Collected Tweetlinks

Twitter link flotsam from the past few weeks, which I persist in collecting here because I can’t quite handle the ephemerality of Twitter. But do follow @syntaxfreeblog if you’re into that!

Gym/Tate Britain/Timoleon Vieta Book Launch

[We are at war. Two of my friends in Singapore have SARS. A dear friend here has suddenly lost his mother. It would be flippant if not downright disrespectful if I started writing about my week without clarifying that behind the breeziness I am actually trying to take all this in my stride.]

Here’s what went into Thursday:

Continuing gym membership saga

My relationship with my gym membership got even more complicated on Thursday morning. I arrived at the gym too late to go into the Pilates class I’d been aiming for. This was far from devastating, and I was all ready to go cheerily and sweatlessly back to my comfy flat and sprawl on the couch with English Passengers (so good) and tea, but then the girl at reception suggested I use the gym instead. I laughed this off, explaining I’d never used one before. “Oh, but we can book you in for a free induction!” she trilled brightly, and unable to think up another excuse fast enough, I had to reluctantly agree. Friends, I feel myself slowly losing the battle against fitness. What is to be done?

Conversation, culture and closeness

The afternoon was a lesson in how to have a wonderful time in London with very little money. All you need is a beautiful day, a Marks & Spencer’s pasta lunch, a bench outside the Tate Britain, and a best friend you haven’t seen in a long time. At about 3 we decided we should probably fulfil the original purpose of the outing and actually enter the museum, which was a good call given that without some discipline we would have been entirely capable of obliviously talking the afternoon away till the museum closed at 6.

The quantity and range of art you can see for free in London museums never fails to overwhelm me, and this museum is no exception. We’d had a vague plan of seeing some Turner, Days Like These (a triennial exhibition of contemporary British art), and Constable to Delacroix: British Art And The French Romantics, but could only manage the first two in the end. I thoroughly enjoyed Days Like These – I found almost every exhibit visually and conceptually interesting (which doesn’t always happen for me and modern art) and came out with an impressively low number of I-don’t-get-its. The latter comment would perhaps attract sneers from some arty types, but getting it, or at least having some vague sort of clue, is what makes modern art worthwhile for me.

Book launch, dah-ling

It was for a new book by Dan Rhodes, writer of Anthropology (one of my favourite books), and pleasant email surprise every now and then ever since he found this site one day.

Dinner beforehand was the terrible mistake of Ken Hom’s Yellow River Cafe, where I had some of the worst Oriental food I’ve had in this country since I once tried a Budgens chicken in black bean sauce ready meal, but execrable food was soon forgotten when we got to the venue for the book launch and found there was a free bar. I was, however, hoping not to meet Dan in person for the first time by telling him how fanchashtic it wash to vinally meech him, and so I was only delicately sipping at my Smirnoff Ice when Roxette’s Fading Like A Flower filled the room. (At this point I should probably explain that apart from the fact that he wrote a book I like very much, the other connection revealed by our email exchanges was a common love for Roxette and other very uncool pop music.) So I was hopping around telling Alec how much I loved the song, and Alec was trying to look as if he wasn’t with me, and then Dan came over and said hello, he’d seen my face light up at the Roxette, and was I Michelle?

I managed to avoid any embarrassing conversational gaffes, the reading was hilarious and ended with Dan sucking on some helium and leading us all in a rousing nasal sing-a-long to I Want To Know What Love Is, so an evening well spent, I think. Of course, I left with a signed copy of his new book, Timeleon Vieta Come Home, which you must all go and buy too.

The “Gym Membership”

Consider this a watershed: I attended my first ever fitness class yesterday.

My recollections of school PE classes are never particularly bad, except that I hated running. In Katong Convent, the perhaps prosaic exercise of training for the 2.4 km run portion of the physical fitness test was enhanced by the fact that we didn’t run around a track, but along the roads surrounding the school, and Cikgu R (Cikgu is Malay for “teacher”) had a habit of cycling along behind us shouting threats that she’d sit on us if we stopped running. This was no laughing matter. She was huge. Raffles Junior College PE was less idiosyncratic, and had the additional benefits of a rock wall, and sometimes a good view of the male sportspeople of the school training on the rugby pitch encircled by the running track as I panted by longing for death.

But institutionalized exercise aside, the idea of voluntarily subjecting myself to pain and perspiration has never been appealing, not at least until I came to London and discovered that in the context of a drum’n’bass club there is a strange satisfaction you can get from the suffering. And after a while here, I started to miss swimming, which I did do a lot in Singapore (much less sweat involved, or at least it all washes off in the water).

So the next step was the gym membership, which till now I can only refer to in conversation as “gym membership”, with my tone of voice incorporating the inverted commas. After a couple of swims, my pathological Singaporean need for value-for-money started to assert itself. Insidiously, it whispered suggestions of trying out a fitness class or two. After all, they were free with the membership. My vanity also started reminding me that frequent swimming screws my hair up, but I needed to visit the gym more than 5 times a month to break even on the membership fee.

This is why I found myself in yesterday’s women-only Legs, Bums and Tums class, lying on my back with my legs in the air with a rolled-up gym mat between my knees as the instructress ran around the room exhorting us to “SQUEEZE!!!” while a rap song with the insistent refrain of “I got sex on my mind, yeah I got sex on my mind” pounded in the background.

It was pretty good. I think I’ll go back.