Sunday, June 29

Just a little update from Barcelona while taking a much needed break from all that shopping we´ve been doing since we got here on Thursday. So far, I´ve still not managed to rival Mousey´s Top Shopper record from our last trip two years ago. Although I must say, I am quite amazed that I can still remember the locations of a lot of the stores. Shopaholics have long memories.

Shopping loot so far:
-- wooden sandals which gave me blisters but are pretty and pink
-- bright red espadrilles which keep flopping off
-- flowery halter neck sun dress
-- retro dress covered with scary butterflies
-- red polka dotted bikini
-- red handbag which looks like those used by a travel guide uncle
-- lots of skimpy tops cos it is so blardee sweltering here

Time to hit TopShop now, which hopefully will be cheaper than London. And to our dismay, we discovered that the sumer sales start on the day Lilian leaves. So we are gonna go on a mad rush on 1 July to Zara and all to buy all the stuff that we´ve already tried. So typically Singaporean!

Thursday, June 26

After about three days of intensive sun-tanning, my skin is still in the same winter-pale state it was in when I arrived here in Tossa de Mar, while Lilian has managed to get all kinds of tan lines on her skin. But other than the botched attempts to be a bronzed goddess, I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

Daily routine: Stroll to the beach from our quaint lovely little hotel in the morning, bask in the sun for an hour or so. Head for yummy lunch which invariably involves seafood of some sort, followed by sluggish siesta on the rooftop terrace of the hotel. Dinner doesn´t really get going till at least 9 pm, and we´ve been having paella, sangria and tapas. Fall asleep to BBC World, the only English channel on TV. Wake up and repeat the next morning, with the only change being which bikini to wear.

Took lots of pix, but no way of uploading them now, so be prepared to be tortured by endless pix of this trip.

Heading for Barcelona tomorrow, where I think we will be a lot less relaxed, cos we are intending to go on a major shopping spree. Time is ticking away quickly in this Internet cafe....Three minutes left...

Saturday, June 21

"All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go..."

A certain someone used to quote me those lyrics when I complained about packing. With exactly 12 hours to go before I leave on a jet plane to Barcelona, I have yet to dust off my luggage. I really detest packing, not the actual act of putting things into suitcases, but more the niggling fear that I've forgotten something crucial.

Yet, instead of getting cracking with the packing, I'm now mucking around with photos taken today, a day of farewells.

Since it was the last time we were meeting as a class, we decided to buy lots of cold beer, sit in the hot sun and get pissed on the college lawn. I swear I have never had so much beer in broad daylight before *burp*

I attribute the huge smile on my face to the relief of meeting a major deadline today. Alcohol contributed a little too.

Still giggly from the booze, I somehow managed to take the Tube to meet some other friends for another farewell session. One is off to Boston for his PhD, while the other is heading to China, and it is unlikely we are ever gonna meet again. Fortunately, not everyone is leaving, and I still have one Singaporean gal pal here who loves Four Seasons' roast duck as much as me.

So many goodbyes in one day...

Friday, June 20

Hola! Gracias! Tapas! Sangria! Aqua caliente! Hasta la vista, baby!

Just practising what little Spanish I remember for my two weeks in the sun starting tomorrow.

Keeping my fingers crossed that my usual travel calamities will not befall me. I am prone to tripping, slipping and falling, drinking bad water and eating dodgy food, being propositioned by old men, having my luggage lost in transit and being a beacon for pickpockets. Let's hope I will not add to that list on this trip.

Have been trying to achieve a bikini body for the past two weeks using pure mental powers. Needless to say, I failed, especially since I have been devouring all the perishable food in my freezer cos I don't want things to go bad while I'm gone.

Will be spending about five days in Barcelona and four days in this little beach resort called Tossa de Mar with Lilian, then I’m gonna head south to Sevilla for another three days on my own.

We have planned absolutely nothing else besides sitting on the beach reading Glamour and Elle, and shopping during the summer sale, which will hopefully start in time for just for us. To the Zara mothership, here we come!

Try not to miss me and my random ramblings too much. Adios amigos!
Today is sort of the last day of school, since we have to submit our portfolios tomorrow. Classes are all over -- woohoo! -- and we just have to work on our final essays on our own.

The college is a hive of activities, and there are all kinds of weird art going on, since Goldsmiths is known as the place which spawned Damien Hirst's formaldehyde cows and sheep.

These so-called art installations -- which I can easily put together too, even without an artistic bone in my body -- include displays of matchsticks in glass cases, grotesque-looking statues wearing ugly clothes and tacky spray-painted picture frames floating in mid-air.

But I have one which is my favourite:

The giant cone resting on top of an ice-cream van has tinkling music emitting from it from time to time. I have no idea what it all means, though it makes me long to lick something cold.

Wednesday, June 18

I've got a big smile on my face and it's not just because I finally finished my last story for school and will not have to write another feature for at least two months. I really enjoyed writing about the subject -- as opposed to child abusers and business plans to rejuvenate south-east London -- and actually taking part in the whole phenomenon, which I'm hoping to brainwash you guys into joining too. So here's the story. [And yes, any kind feedback would be very helpful, since I have to submit this on Friday.]

Lost and Found

Finders aren’t keepers, and losers aren’t weepers.
Voracious readers have been deliberately misplacing their
books to spread their love of literature

Glancing furtively around Piccadilly Circus, Paul Kutasi slipped a slim paperback out from his coat pocket and picked his way towards the end of the platform, all the time keeping an eye out for the ubiquitous Tube inspectors.

As the train pulled into the station, he surreptitiously dropped his book -- a still-pristine copy of Crazy by Benjamin Lebert -- onto the bench and melted into the rush hour crowd without a backward glance.

Even though the 21-year-old filmmaker did not see if anyone spotted the book he had abandoned, he could not suppress the sly smile on his face.

He had officially joined the BookCrossing movement.

“Basically, what we’re doing is like giving away clothes that you have overgrown,” he says. “Once you have read a book, you may want to share it with other people. I think in some sort of way it can encourage reading.”

The way BookCrossing works is this: You register the book you want to “release into the wild”, as it is called at website The book is given a unique ID number, which you can then write onto a label printed from the site.

Pasted on the book, the nifty label directs anyone who finds the book to the website to discover where it has been and who has read it.

The man who dreamt up the idea two years ago of “reading and releasing books into the wild” is Ron Hornbaker, a 36-year-old software developer from Missouri who runs his own computer company but makes no money from

There are no irritating pop-up ads, registration details are kept strictly confidential, and the site relies purely on word of mouth to lure book lovers.

It is a labour of love for him, as he says: “It gives people a way to share their books without feeling like they’re losing something. It’s like a reading group that knows no geographical boundaries.”

With over 126,000 registered members worldwide -- including 6,730 in UK -- this online bookclub that Hornbaker started in 2001 is slowly but surely moving towards his goal to “make the whole world a library”.

He adds: “It is the act of freeing books that points to the heart of BookCrossing.”

It is also when the fun begins.

During his little espionage episode on the Tube, Kutasi recalls feeling “kind of weird”.

He adds: “I was sort of hoping they didn’t think it was a suspicious package and delay the trains because of me.”

Another member of this guerilla group, Leonie Mann, says: “I felt a bizarre thrill or momentary rush when I released my first book.”

With 29 books wilfully left all over London over the past 10 months, she is among the top 50 BookCrossers in the UK and is definitely addicted to what she describes as “reverse stealing”.

“There is a similar guilty adrenaline rush because mentally it's a challenge to just abandon your property. It seems to go against the grain of the societal norms most of us are ingrained with,” says the 30-year-old researcher.

Most recently, she left a copy of Doris Birtles’ The Overlanders in the toilet cubicle during the intermission of My Fair Lady at the Drury Lane Theatre and it was picked up and taken to Ireland.

“I think the randomness and chance aspect of the site is something I relate to the most,” she says, but there is also a practical aspect to it.

“As I've spent the past four years travelling and living in different countries I've become adept at shedding possessions. Before I left home there was no way I'd be able to let a book go,” she says. “Due to the constraints of carrying everything I owned it became easier and easier to let go of items.”

Those enamoured of this whole exercise in serendipity -- besides obviously being book lovers and Internet savvy -- share an altruistic streak.

“There are so many books going to waste on the bookshelf that have been read,” says Kutasi. “Probably not going to read them again, so why not share?”

Agreeing with him, legal secretary Joanna Moncrieff says: “I was having a bit of a clear-out of books I knew I would never read again to friends and charity shops, so when I found out about BookCrossing, I thought I’d combine the two.”

“I prefer the random nature of leaving books in cafes and introducing strangers to BookCrossing. There is a buzz from having a book picked up and getting an email to say that the person was ‘very pleased’ as happened with one of my successes,” she says.

Mann adds: “Charity-oriented people like that they can give books away to people who might not be able to afford them. There are those who love the idea of spreading literacy into communities who may not have access to books under normal circumstances.

“The artistic like the performance art part of the release, as in they can photograph and describe the why's and wherefore's of their release and capture the moment in some way.”

Despite having only six of her 33 “misplaced” books found, Moncrieff says: “I don’t think it is a waste of a good book as generally people will pick up the book, unless there are all these books languishing in the lost property office after being left on the train, which is why I stopped leaving them on trains.”

Other reasons for the rather discouraging success rate of 25 per cent include no access to the Internet, pure apathy in registering the book online and, as Moncrieff puts it, “the suspicion of English people of anything free”.

Although Britain prides itself as a nation of book lovers, it still lags behind America and Italy in this worldwide movement that combines the romantic idea of a message in a bottle, the digital reality of the Internet and the karma of literature.

Mann says: “I hope the catch rate will increase as time goes by and awareness develops but part of the joy to me is that it is a gamble.

“The juiciest book in the most inventive of release locations may never be heard from again but a run-of-the-mill romance or thriller tossed absentmindedly onto a train seat may touch several lives and be read and released over and over again.”

And the karma of literature goes on.

Tuesday, June 17

This was what I saw when I woke up from a nap on the grass at 7.30 pm.
Trust me, I don't do justice to the blue-ness of the sky with my lousy photography skills.

And this was how I looked with sleepiness barely rubbed from my puffy eyes at 7.31 pm.
The camera doesn't do me justice either, heh.

Monday, June 16

Impending deadlines have a weird effect on me. I start looking towards my belly button and picking the lint, metaphorically speaking of course. So feel free to skip this bout of self-indulgent navel gazing.

A very astute friend was right when she said that this blog is an exercise in self-actualisation, even though Maslow might not agree, seeing that I’ve yet to fulfil my needs for food [constant cravings], shelter [well, at least this month’s rent is settled] and love [need I say more?].

So, after a couple of weeks of blogging, I’ve managed to “actualise” myself and come to this realisation -- I have an obsessive-compulsive-addictive personality.

Once I get hooked onto something, I find it very hard to let go.

Take this bloggish I write, for instance. [blog + rubbish = bloggish]

Even though it is mostly just stream-of-consciousness style of writing, I spend an inordinate amount of time sorting out my random thoughts and recording mundane daily details. The same goes for amount of time I get sucked into spending on other people’s blogs.

As a friend says, there are lots of bored people in the world, writing and reading blogs. I happen to be one of them, though I am happy to report that I have managed to infect someone else with the blogging bug. And even though I'm sure that I will feel extremely silly when I re-read this in a few years' time, well, I can't seem to stop making a fool of myself for now.

[This is a slight side track, but I find it endearing when you guys email me and say “I read your blog” like it is something to be ashamed of. Yet similarly, I get an illicit thrill from snooping around other friends’ blogs, reading about their lives and looking at their pix.]

Other manifestations of this obsessive-compulsive-addictive side of me include:

-- endlessly looping and playing to death songs-of-the-moment. Currently it is Stef Sun’s cover of That I Would Be Good by Alanis Morrisette. Very dated and uncool, I know, but I find the way she leaves out her T's and D's at the end of sentences so typically Singaporean and adorable. She sings: "That I would be goooo..."

-- religiously watching every episode of Buffy, even though the current season sucks big time. No unlike a vampire, actually.

-- incessantly making lists like this. I also compile a daily list of Things To Do Today, with items that never end up getting done, so it just grows longer and longer every day.

-- MUD. That was a three-year addiction, in which I consumed a million magic mushrooms, fought a thousand monsters and even got betrothed to a warlord or wizard or something evil like that. It was a force beyond my control.

-- my beloved BeeBee for the past 20 years. Last on the list, but definitely the worst addiction of all, as those who have seen me eat it in my trance-like state can testify. I am now down to one last precious packet and withdrawal syndrome is setting in. Eagerly counting down to the arrival of Lilian my drug courier with fresh supplies.

Sunday, June 15

Someone told me today, "Love is just a projection of what you always dream of."

Very deep, but then he stole it from a song. And because it was in Chinese, I'm still not totally sure I get it, despite his increasingly exasperated attempts to enlighten me. I think the conversation ended with me declaring: "Love is just like Chu Qian Yi Ding."

If only things were as simple and satisfying as a steaming bowl of CQYD.

Speaking of my fave instant noodles, I still have a huge stash in what I suppose the Brits would call my pantry -- to me it's just a cupboard full of food and spices -- which means I have to eat a packet every three days or so in order to finish up my supply before I leave. I might be bald from all that MSG by the time I get back, at that rate.

Saturday, June 14

Managed to wake up early [erm, 10 am is waaay early by my standards, considering that I go to bed when the sun rises at 4 am] and had a brunch of healthy salad with not-so-healthy fish fingers. It sounds horrible, I know, but a huge unhealthy dollop of Japanese Kewpie mayo makes everything yummy.

Managed a solid four hours of work in college, in between spells of sunning myself all over [well, almost] because I at last got to wear a sleeveless flimsy top I'd bought during the depths of winter, in the faint hope of summer.

Managed also to run a bunch of errands around Charing Cross, Piccadilly and Oxford Circus, and after going to countless bookstores and stationery sections, finally managed to find folders with clear plastic pockets which I needed for my portfolio submission next week. There is no such thing as handy as Popular here. Took me an hour before it occured to me to go to good ol' Muji.

Managed to get to Angel -- one of my fave places in London and certain parts were looking like Siglap today with all the al fresco dining going on -- without slipping to my death on my flipflops to meet a friend who is done with his Masters and returning to Singapore soon. Miraculously, we managed to eat good British food for dinner. No, it is not an oxymoron, good British food does exist. The sausages and mash at the kinkily-named S&M Cafe are brilliant.

Managed to laugh so much during dinner and the requisite after-dinner drinks that I got a tummy ache. [Or mebbe it was the sausages? You never know what dubious meat are in those things.] I'm giggling to myself now just thinking about the story of this Brit-Chinese family who were given bak kwa as a gift from Singapore and ate it for dinner as a meat dish with rice.

Managed to see the sun go down against a clear blue sky at an hour that never fails to amaze me -- 10 pm.

Yet, as this near perfect day ended and I caught the tube home, I could feel waves of melancholia washing over me.

To my imaginary man: I miss you, even though we haven't met. And for the first time, I wish you were here to make this day perfect.

Friday, June 13

Unexpected windfall in the mail -- a cheque from Cosmo for one week of internship in April with the princely sum of £60. Well, it is a lot of money by my standards, especially since I had written off the whole nightmarish experience and wasn't expecting a single cent.

As I look at my dwindling bank account, I wonder if I should have just hung in there at Cosmo for the whole month instead of bailing after one week, purely for the money. I mean, the work wasn't tough. It was, in fact, brain-numbingly boring and downright exploitative. Take orders for coffee, photocopy letters, distribute the mail, sort out contest coupons, take more orders for coffee, man the phones during the lunch hour, deliver packages around Oxford Street.

No, thinking back to how I was treated like a 18-year-old with zero brains and experience, I have no regrets about quitting, except for the missed chances of reading the side-splitting letters people send in. Written in the inimitable British way, they sure beat those psycho letters I used to get at work.

Anyway, I actually rescued one letter from the Cosmo trash because it was that good. Lemme dig it up now to brighten up my day.

[Juicy unedited excerpt from the letter below. Also, warning: explicit photo coming up.]

"One is rather, er how shall one put it, 'hard up' these days, and thus one puts one's self forwards as a potential male model for your good magazine.

See enclosed photo. I can do one or two yoga poses as you may require of me. Clothed or not clothed as you require.

While we're about the subject one may wonder what you may consider as regards the new Sexual Offences Bill. As far as the current offence of 'indecent exposure' is concerned I'm as ever quite a libertarian on this subject with if possible MORE opportunities for, shall we say open people to be more OPEN in more and yet more places where they may choose to be open in this regard.

When I was a student some years ago a female offered me 50p for a shall we say INTERESTING photo."

The letter continues in the same deluded fashion for a couple of pages, followed by a diagram of the human body for "Sex By Numbers" and 15 body parts to kiss. Use your own imagination, I'm not going into details here, though I'm keeping all the instructions for future reference. But it is really the enclosed photo which never fails to crack me up:

The caption scrawled behind the photo is "A sun salute???"
[If you look carefully at his, um, nether regions, you will see the salute. And I am not making any of this up. Honest. I'm not that imaginative.]

Thursday, June 12

Two fresh slices of toast, with thick gooey kaya oozing over the edges and a slab of butter melting in between. That’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Since kaya toast is out of my reach, I have to resort to what my mom used to make for breakfast -- toasted bread with butter and sprinkled with sugar.

But, drats, even that is out of reach for now, cos I lack two crucial ingredients. And it is way too late to go to Sainsbury’s to buy bread and butter at this hour.

Will just go to bed hungry and dream of kaya toast.

Wednesday, June 11

Sorry to disappoint those of you eagerly marking my return date on your calendar, but I made mistake with the calculation. It should be 83 days, but what with the time difference, I could very well be wrong again. This countdown blog thingy is harder than just blathering on and on about me me me. Who would have thought there's maths involved?

Tuesday, June 10

Remember that emotionally-manipulative rice commercal with Kit Chan rushing home from the airport to have dinner? I can't get the tune out of my head and I have this sudden urge to be at home, this very instant, and eating rice [even though I am not actually fond of rice].

I think this bout of longing for home is brought on by the fact that I just managed to get a flight at the low low low price of £200+++. And it is on SIA, which I have not taken for ages. Ah, the Singapore Girl, what a great way to fly. Now I know why Stefanie Sun said she almost cried when she saw an SIA plane at the Taiwan airport. I can't wait to be on my way.

If my maths doesn't fail me, the official countdown is 76 days till I'm back home again.

[Thanks to everyone for your condolences and cuddles. I think I'm quite okie now.]

Monday, June 9

by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
The phone call that I had been dreading finally came. My grandma, who was battling cancer for some time, passed away a few hours ago. I don’t think I even said goodbye to her before I left, cos it’s like I just assumed she’d still be there when I got back, like she’d always been all my life.

Just as I never have the right words to say to those whose loved ones have passed away, I don’t really know how I feel right now. Kinda numb, I guess, even though I had known that she had taken a turn for the worse a couple of weeks back.

I was never as close to this grandma as I’d have liked to be, cos I grew up with my other grandma and never quite mastered enough Hokkien to have a proper conversation. Every Chinese New Year, I would mangle those “Xin Jia Ru Yi” wishes, and she would just call me “Ah Mun” and smile indulgently before giving me my ang pow.

My mom tells me not to fly back, and I know there is nothing much I can do anyway. Yet some part of me just wants to, oh I dunno, maybe I just want to say goodbye.

"Bye bye, Ma Ma."
Besides battling a flu virus for the past few days, I’ve also been fighting with a computer bug. Mostly, it is my own stupidity and carelessness, for both the flu and the computer glitch, but the end result is, I’ve to survive on 12 minutes of internet per day until Wednesday.

My research has been severely hampered by lack of net access, I’m too weak to trudge to college to use the lab, so I’ve just been lounging in bed all day. Ah, the great procrastinator strikes again.

Going cold turkey hasn’t been easy, seeing how addicted I am to this huge time-sucking machine known as the internet. It was after begging and pleading and much sweet talking to the ISP guy that I managed to squeeze one precious extra hour from him. This so reminds me of the bad old days, when a 14.4 kbs modem was considered state-of-the-art, 30 minutes of surfing was considered a lot, and you had to dial for like 100 times before getting connected.

It is only when something is gone that you truly appreciate it. Gosh, I never thought I’d use that cliche to describe how I feel about the internet. Now I sound like a total nrrd grrl, don’t I?

Friday, June 6

In case any of you faithful readers are wondering -- I think there is a grand total of three of you out there -- I haven't died from this mystery flu bug I managed to catch from thin air. No, no, it is not SARS. But it is ironic that I managed to get through the worst of winter only to succumb on the brink of summer.

Burdened with a drippy nose, big packet of tissue paper and tonnes of self-pity, I trudged to the supermarket to stock up on loads of grapefruit and orange juice for crucial Vitamin C, and chicken soup as a substitute for mother's love. And now, I am all drugged out with the most super-duper flu medicine I've ever taken -- Nurofen is my fren indeed.

Wednesday, June 4

What started out as a tickle in the back of my throat on Tuesday morning -- which I dismissed as nerves for my sub-editing exam -- has spread its tentacles all over my breathing pipes and into my brain cells. Swallowing difficult, breathing shallow, brain fuzzy, self-pity at full blast.

I have no idea what drug-induced rubbish I'm typing now, since I have just popped very powerful meds which should knock me out, right about now...
[Weather complaint #1373] It was too good to last, I just knew it. After two wonderfully warm days filled with sunshine, laughter and short sleeves, the past three days have been grey and pissin' wet. Rain, rain, go away. I know, I know, I had been warned about the weather before I came, so I should quit whining and just suffer in silence.

Is it any wonder that conversation here revolves around the weather? I recall making small talk to this bloke about the rain, and then he said something like: "Let's not be so typically British and just talk about the weather, shall we?" And then there was a deadly silence...

Tuesday, June 3

There is no going back. I believe that by watching The Matrix Reloaded, I have indeed taken the red pill, because I can't get the dem movie out of my head. Now is the time to stop reading if you have yet to watch the sequel. If you haven't even seen the original, what can I say but where the heck have you been?

Sometimes, I think oblivion can be bliss. Then I won't have to think about boning up on my Baudrillard or wonder about how deep the rabbit hole is or, indeed, ponder over the very fact of my existence.

But not to worry, I'm not about to go into some pseudo-philopsophical mode and start talking intellectual. I'm not smart [or pretentious] enough. Besides, there are plenty of people like that here who have wasted a lot of their time over-analysing every frame. They have also wasted a lot of my time by sucking me in to read about how Neo is an anagram of the word "One" and the significance of Neo being the sixth One.

However, I am still far from being enlightened. Like, what is it about the spoon that bends? Or rather, and I quote the movie here, "it is not the spoon that bends, it is you". Zann does not understand Zen.

Having said all that, it must sound like I really lurved the movie. On the contrary, actually. It had a lot of style, tried to have some substance, but ultimately, had no soul. And the sex wasn't that steamy either, so I dunno why the censors thought they had to protect us innocent Singaporeans.

Sunday, June 1

[Bimbo alert] I miss my wardrobe. I miss my flirty vintage skirt. I miss my purple Camper flipflops and my rainbow-striped slip-ons. I miss my orange shopping basket and my red bucket bag. I miss my skimpy sleeveless tops, every single one of them, now that summer is here. All I have are three paltry T-shirts, two pairs of capris, one skirt and one lousy pair of free slippers from Cosmo with no friction whatsoever which, literally, might be the death of me.

It was yet another glorious day. Leicester Square was full of women parading around in as little clothing as possible, mocking me with their lovely sundresses, halter-neck tops, cute tote bags, and strappy sandals. But I gotta control my shop addiction until I arrive in Barcelona where I will release my pent-up urge to splurge.

Somehow, in my deluded mind, the departure date for Barcelona seems really near, a mere 20 days that will pass in a flash. Yet, when I think about my major deadline in 18 days, I convince myself that there is still plenty of time to conduct 10 interviews, lie in the sun, write two big stories, lie in the sun, re-angle another piece, lie in the sun, and layout a whole magazine, on top of a sub-editing exam next Tuesday. And did I mention catching some sunshine?