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Show me the money – or the cauliflower sheep

2 Jun

A recent trip to the supermarket in Singapore introduced me to these, um, delightful creatures.

The carrot and stick approach to financial security

I would have loved to have been in on the design meeting for this range of goods. I imagine it went something like this:

“Right, we need to revolutionise the money-box. The best way to do this will be to sell them along with potted plants, next to the escalator. What else?”

“I’m thinking fruit.”

“Yes! And farm-yard animals.”

“Exactly. Fruit-shaped, farmyard animal shaped money boxes. We’ll make our fortune”.

And lo, the cauliflower sheep* money-box is born.

However, I don’t think I would have wanted to be in on the meeting that came up with this one – as spotted in our hotel’s gift shop in Borneo. Yes, it is a durian. The king of fruit. I’ll leave the rest up to your own contemplation….

*The exact species rendered in vegetable form is a bone of contention in our household at present. Mister Noodle is convinced it is a pig. A cauliflower pig?!! Don’t be ridiculous man.

Supermarket psychoanalysis sweep

1 Apr

For the past few years back in the UK, Mister Noodle and I liked to try to enliven the tedium of the weekly supermarket shop with a little game. We would eagerly keep an eye out for the seemingly random way other shoppers would deposit unwanted items in the aisles, and try to guess the thought process that went along with their decision to dump. This probably doesn’t make much sense but, using the pictures I have snapped in Singapore below, hopefully I can elaborate. From what I have spotted so far the shoppers of Singapore like to play this game too…

First up, a little something I spotted in Daiso. I love Daiso – it is a Japanese  store that sells a myriad of household items all for the princely sum of $2. Whilst browsing the shelves the other day I noticed the rack above. The display was given over to foot care products but slap bang in the middle someone had left a cheese grater. Yes, a course, rasping, metal cheese grater. Had the shopper originally picked up the cheese grater to use on their feet? The decision to dump the item, presumably in favour of a less abrasive product that is actually designed for the purpose of foot care, would suggest so. I took the picture and my feet hobbled away in pseud0-sympathy!

My most recent supermarket psycho-analysis was of a dumping decision many people may relate to at the end of a hard week’s work. Nice, healthy refreshing glass of milk? No, stuff it, I’ll go for the box of 1970s wine instead! It comes with glasses and everything.

So, on that note, grab the Mateus and have a good weekend everybody!

This bag will change my life

10 Jan

How many times have I thought that a bag, a pair of shoes, a new dress will somehow magically transform my life? Too many to count. However, after 31 years, it has finally happened. What wonder of fashion accessorizing can I possibly be talking about? Is it the new Mulberry Postman’s Lock tote below?

Mmm...one day, my pretty

Much as I would love this to be the case and, with a $1,500 price tag, it certainly would change my life (or at least my bank account) my revolutionary bag is for the time being a bit more functional.

May I introduce…Candy Flowers – the Cath Kidston shopping trolley I snaffled for a bargainous $60 in the sales whilst in London.

Yes, it’s an old lady shopping trolley complete with a rampaging floral print. Mister Noodle has been less than complimentary about the dash that Candy and I will cut on the streets of Singapore and one of my closest friends has suggested that I have bypassed my 30s and 40s to head straight for middle age. However, I care not a jot. With the assistance of Candy my weekly shop in Singapore has been revolutionised from this…

To this…

I can now get from shopping mall to home without breaking my wrists or necessarily needing to get in a taxi. I’m saving my limbs, saving my money and saving the planet all in one go! By my calculation, the $5 a week I will save on taxis could go towards the Mulberry Tote fund. Brilliant! In a mere 6 years’ time the Postman will be able to accompany Candy to the shops – it’s win, win all round.  

For anyone who still needs a little more convincing, just look how neatly it packs up – practically perfect in every way!

Candy collapses
All packed up and ready to go

There are still a few left on the Cath Kidston website (“Surprise, surprise” sniggers Mister Noodle)  so quick, hurry and join the trolley revolution!

Miles of tiles – the Singapore Eclectic

16 Dec

With Mister Noodle battling the man-flu last weekend, I took myself off on a solo jaunt to a little shopping area close to Singapore’s Chinatown. Originally I set off in search of BooksActually, a treasure trove of books, stationery and trinkets located on Club Street. After only 5 minutes in the shop I could see that I could seriously put a dent in my purse. Books Actually is one of the those places you go in search of gifts and end up seeing as many things that you would like to buy for yourself.

In an attempt to exercise some book-buying self-control, I prized myself away and went on a little wander. Only a few yards from BooksActually I happened upon Amoy Street and some very beautiful, tiled shophouses…

 

This style of shophouse is apparently called ‘Singapore Eclectic’ and more information can be found on the very informative Heritage Trails website.

The pastel painted buildings with their matching tiles are incredibly beautiful but I also like the way the bar below has taken on board the traditional style of its neighbours but with a rather quirky, modern feel and lots of little skulls.

I think this one appealed because I have serious scarf envy at the moment, having seen several women in Singapore wearing the Alexander McQueen skull scarf. What I wasn’t expecting, when I took myself off on a Saturday afternoon bookshop excursion was to come back with tile envy as well!

I will definitely return to the Club Street / Amoy Street area in the new year, with Mister Noodle in tow, as alongside the shops there were lots of rather fine looking restaurants and bars that need to be explored. So much for any thoughts of a new year diet!

Shopping with Uncle Ho (and why I’ll never own an ao dai)

10 Dec

Reproduction propaganda posters bought on Dhong Khoi road

Mister Noodle and I both like shopping and faced with a new urban place to explore we both tend to hit the shops. Saigon was no exception so, eschewing all the other information you can find in much better written blogs and guidebooks, here is a quick rundown of where we went and what we bought…ardent consumerists that we are.

What we got

Like a bad parent I am going to talk about my favourite first – Mr Pham-Van-Tu. This beautiful, handmade bear was discovered in Nagu, a little shop tucked away in the arcade of the Hotel Continental. He is made of silver and ivory striped silk, has fully functioning joints and was throwing himself at customers for a mere 20USD.

A very cultured bear indeed

He seems to be quite at home in Singapore and has even been catching up on the works of the Hotel Continental’s other famous resident, Graham Greene. Mr Pham’s name derives from a little side character in The Quiet American who ‘never…dressed carelessly, [or] said the wrong word.’ Just the sort of name for such a well turned out, respectable little bear.

 No introduction required for our next purchase (or prizes for guessing who chose it)…  

Our very own Uncle Ho courtesy of Saigon Kitsch

I have to say that up against the striped splendour of my bear, Uncle Ho is looking a little lacklustre. However, I have been informed that a style makeover is in the offing with Mister Noodle planning some prop art decoupage. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes! Along with Dogma, Saigon Kitsch is part of a funky two storey shophouse located on Nguyen Van Thu. Both levels are filled with quirky gifts, posters and clothing that have more than a hint of 1960s Vietnam about them.

Zen Monkey, Tara & Kys Gallery

Saigon is also a good bet for interesting art work – the authenticity and originality of some of it has to be taken with more than a little pinch of salt but I figure that if you like it, those sorts of things really don’t matter. Vietnam has very strict laws governing the export of antiques from the country so the chances are that if propaganda posters are your thing, you’ll be bringing back repro ones anyway. As well as the posters above, we also brought back a couple of prints from Tara & Kys Gallery situated at 101 Dong Khoi Street. The shop is worth a visit for its architecture alone. Going up the wooden staircase to the first floor showroom you have a real sense of what the shophouses would have once been like. If houses could speak, I am sure that this one would have more than a few stories to tell.     

What we would have liked to have got were dong, time and a western woman’s proportions no object…

1. Mai Lam military jacket. Mister Noodle would have plumped for one of the beautifully embroidered military jackets at Mai Lam’s at the Hotel Continental. Frustratingly I couldn’t get hold of an image to put on the blog but believe me they are exquisite, which probably explains the 1,200USD price tag. Mai Lam’s is also an interesting place to go just for a bit of window shopping – the garments are draped and hung across old-school wooden furniture and set against a very evocative backdrop of chandeliers and scooters.

2. A bit of bespoke. Saigon is famed for its tailors who can run up a suit in less than 24 hours. We didn’t get our act together this time to put their sewing skills to the test but it’s definitely on our list for our next visit. Since getting back to Singapore I have been given a good tip for a tailors near to the Sheraton Hotel so we’ll make sure we get suited and booted when we are next in town.

3. Oh dear, ao dai. Finally, the ao dai…

I fear that the closest I will ever get to owning an ao dai, the traditional Vietnamese dress, is the one depicted in the print we bought, above. There are many, many elegant women sporting gorgeous silk ao dai in Saigon and I know that I would do nothing for the outfit’s image were I to don one. My Suffolk-girl proportions are just not designed for the slim fitting dress/trouser combination and will have to be consigned, forever, to the list of items I would love to wear but just don’t suit me. Depressingly, with age, this list seems to be increasing and currently includes: converse trainers, cropped trousers, boyfriend fit jeans, hats of any description, and red dresses*.

With the exception of the absent ao dai, we gave Saigon a pretty good run for its money, and have some souvenirs I know we will treasure…along with at least one I hope won’t ever see the light of day outside this apartment. Eager to dispense with the dong at the airport, Mister Noodle purchased a replica Vietnamese army hat. Does it suit him and will he ever use it? Let’s just say it probably belongs on the same list as my ao dai.

*That last one has been off the list ever since the age of seven when my mum told me I looked like a skinned rabbit in a Tammy Girl dress. In hindsight, considering the weird, clingy mohair material, I guess see she was probably right.

Living the high (art) life

24 Nov

In a departure from our usual Sunday routine of getting up late, umming and ahhing about what to do, then deciding it is too late to bother doing anything, last weekend we organised ourselves into taking a trip to the Affordable Art Fair which was being held for the first time in Singapore.

Our achievement was all the more notable for having spent the night before sampling our first Singapore hotel buffet experience. We joined a group of friends at the Hyatt’s poolside restaurant, Oasis,  for an all you can eat and drink bbq seafood buffet. I have noticed that Singaporean hoteliers take a very different attitude to encouraging non-residents into their establishments. In England I have always felt as if I have been intruding if I have visited a hotel bar or restaurant but have not been staying. The only exception to this has been the super Hoxton Hotel where the food, drink and ambience are so good you leave kicking yourself that you didn’t book a room and cursing the fact that you will be on the midnight train to Chelmsford (there’s a reason why Gladys Knight never sang about that journey).

Anyway, in Singapore hotel non-residents are welcomed with open arms and resplendent buffets. A couple of weekends previously we had sampled the delights of the Mandarin Oriental’s Friday night Martini hour which included free flow steak sandwiches (I punished my waistline and drew the line at Martinis quicker than I did at the steak!). However, we had yet to sample a full-on buffet and with superbly cooked steaks, ribs, seafood, and fresh and zingy salads and accompaniments Oasis did not disappoint. But enough about feeding the stomach, what about feeding the soul? Back to the Affordable Art Fair.

Asian Grandfathers, Ketna Patel

The concept began in London in 1999 and for the past few years Mister Noodle and I have always meant to go along but in our usual umming and ahhing way never quite made it. However, new country, new rules. Mister Noodle was dragged away from the comfort of the bed and the aircon and we took ourselves down to the F1 Pit Building. The idea behind the AAF is that no work will cost more than $10,000 with some available for as little as $100. I am keen on a bargain, wherever I maybe, but after almost four months living in what is generally quite an expensive country, the idea of a Singapore bargain was all the more appealing.

Fifty galleries and collectives drawn from South East Asia, China, Japan, Australia and Europe had works on show at the Fair, spread across three of the F1 paddocks. It was an eclectic mix of work and judging by the number of red dots next to the pieces there was a lot to tempt the Singaporean buyers. As for me and Mister Noodle, we saw works by several artists that we really loved but unfortunately they were not in the $100 price bracket. However, if Father Christmas was into delivering art down a chimney, or up a condo elevator, our red dot wish list would include: one of the fantastic pop art acrylics by Ketna Patel and the Craig Redman / Rinzen print below.

The sky is black, can’t you feel it? by Craig Redman/Rinzen

Both the galleries exhibiting the works turn out to be based in Singapore so, should a delivery from the bearded gentleman not materialise this Christmas, we will take ourselves along in the new year to see what we can snap up to adorn our woefully white walls. For the meantime I am contenting myself with the little splash of colour the fuschia pink Fair catalogue affords on our bookshelf and realising that, in doing so, every day I become more and more like my mum…

 

Christmas in the tropics

17 Nov

I know, I know, the embers from bonfire night celebrations in England are hardly cold and here I am writing about Christmas! There has always been an unwritten rule in my family that Christmas preparations cannot begin until after my dad’s birthday on 1st December. However, this rule has been well and truly broken by my own mother this year with the purchase of this fantastically glittery purple camel from Paperchase. Therefore I feel no guilt in writing about the festive preparations that are well and truly underway here in Singapore.

The theme for this year’s celebrations is Christmas in the tropics and with only three days until the official turning on of the lights on Orchard Road there are more baubles, lights and decidedly post-modern looking Christmas trees than you can shake a stick at.  Last December I was lucky enough to spend part of the lead-up to Christmas in Edinburgh, celebrating my cousin’s wedding. Both the wedding and the city were picture postcard perfect – the scent of cinnamon and mulled wine hung heavy in the air and the Georgian terraces were resplendent with fir trees and tartan bows. What a difference a year makes! No less spectacular but a world away from Princes Street, Orchard Road is all dressed up and ready for the Christmas parties to begin. On even the most dreary, drizzly days, the Singapore shopping malls are quite something to behold and from what I have seen so far, there is going to be fierce competition this year to be the most lavishly decorated. My favourite so far has to be the Japanese Takashimaya mall with its trees of teddy bears.

Very 'kawaii' (cute) as the Japanese would say

It’s probably a good idea that I didn’t share this image with my mum earlier or it might not have been just one purple camel she bought for the Christmas table…

For more information on Christmas in the tropics visit: http://www.yoursingapore.com/content/traveller/en/browse/whats-on/festivals-and-events/christmas.html

PS – The surfers image at the top of this post is from What’s Buzzin, a rather fine looking retro card company I happened upon by chance. Ah, the dangers of the internet, I can see a credit card transaction happening sometime soon… the image so perfectly captures me and Mister Noodle…maybe.