I first met Mel nearly three years ago at an Expat Living coffee morning; since then she’s helped me lose my baby weight through her fitness classes and got me hooked on playing Gaelic football; also, our two four-year-olds enjoy playing (and fighting) together quite regularly. Needless to say, this is not my first visit to her current home, but it is my first chance to have a proper nose around the place; after all, what kind of friend just sneaks off to snoop around a mate’s bedroom when they’re not looking? This time I have a legitimate excuse.
Seven-year-old Murphy the dog greets me at the gate – the same dog credited with prompting the family’s first move from their starter Singapore home in Spring Grove to a black-and-white apartment on Linden Drive. “I realised that we couldn’t live in a condo with a dog,” says Mel. “The Linden Drive place was massive – about 4,000 square feet – and on the ground floor, so there was plenty of room for Murphy to run around in. I love the older style, and the fact that black-and-whites have plenty of outside space.”
Leafing through the papers, they found their next home, initially “a bit of a dump” in the Sixth Avenue area. “Although the kitchen was a disaster and the bathrooms needed redoing, the house had good bones, and so we put in an offer that included us paying for the renovation work, and asked to be locked into a three-plus-two-year lease.” It sounds just a bit bonkers to me – after all, who wants to carry out renovations to a house they don’t own? – but Mel explains that the rent was so low that it made sense.
Three years later Fin was headhunted for a job in the Middle East, so they readied themselves for a move, pulled Jordy out of the Australian International School, and went on a trip to North America, where by all accounts they had “a lovely time”, before getting a call from Fin’s company ten days before the big move, telling them they wouldn’t be going just yet. Thankfully, they managed to get Jordy into Tanglin Trust School (TTS before term started, but the family still didn’t have a home.
In desperation they moved to a house in the Watten Estate area – “which I hated,” says Mel – and in which they lived for just one year. Next stop was a six-bedroom black-and-white in Ross Avenue. “It had a great outdoor area and pool, and was just brilliant; we loved living there.” Things changed again when Fin started his own company and then Jordy got a place at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in the UK; they no longer needed the space Ross Avenue afforded them.
Mel had long had her eye on the houses in the Portsdown Road area. Rory had just started at TTS, and their current black-and-white house is just a 200-metre walk from the school. “It’s convenient, I love the style, and although we had to carry out our own additions and renovations, it made sense for us.”
They renovated the bathroom upstairs, added an extension to the front of the house, complete with temporary roof and blinds, and put the pool in. They also created an outdoor play space between the kitchen and helper’s area. “We used the same people who did the work for us in the Namly house; they work so quickly and for about half the price charged by other contractors we approached.”
With the house now just the way she wants it, Mel is investing more of her time into her fitness business, Bloom’n Fit, a far cry from her original career in advertising. “That industry is so stressful and I’d always looked for outlets to de-stress, exercise being one of them.”
Vowing not to return to advertising once Rory was born, she remembers taking part in a “strollercise” class during the family’s trip to New York, and was sold. Following that same model, the Bloom’n Fit business was started up in Singapore by her friend Claire Dinsmore; and when she moved to Atlanta soon afterwards, Mel was only too happy to take over.
The core business is with her mums’ and kids’ classes, but Mel also offers intensive boot camps, boxfit classes and yoga. “I would love to get more men along to the boot camp and boxing classes and see if they can keep up with my super-fit mums,” she says. Mel is also the fitness trainer for the Singapore Gaelic Lions. “It’s my way of supporting the club,” she explains.
In fact, a few hours after our interview she’s flying out to Abu Dhabi to take part in the GAA World Games, so there’s just enough time for me to have that proper nose around her home before I go.
This story first appeared in Expat Living’s May 2015 issue.