Friday, October 09, 2015

Missy Turns 7!

Since Missy laboriously keyed in her birthday into my calendar, she always scrolls through to ensure that her birthday stays firmly scheduled year on year. Yah lah, little girl. You've set it on my schedule to infinity. This year, a full month before October, she browsed my calendar and flashed a smug little grin when she saw the date locked in.

BUT, we can't do the uhh 'skip school' thing anymore to go play. Missy's officially a proper Primary One schoolgirl. So what did Aunty Imp do? Toggled the schedule and made sure I returned to town in time to shamelessly crash her party in school at recess. No haze. The day dawned rainy and cool, and turned blue and sunny. Reprieve. Gorgeous skies.

Goodie bags were packed for Missy's classmates. Y arranged for a big ice-cream cake that was gleefully devoured by the children. She also took Missy's favorite bear along, so I also took one of mine that the little girl favors. Two bears attended her school party. But they had to quietly sit in a corner. Missy couldn't act all too cute in front of her classmates. Hahahaha. She gotta be cool! She must have thought us absolutely embarrassing.

And so, with a missing front tooth, Missy is seven.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Sir John Betjeman's Cornwall

The British Poet Laureate 1972-1984 described the beauty of Cornwall at Camel estuary along the now disused 260-mile rail line on the final 6.5-mile stretch from Wadebridge to Pastow. He subscribed to the romance of the North Cornwall Railway until this final stretch served by Bodmin trains closed in January 1967. It's now re-opened, operating as a heritage railway between Wadebridge and Pastow. It's also a gorgeous hike/cycle/horse trail known as The Camel Trail. I'd really love to return to check that out on a hack.

The golden and unpeopled bays/ The shadowy cliffs and sheep-worn ways/ The white unpopulated surf/ The thyme-and-mushroom scented surf/ The slate-hung farms, the oil-lit chapels/ Thin elms and lemon-colored apples

Everyone's making the best of the last bits of the English sun before mid-autumn flops in wet and windy. So yeah, sitting outdoors is certainly a thing here at 17°C. No mozzies too. Lovely to have a meal and drinks looking out across the water, although I still don't advocate downing a few drams before noon.

The gentle rolling hills and all that blue. Something about coastal towns and their vibes. As bleak as those cliffscapes can be, they're breathtakingly magnificent. Nothing stark or dreary about it this season.

Cocooned in Time, at this inhuman height, / The packaged food tastes neutrally of clay, / We never seem to catch the running day / But travel on in everlasting night / With all the chic accoutrements of flight: / Lotions and essences in neat array / And yet another plastic cup and tray."Thank you so much. Oh no, I'm quite all right". 
At home in Cornwall hurrying autumn skies / Leave Bray Hill barren, Stepper jutting bare, / And hold the moon above the sea-wet sand. / The very last of late September diesIn frosty silence and the hills declare / How vast the sky is, looked at from the land. 
~ 'Back from Australia' by Sir John Betjeman, 1974

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

An Autumn Wedding

The stark and beautiful St Mawes Castle on the southern coast of England.
It's an artillery fort built by Henry VIII in the 15th century that continued to be used as such
through the 18th and 19th centuries, and World War II.

Isn't it just a ridiculous number of weddings scheduled this year? Well, the ones attended are friends whom I see often and am close to. They've seen me through dark days; for whom I've long set aside the quota for their weddings and quietly waited/wait to be invited, if they so choose this path, and we still keep the friendship. :P

All those Skype conversations. The instant R said, "I want to hold the wedding in a castle-like fort, but not that sort of castle. Do you know what I mean?" Oh yes. Of course I do. We've been friends since we were six years old. I passed those modules on Shakespeare and English history because you summarized them for me till I fell asleep. There're only a few venues to choose from since she didn't want to hop out to Scotland. Two specifically- Polhawn Fort built by French POWs to discourage Napoleon from invading the country, and St Mawes Castle. No prizes for guessing what R chose and what her then-husband-to-be R, a military history buff, agreed on. Never mind how the House of Tudor's Henry VIII wedded six wives, divorced two, and beheaded two, and one death that wasn't on him. R and R were totally tickled by those facts.

The love story between R and R is epic. Ups and downs. Ten years in the making. Two incredibly talented and headstrong individuals. The chemistry between them today is sizzling. The understanding and space they've established in this partnership. Loads of hugs all around. It was a superb party. All that dancing!

Warmest congratulations, R and R! You're awesome hosts.  Much love, oldest girlfriend. Nothing makes me happier than seeing you happy. Here's to a wonderful start to the new chapter. xo

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Plaice Aplenty

Outside of Singapore, I try to eat as much fish as possible, especially the species that are difficult to find at home or only imported frozen. Haddock and halibut can be found quite easily. Surprisingly, John Dory and sole too. Plaice, not so much.

Skipped fish and chips. So much fresh fish available. Forget the fried and battered stuff. Love plaice. Pollack is good too, but I'm not quite in the mood for that. Plaice is usually on many restaurants' menu, be it the 'catch of the day' or a regular staple.

In UK, the European plaice is found at many restaurants. It's a diamond-shaped right-eyed flatfish. It comes as a flounder or a sole. A flounder isn't quite a sole. Heeeee. The true sole is a Dover/black sole. The lemon sole is actually a winter flounder. Again, as oceans warm, the populations of plaice and sole in North Sea dwindle. As time goes by, perhaps the Alaskan plaice found in the colder Bering Sea will be served.

Ordered fish for as many meals as possible. Not that many either. Couldn't do three meals a day. Two are more than sufficient to keep energy levels up. Had many pieces of perfectly grilled plaice. Plain, with just salt and pepper. Asked for the sauces on the side and not drizzled over. Nom nom nom. In my tummy!

Monday, October 05, 2015

In the Dark of the Night

Bought a copy of Mitsuyo Kakuta's new book. The title roughly translates into 'Thousands of Nights, Yesterday's Moon' ('ikusen no you kinō no tsuki'); at least that's what the English on the cover said.『幾千の夜、昨日の月』by 角田光代. I like her writing and her stories, occasionally whimsical and often full of astute observations of her surroundings, Japanese society and culture, and people.

24 short stories depict the feelings experienced in the night when the author traveling out of Japan, from the starry skies at summer camp to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Paris in France to Marrakech in Morocco to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia to Bangkok in Thailand. Each story tells of her feelings at the breaking of dawn. Of journeys of self-reflection, wondering about loneliness and being alone, and how the night amplifies that. Obviously I couldn't help thinking of the prayer to the Lord of Light R'hllor"The night is dark and full of terrors." #GoT :p In 「海夜、山夜」, going down a winding mountain road, she pondered about life and living, wondering if her path taken is right.


In「用無しの夜もある」, her observations of Bangkok's nightlife are spot-on, especially how she called red light district Patpong 'evil' and sleazy when she visited it 17 years ago. Visiting it again later on as a 40-year-old woman didn't change her mind about it, but her observations are now tinged with great sadness and empathy, and less of disgust. Parallels how I feel about Bangkok.

The second last story in the book is「魂が旅する夜」. The title kinda refers to 'a soul's journey'. She writes of how her mother was hospitalized for a night. She was there of course, and spent some time reflecting on souls who came through the hospital's doors and in that silence, the anxiety felt by other souls. As always, the hospital makes us feel mortality ever so keenly. I'm sure we've all paced that corridor outside the wards or the operating theatre. The hospital is the venue that grants continued life, but it also separates the living and the dead.

病院の夜はどこの夜とも違う。 人の魂が自由に行き来している、 そんな意味で「開いている」感じがする。

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Truro Cathedral

With only like... 24,000 residents or so, Truro is the civic and historic center of Cornwall. Quiet and full of heritage, so much green surrounds it. Didn't have time to go kayaking or admire those dreary gorgeous grey seascapes and dramatic cliffs. Next time. I love northwest England (the Lakes). Not too taken with southwest England, but the cliffs seem very promising for a second visit.

Of course we made time to take short walks. However, walking is a slow activity. Rented bicycles to take us round the city. The friends are always up for it, but I'm not adventurous enough to think of taking bicycles out to Cornish Way where real cycling (23 to 25 miles) begins. The Londoners were enthusiastically making plans to come back for a long weekend to do that. Won't be my cup of tea... I'll take the treks and the hacks. Plenty of awesome trails.

There was time for a coffee with the friends and a stop at the beautiful Truro Cathedral. Built as an Anglican church in the Gothic Revival style sometime in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, it's one of the three churches in England to have three spires. The interiors held three pipe organs; among them, the magnificent Willis 1887 pipe organ. There're weekly lunchtime free recitals and evening concerts. What a pity we couldn't hear its sounds since there wasn't a practice scheduled when we visited.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Hey There, Cornish Pasties

There's this whole thing about Cornish pasties. Apparently it was a nine-year campaign which culminated in 2011 to be successfully awarded the EU's 'Protected Geographical Indication' (PGI). That defined how a Cornish pasty should look- shaped like a 'D' and crimped at the side instead of the top. And also, if the menu lists that, then it should be prepared in Cornwall. However, the pasties don't have to be baked here; the ingredients needn't come from the county.

Okaaayy. I guess they're really serious about their pasties. In the olden days, when pasties are ready bal maidens would shout down the mine shafts, "Oggy Oggy Oggy!" and the hungry miners would respond "Oi Oi Oi!" I didn't realize this 'chant' was used that way too. Simply thought it was a cheer at sports stadiums. Hahaha.

I suppose it's just another version of the Asian curry puff or the LatAm empanadas. Or one could argue that the pasty is the original of all variations. Miners, globalization, etc. Whatever. I love them all! Except the sweet version served with jam and cream. There's an official definition of what goes into a Cornish pasty. But my tastebuds also want it vegetarian or with fish, which taste just as good. When I eat pasties (and pies), chilli sauce is needed. Why would restaurants or little joints serve chilli sauce here? I'd be lucky if they have tabasco. I'm prepared with travel-size packets of sambal in my bag. o.O

Pasty rolled out like a plate, Piled with turmut, tates and mate. Doubled up, and baked like fate. That's a Cornish Pasty. (~ Anonymous, an old rhyme)

I very much prefer pasties over the usual dainty sandwiches at English afternoon teas. I hold a special dislike of those tasteless cucumber sandwiches, unless they come with egg mayo or mushrooms. Hurhurhur. Gotta have at least one giant Cornish pasty. This one was fat and juicy, filled with diced beef, onions, swedes (not turnips) and potatoes. It definitely had a ton of butter. I hope it didn't hold lard too. It was delicious.

PS: Now I can't stop thinking about epok-epok kentang.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Juices from Gorilla Press

Months of having strange indigestion-thingies is really irritating. Cancer markers and gastrointestinal scans and scopes came up clear. No kidney stones. Nothing odd with the gall bladder and duct either. The doctors rolled their eyes and sent me away with probiotics. I was like, ugh thanks, indigestion it still is then. Pfffft.

The daily food consumption is kept healthy and low in meat intake. There's definitely no overeating. But recently, oily things sent me straight to the toilet. I thought it was the stomach not liking spicy food or just food poisoning, but it was neither. I was perfectly fine in Yunnan. Of all places, I would get the runs in China riiiight? Nope, no runs, not even a queasy stomach. A plate of once-in-six-months char kway teow at the old uncle's stall at Tiong Bahru food center sent me straight to poo-poo-hell. No idea what's going on with the digestive system.

While I'm not an advocate for the increased sugar levels that go with juice cleanse/detox diets, I wasn't closed to the idea. On days of bad indigestion, I wouldn't even eat anything except an egg or a piece of bread. Might as well try the juices. Found two days for a liquid diet to see if that would calm the stomach or re-set the digestive system. Decided on Gorilla Press because I like the taste of the ratio of blends offered. It has such limited online presence- an Instagram account, an email and a phone number. Had to chase them down.

That said, I'm not jumping into this bandwagon because it's hip or whatever. My diet predominantly IS like that. Except the daily intake is usually crunchy and chew-able. So when I gave it a whirl, I was like... eh, same same ingredients pressed into liquids. It's not as as I can't chew and swallow solids! To me, it's really of no difference. I don't take much processed food, refined sugars or carbs. While I can always use some conditioning for overall fitness and cardio, I'm quite toned from daily swims and sessions of pilates, thankyou. I don't need to lose weight or 'eat healthier' so to speak.

Day One | Began with a rather palatable pear, lemon and cayenne pepper concoction
that necessitated a trip to the bathroom within 30 minutes.

Gorilla Press' 'Omakase Juice Cleanse'- two days. 14 bottles of juice and nutmilk. S$190. Two complimentary bottles of coconut water. Nutmilk, fruit juices, vegetables, kale, lemon, nuts, chia seeds, goji berries, cayenne pepper, avocado, black sesame, etc. Giggled. Exactly the usual ingredients stocked in the fridge. Except, I didn't have to go out to get extra ingredients to juice it myself or wash up. Totally worth it.

Six bottles a day; a bottle every two hours or so. One must not let up with the coconut water and plain water. Take more. It's A LOT of liquids sloshing around. Each bottle holds slightly less than a pint of beer. Certainly no alcohol allowed and NO COFFEE. I almost wilted at that. BUT, I didn't have caffeine cravings, no hunger pangs except loads of gas and bloating, burping and uhh...farting, fatigue or headaches. I went about my day as per normal, starting at 8am to include a swim and clearing a crazy amount of emails. However, I was very sleepy by 10pm on both nights. Sleep was deep. Then again, I usually sleep very well.

Day Two | Smelt sambal belachan being pounded in the kitchen and I couldn't have any.

Would I do this again? Perhaps.

My liver and kidneys are working fine to detox the body. Juices don't do that. Sure, eating clean and going lighter can't be harmful, but in moderation. Juices are by no means meal replacements. I suppose it can replace a meal or two, but not for days on end. Essential amino acids, fats, proteins and electrolytes are still missing. I wouldn't do this for more than two days at a go more than once every two months. I like food too much to live through three days without chewing on a salty begedil with sambal tumis.

With the stupid haze, there's no harm in hydrating. Didn't cheat. Snacked on cucumbers, which is permitted. I felt fine after. It wasn't my imagination—the stomach definitely calmed down. Wouldn't load it with a medium-rare prime Cornish beef skirt or roasted Cornish hen, but I'm looking forward to some pies or pasties. Perhaps a lovely salmon or mushroom, and if I'm up for it, a hearty beef and Guinness pie.

And, this is really important- ensure that there's a readily accessible toilet at all times. :P