Wednesday, 4 Aug 2021

Housebound in Singapore: Reflecting on circuit breaker times

As circuit breaker measures continue to tighten, Sunday Times writers reflect on what it is like to be in their homes more than they are used to.

Space in the time of the coronavirus

A photo from Jan 8, 2020, shows the Art Skins On Monuments at the Light To Night Festival. PHOTO: ST FILE

I dream of the hanging city of lights in the National Gallery Singapore. It is January; I am at the Light to Night Festival, its theme this year taken from Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities.

We crowd the atrium to take photos of the lights. Outside on the Padang, children push giant five stones onto one another, screaming with laughter. I see a friend selling books outside The Arts House and go to embrace him.

This is the city of memory. I wake up, and I am in another city, a city held in thrall to an invisible dread. I have not gone outside in 16 days.


Coronavirus: Let’s carve out some time to love ourselves more

People flying kites and strolling at West Coast Park on April 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

What will the world be like when all this is over?

Will we become too used to living in isolation?

More often than I care to admit, I think that hell is other people.


Coronavirus: Tutoring your child while fielding calls is a challenge

A student does his home-based learning homework on April 1, 2020. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Web-based instant communication tools such as WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime have helped to build a more interconnected world, removing the barriers of distance.

Yet, during this coronavirus pandemic with its requirements for greater physical social distancing, the same high-tech tools can barely simulate the psychology of in-person learning, or the productivity of face-to-face interactions.

Barely one week after all enrichment centres and sporting facilities shut, my 10-year-old daughter lamented: “I miss my friends.”


Coronavirus: Staying sane, one song at a time – on a karaoke app

Ashlee Simpson, one of the finest American pop singers to emerge from the noughties, once sang: “On a Monday I am waiting, Tuesday I am fading, and by Wednesday I can’t sleep.”

Well, that’s exactly how I felt during the first few days of Singapore’s circuit breaker period – moody, restless and oh-so-thirsty for human interaction.

Everyone talks about staying safe and healthy during this lockdown, but what about staying sane?


Coronavirus: A different view to refresh the senses while in isolation

Sometimes all that is required to refresh the senses in isolation is to find another chair. For two months at home I’ve sat on my blue couch every day, eating, thinking, watching TV, scribbling notes, talking, but then I wearily said, enough. Life needed to be looked at from another angle.

So I shifted to my white chair near my balcony, half-turned it around and changed my view of the world. Now I can search better for squirrels, feel the kiss of the sun and have discovered that there are diverse shades of white on a cloudy day. Suddenly I no longer feel stuck in the same place.

As dawn stretches its shoulders and light leaks in, I open many of my windows. If I can’t always go out, life can still come in. From my new vantage point, I can hear the living better. A small dog with an oversized bark, neighbours murmuring and birds debating.


Coronavirus: Alone together in an Edward Hopper painting

“We are all Edward Hopper paintings now”, reads a tweet that has garnered some 220,000 likes.

It is easy to see how Hopper has become the artist of the Covid-19 outbreak. With safe distancing measures, people sitting indoors by windows overlooking the emptied streets of the outside world has become a new normal.

In works like Automat (1927), Nighthawks (1942) and Morning Sun (1952), Hopper’s subjects seem to mirror people today, with the exception of a smartphone in their hands.


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