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TBT Trial 3rd & 4th day – The question of Equality – Article 12 Singapore Constitution

We started with the 2nd prosecution witness, the purported licensing officer Yeo Kok Leong, OC of the Compliance Management Unit of the Central Police Division.

Mr. Thirumurgan of Thiru & Co. drew first blood on the witness. The witness’s testimony in my opinion was torn to shreds. More details on this later. The other counsels had no questions for the licensing officer.

However when it came to Dr. Chee questioning the witness which started at 1203hrs. It was only Dr. Chee’s 3rd question which drew the Prosecutor’s objection. DPP Issac Tan tried to explain in court today that he had not objected to Dr. Chee’s questioning, he claimed that he had only rose to ask the relevance of the questions.

I rose to support the line of questioning. My reasons were:

Any allegation of unfair discrimination in executive acts ought to be examined as they were relevant because such acts will reveal a violation of Article 12 of the Constitution.

Only the judiciary and the Courts have the power to scrutinise and strike down any executive or legislative act that violates the Constitution.The Court is therefore has the function and duty of upholding the Constitution from violation. It being duty of the Court to ensure that there is no violation of the Constitution which includes Article 12, any allegation of breach of article 12 makes the line of questioning relevant.

What happened thereafter was a series of arguments and replies and stand downs which stopped the cross-examination of the witness. The matter was stood down for lunch at approximately 1245pm.

We resumed at 257pm and stood down again at 305pm. We resumed at 1652hrs and continued a series of submissions and replies all the way till 617pm. DJ Chia Wee Kiat said that he needed to consider before ruling on the submissions.

On the 4th day of the trial, that is this morning, we started at 958am. The court requested the DPP to clarify one point.

The DPP asked for 1/2 hour as the matter was stood down at 1010am. At 1058am the police officer told me that the Court would resume at 1130am as the DPP needed more time.

The DPP turned up only at 1220pm and he produced a 3 page written submission. He expected us to be able to address it. Dr. Chee asked for time to seek lawyers advice on the same. DJ Chia Wee Kiat rejected Dr. Chee’s request and remarked that the lawyer in the group should be equipped to deal with this issue. I then rose to note that DPP had asked for 1/2 hour but ended up taking 2hrs 10 minutes. I had no choice but to ask for more time to address the point.

The Court then rose for the day at approximately 1245pm. It must be noted that the 1/2 day was supposed to be for the Kangaroo trio to attend High Court hearing anyway.

I would still be hard pressed for time to address this point. But that does not stop me from trying because if the 17 Accused are prevented from questioning the reasons for the licensing officer’s refusal to grant the permit, some of the accused will face prejudice in that the court would be in effect knowingly turning a blind eye to and shutting the door on allegations of unequal treatment and acts of discrimination by the police to which the accused would have no recourse at all.

The Prosecution repeatedly raises the excuse that judicial review of the executive’s acts should be carried out by the High Court. The Prosecution does so knowing fully well that the time for judicial review has passed and the High Court would not review acts of the executive which have passed their date for review.

I had in the closing of yesterday’s evening’s submissions that there are details in the Courtroom and in the evidence that all of us must take note.

That on the crests of the collarpins of the police officers. The Letter-head of police letters adduced by the Prosecution and the Singapore State Coat of Arms sited above where the Judge sat were reflections of parts of our national flag – the crescent moon and five stars.

That within our national flag, one of the stars represented equality which article 12 of our constitution was intended to protect.

The question of relevance – Is the question of equality relevant? I am sure it does since it is so important that it appears on our National flag, State Coat of Arms and Police Crest and even our Pledge.

As to how our Legal Eagles deem this question as irrelevant – only God knows.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Politics | 1 Comment

Tak Boleh Tahan trial – The first 2 days

The first 2 days of trial of the Tak Boleh Tahan protesters have been eventful.

I was surprised in the morning of the 1st day that E-Jay had chosen to plead guilty and accept the Prosecution’s offer to take into consideration the procession charge if he pleaded guilty to the assembly charge.

As a result, the hearing which had started proper at about 9am plus had to be stood down to 11am and subsequently 330pm. This was because E-Jay’s plea had to be taken before another District Judge and the prosecution had to get their Statement of Facts ready for it to be done. By the time E-Jay’s matter was finished, our matter could only proceed on at about 330pm.

The reading of all the charges to the 18 accused took almost 2 hours till it was about 5pm.

The prosecution applied for a joint trial of the remaining 17 protestors and Yap Keng Ho. All of the accused objected to a joinder of trial with Yap Keng Ho. The Prosecution, however, was adamant to the Court that the joinder was sought and was a must. The Court granted the application for a joint trial despite objections from all of the accused.

SDP’s Assistant Treasurer Mr. Jeffery George wanted to ask for an adjournment due to his job commitments which required him to be away from Singapore to carry out his contracted tasks. And if that failed, for a disjoinder from trial with the rest of us. And if that failed, he had no way out but to plead guilty.

As it turned out, there was no way out. Jeffery George had to drop out of the fight. He pleaded guilty to District Judge Liew Thiam Leng in court 2 at about 745pm. When his matter ended it was way past 8pm and by the time he was out of Court, it was close to 9pm.

We went for dinner and a beer after that. Jeff was apologetic. Our 2nd lovable Jeff made sure we were all well fed. By the time i reached home, it was near midnight. i flopped onto the bed and slept. That was the last thing i knew.

Jeffery George is a man of courage. It was unfortunate that he had to give up the fight. He is still nevertheless a brother to me.

The 2nd day came to me in the form of a chirping bird outside my window. I looked at the clock and knew that i was late. It was 7.15am. I did manage to get to Court on time, i even managed to squeeze in a breakfast before that.

To my surprise, Yap was late on the 2nd day. We did not start until it was past 10am. As Dr. Chee addressed the Court on a constitutional point, I was left feeling guilty about not having been able to contribute meaningfully to that submission as yet. There was just so many things to do.

However, what was so interesting about the 2nd day was yet to come.

Firstly, we finally got to see the Police video recording of the event which will be tendered against us.

I had complained to District Judge Chia Wee Kiat that I had requested during the PTCs for a copy of the recording so as to obviate having the need to waste time over such videos at the actual trial. The DPP at the PTC refused to address the issue but instead asked me to write in.

I did so on 8th September 2008 making a formal request for the recording. This was ignored.

I received a call on the night of 20th October 2008 from the Investigating Officer Yew Ai Choo that the video was available for viewing on the next day at Police Cantonment Complex.

As i was already too tied up with preparations and they were not even promising to give a copy as yet, i decided to forgo the viewing and take up the matter with the trial judge.

In any event, the DPP Issac Tan finally provided the video copies as at Noon 24th October 2008. I managed to arrange a viewing on the Court equipment in the same afternoon at 200pm.

The Prosecution also increased the number of their witnesses to 27. This meant a total of 27 + 18 = 45 people to be cross-examined. Each witness to be potentially cross-examined 19 times.

Thereafter the trial started.

The evidence of Prosecution’s witnesses started with that of SSG Nor Hida, Police Staff Sergeant and Photographer. The interesting thing about the cross-examination of SSG Nor Hida was that this police officer after 8 years and 9 months of service:-

1. was NOT SURE whether or not parliament house area where she was instructed to take photos of the scene of the offence, accompanied by the Investigating Officer, WAS GAZETTED. 🙂

2. despite being trained in photography for about 8 years, she did not know much about the camera she used. She only knew it had a zoom lens but was UNAWARE of the focal length of the lens. 🙂

It was also interesting to note how some of our seemingly relevant and pertinent questions were stopped dead in their tracks (but fortunately after the above had been ferreted from the witness) by the DPP’s objections and the Judge’s concurrence BUT how much leeway was given to Yap Keng Ho in his cross-examination of the Police photographer which delves into the possiblity of whether the photographs of the scene had been doctored.

Now it must be noted that the photographs taken by SSG Nor Hida at the Instruction of Inspector Yew Ai Choo WERE NOT contemporaneous photographs of the scene of the offence. The photographs were taken on 18th July 2008 i.e. 4 months after the alleged offence and 1 week after the charges were mentioned in court.

Yap’s questioning, according to my understanding as stated in my earlier post of Recurring Themes, tended to go overboard with innocuous details. I had also noted in past observations where trials involved Yap and Dr. Chee was that the Prosecution and the Courts tended to be extremely tolerant of Yap’s questioning.

Jufrie objected to Yap’s line of questioning. Kaixiong objected as well. John Tan went to the extent of writing a note to the DPP asking whether the DPP could object. The note never reached the intended recipient as Counsel for Jaslyn and Surayah Mr. Thirumurugan stopped the note gesturing that this cannot be done.

I sat on my seat and observed for many minutes our 2 Deputy Public Prosecutors and their Assistant Public Prosecutor and obviously enjoying Yap’s enterprise in taking the witness and the Court on a round about tour of photographic texture and intricacies. Quite a circus in itself.

I waited for a while further and lost my patience. I stood up and and objected to Yap’s questioning. The reporter from our Straits Times Mr. Jeremy Au Yong caught only 1/2 of my statement.

It was reported that i interrupted Yap’s questioning by stating “Your Honour, i do not see the relevance of the line of questioning taken by Uncle Yap, and I am wondering why the DPP has not objected.”

I also said immediately thereafter.

“This is what happens when the prosecution seeks a joinder of trial of all 18 remaining accused and this is what happens when we are joined in a trial with Yap.”

The DPP responded that the joinder was proper and that the questions were relevant.

Whereupon the Judge also remarked that the questions put forth by Yap were relevant.

I held my peace and returned to my seat. From the corner of my eye, Dr. Chee had already taken off his spectacles and was no longer following the questioning. Yap then carried on with the questioning until there was a break.

To my surprise, Yap stopped the line of questioning after the break. I was told by someone thereafter that Ms CSC had fired Yap during the short interval AND Yap returned to Court and willingly abandoned that line of questioning. Much to the relief of the remaining 16 accused.

The events of the day left me with some conclusions as well as some questions in mind.

Though many observing the proceedings (at least one reporter did share that he felt the same way) may wonder whether the prosecution is in love with Uncle Yap’s cross-examination technique and whether Yap is also very much keen to appear before the courts and the prosecution to entertain them, BUT few people will doubt the effectiveness of the approach by Ms CSC.

Ms CSC had, by firing Yap during the break, managed to break a holding pattern which has plagued criminal prosecutions involving Dr. Chee Soon Juan from the days of yore. For the first time, i heard, Yap had abandoned a line of questioning much to the relief of his co-accused.

There have been many sayings about certain people, and who they listen to.

In this case, it certainly seems to be true. 🙂

October 25, 2008 Posted by | Politics | 2 Comments

Recurring things / themes – Baby Mama, Cyborg She, TBT

Getting back from London is the first step. After having nearly missed my flight back home because i arrived at London Heathrow late and the Sri Lankan Counter had closed, i had to literally beg for help and then make the fastest 300m dash i have ever made in my life.

Stopping only at the security check to get my stuff x-rayed, shoes and belt removed and body searched, i then dashed another 150m back homeward bound.

The 2nd step was to stop my racing heart from getting an attack

As i settled down on the window seat saying goodbye to the noonday sun of London as well as the suburbs diminishing beneath me. i managed to finally catch the final stretch of an Indian Bollywood movie [i failed to get the name] which had this charismatic do-gooder, who had a penchant of repeatedly flipping a 1 rupee coin about and finally into his shirt pocket, which i could not complete viewing on my London Bound flight.

On both occasions long haul between Colombo and London, Sri Lanka used the Airbus A340. On both occasions either my sound system on my seat did not work or the screen did not work. I had to either use the sound from the next seat or screen from the next seat. As such I failed to catch in full the movie being screened in the inflight entertainment menu.

One other movie which caught my eye was called Baby Mama starring Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. I had to see it in parts a total of maybe 6 times.

Tina Fey was amazingly pretty. I had thought to myself how come i have never noticed her before?

And guess what. Back in Singapore, just into the week, I saw something being screened on tv sunday night again by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey [and its not Baby Mama]. I thought – maybe it was just a coincidence. Until this morning.

I logged onto my wordpress blog today. And then again there was a blog post on wordpress about Amy Poehler doing a Sarah Palin rap and Tina Fey doing a Sarah Palin. I watched the clip. hmm not too bad. 🙂

Either this Amy Poehler and Tina Fey pair are really the thing in vogue today or its just some uncanny recurrence in things to come.

Talking about recurrence, I also caught the Japanese movie Cyborg She on my flight back from London to Colombo.

Cyborg She was a sci-fi time travel story. It was touted as the female Japanese version of the Terminator. I was drawn to it cos i wanted to see some body count. I expected splattered limbs and severed heads and lots of it. I almost could picture a sweet looking japanese girl wielding a samurai sword and indiscriminately cutting every innocent passerby’s head off.

I found none of that.

I was sorely disappointed. At first.

The story started out as a story about some guy who met a cute gal. The cute gal was crying and telling the guy not to open his eyes so that he would not see her leave. The girl then admitted that she came from the future where she then went back.

The heartbroken boy was then left wondering when he would see her again. And Interestingly, a female cyborg appeared in the likeness of the girl.

The cyborg claimed that she was created by the boy in the future. The boy had originally been paralysed in a terrorist shooting and was paralysed for life. He then spent his entire life creating a cyborg to travel back in time so that he could could prevent the shooting.

The cyborg did manage to protect the boy and prevent the shooting.

This female cyborg was so devoted to the boy and obedient to him that it became a torture.

Now imagine a hot blooded man being with a female likeness of a cyborg with real flesh and the cyborg resembled someone he loved. The cyborg would do anything including risking her life for him. anything … but short of FXXXing him. Oh shit… how was he going to live like that? Of course he got angry and ordered the cyborg to leave and never see him again. So she did.

What the Cyborg did was to stay in the shadows and protect him. And protect him she did again in the great Tokyo earthquake and then she left.

Now what i could not understand was that, the Cyborg went back to the creator, the creator then passed away. The Cyborg was auctioned off and the buyer was a pretty girl who found it strange that an early model cyborg had been fashioned in her splitting likeness – save for the fact that the Cyborg had short hair.

The Cyborg had all her feelings and experiences stored and so the girl could feel and experience the cyborg’s memories of the man who created her and his youth.

And so this girl went back to look for the guy right before this guy met the Cyborg. They spent time together and got to know each other. But time came for her to leave and return back to the future. This resulted in the scene where the girl had to leave back into the future and as she had fallen for him. She was crying as she left.

This then left me hanging nowhere with many questions.

Then what? But is it not because of the girl whom the boy met that led to him creating a likeness of that girl? Then that would mean that the girl had travelled back in time to meet him right? But the girl would not have travelled back in time if not for the intriguing experiences of the cyborg which she was able to access right?

But the cyborg would not have been created if the boy had not met the girl? right?

And so? which came first? The chicken or the egg? The time travelled girl or the cyborg?

And then comes an interesting revelation of mish mesh of parallel dimensions [not necessarily logical] which have to coexist in different space so as to allow such a story to even develop in one of the dimensions.

We come now to what 18 protestors plus 1 citizen reporter will face in court on Thursday 23rd Oct 2008. 19 accused, 5 defence counsel, maybe 3 DPPs, 1 Judge, I don’t know how many policemen. But one thing’s for sure, a trial so big is definitely going to take a lot of time.

For each witness will have to be technically cross-examined 19 times. The prosecution tendered 24 witnesses. Total number of people placed on the stand is 24 + 19 = 43. Total number of cross examinations for each witness is 19 times. Judging from the time taken for our citizen reporter Yap Keng Ho to cross examine police witnesses before DJ Thian Yee Sze. God help us.

19 x 43 tells us the number of chances of getting a repeated question. AND WORSE if the examination is not smooth. I expect my mind to be inundated with parallels of having to revisit the same scene in the past over and over again. A few seconds later. Then a few seconds before …. then later …. then before.

I do hope i will be able to keep my senses and stop myself from bursting out laughing in the middle of a trial of which i am an Accused. For all these will seem very amusing to me in the light of my recent experiences with recurring things and movie marathons onboard my 4 Sri Lankan Airlines flights.

I just pray that when the going gets long, my mind does not wander to the legs of Tina Fey, how to reconcile the contradictions of Cyborg She, or much worse, how i will upon the conclusion of this trial plan for more instances of this campaign called TBT.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Life | Leave a comment

Tribute to London – New perspectives on my last night here

Without realizing it, I have come to my last night of stay in London. Old London, I would correctly say. The buildings were old. The trains were old. The train stations were old. The Queen was old. Everything was old. In fact, it made me feel old during my stay here over the last 6 days.

[Now it is also clear that my favourite English product Naim is also old. The company approaches 40 years of history and bearing in mind that some of its models are basically unchanged over the last 20 to 25 years. The equipment and its models can certain suffice to be old England, though their design and philosophy would exhibit incredible foresight and clarity. Testament to well thought out and implemented ideas some 25 years back]

My last day today is worth blogging about. I would of course follow up on the journal entries I made very scrappily as I made my way to London last week and turn them into a proper blog post but that will have to wait.

In as much as I had gotten to a slow start, I must say that Monday and Tuesday was close to sedentary. Wednesday and Thursday were hectic and Friday which is today was somewhat nostalgic.

I was so tired on Wednesday and Thursday night that I slept very early, woke up in the middle of the night and ended up watching BBC Channel 4 before lapsing back to sleep.

On my 2nd last day here, I surprised myself. That is, last night and this morning and afternoon.

I had initially arrived in London all alone. Without a kin or a friend beside me. Needless to say, I was scared.

It was basically my first time alone out of Singapore in my entire almost 35 years. As I would have thought, I would have felt safer being alone in some wilderness even if I was lost somewhere in Singapore.

My first brush with the cold night time London air came as the overground tube service opened its doors along the stations of the Jubilee Line. One thing I noticed, the place was old. A certain level of decrepitness and dilapidation. Graffiti lined certain sections of the brick walls of some parts of the tunnels in between stations.

However, despite the oldness would be supplanted with the colour of posters and posters of various plays being staged in the cultural and drama centre of London as the stations drew closer to the heart of London.

For those who are not familiar with London, London is in all ways a METROPOLIS. This basically means a huge huge huge humongous city.

I had a shock of my life when I first saw the map of London‘s underground train system. The horrendous number of stations and lines. Imagine Singapore has only 3 lines, with 2 circle lines coming up into service soon. This is a poor imitation of what London has in an underground rail system. Furthermore, this rail system is connected to its National and International rail lines at strategic tube stations.

I had thought to myself “What a bloody mess of stations!” What Maurice had told me about the complex and messy rail system did not prepare me for what I saw. To give a summary, London‘s tube service had as many as 12 different lines. There are also variations between within each line. Each line does not just have two ends in a straight line. Most of the lines have branches at both ends. Some have as many as 3 branches at each end. Some have branches and loops. Furthermore, some trains would terminate at some stations before their terminal station and then reverse their direction according to the tube control’s arrangement of its services.

There were sometimes as many as four lines which stop at a particular platform of a station. And each station typically has from 2 to maybe 6 or more platforms. As such, being on top and aware of where you are headed and then work backwards towards which line you are supposed to be catching, 1st 2nd and 3rd and of the line you were catching, the correct direction you should be heading and where is the next station you are supposed to jump off the train.

Those were my first responses in my mind upon entering a tube station which took me from London Heathrow to Paddington, just a little more then 6 full days ago last week. I have been gradually converted.

This is also partly due to the fact that most of my travelling was addressed by just usage of 3 lines, namely the Yellow Circle Line [now we know where Singapore copied its MRT Stations’ names from], Green District Line and Pink Hammersmith and City Line. This allowed me to relax abit whilst on the trains, be able to observe my surroundings a little more deeply. This was a system that was incredibly well modernised and adapted over time.

Furthermore, there was deep and thorough thought put into how the train lines were supposed to be run, how they would be co-ordinated, how they could be made compatible.

I began to realise that the trains were colour coded. Their handrails reflected the colour of their line. As such, I had begun to grow comfortable seeing the familiar yellow and green handrails. I also begun to notice the clear and distinct voice of a female announcer recorded announcements of instructions for each stop of the trains on the line. The directions given were concise clear and simple and delivered with impeccable diction.

I was on the train this morning and I had jumped onto one train by recognising the colour of its hand rails. Thinking that it was a Circle Line train which would take me straight to my destination, I got myself lost in my own thoughts and reflections. The train had stopped at a station. It was designated that that station was where the train would terminate and reverse direction. I did not catch that announcement. Therefore after the train stayed at Edgeware Road Station and eventually reversed direction I let myself slip back into my thoughts. Besides the familiar voice will jolt me when my destination approached.

That familiar voice did jolt me. I realised that I was on the wrong line and in the wrong direction and that the train had just left the last station where I could have changed to the correct line. For the 1st time in 6 days I had taken the tube incorrectly and was heading further and further away from my intended destination. In that situation, I however did not experience any discomfort or state of panic. For a certain level of comfort and familiarity had set in.

I was still guided by the familiar voice. I knew from the announcements that I was on the wrong line and in the wrong direction, I would therefore have to first stop and take a train in the opposite direction and then change at a suitable station for the correct line. I would just have to follow the signs and her voice. I was late for 30 minutes for my first meeting eventually.

I came across another situation for deeper understanding of the London Tube yesterday evening. There was a technical fault in one direction of the Circle Line. Train services in one direction had to be stopped. This led to some passengers having to take it in the remaining direction to traverse the entire length in the reverse direction to get to their destination.

The result was obvious, I experienced the most crowded situation the London Tube could be in the 6 days I was here. This was where I saw what sets the London Tube’s service a cut above that from Singapore‘s.

The announcements came in clear and concise with instructions on how to move to another part of the station to use alternative routes should the trains be too crowded. It had to be. Given how many people it had to move.

The staff were also ready with advice on the alternative routes to get to the destination of your choice i.e. jumping onto the train of another line and then jumping off to take another line which would bring you to your destination. It had to be.

For such a complex system to move so many people over so many places at such efficiency and such affordable price, it is clear that the London Tube has clearly outperformed Singapore’s MRT and NEL on all counts.

In arriving at this conclusion, I must admit that I did overlook the following which I have explained accordingly to be evened out by the appropriate reason.

The stations are old – of course they are, this system is build decades ago or even longer and their continued use is only testament to their good planning and fiscal prudence.

The trains are worn and well used – of course they are. The train services are so frequent even during peak and non-peak hours that impresses me.

The tube was designed to be utilitarian and effective transport system and not a fancy one.

Now some food for thought. 🙂

London is a megapolis. It has 7 million people.

Singapore is many times smaller than London. Yet the BLOODY PAP shamelessly packs 4.6 million of us in this city state.

Throughout my stay in London I travelled on the Tube on peak and non-peak hours. Today I travelled on the tube at peak hour back to my hotel. One line was down but the corresponding response in the number of trains made available for covering the loss of one line in one direction ensured that the crush was not even as bad as that for Singapore’s MRT ON A NORMAL DAY. 🙂

The highly paid executives running Singapore’s transport companies and the highly paid officers at the Land Transport Authority and ought to each cover their faces with brown paper bags and hang their heads in shame for taking high salaries yet are unable to achieve what the team at Transport for London – in particular the London Tube has achieved.

Now I understand the nagging feeling I have each time I am on public transport in Singapore – I feel short changed somehow.

In short, London, for its oldness and its soot and also the high prices for a Singaporean drawing Singapore salary to live in, has managed to endear itself to me through its tube.

And so in my last 24 hours, I realized that I have begun to see London a lot differently from how I felt when I first set foot on it.

The night before I caught the documentary on BBC Channel 4 on The Miracle of Carriage 346, stories of survival from the London Train Bombings.

I heard the stories of miracle, determination and strength of the human spirit coming from the survivors.

I saw that the rescue work that did take place at the Kings Cross St. Pancras and Aldgate Stations both of which are familiar to me.

I saw the familiar sight of thousands of cosmopolitan people [whom I have shared the space within the London Tube] who were forced onto the streets by the disrupted services.

I also saw the same trains that I had been traversing in to and fro throughout London.

I saw the graphic computer representation of the position of the deadly suicide bomb blast of a train in the tunnel in a deep and remote portion of the Piccadilly Line [the Piccadilly line was below all of the other lines and that depth and seclusion made rescue difficult] [The Piccadilly Line is etched in my memory as it was the first tube line I set foot in – I had to take the Piccadilly Line (cheapest transport) from London Heathrow Airport to London Paddington station].

I am not embarrassed to say that whilst I was in alone in that dingy little hotel room watching the antiquated 14 inch TV broadcasting the story and those images, I felt two streams of tears roll non-stop down my cheeks.

I realized as the week passed, the dingy little “4-star” hotel room which I retire to after each tiring day has started to endear itself to me.

The sooty train stations were becoming a little quaint and cute.

Sharing the peak hour rush with thousands of cosmopolitan strangers in became bearable.

The initially long trek from Paddington station to my hotel more and more enjoyable.

The female voice announcing boarding and alighting instructions, which comes on at each and every station of the Circle and District and Hammersmith and City Line, in clear perfect Queen’s English become increasing alluring.

I will be heading towards Heathrow Airport in about 4 plus hours. This time with a little reluctance. In as much as I do miss home and the compatriots back in Singapore, this city has managed to tug at my heartstrings within a short time.

London is a vibrant city. One that in the hustle and bustle of life would still manage to touch you with its spirit. I will, in a certain way, miss her.

October 11, 2008 Posted by | Life | Leave a comment

All about London

I could not get to sleep, its 3am London time, so i woke up to update my Blog. After the first 1.5 days of running around London, it is about time i paid tribute to this City.

There are so many migrants here, just about anywhere i see people travelling with their luggage, Either arrivals or leaving the place for elsewhere. Even on the street i must have been quite fitting into the London scene as i had several people ask me for directions.

I am proud to say that i was able to help. aving grasped a bit of how their rail system worked, I was able to help fellow travellers in need. That is how London is – truly full of colour and full of people from all over the world.

Everything is in pounds. Everything looks old. Its cold here. The buildings look as if they would need a real good touching up. Yet there is a nice old quaint feel about everything.

I saw a large number of luxury cars in my hotel area. With many other old cars, fancy motorbikes and old taxis plying the streets, i wondered who would spend tens of thousands of pounds to buy fancy cars? I then found out that vehicles are not that expensive in London. I finally got to see the London Bus. I found that their public buses were new.

The weather is not unlike Portland, Oregon. And certainly the experiences of having been to those areas helped me in getting use to finding my way in London.

I went out on a walk on my first night and found a “Raffle’s Cafe” in the area. They had GBP2.99 breakfast, eggs beans bacon sausage and toast which is served all day. I guess i will try that later in the week.

The familiar burger king has some interesting names in its menu – Meat Beast Whopper Meal at GBP5.39 and +30p to go large and + 50p to go super. Double Meat Beast Whopper starts at GBP6.09 and so on.

Another restaurant called the Shakers served some very unique “hot salt beef” its melts / meals go for GBP 4.20 and GBP5 respectively and their all day breakfast is available for GBP4.

There is also an Aberdeen Steak house which serves meals from GBP20 onwards.

One station was named Great Portland Street Station. I also found the Kings Cross Station at St. Pancras. For each and every confusing line which is being run. I have to admit that their train boarding and alighting announcements are so comprehensive and clear and well managed and recorded.

I found a Portland Food and Wine shop at London Street W2 / Norfolk Square. It was there where i bought a 5L water for GBP2.49. The Pringles potato chips were at GBP1.99. I spoke to the cashier and found out that he came from Sri Lanka. Life to him is tough in London. The average migrant worker makes about GBP5.60 per hour which tranlates to roughly GBP1200 to GBP1300 per month.

Internet connection is made available at Reload Internet opposite Hilton London Paddington. The rates are GBP9.99 for 7days and GBP6.99 for 5 hours.

Unlike Singapore where everything is familiar. Countries overseas have a transport system that is far more complex. This might be so for London as it is an old city and everything was built up on what was existing so the conections could seem a little messy and haphazard. This was however the testament to their unwillingness to make unnecessary public expenditure.

The old train stations are still in use. Save that they are now plied by new trains. They have criss-crossing district lines and a circle line – now i know where Singapore copied this Circle Line name from. 🙂 these lines are then connected to the national line and International lines (which i think should be the English French Railway run underneath the channel).

i also found a casino in my area, shall i go in to try my luck?

October 7, 2008 Posted by | Life | Leave a comment

Safe and Sound – Reporting back from London

The Instructions from Donald were clear and accurate. I did however had to ask for some confirmatory directions from the people in London. I am amazed at the number of Asians, Sri Lankans, Indians in London. It is truly cosmopolitan.

After i think was a 25 station journey from Heathrow to Paddington Station which included changing line at one point, i managed to reach the station nearest to my hotel – Paddington Station.

The hotel was a good 600m or so from the station. My luggage was a combined 30kg. Strapped on my shoulders and neck, at one stage the thought crept into my head that i will never do this again. Add to the walking from within the airport and in search of the train lines and within London’s gloriously old train stations, I believed i today exceeded 3km on foot with 30kg.

Right off the plane, i was already I am beginning to feel thankful i did not manage to bring water for the journey. For the ambitious me would have attempted to bring a good amount of water to enable my shoestring stay in London to be done at record low cost.

I failed to bring the 2nd piece of luggage from home as i was worried that they would not allow liquids to be brought in. I found out later that the restrictions applied only to hand luggage.

At London Heathrow Airport, when I saw that 500ml mineral water was going for ÂŁ1.30 in the airport, i knew i was screwed.

Faith told me to keep on going. To find that hotel that is found in some corner of this gigantic city called London. The weight of 30kg really cut into my shoulders. At times when i asked for help with directions maybe the strain showed on my face. Maybe i was even slouching from the weight. The station official at described the directions to me and told me to walk all the way down the road. ‘it’s quite far’ he said. When i thanked him and moved to leave, i heard him say ‘God bless and take care of you’. I did not think much of it then but guessed i really must have looked a little pathetic.

I found out the final 600m trek was not a joke. after bearing with an 18 hour flight journey on which i did not manage to sleep well, only really started dozing off at the end, having the alighting of passengers delayed due to security personnel having required to address and incident on the plane earlier. After clearing the UK Border Customs and scrambling to get the relevant directions and tickets for the train station, keeping senses alert and ready in a foreign land, the sight of Paddington station was supposed to be journey about to end. It turned out to be the toughest trek i ever had in my life.

Thinking back, now comfortably seated in the hotel lobby, warmed with the internal heating and hot bath. I had just finished a 1 hour exploration of the neighbourhood at 0050 – 0150 London Time. I managed to find a convenience store and bought a 5litre humongous bottle of water for ÂŁ2.49, brilliant rite? 🙂 Freed from my 30kg luggage, I leisurely took this 5kg bottle back probably 700m back to the hotel. Looks like things will not be as bad as they originally seemed.

The time is 0205hrs now London time. It should be 9am singapore time. I am getting a little tired. I guess i will retire to my room to figure out how to activate the local prepaid card i just bought.

Starhub did not activate the roaming as instructed. sigh. Thats why i am fiddling with this local prepaid SIM card. At least, breakfast will be served soon at 7am today morning, thats less than 5 hours from now. 🙂

October 6, 2008 Posted by | Life | Leave a comment