Their first Singapore home was a condo in Bayshore Park, their second was on the 24th floor of a skyscraper, and their third is a house in a quiet street in Katong. Like Goldilocks in the story of the three bears, the Australian Wright family got it just right third time around.
Jane and her husband Jeff first came to Singapore in 1999, and have lived only at East Coast. Apart from the area’s undoubted appeal, the bank that employs Jeff has its office at Suntec City, so it was a convenient choice.
Ten years ago, says Jane, very few expats chose this area. “We’d go shopping at Parkway Parade and be the only Westerners there.” All that has changed, of course, and many of us feel drawn to the East Coast’s sea air, endless beaches and relatively laidback vibe.
“Our first stint in Singapore lasted five years. Our Bayshore Park home was a huge penthouse in one of the lower blocks, with a wonderful, open view of the sea. We had to buy a lot furniture to fill it,” she adds, a faraway look in her eyes.
She can either no longer remember the names of most of the shops where they found their furniture, or the places have closed down. Much of it came from “a little store in Chinatown”, whose proprietor has since moved out of the area. But she does recommend Art Trend Gallery in Binjai Park (off Dunearn Road), and sings the praises of Daniel’s Framing on Still Road.
Then followed two years back home in the northern Sydney suburb of Turramurra. “We’ve barely bought anything since our first stint here. In fact, we left a container full of furniture in storage back home.”
Most of their artwork and ornaments were picked up during overseas trips, especially to Vietnam and Burma. Vietnam is their favourite destination, Jane says, and no wonder – their daughter, eight-year-old Jazmin, was born in that country.
“One of our best trips, though, was to Burma,” Jane recalls. “It was an amazing place, so untouched, and the people were not at all used to seeing tourists. I’d love to go back sometime.”
There’s a story about the lovely carpets, too. When the Wrights’ first relocation agent here started talking to them about Persian carpets, Jeff declared that he was not interested in them – actually disliked them, in fact. But one or two visits to Hedger’s Gallery’s regular carpet auctions converted him into an avid collector. “Twenty-five carpets later, he was still going to auctions, and having to sit on his hands to stop himself from bidding!”
After two years back in Sydney, their move to a 24th-floor condo in Atria in East Coast’s Meyer Road was probably not a good one, reflects Jane.
“We got sick of living in the sky and having no connection with the earth, plants or birdlife. Then there was an earthquake, and that was the last straw. You’d expect things to shake, but no – they rolled! The floor rolled, doors slammed and the building swayed. It was horrible. So when the lease expired, we decided it was time to get our feet back on the ground.”
The house on Poole Street is perfect for them. They moved here in November last year, having been shown a fair number of options by Kelly Basset of Expat Rentals. “We must have seen about 30 places,” admits Jane a bit ruefully, “but this one just felt right.
“Jeff likes to potter about with plants, and it’s great to have our own pool. During weekends, holidays and after school, Jazmin is in and out of the water all the time, and her friends often come around for swim.”
Best of all, she says, their landlords are “a really lovely couple”. “They were here at our first viewing and we clicked immediately. From the start, they have been so warm, friendly and accommodating. For example, we had a minor problem with the pool pump, and when we called the husband he came around immediately and showed us what to do.” Jane is so right – a good landlord is a blessing, while a bad one can make your life a misery.
Keen on Katong
She loves the convenience of living in Katong. Just around the corner is a 7-Eleven, a fruit stall, a doughnut shop, a pet store and more, and a plethora of eateries of all descriptions. Yet Poole Street itself is incredibly quiet and peaceful. Even in the middle of the day, all you can hear is the chirping of birds; at night, says Jane, you can hear a pin drop.
“As far as I know, we’re the only ang mohs (Westerners) in the street,” she adds. Across the road from them is a charming old one-storey bungalow in the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) style. It’s one of the few remaining, most of the others of its era having been long pulled down.
As the mother of an only child, Jane declares that she is quite happy to be “Mum’s Taxi”, dropping Jazmin off at the Australian school in the morning and picking her up in the afternoon. She says the drive there and back is well spent chatting about school and other things. “Anyway, I do ‘reading time’ at school with the children two mornings a week.”
This excellent programme sounds like a children’s book-club: working together in groups of four or five, and led by a different mum each time, the children read a book, write their own structured review of it, and discuss it together. The idea is to encourage a love for reading, and the value of the experience is enriched by the opinions and input of other adults apart from their regular teacher.
“As an IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation) school, the Australian school teaches youngsters to ask questions,” says Jane. “It develops enquiring minds, and an enquiring mind will always want to read. Jazmin and I are continually going to Ask.com to look for answers to questions, but there’s nothing quite so satisfying as an actual, physical book; my daughter loves books and has a big collection.”
Before moving here ten years ago, Jane was the executive director of the Variety Club of New South Wales, which raises millions of dollars each year for children with special needs. She “gave up work” when they came here, but for the first few years did volunteer work at a local mission, playing with and reading to preschoolers who had been removed from parental care for various reasons.
Nowadays, she is kept busy by looking after her daughter, running a home (without a maid), and managing the house back in Sydney, which is let out.
“I keep fit by doing my own housework, running around after Jazmin and walking the dog. We often go as a family to East Coast Park, where Jazmin rides her scooter and Chop Chop chases after her. He is indefatigable. Even after two hours of haring around he still wants more.” A lovable silky terrier, Chop Chop was Jazmin’s seventh-birthday present.
Getting him was “the best thing we could have done,” says Jane. “They’re so close and love each other so much. He even knows when it’s her bedtime and makes for the stairs, looking back expectantly at her until she follows him.” Aah!
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