Monday, 22 December 2014

Spinning rooms (and plates)

Yesterday really was the Sabbath. I may have to decree tomorrow another Sabbath day also, and perhaps the day after – I suspect you won't be hearing from me for a while.   I’ll try, I’ll try, but it’s Christmas, and once the infernal packing is done, I’ll be in holiday mode. (We head to Bali in the morning, I’ve spent the day remembering things to buy then neglecting to buy them:  sun screen;  hair protector;  pro-biotic pills;  travel-sickness  pills; Calpol. As you can see, I’m expecting the worst.)
Today was great, albeit exhausting.  A day trip on a boat out around Singapore’s outlying islands, us and all our visitors.   (The room is swaying slightly was I type – I am the world’s worst sailor – but that could also be the effect of coming home and packing for 3 hours’ straight.)  Entertainment was provided by the Girl who puzzled us all by getting very dressed up for the occasion, and then proceeded to giggle and bat her eyelids at our friends’ eldest boy for the entire trip.  There’s something simultaneously Not Quite Right, but also Very Cute Indeed, about a 4 year-old having a crush on a 9 year-old.  He was divine, played with her the entire day, and she was visibly flushed with happiness.   AND, bonus point, since we’ve been home, all I have to do is say:  “Do you think Jake would like to see you doing that?” and she checks herself immediately.  He’s like a human Elf on the Shelf, only less annoying, and more effective.
Yesterday was the Maid’s day off and I found self in the unusual situation of having to do some laundry.  For the first time since I moved into this apartment.  In fact I didn’t even know how the machine worked – but some things  are latent, and it turns out laundry is one of them.  God, it was hateful though.
Yesterday also marked what I am fearing may be the beginning of the end – of the Baby’s lunchtime nap.  I raced home to put her to bed, and she rewarded me by lying there shouting.  She’s still not the most eloquent of lumps – although her (small) repertoire now includes “cockroach” and “blu tack”, both of which she uses regularly, and with aplomb. Yesterday’s soliloquy went more or less as follows:  “Mum!  MUM!  YES! YESYESYES!  Mimi!  MIMI!  YES! YES MUM, MIMI!” Eventually I went in and there she was, buck-naked, waving her nappy in the air and dancing with her life-sized toy Labrador. She looked a bit startled to see me.  Then:  “WOOF WOOF!  Yes? YES!” 

Right.  I have to get back to packing.  Plus I really am feeling very seasick.  (Note to the Boy – see?  I was right, screen-time IS bad for you.)  

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Just throw a few shrimp on the baaaaaaaaaaaaabie

I was going to give self the day off – it being the Sabbath and all (says the Irish Catholic, on a Saturday) - but the lovely comments yesterday have prompted me to put down the final half-glass of wine, step out of the black hole of Facebook, and throw something out into the ether.  
We had quite a lovely day today – largely because it didn’t rain all day long (just for about half of it,  with an intensity that made up for the earlier sunshine). We have family in town, and as of today old friends (of the Man’s; new friends of mine). Lovely people, with – sigh – the most gorgeously mannered children I have ever come across.  Four boys– can you imagine? –  each of them fun and lively and sweet and playful.  The Boy fell completely in love – older boys!  Who actually talked to him!! – and while I was enchanted by them, I was too busy being in love with the boys’ grandparents and – get this – great-grandmother.  90, just flown in from New York.   A very large part of me wants to be just like her (and not necessarily when I’m 90).
Everyone came by and played in / by / around the pool for the better part of half the day, more friends and more kids joined in, and it really was a taste of Happy Families.  The kids all congealed into a large rabid mess, and I pretended not to notice the SKATEBOARDING INTO THE POOL competition, nor the SCOOTERING IN THE POOL race.  I turned a blind eye to the Boy eating a (shudder) hot dog, and to the Girl wading fully dressed into the pool (and later removing her sodden dress and continuing to swim in her knickers).  
I’m coining this new form of parenting “abandonment parenting”, and while it has its merits, it can also have some unforeseen consequences (such as the effects of non-application of sunscreen to a child’s shoulders.  Also, a mild hangover at 5pm.)
So now that I’m an expert on it, if you find yourself with a mass of people, a sunny day, a bbq and a swimming pool at your disposal, here’s what you do:  Chill beer, wine and individual juice cartons;  serve protein of some sort + ketchup in a bun;  make a large potato salad;  and produce 2 large boxes of Cornettos.    
The good news is you don’t need sunshine or a pool to make a ton of potato salad – just a lot of people to feed.  Perfect for pre - or post - Christmas entertaining.

(This doesn’t look like an awful lot, however that bowl – dragged to London from Morocco in hand luggage - is 2 feet wide and a foot deep. [If you look closely you can see the Baby under the potatoes.])

Christmas* Potato Salad
You need:
  • At least 4 baby potatoes per person, scrubbed or peeled
  • A large dollop of mayo
  • A large dollop of salad cream
  • Some chives, chopped
  • A glug of olive oil
  • A large pinch of salt

Boil the potatoes until they’re soft.
Add the rest of the ingredients to a large bowl, and mix well. 
Drain the potatoes well, then add to the bowl, while still warm.  Let them sit there for a few minutes – it makes the mayo mix more fluid – then mix gently with a large spoon.  
If making in advance, leave to cool then put in the fridge until needed.

Eat while ignoring the fact that most of your children’s outdoor toys are rusting at the bottom of the swimming pool.

(*There is nothing remotely Christmassy about it, except that it’s late December;  this however should not preclude you from making, or eating it, any other time of year.)


Friday, 19 December 2014

Straight up, lots of ice.

No time today for anything other than a cursory online Hello.  Did I mention I’m a class parent?  (It was social poker;  requests for room parents went out and all the parents sat stony-faced, waiting for someone else to blink.  I blinked.)  Anyway, it’s not a huge deal except twice a year when all the elements converge and then it’s perfect storm-time.  Christmas is one of these times, when there are parties to organise , gifts to buy, emails to send etc. That all happened today, and there was a lot of running around.  (Also a smidgen of lying to parking guards to get access to the school car-park and quite a bit of barking at children.  Mine, I hasten to add.)
To illustrate the manicness of today, the kids’ tea comprised left-over sandwiches pilfered from the party, and hummus.  Hummus is a vegetable, right?
Today also comprised a futile work-out effort – I got there in time, but couldn’t find the damn people, so went for a half-assed run instead, while listening to Serial. (Serial.  Gah.  Where was the Big Reveal?  Much texting and swopping of theories with US Prosecutor friend today.  She thinks that Jay and Adnan were both involved, and I’m inclined to agree with her. Also – that note in the car?  A teeny footnote at the end of the entire show?  COME ON PEOPLE!)
Oh, and school holidays have begin.  To give me a tiny taster – a very non-amuse bouche – of  the next month, the children have literally been bouncing off the furniture and generally being unpleasant.  I actually sent the Boy out for a cycle in the dark to burn off some of the energy which was pinging off him and making the rest of us grit our teeth and reach for the vodka.

Speaking of which... 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The pitter patter of tiny, parisitic feet

I seem to have created a vicious-nap-necessitating-circle, which goes as follows:  Take a lovely afternoon nap.  Wonder why you don’t do it Every Single Day. Go to bed that night.  Wake up at 4am and stare at the ceiling until 6am.  Curse the nap.  Require a nap the following day to make up for the lack of sleep the previous night.  Repeat.
It wasn’t all wasted sleep time, however.  Oh no.  I got to spend nearly all of it convinced my head was a seething writhing mass of lice, a direct result of having discovered a new batch of  God’s basest creatures on the Girl yesterday evening.    So, aside from exhaustion and napping, today has basically been a never-ending exercise in nit-picking.  First I combed;  then I picked – BY HAND, gah – then I conditioned and massaged and combed again.  Then I washed, blow-dried, and ironed the hell out of it.  Then I combed, thinking – this is totally unnecessary.  I mean  I had quite literally been through her hair with a fine tooth comb, several times.  But still there were bugs on the comb.  (All this was on the Girl, btw.  The rest of us are bug-free- as far as I know.*)
WTF?  Are they the cockroaches of the scalp?  When we’re all obliterated by Chinese pollution, will aliens find our skeletons being picked over by hungry lice?  They just won’t go away.  I’ve boiled and washed and ironed everything in sight (hahahaha, I did nothing of the sort) – except (lightbulb moment) the school hat. 
Anyway, all this will be repeated tomorrow, with the added benefit of toxic chemicals.  The non-toxic ones are, obv, useless.  I particularly like this direction on the packaging: 

I assume the alternative, if you don't desire to comb them out, is to just leave them in there, to eventually grow out.  (Or, more likely, hatch, totally unaffected and unscathed.)
It is 10pm, and I have to go listen to Serial. If you’re a fan, and you haven’t listened yet, have a look at this first.  It’s brilliant.  If you HAVE listened, shhhhhhhhhhh – no spoilers please.  (But -  WHO DID IT?? It was Jay, right?) 

(*Scratch scratch)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Google "Large Animal Making a Moo Sound"

Very little of note today.  Admittedly, very little of note any day, but I somehow manage to drag something out of the embers to present to you all. Today is looking bleak, however. 
The highlight has been the most DELICIOUS mid-day nap.  MY grandmother, who died a whisker (5 days) short of 100 took a nap every single day of her life (possibly apocryphal).  She knew  what she was doing, that lady. 
The lowlight has been online toy-finding.  The Girl has decided that she wants a Cinderella Castle (“with the prince and her dresses and fairies and everything”). Usually I’d dismiss such girly requests as the by-product of effective (and morally questionable) advertising, however she asked for one last year too, and it seems the knights and dragons castle she got instead didn’t scratch her Disney Princess itch.  So, when I’m not whispering “how about a bike?” to her while she sleeps, I’ve been torturing self by finding all manner of cheap castle-cack online.  The closest to it I can find is crappy parlour thing, which, according to the blurb:
“is really fit for a princess with everything you need to bring the fairytales to life! This stunning castle playhouse features a living room with a cosy chair, a stylish kitchen with stove, and a master bedroom complete with a royal bed and en suite bathroom with an adjustable shower.
What they don’t tell you is that it’s about 4 inches high and 2 wide, and made from little more than a plastic bag.  It is less Castle, more Refugee Camp.  It’s cheap and awful.  (Unless you’re buying it in Singapore, in which case it’s twice the price as in England (from the same shop!!), and as such just  plain awful. )
Other than that, today is heavy with reminders of our Olde English Life.  It’s raining heavily and the children are glued to Scooby Doo. A deviation from my usual NO TELEVISION MIDWEEK rule, but I’m trying to be more flexible. (And there’s the small matter of wanting some quiet. Peace to all men, etc.)  
I’ll leave you with something which is either amusing or depressing (possibly depending on whether or not you’ve had a two hour nap at lunchtime).  Researching an accompanying photo for a piece about day-breaks from London I’m doing, I put “children in countryside” into a photo bank.  Most of the photos were of this variety. 



Ah. Nothing says Family Day Out like the kids surfing the net in the middle of a field.  


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Grumbles

Singapore is fabulous for many things, but when it comes to Customer Service, it is what Norway is to the Eurovision – Nul Points. In fact, based on my wholly non-scientific enquiries, it’s the biggest bugbear of ex-pats here.  Especially the poor Americans – coming from a country where the Customer is King, to one where She’s a Bit of a Hassle actually (and can’t you see I’m trying to check something on my tablet?) –  it must be torturous. It’s pretty painful for those of us from countries where customer service isn’t even that great. 
Today I spent the day racing around the island trying to sort out the kids’ Santa presents.  (It’s the same every year; mid-December finds me snarling and spitting and vowing to be like my friend S, who has Christmas shopping done and dusted by the end of November.  [She’ll now comment to say MID NOVEMBER ACTUALLY.]) 
God, I was exposed to so many idiots today.  Seriously.  It’s like there’s a Fools’ Convention going on.   Surely people who work at the Information Desk at shopping malls should, you know, have a bit of information?  I asked one woman where the toyshop was.  Once I explained what I meant by “toyshop” (“A shop that sells toys?”) she pointed in the general “up” direction.  (There were 4 floors above us).  Um, where exactly?  “Upstairs.”  Off I went.  It was SHUT DOWN.   I went to another place. “What time does the toyshop open at?”  She was stumped. No idea.  And no amount of staring at the mall map would enlighten her.  Eventually her colleague butted in.  11.  Or maybe 12. Or 12.30?  It was then 1045.  They seemed thoroughly nonplussed.  (I imagined the interview which got them here:  “How you would describe yourself?”  “Moronic.” “Where do you stand on the concept of Helpfulness?” “Helpful people should be shot.”  “You’re hired.”)
I then headed to the Science Museum, a million miles away.  They’re showing a Transformers’ Exhibition (If you Granny was to create a Transformers’ Exhibition, that’s what it would look like) and had a Transformers shop.  With – honestly - barely had a thing on the shelves.  Except!  The exact thing I needed  on a shelf behind the man. Could he sell it to me?  No.  Obviously  he needed it to showcase what they were  - had been - selling.  AAAAAAAARGH.
HOWEVER:  (a) I am just in from drinks with lovely co-parents;  (b) I have found a place which sells good tea; (c) our relatives are here and have brought with  them English (proper) chocolate “for the kids” (which is, fortuitously, currently in my bedroom); (d) I have remembered – and indeed gotten creative with – the Elf every night this week; and (e) on my travels today I came across this shop, which amused me no end:


(I know, right??) I can't decide if it's better than my favourite clothes shop, Wanki.  Thoughts? 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Cheers...

You’d think I’d know by now that the minute I say to myself  “oh bollox, I have nothing to blog about today”,  some calamity befalls me, giving me ample opportunity to rant and complain and generally be a moany bitch.
And so it came to pass that today, approx 14 mins after I thought “oh bollox, etc”, I found myself stuck in the supermarket carpark, with a line of NINE cars behind me.
Let’s back up a bit. (If only I could have).  There’s this ridiculously annoying parking payment system in Singapore.  (It’s almost as annoying as the payment  systems in the department stores, where you queue at the counter of the thing you want, ask for it, take a payment slip, go queue at the payment counter, pay, go back to the original counter, queue some more, and then murder someone.)  So.  All cars in Singapore are fitted with a card-reading device.  You buy a pre-paid card, stick it in the device, and it’s sort-of a debit card:  every time you go under a reader (eg in a car park or on a toll road) it deducts the cost.  Easy peasy. 
Until you run out of money.
Then you have two options:  top up at various cash points using your local-bank-only Singapore-specific debit card;  or top up with cash at a 7-11.  Because we’re not with local banks (solely because I fundamentally object to having to have my husband countersign my application form) the former is not an option.  And so, about twice a month, I go to a 7-11 and put a wad of money on the car-card.
I ran low today.  But!  I had enough to cover 2 hours at the supermarket.
I did not, however, have enough to cover me for 3 hours at the supermarket. Which is what, for some unknown reason, the system decided to charge me.  There I sat, at the carpark barrier, cursing the machine. I pressed the HELP button ; nothing.  I pressed it again;  the cars – NINE OF THEM – behind me beeped at me to HURRY UP.  But I couldn’t HURRY UP because I was stuck.  A stupid fucking machine over-charging me, and not enough money on the card.  So, I did what any sane person would do and started to shout at the machine. And then the cars. 
And now I can’t actually relate in detail all the steps I had to go through to GET OUT OF THE CARPARK because it is honestly, too deeply stressful.  Here are the salient points:
I yelled at the customer service woman.
I made her run up two flights of stairs (unheard of in Singapore).
I yelled at the Security Guard she tried to pawn me off on.
I yelled at the carpark man who had not bothered to answer my distress calls, and who initially refused to attend to me because – get this – it was past 6 o’clock.
I cried.
I cursed Singapore.
Eventually I was freed. 
I got home, at QUARTER TO SEVEN, so irate and tetchy that I could barely see straight.  Then the Baby stuck a pencil into the Girl’s eye, and the Boy’s week’s worth of homework presented itself, and the Mandarin homework made no sense to anyone, Chinese or otherwise, and so I locked myself into the kitchen and had a drink.

Sometimes it’s the only thing to do.