Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Angelic Behaviour

People are always asking me what my favourite past time is. Well, OK, that’s not strictly true. What they actually ask me is: “What do you do all day?” Which is a rather rude way of saying they think I’m incredibly lazy. But I’m the sort of guy who says my glass is half-full anyway, so really, it’s all water off a duck’s back.

So when people ask me what my favourite past time is, I always say that I wait for the arrival on YouTube of the latest Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. “I spend my year looking forward to it,” I say without the slightest sense of embarrassment.

What’s that you say? You don’t see what’s so great about the show? It’s just a bunch of women in their underwear?

That’s like saying tennis is just two people hitting a ball across the net. That a Maserati is just a car. Or that Gisele Bundchen is just a girl with two legs.

In the little flat that I share with Saffy and Amanda and my adopted mongrel dog Pooch, the excitement of a Victoria’s Secret Show is a bit like the announcement that Oprah is coming to dinner.

“I wish I looked like Alessandra,” Amanda once said wistfully. She’d just come back from a trip to America where she’d raided the Victoria’s Secret store and brought back a haul of little bikinis, bras and other delicates. I remember she sat on her bed in a sea of pinks, polka-dots, reds and blacks, a little afraid to try any of it on. For at the back of her mind was the certainty that even when she slipped into the sheer silky camisole and tossed her hair, she would never look like a junior Victoria’s Secret Angel, let alone Her Holy Bodyness, Alessandra.

Leave it to Saffy to be practical. “Well, of course we will never look like an Angel!” she huffed, her bosom heaving. “Those girls have an army of people to do their hair, do their make-up, apply body glitter and put on wings for them! God, if I had all that attention, I’d wipe Adriana Lima off the catwalk!”

It says something for Saffy’s immense sense of confidence that not even the facts that she is a good 3 inches shorter than Ms Lima and she currently had a bad case of dandruff (Saffy, not Adey) factored into her world view. Meanwhile, thank you God for YouTube, otherwise it would be months before the show made it to TV.

“Where do these people have so much time that they will tape a show and then upload it to the net!” Saffy said a few nights ago as we gathered around the lap-top at home as she tapped in the keywords.

My best friend Karl had brought popcorn. “I’m just grateful someone does! Really, this is the highlight of my year. I love Selita. I wanna have children with her.”
Barney Chen patted him on the back. “Way out of your league. Stick to your nasty wife.”

This year’s show took place in Miami on a giant crescent shaped stage and it was a doozy. There were great music, lots of gorgeous girls in underwear, wings of twigs and cobwebs and slinky costumes. There was Usher. There was a rainstorm of red rose petals. And Heidi Klum.

“Someone needs to lock her up and throw away the key,” Saffy said at one stage. “It’s unnatural that she’s had ten kids and still looks like that!”

“She’s a freak of nature!” said Amanda.

“I love her,” said Saffy.

“Me too,” Amanda conceded. “I want to be her!”

“But I’m not having Seal though,” Saffy added.

“I’ll take him,” Amanda said, effortlessly tearing apart Heidi’s happy family unit.

“I love Selita’s new hair!” Karl mumbled, slack-jawed as one long limbed goddess after the other strutted across the confetti-strewn runway.

“That is such a gay thing to say,” Barney growled. “I want Tyra back. That girl could really work a runway.”

“Are Marisa Miller’s boobs real?” Amanda asked as we all leaned in to get a better look.

“Karolina’s got too much make-up on,” Amanda said. “She looks like she’s in drag.”

“But in a good way,” Barney said loyally. He’d once shown up at a fancy dress party as Karolina Kurkova. At a Victoria’s Secret themed party of course. In certain circles, that outfit – complete with glittering wings – is still talked about in reverent hushed tones.

That night, we watched the show five times. And we’ve already made it a date for next year’s show. As Karl said when he left, “Seriously, who needs religion?”

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Career Trajectory

When we were small, people were always asking me and my siblings what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was as if the question occupied their every waking moment. “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” my aunt Ai-Ling would ask as she handed me a red packet at Chinese New Year. In her tight red cheong sam, she bore an uncanny resemblance to a lap cheong.
“Not look like you!” my sister Michelle would mutter under her breath while Jack, just five years old, would snigger.
Our mother, of course, harboured the fantasy of every Chinese mother since the dawn of time that her brood would become a doctor, lawyer and engineer. Imagine her distress when Jack suggested, with a very straight face, that he might like to become a nurse. She never was able to get a handle on his sadistic sense of humour.
Still, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” came up with increasing frequency and after a while, the pressure began to tell on us all, especially my sister. At university, Michelle dated in rapid succession, a medical, law and engineering student and then announced that she’d never been more bored in her life and that she would rather die than to end up like “those jerks”. And much to everyone’s confusion, she decided she wanted to be an accountant.
As Jack would ask me more than once, “That’s not boring?”
Years later, Mother has resigned herself to the fact that her wilfully stubborn children will never amount to much. I’ve quit being a lawyer to write magazine articles for 5 cents a word, Michelle is a reluctant (and often very angry) accountant while Jack spends his time trekking across the Himalayas and smoking bong to keep warm. And whenever anyone asks our Mother what we do, she changes the topic.
The other day, Michelle rang and complained that she hated her job. “Oh my God, it’s so boring!” she moaned.
“Try writing for 5 cents a word!” I said. We’re a competitive family.
“I’ve just spent the past three weeks auditing this company that’s gone belly-up and all I could think of was ‘Who cares?’ It’s a financial meltdown. The world as we know it is coming to an end and there I was, stuck in a dingy room in the basement surrounded by boxes and boxes of dusty accounting records. It was awful!”
My flatmate Saffy thinks Michelle needs a complete career change. “It stands to reason,” she said, her bosom inflating firmly. “Only someone who is emotionally lobotomised would ever become an accountant and your sister is slowly waking up from the nightmare!”
Amanda stared at Saffy for a bit.
“What?” Saffy asked.
“Do you just make these things up?” Amanda demanded.
“So I mix up my metaphoricals, but they make sense!” Saffy replied stubbornly.
“But what’s she going to do?” I asked. “She’s spent her whole life as an accountant, it’s not something you suddenly just give up.”
“Sure she can,” Saffy said easily. “People do it all the time. Especially married couples. Look at my father and Wicked Evil Stepmother. He spent 20 years putting up with her nastiness and then one day, he gets up from bed and files for divorce. What? Stop looking at me like that, Amanda! It makes sense!”
I immediately Skyped Michelle. “Oh, I’m too old for a career change!” she groaned.
“Saffy says her father is very happy now,” I reported.
In her little Skype window, Michelle blinked. “What?”
When Mother heard about her daughter’s mid-career crisis, she was ecstatic. She’d never gotten over the fact that her precious child had ended up being a “book-keeper” and now there was hope. “People have career changes all the time!” she said happily to me over the phone. “Your uncle Martin was just a pharmacist before he decided to become a dentist!”
“Mother,” I said patiently, “Uncle Martin is a dental assistant! He’s the one who moves that tube around in your mouth to suck up all the saliva and blood.”
“Well, he’s not going to be doing that for long. He’ll be a real dentist soon,” she said loyally, completely ignoring the fact that Uncle Martin is 62 and he works for his wife who’s the real dentist.
“Maybe, I’ll just take time off and join Jack on his treks,” Michelle said last night. “Or maybe I just need a break, clear my head and get my Mojo back.”
“Or maybe she just needs to get laid,” Saffy said, to which Amanda added wearily, “Join the queue!”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jog Strap

Among the many great mysteries in life (why people insist on noisily dragging their feet when they walk being the least of them), the one that stumps me most is this whole business about jogging.

Really, it’s the most absurd activity. Never mind the fact that the guy who made jogging a world-wide phenomenon actually died of a heart attack while out jogging (which in itself should be a clear warning about how dangerous it is), but if God had ever intended us to jog anywhere, he’d never have invented the car.

The subject came out recently when my flatmate Saffy started dating Madison.

“Wait a minute,” Amanda had interrupted the first time Saffy brought up the subject. “His name is Madison? This is a guy?”

Saffy had the grace to look embarrassed. “I think he chose it himself. But I’ve got no choice! I can’t not date a guy just because he’s got a girl’s name!”

“Yes, you can!” Amanda yelled.

“I’ve not been on a date since Independence!”

I looked up from my cereal and piped up. “Isn’t Madison the name of that mermaid in ‘Splash’?”

Saffy turned around to look at me, her eyes narrowed into slits. I went back to concentrating on my cereal. “Are you sure he’s straight?” Amanda asked. “I don’t want to be the one to bring this up, but you’ve had quite a few dates with guys who really should have shopping at the MAC counter with Barney Chen.”

“Oh, who knows these days?” Saffy sighed. “The world has just turned upside down. Every guy I’ve dated this year has offered to carry my handbag for me in public. And the ones who don’t, love to play mah-jong with their aunties. At least with Madison, he does manly things jogging. That’s gottta count for something right?” she asked, with a pathetic plea in her eyes.

“Totally!” Amanda and I chimed loyally, though I secretly thought that anyone who voluntarily jogs has his own special set of mental problems, and judging by the look in Amanda’s eyes, I could tell she was thinking the same thing.

Things went well for a couple of weeks. Saffy and Madison went on a few dates. They went dancing at Zouk though Saffy came home complaining that everyone on the dance floor was a foetus and she felt like she was 102-years old. “It was awful!” she pronounced, her formidable bosom heaving with embarrassment.

One weekend, they visited his parents (“They live in a pig-sty!” was Saffy’s horrified verdict) and went to midnight movies. They made out in the back seat of his car, ate supper at hawker centres and did all the usual things that dating couples do. And then, a week ago, he finally popped the big question.

“Oh dear God!” Saffy said the minute I walked in the front door.

“Yes, my child?” I blasphemed as I took in the wild look in her eyes.

“Madison asked me to go jogging with him!” Saffy said in a rush, as if saying it quickly might help erase the full horror of the moment. I blinked several times and then reached for the phone.

“I’ll be home in twenty minutes!” Amanda said crisply. She made it in eighteen. “What do you mean he asked you to go jogging with him? What happened?” she demanded immediately as she marched through the front door, barely pausing to toss off her Prada sling-backs.

“Well,” Saffy began miserably. “We were just hanging out in Paragon window-shopping and then suddenly he turned and asked me to go jogging with him this weekend.”

“That’s just sick!” I said firmly.

“Who does he think I am?” Saffy asked, a little spirit creeping back into her posture.

“Do you even know how to run?” I asked.

“Can’t remember the last time I walked faster than a crawl,” Saffy replied. “But I was thinking that it can’t really be that bad, can it? I mean, lots of people do it every day. Barney Chen jogs every day and he’s...oh...” she trailed off.

Amanda and I exchanged glances.

“Well, I guess if you look at the bigger picture,” I began, “it’s really not that bad. You guys get on really well. You even hate his friends and you’re thinking about letting him carry your handbag, so it’s all looking quite good.”

“But now he wants her to go jogging,” Amanda pointed out.

“And I don’t want to!” Saffy pouted.

And so, right now, they’re in the lounge room breaking up. I can hear them through the thin door. “I’m becoming a nun!” Saffy tells Madison.

I strain to hear his reply.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Back in Vogue

I don’t know about you, but in the little apartment that I share with Saffy, Amanda and my beloved adopted mongrel dog, Pooch, the biggest news right now is not the state of the world’s financial markets or even if the new American president should have surgery to pin his ears back.
No, the news that grips the fevered imaginations of my flatmates is Madonna’s divorce from Guy Ritchie.
This is how Saffy broke the news as Amanda walked in through our front door. “Oh God, Madonna!”
Amanda later said that for a confused minute, she thought that Saffy was having a mystical vision. As she said, “You never know with her.”
In this increasingly cynical world we live in, it says something that all of us so thoroughly bought into Madonna’s apparently fairy tale married life. Here was this rough New York girl with the unshaved armpits and the freakish ability to wrap her legs around her head (“Imagine sex with her!” as Saffy once observed with penetrating insight) who got married in some Scottish castle and basically packed up home for cold, drizzly, grey London where she then proceeded to have a multitude of children with the buff, no nonsense Guy Ritchie.
“He’s hot!” Amanda has said, with approval, on more than one occasion.
For her part, Saffy couldn’t get over how good Madonna was at multi-tasking her life. “How does that woman do it? A career, bazillions of dollars, abs of steel, Shambala and a great husband!”
“Kabbalah!” I said.
“Bless you!” Saffy replied from her parallel universe.
Not even the gossip that the Material Girl had been having an affair with that baseball player could tarnish her reputation.
“It’s all tawdry lies!” Saffy exclaimed at the time.
“Where got?” her good friend Sharyn said over a teh-o at Lau Pa Sat. “I read on Yahoo, you know. Must be true, lah!”
“You can’t believe everything you read, you numbnut!” Saffy said uncharitably, while hoping that Sharyn wouldn’t notice the latest copy of US Weekly peeking out over the edge of her handbag.
“You know for sure, is it!” Sharyn said whose coke-bottle glasses rarely allowed her to see anything beyond a feet anyway. On a clear day.
“It’s all lies. Madonna would never cheat on Guy!” Saffy replied with the kind of authority that hinted that she’d just that morning had coffee with her best friend Maddie.
The calm that followed the little storm with the baseball guy was, to the girls, proof that it was all the media trying to cause problems in a stainless marriage. “I swear, some people have nothing better to do!” Amanda said, as she stretched out on our lounge one Sunday afternoon and scrutinised the Enquirer’s report that Guy’s mother was denying that there was trouble in paradise. “They’re just jealous that some people can have a happy marriage. Such bad karma!” she pronounced.
Of course, shortly after came the official announcement that the Ritchies were splitting up.
For a few days, Saffy was convinced it was a late April Fools day joke and refused to believe a word she read in US Weekly. Even Amanda, normally so unflappable, had the same wide-eyed wild look that Miss Venezuela normally has a split second after she’s been announced Miss Universe.
“How did that happen?” Saffy asked.
Sharyn was triumphant. “You see, lah! Yahoo was right!” Saffy told her that if she kept this up, she was going to be pushed down the nearest flight of stairs and then struck off the Christmas card list.
Barney Chen, who’s always had a major crush on Guy, announced that he was buying plane tickets to London. “I know it’s probably blasphemous to steal the Goddess's husband, but I think I just might have a chance with him!” he growled happily. “I’ve always had my doubts about that marriage!”
“How could you? Poor Lourdes!” Amanda cried.
Our best friend Karl, who’s been unhappily married to the unlovely Marsha for years, says he wishes he had to the guts to get divorced. “I don’t think Marsha will let me,” he said the other night after listening to Saffy and Amanda mourn about the end of an era.
“I could push her down the stairs,” offered Saffy, who’s never liked Marsha. “It’s a little crowded at the bottom right now, but I’m sure I could make room.”
“Seriously,” Amanda said. “If Madonna, with all her fame and money, can’t make a marriage work, what hope do the rest of us have?”
That night, she programmed her iPod to play ‘Vogue’ on reloop and popped a sleeping tablet.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Death Becomes Him

A few Sunday mornings ago, my neighbour Chen knocked on my door – an act that led my flatmate, Amanda, to complain afterwards that it’s just such bad manners to show up unannounced at someone’s home. “Especially on a Sunday! I hadn’t even put on my face yet!” she said, giving her vibrant tresses an indignant shake.
My only complaint was that Chen looked annoyingly chirpy for that time of the morning. “Ay, sorry hor, but have you notice how dirty our floor is? The condo cleaner is not mopping!” she said while looking accusingly around the corridor.
I peered out and confessed that I’d not paid much attention to the state of our flooring, but now that she mentioned it, it did look a bit grubby.
“Yar loh,” Chen chirruped. “Every week, hor, I go down to management office and complain. Now they see me, they get scare! So, this week, you go down complain, can?”
I promised I would and was about to shut the door when she suddenly said, “Oh, also, hor, my father-in-law pass away yesterday!”
Which came as both a surprise and a complete shock. I’d rather liked the old man and enjoyed his company. He was always wandering around the grounds in slow shuffling steps, dressed in a scrappy t-shirt and pajama pants. That’s all he ever wore. I often passed him on my way back from walking my beloved adopted mongrel dog Pooch and we’d stop to chat for a while – him in stuttering Mandarin, me in appalling Cantonese, yet somehow we managed.
What surprised me was his death. What completely shocked me was that he’d not died earlier. As Saffy pointed out, he must have been a hundred and ten. “At least,” she added.
But what was even more shocking was how cheerful Chen seemed about the whole thing. My first reaction to the news was dismay. “Oh!” I remember gasping. “I’m so sorry!”
“No, lah!” Chen beamed, waving her hand. “Is OK! Is OK! He very old or-redi!”
“It was like we were talking about the Great Singapore Sale or something!” I said later to Saffy and Amanda. “It was all so casually cheerful!”
“I so don’t want people to talk about me like that when I’m dead,” Amanda declared.
“What I don’t understand,” Saffy said, “is why she thought it was more important to knock on our door on a Sunday morning to talk about how dirty our corridor floor was, and then so casually add that the father of her husband had died just yesterday! Shouldn’t that be the first thing you tell people?”
“That’s why people don’t like daughters-in-law!” Amanda said firmly, a statement that caused even Saffy to turn around and stare.
Which is how, a few days later, we found ourselves sweltering in our condo carpark, under a big white tent with a coffin. We carefully selected a table under a fan, but it only seemed to be moving the hot air around. Saffy, never at ease at a funeral, managed to look everywhere but the coffin at the other end of the tent.
“Someone please tell me that the old man is in a refridgerated coffin!” Amanda said after she’d scrutinized the flower arrangements and what everyone was wearing. Saffy frowned as she mentally replayed Amanda’s words and it was clear she was not liking the ending of this episode.
Just then, Sushila, another neighbour a few floors down from us, arrived and sat down with us. “Aiyoh, that poor old man!” she said, as she peered down at her cleavage peeping out from beneath her low cut dress. “I really liked him. Never understood a word he said, but we seemed to have such wonderful conversations!”
I asked about her children. “Oh, they’re fine. They’re having exams now. But hey, can I ask you guys something?” Sushila said as she leaned forward. By instinct, Saffy and Amanda leaned in.
“Do you notice anything different about me?” she asked. The girls cocked their heads and stared.
“Your hair?” Saffy asked.
“New lip gloss?” Amanda said.
“No!” Sushila whispered dramatically. “I’ve just had a boob job!”
Needless to say, three pairs of eyes shifted south to examine her breasts. “I didn’t want to get them too big, but what do you think?” Sushila asked.
Saffy later said that it had taken all her self control not to reach out to poke Sushila’s breasts. “I’ve always wanted to see what they feel like,” she explained, to which a scandalized Amanda said that she was this close to moving countries.
“We were at a funeral, for Chrissakes!” she blasphemed.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Money Talks

My mother rang me the other evening, right in the middle of “Survivor”. As a rule, I never answer the phone after 8 pm on the principle that if it’s urgent, there’s nothing I can do about it since I’m already in PJs and sipping herbal tea while watching TV. And if it’s not urgent, then why the hell should I be bothered? But this caller was persistent. The phone would ring and ring and stop. Twenty seconds later, it would ring and ring again. It was like listening to a dripping tap. It drove me up the wall. I grabbed the phone and stabbed the answer button.
“Can’t you take a hint?” I snapped. “Who the hell is this?”
“Really, is this what your expensive education has come to?” my mother began, her utterly and maddeningly serene voice floating across the continents.
“I was just…”
“Listen dear, I just wanted to check that you have put a sewing kit in your bank safe deposit box!”
“What? Sewing kit? Who is this? Is that you, Jack?”
“Oh, speaking of which,” my mother went on, “do you know where your brother is? I’ve been trying to call him for hours! He’s not picking up. And neither is your sister! What is wrong with you children? What if this was an emergency?”
“But it’s not an emergency!” I moaned. “I have no idea what you are talking about! What sewing kit? Why do I need a sewing kit?”
Mother sighed. “Because the financial markets are collapsing! Do you not read the newspapers? Really, I don’t know why your father worked so hard for so many years to send you children to such expensive boarding schools and…”
Michelle later rang to complain that as the years went by, she was more convinced than ever that we are all adopted. “I refuse to believe that I am in any way related to that woman!” she ranted.
My flatmate Saffy, on the other hand, has always been fascinated by my mother. “I’m just so amazed that she is able to find her way out of bed each morning,” she said the first time they met.
“Let alone give birth to three relatively normal children,” I’d added.
And now, the issue of the sewing kit. “What’s that all about?” Saffy wanted to know.
“It’s for when World War 3 hits and we’re running for our lives. She’s imagining that I’ll be dashing down to the bank vaults and be busy sewing gold bars into the lining of my pants,” I said.
“There’s going to be a war? When? No one told me! What does your mother know?” Saffy asked, her eyes widening and her breasts beginning to pump pneumatically.
“She’s just saying that we need to be prepared for some economic catastrophe,” I sighed. “The saddest part is that for years, she’s been hounding us all to buy little gold bars as a monetary hedge and I just don’t have the heart to tell her that my safe deposit box just has my first edition Batman comics in it!”
“That’s going to be really useful when you’re trying to barter for rice!” Saffy observed, immediately getting into the spirit of things.
Leave it to Amanda to take the nightmares of an old woman in her stride. “Oh, I totally get where your mother is coming from,” she said later that night after dinner. “I’ve got $50,000 in cash in my safe deposit box!”
Saffy coughed into her cappuccino. “What? Wait, you have a safe deposit box too?” she managed to splutter.
“I think you’re completely missing the point here, Saf,” I said gently and turned sharply to Amanda. “You have $50,000? In cash? How is that humanly possible?”
Amanda shrugged. “It’s my emergency cash fund. A few years ago, I figured that seeing as there’s still no husband on the horizon and between the two you, there might be fifty cents to go around, I figured that the only person who was going to look after me was me!”
I was still trying to wrap my head around the idea of $50,000 cash. Briefly, I tried to imagine what that must be like and what I would do if I had that much money sitting around idly in a safe deposit box. I decided that I’d probably go visit it every other day, just to keep it company.
Saffy looked wounded. “I do have more than fifty cents to my name, thank you very much!”
A few nights later, Mother rang again, this time advising me to store some cash in a Milo tin and store it under my bed. “We must change our names,” Michelle urged.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Surgical Strike

For years, I’ve had a cluster of tiny cysts growing on my left forearm. Just little nubs that could be anything, really: extra soft tissue that happened to decide that they wanted to live close together. That’s what Dr Chan, my long suffering dermatologist, told me when they first started growing and I was convinced that I was about to die some horrific agonizing death involving complications arising from a botched amputation. Actually, his official diagnosis was, “You do know that your hypochondria put my kids through private school, don’t you?”
The thing was, like the doddering old lady who rents the flat down the hall from us, they never really bothered me. And I live by the motto ‘Live and let live’, so I let it go and pretended they were mosquito bites. “They’re mosquito bites,” I would tell people when I caught them looking out of the corner of their eyes. They always looked unconvinced.
“They’re really disgusting!” cooed my flatmate Saffy with a delicious thrill of horror the first time her eyes lit on them. This, after we’d only just been introduced. She looked up and stared at me. “Have you had them looked at? I saw this show the other night about someone who had a whole nest of worms living inside one of his boils.”
“It’s not a boil,” I said, even as I inched away from this obviously crazy chick. “It’s a mosquito bite. Please step away from me.”
Recently though, I was looking at the cysts and finally decided I was going to get them taken out. I made the announcement at dinner with my flatmates, Karl and Barney Chen.
“It’s about time,” Amanda exclaimed. “They’ve got to be the yuckiest things I’ve ever seen in my life. And I’m a lawyer!”
“It’s so butch of you to go for elective surgery,” said Barney with deep admiration. “I faint when I even think about a scalpel!”
“I’m coming with you to Dr Chan’s!” Saffy announced.
“What? Why?” I said automatically.
“Because he’s my future husband, that’s why!”
I sighed. For years, Saffy has carefully nursed the fantasy that one day Dr Chan will look at her and realize that he’s been wasting the past 15 years of his life with his current wife – the very sweet gynaecologist, Dr Chee – and that he must have Saffy at any cost.
“I swear, I’m so hypnotized by those lush lips of his,” she would say. “They’re begging for me to kiss them!”
“You are wasting your time,” Barney once told Saffy kindly. “If he’s going to leave his wife for anyone, it’ll be for me! I’m so obviously his type!”
Even Amanda has tried on several occasions to break up that marriage, making up the flimsiest dermatological condition just so she could have an appointment and flirt madly in her sheerest Blumarine chiffon dress.
“I don’t know what the attraction is,” Karl once said after a visit to remove a rather unattractive mole from his right shoulder blade.
“Are you mad?” Saffy said, her fabulous bosom puffing up. “He’s like the love child of Takeshi Kaneshiro and Ken Watanabe!”
“And Teo Ser Luck!” Barney growled, his eyebrows knitting together at the sheer improbability of such a sensational genetic union.
“I just don’t understand why he’s not responded to my charms!” Saffy wondered, while peering down at the deep caverns straining beneath her tight tube top.
“Because he’s happily married to a wonderful woman and has four beautiful children!” I said.
“Because he’s never seen me in a swim suit,” said Amanda. I noticed Karl shift a little uncomfortably in his chair.
“Because he’s obviously thinking about me,” said Barney.
“Who are you people?” Karl exclaimed.
And so, I’ve made an appointment with Dr Chan. “It’ll take about an hour to get it all out and you shouldn’t have any scars by the time I’m done. I’m rather good with my stitches,” he said modestly, as he peered at my extended arm. “By the way, how’s your friend, Saffy?”
My eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why do you ask?”
“You told him you might have leprosy?” I yelled at Saffy later that night.
“Oh my God! He told you that?” she shouted back. “What ever happened to client-patient confidentiality?”
“It doesn’t apply to made up skin diseases!”
“Well, I might have had leprosy!” Saffy sniffed, still clearly appalled at the ethical breach. Later, Amanda said that Saffy was good. “I would never have thought of leprosy,” she said with approval.
Barney says the girls had better watch their backs. “And not in a good way, either,” he adds.

Part Three?

Thank you to everyone for their encouraging comments. I've been a little lax in the past year or so. Blame it on a lot of time spent in the airport. The easiest way to keep up to date though is just to follow my misadventures in 8DAYS. I'm there every week.

And to answer the persistent questions about a third book...Sorry, that's not going to happen for a while yet. Who knew that those thin books would take so much effort and time to produce? I really don't have the range at the moment.

Anyway, in the next post is a new one. Again, with my apologies for the late show.



Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fog this!

Yesterday morning, I drew open the curtains and peered out the window. I cocked my head and blinked, turned around and shuffled out to the kitchen. My flatmate Saffy was already up, her head buried deep in the fridge as she snuffled around for something edible.

“Is it me,” she began without so much as a ‘good morning’, “is it me or are we living in the war? There is nothing in this fridge to eat! Just some mouldy cheese and half a carton of milk.”

“First of all, that cheese is meant to be mouldy!” I said. “And I can, from this angle see bread, kaya, eggs and some cereal.”

“Yuck, carbs, sugar, cholesterol and bleagh. In that order!” Saffy replied smoothly, straightening up and adjusting her nightgown.

“Is that the haze that’s hanging around outside the window?” I asked.

“I think so. It’s just foul! I’m surprised I’ve not dropped dead from a respiratory ailment!”

Just then, came a low roar from outside the window. It took a while to register what it was.

“Oh crap!” Saffy groaned as she schluffed out of the kitchen to shut the lounge room windows. “Is it Tuesday? They’re fogging again!”

As one, we hate Tuesday mornings and try to make it a point not to be in the flat. For an hour, the entire condominium is blanketed in a heavy, smelly, diesel-smelling fog. Sometimes, the stuff creeps in through cracks into the window and we need to take another shower to clean the stench off us.

Saffy peered out the window as she watched huge white clouds puff up through the bushes and trees. “I’m sorry, but someone needs to explain to me how it is that the stuff can kill mosquitos and yet apparently it’s completely safe for me to breathe in!”

“Write to the Prime Minister,” I suggested as I closed the kitchen windows. “They’re very encouraging about feedback these days.”

Saffy paused. “Who’s ‘they’?”

“They. The feedback people,” I said vaguely.

“I don’t want them to open a file on me,” Saffy said. “They might decide to fill it up with other things that I don’t necessarily want them to know about me.”

“Too late for that, Saf,” I said, as I imagined the contents of Saffy’s security file.

“I’m sure he doesn’t go around his home shutting his windows when they fog his home,” Saffy went on, by now thoroughly grouchy from the combined effects of hunger and fumigation.

“Anyway,” I said. “Just say that you hope that the Prime Minister isn’t being unduly inconvenienced by the Tuesday mosquito fogging. I’m sure they’ll like you for being such a concerned citizen. Maybe they might even reward you with free CPF for life!”

Saffy brightened. “You think?”

“You never know!” I said cheerfully, while wondering how Saffy ever managed to graduate from primary school. Later that day, I received an SMS from Saffy: “God. I am very itchy n my throat is hoarse. Do u tink I’m falling sick? N can we talk about how stinky dis taxi is?”

“I should go get a medical check-up,” she told Amanda that night. Our flatmate had just come back from an overseas trip and was looking impossibly glamorous for someone who’d just spent 20 hours on a plane.

“You two are just so ridiculous!” Amanda exclaimed. “Why don’t you just not be in the flat when they fog if you’re so worried? Do you honestly think the Feedback Unit is interested in this kind of rubbish?”

“Well, if you’re going to be so selective, what’s the point of asking for feedback then?” Saffy said stiffly.

“There are so many other things to talk about,” Amanda said, giving her glorious shampoo-ad hair a vigorous toss. “I’m going to write in and say how much I adore Changi! The plane touched down at 8pm, and here I am back home at 8.40pm. Which other airport in the world can do that? It’s fabulous! And I love all that greenery along the highway!” she gushed. “We passed through dodgy neighbourhoods and ugly concrete flyovers in New York to get to the airport. I had to lock all the taxi doors!”

Saffy complained that Amanda was being such a kill-joy. “What’s freaking New York’s concrete flyovers got to do with us being gassed?” she demanded. “I wish you would just concentrate on the topic at hand. Now, tell me, do you think the Prime Minister has been working out? He’s been looking quite buff lately on TV.”

The next day, Amanda said she sometimes wondered how Saffy had ever been allowed to graduate from kindergarten.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


There was an episode of Oprah once where someone asked the question, “If your house caught fire, what would you grab as you rushed out?” Oprah said, I believe, she’d rescue her dogs. It struck me at the time that she never said she’d rescue Steadman, her long time boyfriend, but I guess she figured he had two legs so he could jolly well take care of himself. One of her guests said that he would take a picture of a tree, which made me laugh for days.

Recently, it occurred to me that if the little flat that I share with my two flatmates Saffy and Amanda ever caught fire, I’d first grab my beloved adopted mongrel dog Pooch, and the second thing I’d do would be to unplug my SmartTV.

This might strike many as odd, to take a piece of machinery when there are plenty of things that are far more precious. Like a passport, for instance, or one’s family album, or in the case of my mother, her small collection of gold bars. But I can’t even begin to explain how much I value my SmartTV.

My life has never been the same since it came into my life. Seeing the promotional commercial – pause and rewind live TV, view individual recorded programmes in the sequence you want – is one thing. To actually see how it works is entirely another. I can bookmark a recorded show and skip to another one. I can watch, fast forward and rewind a programme while it’s recording. While I’m watching Project Runway on one channel, it tells me that Lost is about to start on another channel.

My point is, for a TV addict, the SmartTv is life-changing (and no, they’re not paying me to say this, though come to think of it, they should). No more stacks of clunky video-tapes, or worrying about how you’re going to tape all your favourite shows if you go away for two weeks, like I did recently.

There I was on the plane back from London smiling happily at the thought of all the lovely shows I had waiting for me at home. Nigella Feasts, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Oprah, American Idol… In the taxi zooming away from Changi, I was already planning which show to watch while I had dinner. Even as I opened the door to the flat, still caught in a TV-fueled daze, it took me a while to appreciate that Saffy was staring at me in a mildly panicked way.

“It’s not my fault!” she immediately said while taking a little step back.

Smiling indulgently, I said, “You are such a drama queen! What’s not your fault?”

She hesitated. “Your SmartTV. It’s not my fault,” she repeated.

I stared at her for a while, in the same way you might if someone said, “You’ve just won a billion dollars!”

“I never touched it, I swear, I was just dusting the DVD rack and then suddenly there was a loud crack and then the lights all went out and it never came back on, though I’ve tried turning it on but really, I don’t know why people expect me to know how these things work, so it’s really not my fault, please don’t yell at me,” Saffy babbled.

I felt a little faint and it took a while for the world to stop swaying. “It’s broken?” I finally managed to whisper. “ It was all working fine when I left.”

Just in case I’d missed the point the first time round, Saffy said, “It wasn’t my fault. I’m sorry.” She later told Amanda that I looked as if someone had just told me that Oprah had died.

“The fuse is gone,” the Starhub man said sympathetically. He’d come over almost immediately after I placed a 911 call. “We’ll have to replace it.”

“But what about all the shows I’ve already recorded?” I moaned. “Oh dear God, I had two seasons of Victoria’s Secret on it!”

“Hopefully, the hard drive is intact, lah!” he said. He had the bed-side manner of a schnauzer. It was a great comfort.

The days since have been impossible. There’s nothing to watch on TV, just the local channels and I have to endure all the painful commercials that I normally happily fast forward. And I have to stay up late to watch shows that I normally record. I just can’t help but wonder how other people do it. “They have lives,” Amanda said unkindly this morning.

The next time she’s not looking, I will cancel her Vogue subscription.