Saturday, February 18, 2017


Rare footage of us holidaying in Europe

I'm trying to get everything out before I forget. I've been so good with details this time; only forgot the name of one cafe so far. When I sat down to write about the first five days of our trip (London and The West Country), I realized just then how much we really packed into the days. Stories from Cardiff, Berlin and Prague to come... We did so much in those two weeks!

The West Country

Scott, the ever sweet and sensible, organized this trip with the intention of introducing me to every part of his life, past, present and future. “I want to make sure you know what you are getting into,” Scott said, so off to the West Country we went. My brother-in-law is from Bideford – proper West according to Scott – which I’d visited before when I was 10 and then again when I was 18, so I had a tiny inkling of what to expect: rolling hills, long walks, fresh air. Being an understudy back then, as I watched my sister play the role of a dutiful and charming girl in her mother-in-law’s cottage, was paying dividends now.

I was lucky to have met Scott’s mumma, Di, when she visited Singapore last November, otherwise I’d have broken out in hives at this point. What I was really nervous about was meeting Tai – The Dog. What if he didn’t like me? What if he thought I smelled funny?
The Dog in the itinerary Scott set for us

The train journey from London Paddington to Taunton was just over two hours with no changeovers, during which we polished off a bag of popcorn and then napped. Di was at the station to greet and take us home to Creech Heathfield, a short drive away.

Side note: Scott and I contemplated renting a car for the few days that we were there because you kind of need one if you’re serious about exploring the countryside. Fortunately, Di kindly offered to bring us around so we didn’t have to rent one in the end. What a relief! Scott doesn’t like driving so I’d have been doing it, which I naively thought would be an easy job since both Singapore and the U.K. have left-hand traffic – practically driving in the same country! WRONG. They have roundabouts every 100m, long stretches of single lane two-way roads, black ice and no street lamps in the U.K.! I’d have driven for 2 minutes before pulling over on the shoulder to cry, “Jesus, take the wheel!”
Warm hospitality extended to us by Di and John. Sat at the top of the bed is Mr Humpty, who was in the crib with Scott when he was a baby.

We had dinner together that evening and I finally got to meet John, a super sweet man of few words. It was amusing to listen to Scott, Di and John in conversation – I knew everyone was speaking English, but I couldn’t quite catch what they were talking about half the time so I just smiled. Like an idiot =) Di made a lovely cottage pie, which she served with steamed peas, carrots and broad beans on the side. So much meat, so much gravy, so much yum! I woke up at 4am again the next day (Tuesday) scheming on ways to eat the leftover cottage pie without looking like a greedy person.

Our roommate, Mr Tomkinson, getting a tan on. Scott got him 8 years ago. I sent pictures of the tortoise to my mum with the caption "Mr. T – 10 years old." And her reply was, "do not do it. You will get a fine." It's scary how mothers always know what you want to do, even before you know what you want to do.

After breakfast – cottage pie! Ha! – we followed Di into the city centre. What I found really peculiar was how the town wasn’t divided into districts, whether for business, shopping, parliament, residential, nightlife or arts. Everything was just there! And within walking distance. Primark was opposite the real estate agent’s office was next to a supermarket was next to a pub was next to an optician was next to the thrift store was next to the church was next to the castle was next to the museum was next to Scott’s flat was above an Italian restaurant was across Debenhams. What the what?
Scotty outside his flat (rented out)
We browsed through the thrift stores and then had a late lunch at Whetherspoons. In the evening, we went into Scott’s old workplace to say “Hi!” to everyone he used to work with. Again, that weird thing happened where despite everyone speaking English, it was taking me a while to figure out what they were actually saying. After that, we went to get a drink with Scott’s best friend Beth, who was buzzing with so much energy – I was actually jealous. It wasn’t even 6pm but the sky was dark, which my brain mistook as its cue to power down. It was nice to put a face to all the stories at last because Scott talks a lot about Beth and Tai. Beth’s dad Trevor drove into town with Tai, who was so excited to see Scott. Tai didn’t try to bite me so I think we are cool.

On Wednesday, we woke up at 6am and then ate a bag of Tyrrell's veg crisps in bed. I really don’t understand the concept of five portions in one bag when it comes to crisps and popcorn – IT’S THERE. I’M GONNA EAT IT. (And then feel sick after.) Scott and I hit another milestone in our relationship that morning when he had to help me wash my hair because it was starting to form dreadlocks.

After breakfast we went for a nice walk around the countryside, through the hamstone village with solemn church towers and past vast meadows and orchards. We got a few bottles of apple juice from the orchard down the road, saw sheep grazing in the lowland mires and spotted a big fox as it dashed across a field. We heard cows moo as we walked along the canal and saw ducks and a pair of swans in the water.
Scott with a staffie at the orchard
Coming from a densely populated city, where the skyline is filled with skyscrapers and streets lined with dizzying lights, it was such a novelty to be surrounded by so much nature. The silence, stillness and endless greenery of the countryside is very enviable, but I wonder if I yearn for it only because urban living deprives me of it or if I truly want a life that moves at such a pace. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Their neighbour had llamas in his yard!!
Scotty with his apple juice
The next day we took a bus into the city centre for brunch. We knew that after the pancakes at Balthazar, ordering pancakes at Cosy Club would only set us up for disappointment. But we did it anyway because I am a real sucker for banana pancakes. The sandwich looked pretty nondescript but it had Gloucester Old Spot sausages inside and was my favourite thing we ordered. Then Scott introduced me to this fantastic thing called ‘Brown sauce,’ which is a sauce, that is brown. It tasted amazing with the sandwich.

After brunch we had lunch (what?) with Peter, Scott’s boss from his old work place, where they discussed Scott’s life in Singapore, Peter’s new office space at The Shard in London, Donald Trump and the economy. It was all going swell and I could not believe I was getting away with it, until Peter asked me about Singapore’s public sector. (Errr… 5 stars! Highly recommend!)

Then we had a wander around the castle, which now houses the Museum of Somerset, before heading back home. In the evening, we made Empire Chicken for John and Arthur – John’s brother – who has got really good eyebrows.

This method of dishwashing was completely new to me. We boiled water in a kettle then poured it into a tub with dishwashing liquid and then dumped all the dirty dishes into the tub. Even though there was steam rising from the tub, I kept forgetting that it was hot and plunged my hands into scalding water several times but it kinda felt good because my hands were frozen anyway.

Our chicken looks burnt, but I promise you it was not. Scott's mum has the cutest cat placemats and coasters.

Part 0 – Packing; Part 1 – London

Thursday, February 16, 2017


When I first met Scott, he had this theory about starving himself on long haul flights in order to avoid jet lag. According to him, if one consumes food or drink during a long flight, one experiences disrupted sleeping patterns upon arrival on the other side. I was unconvinced. I’ve always been a firm believer of the in-flight meal service, because being 40,000 ft in the air on an empty stomach makes me sick. Literally. (So does downing 3 glasses of Bloody Marys in the span of an hour, as I learnt during my solo flight home from Paris three years ago.)
Anyway, because Scott and I enjoy doing things everything together, he threw caution to the wind and abandoned his sound theory so that we could eat on the plane together. We decided to pre-order Indian vegetarian meals, even though neither of us are Indian nor vegetarian. We are just two people with a big love for Indian vegetarian food, ok? And we don't like waiting for our food. (Pro-tip: If you select a special meal in advance on Singapore Airlines, you get served your food before everyone else.) I ended up not eating the Indian vegetarian meal because I saw something else that sounded more interesting on the menu. Plot twist: it was not.

I was under the impression that Scott didn't eat much on flights because of his pre-existing notion, but outside of our meals we ate crisps and tuna sandwiches. And when they’d run out of crisps and tuna sandwiches, Scott asked the steward to "just bring whatever you have, please." The steward obliged our request and returned with an assortment of snacks – chocolates, peanuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit – laid out nicely on a tray for us to pick and choose according to our hearts' desires. "Thanks!" Scott said, as he swept ALL. OF. THE. SNACKS. off the tray and into his lap in one swift motion.

To be fair, what else is there to do but eat when you can't fall asleep on a long flight? Watch movies I guess, which we did. Together. By pressing our ‘play’ buttons simultaneously. We watched Captain Fantastic, which had me crying throughout the whole movie. It hit us close to home because the movie is basically everything Scott and I talk about when we talk about raising our five yet-to-be-conceived kids – homeschooled and breastfed till they are seven years old. Hahaha… Just kidding? (Not really.) It's a really good movie! 5 stars. Highly recommend.
We also watched Gone Girl, which was such a mindfuck to watch. The show unsettled both of us but it's got really good ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and apparently 'exposes the irrational side of our fear of coupledom,' according to The New Yorker. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to convince your boyfriend that you're not a psycho beyotch, watch this movie with him. The female protagonist will make you look like a darling in comparison. (Scott now thinks I'm sweet!) For the record, let it be known that Scott chose this movie.

Then we watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which was ok. Amazing cinematography! And made me feel like anything is possible. And like, why haven't I visited Iceland? Then we watched Big Hero 6, which was heartwarming. (This is the first time I’ve watched so many movies on a flight! I usually just sleep.)

OK. So. We arrived at The Queen's terminal at about 8 in the evening and then rode the Piccadilly line for three quarters of an hour into midtown London before jumping off at Holborn station, where it was cold and drizzling. Welcome to the U.K.!

Side note: I insisted that we took the train from home to the airport when we were leaving Singapore to prepare us for our London Underground journey with luggage. But nothing can prepare you for your London Underground journey with luggage. Except maybe 10 weeks of HIIT exercise.
Mr. Muscles

When we finally got to our hotel at Charterhouse Square, we were shivering, tired, hungry… and getting grumpy. Our initial plan was to dump our bags in the room and then head out for a wander in search of food, but my face basically said, “I NEED FOOD. AND I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK OUT INTO THE COLD, WET NIGHT. AND I NEED FOOD. NOW.” Is that too many words for a face to say?

Our hotel had a really nice bar/restaurant in the basement, so we had our dinner there. Scott had a hot tomato soup and a kidney pudding, which could kindly be described as "robust." Him being a gizzard/offal aficionado quite enjoyed. I ordered a burger, which I finished in three bites, and then fell asleep at the table.
Paint me like one of your French girls

True enough, I woke up at 4am the next day. (Is this punishment for eating the entire galley clean during our 14-hour flight?) Now comes the part where Scott’s version of the story differs from mine. He seems to think I woke him up. But what I actually did was flop around in bed for 10 minutes and then asked, merely rhetorically, “are you awake?” (Stay woke, people!!!!!)

Then we took a stroll through Lincoln's Inn Fields and Somerset House, past Scott’s old workplace and went to Covent Garden for breakfast. Scott brought me to Balthazar, where the interior of the restaurant makes you feel as though you’re on the set of a dated French film. The enchanting space was gorgeously enveloped in a warm, sepia glow; gigantic mirrors hung on nicotine stained walls and the floor was handsome mosaic tiling. The menu was familiar, offering the usual brunch suspects. Scott’s poached eggs sat on a generous portion of spinach (Eggs Florentine) and my pancakes were really fluffy. “The toilets here are also really nice. Smell my hands! ” Scott said when he returned to our table. His appreciation for and enthusiasm about nice toilets and complimentary hand lotion confirmed my suspicions that he is indeed my soulmate.

Then we met up with Scott’s friend Matt who gave us a comprehensive walking tour of central London: St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Green Park, the Serpentine, Horse Guards Parade, Admiralty House, Birdcage Walk, Westminster Palace, Big Ben, London Eye, Embankment. Even better was the audio guide, packed with stories about the both of them window shopping for expensive furniture, speeding around roundabouts and narrowly escaping traffic police, and Matt’s latest business venture.

Matt (lad in the hat – not the bearskin) took us to Gordon’s Wine Bar for lunch. They have outside seating, which I imagine is lovely during summer. But being February, we chose to go down a quick flight of narrow stairs that led us into a dim basement. Matt beckoned us to follow him further into the cellar, where the ceiling was low and tables were lit with candles.

Then we crossed a bridge to the south bank and walked by the Royal Festival Hall, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, through Borough Market, past the Tower Bridge before stopping for tea at a charming little café. I cannot recall the name of the café, but I know it has a fancy gold tape dispenser that costs £200 sat by the cash register.

We had a 6 o’clock train to catch from Paddington station, so we parted ways with Matt and got on our way.

Please enjoy my 'Pink Powder Room' series taken at the Ritz

Part 0 – Packing