In the old days when you lived abroad – as in my case, abroad meaning away from England – it was generally things like Marmite that you asked people to bring with them when they came to visit. In Singapore, give or take, you can buy pretty much everything; you’ll pay for it, it’s not cheap, but it’s almost all possible and all here. There are however, a few things I miss hugely which aren’t….
Generally, people coming to Singapore from the UK don’t bring much in the way of luggage. The idea is to stock up on exotic buys this end and take them back to dreary old England. Unless of course you are my darling Ma, who has just arrived for her fleeting but fabulous one week visit that she does about every three months.
She’s the only person I can really ask to haul across all manner of random things that I can’t buy here, or, to be more precise, that I can buy here but cost at least twice or three times the price when compared to trusty old Tesco (don’t forget I have Scottish blood; I hate to pay more for something if I know it can be bought for less). Here’s an edit of my recently received goodies.
Always carried in her hand luggage, the first thing bestowed on me is usually armfuls of English glossy mags and newspapers and today was no exception: I can always count on a current issue of UK Vogue, as well as the last Sunday Times Style plus whatever else may be lying around the house. Of course Singapore sells almost every magazine that’s ever been printed, but I never buy English Vogue out here (it’s sooo expensive) and I never ever buy the UK Sunday papers, which are missing all the supplement mags like Sunday Times Style – undoubtedly the best part. I’m a Straits Times girl. So this bundle of gloss and paper is better than a bouquet of flowers.
Second out of the bag comes my most favourite, can’t-live-without cleansing cloths which I’ve been using everyday, without fail, for the last 10 years and which you can’t buy here. Olay 2-in-1 Daily Facial Cloths are incredible for taking off makeup, suncream and just general cleansing. Not at all expensive or clever, just add water, watch them foam up, use ’em then chuck ’em. Here’s my recently replenished stash (above).
Citronella oil for my constantly burning oil burner costs me $20 for 10ml for if I buy it from Mt Sapola at Tanglin Mall, but from the UK it was just under £10 ($20) for three bottles of the stuff (there is actually somewhere in the basement of Liang Court, I’ve just discovered, that sells it for $12 (£6) a bottle which is an improvement on Tanglin Mall but still not a patch on Boots).
Arnica cream and pills for bumps and bruises is amazing stuff that’s not available here in any chemist anywhere on this island. I’ve checked!
A Tangle Teaser hairbrush gets through any amount of tangles in your hair. I can’t even get a Mason and Pearson hairbrush near mine on a good day and I really don’t know how this weird looking little thing works as well as it does. The bristles look puny and rather feeble but it’s incredible and gets through my bird’s nest without making everything static (it’s actually meant for people with hair extensions…euuugh…but works like a knife through butter for anyone with tangled tresses). My newest, most clever (UK) buy, ever.
Dark chocolate made without any of the anti-melting agents that we get in every single bar of chocolate over here is a staple carry-out. Menier is actually unbelievably high quality Swiss cooking chocolate with over 70% cocoa solids. It not only tastes better than Green & Blacks (I think), but it’s miles cheaper at £1 ($2) a bar.
I have had the odd blue-string-Bridget-Jones-cooking moment since living out here and can only seem to find the very thin, French, professional cooking string to buy – costing an arm and a leg – or otherwise the blue, plastic coated Bridget variety. This trip brought me my year’s supply of 99p ($2) Tesco kitchen string which is perfect for tying up a fillet of beef or wrapping parcels.
I recently bought a few packets of seeds from Far East Flora, a shop that I love – now I have my little garden – and never seem to be out of. But the variety of seeds on sale there aren’t what you’d describe as diverse. Mum is gardener extraordinaire and bought me peas, sunflower and lettuce seeds as well as nasturtium seeds – which I hope to plant and nurture successfully enough to turn them in to what they are meant to be: edible flowers (nasturtiums have a slightly peppery taste and look beautiful in salads).
I think it must be a sign of the times, but electrical items, which used to be so cheap in Asia, now cost far more than they do in England. So this month’s booty also included a very boring but essential steam iron from Tesco for £19 ($40) and a stainless steel toaster for the same price.
Last but not least was an unrequested Clarins travel pack from my lovely Mummy, complete with it’s own, neat, see through solution to plastic-bag-imposed-awfulness that every airport check-in the world over now seems to demand.
So…now I’m all set for our next trip back to the UK this Christmas – where I can practice the very fine art of spending to save.