I have visited Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Singapore since I last posted here. The people in Myanmar are poor in financial terms, but they are friendly and welcoming, and they have a life that is seems to be spiritually rich.You can see the golden stupa of a Buddhist temple every couple of miles in Yangon (formerly Rangoon). The largest, most holy, most golden, most marvellous of these is Shwedagon.
If you have visited the neighbouring countries of Thailand and Laos (as I have), Myanmar will feel familiar. There’s plenty of history to discover, both good and bad—I shan’t try to explain it here, you can look it up on the internet. If you like warm weather, gentle people, smiling children, sleeping dogs, tasty food, ornate temples, monks, and reclining Buddhas, it’s definitely worth a visit. It has been a highlight of my trip so far.
Singapore is clean, efficient and prosperous. Everything works, the people are friendly, and everyone speaks English—it’s one of the official languages. I like the way it’s ethnically-mixed. I like the food. I like the way everyone’s so busy improving the place all the time, and the way they’re so proud of Singapore and everything they have achieved since Independence. But the thing I liked most about it was that, the day before I arrived, I discovered that my lovely friend Marcus would also be in Singapore, so I met him for dinner.
Regular readers will remember that my daughter and I started a paranormal detective agency a couple of years ago: Smiths’ Bureau of Investigation. We had to give it up when Lauren got a job making props for a TV show. But it was fun while it lasted—we investigated unusual phenomena that were brought to our attention. Naturally, we were interested in time travel. Lauren’s friend Katie seemed to have found a way to travel back several centuries to have her portrait painted. When we asked her about it, she told us she had no memory of visiting the sixteenth century. She suggested that someone else was doing the travelling, stealing pictures of modern-day people and selling them to artists in the past (Katie is a very clever young woman and her portrait is most unflattering, but that’s artists for you—you wouldn’t ask one to paint your passport photo. )
I was struck by the resemblance between another of our friends, Edward Watson (a Principal at the Royal Ballet) and some of the portraits of Sir Stamford Raffles, who founded Singapore, and I wondered if this was another example of the time travel trade in photos of modern people. If Raffles was too busy to pose (and he was very busy), a photo of Ed would have been very useful for the artist to look at. Of course, a photo of Ed is always a joy to look at—it’s even better if you get the chance to see him dance on stage. If you can't get to London, New York or Tokyo to see him in a Royal Ballet production, there are plenty of videos on the internet.
I regret that SBI is no longer active. If you experience any unusual events, please email me the details and I’ll see if I can persuade Lauren to help me investigate. We had a message coming through from the universe in the form of missing and surplus letters, and I’d still like to know what that is.
In Singapore, I had another message from the universe. For a while, I used to lie about my age, knocking a few years off the year of my birth. That’s easy enough to calculate if someone asks—but try lying about your Chinese horoscope year at a moment’s notice if you’ve decided to tell someone you’re 39. It’s much more complicated because each sign comes around every twelve years. Soon, I’m going to start adding years so everyone will tell me I look amazing. But for now, I’m being truthful about my age, so it’s safe to say that my Chinese horoscope sign is a Dragon.
There were notices with predictions for 2014 for each sign in a park in Chinatown in Singapore, so I went to have a look for mine. “Some Dragons are on a roll this year… your charisma is at an all-time high.”
Favourable colours: Shades of red, white, gold and silver. Yay! Shwedagon.
There is a note of caution, however: “You are afflicted by the annual quarrelsome star that can make you rather argumentative.”
The specific predictions for my particular birth year are even more downbeat: “Due to weak success luck, you have to work doubly hard to improve your income… You also need to watch your temper.”
You know, whenever I have consulted psychics and spiritualists for research purposes (they appear sometimes in my books and my plays), they always tell me I have the gift myself. Perhaps it’s true. Certainly, some inkling of my weak success luck, and the potential ramifications of being afflicted by a quarrelsome star, meant that I sensed it would be a good idea to book myself onto a ship in the middle of the ocean, with limited access to the internet, for the start of the Chinese New Year—which, coincidentally, fell the week before the launch of my new book.
My daughter is an Ox, so naturally I looked her up, too. “Great success luck is going to propel you to great heights in 2014.” Yay! Double happiness.
The general advice for the Ox is slightly more worrying. "Whilst you are enjoying your excellent success luck and prosperity in 2014, take good care of your money, assets and valuables. Annual flying star number 7 that flies to the Ox location during the year can potentially result in violence and some kind of loss.”
She needs to avoid shades of yellow, gold, silver and white—so she won’t be able to visit if I restyle my house to resemble Shwedagon. Maybe I’ll postpone the remodelling and get on with my work. I need to work doubly hard, remember? Unfortunately, I haven’t quite managed that. When I saw Marcus in Singapore, I told him that after I go to Left Coast Crime in Monterey, I might book myself into a hotel in Las Vegas for a couple of weeks to try to catch up with the work I haven’t done on the ship. He laughed at that. He said that if I’m finding life on board ship distracting, Las Vegas won’t be any better.
It’s lovely to be able to make a handsome man laugh. Maybe my charisma is at an all-time high. But if that much is true, then what about the rest of it? How am I going to protect my daughter from flying star number 7?