Archive for November 2008

I am mourning

November 30, 2008

for a girl my age I’ve never met but have briefly corresponded a few years ago. This morning, I felt the blood draining from my face and the goosebumps all over my body when I read about her passing. The whole of today I kept thinking about her, the fear and desperation she’d have felt in those hours and days, the pain and agony, being alone and scared. I still can’t believe she is gone. All because of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Two on a journey

November 26, 2008

I got back from London yesterday afternoon after nearly breaking my bank account with a weekend of sinful spending. H and I went to check out this new megamall in west London which was supposed to be as big as 64 football fields. And then things just kinda spiralled out of control from there. I liked everything I tried on and this, fuelled by a desperate need to build up a decent winter wardrobe, turned me into a crazy shopaholic!

Being away though, is fantastic, as it really becomes crystal clear to me what I actually love and loathe. Well for example, I enjoyed the girly time together with H, who lives with another girl in a two-bedroom flat. We had a wonderful meal the first night I arrived at the famous roast duck restaurant, chatting about boyfriends and catching up on everything else.

I told her it’s been more than a week since R has moved into the new house with me and with the cooker, fridge and TV up and running, it’s starting to feel more like home. However, I am still not used to sharing my space and bed with somebody else and do feel a little bit stifled. There are many nights I toss and turn in bed because I am aware there is him beside me and I am just lying there hearing him breathe and waiting for him to snore.

I didn’t have such problems when we went on holidays where we slept next to each other for up to weeks. But this is different. This is not a holiday but reality for us. It’s about waking and sleeping at different hours because we work different hours, about not seeing each other for most part of the day and sometimes we only have time to say hi and bye.

I don’t think either of us feel very comfortable yet and we will need time to adjust to living together, although sometimes I wonder if that is really possible? On the day we moved in, I put away all the food and pots and pans in the kitchen cupboards and showed R where everything had to be stored. He said I had OCD. I am annoyed when he leaves the dirty dishes in the sink for more than a few hours. He said I had OCD. And then before I shared this with H, she told me her boyfriend thinks she has OCD!

What’s it with dirty and disorganised boys who think all neat and tidy girls have OCD? It’s them who have horrible hygiene and habits! That was why it was nice to spend time with H – we keep the place clean and organised and we know it’s perfectly right for us to do so! I miss living with girls!

Anyway, what I also enjoyed apart from dressing up and going shopping (it’s always fantastic to shop with girlfriends), is the rainy-day-stay-at-home-hair-dyeing-experience and stuffing-your-face-silly-with-mince-pie day. Basically, we just dyed each other’s hair and ate mince-pies that morning.

London is a great city which continues to charm me since the first day I set my eyes on it nearly 10 years ago. It’s vibrant, it’s different, it’s inspiring, it’s exciting, it’s special BUT it is too busy and I wouldn’t want to live in it or near it. That I think, would eventually erode the love I have for the city.

I have grown to love living in the quiet suburbs near a relaxed, compact city like Cardiff. I have no desire to live on one of those inner-city streets with long endless terraced houses where you get lost because every street looks the same. I love it that when and if I want to take a breather I can just walk into the fields, pass the horses and sheep, climb a hill and have the whole village at the bottom of my feet within 20 minutes.

People always tell me I come from Singapore which is so crowded and busy and I shouldn’t find places like London and HK claustraphobic. R tells me I would be bored in the village but I haven’t really been. I don’t know. It’s strange. I like it. I feel right at home here in the village, but I need to get used to feeling right at home with R.

Potential advertiser on this blog

November 20, 2008

I was slightly flattered when I got an email yesterday from a Mr HW who said he was interested in advertising on this blog. But it sounded too random and unconvincing that it set my alarm bells ringing.

He claimed he worked for a print label company in the UK and would like to reach out to the UK market. Unfortunately I think the only person in the UK who is reading my blog is R, and I don’t think R would ever order enough labels to keep this company going.

Also, he had sent me a message from a gmail account instead of a company email address. He also didn’t have a telephone number but listed his Skype ID instead.

It all smelt a little bit fishy and after discussing about this with R, we googled Mr HW (I love Google!), and found out he has left plenty of other similar messages on other blogs. I have no idea how this scam works but it has all the right ingredients (flattery and offer of cash) to trap unsuspecting victims, who may believe their blogs are truly fabulous and worth advertising on.

My advice: Go ahead and lap up his praises, it’s fake but it’s free! Anything more, you’d end up having to pay for it, in cash or in experience.

英国。老人

November 17, 2008

下午,下起了小雨。给学生上完了第二堂中文课,我在附近的饼家买了一个面包,边吃边往市区走。人来人往的街上,我看见他正吃力地前进。

有人撑伞快步走开不要挡着他,有人跨过地上一滩滩雨水不要溅到他。他穿着雨衣,坐在轮椅上,瘦弱的双手努力地推动着轮子。

我放慢脚步偷偷地在一旁注意他。他一脸皱纹,下巴长着银白色的胡子。雨衣,轮椅,双手和双脚都湿了。

我看不下去,撇开犹豫,走过去问他:“你需要我帮你一把吗?” 我等着他说不,他却出乎意料地回答好。他把手放在腿上,我握紧把手推着他走。“我要到室内菜市场。”他对我说。我回答好。“我妨碍你办事吗?” 他问。“不会,我也要往那个方向走。” 我回道。

推他一点不费力气,证明他有多么薄弱。没两下子,市场到了。他把双手摆回轮子上,向我道谢。这就是英国的老人。自立顽强,孤独寂寞。极少埋怨,默默承受。偶尔有人伸出温暖的双手,足以为他们带来灿烂的微笑。

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It was a drizzly afternoon when I left my student’s home after our second Mandarin lesson. I popped into a nearby bakery to get a pastry for lunch and headed into town. On the busy street, I noticed that he was struggling to move forward.

Some people with their brollies briskly stepped aside to get out of his way. Others carefully avoided splashing him with the puddles. Dressed in his raincoat, he sat on his wheelchair, painstakingly propelling himself forward with his puny arms.

I slowed down to observe him. He had silver stubble and a wrinkled face. His raincoat, wheelchair, arms and legs were soaking wet.

I couldn’t bear to watch him exert himself so I put aside my hesitation and approached him. “Do you need a hand?” I was prepared for him to say no, but it came as a surprise when he replied yes.

He placed his arms on his legs and I grabbed the handles to push him along. “I’m going to the indoor market,” he said. Ok, I replied. “Am I holding you up?” he asked. “No, actually I am going toward the same direction.”

It didn’t require much effort to push his wheelchair, which goes to show how light and frail he was. Within a few minutes, we’d arrived at the market. He regained control of the wheels and said thank you to me.

Such is the portrait of the elderly in the UK. Independent and resilient. Lonely and alone. They don’t moan or complain, they just get on with life. And when a random stranger decides to lend them a helping hand, that’s enough to brighten up their faces.

Period manners

November 14, 2008

hat

I was walking down the street this morning when I passed an elderly man coming my way. I smiled at him when our eyes met and he nodded and touched the brim of his hat.  It’s such gentlemanly etiquette and I love it.

Cinderella and her Pumpkin

November 11, 2008

When it was Halloween and pumpkins were in abundance, I wanted to get one to make pumpkin soup. But R told me to wait till Halloween was over when all the shops would knock down the prices of pumpkins.

I don’t know what possessed me to believe him but I did and when I went to the supermarket on 1 November, there was not one single pumpkin in sight as everything was sold out! I could have killed him if I had not found a stall in an indoor market which had a steady supply of pumpkins.

Pumpkin ingredients

After researching around for different recipes for pumpkin soup, I decided to combine a few and call it my own Spicy Pumpkin Soup. I like chunky soups so I added diced potatoes and onions for that extra bite and texture.

I was glad I included the garlic and coriander when I blended the pumpkin, as that really gave the soup a delightful aroma. The curry powder and chilli also complemented the sweet pumpkin flesh, giving it a unique tang.

This is not a difficult recipe though the preparation does take a while. Be warned that pumpkins are very hard and hacking it can be a nightmare if you do not have a large knife.

Having said that, I must add that it’s definitely worth trying out, because you’d be very impressed by the outcome! R slurped up two helpings and said it was “restaurant quality”. And I was amazed I could actually do decent soups! Perfect for those cold and rainy wintry evenings.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup (serves two)

INGREDIENTS

1 kg pumpkin

3 cloves garlic

1 medium red chilli

1 red onion

2 medium potatoes, peeled

120 ml single cream

lots of coriander leaves

1 tablespoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon cracked pepper

1 teaspoon mild curry powder

1 bay leaf

RECIPE

1) Remove seeds and skin of pumpkin, cut into chunks. Boil in water with a bay leaf till soft.

2) Finely dice 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic and 1 potato. Set aside.

3) Put the chilli, 2 cloves of garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper, coriander in the blender. When the pumpkin chunks are soft, drain them and put them in the blender. Whizz till smooth. If needed, add a few spoonfuls of water.

4) Heat a frying pan and stir-fry the diced potatoes, onions and garlic with olive oil and a dash of soy sauce. When the onions and potatoes are soft, transfer into a pot.

5) Add the smoothly blended pumpkin into the pot, stir in the cream and bring the mixture to a boil.

6) Add more salt or water if need be. Serve with fresh coriander, a dash of cream and crusty bread.

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No whizz-kid

November 10, 2008

Weather: 12C, Rain

After the disastrous canoeing trip in July where I ended up in the water, I skipped the next bi-monthly activity of paintballing in September. When R came home and developed a few bruises from where the balls hit him, I was glad I did not go.

For November, the guys from the hospital where R works at decided on indoor go-karting. Since I’ve tried it before (it was another disaster where my brakes failed and I crashed into a row of stationary go-karts), and there seemed to be minimal pain and risks involved (hmmm..), I decided to join in.

As usual I was the only girl but it didn’t bother me much. I picked my lucky number ‘8’, donned my kid-size overalls, chose my helmet and stylishly hopped into my go-kart ala Lewis Hamilton style, roaring to go.

It was only when the others have taken off that I realised my legs were too short and could not reach the pedals. I meekly alerted the staff to my embarrassing problem and he was kind enough to bring me a cushion to prop me forward.

For much of my time on the tracks I was driving like a L-plate idiot, keeping close to the inner lane at a very slow speed, letting the others whizz by. Though my confidence picked up after some laps and I got used to driving the go-kart, I kept reminding myself not to get carried away as the last thing I wanted was to crash and make a fool of myself.

In addition, with no rear or side mirrors, it was hard to see where the other go-karts were and I was terrified that if I occupied the middle of the lane they would come too close to my vehicle at ridiculous speeds.

No prizes for guessing who came in last for each race – all the other three go-karts would sort of arrive at the pit at the same time and I would still be somewhere out there trying to make it to the finish line.

Still my objective that evening wasn’t to win but not to crash or get injured, and apart from a reckless driver who bumped me from behind, I did not get into any accidents. Hell, I couldn’t have with the way and the speed I was driving!

Everyone of us got to go at least 20 laps over a 2 hour period, racing different drivers each time. I was relieved I did not make it to the semi-finals because the steering was very heavy and vibrated a lot. I had to use a lot of force to hold it down and control where I was going, so I was happy to take off my gear and relax to watch the better guys race.

Not surprisingly, the next day I developed severe muscle aches in my biceps, triceps and check this out – my deltoid muscle, the area connecting my arm to my chest. My right wrist also hurt. Strangely, though it did not feel as strenous as paddling down the river when I was driving, I seemed to have developed aches in the same body parts as I did after canoeing.

Sadly, the experience thoroughly exposed all the flaws of my non-existent driving skills, highlighting my desperate lack of control over a potentially lethal machine on the road. Unfortunately the only way to get around this problem and my phobia of driving among many cars is simply more practice and to be WITH the many cars.

Unless I am willing to rely on public transport for the rest of my time here, which is not going to happen because it is dreadfully unrealiable, I am going to need to buckle up and buck up very soon.