Bitter Leaves

By Tabatha Stirling

A novel that will bring you to the dark heart of Singapore's maid culture

Sunday, 7 August 2016

On The How's and The Why's (Part One)

Hello, Darlings!

Firstly, TWENTY-EIGHT PERCENT!!!    I can't thank you all enough.  And, I haven't even started on the serious schmoozing and boozing yet.   

I have been asked a few times 'How' I write and 'Why' I wrote about the subject of maid abuse.

The 'Why' is easy.  My first experience of the FDW (Foreign Domestic Worker) apartheid started within a few weeks of arriving in Singapore.  My son, Teddy, was only 3 at the time and we had been told that employing a Helper was de rigueur in Asia so I set about looking for an agency.  

I have been lucky enough to live in other countries where housekeepers are employed and when we were growing up in Somerset the lovely Gladys used to come and 'do' for my parents and even would dress up in black and white to hand out canapes & pour wine at their very boisterous parties.

But I had only experienced these things through a child's eyes.  Eyes that settle on everything but stay on nothing that doesn't affect them personally.

So Singapore was an eye opener.  Suddenly, I was 'making house' as a wife and mother in Asia, a confusing and extraordinary continent.  The graph of my life surged upwards to Grown Up in less than a week.

I found the Busy Hands Maid Agency* at the top of one of the towers on Orchard Road.  I was surprised how shabby it looked but even more to see ten or so young women sitting on seats lining the grey, institutional walls.  Most of the stared at their hands or spoke cautiously out of the corner of their mouths.  I took Teddy out of his pushchair and walked to the reception desk, smiling awkwardly. It was a most bizarre moment and I felt frozen in time as if I should be expecting a civil rights march.

Then Teddy, Toddler Explorinaire, broke free and ran for the door.  I was too slow but this gorgeous young woman, with hair like a midnight waterfall and a smile you could pay your rent with grabbed his arm gently and brought him back over to me.

And that was it.  I knew her minutes later as Clarita.  Weeks later as Clarie Bell and months later as my heart sister.

I miss her every single day and can't wait until we can fly her over to Scotland.

Thank you again for your pledges and if you haven't already, could you talk about the book to friends and see if they might consider making history too.  There are a few pictures below to share with you too.

Love, Tabby


*name changed*


Clarie and I sorting out brand new school supplies for her village school that was in dire need.  5-6 children sharing a pencil!


Clarie and Teddy at the Banyan Tree resort in Bintan. Bliss!

Eternal sunset over the South China Sea from our Villa.  Indescribable.

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