The Bukit Teresa home of self-confessed global nomads Linnet Workman and Jon Coates is a visual and cultural feast. As Linnet and I sit sipping jasmine tea and chatting, we’re surrounded by pictures, ornaments and trinkets, tangible memories of her and Jon’s experiences while living and travelling in a dozen countries.
In a little-known part of the city tucked behind St Teresa’s Convent, which Linnet assures me is very quiet, “other than the 6am church bell”, Bukit Teresa Road is leafy and green. It’s also central, only a five-minute stroll from VivoCity.
“We moved here before Vivo was built, and this wonderful area was very much off the radar back then. Not many people knew about it. It’s so close to Mount Faber, a ten-minute bike ride and you’re on Sentosa, and it’s easy to get to the city,” she says. “I looked at dozens of houses before I found this one and we have had five happy years here. It has been big enough for our two teenage daughters and all our possessions.”
After an encounter with ice hockey on a frozen moat of the Forbidden City in Bejiing, Linnet and her girls have all taken up the sport. Alice, the elder daughter, pursued the sport in Canada, and now attends boarding school in that country; Linnet and Eden play in a team together at the ice rink at Kallang.
“It’s the least likely sport for an English family with girls to get into,” laughs Linnet. “I never thought I’d play ice hockey on the equator, but I thought I’d have a go because the girls were so involved. Part of the attraction is that it’s nice to go somewhere cold!”
Her husband’s career in minerals exploration has taken them to a diverse range of countries. Prior to Singapore they lived in China (Shanghai and Bejiing), Chile, Bolivia, Holland, Indonesia, Australia, Spain and Portugal.
They are obviously collectors who have an eye for quirky and unusual items, regardless of weight, shape or the whims of customs inspectors. Looking around me, I see a heavy metal Chinese iron, which was designed before electricity to be filled with red-hot coals; a Burmese weight to be used with opium scales; a stick-thin figurine from Cuba; and a large bust of Chinese revolutionary hero Lei Fung. When I remark on the diversity of the collection, Linnet laughs and replies, “We took no notice of how impractical, cumbersome or heavy an item was before purchasing it!”
As we stroll from room to room, she recounts anecdotes that bring each piece to life. A large, battered trunk was found in a shop at Kashgar on the Pakistan-Chinese border. “They suggested we mail it home, so Jon took it to the local post office on the back of a motorbike. Amazingly, it made it to Shanghai two weeks later. I love it, but unfortunately have no idea about its origins.
“When you keep moving from place to place as we have done, it’s good to take along little pieces of your history with you. Some homes – especially minimalist homes – tell you nothing about their occupants’ likes, interests and experiences. Some of the people who visit us say our home is like a cacophony; but at least it tells the story of our lives.”
The family will soon be discovering new dining options in the Clementi area, having decided to put down “financial roots” by purchasing their own home there. “We want to stay in Singapore for the foreseeable future, and it’s time to give up having a large house just to hold all this stuff,” admits Linnet. “As we are downsizing, we’ll be holding a big garage sale to let go of the pieces we just can’t keep.”
I suspect that’s going to be a very, very difficult task.
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