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

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 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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The next best thing to going to see family and friends is when they can come to see youย 

As the years pass by and I am still finding myself calling Singapore ‘home’, one of the great joys of being here is when family and friends can come and visit you.

 

We’ve had a steady flow of visitors over the years and it’s a privilege to be able to host them whilst we’re here. It’s not just family and close friends we’ve seen but old colleagues who randomly find themselves in Singapore for work or just on their way to someplace else.

 

 

It’s impossible to fully describe what living this Expat life is like. Is it really like a permanent holiday and how lucky are we to have hot weather, home help and sunshine most days all year round. To come and see for yourself is the only way to find out. It’s a chance for us to share what this lifestyle is all about.

 

 

But most importantly, it’s a chance for us to catch up properly at a much more relaxed pace than the galloping speed I find myself doing on every trip back to the UK. I see you but it’s so brief, yet brief is better than nothing. But when you’re out here in Singapore, we at least don’t need to try and cram everything we need to catch up on from the last few years in the next few hours. We at least have a few days to do so.

 

I love the anticipation of waiting weeks and days until the moment you need to go and collect visitors from Changi Aiport. I love an airport. It usually brings a promise of something fun and exciting. Singapore is so compact that you can get to the airport within half an hour. And the design is such that you can see your visitors come into view whilst they queue for their luggage and not have to wait until that Surprise Surprise moment when they walk through Arrivals.

 

 

Uncle Monkey will not like me saying this as he will no doubt take it as a dig, but Nana Moon has stayed at all four of the apartments we’ve lived at in Singapore. Rating each condo on the size ย and shape of the pool downstairs. I’m pleased to say that our current condo rates rather high.

 

 

 

Her latest visit last week must have been her fifth or sixth stay in Singapore. Usually it’s because she’s en route to someplace else but this time it was purely to visit us. And rate our new condo pool. Quite often I hear people say that there’s not much to do in Singapore. That you can do the main sights in three or four days. Yes that’s partly true but then how much do you get to see of any other place you’ve been to on holiday. And really, isn’t it about seeing us?

 

 

Of course it’s about seeing us! But equally you are on holiday and I wouldn’t want you to go home more exhausted than before you arrived because of the demands of #1, 2 and 3! I’m fully aware of the fact that you are on holiday but as Guest of Honour, you are also a huge source of attention and entertainment for #1, 2 and 3!

 

 

 

And as #1, 2 and 3 grow older and they remember family and friends they’ve met before, there’s something very touching about how they feel when visitors come to stay. They love it. As much as Nana Moon loves Whittaker’s white chocolate with Lemon & Paeroa and bursting with popping candy. Trust me, it’s a deep love. But I also see her point having tried some and immediately having to put it on my grocery list.

 

 

You see, as much as there’s hot weather, home help and sunshine most days all year around, there isn’t the consistent presence of something as fixed as family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, we have great friends here but Singapore is a transient hub and at some point, they or we, will move on. It just depends on when. Two years are fast approaching seven.

 

 

 

So you can imagine the excitement when I told #1, 2 and 3 about the return of Nana Moon. Plans were made months in advance of the places they wanted to take her (Legoland, Malaysia), gifts were bought with a Star Wars theme attached and they were even going to take her to school as their Show and Tell exhibit A but much to their disappointment we had to go to Legoland instead.

 

 

I’m not quite sure who had the most fun at Legoland. Or who most enjoyed the stay at the Legoland Hotel. I do know that Nana Moon taking them on the rides that go round and round spared me many moments of being sick. At the moment I’m still the Mummy Who Can. #1, 2 and 3 haven’t quite sussed out that I’m rubbish at theme park rides, that I’m no natural adrenaline junkie and that I’m rather scared of the dark with mysterious noises and low flying animals around. And Nana Moon knowing that I am all these things, always steps up to lead the way.

 

 

 

 

Equally as I saw how much #1, 2 and 3 gained from Nana Moon’s company, I came to question again the value of those close relationships they are missing out on. On both sides. With lots of people. Even in the seven short months since we were last in the UK, Nana Moon could see how much each of them has grown up and changed.

 

 

 

We often talk about reverting back to type when we are with our siblings. That we adopt the roles we’ve always played when with brothers and sisters. That is so true. But what I’ve realised over the years is that we also revert back to type with those who we have known the longest. We talk about the same things, almost picking up conversations we left off a couple of years ago. There’s something quite comforting and reassuring when that happens.

 

 

 

For me, it’s the safety of knowing that whilst I have been away and you and I have done so many things that haven’t involved each other, I ultimately know that beneath it all, you and I haven’t changed that much at all. And you know, I like being able to talk about the ridiculous. Like whether I’d like to be a vampire or witch more. I’ve given this much thought. Ask Nana Moon.

 

 

Without doubt, taking this unknown step of moving out to Singapore all those years ago was the right move. It’s been good to be pushed out of your own comfort zone. Meet new people. Meet some amazing new people who have brought so much and widened the world for me. I’ve travelled to places I never would have done. Tried new experiences that would never have crossed my mind to want to try and do. Like the G5 bungy ping. It’s been calling me for six years and I can say I’m never having to do it again. Besides I definitely won’t be if my Dad, Mr Li hears about it. (What were you thinking? You’re a 40 year old mother of three and you go and do this? I despair. And so on)

 

 

 

 

In this modern era of never truly being out of touch with people anywhere in the world at all times of day which I’m truly thankful for. I daresay I couldn’t have stayed out this long without social media and various apps that help us keep relationships going and friendships alive. ย Though nothing can compare to their actual presence.

 

 

Whilst the Arrivals Hall of an aiport is one of the most exciting and happiest places to be, equally the Departures Hall can be one of the most hardest places to be if you are the one not going anywhere. I must be notoriously rubbish at saying Farewell because #1 kept asking me whether I was going to cry. And he and #2 were so upset they had to be consoled with fries before going home….. But it’s good that we miss you because it means we’ll be looking forward to seeing you again.

 

 

If we can’t go and visit family and friends all around the world. The next best thing is when family and friends can come and visit us here.

 

 

And so if you can, it would be lovely to see you .

 

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The ‘do nothing’ holidayย 

Even though we live in tropical Singapore with tropical temperatures nearly all year round, it’s not quite the same as being on holiday. We do have the luxury of a swimming pool downstairs but you just wouldn’t spend all weekend in your swimming togs bagsying your sun lounger with a towel before you’ve even had breakfast.  

Though I know one day when I am no longer in the tropics and I am looking out of my window onto the umpteenth consecutive grey, rainy, dull day, I will be wondering why I didn’t spend more time lounging by the pool when it was just right there.  

But even life in the tropics is governed by the social diaries of small people, chores and general weekend time has disappeared into a blackhole again. So you still need to get away every now and then to have a real holiday experience and exhibit holiday behaviour.  

What is holiday behaviour? The need to eat three course breakfasts when usually two slices of toast will sustain you, the marvelling of seeing a Boots, Tesco’s and now WH Smiths outside of the UK and popping in just to check what they sell. I know full well what they sell! The sudden and incomprehensible desire to purchase and display upon oneself a garment of a tie dyed nature. And the all important beer calls at any time. 

If you only want to travel for just two or three hours, more than likely you’re going to end up in another tropical location with tropical temperatures nearly all year round. So shall we go to Krabi, Phuket, Langkawi, Koh Samui, Penang, Laos, Phom Penh, Borneo or Lombok? Places that once sounded so far flung and exotic that are now within a long weekend break away.  

 
 
 
I would say we are fairly experienced in travelling with small people on long haul flights which lulls you into a false sense of security when it comes to short haul flights. That because the flight time is shorter then luggage will be less, good travel behaviour from #1, 2 and 3 will be disproportionate to travel time and every thing will just be a lot breezier than travelling long haul.  

It is more or less the same. 

You pack your regular Grown Ups stuff. Then you pack the stuff for small people. 

  • Clothing for each day of the holiday plus extra sets just in case. 
  • Swimming stuff plus arm bands, goggles and things to build sandcastles/scoop water with.
  • Toiletries plus mosquito repellent, sunscreen and medicines to cover a wide range of minor illnesses
  • Nappies and wet wipes.  
  • Snacks so you don’t have to locate the nearest local shop for local people as soon as you arrive.
  • Books because that’s just part of the daily bedtime routine.
  • Special sleepy toys.
  • Special drinking cups for bedtime milk – this is when you begin to regret establishing the comfort of a regular bedtime routine as advised in all the Generic Parenting Guides.
  • Then there’s the ‘Bag that they packed themselves’. #3 packed a tiara, special sleepy toy and two mini bags of potato sticks. Holiday essentials.     

And so off we went to Bali, just two hours and 45 minutes away from Singapore. With two big suitcases and five small carry ons. No pushchair though which is progress.  

We have been to Bali before about four years ago with Uncle Monkey and we stayed in a villa in Seminyak. But for ease and in want of being on a ‘do nothing’ holiday we stayed in a hotel that had great facilities and that all important ‘Kids Club’ that nearly all families with small people look for. Husband and I thought that perhaps for a couple of hours a day we may just get a glimpse of holidays of old. No. Not a glimmer. It would seem that Husband and I are much more fun than any ‘Kids Club’.  

And even in tropical Bali, there’s no guranteeing the weather. As we landed at the airport to be greeted with grey skies and rain. A lot of rain. Non stop tropical rain. But #1 and 2 did learn how to play Air Hockey that afternoon. And they would have been Ninja Warrior Champions of Air Hockey had the sun not shone brightly every day for the rest of the week.

 

  

 
 
 

There is no such thing as a ‘do nothing’ holiday when you are the parents of small people. Fact. And just because you are in a place of clear blue skies, sandy beaches and sparkling seas, small people have no regard for the inner peace and sense of relaxation this scene is meant to bring upon you. Whatever happens at home will happen on holiday. Fact. But because we are on holiday, we always fail to remember this. Fact. And feel mildly flummoxed when the tantrums, wails and whines make an appearance when we are on holiday.  

WE ARE ON HOLIDAY! 

But because we are on holiday, it is permitted that Holiday Beer can make an appearance at any time of day. Which rather helps take the edge away. When you have a beer in your hand, it’s ok if the kids appear to be alternating between pancakes, chips and at best spaghetti bolognaise for every meal. It’s ok that they appear to be running circles around the restaurant rather than sitting nicely at the table. It’s ok if they are throwing a full body tantrum. It’s all ok with a bottle of Holiday Beer in your hand. If only they would just go to Kids Club.

 
 
 
And as I was saying there’s no such thing as a ‘do nothing’ holiday with small people. Even lounging by the pool requires at least 30 minutes of prep time that includes changing into swimming togs times three, application of sunscreen times three, application of mosquito repellant times three, herding from hotel room to pool times three, repetitive requests to go and do toilet evacuations times three because undoubtedly as soon as you get to the pool one of the three will announce an unexpected and urgent need to do an emergency evacution.  When you are ensconced poolside, one of you is invariably on permanent life guard duty or re-enacting scenes from Three Billy Goats Gruff as Troll Under Bridge. If only they would just go to Kids Club. 

As much as we say that we would love to have a ‘do nothing’ holiday, it also feels like such a waste to have travelled so far and not see beyond the hotel grounds. Especially if the kids are not going to make any use of Kids Club. Sometimes you don’t know really know what you’re going to get until your cab pulls up right in front of your hotel and I’ve had the chance to stay in some quite amazing hotels. But hotels are hotels.  

Each time we go away, Husband and I always say the next time will be easier when #1, 2 and 3 are that little bit older. And each time it is. We no longer have to lug a pushchair, baby carrier, small pouches of mushed up food, baby bottles, milk formula, large plastic tub for sterilising bottles, sterilising tablets, bibs and blankets with us. Neither do we need to find places to eat that have highchairs on the premises. Nor are we the first to eat right on the dot of opening time to get small people back to the room for bed. Most of the time when we are           finishing up, people are just about to head for dinner after enjoying Happy Hour sundowners in the bar beforehand.  

But it appears we are not quite there. And even with packing extra sets of clothing, it’s not much use when you don’t pack them in the Going Out With Small People bag. Inevitably one of the three will expel their breakfast all over themselves and you in such situations. With no spare clothes to change into. In many situations this wouldn’t normally end in a huge fashion disaster but choice of a new wardrobe can be rather limited in the Gift Shop of Bali Bird Park. #3 spent the rest of the day wearing a t shirt that could have doubled as a dress and shorts that reached above her ankles and were so wide they looked like cullottes. Though I suspect Husband secretly rather likes his fetching orange shorts.

 

 
 

But despite the expulsion of breakfasts, the cries of boredom in the car and the frantic seeking of toilet facilities down some remote jungle lane, it is so worth seeing a small glimpse of somewhere else. 

 I always assumed Bali was mostly a Muslim culture but it’s not, it’s Hindu. With amazing temples of all sizes and importance located often within metres of each other. It’s also an island rich with craftsmen creating beautiful handicrafts out of wood, upcycling old canoes into shelves, sewing pieces of leather into bags, mosaic pottery and art. There may be hundreds of shops selling the same wares lining the roads of Ubud but it’s heartening to see the actual work in progress in very rustic workshops.  

And it’s very green. Which makes an amazing contrast to the urban living in Singapore. Sometimes you think some buildings are not quite finished, there’s exposed piping and rubble and there appears to be no landscaping around the buildings. It takes a couple of days to get used to seeing this and realising that actually this is it finished. For now at least until perhaps another sum of money has been saved up to build the next part. A true work in progress. Chickens roam everywhere scratching amongst the dirt and dogs wander along the side of the roads. I saw a man stroking a chicken’s head like you would with a cat. I noticed the rubbish collected in the rivers and streams around small clusters of housing and further along a woman washing herself amongst it.   

Which coffee came from beans pood out from a civet cat?

 
I don’t know what the Road Safety Regulations are and they probably don’t mean much when you see two adults travelling on a motorbike together with three children. It’s no wonder they don’t quite get the hooha when we’re trying to find the middle seat belt in a car and won’t set off until we do. Whilst it’s busy on the roads, you don’t get that harrassed stuck in traffic feeling. The traffic flows slowly and any beeping of horns is to let motorcyclists and dogs know we’re overtaking you which is the opposite to my usual beeping of horn to let you know you’re driving like an idiot.  

On our last trip to Bali we saw the volcanic sand beaches favoured by surfers and the popular shopping areas of Seminyak on the south west coast of Bali. It’s not a big island and just 20 or 30 kilometres away the scenery changes completely. I love open space and it can be rare to find in Singapore. Even if you’re alongside another 50 or 60 tourists, there’s still something quite spectacular standing on the clifftop watching the sunset in the distance by the temple of Uluwatu. Whilst cursing the couple in their wedding finery standing precariously on the crumbling cliff edge trying to capture that perfect wedding shot and marring the horizon. Haven’t they heard of photoshop? If only the resident monkeys ran off with the camera at the end.  

Speaking of monkeys, for future reference best not to wear flip slops, hats or anything that can’t be strapped down to your person when travelling amongst monkeys. Real monkeys and not the cheeky monkeys that reside with you daily. And as terrifying as being nearer to the ground and to monkeys as it may seem, it is best to advise small people that they are far better off walking by themselves than being carried. As the monkeys are more likely going to try and grab flip flop from your offending foot whilst it’s flapping loose in the air than whilst you are using it which #2 knows all about. One ran off with someone’s hat and Husband said as I put my bag down to help another couple take a photo, one monkey was keenly eyeing up the contents. They were bold and feral and not dissimilar in behaviour to #1, 2 and 3 with their constant foraging for food and the way they drank straight out of the bottle and just chucked it behind them when they were done.      

 
 
 

So, our taking some time off to ‘do nothing’ holiday in Bali to lounge by the pool drinking Holiday Beer whilst #1, 2 and 3 are in Kids Club didn’t quite happen. In fact #1, 2 and 3 probably ended up more exhausted than normal with being so active in the pool and doing so much walking, eating late and going to bed later than usual. Husband and I on the other hand, had never been to bed so early for quite some years, which is what happens when all five of you have to cohabit a family room.  

 It was probably quite a relief for #1, 2 and 3 to get home and be amongst their stuff in their own bedrooms to finally do nothing. 

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So here we stay……..for now

I am just as surprised as you are that I will still be in Singapore for the foreseeable future.

 

I know! I remember it clearly myself just a few months ago when we were back in the UK having discussions that we may be moving back to the UK some time this year.  But we’re not.  Actually I recall thinking we’d be moving back last Autumn too.

 

Anyhow, we have moved and just a local move has been chaotic enough let alone thinking about an international move.

 

This has been our fourth move in six years.  When Husband and I moved from the UK to Singapore it was courtesy of his work which meant professional packers came swooping in and taking care of everything.  Back then it really was quite simple with just packing up our small two bedroom flat with hardly any furniture.  How those packers must have rejoiced at landing that particular job.  Back then we were inexperienced relocatees even though throughout our Student and formative gainful employment years we were still in rental accommodation and moving once a year.

 

The difference between now and way back then is the amount of stuff we (or as Husband will be quick to correct – I)  have accumulated.  You may be congratulating yourself on how ruthless and systematic you are at purging excess belongings that no longer serve a purpose, will never be used again no matter how useful the person on QVC persuaded you it would be or that just, sadly, will never fit you again no matter how achingly ‘vintage’ they may now be.  Nothing illustrates how lightly we once lived than the one small carload of all our worldly possessions we once trundled off to University with to live our whole lives by.

 

Ok, so perhaps we didn’t have to pack up beds and sofas, washing machines and microwaves, sideboards and cabinets too but the contents of one storage cupboard in our previous apartment that never saw the light of day in two years would easily fill two empty people carriers.  And as I was filling up boxes with said items, I questioned why on earth was I even bothering taking it with me. It just didn’t make sense.

 

So how has this happened??

 

Well I think by nature I am a hoarder.  Not quite so bad as the people they make documentaries about whose homes are jammed packed full of, quite literally, rubbish that is treated with reverence.  There was an episode of ‘Life of Grime’ that featured a gentleman who owned a whole house in Crouch End that I used to pass on my way to work.  Developers preyed like vultures for the property which was in a prime location and with huge potential.  The garden looked more like a scrapyard and you could barely open the front door wide enough to squeeze yourself in sideways.  How could anyone live like that? Well, it transpired that he was a refugee displaced from Poland in World War 2 and to have had nothing under such circumstances affected his attachment to possessions the rest of his life.  There’s always a reason.

 

I have no reason for my hoarding tendencies than the fact that I am an optimist in believing stuff will once again be useful, be used and will fit.  Although I am much better at accepting that stuff will no longer fit.  And even if they did fit, I am much better at accepting that particular look is no longer appropriate for my current lifestyle (or age).

 

This recent move happened quite suddenly.  Initially we thought we would just renew our lease but with rental prices falling sharply and our landlord failing to grasp this notion, we decided to move somewhere slightly cheaper and bigger that came up.  And without a six month baby in tow hindering all ability to reason and be proactive, I had a clearer picture of just how much we have that was out of sight, out of mind.  Again Husband will tell you this concept has been known to him for some time.  What has really unsettled me this recent move is the volume of our belongings that does not help with our  daily lives.  It became painfully apparent as I emptied cupboards and drawers into 110 boxes.  Some things I totally forgot I even had and had even bought a new replacement of.    

 

Moving is a great time for purging excess stuff I know that.  Some of you are very good at it, I know that too.  And I am aspiring to be like that and will at some point get around to it.  As I emptied out cupboards and drawers into 110 boxes, I was drawing up a mental itinerary of all our stuff. There’s the box of cables that we have long forgotten what gadgets they belonged to and yet have kept ‘just in case’ we need it.  We haven’t needed it for two years, surely it’s safe to say we probably no longer have the gadget the cable belonged to.  I was also amazed at the amount of socks we have in these tropical climes.  To be fair to Husband he has to wear socks everyday to work so those are mitigating circumstances.  But he has 60 pairs of socks.  Outside of work socks, there are socks for trainers, socks for cycling, socks for other sports, socks for hiking, odd socks and holey socks.  Frolicking socks breed like underpants in the dark corners of your underwear drawer.  It’s the only explanation.  Same goes for books.  Books are my greatest joy and greatest weakness.  I will always take in stray books with the promise that I will read it some day.  I have a book shelf full of books I’ve mostly read and another cupboard full of books I haven’t read and if you were to pile them up high, you would find it would be twice my height and more.  Books are wonderful.

 

After packing up the big stuff, the practical stuff and the used daily stuff, there’s the other stuff that just exists. Everyone has this stuff.  Buttons, small change, Allen keys in multiple sizes, safety pins, adapters, receipts, memory cards, Sim cards and so on that lives in a top drawer.  It all got swept into a carrier and moved into another new top drawer.  Then there’s the stuff that comes with small people.  Cots, clothes, blankets, nappies and related paraphenalia, bottles, snack boxes in various sizes, bedding and towels.  Then there’s the toys.  Toys suitable for small people from age 0 to now.  Soft toys are my nemesis.  They are everywhere and they are bulky.  And they cannot be parted with for sentimental reasons because that soft toy was sent by that special person. And just when you think your child has no emotional attachment to said soft toy, once you deploy the services of that soft toy elsewhere it will suddenly become the only soft toy to comfort your child to sleep.

 

Then there’s the stuff that I can’t part with because as you know by now, I am sentimental to the core.  The tiny sleepsuit #1, 2 and 3 all came home from hospital in.  The boxes with loose photos in that will never see the inside of an album.  The artwork of not just #1, 2 and 3 but nearly niece Strawberry Mousse going back a decade.  The bags and shoes that will always be in fashion to me even if they are not in the wider sense.  The woollen items knitted by the Mother In Law that are like new.  The memorabilia collated from trips we’ve made since moving out to Singapore that will be used to decorate our Forever Home once we really settle somewhere.

 

So you move from one apartment to another apartment that is bigger than your last one.  Although our previous apartment looked pretty big again when it was devoid of all our stuff in it. It would seem obvious that the new apartment should accommodate all your stuff quite comfortably.  This is not the case and never will be.  You moulded your old place to fit in all your stuff.  You put all the big obvious stuff in place and fill it with the all the big obvious stuff.  Then fill in the gaps with all the other stuff that exists.  And even though you existed quite happily on all the stuff you have in your previous home, when you move, there will inevitably be a post moving in trip to Ikea involved even though you already have too much stuff.

 

When you move, the initial frustration of trying to find new homes for all your stuff makes you even more determined to filter out what you don’t need.  Every time we move, there’s always that period of boxes just being there for weeks, sometimes months, because you don’t know where the gaps are to fill in with the stuff that just exists.  Plus, I kid myself that I’m going to sort it out properly and purge what we really don’t need.  But after while, I am always just tempted to get another cabinet but Husband will tell you that is not the solution and so in a bid to just rid ourselves of the unhomely looking, cumbersome boxes, I just end up filling in the gaps with the stuff that just exists with the promise that I will one day very soon get around to properly filtering it all out. I really will.

 

I’ll let you know in two years time how that plan worked out.

 

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So that’s how you cook a turkey!

So the 3kg turkey, which incidentally weighed the same as #1, 2 and 3 at birth, wasn’t that difficult to cook after all! It was a bit of a disappointment really after hearing all these years about how people have to get up in the middle of the night to start cooking the turkey but apparently Mrs Cake Pops says that’s only if the turkey is double the size of the one we had. No wonder Christmas dinner is a stressful event if you’re cooking for that many people because that’s a lot of turkey going on there. Plus all the trimmings. You need another kitchen really.

Husband says our turkey was rather like a large chicken, except with huge wings, but I thought I better make more of an effort with it than just bunging it into the oven. Out of the twenty odd Christmas food magazines I’ve accumulated over the years illustrating the various ways you can cook Christmas dinner, I opted for the rub the turkey all over with butter and then decorate with rashers of streaky bacon option as advised by the Butcher. It was a bit weird rubbing the butter all over the turkey, I’m not sure I’d do that too often.

The real challenge though was how do you cook all the other things as well? Like the potatoes and parsnips that need roasting, the sausage meat stuffing and had there been room in the oven, the Yorkshire puddings which categorically should not be reserved solely for roast beef. Husband and Sister in Law like a spare Yorkshire pudding with golden syrup. Try it. Husband also likes a slice of Christmas cake with cheddar cheese on it. Try it too. These all require significantly higher temperatures than the 170 degrees the turkey needs to cook at. So suffice to say that Christmas lunch almost became Christmas afternoon tea by the time that everything was ready.

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Not that #1, 2 and 3 were concerned as they barely touched a morsel. So wrapped up were they in the visit of Father Christmas that had happened earlier that day.

Barely had I finished writing my last post and climbed into bed when a commotion erupted as #1 and 2 came charging into our room informing us very excitedly that Father Christmas HAD ALREADY BEEN!

Erm, that wasn’t the plan we had agreed on. #1 and 2 you were meant to sleep in until 7.30am.

NOT BE UP AT 3AM!

Then not only be up at 3am but #2 decides now is a good time to start freaking out at the fact she’s scared of Father Christmas. After he’s delivered the presents. She then insists that one of us has to sleep in their room in case he comes back. ‘But he’s not coming back #2’. ‘How do you know Mummy?’.

Quite so. How do I know?

#1 was beyond excited and kept getting out of bed several times before it was even dawn and then having to wait another hour before #2 and 3 were up. The anticipation was almost painful for him but he did really well.

And then everyone was up. Marvelling at the mess the reindeers had made on the balcony after eating the carrots and how Father Christmas had eaten all the snacks and drunk the whiskey and milk.

Now in each family, we all have our traditions and in ours the gift from Father Christmas can be opened after we’ve had breakfast. It worked well in previous years but as #1 and 2 join forces together and show no regard for patience it wasn’t really happening as before.

#2: ‘When can I open my Snow White dress from Santa, Mummy?’
Me: ‘How do you know that’s your gift?’
#2: ‘Because I asked him for it and he’s been now’

I can’t really argue with that can I. Where’s the surprise and amazing coincidence that Father Christmas delivers what you ask him for so long as you’ve been (mostly) good all year?

To #2 it was just fact. But joyful all the same as they excitedly opened their special present and it’s exactly what they’ve been coveting for some months.

I know it’s hard to tear yourself away from something you’ve been waiting for but I like a Christmas Day walk. Even if it’s just for an hour and we definitely had an hour to spare whilst the turkey cooked. #1 was a bit disgruntled at having to leave his new toys but in the end I think he enjoyed it. Along the way we passed by a temple that offers people who need it, a hot meal everyday of the year funded by the generosity of the public. It was a timely reminder.

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In the absence of family in Singapore, we do have good friends, great friends in fact, to spend a time of year usually reserved for close family. We ended Christmas Day with friends who opened their home to welcome so many of us who are a long way from Parents and Grandparents and plied us with lots of fizzy alcoholic pop.

Then on Boxing Day, which is fast becoming one of my favourite days too, we celebrated with a Boxing Day ham fest with Mrs Cake Pops and her family. Boxing Day ham is by far a much more relaxed affair. Just do the ham accompanied with left over cranberry and bread sauce, freshly sliced bread and copious amounts of cheese. What more could you ask for.

So the turkey is all done without a turkey curry to be had but a mashed potato topped turkey pie with shortcrust pastry grated on it before baking to a golden crunch. Absolute genius idea Mrs Imperturbable!

Christmas Day is over for this year and I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful one.

It’s time to prepare for the New Year and everything that it brings.

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What the Complete Residents’ Guide to Singapore didn’t say

I have the book but I didn’t quite get to the Orientation presentation on The Complete Residents’ Guide to Singapore.

It’s like your regular Lonely Planet Guide covering culture, shopping and places to eat but with additional information on ‘how to set up home’, places you could live, healthcare providers and schools for your children. I think I did read it or some of it (it’s really thick with very small sized font) but like your regular Lonely Planet Guide, you can’t really visualise the country you’re going to until you’re there and you become familiar with your surroundings.

I’m sure if I were to look at the Guide now, six years later, I may find it more useful and even find new things to do and places to go.

In fact, I have just had a quick flick through it and it makes for much better reading now that most of it makes sense. I can picture geographically where all these places are and what shopping centres are good for what and which bars and restaurants are worth a look at. The amount of information in these guides that are just for padding is quite ridiculous and can cause much anxiety and confusion.

Luckily the evolvement of social media provides a much more satisfying insight into the world of an Expat Resident living in Singapore. My newsfeed on Facebook gets clogged up with all manner of questions and advice people need or think they need.

But the one thing that I could have done with some forewarning on and advice on how to survive it is this.

How to prepare yourself when people you really like and children you held as a newborn baby move on from the transient hub of Singapore.

I’ve mentioned it before a couple of times because it’s the one area that really hits me. Every time it happens.

I like you, otherwise I wouldn’t spend time with you and because I like you, I spend a lot of time with you. Then you have to leave.

Or one day I will leave.

And I miss you. I miss you a lot. And your children. And my children miss your children. Not so much you. But you understand.

Then the things we do together, I don’t do anymore. There are certain parts of Singapore I haven’t been to in years because people who used to live there don’t live there anymore and I have no reason to venture that way. It’s quite weird.

Am I the only Expat who feels this way? I don’t think so but as much as I would like my circle of friends to remain the same, there’s been something incredibly enriching about living this Expat life.

I can barely imagine a life where I had never met these people at all. So many different nationalities and outlooks on life. Some amazing people and really lovely, kind, loyal friends who still remain somewhere in my life. Some of course, were not like that and it’s quite a relief.

I’ve had quite a lot of Goodbyes this year.

The latest one was last week. I thought I’d be ok with it because they’ve headed back to the UK and I’m pretty sure I’ll see her and the kids again. She’ll be rubbish at general updating and she leaves no trail on Facebook, which is a very helpful resource in keeping in touch with all these people. But I know she’ll be booking babysitters as soon as there’s a word of catching up with a glass of wine. Or, she’ll create a campsite in her new home so we can bundle all the children together and leave them to it.

No exit from Singapore has been as painful for me as when Brilliant New Adventure left last year. I still wish she was here all the time but those who are really true friends never let you go. Out of all the hundreds of people I’ve met here in six years, I’ve had some really wonderful times with so many of them.

We started off tentatively together, you know on your best behaviour and all. Getting confused and misreading cultural differences in our approach to things. I’m being all British and you’re being not British and I’m thinking I don’t really get you and am I ever going to get anyone ever again?

Then suddenly, through the fog of so many new things happening at once. New country, new employment status, new baby, new sleep patterns. I get you. I really do. Then I start becoming more myself, the non Expat version who isn’t (though really ought to be) on their best behaviour all the time.

I used to go out you know. I even would have a drink. I’d even have more than two or three too. How outrageous of me. Oh you did too? Really? Yes. I did. In a time before I met you with an 8 month gestation sized bump that replenished a couple more times afterwards.

I’ve obviously met all the friends I have made in Singapore through having had #1, 2 and 3. I couldn’t have asked for better support when we were new parents or when the chaos of multiple children hit us hard in the solar plexus. Or when the loneliness of missing family and distance from family during their time of need made us question what were we doing.

An Expat Circle provides you with a network of support when you have none to hand. We are all experienced at being the New Kid at School. That awkwardness of wondering whether you’ll ever fit in, all these other people seem to know what they’re doing and I am clueless. So were they once. So was I. And so that’s why you extend that hand of friendship. Many of us have the time of course but also will remember just how it does feel to be that new person. Even when we are confident, experienced Grown Ups.

So, as I was saying, I said Farewell for now to one friend I’ve known for six years. Nearly all the time we’ve been in Singapore. I know I’ll see her again but as we said Goodbye, it suddenly hit me that I won’t be seeing her next week. That the boys will have grown taller and more grown up the next time I do. That they will not hang out together with #1, 2 and 3 doing what they’ve been doing for six years. That there will be no more red wine and lethal cocktail nights out for some while.

Ah, that realisation was shit all over again. But one thing I do know now and that is we will remain in touch. Perhaps not all the time, but enough to keep things going. And having met up with one such lovely friend in the UK when I was back whom I met out here and it feeling like we just finished a conversation yesterday.

So perhaps no one needs to tell you that part about Expat living. Far better you figure it out yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t want to risk getting to know anyone at all and that would be a huge shame.

For me at least.

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Whilst I should have been sleeping

On the flight back from the UK, whilst everyone was sleeping, this was the view from the window. It was pretty spectacular don’t you agree? I asked the air steward if he knew where we were flying over at that moment and he reckoned it could have been Afghanistan.

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I spent a lot of last week awake whilst everyone was sleeping. I know it only lasted a week but I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from the effect that jet lag had on #1, 2 and 3. For this time, it hasn’t been just about getting myself back to functioning like a relatively normal human being.

Jet lag is the price you have to pay to get to the land of eternal sunshine. Though it’s been raining heavily nearly every afternoon we’ve been back which would really piss you off if you had travelled all this way only to be rewarded with jet lag and rain.

From what I remember of three years ago, there was only #1 who was up between the hours of 11.30pm and 3am for about four nights. He wasn’t quite three at the time and #2 was only 15 months and so she settled straightaway.

After accidentally sleeping in until 1pm last Tuesday, the day after we got back, we had a tag team of #3 up at 11pm followed by #2 at 2am and then #1 at 4am which resulted in me cooking noodles and making toast at 4.15am. They finally fell asleep at 6.45am. I contemplated whether it was worth going to sleep at all but then decided it would be best for the wider community that I had some form of sleep. Sending #1 and 2 to school has been the best remedy for jet lag, they come back exhausted and thankfully sleep. #3 has been the biggest pickle, as she already gets in a good few hours before I feel it’s a reasonable time for me to go to bed and then she’s up for a few hours and so it went on.

I’ve had a few people ask me whether it’s been difficult to settle back into Singapore after such a long time away and of course, you all could tell how much I loved being back in the UK. There were times when we were in the UK, that I would think of Singapore and find it all quite surreal. I mean to be honest, this whole expat existence is quite surreal.

But the thing is, whilst I have a close affinity to the UK, #1, 2 and 3 do not. Singapore is where they were all born and is where their home is. It’s where they have a familiar routine and where they can find the friends they know best. So for that reason, I would never be so rude as to call the UK ‘home’ in their presence even if I feel so comfortable with the place when I’m back. It would just end up confusing them. Home is where we all live together as a family.

I think I needed a break from Singapore in order to appreciate it again. Much the same I appreciate the UK after six years away. I was starting to feel claustrophobic on this small island country and feeling like we were doing the same activities week in, week out. I imagine it’s a feeling you can get the world over. It is a small place and we have done quite a number of things already (some I would never go to again like Hay’s Goat Farm and FarmArt) but as I discovered at the weekend, there is also a lot more places we have yet to explore and now that #1, 2 and 3 are older I think we can venture out and do a lot more.

It’s a beautiful city state and it’s growing all the time. Where I live now is a 10 minute run down to the river that takes in the amazing skyline of that ‘boat on three buildings’. In the UK I had no qualms with driving hours to get somewhere so it should be nothing to drive 35 minutes north to get to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve where you can see natural mangroves and crocodiles at dusk.

So whilst I don’t know when we may choose to leave Singapore, I think it’s time to start living like it could be any time soon and not take it for granted as to leave without really getting to see many of Singapore’s hidden gems would be a real shame indeed. I’ve heard about this natural hot spring somewhere up north. It looks like some someone’s back yard with a makeshift water pump and you have to bring your own bucket to fill up with the natural spring water to dunk your feet in! A far cry from the volcanic natural hot spring Husband and I went to in St Lucia but it looks funny and I think we should try it.

Then again, some of the old favourites are still a sight to behold. #2 is desperate to see if she’s tall enough for the boat ride at the Singapore River Safari which she sees is her right of passage to being four years old. It’s also a privilege to be able to pop out for dinner and drinks with friends and have views like this. Shame it has to be for a leaving do for someone I’ve know nearly all the time I’ve been in Singpore.

Such is the transient nature of where we live and that is what I need to remember.

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