Sunday, January 21, 2018

Hair Apparent

The other night, Saffy’s phone pinged.
            She and I were at home, comfortably sunk into the sofa with the air-con on full blast and Dr Sandra Lee’s latest procedure streaming from my laptop onto our big screen.
            “Honestly,” Saffy said, her hands diving into the bowl of popcorn I had made for the occasion, “this is the best thing ever. I should get a tee-shirt made that says ‘Cysters Forever’!’”
            “She’s got such incredible technique!” I said through a mouthful of popcorn. “I mean, look at her snip around that cyst! How she doesn’t nick it, I don’t know.”
Saffy never took her eyes off the screen as she reached for her phone. “I love epidermoid cysts! Actually, I love all types of cysts. Maybe for my next career, I could work as her assistant!”
“You’d have to move to Oakland, California though,” I told her. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Saffy read her text message. “Do you want to live in Oakland, California?”
“Amanda says Prince Harry is giving a speech right now and that her ovaries are exploding.”
I dropped my handful of popcorn back into the bowl. “Well, that just put me off eating for the rest of the night!”
For weeks after Amanda had been invited to the St Regis for a gala dinner for a charity Prince Harry is patron of, and which he’d be attending in person and not through a stupid pre-recorded video, it consumed her waking days. She dropped a small fortune on a new black cocktail dress for the occasion, and two days before, she skipped down to Strip for a wax.
“You’re waxing?” Saffy had asked. “What’s the point? You know they’re not going to let anyone within two metres of him, right?”
“Oh I know, but you always want to be prepared!” Amanda said without specifying quite what she wanted to be prepared for.
And when the big night finally arrived, she behaved in much the same way Saffy does when confronted by an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. That is to say, with religious gratitude.
“Don’t wait up for me!” she murmured as she glided out the front door.
“OK!” I said loudly over the hum of the microwaving popcorn.
“I honestly don’t know what the big deal about him is,” Saffy said, her lips pursed with dissatisfaction. On screen, Dr Sandra was slowly lifting the cyst sac out of the cavity, as she carefully snipped away at the membranes tethering it to underlying muscles. “I mean, he’s just so scruffy, with all that orange facial hair and wild hair. What’s the attraction?”
“You’d have to ask Amanda,” I said, and remembering something, added, “and also that ‘Suits’ chick.”
“Oh, Meghan Markle?” asked Saffy, life-time subscriber to every gossip website on the planet. “Yeah, see, I can understand the attraction with her. I mean, that woman is really gorgeous, but going the other way? Not so much.”
When Amanda came home later that night, she practically floated through the front door. She was radiant.
“Oh God, he’s gorgeous!” she sighed as she dropped her handbag on the side-table, kicked off her heels and leaned against the door.
“You don’t find him a little, well, scruffy?” Saffy asked.
“Oh, not at all! I think that’s what makes him so attractive! He doesn’t try too hard. Every man I’ve dated this month has been so obsessed with his looks. Harry is such a refreshing change!”
Saffy and I exchanged a glance over the bowl of popcorn. Eventually she coughed. “So, did you get a picture of His Royal Scruffiness?”
“No. They banned photography in the ballroom which, by the way, I have got to get the number of the person who styled it. It was just glorious! Huge flowers on every table and just the most gorgeous lighting! It really was like a fairy-tale!”
“Did you get to speak to him?” I asked.
“No. I didn’t dare. But I was two tables away and got a really good clear view of him. Mmmm! So hot! And then he got up to speak, which is when my ovaries exploded!”
“Hmmm….” Saffy began.
“No, really. He has a deep sexy voice and his accent is so posh!”
“Well, he is royal,” I pointed out.
“And third in line to the throne!” Amanda added. “Which really is the best thing, because then you’re still a big deal but you don’t have to deal with the prospect of actually being king which would put too much spotlight and stress on you!”
“You should update your Facebook relationship status,” Saffy told her.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Porky Prig

Walk into any bookshop or go online, and you’ll find more books and articles on vegetarianism than you could shake an organic carrot stick at. Any question you may have about the pros and cons about being vegetarian, what it is, why you should do it, what are the medical benefits and drawbacks, how to cook it, what to eat, where to eat it, how to eat it…somewhere out there, someone has written about it.
            But one thing nobody writes about is just how much more difficult it is, if not impossible, to travel when you’re a vegetarian.
            Last weekend, Saffy, Amanda and I scooted up to Penang for a long weekend. The official excuse was that Amanda had a Friday meeting, but as Saffy pointed out, it’s difficult to take any meeting seriously when it’s held in the lobby of a hotel.
            “I mean, who does that, unless you’re in a Hollywood movie set in Washington D.C?” she said, her impressive bosom threatening to burst out of her new Marni sequined tee-shirt like one of those chest-busters in ‘Alien: Covenant’.
            Amanda rolled her eyes. “He’s the CEO of one of my most important clients and he’s literally heading straight to the airport from the meeting, so it makes sense to just meet in the lobby!”
            Saffy was unimpressed. “Has he heard of Skype? Anyway, whatever. Jason and I are coming with you. I am dying to have some char kway teow!”
            “But that’s got prawns and cockles in it,” I pointed out. “You’re vegetarian now.”
            Saffy’s bosom inflated. “Yes, but I’m not blind! I can pick out the seafood and just eat the noodles!”
            Which is how, as Amanda sat down in the lobby of the E&O hotel in downtown Penang, Saffy and I settled in at Ah Leng’s with a plate each of steaming, fragrant, garlicky char kway teow.
            After the obligatory Instagram snap, we tucked in. “My God, this is so good!” Saffy moaned as she delicately picked out the fat prawns and little brown nuggets of cockles and dropped them onto my plate. “There’s just so much flavour and wok-hei!”
            “What should we have for lunch?” I mumbled through a mouthful of noodles.
            A cone of silence dropped over our table. Saffy stared hard at the ceiling as her mouth chewed rhythmically. She frowned and cocked her head. “Huh,” she said eventually. “I’ve just realized that everything that I love to eat in Penang has meat in it. Nasi kandar. Bah kut teh. Lor bak. Fish head curry.” Her fingers ticked off the offending foods.
            “Rojak! You can have rojak!” I said helpfully.
            “That’s got shrimp paste, no? And anyway, I can’t just eat fruit salad the whole trip.”
            “Kueh pie tee, babi pongtay, assam laksa, chicken buah keluak…My God. There’s meat in everything! And if I pick out the meat, there’ll be nothing to eat except gravy!”
            When we swung by the E&O to pick up Amanda for lunch, Saffy was practically hyperventilating.
            “Surely, there’s something we can eat!” Amanda said as she struggled with her seatbelt.
            “There’s nothing!” Saffy insisted. “It’s all got meat in it! There’s only char kway teow!”
            As if on cue, Saffy’s phone pinged with a notification on Instagram. Sharyn had posted a comment on Saffy’s picture of the glistening curls of Ah Leng’s char kway teow: “How can you eat this? Got pork lard, you know!”
            Saffy immediately dialed Sharyn’s number. “No, it doesn’t!” she began hotly.
            Sharyn’s amplified voice boomed out on the speaker. “Aiyoh, you so bodoh! How you tink so tasty? Where got vegee-tuh-ble oil fry, one? Confirm it’s pork lard, lah!”
            “Well it may be lard,” Saffy said, her face turning pink, “but it’s not pork!”
            As Amanda later pointed out to me privately, sometimes Saffy made Donald Trump look like a genius.
            “I think she’s devastated,” I told her. “She was thinking she could just eat char kway teow the entire trip.”
            “You know,” Amanda said. “I just had a horrifying thought. You know how we’re going to Paris in September? What the hell are we going to eat? No coq au vin, no boeuf Bourgignon, no steak tartare, no oysters, no cassoulet…I can’t just eat croissants for a week!”
            When Saffy heard about it, she literally started shaking. “But what would be the point of being in France then?” she cried. “Oh my God, why does every dish that I love have meat in it?”

            On cue, a message from Sharyn pinged on Saffy’s phone: “Who ask you become vegetarian?”

Friday, January 12, 2018

Washed Up

You may have missed this on your Facebook feed, but during the recent Labour Day holiday, an event of unimaginably catastrophic magnitude happened. It happened very early in the morning when Amanda emerged from her bedroom and padded to the laundry room.
The previous night, she’d put all her delicate Victoria’s Secret underwear in the wash. She carefully set the machine to the gentle cycle and went to bed, secure in the knowledge that in the morning, everything would be nicely clean, freshly scented and ready to dry quietly in the shade.
She later said she realized that something was not quite right from the wet floor and the gurgling noise emanating from the washing machine.
“Oh, is that what that noise was?” Saffy said. “I thought it was a distant thunderstorm or something! It kept me up all night!”
By that stage, we’d managed to turn off the main tap feeding the leaking washing machine, and cleared the drain so the water could all run out. Mops in hand, we stood around the machine and stared at it, in much the same way some dog owners stand and look at shredded couch cushions whilst their Chihuahua and Doberman sit in the corner, guilt etched on every line of their faces.
“What am I going to do?” Amanda said finally.
“What do you mean what are you going to do?” Saffy asked.
“Well, I have a week’s worth of Victoria’s Secret underwear in there and I can’t get them out. The whole thing has short-circuited so I can’t even open the door!”
I said the whole thing reminded me of a recent episode of ‘Scandal’ where the villain pushed Huck’s car into the sea and he couldn’t get out because the electronic windows wouldn’t work.
Amanda turned to me. “Seriously?”
“The whole scene stretched the realms of imagination a little,” I admitted, “but it was very gripping.”
In response, Amanda turned to Saffy. “So, what am I going to do? I need that underwear! I have three dates lined up this week. I need to look and feel good!”
Saffy bent down to peer through the circular door of our dead washing machine. Inside, you could see a jumble of creamy ivory lace. She tapped the glass. “So close and yet so far,” she murmured. Then, she straightened up and said briskly, “I guess the only thing we can do is to get a new machine and when they come and replace this, they can also open it up!”
Which is how an hour later, we found ourselves at a major appliances store on Orchard Road in the washing machine section.
“My God, why are there so many versions?” Saffy moaned to Lam, the sales assistant who, I couldn’t help but notice, kept staring at her impressive bosom.
Lam coughed. “Yah, it depend on how big your load is…” He trailed off, probably replaying the sentence in his head. To his credit, he recovered and pushed on. “And depend on what kind of clothes your family wear. If factory worker and got a lot of stain, then this model by LG very good…”
Amanda squinted at the price tag. “Three thousand dollars?” she said. “For a washing machine?”
“Got dryer, oh so!”
“It better have an oven as well!” Amanda snapped. “I don’t think so. Do you know what I could get at Louis Vuitton for three thousand dollars?”
“A button, probably,” Saffy murmured to me out of the corner of her mouth.
Lam recovered gamely. I was starting to be really impressed by the resilience of the guy. “But, hor, if you have only light dirt, then you can go with this model. Only four nine nine!”
Amanda blinked. “Well, ok, then, we have a deal, but when you deliver today, you have to also open up the old machine. I have…I have…things in it that I…uh…need to wear.”
Lam paused. “Today, hah? Today cannot. Today is public holiday, so all my driver on leave or book up or-redi. Earliest I can deliver is Wear-nurse-day!”
Amanda sucked in her breath.
Like the opening scene in ‘Star Wars’ where the Imperial cruiser slides into view after the credits, Saffy’s awesome bosom cut into Lam’s field of vision as she positioned herself in front of him. “Now,” she began silkily, in the same tone that has reduced many hardened CEOs to quivering jelly, “surely, you can make some teensy tiny adjustments to the schedule?”
Later, in the cab zooming home with our same day delivery order secured, Saffy said she really should think about getting her breasts insured.