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

Catching up with the old in the new

on April 4, 2014

In the five and a half years we’ve been in Singapore, we’ve had a steady stream of visitors pass through. Oddly enough, as there arrives more children, the visitors become less frequent. Any correlation?

With every visit back to the UK, we try our best to see as many people as we can. Travelling from London to Newcastle and branching out to Edinburgh, Guildford, Oxford and stretching from Pontefract to Manchester and Warrington, all in the space of three weeks. Sounds exhausting? It is.

But we want to do this because it’s important for us to see friends and family in these places. To remain connected with the life we had as best we can. With each visit, we seem to come back with one more child and the chance to catch up becomes a bit complicated as we juggle travel with the demands of the feeding and sleeping timetable of small children.

It means that whilst we do see people, it’s fleeting. But much rather fleeting than not at all.

(Hang on a moment, David Attenborough’s Africa is on television right now and I’m distracted by the bouncing Springboks, I guess that’s why they have the word ‘spring’ in their name. If you think my musical popular culture knowledge is so last year, so is my television viewing. I still haven’t seen Matt Smith as The Doctor because I haven’t watched the intervening David Tennant Specials between season four and five even though I have the season five box set but I can’t possibly watch them out of sequence. Now there’s season six and seven and another new Doctor again!)

I know that I’m not alone in this respect. That my living a 13 hour flight away and a 7 hour time difference can work out just the same for people who live north and south of the River Thames, let alone north and south of the Watford Gap. The responsibilities of work, family, living further apart is what changes our ability to be spontaneous and accept all invitations to any social event.

Even the last few years has brought change with the friends I have made in Singapore and opportunities to catch up have become irregular and we all live no more than a 15 minute drive away. There’s just so many things to juggle. Yet, when we do on an evening have a glass of wine in the outdoor balmy air, chatting a little about our children but more so of everything else in general, I’m reminded of that feeling of wellbeing that all is good with the world.

Of course that could be the effects of the beer. I’m kidding! It’s definitely the company.

When my old friend Big D from way back during our University days announced he’d be over in Singapore for a few days with work, it was met with a good deal of Hoorah.

And so it should. Big D is that friend who shakes a gathering up and the party guest that makes for a great night out. He’s proper fun, witty and I often forget he’s an Accountant. They say that you should surround yourself with people who make you feel good but equally of importance are those that make you really laugh. Like Mrs 192, he is one of the best storytellers I know. He has an easy knack for comedy and drama and he fuels the ridiculousness of my imagination but equally is calmly supportive during times of need and important stuff too.

I don’t know why, but every time I see him, I always have to remark on just how tall he is, like it still takes me by surprise after all this time. I introduced him to my Dad Mr Li when I got married and have a photo of the tallest and shortest men I know. In preparing #1, 2 and 3 for his arrival, I obviously had built him up to be so high, #1 and 2 were concerned he wouldn’t be able to fit under our front door. He is tall but I have discovered since living in Singapore that the Dutch are on average, collectively the tallest people that I know. The Irish too actually.

It’s always bizarre and quite a novelty to see familiar faces here in Singapore. Like we’ve all been teleported by accident to some tropical climate as sweaty, summery versions of ourselves. You grow use to seeing people in a certain environment. Same like it’s weird seeing photographs of people I’ve met in Singapore in winter clothing, like it’s a Clark Kent style disguise.

Whilst I’m beginning to grow too accustomed to Singapore and starting to take for granted the beauty and benefits of our home city for the past five years, it is good to have visitors to remind you to appreciate what’s all around.

So with just a few hours free each evening for a few days, what exactly must you prioritise to give visitors a glimpse of the life you’ve been leading out this way?

Big D had a list of ‘Must Do’s’ from people who have previously passed this way and one of them was a long list of rooftop bars. ‘Just exactly how different can one be from another?’ said he. Where once we hung out in pubs with sticky carpets and not much of a view of the amazing London skyline, we were now having pints facing the Singapore River and overlooking the equally amazing Singapore skyline. Which Big D kept saying was very much like Vegas. Really? I’ve never been to Vegas before and it’s quite ironic that a well organised, obedient nation like Singapore could resemble such a place like Las Vegas, home of Celine Dion in Caesar’s Palace and Showgirls. I look upon Singapore with new eyes now.

Then there’s of course the obligatory Hainanese chicken rice, chilli crab, hawker street food (but street food in Singapore is not quite the same as street food in any other Asian country). I like how he pointed out the oddness of pairing fork with spoon which now seems to be the most efficient way to shovel in food and I forget how vexing I once found it when an eating establishment possessed no knives. Shame there was no time for Sunday free flow Champagne brunch at any one of the many five star hotels. But there was time for a Singapore Sling in the soothing surrounds of colonial Raffles Hotel, which is always quite a surprise amongst all the modern buildings around it.

It was good to introduce #1, 2 and 3 to another familiar face and what’s great about children is that they are so willing to accept whoever is put in front of them. However, for #1 and 2 to declare they missed Uncle Big D after a brief half an hour meeting makes me question the depth of their true loyalty to anything. When Nana Moon left Singapore #1 cried at the airport.

It’s been six years since Big D and I were frequent Friday Night Beer buddies. A time when you would see who’s around after work for an unplanned pint in an underground drinking establishment with sticky carpets and flocked wallpaper or a low ceilinged cellar bar that makes Big D seem like Gandalf in Frodo’s dwelling.

A time of spontaneity and evenings free to talk nonsense and laugh uproariously before chivalrously being vaguely pointed in the direction of the night bus home.

It seems like a time far from the lives we have now. So it was good to be able to catch up on all the news that I know has happened but is far better to talk about in person. The arrival of small children, big life celebrations later this year, work, family – the many elements of our lives as it is now. We are grown ups after all and it’s reassuring to acknowledge and appreciate that.

I can’t do impromptu Friday Night Beers anymore but with a bit of planning I can probably do any night of the week beers instead because nowadays you can’t be fussy what day of the week it is, if there’s a window of opportunity to go out.



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