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

Love is……a delivery of fried chicken

Soooo….it’s THAT day again. Love, romance, roses, balloons and heart shaped potato wedges.
But I bet none of you got a romantic delivery of fried chicken for St Valentine’s Day!

I am not kidding you! I really did get a delivery of fried chicken to my place of Gainful Employment today. Is that weird? Or is it love?

Either way, the gesture was such a surprise that it sparked a lot of joy. One of the most unexpected gifts I’ve ever received on St Valentine’s Day.

Not the only one today either. When I picked up #3 from school, she presented me with this wonderful heart shaped decoration she made. Sparked a lot of joy too. I love they way #1, 2 and 3 freely express their love. How easy it is to say I love you and to accept they are loved in return. I don’t want this to ever change for them. May the future people who are the focus of this affection appreciate it and treat it with the respect it deserves. Or I will hunt you down…

Love in its many varied forms is a wonderful thing don’t you think? Romantic love, friend love, family love. Expressed spontaneously through our actions. 

In my place of Gainful Employment there were questions of how will you spend St Valentine’s Day? What did you buy each other? Are you going out for dinner tonight? 

The young lad who is in a fairly new relationship that he doesn’t seem to particularly want to be in looked pained as he answered he had booked a restaurant some place and possibly was agonising inside over whether it’s romantic enough, whether he has made sufficient effort to show his feelings of love.  The pain of it all but I am now wise enough not to express any outward emotion on that front.

But my delivery of fried chicken from a dear friend today gave me that warm fuzzy feeling. I really appreciate the gesture and to think someone was thinking of you enough to bother. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I can still do this

You’ve lost your touch. 

That’s what Brilliant New Adventure said when I showed her the spoils of my hard baking labour. 

Maybe she was right.
I’ve followed this recipe many times. Never has it done this before. Like, tip it out and turn around and suddenly it’s like this. 

Mocking me with its Peace sign. At 9.15pm. The night before DOUBLE PARTY DAY! 

Posting this photo on other social media platforms, I was given some very helpful advice. Cover it up with lots of buttercream. Reshape and mould it into a 3D shape. 

Indeed.

It seemed far easier to sit down with a beer. Go bake another batch. And eat the surplus sponge myself. For quality control.

The Birthday Cake is always a big thing. A challenge I had previously taken on with some relish and trepidation. Until I thought why not let someone who can do it far better take over. But then faced with having to take the challenge back myself was somewhat daunting. #1, 2 and 3 have far higher expectations of The Birthday Cake having been used to the creative skills of my good friend Singapore Bake Off. 

But then children can be surprising. #2 asked me why was I not making the cake. It seems it’s still important that you do. 
So there I am. 11pm the night before DOUBLE PARTY DAY. Beer in hand. Cake in oven. Buttercream ready to go. Fondant mixed in the right colours. Ready to do cake battle. But surprisingly, once I got started into the early hours, it was therapeutic to create something from scratch. 

The next morning as I put the finishing touches to the cake and asking what #1, 2 and 3 thought of it and getting their approval, it felt good. I had forgotten how much fun it was. Wondering whether the cake is going to turn out ok. Whether you have enough fondant to cover it. Whether it’s going to go baggy on the bottom like Nora Batty’s tights. 

And what happens to it anyways? It gets demolished as soon as the Birthday Sing Song is over. 

Cake is cake as far as the small people are concerned. Sugar and chocolate is a winning combination. 

At the tender age of 6, #2 already has many different groups of friends. From long time friends to new friends from school and where we live. It’s a lot of different social circles that many of us only have to navigate when it comes to our Hen Do. Oh yes, #2 was 6 some two months ago and we’ve only just go around to putting on the party. I’m late for nearly everything but this has got to be my best effort yet! Most of her new schools friends are celebrating their 7th Birthday.

But again I don’t think it really mattered. Who doesn’t love a good party! It makes me especially happy to hear that party guests are looking forward to the party. That they’ve been bouncing off the walls waiting for the party to start. 

Friends are lovely things to have and equally important to be too. I watched as the differenct groups of friends chased and played together. Even #3 is coming into her own with her own little posse doing what 4 year olds do. Which seems to be following each other around and to tell each other to follow each other around. 

If there’s anything I really want #1, 2 and 3 to remember about the Birthday Party. It’s the friends who came to share it with them. And that whilst the Birthday Party is all about you, it’s good to give something special back too. And who doesn’t love a goodie bag.

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The highs and lows of a long distance Hello

Do you remember the opening scenes of ‘Love Actually’? And don’t pretend you haven’t watched the film before. The part where Hugh Grant says whenever he’s feeling gloomy about the state of the world, he thinks about the Arrivals gate of Heathrow airport.

 

If you, like me, have ever waited with barely contained excitement at the Arrivals gate of any airport then you’ll know exactly what he means. The joy of waiting to greet someone long anticipated is perhaps rivaled only by small people waiting for Christmas Day.

 

The Arrivals Hall at Singapore Changi airport allows you to catch the earliest glimpse of your long awaited visitors as they emerge from passport control on their way to baggage reclaim. I’ve done this trip so many times in the almost eight years I’ve been away from the UK. Sometimes on my own but increasingly so with #1, 2 and 3 in tow as they get older and feel connected to people they had previously only heard us talk about. After a few visits here and there to put faces to names, they  love the excitement of welcoming them to our home.

 

Especially when it comes to picking up Grandma and Grandpa from the airport. I don’t think it is possible for children to feel more loved than when they are in the company of their grandparents.  I’ve seen my Mum and my Dad Mr Li transform into completely different people in their company and I couldn’t ask for more love to be bestowed upon these lucky three than what they receive from Mum and Dad In Law.

 

They are very lucky children and so am I.  For who would argue against there being more people than yourself who love and cherish your children. Who take an interest in what they do, who listen to your favourite anecdotes about them and who never really tell them to wait a moment when they have something important they need to do or tell you.

 

When Husband and I first made this move to the other side of the globe, we knew it would be hard missing family and friends. Of course it would be. Unless you really couldn’t care less about those you left behind. At the same time, life experiences have been enriched beyond what I could have imagined with this unplanned change. People I’ve met who have become like family. Places I’ve been to I know I never would have had the chance to see otherwise. Experiences of culture and a much bigger world than I had lived in before have all been amazing and life enhancing.

 

But I still miss family and friends just as much as I did the day I left the UK. Though it also doesn’t feel like I’m not seeing you if you know what I mean. With social media and all sorts of Apps, it’s quite easy to stay in touch. Even my Dad, Mr Li has an App I can send him photos on which has helped us a lot and I can tell just how much it means to him to be able to see how #1, 2 and 3 are growing, it reassures him that I’m doing ok with his grandchildren. It also means he can give out even more sound parenting advice on the spot. Like the time I sent him photos of #1, 2 and 3 running along the boardwalk beside a pond. Immediately my phone started ringing and instantly I knew what the call was going to be about. Are you watching #1, 2 and 3 properly? Why are they running? Do you know they could trip and fall into the water?  Do you know how dangerous that is?

 

But that is the role of a grandparent. To care and watch out for your children. Which is why no matter how great this time is for us as a family, I will always carry the guilt of not being some place else. That some place else meaning being with family who would dearly love to see more of #1, 2 and 3. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind seeing Husband and I as well but who are we kidding here. Whenever I’ve voiced this out loud, people have kindly said it’s not like you would be able to see each other every weekend like in the olden days when families lived more or less within the same town from each other. That’s true. If we were in the UK, we’d be a good five hours drive away so how often would you really be able to make that trip up north? It’s just the same as spending a good chunk of time together in one go than several weekends throughout the year.

 

You can tell yourself that but it doesn’t work like that.

 

Previously, I only had to fight down my own tears and sadness every time I was leaving here or there or you were leaving here. But it seems that I’m not the only one to feel it and that has hit me hard. Doubling the guilt.

 

With the high of the joy and excitement at the Arrivals gate, there is the equal low of sadness and tears at the Departure gate. I have done this part so many times too now. I don’t find it any easier but I am not very stoical as you know.

 

Imagine though, when you see the tears and sadness of your own children saying Goodbye at the end of holidays that will never be long enough. On one hand, you’re glad that they love you so much they can’t bear to see you go. On the other, it hurts my heart to see them sad because it feels like I am the cause of it. Cries of ‘why do they have to go?’, ‘I want to go with them’, ‘I hope they miss their plane and have to stay’.  For them to miss someone so much they cry at odd intervals over the next few days until normal routine resumes.

 

I will never forget what #1 said to me when he was upset the day after Grandma and Grandpa left and I told him to think of all the great things you did together. He answered, ‘but that just makes it worse.’

 

You see, I also know that feeling well too. The year I was eight years old and had spent three weeks in Hong Kong with my dad Mr Li, Lil Bro and our Por Por plus so many family members I never even knew about. It’s so long ago now but I remember crying hysterically at the airport and not wanting to leave. It seems, I haven’t changed much since then.

 

You may be thinking, so why not just move back to the UK? Eventually I’m sure we will. But that wouldn’t really be solving everything to be honest, we will always be missing someone somewhere.

 

At the same time, I also feel that I value much more in all my relationships and I also realise important things too that perhaps I took for granted or as given before. Things like, true friendships really do last through time and over distance. I may not always be in touch but when I do see you it’s like it were yesterday since we last did. I’m pretty sure I can still call upon those same people whenever I need help and the best part is that they still do make me laugh the most.

 

So as you go on your summer holidays this year and dread coming back through the Arrivals gate, think of it another way because it really is one of the best places to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love is……..a bag of M&S Square Crisps

That’s right! I’m embracing St. Valentine’s Day in all its glory. Forget I ever thought being showered with gifts today was all a load of commercial coercion. I totally didn’t feel a modicum of cynicism walking past the florists with their huge bouquet of beautiful roses priced over $200. Thinking of what else you could buy instead of something with a shelf life of five days max in this humidity. Then feeling a twinge of guilt as I clocked the lady sat in the corner on a hard plastic stool hunched over, carefully arranging one rose next to another and interspersing them with some baby breathe and fine greenery. Gosh no, not me.

   

I LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY!

 

Like I love Christmas, Easter, Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, my Birthday, your Birthday and any occasion that you choose to celebrate. Or in this case any occasion that #1, 2 and 3 choose to celebrate.

 

If I’m going to attempt to bring up #1, 2 and 3 fully in touch with their emotions and be able to express them freely and recognise that love should be given and received openly and equally then I can’t exactly start them off on the path of declaring Valentine’s Day is just a money grabbing corporate conspiracy. They’ll come to that conclusion themselves when they pay taxes and have a mortgage. Until then though, I hope they enjoy all the anticipation of Secret Admirers and cards in envelopes that are S.W.A.L.K.

 

Before they set their eye on that lucky someone, some other lucky someone gets to be the centre of all that love and attention. I wonder who though? Exactly right. Me! More me and just a little bit Husband I have to say. I received three cards, flowers and a bag of M&S Square Crisps today. I’ll let you guess which gift was from #1, 2 and 3 and which was from Husband. What is there not to love about Valentine’s Day. What have I been thinking all these years!

 

My Dad, Mr Li always calls without fail every Sunday. Not really to talk to me, well a little bit to me but mostly to #1, 2 and 3 and I could hear #2 wishing Gung Gung ‘Happy Valentine’s Day, did you get any cards?’ and that made me smile. Love is many a splendid thing and the love of small people has no other rival.

  

 
Just to show that I really am embracing today, as well as a home cooked dinner ready on the table complete with apple crumble, I bought Husband these strawberries. Note the shaped container it came in. I could have bought the ones in the regular square container but I went all out for the heart shaped ones. You must be rather proud of me too? I’m sure my former colleague who may still be doing heart shaped potato wedges for today’s dinner as a Valentine’s Day tradition most certainly would be. She was right and I was so totally wrong.

 

However you may acknowledge today, may it be simple and meaningful.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

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