Sunday, 31 January 2016

Of Cockroaches and Bicycles

I have not had much sleeping luck over the past week.  This, of course, is my own fault for having had TEN HOURS’ unbroken on my first night in Bangkok, and then stopping every single person who walked past to tell them about it.  Smug comes before a fall, etc.  The following night I was too full of drink to sleep properly, and then it was home and the usual bed-hopping / night-terrors / marauding cats etc.  And – HORROR - on Thursday night I was woken up when an INSECT CRAWLED INTO MY EAR.  (2am found me in the bathroom googling “what to do if you have an insect burrowing into your brain”.)  Apparently it happens, which was not the reassurance I was looking for at all.   And worse, the main culprits are those small cockroaches which are everywhere  here (including, now, my ear).
Anyway.  Today has been a day of good decisions.  First I made this: 
for breakfast -  warm banana bread with bananas, butterscotch sauce and cream (practically health food) which I sold to the kids as “breakfast dessert”.  (Not the best picture, admittedly;  the Boy had scoffed his and was demanding seconds, but the only seconds left were my firsts, so he got half my breakfast).  Buy the banana bread, cut the bananas, spoon over the cream, and make the butterscotch sauce from scratch:  In a pan melt about 4 heaped tablespoons of butter with 5 (I know, just don’t think about it) heaped tablespoons of brown sugar.  Stir like mad until completely melted then add 100ml or so heavy cream. Stir and stir and stir, then leave to boil - about 5 minutes of bubbling with the occasional stir.  Add a good pinch of sea salt and, if you like vanilla, a teaspoon or so of decent extract.  Stir, then set aside and leave to cool, while you heat slices of banana bread, chop bananas and chop some nuts you’ve had sitting in the cupboard for a few months, which even the hamster won’t eat.  Assemble, serve, and take a bow.  (Then sit down to your half portion and realise your resolution to metaphorically [although I assume also literally, if it came to it] fit your own oxygen mask first has, once again, failed).
Then I decided we needed to sweat off all that butter and sugar, and so we dragged the kids (and visiting Grandparents) to one of Singapore’s outlying islands.  It was unexpectedly fabulous! At best I was hoping for somewhere to kill a few hours and remove them from the tv, but – no cars!  Bicycles!  Monkeys!  Miles and miles and miles of traffic-free roads and lanes and paths, all through thick jungle, all powered by our own shaking legs.  Tremendous.  (Truth be told I got totally carried away and wouldn’t stop, ending my two-hour jaunt by bringing  first the Girl and then the Boy on the back of my bike on a panting adventure, up jungle-hills and down jungle-dales. I am now shaking involuntarily and my legs no longer work.)   Here look:
I appreciate that it looks even less impressive than this morning’s breakfast, HOWEVER.  We are starved – STARVED! – of both space and peace&quiet here.  There’s no such thing as a country lane in Singapore, and cycling with kids here is tantamount to parental negligence (unless they learned to cycle on the Motorway For The Blind And Insane, in which case they’ll be fine).  So despite the humidity (about 178%) and the heat (41 degrees.  Yes, Celsius.) it was blissful and we all had a wonderful time.  (Well, I did, and that’s what counts, right?)
I’ll leave you with this, which my sister sent me – because I am now Crazy Cat Lady – and it made me laugh like a drain: (sorry, I have no idea how to incorporate videos onto this.  Just click on the link.)

PS:  Apparently there is some convention for Cat Internet people somewhere soon. Where do I sign up?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Cannibalistic, shy Alien WLTM others. GSOH necessary.

PB (Post-Bowie) there followed an enormously self-indulgent Bowie-Extravaganza, involving the rooting out of all bootleg Bowie CDS and the (legal) downloading of anything the bootlegs missed (most of the Berlin tracks, all of the 80s).  It got to the point that the kids were not only singing along every morning on the school run, but then, when I started to get a bit sick of it all (HERESY!) demanding Starman, on a fucking loop.  The final straw came today when they started belting it out before the damn song was even playing, and realising they thought the words were:  “There’s a Starmaaaaaaaaaaaaan waiting in the sky, he’s like to come and eat us but he thinks he’ll go outside”.   
I think Bowie would have been proud.
Happy New Year!  Again.   My only resolution is to find a house which isn’t fucking INSANE.  I’m not sure what they put in the water here in the 80s – meth?  Crack cocaine? – but every single house I’ve seen (all built in the 80s) has been a shrine to ugly bathrooms, bad light fittings and even badder style “quirks”.  Such as: a lurid-pink fish pond in the middle of the living room, the awfulness of which is accentuated by its having to remain empty because of mosquito-related health concerns.  Empty, that is, apart from the pipes and forlorn fountain head sticking out.  Kudos, however, to the estate agent for suggesting it could be used to showcase a Christmas Tree.  Or the house which seemed quite normal (relatively speaking – they all have at least one bedroom in the middle of the living area, and a “family space” in what the rest of the world calls “the upstairs landing”) until I went into the master bedroom and saw a vast built-in wardrobe.  Which would have been fine, if it hadn’t been square and put smack-bang into the middle of the room.  The builders had considerately left about six inches of space so you could squeeze past to open/close the windows, but had failed to consider that most couples like to have a double bed in their  room, and no amount of shoe-horning would enable that.  (The estate agent had no response to this, which disappointed me somewhat.  Do I not look like someone who’d share a bunk bed with her spouse?)  Another house had expanded its floor-space by covering over the balconies in the bedrooms with glass panes, but ran out of time or effort or money (or intelligence) to remove the original railings or replace the balcony floor  - so as well as having something which looked like a glass lean-to stuck on the side of the room, you also had to endure temperatures akin to the surface of the sun.   (The agent was remarkable pleased with this feature.)
Also, builders / developers here LOVE marble.  I have seen more marble in the past few weeks than anyone outside the marble trade should.  Because I am not a fan of bringing my kids to the hospital every time they run with wet feet across a slippy  surface, the only possible upside I can see to marble floors is that they will cause no end of hilarious cat entertainment. I might even have a designated, highly-polished cat-dancing zone (perhaps in an unused fish pond? Only from Jan – Nov, obv).   This would have the dual effect of providing both amusement and a means of feline weight-loss  - those kitties have become FAT (but have kept their ridiculously small heads, so look like a child’s drawing of a cat. Although there isn’t a child in the world who could properly capture their expression of exasperation and disgust.)
So the house search continues.  But first – this weekend I am gate-crashing one of my best friend’s family get-together.  Usually I’d be a bit embarrassed about this,  but (a) my oldest friend (b) no children and (c) BANGKOK.  Instead I will worm my way into their hearts with tales of Bowie grief, ridiculous houses, and even more ridiculous family pets.  I think they’re going to have the best weekend ever.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Let all the children boogie

It’s 1030pm, and if I’m ever going to stick to a New Year’s Resolution (old dog, new tricks etc)  I need to stop writing NOW and get my sorry ass to bed.  Except I wanted to vent and feel sorry for myself over the sorry state of my weekend (culminating in a dead car battery this morning when  I was already ten minutes late for school) – but then David Bowie died, and now everything else has fallen into insignificance.  (Even the Girl’s marathon vom-fest on Friday night, when she clocked up a wonderous 27 pukes in 11 hours.  Without complaining once.  I know!  Now we know what she’s good at. ) 
As Roddy Doyle so accurately put it:  “Dead?  How can Bowie be dead?  He was never alive like the rest of us.”  

RIP Starman.  Thanks for providing the soundtrack to my youth. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

With no mention of resolutions AT ALL.

Hellloooooooooooooooooo? (I feel like Adele. Or Lionel. Or someone who has been the WORST blogger EVER.)  Happy 2016!  In fact, while I think of it, belated Happy Christmas!  Oh my.  That was a long time ago, no?  So I came back (begrudgingly) from Ireland, laiden down with crisps and chocolate and cack for the children, and no one was remotely interested in my return except for one of the cats (who, it turns out, was just hungry), so next time I’m heading off alone FOR A MONTH.  
I’m trying to think if there was anything remarkable about the lead up to Christmas and...  Nope, there really wasn’t.  We spent Christmas day by the beach and  got home late and bedraggled, and at about 10pm I remembered that not only were we going away the next day for a week, but we had friends coming to house-sit / holiday in Singapore, and the place was a post-Christmas tip, mainly because we are slobs and our children are room-upsetting locusts and the apartment is essentially an animal shelter, but also because our maid had deigned to take a well-earned holiday (how dare she).  So that was fun.  (Although perhaps not as much fun as FINALLY getting into bed on Christmas eve at about 2am and remembering, just as I was falling asleep, that I hadn’t done the Elf’s final goodbye, or – much worse an oversight this – wrapped (or even bought) Santa gifts for all the various animals we foolishly possess. [They got raisins (hamster) and a tin of sardines (the cats) in case you’re wondering.  Wrapped up in toilet paper.  You should have heard their little squeals of animal joy.])  There followed a comedy cleaning and packing session the next morning, and then – phew – we were off, to Thailand for a week.  
Thailand has changed since I was last there.  In fact I spent quite a bit of time there in my not-misguided-enough youth, and frankly, it’s really a bit horribly touristy now. (Says the most horrible tourist of all.)  However.  I discovered the secret to having a good family holiday:  bring another family with you.  Preferably one with the same number of children as yours, of similar ages, and, if you can swing it, a boy a couple of years older than your boy.   (Liking the parents is good too, but not a deal-breaker.) Despite the kleptomaniac monkeys and the building-rubble and the limb-impaling wires hidden in the sand and the hundreds of thousands of other tourists visiting the same islands as you and the disgusting breakfast buffets and OH GOD GIVE ME PATIENCE the total inability of anyone to do anything faster than very very slowly... despite all this we had a fabulous time.   See?  Other children.  (Also beer.  And sunsets.  And dear friends.  Actually, maybe liking the parents is a deal breaker after all.)
I also read the most fabulous book I have ever read, everA Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. (Don't be put off by the blah-sounding summary on Amazon.  it doesn't even touch how wonderful the book is.) I read about it in the FT a while back – it won some big award in the US (and is shortlisted for the Man Booker, I’ve just found out), and despite never having heard of the writer, and having no clue what the book was about, I downloaded it.  So I have no idea how long it is, but I suspect it’s fairly immense - I read it for at least 3 hours – often more – every day for a week, and only managed to finish it on my last night by staying awake until several hours past everone’s bedtime (mine included).  It is incredible – the plot, the writing, the descriptions, the writing, the imagery, the writing. Actually, it was quite harrowing in some places (one of the characters has been obscenely abused as a child) and totally heart-breaking throughout, but I am still thinking about it nonstop and CANNOT WAIT to discuss it with someone, so get off your arses and read it, then call me.

So now we are home, and the house is once more a tip, and the cats are still bonkers, and the children have the next week of school, and the Man is away for a fortnight.  But at least the maid is back.  Phew.  Priorities, people. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

From the Old Country

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m sitting by a roaring fire.  It’s dark and drizzly outside, and various members of my family are asleep in various rooms around the house.  I am HOME – Dublin, Ireland.  It’s FANTASTIC.  I sort of wish the children were here – they’d love it, I have that totally nonsensical parent thingy of missing them slightly when I am away from them  - but if they were here I would probably be cooking or driving or organising,  and almost  certainly nagging, and more importantly I would not have had three packets of crisps and two G&Ts for lunch, or be contemplating similar for my “tea”.  So far – since Thursday – I have:  had 1 gin-laiden afternoon tea (which broke up at 1130pm); taken sneaky over-the-shoulder pics of Bono and Andrea Coor (it’s Dublin – of course  I’m going to bump into Bono at some point); had 3 coffee / breakfast catch-ups with friends; had 1 night out with my school friends; been to 2 supermarkets where I behaved suspiciously towards all the fabulous produce; run into old friends here there and everywhere (Dublin is small and sociable); had 1 gin-soaked evening with one of my  most dear friends;  realised that jet-lag is something which only happens if you have small children in tow; realised that gin is my drink of choice (no hangover! Well, not one which turns me into an imbecile for two days); and bought enough Cadbury’s chocolate, Pear’s soap and Tayto crisps to open a particularly delightful, although poorly-stocked, shop.
Before I jauntily skipped onto the airplane a few days ago, there was much list-making and errand-doing, and organising of home and child.  I had a birthday and got a bit pissed (on wine – worse, champagne – because I didn’t know about the gin thing, and as a result the next day was seven layers of hell) and ended up in some dodgy basement club rockin’ (in as much as a middle-aged woman can – or should – rock)  with a roomful of the teeniest tiny people I have ever seen.  I felt like I was in Lilliput.  Malaysian Lilliput.
When I get back – although I am half-contemplating never going back;  they seem to all be getting on beautifully without me (which is both infuriating and delightful)  – I have the mad rush of end-of-term to look forward to (HAHAHAHA) including two end-of-term class parties within 3 hours of landing and then about 17 weeks of school holidays to survive. 

In the meantime however I have reruns of Only Fools and Horses, and Irish confectionary (the best in the world) and over-heated houses and arse-bollocking cold (if I bother going outside).   But of course I’ll go outside – there are friends to see and cheese to paw in shops and Bono to ignore in bars.  Obviously. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

So long, November

We had a fantastic weekend. We ate and drank and splashed about in the waves, and then ate and drank some more.  But much more importantly, the children were in heaven. Lord of the Flies heaven.  This place we went to has what they call “a kids’ club”, which is nothing like any kids club you’ve ever encountered before. Certainly, the website will have you believe that it’s all touchy feely and nature and learning, troops of trained child-minders doing the conga down the beach. Ha!  The children basically spend all their time in a large wooden shack gazing in adoration at a gaggle of teenage boys trapped in the bodies of men, who carve them weapons.  Swords and daggers and cross-bows and spears.  At 2pm a horn is blown, summonsing all the children in the island from lunch, and away they scamper, the taste of blood in their veins, for a “game” called The Hunger Games.  This is how the Boy describes it:
It’s a game where you grab your weapon and run into the jungle and hide and you have to stay hidden and don’t let anyone see you, but if you see someone you have to sneak up on them and KILL THEM and once they’re killed three times they’re DEAD and out, and the last one alive is the winner.
Which actually, sounds like a fairly accurate facsimile of the book / movie.  Although without too much killing.  I hope.  Anyway, needless to say they all fell on this game and became converts to feral living and jungle hiding and weaponry and were basically filthy base animals for three days.  28 kids, whopping and hollering around the island, while their parents shrugged and assumed the minders knew what they were doing and would stop them from actually using that dagger / spear / cross-bow.  The Boy became quite obsessed with it all, and spent most of his time with us (a scant two hours a day, at most) asking over and over what time it was, and were all his friends going to play too, and did we think he’d ever win it? He did, on the last day;  he was feted, and given free drinks and marshmallows at the bar, and best of all – he says – was his coronation:

That is real.  I am shuddering as I type.
When they weren’t festooning themselves in ginormous arachnids, they also did treasure hunts and watched movies and practised with their weapons, and on the rare occasions that they joined their parents, there was snorkelling and sea-trampolining, and jetty-jumping.  They also did a pig hunt one day (see?  LORD OF THE FLIES) but apparently the girls were talking too much and scared away all the pigs.   And of course there was an enormous beach bonfire with bamboo sticks and marshmallows every night and consequential burnt tongues and singed hair and sad tales of lost candy (the Baby is still bleating on about not liking Daddy because “him is mean and him dropped my mashmashil in the SAND and then him burn it on FIRE and then him THROW IT AWAY”, all spat out with her trademark scowl and air of insolence).
We, meanwhile, spent a good chunk of our time sprinting from one place to the next as we realised we hadn’t seen this or that toddler or baby in a while, or turning around and finding them suddenly gone (and then turning back and finding our drinks also suddenly gone, and wondering if perhaps the kids’ disappearances were so sudden after all).  I also hung out with the Baby quite a bit – which was lovely, because she’s so gangly and smooth and delicious, just like a baby giraffe.  Although scowlier, and less sure on her feet (but just as tall;  the kids is a giant.)  We also managed to rack up quite an impressive bar bill – which I put down to the kids ordering chocolate milkshakes every 5 minutes, but I’ve just checked the bill, and sadly, we seem to have fed them tap water for the entire time.  Oh well.
Anyway. It is over and we are home and the children have yet to forgive us from tearing them away from their heartland.  The cats leapt for joy when they saw us, and purred and meowled and begged for food, and I wiped my first kitty arse before I went to bed, which is always lovely. Tomorrow is December which means two things: I am absolved from updating this every day (or as near as), and:  THE ELF ARRIVES!  Yay.  Because, you know, there was something missing from my hour-long pre-bed routine. Oh, I also have the dentist, which means more misery for the next few days, so you will all be glad to see the back of me.  (But I will miss complaining about the cats and the teeth and the no-time-for-anything, so I might be back sooner than you expected.  We’ll see. )

Happy December! 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Naked Men & Confessions.

I promised my friend N that today’s post would mention the half-naked assistant in a furniture shop we happened upon. Half-naked shop assistants aren’t that common here, however half-naked middle-aged men, usually sweaty, pretty filthy, and sucking on a cigarette, are.  So we weren’t entirely surprised to be confronted by one as we went about our ex-patty business.  We just didn’t really expect one to suddenly pop up between a wardrobe and a chest of drawers.   It was quite the juxtaposition to the morning we’d just spent in a posh Scandinavian design shop surrounded by other ex-pats, learning how to style ourselves “this season”. Which amused me greatly, because (a) unless the styling tips include “scrape your hair back into a pony tail” and “make sure you’re wearing matching flip flops”, it’s really not for me,  and (b) WHO IS LOOKING AT ME ANYWAY?      
Now I’m home and need to ‘fess up that I am breaking my self-imposed Blogvember, instead devoting the next four days to Giving Thanks that we are a hop & skip away from this place, and furthermore, that I had the foresight to book it back in January.  It’s not all fun and games, however.   As well as The Evil Packing lurking over my shoulder,  I also have to show the maid “how to look after the cats”.  Which both she and I know really means “how to pick their crap out of a box of sand”.  She is about as enthralled by this as I would expect an employee to be when their job description is suddenly so extended.
In literary news, all my friends are agreed that Go Set A Watchman was an appalling pile of drivel, and HOW AWFUL to be the person who wrote one of the most revered books of all time, and spend the next 50 years listening to people whisper that you weren’t up to another one, and then proving them all right. So I need a book recommendation for my holidays, please?  (And in saying that, I’ve ensured that I won’t get 5 minutes to myself between now and Monday.)
Happy Thanksgiving, to those of you who celebrate it, and to everyone else, you’ve only 4 days left if you want to get your Christmas shopping done by December.  Just saying.