Tag Archives: Singapore

Brick Wall

OK, so this week I slowed down a little. OK, I slowed down a lot. A brick wall rose on my novel’s highway and I have stopped in front of it, hands on my hips.

I wrote….3300 words. Which, as I was going for 2000 words a day, is, um, a wee bit short.

Granted it is half term and I have only two and half hours of kid-free time. But actually something else is going on.

I’m realizing I don’t know enough. Perhaps this was naive but I wanted to power through this draft just getting the story down. But I’ve taken on a new genre: a historical novel.

My idea is to write a love story set in Singapore in 1937. Groovy no? And I thought I knew a thing or two about Singapore, having lived there for a year and having done a certain amount of research.

And being a rather impatient person–(Cue husband’s and kids’ heads bobbing up and down in agreement…)–I jumped right in.

But as I write and the story unfolds, I realize I do not have the specific information I need. For example my character arrives by ship in 1937. OK. But what did the ship look like? Where did it stop on the way? What would her berth look like?

Each place my character goes I have to think, Did in fact this place exist and what did it look like? What kind of dress would she have worn? How would she have spoken?

The quantity of words I’m trying to write is limited by my lack of knowledge.

So Wednesday I used my two free hours to take myself off to the library–I know, how quaint– to scrounge around trying to find books about the times of my character.

Now I am reading and writing as fast as I can.

This morning I tried to write some words but it was hard going. Nothing was coming. And now as the clock tick tocks towards the time my children will come back from the little tennis camp I have banished them to (where they seem to be eating too many biscuits and hitting too few balls) I’m trying not to panic.

But the good news is…I’m intrigued. I’d like to know what happens.

And that is a good sign.

Tell me, what is going on with you.

photo by JPott (flickr)


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By Crispita

By Crispita

All this Facebook ruckus reminds me of my breastfeeding days. When I took a breastfeeding course before the birth of my daughter, I spent most of the time chortling in the back row. The idea that I would ever put a babe to my half-pint breasts was ludicrous. My husband, I’m afraid to say, found it particularly funny. But when I finally did give birth and offered my virgin nipples to my daughter, I wasn’t laughing. And poor Lara squealed with frustration and hunger.

I tried the experts but they all seemed to have memorized the same mantra: drink more liquids and rest. Well, I was drinking enough liquids to flood London Central and hadn’t budged from the couch in so long I had begun color-coordinating my clothes with it.

I had hoped to breast feed for about twelve months (any longer and I worried the kid would walk up to me, grab a breast with a sticky hand and flip it into her mouth like a petrol pump). But I didn’t last past four. The day I finally gave up and switched to bottles, Lara fairly had a party to celebrate.

So when I gave birth to Ben three years later in Singapore (my husband was on sabbatical) I wasn’t in the most optimistic of moods. But I hadn’t bargained on the Chinese and their reliance on cuisine for disaster remedy. The Chinese are real apothecaries when it comes to ingredients, most of which you can either get fresh at the markets or dried and curled obscenely in large clear jars at the Chinese medicine stores. Cooking becomes prescribing. Clogged arteries? Try a tablespoon of black vinegar. Windy? Have a bite of ginger. Nasty complexion? Treat yourself to some dried scallops. I could go on. Sesame oil promotes blood circulation. Fish enriches milk glands. Squid will improve mental energy.

In short, food delivers. It’s an idea most Chinese have taken to heart and they are quite vocal about it. Taxi drivers driving me to my pre-natal check-ups swore by bean curd for a baby’s smooth complexion. One restaurateur warned me away from crab, saying my baby would be born too mischievous. And the teacher at my daughter’s Singaporean nursery declared that an expectant mother should always eat what she craves otherwise her baby would never stop drooling.

So after the first dissatisfied yowl from Ben shook our apartment block, my Chinese neighbors were ready. They gathered around me at our communal playground to peer down at my son’s pinched face. They shook their heads and told me exactly what to eat. Stewed fish maw, they said. Stewed hairy marrow, kidneys stir-fried with wood fungus, pig’s trotters with ginger and vinegar. I see, I said and dashed home to my diet of peanut butter, cheddar cheese and gallons of ice cream. Motherhood had made me do a lot of things I’d never in my most horrific dreams seen myself doing–like giving birth for example–but it was not going to make me eat trotters, pigs’ or otherwise.
Plus, I didn’t believe a word of it.

My neighbors were insistent. One arrived at my doorstep with a bowl of pig trotters floating in a clear soup studded with small red dates. Eat, she urged. Oh, yes, soon, I murmured and placed the gift far in the back of my refrigerator.

Finally, Elena, my Filipina maid (yes, I know, I just lost the sympathy vote, but I don’t have her now. I’m back in London and do my own laundry, cooking, cleaning and baby bottom wiping, thank you very much,) unable to watch my poor child’s distress, decided to cook me a milk producing soup from her village; chicken with green papaya. Her mother drank it and practically drowned her children. “Of course, she had big breasts,” Elena remarked staring at mine, unimpressed.

She went off to shop and returned with arms filled with green papaya and bunches of pepper leaves. She simmered and sprinkled like a witch and then sat me down with a firm “eat.” It tasted rather bland but felt warmly nourishing. I downed two bowls full and sat back skeptically.

The next morning was complete and glorious havoc. My breasts ballooned and opened like taps. They leaked everywhere. My baby gulped and dribbled and then fell back, rolling his eyes upward in ecstasy. I drank that soup on and off for the next four months and never again had any trouble. I ended up breastfeeding for fourteen months. It almost makes me wish I had tried the pig trotters sooner.


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