there was a desolate air to it and yet, a grandeur. i looked at the squat structure and wondered what it could be, the lines were curved, reminded me of an art deco settee at my grandparents’ home. my conscious mind had no idea what it might be, but a part of me knew it was something to do with guns.
aj was excited. he ran toward it, that odd thing sitting in the middle of manicured parks and kids playing, older people taking their constitutionals by the sea. for all the modern, gleaming things around us, it was that dilapidated building which added depth to the moment. it was a machine gun post – “pill box!” said my husband when i showed him the picture – built during wwII.
labrador park overlooks labrador bay on the southern shore of singapore toward the west, part of ancient trade routes the harbour here, now called keppel harbour. the other building which i spotted the moment we got off the cab was not built way back to defend singapore, it was made just the other day, in a way a sign of how far singapore had come from the days of being a port under constant threat from pirates and foreign naval powers, prompting the british to make eleven coastal artillery forts along the edge of this little island, fort pasir panjang on the cliff just above us.
designed by a famous architect, there gleamed reflections at keppel bay, its several bent and curved glass towers reminding me of another planet and something gloomy and malevolent, the sort of thing that plays the piano with a crazy concentration and wears a long dark cape. no no, give me those machine gun men any day.
the flat grey sea looked pretty and endless. right in front was sentosa, soothing dark green; if i didn’t let my eye shift to the left, i’d see only the trees and the ship out there. beyond that, the horizon.
the sea here may not be very dramatic with high waves, but there’s always talk of undercurrent; and the murmur of water hints at distance… freedom. ripples rushing out, coming back in… definitely a sense of romance.
the cranes at the port far away gave the horizon an intriguing look, cloudy skies above. we made our way toward the road leading up the cliff – the only rocky sea-cliff here – and came upon red brick covered walls… what was this? the neat legend on a marker said it was part of the old fort built in 1886. the road sloped up, on either side tall trees, i think it’s all rain forest here, and among them the walls, the gun emplacement areas, the tunnel entrances, the moss covered remains of pasir panjang fort. there are extensive tunnels underneath where ammunition was stored. wiki says the dark lethal gun we saw on an emplacement was a qf 6-inch mk 11 rifled breech loading gun.
a clean calm began to descend as dusk rolled in. a beautiful walk. time has left a palpable patina here. every once in a way i worried about cobras, then just enjoyed the feeling of green. the pictures started getting darker, not so clear.
a battle started on the fort. iphone versus samsung. aj insisted his brick size, well practically, phone took better pictures than my not six but confidently five iphone. what? he was comparing a phone made by an artist with that… that whatever. click click click… aim and shoot. if only all battles were this harmless and such fun. i still insist my pictures are better.
we took the long and winding way back to alexandra road, walking past tamarind hill and acres of empty land, barbed wire fences all around. reflections at keppel bay looked even more gothic as its lights came on.
labrador park has been gazetted by the national heritage board as one of the eleven wwII sites of singapore. we never made it to the top of the cliff where the watch tower of the fort stands. maybe another day.
road to singapore, labrador park, port road, labrador villa road, 23/05/15 #SG50
end of 1997, we moved to singapore from india. in 2015, the country celebrated fifty years of independence. singapore has given me much and i am fascinated by the spirit of this gutsy city state with hardly any land or resources, but oh what dreams and chutzpah (the finest interpretation of the word), the ability to reach big, hunker down and hold and strategise and act and grow. despite my many years here, i haven’t seen a lot of the island, which started out at only 28 miles by 18. now of course it’s bigger, thanks to that spirit i spoke of. so anthony john or aj as i call him, my walking partner, and i decided to do fifty walks in the island to celebrate #SG50. well, we didn’t stop at fifty; couldn’t. there was still so much to see and feel and also how not to let the hot, merciless, climate-change sun not have its way with us. so the walks continue, as does the walk talk. hope you enjoy, try to bring an umbrella.