On Death And Writing and Lee Kuan Yew

A couple of people have asked where I’ve been, and this is the story. It’s about writing, and death, and the fact that I now have two children attending school at the same time, giving me two hours’ solitude on various mornings. Let’s start at the last and work backwards from there.

In late 2014 I thought: next year when the kids are both at school I’ll have more time for blogging, and in preparation for this I stuffed my draft folder full of all the post ideas I was planning to unleash on you in January. But as January drew nearer, I realised the ideas weren’t good enough by themselves for me any more  – I thought, now I have time, I can do it much better. I can join a local writing group and really sit down and work out my stuff.

So I did. And I added other things, too. And now my extra blogging time is chock full trying to do the eleventy-one things I haven’t had time for over the last six/seven years – and I’m still not getting half of what I want done.

On Monday Singapore lost Lee Kuan Yew. It wasn’t entirely unexpected – he was 91 years old and has been seriously ill since February. Within a few hours, a special edition of the paper had hit the streets, and I was caught in the flurry of people rushing to claim their copy as I arrived at the MRT station at the end of my two hours of Monday morning solitude.

They called him the “architect of modern Singapore”. They said he was a “bare-knuckle politician”, a “straight-shooter”, a “visionary”. I wished I could write like that.

These last two days, on the streets of Singapore, things have been a little more quiet, just a touch more reflective. Shopping malls have cancelled publicity campaigns, zumba teachers are asking their students to wear black to class. There is still shopping. There is still dancing. There are still people getting on with things, and it’s hard to believe Lee Kuan Yew would have wanted it any other way.

I read through pages and pages on his policies and the controversies surrounding them, the reports and the commentary and quotes which came from the man himself. Many have argued about Singapore’s “firm-handed” government, and the rolling of time will ensure that there is always and forever something to be argued about.

But for those with neither the time nor the inclination, who just want to pause a moment to remember Singapore’s first Prime Minister before getting on with the work of daily life which is, in the end, the stuff a nation is made of and what it is for, you might go no further than this front page quote from the man himself:

As for me, I have done what I had wanted to do, to the best of my ability. I am satisfied.

I want to learn to choose words so well. I think perhaps it’s best if I spend my time trying.

Lee Kuan Yew MRT memorial