Monday, April 27, 2009

I ♥ SG & more...

I impulsively signed up to be a volunteer for Singapore Day in London because I missed home quite a bit. Work commitments soon poured in and I realized I was unable to attend any of the briefings since I would not be in London. Nevertheless, I received an email, notifying my role, just like a regular Singaporean 18 year old boy receiving their notice to serve National Service.

Don't you just love Singapore?

Singapore Day @ Hampton Court Palace

So since I was unable to turn up for the briefing, it is natural to kena the worst role ever - Food Queue Manager Shift One. Shift One indicates you have to report at 9am at some ulu part outside central London. That equates to waking up at ungodly hours on a Saturday, yes sir. And what on earth is a Food Queue Manager? I imagine myself to be screaming over throngs of over-zealous Singaporeans storming the grounds for their beloved home delicacies.

(Gets ignored)
(Gets ignored and shoved around)
(Gets ignored and finally stamped to oblivion)

How glamourous.

Anyhow, that is just my over-active imagination. The reality was much more bearable. Singaporeans have been trained to queue since they were born. There was no unruly behaviours and everything was orderly. My job was in fact, quite boring. Few people came to me for directions and recommendations for which food to queue for.

I was a Food Queue Manager located in Katong.

Chili Crab so popular until finished already, you know?

Felix gets highly amused whenever I spout or quip random Singaporean phrases in our conversations. Sometimes, it goes "Why like that?!" (when a major baking disaster occurs) or "Aiya, finished already!" (when I run out of chocolate cookies). Just so to certify the validity of such phrases, I took the above picture just to prove to him that "Finished already" is an actual phrase.

A Not-so-sweet Reminder of Home

Mr Brown, who was present at the event, told some of the incoming attendees that the ERP deducts money each time they enter. Some of them worriedly took out their wallets to check. I tried hard to suppress the urge to check mine when I exited. Such is the fear ingrained in me by the ERP systems in Singapore. They were everwhere!

Finally, my shift ended at 1230pm and I could queue for my own food! Yay. I had nasi lemak, dough fritters, curry puffs and muah chee.

The muah chee was a toxic shade of green, unlike anything I have seen in Singapore. I am not sure why. Maybe Hougang 6 Miles Famous Muah Chee makes them this way. I haven't heard of them, though. Are they that famous, huh?

Anyway, I enjoyed myself tremendously and I just felt really blessed to be part of a country which goes through such lengths to make sure Singaporeans abroad think of home. I mean, how often do you get this from the government of other countries? The Singapore government must have spent a bomb on this - from flying celebrities to the excellent coordination and design of the entire event.

The food must be so good that the London policemen themselves were queuing for them and the goodie bags. Not very professional or impressive, but I did indeed witness that.

I ♥ SG Goodie Bag

Hampton Court Palace itself was a gorgeous location. The cloudy skies gave way to bright sunshine - the perfect condition for a carnival atmostphere and picnics.

Spring is here and flowers are bloomnig.

The duck squad!

Yeah, so Felix tried on the T-shirt, cleverly designed and gifted from Ministry of Communication and Arts.

He wants his chicken rice NOW.

The red shirt is only for volunteers. A man came up to me during my shift to ask me if he could buy it.

Yeah, and that is all for Singapore Day. And yes, I ♥ SG to bits, quirks and all.

On a parting note, yesterday's was Flora London Marathon. I want to run a race in London! I was too late in participating for yesterday's race. Perhaps I will join the Run for Cancer race in July.

The weather and atmosphere is just perfect!

Fuzzy mascot cheerleader

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Transversing England

For the past 3 days, work has brought me to Sunderland, a 4-hour train ride away from Central London. Sunderland is a city in Tyne and Wear, England. Sunderland is a metropolitan county in North East England and consists of the five metropolitan boroughs of South Tyneside, North Tyneside, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead and of course, the City of Sunderland.

I guess the male population in Singapore will be more familar with Newcastle as it is quite a popular soccer club in the English Premier League. It is indeed odd to have my brother quite excited, learning I am going to Manchester or Newcastle for work. I assure you, there isn't a whiff of soccer during any of my work trips. I did however, did some spots of shopping in these two cities, when I have some time to spare The shopping is much less hassled than in London.

Although the other members of the research team told of the unbearable weather conditions in Sunderland, I was surprisingly blessed with summer-like conditions and sunshine. From Sunderland, you get a great view of the North Sea and it was quite a breath-taking view from inside the car. My local host mentioned you might die of hypothermia if you even try to dip your toe into the freezing North Sea, though.

Now, I am on my train back to Central London. The train has complimentary internet on board - whee!

Off-peak trains are great, with many seats available to choose from.

My companions for the 4-hour train ride: Water, kick-ass chocolate muffin and my current book-of-the-week.

I have another stash from Amazon waiting for me at home. Ordering books online in Amazon UK is just.. well amazingly cheap and convenient.

A view of the North Sea from the train

The most kick-ass chocolate muffin from a bakery franchise called Greggs.

I don't think I have seen that franchise in Central London. I have bought chocolate muffins from Marks and Spencers, Sainsbury and other bakeries. This one hits the spot best. Its official name is boringly known as the "Triple Chocolate Muffin". Somehow, the bunch of innocuous chocolate muffins screamed at me the first day I walked past with Lizzie to get her morning coffee dosage.

The muffin is chocolate, with a gooey chocolate center and huge, huge chunks of chocolate. Now, this is what I call a chocolate muffin.

All righty, another 3 hours to go before I hit King's Cross. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is apparently filming in Central London right now. Darn, I don't think Book 7 went anywhere near King's Cross. Hmm.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Should Be Microchipped

(From Mutts Comics)

I miss Mister Toto.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Book Thief: My Easter Read

For some reason, I am drawn to the stories of Holocaust. Amongst the many museums within the Smithsonian Institute, I dragged my aunt to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. when we were there 5 years ago.

The Book Thief is not quite about the Holocaust, but stories on the other side of the Holocaust. It suggests humanity within a race that has been branded with evilness during the time of WW2.

Oh, and it is narrated by Death.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Cat is 30!

3rd April is incidentally the birthday of my brother, my cousin Rachel and Felix. Woah, I am surrounded by Aries, ain't I?

Initially, I thought of baking a Linzer Torte as Felix's birthday cake. However, Betty has used the baking tray to bake a banana-chocolate cake the day before. So, I got a Mixed Berry Cheesecake from Tesco Finest instead - and I must say - it is one of the most marvellous dessert I have ever eaten. And it costs only 4 pounds! Gee.

Mixed Berry Heaven. Mmm....

Felix was instructed to come home early that night. I spent the late morning putting some birthday decorations up. Flo was a great help with the balloon-blowing. Subsequently, I made a trip to the supersized supermarket, Tesco, 25 minutes walk away. I went to the supermarket without a prior idea of what to cook except green chicken curry. Hence, there was an urgent need to get inspired by any exotic groceries on sale.

At about 5pm, I started skewering prawns, peppers and mushrooms and lavishly spread the precious commodity that is sambal chilli, and some forest honey on the skewers. Flo woke up and helped with frying the bacon, which I wrapped over asparagus that I stir-fried with oyster sauce.


Tick, tock. Felix called to announce he is at the Underground station. Panic ensued. Flo quickly worked on the appetizer of bruschetta. I hurriedly started my green chicken curry.

Suddenly, Felix was just right outside the door! More panic ensued and we refused to let him in. Betty, who was coming home, was sent to distract him.

Finally, Flo got the fireworks started...

Sizzling Sparkles!


Felix got intrigued by the fireworks.

The birthday boy!

The birthday boy served the champagne to get the feast going...

Food, glorious food...

After a sumptuous meal, it was time to bring out the presents!

Betty presented the Chinese Elm Bonsai Tree which Felix promptly christened Elmo.

Felix was speechless with joy, being the green thumb he is.

The happy boy and Elmo. (Note the badge that announces that he is 30 years old!)

The wonderful housemates who made the celebration a success... Betty and Flo!

Say hi to Elmo, y'all!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Bonjour, Paris!