Thursday 6 July 2023

‘The House’

I have a thing for houses, which is odd for a self-proclaimed nomad. I have at times compared myself to a snail, one that carries her house on her back, but the reality is that what I carry around is a forty-foot shipping container full of furniture and knickknacks. Next week, the movers will come to pack it all up again to put it on a boat back to Asia.

Most people I tell this look at me with astonishment. You only just finished renovating your house here? Yes, after nightmare renovations that took years longer than anticipated, that are in fact still not finished, that took many sleepless nights and much more money than anticipated, we are leaving, yet again. Warmer shores beckon. Why? That’s another story, for another time, it suffices to say that Dutch winters are not great for the arthritic, nor is the Dutch medical system, and our villainous contractor didn’t help enamour us with this country either.

It's summer now. The sun is shining. The almost-finished house has turned out beautiful, with all its light, glass and green. As much as I love going, leaving is always hard. Leaving a life, but also a place behind. We have stayed in some very special houses that have inspired my writing over the years. My novel ‘A Yellow House’ was set in our first condo in Singapore, the yellow house in the title refers to the actual dream house our domestic helper Indah has built in Indonesia from her Singapore earnings. My children’s series JungleGirl Mia is set in Adam Drive, a bungalow where we lived surrounded by the jungles of a national park. Wildlife often sprawled into our garden, inspiring the adventures Mia has with her friends.

Our next house at Adam Park has an even more illustrious history. A veritable battle took place between the Japanese and the British, and later prisoners of war stayed there before being shipped off to Birma to build a railroad. Many say these houses are haunted, and as a novelist, what else can one do but write a novel set in such a place? ‘The Black and White House,’ which will be launched later this year.

So, what is next? I’ve been spending a lot of time in the last few months on Singapore real estate websites, and whilst we explore exciting new places to live, I ponder another question: what to write? Write about the place we have begun to refer to as ‘The House’, the one that despite endless streams of builders we will have to rent out before it’s even finished? One that despite my wish to leave I have come to love. Though the adventures with our villainous contractor would make an excellent thriller, to be honest, it’s a chapter I’d rather close. Sitting in my favourite chair in my favourite spot next to the large bamboo bush, I dream of another place, the one that inspired the design of this green Dutch house. An idea for a new book germinates in my brain. Working title: 'A House in Bali'.

In the meanwhile, do pre-order: ‘The Black and White House’. It’s a haunting tale of fear and friendship set in Singapore. That house in Adam Park, unattainable now rents have exploded in Singapore, will always haunt my dreams as the most beautiful place I ever lived. For now. Let’s see what’s next.

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