When I had finished writing the manuscript of my thriller novel, Smokescreen, I made the mistake of giving it to a relative of mine to read. Unfortunately, he did not share my enthusiasm about many things. “Far-fetched,” he said, particularly the idea of a secret cave underneath the island of Singapore.
I was bothered by the comment, but after a day of brooding, I realized that the opinion of one person, two, three or even five million should not matter or get in the way of my imagination. So I kept the cave scene. And I was thankful that I trusted my gut feeling.
A few months down the road, The Straits Times, the island’s daily newspaper, ran a front page story about a rock cavern being built in the ground off a smaller island on the western coast of Singapore. The Jurong Cavern will be the first underground oil storage facility. In fact, it is much more deeper than I had even imagined.
While my cave stored something else in the story (needless to say why I can’t tell you more …), I scanned the newspaper article and emailed it to this relative of mine, just to make sure he did not miss the story. Well, guess who paid for dinner one evening?
[Photo: Glenn Van Zutphen]
The Freemason Building in Singapore. For three consecutive days, my tweet about this building was retweeted so many times by others that I was surprised by the fascination the world has about the masons.
There’s a scene in my novel, Smokescreen, which takes place at this building although the novel has nothing to do with the Freemasons. The scene was written into the novel when the protagonist, in his narrow attempt to flee some unpleasant people, ended up here.
The first time I visited this place I was a young magazine reporter working on a story about scuba diving in Singapore. I had argued with my editor that Singapore isn’t really a place famous for scuba diving as the sea is murky. However, she insisted I write the story… somehow. I was assigned to interview a financial analyst who was also a scuba diving enthusiast. We arranged to meet here.
I thought the building was interesting as it reminded me of old Singapore with its pretty colonial facade. It’s located near the old Blood and Bandage fire station at Coleman Street.
After the interview, I asked the individual what this place was all about, but he kept silent, shifting his eyes sideways in a bid to dodge the question. The reaction, I thought, was funny. I didn’t pursue. When I returned to the office I told my editor where I had been and what materialized. Her answer made me realized how naïve I had been back then.
I need to get myself one of these shoe lace key cuff. This is so Houdini. It’ll be great if they come in different designs and colors to suit the shoes I wear. Personally, I don’t see myself getting into so much trouble that I need it. But you just never know when the key can come in handy… just never know.
I am not offering suggestions, but if I was a protestor in the street, and I was arrested and cuffed for whatever reason, it would be neat to vanish before the police paper work could be done. I am assuming the key works. Someone has to try it and let us know.
I’ve met people who religiously buy gadgets and gears to protect themselves from various situations, like one guy I know keeps a seat-belt cutter in his vehicle in case the buckle gets jammed. And then there’s this lawyer I met with a knife disguised as a key.
I suppose having a multi-tool Swiss army knife would do the trick if you are ever in a situation. Let’s hope it comes with a super mini fire extinguisher some day.
A couple of years ago I had dinner with an embassy staff of a certain country. In the middle of the conversation, he told me to look at his chronograph watch. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the watch. It was your typical rugged, sporty watch. I was taken aback when the individual told me the watch was also equipped with camera, video and audio surveillance capabilities.
I didn’t dare ask the diplomat what he used the watch for. He wasn’t recording our conversation, of course – and I knew that for sure – for the simple reason I have nothing to offer that would intrigue foreign agents except my wild imagination.
But guess what just came in the mail. See the blue light? If you press a button the light goes off and the recording begins.