Tag Archives: Suffolk

Walking the line

26 Jul

Last week Mister Noodle and I took a couple of stolen hours to walk part of a railway line in Singapore. This may not sound the most exciting/romantic/sane thing to do just before a first wedding anniversary but we had our reasons.

Over the last few months we have followed the build-up to the permanent closure of the Malaysian-operated KTM service and the tracks. June 30 saw the last trains to run on the line before it was shut down, the land handed back to Singapore, and the steel tracks dismantled. It has been very interesting to witness reaction in Singapore to the closure of the line and how people are engaging with plans for the land’s future. There have been parties on the last trains, internet campaigns to see the land protected, and many, many people making the most of the opportunity to walk a previously unexplored area of the city-state.

Luckily for us the one area of track to remain open to the public until the end of the month is the section nearest to our condo, running from the old Bukit Timah Station to the Rail Mall. Since moving to Singapore last August we have become accustomed to lying in bed hearing the old stock rumble past, horns tooting, early in the morning and late at night. My affection for this daily occurrence turned somewhat farcical on the last night the trains operated as, with a hint of whimsical sorrow in my voice, I solemnly noted the passing of the last train…THREE times. There was the last train with passengers, the last train driven by the Sultan of Johor, and the last last train to take the Malaysian railway staff home.

We began our journey at the old Bukit Timah railway station. I feel a strange affection for the abandoned little station. Despite the 30 degree heat, there is something about the place that transports me back to the country station closest to my home in Suffolk. I am reminded of warm spring mornings, waiting for a train as the sun rises, listening to lambs in the field opposite (yes, really) and perishing winter nights, stood in the dark trying to stop Poodle Noodle weeing on everything and everyone in sight.

Mister Noodle and I headed over the bridge, sidestepping a couple having engagement photos taken by the 1871 marker stone (perhaps they were hoping some of the bridge’s longevity would rub off on their union).

     

Even though every sane part of us knew the line had stopped operating weeks ago, both of us did find our sense of sound a little more highly attuned that afternoon – as if there would be the faraway rumblings of a train on the tracks or a set of points creaking into position.

It was fascinating to walk the line and get a different perspective on Singapore. 5pm on a Thursday night and the line was quite busy with other walkers – all of whom gave us gleeful, knowing smiles, as if we were sharing in some secret, slightly prohibited experience. The more we walked, the more I could appreciate the calls for the line to be preserved as a green corridor for pedestrians through the city. There was so much more to take in than on the concrete pavements and motorway flyovers.

202-30 marks the spot: the sleeper directly opposite our condo

As we approached the Rail Mall  we came across a small shrine-like set-up tucked underneath one of the bridges. We have no idea why it was placed there – one of the many stories you can only imagine have travelled up and down the line over the years.

As you can just about make out in the distance of the picture below the tracks have already started to be removed and, with a year-end deadline to have all materials handed back to Malaysia, the opportunities to walk on or photograph the line are rapidly disappearing. So much changes so quickly in the Little Red Dot, I really hope that there will be a permanent preservation of some of the line for people to enjoy on foot as we have done.

More information about the fabulous campaign to preserve the line as a green corridor can be found at: http://www.thegreencorridor.org/

Discolosure: I owe a great deal of my interest in this subject to my close friends Flora and Notabilia. My first outing with them was to photograph Bukit Timah station (they did the photographing whilst I cursed my choice of flip-flop footwear). At the same time, their train trip to Johor Bahru inspired me to do the same with my in-laws. There is nothing like friends who will walk with you along a narrow railway bridge when the line is still operating, or delve through a bug infested abandoned cemetery in the interests of finding out a little bit more about our new home.

No rest for the Noodle: Orangutans, families and German philosophers

1 Jun

Whizz, whizz, whizz and the last couple of months have flown by in a blur of all sorts of things other than writing blog posts. I have attempted to sit down and write this update post several times to no avail. There is just so much to include that I don’t know where to start and I don’t want to risk inducing a bout of narcolepsy in anyone reading it. So here’s a little taster of what has been going on in the House of Noodle…

House of Noodle, boutique hotel, opens for business

We knew April was going to be a busy month for family and visitors – ok, probably not as busy as it was for the Middleton/Windsor households, but still hectic by Noodle standards. Mister Noodle’s parents flew in from London, his brother popped over from China and one of his oldest school friends and their girlfriend came via Hong Kong. Having five visitors, all new to Singapore, and all with us at the same time has been a great way of looking at our adopted home afresh and also means that the House of Noodle now has an abundant supply of towels, bedding and champagne glasses (bookings always welcome). So, five visitors, two weeks and the little red dot to explore. What to do….

Checking in at Chinatown

Explore Singapore!

We went down some of the well-trodden tourist routes, like the night safari, Singapore Slings at Raffles, taking in the waterfront area at night.We also tried some things that were new to us Noodles as well as to the rest of our party. Our cycling trip to Pulau Ubin, the small island off Singapore, was one particular highlight. We cycled, we wildlife spotted, we laughed – and I brought all my previously acquired Brownie/Famous Five experience to the fore by remembering to pack a picnic…well, some cheese rolls and biscuits at least.

Boat to Pulau Ubin - state of the art health & safety signage

And beyond…

We also got to venture further afield…

Inspired by posts from the wonderful Notabilia and Flora we decided to take a trip on the old Malaysian train line from Tanjong Pagar station to Johor Bahru, across the causeway. It is an experience that is very time limited as the line, in its present form, will close in the summer.  My father-in-law loves anything with a whiff of diesel and the glimpse of an engine and getting the opportunity to nose around the abandoned trains at the old Johor Bahru station was quite an experience.

We also made a five-day visit to Sarawak, Borneo with Mister Noodle’s parents. I will post separately about this shortly as it was a quite incredible adventure – jungle trekking, river dolphin spotting, orangutan watching and blowpipe firing – and all only an hour’s flight from Singapore. I used to live an hour away from London, but never met anyone like this…

Or saw views like this…

Sunset, Damai Beach, Sarawak

And then there were none

Barely was there enough time to take in the eerie quiet or do the washing after all our visitors had left and Mister Noodle and I were packing our spotted handkerchiefs to head off on separate adventures – Mister Noodle on a trip to Tioman on the Malaysian east coast and me to England.

All I have heard from Mister Noodle about Tioman was that “It was fantastic. The snorkelling is out of this world. We must go back”. So, when we do, I will write a bit more.

As for me and England, I spent a wonderful, whistle-stop week catching up with some of my nearest and dearest and inhaling great lungfuls of cool air. The last few weeks in Singapore have been stifling for a Suffolk girl so I relished the chance to wear jeans and not feel like I was going to collapse in a heap like a melted ice cream. Suffolk in spring is really quite beautiful…

Darling buds of May

So there we have it. A busy two months that have been full of fun, laughter, family and friends. And as for the German philosopher – here’s a bit of Goethe for a rainy Wednesday afternoon: ‘There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings’. I came across this quote earlier in the week and it summed up a lot of what the last few weeks have been about and how important our families have been in all that we have done since moving out here. Both sets of parents have been wonderfully behind us with our move to Singapore and it has been great to be able to share some of it with Mister Noodle’s family. At the same time, spending time with them here, and then with my own side of the family back in England, is a reminder of how very important our roots are, wherever our wings may take us.

So, on that pondering note I shall sign off. As I think Mister Noodle’s father would agree, it has been a busy time…

Taking in the sights

Looking back and saying thank you

30 Dec

What a difference five months makes! Almost five months ago to the day, my parents’ sleepy Suffolk garden was hosting what I am guessing has been the biggest party of its 150 year history…mine and Mister Noodle’s wedding reception. With a marquee covering every square inch of grass in the orchard and all our nearest and dearest getting ready to eat, drink, dance and laugh the night away, the scene looked something like this…

A Suffolk Summer wedding...in the back garden

Since arriving in Singapore the constant equatorial weather means we have been permanently suspended in mid-August. Not so Suffolk! This is the snowy Suffolk scene that greeted us when we eventually returned home for our first family Christmas as a married couple.

Our journey back proved suitably epic for Christmas and involved an unexpected mini-break at the Frankfurt Christmas markets, courtesy of London Heathrow and our airline. Finally, 72 hours later and little bit more full of gluhwein than we had anticipated we made it home to Suffolk and Poodle Noodle could end his window-side vigil…

"Where are they? I've made Christmas pudding and everything!"

Our July wedding was a perfect way to celebrate with family and friends before embarking on our new life in Singapore and five months on there is no other way I would have wanted to mark Christmas than back in Suffolk. I have been able to curl up with Poodle Noodle in front of the log fire, eat my own weight in mince pies and cover up the evidence under layers of jumpers and scarves. The television has been almost permanently set to quality British costume drama – Poirot, Miss Marple and Upstairs, Downstairs and Mister Noodle has rediscovered the joy of buying pints of ale and getting change from a £10 note. Most importantly we have enjoyed time with family and friends and laughed and laughed and laughed.

With one more week before we return to the sunnier climes of Singapore there is still loads to fit in…London shopping trips, lunches and dinners and catching ups, new year’s eve with my BFFs, trips to the seaside and more nodding off in front of the fire. The last twelve months have been sometimes frantic but always fun and it seems apt that we will be finishing the year on the same note.

In thinking back over the incredible experiences, challenges and adventures of 2010 there is one person above all that I have to thank for making them possible. Mister Noodle, this post is for you and comes with a very big thank you. You have managed to get the girl who would never spend the night away from home to move half way across the world and have looked after her every step of the way. The first five months of being Mrs Noodle have been wonderful and I can’t wait for what 2011 will bring.

On that note, Happy New Year everyone and see you again in Singapore!

Credit where credit is most definitely due – Our beautiful wedding images were captured by the wonderful Sara Thomas of Sara Thomas Photography