When life gives you airline pillows…

4 Apr

…keep them and make yourself some throw cushions!

Back in December Mister Noodle and I undertook an unexpectedly epic journey to make it home to England to spend Christmas with our families and friends. After a four-day journey from Singapore that took in a street market in Frankfurt and a 2am taxi journey across London we had little to show for our European detour other than a rather sorry lilac blanket and two cushions, snaffled from our Malaysian Airlines flight. The moment we knew that our ‘only ten minutes from Heathrow’ flight was actually heading to Frankfurt, Mister Noodle swung into Ray Mears survival mode and started stuffing pillows, blankets, you name it into our luggage in preparation for sleeping on an airport floor. Thankfully Malaysian Airlines came up trumps with a hotel and the pillows were superfluous to requirements. However, after spending 3 days without our luggage but with our free pillows we became rather attached to the spoils of the MH004 flight (never the sign of a good journey when the flight number is indelibly marked on your brain).

These little pillows have sat, unloved and uncovered in our apartment ever since our return to Singapore in January. However, a sudden spurt of ‘we must make the apartment looked inhabited’ before the exciting arrival of some of our nearest and dearest, means that the pillows lie neglected no longer. With the help of some fabric from Spotlight, a sewing machine from the supermarket, and a blissful Sunday morning spent sewing and listening to the iPod, I now have one-of-a-kind throw cushions. Ta da!

Cushions from Malaysia, bear from Vietnam, fabric from Singapore

The home improvements didn’t stop there. There are another 3 larger cushions including the one below (for which I indulged Mister Noodle’s love of Japanese Anime). I have decided this cushion should become a barometer for my mood. Wistful anime lady – it’s safe to enter the apartment.

Who's that lady?

Godzilla-like monster – stay well clear!

The internationally recognised symbol for Noodle on the rampage.

 Mister Noodle, for reference, today we are on wistful anime lady so it’s safe to come home!

Supermarket psychoanalysis sweep

1 Apr

For the past few years back in the UK, Mister Noodle and I liked to try to enliven the tedium of the weekly supermarket shop with a little game. We would eagerly keep an eye out for the seemingly random way other shoppers would deposit unwanted items in the aisles, and try to guess the thought process that went along with their decision to dump. This probably doesn’t make much sense but, using the pictures I have snapped in Singapore below, hopefully I can elaborate. From what I have spotted so far the shoppers of Singapore like to play this game too…

First up, a little something I spotted in Daiso. I love Daiso – it is a Japanese  store that sells a myriad of household items all for the princely sum of $2. Whilst browsing the shelves the other day I noticed the rack above. The display was given over to foot care products but slap bang in the middle someone had left a cheese grater. Yes, a course, rasping, metal cheese grater. Had the shopper originally picked up the cheese grater to use on their feet? The decision to dump the item, presumably in favour of a less abrasive product that is actually designed for the purpose of foot care, would suggest so. I took the picture and my feet hobbled away in pseud0-sympathy!

My most recent supermarket psycho-analysis was of a dumping decision many people may relate to at the end of a hard week’s work. Nice, healthy refreshing glass of milk? No, stuff it, I’ll go for the box of 1970s wine instead! It comes with glasses and everything.

So, on that note, grab the Mateus and have a good weekend everybody!

You’ve got (expat) mail!

1 Mar

Every so often an article will appear in the media bemoaning the death of the handwritten, posted letter, at the hands of the evil interweb. However, one of the joys of being an expat is an increase in lovely letters. Along with the usual utility and phone bills, we now receive in the post little cards and parcels from back home that, along with the Skyping and the emailing, make the 7,000 miles shrink that little bit more.

My lovely Auntie Mad, for example, has sent us a postcard or note to mark every 24th of the month ever since we got married on that day last July. There have been postcards of our beloved Suffolk and even a card written and signed whilst we all mucked in and stuffed the turkey on Christmas Eve. Mister Noodle’s mum has sent articles including one from a national UK paper about Mister N’s favourite real ale pub (The Fat Cat, Ipswich*) which was slightly to Mister N’s horror as he feared national media exposure may mean he will never get a seat again in the already quite ‘cosy’ establishment.

Anyway, I got home from work this afternoon to find a parcel from my mum that, alongside the required contact lens prescription, included a selection of articles from Sunday supplements. Whilst Mister N. can download the main papers to his whizzy Kindle, the magazines remain beyond our sticky little noodley grasps so are also a welcome sight.

A little light reading

I particularly love the fact that my mum makes clear where she has sent an incomplete article that backs on to the ones she has meant to send. I think the big crosses look like parental censorship although I know this isn’t her intention. So, this week, whilst I shall be reading about David Hockney and Sebastian Faulks’ views of characters in fiction I will NOT be reading about American feminism.

Censorship Mum-style

*For anyone looking for really good ale, homemade scotch eggs and the occasional Tractor Boy with a 6ft pitch fork propping up the bar it is the place to go (just don’t tell anyone else).

An unexpected brush with art

15 Feb

My last few journeys back from work have been a little fraught. Massive storms seem to find 4.30pm a particularly good time to start raging and have invariably left me sodden and a little shaken. Friday’s episode was so bad that, after dodging lightning with a very flimsy umbrella on an overpass,  I ran in, lunged for my eyemask and buried myself under the covers.*

Anyway, suffice to say I have not found the journey back home very pleasurable for the last few days. As the storms started up again this afternoon I feared I was in for a repeat performance. However, wonder of wonders, the rain cleared by the time I got off the bus and as I sauntered my way home I came across this, oh so carefully placed arrangement on the side of the road:

Isn’t it beautiful? Someone has taken the trouble to tear the leaf into an ‘o’ and arrange the berries and flower and I have absolutely no idea why. The mystery makes it even more appealing and intriguing. I felt as if I had glimpsed behind the wardrobe door into Narnia!

So I skipped on a little more lightheartedly all thanks to an unexpected brush with art. Thank you unknown artist – your work is beautiful and this photo may even make its way onto my wall.

*As a child I hated balloons and had to have indoor fireworks that looked like smouldering dog mess in a biscuit tin. It explains a lot.

Sharing the (Poodle Noodle) love

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

An early morning Valentine’s greeting winged its way across the ether from a certain Poodle Noodle today. Never one to shy away from the limelight he felt the most fitting thing he could send was a picture of himself. Just how he managed to set the self timer whilst in this pose I shall never know! I expect he feels a need to take a break before the doormat is deluged with all those cards from lovelorn Suffolk lady westies.

There has been lots I have been loving about this week in Singapore too.

Rediscovering yoga classes after a six month break has been particularly good. I have spent the last few months looking for a class to join but have been put off by the exorbitant fees charged at a lot of the gyms/yoga centres in town. Whilst working in London I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lunchtime class at work that cost not much more than $15 a class. Here it seems the going rate, unless you want to commit to a year’s worth, is about double that and I fear that my wallet isn’t as flexible as my limbs (will hopefully be).

However, at the end of last week I made the most wonderful discovery: Singapore Community Centres. Run by the People’s Association, the centres offer a range of courses, activities and facilities for the local community. My local centre offers courses ranging from ‘the art of sushi and Japanese cuisine’ to line dancing. I have opted for the elementary Hatha yoga course and at $60 for 10 weeks I am not complaining (although I am a little bit in pain after my first class yesterday). Through Mister Noodle’s work and various other  sources, we had several induction/introductions to living in Singapore yet nobody mentioned the community centres. It is such a shame as if I had only discovered them six months ago I would be tying myself in unimaginable acrobatic knots by now!

Getting crafty

 

The "before I cast my magical sewing spell" shot...

 

Having discovered the fantastic design*sponge and spool blogs over this weekend I have embarked on a little crafty project. More to follow on this one later as the results are likely to turn into gifts. Suffice to say I am very pleased with my first efforts and it has also given me an excuse to spend a good hour and a half wandering the fabric and button aisles at Spotlight.

Backing a winner

Friday night took us to the Turf Club, the home of horseracing in Singapore. I won’t pretend my weekends in England used to be filled with horseracing and gambling. The odd trip to Newmarket for birthdays/stag dos was about as far as it went for Mister Noodle and me. However, when in Singapore and it is pelting with rain what else do you do but go and watch horses run about on grass? Luckily the weather cleared up in time for the racing and we made our way up to Kranji. The course is only 11 years old and much larger than I had imagined. In another case of managing your expectations I hadn’t really been expecting too much from it but was very pleasantly surprised. We opted to pay $20 to go to @hibiscus which is a lounge with bar, restaurant and your own screens for watching the race. Mainly filled with other expats it was a good introduction to the racing but our party of six agreed that next time we would pay a bit less and go closer to the action in the grandstand.

"Look. This is called a horse. You bet on it"

Mister Noodle had more success in the gambling stakes than I did and won enough to make the night out free. Maybe I need to change my tactic of choosing:  given the amount of information they give you in the brochure on weight, form, trainer etc. maybe choosing by horse name and jersey pattern isn’t the most informed way to go! I think we will definitely be back and I am particularly keen to go for the Singapore Airlines International Cup with its $3,000,000 prize fund. I am hoping this will be the one for the best Ascot-style people spotting. In which case, the next  craft project will have to be something like this:

Yes, a rather tenuous link, but I couldn’t end a Valentine’s Day post with a picture of a horse’s behind could I? X

Chinese New Year breaks: Managing your expectations

8 Feb

Ah, seeing in Chinese New Year on a tropical island…relaxing in the sun, soaking up the surroundings, perhaps a little bit of exploring and a lot of cocktails by the pool. Are you jealous yet?

Ever since we arrived in Singapore everyone we encountered told us we must go away for CNY. “The whole of Singapore shuts up shop for a week”, “You’ll either starve or die of boredom”, “If you don’t book soon you’ll end up in an industrial wasteland with only the rusty shell of a warehouse to look at”. Two of those statements are lies, the third is the honest truth and to prove it here is the photographic evidence. The picture above wasn’t shot by my fair hands, unfortunately the one below was. And it is the only picture I took in the whole 3 days we were in our chosen tropical getaway.

 If you squint beyond the scrubland you can just make out the deserted husk of the aforementioned rusty warehouse. This was the only building of note in our immediate surroundings. Still jealous? If you are, then get in touch – I know a hotel that will be just perfect for you.

I feel a bit mean dissecting everything that was wrong with where we visited because that wouldn’t be fair but to give you an idea of how our break panned out, here are a few choice quotes from the weekend:

As we left Singapore by boat to head for our tropical getaway one of our fellow travellers and friends offered the following words of wisdom: “I guess it’s all about managing your expectations”. Just imagine how bursting with holiday excitement we all were!

On our first night: “This is a s!*@ hole, isn’t it?” “Yes”

On our second day: “It really is a s!*@ hole, isn’t it?” “Yes”

On our second night: “It’s still a s!*@ hole, shall we get an early ferry back?” “YESSSS!!!!”

As we left our tropical getaway to head home Mister Noodle offered an insight worthy of all the great travel writers, “At least it didn’t rain”.

So there we have it. Chinese New Year. I really thought I couldn’t top my photo of an Ikea shopping trolley last week but it seems with the rusty shell of a warehouse I am really spoiling you, dear reader. Luckily for us, we hadn’t planned our CNY break as a romantic break a deux and went with friends. We ate a bit, drank a bit and laughed A LOT and isn’t that what holidays are all about? I am sure the laughing buddha would approve!

(With apologies to my mum, my auntie and my mother in law for the swearing!)

Flights of fancy – feathers, fashion and flat pack

2 Feb

…It’s all in a week’s living in Singapore!

Last Monday I took a trip to Jurong Bird Park, situated on the western side of the island. According to the Park’s website it holds over 4,600 birds and is the largest park of its kind in the world. It was certainly a riot of colour, and of noise, when I visited. From beautiful coral pink flamingoes to penguins that were even newer arrivals in Singapore than me, it certainly brightened up an otherwise dreary, drizzly Monday afternoon. The iridescent colouring of some of the birds’ feathers was just exquisite and a great reminder that if you want to find absolute beauty, always go back to nature.

I apologise for the lack of photographs – the weather was not the greatest, I feared my phone camera probably wasn’t up to the job, and I was battling with an umbrella. All in all, not the stuff that National Geographic images are made of! However, I would urge anyone visiting Singapore and looking for more than a whizz along Orchard Road and around the Singapore Flyer, to go. We have Mister Noodle’s parents visiting in a couple of months and we’ll definitely make a return visit. See, so good, you can go twice!

The Bird Park wasn’t my only encounter with feathered visions of beauty in the week. A few days later I took myself along to the Valentino Retrospective: Past/Present/Future at Resorts World Sentosa.

As far as I am aware this is the first large-scale exhibition to be held at the resort and it was a great way to kick things off. The exhibition documents the work of Valentino Garavani (‘Valentino’ to just about everyone in the world) and current Creative Directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. Some of the more recent collections included beautifully constructed cocktail dresses, as above, with intricate feather trim, and even, in one case a most beguiling mini-bustle.

 Looking around the 100 piece collection I was reminded of how I used to sit in front of The House of Elliot on a Friday and the Clothes Show on a Sunday frantically drawing my own creations. Unfortunately the world of couture has yet to come knocking for the ‘House of Noodle’. However I have never shaken that budding eight year old fashion designer’s quickening of the heart, dizzy headed feeling when enjoying fashion and it all came flooding back as I toured the Valentino exhibition. My personal favourites were the 1960s pieces, including this beautiful lace dress commissioned for Jackie Kennedy’s wedding to Aristotle Onassis.  

(The image above is courtesy of a Brides Magazine feature on iconic weddings. Not quite sure if the SJP Sex and the City one is really that iconic but hey-ho!).

So from birds of paradise, via Jackie Kennedy and couture creations, we get to Saturday and…flat pack. On moving to Singapore an inordinate amount of an expat’s time seems to be spent in Ikea purchasing all the things that, in a fit of light-hearted abandon and panic packing, got given away. For nothing. Earlier in the week I had treated Mister Noodle to a rather lengthy one-woman rant about why I would never, ever be buying another wooden rolling pin in my life and by the weekend I was back in Ikea repurchasing more of the stuff we had foolishly scattered to the winds six months ago. Deciding to make this a solo mission (the number of miserable looking couples I encountered there justified this decision) I found myself grappling with two standing lamps, a selection of storage boxes, picture frames, folding chairs and other assorted, bizarrely named pieces of Swedish homeware. I don’t know whether it was the joy of a trip to Ikea sans marital argument or the giddy aroma of rock bottom priced hotdogs, but I felt the need to document what, in my humble opinion, I believe to be supreme trolley packing:

30-odd years (or 30 odd years) of experiencing how my dad can speedily pack furniture into a van* have finally borne fruit!

So, there we have it – my week in pictures. No photographs of the 4,000 birds at the Bird Park but we do have one of an Ikea trolley. David Bailey eat your heart out…and a happy Chinese New Year to everyone else!

Jurong Bird Park, 2 Jurong Hill Singapore 628925
open 8.30am to 6.00pm daily. Admission $18 adult, $12 children.

Valentino retrospective: Past/Present/Future,Resorts World Sentosa. Open until 13th February *plus* opening hours extended from 11am to 11pm 4th February to 13th February. Admission $12 (with various concessions).

*I should clarify that my father is in the auction business, and not a burglar.