Category Archives: About me

For the first time

What’s the point of living through a global pandemic if you don’t learn or do some new stuff? We are finishing week 10 of self-isolation, and the COVID-19 circus is still in town. I’ve been thinking about some ‘firsts’ in our much smaller world.

I made pan-fried pork buns (sheng jian bao). These delicious buns have a juicy pork and vegetable filling, wrapped in fluffy steamed bread, and a crispy pan-fried bottom. I miss Chinatown so much, that I tried making these buns at home. Mine were ugly, looking as if they had been made by an indifferent, blind-folded donkey. Tasted delicious though.

The kids finally realised that the salt and pepper mills don’t automatically refill themselves, unlike a Hogwarts banqueting table.

I’ve been a bit anxious that people may think that I am a bat-eating virus-spreading communist*. When someone casually says to me mid-conversation that, “you just can’t trust what the Chinese say about those labs though”, I can’t concentrate on anything else they are saying from that point on. The most I can do is smile and sip my English tea. As part of my local PR campaign, I fully and publicly participated in the VE day** street party.

I cut my husband’s hair. I had no preparation or training; not even a YouTube video. He did the art direction and the bits he could reach, and I tentatively used the clippers and scissors for the rest. The haircut passed the client-facing work video call test, so it was a success!

Normally, I don’t pay much attention to the kids gaming and the rubbish that they are speaking. A few weeks ago I heard this phrase for the first time: “What an idiot. Did you see that sniper is called Rumple Foreskin***?” I was horrified, yet relieved that they didn’t think that was a cool name for a sniper.

I’ve been growing spring onions from cuttings – see pics below. I use a lot of them in Asian cooking, so this saves me from running out and having to face supermarket queues.

Yesterday, I put on a pair of skinny jeans for the first time since the beginning of March. I’ve been in massive wide-leg or comfy straight-leg for months now. I’m questioning the value of skinny jeans. Feels as if they are constantly shouting out various body parts as they constrict around them – Knees! Calves! Waist! Thighs! Bum! Can’t believe that I used to wear these all the time…

*I’m not.
**This year was the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, marking the the end of World War II.
***Am assuming this was Inspired by Rumpelstiltskin, a well-known German children’s fairytale.

Studio Arhoj 'ghost' looking after the  spring onions.

Positive pandemic perspectives

Have been housebound and locked down in some form for nearly a month now. It’s become normal surprisingly quickly, and we’ve settled in to our new narrow world.

It’s not all bad.

For my lady friends

  • With all that handwashing, this is your chance to try many handcreams. Why not have a different one in every room?
  • Who needs make-up when you’re not leaving the house! Save time and let your skin relax. Note: If you are sitting in a particularly sunny room, then do keep up the broad spectrum SPF. You may not get sunburn (UVB is blocked by glass) but you will still get wrinkles (75% of UVA passes through …)
  • No-one can stop you using a foot mask while you’re on a conference call. Get your feet summer sandal-friendly!

For my parental friends

  • The kids are seeing us working. This is proper role modelling, although mine must think that I work in a call centre, as I am mostly on the phone and toggling (un)mute.
  • We can plan and research all sorts of educational craft projects and inspiring virtual experiences. It doesn’t matter if we never actually start them … at least we get Parental Points for thinking about it.
  • We legitimately need ALL of the television – Amazon Prime and Netflix were lonely until Disney Plus came along to keep us company.

For my clever friends

  • Data, data, everywhere… Am obsessed and alarmed by charts and curves. Is it time to join the Infographics Appreciation Society?
  • On social media, the scientists and analysts and medical professionals and journalists are actually more interesting than celebs and influencers. I’ve rediscovered the point of Twitter.
  • There is enough fact-checking of slightly suspicious warnings and statistics to keep us constantly busy and vigilant. On my local street WhatsApp group, I don’t even have time to rise up to a foaming rage against fake news, before the community has de-hoaxed us.

For my Chinese/Asian friends

  • Because we’re at home, we have reverted back to having one personally identifiable mug to drink water out of for the entire day. None of those inefficient  and impractical water glasses that you use once and put in the dishwasher.
  • My kids are learning to understand some Cantonese again. This is mostly me ordering them to do housework, but it’s better than nothing.
  • Our respect of leftovers and fear of food waste are super powers. No one is laughing at my cupboards of food storage containers now.

Lion toy in chair wearing face mask.

Local lion demonstrating realxed social distancing and wearing a protective face mask.

Keep calm and carry on stockpiling toilet paper

Last night husband and I popped into the supermarket on the way home from work. It was a nice supermarket, where the bread is not rectangular, and the range of cheeses is comprehensive (i.e. Waitrose for those of you in the UK).

It was a strange experience with naked shelves, weary staff and politely annoyed customers with empty baskets. As we have slid smoothly into the unwelcome arms of a pandemic, I have been confused and bemused by the reports of stockpiling and a new obsession with toilet paper. Now I was experiencing it in person.

I was planning to buy:

  • Dried pasta
  • Salad
  • A few generic painkillers
  • Some cleaning cloths
  • Possibly some hand sanitizer as it seems useful right now.

We came out with:

  • The most expensive high-end Italian fresh pasta, as no-one can keep that in their food stockpile
  • Salad, as no-one can hoard that either
  • An electric toothbrush (50% off!)
  • Crisps, cheese-flavoured
  • A bottle of gin, because my husband needs it.

What else could go wrong?

In 2011 we moved to London from Sydney. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but since we arrived, we have seen ruthless government budget cuts (‘austerity’), terrorism attacks and Brexit. In 2020 we started the year feeling tired but almost hopeful. What else could go wrong?

But we’ve gone from punching each other and ourselves in the face over Brexit, to not being able to shake hands our touch our own faces because of a coronavirus.

With all the bravado and bullshit of ‘best of British’ or ‘British values’ being thrown around like fistfuls of racist confetti during Brexit, I wonder what qualities the COVID-19 emergency will bring out in people.

Keep calm and carry on? I hope so. I will join the orderly queue for my allocation of toilet paper, dried pasta and hand sanitizer.

oxford street pavement balloon

Shiny.  Oxford Street, London, March 2020

 

 

 

A weekend without the WWW where I was in Wales with women

Yesterday morning:  in a field in Wales, palms and face turned to the cushion-y golden warmth of the sun, noticing my yoga breath. The confidently green grass was as springy as a fresh sponge cake.

Same time this morning: right hand clicking through work email. Left hand frantically redialling the Australian High Commission to deal with an expired passport before an imminent family holiday.

I wish I could bottle up just a little wisp of those shiny happy times, to hold under my nose when I’m about to faint with dizziness and busy-ness …

valley

A view enhanced by wet muddy boots.

The weekend that was

I was in Wales for a friend’s birthday. A remote farmhouse stuffed full of alarmingly smart and interesting women. There was also:

  • Local bacon so delicious that it could be a ‘gateway drug’ for wavering vegetarians.
  • A scramble up a small waterfall. I fell in a stream, filled my shoes with mud and admired the view.
  • No WiFi or internet or mobile phone signal. No digital cave to hide in.
  • All the cakes. Chocolate, carrot, red velvet. Banoffee pie for breakfast. Giant lebkuchen (German biscuit ) in the shape of a smiling woman.
  • A happy mess of heritage, birthplaces, languages, work places and homes.

We don’t have much evidence that this weekend actually took place. No live-tweeting or vlogging or Insta-story. I just have an increased knowledge of precious gems, mindfulness and Dutch snacks; and continuing confusion over Welsh pronunciation.

Happy birthday E, or is that ê?

cake

A global birthday cake. Only slightly offended that Australia got shoved off the side.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Getting comfortable Daughter: Mum, we’re learning about life cycles at school. Me: OK. What stages are there in a life cycle? Daughter: Birth, growth, reproduction and death. Me: And what stage are you at? …

To all the ladies in the house Mother’s Day had serious expectations heaped upon it, such as handmade cards and someone else replacing the toilet paper for once. International Women’s Day? Just the same old fluff – gender parity, equal opportunities, more women in leadership, less violence blah blah…

Modern childhood milestones – mobile phones

This week we gave our daughter her first mobile phone. It’s as natural as first steps, or losing a first tooth, but I feel a bit sad about hitting this technological milestone.

Finally, we can all sit together as a family in the same room and chat silently with people who are not in the room. Cool.

A quick audit of main computing/electronic devices in our family of four people looks like this:

  • 1 x desktop
  • 2 x laptops
  • 2 x tablets
  • 4 x personal mobile phones
  • 2 x work mobile phones.

This is probably fairly standard these days for privileged middle-class urban types like us. (I haven’t bothered to add Kindles, digital radios and other paraphernalia.)

tomato

A healthy conversation about fruit and vegetables. 

Mobile phones at school

I’ve lectured my kids for years about (what I consider to be) the proper use of technology and the internet. E.g. “It’s all designed to be hugely addictive and your soft fresh young brains are no match for the shiny shiny digital temptation.” Or else: “Our bodies are NOT designed to be hunched over phones. ‘Text neck’ is a real thing!”

 [ Aside: A typical adult human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. As the head tilts forward, the strain on your neck increases. At 15 degrees of forward tilt, this may equate to a head weighing 27 pounds. At 30 degrees forward, the strain on the neck equals a 40 pound head. https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/ergonomics/your-cell-phone-killing-your-back ]

It will be interesting to see how my kids will learn to deal with technology at school, as they aren’t allowed to use them during the school day.

My initial feeling is relief. No worries about theft, losing phones, cyber-bullying, cheating in tests etc. And school can be one safe place where there is respite from the unfair fight against evil purveyors of tech addiction …

However, my young digital natives need to learn to manage technology and devices appropriately. Especially when I’m not around with my passionate parental hassling.

Phone-less in transit

Right now, my dad is flying over to visit us from Australia. He forgot to bring his phone, so our immediate response was “How will we find him at the airport?!” Hmmmm; how did we used to do this before phones? Then my brother sent me a message: “Dad just called me from someone’s phone, he said to meet him at the hire car spot.” Just like the old days.

text conversation

This is what passes for conversation in our family.

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

The invasion of the attention-snatchers. Using technology mindfully.  Does that sound like a phrase created by rich young white men in grey organic bamboo t-shirts? Turns out that I‘ve actually been doing it for years…  I wasn’t trying to be mindful, I just don’t like technology telling me what to do.

The Dark Side of digital time wasting. Lost : one incomplete Death Star. I have lost my Tiny Death Star. I’ve been working hard on adding levels for Emperor Palpatine since December, and tonight my 75% complete moon-sized battle station disappeared off my phone.

Contradictions? Oh no they’re not!

The World Cup

I don’t generally follow much sport. However, I really did want England to win the World Cup so that we could channel our furious nationalistic energy in to football, instead of Brexit. So football is NOT coming home.  And my home is still NOT going to be in Europe.

Clean eating

Tonight I had a ‘meal of two halves’ (to borrow a sporting metaphor ).

  1. Homemade vegetarian burger, served with a large spoon of sour cream.
  2. A steak. Medium rare, served with a large shake of Ottolenghi tomato sauce.

Social life

Tonight I was meant to go to a social evening after work. Instead, I went home, listened to podcasts and filed personal emails. Like all introverts who need solo recharging, I feel refreshed and relaxed.

Feminism

I am a feminist, but I do feel quite entitled to a seat on the Tube. I mean, men have much stronger sturdier legs than me … My handbag gets pretty heavy.

Lego

I should have rebuilt my daughter’s Lego house that I accidentally smashed in the middle of the night. But I suggested instead that it was time to renovate “like we are” and she thought that was a good idea. Phew!

steak card

A genuine greeting card that I am saving for someone very special.

[Writing time – 15 minutes. Reading time – at your leisure.]

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU  Dear kids, Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote. Love, mum

Hype cycle of life I’ve had a few days recently when I’ve been without my phone. This made me realise how I use social media to fill all the little gaps in the day when I’d rather scroll than think or look or talk. (Introverts unite!)

Keep the water in your mouth Yesterday I found a Post-It note in the kitchen with these words of wisdom: Keep the water in your mouth.

 

Getting comfortable

Daughter: Mum, we’re learning about life cycles at school.

Me: OK. What stages are there in a life cycle?

Daughter: Birth, growth, reproduction and death.

Me: And what stage are you at?

Daughter: Growth!

Me: So what stage am I at?

Daughter: *Pause*

Son: Well, you’ve had us, so that’s past reproduction … death?

Daughter: I think there might be a bit between reproduction and death.

We actually had a good laugh about it, and the kids possibly looked embarrassed to have written me off so quickly.

I don’t need reminding of my rock-solid middle age status. The possibilities that were ahead of me decades ago are being slid across the John Lewis dining room table to my kids. I’m still hoping that one of them will be entrepreneurial and/or creative. My own youthful ambitions included:

  • Private detective and also an international spy
  • Science fiction writer in a light-filled attic
  • Boutique paper shop owner in Florence.

Instead, I have a sensible digital marketing career and I live in a regular suburban street.

We will be moving to a new regular suburban street soon. After years of renting, and despite Brexit and bombings, we’ve bought our own place. Our new home looks very much like all the other ones in the street and I’m now OK with that.

I propose to insert Comfortable between the Reproduction and Death phases of the life cycle.

life cycle diagram

My view of the suburbs.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Hype cycle of life. I’ve had a few days recently when I’ve been without my phone. This made me realise how I use social media to fill all the little gaps in the day when I’d rather scroll than think or look or talk. (Introverts unite!)

Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU. Dear kids, Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote 🙂 Love, mum