Go big or go home…

Archive for the ‘admin’ Category

Chop chop

Posted on: June 29, 2009

I have been avoiding getting a haircut, mainly because of the incredible hard work involved in finding a good salon (those 15 minutes of googling can really take their toll).

I gave in last week and the criteria ‘reliable stylist’ and ‘colourist who can deal with naturally blonde hair’ led me to Toni & Guy. Not the kind of place I’d go to in London, but when you have fewer familiar reference frames somewhere that is boring because it’s familiar becomes reassuring for the same reason.

The colour is pretty good. I urged her to err on the side of caution then felt disappointed that I hadn’t been more brave, but that was my fault, not hers.

The cut, well, the cut is less good. I started perhaps a little vaguely – I’m bored, make it look different – which is enough direction for someone who’s been cutting my hair for seven years, but not someone who’s just met me.

Fortunately I know my hair well and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted – long-ish bob, funky choppy layers, lots of volume and movement.

“No,” says the guy.


“I’m not taking it short. It’s too long, the shock might upset you.”

“Ooookay. You did hear what I just said? Long-ish with choppy layers, right?”


He argued that too many layers would make my hair frizzy. I argued that I don’t have heavy Asian hair so it wouldn’t be a problem. I delight in living in a humid country because my pathetically fine hair finally has some volume.

So I figure I know what I’m talking about, he figures he knows better, and he’s the one with the scissors. After a ponderous 30 minute blow dry it looks ok. A little mumsie, but I’m happy to have lost a lot of length.

My sis is cautious in her praise, “It’s kind of… sensible.”

Hmm, perhaps. I figured the jury would be out until I washed it myself. Which I have just done. The verdict is not good. I think ‘Cute Victorian pageboy with flicky ends’ might be the worst (certainly the most boring) cut I’ve ever had.

(And I once sat down in London, went through the “I’m bored, make me look different” brief, and left looking like a cross between Myra Hindley and my mom. At least I didn’t look dull. Criminally insane, but not dull.)


Regular readers, ambushed listeners and those who provided sanctuary will remember that our bloody buggering London flat tried to burn down at Christmas.

I think we can say that fate (that malicious and imaginary card shark) dealt us a bad hand. The fire screwed everything except our letting agent. The letting agent was screwed by the bus that drove through its offices.

But we’re smart cookies, right? Smart cookies can play a bad hand well, especially if an army of friends and family step in to make three months of dual home ownership manageable.

Wrong. We played a bad hand really, really badly.

Two weeks ago there was finally light at the end of the tunnel. A friend of a friend was in situ, acting as caretaker in return for very low rent, and ready to move out at a few days’ notice.

Another friend of a friend, S, was waiting to view the place. We were happy to offer her cheap rent given that we knew her, she knew us, she was likely to be an amenable tenant, and our mutual friend would be on hand to mediate.

Finally, we had a potential tenant via the letting agent – the first they’d produced in four months of showing the property. Sticking with the agency would leave us (slightly) better off financially, but the tenants wanted us to remove the bed. And the sofa. And have the place ready to move into within three days.

Our instincts told us to hold out until S had viewed the place. The agency hadn’t instilled us with much confidence anyway, having lost a lot of paperwork and sent us survey results for the wrong property – it would be good to cut the apron strings.

But they leaned on us. Hard. “You have to move now, you can’t rely on getting another offer,” all that crap. We panicked and jumped. Bed moved. Sofa moved. S viewing cancelled.

In the frenzy, favour-doing caretaker was forgotten. She was evicted in the worst possible way – removal men arrived at 11pm to take her bed, just as she as about to get into it.

We disregarded the efforts of many good friends at the agency’s say so, and now we have tenants in place, the agents are agitating.

– We didn’t leave enough keys

Why did no one from the agency ask us for extra sets at any point during the past FOUR MONTHS?

– The paint work is shabby and needs re-doing

Too true, my friends. I believe this was also the case before the contract and inventory were signed – shoulda mentioned it then.

– The floorboards are old and worn

The floorboards are indeed old, being one of the few Victorian features to survive the conversion. If you think I’m covering ‘em up with Ikea laminate to satisfy the fickle demands of the rental market then you can go suck my… oh wait, this is the non-sweary blog, right?

Gah. I know I’m being unnecessarily stroppy, but it kinda makes me feel better. Being angry at the agent lets me pretend that I didn’t treat my friends badly or make a stupid letting decision that I’m stuck with for the next 12 months.

Tags: ,

Today is our one month anniversary. We’re in our new flat but not online, so I’ve gone all the way to an internet café to mark the occasion (who knew internet cafés still existed! I thought poor people and backpackers would all have iPhones by now).

We haven’t seen much of the city yet – our time has been taken up with admin and housekeeping. On that front, our little home is making me very happy, even though there are no sockets for shavers and all the cupboards are too high or too low.

My favourite house things:

• The view, and how it changes through the day.

After dark it’s a mess of twinkling lights. Early in the morning there’s just haze, crystallising into city as the sun sharpens.

(Right now it’s raining, and the top of the CBD is lost in the clouds.)

• The big telly!

The TV itself (all 42 inches of it) is neither here nor there. J and I decided we weren’t going to get one, not realising they’re standard in furnished Singapore flats. So we’ve done the only sensible thing, and hooked the PC up to it. And *that*, as the kids say, is made of win.

• The ice tray.

Yup, really. The freezer has a built in ice tray; once the cubes are solid you twist a lever and they drop into a drawer below. Estimated ice cube capacity: 150 – all neatly stored in the pull-out bucket. This kind of organisation is going to take my martini mixing to dizzy new heights.

Food porn

Things I’ve tried:

• Carrot cake (ibid)

Takoyaki – octopus balls. For want of a better explanation, mini seafood toad-in-the-holes. Really good.

Rou gan – dried pork slices, a bit like biltong. Also really good.

Things I’ve not tried:

• Hotdog prata – wtf!

Pig organ soup. Ummm…

Other experiences

Medical exams; mandatory in order to secure gainful employ. I had mine today, and rocked up at the hospital with the tocsin of civil liberty sounding faintly but distinctly.

Neither my employer nor the hospital volunteered any information about what I would be tested for, but I asked a nurse and she said HIV, diabetes and kidney disease. Which doesn’t explain the chest x-ray, and begs the question, “What happens if anything comes up positive?”

The rest of the exam was basic: height, weight, b.p., except that the nurse giggled when she weighed me. And earlier today, the receptionist at my new agency said, “You’ll soon find the hot weather will melt all that fat off you,” while smiling benignly, as if she’d just told me she liked my shoes.

Fortunately I’m reasonably immune to stuff like that, although I had better get used to feeling Amazonian; a lot of SE Asian girls are teeny-tiny and very body-conscious.

Yours, hen pang Elle

(57.2 kg in case you’re wondering. I think that’s bang on 9 st.)

I’m starting work in nine day’s time, after five luxurious weeks off. I have landed myself a job in the Asian hub of an international ad agency, as a creative in their healthcare department.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

• A pregnant lady got on the MRT (tube) the other day and three people instantly jumped up to allow her to sit.

I have seen pregnant women get on in London and ride six or seven stops without anyone offering a seat. The standard response is for seated commuters to bury their heads deep into a newspaper, thereby excusing themselves as they “didn’t notice she was there”.

Whenever I saw this happen (for it was sadly common), I would spend the six or seven stops trying to decide whether I should intervene on the pregnant lady’s behalf. I never did.

• The banks here are retarded!

This country is supposed to be the financial jewel in Asia’s crown, but it really is the worst place I’ve banked (previous countries banked in: n=1).

My ATM and debit cards are separate entities (the second of which I had to apply for in writing), my savings account is managed with a passbook, and I had to go into a branch to get a device that allows me to bank online.

(Actually, that last bit’s unfair. The internet banking is really good, and the device is a random number generator that’s linked to my login, so it’s super-secure.)

Quick update on other stuff: Life is good, getting the keys to our flat in two day’s time, and starting work in a week and a half. More about the job to follow.

Also, I have permanent contact details now, so if you feel compelled to send me a parcel or make an expensive long-distance phone call, drop me a line and I’ll provide the means.

Yesterday was slightly stressful, but by tea-time J and I had secured ourselves a place to live.

The process was rather portentous though. It all started to go wrong when I turned up at the bank to get a cashier’s order for the landlady (in lieu of a chequebook). I’d allowed half an hour for this task, surmising that few people could have urgent banking needs at 11am on a weekday.

How wrong I was! The queue moved torturously slowly, and I was 20 minutes late meeting my agent. She was good natured about it, but I did see her jaw set into a slightly harder line when I informed her that I’d also forgotten the letter of intent.

This document – meticulously filled out by J and I that morning, and still sitting neatly on our coffee table – was the crux of the whole meeting. It is signed by everyone involved, and means no one can back out without paying at least some damages.

“It’s ok,” the agent reassured me. “I have copies. You and the landlord can sign now, J can sign again later.” So we went up, met the landlady, lied cheerfully to her: Do you have pets? Nope. Do you smoke? Definitely not! Then the moment came to hand over the cash.

“Um, this should be a ‘G’, not a ‘Q’,” the landlady said.


My agent drove me back to the bank, and deposited me in another hour-long queue. By the time I’d got the right cheque, with the right name on it, the simple task of meeting someone to exchange pieces of paper had occupied me for four hours.

It’s done though, the flat is ours! And the cheery optimist in me thinks that if things go wrong at the beginning they’ll only get better as we progress.

The flat is lovely – two bedrooms, two bathrooms, amazing views, little maid’s balcony. I don’t have pics yet, but here’s the project from the outside:

City Square Residences

City Square Residences

And here are some photos of the surrounding area.

We’re one week in and doing well. J had to go straight into work after a single day off, which must’ve been hella hard – he certainly had my sympathy. (Especially as I have been swimming, reading & sunbathing, basically being an expat wife layabout.)

In between expatting and laying about, I have been busy house hunting. This in an arduous task that means asking myself many challenging questions: is two tennis courts enough; how much space does a maid *really* need? That kind of thing.

I’ve been to about 20 viewings in the past week, ranging from enormous but ancient apartments with peeling paint and a surfeit of dark wood to ridiculously pert new-builds with bomb shelters (“Only 30 minutes drive to the subway, mam”).

We’ve settled on one and are putting an offer in today, but I don’t want to say anymore cos I’m superstitious and fear that committing my thoughts to paper might jinx the deal.

We got to see a bit of the city over the weekend. On Saturday evening, one of my best friends from uni’s best friends from school (still following?) took us to Newton Circus for satay and carrot cake.

Both J and I assumed they were talking about the sponge-carrot-creamcheese frosting version of carrot cake, yet neither of us questioned the pairing of high tea components with grilled meat and peanut sauce.

Turns out high tea has nothing to do with it. Carrot cake is kind of a radish (white carrot) omelette, and bloody delicious. We also had stingray – that was for you Fry, now there’s one less in the world for you to worry about.

After that we put away a bottle of shochu in a Japanese bar (the budgeting is going badly), then found ourselves at the quays watching a rather rotund transvestite cover 80s rock classics. We definitely didn’t sing along to Bon Jovi or Guns N’ Roses though, and wouldn’t admit it if we had.

On Sunday a Singaporean friend showed us round Chinatown, where New Year’s celebrations are still in full swing, and took us to dinner at a Korean restaurant where the food came in hot stone bowls (and J ate mushrooms :-ooooo).

Today has been more pedestrian – got a bank account, got a phone, got some work to get on with. On that front, I’m temporarily borrowing my soul back while I do a bit of freelance journalism, and also have a second interview with an ad agency on Thursday morning. Phew on both counts, looks like J might not get paid until the end of March!!

In other news, I still haven’t got bored of saying “Ah, it turned out warm again,” every morning when I step outside. Hopefully I will tire of this before J puts an end to it by punching me fatally in the back of the neck.

Hope you’re all well. I hear it’s snowing in London, bad luck!

Elle xx