Saturday, March 26

my left foot

Back on my feet -- Literally! And figuratively! Finally! -- after being bedridden for four days and naturally, I was so glad to be out and about that I overdid it.

First up was yummy Jap lunch. Paper steamboat, juicy tako, grilled squid and one extremely entertaining lunch companion and his girlfriend that we'd been convinced was imaginary. I really shouldn't have eaten all that toxic seafood, but after a whole week of nothing but chicken and lots of fruit, I couldn't resist.

Then, I made a quick stop at Times to check out the 20% discounts, but it didn't have the Domestic Goddess book by Nigella that I was coveting, so I ended up buying Vogue instead. Totally forgot to check out Kafka On The Shores, cos I didn't bring my List Of Books I Want To Read. [Very nerdy to have such a list, I know, but I can't help it.]

A substantial chunk of the afternoon was taken up with the witnessing the humiliation of the Cleo Bachelors, more specifically those two that I know. Both had to take off their T-shirts in the middle of a busy shopping centre. One executed push-ups, which he did effortlessly -- ahem -- 69 times. The other had a relatively easier -- and arguably more enjoyable -- time having his hairy torso rubbed with lotion by some girl they pulled from the crowd.

By this time, my feet were killing me and we retreated to get something to drink before heading home.

Before I could flop down on my bed to rest my feet and flip through the overdue Vogue, I had to head out again, this time to conduct an illicit transaction with a friend back from New York. It involved a dark corner next to a smelly rubbish dump, out of sight of the crowds thronging Orchard, and exchanging a wad of $50 notes for an airticket.

As I hopped onto the first available cab to zip home, I entertained myself by thinking how I would defend myself and my cash if the cab driver turned around and decided to rob me. Decided that jabbing him in the eyes would be my best line of defence.

Spent the rest of the night horizontal, recovering from all that walking. My trotters were swollen and about ready to fall off.

Later that night, K -- who had been attempting to pimp me the whole afternoon to the bachelors -- sent me an SMS.

Him: "I still cannot believe I put myself thru that fiasco this afternoon."

Me: "I tink I've lost ALL interest in boys... Not the least turned on by any of the bachelors! How?!?"

Him: "Haha good god u r turning gay!"

Me: "But I'm not into girls either! I'm turning into a... NUN! Faint...this does not bode well..."

Him: "Haha then how u gona fulfil your needs??"

Me: "Nuns dun have needs. They have god. Haha"

Him: "Yup...hands of god huh?"

Wednesday, March 16

an unmoving story

I thought I'd just go with the flow and stop opposing the move to the new place. So yesterday morning, the entire family went off on a light-buying trip to Balestier.

Settled on the living room and dining room lights without too much pain. Was even in a good enough mood to stand under a lamp and take goofy photos.

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But by afternoon, my energy level was flagging and I needed a snooze in Barang Barang while my sis soldiered on with the sofa selection.

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Today was supposed to be a major expedition into Ikea. It started off well enough, with fried chicken wings to start us off on a full stomach.

But things just went rapidly downhill, for no reason other than my dad was behaving unreasonably, shouting at my mum and threatening stupid things. It didn't help that my sissy and I started developing headaches because it took so long to get them to agree to anything.

Managed to sort out the dining table, cabinets, chairs, blinds and kitchen after five exhausting hours in the store.

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But if you could see my face in the photo -- standing next to the chosen dining table -- you would see it was totally black. Had a blazing row in the middle of the kitchen section with my dad, which ended with me throwing everything onto the trolley and storming off while the people milling around stared.

Was so mad that I was trembling with rage. I remember saying very loudly and in a very clipped tone to my mum: "I. Am. Moving. Out."

My mum is now pretending that she didn't hear it and asking if I want to move my wardrobe over to the new place.

My dad is now pretending that nothing has happened, but I'm ignoring him.

Even though things are in a bad state now, I am feeling better than a couple of weeks ago, when we were emotionally blackmailed into agreeing to the move and even paying for it.

At least now, I have stated it loud and clear -- I. Am. Moving. Out.

Now, to get the place I want in Chip Bee...

Monday, March 14


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Quite a long time ago, when Channel i was still on air and Ah Girl was still showing, my ex told me that I looked a lot like her.

A couple of weeks ago, at a party that my body double and I were both at, a friend of a friend went up to her and had an entire conversation, thinking she was me. When she finally realised her mistake, she ran away in embarrassment.

A couple of nights ago, NYTC told me she met her and that not only do we really look alike, we also have the same animated expressions when talking.

I suppose I should be glad that I dun look like Irene Ang or Abigail Chay.

Sunday, March 13

the scissor sister

After 55 years, 'human Google' Edda Tasiemka is selling her amazing cuttings library and retiring - distressing news for at least one customer

Lynn Barber
Sunday March 13, 2005
The Observer

The news that Edda Tasiemka is planning to retire and sell her cuttings library had many journalists, including me, sobbing into our laptops. How could any of us survive without Edda and her cuttings? Whizzy management types are fond of telling us that nowadays you can find everything on the internet, but actually it is rare to find any newspaper stories over five years old or any magazine articles at all, whereas one quick phone call to an elderly German widow in the suburbs can provide precisely what you need. Almost every profile writer and biographer I know uses Tasiemka, and everyone who uses her raves about her. Nicholas Coleridge is such a devotee that he put her in one of his novels. Robert Lacey said he could never have written Majesty without her and added wistfully: 'She's a real dish, isn't she? I wish I was an older man!'

Given that Mrs Tasiemka is 82, this is quite a wish. But it is impossible to believe that she is 82, when she looks about 40 - a tiny, darting, elfin figure who makes most ballet dancers seem clunky. Her Christmas card a couple of years ago showed her sitting on Santa Claus's lap, flashing her fabulous legs in slinky black nylons. The other day, she was telling me that she and her 'toyboy', Peter Knight, were going to a dinner-dance at the Compleat Angler and that she planned to wear her La Perla nightdress because it was far too glamorous to confine to the bedroom.

She and Peter love dancing. 'Strictly ballroom?' I asked and she said sternly: 'No. Smoochy dancing.'

Incidentally, Peter the toyboy is 78 - they have been lovers for 34 years.

So Mrs Tasiemka is not exactly your average librarian. Nor does her house look remotely like a library. It is a conventional 1920s semi-detached in north London, with a white Sandtex exterior, a short drive up to the side garage and a lawn surrounded by bedding plants. The drawing-room gives the same impression of old-fashioned gemütlich comfort - button-back armchairs, Regency cabinets and highly polished tables covered with knick-knacks.

However, if you look carefully there are already signs that this is not quite a conventional house - the Stop the War placard in the hall for instance (Mrs Tasiemka went on both the prewar marches) or the two lifesize model sheep in the corner.

But it is when Mrs Tasiemka starts opening drawers and cupboards and sliding back bookshelves to reveal other shelves behind that you really begin to see what the house is about. 'Are you interested in American history?' she asks, going to a Regency music cabinet and opening the drawers. 'This is the American Civil War,' she says, pulling out a sheaf of American newspapers from the l860s. 'This is the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.'

In the drawing-room, the cuttings files are kept more at less at bay, but they run riot over the rest of the house - sport in the loo, medicine in the kitchen, crime and celebrities in the top bedroom, and then - aagh! - the terrifying section she calls 'the Family', housed in the garage. Of course, there is no car in the garage, just hundreds and hundreds of buff folders with titles like 'My Father Stole My Husband', 'Seven-Year Itch', 'Runaway Mothers-in-Law' - meat and drink to daytime television shows such as Trisha.

It is an idiosyncratic filing system but it seems to work. In fact, it works far more quickly and efficiently than any other library I know. Mrs Tasiemka has a staff of three to help with the photocopying, but she does all the filing herself and works pretty well non-stop. And she seems to remember everything .

If I say: 'Can I have cuts on so-and-so?' she'll often volunteer: 'And do you want something on the brother who committed suicide?', even though I don't even know that there was a brother who committed suicide. As Robert Lacey attests: 'Mrs Tasiemka was a Google search engine long before Google was invented.' But, of course, that compliment would mean nothing to her because she has never used the internet.

She has had a strange, disrupted life. She was born in Germany in 1922. Her parents were unmarried. Her father was a famous communist leader, but he was forced into exile when she was a baby, so she was brought up by her mother in a small dormitory village outside Ham burg. 'In l933, when the Nazis took power, I was immediately aware of what was going on. We had the police in practically every week; a lot of our friends were arrested and worse. Because of that, I never wanted to join the Hitler Youth.'

This meant that she was not allowed to go to the local secondary school, so they moved into Hamburg. But then, on New Year's Eve 1938, her mother was arrested. 'The police came at midnight and took my mother away; the next day, they sealed the flat, so I had nowhere to live. I was l5. And I sort of moved around then, staying with friends, but the first people who took me in were Jews, so that was dangerous, too.'

Her mother was released after six months but they still had nowhere to live; they eventually ended up living in a fishing hut by a lake.

Edda's dream was to be a civil engineer, and she trained as a technical draughtswoman, but she ended up after the war as a secretary with the British army of occupation in Hamburg. It was there in l949 that she met Hans Tasiemka, who was also working for the British army, as an interpreter at the War Crimes Trials Centre. He was a left-wing Jewish journalist who had fled to Paris at the outbreak of war and joined the Foreign Legion. Eventually, he escaped via Casablanca and joined the British army.

He was 17 years older than Edda, but she says: 'We were politically on the same level totally, and he knew a lot.' When he was demobbed at the end of l949, they moved to England and got married in Hampstead register office. Peter Lorre, who was a friend of Hans's from prewar Berlin, gave them lunch at the Dorchester on their wedding day, and Mrs Lorre gave Edda some camiknickers. They lived in a tiny bedsit off the Finchley Road. Hans worked for the German section of the Foreign Office, producing a magazine for distribution in Germany, and she was a typist for Universal Aunts. Was her English good? 'Oh, better than now. Because I worked for the army for four years and all day long, I spoke English and took dictation from my Major Holt.'

The Tasiemkas never had children ('For years, I went up and down Harley Street but I had blocked tubes and that was that') but they always had cuttings. Edda remembers that when she first met her husband, his pockets were already bulging with newspaper clippings, which he sent to a friend in London to store. 'So, when we got here, he had a box of cuttings and that was the start. In the bedsit, we kept them under the bed. Later on, of course, it got completely out of hand.'

Hans was working for various German newspapers; one day, he was away when a Munich paper rang demanding a report of the opening of Parliament, so Edda wrote it and phoned it through. 'That was my very first story and I thought, "Oh dear, this is terrible", but they published it word for word. So I thought I could do it. From then on, I did many stories, and worked for the magazines.'

With both their careers flourishing, she and Hans were able to move to a bigger flat and then, in 1962, to the present house, though even then, she says, it was difficult to find a removals firm willing to move all their files. Not content with cutting newspapers, the Tasiemkas spent their weekends going round antiques fairs (Eastbourne was a particular favourite) buying up old magazines and acquiring such treasures as a complete set of Le Rire with illustrations by Toulouse-Lautrec.

But Mrs Tasiemka didn't stop at cuttings - she also collected Louis Wain cat paintings, Meissen porcelain, Staffordshire figurines of royal children, Georgian salt cellars and knife rests, Adam Buck tea sets, Victorian fairings.

And then there are what she calls her 'curiosities'. I must say I was a little star tled when she showed me this collection - antique china figurines of women suckling sheep. 'I am fond of sheep,' Mrs Tasiemka said dreamily, 'They're not erotica, they're just harmless. This girl is nursing a sheep, you see. And this one is suckling a fox.'

'Why would she be doing that?' I asked cautiously.

'Well, that I don't know. I wouldn't say it's my dream .'

Hans died in 1979. His widow registered the library in his name - the Hans Tasiemka Archive - and kept on cutting. Gradually, friends and friends of friends started using it and Edda's cuttings were increasingly in demand, especially during the 1980s, when most national newspaper libraries were paralysed by union restrictions.

Robert Maxwell was very keen to buy the Tasiemka archive at one stage, when he was founding his London Daily News, but he wanted 5l per cent ownership and Mrs Tasiemka would not surrender control.

But now she has decided she must give up. 'Well, I'm getting so old, you see. I've got to think of the future of the library; somebody should carry it on. And also it's got to have money pumped into it - it is not a paying proposition.'

She would like to see it housed in a university where journalism students could use it. The question is whether anyone wants cuttings any more - they take up an awful lot of space. And the unique selling point of her library - that it cuts magazines as well as newspapers - is also the most expensive to maintain.

I suggested to Mrs Tasiemka that maybe she could sell a few of the most valuable historic cuttings - accounts of Lincoln's assassination, Queen Victoria's funeral and so on - but she was horrified. 'But if you sell something, where do you stop? And it's not worth it then.'

She has never sold or destroyed anything and never would. Consequently, I don't really believe that she will sell her library, even though she says she wants to. Selfishly, I pray that she doesn't; for me and her many other devotees, it is one of the great joys of journalism.

communist party

C's off to a great adventure in Beijing -- we'll miss you! -- and she threw a Communist Party before she left. How apt!

There were the garden-variety communists dressed in T-shirts with the CCCP sickle or big yellow star or carrying Little Red Books. Then there were the Vietnamese peasants, cheongsam-clad Madam Maos, a gun-toting soldier in camo, a KGB spy with eye patch, a bald guy with birthmark painted on his pate to resemble Gorbachev and cheena-looking girls in samfoo tops [that would be me, complete with rattan basket and fake pigtails].

Very impressed by everyone's imagination, especially one guy who managed make an ordinary Gap shirt into a Communist Party uniform by pasting two small pieces of red paper on his collar and wearing a red arm band.

But the best costumes had to be this sporting couple who came as defecting East German athletes. Their sports jackets were emblazoned with the flag on the front and on the back, there were words like "ZEITGEIST" and "BRATWURST". Hilarious.

We should have theme parties more often.

Friday, March 11

over to you

In the spirit of the magazine that everyone in the office is talking about, here's a pop quiz.

I know I'm in love when...I can't eat, I can't sleep and want to make phone calls at 3am.

When no one's looking...I pick my nose.

I feel on top of the world...when my outfit is perfectly coordinated.

Men like me because...I don't play games and I don't play hard to get.

I like a man...who makes me laugh until I cry.

I last cried
...watching Sex And The City, season six, part two, disc 1. The DVD broke down towards the end and I cried.

Which reality programme do you want to be on? Paradise Hotel, so that I can be a slut, enjoy room service and be massaged the whole day.

A man will drive me mad wearing...a blue striped shirt.

Now's your turn. Post your replies under the comments, kay?

guilty pleasures

[Warning: The following is merely a boring post of how my day went.]

A well-deserved off day yesterday.

Woke up early due to tummy ache caused by god knows what rubbish I ate. [For those who want to know, I had to poo three times. I felt increasingly lighter after each dump. Sounds masochistic, but what a nice way to start the day.]

Supposed to go shopping in the morning, followed by dressmaking class in the afternoon and yoga in the evening. But good ol' procrastination and too much yakking over the phone with M about Hong Kong meant I only left the house after noon. So no dressmaking done today.

Instead, it was shop shop shop and eat eat eat a lot of carbos. [Lor mee for breakfast, linguine carbonara for lunch and la mian for dinner, very very very bad!]

Bought five tops altogether, including a Nike sports top. Not bad, considering it cost just over $100.

Finally found the yoga book I wanted at Kinokuniya. Walked briskly past the travel section so as not to spend needlessly on guide books. Wasted five whole minutes giggling by myself at the magazine section over Cleo's 50 Most Eligible Bachelor. I just had to call Bachelor #31 so I didn't seem like a lone female going hysterical over some magazine spread.

Aching all over now, though not sure if it was from yoga or from lugging my mat, sports gear, magazine, book and shopping loot all over town the whole day.

Oh dear, and now, just as I'm about to go to bed, I feel my tummy rumbling. My day is about to end the same way it began.

Thursday, March 10

flying away

Feeling increasingly stifled.

Work has been tedious, inducing blinding headaches and I'm producing uninspiring pages. Also have more than a tinge of envy over my former London classmates who are doing so well. Recently caught up on the latest news on them -- two are with The Times, one with The Independent, one with BBC, one with the French Embassy, one is starting a new magazine in India, one is teaching in Lahore, but I am the most envious of one who got married to the Brit boy she met in a pub.

Parents are driving me slightly bonkers with their insistence on moving to the new place they secretly bought in the boondocks. Have been acting like a petulant kid and refusing to uproot, but decided to give in [ungraciously]. This may be the last nice new home they get to live in. But I foresee many arguments over decorating. Already, I've been instructed that the walls in my room can only be in white or beige.

Have to shelf my plans to move out to live on my own, for the time being. That just adds to my resentment of being forced to move to that shoebox of a condo. And did I mention my parents are demanding that my sis and I contribute $5,000 each to the renovation fund?

Add on to all these the stupid stalemate in my love life -- are all men this dense? -- and I feel this tremendous urge to escape from Singa-bore, as two friends who constantly have wanderlust like to say all the time. I don't think I can wait another 60 days till I can validate the New York airticket now sitting in the drawer with my passport.

So there I was yesterday, poking disconsolately at the travel guides in Kinokuniya. Somewhere between New Orleans and Orlando, I found a TimeOut NY, tempting me with its glossy pages filled with shopping and sightseeing.

It was almost too much to bear. Luckily, my New York Travel Companion [henceforth known as NYTC] stopped me from forking over $37.75 [including GST]. From now till May, I shall alleviate my travel pangs with Discovery Travel & Living.

[P.S. This is off a tangent, but I always feel like I'm with kindred spirits when browsing the travel books aisle. These people are planning a trip sometime in the near future, just like me. I want to ask them what exciting place they are flying off to. If they are going to some place I'd been to, I want to tell them about the must-sees and must-dos. But I curb my enthusiasm, because this camaraderie only exists in my head.]

Monday, March 7

hello, again

Another thank you, this time to the "absolutely fabulous" Clara Chow, the lone supporter of this blog with her comments.

hello, gorgeous

In the spirit of this website, I would like to thank the "drop-dead gorgeous" Teo Cheng Wee for alerting me to its existence and providing me with hours of reading pleasure.

Hope this makes up for his utter disappointment in not having his name mentioned on it.

Saturday, March 5

yoga to be kidding

The moment I wake up,
Before I put on my make up,
I weigh myself before I poo.

Well, anyway, I have hit a new low today. Am now merely 800g away from my ideal weight. And without any diet or exercise either [two sessions of yoga over three weeks doesn't count as exercise!].

But I'm proud to announce that I managed to do a shoulder stand on my second yoga lesson. My ultimate goal is to do a head stand, as someone read somewhere -- actually it was Kerouac's On The Road -- that a homeless bum with the same mystery foot ailment as mine did daily head stands and cured himself. Makes sense, since it promotes blood circulation. A rush of blood to the head, literally.

Still on yoga. I dreamt in the early hours of the morning, just as the sun was piercing through my curtains and my eyelids, that I was on a secluded beach somewhere in Sydney -- nope, I've never been there, but somehow you know such things in your dreams! -- watching the sun rise and doing a sun salutation.

Wednesday, March 2

in a twist

This is an extremely inane post, but I just have to do it.

I lost a pair of purple panties with my initials in sequins -- don't ask how I got it.

I have been frantically rummaging through my drawer of drawers -- geddit, drawer of drawers?

I can only conclude that someone has nicked my knickers -- am I witty or am I witty.