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

International Women’s Day 2018 – #PressforProgress

Following the momentum of important gender equality issues that were raised since last year’s International Women’s Day, this year’s theme focuses on #PressforProgress.

What exactly does gender equality mean to you and for you? Do we even think about it enough. And what are we doing in contribution. It’s only been in the last few year’s that I’ve taken a closer interest in what the campaign is all about for that year’s International Women’s Day.  I feel I’ve been on the periphery of real action towards any chance of achieving real equality for all.

As a parent of three young children, I feel, I hope that so far Husband and I are raising them without it being based on gender specifics. I want them to just be as they are. But sometimes, even at such a tender age, I find that I have to challenge their perception of themselves.

“I don’t want the girl plate.”  But do you want what’s on the plate?

“That’s a boy top.” Would you rather be warm or cold?

“Girls/Boys can’t do that.” Yes they can. There’s nothing girls and women can do that boys and men can’t do. And because my daughter is going to be a future trailblazer, she says to me but “Mummy, Daddy’s don’t have the babies.” Ok, that is true but without the Daddy contributing in some way, there would be no babies.

That to me also sums up the journey towards gender equality. It is not just a women’s challenge but also men’s too. We fortunately live in an age and a part of the world where more and more men are vocalising the need for equality. Conversations with a good friend gives me hope that our children will be faced with a more equal, kinder future. At the same time, we will be raising them to be strong, resilient and brave. And that’s not easy to do because at times you’re challenging not just society’s view on gender equality but also the views of people around you.

The throwaway comments that include gender bias annoy me the most. As do using gender as an excuse for behaviour discrepancies. Children are highly impressionable and easily influenced by what the grown ups around them say. Pressing for progress means being mindful of what you say around children that undermines their ability to do something because of gender or even undermining your own ability because of gender. I know this makes some people feel like their hands are tied. Comments like not being able to say anything because it’s considered inappropriate or politically incorrect. Everyone’s brain and mouth should have that filter. Even if once it wasn’t necessary, times have changed and if we strive to keep up with all the latest fashion and technology, then we sure enough need to keep up with the changing way of thinking.

For years I glossed over gender inequality in my own culture. It’s no secret that in Asian culture males were thought of more highly than females. But to be honest, in my own experience, I never felt it hindered how I lived my own life thankfully. My Dad, Mr Li, was such a risk averse man that I think he would have fretted over everything I did regardless of my gender. And yet, he never stopped me from doing anything that I chose to do. And that is hugely important.

During my time in Singapore and living closely to other countries where gender equality really will take 200 years to achieve, it opened up my eyes to the privilege that we do have. We have access to good quality education, careers and the right to choose where we want to be. Yes, we still have some distance to go otherwise all the conversations going on today wouldn’t be taking place. But I’ve caught a glimpse of women without this privilege. It was hard to delve too deep into the lives of the helpers who worked for us in Singapore. To hear of the lifestyle they led and the reasons why they left their homes and families to come and work as a domestic helper in a foreign country at great risk and cost. Poverty and lack of education was usually the driving force. But even those who were educated professionals in their home countries said that working as a foreign domestic worker paid more than their previous career. And whilst these women are able to provide a new home, education for their children and a life of less hardship for aging parents, the sacrifices are huge.

Reading up on the stories that have been shared today show us how much there is left to do and perhaps it will take 200 years for true equality. However we are the generation that will sow the seeds of change and change needs to start somewhere. It starts with us and being able to press for progress and change perceptions of what gender equality should really mean.

Here’s to raising a new generation that will respect themselves and each other with equality, understanding and kindness.

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Love is……..all the little things

This year I have definitely taken a tumble from my usual high horse with regards to St. Valentine’s Day. I haven’t once raised a cynical brow to all the displays of red roses, chocolates, champagne and a few non related items to love and romance that have somehow been related to love and romance. No, I just haven’t had the heart for it.

It is always the way isn’t it, that you only appreciate something when it is no longer just at your finger tips. I suppose I always felt that gestures of love and romance should happen at any time and not always be on a grand scale shop bought. I guess I want love and romance to be presented with thoughtfulness.

For exactly six and a half months now, Husband and I have been living in different time zones of sometimes seven or eight hours apart. It’s not ideal of course and it has been a true test of everything that we are or hope to be. At some point, I will look upon this time and marvel at how we did it. It is not just the distance between us that we have endured but an avalanche of events that have unexpectedly passed our way in that time.

It is quite true that we as individuals are stronger than we believe. When something hits you hard and you wonder how you’re going to face up to it and inside your heart your first thought is ‘but how?’, you just do. We seem to have unknown pockets of reserve somewhere inside of us that just keep bubbling to the surface when we need it. But I find that whilst we can be strong because we have to be, it is hard work to keep digging up those pockets of reserve. There are days where you just want to say, ‘can someone else do today please?’ and needing someone else to say, ‘you can do this again.’ I may know that I can but isn’t it lovely when someone you love and who loves you right back just gives you that little extra boost. With renewed vigour, you say, ‘I can get through today because you believe I can.’

For me, I find losing one’s parent is, among many things, a humbling experience. Humbling because you have lost someone’s unconditional love for you. Not only have you lost someone but it feels like you have lost their love too. I imagine that doesn’t make much sense. When that person is gone, all the things that they did because they loved you go too. The phone calls, the concern, the unwanted parenting advice. All the little things that one day have turned out to be the big things.

These many months apart from Husband has also made me see all the little things that he does that make up the big things. I’ve been having to make my own bedtime drink would you believe, when in the past I’d just bellow  from the sofa ‘hot drink’ like instructing one of those Amazon gadgets to play music or something. All these small every day gestures that make up your relationship and what makes you both unique to each other. Of course I can make my own bedtime drink. But it’s the act of being looked after and looking after someone that warms you up from the inside.

In this same time, I’ve been doing some intense single parenting to small people who just assume you are there to serve them, which of course I am. It’s an age full of demands and wants and unfairness times three lots. But this morning, I got woken up with these three wanting to be my Valentine and handmade Lego heart because as #1 knows how much I do love Lego.

I hope someone showed you some red hearts and love today.

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Lets stay together

Ten years of marriage. It seems like such a milestone to reach and then all of a sudden it’s here. Over the years, Husband and I had talked about how we would celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. Particularly when not much celebration had gone into seemingly less significant anniversary years. When that happened, we vowed we’d make this one something special. 

Would we be able to take a few days away somewhere on our own now that #1, 2 and 3 are older. Would we be able to have a dinner with our Bridesmaids and Best Men. Would we be able to take #1, 2 and 3 back to where we got wed.

Well it turns out that none of these things are happening. I’m not even in the same time zone as Husband. I’m sat on our sofa with Strictly Come Dancing on in the background. Something I can do without Husband sat here silently rolling his eyes. Especially after I’ve had The Undateables and First Dates on earlier in the week too. Whaaat!? I’m catching up on nine years of missing out on British culture and what is shaping the great minds of tomorrow.

 I don’t want to paint a tragic figure here but last night I was listening to Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ all on my own some. It was our first wedding dance song you see. A beautiful song but very hard to shuffle to. As I was listening to the lyrics in the quiet of the night, I thought about our wedding day and how…fresh, I guess is the word I would use to describe how we were then. Perhaps like all young newlyweds. 

‘Let’s stay together, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad’

Ten years later, what have I learnt? Well that times can be good and bad, happy and sad. Mostly exhausting. A buzzing hive of activity that never stops when young children are involved. Their needs are our priority. Their calls of ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy’ reaching up from waist height often the only sounds we hear. The number of times I’ve heard from other couples celebrating a night out/weekend away as an occurrence as rare as sparkling unicorns. We love our family. We love each other too. 

Ten years have passed and we have experienced so much, far beyond what we could have imagined that day. The upheaval of moving to another country, starting a family on our own, taking on new challenges as a unit of two, figuring out the answers and finding our own way without knowing what the outcome would look like. It has certainly been an adventure. Not always plain sailing. But strong in the belief that every decision made, every action taken, is for the good of us. 

It is without doubt disappointing to be apart from Husband on our 10 year wedding anniversary. Not because I feel like I’m missing out on the spoils such celebrations bring, but because I am missing that other person, the only person, who has shared exactly the same days that I have. Except of course for these past few months since I have moved back to the UK with #1, 2 and 3. We are in the midst of good and bad, happy and sad. For how could we be truly happy without being together. One of my biggest fears about starting back on my own was ‘can I really do this?’ Can I do this on my own? 

As a trailing spouse in Singapore, dependent on Husband’s employment visa, one can become fairly invisible. Even when in Gainful Employment in my own right, I was still tied to Husband’s  status. That’s just how the bureaucracy worked out. So to suddenly do a 360 degree turn and be the driving force behind setting up a new home is daunting. When it comes down to it, we are all stronger than we believe. Especially if we have a supportive network to cheer us along the way. But the greatest pillar that I could possibly have is to know that Husband is there everyday. To listen, comfort and reassure that all is well and who is encouraging me to plan ahead for what I want to do next. 

It is quite odd to be conducting a long distance relationship at this point but we’ve done it before and having to rely on more traditional modes of communication. None of this videocalling malarky. Perhaps it comes as a timely reminder not to take anything for granted. Though we inevitably always do. Like being blase about celebrating your wedding anniversary because you think there’s one every year.  Whether you celebrate quietly or go all out, do something on your Anniversary to acknowledge to one another just how far you’ve come and what you’ve overcome, for the good of you.

Happy 10th Wedding Anniversary to us.

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And just like that

As bright as three shiny new pound coins, #1, 2 and 3 left the house, bounced down the road and around the corner, off to explore new places and be amazed by great things. 

It has been a long summer holiday for these three. A lot of change. A lot of moving around. A lot of waiting. But finally, a step towards normality. 

Filled with a good mix of nerves and excitement, #1 and 2 started their new Big School just a couple of days ago. Thrown right in at the deep end having never seen the inside of their new school before. What an adventure. And such bravery from them. For what else can be more nervewracking at that age than being the New Kid. The one that doesn’t know what is expected of them. 

  • What do I wear.
  • What’s my teacher called.
  • What do I put in my bag. (Actually this is more for me)
  • Where are the toilets.
  • What if I get scared.

Two years ago I was sending #1 and 2 off to Big School for the first time. They were fine. Two years later, I was sending them off again. They were fine. As I knew they would be. I took them to meet their new teachers, who were waiting to welcome them in class with big friendly smiles. I could feel their hesitation. A few more moments of delay. A few quiet words of nerves. ‘Mummy, I’m scared.’ I know sweetheart but you will have a brilliant day. And I will be waiting at the gates for you.

And of course they did. Brimming full of excitement and hardly believing their good fortune that for school lunch there was ice cream! Ice cream inside some kind of cake. Wow, that sounds exotic. Artic roll? 

The relief is palpable as I hear them excitedly chatter about their day. And the hug. That hug you get when they see you immediately after school. I’m so glad for the chance to get these hugs again. Those arms wrapped around you, filling you with warmth. Then it dissipates like steam and normality resumes. “I’m hungry Mummy.” “Can we go to the park? Whhhhy noooot!”

So you see, I’ve been through this before. I’ve done the whole starting school thing several times. I should be a Pro at this. I should be writing my Get Up and Go List with all three in Big School. Six hours a day of quiet time. Isn’t this what all parents have been waiting for? The countdown to the end of summer holidays and back to school. 

Yes that is quite true. When I was in Gainful   Employment, school marked a sigh of relief that their time was going to be properly occupied and I no longer had to wonder what to do with them outside of the annual leave Husband and I could take.

Equally, since giving up Gainful Employment I have enjoyed seeing their faces everyday. And not just for the last hour, half hour of the day. Some days have been looooong. Some moments of some days could be better but overall, I wouldn’t be without these days. Especially when I think about how fleeting every stage of their childhood can be.

Perhaps it’s because I know how fleeting it is, preparing #3 for Big School has been the hardest. Apparently it always is for the youngest one. Your last baby all grown up. The one you don’t mind crawling into your bed space in the middle of the night, long after the older ones slept all night in their bed. You don’t mind because you know one day it will stop, this little squidgey person snuggling up to you. And one day you want it to stop because they are taking up too much bed space. 

I always enjoyed shopping for school uniform. I think it’s because it was the only time you got so many new things at once! New clothes, new shoes, new bag and new stationery. It seems it’s just as much fun for #1, 2 and 3. (Less so on our pockets though. Three lots of uniform, school bags, PE kit, welly boots.) #2 and 3 have been wearing their new school shoes indoors for days! They are so proud to be wearing their new uniforms and they look so smart in them too.

It’s funny this whole Big School thing. Now that it’s the end of the day, I can laugh about it to myself. How this morning I could barely hug #3 closely and wish her a brilliant day before I could feel the tears threatening to fall. She had no doubt it was going to be ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. Yesterday we talked about how she felt about starting Big School, she was ready. Then she said “you’re going to cry Mummy.” Really? Why! “Because you’ll miss me.”

Ah. She got me there. 

The walk was barely long enough. The Goodbyes in the school yard all too brief. I help her place her bag on her peg and walk her into her new little world. It’s colourful, warm, fun and exciting. This is where #3 belongs. She’s waited patiently for today. For the uniform, the shoes, the friends, the learning. The learning. Constantly telling me that she doesn’t know how to read the words yet. I’m sure it won’t be long. 

I watch her through the window. Overhearing other parents talking about the Parent Syndrome. I have Parent Syndrome too. I wonder if #3 will look up and see me for one more wave. But of course she doesn’t. She’s looking around with a curious happy smile on her face in her smart new uniform and shiny shoes. Full of confidence. She’s looking happy. And then she moves out of sight and it’s time for me to move on. 

But before I do, the Teaching Assistant has already clocked another one with Parent Syndrome. She comes over and asks if  I’m ok, offering words of comfort and encouragement.  I feel even more ridiculous admitting #3 is #3 but she reassures me it’s all quite regular. 

There are days you cry out for ‘ME’ time. A quiet moment to sit down and have a hot cuppa tea uninterrupted. None of the multiple echoes of “Mummy, Mummy”, being able to get jobs done within half the time it takes with three in tow. Sort out boring admin jobs. Clean and tidy. Go out running. Have coffee. Find new cohorts. Regain Gainful Employment. Read a book. Do something new! 

Six hours seemed to pass by quite quickly before I’m back in the school yard. There’s #1 and #2. We go and collect #3 together. She’s all smiles and dishevelled curls. A sign of a brilliant day. 

Later on, we all ask her how she felt. She thinks about it. 

“I almost cried but then I was having too much fun.”
And that is why she’s ready to join in with the big kids.


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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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Year End Review 2016

It is tempting to write off this year as being a terrible one. Indeed, that was my initial thought. It would be all too predictable even to go on about the things that would make 2016 memorable for all the wrong reasons. 

Truthfully, 2016 on the whole has not been my most favourite year and for those who know me well, you already know this. But to say that it was a complete shambles would do the whole year a huge disservice. It would be unfair to all those who celebrated a special occasion for instance to have it tarred with the same brush as the less favourable events that happened. All too often we can be led by the negative but this will only lead to the Dark Side. We all know how that ends. It is right now as we are about to welcome a fresh new year, that we need to lead with the positives.

How best to do this than with our very own positives from the year. 
So for my Year End Review, I am going to share some of my own personal highlights from 2016.

#1, 2 and 3

Everyday I feel thankful for #1, 2 and 3. Even if there are moments within those days when I forget to feel thankful. I am definitely thankful for them. 
They don’t know anything about what’s going on with the state of the global economy, everyone is friends and a good day is measured by what’s happened in the last five minutes. They enable me to live in the moment. Something we should all do more of.

There have been some challenges of course, there probably always will be. At the same time, it has been a joy to see #1, 2 and 3 achieve their own mini milestones at school and home, more so at school than home. I still don’t understand why they can’t just show us some of that same helpfulness at home. Just a little bit. 

#1 in particular has worked very hard this year. Some of the earlier challenges in the year around adapting to a Big School environment was hard work. There were some battles we had to overcome but hard work and perseverence has rewarded #1 with confidence and enjoyment of learning. Most of the time. I’ve also discovered that #1 likes to help out in the kitchen and can almost bake a banana loaf all by himself. And he has stuck to his goal of wearing a Star Wars t shirt everyday this year. 

When your children start Big School, you hope for a good teacher and that your child makes friends. We have been lucky on both counts with good teachers but friendships have to be navigated themselves. I know one source of worry for #2 was whether she would find friends this school year. Within three weeks of the new school year starting, #2 had been sent to see the Head of Year twice. For boisterous behaviour with her friends. Whilst I’m not condoning the behaviour at all and #2 has solemnly sworn not to find herself in that situation again (we’ll see), I’m also glad to know that she has found a group of partners in crime that she talks about all the time. I like how she’s enjoying her hobbies of judo, gymnastics and has a creative streak in her. For Christmas, she gave us books of drawings of our favourite things as presents. 
#3 has heart and generosity. As well as a loud yell. Sharing comes naturally to her. She will offer you whatever she’s eating even before she’s had enough of eating it.  That is saying something. Mostly I get offered leftovers. Or mushed up food spat into my hand. Yum. 

Catching my first ever moonset

I wonder whether, like me, you even thought about the moonset. Though it’s so obvious isn’t it? If there’s a sunrise and sunset, there should be a moonrise and moonset. I’ve often chased a sunrise and settled down with a sunset but never a moonset. For one thing, you have to be a really early morning person. Like super early. 4.45am early. I am not a 4.45am morning person. But for this occasion I was. 

The setting could not have been more idyllic. In the resort of El Nido,  Philippines which I was lucky enough to have travelled to for Gainful Employment. The waters there were so clear and the amount of marine life you could see just a 30 metre snorkel away from shore. The furthest way from the hustle and bustle of city life you could imagine. There are few opportunities to be really still and I will always remember the calm of sitting there, watching the moon slowly dip further towards the horizon as the light all around became brighter and you were caught between that moment where night ends and day begins. 


My Dad, Mr Li turned 80

Just a few days before Christmas, my Dad Mr Li turned 80. I’m very thankful for that. I’m sure he is too even though he often tells me his job is done. But I have news for you my Dad, Mr Li. Your job is not yet done. Who’s to say without your watchful eye on things that I won’t be feeding your grandchildren food from dented cans. Or allow them to go out with wet hair. Or allow them to be so daring as eat two bags of crisps in a 24 hour period. 
No my Dad, Mr Li. Your job is not yet done.
Travelled to new places sans kids

I know! I actually travelled sans kids three times this year. Twice was with Gainful Employment and whilst a great experience, it wasn’t actually a holiday and shouldn’t really count. 
This year Nana Moon came to stay en route to somewhere else. As seems to be the new tradition, whenever Nana Moon comes to stay, she and I must travel to someplace new. At first we thought about Taipei but it’s actually quite far from Singapore and with just three days to spare, you want to make sure you make the most of every moment.  There are plenty of places yet to be explored nearby and so we went to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I bet you’re pronouncing it Yog-ya-karta. That’s because you’ve never been. For us it’s Jogja now. Though Nana Moon will still insist it’s Yogi.

I don’t know about you but an opportunity to travel sans kids for me is to explore and do things that I’ve never done before or would do if I wasn’t sans kids. Any notion of long lie ins and leisurely breakfasts never happen. These mini sojourns are to remember all the things that you should do because you can do them. 

In saying that, there was a moment whilst being suspended 60metres over a cliff when I wondered what on earth was I doing putting my life in the hands of a harness with three kids and Husband at home. The experience was worth it though.

Celebrating Big Brother Li turning 50

I think it’s fair to say that decades have passed since we celebrated any of our Birthday’s together. So it was particularly special to be able to celebrate Big Brother Li turning 50 this year. To him, these milestone Birthdays are no big deal. Indeed, even if it weren’t a big Birthday, it was still a special occasion to be together as a family for it.

Getting right up close to Take That, Kylie, Ronan Keating, Madonna, Queen and Imagine Dragons

In my former London and Manchester life, going to see live bands was a regular occurence. I’ve seen some of my favourite over the years and I’ve even been fortunate enough to be at Live8 just five rows from the the front. Strangely enough, I’ve had some of the best live band experiences in Singapore. 


Going to a live gig is uplifting for the soul and one of my top five favourite things to do. You can’t fail but smile and feel your spirits rise when you are in the presence of real drums banging and guitars twanging. Perhaps the list of popstrels I’ve been to see this year are not exactly to your liking, but for me they make me happy and therefore seeing them live makes me double happy. 

I was a bit concerned that finally getting to see Take That live for the first time (even with just three of them) would be a disappointment. Would they be too middle aged I wondered and whilst I was so close I could see wrinkles, when they played songs from the 90s we were all transported to this other time. Whilst in the 20 years or so since they first were dear to my heart, much has changed and we have all aged but in those years those same songs have seen us through and brought back feeling of happiness. 

Time with family and my closest friends  

This counts for both friends in Singapore and the ones I’ve known much longer. Time in your company is always a pleasure and thank you for all the invites to many a social occasion this year.

We are very fortunate to live in times when international air travel is so possible and affordable. I think back to when my Dad, Mr Li left Hong Kong for the UK over 50 years ago with no idea of when he would next see any of his family and friends. Whilst we may struggle at times in this privileged Expat life of ours, we have the luxury of modern technology that makes distance a little easier to bear.

However, nothing can compare to having them here with you. This year we have had the joy of my In Laws come to stay in the summer. As #1, 2 and 3 get older, we can see that they need more than Husband and I around. We are of course very important and much loved by them but there are others who are much loved too, who can give them something else in addition to what we can. People who love very much and tell them all the positive things that small people delight in hearing about themselves. 

As you know, I don’t just think Brilliant New Adventure as my friend, she is family and I often do wish she was here in Singapore. But equally, when we go now to go Hong Kong we have an extra reason to visit. It can be bittersweet because you imagine what fun times the children would have altogether. But I wouldn’t miss these times for the world. Nor the opportunities to catch up with friends you haven’t seen for many years and for it to be like no time has passed at all.

It’s funny how Nana Moon tells me that when siblings are together, you all revert to type. I think the same can be said about friends who have known each other a long time. We are all of a certain personality and the core of us perhaps doesn’t change as much as we think over the years. I still rely on Nana Moon to tell that jumping across a beam, kayaking in deep waters or being hoisted over a cliff is going to be alright. I have no idea what reassurances I give her. Let’s not ask that question.

Learning new things

This year I took Mandarin Chinese lessons, picked up new skills in Gainful Employment and made my own chutney.


One constant this year, through the ups and downs, has been Husband. He who does not complain (too much) about my intention to master the use of the sewing machine he bought me several years or the bike he got me for my Birthday which he has made more use of than me so far. He who gets up early in the mornings on school days. Who enables the travelling sans kids and much more.

We celebrated Birthdays, weddings and the arrival of new family members. And we saw otters.

 So really, 2016 gave us some good memories. We just needed to think about it. 
May we all end this year thinking of what 2016 did right. Husband and I are not going out tonight because #1 has been unwell but tomorrow, we’re going to start the year fresh, with friends and new hope for a bright 2017. 

Whatever you do, do it in style. Do everything in style. 

Happy New Year’s Eve to you. xx

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Eight years and more

In the melee of daily life, it can be difficult keeping track of the small things. Like the dry cleaning that needed dropping off a few weeks ago, the button on a top that needs sewing back on or the writing of the list to remind you of all the small things that need doing.

But what happens when you forget to keep track of the big things? The costumes for the school celebration, Birthdays of people scattered all over the globe. Your own Wedding Anniversary.

Yes, it has come to that. Well almost. It’s not that I forgot it was our Wedding Anniversary. I always know when and what day it falls on. I however couldn’t say the same for Husband. I asked him, in the midst of a conversation about someone else’s wedding, if he knew when our Wedding Anniversary was to which he replied with a random day of the week. Note to Husband as he reads this, set an annual reminder in your calendar to look at the engraving on the only piece of jewellery you’re wearing. 

When you’re all in the throes of wedding planning and doing the fun stuff like choosing your wedding bands and discussing with the Jeweller the fit and width of the band and then the Jeweller suggests how about getting an inscription engraved inside the bands, it’s complimentary after all. Ooh that sounds good! What should we get inscribed. Our names? I’d like to think you’d remember who you were married to. I love you? I kind of think that was a given considering we were getting married. The Jeweller helpfully suggests how about your Wedding date.

They know something all nearly newlyweds don’t. That if suggested to them would cause feelings of outrage and scoff at the mere thought. How could you EVER forget your own Wedding Anniversary! Especially when you’ve just spent months building up to this one day. There is no way you will forget. Absolutely not.

But then suddenly, it almost happens. Too busy with Gainful Employment, commitments to other engagements, with #1, 2 and 3, sourcing costumes for school events to take the time to make this day a special celebration. 

It doesn’t have to be anything big or extravagant. Just a moment to remember that this day eight years ago we were in the midst of one of the happiest celebrations we’ve had together. A gathering of all the people who mattered most to us to share something good. 

A time before being pulled in so many different directions that leaves you having to factor in time together. Actual time together for just us two. There are occasions where that means sneaking off to the supermarket together. Then adding on a daring coffee to it. I know. 

A Wedding Anniversary should symbolise all the things that were true on your wedding day but also acknowledgement of all that you have gained since then. Lessons of growth and compromise you experience because you have committed to a life together. 

I love attending a wedding. I love to take in the detail, wait in anticipation to see the Bride, watch with high emotion as the Groom sees her walking towards him to begin a whole new chapter of their relationship together. I even feel this way when I’ve been at weddings where I don’t even know the couple well, or at all. I don’t mean I lurk at the back of churches with my wedding best on, it’s been when I’ve been Husband’s plus one. 

I can definitely say that #1, 2 and 3 like a good wedding too and so far they have been to four weddings in Singapore, Japan and England (thankfully no funerals.) All culturally very different too. You’d think they’d be pros at being good wedding guests by now.

So when asked recently to be flower girls and ring bearer at the wedding of friend of Husband’s, we sort of thought it would be ok. How chaotic can it be for them to don pretty dresses and smart outfit to begin the celebrations of this couple’s most important and memorable day they’ve spent a lot of time getting just right for them. 
How indeed.

I’m not actually sure whether the Bride has seen this footage yet but the serene image of #2 and 3 throwing rose petals as they paved the way for the Bridesmaids didn’t quite go to plan. In fact as you can see here they are about to break free from Husband and had to be duly rounded up like sheep gambolling in a field. I’m happy to report the Bride still considers us her friends and regular Flower Girl activity resumed once the man with the camera disappeared. 

Often when you go to a wedding as the plus one, you feel wrapped up in the warmth of occasion whether you know the couple well or not. But for this wedding I really felt like they were sharing the whole journey of their story so far. The thought and effort that had gone into the videos that were played describing how they met and the surprise of the proposal added to the day for me as a guest.

At the same time, with the experience of a few more big life events these newly weds have yet to encounter, I appreciated the timely reminder of the buzz and fun and optimism going to every wedding gives you.

And so just a few days later, quite unexpectedly, I arrive home to a beautiful bunch of flowers from Husband, a rare occurrence after I once rebuffed his romantic gesture when ill and I said it would only make my hay fever worse. It was the message inside that made the day about us again even though there was no opportunity to go for dinner or similar appropriate celebration.

Today will also begin a new chapter and journey for my Nearly Nephew Dazzler and his gorgeous wife. I’m so sorry to be missing out on what will no doubt be an amazing family occasion. I’m eagerly waiting for photos as I speak to you now!
There are no words of advice I can give or guarantees I can make but today will be one special day at the start of many more yet to come. 


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For all Mums on all days

It is Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day today in the UK. The benefits of celebrating this occasion in Singapore when everyone else will be celebrating in May, is that you can go out for lunch without places being fully booked. Luckily for Husband, there are shops savvy enough to realise they can make good use of their stock of Mother’s Day cards twice a year.

Overall today is a Sunday like any other. #1 still has rugby practice first thing in the morning, #2 and 3 have eggs for breakfast without #1 around complaining about the smell (and yet he finds smelly farts hilarious). They all have endless appetites outside of mealtimes, require entertainment and meltdowns can happen at any time.

But they do try and remember that today is a ‘special day’. However if that special day doesn’t involve presents and surprises for them then the good behaviour can be short lived. But I do love the enthusiasm and excitement that small children adore when they are involved in a conspiracy. Even if they don’t quite understand the full meaning of that conspiracy as Husband is still leading Operation Mother’s Day Appreciation Plan.

They love the surprise presentation of cards and gifts with a flourish that elicits exclamations of joy and gratitude. The knowledge that they have made you happy. This doesn’t just extend to me on Mother’s Day but on all occasions where they share something with someone that makes the other person happy. And who doesn’t feel good when they’ve made someone else feel good. It’s part of who we are. I have a purple painting of me done by #2 as my special gift. #1 and 3 went for a more abstract take on things.

But this year, a lot more than previous years on Mother’s Day, I really miss my Mum. There’s still an eight hour time difference between us and I couldn’t wait to give her a call and hear her voice and wish her Happy Mother’s Day.

Perhaps it’s because my last trip to the UK my Mum did a lot of home cooking for us that reminded me of my youth. For what can be more comforting than your Mum’s (or Dad’s) cooking. I try to cook the same way my Mum does but it never will be as good. And whilst I have eaten in some really fabulous places and tasted food that can only be described as exquisite, nothing can really compare to dinner at my Mum’s with my Mum.

I find one of the most challenging aspects of living an expat life is the absence of family. Especially with having a family of my own without my Mum being around to guide me through the days when I didn’t know what was going on. Still don’t to be honest. Perhaps living near or around London would also mean I wouldn’t see my Mum as often as what my ‘if I wasn’t living an expat life’ imagination leads me to believe. But I would be able to call her more often without having to calculate the seven or eight hours behind. Sometimes you just want to be able to call now and not have to wait until later. As much as we have amazing stay in touch technology that has helped keep many of my relationships going without missing a beat, there’s something quite special about talking on the telephone that feels much more personal.

All I know is that I miss my Mum and now, more than ever as I get older, do I appreciate just how much she is. Just how much comfort she gives me in something so ordinary like the meals she still cooks in the same way she has done all my life. That level of consistency. Just like my Mum.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mum’s near and far. But especially to my Mum for many reasons that keep coming to me every day.

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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 ( was a beautiful necklace/bracelet which I still love to wear.


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.


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For my Dad and yours and for Husband too

We missed Father’s Day this year! No long lie in or leisurely breakfast in bed for Husband. No big presentation of cards. No big day out just for Dad. I only really remembered when at the very end of a long day Husband says to me, ‘Do you know what day it is?’.

This seemingly innocuous question is a powerhouse of hidden meaning. It’s a question that tells you you’ve already committed a crime. This is just to prompt you to figure out what it is and then voice your shame out loud.

It’s not that I forgot. I never do. It’s just that we had such a busy day in Tokyo that Father’s Day wasn’t the main focus. Neither was Husband the main man as we celebrated the wedding of two friends in a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony.

Our concerns for the day were to get ourselves and #1, 2 and 3 ready for a wedding and get to the wedding venue, Meiji Shrine, and somehow hope #1, 2 and 3 will sit obediently silent and therefore totally out of character for the whole proceedings. What I always promise myself before events requiring #1, 2 and 3 to be out on public display is to read this book, French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman.


But I haven’t yet and it’s joined that pile of unread books now used to measure how tall #1, 2 and 3 are. However, never mind the French, what I want to know is how the Japanese do it? Their children can sit quietly and appropriately and their children don’t feel the need to whoop and yell at the sight of every train, police car, ambulance, motorbike that looks a bigger version of the Tomica models we have at home. They walk in linear lines and not like they’re being chased by invisible wasps. How indeed do Japanese parents do it? Maybe the next week or so will transform #1, 2 and 3 by osmosis.

I think most of the fear comes from ourselves as parents and our expectations of what is appropriate behaviour. #1 and 2 did marvellously well at their first major formal event with #1 taking part in all the respectful bowing and clapping and even having his first taste of sake following what everyone else was doing. #3 is just #3, there’s no telling any 20 month old what to do. It’s far easier to let her go rogue quietly in a corner.

It was hard on #3 though because a couple of hours into our seven hour flight, she started a burning fever of nearly 40 degrees. Good job I packed up that mini medicine cabinet and changes of clothing as she then vomited for the last hour of the flight and after landing. The staff at Tokyo Haneda Airport were excellent in fast tracking us through passport control. She’s still unwell but is doing a great job of trooping on and so I can’t blame her at all for getting annoyed when all she wants is her comfy bed.

So that’s how we missed Father’s Day today. Though he has enjoyed a great day out with us and we’re in Japan where he has always wanted to go.

Although I may have needed some prompting on what day it was. Husband said that he was most impressed with #1 remembering all by himself that it was Father’s Day. He wished him ‘Happy Father’s Day Daddy. I made you something but I left it in Singapore.’

Actually you haven’t #1, because I didn’t forget completely and packed up the gifts for Husband they made at school last week. So both children and Husband were able to celebrate Father’s Day after all.


As for my Dad, Mr Li, he long ago said he had enough socks to measure himself by but that’s not as many socks as you might think as my Dad, Mr Li is quite wee. But every year he likes his card and a phone call and this year all the more with us being away on holiday and he wasn’t expecting it.

So I hope you all enjoyed remembering the Dad’s in your life this Father’s Day.

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