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

Regaining a bit of ‘We’ time

By regaining a bit of ‘We’ time, I don’t mean ‘wee’ time in that I can now go and do my business without an audience.  I cannot recall a time that involved sitting on a toilet behind a closed door in my own home. To the point that when you come and visit, you should probably remind me to do.
 

No, by regaining a bit of ‘We’ time, I mean the ‘We’ of Husband and I on our own. Without #1, 2 and 3 in tow. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. That we haven’t been out on our ownsome or with other Responsible Grown Ups since becoming parents. It’s just those times have usually been after a full day with #1, 2 and 3 and then rushing to get out elsewhere. Having a shower but not enough time to do your hair. Those kinds of outings.

 

But a special occasion calls for a bit of proper ‘We’ time. Especially if you know that someone has spent much of the past few weeks getting up in the middle of the night tending to sick children whilst you sleep off your own illness. Husband has been quite the star doing all these things whilst I’ve been down with flu and sleeping in as much as I can in the mornings. So for Husband’s birthday this year, as a break from the norm, I booked us into a fancy pants place for lunch. Why not dinner you may say? Seeing as it’s a special occasion. I said regaining just a BIT of ‘We’ time. The other night when I went out for dinner with a friend, #3 sat by the front door and very softly said ‘Don’t go out Mummy, please stay at home.’ Whereas when you go out in daylight, it’s quite acceptable. Perhaps, I should try just going out for lunch and staying out. I know people who do that. Yes, you.

 

But anyways, going out for lunch is a start. Especially to a fancy pants restaurant where the cutlery isn’t one style fits all dishes and you get a knife. You’d be surprised how many restaurants in Singapore don’t have knives. Like, why would you need a knife to cut up your pork chop? What’s wrong with the fork and spoon combo? Admittedly, the fork and spoon combo is a rather efficient way of shoveling food in at speed. So fancy pants was this restaurant that for my starter, I was presented with chopsticks, knife and fork. Two ways to eat. Imagine that.

 Fancy pants restaurants no longer scare me. They once did in my twenties when Husband and I went to a fancy pants restaurant for the first time and we were the youngest by far. It felt almost like playing at Responsible Grown Ups. Everyone else was wearing black and I had on a sparkly silver top. Having just thought of this, I realise I was wearing black today. Oh no! I’ve mastered the art of blending in.

 

Husband and I arrive at the fancy pants restaurant towards the end of the lunch sitting and I could have gotten away with saying that I had hired the whole restaurant just for him on his Birthday. We sit at a neat table for two rather than the usual picnic bench for five. There’s a policy that no under 12’s are allowed in and for a moment we look around and imagine the terror and uproar #1, 2 and 3 would be causing at the moment. Do you know what a luxury it is to be able to sit still and not have to be retrieving a child from under the dinner table? Yesterday, #3 for reasons known only to herself, decided she would only eat her dinner if I pretended she was a stray dog we were taking home with us. I kid you not. And we did take her home and she woofed in appreciation.

 

As far as Birthdays have gone for Husband these past few years, he’s celebrated with a trip to the Bird Park, Universal Studios and a five year old’s Birthday party. I think this is the year to make him feel he’s not living the life of Tom Hanks in Big.

 

In previous years, I’ve talked about your own Birthday not being quite your own with small people around who seem to adopt it as an extension of celebrating something for themselves. Present opening, cake eating, special Birthday outing. Today though, there was an Assistant Director on the scene. #1 helped me to wrap the presents, he wrote on each present who it was from and then he hid them under a cover and got #2 and 3 to do a bit reveal in front of Husband who was naturally amazed and had no idea there was a pile of presents under a cloth in the middle of the room. He even wrote on an old wrapping paper tube a special Birthday message. Significant for several reasons that he had creativity, he did it all on his own and he wrote something without being prompted. #1 is not a fan of writing.

 

Husband could really see that #1 had put in the effort to make it special for him with these simple gestures. I hope it made #1 feel good to make someone else happy. I hope there are many more of these moments over the years.

 

#3 made us laugh as all Birthdays come with cake, presents,  party and games. When it came to bedtime, #3 said to Husband ‘but we haven’t played any games Daddy.’ So I invented a new game called Musical Sleep. When the music stops, you lie down and go to sleep.

 

Happy Birthday Husband, who declared that he is going to buy a Porsche and get the mid life crisis out of the way…

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

A day of two parties 

It is not uncommon for me to attend two parties in one day. There have been occasions where I have even been to three. That is how rock and roll I am.

Except before you feel envious, most parties I go to are for small people. Between #1, 2 and 3, I am merely the Keeper of their social diary and the wheels of their transportation. I don’t recall as many Birthday parties going on around me whilst I was growing up. As much as Birthdays were celebrated in some form with cake, presents and special Birthday dinner, a party was still a ‘party’ with just your family around.

For each of #1, 2 and 3, every Birthday has been celebrated with a multitude of friends in Singapore. Each year a different group of friends as people come and go. With living this Expat Life and in the absence of close family around, the close friends we have become the people the children look forward to celebrating their Birthday with.

And every Birthday is special but Turning 5 is something else which I’ve already talked about for #1 in When a child is born and recently for #2 in You’ll always be my baby. And for every Birthday, I like #1, 2 and 3 to have some involvement with the decision making process before adapting it to my own capabilities. For the moment, they haven’t realised the amount of effort that goes into party planning. No matter how simple you think it’s going to be; a cake, party bags and venue; it never is.

And so #2 at the fine age of five, made up her mind some months ago, as far back as Easter, that for her Birthday she would like a ‘Thomas’ party. As in Thomas the Tank Engine. I thought our Thomas days were over soon after #1 turned two. This was quite a surprise as #2 has not been known for her love of steam engines. Last year was the whole Princess Elsa and fake snow that took us 2 hours to clean up party! And considering how fickle a child’s loyalty can be, I thought she would change her mind before long. I didn’t encourage her to change it, after all we should be encouraging freedom to choose whatever you want to be and do. So I said to #2, “If you can name me five Thomas trains then you can have your Thomas party.” She gets as far as “Thomas…..” then whispers to #1 “Who else?” to which he reels off a list of names having never forgotten them from when he was 18 months old.

Several months later and we (read I) need to start party planning and she’s still quite sure it’s going to be a ‘Thomas party’. I like it. I like how she can have a supposed boys themed party just because she can. The joys of being five and five year olds unperturbed by general ideas of how things should be. I like how she can wear a fuschia pink dress at the same time and jump around on a trampoline and dig up dirt in the sand pit whilst insisting on My Little Ponies in the party bags.

I like how she is uninhibited by what others may think. When does this change? And what can we do to change this? In times where there is much discussion on girls under increasing pressure to act and behave a certain way influenced by their peers, celebrity culture and overexposure of what everyone is doing on social media. Do you think of how we can keep this free thinking of both genders the way it is at the age of five?

Moving on from these thoughts; how did she enjoy herself? Well the cake maketh the party and #2 asked for Thomas with the Fat Controller. And that is exactly what she got. After organising 12 Birthday parties, I have long since let go of the ‘Must Do Everything Myself’ when I know so many much more talented people who can do a far better job. My friend Cathy who is never short of cake orders did a fabulous job again and she can be found at https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-cakes-by-Catarina/165934673561576?fref=ts but Hurry! She’s already completely booked up for September. So who will make #3’s cake?

  

#2 loved her Birthday cake. So much so that when it was time to hand out party bags when people were leaving, she turns to me smiling and says, “I just need to go wash my hands!”. Not only are her hands black but her teeth and mouth and face stained black like she’s transitioning into a pirate with poor dental hygiene. Whilst she’s off washing her hands, I notice the Fat Controller has lost his head. When she comes back I ask her “Did you eat the Fat Controller’s head?”, “I did Mummy” she happily replies.

And if you looking for a venue with the right blend of indoor and outdoor space then I couldn’t recommend Tanderra more highly. When you have almost 30 five and six year olds in one space, it is best to let them loose outdoors. Many of us living in Singapore have the luxury of a pool downstairs but few of us have the freedom of a garden that children can potter around in. This venue is like the back garden #1, 2 and 3 would love to have with a huge sandpit, trampoline and regular green grass.

  
And what Husband and I still haven’t learnt is the perils of the pinata! Five is a good age for  a pinata, anyone below five are just wasting their time. A gentle tap by most under fives is only going to make the pinata last the whole duration of the party but you and other parents will soon tire of it.  At five they’re strong enough to do some serious damage so make sure you are well out of the way. At five they have a strong competitive streak and you spend most of the time yelling ‘Move back, move back!’ as they want to get as close to the sweet cascade as possible. At five they are also not beyond tears because five is a bit young to be battling it out on the brutal sweet grabbing field.

I like watching small people have fun at parties. Running riot with their mates and gorging on sugar items washed down by juice and more sugar items. And I like how the guests can then be returned to their rightful parents to deal with the aftermath of the sugar products and the high of extreme sporting activities like the pinata.

And that same evening, Husband and I joined good friends at the NZ Aotearoa Ball, our only connection being we know people who are genuinely from New Zealand and can sing both versions of the national anthem. Switch the sugar items washed down by juice and more sugar items to red wine, white wine and more red wine and you’ve basically got a re-enactment of a group of Grown Up five year olds running riot with their mates. Except the hangovers the next day most likely lasted a lot longer than the sugar crashes ever did.

And with all good nights out, the next day there’s nothing you can particularly say that could fully describe what made it such a great event. There was a lot of laughter, dancing and conversation I can’t recall. But I do recall the company was great and it makes you look forward to seeing them again.

It was a day of two parties indeed. And who doesn’t love a party be you five or fifty five. 

A very good day.

  

Leave a comment »

Happy New Year! It’s 2015!

Do you remember me saying just yesterday that the last time Husband and I were out celebrating New Year’s Eve at a genuine party for Grown Ups only was back in 2007?

Well I should add that the last time I had an all day hangover on New Year’s Day was back in 2008. We rolled in at 3.30am with no regard for the fact that #1, 2 and 3 would be up and out of bed before many hours long. It wouldn’t be so bad come the day they can get themselves breakfast and possibly help #3 out of her cot. But that day has not yet come.

I wish I could say I’ve gained restraint now that I’ve Embraced 40. It appears I haven’t. Not only that but I am solely responsible for my own all day hangover (I think I usually am no matter how hard I convince myself I’ve been led astray). How can I not be when I was the one to bring a bottle of tequila to the party. It was really good tequila too. None of that paint stripper stuff we used to down on Tuesday Tequila night at Uni.

It was a really great night out and all Thanks to the hosts and their fabulous friends who made it a really fun and funny evening. Check out the floating lanterns. The next time I warn #1 and 2 about the perils of playing with matches, I will refer them to Husband who was highly inebriated and determined to make them float. I think they managed to get two to go. I didn’t even know they were meant to float, I lit my candle and did well not to set myself alight and the whole thing just sort of caught fire and fizzled out. But when it worked properly, it was really amazing! It was up and off into the night sky.

20150101-234157-85317355.jpg

I’m glad to see on social media and various modes of communication that Husband and I are not the only ones to be suffering the ill effects of a good New Year’s Eve celebration. Once again, minimal parenting activity went on in this household for the first part of the day at least. A lot of parental time out was required.

It’s quite strange how you wake up with such a bad hangover and get to the end of the day and wonder how you even managed to get to the end of the day at all. Be it having to go and do a full day’s work or entertain small children, or anyone else for that matter.

Thankfully, we’ve managed to pull it back and produce a good day for #1, 2 and 3 who shouldn’t have to be punished with a dull day at home due to the excesses of their parents. Besides, it’s always good to get out for a New Year’s Day walk even if it’s not a wholesome, crisp clean air romp in the countryside. By Singapore standards, today was positively like such actually, cool and breezy. So we walked all the way from home down the river and within view of Marina Bay Sands (that building that has the boat on top). It was really good to get out and about and along the way we bumped into two families we know. One of them the hosts of last night’s late night shenanigans at that. Not so good was #3 wanting to be carried part of the way causing waves of nausea to rise up and down.

20150101-234342-85422373.jpg

So it’s New Year’s Day and I haven’t really got the clarity of mind to draw up a list of Resolutions. I reviewed last year’s which were to get more sleep, to be more organised and to do more in Singapore.

Erm, I think we did do quite a bit more of Singapore last year. I was recently told that the ‘Be more organised’ Resolution is on a par with the ‘Must go to the gym more often’. As in you throw it in there without any real intention of really seeing it through. Maybes. I could always be more organised though and I’ll still keep that in mind for this year.

What I do need to do is spend more time doing the things I enjoy. Be it reading, working out my sewing machine so I actually use it to make something, improve my Mandarin, play tennis again, run more (which I will be doing as I’ve entered a half marathon race next month) or use it to be with people who I genuinely love being with.

This year the emphasis will be on the Next Big Change. Whatever that may be but change is definitely ahead. It’s going to be an unpredictable year with new challenges to meet head on. With change comes a bit of apprehension but I’m also excited too.

So this 2015, I wish for you a peaceful start and good health, happiness and many new adventures that brings you many great memories. I hope you embrace all that this year will bring and if times are hard, I wish you strength and positivity to overcome these times and if you need me in any way, of course you can count on me to be there for you too.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Let’s welcome 2015 with open arms.

Just after I get rid of this hangover with a hair of dog beer. And it seems I’m not the only one who has resorted to this hangover cure as Uncle Monkey sent me a photo of his own hangover cure too.

20150101-235200.jpg

Leave a comment »

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.

20141229-234810.jpg

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.

20141229-235216.jpg

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.

20141229-235036.jpg

Leave a comment »

Love London

I’ve been back in the UK for a month now. A whole month you know!

It’s been a busy, packed to the hilt, constantly on the go month.

It’s impossible to take it easy if you haven’t been back to the UK for almost three years. I’m sure you would have a long list of people to catch up with and places you want to be.

As you know I love Newcastle and all things Way Up North. But if you have ever lived in London, I’m sure no matter how long ago or where you may live now, the allure of London never fades.

I love London. LOVE London! Even more so now that I know I’ll probably never live there again. I only realised this fairly recently when thoughts of returning to the UK have presented itself.

20141105-013737.jpg

London represents a part of our lives that epitomises youth. Long boozy debauched nights and carefree lazy days. Where lifelong friendships were formed and where you truly can’t help but feel vibrant and alive.

Where else can you find such a buzz of activity and so many different ways of life. It has old English charm and the richness of a multicultural society living right amongst each other. The sights, smells and sounds of London offers a fervour you can find in few other places. Perhaps this is sentimental nostalgia and no doubt I’ll feel the same about Singapore when the time comes.

Regardless of this, I bet even you can’t deny the famous words of Samuel Johnson, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Yes, sometimes the frenetic pace of London can wear you down. The crowds, the dirt, the heat of the Tube, the queues are not always pleasant. The fact you’re never far from a rat makes me vomit. The mice on the Tube tracks freaked me out and brought me to tears to find them scurrying across the exit stairs at Finsbury Park station.

But the beauty of its famous landmarks and glorious parks are something to behold. I never did as much as I ought to have. Rarely a frequent visitor of the many museums, theatres and art galleries. They’ll still be there in years to come.

But I remember the outdoor gigs in Hyde Park, the Charity League softball games, the dingy pubs and swanky bars, the Christmas lights, the River Thames, the old church right next to the latest modern structure, the walking routes overland that take you from A to B far quicker than by Tube.

I arrived in London with no real plan. No urgency to stay. Perhaps a couple of years maybes. Famous last words. But in London time seems to slow down. Less need to settle down and become Grown Ups. Weekends are booked up months in advance because we are all so busy working, socialising and being places.

If the opportunity hadn’t come up to move to Singapore, I imagine we may be living on the outskirts of London. Perhaps still working there but hardly enjoying the life we once had. Perhaps it’s just as well to have had a concise, clean break. For London will always remain that wonderful place of our youth.

It would have been a real shame to have all this time in the UK and not find myself amongst this familiar place again. And I am very lucky that my in laws gave me the chance to relive a London experience for 24 hours sans kids!

I enjoy driving and the freedom it gives but equally love a solitary train journey with nothing to do but look out of the window. Even paying the extortionate fare from Leeds to London seemed worth it just this once. And as my Mother in Law was responsible for booking my cab to the local train station, I was guaranteed to arrive on time. In fact I was a whole 20 minutes early for the train which Husband says is the earliest I’ve ever been for anything.

20141105-013914.jpg

So, after a few hours I arrive at London King’s Cross train station. The excitement and anticipation I’m feeling is insurmountable! I’ve got my day mapped out of lunch with Mr Cupping, a wander around town towards the Tower of London and then back to an old haunt for drinks with old friends and colleagues.

Then suddenly I’m floored.

Where the f am I?

I don’t know where the f I am. Truly I don’t.

This is King’s Cross station? You have got to be kidding me. It was a dump. Where has the dump gone? When it was there, you sort of wished it could be a little bit more like it’s sister Euston station (which wasn’t even all that) and it wasn’t a patch on the revamped St Pancras that was all done up just before I left the UK.

Why does no one prepare you for such things?

Then when I get my bearings and find the Underground (which is downstairs), I’m confronted with queues that go this way, then that way, then this way again. I’ve got three Oyster cards in my hand and my confidence in knowing what I’m doing has taken such a battering that I’m not even sure they’re still valid.

I find myself a uniformed person to ask if they are and she helps me jump the queue to check they are still indeed valid but with only 200 shillings on each of them. The queue is humongous. There apparently is no other way to top up. ‘Unless you have cash?’, she asks. I do and so she offers to top up for me if I just wait over here in the corner.

Within 10 minutes of arriving in London, I’m handing over £20 to a stranger who wanders off with it. Even though she’s wearing an authentic uniform, I’m wondering if perhaps I’ve been away too long and am now well and truly one of ‘those’ naive tourists. But how wrong to have such little faith. She comes back shortly after and has saved me queuing for at least an hour.

20141105-014445.jpg

I’m meeting Mr Cupping at Moorgate station. A place I once knew with my eyes shut. Where exactly to stand on the platform to get off nearest the exit. Which ‘Way Out’ to take to get me exactly where I want to go. Clearly you lose such knowledge as soon as you no longer need it.

When I get my bearings though, I remember and I recognise roads and shops and places I used to spend hours at. We head for lunch at Whitecross Street food market round the corner from where I used to work at the National Deaf Children’s Society some nine years ago. You can actually take your lunch inside a nearby pub you know. How brilliant is that!

After lunch I head off for a whistle stop shop at Oxford Circus which is absolutely heaving and I don’t get very far. It’s sort of the same but there are shops that aren’t. A sign of the economic downturn I guess.

One thing I really wanted to see after all the media coverage that made it look spectacular, is the poppy installation, Tower of London Remembers, commemorating the fallen soldiers of World War One.

So Uncle Monkey and I took a walk together along the South Bank of the River Thames from London Bridge to Tower Bridge. The last modern structure I marvelled at was the Gherkin and now there is the Walkie Talkie and the Shard. Can you believe that was the first time Uncle Monkey had seen the Shard before? He lives five miles up the road. Both are ok but having seen all that the Singapore skyline has to offer, it doesn’t appeal to me anywhere near a fraction of the ones of old.

Tower Bridge is still absolutely glorious. Stunning. A reminder of my London Marathon days as we battled with the crowds to get across it to the Tower of London. It was so worth it. The poppies are amazing and it sends shivers down your spine just thinking of what it represents. The light was fading on an overcast day, the photographs I took didn’t do the scene justice. So I’m glad Mrs Steamer and I went back the next day on a warm and sunny Halloween. Apparently temperatures reached 21 degrees.

20141105-003343.jpg

And then of course, it wouldn’t be a London outing sans kids without reliving some of your errant ways in a place that bore witness to much of your errant ways with people who encouraged your errant ways like Mr Cadbury’s Eclairs who is sporting a lot of facial hair. In fact a lot of menfolk in London are sporting facial hair. To hide the wrinkles I think. Saves on Botox.

We are all a few years older than before but it seems few of us have learnt much restraint. Well we have. How could we not with multiple children in the mix and trains beyond zone 4 to catch. But it was so good to catch up with people I’ve told you about and people I haven’t seen since my London leaving do more than six years ago.

How funny to hear Scrivvers hark on about my northern accent that she forgot I had and how hilarious I find her posh clipped tones. There was much to celebrate and catch up on. It was a shame a few other faces have moved so far out of London Town not to have been there. You were sorely missed.

20141105-014135.jpg

Unlike the awful hangover that was sure to follow the next day when drinking on an empty stomach. (Do you ever learn?) So I stay over with Mrs Steamer because the alternative was to stay with Uncle Monkey whose flat has no working bathroom and I won’t tell you exactly how or where you need to do all your personal evacuations. Little Miss Steamer is up bright and early and it’s my first introduction to her. This gorgeous girl that keeps popping her head above the bed to check on the strange person that can’t move without feeling dizzy and sick just yet. A great lasting memory her Mum is going to remind me of I’m sure.

But later on that day Mrs Steamer herself wasn’t entirely so smug when her first hangover in nearly two years kicked in with a vengeance. That’s what you get for dragging me out around town when I can’t look down for a Hawksmoor breakfast that includes bone marrow in the mix. It was actually surprisingly palatable even with a severe hangover.

20141105-014319.jpg

When you haven’t been somewhere or seen someone for a long time, you imagine much has changed. At first glance you think they have but actually give it another glance and you realise the core of things don’t really change. The essence of people you know well certainly don’t.

London is still the same. It’s an amazing place to be and I’m so glad it was our home for nine years. I miss it and I love it but it’s not where I would choose to be right now. Not with #1, 2 and 3. I want them to discover all that London can be and all that London can give in their own time.

London was once that mythical place. The capital city of England that was so far away from Newcastle Upon Tyne. Even when we did go when I was a child, we hardly ventured beyond Chinatown! But that was ok because you got to eat some really yummy food.

As a consequence, I will never take London and all it has to give for granted. I still marvel at the sights and I don’t care if it makes me look a complete tourist and uncool. It makes me happy to be there.

Lucky for me, I get another night out next weekend sans kids with Husband and another group of friends who also encouraged errant behaviour back in the day. Perhaps I’ll be more restrained as we are taking #1, 2 and 3 for their first London experience the day after.

I’m definitely not tired of London and especially when I’m in London with you too. Until next time, London, may others enjoy all that you are.

20141105-013653.jpg

Leave a comment »

One Fine Day

It’s like I haven’t been away at all.

Not for three years. Not even for six years.

When I go through Arrivals in any other country, I love the anticipation that comes with exploring a whole new world outside.

But when it comes to arriving back in the UK, it’s the excitement of returning to all that’s familiar. All the things that I have missed and suppressed my thoughts on whilst living abroad.

That first intake of crisp, fresh air. The cold breeze on your cheeks. It never fails to bring a huge smile to my face to feel you’re not suffocating in the humidity. Or haze as they currently have it in Singapore.

But like all things built on nostalgia, it didn’t last long as I discovered just how cold it bloody well is.

Much to the astonishment of everyone else who keep telling me it’s ‘lovely and warm’. I just don’t quite get it. The toilet seat is cold for a start.

20141007-213612.jpg

As much as I will never truly acclimatise to 32 degrees tropical heat. I obviously have been softened by it. In fact what am I saying, I long lost the ability to venture out in hot pants and cropped tops like a true northerner after a few years of living down in London. What hope do I have now?

But I had forgotten that feeling of going out in the cold (to me) and quickly warming up after a brisk walk along the canal which nestles not far from where the sister in law lives in semi rural Hertfordshire. It’s wonderful. Followed by a pint of Guinness in the local Public House which is even better. I was impressed with how swiftly I’ve managed to get a pint in this trip back. Simple pleasures.

20141007-223448-81288167.jpg

Jet lag is not the most fun after a 13 hour flight where #1, 2 and 3 were like a tag team in their sleeping patterns. Fellow passengers possibly had the right to be annoyed at the commotion from #3 but what can you do. I don’t know whether you can compare jet lag to the state of delirium caused by sleepless nights with a newborn but the effects of prolonged periods of no sleep definitely takes it toll on normal levels of functioning human behaviour and rational thought. I’m not sure it’s come back yet.

The fact that I was barely able to hold a thought during a flying catch up with Mr Muffin on Friday afternoon was blamed by him on these factors in this order: being 40, being Mother to three children and being just me but not on the jet lag. So by the time I arrived at Nana Moon’s on Friday evening having been chauffeured down by Uncle Monkey, I apparently was a lost cause displaying signs of giddiness and overexcitement. So they did the sensible thing of plying me with red wine and sending me to bed before the end of X Factor. It was like a severe case of déjà vu, have I even been away?

Incidentally, a journey that should on average take just over an hour was squeezed into 40 minutes by Uncle Monkey in order to reduce the amount of good quality interrogation with no escape. But it was a fruitful 40 minutes as he now owes me £100.

So having gone to bed half cut, you can imagine my annoyance when I woke up at 2.45am. Wide awake. With a wedding to attend at 2pm and the intention of continuing on until the early hours. It wasn’t looking good at all for that. Neither was Nature going to allow a quick snooze in the maze either.

To quote the concern for my wellbeing at the time, here is an excerpt from Uncle Monkey. “Delirious and giddy again? I feel sorry for Nana Moon! I bet you are currently hyper, but in about an hour you’ll be shouting at cars passing you by in Geordie asking them “what the hell do you think you’re doing man?”.

Where he gets this idea from is beyond me.

20141007-230007-82807216.jpg

But as soon as we arrived at the wedding venue, it was clear it was going to be One Fine Day.

I already knew I would be catching up with many of our old crowd from University. But it was equally as fun to catch up with faces from years past I’ve encountered through Big D’s social engagements. All of us now sharing similar stories of domesticity. Equally as good was being introduced to familiar names but not faces of new friendships and relationships that have formed since I’ve been away.

I must admit to experiencing a severe absence of presence a couple of times as the impact of not sleeping kicked in. But regular bouts of bracing cold air throughout the day soon sorted that out. I still wasn’t getting why people were pronouncing it ‘positively balmy’ when my teeth were chattering and I’m trying not to look it as others are waltzing around like it is ‘positively balmy’.

What the f has happened to me?

20141007-233500.jpg

In short, it was a fabulous wedding and so worth deferring my UK trip for. To see good friends united in matrimony and share in that moment with them with other good friends is always an honour. I wish them both a long and happy life together with good health and great times ahead. Doesn’t the Bride look stunning?

Naturally, Uncle Monkey kept in contact through the evening to check on my sleep/delirium status and Nana Moon obligingly provided updates on the amount of times I was shoved outside for more bracing London air. How can you tell me it’s not freezing when there is steam when I breathe?

I’m not quite sure how it happened but it was gone 3am before I went to bed. Some things change but most things stay the same and that’s quite reassuring in many ways. I’m sure Nana Moon will agree as she discovers I still can’t seem to divide the bed in two down the middle instead of either side of me.

20141008-003207.jpg

It’s barely been a few days since I landed back in the UK. Everything feels how it should be. Time doesn’t seem to have passed by at all as we fit right back into the last conversation we had. Such is the advantage of modern technology where you can have a very real and current presence in most people’s lives if you are both willing to make the effort.

I’m happy to be back. More than happy to have milk that tastes like fresh milk and thick buttered toast with hot mugs of tea that don’t stay hot for very long. To drive on motorways with open fields either side, even the back logged M25 held a certain charm on our first day back. Incidentally last week I could drive, this week I apparently can’t as I stalled the car five times in a row at traffic lights. (The car is still fine Mrs Cake Pops.)

So are #1, 2 and 3 happy to be here, who are loving being amongst family and Godparents. Being outdoors in the garden intrigues them and having stairs provides endless entertainment possibilities.

20141008-001656.jpg

However, with every high, there is a low and after marking our 7th wedding anniversary, Husband has had to return to Singapore to keep one of us in gainful employment.

But as I know only too well, absence will only make the heart grow fonder.

In the meantime, for such sacrifice, I really ought to make this trip all the more worthwhile.

For now, it’s about time I got some sleep.

Leave a comment »

Where the hell is my winter coat??

‘WHERE THE HELL IS MY WINTER COAT??’

That was the distressed bellow of yesterday afternoon. I know it’s been years since I last saw it which is neglectful of me. I thought maybes it had been completely eaten up by moths. Or maybes I sensibly asked the in laws to take it back to the UK some time ago. But as it turns out, it’s under the bed and will take up about 3kg of luggage allowance.

So, you know, when you need an answer to anything, you just put it out there to your friends and you’ll get lots of helpful replies. They keep telling me just how warm the UK is right now and that I really wouldn’t be needing a winter coat just yet. Some were still wearing short sleeves, some were wearing flip flops, some were even doing without a full set of pyjamas at night and some were saying how a heat wave is predicted for this month.

Let’s put this into context. With visual aids no less.

20141001-142748.jpg

Need I say more?

I’m telling you now, that there better be temperatures below freezing point in the six weeks and three days I’m back in the UK. Otherwise I’m demanding a refund.

I’ve packed all my winter gear. Beloved scarves, gloves, shoes, bags, jeans, tops, coats and my very favourite woolly hat I came across last night.

Am I overly optimistic? Not as much as #1 and 2 who are talking about building snowmen and have been wearing welly boots, hats and gloves to ‘practice’ being in the cold. They will soon learn. They are so excited that #1 woke up at 6.30am yesterday and declared he’s just going to pack his suitcase.

He also asked if the people of England spoke English. A Daily Mail headline contender if ever there was one. Yes, they do but all slightly differently, with a much more pleasing ring to it the further north you go. Do they speak Chinese? Not all of them do. Why not? Yes, why not exactly?

I can hardly believe the day has come! I’ve been waiting patiently for this return trip for a whole year. I could have made it back earlier this year but I’d rather be able to attend Big D’s wedding and that of sister in laws with all the stuff inbetween. Plus we really wanted to do the Japan trip and you can’t do everything. Besides we thought we would have moved back before now. Though that’s by the by and lucky you Singapore.

But it has been a hard, emotional struggle, especially at the start of this year when October seemed so far away. There were times I felt quite upset at the thought of having been away for so long from my family. Of the fact that many, including my parents haven’t met #3 yet.

My excitement is not just about getting a fix of cold weather. It’s about being with my family and friends, back to the people I love the most. The ones who help you to recharge, reconnect and reassess whether a privileged Expat life is still for you or whether it’s time to come back.

It will also be a time to take a realistic look around and consider the prospect of a move back. Where to live, what schools to choose, what form of gainful employment to take on. All things that you already know about.

It’s been a while so forgive me and allow me to marvel at the everyday British things that may seem mundane to you. I’m well aware I’m viewing the UK with rose tinted glasses right now but wouldn’t you rather that than I put a downer on things?

So I’ve been preparing myself to integrate back into UK society and have come up with a Note to Self list.

1. Remember to pack own groceries at the supermarket and not idly wait doing nothing whilst wondering why the cashier is taking her time and the shopping is piling up and overflowing off the conveyor belt. This actually happened on my first return trip, just a mere six months into being an Expat.

2. Same goes for filling up the petrol tank myself and not wait for someone to rush over and do it for me.

3. Whilst driving a manual car, remember to change gears. And that the speedometer is in miles not km.

4. At traffic lights when the red light is on, it means STOP with no exceptions not even to turn left or right when pedestrians are not crossing.

5. Laundry will take a lot longer to dry.

6. That I must do my own laundry and clothes will not miraculously re-appear each time you open a drawer or wardrobe.

7. There is no $5 chicken rice option should you can’t be bothered to provide a home cooked nourishing meal for #1, 2 and 3.

8. My Dad, Mr Li is monitoring my every move.

9. Do not constantly remark out loud how cheap everything is in the UK in comparison to Singapore.

10. Do not buy any more books, shoes, bags and clothes or other sundry items because of number 9. Except for a new milk pan. I really need that.

I asked Husband if he could just check whether I’ve overpacked and he says, ‘I don’t need to look to know that you have’.

Like all well organised people, there were a few jobs I realised I forgot to do, just two days before setting off. I needed new glasses having sat on the ones I’ve got many a time.

The Optician did all the usual checks and is pleased to inform me that my prescription has weakened. (Has yours Nana Moon?) Feeling quietly smug, I’m about to hop down off the chair when he casually says, ‘So how’s your reading?’. ‘Very good thank you, I no longer read books with pictures in and can manage some really long words by myself’. If only.

Me: Why do you ask?
Him: No reason, can you hold this at your usual reading distance and read out loud the bottom line.

So I did, it was simple. Back to feeling quietly smug. Then he said, ‘Tell me when the words get blurred as I move this closer to you. Now try again wearing these.’ I honestly fell about laughing at the implication of this. Sort of like hysterical laughter. I’ve reached that stage of needing reading glasses. You have got to be kidding me!

I spoke with Nana Moon on Sunday to let her know what time I’ll be at hers on Friday with Uncle Monkey giving me a lift there. (I bet he’s really looking forward to an hour and a half of good quality interrogation with no escape). She’s already concerned at the high levels of giddiness I’m displaying and thinks I might wear myself out halfway through the wedding and find me asleep in the Maze. Quite possibly.

But at least I know I’ll have had my lunch as she proceeded to tell me our movements for getting from hers to the hotel to the venue via M&S for a sandwich so that we won’t miss out on eating lunch at the time lunch should be had. She couldn’t understand why I thought this hysterical. Neither can I actually but I guess it’s down to the fact that I’m the one who is constantly planning when to eat and for someone else to take care of that for a day is quite refreshing. I also asked her if it would be bare legs or tights for the wedding we’re going to but we all know her assessment of the correct attire suitable for the weather as per our Hanoi trip.

I have an itinerary of where I’ll be during the next six weeks and three days. I’ve got most of you booked in but I’ll be in touch again once I’ve figured out where to get a phone thing.

If I get a chance, I will let you know how we’re doing but this has been a long time coming and I just want to be with people, go places and quietly enjoy it all.

But I was very touched when Little Red told me she would miss us whilst we’re away. No tears though. And for the stoical amongst you, don’t worry, I do know how you really feel.

Farewell for now to Mosquito bites and sweat, couples in matching outfits and inappropriate work wear, free flow champagne and a beautiful skyline.

The ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign is about to light up.

We’re ready.

Are you?

20141001-224253.jpg

Leave a comment »

Embracing 40……..One week in

So….I’m officially 40! Plus a week.

Completely, irrevocably FORTY now.

20140820-215923.jpg

I feel like I have fully embraced the whole turning 40 thing and I still have an official Fancy Dress Finale to look forward to in a couple of weeks too!

I had a really, REALLY great time! A few weeks ago I didn’t have any set plan as to how I was going to celebrate but Husband and lovely friends have ensured that it was fabulous. I’m so touched by all my celebrations and what has made it extra special is the company that you get to share it with. Part of me thought that perhaps I ought to be celebrating this milestone Birthday with those who have been there for my 20th and 30th Birthdays and I will do, later on this year when I’m back in the UK. But then wasn’t the whole point of writing this blog to reconcile the past with the present? And so Embracing 40 with all my friends and family in Singapore has been absolutely amazing and given me some wonderful memories.

Besides it would be just rude to forgo celebrating as fully as you can when I’ve been building up to it for a whole year! I felt blessedly inundated with Birthday wishes that were sent in person, by text, by telephone and by mail.

The gifts I received were carefully thought through and had me overwhelmed at times. They are gifts that reflect our history together and will remain with me for the rest of my days. Lil Sis can’t believe that I kept her present for me unopened for two and a half months. I can’t either as I’m notorious for giving things a good shake and guessing what’s inside. I guess that’s what makes me Forty……..Some of the best gifts weren’t even gifts for me but to be told some really happy, good news.

20140820-232002.jpg

My good friend Pancakes For Dinner asked last Wednesday night whilst we were sipping ice cold champagne on a roof top bar (Yes, I did have to get that in!), why was turning Forty such a big celebration. For her, turning Thirty was the big one. (I actually think when I turn all the big numbers it will be a Big Celebration.)

So why is it indeed?

Well firstly, it feels like a long time since you had something that was All About You. That may sound egotistical to many but it’s true. It’s not like I’m saying I behave in a way that everyone else comes first at all times but as a general rule one does naturally, instinctively put family first. All other Birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day has sort of been about you but also about being together as a family.

But for Embracing 40, it was ALL ABOUT ME! Well, 80% me. This included the part where I get to sleep in on my first day of being Forty until 8.45am in a gorgeous terrace suite at the beautiful Raffles Hotel and then enjoy a leisurely breakfast with Husband. The part where I get to go out at 7pm to drink champagne and not feel guilty about missing bedtime. The part where I get to dress up and go out for lunch and the part where I get to open presents all by myself!

By the way, notice anything familiar with the balloon below? Yep, it’s exactly the same balloon I got Mrs Imperturbable when she Embraced 40 with her first Birthday party ever! As my lovely friend Mrs So Bold says, ‘What goes around comes around!’

20140820-233849.jpg

Because when your world is filled with responsibility, it’s good to treat yourself well and look after yourself. It’s important for #1, 2 and 3 to see you enjoy yourself and live a life beyond them as well. However, of course a celebration isn’t a celebration without #1, 2 and 3 in tow and for them to feel special too. So on the afternoon of my 40th Birthday we went up to the Skytower of Marina Bay Sands (the hotel with the boat on top) and had a celebratory drink up there where #1 got to drink out of a real proper glass, not plastic, (aim high #1), whilst overlooking the hotel guests in the infinity pool. That must be a bit intrusive for them though and also I’m not sure I’d be happy with the general public just sort of staring at you for entertainment when you’ve paid almost a thousand dollars for the privilege.

20140820-231820.jpg

It’s funny how we view Forty. That it’s like some sort of hurdle to endure and get over. There’s still a lot of mixed feelings out there about this milestone Birthday for those who have passed it and for those for whom it has yet to come.

Unlike Thirty, Fifty, Sixty and even Eighty, Forty is accompanied by a very loud, hard sounding capital F. I think this is designed with the purpose to make you feel a whole lot better when you come to the much softer sounding Fifty. Anyways, why wish away the years so soon.

All I’d like to say is that Forty is still young. Although sometimes we may not feel it, just think it. I’ve had sound advice from people MUCH MUCH older and in the know, that they still feel no different to how they did at 18. How your body creaks is one thing, how you feel inside is another which projects a whole different persona.

I think one great thing about Embracing 40 is knowing that whilst there are responsibilities to uphold, people to take care of, ultimately you haven’t forgotten the person you once were. There is so much to enjoy, to achieve and to do. Still so much more information to know, places to go and people to meet to add to all the stuff you’ve already accumulated.

So here’s to Beyond Forty. I can feel wisdom flowing through me already. So much so, that I realised that I don’t have to set up a whole new blog thing and just needed to change a few details on the one I’ve been writing in. I probably have the most unsophisticated blog out there but I’m looking forward to keeping this up. I’m really enjoying it.

Thank you once again for all your lovely well wishes and thoughtful gifts. If you didn’t already know, but I’m sure most of you do, then you’ll definitely know just how much you have all around you and a few steps away, when you come to Embrace 40.

Mr Cupping sent me a book, ‘Older but not wiser’ that cracks me up no end. I’ll share some pages as we go along but this one is always so apt, don’t you think?

20140820-223515.jpg

1 Comment »

What’s that? You can hear Forty calling me!

If I wasn’t already aware, I can definitely rely on family to remind me that FORTY is just a blink away. My Lil Sis posted on my Facebook page alerting me and everyone that I’ve now got less than two weeks of my Thirties left to go. Thanks Lil Sis! I’m looking forward to opening my present which I’ve been very good about not shaking or prodding for the last two months.

I think it’s about time to start planning how I’m going to celebrate TURNING FORTY! I can feel a wave of excitement as I write this because I’m not really sure exactly how I’m going to celebrate.

Husband has said he has taken time off for Birthday Eve and Birthday. Perhaps on Birthday Eve, he and I can have a few hours to ourselves over lunch because Birthday will be spent with #1, 2 and 3 who will undoubtedly be even more excited than me. The evening after I’m going on my first Over Forties Girl’s Night Out which means Thursday will be spent in a cool, darkened room and then Friday I’m doing Ladies What Lunch with some lovely friends.

Am I forgetting The Big Night Out part? Of course not! But I’m going to have to do that in September because it’s not going to be a celebration if certain people are not around to share it with me like Mrs Cake Pops and a few other people who are summering in the UK right now. I haven’t gotten around to organising that yet either but vaguely thinking about having it Fancy Dress in a pub somewhere. My friend Little Red, who is perhaps the most enthusiastic person I’ve met about fancy dress, suggested a Couples theme. Where people can just choose amongst themselves what to come as so long as they complement each other and not that other form of Couples theme where people wear matching outfits. That will get you banned from entry.

Besides, #2 celebrates turning the much more modest FOUR the week after and I’d like to put all my efforts into making her Birthday all that she’d like it to be. She’s set on having a ‘Frozen’ theme, surprisingly, and this year I’ve decided that a little help from my friends won’t go amiss especially when they can do a job far better than I ever could. So look out for a very special cake design from my fabulous friend Great Singapore Bake Off.

I just can’t believe how quickly a decade has gone by. Ten years ago, I was planning on celebrating Turning Thirty and it’s a cliche but it feels like no time has passed at all (but of course it has, ten years in fact.)

So how did I spend that milestone Birthday? Well, hungover. Severely hungover in fact. Accidently of course, like most hangovers tend to be. Amongst the Voluntary Sector in London there is a Charity Softball League, it’s still going strong I believe, but at the time it had just been set up a few years. The Charity Softball League is a great summertime social event, quite competitive though the charities I worked for didn’t quite fall into that category but soon became well known for being the last ones standing at the designated pub right by Nobu (where we once saw Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow and who signed a softball I have tucked away somewhere).

Suffice to say, I was highly encouraged to celebrate the official last day of my twenties.

I rather enjoy spending a Birthday at place of gainful employment and have friends and colleagues around to wish you well and share cake with. Unlike Husband’s place of gainful employment where you have to buy your own cakes to share with friends and colleagues. My lovely former colleague but forever friend, Mrs Pink organised my work celebration with a cake created by her own fair hands and a pizza lunch (good for severe hangover). My gift from all my Muscular Dystrophy Campaign colleagues (www.muscular-dystrophy.org.uk) was a beautiful necklace/bracelet which I still love to wear.

20140731-225250.jpg

Then laden down with all my gifts, flowers and 30th Birthday balloon from Mrs Cor Blimey, I met Husband (who wasn’t Husband then) for posh Grown Up dinner. Is it just me or you too, when you go to a proper posh restaurant for dinner when you previously thought TGI Fridays was something special, that you feel like you’re just playing at being a Grown Up? I’m much better at such things now incase you’re wanting to take me out to more proper posh Grown Up restaurants.

Turning Thirty was quite the occasion. I was in London, surrounded by friends I made from University and work, all living a lifestyle quite like each other. We were young and having a great time.

I still remember telling Nana Moon to make sure I didn’t chunder in the cab home for I am not good with travelling on a full stomach of beer. When you give someone such responsibility on your 30th Birthday, they have no choice but to accept their mission. Like a true friend she equipped her bag with Polo mints. And like a true friend she was the one who came back and found me propped against a low wall where I was ‘resting’ after the bar had closed whilst everyone was rambling on about how to get home.

Undoubtedly a drunken night! And like most drunken nights I’ve had, I can tell you I had a great time but I can’t recall specifics except someone, I think Elbear, coming with temporary tattoos we all seemed to be sporting by the end of the night. I just know that I was with all the people I wanted to be with at that time in my life.

Ah! I miss you all! I can feel it in my heart as I write this. Times have changed. Families have grown and people have moved out of London too but perhaps when I’m back in the autumn there will be a chance for a belated celebration because as it turns out, Turning Forty goes on indefinitely.

So although when I come round to celebrate Turning Forty, it won’t quite be the same crowd in Singapore, the people who will hopefully be there, are all the people I want to be with at this time in my life.

Here it comes. I can clearly hear FORTY calling me.

20140731-231929.jpg

Leave a comment »

SayoNara Osaka

All good travelling companions are the ones that show a bit of compromise. So it was that we found ourselves on the way to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyunkan (www.kaiyukan.com/language/eng) instead of Osaka Castle which looked majestic in the guide book. Ah well, there’s always another time.

We took a rapid local train to Osaka arriving in 45 minutes and completely bypassed any other part of Osaka to get to Osaka Aquarium which is also quite near to Universal Studios.

20140707-222302.jpg

So when I went to S.E.A Aquarium in Singapore, it apparently was ‘the world’s largest aquarium’ and I believed them. Then I arrive at Osaka Aquarium and that too is ‘the world’s largest aquarium’. How can that be? Should I write to someone about this in case they don’t know?

20140707-222336.jpg

The Aquarium is thoughtfully designed leading you up and down five floors and through 10 exhibition areas that are all interlinked like a pathway around the globe. It’s not all about tanks of beautiful tropical fish and playful seals but pay attention and you can see lots of education and conservation work in place educating people on the dangers our demands are putting on the demise of many species

20140707-224719.jpg

Osaka Aquarium wouldn’t have been on my list of things to do without #1, 2 and 3 but I enjoyed it very much. If it’s not ‘the world’s largest aquarium’, it definitely has ‘the world’s broadest range of aqualife’. Whilst we were there, we didn’t get to see the whale sharks who had been moved out for a check up. I still don’t get how the smaller fish aren’t eaten up in those great big viewing tanks with lots of different sharks and things.

So that outing was a treat for #1, 2 and 3 and our next train ride out of Kyoto was to Nara, once formerly the capital of Japan. Though I didn’t know this until the day we went. (In fact I learnt yesterday over a few beers with friends back in Singapore for the day that during WW2, the US made a promise not to bomb Kyoto because of its historical value.)

Nara is also about 45 minutes out of Kyoto on a rapid local train. I mention rapid train because the non rapid ones are a lot less rapid as we found out on the way back from Osaka. Even if you have to wait 20 minutes before a rapid one when the non rapid one is going to leave right now, you’ll still get back to Kyoto a lot faster. I don’t know how it works either.

When we exited Nara train station there was hardly a hint as to what glorious sights were hidden within this small town. You know, you just see lots of traffic and modern buildings. Unlike the GNER train approaching Durham station as you pass the glorious Durham Cathedral. That feeling of almost being home never leaves you every time I take that route. I’m digressing. The very helpful Tourist Information Window at the train station have a very helpful map, carefully not drawn to scale with all the temples and shrines to see in Nara. A proper full day starting early in the morning would enable you to take in quite a few sights around Nara but with #1, 2 and 3 we took a city loop bus that dropped us right by Nara Park.

20140707-231450.jpg

Nara Park is well known for the free roaming deer that live there and who are no strangers to visitors feeding them. Bouyed on by this fact and the high probability that the deers ought to be feeling quite well fed by the high volume of people feeding them shika senbei. I (who am not a natural one with all things animal) thought it would be within my capabilities to also feed them. Even #1 was successful at doing this. So I get my deer crackers from the stall and start feeding one, then two come along, that’s still ok and then four and now I’m not so comfortable when there’s six deers jostling for cracker space. So I do what comes naturally, I yelp and toss the crackers far away from me. Husband guffawed and regrets he didn’t get a video of it but will happily re-enact the scene for you.

20140707-232211.jpg

Within Nara Park is where you’ll find the infamous Todaiji (Great Eastern) Temple with the main hall, Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) that houses one of Japan’s largest bronze Buddha statues. The Todaji was once the most influential Buddhist Temple in all of Japan. It was because of this immense accumulation of power that caused the capital to be moved from Nara to Nagaoka to withhold its influence on government.

Like with many of Japan’s Temples, you are instantly impressed just by the huge entry gates that you pass through, the Nandaimon Gate. It looks a bit weathered as is the duty of gates to be but it’s still beautiful nonetheless. Intimidating even. There’s another building to enter where you buy tickets for the main Daibutsuden Hall and at this point I’m still oblivious to just how majestic the main hall is going to be.

20140708-004902.jpg

Then we pass through the ticket check and you see it straight ahead of you. This amazingly well preserved stunning building looking back at you. Even #1, 2 and 3 sat and stared at it for a while.

20140708-000335.jpg

Inside the Hall is another smaller Buddha statue, a couple of huge guardians as well as wooden replica models of the original Daibutsuden, this current Hall is a lot smaller than its predecessor. At the time I didn’t know what this school group were lining up for but #2 and I still watched with some amusement as one of them was squeezing themselves into a wooden column as the others looked on. The young, I thought. It was afterwards I read that this hole is the same size as the Big Buddha’s nostril and if you can get in then you’ll achievement enlightenment in your next life. He quite likes a good laugh I think and that in itself can bring enlightenment.

20140708-001200.jpg

Surrounding the grounds outside of the Daibutsuden Hall are plenty of smaller buildings and the Todaiji Musuem. We chose to wander up the hill to look around rather than be indoors in the Musuem trying to shush #1, 2 and 3.

As much as the deers are mild and used to people around them, there’s still going to be that natural instinct to protect their young. #3 happened to stop and stare as a doe and her young one walked by when the mother turned around and came back to butt #3 in the chest. Again I yelped in real fear this time but no harm was done. #3 was more surprised than scared that she’d been pushed over by a deer.

20140708-002553.jpg

So that was Osaka and Nara for us. Admittedly we didn’t really see much of Osaka but #1, 2 and 3 had the best time at the Aquarium. The day out to Nara was a pleasant surprise with all the open space of Nara Park that I haven’t seen since being back in the UK. There’s something quite soothing visiting the Todaiji and how peaceful the grounds are that you can amble around in for a while. It’s a fine contrast to the hustle and bustle of Kyoto. So different and well worth taking time out to see.

20140708-003553.jpg

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: