but it was the rule in those days that the larger the family the bigger the house or apartment. As our family shrank in size with children leaving to pursue their studies abroad we made our moves. You may infer from that we had eight children? No! We started in a guestroom and had to work our way through the system until we reached the pinnacle of one of the larger houses, and then had to move down the scale again as our children left. I suppose there was some logic to that though it was annoying to have to make all those moves.
The present house was just across the way from the expatriate students Far Eastern Academy. It also ceased to exist as expatriate workers were phased out. This time we’d been moved to that house when Georgine joined the Academy staff so she could be close to where her activity was needed. The apartment was nicely laid out with a spacious lounge dining area and the entrance was a huge plate glass wall with sliding door entrance. Every part of the estate was Singapore at its best with tropical foliage in abundance so the view from that expanse of glass was a delight to sit and contemplate after a hard day at the office or a return from frequent trips around the Asia Pacific area.
Now at this stage I should probably let you in on one of the rules I’d enforced vigorously in the home. There’d been a tendency to leave that sliding door open as those who moved between home and the academy followed their whims and this opening was gratefully used by the myriads of mosquitos who sat among all that green foliage looking for a nearby feast. The Singapore mosquito is a thing of wonder, in flight it makes a sound like a hovering helicopter and it travels at approximately the same top speed as that craft. The sting of that creature is guaranteed to get your immediate attention. So having experienced some of their night visitations one would naturally want to prevent an occurrence. The estate was regularly fogged to keep those critters under control.
However I have to confess on that morning I grew tired of my own rule, particularly as we were moving out anyway I rationalized the mosquitos would be welcome to the empty house we were vacating to be demolished. So after opening and closing that door many times to retrieve our belongings I finally decided to leave it open and that speeded up the process of retrieving from the front room, packing in the van and returning for more. It worked well for a while.
However unnoticed by me my faithful wife had returned with an armload of clothes to pack on the seats and…. You guessed it! She remembered the rule. The door was pulled shut.
Now there’s something else I’ve discovered. When you have a plate glass wall and door and it’s still dark at 4.30 am and the room is well lit from inside one would be forgiven for thinking there’s an opening there. That’s why they paint little round white circles on doors and plate glass. It’s to alert un-attentive idiots that they need to examine the way forward very carefully.
It was only when I made impact with that plate glass door with a crash that sent me reeling backwards and staggering around the van I recalled the rule. However my humiliation was not as yet complete.
There now standing by the now opened door were two females of the household. Georgine was almost doubled up laughing.
“You should have seen your face!” she gasped dabbing her eyes.
I was deeply wounded. My own wife laughing when I had almost knocked myself senseless! The pain was just beginning to remind me of that impact.
Georgine sobered as she studied my face. “Well you’re always telling us to shut the door!” she said defensively, then slunk off to get another load to give me time to regain my composure.
Of course that story did find its way around the estate and office staff so my humiliation continued for some time to come before it became an old story and new entertainment was sought.
It was much later I could reflect on the event and see humour in it. I now know what it feels like to have a facelift.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2015. All rights reserved”
Pictures in order:
800 Thomson Road as it was before re development
Shan Mansion before it was demolished
800 Thomson Road as it is now.