Friday, 30 May 2008

now is the winter of our discontent

I never know how to write about being a single Christian woman without it sounding like a big whinge. And some people I think find it a bit too personal, especially talking about this stuff on something as public as a blog. But I think it's something worth writing about honestly because it's something I and many of my peers struggle with, and there must be some value in expressing that. Surely. (At least it can help the praying types to know what to pray for when they want to pray for me!)

Generally, I am quite happy with the way things are, I'm pretty content. I'm reasonably independent, I'm capable, I have a good job, I live in a lovely place, I have lots of wonderful friends and family and I'm valued for who I am as a person. But it seems that when I acknowledge aloud that I'm content, that's usually when the doubt creeps in and I start to feel most discontent and wonder why it is that I'm in this situation. I start to think about past mistakes and wonder whether I've screwed things up irreparably. I start to feel frustrated about who I am and what I have and all I can think about is what I haven't got and how I'm getting older and what if it gets to a point where it's all 'too late'?

Of course I am well aware of the pitfalls, sadnesses and loneliness within marriages at times, even when they're good ones. And I know parenthood is a tough road. I don't for one minute think that being a wife or mother would instantly fulfil me or make me eternally joyful or stop me being sick or suddenly cure my depression. And yet...

It's not so much the grand passion and romance that I start to dream about, but little things that speak of a deeper commitment and intimacy. Things borne of friendship and comfort and familiarity and wonder. I don't dream of a Broadway romance by any means, but there is something in Eliza Doolittle's simple wish - "Someone's head resting on my knee / warm and tender as he can be / who takes good care of me / oh wouldn't it be luverly?"

It's such a test of my faith, because I have to trust God that he's got a purpose for me that may involve a husband and a family one day...or it may not. And yet when I'm feeling low, I feel like wailing, "But why can't I have those things? What's wrong with me? I'm great with kids, aren't I? I'd be a great wife! Isn't this what I was made for?"

So. Please pray for me. Pray that I would remember that God has forgiven me all my past mistakes (and all my future ones too!). Pray that I would be grateful for what he has generously given me and not constantly wishing for something else, that I would find true contentment in him. Pray that I would trust him and be patient.

Thursday, 29 May 2008


Yes I broke my blog. No I haven't got the energy to fix it right now. Yes I am using a random template until I can fix it. Grah.

Oh also, you might have noticed a name change that just sort of slid in quietly a while ago. Hopefully one day soon I will build a proper site at that will have bits of my writing and photography and other cool things. But in the meantime, The Laundrette is dead. Long live the Procrastinatrix. (I was always confused as a child when I'd hear in movies and the like "The king is dead. Long live the king!" Wait...didn't you just say he was dead? What is this, some kind of zombie king?)

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


This is what I look like on the inside.

So I realised I hadn't updated people on the situation with my head and some are wondering whether I'm okay. Well, yeah kind of and no not really. Yeah I'm fine in that although the 'artefact' in my brain is still there, it hasn't changed or grown or made me telekinetic, so that's good. And no, I'm not okay in that I still have chronic headaches that seem to be almost constant now, occasionally migrainey but usually just thrumming away in the background. The specialist is sending me off to a neurologist "just to be sure" that the artefact isn't anything serious (I may have had it all my life, apparently, but it's better to be sure).

In the meantime, I'm continuing with the acupuncture twice a week which does seem to be helping alleviate some of the symptoms in the short term, at least. I've also started counselling again and we're working on decreasing my stress / adrenalin levels. Apparently I have been running on a high adrenalin level constantly for some time now, which isn't a healthy way to live (and probably has something to do with the headaches). It would be very nice if I didn't have to resort to drugs to get a full night's sleep, but it does become tempting when you wake up every night at 3am with a pounding head.

Anyway, that's where I'm at! I'll update you when I know more.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

just put it down

This morning I was sitting on the back step in the sun, watching the cat prowl around the half-weeded garden. It was one of those really lovely, simple, satisfying moments. My first thought was, "We're so lucky to live here", which I immediately corrected to "We're so blessed". I'm not equating luck with blessings by any means; rather, I am acknowledging that all these good things we have don't just happen to us by chance, or by anything that we have maneuvered, but they are given to us by a loving and generous God.

Then I went inside to have my breakfast, and unwrapped the Sunday paper.

If there was ever a thing that showed up the contrast between the Christian life and what the world has to offer, it is the lifestyle section of the Sun-Herald. Maybe there are only some of us who are susceptible to this, but I find the rare occasions when I flick through the 'S' supplement of the Sun-Herald leave me feeling dissatisfied, feeling bad about myself, and with a strange urge to go shopping.

I ate my porridge and drank my coffee, idly scanning over photos of celebrities and party people, an article defending the use of swearing in everyday conversation, and a profile on Angelina Jolie, the "mighty-hearted actress" who "finds there is no rest for a beautiful, wanted woman". But the thing that finally made me shove the paper away was the box titled, "Don a dog tag to win in the style stakes", which offered solutions for both the 'filthy rich' and 'dirt poor' fashion conscious who think wearing a little metal disc on a chain around their necks will make them the envy of all. The filthy rich option was an Emporio Armani tag for a cool $399 and the dirt poor? Well thank goodness that those people who are having trouble paying the bills and buying enough nutritious food will be able to be cutting edge for only $119 - what a bargain for a silly little bit of metal with some brand's logo stamped on it.

(I was only up to page 11 of a 32-page supplement. Thank goodness I didn't feel compelled to read right to the end, or this rant might have been a lot longer!)

I'll be better served going back outside and finishing off my gardening job from yesterday, and thinking more about the many blessings God has given me, which don't involve finding my identity in clothing and accessories. Maybe the newspaper will make a good base for one of my veggie beds...

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

I made a book!

No, not that book. After coming back from overseas, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to use Blurb, which I've wanted to try out for ages. You download their very easy-to-use software, you can start from scratch or use one of their great templates, if you have a blog you can 'slurp' your blog straight into the template - and that's what I did. I also fiddled around adding my photos from Flickr and then ordered it! Easy.

If I was going to do it again, I would probably be a bit more careful with it. I didn't alter any of the fonts and (shame!) didn't do a close enough proofread so there are some glitches in the transfer from blog to book that I should have tidied up. But all in all, it's a wonderful memento of my trip and so much more interesting than a photo album!

I think you can look at a preview of it if you click the link could even order it if you were that way inclined (that isn't a hint, by the way).

the record of a ho...
By Rebecca Jee

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


I am so full. Had dinner this evening with mum and Nic at the wonderful Restaurant Assiette in Surry Hills, near Central. Well worth a visit; a beautifully simple room, quiet and not ostentatious, with friendly, knowledgeable, yet unobtrusive staff. We had the degustation menu, tiny portions of marvellous delights.

Standouts were little touches like the tender coriander on the oyster (yes, I had an oyster!), the wasabi-infused caviar on the sashimi, the parmesan ice cream on the risotto (sounds strange, but it was divine), and the sliver of chocolate mousse cake. We also drank a delicious 2004 Moss Wood cabernet. Suffice it to say, I'm very fortunate to have a brother who loves to treat us to wonderful meals because I couldn't eat like this all the time! It would be so easy to become jaded as a food critic I think, but when you only dine like this once every so often, the meal becomes a celebration in itself, something to be savoured and remembered.

Restaurant Assiette Degustation Menu

Seasonal oyster with Vietnamese dressing and baby coriander

Tuna, cucumber and avocado ‘sushi’ sashimi with wasabi-infused caviar

Carpaccio of wagyu beef with baby beetroot, port jelly, horseradish and shoestring potatoes

Pan fried scallop with onion bhaji, curried cauliflower puree and mint yoghurt

Mushroom and asparagus risotto with parmesan ice cream and parmesan crisps

Crispy skin barramundi with parsnip, smoked eel, caponata and sauce matelote

Veal fillet and shank with spiced pumpkin, almonds and gnocchi

Selected cheese with rosemary lavosh

Vanilla custard with spiced fruit compote

Chocolate mousse cake with brownie and prune Armagnac ice cream (below)

I've got to get better at surreptitious food photography with my mobile phone camera.

Monday, 19 May 2008

beware the ups

...for there is always a down.

I think with any sort of condition you have your good days and your bad days. Sometimes the goods are very good, which invariably means the low that balances it out will be very low. The thing that I'm aiming for is to make the distance between the peaks and troughs shrink, so that yes, there will be bad days as well as good, but I won't swing so wildly in between the two.

On Saturday, as I mentioned in the last post, I had Word by Word. It was a great day, hearing Guan's talk on reviews and reviewing, having lunch at Gourmet Pizza Kitchen and then doing some good writing and workshopping on Undragon Stories. Guan and I then went to see Iron Man - just as awesome the second time around, and I'm starting to think Robert Downey Jr might just be the perfect comic-book hero actor. And it was just such a nourishing day, with lots of creativity, time with friends, and a general, all-round positivity that was hard to beat.

On Sunday, I went along as moral support for mum to hear a minister they might be nominating for St Martin's. It's an unpleasant job, being a nominator; you have the weight of the church on your shoulders, you have to be objective, but you also just want to pick someone so your church isn't floundering without a leader. And then there's the awkwardness of turning up to a church (especially a tiny one like the one we went to yesterday) where it's obvious you're not a member of the congregation and people wonder what you're doing there.

The Anglican system isn't perfect by any means, and it's like a nasty game of tag, where you poach someone's minister and then they have to go through the process to poach someone else's minister, etc, etc. The diocese hasn't been overly helpful either; they don't give the nominators any help with working out who is eligible to be approached (generally someone who has been in their current church for at least five years), and don't give any recommendations, but are quick to tell them 'no' when the nominators suggest people. Why they can't just say 'don't consider these people' in the first place, I don't know. And surely the diocese would be more familiar with which ministers would be good fits for which parish, and be able to give suggestions. Maybe it's different in a more high-profile church, but for a smallish, struggling church like St Martin's, I would think they would need just as much help as some of the big guns. But anyway.

So we drove out to this church, about an hour from where we live, and mum had printed out directions from WhereIs that seemed pretty straightforward. But even though we followed them to the letter, we think there was either a mistake or we majorly misinterpreted one of the directions because we got lost. Thankfully mum has a pretty decent sense of direction (because I don't), and we eventually found our way to the church. We were about 25 minutes late, so missed the beginning of the sermon, but caught most of it. It was quite interesting, actually, part of a series about Catholicism, and looking at the whole Mary issue. We had communion, which was also good as I have missed the (infrequent) communion service at Wild St. Then after a brief chat with the minister and his wife (both very friendly), we left pretty much straight away so we wouldn't have that awkward thing of having to answer questions as to why we were there. It felt odd.

We went on to Berrima for lunch, and I bought some more fat quarters for my new quilt at the lovely patchwork shop there. But a nasty headache had crept in and by the time we headed home it was full blown. I almost fell asleep driving at 110km/hour on the freeway - very scary! - so mum took over. Then the car almost overheated so we had to stop and let the engine cool down for a while. Thankfully we got home, and we praised God for keeping us safe.

I wanted to go to church but by that time I just had to lie down in a dark room. We had dinner and watched Gilmore Girls and then I just had to call it quits, couldn't even keep my eyes open. Today hasn't been much better, I've been in bed, migrainey and queasy all day. Had a brief jaunt out to North Sydney to pick up my MRI scans (and am very grateful to Guan for driving me), and am now horizontal again with my loving cat curled up beside me.

I wonder if two very full days was too much for me. Partly I think it's because I've had a few days in a row where I've been feeling good and positive, I therefore started being more active again, and maybe I just tried to do too much while forgetting that there would be an energy crash coming sooner or later. Guh. Bring on those resurrection bodies, I say!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

falling through the cracks

I haven't read any of Debra Adelaide's books, but I was taken by an interview with her in this week's Spectrum, where she talks about the process of writing her latest book, The Household Guide to Dying. This seems to underline the point I made at last year's Faithful Writer* about how important time, space and support are to creativity and writing.
...The Household Guide To Dying must have been forming unconsciously for years. By the time she embarked on the novel in 2003, her marriage had ended and she was raising three children - Joe, now 18, Ellen, 15, and Callan, 10 - in south-west Sydney while working as a book reviewer and part-time creative writing teacher. That year she scored a full-time lecturer's position at the University of Technology, Sydney. Then Callan developed leukemia.

Again Adelaide is adamant that her novel is not about her son's illness. However, two years of treatment, worry and work left her little time to write. Callan recovered but Adelaide was not sure if her novel would. "I was afraid to look at it because I thought, how can I continue writing a flippant novel about dying when my own son's been suffering with leukemia? I had to make a decision. So I forced myself to open it one day and I found I could go on with it."

A small research grant enabled Adelaide to offload some of her teaching last year and meet a self-imposed deadline. "I felt convinced that a book I'd written to amuse myself in snatched time in a little corner of my bedroom - a novel I had to fit into the cracks of my life - couldn't possibly work." When she handed it over to her agent, Lyn Tranter, she said, "You'll probably tell me to go away and give it a decent burial." Tranter, however, decided to auction the book.

I love that phrase "a novel I had to fit into the cracks of my life"; that's exactly what it feels like writing my book Undragon Stories. I want to give it more time and space, but feel like my life is so stretched most of the time, there's nowhere to put it.

Yet every so often I get a little burst of enthusiasm about the book, like yesterday when I workshopped a very small scene I wrote a few weeks ago and felt greatly encouraged by my fellow Word-By-Word writers. I've checked out a few grants here and there, because it would be so wonderful to be able to buy a slab of time that I could use to finish the book. But most of the big ones, even if you're applying for the new or 'emerging' writers grants, you have to have a certain number of things already published. I've had a few things published, but not nearly enough. So how do you prioritise? Is it more important to work hard on a book to get it finished, or to work on shorter pieces you can get published in journals so you can apply for the money to allow you to work hard on the book to get it finished?

At this point, just writing at all is a victory, and I'm happy to claim it.

* by the way, this year's Faithful Writer conference is coming up on August 2. The keynote speaker is Mark Tredinnick, he of The Little Red Writing Book fame. There will be writing time, workshop time, and some great seminars (Karen and I are running a seminar on Writers and Editors, but we both want to go and hear the others too!). Along with Mark Tredinnick and Greg Clarke, I'll be reading some of my work at the end of the day. You should come along - register now if you haven't already!

Friday, 16 May 2008


I am so glad it's Friday. It's been quite a big week actually.
  • Work was a bit up-and-down for me, with a lot of pressure and the initial freak-out of how I was going to deal with all that pressure. I think I've managed to get my head above it and work out how to move through it all without imploding. Have actually managed to get a lot of things ticked off my list, which is immensely satisfying.
  • Had the MRI, get the results this weekend.
  • Had two acupuncture appointments for my headaches.
  • Saw a new counsellor for the first time. I think it's going to be very helpful; she seems lovely and the conversation flowed freely. We'll see what comes out of it. But as always, when you have to go over the story of your life and how you got to this point, it can be quite exhausting and can drag emotions out of you that you weren't expecting.
But now that we've finally gotten to Friday, I'm glad to report that I'm feeling better than I have all week, well enough to embark upon a new creative project. I've started to make this quilt which might seem a bit hokey to some of you, but I think it's going to be interesting to do. It would be a great quilt to do in a church craft group; you could do one block a month and do a study on each part of the Bible the block represents. My godmother and I were thinking of starting a quilting group for Christian women in the area, but we've not managed to get in sync with our timing yet (it's mainly me and my busyness, I'm pretty sure she'd be excited to do it anytime). It might happen one day, you never know.

I've almost finished the Walls of Jericho block tonight while watching Gilmore Girls season 7 with mum. I don't have a sewing machine, so am sewing it all by hand, but I'm in no rush so it doesn't bother me. A few days ago I was in such a mire of blackness I couldn't even fathom how I would start a new project. So this is a Very Good Thing indeed!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

my Wednesday

The MRI was uneventful. I had it at the Mater Hospital in North Sydney this time, as they have the smallest Medicare gap of all the MRI thingos. They also play music through noise-cancelling headphones so the banging of the machine isn't so intense. I couldn't really hear the music at times, but it was kind of good to have Classic FM to focus on. The staff were very pleasant and friendly, and unlike St Vincent's I didn't have to get changed into a hospital gown. So all round it was a much better experience.

I then came home to nap for an hour, then went over to the MacBeaths' to spend some time with my goddaughter and her family. I tell you, there's no mood-lifter like trying to read a five year old and a one year old a story, and have them both decide to simultaneously blow raspberries on your stomach. A hilarious time was had by all.

I was then going to go on to Bible study but got a message from Guy saying it had been cancelled. I was quite relieved, as I am a little weary. Ooh...and now I can watch Spicks and Specks!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

rut - already

Ack. I hate this place that I'm in, mentally. Lots and lots of things I want to do (such as write, sing, make songs, start a new quilt, fix up the garden, write, draw, make amigurumi, photograph, build things) and absolutely no energy to do them. So I feel useless. This then leads to negative reflections such as "what's the point of doing any of it?", and then the flipside "what's the point of doing anything but creatively productive/expressive stuff?"

And I end up doing none of it.

Actually the point of it all is that I'm not too well at the moment (both health and emotion-wise), and so I shouldn't be too hard on myself. I can do little bits of things. It would be nice to have the time and space to do something big. But little bits of things will have to do. For now.

Tomorrow I go to the Mater Hospital in North Sydney for my second MRI - this time with dye injected into me so they can see things more clearly in my head. I'm not anxious about it, just tired.

some inspiration

I need to collect things like this in a jar and open it to look at them when I'm floundering.
For me, that’s what creativity is - playing with found objects, reconstructing things that already exist, transforming ideas or stories I already know. It’s not about the colonisation of new territory, it’s about exploring inwards, examining your existing presumptions, squinting at the archive of experience from new angles, and hoping for some sort of revelation. What really matters is whether we as readers continue to think about the things we have read and seen long after the final page is turned.
Shaun Tan, Originality and Creativity [source]

Sunday, 11 May 2008

conversation piece

I've had interesting encounters with chatty people lately. I got a taxi driver the other night whose Chinese/English accent was so strong I could barely understand what he was saying, but when I did decipher it, turned out he was telling me all about why modern motorbikes are rubbish. "If you give one away, I still not take it!" I don't know if I looked like someone who would know or care what he was talking about, but he certainly was passionate about it. A bike passed us in traffic and he chortled, "Sound like angree mosseee!"

Today I went into the city and got my hair cut, and the hairdresser similarly decided to tell me all about all sorts of things that I hadn't really professed an interest in, from her boyfriend winning Lotto (she wasn't sure if he was telling the truth when he said he'd won $24 million), to the change in her bra cup size. She kept telling me, at every stage of the process, that my haircut was going to look 'hot'; after the tenth time she said this, my polite smile was starting to fade, but I realised she did have a mild sense of humour when she teased the hair over my face and went "See? HOTTTTT." She was also one of those 20-year-old who talks about their life as though they've been around for aeons ("I've been doing this since I was 14...I'm 20 now, so, yeah, like forever."). Still, she was kind of amusing, and I like my haircut.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

the man in black

Last night, we went to see, hear and speak to Neil Gaiman at Books Kinokuniya. Guan and I drove in and had a coffee. Karen had gone home to change into her lovely velvet coat (which was commented upon favourably by me and others), but soon joined us and we saved a spot for Fish to join us after work. We sat on the floor in some semblance of a queue with a bunch of other black-clad fans; closer to the start time I looked up behind us and the store was swarming with people. I'm glad we had the presence of mind to line up early!

The woman who introduced Neil was nervous as anything. Her hands didn't just tremble, they shook as she tried to read her speech, and she was worried he was making fun of her behind her back (he wasn't...well, not really). And then Neil stepped forward to cheers and applause. His voice has a pleasing English lilt to it, and he is charming and gracious, so it wasn't at all difficult to sit there on the floor for an hour, listening to him read from his upcoming book and answering questions that had been scribbled down by the audience. He said wonderful things about writing, which I forget the details of. He made us laugh contentedly. A large Moleskine was passed around by the organisers for the fans to write notes in for Neil; I wrote something blathery and gushy. But then, I think everyone did.

I was fading fast by this stage, desperately needing to eat and not be in a crowd, but thanks to our queueing skills, we only had to wait for about 15 minutes to get to the head of the line. We flipped through the well-thumbed proofs of The Graveyard Book while we waited, and then, there I was, standing in front of Neil. He blinked at me and smiled.

"Hallo," he said. "How are you?"

"Hello," I replied. "I am well. How are you?"

"I also am well. We are both well and very polite."

We chatted about sleep and food and not having enough of either while he signed Neverwhere and The Dream Hunters for me. Then it was all over. With probably another 450 people after me, I was never going to be able to have a conversation with him. Besides which, I never know what to say on the spot like that; it's why I don't think I'd make an especially good interviewer, because I can't think of interesting questions under pressure (the funniest question Neil answered from the audience was the final one: "What do you think about Starburst?" He paused while the audience cracked up, and it looked as though he was toying with the idea of answering with his opinion on the candy, rather than discussing his book and the movie, called Stardust. In the end he said, "Someone, somewhere in this room, has just gone bright red.")

We went to Sakura afterwards to have dinner. I couldn't even focus on the menu so trusted the others to order, and the food was good. Miso soup is very refreshing when I am that tired! Once revived, I drove everyone home, then went home and lay in bed, wishing I was beyond these early stages of my writing career, or at least that I could enjoy it more, but being very glad to have finally seen Neil in the flesh.


Hasn't been much to report since I got back. Though I was very glad to get home and see my mum and my friends again, it's been very hard to get back into the daily routine. I'm not sure how long it's supposed to take to get over jetlag, but I have a feeling the two coughing German lads sitting beside me on the plane may have given me a cold, because I've definitely felt under the weather since returning.

Work I experienced a sort of stressful anxiety on Monday, being propelled straight back into the melée, facing a full email inbox and a to-do list that my boss had drawn up for me. I don't know why this rankled so; I know he was just clearing out the to-do lists in his own head, but I already was aware of all the things I had to do (they're written up on my calendar, having been planned since the beginning of the year), so having them written down for me again made me feel as though I wasn't in control of my own job. Or was being checked up on. Or something.

We had a training session that morning, though, which helped me calm down at bit. Mark talked us through goal-setting, and encouraged us to write up a 'Spiritual Development Plan' for the year (this will be nothing new to anyone doing MTS). This helped me to think about things that I want to do, both personally and professionally, and to write clear, concrete, SMART goals* for myself.

And it's no surprise to anyone who knows me and my sleepy ways, but I am starting to think that perhaps I need to start and finish work later. Maybe still get up at the same time, but have an extra hour where I can potter around and eat a leisurely breakfast and sit in the sun for ten minutes, rather than dragging myself out of bed and turning up to work miserable. And then maybe finish around 5.00 (like normal people). I don't know how people at work would take that, but I have a feeling this might be easier to achieve in a couple of months when the offices downstairs are finished and Mark and I can move down there. I'll be less bound by the routines of the rest of the office, and, hopefully, will be able to get my work done at my own pace.

Part of me fears that this won't be the case, that even after a change of environment and trying to set up systems to help me cope with life a bit more, that I will still find everything immensely difficult and trying. It's hard not to feel like a hypochondriac or like I'm on a perennial downer. I shouldn't worry so much about what other people think, but it does make me anxious.

The holiday was so good but oh how quickly it drains away.

* SMART goals – Specific/Stretching, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic, Time-bound

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Big things I learned on my holiday

  • How dependent I am on God and how much I love being a part of his family
  • How blessed I am with wonderful Christian friends
  • How much I treasure some of them
  • How it is possible for me to be independent and yet how much I need my friends and family to survive
  • How well God looks after me

Friday, 2 May 2008

Friday - home!

Who arrives at the ridiculous hour of 5am? Me, that's who.

But I'm back! My mother and cat were both excited to see me, and I them, and many hugs were had. I don't know whether they are aware that I have turned into a zombie since returning to Sydney...but I'm sure they'll love me anyway.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Thursday - Singapore and homeward bound

We woke early and because breakfast wasn't included in the room tariff, Dad decided we'd go out somewhere for breakfast. Unfortunately (and I thought he would have realised this), nothing was open until about 10.30am except Starbucks and Maccas. So for the first time on my entire trip, I had McDonalds.

The heat was thick and intense, and because I've been in a cold climate and had packed very light, I had to wear my jeans and a t shirt. Even though we were in air conditioning most of the time, I think the climate got to me. We walked over to Sim Lim Square, an enormous building with six or seven floors absolutely jam packed with little electronics stores. Dad was checking out something to do with his home cinema and of course had to go and ask at all the different shops for prices, and haggle, and get the spiel (in the end he didn't even get home cinema stuff, he got a GPS).

At first I revelled in my gadget-headry, but after a while it got really exhausting. The place was packed, as today was the Labour Day holiday, and I forgot how tiring it is just pushing through the crowds of people in Asia. Having said that, I was glad to be in Singapore for the day; it still feels like home to me, even though I haven't lived here for over 20 years (eep). Dad was filled with consternation at every turn and kept saying "They've changed everything! They've changed everything!" This is an understatement in a place like Singapore that is constantly under development and never stands still, but he seemed to take it as a personal affront.

Dad bought me a portable hard drive for my birthday (yay!). I had something bordering on a migraine by this stage, so we left and had noodles (still no satay, but the noodles were good). I also had an almond bubble tea, and Dad ordered the same. After a couple of sips, he remarked "Elmon is an acquired taste." It took me a while to work out he meant almond, and then he said, "It reminds me of the bugs we used to squash as kids." Janice tried the drink and nodded, "Yep. Bugs." I have no idea what bugs they're talking about...crazy almond bugs...

We managed to get a late checkout for my room, so I had a bath and then lay sprawled on the bed, still unable to nap. For afternoon tea, Dad and I went downstairs to Swensen's, an old childhood favourite of mine that still has the Earthquake on the menu (a massive bowl with all their ice cream flavours and toppings in it, and dry ice in the middle to create a smoking crater effect). We didn't have that though, we had two sundaes that were probably a bit too sweet, but I wasn't complaining!

Dad drove me to the airport, and stayed with me til I checked in. It was good to see him; despite everything I do feel a great affection for him. I meandered through customs, bought some iPod speakers in duty free, and now I sit here...waiting for the gate to open. Apparently it's going to be another full flight, but somehow that doesn't matter so much when you know home is at the other end.

When next I write, hopefully it will be from my house!

Wednesday - London to Singapore

Well what a turnaround from my flight over to Europe. I was down the back of the plane, in the middle, once more expecting to be jammed in. But as the flight started to fill up, the rows around me remained sparsely populated. I didn't even want to hope that I might have a spare seat next to me so I tried not to think about it. Then the doors were closed, I looked up from my magazine, and realised I had the entire row to myself! After 'dinner' (which was...actually I don't know what it was...I usually don't mind the inflight catering, but this was pretty ordinary) I put up all the armrests, gathered my four pillows and stretched out. I slept for nine hours of the twelve hour flight, which I think was pretty amazing!

On arriving at Changi I got a text from dad saying he couldn't pick me up but to head straight to the hotel. I got a taxi with no problems and had a very friendly and chatty taxi driver. Example of conversation:

Driver: (as we approach a large electronic toll sign with ERP written on it) You know what is E-R-P?
Me: No. Tell me.
Driver: Every-Road-Pays. (laughs uproariously)
Me: (encouraging this terrible dad joke) That's great.
Driver: (suddenly concerned) That's not really what it stands for.
Me: I know, but I think your version's better.
Driver: (beams)

We arrived at the Pan Pacific Hotel, I checked in and zoomed up to the 16th floor where I was greeted by dad and shown my room. Ah, but the Asians do top-end luxury well. Everything is grand and opulent. The bed was absolutely huge. The shower - oh! the shower! - was like having a massage. It was all extremely comfortable and grand. After sloughing off the detritus of the flight, I met up with Dad and his fiancée Janice, and we wandered through to the mall to find some dinner.
I really wanted satay, but for some reason we got Japanese instead. But that wasn't a bad thing, the food was delicious. For example, what I think looks like the sushi lochness monster (it was very tasty):

It was great to see Dad again, but not long after this the fatigue set in. I was grateful for my enormous bed and my quiet room, although I woke up at 4.30am and was unable to go back to sleep.

Tuesday - Belfast to London

The transit time between my flight getting in at Heathrow and changing to the Singapore plane was very tight - two hours exactly, which left no room for anything going wrong, and given the track record on this trip and Heathrow's notorious 'issues', I wasn't confident. So I changed my Singapore flight to the next one, which happened to be twelve hours later. Jen decided to come down from Oxford with JD for the day so I wouldn't be bumming around on my own.

Bek and John kindly dragged themselves up out of bed at 6.30am to drive me to the airport (about 40 mins away from their place), and we put on our Bjork t-shirts to make it a bit more bearable.
And wouldn't you know it, but this one particular flight, that I had been anxious about, came in on time, my bag came out quickly and I made it to Terminal 4 in plenty of time. Oh well - I was excited about seeing Jen again, so it was all good. I checked my bags in at the left luggage spot and after following the many confusing signs eventually found myself at the Underground. I had to meet Jen at Marble Arch, so instead of catching the expensive express train I bought an all day Tube ticket and went into town that way. What was a 15 minute trip on the express train took over an I know why they charge a premium for it!

Jen, JD and I had a happy reunion and grabbed some food and caffeine. Of course while we were in the cafe it started bucketing down with rain, much like the last time we saw each other at Oxford (at least I was organised this time and had my umbrella). But, no matter, we bought a map and decided to head over to St Paul's Cathedral, as neither of us had been there before.

The Marble Arch Tube station was mysteriously closed at this point, so we decided to wander down Oxford Street to the next stop. It then became apparent that the British public transport system is really not set up for disabled people or people with prams. The escalators say 'no prams' but there aren't any lifts or stairs. At Bond St station we had to actually leave the station, go across the road to the older entrance and carry the pram down the stairs. I guess the stations are all old and it would cost a lot to upgrade them, but compared to Australia where they are obsessive about accessibility, it's surprising to find somewhere that is so inaccessible to people who aren't especially mobile.

After more manhandling the pram up the stairs, we found ourselves at St Paul's station, staring at a map, trying to work out which way to go. "Is it this way?" I ask. We spy a bit of statuary. "Is that it over there?" Then we round the corner and burst out laughing; St Paul's is so unbelievably massive it was funny to think we couldn't see it.
St Paul's does have an entrance for the disabled. The sign said to press a buzzer, but "Due to the large size of the building, there may be a delay before someone arrives." We waited around, redirecting other tourists who were trying to line up with us to the main entrance, and after about 10 minutes a harried looking woman let us in. "You do know we have an entry fee of ten pounds, don't you?" Er, no. Ten pounds? That seems excessive. Oh well, we agreed to pay it and went in. "And there is no photography inside the cathedral." Ten pounds and I can't take photos? Rats!

But once we were inside, we were gobsmacked by the building. Gold mosaics, statues of saints and apostles, huge columns soaring into the air, beautiful domes overhead. We sat down and took it all in, then while Jen fed JD I went on an explore and climbed the hundred-and-something stairs up to the Whispering Gallery, the balcony that runs around the inside of the main dome. I was climbing up the seemingly endless spiral staircase behind an Asian Dad who grumbled and complained the whole way, and his exasperated daughter who kept snapping, "You read the brochure before we came up, Dad, it told you how many stairs there were!"
We didn't really have any other plans, so we ended up spending all afternoon at St Paul's, just looking at it all, having tea and scones in the Crypt (I just love saying that), and then staying on for Evensong at 5.00. Jen whispered to me as it began, "Just warning, if you enjoy this then you're definitely an Anglican." I guess I must be Anglican then! I wouldn't want that to be my experience of church every week, but as a one-off experience it was wonderful, especially given I hadn't been able to get to church that week when I was in Belfast (which struck me as ironic). The music was glorious and bell-like, the litany all from Scripture, and the prayers moved me to tears, which I think is a good thing. It was so refreshing to just sit and reflect on God, to praise him and pray and just be there.
We parted at 6.00, Jen to head back to Oxford and me to Heathrow. I sat in the airport and ate some indifferent food, blogged about Bjork and got on the plane without any fuss. And then, to my delight, the doors closed and I was the only person seated in my row of four! Luxury! Compared to the flight over, it was bliss. After dinner I put all the arm rests up and was actually able to sleep for two thirds of the journey. It certainly makes all the difference!