Review: Scribbles from the Same Island by Neil Humphreys

[vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=””][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Reviewer: Yeo Han Hwee” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left” google_fonts=”font_family:Abril%20Fatface%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]“Scribbles From The Same Island” is the 2nd book by Neil Humphreys. Neil unashamedly admits that the majority of the book is a compilation of his WEEKEND TODAY columns. But he mentions that he has included several original essays that were not published. Some were too long, and others were on topics that were unsuitable for the newspaper. Nevertheless, I would like to commend him for leading the way in recycling (please don’t get mad, Neil. That was a joke).

This second book still carries on the same tone and feel of his first book. Neil plays the “cockney, cheeky chap” that pokes fun at the neurotic foibles of Singaporeans – everything from our kiasu natures, to our government’s well meaning but controlling and restrictive social policies.

Much like “Notes”, his first book, some of the material is dated (it was originally published in 2003, after all). The article on the opening of Coyote Ugly, a nightspot that allowed bar top dancing comes to mind. Another was his lament on the cancellation of the Oasis gig, back in October 2002.

But other articles have aged just fine. For example, his infamous piece on inter-racial relationships and the SPG phenomenon could be published today with minor changes (In 2002, Neil wrote a feature in TODAY newspaper examining inter-racial relationships in Singapore. The piece attracted more public feedback than any other issue that week. In fact, that got him a regular writing gig with TODAY).

His scathing but witty review of the Romancing Singapore campaign is still a funny read – “In the middle of February, Cherry Chocolate Candy jumped aboard and gave away free CDs of love songs. Bewildered aunties were heard to ask: You Cherry Chocolate wha’? Got free ice cream is it? Got sample or not?

Just look back to the Water Wally Shower Dance water conservation campaign from 2013 and you will see that we still live in the days of gauche, though well-intentioned social engineering.

There was a phrase used by the British during the colonial era called “gone bamboo”. It was used to describe servicemen that had been in Asia too long and no longer felt loyal to the British Crown. Instead they started sympathizing with locals. Movies like Kevin Costner’s “Dances With Wolves” and James Cameron’s “Avatar” are good examples.

I say this because the most interesting articles are the ones where you gain insight into Neil’s personality and he goes into detail about how his experiences in Singapore have shaped and changed him. For example, in “The Family”, he writes about how witnessing many examples of filial piety have made a deep impression on him, and how much he missed his family while working in Singapore – especially his grandmother, mother and his WWE obsessed youngest brother. It is one of his most personal articles, by far.

In “The Geek”, Neil hilariously recounts about trekking in Kranji Reservoir with his long-suffering wife. During his time in the Little Red Dot, he fell in love with nature and the amazing biodiversity of Singapore, and had taken up bird watching with a passion. His wife, however, did not share his love.

I think Neil Humphreys has gone bamboo to the point where we can safely dub him an honorary Singaporean.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]9789814398954-medium[/vc_column_text][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”gp-standard-sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

Table of Contents

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