One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind

26 08 2012

Dominating the news this morning is the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, yesterday. Him taking that first step on the moon, which in his own words uttered during the momentous occasion, was “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, is certainly one of the twentieth century’s iconic moments – one I remember watching on the television as a boy of four going on five. Thank you for taking that step on behalf of mankind Mr Armstrong … may you rest in peace.

NASA photo of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon.

NASA footage of the historic first steps on the moon


An old world hidden on Forbidden Hill

14 05 2012

Hidden on a terrace behind the blood and bandages of the Central Fire Station is a delightful old bungalow set amid the luscious greenery of a hill that was once an abode of the Kings. From the world that lies below, it is hard to imagine the world that does exist on the terrace – the entrance to the grounds on which it is set in is well hidden, nestled in between the mystery of the Masonic Hall and a building that I had once remembered as housing the Methodist Book Room, now the Singapore Philatelic Museum.

The entrance to the Flutes at the Fort housed in a century old colonial bungalow is hidden between the mysterious Masonic Hall and the Singapore Philatelic Museum.

A pathway takes one along the back of the Central Fire Station up to a terrace on which the delightful black and white century old bungalow sits.

I found myself heading up to the bungalow one afternoon, headed for an event held to honour the founder of Azimuth, Alvin Lye as The Glenlivet Pioneer of the Year. Stepping through the hidden entrance way, a sign reveals that it is to the Flutes at the Fort that I was heading to, up through a shady part that ran along the back fence of the Central Fire Station, up to a world a large part of I am familiar with from my many explorations in the area during my days in school. To the bungalow that stood on a terrace above the pathway, I had not previously ventured to, and it was as much to satisfy my curiosity for what is a conserved black and white bungalow – the only one now on the hill that was in the days of the Kings of Singapore known as “Forbidden Hill“, as well as to attend the event itself, that I found myself making my way up to the terrace.

A view from the pathway.

The bungalow and an auxiliary building.

The bungalow elevated on stilts and with a generous amount of openings to keep it cool and airy – as is common in many similar houses built to house senior officers of the Colonial administration which this one apparently also built as, was built at the turn of the last century during the same period that the Central Fire Station itself was. It served as the quarters of the Superintendent of the Singapore Fire Brigade convenient in its location at the back of what had been the first and main fire station it overlooks. Although available information identifies the bungalow as being one built in 1908, it does appear that the construction took place after the start of construction of the Central Fire Station. It was built at a cost of $7,800 with the tender for its construction “in accordance to plans and specifications” drawn up by the Municipal Engineer that was awarded to the same contractor that built the Central Fire Station, a Chia Tien Siew, in May 1909.

The bungalow sits on a terrace over the Central Fire Station.

Elevated on stilts, the bungalow features a generous amount of openings that is typical of colonial residences.

The very first occupant of bungalow when it was completed was perhaps fittingly the then Superintendent of the Fire Brigade, Montague William Pett, the first professionally trained Superintendent of the Fire Brigade, who arrived from England in 1905 and served as the Superintendent up until 1912. In his time here, Pett had seen to the construction of the fire station, seen to the modernisation of the fire brigade’s equipment and transformed the fire brigade into a respected and effective force.

The stairway up to the bungalow.

A view from the verandah.

The lovely setting in which the very spacious and airy bungalow off what is Lewin Terrace that served as the residence of Pett and the colonial Superintendents of the Fire Brigade that followed has been given conservation status since November 2005 makes it an ideal place to hide a restaurant, Flutes at the Fort, away that in the words of the restaurant itself, is “a vineyard inspired experience (that) affords a time away from the noise of the city and modern distractions”. On the basis of what I discovered, it certainly is a place that takes one far away from the noise of the city, and to a time

The verandah.

The bungalow is now used by a restaurant Flutes at the Fort.

A salute to a creator of time where time stands still

14 05 2012

In a world where time seemed to stand still that the spirit demonstrated by a creator of time was celebrated in the company of good spirits. The world, the beautifully conserved building that houses the Flutes at the Fort, was the location where the pioneering spirit of Alvin Lye, a creator of luxury timepieces, was saluted as The Glenlivet Pioneer of the Year.

A world where time seems to stand still was where a creator of time was honoured as The Glenlivet Pioneer of the Year.

The Glenlivet Pioneer of the year is one that honours the vision, passion, courage and tenacity shown by Singapore based pioneers who demonstrate the same qualities that The Glenlivet founder George Smith displayed in creating his brand of single malt whiskies The Glenlivet. The Glenlivet spirit is one that Alvin, who together with his partner Christopher Long founded Azimuth – a homegrown premium luxury timepiece brand, has certainly demonstrated in growing his brand. Despite the odds of developing a name in an area that hadn’t previously been associated with Singapore, Alvin has transformed Azimuth into an internationally established brand which enjoys equal status with other high-end brands.

Alvin Lye speaking on receiving the honour.

Azimuth has grown to be an internationally recognised brand of luxury timepieces.

A window into time?

On receiving the honour, Alvin spoke of the value of time, which also is whisky’s most important ingredient: “I am honoured to be The Glenlivet Pioneer as I can identify with the pioneering spirit that drove George Smith to create his whisky. To guide Azimuth onto the path of success and recognition will take time and we have no plans to rush or take short cuts to success. We will strive to pursue a path of excellence and innovation in watchmaking and if it takes us years to perfect a new design, so be it. With time, perfection will follow”.

The Glenlivet is the biggest selling single malt in the US. Known as “the single malt that started it all”.

As The Glenlivet Pioneering Spirit Pioneer for 2012, Azimuth will also be supported by The Glenlivet in its activities through the year, one of which will be Azimuth’s Watch Appreciation Academy in Singapore for enthusiasts and collectors keen to learn about the intricacies of watchmaking. Another activity that is being planned for that The Glenlivet is supporting is Azimuth’s participation in Singapore Showcase – a National Day event to celebrate Singapore’s creativity and enterprise, featuring made-in-Singapore brands. More information on this will be available on The Glenlivet Pioneering Spirit Facebook at For more information about The Glenlivet Pioneering Spirit and the Singapore Pioneers, please visit

Sampling The Glenlivet XXV.

About The Glenlivet

The Glenlivet is the biggest selling single malt in the US. Known as ‘the single malt that started it all’ – The Glenlivet was the first licensed distillery in the parish of Glenlivet, established in 1824 and, in turn, defined the Speyside style of whisky which became the heartland of Scotch malt whisky production. The Glenlivet was the very first malt to be promoted in the US, as soon as Prohibition was lifted. A pioneering spirit, inspired by The Glenlivet founder, George Smith, runs through the history of The Glenlivet and is just as prevalent today – epitomised by the introduction of the unique French Oak Reserve, the award-winning The Glenlivet 18 Year Old and The Glenlivet 21 Year Old Archive and The Glenlivet Cellar Collection.

About Azimuth

Founded in 2004, Azimuth is a luxury watch manufacturer, focused on creating avant-garde designs for mechanical timepieces. Azimuth watches sport a variety of styles never before seen in the world of luxury horology, from racecar instrument panels to gaming tables to robots.

Azimuth is a luxury watch brand that manages the entire mechanical timepiece production from research, development and manufacturing, to retail, distribution and delivery worldwide. Azimuth’s foundational pillars that guide its watch-making philosophy are: avant-garde designs, mechanical complications, and Swiss-made quality. In June 2009, Azimuth established its exclusive atelier in Bienne, Switzerland, to research, model and assemble its watches.

Azimuth is distributed in Europe, North, South and Central Americas, the Middle East and Asia. In Asia, its distributorships are in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and soon to be in China. Azimuth also owns and manages its own Exclusive Boutiques in Singapore.

For more information, visit Join Azimuth on Facebook at

Another view of the Flutes at the Fort.

A new day begins

11 07 2010

A new day begins today, marked by a stunning sunrise which I was able to catch on a morning drive. A new day certainly for the World Cup where two teams, Netherlands and Spain, would be meeting in the final to decide who would be the champions of the world for the next four years, both of which have never won what must be the sporting event of all sporting events. For the Spanish, it is a new experience having faltered at the quarter finals on many occasions, with which prompted many to lable them as the sport’s greatest underachievers. This time around, the team features what must be a golden generation of Spanish football, with some of the best talents in the game. Having overcome the mental stumbling block that they have long carried, having tasted success at the European Championships tow years ago, they will approach the game with confidence, having also disposed what must be the team that surprised and impressed many, Germany, who displayed a flair and brand of football not seen in a German team for a long time.

A new day begins with a glorious sunrise.

For the Netherlands, this would be their third final, having lost two back-to-back finals in the 1970s, when led by the prolific Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens, they played a flowing and exciting brand of football which lit the 1974 and 1978 World Cups up. I remember the 1974 World Cup particularly well as it was the first World Cup that I was aware enough to appreciate, and the spectacle that the final, shown live and in colour in Singapore (it was the first match to be telecast in colour in Singapore in the year that colour television was introduced to Singapore). The pulsating final in 1974 pitted hosts West Germany, featuring “Der Bomber” Gerd Müller, against the total football of the Netherlands, in which the Germans triumphed 2-1 despite going down to a first minute penalty. Many would probably have been hoping for a possible repeat for that final this time around, with perhaps the Germans displaying the flowing brand of football that was the hallmark of the Dutch team of the 1970s. But alas, the octopus did seem to have other ideas.

Decked with colours similar to that of the House of Orange. Should we be looking to the skies rather than at a mollusc?

Whatever it is, the final should be an interesting one, in which the general feeling is that the efficient passing and controlled game that Spain plays would win it for them, a result that Paul the octopus does not dispute. The Dutch themselves are no pushovers, and displaying the kind of efficiency and industry that perhaps is less of what one might expect from a team decked in the brilliant oranje of the House of Orange, an industry the perhaps is epitomised by the work rate of Dirk Kuyt when he plays for both his club side as well as in the National team. My heart is with Spain on this one, although I also enjoy watching the Dutch. However, I have got a strange feeling on this one … maybe the golden orange hues of the sunrise that greeted me this morning is a sign and that logic tells me that the law of averages should really be starting to make a dent on the record of the octopus. Whether that feeling is correct however, I wouldn’t my money on it. Whatever it is, we would very soon know when the match ends in the wee hours of the morning (in Singapore).

The colours of the day

10 02 2010

There are those days when the sunrise or sunset delights us with a spectacle of colours. Somehow up till now, I have not given much thought as to what sometimes makes the transition from night to day or from day to night such a marvellous sight. I guess it is one of those things like art and music, that we should appreciate by sitting back and marvelling at.

The afterglow of sunset on 8 Feb 2010.

Sunrises in particular have long been my favourite time of the day. It is a time when the day is abound with freshness and with the anticipation of the new day. It is a time when a sense of calm and peace envelopes the atmosphere around us. There is nothing that beats watching a sunrise, as the darkness is transformed to light, revealing the beauty that surrounds us. As the sun – our source of life, makes it journey over the horizon, sometimes preceded by the announcement of her arrival by the wonderful colours of the morning, we can find the time to contemplate and be thankful for the beauty that mother nature has provided.

Sunset on Tasik Bukit Merah, Northern Perak.

Sunrise on Tasik Bukit Merah, Northern Perak.

Sunsets bring the day to a close, when the tiredness and heat of day is transformed to the cool quiet darkness of night when we are free to be lost in our dreams. Sunsets can surprise us sometimes … when the heat and anger of red and gold is suddenly transformed into blue and red afterglows that mesmerise as the sun bids farewell to our day …

Whatever it is, I just adore sunrises and sunsets!

A captivating feast of colour and light: La Sainte-Chapelle

26 12 2009

The Sainte-Chapelle or Holy Chapel in located on the Ile de la Cité, in what is the heart of Paris, offers a visual feast of colour and light with its 15 magnificent windows of stained glass erected in a famework of stone, which depicts some 1113 scenes from the Bible. The Gothic chapel, which actually comprises two chapels, the Upper Chapel built for use by the nobles, and the Lower Chapel built for servants, was built in the 13th Century by Louis IX to house Christ’s Crown of Thorns and other relics in the possession of  the King.

Being one that has a fascination of Stained Glass, the Sainte-Chapelle and its Stained Glass, which is considered some of the best works in the world, was something that I had always dreamt of seeing, although never taking the time to do so in the numerous trips I had made to Paris. It wasn’t until 2003, that I took the time to stand in queue under the hot mid-day sun of the Parisian summer.

The Sainte-Chapelle is located in the heart of Paris ... the Ile de la Cité

A rose window in the Upper Chapel

The Upper Chapel offers a visual feast with its 15 stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible

The 600 square metres of stained glass, 2/3 of which are original, date back to the 13th Century

Stained glass detail

Stained glass detail

The stained glass panels in the Upper Chapel are 15.4 metres high

1113 scenes from the Old Testament and the Passion of Christ are depicted on the stained glass panels

Sculpture in the Upper Chapel

View of the Upper Chapel

View through a door of the Upper Chapel

Doorway to the Upper Chapel

Bas-relief on door frame depicting a scene from the Old Testament (Noah's Ark)

Bas-relief on door frame depicting a scene from the Old Testament (Noah's Ark)

The serene Lower Chapel


27 11 2009

Dusk to some brings the day to a close and to others heralds the start of a new day. Whatever it is, Dusk is the time of the day which brings a transition, from the light and tired heat of the day, to the coolness and calmness of the night. Dusk can be a wondrous and joyous time of the day, a celebration of life, painted in the glorious colours of the Sunset. I truly adore Sunsets, often stopping to soak in the bewildering hues that change with the mood of each day, and find with it, a sense of tranquillity that the changing mood of the Sunset brings.

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 6.38 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 6.48 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 6.58 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 6.59 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 7.01 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 7.02 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 7.03 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 7.04 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 7.05 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 7.07 pm

The Changing Mood of the Sunset, 7.16 pm

On top of the world …

19 10 2009

Mountains bring a sense of peace to many of us. With transport links and the technology that the 20th century gave us, mountains have become a lot more accessible and we do not need to be mountaineers to enjoy the experience and exhilaration of being on top of the world.

My first encounters with mountains were somewhat confined to those that were accessible by road from Singapore. The mountain top resorts of Cameron Highlands and Fraser’s Hill, provided the colonial masters of Malaya with respite from the heat and humidity of the tropics, and since, they have become popular as a destination for many from Singapore and Malaysia. It was much later in life that I first had my experience of the wonderous feeling of being amongst the peaks and the breathtaking views on offer. The Alps in Europe are particularly spectacular. There is no better feeling I get than that that comes from staring out at the peaks of mountains, sometimes over the clouds, sometimes capped with snow, and sometimes just bare rock faces. The most spectacular views I have seen of the Alps are from a cable car, the Gondola Panoramic Mont-Blanc,  that runs across the Glacier du Géant from Aiguille de Midi to Ponte Helbronner … the views on offer are simply grogeous!

The Panoramic Mont-Blanc Gondola across the Glacier du Géant

The Panoramic Mont-Blanc Gondola across the Glacier du Géant

The Vallée Blanch (White Valley) as seen from the Gondola Panoramic Mont Blanc

The Vallée Blanch (White Valley) as seen from the Gondola Panoramic Mont Blanc

All across the Alps, the views are as spectacular… the Dolomites in Alta Badia in Italy for one have provided me with some breathtaking views as well.

Corvara and Monte Sassongher in the Alta Badia Region of Italy

Corvara and Monte Sassongher in the Alta Badia Region of Italy

Monte Lagazuoi near Corvara in Alta Badia

Monte Lagazuoi near Corvara in Alta Badia

The view down Lagazuoi ...

The view down Lagazuoi ...

Having spent time in the West of Scotlands, I am no stranger to the Western Highlands, which provide a serene getaway for many, as well as a fair bit of folklore and mystery. It is hard to imagine kilted men running around in the hostile climes of the Western Highlands, doing battle first with rival clans, and then the invaders from the south. It is of course the stuff that legends are made of.

Glen Coe in the Western Highlands of Scotland

Glen Coe in the Western Highlands of Scotland

Loch Ness in the Western Highlands of Scotland

Loch Ness in the Western Highlands of Scotland

The Man on the Moon, 20-21 July 1969

11 07 2009

I was in kindergarten at the end of a decade of both hope and despair. It had been a traumatic decade for Singapore, with its merger with the Federation of Malay States and its subsequent independence, racially motivated disturbances and the news of the intended pull out of British forces to cope with – not that I was old enough to remember any of that.

The world itself had its fair share of earth moving events – the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, Prague Spring, the student riots in France, the leap at altitude by Bob Beamon that stood as a long jump world record for 23 years, the Cultural Revolution in China, and much closer to home, the war in Indochina.

There were events that I would remember on a personal level: moving to Toa Payoh; the birth of my sister; our first telephone; watching my hero Vic Morrow on Combat – the theme music of which still rings in my head. What was possibly the event that caught my imagination was man setting foot on the moon on 21 July 1969 (the actual landing was on 20 July 1969 US time). I recall the sense of anticipation which gripped my family, my father in particular in the days leading up to the launching of Apollo 11 and to the eventual “one small step for man”.  For weeks after, many of my friends in kindergarten and I were caught up in the excitement of the event. Having watched the delayed footage on the evening newsreel on TV,  we lived the moment out in the games that we played; building make believe rockets, marked out on the floor with building blocks … counting down the moment to blast off. For maybe a half year after, the heroes I worshipped were Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Capturing the Historic Moment Down Under

Capturing the Historic Moment Down Under

View from Eugene Oregon

View from Eugene Oregon

Some clips related to Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon:

Words of Wisdom from an eleven year old

30 05 2009

War is killing,
Killing’s not right.
Why, oh why do we have to fight?

Day after day,
Week after week,
Why don’t we get a chance to speak?

You couldn’t stop counting,
The number of dead,
Lying outside, lying in bed.

But ….. if we could stop,
This continual folly,
And let us have peace, and let us be jolly.

So please you big people,
Please let us try,
Please no more trouble, I don’t want to die.

Ben Brown, Age 11, 1989

Ben Brown - War