Saturday, 20 December 2014

Snow, At Last

It snowed! It snowed! We'll have a white Christmas after all!

Today I cut down pine branches in my Swedish military uniform from 1941.


I arrived to a bare, frosty north. Here I am trying out my woolly earmuffs. 
I have since lost them. I think they're in the car. 

Gloves are recommended.


On my way to London by train

where my friend Rachel Berry's parents came to get me. My budget flight to Sweden left at seven in the morning, which meant that I had to get up at three to catch the bus to Stansted, which would get me to the airport at five. But we've all been there, done that, amiright? What I really wanted to say with this picture is that the photos remind them of family, and the fake cockroach reminds them of home. Ah, Singapore. I understand the nostalgia. 

I was served a dinner of chicken, peas, and potatoes. I brought a box of After Eight for dessert, which Mr. and Mrs. Berry countered with a box of clementines. 

Finally arrived in Skellefteå, where my grandmother's sister Marine picked me up from the airport and treated me to a lunch of lasagna and greens. I spent a while on her sofa, enjoying the view. Marine told me they bought the television in 1983 and it's worked like a charm ever since. 

I wouldn't be anywhere without family and friends. 


Before I left for Sweden, my British housemates decided to have Christmas dinner. Actually it was a combination of a British Christmas roast and an American Thanksgiving. Growing up in an international school with American friends and teachers, I have always celebrated Thanksgiving. Most years my mother would make a Turkey dinner with all the fixings and invite our old Singaporean friends. I am very grateful for my international upbringing.

My red Christmas dress. This is the kitchen mirror. I don't fit when I stand too close. That's because it's meant for shorter people. I do enjoy being tall. When I was a teacher, it was great because I was always the tallest person in the room. 

There was roasted chicken, parsnips and carrots and smashed potatoes. I made the sweet potato pie.

After dinner, when we had all nicely settled into our Thanksgivingmas coma, we exchanged gifts. My housemate Rachel gave me this card.

I feel very loved.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


I found this pin in a charity shop. It cost me four gold pieces. Henry IV, Part I is my favourite Shakespeare play. It probably should be something more ambitious--I should say Hamlet or Othello, something full of sound and fury--but in the words of that great sage Selena Gomez, "the heart wants what it wants."

Friday, 28 November 2014


It's England. It's grey and rainy and I don't have enough sweaters jumpers. So I bought this at H&M.

I like to think of it as my post-apocalyptic nun outfit. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

How Considerate of You

Getting ready for the hog roast. Layers. Lots of layers. 

Rachel in the stairwell, bundled up against the cold 

My walls are plain, and I have nothing with which to decorate. So I put up the bus guide and a map of Bath and a promotional brochure for Sunnyside Bed and Breakfast. 

Rachel popping by in her robe to say good night.

Hog Roast

 I went to a hog roast with my church.

The roasted hog 

This is Ben. He's from Wales and he likes hog roasts. A lot.  


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Outside Perspective

My housemate Rachel wrote the following about me:

The Writer

She narrowed her eyes and stared up at the ceiling, not entirely sure what to do next. Not that it mattered. She would finish her latest manuscript even if it meant forgoing sleep, forgoing household chores, or even forgoing food. Her housemates would be quick to point out that these were all fairly standard practice, and not at all indicative of a deep and complex grappling with her craft, although that was entirely beside the point. A wisp of a thought curled through her mind, but even as she tried to catch it and constrict it into words on a page, it vanished. “Ah well,” she said aloud, “another milky tea should do the trick.”

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Edge of Reason

A car alarm kept me up at night, and it went off with frivolous spontaneity for the next day. Our indignant neighbours stopped my housemate Emily the next evening. "Fix your alarm."
Our alarm?
Were we the perpetrators? The cause for disruption of friendly relations?
We hung our heads, repented in sack cloth and ashes.
There was no immediate solution to our problem. The handyman would come in a few days. Emily promptly bought small bags of chocolates for our neighbours to make amends. Rachel, however, descended into madness. The alarming wail pierced our hours like a banshee. It was too much.

A dangerous determination settled into her features. She would make it stop. By Aslan's mane, she'd make it stop.

She took a bash at the alarm box with a broom, cut the wires, and pulled a small plastic thing off the wall.
Not a sound.
"It is finished," she declared to me in the kitchen and put the scissors away.
"The internet doesn't work," I said.
She stared at me. "No."

She'd cut the telephone line.

                               The handyman finally arrived and dismantled the alarm box.

Rachel watched. 

On Tuesday the man came to fix the internet.  
I handed him the small plastic thing and explained about the alarm. "My housemate pulled this off."
He weighed it thoughtfully in his hands. "Not a good day for her, was it?"

Society, Part II

In Sweden, we have a saying: "Mycket ska man höra innan öronen trillar av," which means "You'll hear a lot of things before your ears fall off." At the Cafe, I overhear conversations all the time.

The red-haired barista comes into the room, looking around. "Soy hot chocolate?"
A girl raises her hand. "Here."
He sets down the cup at her elbow. "It's quite runny."
"Well..." the girl pauses, reflects on the liquid state of all hot chocolate everywhere, "...of course it it."
The barista makes another attempt at explaining himself. "No, it's quite wet."
"Isn't it supposed to be?"
"What I mean is, it hasn't got much air in it."
I think this means something to baristas and other connoisseurs, but not to me and not to the girl who ordered soy hot chocolate. "Okay," she says, surprised by this unnecessary honesty. "Thank you."

A pair of filmmakers discuss their work in the corner, and Kate Tempest. A sausage dog sniffs carefully around the corners of the room, shy and polite. A student and his tutor, leafing through the notes of a dog-eared notebook. A man learning to speak Italian.

I meet a lot of people here at the cafe's big table, working to the melancholy strains of Jose Gonzalez. I sit at one end and a pair of well-heeled business men take their seat beside me; we cluster together conspiratorially to talk of "beneficial margins." I feel for a moment like their secretary.

"Can we sit here?" A New Zealand couple and their local guide are by my side.
"Oh, yes." I am hardly present, staring at the far wall deep in thought.
"You look very concentrated," says the man.
"Oh, yes, I'm trying to write a description for a character in my book."
He fixes me with a look. "Tall, elongated git."
I laugh. It reminds me of Red Dwarf. "I'll keep that in mind."
They ask me if I know any sights worth seeing. Not really. Don't know the area well enough. They drink their coffee at leisure before taking their leave.

"Can I sit here?"
I look up to a guy. He means the chair across from me.
He nods in thanks, then asks if I can watch his stuff while he fields a call. Of course I can. He leaves for a few minutes, then returns and almost has the time to relax before his phone rings again. He gestures apologetically. "Can you...?"
"Yeah. No problem."
He disappears around the corner and comes back in a while, finally settling himself in the chair. He notices my phone cover (it's Shakespeare) and because I can't help but gush about the Bard, I show him the picture in my locket (it's Shakespeare). He tells me he used to go to the Globe Theatre in London almost every weekend, and I am jealous. I tell him I've seen King Lear in Stratford-upon-Avon and how impressed I was with the staging, the costumes, the crumbling set. "It represents the decay of the kingdom," I tell him, and he nods again, philosophically. He doesn't complain when I fill him in on my love of the historical plays.

We talk about all sorts of things. He's from Cornwall. He ponders the role of social media in his career because he's a musician. Also apparently a youtuber by the name of Tom Law. I'd not heard of him until then, but that isn't surprising. I use youtube for kpop and kitty videos.

After an age of mutual distraction, neither of us have done any work. He has to run. We say goodbye, goodbye and good luck.

He's gone in a blink. The empty chair. Did I imagine it all?

Hot Springs

I visited the Roman baths here in Bath, built on the only hot springs in England. A shrine was first built here by the Celts to honour the goddess Sulis, a deity the Romans later identified as Minerva. The baths were thought to have curative properties and associated with royalty. I  was told not to touch the water, but hey--when in Bath, amiright?

Public baths have fallen away a bit in our busy Western culture. In Sweden I think people resist the idea merely for practical reasons--we wear a lot of layers. It takes some effort to peel off winter clothes. (I grossly misrepresent my people.) My hometown Umeå has in recent years been debating the location of a new bath house, and legislators finally agreed upon opening its doors in the middle of the city. I like. 


These pictures were taken weeks ago, when the air was warmer. I have had summer for nearly two years now. Two years spent in the hot air of Singapore, then I came home to an unusually warm summer in Sweden, with nothing but sun, sun, sun. Then I left Sweden for southern climes, and again, more summer. Bath wasn't close to surrendering to colder weather. Two months passed, still with mild, rainy days, and only now in November has Uncle Autumn come to visit in his red coat. He tipped his orange hat at me as I passed by, ever the gentleman. 


Dear Friends,

 I'm not sure if you know already, but I have moved to Bath, England. I am here to complete my Master's degree in Creative Writing, which entails writing 40,000 words on a novel and some other essays in between. Every Monday and Tuesday I take the bus to Corsham, a picturesque little town with tiny shops and cobblestone streets, and walk to Corsham Court, an old manor house still owned by the Methuen family. The house is exactly as you would expect: grand stairs and peacocks on the lawn and grim gargoyles that spy from the corners of the roof.  

All other days of the week I spend reading books for my context module and writing independently. On Fridays I meet with my friend Katie for tea and cake and writing. I came to this course with only an idea for a book, which at the moment involves a young man and monsters, and that is all I can say at the moment.

In pyjamas at my tiny desk, which I do not use enough.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Society, Part I

I am absolutely terrible at getting any work done at home. So I leave.

I stop at the Cafe, order a pot of tea and cake and sit down by the window. A little boy in wellies and a raincoat lingers on the other side of the glass, smiling at me. I wave.

The cafe is across from a sporting goods store, separated by The Corridor. An attendant comes out, followed by a customer, a middle-aged gentleman with thinning gray hair. The man is wearing new trainers and jogs up and down the length of the corridor to try them out. Now that's good service.

There is a guy sitting next to me reading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. What a coincidence. I'm reading a book. Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide.

I turn away to press a tissue to my nose, ladylike, and the guy sniffles and does the same. More coincidence. He orders a cup of coffee and a tart, slowly extracts his phone to take a picture. Adds a filter. Instagram. I think we're meant to be.

Some Italians arrive with their lilting accents, obvious regulars who order espresso.
The baristas, in the quiet hours, build a tower out of cardboard cups.
At one point in time, I glance up--through the window I see a beanie, a pair of skinny jeans, face obscured behind a camera. He's taken my picture. Pretty sure I'm famous now.

I read. Haruki Murakami guy next to me reads. He feels our connection.
He closes his book, love's blossom breaking in his heart.
He packs up, leaves.

Our bond was too deep for words. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bah, Humbugs

When I came home from Dorset, I found this on my desk, which was wonderful because I was completely knackered from my travails. Rachel had bought me a stash of British candies, following our conversation on humbugs and other delectables described in any of Enid Blyton's books. I still want to eat the pop biscuits from The Faraway Tree.