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

Old friends in new places

Just as I’m gearing up to see old friends in the UK, an unexpected encounter with one older than them all occurred right here in Singapore.

By chance I discovered an old school friend, Nori, has been living a few miles down the road since January.

As much as I now have friends I’ve known over 20 years, it’s even more indicative of the passing of time to come across ones you haven’t seen in over 20 years.

With my impending return to the UK tomorrow (have I mentioned that part before?), it seemed timely to catch up beforehand.

I’m quite sure we were around 18 the last time we bumped into each other, just before heading off for Uni. Before the age where you emerge from being socially inept and when opposite genders can start forming friendships without a gaggle of others nudging and giggling away. It was also in the time before every 9 year old was putting a mobile phone on their Christmas list and what do you mean you can send virtual messages across cyberspace? If you didn’t have someone’s home address then that was that.

So that was that.

My family moved away from Chester-le-Street, Co. Durham shortly after I graduated and as I never returned home it meant that I lost touch with the people I hung out with at school. You may have noticed I haven’t talked much of those years, not because they were awful but because there’s not many to reminisce with. How sad does that sound!

If you’re wondering, Chester-le-Street (home of the Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground), is a town and not the name of the actual street I lived on which often caused some confusion and gave the impression of being overly specific on my part when doing the introduction rounds during Fresher’s Week. What is worse is that should I have been overly specific, I’d have gone round telling everyone I lived on Hawes Avenue.

Nearly 10 years of angst this address caused me. Why this particular Lake District reservoir had to be abbreviated from Haweswater as such is beyond me when neighbouring roads were charmingly called Ullswater Road, Rydal Road, Grasmere Road is highly unjust. It must have been one mean spirited friendless town planner to have passed that one through and that’s why you had no friends.

Anyways, if Facebook has been good for anything other than being privy to the innermost thoughts of people you know, it has been the opportunity to reconnect, or not, with people you once knew. Sometimes it doesn’t go beyond the odd message but sometimes, you get presented with the opportunity to see how you connect when no longer socially inept.

So there we found ourselves, 22 years later, in the waiting area of a microbrewery.

What exactly is the correct greeting etiquette for someone you haven’t seen in forever? It’s a ponderous question and as it turns out you greet each other like how you did the last time. Which meant we were practically opposite sides of the room.

No, we weren’t. We were stood like thick planks not exactly knowing what to do for that awkward split second of saying Hello.

He looked exactly the same. Even without having seen recent photos of him, I would recognise him still which can’t be said for many of us. And some of us would count that as a blessing.

He said I looked the same too. It must be something to do with our Asian genes. I can more or less accept that observation and not be upset by it but I would like to think that my sense of style and personal grooming has improved somewhat since then. Thank goodness the misguided spiral perm that ALL the girls were sporting had long grown out before we last saw each other.

It could have gone terribly wrong but that’s the risk you take. Neither of us had to make up an excuse of going late night prawning to justify an early exit which was a relief and proof that we have emerged from being socially inept.

To prove how socially inept we were back then, he asked me the other day, ‘What were you doing living there?’ Some 25 years later, he finds out why.

I was interested to know where he moved onto after school because he came to our school as an Expat from Japan. I can tell you that being an Expat in our small town is not like being the Expats we are here. Far from it.

He is very modest in his academic and career achievements but it’s a story that would make our school very proud of its alumni. And so should he be because when English isn’t your first language, you have to strive much harder than your peers just to keep up, let alone excel beyond. I’ve seen Big Brother Li and Nephew #1 go through this too.

But what is heartwarming is how fondly he spoke of our school friends. Grown Ups now with families of their own and yet I can’t picture them any older than the last time I saw many of them at the age of 16.

Our small town may not possess the glitz and glamour of your usual Expat destination that you and I are used to. But for one person unexpectedly thrown in there as a teenager, I’m glad they come away with good memories because of the people there.

I already knew this though. I came to this school at the age of thirteen having transferred from a much larger school and subjected to quite a lot of bullying because cultural diversity wasn’t that common in those days. I wasn’t looking forward to starting a new school and having all this to deal with again. It’s paralysing when you’re singled out for something you can’t change with catcalls that actually make no sense.

But no one at this school ever showed such behaviour and soon enough I stopped waiting for it. There is no such thing as a little bit of racism or any other kind of prejudice. Even when masked as a harmless joke, something which I came across recently. I thought we were beyond that.

So, I’m glad that he doesn’t carry such memories from the school we both attended at least.

And you know, it was good to be reminded of names I haven’t heard in many years and faces I had to search hard to remember. But the abundance of stories about these people made me laugh a lot. I wonder how they’re doing.

I used to be quite sceptical about school reunions. For surely if you were meant to be friends then you’d still be in contact. But sometimes we drift off and find ourselves far from where we started, looking in on those who still have each other. I don’t know what we have in common now, but after meeting up with Nori, I know we had some good, fun years together. Even if we were socially inept.

What brings people in, and sometimes out, of your life is not always clear. Sometimes it’s down to no other reason than a chance encounter, timing or the fact you just get on.

But in this case it’s quite obvious. As I watched #3 run amok at lunch on Sunday when she ought to have been sat at table like all non feral children, I thought back to the well behaved, disciplined children dining out with their parents when we were in Japan. I’m quite sure this is divine intervention in letting me know that I could do with a bit of help from a different parenting style.

So I’m more than happy to do a Kid Swap (why is Swap spelt with an A
but pronounced with an O, do you know how irritating that is?) if Nori and his wife will have #1, 2 and 3 in exchange for theirs. What do you say? I’m sure a weekend will soon get them into shape.

20141001-000113.jpg

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Let’s celebrate! #3 is twice the age she was

It’s just as well this event only happens once a lifetime, for I certainly wouldn’t enjoy the prospect of waking up next August to find I’m 80. Neither would Husband I daresay.

But for #3 this is what has happened.

Yesterday she was One. Today she’s Two.

And for the first time this year, one of us is celebrating a Birthday when we should and not a few weeks later.

I feel I ought to apologise to all our friends because it seems we have dominated the Party calendar this last month with three of us having Birthday celebrations. With my own going on forever but I can safely say I’m done. THAT Three Day Hangover finished me off.

20140927-233552-84952114.jpg

I thought #3’s party would be a more sedate affair. She’s only two after all. What I forget is that #3 doesn’t have any friends of her own really and rides on the social coat tails of #1 and 2. I can hardly complain when she’s older for hanging out with an older crowd when she’s been doing that all her life so far.

But these are not friends to make up the numbers. These are real friends who genuinely have a lot of love for #3. You can see it every time they’re together. It started off with wanting to push her around in the buggy all the time. I thought it was the novelty of her as a baby being like a real life doll. But then she started walking and they still loved her being around. And now she’s talking back to them.

She in turn thinks she’s one of the gang. She wants to be doing whatever they’re doing even if she really oughtn’t to. You remember that stage of them wobbling like a Weeble and frequently falling down?

Over the last year I’ve had many comments from friends about how #3 is like their own spirited #1 or 2. They recognise the same glint in her eyes and cheeky smile. A smile that is a big proper big cheese smile. I find this comparison quite flattering. For I would rather a spirited child than one that comes across as a wet fish. Even if it means we are at loggerheads when they’re teenagers. At least I’d know they would always have the potential to tell you where to go if required.

It’s quite true that when it comes to #3, you’re definitely more laissez-faire about what they get up to.

I remember a time when #1 was allowed just half an hour of television a day. #3 can correctly be described as a TV addict. She sees us heading over to switch it on and before you know it, she’s taken up her position on the sofa all ready in the indentation that’s solely hers.

#2 wasn’t allowed any dress up shoes until she was three. She waited and waited months and coveted her Big Girl friend’s shoes all the time. Until finally it was her Birthday and she received not one but two pairs. Which #3 has been clattering around in since she was 18 months.

I try and fail to stop #3’s intake of sugar every time she sees #1 and 2 with something they definitely couldn’t have at her age. But the ensuing battle and shrill shriek she emits makes me concede defeat and we compromise on how much she can have. You should have seen her today, every time I turned around she was eating Smarties (mini), gummy bears and marshmallows. I felt sick on her behalf.

The first time she ever tasted ice cream, she let out such a satisfied ‘Mmmm’ showed there would be no going back.

The injustice of it all if only #1 and 2 knew.

20140927-233926-85166406.jpg

She is very funny with such an easy smile. I like hanging out with her on the days it’s just us. Though of course it’s easy when she’s at the age where she doesn’t fall into a sulk when she perceives things to be unfair, or can be so amicable one second and demon child the next and she’s not so demanding for attention with constant chattering at you.

But she’s getting there. Like they all will and should. This next year will see her go from just starting to express herself to full on telling me what’s what. It’s very sweet the way she strings random words together. Less so when she can’t string together the words she wants to and the frustration builds up meaning I have to ask her every conceivable possibility until she nods.

I’m glad that at two, she still gives you a big hug and rests her head on your shoulder. I like how she lights up when she sees Mr and Mrs Cake Pops, Little Red, Mrs Imperturbable and Mrs Daiquiri. For if they didn’t love her too then she wouldn’t love them back.

She bizarrely has a mop of curly hair and some days the curl is right in the middle of her forehead. She is the brunette version of her friend who shares the same name with a different vowel and who also muscled in on our family photo. She still has all her baby proportions and I love the way she patters around here and there. Stopping sometimes to pick a morsel of rice off the bottom of her foot and eating it. She’s #3, who am I to stop her.

It’s been a full on day today with #1 playing in his first rugby tournament this morning before preparing for #3’s party this afternoon.

After #2’s Frozen themed party just four weeks ago with fake ‘snow’ that took nearly two hours to clear up, there was concern that expectations had been raised never to be met again.

But what we can often forget is that we are entertaining a group of two to six year olds. Life should be simple.

20140927-233255-84775928.jpg

Watching kids play Pass the Parcel always cracks me up. They finally get Musical Statues. Slow and steady is what wins the Egg and Spoon race and their lack of coordination in the Three Legged Race quite possibly could have ended in a trip to A&E.

I think #3 enjoyed herself even though it was mostly her older friends who were really taking part. She was surrounded by all those who love her well and an Elmo cake. Elephants and Elmo and real dogs are her favouritest things. As well as a good dress up costume, bags, shoes and jewellery.

So that’s all Birthdays done for this year. Another year.

I’m totally partied out. But no party can end without a drink with those who help me make it fun for all. I don’t do everything myself. There’s always a contribution of food items and clearing up from Mrs Cake Pops and Mrs Imperturbable.

After the melee has calmed down it’s a pleasurable end to the day to celebrate with them with a drink and a lungful of helium never fails to entertain.

But thankfully I’m not such a lush tonight I’ll end up with another three day hangover.

Thank you all for celebrating #3’s Birthday with us. As you and I know, she’s ready to make a mark on the world with that glint in her eye and cheeky smile.

Just FIVE DAYS to go, UK people! Yee haa as #3 would say which she gets from watching Sheriff Callie’s Wild West.

Happy Birthday #3. With much love from many people.

20140927-231637-83797429.jpg

Leave a comment »

Hello UK – it’s time you and I got reacquainted

Today in Singapore the sun is shining and the temperature will range between 26 and 32 degrees with 70% humidity levels.

This is nothing new. It’s barely worth asking me what’s the weather like because with all probability it’s going to be like this.

I’m not showing off. I see the forecast says it’s also sunny in London and Newcastle.

Rest assured I will tell you of the occasions the weather permits the wearing of long trousers. Such rarity elicits great excitement.

However as you are all interesting and stimulating people, I daresay our conversations would never need to hit the doldrums of asking what the weather is doing.

So, after nearly three long years, I’m finally coming back to the UK! Long trousers and long sleeves with a jumper, coat, scarf and boots. Even when I’m in Newcastle. Especially when I’m in Newcastle. It has to be snowing by now.

I’ve started packing already. I have a winter wardrobe circa seven years ago. I’m not outdated, I’m just really into vintage. However to make myself more current I went to buy two new long sleeved tops that don’t look much different to the ones of seven years ago.

I could have bought this but figured I might lose one of the children in it. #3 especially.

20140924-223832.jpg

I’m exuding an air of palpable excitement. Forget the 13 hour night flight with #1, 2 and 3. It’ll be a breeze I’m sure. Just get through the first six hours without crying and all will be well.

And this time I’m back for six weeks and three days. The longest time ever! I just can’t wait.

The first weekend is Big D’s wedding at the former residence of King Henry VIII. Nana Moon and I are going together and I’ll be seeing Ms Beefy, my cousin and her husband plus a few others all at the same time. Slightly concerned the jetlag will send me to sleep in a darkened corner of the dance floor by 8pm. Or even more concerning, into a state of delirium.

Then I’m off to Stockholm for a weekend sans #1, 2 and 3, to help Nana Moon Embrace 40 with £20 pints of beer. Who would have thought there are places more expensive than Singapore for beer. This is one weekend I am so glad I’m back for as not only am I sans #1, 2 and 3 but I get to spend it with my three best friends for the first time in forever. However I haven’t actually told my Dad, Mr Li I’m doing this and after the encounter I told you about in my last post, I’m not sure I will. But equally perhaps this is the best way to break the news to him? I’m sure someone will tell him on my behalf.

Plus there are new small people to meet. I’m looking forward to seeing them in person having seen so many photographs on Facebook and the many status updates of how they are always getting one better over their parents. But there is one young lady in particular, I’m looking forward to meeting most of all. The news of whose arrival still fills me with huge emotion when I think about it.

And not forgetting my Dad, Mr Li and my Mum and all my nearly nieces and nephews. I’ve missed them all so much and I’ve missed out on so much too. When I left the UK they were mostly young adults with student discount cards and now they know why I was always making use of their NUS cards.

The thing I’ve learnt you have to do with being an Expat is that you can’t always look back at what you left behind. Otherwise you’ll never be fully present in the place where you are. So to that extent you do have to become slightly detached from where you come from. Is it still Home? Yes it was and no it isn’t.

After exactly six years away today, nearly three of which I’ve not returned during, I have lost some connection with what I know of the UK. I’ve grown accustomed to changes that made me homesick and I’ve nearly stopped comparing what is better in the UK than in Singapore.

But I’m ready to get reacquainted all over again.

What does it feel like to have a proper pint of draught Guinness instead of one out of a can that’s then poured into a glass and placed on some whizzy gadget that does something which ought to make it taste like a draught one. I’m sure there’s a special name for it.

How different is a glass of red wine going to be in crisp cold weather. Pub with roaring fire thrown in would be an added bonus.

How many different varieties of crisps will I find on the shelves of Sainsbury’s? I’ve already worked out that I can’t buy more than eight different multipack varieties because of my Dad, Mr Li’s rule of maximum one packet a day. Last time I slightly miscalculated and ended up leaving 42 bags with Uncle Monkey. And knowing his lack of concern for Best Before Dates, I bet he still has half of them and more than likely will think nothing of offering them to #1, 2 and 3.

I have a really long list of food items I need to get through and so planning my trip around this needs to be done meticulously. I bet you didn’t even know certain food combinations don’t exist in all parts of the UK. This was a huge shock. I almost couldn’t move to London because they had never heard of chips and gravy in the same carton.

If you can have a bag of chips. And you can have a pot of gravy. Doesn’t it make sense that you equally should be able to have chips and gravy together? It’s very simple. No you can’t. I just don’t get it. Goodness knows what they would make of adding some fried rice into the mix as well. Although Mr Cadbury’s Eclairs thinks this is food abomination. Double carbs are the work of the devil. So does Mrs Cake Pops, I can already see the look of disgust and retching as she reads this.

Elbear the Wise once said that the sign of true friendship is knowing how someone likes their tea. If you’ve forgotten, it’s regular tea brewed for a few minutes with just enough milk to make it look like caramel and filled to one centimetre below the top of the mug. Half filled mugs will be sent back.

Equally a sign of true friendship is allowing the ketchup to reside right beside the salt and pepper next to the Sunday Roast. I just don’t get why this upsets you so? Is it because it merges with the gravy on the plate?

Without sounding as if I have a disregard for the rising numbers in the obese and diabetic, I can’t wait for a real proper chocolate eclair. M&S are ok but one is never enough and two is just gluttony. What is ideal are the Sainsbury’s Jumbo Eclairs. Are you listening Nana Moon? Of course you can get eclairs here and when I first chanced upon one, I was so excited and then so bitterly let down that I almost threw it back and proceed to lecture on what makes an authentic eclair and faux fresh cream is not one of the components and that I should know having won the taste and presentation categories of a homemade chocolate eclair challenge against Mr No Beans, whose real strength lies in the tarte tartin.

But of course this is not about all I can eat. And I really must watch that as I can just fit into the dress I would like to wear to a special family wedding six weeks later but if I don’t manage to keep all in check then fear not, like my suitcase, I have an expandable back up dress.

Last Friday as I anxiously waited for the Scottish referendum results to come in, I could feel the nerves building up. I personally wanted a No outcome so I’m pleased with the result but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel for those who passionately wanted it to be a Yes. Had it been a Yes, it would have made coming back very weird and even more disconnecting for me. Change happens, I get it. The second from last time I was back, David Cameron became Prime Minister. But to lose a whole country? Well that’s just quite careless.

I honestly never thought I’d still be an Expat right now. I thought we’d have moved back some time this year. But I think it’s better this way to get reacquainted again so that I know what it is we’ll be coming back to. There’s a General Election next year and it’s time to listen to what the Parties are saying. Six years away plus #1, 2 and 3 in tow is a big lifestyle change to adapt to. I don’t even know how you would get them some education so it’s about time to find out.

But leaving all that aside, I am more than ready to see you again. And I quite simply, just can’t wait!

Plus, Mrs Cake Pops bought me my very own onesie for this trip. Though I highly suspect she wears hers for casual Sunday wear. I haven’t tried it on yet but all I can see is a Tomliboo and I’ll be bringing it to Stockholm.

I thought six weeks and three days was a long time but it definitely won’t be enough time for me to see all of you who I really want to see but I’m going to give it a good go.

20140924-232716.jpg

Leave a comment »

Just when you think you’re a Grown Up

I think sufficient time has passed for all parties concerned for me to be able to talk about this now.

Just when you think you’re a Grown Up with having paid taxes for almost two decades, owned property, travelled independently and not to mention the raising of small people of your own. Out of the blue, you get one of THOSE telephone calls from your Parents that throw you right back to the time of when you were the size of, well, to the size of the small people you are raising again.

It seems you’re never too old for your Parents to call you up and haul you over hot coals for supposedly stupid and irresponsible behaviour.

That’s what I discovered a couple of weeks ago. My Dad, Mr Li was most upset. He was upset with me and he was upset with Big Brother Li. Big Brother Li thought this a gross miscarriage of justice.

What caused this fit of apoplectic rage from the perennially mild mannered man that is my Dad, Mr Li?

The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), known as Motor Neurone Disease in the UK, Ice Bucket Challenge.

This in itself brought divided opinion from the population with some who merrily took on the ‘Challenge’ after being nominated to those who dismissed it out of hand as self promotion, pointless and a waste of water. And in some respects I wouldn’t argue with the viewpoint of the latter group having seen many a video where there is no mention of donating money to any charitable cause and the person is scantily clad. I also would say that tipping a bucket of ice water over your head is barely the definition of a ‘Challenge’.

But for all the criticism and as a Fundraising Professional when in gainful employment, I stand by that this craze when approached in the way it was intended, did raise much needed awareness of ALS and Motor Neurone Disease and funds for these organisations as well as awareness and funds for other worthy causes.

For in a world saturated with charities to help every conceivable need, something that will raise the profile of your cause above the parapet into the public’s awareness is always welcome.

Inevitably, I would be nominated for this by my friend Mr Cadbury’s Eclairs (you want a contender for man’s biggest gob to house multiple Cadbury eclairs competition then let me know) and I always had every intention of fulfilling the nomination. But at the time I had a bad cold and was also conscious of the wastage of clean drinking water. So I waited until I was over the cold and used the iced water from the cool box following #2’s Birthday party. For the record, my donations have gone to the Alzheimer’s Society and the Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK.

Job done. All good. Or so I thought.

Until THAT phonecall.

My Dad, Mr Li is of that generation that still remembers a time before central heating. He has always impressed upon us the need to stay dry and warm. Such was his devotion to remaining in this state of being that he would always make sure he picked me up from school on all rainy days.

So, you can imagine his total lack of comprehension as to why anyone would WILLINGLY dump a bucket of water, let alone iced water on themselves.

The conversation went something along the lines of:

My Dad, Mr Li: WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? Why would you tip a bucket of cold water over yourself. What were you thinking? Do you know how irresponsible that is? Especially when you are unwell? (True, I haven’t been able to fully shake off a cough for eights weeks now)

Me: How do you know about that? (Sounding very much like #1 and 2)

My Dad, Mr Li: How do I know about that? How do I know about that? I know about everything that you do. (Sounding very much like me now to #1 and 2)

My Dad, Mr Li was very careful not to reveal his source but I have my suspicions. Never Friend relatives of a certain generation on Facebook.

Me: But it was for a good cause!

My Dad, Mr Li: I don’t care what it was for. You are a Mother of three children and you do this? What if this makes you even more ill? What then? And as for your Brother! Doing exactly the same thing and encouraging you his sister to do it too? I despair.

I don’t think there was much point in trying to explain that Big Brother Li wasn’t the one to nominate me and that he really ought to be hunting down Mr Cadbury’s Eclairs. And so like the Grown Up I am, my line of defence was ‘But everyone’s doing it!’. Strictly not true for the reasons mentioned above yet what else could I say when interrogated by my Dad, Mr Li like that.

Yes, you could say that my Dad, Mr Li was a degree or two melodramatic about it all but let’s not tell him that because I don’t want to get another one of THOSE phone calls. Though I’m sure he’ll know about it by now.

You see, my Dad, Mr Li is always going to be the Parent that worries and frets and if in his opinion you behave like a child then like a child he will speak to you and suffer his wrath you must. To be fair, on a scale of 1 to 10, his rage is always towards the lower end.

It’s never good to upset your Parents as I’m sure you know, so I am sorry to my Dad, Mr Li for causing him angst. I can count on one hand the number of times he’s been the shouty sort of Parent.

But I’m also slightly bemused that at the age of Forty, I am not beyond getting wrong off my Dad, Mr Li! Nor that doing something like tipping water over my head would be worthy of feeding back to him. When do you ever give full disclosure to your Parents? Can you imagine what he’d say to the downing of shots at my recent Birthday celebrations? Shit, now he knows.

What makes me laugh the most though, is just how indignant Big Brother Li was at the pure injustice of being held responsible at the age of 48, for the actions of his 40 year old sister.

To the point where he was scared to call him up and asking me if I’d spoken to our Dad, Mr Li recently to get the lay of the land. And I being the younger sibling, full of bravado just telling him to get on with it and call him knowing full well that should our Dad, Mr Li have any further words to express on the matter then it will be Big Brother Li who yet again would suffer the consequences.

I’ve just been told that Big Brother Li has bought our Dad, Mr Li his very own tracking device in the form of the alien technology that is a Smartphone. He’s currently figuring out What’sapp and I’m sure it won’t be long before someone sets him up with his own Facebook Account.

When that happens, I will tell you now that I can categorically say I will definitely not be Friending him.

Why give full disclosure now after all these years without?

20140920-000401-241912.jpg

Leave a comment »

The first tooth is out!

The first tooth is out!

Not for me obviously. Though I’m sure it won’t be long before I’ll have a brand new set in a glass by the bedside table.

I don’t know why I was always slightly fascinated with my Mum’s falsies and kept asking her to show me them but she hardly ever obliged. Then one time I found some in her drawers and screamed.

My Dad, Mr Li only got his falsies a few years ago. It’s quite apparent whenever he talks on the phone without them in. It sounds like he’s having difficulty enunciating each word like when you’ve been to the Dentist and they’ve numbed your mouth up real proper.

Whilst it’s nothing new to your Dentist, there’s something quite undignified when they tell you to rinse your mouth out and you find you have no control over it and end up dribbling all the way down your chin. Becoming.

And I always thought that when you had your teeth out at the Dentist and they gave you that awful gas to knock you out, that you were out for hours! You’re not.

#1 has had a wobbly tooth for some months. Months! I think he was a bit nervous at the realisation initially. More so because of the thought of the Tooth Fairy appearing.

20140916-233016.jpg

You see, #1 doesn’t believe in fairies. Father Christmas, Yes. Easter Bunny, sort of. Beautiful immortal being who lives on the moon with a rabbit, Yes.

But fairies? Not quite. It’s because so far fairies haven’t really done much. They haven’t brought things like gifts, chocolate and moon cake like the others.

So if he doesn’t believe in fairies then should we as Responsible Parents, be endorsing such ideas? I know some would say No, that it’s more harmful to feed a pack of untruths which will unravel in the end and far better to dole out Reality from the start. But at the moment I don’t want to.

This has nothing to do with the ‘Father Christmas and all the Elves on the Shelves are watching you’ encouragement for good behaviour that will start soon. After all, the supermarkets have got mince pies in abundance.

So as the wobbly tooth became more wobbly to the point where it was going to happen any day soon, much excitement was exhibited by myself and Husband over the impending visit from the Tooth Fairy.

‘Wow #1! When that tooth finally falls out, we can put it under your pillow and see what the Tooth Fairy brings. How exciting is that?’

This was met by unforeseen questions by #1 and 2.

‘How does she get into our room?’
By magic.

‘I don’t want her in our room! I’m scared!’
But you’re not scared of Father Christmas.

‘How big is she?’
Oh she’s very, very tiny.

‘How do you know, you said she only comes when you’re asleep.’
Everybody knows!

‘But if she’s tiny how can she carry the coins?’
She doesn’t need to carry anything remember, she brings it by magic.

‘What will she do with my tooth?’
She turns them into stars. (What exactly does she do with them? Make Gung Gung’s falsies?)

Then all of a sudden, we’re in a queue waiting to pay for a drink when #1 comes up to me and says quite solemnly, ‘Mummy, my tooth has fallen out.’

In that moment, the acceptance that children are on this constant journey of growing up hit me. The loss of those cute little milk teeth that caused such wondrous joy when they first appeared. Signalling a brand new milestone your new baby has reached.

And now they’re falling out, marking yet another milestone. Making way for a new set of Grown Up teeth they will hopefully cling on to for many years to come.

#1 doesn’t know that a small part of me felt a smidgen of sadness over what the falling out of this small tooth signifies. However it was quickly dispelled by his excited chatter about where to put the tooth and how much the Tooth Fairy would bring that night. He was so proud and wasn’t phased by it at all. #2 kept asking to have a look at the tooth, then the newly formed gap and then the tooth again.

#1 reckons the Tooth Fairy was going to bring him $S100! (£50). Erm unlikely #1. There’s a lot of teeth to follow you know.

After much discussion, it was decided that the tooth be placed in a pot on the lamp table furthest away for their beds. I totally understand his apprehension of some unknown being venturing into your room in the middle of the night, messing around under your pillow.

In the morning, #1 and #2 wasted no time in rushing over to the pot to find $S2 in his pot and the tooth gone. (Back in my day it was a whopping 10p, though that was 35 years ago). Which he was very happy with and still often talks about what he thinks he can buy with it.

At first it was all about something for himself but recently with it being #3’s birthday very soon, he’s since decided that he’s going to buy an elephant for her with it as #3 loves elephants best of all.

Best gather all the teeth you can find then #1!

20140916-233221.jpg

Leave a comment »

The party’s done….I’m Officially 40!

Well, this was rather a new experience and one I can’t say I liked very much.

There is something inherently wrong with the Three Day Hangover.

Seriously. What is going on there? Two days sort of acceptable. But THREE DAYS? You have got to be kidding me. Shameful.

20140911-000359-239142.jpg

However, I would do it all again. Like you always do after every time you get a hangover. Much like the Common Cold, there seems to be no cure for the Common Hangover, (besides abstaining) and you just have to let your body and mind fight it off. In my twenties it took a day, two days as we progressed through the thirties and now it seems it will take three days. Pah.

We finally reached the end of Official 40th Birthday celebrations last Saturday night, culminating in a Couples themed Fancy Dress Party at the suggestion of my friend Little Red, who looked spectacular as Cleopatra accompanied by Mark Antony (and not Julius Caesar).

20140911-000609-369316.jpg

I love Fancy Dress but I think this may well have been the first costume party I’ve hosted for Grown Ups. #1, 2 and 3 are constantly in dress up and #3 loves nothing more than whipping on an outfit just as we leave the door in much the same way some people grab a bag.

I know it was a big ask to have guests come in Fancy Dress because it isn’t for everyone. That thing of thinking up an idea, putting it together and going out in public. It requires attention and effort and as one guest admitted, there’s that moment just before you enter the party when you have a mild panic that you may well be the only one who never received the follow up message that Fancy Dress is not required.

Well, that definitely wasn’t the case! I can honestly say that all who came made a brilliant effort and I’m very touched by that. I had no idea who everyone was coming as and the anticipation of waiting for guests to arrive along with the prospect of having a few drinks and throwing moves on the dance floor was highly exhilarating.

20140911-000654-414597.jpg

It’s almost like the excitement of Christmas Day as a child, with your bundle of presents and wondering what’s inside. Except you’re looking at your friends disguised as Thelma and Louise and wondering ‘Who the f are you?’. It’s quite freaky when you recognise the voice but it’s so far from who you recognise them to be. Ah, it was so much fun!

I initially wanted to go as Where’s Wenda from Where’s Wally but Husband suggested I go for something I’m a big fan of. So I said I could go as Yoda but then I thought about having to wear the mask all night and decided against it and so I went as Princess Leia to Husband’s Han Solo. My Leia buns kept muffling all conversations and I had to keep lifting one up to hear better.

20140911-000755-475334.jpg

Even I as party host, had a moment of self consciousness, thinking about the journey from home to venue. There were a few shout outs as we got out of the cab at Boat Quay but the best approach was when someone came up to us and asked if we’d just come from the Singapore Toy and Comic Convention. Can you imagine?

The venue was a complete delight with great canapes (I’m a big fan of canapes). Dallas Bar and Restaurant on Boat Quay. With asking everyone to come dressed up, it was the least we could do in going for a private function room which was tastefully decorated and with discreet staff who quietly moved tables out of the way when the drunken throwing of shapes started. It also has a terrace that overlooked the Singapore river and saved the smokers many a trip down the stairs.

20140911-000854-534404.jpg

Inevitably as the night goes on, various pieces of accessories are mixed around amongst people. Completely hilarious after a mix of beers, cocktails and something called a Jagerbomb and tequila shots. Do you know, I had never even heard of a Jagerbomb until then. I blame the young people invited. And I can’t even explain the physics of how it works. You have a tumbler of Red Bull, which you then drop a shot of Jagermeister shotglass and all, into the tumbler of Red Bull. And then you down it all. But what happened to the shot glass? How come it didn’t hit me in the face and everything? I just don’t get it. I may have to try it again some day.

Tequila I do know. Still as dirty as ever. Whilst I can’t remember all words of all conversations like what happens on such nights, I can clearly recall Little Red at the bar explaining in great detail to the bartender the exact measurement of tequila to go with the correct ratio of lime and salt. How I miss those days where such conversations were rife.

20140911-001124-684856.jpg

You can never really explain what makes a great night that has been primarily fuelled by booze and laughter so great so I won’t even try. Let the photographs speak for themselves.

There are several things I fail to remember about being drunk.

1. I cannot sing but will still belt out ‘Don’t look back in anger’ at high screech.

2. I can’t seem to dance without excessive head wobbling resulting in whiplash type injuries the day after. Husband put together a great playlist of all my favourite songs to shake moves too. Who doesn’t love being in the mood for dancing!

3. I am easily led. Another shot for the road? Ok.

4. I get motion sickness on a regular journey, let alone after several beers.

5. The Two Day Hangovers. Now Three.

20140911-001346-826408.jpg

When I spoke about what a great night I had when Turning 30 with all those friends I’d known for years, I wondered how it would be Turning 40 with all these friends I felt like I’d known for less time. But actually when I think about it, I have known some of you for years now and we have gone through some big occasions together and we too have our own shared history. So I am very happy to have had such fabulous 40th Birthday celebrations with you all.

Turning 40 has exceeded any thoughts I had on the matter. It has been only brilliant to have had so many great times with Husband, my family and friends. I feel very lucky and very thankful.

I could see that Singapore Bake Off had put in a lot of care into my very own Birthday cake. It looked and tasted spectacular. Whilst Mrs Cake Pops in all her Rubix Cube glory said some very kind words even though she doesn’t get my love of Star Wars and Dr Who which had she known in the early days would have ended any form of friendship.

The day after the party, it was reassuring to know that nearly all of the guests were somewhere on the Moderate to Severe Hangover spectrum. Like in our household, minimal parenting activity was going on.

But the best thing to hear, in addition to having had a good time, is how many said to me what a great bunch of people were there. That can only be the biggest compliment to receive. It can only be the reason why it was such a good night. It’s the reason why I am so fortunate in so many ways.

As Husband says, ‘Can we now stop celebrating you being 40?’

Yes we can.

But wait.

I’m coming back to the UK next month and there’s a whole bunch of people there who I haven’t had chance to celebrate their 40ths with, let alone my own.

Another Three Day Hangover you say? Let’s do it.

Leave a comment »

The whole of the moon

No, Husband thankfully outgrew full moon presentations many years ago.

Today is Mid-Autumn festival, it’s the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month in the Chinese calendar. It means the moon is at it’s fullest for the whole year and we’ve been out moon gazing. We really have.

Last year there was no moon to be seen, this year big full moon. Everyone’s happy. Especially #3 who thinks being out after dark is the coolest thing ever.

20140908-233506-84906135.jpg

But what really interests #1, 2 and 3 the most is what is there to eat.

Mooncakes.

Having been distracted with Birthday partying the whole of August, we’ve not been scavenging from the many mooncake stalls in the shopping malls. It’s easily an afternoon’s activity going from one to another testing all the many varieties on offer. I reckon #1 and 2 can get through half a mooncake each on such outings. That’s $15 (£7.50) of mooncake. Far better than going to a coffee shop for a babycino and healthy bran muffin for the same price.

Apparently my Dad, Mr Li, can recall when I was the same age I could eat a whole one to myself. Really? They made me gip for years afterwards and it’s only since living in Singapore when there are more varieties than I knew possible that I’ve become reacquainted with them. Snowskin champagne truffle you say? Has it got real alcohol in? It has? Ok then.

20140908-225759-82679475.jpg

With all festivals there’s some meaningful moral story behind it. As we wandered around Chinatown admiring the orchid flower lanterns and gazing at the moon, #1 says ‘Is it true that a girl ate a pill and flew to the moon Mummy?’. Whilst this may be some people’s definition of going out clubbing, that is not the story.

Legend has it that one year many moons ago, the ten suns rose together causing devastation until Yi, an excellent archer shot down nine of them. He was worshipped as a hero which corrupted his good nature until he became cruel and tyrannical and demanded to live forever. He was given an elixir for immortality but his beautiful wife Chang’e stole it and drunk it herself to save the world from her power mad husband and floated off to the moon. With a rabbit. I’m not sure where the rabbit came from but apparently it’s there if you look at the moon closely enough you know.

There’s another version of the legend where he doesn’t become power mad and is rewarded with the elixir but his power mad apprentice tries to steal it instead until his beautiful wife Chang’e sacrifices herself and drinks it choosing to watch over her non power mad husband Yi from the moon. With a rabbit.

So then there after he and all the people join in with giving offerings on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month.

So when #1 asks outright if this story is true, be it any version you like, what can you possibly say? Because how can Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy be real if the beautiful lady who lives on the moon with the rabbit is not? Oh look, #1, let’s look at the pretty lanterns instead.

The design of mooncakes with the round yolk inside is to symbolise completeness and sharing them is about family unity. So if as my Dad, Mr Li says, I was quite happy eating a whole mooncake by myself it explains a lot about my contribution to family unity.

20140909-125528-46528450.jpg

One of the best things about living in Singapore is being able to embrace these fabulous Chinese customs and for #1, 2 and 3 to fully enjoy it too and be able to properly understand the traditions and not just eat the food that comes with it.

And what do you know, it’s a full moon in Hong Kong too.

20140908-232925-84565722.jpg

Leave a comment »

Teacher’s Appreciation Day 2014 – How to show your appreciation

It’s Teacher’s Appreciation Day today in Singapore and most of the local schools are closed giving pupils and Teacher’s a much appreciated day off.

I assume it’s not Teacher’s Appreciation Day in all countries, such as the UK with the new school year having just started a few days ago.

Why am I talking about this? Well, Teacher’s everywhere deserve our appreciation for taking our beloved offspring off our hands for half of their waking hours, five days a week and for weeks at a time. I’ve often said that school was invented to give parents and their children a break from each other.

Plus there’s the whole teaching them to read and write and do sums. I don’t know how they do it but #1 listens to his teachers and absorbs what they say. So why can’t he do the same at home? Why do I have to repeat myself endlessly over all things? And why when I give him some piece of information that I think is interesting and new his answer is ‘I know Mummy, I know that’.

The other reason I mention this is because it makes me That Mum again.

The one that doesn’t remember it is Teacher’s Day until arriving at school on the day.

The one that sends their children to school sans token of appreciation to all their teacher’s whilst Mrs Cake Pops has individually personalised handcrafted candles of the Teacher’s signature scent. I’m exaggerating of course but you get the picture between Prepared and Organised and well, just not.

The one that will never make it onto the elite Class Mum In Waiting training programme.

But not this year.

This year, I am Prepared and Organised.

#1 and 2 are bringing in homemade cookies and brownies all wrapped up neatly with handmade gift tags signed by #1 and 2.

In reality, #2 measures one or two ingredients and tips it into the mixing bowl. Followed by one or two stirs of the wooden spoon. Followed by one or two rolling out of cookie dough. Followed by one or two attempts at writing her name on the gift tags.

#1 didn’t even hold so much as a wooden spoon but did eventually write his name on all 15 gift tags.

I’m up past midnight because I didn’t get a chance to bake the brownies until after their bedtime as we chose to spend the afternoon at Mrs Imperturbable’s condo instead. Of course this was way more fun than having to ‘work’ at their Teacher’sDay gifts.

But that’s ok because this year I am Prepared and Organised!

This morning we arrive at school with our basket of goodies. #1 and 2 proudly announce they are cookies and brownies they helped to bake. I suppose both touched a utensil required at some point of the manufacturing process.

This morning I wasn’t That Mum.

I may get an interview for the Class Mum in Waiting Training Programme after all.

Some hours later and I’m on my way to get #1 and 2 from school because it’s a half day finish. My phone rings. It’s the School.

They’re just wondering if I’m aware it’s a midday pick up today so that the Teacher’s can head off early and enjoy their Teacher’s Day lunch.

No matter how good the cookies and brownies are, I’m sure they’d rather have their much appreciated half day off without #1 and 2 in tow who waste no time before telling me how such and such was picked up and they were still in class and then such and such was picked and they were still left in class.

Next year I’m going to be The Mum Who Reads The Whole Email.

As well as being Prepared and Organised of course.

Incidentally, so you’re much better Prepared and Organised, Teacher’s Appreciation Day for most countries is 5 October.

20140905-232138.jpg

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: