Here I am sitting among boxes as I wait for the packers to remove our final belongings as we prepare to leave Singapore. It’s been an experience, mostly wonderful. We came here as refugees – from the emotions surrounding the loss of our daughter Louise and the wish to mourn in a private and fulfilling way, by adventuring and ringing the changes. The deep sense of grieving never goes away and, as I have said many times, time is NOT a healer; but it is possible to fill your mind and your heart with happy experiences that take the raw edge off that insistent nagging realisation that every day you wake up is another without her. Continue reading →
We leave Mana early in the morning, Fi and I in our four-seater, piloted by Sidney. As we near the Falls, he gives us a bird’s eye view, sweeping down low in a 360. We can see the rumours of low water are horribly true – Zambia seems little more than a trickle. They have been siphoning off the water for hydro power, leaving the Zimbabwean side horribly short. Harare has suffered 24 hr power cuts in recent days. Continue reading →
Five days in Bangkok leave me breathless, yet full of energy! We are here to meet up with Dr Fi and her family, and also to catch up with another old uni chum, Patrick Brooks, who has been living a Somerset Maugham-type of existence for the past 30 years or so (actually an ex-dip and now consulting for the EU, trying to teach them diplomacy – the EU that is, rather than the Vietnamese or the Thais, who seem perfectly good at people skills if you ask me). Continue reading →
In this post we welcome old friends to stay in our new apartment and celebrate my birthday…
After almost 9 months here on and off, we feel we can show people round, and at least know where to go to eat! Ross was away in Basel for the first few days, so we enjoyed the vibrancy of the Naitonal Orchid Garden in sunshine; followed by a delicious lunch in the nearby restaurant, only to be interrupted by massive thunderstorm. Poor old Mr and Mrs B had forgotten their umbrellas so got very wet indeed!
Mr and Mrs B enjoying the Orchid Garden
Mrs B and Mrs C trying to merge with the flora…
Dodging showers and trying to find taxis seemed to be the biggest challenges of this visit; nevertheless we areyet again stunned by the Gardens on the Bay; lunch in one of the Supertrees affords a sumptuous view. Not as good as the viewing platform at Marina Bay Sands which had to be done despite black clouds all around.
on the walkway between the Supertrees
Economics grads posing for a team photo
Chinatown is also a must-see in SIngapore, poking round the tat stalls nevertheless affords good bargains while, at the higher end, the intricacies of a specialist tea shop delight. Here Clare bought a dead ringer for the Hare with the Amber Eyes teapot…My more prosaic larger elephant teapot is perfect for more than two people! Thanks Clare!
These are Chinese zodiac teapots
My birthday teapot!
It has to be done, that famous Singapore Sling. So off to Raffles with some of Mr B’s visiting friends – far too sweet for me and, I gather, all pre-made so a bit of a production line. But the Long Bar is a fun place, even if rather full or tourists, like us! Afterwards to a real find, specialist Peranakan/Straits Malay restaurant, Blue Ginger, where we let the waiter do the ordering and we eat greedily and with gusto.
The girls enjoying the Slings
Clare and me in the ancient hallway of Raffles
Mr and Mrs B tucking in…
And so the the birthday: preceding night dinner we feast on chilli crab at Jumbo Seafoods in Boat Quay; then Sunday lunch at one of our favourites, Din Tai Fung, the Taiwanese dumpling house (not as good as the original one in Taipei, but still yummy); and then 20 or so new-found friends, plus one or two older ones from university days, for drinks. As it was Diwali, I ordered samosas, bhajis and pakoras, promptly delivered by Omar Shariff (I wish it was really he, that would have been the best birthday present ever!), and Mr and Mrs B made a few blinis, while Lucie G brought a delicious cake! (see picture up top)
But not all play, dear readers: Mr B had lots of meetings and went out clad in a suit, much to our amusement; while Mrs B, aka Clare Cooper of Art First, and I had a Board meeting and strategy summit on my sofa while I rested my leg on a hot water bottle.
Mr and Mrs B posing in front of the canapes they expertly assembled!
Don’t laugh, you hear me right – I have a large haemotoma on my calf which means I can’t walk or stand for long. A challenge for Monday’s induction meeting at the Tanglin Club which involved a lot of standing about…and even more of a challenge for next weekend’s visit to Mumbai, for our diving in Sulawesi the following week…and the ski season. Painful physio and ultrasound on the menu to try and get my leg back…
I will keep you updated!
lovely orchids en masse
Little India prepares for Diwali
Underneath the yellow orchid bower…
Cleaning my copper tray with tamarind. Result!. #domesticgoddess
Sublime cod at Blue Ginger
Outside the Hindu temple on Diwali
Auspicious Diwali patterns in yoghurt
Yum Cha dumplings…
In the Cloud Forest dome
DOt know what this is but its gorgeous!
Marina Bay Sands in background
Fly-eating plants in the Cloud Forest
A happy Family poses in the Cloud Forest
A bunch of kids atop Marina Bay Sands
The domestic goddess/hostess with the mostest surveys her Diwali feast…
Looking out over the lake at Garsington Opera, Wormsley
Arrived back in Singapore today ready to move into our new apartment tomorrow, and to get our work and residency permits. All a bit grown up. Waiting to re-connect with delicious Chinese food (ie dinner!) provides a little space to look back on the whirl of the past few weeks.
Proud mother Fi, with chorister Hugo
After my lovely few days in the Lake District, we sampled the high life. Fist a vist to Jesus College, Cambridge, where friend Fi’s son Hugo was singing the Monteverdi Vespers. I never went to Jesus when up at Cambridge, but it brought back the memories all right – the best days of our lives, of course, especially as some of the other guests were fellow students…35 years on! Magical singing followed by a delicious dinner in the Jesus Hall. Very convivial.
The gardens at Garsington
Then Opera! Thanks to the glorious English summer we had some stupendous outings to Garsington and Glyndebourne with friends. Sipping champagne by the Lake at Garsington, or on the lawn at Glyndebourne, dining al fresco or in the Glyndebourne restaurant, we felt very privileged. Oh and the music was quite good too!
The glorious new gardens at Garsington Wormsley – with Clare Cooper and Ross
Peonies at Garsington
with Bill and Janie Critchley overlooking the famous Wormsley Cricket pitch
with Jane Hindley at Gyndebourne
with old friend and founder of Wasafiri magazine, Susheila Nasta at Exeter College, Oxford before Caine Dinner
Can’t resist this photo of Trevor looking so grumpy, and he’s with me! What more could a man want?-
With Andy Hodge and Clare Cooper at Henley Regatta
While I had a busy day of meetings (yes I do sometimes work!), Ross mananged to squeeze in a trip to Henley regatta and lunch with Olympic Gold-medal winner, Andy Hodge. Then for me a trip to Oxford and more Fellows’ Gardens for the Caine Prize dinner in the Bodleian Library. Always a time when I see old friends from my African literature days; Ben Okri gave a moving tribute to Chinua Achebe, who died a few weeks ago, and whom I represented at the Booker Prize when he was shortlisted. Those were the days, my friend… In between, a Patron’s Evening at Art First (www.artfirst.co.uk) to launch Natural History, a charming exhibition comprising 28 artists working across a wide range of mixed media and disciplines providing a thoughtful reflection of man’s interaction with the environment. Catch it at 21 Eastcastle Street , London W1.
Marie, Dot and Abby at the Bench/outside the Marathon Kebab House, being filmed
A couple of visits too: one by a film crew, making a documentary on drugs for BBC3/Education, who wanted to talk about ketamine and Louise: we met up with some of her friends by the bench and reminisced. The film is due out in September.
My American half-sister Bonnie paid her annual visit; we also put flowers on the bench, and sat in our garden, which is looking the best ever, especially since we laid a new lawn. Pity we won’t be around to enjoy it!
Bonnie and I at the Bench
The beautiful roses that Felcity Kendal gave us when Louise died – what better place to put such a tribute?
And to end off, the film premiere of friend Iain Softley’s latest film, Trap for Cinderella (ready my review on http://www.vickyatthemovies.net), followed by our proper 30th wedding anniversary celebrations, first, at Petrus – menu gourmand with wine for every course – courtesy best man John Pooler, best maid Fi, and partners;
the girls at Petrus – Hilary, Fi and me…
and secondly with a collection of our oldest friends and some of son Tommy’s, in our garden, where I tried out my newly acquired oriental culinary skills in combination with more British ones…
Bar-tender Tommy serving the drinks…
Wild salmon and all sorts of salads made by me with a little help from my friends!
Vietnamese beef, expertly seared by Tommy
Tommy and girl-friend Olivia
Gosh I feel homesick already…but it’s Shanghai next week.
It’s hard to remember that only two days ago I was standing on top of Great Gable in bright sunshine admiring the Lakeland vistas from one of its highest peaks.
As I sit here on a grizzly June afternoon on the train from Durham to Kings Cross I try to recall the past two weeks of my return to the green green grass of home.
Parkhill Road, new lawn and cornus in full bloom
Leaving Singapore to return to England for a four-week foray has been fun – meeting old friends and family for lunches and suppers; celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary; doing the first cut on our newly laid lawn; the first balmy al fresco supper – on Midsummer’s Day, the anniversary of Louise’s memorial, so always a special day, and one of her favourites. I show off my Tom Yum Goong to Son and friends. Also doing the not so fun – deciding what to take to Singapore for the next few years, what to leave, fighting with John Lewis deliveries and directing the packing.
The Tom Yum Goong special on Midsummer’s day
A little mental titivation at Cambridge University in between, with old chum Fi, to hear Professor David Spiegelhalter, speak engagingly and fascinatingly on hazard ratios (he is a statistician!) and its effect on us: encouraging that as a woman I am going to live longer than men, less so that my life chances decrease by 9% per annum between the ages of 25 and 80, but on the positive side, its only the first 20 minutes of exercise that do any good, the next 40 are a waste of time…phew!
Glen View cottage in Grasmere
And so to continue on my very English odyssey by way of several days in the Lake District. Dear friends John and Hilary Pooler have pretty cottage in Grasmere (Glen View can be booked via http://www.lakelovers.co.uk/) and are local experts. We had two great days walking in fine weather – a Great Gable circuit, starting at Honister Pass and ending at Seatoller; and then the Helm Crag circuit, descending via Far Easedale; and two more normal Lakeland days, meandering about at lower levels in the on/off drizzle.
en route to Great Gable overlooking Buttermere
Hilary atop Green Gable looking across to Great Gable
In another life, when I worked for Heinemann Educational Books (1979 -1993), our founder and my mentor, the old man of Lakes Alan Hill, used to organise an annual, what would now be called ‘teambuilding’, trip to Borrowdale, where Heinemann owned a share in Seatoller House, a charming B&B. The Lake District Trip, as it was known, was a great leveller, with 30 plus of us at all stages of fitness and fatness chugging up and down dale and hill in the day, and repairing to hostelries of an evening (always the same rotation: the Bridge at the Scafell Hotel, the Fishes in Buttermere, and the final night party at Alan’s Rossthwaite house); finishing by playing charades and parlour games – squeak piggy squeak and wink murder were favourites.
Steep descent via Aaron’s Slack to Styehead Tarn- now a much better path than in the 1980s
Great Gable from Honister Pass brought so many memories flooding back: Alan and I leading the slow group – re-named on two occasions as the ’pregnant cripples’ to reflect our respective statuses; banana and honey sandwiches, crisps and Just Juice forming the perfect picnic; baking hot days and stripping off to undies to swim in the tarns and pools – such as Sour Milk Gill; the time our new and reviled MD dropped a pack of condoms out of his wallet (he never recovered form the ignominy); sharing a double bed in the ‘family room’ at Seatoller House with female colleagues. These were indeed the times of our lives.
Self outside Seatoller House
Thinking of Alan, long since dead, reminded me of the times I used to take him round Africa to help decide on company strategy. So eccentric was he that he packed two identical suitcases – lest one got lost! He was renowned for always wanting to change his room, wherever he stayed and for being professorially absent-minded. On every departure I had to check to see what he had forgotten – shirts, underpants and his medications – always at least one – and scoop them up! He loved to regale people of our adventures (and we had many) – always embroidering the tale to make it funnier.
On top of the shoulder leading from Helm’s Crag
The Lakes also reminded me of family holidays with our son, then aged three, rampaging up the fells and our beloved Louise, in a back pack. And later, with the Pooler family again, the children in their teens, girls rock climbing, boys desperately trying to follow the World Cup in Japan, even resorting to taking a portable TV up the fells.
A solitary sheep…
Happy memories of happy times. Tinged with sadness.
Looking towards Buttermere
It’s all about friendship…
Grasmere meadows – fields of cloth of gold
Looking towards Grasmere
A babbling brook – I come from haunt of coot and tern
Dear friend Fi and husband RIchard dropped in for 24 hours en route back to England from Perth. This provided an opportunity for me to masquerade as experienced tour guide and catalyst for reuniting old friends. The photo gallery below tells the story! Click on each image if you want to enlarge
Fi and Richard on our Singapore river boat cruise
The old quayside dwarfed by skyscrapers
late night bars
the old and the new
old British build iron bridges – our captain liked them ‘very strong’
The Fullerton hotel, the old Post Office
very tall buildings!
the Marina Bay hotel with a boat on its roof, a swimming pool in fact
Central Business District
really attractive skyscrapers, many designed by NormanFoster
sideways on view of Marina Bay
the new botanical gardens
Supreme Court (Foster again) – the glass represents transparency
Fi and Richard in Maxwell Hawker Centre for lunch
chicken rice with black pepper, roast duck, dumplings – all $4-5
local speciality – carrot cake, a kind of spicy noodle dish with egg
Maxwell food court
Chinese medicine shop – yuk!
and these dear little pipe fish
Fi and Richard in Haji Lane, part of the trendy middle east fabric area with nice old houses and bars
Sing: Cambridge reunion l-r Simon Rigby, Tubby Shenfield, MArk Greaves, Fi, me, Ross