06 Mar

the easy life is not so easy

It’s that time of year again: another batch of friends have left Singapore. Before Christmas three of my wine book club, fully half of it, left to go back to Melbourne. Others left too, at the same time or just after; it’s a great time of year for Australians in particular to go home, the start of the school year. Another family, people I really liked, are leaving at Easter. Maybe there’s even more that I don’t know about yet, because you often don’t get more than a couple of months notice for a work move.

You have to keep on top of people here. If you’re on the sort of casual, I like spending time with you but doesn’t life get crazy schedule that works back home, you might completely miss the news and then poof they’re going. And you have to be happy for them, if you are a good friend, but in your mind you’re clutching at their ankle screeching, “NOOOOOO! How can you LEAVE MEEEEEEEE?”

Amazingly, not many people outside of your immediate family make life decisions based on what you want.

Then you have to start the cycle of making new friends all over again. But what if you meet someone, and they seem great, but then they tell you they’re going midyear? Do you just rub them off the mental blackboard? Oh well, not much point making the effort there. I’ll be honest, I’ve done that before. It’s a good way to protect yourself from the sadness when a friend goes. But it’s also a good way to miss out. Because what if you really get along? Sure, they’ll leave and they could end up anywhere: Italy, Tokyo, Toronto, Ireland, but then you’ll know someone who lives there. It’s really cool knowing people all over the world. And as a fellow expat, who knows what the future holds? You could end up in the same place again.

You have to work at friendships here, really make the effort to keep catching up, which is hard for an introvert like me. But if you don’t, you end up feeling like a Larry No Mates because it’s your birthday and you”d like to go out to dinner but the two people you know are busy. Even an introvert like me hates that.


A couple of months ago, I ended up at the doctor’s because my anxiety and depression flared up way more than normal. I was having Bad Thoughts, really bad, of a kind I haven’t had for many years, and it scared the crap out of me. So I went to the doctor and he prescribed antidepressants and gave me a referral to a psychologist, and I’m working on stuff.
I don’t know what caused it. Is it hormonal? I was diagnosed with PMDD in the past, but it’s been fine for ages. There is no Why, or maybe there are a thousand mini-Whys. I had a feeling of isolation, of being useless. I remember thinking I would lift right out of this family with no ill effects. I don’t work, I don’t do housework, the only thing I really do is kid homework and bedtimes, and that’s easily replaced. I figured I could disappear and no one would notice.  Hell, I didn’t even think it was worth going to the doctor. What’s the point? I said to Dave. I’m just going to be wasting his time. What will I even say to him? And again when I got my prescription filled. These are really expensive here. We’ll need to do a cost benefit analysis to see if they’re worth it. Between sanity and not sanity? he asked. No, between me and not-me. It just seemed like too much effort to go to.
But then someone I knew lost a friend to suicide and I saw how it really affected her. I remembered another friend, whose dad committed suicide when she was little and how it still tore her up, and, I couldn’t do that to B. So I went to the doctor, and I cried, and now I take my antidepressants and monitor my moods and try to do things that give me joy like exercise and hobbies and I’m doing ok now, except that I still don’t know why it happened in the first place.


The moral of the story is: living here is amazing and wonderful, but it can be lonely too. You have to look after yourself, . Those book club ladies, I didn’t see them that much outside of book club but I liked them, and I liked our catchups, and now there’s a gap in my social life. But the other half of the group are still here, and I also really like them. So I’m going to swallow my shyness, and reach out, to all my friends, not just the ones that are here. This is going to be my challenge for this year, to be better at this.
07 Apr

the family visit drinking game

School holidays. This week we have been in Ballarat, visiting my mother. To be honest, I was dreading this. I like the idea of being home, in the familiar, spending time with my mum and all affection that entails, but you and I both know from past experiences that these things never go so well.  I know it’s my fault. I react, I argue, I try to change how she acts, and it never works.

So this time I’m trying something new. I’m staying detached, I’m not engaging with her. Smile and nod, smile and nod, go to my happy place, and if it gets too much (like when my aunts came over, and the opinions reached critical mass) leave the room. And if it’s really bad, that’s where my duty free bottle of Bailey’s comes in. Instead of saying anything, I go take a swig. It’s like a fucking drinking game. Council rates too high for no reason? Drink. Bitchy gossip about a relative? Drink! Homophobia/racism/discussions about how her iPad works? Drink! Drink! Drink!

I did pretty well, I didn’t even start the game until day 4, but it’s now day 7 and my bottle is empty and I still have 12 hours to go. It was the discussion about upgrading her iPad that did me in. Did you know it has the GBs? But not enough GBs. So she keeps getting messages about needing to put more of the GBs in. You can get a thing to do the thing and the other thing.  I didn’t say anything, not after the time I’d said she didn’t really understand how data worked on her mobile phone and she rolled her eyes hard enough to dislocate them and said, “Oh here we go, yes I’m just stupid and you know everything, I’m sorry I asked.” Come to think of it, that was what started the game in the first place.

So the bottle didn’t last to the end of the visit, which probably means I lost, but on the other hand there was no screaming, and there were no tears, so maybe everyone won.


It has been nice being back home though. I do love Ballarat. As a town it’s big enough to feel like it has everything you need, but small enough to feel homey and nice. We have some lovely friends here, whom we normally don’t get to see anywhere near enough, but this week we’ve spent quite a bit of time together and it’s been wonderful. They are very much our people. I would love to live in Ballarat just to be close to them. If only the trains would make commuting more viable. Theoretically there is a fast train that should make the commute not much longer than we had when we lived in Melbourne, but Dave tried it this week and not one day did it run on time.

(Actually that reminds me, way back in the day I suggested we could live in Ballarat and Dave could work in Melbourne, staying in town during the week in a little studio apartment in the city, and he said, “nooo, I could not be aways from you that long.” And then I brought it up again a couple of months ago, and he said, “hmm, that could work!” WHAT CHANGED?)

Of course, one person is missing. It was so strange coming up here, knowing I wouldn’t see Pete this time round, or any time. There’s a massive hole here where he used to be.


Next week (tomorrow (I can make it)): Melbourne, more family, lots more friends, lots to do. I’m really looking forward to it.

13 Mar


The day after we moved house, one of my oldest, dearest friends died. Pete and I had been friends from university; and even back then he was just that little bit smarter than me; a little bit quicker, a little bit funnier. We used to like sparring with each other but I would very quickly be outpaced. We bonded over physics lectures and Discworld books and somehow out of everyone he’s the only one I’ve kept in touch with for… shit, 27 years. He was best man at my first wedding but I got him in the divorce. (I used to joke that my ex got all the friends but to be honest back then there weren’t many outside of work, and those ones I treasure.)

He’d had lots of ups and downs, but he’d kept going, and he had health problems but they seemed to be being managed but then suddenly they weren’t. Another friend found him on the Wednesday, very ill, and took him to hospital, and by the Saturday he was gone.

We didn’t speak very often but I always knew he was there, on Facebook and Twitter, and reading this blog–he’s one of the people I’m talking to when I write–and he was always, always so proud and supportive and there. And now he’s not. And I find it so hard to comprehend that I can’t just message him, that he’s not there anymore with a funnier response to any of my jokes, that next time I go back home to Ballarat I can’t pop round and show off B and be outsmarted again. And I keep seeing things I know he’d like and going to tell him, and I can’t. I went to see Eddie Izzard the other day and everytime I laughed I thought, “wait till I tell Pete he said—” Oh.

Pete liked good scotch and baiting flat earthers on Twitter; it was always amusing to see people try to get the better of him. I liked seeing that I wasn’t the only one. I was rereading his tweets over the last week or so and he was in his usual fine form. Then they suddenly stop; there’s no foreshadowing in real life, and I wonder what his adversaries think happened to him, if they think they finally won.

And I am so, so sad.

I miss you, buddy. Rest well.

26 Jan

Lamingtons and parental disappointments

Happy Australia Day! Dave has taken the day off because he says it’s unAustralian to work today. He only became Australian two years ago but I guess this, like the second verse of Advance Australia Fair, is something he learned for the exam.

I am making lamingtons! It is my first time. I’m following this recipe and so far I’ve made the sponge. It seems a little bit thinner than I expected (my pan was a teensy bit too big both ways), but maybe this is so we can use jam to stick two pieces together. The recipe doesn’t call for jam, which seems strange. Also apparently I should have started yesterday, which explains all the baking on my Facebook then. (Jamie Oliver says I can put it in the fridge to dry it out, so I’ll try that.) Later when B gets home we’ll do the bit with the chocolate and coconut, which reminds me I’d better go buy chocolate and coconut this afternoon.

Also jam.

This morning B got to dress in green and gold (“ugh, that’s green and YELLOW, mum.”) for school, and I attempted to teach her the official prayer for today:

This here’s the wattle, the emblem of our land.
You can stick it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand.

But she refused. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with her. This is typical. We did a little cruise a few weeks ago, just 5 days up to Thailand and back, and she was loving the kids’ club and their activities until one night they were having a pirate party. She was worried and said, “what if they want us to do swordfighting and I don’t want to?”

I said, “so just say, ‘I don’t want to do that.'”

“But what if they make me?”

“Well then you say: HELLO! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

“I’m not going to say that.”

“Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father. Prepare to die!”


“How about, ‘never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line’?”

“Stop it.”

“To the pain!”


Sometimes it is inconcievable that she is my child.

17 Jan

The state of things

On the 2nd of January 2015, we arrived in Singapore. At the time we said we’d be here for two years, because it seemed as good a guess as any. We had no idea if we would like it here, or if Dave would like his job. Two years is the standard commitment for an expat role (leases and utilities all have two-year contracts) so that’s what we said. Long enough to decide if we like living here, but short enough that it’s not a life sentence if we don’t.

Okay, it’s been two years, so what’s happening?

Well, we’re still here. Singapore is a brilliant place to live, it’s clean and safe and everything just works. Dave is enjoying work (though enjoying is not quite the right word), his career is going well and he wants to keep pursuing it; Bianca is thriving at school and me…well, I like it, I’m happy, although the full answer feels more complicated than that.

We’re not committing to any particular chunk of time. Maybe one year, maybe two, perhaps even longer (though I doubt we’ll make it permanent). I have no idea what will happen in the future, where jobs will take us. All I can say is we’re not ready to leave yet.

I’m trying to sort out work. I took a leave of absence from work and that is nearly up. We’ve been talking about me working from the Singapore office but I’m really not sure how that will go so I need to think about what’s next. I’m nervous about being unemployed for the first time in… well, ever really, I’ve worked for the same place almost my entire adult life. Strictly speaking I don’t need to work here but it’s an insurance policy and takes some of the pressure off Dave. And to be honest it would be very good for my sanity to have more adult contact that doesn’t revolve around schoolyard gossip!

I am looking forward to going back but at the same time there’s a part of me bleating, “but… but… I have so much I want to DO!” Yet for the past however long I haven’t been doing any of it! It’s fair clear now that I cannot make good use of my time on my own! You can probably tell I’ve been in a slump for much of the past year, which I can really only put down to feeling a bit aimless. I need external help to find some direction. It remains to be seen whether just the threat of going back to work is enough to kickstart me again.

So that’s where we are right now: still in Singapore, looking to go back to work, making other changes too. Happy 2017 everyone, I hope it is better for you than 2016 in every possible way.

24 Feb

welcome to the year of the stupid

Gong xi fat cai! We had a four day long weekend to celebrate lunar new year (I can’t quite get the hang of whether it’s ok to call it Chinese new year here). Of course Dave will tell you every day is a weekend for me. Ha ha ha! He is such a funny man. Thank goat he’s gone back to work today.

Speaking of goats, I am worried this might really be the year of the stupid. Or the stupid goat. My birthdate makes me a metal pig, so you know this is possible. So this is what happened. On Friday night we decided to go down to Chinatown to see the lanterns and the general celebrations. Embrace the culture! See the dragons! Actually, we tried to do it the night before, but just as we were about to leave I realised I couldn’t find my train ticket. So we had to abort. That was the first stupid of the year. But we figured it didn’t really matter, because the celebrations go on for two weeks so we’d still get to see it all.

So anyway, Friday evening we dressed up again, Bianca in her cute little pink Chinese dress, and caught the train to Chinatown. It was busy, with lanterns everywhere, but there was nothing in particular going on. So, we checked on our phones to see where we needed to be. And that’s when the second stupid happened. You see, the celebrations do go on for two weeks… BEFORE lunar new year.

You could say we were in the right place, but the wrong time.

We were stupid tourists.

(But seriously, come on! Shouldn’t you have the party when the big holiday is happening? No? Okay, but shouldn’t you do it anyway for the stupid tourists like us? No? Well shut up.)
So instead I contented myself with taking photos of lanterns and funny signs.



I could maybe actually shop here

I could maybe actually shop here

um... no thanks

um… no thanks

Then we sampled the local delicacies at McDonald’s. After that it got dark and all the lights went on and it was just beautiful.




two tigers and a goat

two tigers and a goat

And then we took the train back home.

I think Chinatown should have dragons every day.

03 Jan

On the cusp

I started writing this on Monday when the packers were busy transforming our home into echoey rooms full of bubblewrapped icebergs, but the words wouldn’t come. Now I am on the plane, and there is room for words. Gosh, I love business class! I’ve got my own little pod to live in. Next to me is Dave and over by the window Bianca is chilling like a seasoned traveller, lying back in her seat watching My Little Pony, dinner on a clothed table in front of her.

(We are travelling business class because this is an official corporate move. We can’t afford to do it ourselves, but I would love to be able to! I think that’s my definition of wealthy – being able to travel business class without going broke to do it.)

We had a very hard few days there. Do you know, I’ve been off work since mid November, allegedly getting everything organised? And I thought I was doing well, I really did. Even though the list of stuff to do never seemed to get shorter, and I spent many a late night watching TV and playing on my phone instead of, say, making the curtains I’ve had the fabric for for months. Sometimes I got stressed thinking about everything that needed to be done, but then I’d think, “nah, it’s okay, the deadline’s Friday 2nd, it has to be done by then so it WILL be done.” Well, hello mid-December Nicky, it’s not fricking magic, YOU STILL HAVE TO DO IT ALL!

We were on our way to Ballarat on Christmas Eve when we realised our deadline wasn’t Friday, it was Monday when the packers came. At that point everything needed to be sorted into what’s staying and what’s going, and then that into whether it was coming with us, or going air freight or by sea. And if that wasn’t enough, we’d be away until late on Friday night and we had a farewell BBQ on Saturday to attend… suffice to say, we had some extreme late nights last weekend…

There I was on Monday morning after maybe 4 hours sleep for the third night running, eyes hanging out of my head and feeling at a loose end but the preparation was done. There was still heaps to do–cleaning, organising, those fricking curtains–but I couldn’t really do it while the packers were working. So Tuesday it all kicked off again for cleaning, painting doors, tidying the outside, getting rid of all the crap that was still hanging around — no matter how much stuff we took out of the house there was always another fucking load. Of course I drastically overestimated how much I could achieve in a day so Thursday was an all-hands-on-deck affair, but at 6:30pm when we walked out of the house (with yet another car load of crap) the house looked okay and ready for showing: not as perfect as I’d wanted but I just didn’t care anymore. Went back to Dave’s parents house, and drank several bottles of wine with his Dad, and breathed a sigh. Everything is in the hands of other people now.


Now we’re on a plane and I’m allowed to just be happy and excited. Did I mention that business class rocks? It is giving me delusions of grandeur and definitely spoiling me for economy.

There’ll be yet another list of things to organise once we’re on the ground again, but right now I’m just really fucking excited about what happens next!

04 Dec

Hold on tight, I’m about to get interesting…

… maybe. You tell me!

Dave has accepted a new job and we are moving… to Singapore!

Omigod, omigod, omigod…

This has been brewing for ages, well over a year, but it’s been in the why haven’t you TOLD me? category for about two months. And I don’t know why I haven’t told you, except that (a) it’s hard to burst back onto the scene with big news like that, and (b) even Dave wasn’t telling anyone until about a fortnight ago. Official wasn’t enough, it had to be official official before we could risk hexing it :-)

The original Singapore possiblity was mooted 18 months ago for a different role. Since then it’s been on again, off again, in Sydney instead, back in Melbourne, maybe London… it was exhausting. On our big holiday we decided to just ignore it and get on with our life, because we couldn’t keep putting everything on hold for a maybe. And then, of course, it kicked off again, and then it lulled, and then–the actual night we were signing the contracts for the new kitchen! — we got a letter of offer!

And so, this is where we are. Right now. Our flights are booked, we leave on 2nd January. A new adventure for a new year. Up till then I’ve got SO MUCH to organise. Doing stuff to the house, organising the decluttering and packing, closing out our life here and starting a new one. This is why I’m stressed. This is why I’m eating. But I’ve just got to get on with it because in four weeks we’re off!

Omigod, omigod, omigod!

It is going to be such a big adventure!

24 Nov

I have gas! And other news

Or non-news, Dave would say. Anyway, it’s been a bit of a crazy few weeks (more about that anon) so let’s catch up on where we are.

The kitchen is in – just about. They started putting it in on the Wednesday, you’ll remember, and I was hoping that it would all be done by the Friday. And it was, except for the tiling. It turns out the tiler comes later and is organised separately, which explains the designer’s comment that some people wait for the kitchen to be in to choose the tiles. At the time I kind of thought those people were nuts leaving such a big decision to be rushed and risk their tiles not being in stock but I didn’t say anything, So it turns out I didn’t have to stress out so much about the tiles because I had as long as I damn well pleased to get them sorted. And I would have known this if I’d just asked, or even better, finished reading the letter explaining the process instead of wandering off halfway through. Remember at school when you were doing those boring English Comprehension exercises and wondering whenever the hell you’d need that? Right now, is when.

Anyway, the floor guys came in the following Tuesday, then the tiler started on the Wednesday and then due to a comedy of errors and clashing schedules, he finally came back last Friday to finish the grouting. And lo the tiles look great, and now the floors are in I can say with confidence that the original tiles I chose would have been a MASSIVE mistake. So that makes me happier.

The guy still needs to install the kickboards now the floors are in, but otherwise it’s done and it’s beautiful, and I can now spend my spare time deciding the best place for every single item. Because obviously I never get to shift them round again later!

I am not someone with either the inclination or the ability to do a big reveal post with everything nicely staged, and while I’d love to rabbit on about the design changes and how much better it is, I’m probably not going to get round to it unless someone says they’re interested, so here’s a quick look at what we were working with in all its peachy beige melamine glory. It was fine, before my parrot Sheldon ate most of the insides of the cupboards, but it was tired.


Sorry for the blurriness, but you probably don’t want to look too closely at this anyway. We’d already pulled up the orangey cork tiles at this point and it looks 100% better, so try to mentally add those back in. (I actually liked the cork tiles.)

And here’s the new gorgeousness. Doesn’t it look so much better with the oven moved? So much more space!



My new cooktop has a massive wok burner in the middle. I was so excited about this: finally, I’ll be able to get my wok hot enough to do proper stirfries! And it does get very very hot, but the two things I’ve tried cooking on it (steaks on Saturday, and a stirfry tonight) I’ve managed to undercook the meat significantly. I mean, we like our steaks medium rare so they only need a couple of minutes each side, but these were practically blue. How did I manage to do that when I’m basically cooking on the surface of the sun?

I am monumentally embarrassed by this because I am a reasonable cook and don’t do this sort of thing. Luckily I was only cooking for Dave both times. At least with the steaks my excuse is that he normally does them, and I do not want that to change, so maybe I am just avoiding accidentally displaying competence.


In the meantime, Bianca is now four and a half years old and already tying knots around me with conversations. I love it. She’s always been a thinker, and the way she explains things to me, the gestures and expressions she uses, are priceless. The other night the three of us were at a restaurant which specialised in roast chickens, and in the open kitchen we could see a half dozen or so roasting on a spit. Bianca did not seem happy about this. She eats chicken but mostly as nuggets or skewers or kievs, so maybe it was the chickenness of the carcasses that upset her. Anyway she looked at them for a bit, and at me stuffing my half-chicken in my face, and then said, “I don’t think we should eat chickens like this anymore. Because if we eat all the chickens, where will we get any eggs?” All with the hands held upwards, and a puzzled look on her face.

Ah, B, if only you’d been there to explain this idea to the guys doing all the cod fishing in the North Sea. I said I didn’t think we could eat that many chickens and anyway these were probably the boy chickens who didn’t lay eggs. But she said, “but boy chickens are roosters! We need roosters too!”

But we’re still going to eat chook.


The absolute best one happened back when we were on holidays. We were at a restaurant at Disneyland, me and B and Dave and my mum, and I was laughing and Bianca said, “Mummy, you laugh like an evil person.”


BWAHAHAHA! Oh yes, look, she’s right! I told a girlfriend it was the best compliment ever, and Bianca of the flapping ears heard and asked me what is a compliment? So I explained it was when you said something nice about someone to make them feel good, like Bianca, you have beautiful hair, and she thought about that for a second and nodded, and then she said. “That wasn’t a compliment.”



18 Oct

Better together

My man is back! My man is back! Woo to the hoo, he’s back!

We went out to dinner tonight, I may have had a little bit of wine (two thirds of a bottle to be precish), and we had such a good night. Giggling like schoolkids, doubling one another’s entendre, laughing so hard… it’s the closes we’ve been to the old us in a long time. Whether it was the lovely Margaret River sangiovese, or we’re child free until tomorrow, or that we’re both just so glad he’s back — I don’t care. I don’t want to dissect it. It just felt good.

(And the wine was awesome, and the food divine.)

You know what? From when B was a little baby, I thought about leaving. Running away, leaving them, sumetimes even hurting myself in the baddest of times. Motherhood did not cone naturally to me; I felt trapped and I wanted out. Then I got diagnosed and some antidepressants and it was better, but I still harboured resentment: of what I’d given up, of what we’d lost, whatever… my default reaction, whenever we had an argument was to think about leaving, to think about the out. The intimacy’s gone, we’re gone. We never snuggle on the couch together of an evening, or even talk anymore unless it’s about B or whose day was harder. I’m just a nanny and a housekeeper, I come somewhere down the bottom of the list after the bike and the bird and the friends and the kid. Why are we still together?

But somewhere in the last year, it’s changed. I’ve realised we’re better together. We still have fun. We might not be on the same couch at night but we’re still heckling TV. And we only talk about the birds and Bianca so much because they’re so damn funny. There’s been extra pressure these past few years but it’s coming to an end. B’s no longer a baby, she’s a girl. She’s going to school next year! And nights like tonight prove that we’re still here, we just maybe need to work on it a bit. It’s more than just settling with one another because the alternative is too hard. He’s my man, I’m his girl. We’re a couple, a unit. A family. It’s where we’re meant to be.

And now, a new chapter of life is about to start. We’ve got some really big fun adventures coming up. Everything’s going to change, and I’m glad we’re doing it together.