Pastures New


Hello all! So, clearly I haven’t posted in a long time. This is because, as you probably know, we are in London for now!

We are loving the lack of humidity, rediscovering Waitrose, and not having to pay $10 for a packet of British cereal from Cold Storage.

We miss sunshine, reasonably priced decent dim sum, and our friends in Singapore.

We are Asia-bound as much as possible, but for the time being I am keeping myself busy and have opened a new business in London: Sidekicks London Limited!Sidekicks Logo Large

We are a boutique secretarial recruitment agency dedicated to changing the world of PA recruitment  by concentrating on what matters most: placing amazing candidates with amazing clients.

For a look at what we do, please see http://www.sidekicks.london – we’re also on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’d like to get in touch with me, my new email address is jessica@sidekicks.london and our new phone number is +44(0)20 3709 5250.

Thanks again for reading and do get in touch, I would love to say hi!

Love, Jessica x

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English Girl In London


So – guess what? We are in London!

It has been fantastic so far – the weather has been unexpectedly gorgeous, and several lovely things have happened. But, all in good time – if I may, I will rewind just a week or so.

After saying our goodbyes to everyone at The Village, we packed up and flew out of Phuket into Singapore, where we were to spend an afternoon picking up our suitcases from Alex’s office and generally having a last little Asia fix before getting on our plane to London at 11.30pm that evening.

Leaving Phuket was very difficult – speeding away from the Island on the boat for the last time in a little while was quite heartbreaking, and Benjy, Stu and Scotty running Baywatch-style down the beach after the boat did little to assuage our sadness.

However, we were excited to get back to Singapore for the afternoon, and even more excited to get to London and see all our friends and family!

After an irritatingly delayed flight (thank you very much, Tiger Airways) full of very unhappy screaming babies, we were extremely pleased to arrive at Changi. Alex went straight to the office to get our suitcases and sort out some paperwork, and I very happily stayed in the cab and headed to our favourite hotel in Singapore, The Scarlet.

Now, I know I have gone on a bit about The Scarlet before, but it really is a wonderful place. And this time, they really did us proud.

The lovely manager, Henry, incredibly kindly arranged a room for us for the afternoon and evening, so that we had somewhere to put our bags, and shower and change before the flight. I cannot stress how much of a difference this made to us – it was so good to have a temporary base to put our things between flights, and the room he gave us was absolutely beautiful, as all the room as The Scarlet are.

After dumping our bags, I headed up to the Scarlet’s rooftop bar, Breeze, to have a cocktail, and to meet Nick Brown who had told us he would be there.

Imagine my delight when I stepped onto the rooftop and was greeted by a smiling waitress, who guided me over to a secluded table in the corner….which was filled with our friends!

TV Girl, The Banker, Banker’s Wife, PR Bunny, The German, his lovely French Girlfriend, and of course good old Nick Brown – what a lovely treat.

Alex arrived before long, and we all sat and had a few drinks and chatted and, before we knew it, it was suddenly an hour before we had to leave for our flight! Feeling very sad indeed, we said our goodbyes to our friends for some time – and had just enough time to snap a quick last picture of the ladies on the rooftop!

We then returned back to the room to shower and change and re-pack our suitcases as best we could, and then the porter knocked on our door and told us that it was time to leave.

We sat outside and waited for the cab – Barney, my (purely decorative) stuffed hippo which is my pet as Alex will not let me get a real pet, had a great time riding the baggage trolleys:

At Changi for the final time, we headed through passport control, had just enough time to grab a little duty free and a sandwich for the plane (I have sworn off plane food for life*) and before we knew it, we were on our way to London!

* Little known actual scientific fact: all food served on planes is actually just dust mixed with water, dyed and fashioned into the shape of real food. This is true)

 The flight was very good – comfortable, quiet, and with very friendly attendants.

After months of flying only short haul with Air Asia and Tiger, it was such a treat to fly long haul with a crew who really knew what they were doing (well done, Quantas!)

So – 5.30am local time the following morning, we stepped off the plane, onto English soil once again, and were greeted by…SUNSHINE!

This was NOT what we were expecting.

A lot of expatriates seem to develop a habit of English weather-bashing as a homesickness coping mechanism. This had affected us to such an extent that we were fully expecting grey drizzle and biting winds – so imagine our utter delight when we stepped out into one of the most beautiful English springs we had seen in a very long time!

As we headed into Central London, we felt like tourists. The sun was shining, everything looked glorious, and as we reached our hotel in South Kensington we felt even happier, because it was absolutely gorgeous!

This was to be our home for the next few weeks until we found a flat, so we were hoping that we would like it, but I was so pleased with our choice when we saw it in the flesh.

This place was a true English home-from-home hotel. It’s a small, boutiquey place (smaller than The Scarlet in Singapore) and housed in two beautiful adjoining Georgian townhouses that have been knocked into one.

The staff were so friendly and welcoming and can’t do enough to help, and the room was beautiful – lovely and light, with a gorgeous old antique half-tester canopy bed!

After I had unpacked (poor old Alex had zoomed off to the office by this point!) I jumped in a cab and head across town to the City to go and have brunch with my Daddy.

 On the way, still in tourist mode, I was snapping pictures left, right and centre from the back of the cab – everything was so beautiful!

We went past Westminster Abbey where I was stunned to see a huge line of people waiting to go in. My cab driver told me that this was because the big trees were still up in the aisle from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding – it was so exciting to see how many people wanted to go inside and have a look before they were taken down!

Once in the City, Daddy met me and took me to Carluccio’s for brunch, where we indulged in lovely coffee, and I had a beautiful French bean salad that felt like luxury simply by virtue of not being noodles. (I am sure that I will have noodle cravings before long, but for now I fully intend on embracing the best of Western food once more)

The rest of the week passed very quickly and was so lovely – Kitty and I were reunited in Henry J Beans on the King’s Road amidst rather a lot of wine, and I swore never to leave again.

We caught up with the fantastic Kat Brown who was, as ever, looking well and happy, and have generally just enjoyed being back in England again!

We also spent a wonderful first weekend back at Alex’s parents’ house in Emsworth. Emsworth is a beautiful little town on the south coast, near Chichester, and was a great place to go for our first weekend back because it is about as English as you can get.

(Photo courtesy of The Jingles, Emsworth)

We also had a fabulous Sunday roast courtesy of Alex’s mother, and snooze on the sofa for a little bit – bliss!

Then, on Monday, when we got back from Emsworth, I headed down to the other side of the south coast to Kent to see my mummy in Faversham!

Faversham was gorgeous – mummy’s garden was particularly enjoying the beautiful weather…

….as was the cat:

My long-anticipated reunion with the beautiful Jessica Rabbit wasn’t quite as I had envisaged (she looked like she couldn’t care less that I was back or not!) but it was lovely to have a cuddle with her all the same, and she was looking beautiful as always.

Finally, guess what? We’ve found a flat!

After just one day of looking, the fantastic Chris at Hastings International (clearly the best Estate Agent in London) found us the perfect home.

It’s in a beautiful little mews just off Borough High Street by London Bridge, literally thirty seconds walk from Borough Market and Alex’s favourite restaurant in London, Café Brindisa. So he’s happy.

I am happy because it is a converted warehouse in our favourite bit of London and it has beams, all things which make me smile. It also has two lovely big bedrooms, so hopefully all our friends in Singapore can come and stay (ahem…one at a time, perhaps).

 

In closing – we are both happy, safe, relaxed, and very excited about all our things arriving from Singapore, and about the next few months in general.

This summer is going to be a good one.

Lots and lots of love,

Jessy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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A Birthday, A Bug, and a Bad Case of Blogger’s Block


First things first: I am really sorry that I haven’t posted for so long. There are three reasons for this.

The first is that, with the move back to London which is imminent (this weekend) we have both been horrendously busy. At times there was so many different tasks to juggle, I felt like an Octopus.

The second is that I have actually been a bit unwell.

I felt rather horrible last week, and it got to the point where I was unable to eat for three days – for someone who loves their food, this was fairly hellish. I got myself down to the wonderful Bangkok International Hospital sharpish, and turned out I had a mild case of Dengue Fever. Fricking mosquitos.

My final reason is simple – a nasty old case of Blogger’s Block.

I shan’t call it writer’s block, because unlike my friend Kat, Times journalist extraordinaire, I am not actually a writer, merely a scribbler of crappy pictures and strange garbled, frequently over-excited text.

You know when you try to write about things but it feels that so much has happened in such a short space of time you just don’t know where to begin? Well, that’s been the case over the last couple of weeks.

I shall, however, attempt to remedy that now.

So – whizz back in time to a few weeks ago. After formally accepting Alex’s company’s offer to move back to London, everything started to happen very quickly.

We got a shipping date – the date when the packers would arrive at our apartment to pick up all our poor battered possessions and put them back on the ship back to England – and it seemed to be not far away at all! The next week was a frenzy of packing boxes, wrapping up all our possessions, and sticking myself to rolls of bubble wrap with masking tape.

I don’t mind telling you, I was pretty grumpy.

Finally the big day arrived and the packers came – two hours early, which as I am sure you will understand was highly inconvenient. I dealt with it in an admirably unflappable, calm way, by calling Kitty on the phone and bursting into a storm of toddler-like tears.

She calmed me down admirably, readjusted my wavering British stiff upper lip, and I managed to get everything packed and out of the door with the shippers roughly on time.

With that done, I breathed a sigh of relief, and turned my attention to the next most important matter in hand: finding something to wear for our leaving party!

The wonderful TV Girl and Banker’s Wife, along with a host of other friends including the lovely PR Bunny (a very sweet friend of mine who is a whizz at PR and so tiny and enthusiastic that she reminds me a little of my adored Jessica Rabbit) very sweetly threw a goodbye party with the kind assistance of the ever-present Wine Connection at Robertson Quay, as our formal goodbye to Singapore.

As I was a little frazzled from the packing, my sartorial senses were dampened slightly and I ended up choosing a strange flowered mini-dress with a tutu, but as I got out of the taxi at the Wine Connection I couldn’t have cared less what I was wearing, because I was completely overwhelmed.

The lovely girls had gone to so much trouble I nearly cried. Lots of our friends were there, the long tables were beautifully decorated with banners, balloons and glittery stars, and I was so incredibly touched.

After a glass of fizz or two to steady my nerves, I was starting to feel better – until Alex and I were ambushed by TV Girl, Banker’s Wife and the PR Bunny brandishing a huge wrapped present!

Starting to feel a bit weepy again, Alex and I opened the wrapping – and that was when I promptly burst into tears, because inside was the most beautiful frame, filled with pictures of Alex and I and all our friends during our time in Singapore. Around the frame in the mount were written messages of good luck from everyone, and in short it was one of the loveliest things I have ever received, and a totally unexpected gift.

I felt really honoured to have made such wonderful friends during our time here, and I can’t wait to come back in September for the Grand Prix and see them all again. I am a very, very lucky girl.

My last picture with Bankers’s Wife, TV Girl and PR Bunny – and I develop an appalling case of perv-face. Damnation!!

The rest of the week was spent finishing our packing and spending time with as many people as we could, until Friday rolled around far too quickly and we had to hand over the keys to our apartment.

Leaving the place for the last time was such a wrench – it made it all feel a lot more real, somehow – and even though I knew that we weren’t heading home just yet (Alex was given two weeks holiday, so we decided to go and spend it in Phuket before heading to England on the 9th of May). As we left Changi, it still felt like a big part of our life was finishing.

I’ll even miss good old Changi airport!

However, despite mixed emotions, the last week or so has been lovely.

It has been great for Alex to have a chance to truly relax, and Coconut Island has been as beautiful and perfect as always.

Our good friends Disco Boy and Party Girl, a very sweet couple, flew out from England to spend a week’s holiday with us before we return home.  Alex’s Godfather is on the island at the moment, as well, with his family, which has been really fabulous.

Also, in a last minute surprise, Alex’s friend the German Banker got a bit of massively rare time off and so at short notice flew over to join us for a few days from England too – having lots of familiar faces from home around us has been fantastic, and much sunbathing and pool antics has been taking place*

*NB: Please forgive the Stars & Stripes bikini. I tried to buy a British one to watch the Royal Wedding in, but they were all sold out – it was either that or the French flag and, as I told The Frenchman, i’d rather be a Yank than a Frog 🙂

In addition, it was also Alex’s birthday last week! He was really sad not to be at home with his brothers and Mother, but it was lovely to be out here with his Daddy.

Alex’s Daddy and I cooked up an outrageous plan to throw him a huge surprise party – a plan which I regretted heavily last week, as I had forgotten just how much planning went into these things. Last week was full of frantic last-minute preparations, all of which I conducted feeling rather ill.

When Saturday morning came round, the morning of the party, I excused myself from the Island, telling Alex that I was going shopping and then for a massage in Phuket Town, and that I would meet him at his father’s house that evening (his daddy had told him that he had booked a table at a restaurant for a few friends to celebrate his birthday that night).

I borrowed a lot of plates and cooking things from a very helpful Chef Lee at The Village, as there were quite a few people coming, and dragged myself up to Central, the shopping centre in Phuket, to get the food. By this point, I was feeling really horrendous – pouring with sweat, and very dizzy and sick. I assumed it was the heat, and because I was stressed, so after a very unenjoyable shopping trip we lugged all the food home and got cooking.

We spent the entire afternoon cooking food that was as British as possible, to make Alex feel at home – mini Yorkshire puddings with rare roast beef and horseradish cream; homemade sausage rolls with English mustard; English cheddar, parmesan and puff pastry twists – Alex’s mummy even sent me her secret Crab Dip recipe as it is one of Alex’s favourites!

Alex’s Daddy’s girlfriend and the kind maid did an absolutely sterling job of decorating the house with mountains of balloons, swathes of fairy lights and lots and lots of candles. I tied up some balloons and just generally tried not to get in the way.

By the time seven o’clock came we were all exhausted, and I was feeling progressively sicker and sicker. But we had to carry on – all the surprise guests were arriving at 7.30pm, and Alex was arriving at 8.00pm, he thought for a drink before we went out for a quiet dinner.

A cold shower and a change of clothes didn’t make me feel much better, and by the time our thirty or so guests had arrived, I was feeling decidedly rough. But as 8.00pm drew near, we all turned the lights out and crept to the front of the house, to surprise Alex as he arrived.

After a few nail-biting minutes, he finally pulled up in the taxi. As the front doors creaked open, there was a momentary hush – then someone flicked the lights on and we all screamed ‘SURPRISE!’ at the top of our voices.

Alex looked like he was going to have an actual heart attack – he went white with shock and it was probably the first time in all the time I have known him that he was lost for words. He recovered quickly, however, and made a lovely speech and then we all went to eat the food and attack a lot of cases of Veuve Clicqot, and give him his birthday cake.

At around 10.30, in a carefully orchestrated set-up, one of our guests Michael Ma, who has a chain of bars and clubs called Indochine, suggested a few drinks at the Indochine at Surin Beach. Dutifully we are murmured that it sounded like a nice idea, and so we all piled into cars and headed over to Surin.

As we walked down the steps to the beach and into Indochine, we were immediately confronted by a large seating area surrounded with balloons, with a huge projector showing a selection of Alex’s childhood photo’s! (hee hee hee). He was mortified by the pictures but very happy with the extra surprise – and when at midnight a sudden burst of fireworks lit up the beach to mark the end of his birthday, it felt like the perfect end to a good surprise party.

By this point I was feeling very strange indeed, sort of floaty and achey, and very feverish and sick.

Upon getting home I fell into bed and spent the next few days feeling awful and not being able to eat anything without being very sick. A couple of days at Bangkok International Hospital found the source of the problem – a thankfully mild case of Dengue Fever which I had caught from a mosquito bite on another island.

Thankfully as I write this I am feeling much better – it is a week later, and we are on Chrysalis anchored just off Phi Phi island.

I’m using The Frenchman’s internet dongle – it’s simply amazing that you can get internet in the middle of the sea! (and before you think; ‘oh, how rubbish, why is she on the internet when she’s on a lovely boat’ – I stupidly got rather sunburnt yesterday so I am taking some time out to do some work and write to you all).

Anyway – so that’s what has been happening.

We have managed to get some good boating time in before we leave for England, and I have a message for all of you who, like me, have had some driving test issues in the past. Drive a boat instead, much more forgiving and between this and luging, who needs a car?!

It is now Friday – we are leaving Phuket on Sunday afternoon and flying to Singapore, where we will pick up our suitcases from Alex’s office, have a last afternoon in Singapore saying our goodbyes, and then we will take the overnight flight from Changi to Heathrow.

On Monday morning we land at about 5.30am. Alex is going straight to the office whilst I will go to our hotel in South Ken – we will be living there until we can find an apartment. I plan on going to see my Daddy for brunch and then Kitty and I will have a reunion dinner in the evening, and on Friday we will hopefully have a little party and see all of our friends who we have missed so very much.

I hope that everyone is well, and I’d also like to wish everyone a very happy belated Easter!

Lots and lots of love,

Jessy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

PS: Congratulations to my little sister Abs who is moving from Cambridge to London as she has been offered a place for a Masters at UCL. All three sisters in London this year – woohoo!

PPS: Watched the Royal Wedding on BBC World from the Island – wasn’t it wonderful? Tried not to cry….very nearly succeeded 🙂

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Announcement: Life Changing News (Again!)


My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen. We have some news for you.

No, we are not getting married, having a baby, or adopting reams of children from third world countries, although that would be fun.

No – we are moving back to England, at least for the time being.

Basically, Alex has been offered a very good opportunity in London by his firm, and he simply can’t turn it down. We have discussed it ad nauseam and we have come to the conclusion that it is the best decision.

So, to summarise:

–          We will be leaving Singapore in one week’s time, and spending two weeks in Phuket before going back to London;

–          We will be back in England for an unspecified period of time.

Clearly, dear readers, you will understand that my blog cannot continue in its current form (I shan’t be English Girl In Asia any more, except when we are in Phuket!)

However, over the past few months I have grown to love writing this blog. I think it is because Alex has always steadfastly refused to buy me a cat, and blogging is clearly my cat-displacement therapy.

Therefore, I propose to continue this blog, at least for the time being. I shall blog about our remaining time in Asia; about our move back to London; about settling back in to life as a non-Expat.

If you all get bored and stop reading, my trusty little site stats will tell me, and I will simply stop writing.

Thank you for all the lovely emails and messages I have received in the course of writing English Girl In Asia – not just from family and friends, but from very nice strangers, too. I really appreciate it, and if any of you ever need any help or advice on moving to Singapore, I’m your lady. I will only charge you $100.00 an hour (that was a joke).

I am now going to leave you to go and look at all my stuff that needs to be packed back up and sent back to England, and try not to have a hissy fit.

Lots of love,

A rather exasperated Jessy xxxxxxxxxx

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Weather’s Rubbish? Go And Shoot Things!


One of my favourite things about being in Phuket is that it is very hard to have a bad old grumpy day when you wake up to a view like this:

When I am in Singapore, I am much more likely to wake up to a looming cockroach (yes, observant friends – you will notice that this is the same fiendish specimen that was in my bath the other month)

The rest of Mummy and Daddy’s stay went by very quickly – far too quickly for my liking! The weather had been pretty bad – I don’t know if you saw on the news but there was a lot of flooding in Southern Thailand and Krabi and Koh Samui in particular were, sadly, rather badly affected.  Phuket was ok, just very, VERY rainy.

So, what to do on a rainy day in the tropics? Go to the cinema? No – too cold, and the subtitles are headache-inducing. Go shopping? No, I always seem to lose huge amounts of money and only come back with one pair of knickers and a strange Asian face-pack that I have been forcibly coerced into buying by a mean bully of a sales lady.

No – sod that, we decided to go to the gun range.

Now, the shooting experience in Thailand is very different to that at home. In England, there would be all sorts of things you would need to do before you actually shoot a gun.

I am sure you would need to sign release forms, produce certificates showing that you were properly trained in not being a serial killer – that sort of thing. But in Thailand, you simply turn up, pay your money and wham, bang! You shoot! (not people, obviously, because that would be horrific and illegal. Just paper targets).

You get to choose from a huge range of guns – shotguns (complete with paper duck targets so that you can practice catching your supper) handguns and, yes – they have AK47’s!

They even take pictures of you looking cool with guns, just as an ultimate two fingers up to the UK PC brigade:

The pink cardigan sort of spoils the effect – if I had know there would be photo’s I would have worn leathers.

It’s such great fun and, rather scarily, my Daddy is actually a really good shot. I think he is a secret spy!

After getting back, tired and happy from shooting lots of bits of paper, we sat about getting ready for our evening’s entertainment – an evening at a new restaurant / circus in Phuket called Palazzo.

This circus-themed extravaganza is an amazing mix of restaurant and theatre – apparently very popular in Russia, but this was the first of its kind I had been to.

Basically, you all sit down in a beautiful replica big-top circus tent and you are entertained by a supremely talented group of actors, musicians and dancers whilst being served a delicious five-course meal.

What a freaking amazing idea!

My parents and I were joined that evening by Alex’s daddy and his lovely girlfriend. Upon drawing up to Palazzo, we were immediately impressed by the theatrical exterior, complete with long red carpet:

And the inside was even better!

I can truly say that I reverted wholly to childhood for that magical couple of hours. The entertainment was incredible.

I sat open mouthed, fly-catching for most of it – I have not been that spellbound since I was a little girl.

I shan’t describe too many of the acts to you in case I ruin the experience for any of you who will go. However, I did take some photo’s sneakily on my phone.

Here is the ‘chef’ rotating two ‘waitresses’ on a broom – amazing!

And here is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life – a lady flying through the air using nothing but two strips of cloth for support. She wasn’t attached in any way.

I have never seen anything like it before and I would go and see it again in a heartbeat – it was incredible!

I wish I could do that, but I think I lack the necessary grace and co-ordination skills.

They had plenty of audience participation, if you like that sort of thing (being English, we don’t, but when tapped on the shoulder Alex’s Daddy very gamely got up and played his part!) and the food was beautifully presented (although, I must say – some of the flavours were a bit hit-and-miss, but I forgave them because of the flying lady):

All in all – an utterly incredibly, spellbinding evening, and I can’t recommend it enough.

The website is at http://www.phuket-palazzo.com/ if you want to have more of a look.

When the time came to leave Thailand, we were very sad, as Mummy and Daddy were flying back to England from Singapore that evening.

However, before they headed off to the airport and away from me there was just time for a special treat – the Frenchman had kindly provided some macaroons from Ladurée, that venerable institution that has been making macaroons in Paris since 1862 – and they didn’t seem any worse the wear for suffering the flight over from France!

Mmmmmmm:

After munching away on more than a few of these and having a last cup of tea, I was forced to stop procrastinating and say goodbye to my parents because their taxi arrived.

So, feeling very tearful, I waved them off and they started their long journey back home to England.

The next day, feeling a bit sorry for myself with sudden lack of parental company, I rang TV Girl and we went for a pedicure.

Pedicures are one of the reasons I love Singapore – for about ten pounds you can get an incredible, professional pedicure and thus maintain beautiful painted and buffed trotters all year round!

There’s a great place I love in Chinatown, where the lady does a great job and tries not to wince at my hideous feet.

They also have a sign in the loo which I love:

What is spoilt? Who spoilt it? How did it spoil? I think we must accept that it will remain forever a mystery.

After our preening, we succumbed to a glass of wine and a snack at the Chinese Heritage Museum just by Chinatown MRT. I love this place – it’s small and pretty and quaint, and we shared a duck roll which was really fabulous:

The rest of last week was pretty quiet. TV Girl hosted a beautifully civilised dinner party mid-week to which Banker’s Wife and a few other friends came – it descended into chaos pretty quickly.

See? Disgraceful. I, of course, refrained from such unbecoming behaviour.

Alex and I were in Phuket at the weekend, and were enchanted to be entertained by a live musician in the hospital when going to pick up Alex’s prescription on Saturday morning.

Seriously – how cool is that? Everyone was very happy and relaxed just listening to the soothing music. I think we ought to do that in England, it would make waiting times so much more tolerable!

After that, Alex and his Daddy went off to play a very long game of golf, urgh, so I had a good old ride around Phuket Town on Saturday and did some shopping with Alex’s daddy’s girlfriend (she is a good scooter rider but an absolutely horrible navigator, and I say that in a loving way – we were on the bike for a long time, hence the photo’s!)

On Sunday we had a lovely day out on the water as the weather was beautiful.

I was even allowed to drive the Corsair, so I knew that Alex’s Daddy must be in quite a good mood.

And we stopped the boat and admired the sunset over Pang Nha Bay, which was one of the loveliest I had seen in a while.

The end to another weekend – where do they all go?

I hope that you are all well, happy and full of nice food. I will leave you with this random but absolutely unmissable picture of undoubtably the tackiest telephone I have ever seen in my life – it was at a shop in Plaza Singapura in Singapore, and I have no words to describe it.

See what I mean?

Until next week!

Love,

Jessy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

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Mummy And Daddy’s Asian Expedition: English Parents on the High Seas


This past week has been absolutely wonderful for two reasons:

1.       I have been on holiday…

2.       …because my parents flew into Singapore last week to visit me! Woohoo!

Now, Mummy and Daddy Williams have never been to Asia before, so they and I were a little apprehensive. However, they have taken to the whole thing like ducks to water and, in true English style, have been remarkably game and tried everything!

The evening they arrived, I picked them up at Changi Airport, and took them to their hotel. They were staying in a gorgeous hotel in the middle of Singapore’s Chinatown district, called The Scarlet, which I thoroughly recommend to any of you coming to stay in Singapore.

Here is the Scarlet:

(Photos of The Scarlet courtesy of http://www.thescarlethotel.com)

The Scarlet is run by an amazingly exacting Frenchman named Henry who is an absolute stickler for detail, and as a result the place is exceptional.

It’s a little boutique outfit halfway up a hill on Erskine Road with only 80 rooms, but it’s stunning.

The service, rooms and whole thing really is pretty much impeccable – the rooftop bar, Breeze, is where Alex and I often go for cocktails, and in my opinion, a hotel that can turn their watering hole into a destination bar, especially in a city such as Singapore which is full of destination bars, has to be getting something right!

Here’s Breeze:

Anyhoo – so I’ll stop rattling on about the hotel. Once Mummy and Daddy had checked in and cooed with delight over their room, I asked them where they would like to have dinner.

Now, seeing as they had just stepped off a twelve-hour flight, I had expected them to  suggest a quick bite in the hotel bar and then bed.

But, no – true Brits they are, they wanted to dive straight in. So, I took them to Lau Pa Sat.

Lau Pa Sat (or Telok Ayer Market) is an amazing hawker centre on Robinson Road, right in the middle of the CBD. It is housed in a beautiful Victorian open structure with pillars which, believe it or not, was actually built and shipped out from Glasgow! Ha – bit of British, love it.

This is La Pa Sat, isn’t it gorgeous?

(Photo courtesy of http://www.sg.com)

Mummy and Daddy asked to try some local food. So we plumped for an assortment of beautiful, pillowy Dim Sum, gorgeous Vietnamese phở gà and some Claypot Chicken Rice or shā bāo jī fàn, which is fragrant rice baked in sauce in a clay pot until the rice at the bottom is slightly charred, and served with chicken – mmm, delicious!

After stuffing ourselves silly, I took the parents back to their hotel for a bit of well-earned kip.

The next day, Alex and I headed over to Chinatown to meet Mummy and Daddy for coffee before Alex headed to work.

We took a stroll up Club Street, which I love because it’s so beautiful and full of character. It’s also right on the edge of the CBD, so you can vividly see the juxtaposition between the old colonial buildings and the new modern skyscrapers, which I adore.

See:

Leaving poor old Alex to go off to work, feeling a bit mean, the three of us jumped into a cab and headed to THE ZOO!!

Let me start by saying –Singapore Zoo is absolutely AMAZING. It’s a genuinely good zoo.

Now, zoo’s in general are ok, but to me, they seem a bit like window shopping with no cash – lots of nice stuff but you can’t take it home and play with it.

I like animals of course; my darling Jessica Rabbit is (apart from my best friend Kitty and my family and Alex and various food stuffs) my great love, and has a strange almost god-like hold over me:

And our friend Alberto’s puppy has also wormed its adorable way into my heart (by the way; apologies for the sleazy pervert eye in this picture.

Don’t quite know what happened there, slightly worrying  – do I look like that when I smile at people?)

Anyway, I digress. Zoos have always been sort of fun but not really my thing.

However, Singapore Zoo was absolutely, utterly incredible and made me want to jack it all in and become a zookeeper.

The ride out from the centre of Singapore to the zoo is quite long – about half an hour or so, and about $20.00 – $30.00 SGD in a cab. Don’t let that put you off, though, it’s utterly worth it.

It’s one of the only zoo’s I have ever been to where you can actually see a lot of the animals up close and in their natural habitat (well, sort of). For example, groups of monkeys wander around the park quite happily, not caged in any way, having the time of their lives.

The zoo is laid out really well with clear animal areas so you sort of feel as if you are exploring for yourself, and the sheer gorgeousness of some of the animals here is just amazing!

I will now bore you dreadfully by showing you some zoo photos.

If you do not want to look at them, you don’t even have to smile politely and say ‘Oh gosh, how incredibly interesting’ in a convincingly fascinated voice – just scroll down to the bottom. I will never know.

Here are two white tigers:

And some Orang-utans – Mummy absolutely adored them and spent ages making googly eyes at them!


Here is a really cool lizard…

…and some Lions. Mummy didn’t make googly eyes at them:

Here is a Giraffe:

And some zebras.

They look just like a cross between donkeys and ponies that have been painted stripey!

And here is me riding a Unicorn*

*this is a lie, I did not actually do this. This was a cunning test to see if you were still reading.

On the way out, there was a Doctor Fish Spa. I think they have these in England – Japanese Doctor Fish (they are usually Garra Rufa fish) are so called because, when you place your feet in their tank, they will gently nibble at your feet, consuming any  dead areas of the skin, leaving the healthy skin to grow.

Mummy and I went in – Daddy was being terribly English and man-like and sat outside on the bench peering in a bit suspiciously.

They loved Mummy’s feet:

And they loved mine too:

Ok, ok – another huge lie.

Actually, I was very excited about putting my feet in the tank with the fishies and emerging with beautifully smooth trotters.

However as soon as I did, and they all swarmed towards me and started nibbling my feet, I got totally freaked out and pulled them out, roaring in alarm, and making Mummy jump.

I tried again, same result.

I tried a third time – once again, utter failure.

So I gave it up as a bad job and the nice lady gave Mummy my time, and I felt like an utter fool.

That evening, Alex took Mummy, Daddy and I out to dinner – Nick came along too. We went to an absolutely incredible restaurant called Ming Jiang, in a lovely area of Singapore called Rochester Park.

We were very excited about our dinner here, because they are supposed to serve the best Peking Duck in the world – that’s right, in the whole world!

And, you know what? They did.

The entire meal, from the very start to the very end, was utterly out of this world. You pre-order the duck 24 hours in advance – trust me, it’s worth it.

There were five of us, and we ordered one and a half ducks which turned out to be a little on the generous side (although Daddy and the boys would disagree with me on that, I am sure!)

The restaurant itself is gorgeous – all dark woods and subdued lighting and clean lines. We had a table on the terrace which was a lovely place to eat, and the appetisers – peanuts cooked softly for so long that we thought they were haricot beans – were stunning.

The real piece de résistance, of course, is the duck – and what duck!

The chef comes to your table and carves your ducks for you, like this:

He then goes away and rolls it into pancakes for you (using chopsticks – oh my goodness, the dexterity!) and it comes back all beautifully presented.

(Rather crapulous picture as usual, sorry)

When you have finished your duck rolls, you can choose to have the remainder of your duck put into a variety of different dishes for you – I’m afraid I cannot remember which we had (officially because Alex did the ordering, unofficially because the wine was rather nice and I had enjoyed a few glasses by this point) but it was all fantastic.

The bill was a bit painful, as we had quite a lot of wine, but although Alex winced when it came he didn’t cry which was a good sign.

So, all in all – somewhere I thoroughly recommend if you ever have the chance to go. But remember – book ahead!

The rest of the week has been gorgeous so far – as anyone who is living away from home knows only too well, a visit from friends and family can perk you up no end and make even the farthest flung place seem like home.

We left Singapore for Phuket on Saturday morning, and spent a wonderful day and night on board Chrysalis, with plenty of good food and even better company.

To get there, I headed over to Chalong Pier, on the other side of Phuket , to meet Chrysalis – the pier at Laem Hin looked particularly beautiful as I left Coconut Island, like you could see Heaven in the sky:

We sailed overnight from Phuket to Koh Ratcha, a gorgeous island a couple of hours east of Phuket where the diving is really fantastic.

It is a really rather dramatic-looking outpost; very rocky and romantic-looking:

The weather was beautiful and, post-dive, the hostess on board Chrysalis, a lovely Filipino lady named Joy, made us the most amazing lunch including what was, without a doubt, the best Tomato and Mozzarella salad I have had in a long time!

Doesn’t it look wonderful?

Anyway – we all had a fabulous day and apparently the diving was very good.

I snorkelled with our friend Film Lady – we had a great time but agreed that the snorkelling actually wasn’t that great.

In contrast, Film Lady’s partner, Interior Designer, had a great snorkel about twenty metres away from where we were so clearly we were in totally the wrong place!

Tomorrow we are going to the gun range (Mummy’s request) – I cannot wait to see her with an AK47.

I am currently writing this in the middle of a rather huge storm in Phuket – I can hear the waves on the beach at the end of the garden crashing onto the shore in a rather alarming fashion, and the rain is hammering my bedroom windows like you wouldn’t believe.

So, seeing as it is also nearly two o’clock in the morning – crap, just realised that! – I think I am justified in leaving you now for my warm cosy bed and a good book.

I hope you are all well and happy, wherever you are!

Lots of love,

Jessy xxxxxxxxxxxxx

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With Banker’s Wife Away, The Girls Go Out To Play…


So, this past week, lucky old Banker’s Wife has been stuck in Hong Kong whilst the Banker is on a business trip. Before she left she issued strict instructions that none of us were to have too much fun whilst she was away.

Banker’s Wife – if you are reading this – we had an exceptionally, inordinately dull week.

Now stop reading.

Everyone else – that was an utter lie. We had a fricking great time!

Over the weekend, we had the pleasure of our great friend Benjy’s company as he was over from Phuket. For anyone who does not know Benjy, here he is:

Benjy is the hardest working Assistant Manager that Coconut Island has ever seen so we felt he deserved a good old treat. Alex, Nick, TV Girl and I took him along to the trusty old Wine Connection for a perfect dinner, as always, which he tackled with commendable gusto.  After moving to the gorgeous Breeze bar at the Scarlet Hotel in Chinatown for some very good cocktails, we decided to give Benjy the full Singapore tourist experience and toddled down, slightly unsteadily, to Clarke Quay.

As soon as we pulled up in the cab, the boys suddenly all started pointing and chattering in an excited fashion, and it soon became clear what they wanted to do.

This: (photo courtesy of the Chang Mai Times)

This, my dears, is the G-Max Reverse Bungee Jump.

Basically, three of you are strapped into a tiny little wire cage attached to very high poles by bungee cords.

Once you are strapped in, the cords are wound up very, very tightly, and then you are tipped back and shot 60 metres up into the sky in a horrendously sudden motion – 200 kilometres an hour, according to the website.

Argh!

TV Girl and I decided to let the boys get on with it, so they duly trotted up to the booth, bought tickets, and clambered into the cage where they were strapped in and all of a sudden, started to look a bit green.

But, alas, it was too late. After an agonising wait of what seemed like hours but in reality was only about five minutes, they were suddenly shot into the sky and we could hear them yelling their heads off from our safe place on the ground.

A few minutes later it was all over, and I started to gather up our things ready to consign the reverse bungee experience to happy memory.

However, Alex and a beautifully inebriated TV Girl had other ideas, and before I knew it I was sitting in the contraption being strapped in, desperately trying not to wail like a small child.

This had been us before the ride – content, happy and unworried (by the way; that is not under-boob sweat. It is a shadow. A shadow!!)

I shall not describe the ride to you in too much detail. Suffice to say that when, just before taking off, the bloke manning the contraption told us that there had only been ‘sixty deaths this year’ (clearly a lie) and I consequently started to scream, very, very loudly, and didn’t stop. At all. Until we got back on the ground.

Now, I have done a bungee jump before with my Daddy when I was younger, but this was – please excuse my French – bl**dy awful.

If you are a thrill-seeker with no fear in you, do this.

If you are a scaredy-cat with a bellyful of wine in you, do not do this.

It will only lead to sickness and subsequent humiliation. Oh – and they film your faces throughout the whole thing. This was us afterwards:

And this was us DURING *

*please note: artist’s impression

Dreadful.

Suffice to say – we all sobered up pretty quickly and made our shaky way home!

The following Saturday was much more civilised.

We began the evening at the Lantern Bar, which is on top of the Fullerton Bay Hotel. The Fullerton Bay itself is really gorgeous – right on the water, it’s a bit more laid back than the Fullerton proper and I think I actually prefer it.

The bar is beautifully laid out, with a swimming pool in the middle and absolutely ridiculously stunning panoramic views across the water:

Gorgeous! We met a few of Alex’s colleagues here for cocktails as we were all heading over to a 30th birthday party on Sentosa later in the evening.

We ate some wonderful Quesadillas which they served cut up as a bar snack – really warm and oozy and cheesy and delicious and…oh my goodness I am getting a craving for them as I type this. Let me just go to the fridge and get some cheese.

I am now back from getting cheese.  I cannot give an opinion on the cocktails as I was very boring having stuck to the ubiquitous Vodka and Diet Coke, but the Caipirinias certainly looked good and everyone seemed to enjoy them very much.

We then cabbed it over to Sentosa, where the party was being held at the utterly stunning Capella Hotel. This little beauty sits atop a small hill on Sentosa and the views from the back terrace, where the party was being held, were really wonderful and I wished that we could have been there at sunset.

The hotel is reached by a rather dramatic sweeping driveway, and as you approach you see the front of the hotel which is made up of gorgeous old British colonial buildings dating from the 1880’s. The back of the hotel, however, is a total juxtaposition – designed by Sir Norman Foster, it’s really modern!

See what I mean; here’s the front:

…and the back:

(all pictures courtesy of Capellahotels.com/Singapore. It was dark so my pictures did not come out so well…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

The party was really fun – the champagne was freeflow, which was good for us (but maybe not our host), as the drinks were on the pricy side – $18.00 SGD for a small spirit and mixer. But nevertheless a really gorgeous place with really top notch service,  and a good choice if you fancy getting off Singapore for the evening (apparently the brunch there is great, too!)

Our evening ended with the ubiquitous ill-advised late-night Rickshaw ride home which always seems like a great idea when you see the size of the taxi queue but when you get home an hour later and fifty dollars poorer you understand why everyone waits for a car.

You can totally see all the locals thinking ‘silly expats’ as you pootle past at minus five miles an hour but – hey, it’s fun, and you get to take in the scenery!

The next day we spent a gorgeous Sunday soaking up the sunshine at a beautiful little café called the Istanbul Grill on Bussorah Street, right behind the Sultan Mosque, just off the better-known Arab Street.

Here is Bussorah Street – very pretty!

The food at the café was excellent, and the owner really friendly. We had plenty of gorgeous mezze, and the boys loved the perfectly thick, black Turkish coffee.

The Baklava was good too, if a little on the heavy side – but they made it for us on request so no complaints there!

TV Girl and I then left the boys to it for a bit and wandered off to explore and shop in some of the pretty little shops in the surrounding streets.

This place, for anyone who likes wicker (and I am an avid wicker fan; I rented ‘The Wicker Man’ from Blockbusters thinking it was  a cinematic homage to basketry – dreadful error, the film is terrifying) is pretty much Mecca:

If you are not so much into the wicker, there are plenty of other shops offering pretty much anything – from the current trend here, fake fox tails to hang on your handbags:

(I know…I don’t really get it either!)…

…to vintage shops selling everything from 1930’s fridges to Robots.

Here is the Robot and Vintage Toy collection in one such place, aptly named the ‘Children Little Museum’:

TV Girl liked the robots so much, she decided to take one home with her!

TV Girl then, in a moment of memorific genius (yes, yes, I know that’s not a word but I like the sound of it, so there) spotted a sign to Haji Lane and remembered that her magazine had described it as basically Singapore’s answer to London’s Brick Lane, with numerous fabulous little fashion boutiques.

The magazine was correct.

The entrance is pretty small, so you really have to look for it, but it’s well worth a visit, as most of the stuff in the shops is unique and of exquisite quality.

The only exception to this was a pair of Primark shoes proudly displayed in one such shop….with an asking price of $59.00 SGD.

Yes, nearly thirty quid. For a pair of used four-quid Primark shoes.

Evidence:

So, there we go. Ladies – if you want to wear Primark but still be dressed in cutting-edge street fashion – come to Singapore. (Well, you’ve got to love them for trying!)

Anyway – Banker’s Wife is back now. So, just to reassure here, it was a dreadful weekend. Epically, horrendously, massively, uncompromisingly boring.

All my love,

Jessy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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The Great Asian Skinny Myth


Before I moved to Singapore, I will freely admit that I had a few preconceptions about Singaporean ladies.

I imagined all Singaporean ladies to be:

1.       Petite and thin…

2.       …with long flowing glossy black ‘magazine’ hair

3.       Very academic and career driven

I am not going to, despite what you might expect, tell you that after living here for a bit all these myths have been exploded. On the contrary – some of them have been reinforced, because I now understand the logical reasons behind them.

(Before I start – please let me just clarify – I am hugely generalising here. Clearly not every Singaporean lady is slim and clever with beautiful hair!)

Let’s address the size thing first. It’s a fact that the average size lady here is smaller than the average size female Brit. You only have to go shopping in any local shop here – that is, not an international brand like TopShop, or Gap – to realise very quickly that the sizes are smaller.

A LOT smaller.

For example; I am about a UK size 10 (obviously this fluctuates depending on cheese consumption levels).

At home, I would buy clothes labelled S or M. Here, I am very definitely an L and sometimes I can’t fit into anything at all.

Most Asian women here tend to be physically petite in stature, and I guess that is down to genetics. However, the weight thing cannot, on the whole, be attributed to genetics as well. Women here are generally slim – and I believe there are two primary reasons reasons for it.

1. Food.

In Britain, when it is cold and miserable and dark, you crave comfort food; carbs and sugar. Rich pies and pastas and hearty, hefty portions. Here, it is hot and humid, so you really don’t want to eat as much. Plus, the national cuisine really is, broadly speaking, quite healthy – portions are smaller than in Britain, and a lot of steaming goes on.

What’s a typical takeaway in London? Pizza? Curry? Fish & Chips?

Here’s a typical takeaway here: a gorgeous dish of Chicken Pho (a Vietnamese clear broth soup with noodles and chicken) delivered to your door deconstructed, so that all you have to do is assemble it and voila! Fresh, healthy, instant food.

Deconstructed Vietnamese:

And this is how it looks when you put it all together:

Try to get fat eating this: just try. Bet you fifty quid you can’t do it!

The second reason is:

2. Moving.

A lot of the ladies here do what I call ‘Woman On A Mission’ (a purposeful, fast walk). There are advertisements for exercise classes everywhere you go; Pilates on one corner, Thai Boxing on the next. Women walk around with tiny weeny babies strapped to their chests, whilst carrying piles of bulging shopping bags and screaming into a cellphone.

I know that this is, again, hugely generalising, but people here just seem to be a bit more active. I guess it is one more thing that can be attributed partly to the weather – if you wake up in the morning and it’s sunny and warm, you want to go out to the beach or go and swim in the pool. If you wake up and it’s drizzly and grey and depressing, you want to sit on the sofa with a DVD!

3. Attitude

People just seem generally more aware of their bodies here – of the need to keep active and healthy. Plus, in England, we are very tolerant of all sizes – sometimes a bit too tolerant.

I mean, at home, you see clearly overweight children cuddled and cooed over because they are chubby and ‘cute’. Massively obese ladies, rather than being urged to lose weight for their health, are celebrated for their ‘curves’. The so called ‘Real Woman’ movement started out as a great thing – embracing all shapes and sizes and not judging on appearance. However, factions of it have now turned into a damaging influence – telling fifteen year old girls that it is ok to weight twenty stone because they are ‘Real Women’ and curvy. I really don’t think this is ok.

Here in Asia, the attitude is different. Putting on weight evokes concern – is everything alright? Are you eating more because you are unhappy? Can we help? Children are encouraged to stay active and eat healthily. Sensible eating is promoted in supermarkets, shopping centres – all over the place.

Our friend’s Thai wife gave birth to a baby about a month or so ago and she’s already slimmer than I am! I asked if she had been dieting and she said no, just eating sensibly and getting back to excercising properly and it just sort of dropped off. Lucky her!

I think that the general lifestyle here has done wonders for us – despite a few ups and downs, Alex and I have both lost weight since we got here and I intend to try to keep it off (the fact that my favourite chocolate here costs in the region of £10.00 a bar has helped enormously!)

Anyway – enough ranting about weight! Onto the subject of HAIR.

Argh, the great hair issue!

Before I moved here, I thought that all Singaporean women were born with perfect, film-star hair. You know the type – that swishy, shimmering mane of dark tresses that fall perfectly and never, ever get frizzy.

I could not understand it – like 99% of expat ladies, the minute I got here and my hair got a whiff of the humidity, my hair suddenly developed a life of its own. Every hair was a bad hair day – I would spend hours wrestling with it trying to stop it meeting in the middle – in short, I simply did not understand what I was doing wrong, and I wanted to throttle every local lady who swished past me with perfect, un-frizzy hair.

After being here for a month or so, I was let into the secret by a fellow expat lady. That secret is rebonding.

Rebonding is so common here – it is everywhere, and everyone does it.

Hair rebonding is “a process where the chemical bonds in your hair are broken, rearranged and bonded back again permanently using very strong chemicals. During rebonding, perming lotion is added to soften the hair and break down its bonds. After this is washed off, hair is placed between 2 metal plates of an electric styling device, which uses heat to pull the hair rod-straight. A neutralizer is then applied to reset the bonds and stabilize the hair.” (Source: http://www.beyondjane.com)

Ouch…sounds scary, doesn’t it!

Look at this poor lady – she has been half rebounded and the other half of her hair left natural. It gives a pretty good idea of how drastic the change is (photo courtesy of http://site.sendagiftphilippines.com)

So – in short, don’t beat yourself up because you get to Singapore and your hair explodes into a frizzy helmet that cannot be fixed, no matter how much product you use.

Hair is the number one topic amongst expat ladies here – what the hell to do with it, how to fix it, how to stop looking like a lion every time you leave the house.

Put simply, unless you go for the rebonding option, there’s not a whole lot you can do. So, embrace it, ladies – bad hair is part of the joys of living in Asia.

(For those of you who are really struggling, the Phyto line of products for very dry hair helps me massively with my dreadful humidity helmet. The Phytojoba mask, in particular, is a lifesaver.

If this does not work, as a final option, Talisman’s in Far East Plaza do a great range of really impresssive but inexpensive wigs.

Buy some comedy sunglasses, don a ridiculously over-the-top wig, and nobody will even recognise you walking down the street, let alone be aware of your hair issues. Genius.)

Now, onto my final preconception.

There are a lot of urban myths as to why such a high proportion of Singaporeans (and Asians) do well at school. Some of them are totally dodgy. For example, my friend swears it is because the diet here is so high in fish, and the Omega-3 feeds the brain, making everyone very bright.

I prefer to put it down to attitude and upbringing.

I think that it is fair to say that a lot of Asian parents put more emphasis on studying than their Western counterparts. Obviously, not all Asian parents are in the league of Amy ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ Chua, but self-discipline and commitment to study are two of the admirable qualities that I have noticed are instilled a lot more heavily here into kids. And it seems to work.

The women’s magazines here carry a far higher proportion of stories dealing with career strategising than their English counterparts. The subject of work, and one’s own career development, is much more likely to come up in conversation than it is at home.

I suppose it must irritate some Singaporeans. At this precise moment, I am sitting in a coffee shop as I type this, and I have just had a conversation with a young Singaporean man about this exact subject.

I will tell you what he just told me (with his permission). He said “Actually, it really annoys me sometimes. You see films – there’s always the Asian kid who is the geeky one and really good at computers. I wear glasses so it’s even worse for me when I’m away from home – I feel like such a stereotype”.

Is it such a bad thing, though? I think it is commendable to have a nation known for dedicated, hard-working citizens, rather than having a nation known for, say, making nice wine or something (although that is clearly not a bad thing)

One thing’s for sure – the relative happiness of the economy here at the moment suggests that the products of the Singaporean education system might well end up having the last laugh, after all.

Lots of love,

Jessy xxxxxxx

PS: Just realised that was a bit of an essay. I shall bring you some inane chat and pretty but pointless pictures later in the week to compensate.

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Tales Of The Perpetual Language Barrier


This week, I have been suffering from a recurring problem which is to be fully expected when living overseas – that of the ever-present language barrier.

True, English is spoken pretty much everywhere in Singapore. However, it may not come in a form you would recognise.

There is much made about the presence of ‘Singlish’ in Singapore; this colloquial version of English can actually be very difficult to understand if you are a foreigner here. According to Wikipedia, “The vocabulary of Singlish consists of words originating from English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi and to a lesser extent various other European, Indic and Sinitic languages, while Singlish syntax resembles southern varieties of Chinese.”

Phew!

As you can imagine, this paves the way for a lot of communication mishaps – and some of them can have truly dire consequences.

I will give you some examples.

The Dreadful Tale of the Epic Dress Fail begins thus:

One of my Thai colleagues was in Singapore for a few days with me this week as we had some meetings to attend together.

In an attempt to look like a proper, serious office person, I had gone out and bought a very smart suit-style dress from a local dress shop. This dress had a very small slit at the back to assist with movement, and as the morning wore on I was alarmed to feel  the slit growing a little bigger each time I stood up or sat down (FYI: English bottoms are not made for Singaporean clothes, unless you are Kiera Knightly or similar, in which case, shop away).

Matters came to a head when we pulled up at the location of our next meeting (thankfully, a little early) and I jumped out of the taxi rather too enthusiastically. As I landed on the pavement, I heard a ripping sound, and felt a blast of fresh air where there certainly shouldn’t have been any. Uh-oh.

Terrified, I felt the back of my dress, and to my utter, unmitigated HORROR, I realised that the top of the slit now ended somewhere approximately around my lower back.

I wailed very loudly in mortification (unintentionally drawing additional attention to my exposed posterior) and immediately plonked myself down on a conveniently placed bench right in front of me.

My colleague, exiting the taxi, witnessed this and asked what was wrong.

I explained to her that my dress was ruined at the back, that I needed safety pins for an emergency repair job, and gestured pleadingly towards the 7-11 convenience store across the street.

Light dawned in her eyes as she registered the full impact of the situation, and she dropped her briefcase and ran over the road. I waited in hope.

Five minutes later she was back, clutching a 7-11 bag filled – not with safety pins, but with:

These were not safety pins.

I rapidly realised how the confusion had arisen, and – not for the first time – cursed my inability to say anything other than ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘coconut’ and ‘where is the food please’ in Thai.

I briefly considered trying to use them to stick my dress back together, but realised that this probably would not work.

After much gesticulating and dreadful attempts at miming, light dawned in my colleague’s eyes (yet again) and she dropped her briefcase once more and ran over the road. After a nervous five minutes spent trying to fend off old ladies and pregnant women who wanted the bench*, she thankfully returned with a mini sewing kit.

Emergency dress repair station :

We were, however, late for our meeting.

There have been numerous other occasions during which language has not been my friend. For example, when I first got here, I did not realise that if you merrily order a cup of tea ‘with lots of milk, please’ in many places, it will come with half a tin of sweetened condensed milk happily dumped into it. Mmmm, yummy.

Another time, in Thailand with Kat, I was thirsty and so asked for Fanta. Something got lost in translation, and what I got was not Fanta – it was a strange, luminous green brew of almost unspeakable foulness.

Just the other day, when I was ordering lunch, I asked for steamed rice, vegetables and ‘a bit of fish’.

My steamed rice and vegetables came, and I sat there waiting patiently for ten minutes for my fish. By this point I was hungry and my rice was cold, so I went to enquire as to the whereabouts of my fish. The restaurant owner proudly pointed at my vegetables and said ‘yeeees, bit of fresh! A bit of fresh!’

Of course.

I smiled weakly and returned to my table and spent the rest of my meal imagining my fish, instead:

However, this is all simple stuff that can be easily rectified by taking the Russian Doll’s cinema advice: check, check, and check again. Also, it’s all part of the charm of living here.

In terms of other news, not so much to report –things have been ticking along nicely!

Banker’s Wife, TV Girl and I enjoyed a lovely, vaguely English-style afternoon tea at a sweet little place called Tea Cosy on the top floor of a shopping centre called Plaza Singapura, in an area of Singapore called Dhauby Ghaut.

Here it is:

Thisgorgeous little gem, which TV Girl introduced us to, sells a collection of angels (yep, angels!) of all kinds from around the world, from little hanging ones to big carved marble ones, and does a rather good afternoon tea.

Here is our tea – the scones were nice (if rather small, and we all agreed that they were a bit stingy with the jam) – and whilst the girls sensibly went for pots of tea, I got carried away and, in a fit of greed, ordered a huge hot chocolate with marshmallows on top.

I felt very sick afterwards, but it was totally worth it.

That’s about it, really – I shan’t clatter on any longer, as apart from anything else it is lunchtime in England and I expect you are all very hungry.

Finally – just a quick note to say thank you so much to everyone who has emailed me nice things about the blog – I am very pleased that you are finding it helpful, and hope you continue to read it!

Lots of love,

Jessy xxxx

 

PS: My best friend, Kitty, is having a bad day.

One of the worst things about being away from home is not being there for your friends and family when they need you – so Kitty, I cannot reach you to give you a proper hug, as my arms are nowhere near long enough, but I offer you this appallingly drawn substitute instead:

 

*  I would never have believe that I would have had to spell this out, but due to a certain number of sarcasm fails lately, I feel I must point out – I did not actually deny any old ladies or pregnant woman a bench.

Thank you.

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When It Rains, Luge And Bake


I have a confession to make.

I love to Luge.

If I could be a professional luger, I would.

Luging, for those of you who have not had the great good fortune to experience it yet, is in itself a reason to visit Singapore. You go to Sentosa, and go to the luge place by the beach carpark. You buy a ride (or three, in our case) and get the chair-lift up to the top of the hill over the bay, which is actually an adventure in itself.

Here are the boys on the chair-lift in front of me (apologies for the bad picture):

You then grab a helmet, and take one of two luge tracks down the hill, going as fast as you can! It is such great fun, and an amazing regression activity. Want to shirk all your responsibilities for the day and be a child? Go and luge. You cannot cook, clean, work, or generally be useful to society in any way whatsoever whilst sat on a luge, this is a scientific fact.

We had three races and I am extremely, childishly proud to announce that I came in 2nd, 1st and 1st – meaning I won!

Demon luge face:

Anyhoo. The reason we indulged in luging was ostensibly because we had Stuey for the weekend as he had to come from Thailand to Singapore to do a visa run (basically, most visas last ninety days after which you need to leave the country for two working days and then re-enter. Funsies.)

We had met up with The Banker, the Banker’s Wife, and Nick at a British pub called The Queen and Mangosteen on the waterfront at VivoCity, which is just opposite Sentosa. This place is quite nice and chilled out, but a bit of a rip-off; the ‘pint of prawns’ turned out to be five prawns balanced on top of pint glass full of ice! (oh Wright Brothers, Borough Market; how we miss you!!)

However, the Tandoori chicken and mini-burgers were scarily addictive, and they have a good selection of beers to make a change from the usual Tiger and Heineken out here (the summer ale in particular went down very well with the boys).

After lunch we headed over the water to Sentosa, where Banker’s Wife and I were not able to swim (bizarrely, there was a storm warning so paddling in the sea was off-limits – so random!) so we plopped ourselves down on a daybed and read dreadful trashy novels and gossiped the afternoon away, whilst bemoaning the lack of TV Girl, who was sick (poor TV Girl)

The boys played an epic game of volleyball in the rain, and very quickly got fed up with it, so this is why we decided to luge.

Anyway, after the obligatory crow to the boys because despite being a girl I won the luge races….

….. we went back to the beach to chill out in the jacuzzi after all that activity.

The boys made bubble hats to compensate for their loss of manhood:

The rest of the weekend was lovely. Alex had a very rare evening off work on Friday night, which was an unexpected treat, so we went to the trusty old Wine Connection at Robertson Walk for supper.

They looked after us extremely well, as usual, with a wonderful selection of tapas (perhaps a little too much, for four people, in hindsight):

We then went to join TV Girl and the Banker’s Wife at a lovely bar on Club Street in China Town called Ying Yang. It has a gorgeous roof terrace and a nice atmosphere – but be warned if you are planning to visit, the four very steep flights of stairs that you have to take to get up to the roof might be problematic for those in wheelchairs or debilitatingly high heels.

Saturday evening was spent at IndoChine on Club Street with zee Germans, which was lovely. We all rushed our meal as the boys were desperate to get to Robertson Quay to see the Six Nations. We duly turned up at Harry’s bar, where they go to watch sport, and the boys plonked themselves down, ordered a drink, and then realised the rugby was not on the screens so frantically waved over a waitress to ask why. She explained, very kindly, that it was in fact on NEXT Saturday night. I have never seen a group of such sad faces.

They played darts instead, and then we went and had a drink at Indochine at Clarke Quay with the owner, the lovely Mr. Michael Ma, a friend of Alex’s Daddy’s and the Russian Doll’s other half.

On Sunday, I got up early and went on an epic shopping trip to no less than three supermarkets in my mission to collect all the ingredients for…[drumroll please] a proper English roast!! We have all been pining for a good roast for ages – I haven’t had one since Christmas Day, Stuey and Alex since November, and Nick since about September – so a plan for the ultimate homesickness cure was concocted.

Sunday Roasts back in London were practically a religion – Kitty and I would spend hours making the perfect roast, we’d invite all our friends over to eat with us, and it was the highlight of the weekend (at least for me).

Past roast examples:

This is what we had decided to recreate.

After much to-ing and fro-ing and more than a little expense, I managed more out of sheer luck than anything else to procure everything we needed for our Sunday Colossus!

I got home, sent the boys out to Wine Connection, and three hours later we had our roast! We had a chicken stuffed with sage, pork and onion, pigs in blankets, potatoes roasted properly in goose fat, cut green beans, lemon carrots and cheesy goodness (an artery-clogging, belt-busting distant cousin of the traditional cauliflower cheese).

Here it is: (please excuse the paper napkins, Gertrude – I haven’t lowered my standards, it’s just that the linen ones are in the cockroach cupboard and I am far too scared to go in there and find them):

I also tried to make a cake as it was Stuey’s birthday, but it went dreadfully wrong.

The sponge did not rise properly as I had to open the oven to get the chicken out; I made the mistake of trying to ice it on the balcony and it was too hot (the icing just melted); and I had intended to ice ‘Happy Birthday Stu’ on it, but got hugely over-excited and wrote ‘Happy’ in such large letters that it was quickly apparent that there was absolutely no way ‘Birthday’ would fit on the cake, so I had to make do and mend and present him with a cake proclaiming ‘Happy Stu’.

Fail.

Here is the Abomination Cake, as it shall henceforth be known:

Happy Stu, indeed. At least he knows we love him!

We rounded off our weekend perfectly with a wonderful Skype catch up with Kitty and Jules back in London, and it was so nice to see their faces.

I am going to go now because yet again I have managed to write a post of ridiculous length, and if any of you are still reading it is nothing short of a miracle. Also, I have sushi in the fridge and I feel that I really ought to give it the attention it deserves.

Lots of love,

Jessy xxxxxxx

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