We sat there sipping our tea, me smoking cigarettes and then started just chatting about our flight and talking about what we were going to do that evening. After just relaxing for about an hour and discussing things in general, I went to reception and asked them if they had a map available and also if they could recommend any good nearby areas to see that first evening. The girl gave me a small map, marked it with a pen to show the location of the hotel and then pointed to an area at a place named 'Orchard Road' and said that it was probably the best place to start to get to know Singapore. So I went back outside to Myra, who was still sitting sipping her tea and showed her the map and I ordered my first beer of the day and was served with a bottle of 'Tiger Beer', it tasted quite palatable and went down very easily after our long flight without any beer at all. Looking at the map, I could see that our hotel was situated on a road named River Valley road and that Orchard road was not too far away, maybe just about half a kilometre or so. After I had finished my beer, I called for the bill, took my wallet out to pay and the person serving smiled and said that it would just go on our bill and would be taken care of by the RAF, that was good to know, I would make a point of having some more beers here later if the RAF were paying
We left the hotel and walked along River Valley road for a while looking at the shops and buildings around, everything seemed to have a chinese influence and many of the buildings were old and had slatted shutters on the windows, it all seemed very quaint, very oriental and strange to us, which I found appealing, so my first impressions of Singapore were very good. I then flagged down a taxi and we both got in, the driver was wearing a turban and was obviously of Indian descent, he then asked us where we wanted to go, so I just said Orchard road, at my reply he smiled and said that Orchard road was very long, exactly where did I want to go on Orchard road, so I then told him that it was our first day in Singapore and that we didn't really know where to go. He started driving then and just said, "I know where you should start" and then he took us to a place named 'Orchard Road Carpark' and dropped us off there, I paid him quickly and then we started looking around. This place was nothing at all like it's name implied, it was a very big open area full of many different food stalls and we were very hungry by then, so I asked Myra what she would like to eat, she replied that she wasn't sure and would eat anything that I ordered, well I wasn't sure either really, so we just sat down at a table near the first stall available and the guy there asked us what we wanted, I told him that I didn't know, but I would be grateful for any recommendations that he had, to which he replied."No problem, I will fix you something very good" , he later brought us two portions of oyster pancakes, a plate of pork satay and a plate of seafood fried rice, I asked him if he had any beer and then he brought me a large bottle of Tiger. The food was very good, we both enjoyed it and being able to sit outside in the evening, eating good food, a bottle of cold beer and watching all of the other people milling around really suited me, Myra was enjoying it too, it was all a novelty for her because she had never been outside of the UK before. We sat there for a very long time that evening, taking everything in and watching other people around us, everything seemed very good here.
We later got a taxi back to the hotel, Myra was very tired so I took her to the room and she went straight to bed, I picked up my envelope with my orders in and went to the outside cafe/dining area and ordered a beer. Sitting there alone I just reread my orders and then took a good look at the outside of the hotel, it was an old chinese style building with just two floors, the usual slatted shutters at each window painted turqoise and peeling a little now, the whole place seemed full of character and very pleasant for me and so was the Tiger beer which I was now getting very used to.
The following morning I awoke quite early, so I just had a shave and shower and donned my new tropical uniform ready for work, RAF Tengah were sending a vehicle to pick me up at 08:00 and it was now just 07:00, so I woke Myra up and asked her if she wanted any breakfast, she said that she would like a normal English breakfast if they had it and so I went to the hotel cafe and ordered the same for both of us. Myra arrived at the table about fifteen minutes later and so did the food. I wasn't really sure what time I would be finished that day, so I told Myra to leave a message for me with reception if she went out anywhere. The breakfast was good and so was the pieapple juice and pot of tea that came with it and I had just finished my second cup of tea when the transport arrived, so I kissed Myra goodbye and boarded the Landrover.
We arrived at Tengah about twenty minutes later and the driver took me to the General Office where I had to start my arrival procedures, the girl in the office gave me the forms to fill in, a map of the base and a form to get signed at each of the usual sections that you had to arrive at, police office, clothing stores, MT section, armoury, etc. It was quite a warm day, but wandering around all of these sections in my tropical gear wasn't too bad, when I had finished my arrival routine, I went back to the General office, handed the signed form to the girl and then I was ready to arrive at my work section to introduce myself and start work, so I asked the girl where the visiting aircraft section was and she pointed it out on the map to me, but then she asked me "Why do you want to go there?" so I just replied that I shall be starting work there soon. She then asked me to wait a minute, she went to one of her filing cabinets, pulled out some files and came back to me. She then told me that I was posted to 103 Squadron Wessex troop support helicopter squadron not the visiting aircraft section. I could not believe what I was hearing, the only reason that I was in Singapore at all, was at the request of Headquarters RAF Transport Command and I had never worked on helicopters in my life before, so this whole situation just seemed crazy, like something out of 'Monty Python' or something similar. I knew that it would be pontless and just a waste of time explaining all of this to this young airwoman working in the General Office, so I just asked her if they had any transport that could take me to the visiting aircraft section and she arranged that for me.
On arrival at the visiting aircraft section, I went into the operations office and introduced myself, thinking that everything would be fine now, but nobody had ever heard of my name and I was not expected there. So I thought, "I really have to sort this out somehow". So I said to the Senior NCO in charge there "Is your Section Commander here?" at which I was led to an office about fifty yards away and introduced to Flight Lieutenant Philip Kerrison. When we were left alone, I then explained everything to him and being his character, as I came to know later, he just started to laugh out loud, he then just stood up and said that he was going out for a while and that I could help myself to his tea-making facilities if I wanted to, then he left. When 'Phil' returned about fifteen minutes later, he was grinning from ear to ear and he said to me, "have you been to Singapore before?" to which I replied that I hadn't, so then he said "Well, take the next five days off and look around and then start work here next Monday". I thanked him and shook his hand and I then told him that I hadn't been sorted out with any accommodation yet and he just said "Don't worry about that, I shall take care of everything, you just go and have a good time looking around Singapore for a few days".
I got back to the hotel at about 16:00 that afternoon and as I walked in, I saw Myra sitting outside at the dining area drinking tea, so I joined her there. I told her about the mix-up with my posting at Tengah and she laughed along with me at the crazy situation. I then went on to tell her that it was all okay now and that my new boss had sorted it all out and we now had a few days to ourselves to explore Singapore, so then I took the map out of my pocket and we started making some plans to look around. We also asked the advice of the people working in the hotel and we finalised our plans. That evening we did exactly as we had done the night before, we went to Orchard road carpark and tried a few different things to eat that night, there were so many stalls there, that it was impossible to try everything, but we had a good time just wandering around, sitting at the different stalls and sampling the fare, I was doing my usual and having a beer at each place too, so we had quite a good evening, nothing to worry about, no work for me for a few days and we were just getting familiar with the place, because this was going to be our home now for a long time. The overall atmosphere that we felt in Singapore was very good, it was a warm climate, the people seemed very friendly and helpful and the different types of food available were excellent, there were many food stalls around and the food was sold at very affordable prices. The place seemed to radiate oriental culture with the old style Chinese buildings everywhere, small vendor shops and it was very cosmopolitan too, so our first impressions of Singapore were very good indeed and we were both very pleased to be here.
That evening we returned to the hotel quite late, Myra went straight to bed as usual and now, as usual for me, I went downstairs to the outside area, had a couple of beers and I just sat there sipping my beer, looking at the old buildings around there, mulling the day over in my brain, feeling quite pleased with myself and planning the next day's activities.
'Singapore, our new home now'
I shall be adding to this site over time, so if anyone is interested then please have a little patience and call back here from time to time. One of my very few pleasures in life these days is beer so I shall be occasionally referring to beer, I just wish that beer was the only reason that I am legless all the time
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