by Brenda Stanton
Chinese New Year celebrations in Newcastle remind me of Singapore. I wander up and down Stowell Street eating dumplings and savouring the smells coming from the restaurants on the street and I'm back amongst the makan stalls round Chipbee and Bogie Street. I'm standing in The Ladies on Bogie Street too shocked to move as I try not to listen to the ladyboys peeing in cubicles around me. Saunter round the Chinese Emporiam remembering the one on Ochard Road in Singapore in the 70's. Where we would go, my husband and I, to pick out a live lobster or crab that would swim around in our bath until the husband would cook it, while I left the building until the deed was done. The durians lying in a wooden crate take me back to my Chinese neighbour and the really disgusting smell that would waft up the stairs in Hydrebad Court that lingered all day. I'm back at the Armah's markets that I liked to go to where I'd buy little cotton dresses for our daughter, and where one day, I bought a duckling for a dollar that stayed in an MFO box on the balcony and had the run of the flat until it got too big and started biting Kelly and I (damned if I could house train it either) so I took it for a walk to the Campong where I left it amongst some other ducks. I can smell the aromas from the open shop fronts, the smells of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Malay. And the apothecaries who seemed to sell just about everything you'd need for any ailment. As I strolled in and out of shops I remember bundling Kelly up one night when Ron was on guard duty and taking her in a taxi to one of those apothecaries in Chipbee for bonjela because she wouldn't stop screaming. All the taxi drivers names seemed to end in Ng and they were always kind as were all the armah's that I met. There was a couple of anniversaries that we spent at Raffles Hotel, where would order a Singapore Sling, take a sip, then get Ron to drink the rest of it as I didn't really like it but ordered it anyway as it was much more exciting than diet coke. And even though she wasn't Chinese, and so the smell of Stowell Street, and Chinese New Year shouldn't have reminded me of Munah, our armah, they did because she was a big part of my memories of Singapore.