I recently spotted on Facebook a picture that a friend took of his children making sandcastles. This reminded me of a few photos taken in 1985 when my parents brought me to Sentosa island for a day of sun, sand and sea.
Growing up in Singapore in the 1980s, Sentosa was the de-facto playground away from home. That was before the island and its somewhat wild nature got overtaken by the banality of Universal Studios and mindless casino gaming.
My dad tried to teach me to swim and I had an inflatable ring with Superman prints to keep me afloat. In spite of my dad’s occasional encouragement and Superman by my side, I never quite mastered the art of swimming – I blame it on a lack of coordination and a dislike of water getting into my eyes.
Building sandcastles was a much easier task.
It’s amazing what you can learn about physics from this simple activity. Such as how water adds as a binding material for sand, but only if you add the optimum amount, which usually is just a little bit of H2O. Too much water, your sandcastle collapses into slush – in which case you try to rescue the situation by digging a trench in the sand and thus creating a moat around the castle.
Trivia: NASA sent samples of sand into space to study its properties, as well as how the grains of sand behave when water is added, in the absence of gravity.
Building sandcastles is also a lesson in patience and concentration.
Even though this was almost 30 years ago, I still remember feeling a little frustrated to see the sandcastle (or rather, the sand mountain) next to mine progress steadily faster, higher and bigger than mine. Never mind that this was made by a group of grown-up men and the five-year-old me had been mostly left on my own to shape my little sand hill. I recall looking up at my folks in slight despair, only to be encouraged by them to continue working on my sandy kingdom.
When was the last time you built a sandcastle? Tip: The recommended ratio of water to sand for building sandcastles is 1:8.
Back then, going to Sentosa almost always included a visit to the wax museum. Below is the scene of the treaty signing led by Sir Stamford Raffles with Sultan Hussein and Temenggong Abdul Rahman to establish Singapore as a British colony. Date: 6 February 1819.
The insect displays were also pretty cool, as was the air-conditioning in the space.
In the photo below, you can see the skyline of Singapore’s central business district. Much has changed in the recent decades, including the rising of several landmark buildings and skyscrapers. I wonder what this view looks like from Sentosa today.
These photos were taken by my parents using what was probably a point-and-shoot Nikon analog camera. I did some quick re-touching in Photoshop of the digital scans of the negatives, which had, unfortunately deteriorated with age and humidity.
To end this post:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
~ Auguries of Innocence, William Blake