The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Birthday Eve of new beginnings

Well actually new beginnings started 10 days ago. At the same time they haven’t really started at all. 

Since I arrived back in the UK with #1, 2 and 3, it has felt more or less like previous times we’ve been back on holiday but without the frenetic pace of travelling here and there trying to fit in people and places in a few short weeks. We also won’t be packing up and flying out again but we hopefully will be packing up to move into a new house of our own. 

I’ve been asked how does it feel being back in the UK after so long. In short, it feels quite surreal. I’m neither here nor there right now. Whilst I feel like we’re on holiday, I also need to think of the quite big things such as finding somewhere to live. Even getting a monthly mobile phone contract wasn’t as easy as I thought. It seems I’ve been away nine years and you can’t just pick up where you left off. 

So I guess you could say I’m in the waiting room just before starting my new life and the key is not to be impatient. As much as I would like to have a house, a car, a mobile monthly price plan and a routine, I have to wait for these things to happen. In short I want to have the regular ebb and flow of how my life used to run. This transit period feels like it is moving too slowly. And yet it’s only been 10 days since I landed. How long did it take me to get up and running when I first landed in Singapore? A lot longer than my memory cares to acknowledge.

But it is also quite amazing how quickly you adapt to your current surroundings. Perhaps it’s because I have #1, 2 and 3 to entertain that you push yourself to get out there as soon as you can. Or more to the point push them out there to avoid endless hours of bickering indoors. Everywhere we go right now, there is something new to see and who can make you see the ordinary from a different angle than from the viewpoint of small people. From supermarket aisles stacked full of good things to eat to the summer blooms in the neighbours gardens; from stairs in houses to walking past sheep and cows in fields. I get to experience all these things afresh with #1, 2 and 3. 

With more time to explore the neighbourhood where Husband grew up, we have discovered a number of places we had never been to before just a short drive  away. And whilst the first few days were unpredictable with sunshine and rain showers stopping play, when you grab hold of a good day, there is so much to appreciate and how many sights can you behold that could be better than sunshine across fields and watching small people round up the sheep. 

So far, the beginnings of this new life looks promising. I take it as a good sign that upon visiting our soon to be new home town that I feel a good sense of warmth. Yes, it is different to how life was in Singapore but there is also a new groundedness I feel will come about once we have moved there. 

And so tomorrow will be another Birthday. And as if to remind me, a few more grey hairs pinged out from nowhere. How do they do that? Just ping out of nowhere? 
This is my first Birthday celebrated in the UK for nine years. It brings Husband and I full circle to my Birthdays spent in the UK whilst he is in Singapore. (Maybe that’s the pattern for all our future moves.) I would much rather he was here than there and I take that as a good sign too.

So this Birthday Eve marks the beginning of something truly new. I’m interested to see what’s going to come in the next year. Yesterday on my run down country lanes I found a horse shoe and horse shoes they say bring good luck, so I hope it will be sprinkled with a dollop of good luck. And some for you too. 

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Thank you Singapore, you have been amazing!

Did you think I would leave Singapore on a sad note? That is not my style. I am going out with a happy face emoji like this ๐Ÿ˜Š and perhaps with a few of these thrown in too ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ฎ.

I woke up from a good nights sleep ๐Ÿ˜ด at the Shangri La Rasa on Sentosa and no one could wake up unhappy โ˜น๏ธ there. #1’s favourite part of any holiday is unlimited, help yourself breakfast buffet ๐Ÿ˜‹. All the places we have travelled to around South East Asia have done this really well. But without thinking I went for the full English fry up instead of roti prata and soup noodles. ๐Ÿ™„

I’m on my way with #1, 2 and 3 to the UK๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง leaving Husband to fend for himself in Singapore ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌfor a while longer. That’s the hardest part of this move๐Ÿ˜ฅ. It would be totes different if we were all starting off this new chapter at the same time but you know, we’ll be ok. I will miss Husband and so will #1, 2 and 3 but we’ll take each day as it comes. 

Hence there’s this slight panic ๐Ÿ˜ต over suddenly parenting three on my own. Especially since we’ve had home help for the last seven years but fear not, I do know how to work the washing machine, I’ll do the ironing whilst watching Netflix and suddenly I’m all for dishwashers even though in my green marital days I told Husband we would never need a dishwasher as that’s just lazy ๐Ÿ˜’ and when we had kids they would do chores around the house like cleaning and stuff. Except I forgot to factor in that they need to weigh more than the vacuum cleaner before they are of much use ๐Ÿ˜•. Though I can already see that #3 has a clear talent for cleaning which will come in handy ๐Ÿค— and #2 is handy with some carpentry and #1 can do laundry sorting.

Among all the advice I’ve been given about parenting the regular way like the rest of the world, these are my new best friends first and foremost…. ๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿบ๐Ÿบ๐Ÿบ๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿธ๐Ÿธ๐Ÿธ๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿฅƒ๐Ÿฅƒ๐Ÿฅƒ. And in the UK these new friends cost way less than Singapore. Bonus. ๐Ÿค—.

But that aside, I’m packed up ๐ŸŽ’ and ready to start this next new adventure of our own. Thank you for all your kind words of friendship and support these past few weeks. I’m so grateful for friends who have had #1, 2 and 3 over for all day, and I do mean all day, play dates, when the packers were around. Thank you for making the time to fit in last minute catch ups and dinners. Even at the very last hour for one more glass of bubbles.

Of course there’s a part of me that’s still sad ๐Ÿ˜ซ. Like not being in the same time zone as Brilliant New Adventure and having to wait hours for a reply to my photo and ‘what do you think of these?’ messages. But I’m so very glad that nine years ago, fate would put us both together again. โค๏ธ.

Besides some of the more obvious life changing experiences involving travel, parenthood and Gainful Employment in a new country, the biggest and most significant experience I’ve encountered is the network of inspiring women I’ve met. ๐Ÿ’ช. Having reached that 40 PLUS milestone and starting afresh in your 40s, it could seem a bit daunting. Note I say could. But I’m totally nonplussed about that. I’ve been surrounded by strong, independent women all these years who do nothing but support each other in everyday things, sporting achievements and Gainful Employment advancement to have learnt a thing or two about communication and camaraderie. ๐Ÿ‘.
For the past nine years I have had the support of many amazing women to get through all these new challenges. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without you. I will miss your sound advice and good shoes ๐Ÿ‘ . But I know you’re just one whatsapp away.

Even though I have mentioned on other social media platforms that Twin One has a certain knack of encouraging my running ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿผโ€โ™€๏ธprowess, I would not push myself as far without her watchful eye ๐Ÿ‘€. I’m pretty sure she’ll continue doing so when I’m over there too. And so she should. ๐Ÿ‘. But covering four running routes in this last week whilst residing at Windsor Castle has taken a toll on my knees but filled my heart. 


  
There’s still a lot I’ve not done in Singapore and I keeping hearing of new hidden gems all the time like Mrs Imperturbable’s love of torch ginger and foraging for fresh herbs at Fort Canning.  As I sat there on a sun lounger watching #1, 2 and 3 charge around the poolside, I couldn’t help but feel thankful for all the amazing experiences I’ve had. The opportunity to travel to places I would never imagine I’d make it to and still more that I didn’t get to but feel I must some day.

At this juncture, I have new opportunities ahead and I have additional experiences, expectations and understanding to add to it. That’s quite something to keep in mind. 
Yes, I’ll miss Singapore and Asia. I’ll miss being in a culture that is also partly my own but now I know far better how to integrate that part into the lives of #1, 2 and 3. Lion dancing around the living room. Lantern walking in the garden. Earl grey chiffon cake for afternoon tea ๐ŸŽ‚โ˜•๏ธ.

This Singapore sojourn has been an amazing experience for Husband and I but it’s time for a new chapter. And almost like fate is guiding us towards it, just as I’m walking into the breakfast room this morning I happen to bump into an old friend who made the move to the UK just two and a half years ago. Hearing first hand of how it has been for their family has been so good to hear and we are already looking forward to catching up in the UK.

And don’t think I’m not thinking about all you people in the UK who I can’t wait to see! I just need to find a car ๐Ÿš™ and house๐Ÿ˜ to live in before I’ll be making our first British summer road trip. 

And you know what? I can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings. ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ˜Š

Thank you Singapore. I’ll miss all that is good about you. I’ll miss all these faces and so many more. Let me hug you all again right now. ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ˜˜

But for now it is time to say Hello again UK! See you tomorrow ๐Ÿ˜.

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Out with a bang

It’s my last sleep as a resident of Singapore. 

That is unless I get in an afternoon nap tomorrow which I hope is highly likely. I have no doubt we will be back to visit every now and then and marvel at what has changed and what remains the same.  There is much to love about Singapore. The weather is one where most people rave about what seems like an endless summer. Most days I’ve just felt hot and sweaty or even more hot and sweaty but I am definitely sure on a long, dark winter day I will look at photos of blues skies over Marina Bay Sands and wonder whether I will ever feel so hot and sweaty again. Perhaps I will even kid myself that I actually liked the hot and sweatiness and never lived in a semi permanent state of heat rage. 

Like most things you’re about to let go of, you suddenly feel reluctant to do so. A feeling that kept arising as I was trying to clear stuff out last weekend. On one hand, I never wore that blue top. But on the other hand, it’s a perfectly good top and I definitely could wear it again at some point maybes. Luckily Brilliant New Adventure happened to be right next to me, no doubt itching to grab a bin bag and declutter in a more efficient manner, she immediately picked up said offending garment and placed it in the see-no-more-forever pile. Which I then may or may not have retrieved from the bin bag. I honestly can’t remember.

In fact, this whole process has gone by in a sleepless blur. I haven’t slept more than 6 hours for quite a number of days. Some days I’ve been down to just three. I could close my eyes and fall fast asleep right now but sleep can wait a few days more. It seems having put into motion such a life changing big decision, I have the lost the ability to make simple everyday ones. Like what to eat when meeting friends for lunch and dinner. Often resorting on the goodwill of others to take pity and decide for me. Things must be pretty dire because when it comes to food, that never happens. I will eat what I want to eat and have some of yours too. When I’ve been asked what will I miss most about Singapore, one of the top three has to be the food. From $4 hawker centre fayre to amazing fine dining experiences at Michelin starred restaurants. Singapore – you have spoilt my tastebuds forever. Though I have to say that kidney beans and sweet corn should not be classified dessert components. Yet I was looking at #1, 2 and 3 tuck into an ice kachang this afternoon and they seem to find the combination very much a regular thing. 

And that’s the thing as #2 clearly demonstrated earlier this week. She identifies herself as being Singaporean, she knows Husband and I are not and therefore are the reasons why we have to move away from Singapore. The logic is quite simple in her mind. Singapore is our home. It’s been home for as long as #1, 2 and 3 have been around. So where are we moving to? It certainly can’t be home as home is here. It was an interesting observation made to me some six or seven years ago when I was still fairly new to the whole living away from home thing. I naturally missed the UK very much and spending time with valued friends always made it difficult to leave. But like with most things, something changes over time very subtly that you don’t even notice you think less about being over there and much more about being here.

So now it’s time to head back over there. Be positive for me and don’t tell me you’d rather be here instead of over there. That’s not very helpful when one is trying to imagine a whole new life someplace else. But actually I can’t even imagine what that whole new life will look like. I don’t have feelings of great euphoria but I’m also not being dragged out of Singapore against my will. I know that if we had decided to stay, a whole host of things would pop up that would make me feel less than content. But as with any occasion of letting go of something, there’s that slight panic of wanting to stick with something familiar, predictable even if it’s just not quite right it seems better than the unknown. But we are more brave souls than that aren’t we.

I know a new life is exciting and I am more than equipped to put into motion building a new life for ourselves. The possibilities of creating new memories for everyone makes me want to get on with it right now. Or tomorrow even. I can see small bubbles of new memories just ready and waiting to be collected. Things like Christmas in cold weather. The change of seasons. Walks up mountains and down valleys. These are the good things that will counterbalance the not so good things. The important lesson to remember is to keep moving forward and whilst you may mourn the loss of your old life, you should make the most of the present. 

In saying that, I’ve found myself organising gatherings and outings that has focussed on visiting familiar faces and places. The nostalgia is clearly all my own. For when #1, 2 and 3 have had play dates with old friends we haven’t seen so much of lately, they get right back into things without missing a heartbeat. And you wonder why you didn’t make more effort to see each more often especially when the children get on so well together. Easy to say outside of all school or Gainful Employment related activities. But it is still good to know and I wonder whether #1 and 2 will remember any of this time together. And I wonder how will we keep these many relationships going. This network of international buddies all over the globe. These kids are really lucky to be aware of the wider world at such a young age and to have friends in many interesting and wonderful countries to visit. I do intend on visiting many people when we’re back in the UK and hope that we will be just as comfortable with each other.  

Even though I have been on the farewell trail for some time, it still doesn’t quite feel real. I think I’m actually too tired to let the emotions hit me properly. It will probably happen some time next week when I’ve had more sleep. Or perhaps you and I over here are pretty good friends as it is and whilst things may be different, we will always be friends. I hope so. As I think back over the last five weeks of the farewell trail, I have seen so many of you for BBQs, coffee, lunch, dinner and running. The people who have been a part of our lives these past nine years at different stages. People who have provided good company, wise counsel and booze. People who #1, 2 and 3 adore. Whose children I have watched grow up. I know I will remain in contact with many of you and I know there are some people I may never see again. Two people said that to me as we hugged Farewell and that really unsettled me. There are of course, hundreds of people I’ve met and never seen again from days gone by. But when it’s said out loud, it can make you feel quite odd and sad to realise the high chances of it happening.

I had a list of Things To Do Before Leaving Singapore. The usual tourist hotspots but what #1 and 2 cared most about was seeing friends. Isn’t that lovely? And every spare moment has been spent catching up with old friends and yet still I didn’t get around to seeing all of you. So you’ll just have to stay on in Singapore until my next visit. And I wonder who will still be here in a year or two posting photos and check ins at places I once went to. 

Repatriation they say is harder than moving to a new country. But I guess it’s all about perspective. I have many new things to learn before I’ll even get our new family life going. It will definitely be different and hard but it is also different and hard over here too.  What makes it all worth while are the people you meet and I have met some wonderful people.

 

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A life packed up and ready to go

I guess one who is more organised than I am will not have forgone sleep these past few weeks getting sorted out having known for a few months in advance there’s an international move ahead. It would have been more prudent to slowly shed stuff gradually instead of in the way one crams for an exam the night before. But this is also a good example of how one works well under pressure too.

As I sit here writing to you in the corner of our spare room, I am watching a team of five efficiently at work moving the bits and pieces of our lives to be neatly stacked into the back of a van as if setting up for a giant game of Jenga without any of the pieces falling down.

It has been at times an overwhelming experience sorting through what to keep and what not to keep. What is important and what is not needed as a memory, a momento of a special event. Some of the things that I’ve kept, you may not even recall giving to me, some pieces you definitely will. 

It seems a purge every now and then is good for the soul. What seemed essential in that moment, suddenly holds less meaning later on as it’s replaced with something bigger. I don’t like to throw things out after a single use but isn’t it more wasteful having things sitting there idly. In sorting out what comes and what goes, I’m still reluctant to throw without thinking and prefer everything to go to homes where its use will be appreciated. I’ve tried to sell a few things and the bit of money I’ve made has been handy but sometimes it’s like a full time job. What has given me satisfaction is how others are pleased to receive said items who have more skill or time to do something with them. As I undertook this cleansing of things, it did make one feel lighter but also made me want to make much better use of the things I’ve kept. 

Taking a good look at all of our things threw up some lovely surprises such as photos I came across. There were also many amnesiac moments of how did that get there! Mostly though there was a feeling of letting go and moving on. Letting go of a stage in our lives that has long past. These children of mine are no longer babies, toddlers or preschoolers. It’s time to embrace the next stage. Some of you may be thrilled that you yourself have reached this stage. I am too but there is a part of me that laments how fleeting it all now seems. Letting go of things naturally doesn’t mean you lose the memories but things can trigger a memory and it’s a warm feeling to remember that moment.

Singapore is where we began our family life. Where we got through the crazy, new parenting days with the help of so many amazing friends who guided us and supported us and left an indelible mark. Most have already left Singapore years ago and it will be easier to catch up with them when we are back over in the UK. I guess what is heavy on my mind though is all these familiar places and sights that have shaped the life we have with #1, 2 and 3. 

Nearly every day we pass the hospital where they were born, the condos we’ve lived at, the water fountains they ran around in for free entertainment. All these places in a 15 kilometre radius. We may be halfway  around the globe but the space we carry out our daily lives is actually quite small. But it is so familiar. For me and #1, 2 and 3. And ironically this is one of the reasons why we are ready for the move. To experience something bigger. To travel around the UK, Europe, US. Asia is beautiful and many kinds of wonderful but there is much more out there that I want to see and do.

There is just the middle bit to get through. The disruption period.

The date on the calendar marking the packers arrival means there is no turning back. This move is happening and it’s for real this time. You can be as prepared as you like for them to wrap up all your belongings ready for a new start but in your heart it’s the last vestige of letting go of this life and getting ready for the beginning of a new one. 

Letting go of a familiar routine, even one that you may have tired of, is not often easy. Procrastinating is far easier. I’m ready for a change. It’s easy enough to say but change is a process that needs working through. Whether it’s about relationships, an image overhaul or career focus.  It happens over time with many different building blocks coming together to create a new picture. Like one of those digital advertising panels that flips over a square at a time. 

We can be impatient for change and other times we want to delay it just a while longer because we know that change brings about uncertainty. It takes us out of our comfort zone. It requires reinvention to a degree and it means putting yourself out there again. I have just found my network of familiars who accept my thoughts as they come and now I’m going to have to find some more all over again. Lucky unknown you.

As I buzzed up the packers, the feeling of being overwhelmed was, well, overwhelming. They are here not just to pack up my things. They are here to signify the end of an era. Living in such a transient city as Singapore this is not unusual. It’s what expat living is all about. It’s a merrygoround of people coming and going and over the years I seem to have gotten used to that too.

But you know, it’s almost like the packers know this time can be fraught. I have done three local moves where it has been a frenzy of activity and movement. They swarm in and everything disappears. I was concerned it would be like that this time and how little control just watching from the sidelines would make me feel at a time where there are many unknown variables left to figure. But it’s been very calm and I feel so much better. Still in need of sleep though.

And so here we are. Everything is loaded and ready to go. Am I ready to go?

I need to take in a deep breathe and release the tension and stress of the last few weeks. All the wrapping up of school for #1, 2 and 3. The final catch ups and play dates. The gearing up for something new that may not start off wonderfully but we will get there. 

The same as how we got to here starting a new life from the beginning in Singapore. I’m a little bit teary. A little bit sad and nostalgic. But I’m grateful for this experience and opportunities I’ve had to travel and meet so many people from different cultures and be educated on a wider world that has opened my mind and heart. 

But yes. I do think I’m ready to go. My stuff is moving and I need to go with it. 

Thank you to Classic Moving Services for a professional and reassuring team led by Mr Sam who came amidst chaos and calmly sorted it all out with a cheerful smile. 

 

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The Big Move is underway

Like with any momentous occasion, one minute you think you’ve got months until it’s happening and then suddenly…BUMPF. It’s happening in a matter of days. DAYS!

This time next week, our wordly possessions reflecting our time in Singapore, a family life built up over nine years, will be packed up nice and neat to make its way to the UK. 

I’ve often marvelled at how you can live out of a suitcase or three for seven weeks and be totally fine. And then I’ll think about all my stuff at home and wonder why I have it if I can live out of  suitcase or three for seven weeks and be totally fine. So then I get to thinking that one really doesn’t need such a lot of stuff and therefore wouldn’t it be more satisfying to declutter it all away. But then I get back home and you feel all warm amd fuzzy among all your own things and sort of forget about it all.

Which is all fine and well until you get to the point where I am today and really must be much more hardened to the art of decluttering. Quite simply, I am not good at it. I never will be. A big part of my make up is sentimentality and that is not good for decluttering. It will only work if I am in a rage. Rageful decluttering is what works for me.  By which I mean, if I am feeling particularly perturbed by something, I will go and clean. It’s therapeutic and then I will declutter to bring some form of order and control to compensate for the other area that I have no control over.

But this decluttering before an international move is not very therapeutic at all. In fact, it sets your mind and heart galloping.  Why can’t they just move everything from here to there exactly as everything is? Well, I did think about that but there’s stuff I probably won’t need over there. Like all the tupperware containers. Every food item that has been brought back from the shops has lived a second life in a Lock and Lock box. You can’t just put a bag of sugar in the cupboard. Not unless you want a trail of ants all over your kitchen. Ants. Ants everywhere. You know how there’s a national statistic about the number of spiders the average person swallows a year, well I reckon I’ve probably clocked up thousands of ants over the years. 

There’s also the matter of sentimentality to contend with as I mentioned earlier. Leftover from failed attempts at decluttering last time we moved, I came across not one but two boxes of clothing that #1, 2 and 3 outgrew before they’d even reached their first birthday. I have to admit, I was quite confused. I thought I’d cleared out all the baby gear years ago. Especially after categorically deciding there will not be a #4. But perhaps because of that I have found it hard to let go of some items. Little hats and favourite tops to remind myself of how wee they once were. But then as I peered into this box of important forgotten items, it looks like I’d started the clearing out process and then just gave up on it with the promise that I’d get around to it some day.

Clearly those books about decluttering  not just your wardrobe/home/life/friends know a thing or two about it. Even the bloke who came round to do the relocation quote said that people tend to have the same amount of stuff to ship at the end as they do at the start. That’s reassuring.

And once you start the process, which should never be done in two or three weeks  but taken on as a lifestyle change, you end up making your home look more like a flea market with no hidden gems for sale.

And never do this with any small people present. I am quite convinced the packing things  into small plastic bags is a genetic disposition. Because it’s definitely a character trait that #3 shares with my Dad, Mr Li. There is something about my Dad, Mr Li and a number of other relatives who will never help us rid this world of plastic with the way they accrue a plastic bag wrapped bundle of specialness. If the thing is so precious, you’ve just gone and made it less special embedding it in plastic bags ‘to keep it safe’ apparently. 

It is no one’s fault but my own that failed attempts to declutter have been set up and aborted. The hours of labour that have gone into secreting piles of toys that haven’t been touched in months are quickly undone because one simply did not continue the process with immediate expulsion from the home. Instead before long, you’ll find said secreted items back where they once were. Do this a few more times and #3 has your number. She will now ask to inspect the recycling before waving permission to proceed exiting the home.   

 To be honest, I feel like I’ve done ok with the decluttering, regifting and general acknowledgement that there are some projects/skills/hobbies I just  won’t get around to fulfilling and that one should shed these ambitions (but I will learn how to use my sewing machine in England!) and feel more free. However on the other hand, I like learning new skills as it keeps your mind fresh and your hands busy and isn’t it just so satisfying to create something from nothing. Well not exactly nothing judging from my crafting supplies. 

And there are some wonderful surprises to be found in the backs of cupboards and dusty boxes. Photos that I hadn’t seen in years. Handwritten notes that are so rare in a time of e-everything. I came across an old notebook and barely recognised my own handwriting which now resembles an uneven scrawl which made me think that I really ought to reintroduce writing with ink that is more substantial than the weekly grocery list. And then suddenly in #3s wardrobe I come across two bottles of champagne that need to be drunk the next two weeks. Bonus!  

Perhaps sorting through stuff is one way of keeping my mind occupied during this big transition. I am so busy sifting and organising that I can’t linger too long on the real changes  ahead. I find it’s when I’m driving along familiar roads that I get an overwhelming feeling of realisation that in two weeks, all that is familiar will be in the past. Including the home that we live in now, the routine we have, the school system, the food that we eat, the places that we’ll go to, the people we see and the cultural norms. Like the men just lying in the back of a pick up truck along the PIE with no care for road safety rules. Sights that used to shock us but no longer do. As I drive myself here and there, in control of that moment, I feel a prickle of tears behind my eyes as I consider the changes ahead and how I will miss Singapore. Until I suddenly have to switch lanes because of unexpected tree pruning causing lane closure which was indicated by the traffic cones about 10 metres ahead of time.

Change is ahead. It is exciting but scary too. I want it to be amazing but amazing takes time to get there. And even with amazing there is going to be the less than amazing to deal with. 

Today I figured we all needed a moment to get away from the Big Move. It’s happening soon enough and if I don’t get to clear out that box of secret hidden treasures then I’ll just have it as a surprise in our new place. 

I, alongside #1, 2 and 3 needed an afternoon off. Just to be with each other and have some fun and not have them watch me dismantle all that is familiar for them and get all shouty because they’re just as curious to  see what’s lurking behind those cupboard doors and adding to the chaos.

I can be honest with you and say that this moment in time is stressful as I try and juggle packing up with saying farewells and start moving towards our new life. For me, this is not just another country move. Singapore holds some very strong memories and associations of key life events. Even though I can picture new memories forming when we’re back in the UK,  I guess emotions are running high and they will pass but it’s hard to leave somewhere that holds a part of your heart and your children’s identity behind. 

But I also discovered there is very little that some Minions dancing to Happy cannot cure. 

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The time is now…

So. It’s begun. 
What’s begun?

 
Plans for the Big Move Out. What! Really?Yep. 

After almost nine years in Singapore, having waved off countless others before me, many of them really good friends, it is now my turn to bid adieu to the Little Red Dot. And it feels weird. Very weird to think that in just a few weeks, this chapter of my life will come to an end. I guess right now it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It probably won’t for a few more months. Perhaps not even for the first year.

It is both daunting and exciting. I remember in the early days of feeling so homesick and every time we made a visit back to the UK, the wrench of leaving family and friends. But we came back because Singapore is home and we had built a life here with friends who mean a great deal to us. But always, we knew that we would leave this life behind and we wouldn’t be inclined to travel from one country to another. Although it’s definitely not something that we would rule out.

Nine years. It feels like no time at all doesn’t it? It’s already nearly four years since I spoke about how quickly the first five years had gone by. Quite easily another two years could pass and we would still be procrastinating about making a change. We’ve talked about it on and off in the past but when you leave someplace without a base, it’s quite difficult imagining where that base should be and what it ought to look like. So, it’s easier just to put it off. 

Until you realise that you want something different. A need to be elsewhere for a different purpose. To create new memories that will hold different values in years to come. You want a home that will be there even if you choose to leave it for a while. A place that #1, 2 and 3 will identify with as being a big part of their childhood. Singapore will always be important to them but it’s time for new childhood experiences. Some which Husband and I experienced ourselves and some which we never did but would like for #1, 2 and 3. 

I am under no illusion moving back will be easy even though it’s to the UK and not some far flung place. In some ways it could be harder because you’re expected to fit right in. As an Expat you’ll always find the safety of other Expats but I’m sure the kindness of new neighbours and communities will help us on our way. I’m excited to think of the opportunities for travel there will be. To places I’ve missed and places I want to go. To other countries in Europe where friends we met in Singapore now live. There are boundless  new adventures that await us and old friends to see. I can feel the excitement of planning these excursions bubbling away underneath the surface.

But before that happens, there will be the small task of settling in and transition. Finding a new home, a car, the local supermarket, childcare arrangements, GPs and Dentists. Friends. Finding out ways to dry the laundry when you no longer live in the tropics. How to entertain #1, 2 and 3 on a rainy day. There is lots to learn.

At the moment I’m just thinking of what needs doing here. The packing up of a home for not just Husband and myself like when we left the UK but for #1, 2 and 3. Although they are pretty used to moving around. We’re in our fourth apartment so far and we have lived in some lovely condos with amazing facilities just down the stairs but when you’re moving every two years, we also haven’t invested too much time (or any) in thinking about interior decor. We could have colour on our walls for the first time in nine years. And carpet.
 

Nine years though. I honestly never thought I would be away this long. Though I know people who have been away for over 20 years and I can see how very easily that can be done. At the very start of this, I never gave much thought at all about what it would be like moving to a new country I’d never been to. I think I may have looked up Singapore on a map but that’s as far as it went. I recall people who had been to Singapore telling me what a great time they had, one person had even lived here as a teenager and couldn’t have rated the experience any higher. Having experienced the privileges of living this Expat life, I can see why that would be. 

Years ago the names of food and places that were mentioned to me held no meaning but that’s all changed. I will most probably enthusiastically repeat them to others who tell me they are making a trip out this way. They too may look at me blankly and nod politely.  It’s only now that I know most people get to make a recce trip before making such a big decision to build a new life elsewhere but hey, new adventures and all. 

Much the same as right now, I have no set thoughts on how it will be becoming a Repatriate. All these labels to define us. Whilst I’m moving back to the UK, it will be to a whole new town with a whole different set of variables. Plus being a whole nine years older too. Life has changed. I have changed. As you probably have too. With that comes looking at your surroundings, your next move with a different outlook. It’s not just about how will I manage this huge transition but how will #1, 2 and 3 adapt and they of course, are our biggest concern. But you know, we probably have less to worry about there. Sure, they’ll be nervous starting a new school but that happens here too at the start of the new school year. Children are much more resilient than we think and far more kind in welcoming a new face to a group. They’re excited. They are very much looking forward to SNOW! And living in a house. To a garden. To not actually sweating playing outdoors for five minutes. To watching Netflix whilst I do the ironing.

There is a whole new world to explore. Right on your doorstep. And I think I’m ready. So be ready to welcome us home with open arms and a pint of beer. It’s happening in just three weeks! I best get on with the packing, the farewells and the bucket list of things we need to do in Singapore. 


 

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This Happy Father’s Dayย 

We all want special occasion days to be, well special. Birthdays, holidays, weddings, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, school events and so on. 

With small people in tow, ‘special’ in my imagination usually means good, kind, helpful behaviour. No bickering, fighting, shouting, answering back, whining, crying and so on.  In other words, no such behaviour that requires parental intervention to keep the peace and maintain balance to one’s well being. I wish for this every day to be fair but on special occasion days, please can we?

Of course we can’t. I waste my breathe asking for it and yet some small glimmer of hope is there at the start of every special occasion day only to flicker weakly and fizz out before the special occasion day has even warmed up. I mean the day wouldn’t be the same without them being just as they are with us and with each other. It’s no reflection on how much we are loved by them, we know that already from the little things they say and do every day that make you happy like specks of dappled sunlight. 
I read in one card Husband received today the reason why Daddy is special and the answer is ‘because he loves me’. Yes he does. 

We have been parents for a relatively short space of time but it feels like the days and weeks are galloping by so fast. We seem to be working in fast forward mode, especially so since #1 and 2 started Big School and the year is broken down into three chunks of frantic activity and three more chunks of frantic activity. Blink and you’ll miss it is what people say who are many parenting years ahead. You kind of fail to appreciate these wise words in the early years but I totally get it now. 

This Father’s Day, I can only describe myself as thankful. Thankful for Husband and the love and care he puts into our family. I’m also thankful that earlier today I was able to call my Dad, Mr Li to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. A few months ago, I was faced with the stark reality of one of life’s only certainties and I felt the ground beneath me open up. During those days of waiting and waiting and progress moving so slowly, you have a lot of time to think. Mostly to think about the things you didn’t do enough, didn’t say enough, didn’t spend time together enough. The panic in your heart over whether there is time to do more. Even when people say there is, do you dare to believe it though you want to believe it so badly. 

As I recall this now, those deep feelings of grief but not quite are still quite fresh.  Though it seems, I am very lucky. My Dad, Mr Li says it is he who is lucky to recover from this spell of illness. But I know it is me. 

Time spent together is time spent well. Not always do you need to spend this time doing something momentous. Often it’s quite enough just to be sat there, talking to each other.

But I can still imagine that special occasions will at some point elicit special occasion behaviour from #1, 2 and 3.

Happy Father’s Day.  

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#1’s first sleepover

Bedtime is a smooth running affair in our household. Sometimes.

Most times it’s fraught with dawdlers unwilling just to go to sleep when quite clearly the anger levels suggests they (or I) need to just go to bed. GO TO BEEEEEED! 

I have never quite understood that relationship between small people and sleep. The tipping point between coping quite well with the day to the sudden must-be-in-bed-screaming-like-the-whole-world-has-done-them-wrong can happen in a matter of seconds.

Invariably at least one of #1, 2 and 3 can be in this state once every few days. And at least one of them will feel the impulse, the need to drag bedtime out just that bit longer by hiding a favourite bedtime friend say, or disagreeing on bedtime story of choice and insisting on ‘their own’ bedtime story of choice. Then there’s demands for ‘one more story pleeease, that was so short’. It was short for a reason kids. 

By this stage, I just want them all to go to bed. JUST GO TO BED!! Goodnight kisses are hastily issued. Lights off. Door closed on disgruntledness. Then hopefully within five minutes all is quiet and good. Hopefully. I don’t know when bedtime because such a rushed affair that can take a two person approach. 

Tonight though there is one less in the bedtime mix but it still doesn’t seem to have made much difference to bedanger as I can hear that tone coming from #2 who is quite sure SHE IS NOT TIRED. Quite.

But bedanger is not today’s topic. Tonight #1 is away on his first ever proper sleepover. It’s not the first time he’s slept away from home without Husband or I being around but I guess being 19 months old doesn’t really count. Neither does sleeping over with family feel quite the same as a proper sleepover on your own all night. It’s in turn exciting and a little scary I imagine. 

 #1, 2 and even 3 have often asked for a sleepover but we’ve never gotten round to it just yet. As much as there’s a lot of talk about it, when it comes down to it, I don’t think they’ve been ready. They haven’t? Or I haven’t? Well I know for definite that #2 can’t have a sleepover until she can go to a drop off party for two hours without getting upset. But it is nice to be missed as her school friend’s Mum kindly put it, ‘she misses you a lot’. Indeed.

I wonder whether at 10.41pm. #1 is alseep yet. I very much doubt it but I’m sure he’s having a great time. What an adventure to be on to have your first sleepover with all your schoolfriends at school. This will be the first of many and it is another step of the journey towards independence. A necessary step of course but one that seems to come around far too quickly. I think back to when I had my first sleepover as such. I was 14 and it was a school residental trip to the Lake District. Completely exhilarating to have that freedom for a whole five days. Comparing the residential trips of then to now, it feels like seven or eight years old seems quite young but I forgot that when I was 10 years old there were already skiing trips away to France and weekend trips to Amsterdam which seemed a bit too adventurous for my Dad, Mr Li to allow me to go on. But I guess that’s exactly why #1 and eventually #2 will benefit from going on sleepovers, to build that confidence and reassurance that they can be away from home for one night, perhaps even two, and we will all be ok.

It’s an odd feeling without #1 at home. The things that I know he would do in the mornings. Such as being the first one up and alerting you to the fact by the bedroom suddenly bursting open and being woken up with whatever question is on his mind and ready to be asked with no consideration for the fact you are still sleeping and then getting impatient because you’ve not given an answer to said question immediately. And it won’t be just Husband and I missing his presence but #2 and 3 are also asking when is he coming back home which is a good sign considering I often wonder whether they even like each other the way they bicker and fight. 

There are times, many of them, when you say out loud how lovely it would be to have a night away from small people and all the crazy late night stuff you’d do. How you would love for someone else to do the bedtime routine. For one night maybes yes. So the next time I get a sleepover offer and off go #1, 2 and 3, I’ll make sure I have a long list of all the crazy late night things I’d go off and do. 

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A pinch and a squeeze

It’s a bit ironic that in order to feel better, you often have to go through pain first. 

Like getting yourself into shape, you must first experience the pain of physical exertion. I mean way before even putting one foot in front of the other, you have to go through the pain of getting yourself ready and nagging that other voice in your head to just get out there. Same like getting your eyebrows done, get a good brow therapist and years can be taken off your face. But that too is not without pain as two lengths of dental floss are used and just seem to rub and ping away at your brows. Though comparatively less painful than getting a real actual face lift. 

Anyways, I’m driving along and I can feel a few squeaks and spasms going on in my lower back. I’m thinking, ‘I need a massage.’ Long hours hunched over a computer, running and naturally being quite a rigid person I often end up moving like the Tin Man. But the jet lag and sleeping on a couch for the most part of four weeks has really caught up with me. I could barely turn my neck to look over my left shoulder, a problem that weeks of physio is needed to sort out every now and then. 

So why not treat myself to a bit of ‘me time’ and go get myself a massage that will soothe all those aches and pains away. How often are we sold the idea of a nice and relaxing masssage to revive and rejuvenate the soul. Trickling water in some zen pond, aromatherapy oils and therapists who glide silently bringing you herbal teas. That’s the kind of massage I should have gone for.

Instead, I go for a 90 minute session of Traditional Chinese Massage. There is warm herbal tea and zen background music. There is also Le Le, my therapist for today. She is a force to be reckoned with. I don’t know how she does it. The way she can channel such strength in one thumb that delved deep into a knotted shoulder. She actually pinned one arm behind my back and dug her elbow into my shoulder blade and dragged it down the length of it. And she pinched me. She actually pinched me. 

Now I consider myself a person with a relatively high pain threshold. But as Le Le traces her knuckle over a particularly stubborn knot backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, I have no choice but to yelp out in pain! Does she care? Does she even care? No she doesn’t. She just sort of says in a tone she clearly doesn’t mean, ‘ok, ok’ and eases off a smidgen. At other times she doesn’t even do that. She just ploughs on, regardless of the fact that tears, real actual tears are stinging the backs of my eyes. Places I didn’t know were knotted were being unknotted, like my buttocks. I thought they were just firm! 

Le Le is not the first massage therapist to have had her work cut out when working on one’s canvas. Each time I go, I always get told that I should come back on a regular basis. But each time one does go, the pain of unknotting half the knots inside of me is just so painful, you need to give yourself time to get over the memory, like childbirth, before going in again. Le Le is obviously very good at what she does and I’m sure in a few days time I’ll be feeling completely fluid in movement but for now, it feels like I’ve been hammered all over like meat needing tenderising. 

Unlike the time, I helpfully tried the same elbow in shoulder blade technique on Husband when he was feeling a bit knotted. It didn’t seem to have the same effect.

 

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A very lazy Mother’s Dayย 

Usually Sundays start early with rugby training for #1 and 2, followed by homework, grocery shopping and other households jobs. 

Today there was none of that. Just as it nicely coincides with Mother’s Day. A morning of lazy starts and breakfast in bed. Followed by high tea with fairly impeccable behaviour from #1, 2 and 3.  

I received three more thoughtfully decorated cards. #1 has continued with the Tie Fighter theme this year. #2 worked hard on hers for two days. #3 could barely contain her excitement yesterday as she informed me she was doing something secret that she wasn’t go to tell me about for Mother’s Day…

This was exactly about as much as I could cope with today. I am so tired right now I should be in bed. In fact I already gave myself another gift of an afternoon nap. No, I’m not hungover. That was last weekend. 

Last night I was doing something wholly virtuous. I was in fact running a 10km race. Which flagged off at 9.35pm. I know! It’s only since running in Singapore that I have come across these running events that take place at all hours. Literally all hours. Think 9.35pm is late, the full marathon flagged off at midnight! 

So anyways, I thought 10km would be ok. It would take about an hour or just over. I can that distance fairly comfortably if I practice and I’ve often ran that far in the early evening so how different could this be? It’s been a long while since I’ve ran in an organised event and I’ve missed it. The sight of seeing other runners heading to the event, soaking up the atmosphere and waiting at the start line. Then of course seeing the Finish line. 


What I hadn’t accounted for is all that adrenaline takes quite a few hours to wear off. Like a good five hours or so after the race. I should have organised the spare room instead of trying to sleep. Hence today felt like a non starter, I wonder how all those marathon runners have spent the day.

So today’s very lazy Mother’s Day has been just the ideal way to spend it and now I need to go to bed. 

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