Sunday, December 31, 2006

the final hour

It's the last hour of 2006 here and while the beats of the beach party (out in the rainy windy cold) boom in the background, R and I are warm and cozy in my little room on the seventh floor. What better way to spend New Year's Eve?

Looking back, it's been quite a year full of challenges, setbacks, laughter, happiness, fun and love. Then again, which year isn't? But 2006 was quite a surprising one - my first resignation letter, a new environment, writing term papers on subjects I hardly know anything about, falling in love with a wonderful man.

What will the new year bring? A dwindling bank account, new classes, two more term papers and a dissertation, for sure, but hopefully lots more of the good stuff too.

Here's to a great 2007.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

happy holidays

The (temporary unannounced) hiatus from blogging is over and while I have so much to write about, I'll start with what i know best - the food. But basically, R finally arrived on Dec 18 and we've been doing some wandering around Brighton. And on Christmas Eve we went up to London for two nights to stay with my cousins in Hackney.

We hit Maggie Jones for a late Sunday roast on Christmas Eve. At about 18 pounds per three-course set, it wasn't exactly cheap but it was yummy.

My choice: Venison pate (served with toasted bread triangles), the roast beef with yorkshire pudding (perfect!), 'burnt cream' (a generous helping of creme brulee with a solid layer of caramelised sugar, so hard that it required several hard taps of the spoon to crack)

R's choice: Duck liver pate (served with toast and gherkins), roast lamb (not bad), apple crumble (a bit too sour)

Ching's choice: Stilton mousse (creamy and cheesy), seabreem (which wasn't up to standard and was kinda boney), passionfruit and mango terrine (nice and light and fruity).

The restaurant was too dark for photos and really quite crowded, and the waiter took a while to take our dessert orders but it was a good meal, a good start to two days of feasting.

Maggie Jones
6 Old Court Place, London, W8 4PL
Telephone: 0871 2238083

For Christmas Eve dinner, it was good old laksa (fresh from the Prima box!) with loads of fresh prawns and taupok.

On Christmas Day, the eating never seemed to stop, starting with breakfast of brioche lavishly spread with Nutella, then there was pasta for lunch and stollen and Dundee Cake. Then after a round of Cranium, the dinner began - parsnip soup, roast pistachio-crusted citrus-sesame oil-brown sugar-glazed lamb, wasabi mash, pureed carrots, and brussel sprouts with chestnuts. Dessert was apple-banana-mince crumble and a Somerfield Christmas pudding.

On Boxing Day, with leftover stollen, pudding and brioche in our stomachs, and the public transport finally up and running (somewhat) we took a bus over to the city and did a building tour, such as

The Gherkin

Leadenhall Market
photos by R

Then a stop by the baklava store in Hackney for an assortment of sweetsweetsweet stuff before heading back out for more food - this time in Chinatown, where the prerequisite stop is the Kowloon Bakery where I pushed my way to a boxful of pastries. And then to some Chinese restaurant for steamed fish, roast duck, hakka yong tau foo, spicy eggplant, beef and kailan, and preserved cabbage and pork soup. R and I headed back to Brighton on the megabus after the dinner, stuffed and happy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the count

I'm obsessed with word count. I find my cursor drifting to "Tools", then down to "Word Count" every so often. For such a thrill it is to see the numbers inch their way up. It's not the numbers that count I know but I can't help it. I'm just waiting to strike that lucky figure, so I can feel like I have accomplished something and then I can take my mind off it for my two precious weeks with R.

Looks like I could do with some Old Fashioned Morphine (Jolie Holland does it just right)

Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs were Soft There

Hilary Mantel writes sentences I reread. Not because they're complex and convoluted or bewildering, but because they're simple yet filled with so many ideas and thoughts. It makes me furrow my brow and wonder how anyone could write like that.

And I cannot help but compare her to the last book I read - Jeremy Mercer's Time Was Soft There, which the lovely acquisition librarian at Jubilee ordered for me.

It sounded like a magical journey.. a sojourn at a legendary bookstore in Paris - Shakespeare & Co - by a Canadian crime journalist on the run after a death threat. How dreamy the title sounded - until I learnt what Mercer really meant by it, which made it harsher, more rough-around-the-edges, much like his book and his writing. His book feels like it needs another year to sit by the river Seine and absorb more of Paris. It is filled with fun punchy characters but some of them tend to glaze over and could do with a bit more fleshing out. It is such a marvellous tale - of the legendary George Whitman, a larger than life man who opened the store in 1951 and still runs it despite being in his 90s - helped by his daughter Sylvia. So I cannot help but feel a bit disappointed that I wasn't more thrilled with this book.

And then I find out that the UK version is titled Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs. While this is a horrible unfortunate use of alliteration, I cannot help but think this title suits the book better. And yet, if I'd heard about a book called 'Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs' would I have picked it up? I doubt it. I don't get the change in name, although I'm sure this would make an interesting segue into the reading habits of Britain vs North America. But I have 2500 more words of one and 1500 more words of another to finish. So please carry on without me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

curry favour

What better way to spend a windy Thursday afternoon with a steep climb up a hill, five minutes trying to figure out the area code for Brighton, a tour around a 150-year-old house which is slowly being remodelled by its owners on their days off, a hearty lunch of chicken curry, glutinous rice with tumeric, stirfried vegetables with prawns and red bean soup, having a 3yo generously offer you his toy cars to play with.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I wake to a sky of pinks, purples, reds and blues. The sea a calm, gentle lull. The birds flirting with the balmy breeze. The last stragglers emerging from the dark of the beachside club below, pausing in the chilly morning air for that one more smoke, one last kiss. My head still filled with dreams, my eyes still filled with sleep.

Monday, December 04, 2006


There's that moment.

When the hair's been washed clean, no soap bubbles remain. When your objectives for getting in that shower cubicle have been fulfilled. It's that moment of nothingness. A moment when time seems to slow down, and nothing matters but that hot water cascading down your body. That moment when all your worries, your aches, your pains seem to drain, swirling down beneath your toes. That moment you want to last forever, because standing in that tiny shower cubicle, you feel rested. You don't want to turn that water off. You don't want to open that door. You don't want the cold to rush in and make you start that hasty jittery process of grab-the-towel-off-the-rail-and-dry-off-quick-as-you-can.

But the work calls, the pile is ever growing, the paper still scant of words.

At least the bathrobe is warm.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

pita pizza

Pita pizza's the new fried rice.

When you've got four pitas which hit their "best by" date tomorrow, and you just had a pita sandwich for lunch, it calls for new ways to deal with these things.

And so the pita pizza was born.

I am of course, not taking credit for this. I'm sure millions of people have eaten it this way, but I've only just thought about it.

I keep buying pita, which come in a six pack, and always end up eating them either cold as a sandwich, or warmed in the oven as an accompaniment to soup.

So today, pita pizza has been added to my repertoire.

It's simple, quick and such an effective use of various items in my fridge that I wonder why I never thought about it before.

No tomato sauce? No problem - just use that bottle of pesto that's in the back corner of the shelf there.

Slather it onto the pita, slice up some courgettes and place them on the pestoed pita. Dig in the fridge for the bacon and the salami. Fry up the bacon first, cos bacon's just no good when it's not crispy.

Top it all off with some spices/herbs/seasonings.

Pop in the preheated oven, which was about 180 deg.

And er, when it looks right, take it out.

Yes, I'd make such an excellent cook book writer - precise instructions and all.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

term's over

Well nearly.
It's week nine and there aren't any formal classes next week. The library's still packed with students - mostly undergrads with papers due.

But to celebrate the end of term, and to say goodbye somewhat as not all of us are taking the same courses next year, the nine of us in the course hit Las Iguanas in the North Laine to celebrate.

With two-for-one drinks all night, thanks to the classmate who amazingly works full-time there as a manager while juggling the course part-time (and who kept the drinks coming), and pretty yummy latin american food, it was a fantastic time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

listening comprehension

I first read of Tally Hall on monoceros' blog, and they were mentioned on some music blogs too. I just adore their version of The Killers' Smile Like You Mean It, maybe even more than the original. Apparently it's from the OC soundtrack. I got it off one of the music blogs although I forget which now.

here's the yousendit if you'd like a listen.

more to read

The Guardian Review has a two parter on writers and their picks for 2006. I can't help it. I love lists.
part one
part two

Philip Pullman recommends Marjane Satrapi's new book Chicken With Plums.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I'm well stocked for the weekend - in books that is.
From the school library, I've got 13 (!) out, most of which are only due back in January, and from the Jubilee (public), another 3, one of which - Persepolis - I've just finished and am so glad I picked up. It's an absolute gem.
It's time to start figuring out where my term papers are headed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

bad news

I'm longing for a satisfying hot cooked breakfast. But no time today have to leave for school in half an hour or so and the cold cereal will have to do for now.

Had the shocking news yesterday that a tutor's husband was in an accident overseas and she had to fly there, cancelling her classes for the rest of term. The co-tutor has stepped in, but his area of expertise is quite different so I'm not entirely sure how that will work out and how he can supervise term papers. I just hope things turn out all right for the tutor and her family.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Where did it all go?

This weekend zipped by. Spending the day out on Saturday did eat up well, a whole day. And by the time I got back, I was a bit too pooped to do any work.

Sunday was a different story, sitting on the beach for about 45 minutes until my hands got too cold. (I feel like I have to make full use of a sunny day) Then a trip to the supermarket, where I bought too many things and had a painful walk back with a heavy bag. And some decent reading put in in the afternoon (although sidetracked by an episode or two of Greys)

And then today, a few hours in the library, followed by a hearty latte at the Gardner - the only decent coffee in school - with my packed lunch. But as I sat there, reading and sipping my coffee, the sun decided to make an appearance and there went the rest of my resolve. I headed back into Brighton and watched the sun set from my window.

Haven't done this for a while, but here's a download. (it's an m4a file)
Richard Julian - On Your Own

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bath and Stonehenge

It's always painful to wake up and leave the house before seven, even if it's for a fun reason. The streets were still dark and it was pretty cold.

But about 1 1/2 hours, there was Stonehenge, fenced off from the main road, with cars zipping by this ancient wonder. It was quiet, little noise from the visitors as everyone listened to the audio tours from large grey devices that reminded me of the mobile phones of years ago.

It is an amazing sight, these ancient stones, in formation, in the middle of these fields.

I am no writer, so I shall (as the audio tour did) use some lines from Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles:

“What monstrous place is this?” said Angel.

“It hums,” said she. “Hearken!”

He listened. The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp. No other sound came from it, and lifting his hand and advancing a step or two, Clare felt the vertical surface of the structure. It seemed to be of solid stone, without joint or moulding. Carrying his fingers onward he found that what he had come in contact with was a colossal rectangular pillar; by stretching out his left hand he could feel a similar one adjoining. At an indefinite height overhead something made the black sky blacker, which had the semblance of a vast architrave uniting the pillars horizontally. They carefully entered beneath and between; the surfaces echoed their soft rustle; but they seemed to be still out of doors. The place was roofless. Tess drew her breath fearfully, and Angel, perplexed, said —

“What can it be?”

Feeling sideways they encountered another tower-like pillar, square and uncompromising as the first; beyond it another and another. The place was all doors and pillars, some connected above by continuous architraves.

“A very Temple of the Winds,” he said.

The next pillar was isolated; others composed a trilithon; others were prostrate, their flanks forming a causeway wide enough for a carriage and it was soon obvious that they made up a forest of monoliths grouped upon the grassy expanse of the plain. The couple advanced further into this pavilion of the night till they stood in its midst.

“It is Stonehenge!” said Clare.

And after an hour's drive, Bath, where we hit the Roman Baths Museum. And listened to yet another audio tour - but one which also included insights from Bill Bryson which were more interesting.

You don't actually get down to the main baths until much later through the museum. Instead there are various artefacts to look at first.

Then you get to the bottom level, which you've been getting peeks and glimpses at through the windows of the museum above, and then you can truly appreciate the ingenuity of the Romans, and their penchant for a good soak.

A view of the Bath Abbey (where a Roman temple probably had once stood) from the Roman bath.

The plunge pool

And after all that history, the afternoon was free to wander around this beautiful place.

A walk through the Royal Victoria Park

At the entrance of the park, a fairytale cottage

The Royal Crescent

The Pulteney Bridge

And after, a 3 1/2 hour bus ride back to Brighton. It was a long day but a good one.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


More soon

Thursday, November 16, 2006

for now, a moment

I returned from several hours in school - digging up some old books from the library (including a lovely 1937 edition of a Rudyard Kipling book) and talking to a couple of my lecturers about term papers - to delight in a respite from the howling wind. No longer is it rattling at my window, trying to force its way in to freeze me from head to toe. No longer are the waves bashing against the pebbled shore. No longer did I have to stagger against the wind when crossing Middle Street to get to the flat.

But not for long I'm sure. The forecast is showers over the rest of the week, although Saturday has the glorious forecast of "Cloudy", a good sign as I'm off to Bath and Stonehenge!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

excess baggage

Britain's environment minister Ben Bradshaw urged shoppers to dump excess packaging at supermarket tills
Mr Bradshaw said it was "unacceptable" that packaging had increased by 12% between 1999 and 2005, and now accounts for one-third of an average household's total waste.

The Guardian takes him up on it

I have noticed that supermarkets like M&S like to wrap stuff up, for example, four apples on a plastic tray and covered with plastic wrap! How ridiculous. But I am indeed guilty of bagging bananas and picking up mini trays of peas. But sometimes there's no choice. I try to make up for it by bringing my own canvas shopping bag instead of lugging two or three plastic bags back. But sometimes I have to make a stop at the store after school and end up with plastic bags.

The situation was really far worse in Singapore where I just never thought abt the numerous bags I used. Everything would be bagged at checkout and popped into the car. Here, where I have to bag it myself and lug it all home, a 10 minute walk away, these things matter more.


I'm done with presentations for this year.

It's always nervewracking presenting, even when the class has only six people and 1 lecturer. I can't concentrate on what my groupmate is saying as I'm going over my bit in my head. I keep thinking, come on, it's only 15 minutes, it's not that bad. And then when it's my turn, I realise I keep saying "sorta" often and hastily try to stop myself. I stumble over words and I find myself repeating things. I look around the room for a supportive nod, to make sure people understand what I'm saying. And then I get to the conclusion and it's over.

I know we're not expected to be able to be profoundly proficient in the topic for the week. After all, I've only had a week to prepare on the caste system, which you could spend your whole lifetime trying to figure out. There's only so much that can be done but I cannot help but want to get a much broader view on things. So I've decided it's my term paper topic. Now to narrow it down to something more specific and figure out a title... (and also to think about what the other term paper should be on)

I'm glad it's over, at least for now.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

come again another day

I knew that spell of sunshine wouldn't last forever...I woke up to a gloomy Monday, the streets slick with rain, the waves a surfer's dream.

Sunday lunch

sunday lunch

So it's not your usual English Sunday lunch, which always makes me think of Yorkshire pudding and roast beef, sitting around a heavy dark wooden table in a cosy pub somewhere down the back alleys. And of course, several pints.

Instead, it's a simple spaghetti thrown on top of some roughly chopped crisp salad leaves, tossed with salt, pepper and olive oil and with some prosciutto torn up and placed on top. Serve that with a mug of hot green tea and Edward Said's Orientalism. And finish with a sliced-up large persimmon, which I found at the organic Asian store, Taj.

So this post is for you mum, to let you know that my diet's more than sandwiches and soup!

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Reading for this MA has sorta rekindled my fondness for things ancient. I used to love history and wanted to be an archaeologist. Then somehow, somewhere...well in JC really, that love vanished. I couldn't see any connection between what I was reading, desperately cramming for, and well, myself. We were learning all this stuff about South-east Asian history, and then when it got to second year and it would be all about China, I faltered and dropped it (plus I did really badly overall in first year and was in that group which was "encouraged" by the school to drop a subject). I realise now I should've dropped economics but that's a different story.

But here, now, as I'm reading all this stuff about places I've never been to (Africa and South Asia), it's fascinating. I suppose it's partly cos I'm not a teenager wanting to go against everything anymore. But also partly cos I realise how much it's like a jigsaw puzzle, all this history, all these European representations of the Other. And how it affects so much today. And how myself, as an Other, being here in England, the land of the colonisers, am learning about myself by being here. Yes, you were all right, being here makes me realise that I am Chinese. I still don't really know what being a Singaporean means though. But does anybody?

sushi for dessert

Snack Cake Sushi! and especially check out the chocolate sushi

I think I'll stick to the normal sushi thanks.

What I learnt today

When you have a birthday party for 3-year-olds, musical chairs won't cut it. There's too much confusion (like walking in different directions) and when a kid doesn't get a chair, tears follow.

Question: Why was I at a party for 3-year-olds?
Answer: It was my host's son's birthday.

More questions: Host? What?

The university has a programme for interested international students where they match us up with alumni who live in the area. I was lucky to be picked for this and got matched to a Malaysian lady who lives in the area. She took an MPhil a few years ago and married and settled here. She plays host to me and a Japanese girl. There isn't any hard and fast rules to the programme I believe, it's really up to the host to make plans. So she invited us to her son's party and then lunch at her home in a couple of weeks.

An hour in a room with some 20 young ones jumping in an inflatable castle, running around and yelling was about all I could take. I walked out into the fading light of the afternoon a little dazed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dead ahead

I now know more about cadavers than I ever knew (or wished to know) before.

Stiff is a rather strangely compelling book. If it werent for the millions of other things I had to read for class, I'd probably have finished it earlier.

There are bits about cadavers being used for practising surgery, on human decay, on crash test dummies, on embalming. And the author Mary Roach agonises over what she'll do with her body when it's her time to go.

Roach, a journalist, is both appreciative of her subjects and also quite amused about the cadaver situation.

"The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens and nothing is expected of you."

With such an opening paragraph, how could I not take this book home? It was just demanding to be read instead of languishing on the shelf at the library. So go on, take home a Stiff today.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

explosions in the sky

The fireworks show continues, perhaps even more ardently than yesterday.

From the kitchen window, looking south, I watched as the sky sparkled in all directions. A burst of red from one direction, followed by several bursts of bright white there, another shower of green over there, some bright yellow being shot up in another direction. It was hard to count but just from that window, I could guess at some 20 fireworks fanatics having a blast of a time.

My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion

I love Wayne Coyne
Here is a man, a lead singer of a band, who comes out on stage to shoot confetti at the audience before the opening act even comes on.
Here is a man who comes out on stage to check on the setup and er shoots more confetti at the audience while he's at it.
Here's a man who halfway through the show stops to talk about the opening act and praises him for his dering-do.
Here is a man who stops the concert while paramedics help someone who apparently had some kinda reaction (seizure maybe) to the strobe lights.
So yes, I love Wayne Coyne.
I love the Flaming Lips.
I would like to say now that I can die happy having finally seen then in concert, but I'm not satisfied...I was up in the balcony. I need to be in the front, to get shot at with confetti.

Anyway, I must say that I was quite surprised at the rather lackadaisal attitude of the pit. When we got there at about 645, the standing room only was hardly standing room only! There were a few people at the front, firmly chopeing their places but the rest of the people only sauntered in through the opening act.

The opening act: Get Cape Wear Cape Fly (he repeated the name thrice but it was only when Coyne said it that I finally understood) is rather emo but was actually pretty good though, him and his guitar and his drummer and his laptop and a trumpeter.

But as every opening act knows, we were there for the Lips. And the Lips did not disappoint!

There was the inflatable hamster wheel that Wayne gets in and walks on the audience in.
There's the gang of Santa Clauses on the right and the gang of aliens on the left (ok so I was expecting the animal suits). There was the laser show. There was Wayne inflating a massive balloon filled with confetti until it bursts, sprinkling coloured paper on the audience below. There was the nun puppet. There was the whirling over the head of a light bulb thingy. There was however no fake blood.
flaming lips 3
But there were all my favourites:
Race to the Prize
Fight Test
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
Do You Realise?
She Don't Use Jelly
and of course, many more, including from their new album like Free Radicals and My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion, and also, the description (and many swearwords) about a thief who had snuck into their dressing room and stole a laptop and cameras.

Friday, November 03, 2006

the gunpowder treason and plot

For the past week, fireworks have been going off around town at night and in the evenings. Its bonfire night on Saturday and the nearby village of Lewes apparently is nationally renowned for its bonfire with six bonfire societies battling it out for top honours - burning of Guy Fawkes and all that. Stores selling fireworks have suddenly sprung up along the route to school and obviously from the noise outside, some people aren't gonna wait for Saturday. Actually the fact that it is on Saturday already shows that it's all about the fireworks cos the Fifth of November is really on Sunday isn't it?

Anyway I'm not gonna be there, because (a) it's gonna be bloody crowded (b) it's gonna be freaking cold (c) I'm gonna be at the Brighton Centre watching the Flaming Lips. What to do?


My flatmate Yukiko cooked a delicious dinner of chirashi sushi and miso soup. And now I'm stuffed and I have to attack India, well not literally, but start on my readings for the class on South Asia next Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Think tank

This masters course is like a full-time job. If I'm not in class or in a seminar or at a talk, I'm in the library or in my room reading for this week, for last week, for next week.
I've got a pile of photocopied chapters for my presentation next week on commodities and consumption, and the lecturer for the other course, who starts teaching the second half of European Representatives of Africa and Asia (she teaches the Asia part, which really should be titled SOUTH Asia), just emailed to say that she's got 15 articles she'd like us to read over the next four weeks. This is besides the reading list she already gave us and which I've not had a decent chance to have a look at yet.
I feel a desperate need for a week's break in between. I need a chance to look over everything I've read and to get a headstart for the rest of the term. I can't believe it's been a month already and a month after this, it's time to write the two 5,000-word essays for the term's two courses.
I knew it wouldn't be easy but I didn't expect it to feel this hectic.
One of my classmates just switched to a part-time version where he does 1 course per term, and over two years instead of one. That sounds more sensible. To be able to read more indepth and not think of that growing pile of notes, books, articles and plenty, plenty of thoughts.
And I haven't a bloody clue what my two essay topics should be on yet.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

turning back time

I bought The Sunday Times , mostly for its three magazines. And now it's nearly 630pm and I've only just browsed through them. So I'm now wondering why I spent two pounds on something I probably won't have time to read... Where do people get the time to read this backbreaking hefty paper with many sections and three magazines? The train to London I suppose would be a good time to read it. But there's the issue of trying to open pages and not jab your seat neighbour in the eye. I would like to sit outdoors somewhere, sink into a comfy chair, sip a latte and read the papers - all three million sections of it. Instead, they're strewn in a pile on the floor next to the chair. Oh that's right, I suppose instead of being online I could be reading them. I'm afraid that's why it's an addiction. I can't get enough of the Internet. I feel lost and alone without it. It's a huge time-waster. I have piles of uncompleted notes lying around the desk and more books to read for class next week. So I have no choice but to withdraw for a while, maybe get some dinner and read the papers over dinner. And then it'll be back to work. That about sums up my Sunday, oh except for having sat on the beach this morning, reading one of the books for next week and watching more go-getting people wakeboard, sail or canoe. And less go-getting others lounge around on the cafes on the boardwalk. And middling go-getters like me and the guy a few metres away from me who looked like he was studying from notes, who were attempting to laze and do something at the same time. I blame it on daylight savings time.

Friday, October 27, 2006

morbid distractions

Was halfway doing a meme on books when I got stuck on the five books that mean a lot to me. Doing the meme was really just a distraction from thinking about the presentation I have to do in a few hours, which was originally meant for Tuesday but postponed to today. It's been hanging on my back like the mutated foetus of a twin - in London I was reading my cousin's copy of Mutants: On the Forms, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body, a rather fascinating book, which I promptly made a reservation for at the library here, where in the meantime I picked up Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

London weekend


London on the weekend - and during half-term - is all about dodging human traffic: on the sidewalks, crossing the roads, in the stores, in the museums...but it is such a great city, with wonderful old buildings, plenty of free museums and great cafes... plenty to see, despite the weather (although I must say that Saturday was a beautiful day, Sunday not so much). It was especially good to see my cousins, who brought me around and put me up.

We hit the museums - the Royal Academy, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern. Opting to not queue for tickets for the new exhibitions, we wandered the permanent exhibitions, but the crowds were too great. I did get to have a look at the Unilever Series: Test Site by Carsten Holler, essentially a series of whirly slides, from the second, third, fourth and fifth floors of the Tate Modern, a former powerhouse. The timed tickets went quick and we weren't staying that long anyway as I had a train to catch back to Brighton that evening. But did it look fun. Sliders got a sack to sit on and off they went - both young and old. Making art fun huh.
Tate Modern
Another highlight was the eating:
Loved those lights!

Delicate cakes and coffee or tea.sketch1
My favourite was the coconut-coriander-green apple snow dome. It sure didn't sound or look too appetising (when it's halved, it kinda looks like a vegetable bao) but we took a gamble and it was great. None of the flavours overwhelmed and it was instead really yummy. The chocolate cake was quite standard, quite chocolatey. The raspberry tart, was well, a raspberry tart (but rather generous with the berries). The cardinal was a purple blackcurrent delight, although it did somewhat taste a bit like a blackcurrent pastille, it did have great contrasting textures.
Coffee and tea were served in these delightful crockery and the napkins all had the cafe's phone number scrawled on them.
The toilet cubicles were egg-shaped pods, rather claustrophic in their airplane-like enclosures.
Korean food for dinner (haven't seen a Korean restaurant in Brighton yet!) where the spicy beef stew warmed me up on a chilly night.
Dim sum for Sunday late lunch at 3pm. In Chinatown of course. Followed by hot tau huay at the back of the Kowloon bakery, where I picked up a boxful of Chinese baked goods home.

The ride back was a half-train half-bus journey, stopping at Hayward Heath and bussing all the passengers back over to Brighton. And then it was a 15 minute walk back in the drizzling rain.

glory glory

I can live for 1 month without a TV, but two days without Internet and I get all shaky.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

two-legged race

I yanked open the freezer drawer (there are three drawers but only two seem to open) and dug around for my chicken legs. I was half-bent on making a soup, cooking up the carrots but realising I'd finished the celery a couple of days ago. And the soup always tastes better with celery.

So I dug around my two half shelves in the fridge for ideas and spotted the jar of pesto I'd picked up at the supermarket. Yes...I could do something with that.

I finely chopped a couple of cloves of garlic, mixed it in with the pesto, sprinkled in some pepper and spread the pesto-garlic paste under the skin of the now defrosted chicken leg. The other was treated to a butter, salt and pepper rub. And then both were placed in my oiled makeshift roasting pan (sheets of aluminium foil with the sides folded up to make a rectangular box and placed on a baking sheet) and into the preheated oven.

I went with the pesto chicken for dinner, served with sugar snap peas and carrots and baby potatoes. The other leg I'm saving for tomorrow.

Monday, October 16, 2006


It was oddly quiet at 1am. I listened but the only thing I could hear were the waves.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

weight of it all

I'd reached my loan limit on short loan books (those you can take out for a week) at school. My classmate had to get two books out for me. I've got books on the shelf, books on the table, books on the windowsill. I bought three old books at the school library sale for 5 pounds and convinced my classmate to go back and add another to her pile. The library sends these automatic email reminders about when books are due which bugs the hell out of me, as if somehow alleging that I'm about to forget to renew or return them. Alright already!

I've wondered how to structure my notes - according to themes? according to who said what? It seems rather important to know that Catherine Hall says this but Thomas Holt says that and then again Ann Stoler said this other thing. Then for the other class, it's Giddens vs Beck vs Bauman vs Rosenberg and yet not vs all the time. Two of my pens have already run dry with my doctor's handwriting and it's only been two weeks of school yet.

I woke up this morning wondering why it felt so warm and found the heater had magicked itself on in the middle of the early morning. Yet the kitchen's always freezing. Having breakfast, I wondered what I'd have for lunch and wondered then why I always have to lead with my stomach. Then I start making my grocery list, knowing that when I'm on my way back from the store, I'd remember something I forgot.

Have to make some sense of this.

PS happy birthday dad.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Start today tomorrow

We've been having amazing weather this past week, although I suppose I shouldn't gloat about it too much as it's supposed to rain next week and temperatures will drop.

But I've been indoors, trying to work out certain head-scratching concepts and theories and reading in preparation for my presentation next week.

Unfortunately it's a Friday night and I can hear what are probably undergrads yelling at themselves at the nearby Kings Road Arches where there are a couple of clubs by the beach. It's on nights like these where I wonder what I'm doing here - time zones away from loved ones and good friends, miles away from comfort zones, bank account running dry.

Then on other days, sitting outdoors having lunch and chatting with my classmates, walking through The Lanes to get to one of the pubs, looking out my window and watching the waves come in, going past the Royal Pavilion on the way to school, getting that "aha!" moment when everything I've been struggling to read suddenly clicks and makes sense for a change, I know.

I guess I might've missed out on today's moment.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Good eats

Everything is so big in America!” she said. “It makes Britain look like toytown.”
Nigella Lawson goes shopping in New York (via The Food Section)

Fish on Monday? I eat it all the time...

Anthony Bourdain answers five questions

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Going green

One thing I really like about the campus is the number of eating spots on campus. There are takeaway sandwich places, cafes, cafeterias, dining rooms and bars, in what looks like nearly every building, such as the medical school, the arts centre, the education school, two in the arts area. If I'm not wrong, there are some seven places on campus with a bar. But besides drinking, these are also places to pick up quiches, baguette sandwiches, paninis, coffees, big breakfasts etc. The only things I've had though are a quiche and a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich cos I've been bringing packed lunches (and saving money). So why am I telling you this? Because one day I'll get tired of my sandwiches/carrot and celery sticks/bananas and dive in and eat something hot.

Meanwhile, I filled my stomach this evening with a rather green dinner of penne with broccoli, sugar snap peas and celery in a pesto sauce. And now it's back to reading. This time, something about global culture.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I don't have to run day

Cooking for just one person takes some getting use to. Back in Sg and in Illinois, at least there would be someone else to cook for or to force leftovers on.

Here, I tend to throw too much pasta in the pot of boiling water, and have to keep the leftovers for another day (but also not for too long as there's very limited space in the small fridge).

The almost-perfect rice I cooked on the stove the other day is still in the tupperware in the fridge. But I decided to ignore that and cook myself a sinful Sunday supper of round two of the pork and pork recipe from Jamie Oliver I found in a magazine while browsing for free at Barnes and Noble in Champaign. This time, no mash and instead, it's served with garlic baby button mushrooms and broccoli.

And this time, apologies for the photo quality.

I don't feel like I got anything done tonight, apart from cooking this and another episode of Hustle. Oh and I got some groceries from Somerfield, including a bar of Green & Black's dark chocolate (which I found out last week can also be bought from vending machines on campus)

Saturday, October 07, 2006


So I went to the Jubilee Library here in Brighton, just a 10-minute walk away through some rather crowded streets, down through The Lanes, past the jewellery stores, past the stores full of knick-knacks, past the many vegetarian cafes and then you get to this great glass building.

And it's nice on the inside too.

So I got my library card on the spot and took out three books. Rather pleased.

reading more

Haven't been reading fiction much... except for a few pages of Pride And Prejudice which I read before sleeping. All my reading's been for school and I want to read other books but have yet to sign up for a library card.

The last book I read was during the trip here, and it was Diana Wynne Jones's Howl’s Moving Castle which R had bought for me to entertain myself on the plane. It helped make the film make more sense and definitely was entertaining, plus a nice easy read.

Sometimes I think, after spending the whole day reading, do I really want to read more? The answer is yes. So it's time to get that library card!

Friday, October 06, 2006

in moderation

Happy Zhong Qiu Jie!

Ok so I've never wished anyone that before and I don't know if you're supposed to. But on this cloudy day, I can't catch a glimpse of the moon and I miss my mom's homemade snowskin mooncakes.

The wind's finally died down and it's relatively quiet again. I finally cooked almost-perfect rice on the stove (back home I cook it in the microwave) and have plenty left over for fried rice another day. I ploughed through many pages of reading and finally understand what the critique of the critique of the analysis of the theory.... means or at least I think I do. My pen ran out of ink. I vacuumed the floor. I did some laundry. I made many cups of tea. I took a walk by the coast when the sun finally broke through. I read some more. I wasted time online. I listened to the ipod. I said hi to some friends on MSN. I took my daily multivitamin. I sat on the windowsill to read. I stayed in. I went out. I got tired of reading. I blogged. And now I shall read somemore.

Staying in

I'm supposed to go to the school library to do some reading for Tuesday's class. But the rain doesn't seem to have stopped from yesterday morning and the wind's gone wild again.

Looking out of my window sure isn't pretty.

Surely that's a good reason to stay home instead and down plenty of hot tea.

I'm after all, well stocked with books!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Day and night, night and day

It's rather amusing that despite the four years of working - and in that line of work having to meet and query strangers everyday - I get butterflies on the first day of class.

In the end, it turned out ok. The class is a pretty small one - eight of us. And it was a bit of relief to find out that I'm not the only one struggling to make sense of both the long reading list and the material.

The prof started off the first hour with a quick but very clear and logical rundown of the history of the British empire, which kind of answered some questions I'd been having about some of the readings. It makes me realise how ignorant I am of world history. In my first year at junior college, I took History but only learnt about SE Asia and modern world history. I'd heard of things like the Seven Years War but never really knew what it was about.

The second hour he opened it up to us, to talk about what we've read and any questions we had. I liked that he was rather casual and that he didn't talk down to us, as some lecturers are prone to doing.

After class, went to sit out in the sun with the rest of the classmates to chitchat and divide up the work for the seminars. They're a pretty nice bunch, with most of them being younger - having either just finished their undergrad degree or having just a year since school. The one who is older has quite a bit of experience related to this field, having worked for an NGO, so has an interesting point of view.

And at night, the RAs of this building (it's an off-campus international postgrad university residence) took about 50 of us on a pub crawl, to those dark, woody, small little places known as English pubs - well not as dark as I'd expected (I suppose I was imagining speakeasies). All were within five minutes walking distance to the flats (told you it's party central). Didn't want to drink much so just had a couple of half-pints, which cost about 1.5 pounds each.

It was interesting to meet people from the other floors. My floor seems to be mostly Asians, except for 1 Canadian, so meeting people from Turkey, South Africa, Mexico was great.

Monday, October 02, 2006

going going...

I'm finally catching onto how to shop at Argos. The first time I walked into the store, I wondered what was up with the lack of display space, and really, with the lack of anything on display. People stood at counters, flipping through thick laminated catalogues.

How it works is: You spot something you die-die-must-buy, you write down the number (or you could check if it's in stock first) and then you bring it to the cashier to pay for it. You get a receipt and a number. So you take it over to the collection area and you wait for your number to be called. Then you get your goods.

But what's better is that you can look at all this stuff online first. Then you reserve it and pick it up at the store. It's online shopping, but offline, when it comes to payment and pickup. (Alternatively you could get them to delivery but there's a charge. Plus the store's a short walk from the flat)

So I got a single duvet for 8.99 pounds today. The heater didn't seem to last through the night so it got a bit chilly. I thought I'd better be prepared for worse...

Today's weather: just one of those rainy days where it seems like every other half an hour it's wet. I walked as fast as I could with two large plastic bags and then I got to that dreaded junction with Kings Road where the wind from the coast hurls itself through the street at you with such force that you have to stagger and push your way forward. It didn't help that I was getting smacked by the rain too. So for the rest of the day, I've decided my place is indoors, despite needing to get groceries. I'm not going to be fooled by the bits of sun that keep shining through... sunny one minute, rainy the next..

Tornado sweeps along the Sussex coast!

Coastguards put out a warning to shipping after a tornado was seen sweeping along the South Coast just after dawn on Sunday.

Now why didn't I see this? Oh right... I was fast asleep...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

one more

Another photo taken yesterday.

Its pouring outside now.

Sunday: a study

The heat finally came on last night and it was, well, nice and warm-ish.

I'm not sure if I've finally adjusted to the jet lag or if it was because I was tired but I was out just after midnight and woke at about 8 this morning. Rather pleased.

Today's weather report: windy. The waves are rolling on real high and there's the usual occasional quick drizzle.

Finally had toast for breakfast this morning after finding a small wholemeal loaf at the supermarket. I've been having cereal for the past few days and had begun to miss bread a little. Next thing to get from the supermarket: cold meat for sandwiches. And more fruits and veg of course. I suppose I'll see what fresh meat I can find too. Haven't actually bought any of that yet.

Today's been a sit at my desk and read day. And sometimes a sit on the window sill and read day. Trying to get a grasp of things before class on Tuesday. And since the shops open only for a few hours on Sundays, no point in going out with the crowd when I can do that (minus the crowd hopefully) tomorrow.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Beach

Finally went out to take photos of the lovely Brighton beach front. It was a gorgeous day.

I live in the building on the right, on the top floor.

There's no sand on this beach. It's all about the pebbles.

I love watching carousels. Brighton Pier is in the background.

The West Pier, which was destroyed by fire a few years ago.

The only bit stretch of sand on this beach

Friday, September 29, 2006

On money

If not for the 99p store and poundland, I'd be more broke than I already am. You can't get everything there of course, but I've managed to pick up rather useful things such as hangers, mugs, cutlery, a knife, plates and bowls.

Bus rides are pricey here, with a single trip costing 1.50 or a day ticket at 3 pounds. So the best thing to do as a student, as I'm sure it is everywhere else, is get a student card. The ones here cost 300 pounds for a year though so that's a bit of a shocker to the credit card bill.

When it comes to eating, there are many cafes on campus, selling stuff like coffee, cakes, sandwiches, quiches (which are actually not too bad). So a lunch of a sandwich and a hot chocolate costs about 3.50. If I try very hard not to convert that into SGD, it sounds ok. I am just trying my best not to immediately times everything by three. Otherwise my hair would all fall out. So instead, I spend money at the supermarket and make my own meals.

The only problem I have with that is the supermarkets are about 5-10 min walk from the flat. That doesnt sound too bad but it is when you've got lots to carry and when the wind's blowing real hard. I suppose I was well spoilt in Illinois where I had my, er, personal chauffeur. :P

Plus, there's limited space in the fridge, which is shared with my three other flatmates, so not much I can do about that. Grocery shopping has to be frequent and in small portions, rather than buying a cartful of groceries once a week.

But, it's good exercise! And on the way there, I usually take the scenic route.

Having spent nearly a week here, I must say that I am getting quite fond of this place. And if you're thinking about taking a trip to London, you should consider hopping on the train to Brighton station. It's definitely worth it!

learning the hard way

After wandering through a labyrinth of a building, I finally find Room 43 and meet my classmates. 1 Italian, 1 German, 1 Irish and the rest are British. That makes a total of 9 of us, with two part-time students.

One course is taught by a tall, tanned, bespectacled anthropologist who tends to swallow his words and the other co-taught by a historical geographer and a historian, the historian was out of town on a conference so we weren't able to meet her but the other professor was just brimming with enthusiasm and seemed rather easygoing. Together the two courses both complement and contrast, bringing a mix of modern and historical in this field. What I was interested in was this interdisciplinary style, drawing from various fields, as I have no background in the social sciences. So far, it seems that it will be played that way.

However, while I was myself brimming with enthusiasm, my face (and the other classmates' too) fell when I saw the reading list. I know that this being an MA course, a lot of reading is to be expected but that much for just one week? Appalling. The prof did emphasize that we didn't have to worry our little heads off reading every single thing. The more important ones were astericked, and even among those, we could select some to read, as long as we could put forth a cogent point of view.

Still, I'm preparing to buckle down and ensure that my nose is firmly in the books. After all, I've had two months of absolute nothingdom prior.

Right then.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Day 3

I sometimes forget that its only my third day here. I keep thinking that there's still so much of this place I haven't yet seen. Then I think, oh that's right, I could do more exploring over the course of the year. Some of my housemates, who have been here for a couple of months taking English courses, have taken trips up to Cambridge, Canterbury, London and more.

This afternoon, as I sat on the pebbled beach and looked out at the waves crashing on the beach, I could not help but be amazed that I get to spend a year here. I really ought to take photos of the place soon!

Oh and on day three, I went to school to get my student ID, took some photos for my bus card and bought that as well, hit the library for a couple of texts and two DVDs, and then headed back to clean the room properly and do laundry. And in the midst of all that, I took the time to sit on the beach, until the wind got too strong and blew me back in.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Tour

Welcome! Please... step right in...

The view from one of my windows.
I'm really lucky as this corner flat has actually got two windows!

The other view, this time of the sea.

My desk, next to the window.

My rather messy room... will have to tidy up soon!

Each room gets a sink. The only thing I can't stand is the separate hot and cold taps!

Well that's it. Thanks for dropping by.

Monday, September 25, 2006

day one

It turned out to be a relatively productive day, despite the severe lack of sleep over the past couple of days. This place manages to remain pretty noisy at night, with some club music thump-thumping away into the wee hours. I found myself staring at the ceiling most of the night.

But somehow, I did make it to the bank and got the motions going. Got myself a new phone number too. Then bought pillows, some crockery and utensils, a small pot, some groceries and various other necessities. Still plenty more to do.

All this walking and walking with bags full of stuff will probably suffice for exercise for now. I can't be bothered to do anymore.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I just have to write something before I go to sleep in my new bedroom-for-a-year.

I finally got here after 7pm, after a 2hr-plus bus ride from Heathrow via Gatwick, a slightly over an hour flight from Dublin to london, after a five-hour wait at Dublin airport where I met another Singaporean, after a 6 hr 20 min flight from Chicago to Dublin.

So I'm on the top floor, the seventh floor, at this building opposite the beach. My room is apparently the envy of my three flatmates who have been here for a few months due to language requirements. It is a big room. It is bigger than I expected, there's actually space for my luggage on the floor and more, besides. I have a desk, bookshelves, a bed, a chest of drawers, a wardrobe and a sink. But best of all, I have two windows, one of which faces the sea. As I type this, I hear waves crashing on the beach to the left of me.

The area I'm staying in is right smack in party central apparently, as the senior resident advisor who checked me in made sure to point out. He also made sure to point out that it is important the main door is always firmly shut and not to let in any drunken idiots. Actually, when I got off at the bus station, there was already one drunken idiot, clutching a bottle of vodka and staggering around vaguely. And it was only 7pm.

I've unpacked a little, but realise there's so much more I need. One very good example: a pillow. So obviously there's plenty for me to do tomorrow. But one of my flatmates has offered to show me around in the afternoon so I'll definitely stock up on necessities!

It's been a rather long day and I've only had a few hours of napping so it's goodnight from Brighton. And I will probably get some pictures up asap!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

see ya!

And once again it is time to squeeze myself into an impossibly constricted space, subject myself to reheated food, although this time I'm not sure about the service as I've never flown Aer Lingus before.

So I'm off to the airport in a few hours, an overnight flight to Dublin, a few hours' wait at that airport, another few more hours in the air, and then another couple of hours by coach, a half km of walking to find the apartment and then settling in, hopefully before it gets too late.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

i want my television television

With Greys Anatomy and CSI having their season premieres tonight, House on again on Tuesday and Gilmore Girls having its season premiere next week, I am half-tempted to forfeit my flight and my tuition fees and my rent and plonk myself down on the scratchy dark brown sofa (all the better to camouflage stains on) in the apartment and never take my eyes off the TV (at least not during primetime).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

good morning sunshine

We went to sleep last night with the heat turned up and the windows all closed for a change. The weather channel forecasted a 5degC low for the night.

And this morning, what a day! The sun is putting on its best show, bathing everything in its warm golden glow, the sky a gorgeous bright blue and the weather supposedly at 11 deg. The perfect weather for sitting outside on the balcony and reading a book. However, the book I'm reading now is an ebook on the computer so that's not exactly conducive (especially since the Macbook does get pretty warm and really literally is a hot laptop). It is an experience though, reading something off the computer. I tend to up the magnification so that I can lean back and not stare too much at the screen. But it's a far better book than the one I'm reading on paper.

Paper: Julie & Julia

I did read her blog before she became too famous so was curious but the book really is like reading a blog. Full of () and other asides, like the many I'm used to adding to my blog. It's written the way we think. It's written kinda spewed out in a continuous thought process. Which is fine for a blog, but not something I can stand too much in a book many pages long. I guess I just prefer more thought going into writing a book. Perhaps better editing is needed to keep the overspewing in check. I don't write books, I only blog. But I know that if I were to ever write anything more serious than this blog I'd actually look over it and edit it, unlike this blog, where I typitytypetype and then without another glance at the many mistakes and long long long sentences like this one, I hit the "publish post" button without only the occasional second thought. I feel that it's the same way with this book.

Ebook: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.
The only other Gaiman book I've read is Good Omens, which was cowritten with Terry Pratchett, whom I adore. I'm less than a third in but am definitely liking it, despite its digital medium. I suppose I should explain first why I'm reading an eBook. Essentially, the lovely Champaign-Urbana libraries have this tie-up with some online "media mall" to download ebooks and audiobooks for free. The audiobooks unfortunately DO NOT WORK WITH MACS. But there are a decent variety of ebooks available for loan for 21 days. So it's a nice option for me, who currently is libraryless until I set up my own account at the Brighton and Hove libraries, when I get there next week (next week!). But I'm sure my schedule will be packed with various things to do, figuring out how to settle down, trying to get used to having separate taps for cold and hot water, exploring that seaside town, trying not to spend too much money... that kinda thing.

Anyway, the original point of this: like the ebook more than the book book.

And on another note. Skype 2.0 beta for macs has video chat! Absolutely thrilled with that.

Friday, September 15, 2006

the middle

It is my last weekend here.
Where did all the time go?

My mind is a scrambled mess of apprehension, excitement, sadness...

I can't wait to go.

I don't want to go.

I have to go.


While I'm a big fan of food writers writing their own books about their foodie lives (Ruth Reichl being one of my favourites with her warm, chatty style), I must say that I am kinda losing my interest in Gael Greene's Insatiable.

Greene was the food critic for NewYork magazine. But this memoir isn't only about her adventures in the food world, it also delves into her love and sex life (she slept with Elvis! And Clint Eastwood! amongst others). A little too much perhaps.

This little write-up's a bit premature, since I haven't exactly finished the book. Then again, with my interest waning, it might end up being returned to the library unfinished.

Here are some excerpts

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

keeping it simple

And while I'm at it, here's the chocolate chip cookies.

And previously, another dinner with pork chops, this time marinated in a sauce which involved various things including garlic, ginger, teriyaki and soy. And served with a baked potato and carrots and asparagus.

(all pictures courtesy of R)

Pork and pork

At Barnes & Noble last weekend, while flipping through a copy of Delicious magazine, I found a recipe by Jamie Oliver that involved some of my favourite things: pork, apples and cheese.

Here's the adapted version (owing to not having prosciutto or Stilton)
Essentially, it's:

-Season your pork chops with salt and pepper and sear for a couple of minutes on each side.
-Place some bacon or prosciutto (I used four slices per chop) on your baking pan, overlapping them slightly. And put your chop on one end.
-Put slices of apple on top of the chop and some crumbled cheese (the recipe calls for Stilton but I used the remaining Brie we had in the fridge)
-Sprinkle some rosemary (ok again I didn't have this but I sprinkled some parsley instead)
-Wrap the bacon over so that it covers the apple and cheese
-Bake in a preheated 200deg oven for about 15 minutes (I left it a little longer so that the bacon could crisp better)

I served it on top of a bed of garlic mashed potatoes.