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At The Airbases Part 2



The second airbase I was posted to was Sembawang. It is a helicopter base, open 24 hrs. The Met. Office there was much more pleasant than at Tengah, mainly because there were many large windows. There was also a balcony for observation, & the only direction that couldn't be viewed was south. The working hours were more regular too, either a morning shift (0730 - 1400hrs) or afternoon shift (1330 - 2200hrs).

The senior forecaster there at the time was Mr L. He was a nice guy, but very fond of talking. I'd heard a story about how he'd been talking to one of the other forecasters when the latter suddenly felt the urge to visit the gents'. No matter, Mr L followed him all the way there, continuing the conversation, stood outside still talking while the poor man did the necessary, then followed him back to the office again, still talking.

The head technician was a jovial Malay fellow who was always so cheerful that he usually managed to improve my mood, no matter how gloomy I was feeling. Then there was an Indian technician who amused me because he was such a total Anglophile. He'd been a technician back during RAF days, & thought the British were wonderful. He'd changed his own surname to a British name, become an Anglican, & sent his daughter to London to study.

I had to give a weekly weather briefing here too but only to the senior officers, a group of about 10; and they weren't bothered at all about whether I started off by wishing them good morning or not.


Being at Sembawang was nice because I've always liked the sound of helicopters (but I like the sleepy, distant drone of propeller planes more, they bring back memories of lazy afternoons at seaside chalets during my school holidays). I often watched the choppers from the balcony, especially at night when the sound of the whirring blades seemed even louder & more dramatic.

So far the only airbase I haven't worked at is Paya Lebar. That is where American fighter jets (normally from Diego Garcia) land to refuel before leaving for their next stop (Guam, I think). It was also where President George W. Bush was received when he came to Singapore. Of course, security there was extremely tight during the visit. My colleague W (the Hong Kong chap) was stationed there at the time, and kept moaning that any terrorist attack would be directed at the airbase. Despite his complaints, I think he was pretty excited; I guess he got to see Air Force One as well.


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