Although I have generally failed, over the last few years at least, to write about important events in my life here, I couldn’t let this one pass without mentioning it. The scholarship bond that has been hanging over my head since the age of 19 has finally been discharged. While I certainly benefited from it in many ways, it also affected my life in ways I would have preferred to avoid – such as requiring me to leave my life in London and return to Singapore after university, and compelling Alec to move his own life over here in order for us to be in the same country. Things have worked out okay for us, thankfully. So as much as I do wonder what might have been, I need only look to my wonderful marriage, secure finances, comfortable lifestyle and close friendships to know and appreciate what is.

Still…it feels helluva good to finally have a say in what I think I am worth, rather than having to accept someone else’s determination. And so it was that, with gratitude but also some sadness, I resigned my position upon completion of my bond, and am now free to decide how exactly to spend the rest of my life living off Alec.


But yes, I’m taking a few months off from gainful employment to think about where I want to go from here. It’s terrifying! The lower-level stuff is easy – I want to pull up my DJing/photography/dancing socks, invest my savings better than I have done thus far, tidy up our home, shed a few pounds, support my mother as she cares for my increasingly frail grandmother, and do some travelling. But stepping aside from to-do-listable items and thinking about what I really want still leaves me without an answer. Who knew the Spice Girls asked life’s toughest questions?

While I try to figure out all that, I’ll leave you with the latest salvo fired in the Alec vs Russ wars. This surprise delivery arrived today:

Surprise Delivery


Alec was out when the flowers arrived, but of course I couldn’t resist calling him to tell him about them. We had this conversation when he got home:

Me: Come see my huge bouquet of flowers from Russ!


Please Take This Personally, Redux

There has been silence here for far too long, I know, for no real reason except that work was crazy for a few months, and then because I had fallen out of the habit of writing blog entries it was difficult to get back on the wagon. A fair amount of fun has been had which, as usual, I have totally failed to write about here – among other things, we did a short trip to Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, long trips to Laos, London (with a side trip to Pavement’s ATP) and New York, I had a wonderful 30th birthday party at my beloved Black Forest (soon to close because the building is being redeveloped!), and we discovered the ultimate TV bliss of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

But what finally forced me to get back here was something decidedly unfun, which I still felt I wanted to tell you about: for any of you who’ve been here a long time, you might remember that in 2005, I had minor surgery to remove breast lumps. They turned out benign, but it was still an anxious time for me and those who love me. And I wrote about it here back then, because I wanted to warn other women my age that this wasn’t just something that their mums and “older women” had to worry about, it could also affect twenty-five year olds whose only prior boob problem had been said boobs’ tendency to pop out of bikinis in the course of a wakeboarding faceplant.

In a few hours’ time I will be having another operation, to remove another lump. It is a little more worrying now than the last time, because they were fairly sure the last time that the lumps were fine and it was left up to me whether to bother taking them out or not. This time the advice (based on analysis of the ultrasound) is that the lump is “indeterminate”, fed by blood vessels, and should most definitely be removed and biopsied.

I’m telling you all about this again for a few reasons. One, I’ve hardly told any of my friends about this recent development because when I’m hanging out with them I want to have fun and forget about my worries, not bring the mood down. At least now I can just direct them to this post so they’ll know what’s been up with me, and then when we hang out we can go back to talking about how it’s always dick’o’clock in Spartacus: Blood and Sand and how annoying it is to lose one entire level of your fridge to your husband’s flour collection. Oh, hang on, that last one’s just me.

Two, apart from reinforcing what I said five years ago that even young women should be mindful of these things, I wanted to share what could perhaps be described as a cautionary tale about not taking enough charge of one’s health. I knew about this new lump for six months before going to the doctor, a private clinic in my office building. They sent me for an ultrasound in a private radiology clinic, which said the lump looked benign. A year later, I asked for another scan, and got the same advice. I trusted this and took no further action, partly because I was lazy and wanted to believe that nothing else needed to be done, and partly because it didn’t occur to me to second-guess medical professionals.

A few months after that while speaking to my cousin, a doctor, she suggested I consider removing the lump anyway due to its size. It took me four more months to bother going to the public polyclinic (I had decided to go the public health route for the surgery for reasons of cost) to get a referral to the hospital where I had had the previous surgery. From here on things progressed rapidly, because the public health system evidently saw this as a matter of much more concern than the private healthcare providers I had used previously. I had an appointment within days, an incredibly thorough ultrasound a few days after that which picked up numerous lumps that the private clinic scans hadn’t reported (but none except the one I originally sought advice on were of concern), and an operation date within weeks.

Hopefully, the biopsy results will show all is well. But if it isn’t, I will be so angry with myself for being so laid back about it, for allowing a breast lump to stay in me for two and a half years when I could have had it removed within two months. It’s easy for me to blame the private doctors who didn’t take the lump as seriously as the public doctors did, but ultimately I should have taken better charge of my own health.

So that’s how things stand. In a few hours, a team that has never won the World Cup will raise the trophy for the first time, and a few hours after that, I report to hospital for my surgery. For those of you who pray, I’d be grateful for your prayers. I’ll end this by repeating what I said the last time:

Girls: you already know what you should do. Do it.
Guys: do all you can to make sure the women you love take the time and trouble to protect themselves.

Update: I was given the all clear. However, based on the biopsy results I was advised that in time, if left in there and not removed, this lump could have developed into something less than benign. Suffice to say I’m glad, thankful, and determined to be less of a lazy dumb-ass, going forward.

The Year Before Thirty

I really meant to write about my birthday weeks ago (because with my increasing old age I would probably forget how I celebrated it if i didn’t), but I was trying to cram too much in a post and everything got unwieldy so I kept lying on the couch in the middle of writing and falling asleep. So basically, in my birthday week I:

  • Pigged out: Iggy’s, Peramakan, favourite Indian veggie place in the East which I don’t know the name of (it’s on Ceylon Road next to the Hindu temple), Tung Lok a la carte buffet at Paramount (last mentioned here, and it’s still awesome), far too much oyster omelette, BBQ stingray, teh ping and beer.
  • Finally watched the Watchmen.
  • Attended Of Montreal, Battles, and Cinematic Orchestra gigs.
  • Took delivery of my new mixer.
  • Threw a recession party (home made soup and bread).

Reading all that back, I don’t seem to be very grown up and mature. Oh well! (More details on some of these in future posts.)

Pretty Good Year

My mother started 2008 in hospital with dengue fever, so until she was discharged yesterday I really didn’t have the mental wherewithal for any sort of goodbye 2007, hello 2008 blog entries. It was as much as I could do to monitor her condition, do what was necessary at work for a lotsamillion$ deal we signed yesterday, and fill the gaps in between with especially escapist TV.

In any case, it’s pretty obvious that getting married to Alec was the best thing that happened to me in 2007. He started 2008 by spending hours keeping my mum company in hospital (he’s starting a new job soon and had a few days free) and cooking me lovely dinners when I came home at night exhausted from stress. I will cut the mush because I’ve already given you enough of that before, but I am continually amazed at how I managed to luck out with this man.

I’m looking forward to the year ahead. I loved our wedding and it was totally worth all the planning hassle, but ironically one of the best things about finally being married is that we now have far more time and energy to devote to our individual hobbies, which of course also includes ridiculing each other about the lameness of said hobbies. Also reading, which is the perfect excuse to ignore each other entirely, and TV, which allows us to pretend we are spending quality time together when we actually are not. Marriage rocks, guys.

Every time I resolve in writing here to do something I inevitably fail to do so, but I think sharing these three things will be safe enough. I’ve already started on the first two, and the third is so wimpy that it is a cop-out from any actual brave resolution-making.

  1. Make more stuff with my imagination and hands:
    The Internet’s record of the crafting renaissance suggests that being inept and mediocre at this doesn’t discourage lots of other people. Inspiring!
  2. Become less financially clueless:
    Because continuing to let my life savings languish in a POSB savings account seems really, really, stupid.
  3. Exercise more than I did in 2007:
    This is easy, because I did fuck-all in 2007.

What are your resolutions, if any? (If they are actually worthwhile and will make me look pathetic, please don’t share them.)

Gettin’ Down To Catchin’ Up

Perhaps my longest absence ever, but let’s look on the bright side, I probably won’t disappear like this again till the divorce. I’ll leave gushing about the wedding & honeymoon to future posts – the point of this one is just to flex long-idle blog muscles (ow ow ow) and reassure you that now I’m married I no longer have to spend quality time with Alec on stuff like meaningful conversations and showing love and support. I can instead devote myself to aimless websurfing, calculating how many maids I can afford to sub-contract for that whole child-rearing thing and generally letting myself go.

(Kidding! I’ll just make Alec pay for the maids.)

(OK, OK, still kidding! It’s just that jokes like these don’t seem to go down very well with people when we make them in real life so I’m using this as an outlet.)

Since returning from our honeymoon we’ve unfortunately had to work pretty long hours. Spare time has been spent converting a tall ang moh’s “gentleman’s-club-influenced” bachelor pad into a marital home capable of housing a small Chinese wife with crippling Internet addiction and a penchant for bright colours.

Now that the teabags are no longer stored 2m off the ground, our next priority is making sure everyone who helped with our wedding knows just how grateful we are, because distracted thank yous and hastily dispensed gifts on our wedding day are really not enough.

And once that’s sorted, we’ll finally, hopefully, get some time to reconnect with all our personal joys again before we become one of those boring couples whose main interests are each other. I’m so out of touch with music at the moment that I don’t even know who the latest overhyped mediocre Internet indie sensation is, and Alec hasn’t worn spandex in public for months. And as for you, dear readers, if there are even any of you left, please keep popping in! I can’t pretend I just write this for me – if I did, I’d keep it on my hard drive – and although I’ll need to put in some work to make it worth your while to keep reading, I’m really hoping you won’t give up on me just yet.

Finally Facebooked

After too many “Are you on Facebook?” questions from old friends when we met up with them recently in London, I decided that joining would be a good way to keep track of everyone and finally signed up today. I don’t know my way around yet but have managed to ask Jeremy Bentham to be my friend and provide an option for people to throw sheep at me. It makes for a pleasant diversion from the struggles of wedding guestlist wrangling, trying to give a fuck about floral decorations, and the anguished screaming of ignored to-do-list items.

At The Lighthouse: Pre-Postscript

To everyone who’s left comments, written emails, called on the phone, or spoken to us in person, thank you so much for your enthusiasm and good wishes. We’re really overwhelmed by the response and are grateful for any suppressions of “About bloody time!” that some of you might have bitten back. You are all classy, classy people!

A postscript to the proposal entry will be up some time in the next few days, to share some amusing glitches that occurred in the planning (sometimes due to me being a difficult nagging bitch) and to thank a dear friend of mine who was an amazing help to Alec through all of it. But because I wasn’t privy to the weeks of planning and need to get details from Alec, who’s intrepidly studying for his professional exam on Monday, it’s taking a little time to get written.

In the meantime, thank you all again for your kind words and rest assured that I have slapped patted Alec heartily on the back for every one of you who asked me to do so. And for those who are asking about dates and places, unfortunately the sum total of our decision-making so far is as follows:

Michelle: So, how do we organize wedding celebrations across three cities in two continents which are fun, meaningful and affordable for everyone attending, while keeping the romance of the occasion alive for us but not grossing everyone else out with schmoopiness?
Alec: Donno.
Michelle: Hmm…
Alec: Hmm…

At The Lighthouse

Last Friday night, Alec informed me that he would be picking me up at 8.30 am the next morning, and taking me away for the weekend. I wasn’t allowed to know where, and didn’t need to bring anything special, not even a passport. And I didn’t have to tell my parents anything – he’d already told them more than he was telling me.

The next morning, he was at my front door at 8.30 sharp, with a yellow rose. The waiting cab took the expressway towards the city, but bypassed it totally. We were on Clementi Road going past the university, and I was perplexed. We were far away from any hotels worth going to, but we weren’t leaving the country. WTF?

We finally pulled up at West Coast Pier and Alec hauled a big styrofoam icebox out of the boot along with our bags. As far as I could see, I was the only female in a bunch of middle-aged men with fishing tackle. This was not quite Casablanca.

We cleared immigration, which required nothing more than ICs, and waited at the pier. When a boat arrived for us with the PSA logo, I finally realized where we were going. Sultan Shoals is a tiny island off the west coast of Singapore. It’s got a beautiful old colonial lighthouse, 2 chalets, 2 fishing jetties, and nothing else. I’d mentioned it to Alec a long time ago, in the context of maybe organizing something with some of our friends, but nothing had come of it. Now I found that we’d have this whole island to ourselves for the weekend.

Alec asked if I’d mind waiting outside the chalet for a little while. He wanted to do some things inside. He’d got me a book to read while waiting: Truman Capote’s decidedly unromantic In Cold Blood. If anyone else had done this, I might have dived into the open seas and swum back to the mainland screaming; however, Alec happened to know that I’d been wanting to read this book for ages, but hadn’t been able to get my hands on it in the library. I opened it to start reading, and found this inscription:

Inside the chalet, Alec had put flowers and candles everywhere, brought laboriously from the mainland the previous day.

In the icebox, he’d brought lots of my favourite food and drink – salmon sashimi, steak, Coke, Hoegaarden, a baby coconut. Hash browns and eggs so he could cook us the weekend breakfast fry-ups we’d loved so much at my corner caff in London. My favourite childhood snack, Bee-Bee, for me to eat while watching DVDs (which he’d also brought).

We settled down for a sashimi lunch (to continue the random serial killer allusions, I put Calla’s Strangler on the stereo) and an afternoon of lounging, reading (for me), studying (for Alec, who has professional exams in two weeks’ time), napping and strolling round the island. This is us in front of the lovely lighthouse. (Note: Photos linked instead of displayed in this entry have our faces in them and are viewable only by my Flickr friends. If you know us in real life and want to see these, just add me as a friend so I can authorise you.)

You’re probably supposed to have fancy cuisine and wine at dinners like this, but we like steak and beer. Also, it just feels right to sear a steak while growling along to Nick Cave on the sound system.

After dinner, we watched Before Sunset, which I was happy to find was still as wonderful as the first time I saw it.

While the credits rolled, Alec excused himself and went into the bedroom. He came out several minutes later in a tuxedo, and asked me if I’d like a walk round the island. In front of the lighthouse, he knelt down and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes.

* * * * *

And so we prepare to move from almost 5 years of easy, constant bliss, into the rest of our lives. I’m not generally an envious person, but there have been various times during my 26 years when I’ve observed the good fortune of other people, be it in physical appearance, capability, resources, or just dumb luck, and wished I could equal them. Within a few months of going out with Alec, I knew that where love was concerned, I would never envy anyone else.

Birthday Presence

So there I was, up to my ears in the details of an oil pipeline contract, and then I heard a voice outside the door of my office, asking for Michelle.

My first thought: Wah lau that bloody ________! Always barging into my office without calling first, just assuming I’m free to drop everything and attend to him. Too much!

My second thought: Hang on, that sounded like Alec. Wha??!

Next thing I knew, Alec was in my office with a bunch of lilies. :)

He couldn’t stay long because he had to rush off to work. I walked him down to the taxi point, and we had this conversation while waiting. Sorry if it grosses anyone out, but I thought it might amuse fans of the long-running Alec/Russ war.

Me: Aww, thanks for doing this. It was really sweet of you to bring the flowers yourself.
Alec: My pleasure. Anyway, I totally had to one-up Russ.
Me: Ha! I bet next year Russ will COME FROM ENGLAND to hand-deliver the flowers to me!
Alec: Well then the year after that I’ll FLY TO ENGLAND, BUY THE FLOWERS THERE, AND BRING THEM BACK!
Me: Aw. Okay, there’s your taxi. Bye dear.
Alec: See you later, dear. Happy birthday.

Pushing 26

I had a pretty great birthday last year. Long-time readers may be aware that despite being confident, well-adjusted and happy in every other area of my life I somehow suffer from dumb irrational birthday angst. So it really made me happy last year when loads of people remembered, my best friend sent flowers to my office, and Tortoise decided to grace Singapore with their presence.

This year’s birthday looked off to a bad start when I checked the gig schedule hopefully only to see…Jason Mraz. Thankfully, lots of preferable events quickly emerged, and I decided to take matters into my own hands for the actual day.

So this is the plan so far:

  • 15 March: Erlend Oye’s DJ set at the Mosaic music festival. I’ve long wished the dude would just quit indie music and focus on DJing because I think his taste in house music far outstrips his indie muzak.

  • 16 March: No special plans but my usual Thursday lindy hopping will probably keep me very happy. [Edit: Actually on second thoughts, I don’t really have the time for this one. Nuts.]

  • 17 March: my actual birthday. For the first time since the age of 8, I’m taking the chance on a party. Since my previous attempt at mixing my friends went okay, I decided to push my luck a little and impose a theme – being born on St Patrick’s Day makes it a no-brainer anyway. So “Craic Whores” it is then – a cheesy Irish theme party fit to inflict a lifetime’s worth of cringing on my poor Irishman.

  • 18 March: This is the tricky bit. Ideally I will spend the afternoon getting drenched in water and dye and bhangra at the Holi festival, rush home to change, rush out again to Ci’en’s party where she has kindly invited a couple of us to play music, then finally head to see GANG STARR!(!!!!!) However, in reality it is far more likely that I will collapse asleep on my bed after Holi and wake up the next morning still Technicolored. I live in hope though.