Thursday, March 14, 2013

Meeting my new old friend Mike Robbins

Mike Robbins, like John Harper and Brian Mitchell, is one of those people I call “my new old friends”. They are  like ‘old friends’ because, through their stories shared on this blog, of their time spent in Singapore all those long years ago, I seem to have known them for a long time. And new because I only just got to meet them face-to-face for the first time when they visited Singapore.

Last month, Mike and his wife Flora was in Singapore for a brief visit, and I took them to see some of the places that he used to know during his time here in the 1960s when he was working at the Naval Base. Unfortunately, due to time constraint, we could only do what the Chinese call, 走马观花, or viewing flowers from a galloping horse.
Our first stop was the former Chequers Hotel at Thomson Road near the former Police Academy. The last time I visited this place, it was home to the Europa Country Club. Unfortunately this turned out to be a disappointment because the entire area was fenced off and we could not even go through the main entrance at the road.

Our next stop was the Old Upper Thomson Road where Mike had travelled often. The road was quiet as it was a weekday morning and we saw many monkeys and even a monitor lizard by the roadside. The sight of the monkeys brought back many memories for Mike and Flora. I guess their kids must have had great time with these creatures.

The highlight of our tour was Mike and Flora’s home in Sudan Road. I did not consult any map … simply drove around the estate which had many interesting road names like Ottawa Road, Kenya Road and Bermuda Road; places that are still part of the British Commonwealth of Nations.  After driving around a bit, we stumbled upon Mike and Flora’s house at 823 Sudan Road. I think this must be the shortest road in Singapore. It’s probably less than 100m in length. We walked around a bit to study the place, and the Robbins were disappointed that they could not see their big rambutan tree.

I asked Mike if he could recall the route that he took to get to his office at the Naval Base. After a bit of driving around, he managed to figure it out. It was a short ride actually, straight down Canada Road towards Admiralty Road East.

Our next stop was the Sembawang Park where we caught a glimpse of the Mike’s former Stores Basin. After that we drove around a little before proceeding to the Kranji War Memorial for a brief stop. And then it was off to lunch at the Woodlands Civic Centre. Our final stop was the Alexandra Hospital where two of the Robbins children were born. At that time, it was known as the British Military Hospital.

At Sembawang Park

At Beaulieu House, Sembawang Park

Finally, it was time to say goodbye to my new old friend, Mike Robbins. God willing, we may meet again when I visit the UK; where I plan to catch up with my other new old friends  like John Harper, Brian Mitchell and Tom Brown.

Here are some seldom-seen photos that Mike wants to share with my fellow Singaporeans.

Related post: “Good Morning Yesterday” brings back memories of Singapore for Mike Robbins


Zen said...

Did you bring mike to the naafi store located in one of these houses, but I think it is no more there, as there are presently not many tenants occupying these colonial style bungalow. The classic beauliu house brings back old memory because I worked at Sembawang Wharves (PSA) for a number of years prior to retirement, and on a few occasions we held our annual dinners at the restaurant, located in Sembawang Park, overlooking the Johor Straits - quite scenic.

Brian and Tess said...

Sounds like an excellent visit and always a pleasure (and perhaps a surprise) to find your old house still standing. I was amazed to hear that monitor lizards are still to be seen - I still recall meeting one as I walked along the coastal path in Changi back in the early 1960s and I imagined that they would not find habitat to live in now.

Lam Chun See said...

Monitor lizards are quite common sight in Spore; especially near drains and canals. They seem to have become used to presence of humans.