Grace Ma, writer and editor
On the sofa with

Lockdown Landscape from Singapore

June 22, 2020
Grace Ma, writer and editor



Q: How did you find lockdown? Who were you locked down with? 

I’ve been working from home for over 10 years so the adjustment to the lockdown wasn’t too hard. But introvert as I am, after over 40 days, I started to miss face-to-face meetings and attending events, where I could get out of the house and have a breather. Otherwise, it was swell hunkering down with my husband and two teenagers and telling the time of the day solely from the children’s incessant “What’s for lunch/dinner/tea??” and sunset views from my apartment windows. 

In Singapore, we refer to the lockdown as a “circuit breaker”. It started on April 7 and was supposed to end May 4, but was extended to June 18. Almost everyone was working from home except those in essential services. Restaurants were only open for takeaway or delivery. We could pop out for essential errands such as buying groceries or seeing a doctor, and we could also do exercises in our neighbourhood. But once we were out of the house, it was mask-on and 1-metre social distancing time. 


Q: What were you reading, watching and working on? 

I slid down the rabbit hole of Korean dramas after resisting them for years (thanks to Netflix and girlfriends gushing about the latest hearthrobs on social media). They were strangely cathartic for these times, where the mood-o-meter swung between joy at the quietness and slow-down to sudden unexplainable despair.

I dug up my stash of Bill Bryson’s humorous travelogues too, such as  Notes from a Small Island  and  I’m a Stranger Here Myself.  Bryson’s  brilliance in elucidating facts in a witty manner always makes me feel more light-hearted yet more informed after reading one of his books. His latest  The Body: A Guide for Occupants  is fascinating despite being chock-full of facts on the human anatomy (and I’m no science geek either). I also learned new recipes and am proud to have levelled up my repertoire to include crab bee hoon (white rice noodles), steamed tapioca cake and a Basque burnt cheesecake – dishes I’d never have tried because they had looked so impossible.  


Q: How do you think the design sector will pivot post-Covid? Has anything good come from it? 

Tradition, culture, locality and sustainability will be valued more than the cost of materials used in making a product or designing a space. While these terms have been bandied about a lot in recent years, I feel we haven’t thought about it as deeply as now when there are travel restrictions and difficulties in sourcing. The pandemic has also deepened a longing for stories of resilience and triumph; pieces and spaces that extol these will be very much treasured.   


Q: If you could travel anywhere today, where would it be and why? 

Hong Kong. I want to see my relatives, soak in the atmosphere of my favourite city, and stock up on scallop and shrimp roe noodles as well as homemade XO sauce, which have been depleted double-quick in this lockdown.  


Q: What was the first thing you did when lockdown ended? 

We had friends over for dinner, durians and mahjong!