Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Greetings

To my family, friends at home and all over the world,

Blessed be your Christmas and peace be with you every day of the New Year


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shortest Day, Longest Night

Yesterday at the office, Hamish mentioned about yesterday being the shortest day and the night before being the longest night (whatever that means).

After quizzing Ben and Andy about it, they mentioned that it was the winter solstice and a time to hug stones at Stonehenge which boggled me more (though they disputed H's date in that it happened two days ago i.e. December 20th) I muttered something like:

Me:' The English: quirky weird'
Ben:'What was that?'
Me:'Nothing!', (walking away)

Sifting around in the bubbling pot of memories, the winter solstice in Malaysia (being a hot, tropical mass) was usually celebrated by going to Mama's place for the 'guo dong' dinner. She knew I loved tang yuen and would never fail to make it. I loved that she loved me eating those coloured balls in sugary syrup as that's how a grandmother would show her care and concern for her grandchildren. No matter how full up I was from eating (and eating) I'd never say no to a bowl of coloured balls.

Fast forward to a year ago, in Sweden, it was the mark of the long, dark days in Stockholm/Umea. The sun would not show - only faint light on gray, clouded skies at 12 noon and by 3.30 it would be pitch dark. The snow was already on the ground in Umea. Whilst walking to school from Alidhem, I used to gaze up at the birch trees along the path and there'd be one or two magpies (large, black ones) in the tree. I'd wonder how these creatures could ever stand the cold..somebody must look after them. By then, I would have left for Stockholm with a peaceful mind.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas in London

Christmas is drawing near and I swear, I've celebrated it this year in London more than I did my Chinese New Years in Malaysia (CNY being the biggest celebration for Chinese). Company dinner parties, cards, drinks, holidays, eating, drinking - it's more than I can bear. New term learnt last week: 'Bah humbug' -Context: Used when you're telling people 'I don't like celebrating Christmas'

The 'Quality Street' Christmas Tree
Put up a Christmas tree in the flat after Frank Caruso, the landlord, discovered it by chance in the loft when I moved in. Mirko and I put it up for the fun of it a few weeks ago but couldn't find any decorations with it. So we hung 'Quality Street' sweets all over it, which works pretty well I must say. Mirko bought lights at the 99p shop in Camden but predictably enough, they were duds.

Corporate Christmas Dinners
In keeping up with the recession in the UK, the project team cancelled the company dinner. Two of my friends' company dinners also got cancelled or were self-financed. Fortunately T&T's Christmas dinner and the PCon Team Christmas Bowling carried on (my first Christmas socials in London) After agonizing over the perfect dress search, I finally returned the ones I bought at Jane Norman and went with my 8-year old black number. It was a loose at first but the flat drier fixed it: Nothing like a good old shrink from the trusty monster (it shrank my socks and pants)

Christmas Goodies
Received 2 presents this year: a box of chocolates from Penny and a fantastic keyboard from Geoff(ok the latter was a loaner, but it's still great anyway) Never expected to get anything much less do anything over Christmas. Transport is at a standstill on Christmas day - not even the buses are moving. Penny gave me her family's Christmas Cake recipe (her mum bakes cakes professionally)and it turned out alright I guess. We'll have this for the Christmas eve dinner (eat) and Christmas day will be spent at church and an open house (eat again!). Expected weight gain: 1/2 a stone

Monday, December 08, 2008

Speaking 'English' English


Context: When someone's done something for you, you say 'Cheers' as in 'thank you'. Or when you sign off from an email you write ' Cheers' at the end


Context: A name to call someone you want to be on buddy-buddy terms with. 'Thanks mate' 'How're you doing mate?'

'You're a star'

Context: When you want to praise someone for doing a good job or when they've done something for you. 'Thanks Jo, you're a star!'


Context: What you say when something was done well - or as a praise for someone (but not as high a praise as 'you're a star') ' That's lovely' 'That will be excellent'


Context: Used when addressing a younger person like 'Thanks love', 'It's ok love'

Are you alright?

Context: Asked to show when you're doing work and trying to concentrate there'll be someone asking you 'Are you alright?' every half hour so you can stop doing your work, start chatting and forget about it.

Did you have a good weekend?

Context: Asked usually on a Monday, in replacement of the usual 'How are you' and 'How's it going' e.g. you see your colleague in the pantry on Monday morning, instead of 'How are you?' it's more appropriate and timely to say 'Did you have a good weekend?'

Let's have a chat/Would you like a chat...?

Context: Same meaning as 'would you like to discuss this?' e.g. 'The issue has cropped up again. Let's have a chat about this over tea?'

Give me a shout

Context: Not to be confused with a cheerleading cry - it means, 'Call me' or ' Notify me' as in 'Give me a shout when you're ready'

Monday, December 01, 2008

Book Clubs and Oedipus

Had a very good Sunday today. First I leapt out of bed at 10.40am and realized I was late for the book club meet. Hurriedly dressed and ran out the door. It was raining, naturally. Fortunately Southbank isn't so far and providence provided a bus 172 just as I crossed the street to the bus stop. Played hide and seek looking for the Giraffe in the South bank centre - finally found it after walking round the Royal Festival Hall twice.

The meeting had already kicked off amid the cafe-bustle, brazilian music and coffee blending machines. Reminded me of the time I had mine in La Bodega in Bangsar - can't believe it was 3 years ago. It was a little hard to hear what the group was saying while being interrupted by the 'Vegetarian salad? Large Cappucino? English Breakfast??' yelled out insistently on occasion. Otherwise, the discussion was interesting covering culture, India, politics and ethics - heavy stuff on a Sunday afternoon but the company was great too.

There were a couple of keen theatre-goers amongst us and one of them wanted to check out 'Oedipus', currently playing a hop and skip away *literally next door* in the National Theatre. The plus was that Ralph Fiennes was in the title role. I invited myself to come along and we tried our luck for the standby tickets for about half an hour when finally we had three very good seats - smack in the centre of the hall, right up front.

The play was superb - Ralph Fiennes was larger than life. He appeared through the large bronze door right in the centre of the stage - stared at the audience and uttered 'You come here weeping and crying. You, you old man get up and speak!' lifted a finger and slowly stared accusingly. It was scary. The cast was no less brilliant ....all of them terribly accomplished in their role. And I liked the stage layout - a circular conference with the large ominous bronze door in the centre almost signifying the wheel of fate with the doorway of tragedy like a gaping hole on the stage.

OK I have to be an ignoramus now and say this: there is a lot of spit emitted in plays. I saw actors spitting when talking, spitting when singing, or spit while standing and putting fingers in their mouths (look at Ralph's picture) I'm sure there's a criteria that one must be able to spit while acting to become truly an actor. I could almost spot which ones were the 'wannabe-spitters' - it had to be the guy at the end of the play - the filler delivering the bad news while Ralph had time to put on some bloody make up. The sanitary team must disinfect the stage every day I'll bet - nice job. Collect some famous spit and sell em.

All in all, a nice Sunday well spent.