Thursday 29th November 2001, Singapore.

Today was to be a serious Christmas shopping day, so having had a glass of orange juice, and a rather stale croissant, at one of the open-air cafes in Albert Street, we walked up to Arab Street.

Arab Street is lined with fabric retailers selling lengths of silk, tablecloths, lace and traditional printed cotton. Beautiful though they were, it was difficult to pick out a single ideal present. The lengths of silk would have needed to be made up, and we couldn’t think of anyone who would really appreciate a new tablecloth!

By the time we had walked up and down both sides of the road, John’s back was protesting, so we started back to the hotel with the idea of finding a chiropractor. However, and enquiry at the casualty department of the local hospital was met with blank looks. Perhaps they don’t use chiropractors in Singapore …

As we crossed Rochar Road, Brigid remembered that she needed to buy some saline solution for her contact lenses. Instead of heading straight back to the hotel, we called into the Praco shopping mall, in Victoria Street, in the hopes of finding a pharmacy. It didn’t take long to work out that there was no pharmacy in the mall, but there were a couple of opticians. Ian Optical not only had saline, but they had a Christmas offer on spectacles – S$48 for frames and lenses (including an eye test). It seemed too good an offer to pass up, particularly since Brigid had lost her only pair on the bus in Fiji. However, since she was wearing contact lenses, she would have to remove them and come back later for an eye test.

We found a coffee shop near our favourite fountain in the Bujis Junction Plaza, where we spent several minutes watching the ‘cabaret’ provided by young children running in and out of the fountain, trying to guess what the cleverly choreographed water cascades would do next.

More than once, a child would receive a direct hit and an unexpected drenching – but it didn’t seem to put them off!

Back in the opticians shop, Brigid received a first-rate eye test, which confirmed her existing prescription. With extra correction for astigmatism, and non-reflective lenses, the specs came to S$98, but we weren’t done yet. As a special deal, Brigid was offered a pair of prescription DKNY sunglasses, and John took the opportunity to have the scratched lenses in his RayBans replaced. All done, we were charged S$333 (£133) for two new pairs of specs, and new prescription lenses for John. All the items would be ready for collection at 7.30pm, leaving us free to continue our shopping.

John had managed to manipulate his back and was no longer in pain, so we ventured back into the market. Laden with carrier bags, we eventually arrived back at the hotel at about 4pm. There was just enough time to upload the pictures from the digital camera, have a quick shower, and grab a bite to eat, before going out again to collect the finished specs.