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A Visit to Northumberland

Looking north from Hadrians Wall into the badlands of Caledonia….

Carrying on with the theme of ‘Holidays from last Year’ (see my previous post for the first of these), here’s a second about a short break we had in Northumberland in the early autumn of 2021.

We’ve never really been to Northumberland. We’ve driven through it, up the A1 on the way to Edinburgh, and we’ve ridden trains up the East Coast Main Line and enjoyed the sights you see on that journey: Durham cathedral (ok, not actually Northumberland but never mind), crossing the Tyne on the way into Newcastle, Holy Island, Berwick-on-Tweed, Torcross  Nuclear Power Station (ok, that one’s definitely not in Northumberland, it’s well into Scotland, but still a remarkable site….). But we’ve never visited Northumberland, and never got away from the main arteries through the region.

In the early autumn of 2021 we had the opportunity to have a couple of nights’ stay at a reasonable price at Slaley Hall, a country house (possibly 19th century) that’s been converted into a hotel and golf course. It’s in the south of Northumberland, quite close to the County Durham border in fact. Its main attraction is the golf course, which looks beautiful from the hotel and is, I gather, rewarding to play. Certainly there were lots of golfers there, both staying at the hotel and visiting for the day. We, on the other hand, were there to enjoy the area and the countryside.

We’d booked a night in a Premier Inn in Country Durham for the night before; this would give us two full days in the area, plus as much of the day of our journey home as we felt like spending. We’d planned three possible destinations, weather permitting. The first would be to explore a National Trust site, Allen Banks. This lies along the River Allen which rises in hills on the Northumberland/Durham border and runs swiftly northwards to the River South Tyne. Not a long river – just 5 miles from where it forms at the confluence of two tributaries – it runs mainly through a steep-sided gorge before emptying into the South Tyne. It’s this gorge that the NT has taken over. In fact much of the gorge is cultivated – it’s a late Victorian garden!

Our second objective was Hadrian’s Wall, and specifically the site of Housesteads fort which lies on the wall. I had in fact visited Housesteads long before, but my memories of it were quite hazy.

Finally, if the weather was good on the day we were due to drive home, I felt that detouring to the coast and visiting Whitley Bay might be enjoyable, and very different from the two previous days. I’m pleased to say that we managed all of these things.

We drove up to the Premier Inn at Bishop Auckland in drenching rain – possibly the least pleasant drive I’ve done for many years. We were just there for a single night, and the hotel and attached restaurant/pub fulfilled its purpose. Then the following morning we headed across country, driving up though Weardale in the direction of Alston. In contrast to the day before this was a lovely drive. The sun was shining, the scenery was lovely, and the roads were deserted – I remember miles of road with no other vehicles in view, either in front or behind. Before we reached Alston we turned off north and went high over the watershed between the Wear and Tyne valleys, and dropped down into Allendale. We stopped at Allendale Town – actually a small village, but very beautiful. In the past, before transport was easy, this would have been a hub of activity. Today it’s quite sleepy and peaceful. We drove  down lower Allendale until we reached the Tyne valley and found our way to the Allen Banks NT site.

This was an impressive spot. We did a circular walk – a couple of miles up one side of the river, walking high up on the bank, then dropping down to the river, crossing it via an old foot bridge and basically walking back on the other side. We had some route-finding problems – our map suggested that on the way back we could get back down to the river edge and cross it via a suspension bridge, but we didn’t find any paths that would lead us to it so we navigated our way out via a different route. We later learned that the map was wrong – the suspension bridge was destroyed in a flood some years ago, and we had missed the warning notices near the car park. All together we were walking for a couple of hours or more; a lovely morning in beautiful and dramatic scenery. That took more or less to check-in time at the hotel, which we eventually found after a traumatic time navigating our way through Hexham.

The hotel itself was fine. Not perhaps as grand as it likes to suggest it is, but we had a good time. We particularly enjoyed the main bar area, which was bright, airy and comfortable.

The following day we went to Housesteads Roman fort, on Hadrian’s Wall. Obviously this is a ruin, but has been tidied up and made intelligible to a non-expert audience. In fact the information boards tell the fort’s history well – established before the Wall, then having its northern side turned into the Wall; abandoned when the frontier was pushed north to the Forth-Clyde gap; reestablished when that in turn was abandoned; and further changes in the late Roman period as the nature of the military units posted there changed. Finally, abandoned altogether (although I wonder how much of the masonry used to build it found its way into other nearby structures over the centuries). It’s an evocative site. From the fort you can walk along, and even (for a short distance) on the remains of the Wall – it stands maybe 5 feet above ground level near Housesteads. We walked along it as far as Milecastle 37, which is the best-preserved mile castle along the wall, and back again.

River South Tyne at Hayden Bridge

On the way back to the hotel we looked for some lunch in the small town of Haydon Bridge. We thought we were going to be unsuccessful until we walked into The General Havelock Inn, which was displaying a ‘Lunches served’ sign The pub itself is small and we weren’t feeling hopeful but we were shown into a restaurant at the back. This was obviously a former stone barn or something similar where we were served a simple ‘pub classic’ meal that was actually the best food we had throughout the holiday. Recommended, if you’re ever in that area.

Finally, on the last morning the sun shone again and we drove to the coast at Whitley Bay. We didn’t stay long – we still had a long drive home – but we had a good walk along the beach. We drove back down past the other seaside townships along the coast, through Cullercoats and Tynemouth  before heading for the Tyne tunnel. And we drove past the Spanish City amusement park – so of course I couldn’t help remembering that Dire Straits song, Tunnel of Love, with the line “From Cullercoats to Whitley Bay, out to Rockaway”. But all of these seaside towns looked attractive in their own way.

We enjoyed this break very much. As I said at the top, we’ve never been to this part of England before, and we liked it enough to seriously think about going back. Maybe further north, so that Alnwick, Holy Island and maybe Berwick would be within easy reach. Hopefully, that will happen this summer.

Along the Thames near Henley

Well, this is the first post here in a very long time. Last year just didn’t feel like the time to be posting about ‘travel’, even though we did a bit of it (but only in the UK). However my New Year’s resolutions include things about being more positive because, like so many others, I found 2021 hard to cope with; a continual see-saw of hopes and disappointments; and that therefore I should recommence writing posts here. So here goes.

Many years ago I happened to take my elder daughter down to Heathrow, and en-route we stopped somewhere along the Thames for lunch. I liked what I saw and determined that one day I’d go back. Years passed but eventually I booked a short break at the Hotel Du Vin in Henley-on-Thames for early summer 2020. Well, that didn’t happen thanks to Covid lockdown, but we rebooked for the equivalent period (end of June) in 2021.

We spent four nights at the Hotel du Vin in Henley. Like many hotels in this chain, it’s in a re-purposed old building, in this case the old Brakspears brewery. In general they do these conversions very well, and we enjoyed the hotel. Good-sized room, comfortable bed, characterful building – what’s not to like. We had three full days in the Thames Valley, plus the journey down.Sadly the weather was not on our side – it was cloudy and overcast for a lot of the stay, and rainy for part of the time.

Waddesden Manor

On the way down we visited Waddesden Manor, a National Trust site. Mainly we visited the gardens; but the house is actually owned by the Rothschild family and not surprisingly the on-site shop specialises in wine from the Rothschild family’s various vineyards. Just up our street, then… We enjoyed the visit and would like to go back.

Then on to Henley which we reached in the late afternoon. We had brief walk around the area by the hotel – it’s close to the river – then had a quick drink in the courtyard and laterhad dinner. Truthfully, this was not very inspiring; burgers and not especially great wine. Still, we were also tired after the drive and the visit to Waddesden Manor.

 

For our first full day we stayed local. We explored the town in the morning, and we found it attractive and busy. The best part of the day, however, was exploring the riverside. We walked upstream for a couple of miles, up past Marsh Lock and across the fields until the Thames Path (which we were on) moved inland, and when it hit suburbia we turned round and walked back. We were impressed by the river-side architecture – oh, to have the money to live like that! – but the most delightful part of the day was the visit to the Museum of Rowing and River Life, beside the river on the edge of Henley. This was interesting and quirky, but the best part was an exhibition based on The Wind in the Willows, which is of course set along the Thames. (Kenneth Grahame, the author, lived for many years at Cookham). That evening we had an excellent meal at The Giggling Squid in Henley.

Our second full day was grey and overcast, with rain later. This turned into a bit of a ‘filler’ day. We went to Ham House in Kingston-on-Thames for the morning, then walked along the river again after lunch until the rain started, and spent the afternoon in the hotel. Dinner that evening was in the hotel, an ‘English Food & Wine’ meal. For example, I had a Battered Salmon main course with a rosé sparkling wine, so basically fish & chips & fizz! Interesting, but not altogether convincing.

The third day was the best. The sun came out, and that helped, of course. We did a long riverside walk – 9 miles, from Marlow back to Henley. We got the local bus into Marlow (which is the first town downstream from Henley), loaded up with refreshments in Marlow, and set off. I had been worried there would no facilities – i.e. refreshments and toilets – en-route, but in fact I needn’t have worried. About two-and-a-bit miles from Marlow we found a little refreshment kiosk near Hurley lock where we had a cup of tea; there were also toilets there. Then after quite a few more miles, and with lunchtime approaching, we found The Flower Pot Hotel, a lovely riverside pub at Aston. We stopped here for lunch and a soft drink – if we’d started on the alcohol I don’t think we’d have been able to tear ourselves away.

During the final stretch of the walk along the river into Henley we observed a lot of boats being placed onto the river. There were a number of eights, plus lots of smaller boats. Then we noticed that all of the oarsmen were in fact oarswomen; and I later learned that this was the first preparation day for the 2021 Henley Women’s Regatta. This was first held in 1988, in response to the absence of women’s events at Henley Royal Regatta. The latter does now include women’s events, but Women’s Henley (as it’s known) has gone from strength to strength.

At the end of the 9-mile walk!

At the end of all that walking we had a glass of wine on the riverside terrace of the Angel Inn, by Henley bridge. Drinking 250ml of Malbec out of a full plastic cup was an odd experience, but enjoyable; especially with the sunshine. Dinner that evening was out of the hotel again – an excellent Italian meal at the Villa Marina. For me this was the best meal of the holiday; my main course was ‘Involutini di Pollo ai Carciofi e Spinaci’ – stuffed chicken breast with marinaded artichoke & spinach, and it was absolutely delicious. We washed it down with an excellent bottle of Pinot Grigio, which was a number of steps better than standard supermarket/pub PG.

 

This was our first holiday for over a year. It’s fair to say that before we went I was nervous about being out, but we avoided the dreaded virus. Overall the holiday was excellent. Not cheap, but worth it. The hotel was good as a hotel – quirky, characterful and comfortable – though perhaps a bit let-down by its restaurant. The first and third full days were very enjoyable, and the two meals away from the hotel were excellent. I preferred the Italian meal on the last night, Val probably preferred the Thai curry a couple of nights earlier, but both were very good.

 

… and Real Sizes

One other effect that the distortion in Mercator Projection maps introduces is that land areas closer to the poles appear, on the map, to be bigger – sometimes much bigger – than similarly-sized land areas closer to the equator. Have you ever looked at Greenland on a ‘normal’ map and wondered at how big it looks? Or Alaska? We all know that Alaska is the biggest State in the Union, but is it really half the size of continental USA? No, it’s not. The image above shows how it compares when the distortion is removed and it’s placed alongside the other 48 continental States. Yes, it’s still big but not as big as it appeared.

There’s a website (as there always is) that allows you to select individual countries and then moving them around the map. Great fun, but also instructive. Here’s the link: https://www.thetruesize.com. Start by clicking on ‘Clear the Map’ – that will deselect the countries selected by default when you first access the map – then type the name of the country you want in the box – that will highlight that country. You can then select the country and drag it around the map, resize the map, etc.

The images below show some other interesting comparisons: India placed over Europe – when seen at the same scale as Europe it stretches from northern Norway to the toe of Italy, and from London to east of Moscow; the UK on top of Australia – actually, on top of less than half of just one State; and especially for my sister, Turkey (she lives there) lying on top of Europe, with London and Istanbul just about contiguous.

 

Great Circles….

In my last post, ‘Travels of a Laptop‘, I briefly mentioned that on its journey from South  Korea to Germany, the package that contained my new laptop followed a Great Circle Route. I didn’t however explain what they are, and why they’re significant.

For most of us, the usual map of the world that we look at is based on the Mercator Projection. This preserves accurate latitude distances – that is, North/South distances – but distorts Longitude. 1˚ of Latitude is always the same distance, both on the map and on the actual globe, but 1˚ of Longitude will vary on the globe depending on your latitude. We all know that there are 360˚ in a circle, which means that at the equator the length of 1˚ of longitude will be the circumference of the earth at the equator (about 24,900 miles) divided by 360, or just over 69 miles. But at a latitude of 45˚ (North or South) the circumference of the earth is only about 17,637 miles. Therefore at that latitude, 1˚ of Longitude is 17637 miles/360, which is about 49 miles – less than it is at the equator. Unfortunately the Mercator Projection doesn’t show this at all, and therefore the further away from there equator, the more the map distorts reality. This has two distinct effects on what we see on the map and possibly on how we think.

The first relates to distances and directions. As I mentioned in that earlier post, one stage in my laptop’s journey was from Anchorage, Alaska to Cologne in Germany. The image below shows the route you might expect it to take between those two points. I’ve created as near a straight lines as I could on the Google Maps image, and that route works out at 6,410 miles.

In fact the route taken was very different, and below are two images showing that route. First is how it looks on a standard Mercator map:

That looks truly odd; why would it take that strange curving route instead of the straight line? Well, actually it was a straight line, as this third image shows.

That’s the Great Circle route – the shortest route around the curvature of the globe – and you can see that it is in fact pretty close to a straight line. Furthermore it’s shorter than the first route I traced out – 4,600 miles as against 6,400 miles, or 1,800 miles shorter. That’s more than three hours’ flying time, and a whole lot of fuel.

In the next post I’ll show you how the Mercator Project distorts the size of countries, and makes those closer to the either pole look much bigger than they actually are. In the meantime here’s a link to the website (greatcirclemap.com) from where I got the two images above. You can make your own maps – just enter the starting and finishing airports, and use the buttons over on the r/hand side to see the difference between the great circle route and the apparent route on a Mercator map.

Travels of a Laptop

Yes, that’s right – Travels OF a Laptop, not Travels WITH a Laptop. Let me explain.

Apple recently released a new version of one of their best-selling computers, the MacBook Pro 13″, and I was immediately tempted. I’ve been without a laptop for almost a year. I used to have a 2014 MacBook Pro which I mainly used for travel – quite apart from the whole browsing & email thing, it was good to be able to do some initial processing of images while I was still on a trip, and of course I was also able to write blog articles (both here and in the Cruise blog). However, when the time came to replace the old laptop I was seduced by the idea of using an iPad as a laptop replacement, and so I bought an 11″ iPad Pro, a Smart Folio keyboard, and an Apple Pencil. (I also part-exchanged the old laptop.)

In the event the “iPad as laptop replacement” idea didn’t work for me. Well, it worked, insofar as I was able to use it, but I didn’t get on with the key piece of software that I had to use, Lightroom Mobile. So I had been thinking of going back to a laptop anyway, and when Apple announced the 2020 13″ MacBook Pro I was interested.

Apple has improved the base specification of the new laptop over last year’s model in some areas – double the storage and an improved keyboard, for example – and for the same starting price, but I decided to enhance the spec by going for a further optional upgrade, an extra 8Gb of memory making a total of 16Gb. I knew that this was not a standard build and that therefore delivery would be slightly delayed, but I had expected that it would still come from Apple UK – my assumption was that Apple themselves must order small numbers of the various optional configurations for onward supply to customers. Not so in the case of mine!

In addition to the usual deluge of order confirmation, etc, emails that I got from Apple, I was surprised to receive a tracking notification email from UPS showing “the package” (my new laptop) starting in China – “Label created” was the first entry in the list, on 29 May. “The package” spent the rest of that day and a couple of following days in China. The first entry just said ‘China’ but subsequent ones said ‘Shanghai’. Here are steps “the package” went through:

  • 29/5 to 31/5: Order Processed in China, then customs clearance and various scans in Shanghai (presumably, this location refers to a UPS facility in Shanghai);
  • 1 June: a Departure Scan 😁 at Shanghai at 3am, followed by an Arrival scan at Incheon, South Korea at 5am on the same day;
  • 1 June: more progress! At 7:30am there was a Departure scan at Incheon, followed by an Arrival scan at Anchorage, Alaska, at 9:25pm – date 31 May. This was initially confusing – had “the package” travelled back in time? could this be how UPS meets its deadlines? – but then I realised that the journey from South Korea to Alaska would have taken it across the International Date Line, and that’s what caused the date reversal;
  • It didn’t stay long in Alaska – less than two hours later, at 11:17pm, still on 31 May, there was a departure scan from Anchorage;
  • Next was was an arrival scan at Koeln (Cologne) in Germany, at 18:15pm on 1 June (again….). There’s a 9 hour time difference between Alaska and Germany, so actually it arrived in Germany just 8 or 9 hours after leaving Alaska. Interestingly, the Great Circle route between Anchorage and Cologne passes across the Arctic, so “the package” went close by the North Pole, albeit at 35,000 ft or so;
  • It had an overnight stay in Germany before having an Exit scan from Koeln at 4:48am on 2 June, followed by a Departure scan at Stanford-Le-Hope at 8:48pm the same day. Stanford-Le-Hope? Well it turns out there’s a huge UPS facility near to St-L-Hope which I believe handles packages arriving both by sea at the new London Gateway container port, and by air at Stansted airport;
  • After Stanford-Le-Hope came an Arrival scan at Tamworth late on 2 June followed by an Arrival scan at Sheffield early on 3 June….
  • ….and finally “The Package” was delivered to me at home just before 1pm on 3 June.

So my laptop entered 5 different countries – China, South Korea, the USA, Germany and the UK – passed over several more (the Great Circle route from Alaska to Germany would include Canada, Greenland, Norway, and maybe Denmark), crossed an ocean, a pole, and the International Date Line. Not a bad trip! – I wish I’d been with it.

I found this to be an interesting insight into the world of global logistics. I was surprised that my order was being handled as a separate, discrete package, on its own – clearly, it wasn’t in a container with thousands of other Apple laptops. I discovered that the facilities at Incheon, Anchorage and Cologne are mega-hubs for their continent, and that it’s normal for packages to be routed from one such hub to another if their journey requires it; my little laptop would never have been sent from Shanghai direct to the UK. I can only imagine the cost of doing this – while I’m sure that Apple doesn’t pay the rate I would to send a 2.9kg package half-way round the world, there must have been some cost. (Which I didn’t see, btw – my order included free delivery.)

And thereby hangs a bit of a tale, perhaps. A couple of days after I’d ordered my new laptop, and had the order accepted, Apple doubled the price of the memory upgrade that I’d included, from $/£100 to $/£200. There’s no official reason for this, although it is suggested that the lower price was a mistake. Really? By Apple, the most price- and market-conscious corporation on the planet? Well, perhaps; but is it also possible that one month into the new product’s life they were finding that there were so few orders for that particular upgrade that they were having to be handled as one-offs? Increasing the price would have two effects, perhaps: a) it would increase the revenue from orders for that configuration and thus meet the shipping costs, and b) it would narrow the price difference gap between that bespoke configuration and the next standard configuration up, and thus encourage customers to order the higher-priced standard config which would always be shipped in bulk. But we’ll never know the truth.

Over the years I’ve read about a number of epidemics in various parts of the world – SARs, the various Ebola outbreaks, the Zika virus, Swine fever – I’m sure you all remember reading about them just as I do. I certainly did, but they all seemed fairly academic, and while of course I empathised with the sufferers as much as I could, it all seemed rather remote.

Now we have Covid-19, the official name for what has generally been referred-to as the Coronavirus, and this one has hit home much more with me. That’s because one of the places at risk is Singapore, which is a country and city that I have visited and enjoyed several times, and have come to – yes – love. It’s one of those places where I just feel at home. And now it faces great risk, of at least significant economic and social disruption, and possibly major health risk to its population.

There are many reasons why Singapore is especially vulnerable. It’s a very small country, physically, with a significant population, and the population density is therefore high. The nature of life in Singapore is to be very sociable – eating in restaurants, hawker centres or food courts, going to coffee bars, shopping either in the glitzy malls along Orchard Road or in more local shopping centres, and just generally socialising are all key aspects of life in Singapore. There is a huge amount of international travel, in and out of the country. A significant number of non-Singaporeans with PR (Permanent Resident) status are from nearby nations, especially Malaysia, and frequently travel back and forwards. Then there is tourism. In 2018 almost 15m tourists visited Singapore. That’s not very high for Asia, but it has to be remembered that all of those tourists will be heading to the same places in that tiny country – Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay, and so on. And finally there are the business travellers; Singapore is one of the greatest international business centres in the world. A single sales conference in January, attended by 100 people from all over the world, resulted in 7 new cases of Covid-19 infection among attendees, and of course they passed it on to others. In one well-documented case a British attendee contracted the virus at the meeting and himself passed it on to at least 11 others. The numbers of people infected in Singapore is steadily rising, though not yet at the rate that has been in China, and restrictions on travel to and from Singapore are beginning to be discussed.

I’m confident that Singapore, in common with other affected countries, will beat this infection eventually, and of all the affected countries in Asia I would expect Singapore to do so most quickly – the small size and low number of international gateways can be an advantage here. Indeed it might even be best to accept a medium-sized, temporary hit and quarantine the nation in order to stop continual re-infection from travellers from infected areas. In the meantime, I can only hope that they can stay on top of it. And finally – and selfishly – I ought to report that I am now pleased that I visited Singapore in September last year instead of February/March this year. If I had followed the patter of previous visits, I could well have been there now!

 

I was interested to read recently that, as part of the continuing investment in the future of the Singapore tourist industry, two of the main players, Universal Studios and the Las Vegas Sands corporations are planning on a further investment of some S$9Bn in the next few years.

Universal Studios will be adding more content to their Universal Studios theme park on Sentosa Island. I’m more interested in what Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the owners of the Marina Bay Sands hotel and facilities, are planning for that site.

Basically, they’re going to build a fourth tower. The image above is from Las Vegas Sands, apparently, although I couldn’t find it anywhere on their site. However, it’s generally available elsewhere so I reckon there’s no problem showing it. There are other (poor quality) images floating around that just show a fourth tower stuck on the end of the existing three, with the sky park extended to it, and that looks really unattractive. I actually think that having the fourth tower separated (as in the image above) but obviously part of the same group will be effective. However, this is just an initial image – it’s possible things may change. The architect of the original set of towers, Moshe Safdie, will be involved in the design of the new tower. I should also say that the development will include a 15,000 seat entertainment arena – I think that’s the dome/bubble just to the left of the new tower as shown above.

No word yet on when construction will start or how long it will take.

 

I’ve just realised that there were a few other things I did in Singapore that I haven’t mentioned, so this post will cover just two of them – the NUS Baba House, and Singapore City Gallery.

The NUS Baba House

The NUS Baba House is the sole surviving intact house from the Peranakan community. This isn’t the place to describe or define the Peranakan identity or culture – here’s a link to a Wikipedia page that does so. In Singapore the Peranakans emerged as merchants and traders and thus were at least reasonably wealthy, and with this wealth they built distinctive and high-quality houses. Almost all of these have either been demolished completely, or (once Singapore recognised the importance of preserving them) have been been preserved externally but gutted and modernised internally. The NUS Baba House is thought to be the only house that is preserved internally as well as externally. Visits have to be booked in advance, and there are only a limited number of places available.

The National University of Singapore (NUS – the owners and managers of there house) don’t allow photography inside the house so I don’t have any pictures to display. I will say however that it was beautiful and individual. The house, which has been conserved as it was in the 1920s, is narrow and deep – three rooms deep, plus a courtyard at the front.. The courtyard features an ornately decorated exterior – the image above shows this. Then you go through the door and enter the front parlour. This was where the merchant did business, entertained guests, clients and customers, and where receptions were held. It’s furnished in a business-like but quality way – there are lots of high-quality paintings and decorations. This was the space in which an impression would be made! At the back of this room is a screen, and behind that is a living space, much more domestic in feel – still luxurious but more comfortable. For a visitor to be invited beyond the business area into the living area would be a mark of either real friendship or possibly deep respect. it’s also the case that the screen was not solid, so someone – the merchant’s wife, perhaps? – could sit behind the screen and listen to the business conversations while remaining hidden. Behind this living space was the kitchen. Upstairs were either two or three bedrooms, all furnished beautifully. One was very traditional, another was furnished in a modern style – as in 1924! Continue Reading »

While I was travelling around Singapore on the MRT I started noticing various signs that struck me as distinctively Singaporean. There’s no doubt that that the Singaporean authorities like to admonish or advise their citizens, over many things – in Brit-speak, they’re definitely a nanny state.

So here are some examples of those signs. Most were found on the MRT, but later during the holiday I started to see funny signs in other places, and there’s a collection of those as well.

 

And now a few I saw in other places…

Changi airport is frequently and widely regarded as the world’s best airport. Not only does it do its basic job efficiently – be an airport and handle around 60 million passenger a year – it seems to do it with style and panache. And of course it’s very ‘Singapore’ – like Apple stuff, everything a) works and b) looks a million dollars. Over recent years Changi has continually upgraded not only its fundamental facilities (to handle those 60 million passengers, and more in coming years) but also the soft stuff – keeping them entertained and, dare I say it, delighted. I haven’t yet been to the terminal with the butterfly garden, for example….

The latest facility is Jewel. It’s actually a shopping and entertainment mall. It’s Landside, not Airside, so people can go and visit it from the city, as I did, even when they aren’t flying; and from the number of people I saw there with luggage, they were also visiting it on their way out of the country or even on their in.

The most obvious aspect of it is the enormous waterfall in the middle, surrounded by terraces of trees and greenery. (Officially these are known as the HSBC Rain Vortex and the Forest Valley.) There are a couple of forest walks laid out – you can walk up and down the terraces, enjoy the views, sit down and rest (yes – benches! not associated with restaurants!!). Access to this area is free of charge. Up on the top floor there are a number of chargeable attractions, for young and old. There’s a scramble net up in the ceiling; a mirror maze which, I gather, some people have found seriously disturbing; and a host of other things. You can find the full list here.

I just walked around the forest area for a while, took loads of pictures, and then went back to the city. Seems a strange way to spend an afternoon, but it was in fact relaxing and fun. And that first glimpse of the Rain Vortex is truly stunning and, yes, delightful.