Journal – October 5-6

Journal - October 5-6



The Long Wait

It’s taken me 18 days to finish listening to Harry Potter book 1. I tend to have to rewind a lot because my mind often drifts away. It’s like I have audial ADHD.

I’d been dying to watch the movie but wanted to finish the book first and now I have! As I sat deciding whether to get the movie on iTunes or Prime, I noticed that iTunes has it on 4K, which reminded me that Piers just bought a 4K TV but it won’t arrive until Tuesday! That’s 4 more whole days I’d have to wait if I want to watch it on 4K! Sigh.

Mad Weather

I love the weather in England! One day I’m wearing 3 layers to bed and the next day Piers is sunburnt!

Dark Quest/Gratitude

I’m grateful for chocolate! I’m still bummed about having to give up milk chocolate but I’m learning to like dark chocolate.

I have a new mission! I’m going to try all the different brands to find the best! It has to be at least 70% cocoa, which I think is tastier, anyway. How fun it will be!

Strange, funny things in the UK — #1

When I came to live in the UK more than two years ago, there were many things I had to adapt to. Some things are relatively easy, such as using a knife and fork for eating everything (even spaghetti).

But some things are not so easy. Some things are strange. And some are amusing. This is the first part of my long list of those things.


1. Saying “trousers” instead of “pants”


I’m not unfamiliar with the word “trousers”. I learnt it in school when I was a kid, since Singapore uses British English. But, thanks to the influence of American media, most Singaporeans say “pants”.

I have always associated the word “trousers” with old men because only my dad used that word when I was growing up (he was schooled as a kid by British teachers when Singapore was still a British colony) and he was the only person in the family to actually wear trousers. So, after more than two years in England, I still have trouble saying “trousers” without thinking old men attire.

Also, I had to learn the hard way that “pants” means “underwear” in the UK.


I don't like wearing pants!


2. People going mad when the sun comes out


Yes, the Brits go apeshit crazy when the sun comes out, understandably so since they have, like, maybe 20 sunny days in a year. But I still get amused and amazed by it.

When the sun is out, everyone goes to the beach, whether it’s a work day or a weekend, morning, afternoon, or night. It’s scary how the beach gets swallowed whole by people in the blink of an eye.

It’s something I can’t relate to because we get too much sun in Singapore so my modus operandi is to avoid it as much as I can.


UK beach comic


3. Signing off with “x”


I was confused at first when I started receiving e-mails and texts that signed off this way:

“Bye! Sue x”

“See you tomorrow! Jane x”

I wondered why everyone’s last name was x.

And then I was told that x means kiss and it’s just a friendly way to sign off. And people use more x’s if they like you a lot or are feeling particularly excited.

I’ve tried to adopt this habit in order not to be rude and have people think that I don’t like them, but I keep forgetting to do it because it’s very strange for me to virtual kiss anyone who is not my partner or close girl friend!


To x or not to x


4. Shops closing at 5 pm


This I find most inconvenient. I am used to shopping up till 10 pm in Singapore. I guess it has to do with labour laws here seeking to protect all residents equally. But I wonder how anyone gets any shopping done when all the shops close the moment they get off work.

It’s worse on Sundays, when supermarkets close at 4 pm so that employees can go home and enjoy some family time. I mean, I feel happy for people in the retail industry, I honestly do. But it’s just difficult to get used to it.

Just last week, on a Sunday evening, I suggested to Piers that we should go to Tesco because I want to buy some frozen fruit to make smoothies.

For the nth time, he looked at me quizzically and said, “Tesco is closed, dear.”

It took me a few seconds to remember (yet again) that he’s right.




5. Cars stopping for me


Now, this is a good thing. The British are a very gracious and polite people and I love that.

When I stop at a road to cross, a car coming my way will (8 out of 10 times) stop to let me cross. And I’m talking about a regular road without a traffic light or zebra crossing.

This is very strange because I grew up in a country where cars are king and pedestrians must bow to them and not look them in the eye. Which I think is fine because Singaporeans get taxed a serious shitload of money to drive cars, so they understandably get very possessive over roads.

So, in England, I feel bad whenever drivers stop for me because I feel that it’s easier for humans to stop than for cars to stop (especially manual cars) and they use up more petrol when they stop and start again.

While their stopping for me makes me feel very warm and appreciative, I just can’t get used to it!


Stopping cars


That’s all for today. I’ll continue with my list when I feel like drawing more cartoons. Drawing is hard work, you know!

In the meantime, if you’re also a foreigner or immigrant here, feel free to share your stories. I will use them in subsequent posts and credit you if they’re not already on my list.


Feeling nostalgic in Ludlow Castle

The reason I chose to stop at Ludlow on our way to Wales was because I remember the name of the town from an MMORPG (massively multi-player online role-playing game) called Dark Age of Camelot, which I played 12 years ago.

A lifetime ago!

It’s a strange and beautiful feeling to read a fantasy book or play a fantasy game based on locations in England and then years or decades later visit the very same places for real.

Of course, the real town looks very different from the game town since the game is set in the 6th Century where 90% of the world is basically vegetation and dirt paths.

Today, Ludlow is a smallish market town with a large number of Tudor-style buildings nestled among more modern buildings, lining the sides of gravel roads.




Here, I found a screenshot of the Ludlow in the game (from this website) so you can make a comparison!




Tudor houses!

Gosh, the nostalgia. Some people think I’ve wasted my entire life being addicted to computer games and it’s true I could have done a lot of useful things in the time I was playing games but I don’t regret it one bit. My most treasured memories are of my gaming adventures. The worlds may be virtual but you’re interacting with very real people who make you laugh and cry, and I have made many, many good friends through gaming.

Okay, back to the present.

Because we were on our way to Wales, all we had time for was a quick zip through the streets, heading straight for Ludlow Castle since that seemed to be the most obvious landmark, then 30 minutes to look inside (at £5 a pop).

Fortunately, the castle wasn’t very big, and most of it was in ruins anyway, so 30 minutes was quite enough. Photos now!



A panoramic view of the courtyard, taken from the top of a tower. The round building on the left was the chapel:

Ludlow Castle



The entrance to the castle. Doesn’t look so grand with the crumbly bits!

Ludlow Castle



Steps leading to the main wing of the castle:

Ludlow Castle



Some mouldy castle walls. Piers was controlling my camera through his phone via Wifi but it was a mess and the camera kept snapping when it wasn’t supposed to:

Ludlow Castle



A view of the top of the castle walls and some scenery beyond:

Ludlow Castle



More scenery beyond:

Ludlow Castle



Me feeling a bit stressed because our 30 minutes were nearly up and we were on metered parking:

Ludlow Castle


Sorry the photos are quite small but I can’t help it since my blog has a fixed width of 500 pixels to make reading text easier. But hope you like them anyway.

Well, I don’t know if all gamers have the same kind of great memories as I do or whether they feel as strongly about them. If you do, let me know!

Living the English dream (me and the dog both, but the dog more)

Here I am, today, cashing in on a two-year-old offer.

Now, you obviously don’t know what I’m talking about so here’s a summary to put everything into context.


The dreaded summary


In February 2011, Piers and I had been online friends for two years when, one day, I announced to all my online friends that I was shopping for a holiday destination. And who should make an offer to come to sunny England but Piers.

(In case you didn’t realise, I was trying to be ironic with my use of the word “sunny”. Ironically, it was actually very sunny today.)

At that time, Piers’ parents had planned to go on a long holiday and needed a house and dog sitter. Piers asked if I was interested. I said yes. Then he went to talk to his parents and found out that they’d already found someone for the job. So, apologetically, Piers offered up his own little flat. Coincidentally, he was also going away on a holiday at the same time (but not with his parents).

Here’s a diagram to explain the movement in case you’re a lazy reader:


The diagram that explains it all


So I came to England for the first time in my life, lured by the bait of free accommodation. I was slightly disappointed at not getting to stay in a real English house with a garden (and a chimney!) but at the same time relieved because I would probably have been scared shitless during the night being in a big old house all by myself.

Moving on. All went well. Piers and I fell in love shortly after he came back from his holiday. I extended my stay. We spent two months together. Etc.

Fast forward 28 months later, I am realising the unrealised dream of staying in a big old English house in sunny ole England. Piers and I have been tasked to house and dog sit while his parents are away on holiday for five days.

I have the whole house to myself in the day (not counting Basil the dog) while Piers is at work. At night when it’s scary, Piers is here to be a human shield should anything scary happen, for example spiders or alien abductions.


The house


My job here includes feeding Basil, taking him for long walks and giving him a tummy rub when he does this:


The tummy rub position


If I don’t rub his tummy, he threatens to stalk me all day with his evil eye.


The evil eye


He got a bit impatient today because I was too busy camwhoring when I was supposed to be taking him out for a walk. He started giving me the eye and then went on to lick my jeans hungrily. So, it was either take him out NOW or end up with very wet jeans.


Task avoidance strategy
Trying to look nice for the camera while Basil licks away. You can see the how the smile is cracking at the edges.


I gave in to the eye. I could always continue with the camwhoring while walking his highness, during which time his highness would be so distracted with all his amazing travel discoveries (discarded fast food bag, someone else’s front gate, a fire hydrant) that I would be able to do anything I want without fear of repercussions.




But I think that’s enough photos of me. I get embarrassed when I camwhore too much.

We spent an hour walking, Basil totally calling the shots, dictating the route and speed of walking. But I did put my foot down whenever he wanted to trespass on private property, which was effectively all the time.

When it was time to go home (which was when my feet started hurting because I was wearing not very good shoes for walking, I realised belatedly), I had to turn on Google Maps and sat-nav my way home. I had no idea where we were and I wasn’t about to depend on Basil to take us home since he was obviously more interested in chasing cats in other people’s gardens than going home.

So we went home and I parked him in his own garden where he spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing in contentment. Thanks to the sun today, I managed to get time off to write this blog, but not before being taxed a minute’s worth of tummy rubs.

It’s very nice having such an important job to do, in such an idyllic environment.

Basil, whose job is to act cute and wrangle as many treats and tummy rubs as is caninely possibly, agrees.


King of the Lawn
Basil, King of the Lawn


Bath is beautiful despite mouldy hot springs

Oh, I just found out in Wikipedia that the reason why all the buildings in the city of Bath have the same colour is because they are all made of the same material called Bath Stone!




It’s an oolitic limestone which the Romans mined around that region from the first century AD. They liked using it for buildings because it was easy to work with and had an attractive golden colour. So, then, after that, the stone got its official nickname as Bath Stone when the city was named.

More trivia: Buckingham Palace was made of Bath Stone.

So, anyway, I suppose the most famous things in Bath are the natural hot springs which had been used since the Stone Age by various civilisations. The Romans were the first to erect massive buildings around the springs.


Roman Bath


You have to pay £12 to enter the premises but it’s so beautiful inside I suppose it’s worth it. The bath waters are pretty disgusting, though, green and mouldy with a film of oil on top, although you can’t see that clearly from my photo.

But the architecture is so amazing. I would have so loved to have visited it when I was doing Classical Studies at uni. Would have been a lot more exciting then, when I could still read Latin and remember the history.


Roman Bath


Roman Bath


Roman Bath


Roman Bath


Piers and I tried to dare each other to touch the water and there was a moment I thought I was going to, but it was so disgusting I just couldn’t. He didn’t, either.

I’m so glad now that we didn’t, because I just read in Wiki that a girl died in 1979 five days after swimming in it, from amoebic meningitis.

No idea what that is but the water is considered unsafe because it still passes through original lead pipes from Roman times and is thought to be radioactive and full of infectious diseases.


They do serve safe versions of the spring water in the restaurant and people drink it for multiple health benefits.

I bought a bottle from the gift shop. Not supposed to be drunk but it says you can rub it on your skin.

Not going to!!!


Roman Bath


There were these three costumed people wandering around the perimeter of the main bath, pretending to be Romans as they struck up conversations with tourists.


Roman Bath


The older woman is a high status lady of leisure. The girl is her slave and the old man is a peddler.

Because I was there taking photos of them, the older lady started talking to me, telling me about her life and her husband, and then tried to flirt with Piers, asking him how she looked.

She then tried to tease us about getting married or something.

It was hilarious. Kind of a nice personal touch of history.


Roman Bath


Okay, now, a quick look inside. There’s a museum section showing artifacts and ruins and video simulations.


Roman Bath


Gravestone of Antigonus, veteran of the 20th Legion:


Roman Bath


Roman curses:


Roman Bath


Apparently, most curses were for some theft or other, with the curse writer begging the goddess to help them get back their stolen stuff and punish the thief in horrible ways.


Roman Bath


Roman Bath


Ruins of the foyer to the Temple of Aquae Sulis (Waters of Sulis). The TV screen shows how the area you’re seeing used to look like before it was destroyed:


Roman Bath


The Roman bathing routine – undress, then to warm room to acclimatise, then hot bath, then sauna, then massage and cleaning, then cold bath:


Roman Bath


There are a lot more stuff I can’t show because I got tired of taking photos, haha, and there are also guided tours and shows which we couldn’t be bothered to attend because we wanted to get out and see the rest of Bath.

The rest of Bath is lovely, as you will now see in the following photos. It could have been a lot lovelier if the weather had been nicer. Was a bit gloomy and overcast the day we were there.














The famous Royal Crescent, a row of 30 houses joined together in a crescent shape:














Okay, enough pictures!

After two days in Bath, on our drive home, we passed by a small town to stop for a bite to eat and I was struck by how ugly an average town looked in comparison to Bath, with its matching architecture.

If I had gone into that town before visiting Bath, I might have thought it was quite nice (since it’s a small English town and therefore still novel to me).

But after Bath, everything else looked mismatched and plain.

It made me want to go back to Bath to re-appreciate the beauty by looking at it with enlightened eyes.

So, if you ever go to Bath, remember to appreciate the beauty while you’re still there!