Friday, November 21, 2014

no hk gym competition

Today was when Day and Jo were supposed to have been in Hong Kong gearing up for a gym competition the next day.

Until a month ago, it was all systems go. The two had been gearing up for months. I had slowly but steadily persuaded Jo, week after week, that competition won’t kill her and might in fact be fulfilling even if she doesn’t win.

Then just as I was about to get the air tickets, it turned out we couldn't go, for a multitude of reasons.

We had to back out.

I will never forget the day I had to tell the gym administrators that we were not going to Hong Kong and Jo bursting into tears at my side. Even though I had explained to her in advance why we could not go, hearing me tell the gym people was the final nail in the coffin. She begged me, tugging me to one side hiding the tears in her eyes, to let her go.

It was a bit like watching a plant I had painstakingly nurtured, about to flower, being strangled. Only then did it become clear to me, how successful I had been in converting her stubborn resistance into stubborn enthusiasm. I wanted to cry, for having let her down so badly.

But I was glad, that her attitude could change. It’s a good sign.

Day, as usual, took it all in his stride. OK lor, he said.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

penang wedding 3

Last highlights.

Swimming in the hotel pool. Staying and running around the posh hotel. These kids of mine are inclined to want to spend their entire holiday in a hotel without ever stepping out.


* G Hotel lobby

Family progressions. The girl who got married last time has two kids now.

* Ying-Ying with her uncle and son

Day merrily imbibing champagne and beer at the wedding.


Strolling on Armenian Street.


Stumbling upon the painfully hip China House, which I gather just offers a glimpse into Penang’s blooming hip cafĂ© culture. Very different from the coffeeshops we hung around.  

* China House, which carves out 14 spaces out of 3 old buildings into a restaurant, art galleries, a theatre, shops and very nice toilets.


* Day's very good Bolognese-like spaghetti with eggplant in it

* Art gallery upstairs, looking over the restaurant

My cousin’s “haunted-house” workplace, a vintage crumbling mansion with tiny tiled floors and old sinks in bedroom corners. It was a "oh let's stop by to take a look since we're passing by" kind of detour, but I daresay the house was my Penang trip highlight.

I really like old undiscovered houses free of "Don't Touch" signs and admission fees.



* The working kitchen. I really wanted the slanted chopping board on the right: Chop and sweep into waiting bowl below!

* Tiled toilet floors and iron handles. I'm not sure why there is a bolt outside the toilet: To prevent the person inside from coming out?

* Abandoned bedroom upstairs for two single beds. The mustard yellow velvet cushions were the original bed heads and those pillows were, er, I think the original pillows.

* A sink in the bedroom corner.

* Another room, complete with ghostly pair of legs.

* Walk-in wardrobe? Not sure how it works, although the drawer on Day's right can be pulled out entirely for a person to walk in.

Occupying one air-conditioned room in the otherwise abandoned house, my cousin works on a century—old typewriter which is in perfect working condition. No e-mail. Communication is only through telephone and the post.


* Day typing on another ancient Olympia

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

penang wedding 2

This is a trip where the kids (more the girls, rather, since Day has always been a fan) were convincingly won over by the food in Penang.

How I know is because after a while the wet floors, squat toilets, slightly greasy tables and cutlery, chairs with stray food morsels on it, roadside dodgy-looking carts, no longer mattered to them.


Not even to finicky Jo, the self-declared high-maintenance girl who ate like there was no tomorrow, and who now understands what I mean when I say the best food comes out of humble kitchens.

 * Lady in brown shirt is the one-woman chef, dishwasher and cashier for the prawn noodles which Jo fell in love with

* Jo waiting for char kway teow and prawn noodles.

We filled ourselves to the brim every day in roadside stalls. I’m just going to let it rip.

* Jo's favourite, prawn noodle soup. She ate two bowls.

* Char kway teow

* The char kway teow fri-er

* OMG Penang Laksa, Day and my favourite

* Gong Gong sheltering Day as he tucks into a tiny little bowl of laksa

* Kway teow soup with chicken and pig liver, my two brothers' favourite

* Deep-fried fish and prawns with beehoon and a garlic sauce

* Rendang

* Beef noodles

* The gold at the end of the rainbow: Food!

Monday, November 17, 2014

penang wedding 1

We just went again, for another niece, Wen’s, wedding.

* Wen and Aaron


(Us meaning me and the trio, my folks and my two brothers. KK didn’t go, he preferred to stay home.

Wen’s mother says to me: Thank you so much for coming. She must mean the time and expense to fly for an overseas wedding.

But I am sincere when I tell her, we enjoy it.

As I get older, I like weddings more and more. I like the celebration, the feel-goodness of it, the food and catching up with familiar faces.

And I think this time, we all enjoy ourselves a lot more than the last time.

Because the kids are older, it’s as if I’m travelling with three independent companions. They each carry their own clothes and shoes in their own bag, and I can leave them alone in the hotel room to watch TV as I go do my thing, like go the gym (I did, twice).


Because the kids are older, they are much more open to food and experiences, including squatting toilets of which there are plenty in Penang but which they are expert at by now. They can also walk longer. And stay awake longer without falling asleep on my shoulder which was a real burden.

Because the kids are older, they are more tolerant of other people’s agendas. Mostly, the old ones spent hours and hours catching up, yakking away in Cantonese, but the kids don't mind too much.

* Chilling out in the cool air on top of Penang Hill, the kids and I wandered around the playground and the rest of the hill for ages, waiting for them to stop talking

* More talk talk talk at the hotel poolside

And because Choon comes along (he flew straight from Darwin to Penang), it’s a complete four-day Big Family trip.

* Choon hops on the Singapore-Penang flight

Sunday, November 16, 2014

helium balloon joke

I return from a wedding lunch with three stunning metallic gold heart-shaped balloons, fat and bulging with helium, for the trio.

The girls do proper things with the balloons: Tie them to their wrists, float them up to the ceiling, go cycling with them.


The boy, inspired by his balloon, decides to tell a joke.

Friday, November 14, 2014

P1 orientation


It’s the little one’s turn now.

Despite all of her reservations about school, she happily cloaks herself in her sister’s cast-offs – I cut off the name tag – and gets ready for Orientation, a day during which she will experience for the first time the Classroom Environment she will be in for many more years.


Hand-holding her is her big sister, who is more excited about Orientation than she is.


Jo has already given her strict instructions on how to pack her bag, what to put in her pencil case, how to buy food, how to make friends.

On Orientation Day, Jo dresses Lu, makes sure the uniform is neat, rolls down her socks, ties her hair and gives her a good luck kiss. I don't need to do a thing.


The sisters stay together during the hour-long session, while I sit in the hall listening to boring speeches about how the children will be taught and graded in English and Maths.

(I am most excited about how my hours of freedom will extend by another two hours next year.)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

end of school

The last day of school.

It ends a glorious post-exam fortnight of watching movies in class, hours of sports and games, playing card and board games and generally having fun.

They’ve now got their report books, been sorted and classified, they heave their bags and move to their new classes to see who they’ll be studying with for the next two years.

“A lot of people were crying,” Day reports. “I think they’ll miss their friends”. He, who is rarely bothered by anything apart from his sisters, did not cry and cheerfully moved on. Some of his pals remain with him. Others moved up or down.

* I caught him having a party with his class in the canteen. Aaron and Justin.

* Teachers Mr Seah and Mdm Sharifah

Jo, too, was in a good mood. “My new class is so quiet, not as noisy as this year’s, and there are a lot of girls,” she reports, extremely pleased by the sorting exercise.

Now for six weeks of bliss.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


One of my most precious holiday acquisitions was a travel diary belonging to an Australian lady by the name of Ms V. Pascoe.


* The first page of her diary with what is very likely a photograph of herself

It was over 10 years ago when I stumbled across it in a bookshop in Hahndorf, the oldest surviving German village in Adelaide, Australia. I think Ms Pascoe died and the shop was selling off her possessions. I bought the diary because it looked old and interesting and when I flipped it open I saw that, serendipitously, she had written about her trip to Singapore in the 1970s.

The girls came across it recently, and I very carefully opened up the Ziploc bag I keep it in to show it to them (Day wasn’t interested).

It is really quite a marvelous record and the girls ooh-ed and ah-ed. Nobody keeps diaries like these today (or even then). It is chockful of loving detail of her trips to Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Canberra between 1977 and 1982. 

There is lots of flip-out action as she pastes tickets, brochures and maps which have meaning to her, into her diary. 


Here's a bit of wool which Ms Pascoe collected from the shorn sheep and pasted in her diary, and which remains pristinely soft 30 years on.


She itemizes everything she spends money on. She even carefully describes hotels rooms she stays in and in one entry drew the hotel wallpaper pattern in her diary. 

And like an eager student on an excursion, she also notes down everything which she learns, from the reason for geological formations to drawing native flora.


Inspired by Ms Pascoe, the girls have decided to write diaries. Not travel diaries – because we hardly travel – but just Life diaries.

(Day isn’t interested so I think journal-writing in this family is going to be a Girl thing)

They don’t write often. But just as and when they feel like it, maybe once every few weeks. Lulu is the more enthusiastic.

Here she is on a trip when I took her to the Changi Airport, and it was extra special to her because her Gor and Jae were absent. I took a lot of photos because she looks kind of studious and she wasn't moving.


Between Jo and Lu, Lu is also far more prolific because she doesn’t care too much if her lines are straight or if her grammar is correct. She just lets it all gush out. Sometimes I print out a black-and-white photo to liven up her entries.


I hope they will derive as much joy from writing and reading back their diaries entries, as I, and Ms Pascoe, did.