The tableaux in the lobby of Singapore’s Shangri-La hotel features a belligerent ox amid pink cherry blossoms, all fashioned out of chocolate. It’s likely to be dismantled tomorrow which is a pity as its smell is irresistibly cheerful.

Today (Friday) is the last day of the festive season and Chap Goh Meh, normally riotously celebrated with firecrackers in Malaysia, is met here with only a stoic silence.

Firecrackers, or anything louder than a lion dance have been banned for decades.

Indeed, it’s been replaced by silence in Singapore on a sunny and very breezy day that’s left me desperate for a column-idea.

I’m stuck without a plan. Three years ago, I might have stepped out for inspiration through a moody cigarette. But this is Singapore where cigarettes are viewed with as much benevolence as Pol Pot did his countrymen. More to the point, I am long past the habit and, instead, settle for a scrutiny of the newspapers.

The daily horoscope seems a good place to start. Off the bat, I don’t believe in horoscopes but that’s just me: I am a Pisces and we’re sceptics.

The filing on Pisces offers slim pickings. I’m informed I have “valuable diplomatic skills” and had a great opportunity to play “the peacemaker” among people who are “falling out.” At the same time, I am sternly warned: “Don’t let your thin skin hold you back.”

Well, my daughter, Raisa, is also a Pisces so maybe it’s her the post is aimed at. Still, this zodiac stuff can be mystifying: It’s like being inspired only to be disappointed at the end.

Put it this way. It’s not unlike meeting a scientist-looking fellow who tells you that he’s working towards eliminating “all cancers.” Just when you begin feeling impressed, he continues quietly: “Then I plan to move on all Virgos.”

Grim and stern, I tell you!

I felt better after reading Cancer’s fate. “You have a simple choice,” it began in no-nonsense fashion. “Either throw yourself into whatever’s coming your way, or you may stay on the sidelines.”

I say, this isn’t good for the average Cancer-professing fellow about to be rendered pandemically-unemployed and to harbour suicidal inclinations.

The fateful message ends on a killer note, the sort of stuff that pushes one to snapping point.

In short, if he did not throw himself into the path of a speeding bus previously, he definitely would have after reading this. “However, if you choose to stay aloof, circumstance may well force your hand.”

Pity the poor sucker born under the Aries sign, which comes with a chilling warning. “Both at home and at work, expect the unexpected!” it screams with a suicide-bomber’s fanaticism.

We know what time that is because that time is nigh. It’s the still unexpected but oh-so-friendly e-mail from the Nigerian prince whose inheritance had hitherto been unfairly delayed for lack of a man of integrity and, more importantly, a bank account.

There is also a pious bromide to the effect that “it is difficult to erase past memories.”

You think?

It seems to have as much to do with the typical
Aries person as the price of mothballs.