We had only been in Singapore for three weeks, the England we had left on a snowy December day seemed a world away, as we tried to acclimate to the tropical heat. It was almost Christmas, but all our belongings were on a ship somewhere enroute to Singapore, which was to be our home for the next two and a half years. Mum, looking for decorations to put on a tree that didn’t remotely look like a Christmas tree, the three of us set off in a pick-up taxi from Bukit Timah to the famous Change Alley, which all visitors to the “Lion City” visit.
Change Alley was literally just that, an alley, originally a pedestrian thoroughfare from Collyer Quay incongruously wedged between buildings leading to the very prestigious Raffles Place, the chic and the shabby. A tourist trap where you could buy just about anything, including Christmas tree decorations, of which I still have three or four of the fragile balls.
Narrow and dimly lit the open shophouses spilled merchandise out onto the walkway, overhead dangled clothes, conical hats, material, toys, oil-paper umbrellas, and awnings, which basically closed in the overhead gap. You only caught a glimpse of sky now and then between the tall buildings that Change alley was sandwiched between. The humidity soared, the heat rose like a wave of tropical miasma, laced with the aromas of food, spice and joss sticks.
There was barely room to walk and look, the alley was so crowded with people of every nationality, Europeans, Malay’s, Australians, Chinese, and Indians, all calling out, buying, bartering, selling, a myriad of voices. Encouraged to “Come, come, look, something beautiful just for you.” all along this 100-meter alley.
Halfway down the alley I saw it, the perfect Christmas present, stacked in between bone china tea sets and carved camphor wood chests, a beautiful portable typewriter in a cream-colored case. I wanted it badly. Christmas day I got my wish and started typing my first story.
It was the beginning of wanting to be a writer, it was where the first seeds were sown. I wrote lots of short stories on that typewriter and one full-length novel, but I got discouraged by two rejection slips from big publishing houses. I doubted myself and my ability to be a writer, so I put the typewriter away. I can hear you saying I should have stuck with it, and you’re right. The drive to become a published author lay dormant for many years. Perhaps life in those intervening years taught me about people and personalities, of emotions both happy and sad that has given me a rich resource to become a better writer.
My book Twilight Sojourn was born one winter afternoon sitting in front of a blazing fire, wondering over a cup of coffee where life would lead me next. Full circle, I picked up a pen and notepad and started writing what just started out as a short story, and over a period of time turned into the novel I had always dreamed about writing. My book is available on Amazon, both e-book and paperback. (Click Here)
Sadly, I no longer have my portable typewriter and my parents have passed away, which is why I dedicated my first novel to my mum and dad who bought me that first typewriter, and set me on the long and winding road to becoming an author.
I spent over two years in Singapore, so I find books about the Far East fascinating. Here are a few books I would recommend.
“Tanamera” by Noel Barber in paperback only
“The Amulet” by Ann Bennett e-book and paperback
“Singapore Sapphire” by A.M. Stuart e-book, audible and paperback
“Fortune Cookie” by Bryce Courtney e-book, audible and paperback
Next month’s blog: Why I chose Wales as the setting for my novel. If you would like to receive future blogs, with updates on the Sequel to Twilight Sojourn, the history behind the novel, being a traveler, and giveaways, please join me, just complete the mailing list form below. If you would like to chat or drop me a line you can contact me via email. email@example.com
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