31 December 2009

Welcome 2010




"Fir ald lang syn, ma jo,
fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn..."


»Click for a very melodious Scottish version of Auld Lang Syne which has been playing on the radio here. 

Take Harry and Sally to Sunday tea


This wonderful ad appeared in the tube stations about two weeks ago. I've just made contact with them to see how I can help with neither a car nor an apartment here.

Next time when I am old, I hope someone takes me out for tea in a bike or a sidecar! :)

If you are interested, this is »a video of what goes on in these tea parties.

29 December 2009

Roasted winter vegetables


My contribution to Christmas lunch. 3 kg (probably more) of potatoes, parsnips, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, peppers and onions sound like a lot, but once roasted, they shrink and are very dense. That pan there is only 9 inches wide and 2 inches deep.

Rosemary and sage add such wonderful dimensions to roasted vegetables. I think I want to attack a swede (the plant, not the nationality) next time.

Harmonica boy at Christmas lunch

harmonica boy

28 December 2009

Uncle's blossoms

Uncle's blossoms
Last year at this time, we had to make some hard decisions. Sometimes I wonder if the sedation is more for the living than for the dying.

»NYT: Hard Choice for a Comfortable Death: Sedation

27 December 2009

Chinotto

Chinotto San Pellegrino
Speaking of orange fizzy drinks, I just recalled that Mr A introduced me to chinotto when we went to »Princi, an upscale, day/night Italian bakery here. This is the same bittersweet orange that is used in campari (alcoholic) and is marketed by San Pellegrino as Chinò (non-alcoholic). Give it a try but by all measures, campari and Chinò are acquired tastes due to their bitterness. I quite like campari when in the right mood, but only if it is ice-cold, diluted and fizzy. Venice (cf its love of »spritz) and »my Campari Project are the best places to be in the right mood.

»Wikipedia claims that the Italians think the fruit came from China, hence its name. I have never heard of bitter oranges in the context of China; I think we happily gave Marco Polo all of the trees when he came by a few hundred years ago.

Orangina

orangina 1972 poster
orangina 1974 poster
My Orangina craving began exactly a month ago from today, when I visited Paris for a weekend. To my horror, I didn't find the classic glass bottle during my entire stay. I eventually succumbed to a tin can *cringe* on the Eurostar back.

Back in London, it seems that only the Apostrophe sandwich shops (and Paul bakeries too it seems - thanks Ms M) stock the glass bottle ones, at £1.50 a pop.

So, I have just placed an order for 2 cases from a wholesaler. Eagerly awaiting their arrival.

P.S. The illustrator of these posters is the rather famous Bernard Villemot. Orangina has a »lovely shrine of its iconic posters and TV ads through the decades.

24 December 2009

Shoreditch baigel shop



Yes, the famous 24-7 one in Brick Lane that apparently only changed hands three times since the French revolution.  The salted beef baigel TRULY lived up to its name; the cheesecake less so.

And no, the blur is not some new iPhone effect.  It's the condensation on the lens (a la those on Mr A's glasses) when we went indoors.*

Kudos to old neighbour Mr A for letting me drag him all over town in search of Jarmusch's espressos, Brick Lane baigels and wrongly timed punk gig!



*I know, it's bad for the camera's insides.  I really must remember to put him in a ziplock bag when we go out in this weather.

Two espressos in two separate cups


We just had to order them, after seeing »Limits of Control the night before ;)

18 December 2009

Dispoetry


Anticipation is such a wonderful thing... but its bedfellow can often be disappointment.

Cutting observation by Mr B.

15 December 2009

"Let's just go"

The bank account, the aging parents, the jadedness, the divergence of paths, the broken leg, even the visa status... So many things can get into the way.

Whether hearing or saying it, whether literally or metaphorically, I just came to comprehend how precious and under-appreciated a sentence it is.

Fancy lemons


Good to know I'm not drinking wax.

I have eight of them. Get lost, sore throat.

Responsible egg-eating


I didn't know about these codes until Mr C pointed them out. (They are EU-wide, it seems.)  Now I feel better about stealing from the chickens.

12 December 2009

NIMBY #2: Serangoon Gardens dormitory

Goh Bock Seng, a resident, said: "Singaporeans are used to living in a community. If the workers are educated and they know (how) to behave themselves, I think it's fine. We've finally accepted the fact, but we just want to say that we should have been consulted first."

Another resident, Fang Shihan, said: "For me, personally, I would like to get to know them better since we're going to be living in close proximity. Maybe we could have tours inside to see how they live, what they do, instead of having this little alien town that we don't understand."

Have tours inside?  Do you think they are zoo exhibits?  Would you like to offer your house for everyone else to tour?

11 December 2009

Naked crisps


I'm starting to get into this British habit of eating crisps (elsewhere: "chips") at lunch with sandwiches.

Winter blooms

winter blooms
Looks unreal, doesn't it?  (Both the flash effect and the fact that this is December)

There is a whole tree blooming like this in the courtyard.

Lion at Sotheby's



Checked out Sotheby's with Mr R a couple of nights ago as we were in the area.  And there it was, the petite, 3,200-year-old Madame Sekhmet above us, fully exposed to the elements.  I have to agree with Mr R that "it is a little underwhelming".

Maybe I should check her out again in daylight.

08 December 2009

Back to some normacy - started cooking again

»Nikujaga at midnight is the preferred poison.

Galfriends rock!

Ladurée in London doesn't.  CHEWY, eww.  I'll never eat macarons here again.  Stick only to the »Ladurée in Paris, and definitely try »Pierre Hermé there as well.

05 December 2009

Feel like snapping

Need some air.

My police horses are back

Haven't heard them trotting by in the past couple of days. Good to know they still make their rounds in winter.

Did you know that they wear ankle guards on their forelegs?

04 December 2009

Feisty Ravel


[Embedded video of Ravel's Tzigane - click on original post to view]

Heard this live last night during the Winter Concert of my Goodenough College. It is so fantastic, live. (It is equally fantastic to live among musicians too.) The French violinist was feisty, had wild blond hair and appropriately broke from the norm of concert black »to don a yellow gypsyish dress.

Non-live, this version by Vengerov is the best in my opinion. It gives me a neck-ache to watch his contorted posture, but I like his interpretation and especially relish the accompaniment of the harp and orchestra.

28 November 2009

Radio call


[Embedded video of Night on Earth trailer - click on original post to view]

I love the crackling sound of the radio call that was so common in cabs 20 years ago.

It took me a while to recall my father's radio call code name when I was watching the film, but I finally did. It was 42. As he was often late in picking me up when I was a child, I used to make many a calls to the radio call station from a public phone, asking the operator to transmit a message for 42 to hurry. I remember the operators' voices - there were a few of them, nearly all women except for the boss, who occasionally helped out during peak hours - and the anticipation in guessing their faces when my father took me to the radio station during Chinese New Year period one time.

A very well-done film by the way. The »soundtrack is by Tom Waits. I've just entered a contest for opening tickets to »Jarmusch's latest film. I hope I win it.

21 November 2009

Getting along quite fine indeed

The scene is this: It is dark and drizzling outside, an unusually comfortable 15ºC. I am in a Uniqlo ribboned top in plum and über-slim-leg H&M jeans (both being what the fall season dictates). My window is half-open, so my basil plant and me are getting a nice stream of cool air to counter the heater who's permanently on prozac. »Classic FM is playing on my »digital radio which I won from a Sudoku game in »Big Issue, I have cleared all my books and notes off the table and made myself a cup of hot chocolate (Clipper™ Organic Drinking Chocolate - "Just add hot milk" - preferably organic too, I might add). I am sitting down to go through my to-do list, when it dawned on me that today marks the start of my third month in London.

Salut to the two lions who are getting along quite fine indeed.

lion at kensington park

Classical Spectacular, Royal Albert Hall

Just back, courtesy of free tickets from Goodenough College where I live. Some good soul must have donated a large sum of money and we now have access to a stall-level loggia at the Royal Albert Hall.

Classical Spectacular is held twice a year in spring and autumn and I absolutely insist that you must schedule your trips to London around these (or the BBC Proms in Summer). There are very few things in life as moving as seeing a packed Royal Albert Hall singing in chorus, with hundreds of union jacks fluttering to »Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March.

P.S. The British do mean it when they say 'spectacular'. We are talking here about a philharmonic orchestra, a philharmonic choir, a military band, an opera duo and a piano all together on stage, replete with muskets, canons and fireworks. Yes, it's a bit OTT, but it's not called pomp and ceremony for nothing.

This is from the spring Classical Spectacular, but it is a pale shadow of what it is like live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWBowv4hjLo

Maybe Ms L will send me some of her photos and videos just now...

19 November 2009

London is leonine


So am I :)

Now I have to go see that toe in the Natural History Museum.

18 November 2009

NIMBY

Today I received a petition in my inbox calling for support against the building of a needle exchange centre in my neighbourhood. My neighbourhood is pretty bourgeois, and it will be next to a school, so I can see where the reaction is coming from.

Yet on second thought, I wondered if the reaction would be any different if it were built beside a community centre, a hospital, a provision shop... Poll someone on the street whether it is a good idea to tackle HIV and substance abuse through needle exchange centres and the answer will likely be yes. But ask them where it should be located and the answer will be invariably be, 'Not in my backyard.'

Over the past couple of years, I have more or less lost faith in human beings as a collective (anonymity is truly lethal) to care about a greater good. But even worse than that is the hypocrisy of it all.

Maybe I've just become more socialist.

15 November 2009

昔のお菓子

"Mukashi no okashi" - Candies from once upon a time


友達から聞いた話。

彼女のお祖母ちゃんはずいぶん年を取って、何ヶ月前にオランダの老人ホームで病気になってしまった。

最後の日々が近づいてきた。お祖母ちゃんはうわごとを言って、昔のことばかり思い出した。特に、昔のお菓子の名前を繰り返して言った。友達は一生懸命探しても、誰も彼もそのお菓子を聞いたことはなかった。

ついに、お祖母ちゃんはお菓子を食べないままで、なくなった。

もしも今後わたしは誰のために昔のお菓子を探すことになっていたら、こんな店を探しできるようになってほしい。

Last leaf standing

We don't use little boys nowadays


Did you know that little boys were also used (in conjunction with feather dusters) to beat down the bubbles in a brewery?

Memento mori


Tewkesbury Abbey



M25 Club roadtrip to one of Britain's largest churches (they are being humble when they say 'abbey') with Norman architecture.

08 November 2009

Rainbow


Do you suppose it is possible to walk to the end of a rainbow, to be bathed in all that light? Or is it like a mirage that you can always walk towards, but never reach?

I suppose it is the latter, much like many objects of desire.

But still, it is nice to dream about being bathed in a fine mist of rainbow light.

Today is Remembrance Sunday



From the Tewkesbury Abbey yesterday.

03 November 2009

Christmas lightup at St Paul's


Hairspray, the 900-year-old St Paul's Cathedral choir and Faryl Smith (Britain's Got Talent).

Accompanied by wry British humour from Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and Colin Firth ("Well I think it's all a bit tacky and over the top quite frankly, but why not? That's what Christmas is all about.").

Alright, here's the low-down: there was no lightup at St Paul's. Their idea of a lightup was to simply shine colourful spotlights on the Cathedral! The upside was that it was really easy to get home after holding out the notes of Siiiilent Night with Andrea Bocelli and a few hundred people - unlike the tremendous mess at Oxford Circus. I was even on time for yoga.

Fall is here

02 November 2009

Burning krathong


This body, bhikkhus, is perishable, consciousness is of a nature to dissolve, and all objects of clinging are impermanent, suffering and subject to change.
-Itivuttaka Sutta

Thailand, thy name is intricate

Happy Loy Krathong


My first loy krathong festival, thanks to my hospitable Thai classmates.

Aside: The Thai fish cakes taste sooo good.

28 October 2009

27 October 2009

London tube clock


You can see this in some of the older stations like Victoria or Bond Street.

Someone please tell me where to get it, because I fear I might have to steal it soon.

26 October 2009

Poppy appeal


I haven't seen this poppy in probably 20 years. Out of the blue, I saw it last evening at the Russell Square tube station when I was coming back from the airport.

It reminded me so strongly of my childhood that I went back to the station today to donate and get one from the veteran. I can still remember that particular day in my childhood: it was a sunny Saturday afternoon, my mother had gotten off work and my dad must have dropped me off at her office in the Collyer Quay area. I was no more than five or six - she was holding my hand and we were walking. Along the way, she must have stopped to donate something towards the »poppy appeal - I don't recall too clearly, probably because I was too short then to notice. But I did remember holding a poppy in my hand and walking off together into the afternoon sun...

The poppy has not changed much from that day - still the same crinkly red paper and black button, except it is now adorned by a leaf.

The same cannot be said for the other two protaganists.

17 October 2009

I did not realize

That the accordian is the jealous sister of the soprano-sax. Bulky, hoarse and less eloquent, but ambitious nonetheless.

16 October 2009

Constitutional law in autumn

The weight of a historical sentence
   can no longer linger in silence.

A cacophony of coughs
   insists on punctuating.

Bogeymen

»William Safire and »Far Eastern Economic Review, the twin bogeymen of Singapore in the early 90s, are both dead.

13 October 2009

Kings of Convenience, Barbican

Today, I saw a violin flirting flamboyantly with the guitar.

And the crowd egged them on.

12 October 2009

Once upon a time, there was a lion and a gazelle

Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle... when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.

11 October 2009

Leicester Square, Sunday 11.57 am

casino queue
The casino presumably opens at noon.

Demographics of the queue: Chinese aged 50++
Standard deviation: Zero

Camera-phone series #17.

07 October 2009

03 October 2009

Canterbury Cathedral, circa 1174


Yes, Canterbury as in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. And where Henry IV and the Black Prince also repose. Highly recommended. Stay for the evensong service where the choir boys sing.

(And yes, j'adore my lens. Handheld and almost unadulterated - only very slight curve adjustment and sharpening.)

15 September 2009

Death by commoditisation and supermaketisation

It occurred to me that I should make a conscious effort to buy from independent stores rather than faceless supermarket chains and 7-11s - the lone stationery store across the road, the old newspaper man by the corner...

It occured to me that if we don't make a conscious change in our lifestyle choices and only lament at the demise of "those charming little shops", then we should have no one to blame but ourselves.

- 14 May 2009, Soho in Hong Kong

Fountain pens are such fragile creatures

They always get airsick and throw up on the plane :(

- 12 May 2009, CX 367 to Hong Kong

08 September 2009

Plate galore


Location: At the same »Bright Hill temple in the last post. Camera-phone series #16.

If you are wondering why a temple needs so many plates, it is because it is one of the few temples known to provide free food, twice a day, on a DAILY basis. The other one that I know is the »Buddhist Lodge, off River Valley Road.

On certain special days, there will be literally thousands of people passing through either of these temples, and invariably, stopping by for lunch or a drink. The massive amount of food is a sight to behold. It is also free for all, not just for devotees (nobody cards you or anything before serving you the food, and in fact, please help yourself to a second serving), so that is good news for nearby construction workers or the homeless. The menu even changes every day. When I went to Bright Hill Temple yesterday, I also saw a number of taxis parked there. Times must be hard; taxi drivers are not particularly known to be vegetarians.

I remember asking my mum when I was young, "Won't the temple go bankrupt this way?" (I know, what an economist...) My mum confidently replied, "No it won't. In fact, the more it cooks for people, the more stock it ends up with."

After 20 years of empirical observation, I have to admit that it is true. I imagine this can only be explained by a virtuous cycle theory. If you are next in the area, pop by Bright Hill Temple or Buddhist Lodge for a look (and a prostration as well if you are so inclined).

P.S. Bright Hill temple is more civilized; Buddhist Lodge is more spectacular with its sacks upon sacks of rice, bee hoon etc.