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Taste of S'pore life for Britain's royal couple
Publication Date : 13-09-2012
From playing capteh to tossing ball with children, Britain's visiting young royal couple got a little taste of Singapore life yesterday.
Strathmore Green - a Housing Board estate in Queenstown - was where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were shown how most Singaporeans live.
Some 1,000 people had gathered for some royal-spotting and cheered when the pair showed up at 2:45pm, the Duchess clad in a skirt and blouse by Singapore label Raoul.
Prince William and his wife Catherine strolled the estate grounds with Tanjong Pagar GRC MPs Indranee Rajah and Chia Shi-Lu and Housing Board chairman James Koh.
Residents who had been assembled by the organisers did taiji, exercised at a fitness corner and mingled at a playground.
The couple spent 20 minutes chatting with residents. Prince William was even given a crash course on capteh, a traditional game involving keeping a weighted shuttlecock in the air with kicks.
"He was very game, and managed to hit three times. He also used his thigh, which is quite an advanced move, if you ask me," said Dr Chia.
Singapore is the first stop in their nine-day trip to Southeast Asia and the Pacific, which is part of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Twenty minutes later, they were off to Rainbow Centre nearby, a school for children with autism or multiple disabilities.
There, the Duke and Duchess split up - he attended a physical education class while she watched an art therapy lesson.
The Duchess, who studied art history in university, had requested to observe an art therapy programme, which Rainbow Centre offers. While she joined the children in painting, he played ball with a class of seven- and eight-year-olds with autism.
The children's teacher, Revathi Perumal, 25, was impressed with his attentiveness. "He seemed actually interested in how the children learn and develop. He had no airs about him at all," she said.
Earlier in the day, the couple visited Gardens by the Bay, where more than 3,000 people had staked out for a glimpse of the friendly royal duo - some as early as 5am when the gardens opened.
Undergraduates Grace Lee and Joy Lim, both 19, were holding a large, homemade glittery sign that said "Wills and Kate", referring to the couple's nicknames.
"We stayed up all night to make the sign and get here early because this is a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity and something I'll tell my grandkids about," said Lee, who was there at 7am.
The Duchess' choice of outfit for the garden tour? A white broderie anglaise suit by one of her favourite British labels, Alexander McQueen.
In between popping into the Cloud Forest dome and a walk around the Supertrees, they spent around 20 minutes shaking hands and chatting with well-wishers.
Among those in the crowd were pupils from the Tanglin Trust School, some of whom kept up a steady chant of "Will, you're brill! Kate, you're great!"
He might be used to such mass adoration, but when the Duke was asked by one young fan what superpower he would choose if he could have one, he tellingly picked invisibility.
When the fan posed the same question to the Duchess, she said: "I'd pick invisibility too, so that William can't sneak up on me."
Yesterday's programme included a visit to the Rolls-Royce facility in Seletar, and an evening reception at Eden Hall, the residence of the British High Commissioner.
The Duchess picked a dress by British designer Erdem for the reception, and Singaporean Jimmy Lam was one of the few to see it up close. The 49-year-old won a local photography contest organised by the British High Commission to capture the best of Britain in Singapore, which allowed him to meet the couple last night.
The freelance photographer said the Duke had wanted to see his winning picture, which was of a rugby tackle between two boys from St Andrew's School.
"I appreciated that he spoke first, because I was very nervous about what I would say to him after shaking his hand," said Mr Lam.
"But they were both charming and personable and made me feel at ease."