Picnic with friends
I love day-long sunshine, like we’ve seen throughout lockdown, up until a few days ago. But I also love when the weather shows you all it’s got, seemingly all 4 seasons, in a single day, and the most glorious outpouring of golden sun rays breaks through right when you tuck into your vegan special Franco Manca pizza and bubbles to celebrate the things that there ARE to celebrate these days with sweet friends from, quite literally, all across the world — one’s from Australia, one’s from the English Midlands, one was born in Switzerland to Uruguayan / American parents and met Sanoop when they worked together in Hong Kong, and one’s a Canadian who spent many years working in Africa, among other places in Nigeria, where Sanoop was born; they’re all sweet, open-minded, positive, thoughtful, hilarious beings, and Sanoop and I are grateful for knowing them, and for having our Tuesday evening brightened by their company, and for the fact that the government has now deemed it safe to meet in groups of 6, as long as we keep the shenanigans outside. Yay.
From tropical speakeasy cool to nippy English alfresco bliss
11 June 2016, a guy with a funny name invited me for a drink. Knowing I was new to Singapore, he suggested a bar close to where I lived, in Tiong Bahru. I don’t remember what I was feeling when I was standing in this carpark, wondering whether that dodgy-looking iron door over there really was the entrance to this cool Japanese speakeasy that Google Maps had promised me when I looked up his suggestion. I stepped in, however, and found the guy sitting there, in this tiny bunkerish room, all alone. There were no other people, and no music, and no chairs, so you had to sit next to each other, rather awkwardly, on this narrow bench — so in a sense this was a good test. This bar is now my favourite in the world, and the rest is a better history than I could ever have imagined.
Four years on, this Wednesday, we’re celebrating the 48th CamSnoop Day with big hugs and kisses and lots of smiles all day, reminiscing on all of the incredible memories and moments we’ve created together; and with, apparently, very similar self-drawn fish cards for each other, haha! Sanoop has a present for me — AirPods Pro in a box with my initials on it, so, so sweet. He wrapped them in cute cake-covered paper, and hid them in his wardrobes weeks ago. It’s the kind of thing I’d never spend money on getting for myself, but which I, now that I’ve got them, can’t believe I’ve been able to work, run, and generally live without. So good! Very thoughtful of him. In the evening, we recreate our first date, at Bincho, with some cloudy nigori, clean clear sake, and delightful fresh bites from Sushi Hana in Flask Walk, sitting on a bench in one of our favourite corners of the Heath, with a beautiful view of the London skyline.
Such a touching and poignant episode of Desert Island Discs
On one of my morning runs this week, I listen to an interview with Elizabeth Anionwu, health-equality campaigner and Emeritus Professor of Nursing, who has been named one of the most influential nurses in the history of the NHS, with a successful career spanning 4 decades — quite a contrast to her disrupted, traumatic childhood, born out of wedlock to an Irish mum and Nigerian dad in the 1940s. After retiring, Anionwu started fundraising and campaigning for a statue to British-Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole, the first statue in the UK to represent a named black woman. Lovely tunes as well — The Jamaican Folk Singers, Flavour N’abania, and beautiful I wish I knew how it would feel to be free by Nina Simone.
Here‘s the episode. One of the immediately following ones, with financial journalist Martin Lewis, is pretty sweet and heart-warming and educational as well.
Friday night in
After work, my friend and I meet at Paradise in Hampstead, where they allow you to sit inside the restaurant, around their white-table-cloth-covered tables, and have a drink on the house while they prepare your takeaway order of succulent Indian dishes — we go for a veggie curry, a chickpea stew, a spinach and potato stew, daal, and grilled okra, all vegan. It almost feels a normal night out. We eat, talk, and make henna tattoos, my friend going for a cool dotted pattern and I experimenting with some spiralled twists, really just letting the colour cone do its thing; it’s really such a fun thing to do, and I want to do it again and again, and eventually, hopefully, improve my skill. Sanoop has to do our right hands, as that’s quite difficult to do yourself — good thing to keep in mind! We watch an episode of the new season of Fab 5 while the henna dries and gets crusty. Drink red wine in the fragrant evening air until midnight, the evening full of the most wonderful dewy, grassy smell of British/Danish summer shrieks and cheers from young people living it up on the Heath now that they can’t go out-out.
Bike ride to Greenwich and back
On Saturday, I cycle down through Highgate, Kentish Town, and Camden to Kings Cross, continuing down through Islington, Clerkenwell, and Farringdon, to eventually cross Blackfriars Bridge and paddle along the southern bank of the river until I reach Greenwich, where I meet a friend for a picnic lunch in the heaving park. We have a marvellous time, chatting for a few hours, and then I head back, this time across Tower Bridge and up through the City, Aldgate, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Shoreditch, and Angel, and then along the canal to Camden and back up Haverstock Hill to meet Sanoop for a picnic dinner on the Heath, lots of happy young and old people in the long grass and golden light around us, using this big communal backyard as a communal dining table as well. Oh, London, I love you. Also, or maybe especially, even if it’s kind of scary, when all of your neighbourhoods are mostly empty, with just a few cyclists out and about.
Sunday at home
Doing yoga together in the yoga room, making and eating shakshuka, listening to podcasts and YouTube videos, chatting, laughing, and reading in the window seat, drinking a mezcal margarita. Heath runs and walks, watching kids play football, women of all ages do tai chi in a big circle, getting coffee from the lido cafe, looking longingly at the temptingly luminous blue water in the pool behind the cafe, meandering over to the lush pergola gardens and deer enclosure in Golders Green Park. Time for reflection, time for switching off, time for setting intentions, and time for breathing and just taking in the idyllic beauty of it all after a week of protests, riots, exciting positive energy, and devastating negative energy all across the world. The balance act of on one hand staying informed and getting involved in a constructive, beneficial way, and on the other hand not letting myself get too sucked into the media rabbit holes of constructs, radical viewpoints and actions, emotional outbursts, and devastation. We’re alive in such a dynamic time, with so much good potential for reconciliation, healing, and improvement. I’m doing my best, reading, donating, and engaging in conversations at work and at home, and hoping for the best, hoping for openness, kindness, empathy, and willingness to cooperate to prevail. And listening to the birds that chirp outside the window from 4am to 10pm.