Thursday, January 24, 2013

The good, the bad, the sad (and often weird) things

1. It is so safe that it borders on ridiculous. I can go for a movie on my own at 9 pm and walk back home past midnight, about 15 minutes away and I'm no longer even aware of it. It lets me sleep with less worry and give the kid some breathing space when we are out instead of being ├╝ber clingy mum. (Good)

2. No one says 'that is / is not possible. Just 'can' or 'cannot'. Almost as if the heat has sapped the need for longer sentences or proper phrasing out of them. It's colloquial singlish we are adjusting our ears to. I find myself talking in this strange clipped tongue to taxi drivers / the cleaner/ security guards/ shop assistants. (Weird) And my son no longer sighs and says 'oh dear'. (Sad)

3. The MRT and bus system is super efficient and clean. All countries that have an underground train system please take lessons. It has plastic wipeable seats instead of the rat poo and vomit stained cloth seats that London had. No one eats or drinks on the tube - just plain sensible as an idea (and also the law I think). It's airconditioned. And you can make phone calls and use the internet all the way down there. (Good)

4. The medical system is still a bit of an unknown for me. As previous posts indicate we have made multiple trips to a & e, had an overnight hospital stay and had to see an orthopaedic doctor and a dermatologist in the 4 months since we got here. The tropical bugs and humid air have a whole host of new bugs that we are reacting to. And each time it's a couple of hundred dollars and more at the private doctors we visit. We have easier access to private doctors (i.e. no referral from a GP first) but they have no sense of time so the first appointment of 8am is given to 4 people and then 8.30 to another 4 and no one takes the allotted 7 minutes so at any given point of time there is over an hours delay. I have found this at every (4) doctors I have been to see. There is also a tendency to over medicate. It's making me appreciate the 'heal thyself (unless dying)' philosophy that the NHS has and that I cribbed about for so long. I haven't figured this out yet so I'm being generous in my marking (Average to bad)

5. The weather is still divine. In fact this is the winter season so there are frequent storms and leaping over grilled storm drain inside out condo is our favourite pastime. I'm used to the sun so have stopped saying stupid things like 'let's go outside, it's sunny at last'. I have lost my obsession with watching the weather on the news (sad). I'm never prepared for showers as I still haven't given in and bought an umbrella and the the only real pain is impossibility of getting a taxi when it does rain (very bad). Also all our shoes need a bit of regular TLC to avoid the mould (bad). And we have plenty of shoes we no longer wear as it is just too hot for closed shoes. I am officially a flip flop creature. (Very good)

Next 5 in a few days.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Life puzzle

Our one time nanny and her partner moved from Australia four odd years ago to experience the London life. I met them for dinner recently while they were here on vacation and learnt that they have recently made plans to go and live in America for a few years. It made me think about how differently we each think/ experience life from each other. Some people thrive on the experience of seeking new things ever so often while others seek their 'home' - and build houses, careers, families and friends around that one place for as long as they possibly can.

Neither of these things are a pro or a con. They are merely expressions of personality and level of risk aversion and making the best life wherever we can. Some say people who perpetually move or think about it all the time are usually dissatisfied with their lives and therefore looking for something that does not exist. The other argument is that people who carve out their lives in one place are completely content and find other ways to make their lives interesting. Turning that on its head - some people are too risk averse to try new things while some people thrive on their adventures and lead incredibly interesting lives living and experiencing new things often.

Disclaimer: sometimes people have no choice. This is not about them. This is about people in a similar situation as us - working families with the choice or the possibility of a choice.

In our family I am the one more likely to want/ seek something/where new whereas V is more the guy willing to take the risk but only a well calculated and thought out one. Basically I was thinking about Singapore 3 years ago and it's only after 2 of those years that V turned to the same page. Luckily we seem to both be adventure seekers (or maybe we had just never found any one place we can imagine living in forever?).

Much like the beginning of our lives together in London, this move has been an adventure. An exploration of food, family, people and a culture new to us. Every minute of the last 3.5 months has been as expected 'interesting'. I use that word with caution as for me it usually signifies 'I don't like it but I don't want to be impolite'. In this case that is not true. There are things I do not like (and I'll get to those soon enough) but in the main this has been a fairly successful move. And every new thing has been interesting.

I'm hoping to gather my own thoughts about the city and specifically our move over the next few days. And then blurting them out right here, to you my lovely, entirely silent, long suffering audience.

In the meanwhile I ask you this: which one are you - the experience seeker or the ever content 'I have found my spot in the world' person???

Monday, January 14, 2013

Last of the lot

This is the new bookshelf, bought here in Singapore on one of the many weekends we were out hunting for furniture. It's being used to replace the lovely Lombok dark one we left behind (exhibit 1 in this series). It's lighter coloured wood goes better with the decor we chose in this house and also works well with the limited light we have here.

What I love about it most is that the side is a bookcase too - a bit different to anything we've owned so far and useful in this particular spot, two steps up from the living to dining room. We were struggling with that space, not big enough for a desk or sideboard and big enough not to ignore. Now we can see books from the living room and the dining room. My two in one solution. This bookshelf took a minute to buy - we both saw it and said 'thats it' simultaneously. It has turned out to be a great flag in no mans land!

The very end of this edition of 'my house'.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Today's bookshelf

Belongs to the kid; matches the white - green bed he sleeps on. All from a company called Aspace in the UK. Good stuff but terrible customer service/ delivery as I remember it. Fits about 80% of his books mainly because he insists his abacus must go in there instead of the toy basket.

The green drawer has arts and crafts things, a drum and bags of animals to play farm/ pet/ name the animal games.

I would show you the rest the of his room but I'm guessing from the viewing rate of this blog that you would rather poke your eyes out with a drumstick. Also this is all about bookshelves and we have one more to go.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The stack

Very few things in life give me absolute joy. Books do. Absolute joy. And these two bookshelves make my book gazing ever so enjoyable.

I saw this a fair few years ago on an American website but they didn't ship internationally. So I continued to hunt and finally found someone who imported them. It became my birthday gift. When I say given what I really mean is that I had to do the research, order, chase the delivery and then say thank you to the man paying. Part of that deal was that I could buy 70 new books to fill it. Which I did in no time at all.

They look like a stack of books but in reality it's small removable (but not adjustable) shelves which hold up about 5 books each.

About a year later the stack on the floor was growing and we bought another. These are from a store on Shoreditch (even saying that name makes me miss East London) which orders them from Italy. They took about 6 weeks from order to delivery. Of course soon after our second purchase the reliable John Lewis brought out a knock off for a third of the price.

These are now in our home in Singapore, sitting patiently in the living room. The books are well thumbed and a bit yellowing but each one is a keeper.

I often think, and am advised by disbelieving friends, that I should invest in a kindle and stop killing every forest on earth. But my heart cannot bear the thought. The sight of these two majestic book towers brings me an indescribable happiness that I am unwilling to trade for an electronic reader. Yet.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Inside stories

Many years ago I'd find myself on the top deck of a red bus between Hackney and the Docklands every weekday. It was never too late. I'd finish work at five and choose the one long bus method because the shorter two train method was too sardine can stressful and being at the start of the route meant I always always got a seat. I'd usually have my head in a book and an iPod headphones in my ears.

On wintery London evenings though I would inevitably put the book away and gaze out. As the bus slowly trundled along I could see lights in living rooms and bedrooms being turned on as families came home and settled in for long nights against the cold. Fireplaces being lit, Christmas trees being decorated, heads bent over school books at desks and 'tea' being eaten at dining tables - just a few of the thousands of little household snapshots being played out in everyday life. I always found these scenes heartening, the hunkering down at home, the ordinariness of these moments, the camaraderie of family and friends. Sunshine in gloom.

As the winter went by and as these observations continued day after day it went from just a snapshot to noticing smaller details when buses stopped at crossings or stops. And I was always interested in what types of bookshelves or style of decor I could spot. This became a little game and I soon adjudged one particular house from amidst a row of Victorian terraces as the one with the best taste. No scientific data or objective-ness went into this game. I liked that I could see a wall of wooden built bookshelves on the far wall of a small living room filled to the brim with books.

It was my winner and I admired it for three winters in a row.

It always made me think about my own home and what someone would think could they look into the high floor of an apartment block from a mythical giant bus. I guess I would have liked someone to appreciate my own bookshelves and collection. And here I'm asking for some Internet love people. I'm going to post a picture of our few bookshelves, one each day. Tell me what you think - scathing thoughts about my choice of books, gorgeous lines of solid wood, missing tomes you believe every house should have. Whatever. Just say yay or nay. Or just say hello, happy new year to you

This is bookshelf One. My second furniture love and the prize possession we bought when we bought our own home. We have left it for our tenants and someday I have every intention of claiming it back for myself. It lived next to our dining table (picture one) but was moved into the living room before the house was shown to prospective tenants (picture two). I think I'd like to place it in my bedroom some day, an imaginary fabulous large bedroom with a seating area in it.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The fall

My mum fell down yesterday. Hit her head twice against the giant pizza oven wall, minuscule fracture on right hand and serious bruising on left arm. In fact left arm was in so much pain that after round one of doctor, where he bandaged her right hand and put it in a sling, she came home and went back. Her pain threshold is very high so she must have been in excruciating pain. This time she had a CT scan and there are no breaks but it seems she has pulled everything possible in her left arm to the extreme. So she's at home and on doctors orders to stay in bed. Painkillers twice a day and rest rest rest. Not easy for a workaholic. Hopefully by Wednesday she will be up and about and racing around like her usual self.

Sitting so far away I can't do much but Skype with my dad and boss my brother around into looking after them (which he is). But I can and am thinking of her constantly and sending her all my good health waves and love.

What a start to the new year.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Beholder, meet beauty

In spring last year V and I went out for dinner one weekend sans kid. While kid slept under babysitters supervision we went to eat somewhere fancy near Regents Street. Of course it was all last minute (and we got lucky with our babysitter) and so without reservation and of course we got turned away.

So we decided to walk to Soho in search of a non reservation type cheaper eatery. It was on this walk that we found ourselves on a road with galleries and jewellers, the shop facades exuding a air of exclusivity and great expense. We stopped outside one gallery where this red yellow curly-wurly glass sculpture caught my eye and I took this picture. I had two thoughts at that minute: 1. the piece was particularly ugly and a waste of resources. I was going through my we waste a lot, lets give it up for the less fortunate phase.
2. It looked like a lot of work and where the hell would you put such a gigantic piece anyway?

And then today I went for breakfast with my sister in law here in Singapore. Imagine my surprise at seeing a similar piece in blues and greens hanging in the foyer of Scotts Square! Clearly this kind of thing is popular. And it doesn't look half bad hanging up. Now we know where these things go.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Better late than never?

In the excitement of the move and the tiresome process of moving I didn't manage to do anything creative for our Christmas tree this year. I had lots of ideas, none of which involved a real or plastic tree, but sadly they all seemed outside the grasp of my long days.

My kid however has been asking for a tree for months now and although he is not yet enamoured or understanding of the whole festival I thought it would be nice for us to do something.

So at Hong Kong airport in early December when I spotted a wooden frame tree at Muji I thought it might be good project for us to do together. It's a tiny tree but we spent two afternoons painting each part and decorating the tiny wood decorations and putting ribbon around the base. We made an origami star which lasted a week till Thomas the train ran over it 'by mistake'. It slots together which means that in theory we can use this again. I do wonder if we will though. That would be the environmentally sound thing to do. Maybe in addition to something next year.

So since the second week of December this tiny tree has sat on our entrance table next to a bowl of keys and post. And now when I try to remove it with the excuse that Christmas has passed for now SOMEONE has a HUGE problem. Wonder how long it shall take us to convince him that it's time? Easter is my bet.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A whole new Wednesday

New Year's Eve passed nearly unnoticed in our house, not at all what I expected of our first one in Singapore. But while v and kid slept I stood on our airy balcony for a while and enjoyed the sound of cheers and fireworks in the distance. And also the sound of silence. I read into the early hours pleased with my speed and the book. Not what I expected but quite adequate a turn into the new year.

After a busy first day of the year it's all back to normal today. Montessori is open and long office hours are expected. I've had a coffee with friends before their flight to London and after a round of vegetable, coffee bean and fruit shopping I'm having an early lunch at the Orange Thimble in Tiong Bahru. It's a lovely little art cafe on a quiet road. Unassuming and with a limited menu of sandwiches and breakfast foods it's walls are adorned with art for sale. Quirky stuff and not for my walls but interesting to look at. After this it's off to pick up kid and have an afternoon of arts and crafts. Apparently we 'must do painting, mama'. So long as it ain't on the walls and I can lie on the cool floors while you indulge your inner artist, sure!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

All about December

1. Every weekend and weekday was packed with things in December. Mostly good but busy making.
2. Sadly one of those weekends saw me in the A&E at 7am with serious enough allergies to be given steroid shots to keep my airways open. The rest of that weekend passed in a drowsy blur and the week after in recovering from it.
3. Then we went to India. Where thanks to a throat infection (kid) and milder allergy again (me) we stayed home or close to home for most of the week.
4. We sat in the brilliant Delhi winter sunshine and ate lunch everyday. Also watched first hand the news of the Delhi gang rape and the sudden turning point that this one incident has made in the collective conscience. I'm not convinced either at the momentum lasting or the changing of the Indian mindset or judicial process too quickly. There are so many thoughts and actions needed and I feel ill equipped (as if I will be told I'm not allowed them as I don't know the reality because I've lived away too long) talking about any opinions. But opinions, yes I do have them.
5. We went to the rail museum twice. Once with my cousin and his gorgeous family. The kids loved each other and the trains. It was super to see them and my niece and nephew who are a laugh a minute.
6. The trains, I'm sad to say, are a shadow of their former selves. Especially the beautiful royal carriages. They seem to just be lying there rusting, covered in dust and totally unloved and were just too unsafe to climb into. This is in direct contrast to the many many times we went as kids and scrambled all over them, when they were pristine. And not just in my memory.
7. The highlight was the little toy train ride you can take for rs. 20. We loved it. In fact the second time we went we bought enough tickets to go around twice. And the second time there was just us on the train. Such a treat!
8. Also the trains may be falling to bits but all the people who worked there that we met were lovely, helpful and knowledgable. Not what I expected (cynical me) and almost made up for the terrible condition of museum.
9. And the day before we left Delhi I met up with two sets of people - school friends and college friends. Was a super hectic but super fun day and even all the traffic sitting didn't bother me one bit.
10. We had two unexpected days in Calcutta (Calcutta, always Calcutta) takes on in the end. Ate out at a nice restaurant called 'On Track', chosen specifically so that our train obsessed son could clamber over the giant engine and carriage to his hearts content. The food wasn't bad either.
11. Also met my other family (my parents very best friends) who had all gathered under one roof after years and years. My cousins with partners and friends and aunt and uncle - was a super super reunion that I got to be part of if only for a bit! Hope it's not another decade before we all meet again.
12. Celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary on Christmas Day. Have to say it was one of the worst and I simmered with rage and anger at V all day and on the flight back that evening. I'd rather not say why. He is still trying to make it up to me, unsuccessfully. He has all of this new year to try.
13. And here we are, awake this morning in 2013, hoping its going to be a better year. Hope it's a good one peeps. Love and all that good stuff, 38in2013