It started at 08h59 yesterday morning. Bang! Bang! Bang! A measured, metronomic rhythm crashed through my awareness setting my teeth on edge and my body on the edge of my seat. An ironic synchronicity given that I was writing about the traffic noise outside at the time.
I gazed blankly at the sky through the open balcony doors in disbelief. Bang! Bang! Bang! A familiar sound on an island of building sites but one I could not place in that first moment. Rather, one that I did not want to place. Mental sentences looped through my head, punctuated with this invasive, incessant noise rather than full stops. Questioning; avoiding the obvious ... pile driving.
On an island just 45 by 25 kms with 4 million inhabitants sufficient accommodation is always a challenge. Over the 20 years I have been coming here the skyline has climbed steadily higher. At the moment there is another flurry of building going on; en-bloc purchases of houses and low-rise apartment blocks abound. These are knocked down, to be replaced by yet more tower blocks that reach their gleaming glass and concrete fingers high into the sky. The pace of change is remarkable. I was away for a month over Christmas. In that time 4 buildings in close proximity to my home disappeared. In their place came giraffe-like cranes, diggers, dumpers and swarms of yellow-booted, hard-hatted workers.
Like most writers I know I much prefer to be in peace and quiet when I create. Bali is my creative nirvana but lack of modern telecommunications means internet research is challenging to say the least; very slow, rather expensive and at times impossible when the system goes down for a day or two. Here in Singapore high-speed wifi gives me access to the information highway in less than the blink of an eye. In Bali I work to the sounds of nature overlain with gamelans and the chanting of priests. Here I work to the sound of the traffic and now to the rhythm of the pile driver hidden behind the trees on the opposite side of the street. As with everything in life, I have a choice. There are pros and cons to both situations.
Yesterday I was here with a mountain of writing to do and deadlines looming. I knew that if I allowed it, the banging across the road would push me into a corner and crush any hope of creativity. So what was the option? Get on a plane a go to Bali? I don’t think so. My eyes fell on my iPod and the answer was so obvious. Music!
Living in an apartment means keeping the music down if you want to stay friends with your neighbours. Here was my golden opportunity to get on down and ‘chair-boogie’ while I wrote with the music cranked up loud. Much louder than I would normally dare to have it. No matter what volume I used there was no way it could compete with din of the pile driving.
And so passed a most pleasurable and productive day. I travelled through Motown and finger-tangoed away to Tribal Trance. Hed Kandi visited mid-afternoon keeping up the beat. By sunset I was ready to slow down a little and was happy when Luther showed up.
At 09h00 I was desperately seeking tranquility; by 09h15 I realised if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. There will always be battles in life we cannot win, situations we cannot change. But usually, somewhere, somehow, there will be a way we can adapt and in so doing make the best out of what seemed to be the worst.
I am smiling. It is 08h56. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bring it on! Let's get down and boogie!
First published 27 February 2007
Image © TJF Photographics 2007 All rights reserved