When Shiela and Derek Fraser arrived here two-and-a-half years ago for their second stint in Singapore, they knew exactly what they wanted: a central location, a green and leafy outlook, and (above all) no neighbouring construction sites. On the 8th level of gorgeous Nassim Regency, they’ve done themselves proud.
“As soon as I walked in I said: ‘This is it’,’’ Shiela tells me. That’s not surprising: I’ve never seen a lovelier outlook. From the kitchen and dining area, you look over treetops to the Botanic Gardens; from the lounge windows opposite, more greenery surrounding a gracious old house that used to be the Saudi Embassy, with ION Orchard and the city skyline in the background.
It was Derek’s employer, ExxonMobil, who brought them here – both times. Shiela couldn’t be happier: “I like the lifestyle, I like the weather, I like the people; I like Singapore, I think it’s lovely.”
Music runs in the family. Shiela is a qualified Scottish Highland dance teacher who competed in world championships – “a long time ago”, she says. Derek is an award-winning bagpiper who has played at the Highland Games and won top prizes. “We met at school,” she explains. “He was piping and I was dancing separately at a function, and we recognised each other at school the next day. We’d both applied to study in Edinburgh, so it continued there.” And she blushes.
Derek has a vintage set of pipes that he leaves at home in Scotland to protect its ebony and ivory from the perils of shipping and humidity, and a newer set for here. Practising is a bit difficult, though. “Where we lived before, at 7 Draycott Drive, he could go down to the basement,” Shiela explains – but this is not an instrument you can practise in a condo.
Their son Calum (25) played classical flute at university, but has since gone on to specialise in choral and operatic conducting, she tells me with pride. He’s the musical director of a small opera company in Cardiff and also conducts a couple of choirs, one in Scotland and one in Manchester.
Where are you from?
Our UK property is in the Scottish countryside, just outside Perth. It’s still a fully functioning home that Calum uses regularly.
In fact, he was 12 when Derek and I moved here the first time; and instead of doing his high school here, he chose to stay on as a boarder at Glenalmond College in Scotland, where he’d already started senior school. It worked really well; despite the fact that I was travelling back nine or ten times a year and so was jet-lagged all the time!
We think Calum got the best of both worlds. He had the traditional education where his music could flourish, and when he came to Singapore for the holidays – especially the long summers – he had some fantastic experiences with the British Association’s boarding-school group. They organised activities such as wakeboarding, open-water diving courses, and even cricket coaching on the Padang. Grant Stanley organised a world team to play the local schools, and that was wonderful. What’s more, the friendships Calum made here have endured.
Why did you choose this apartment?
Nassim Regency is an old block that was completely renovated just before we moved in, so we have the best of both worlds: the spaciousness and quirkiness of the old and the cleanliness of the new. Being on the eighth floor, it’s nice that we see so much greenery but yet are raised above the wildlife – I wouldn’t have liked geckos and insects coming in!
It has wooden flooring throughout – much more comfortable underfoot than the usual marble. I like its layout, too: the two-tier effect created by the sunken lounge breaks up the space, and the open-plan dry kitchen has a big bar counter that is super for parties.
As this isn’t your primary home, how did you go about furnishing it?
A lot of it is from Gallery 278, furniture that we started off leasing from them in 2001 and then ended up buying. We took it to Scotland with us, and then brought some of it back again.
Gallery 278 has been excellent. When we asked them recently to reupholster some of the living room furniture we’d got from them in 2001, they still had the original records and receipts! Alice is delightful, so much so that you can never pop in for just a minute; you have to stay for her special tea and a chat.
We didn’t bring our initial Gallery 278 dining table back with us from Scotland. This is a new one that they made for us to our specifications, along with the mirror and the console table. The lamp is also from Gallery 278, but the gamelan players were picked up on silent auction at one of the balls.
Being a corner room, the master bedroom has expansive views of the surrounding greenery. The lamps are from Anne Lockett’s China Collection, and the painting was commissioned from local artist Richard Lim, through Gallery 278.
The furniture in Calum’s room is mainly from John Erdos, except that the Chinese cabinet and mirror are from Gallery 278, and the teal vase is Taylor B. The London and Beatles posters are from a little poster shop at the Esplanade.
Again, the furniture in the spare room is Gallery 278. Opposite the twin beds is a picture from Suncraft, a gallery in Tanglin Shopping Centre. We love the two little Chinese opera watercolours – the four we bought during our first stint are now back in Scotland, and we liked them so much that we bought two more.
How do you keep busy?
I believe that you shouldn’t try to recreate your initial experience; you need to move on. The British Association’s handicrafts group is the only thing I came back to second time around. We get together at a different member’s home each Wednesday at 10am, learning to make gorgeous hat-boxes, Christmas decorations and so on. All the supplies are donated, and the proceeds go to charity.
Another BA activity I enjoy is the Walkie-Talkies: we meet at 8am three times a week at the Botanic Gardens for a 45-minute power-walk followed by coffee and a chat. It’s a good network, too: whatever information you need, on just about anything, someone in the group will have it.
I recommend any expat who comes here to join an association, preferably one established for your nationality. Unlike clubs, where events are centred around the club premises, associations like the BA organise activities throughout the island and are more part of the community. There’s so much to do, including historical and cultur
l tours. Now, when we get visitors, I’m the tour guide. I also play bridge at the Tanglin Club, where veteran expat Nan Sanford still teaches the game; I used to played mah-jong every week during our last stint here.
Where would you take your stop-over visitors?
I’ve got it down to a tee! First, we head to the Raffles Hotel Long Bar for an obligatory Singapore Sling. From there, we walk past the War Memorial and alongside the Padang for a quick history on the Japanese Occupation and the death marches up to Changi; past the steps of City Hall where Mountbatten received the Japanese surrender; then I tell them about the significance of the old and the new cricket clubs.
Then Raffles’ landing place, and to admire the striking contrast the old Boat Quay godowns make against the skyscrapers of the banking district. After that, dinner at Indochine, as much for the aspect as for the food; then a drink at the Post Bar at the Fullerton Hotel and a chat about the building’s history.
Finally, we get a taxi to Ku Dé Ta at the top of the Marina Bay Sands; and if we have time, a last drink at Equinox on Level 79 of the Swissôtel for more incredible views. In the morning, we’ll walk down to Casa Verde in the Botanic Gardens for breakfast; after that, it’s probably time to take them to the airport.
Who does the cooking?
I tend to cook most weeknights; Derek loves it when I get a new cookbook and start to work my way through it. We also like to invite friends for dinner – it’s quite different from going out.
Tanglin Marketplace provides a free home delivery service; they deliver perishables, too, properly packed with ice. I do the shopping myself, but this service means I can walk there and back rather than having to go by car or taxi.
I did try shopping at Tekka wet market once, but when I came home and found the chicken still had its head and feet on it gave me such a shock.
Whose golf clubs reside in solitary splendour in the otherwise empty helper’s room?
Both Derek and I played a lot of golf before we came out here, and I used to play every week with ANZA (Australian & New Zealand Association). In 2010, before our second stint here, I was lady captain of the Hamptworth Golf & Country Club just outside Salisbury.
Now, though, I prefer just to play on holidays with Derek – the odd weekend in Thailand, Vietnam or even at Bintan. Occasionally, we go up to the Champions Golf Range at the Bukit Timah Saddle Club; it also has a pretty good nine-hole course that’s recently been revamped, a Thai restaurant and a little café.
It’s difficult recommending places in Singapore, I find – you can go once and it’s great, and then the next time it doesn’t hit the mark. But here goes:
Halia in the Botanic Gardens for lunch; we like the atmosphere, the cooking and the staff; plus, the wine waiter looks after us.
Crossroads Café at the Marriott Hotel is great for people-watching.
Culina at Dempsey, a casual bistro with a fine selection of gourmet food and wine for sale.
Caveau, an atmospheric, intimate, buzzy little wine bar at Shaw Centre; they do their own cheese platters and such, and you can order meals from the bistro next door.
Sultan Jazz Club at The Sultan Hotel in the Kampong Glam heritage area; beware – the standard of the artists does vary.
Truefitt & Hill, the gentleman’s barber on Ann Siang Hill. Derek says it’s a real treat for the discerning gentleman; ask for master barber Shane O’Neill, who doubles as a DJ at the Screening Room on Saturday nights. (Happily, he has Sundays off.)
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