The cobra and the condominium


This is a very complicated case, Maude. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder’s head.

The Dude, The Big Lebowski


Condominium living with two young boys is to be imprisoned within an endless St Kilda players’ function- minus the moments of deep introspection, and wholesome civic values. It’s occasionally beyond challenging. It’s at the heart of our predicament. To stay in Singapore or head home?


Australia is lucky. Although threatened, a chief reason is the backyard. Here five million Singaporeans wrestle on a napkin. It’s a quarter the size of Adelaide. It’s berserk. There’s a plan to surge to seven million. How can we continue in such crushing lunacy?


Mercifully, nearby is bike-riding, footy-dobbing, scooter-crashing open space, straddling the canal. Recently, as the boys played, an English jogger merrily pointed out the assorted cobra nests. Frenetic construction means homeless snakes slink elsewhere. Obsessed by these reptiles, I’m Willard to the cobras’ Colonel Kurtz. I need to confront one. Not in the zoo. Up the river. Or at a bus stop. We best leave Singapore before I do.


Our school’s in the shadows of Orchard Road, and sometimes, skulking and coiling, cobras come a-callin’. Slouching past, the groundsman saw one inside the PTA office. The PTA president, a bellowing, volcanic empress, sat at her desk, focussing fiercely on her PTA-ing; fabulously unaware of the poised snake. The groundsman stomped. “Watch out! There’s a hideous, poisonous creature! Get out! Get out!” He yelled to the cobra.


I intermittently amble along Alexander Canal to The Boomarang (sic) Bar at Robertson Quay. It shows the AFL on big screens, hypnotic altars. Settling on a stool in the sultry noise, I buy a beer. Football and refreshment finished, I glance at the bill.


Tiger Pint- $15.01


“Excuse me,” I ask, “Is this correct?”


“The $15 part. I get. Sort of,” I fucking offer, “The government doesn’t want people to enjoy themselves. Ever. It is an obstacle to the singular, undying aim of zealous National Service. But One Cent? Really?”

The bartender blinks. “Sir, this is the appropriate price.”


I can live in a city that cheerfully steals $15 from me for a beer, but my Principles of Drinking, and interior cash register, cannot stomach $15.01. In The Big Lebowski Walter hollers, “Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?”


Singapore is a pubescent with an attendant sense of self. Its 2013 Grand Prix concert headliner? Justin Beiber. Truly? Is Barnsey retired? The Choir Boys doing a bikie wedding? Metallica has toured; surely they could have been seduced by the petrochemical /banking /biotechnological coin.


Grands Prix peddle aspirational fantasy and boorish volumes of din. We moved here to engage with what we don’t understand, but are snarling motorsport devotees Beliebers? I can’t connect F1 to my fuzzy, involuntary construct of JB. It’s a funny joint, this Singapore.


The government aims to protect its citizenry. Buses and trains are gruesomely crowded; fetid, heaving confines. A billboard campaign directs commuters to


Protect yourself against unwanted sexual harassment


It’s arse-about. Yes to empowerment against predators. But I think an alternate message should be disseminated. I’d suggest, ”Hey you! Shithead. Keep your stinkin’ hands to yourself!” T-Shirt of The Gruen Transfer agrees. There’s much to appreciate about this diminutive island, but it’s often unknowable.


Football is the final dilemma. Next year, Adelaide oval hosts AFL. I’m impatient to take a clattering tram from Moseley Square with our boys, Alex and Max, and walk down King William Road. This is where their learning, their golden heritage waits. Footy happens in Singapore, but as a desolate addendum, a doomed transplant. It’s decontextualized. You can’t get a decent pie here.


And there’s Auskick at Glenelg oval on sun-dappled afternoons. Our boys will scurry about in their too-long sleeves. Delighted shrieks curl about on a sea breeze. We’ll get teary, as one, maybe Max, arrests the Sherrin’s flight, somehow marks the ball- and then kicks it, joyously, messily, toward a muddy mate. And after, in the still swirling exhilaration, A4-sized schnitzels for all. Perfect.


This towering cosmopolis allows us global insight, but country footy is vital too. We’ll watch the Kapunda Bombers and the Kimba Tigers. What is more instructive, more superb than an unhurried Saturday at our game? Yes, we’ll make the most of now. This is a remarkable sabbatical. However, for how long can we resist home?


The Big Lebowski: What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski?

The Dude: Dude.

The Big Lebowski: Huh?

The Dude: Uh… I don’t know, Sir.

The Big Lebowski: Is it being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the cost? Isn’t that what makes a man?

The Dude: Hmmm… Sure, that and a pair of testicles.


About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Absolutely Fascinating Article Mickey Tom Kat on a trip back to Bob Neil 1 this season talked about the snakes in Singapore as well ! You give us a superb insight in to the life in Singapore and the differences to little old Adelaide beautifully
    Thanks Mickey a v enjoyable article

  2. There is a place in Sembawang known as the Jelutung. It has an open field, cricket pitch and even a white sight screen at one end. Scores of Indian diehards would don their whites on a Saturday and participate in a local competition. While watching a game one Saturday, they discovered I was an Australian and a cricketer. They proposed a coaching role for me. Perhaps they mistook me for Greg Chappell.
    The Jelutong field was a mini oasis amongst the high rise. As well as the cricket field, it housed a hard court for rollerskating, ball games and hosting the annual Chinese New Year community event. This was a place for the community to get together, to exercise and dare I say it, have fun. A sign proudly boasted that it was a public space for use by the community.
    The Jelutung open space is now the site of a new Executive Condo development. Earlier this year, the dreaded tin construction site fence went up, swallowing the eastern third of the cricket field. The hard court area was totally gobbled up. The sign proclaiming a public open space mysteriously disappeared overnight.
    Having resided in Singapore ten years, I should be immune to any feelings of loss. After all, this is progress and economic growth. It’s good for Singapore. The government tells us so.
    But I wonder what all those diehard Indian cricketers are doing on a Saturday afternoon now.
    RIP the Jelutung open space.

  3. Great read Mickey – I too dream of returning home after 12 years abroad and much of it is to let my kids grow up with sport a big part of life and the outdoor lifestyle of Aus. My better half is Singaporean though and my kids are locals. Do I want to move for them or for me. It’s a hard choice. And if only the Blues could be more consistent – then perhaps I could really get them to #Believe!

  4. mickey randall says

    Malcolm- Thanks for that; glad you enjoyed it. Singapore’s interesting, but won’t replace Adelaide for us.
    Phil- I imagine the situation you’ve described happening many times in the past, and many times in the future. I guess if the government decides that a population of 7 million is in the national interest, it will happen. British writer Ian Sinclair’s excellent book London Orbital explores the changing relationship between the physical environment of that city, and its people in what he calls psychogeography. I wonder what a similar investigation might reveal here…
    djlitsa- I bet you’ve enjoyed the Blues over the past month! They’ve given you some good entertainment. Agree that our choices are often complex, but unlike many, at least we have this luxury.

  5. Good work again Mickey. Great read.

  6. Great write up as usual. Sitting here, a little cold…a storm front is passing through now and guess what, it isn’t that bad having seasons once again. Looking forward to heading down south in the spring to hang the pole out. Numerous fish will not have heard of my poor skills and maybe join us for lunch or dinner.
    I felt like a square peg in the wrong hole in Singas. I am not so sure what the government is trying to do there – building everywhere all geared towards the top end of town and we can only afford to take the bus through. Cellulite’s are on and nobody is home…

  7. mickey randall says

    T-Bone and Vic- Thanks for that! Agreed that while an endless summer can be good I miss having four distinct seasons; winter certainly has its charms, even in Adelaide! Good luck with the fishing.

  8. ” a wide brown land for me!”

  9. mickey randall says

    I hear you Kev. We might stay for a third year, but we’ll need to gather a few facts before we do! Trust you’re well and enjoying the early spring!

  10. Baz from Adelaide says

    Good read Mike. If it makes you feel better we can arrange for a brown snake or red belly to venture in the vicinity of Glenelg North – just to make you remember your time in Singapore

  11. mickey randall says

    Baz from Adelaide! Do I know you? As a suffering Port fan (until recently) you should pen something to share. Lots of colour and movement among the faithful both at Footy Park (RIP) and away. Robust anecdotes from road trips to Melbourne? Behind the scenes tales from Alberton? A kiss and tell about Kochie?

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