恭喜发财, 红包拿来!*

*Gong Xi Fa Cai, Hong Bao Na Lai! Happy New Year, now show me the money! Hilarious how that Chinese New Year phrase, typically uttered in jest by children eager for their hong baos somehow evolves with oneself. Teenager? Please can I have an allowance? Young adult? Please release my trust with no conditions attached to marriage. Mid 20s, like myself? Gods of fortune, please deliver in an epiphany what I am destined to do with my life and how I will make my legacy. We all have destinies to fulfil and empires to build whether big or small. Show me the map to mine.

Whether or not I am attached or single this time of year is never about Valentine's day, not when I can be counted upon to be consistently soppy & saccharine most of the year. This February 14 I'll be recovering from the Chinese New Year slump; that is, 4 straight days of feasting, exhausting my limited Mandarin & Cantonese vocabulary speaking to my grandparents, catching up with my extended family,   hiding from the Lion dancers (the giant Lion's head and the clashing cymbals terrify me) and avoiding card games or any form of gambling really.

9th of February, the eve of Chinese New Year. Reunion dinner at my family home in K.L, with my paternal family.

We had to set up both dining rooms to accommodate everyone. And to think that my extended family is small by Chinese standards...I'm grateful though, we need not be one of those families who  decamp to the gardens and set up canopies. 
Al fresco dining with uninvited mosquito guests? Not at our reunion dinner.

A typical reunion dinner spread; lobster yee sang, prawns, chicken, fish, pork, char siu, siu yok...the usual fare.

The tossing of the yee sang; before (above) and after (below). Nothing like the promise of auspiciousness & good fortune to facilitate & justify playing with your food. 

Sweet chaos.

With my favourite cousin Lai Yee 姐姐.

The first day of Chinese New Year, 10th February. Nipped over to The Land Beneath The Wind, where my maternal family dwell...

The sea-breeze & mountain air do little to cool the constant heat from the fierce sun. Funny how I buy three new bikinis and decamp to tropical climes for a month, only to slather myself in SPF50, stay indoors in air-conditioning and avoid the sun. I've been well-trained by my conservative sun-fearing Asian mother. Golden tans are for decadents, bohemians, and liberals.

Red is an auspicious colour deigned to bring fortune & good luck. Why leave things to chance, why do things by half? Dress like a giant angpao. Red hair, red lips, red nails, red dress, red clutch, red shoes...even my perfume is Tom Ford Jasmin Rouge ie. Red Jasmin. Ong bo?!

Obviously my redness did not go unnoticed as I was blessed with bigger angpaos this year. Who said that superstition has no place in the 'modern world'?

Just to be absolutely sure I thought I'd wear my Charles & Keith heart bangle next to my beads from a Japanese temple. I am blessed and not wanting for money. But I am ready to be loved again. 

More yee sang.

Sushi at Chinese New Year?

Roast duck. See the glistening, crispy skin, the juicy meat, the soft fats...

...mushrooms galore...

...and thus barely begins the inevitable Chinese New Year bingeing.

Otherwise, there's not much to do, the next 3 days went by in a slow haze of...


Spotted myself in last month's copy of The Peak!


...more snacking...

...yet more snacking...

...Collecting hong paos...

...'Party favours' which in my case involves me doing party-related favours. Usually for Michiekins. *narrows eyes*

Camwhoring props for her '80s themed birthday party; inspired by the promos for The Carrie Diaries.

Right; the originals, left; my version. Straight out of the TV show. 'Cos we are livin' in a material world...

Me and mummy.

Sometimes family tensions run high. 

There's no love like a mother's love.

When it gets crowded I take walks along the beach.

...And shopping for seafood, so fresh it's literally alive.

It doesn't get fresher than this, any fresher and you'd have to catch it yourself. I picked the crabs from a tank of live ones, does that count?

Grandmother's secret recipe; chilli & tomato crab---

My favourite butter lobster.

After the first few days of Chinese New Year you count your loses and gains. Loses---I don't gamble, play mahjong, or have to give out hong paos so my only loss is all the weight I gain from the food. Wait...is that a gain? Gains---I get to refresh my Mandarin & Cantonese, harass my grandparents with my own form of overbearing sentimental affection, and of course, hong baos

This is more or less all the hong baos I get each year (apart from small hong baos from more distant relations) as my family is practically tiny by Chinese standards. Ten cousins? Twelve uncles? My clan is small & humble. 

This years' stash from my parents & grandparents. I'm going to treat myself to a long overdue holiday; Singapore and Bangkok before dragging myself back to London.

恭喜发财, 红包拿来! 


February 13, 2013

恭喜发财, 红包拿来!*

* Gong Xi Fa Cai, Hong Bao Na Lai! Happy New Year, now show me the money! Hilarious how that Chinese New Year phrase, typically uttered in...


*No, this is not an ode to Chris Brown; and can I just say that I think Karmin's cover of Look At Me Now killed it? Surpassed the original, left it behind in the dust, she was like fudge trial she put it down if you got eyes look at her now, yo. 

This is a long blog post about my history of living in London, covering the last 6 years and my last 5 addresses up till now.

I am now the proud owner of my second property in London. 

India & I at Maddox last Saturday. Photos lovingly stolen from her Facebook, contrast & levels upped in Photoshop by me.

But first; a history of my previous residences in London.

India jokes that I'm a "West end girl living in East London", and it's not the first nor last time that I've been teased for my postcode being at odds with my accent. My voice sounds vaguely plummy; like I've got a potato stuck in my throat, but my Shoreditch abode is definitely far from posh. Of course anyone with basic comprehension skills can grasp that I love contradiction, juxtaposition, contrast. Isn't it so terribly middle-class to 'slum it for fashion'? Patronising connotations aside, some us really do live in Shoreditch because it's cheaper than Sloane Square, although that's not to say that teenagers don't just move into slightly shady neighbourhoods to annoy their parents. For me it was a mix of necessity, frugality, and a sense of adventure. 

I've lived in 6 different addresses in London in as many years. My first postcode was reasonably affluent, and then rapidly declined down a scale of 'fairly safe & boring' to 'trendy but dirty' to 'will definitely get shot at the bus stop' before moving upward to where I am now, Shoreditch. 'Gentrified, up-and-came, but still satisfyingly grungy'; is how I would describe my neighbourhood. With room for improvement but the compromise is worth being able to afford to own my own place.

Anyway! I moved to London at the age of 18 after accepting an offer to study at Central St. Martin's, and having missed out on CSM student accomodation I found myself living in...

 1) South Kensington (2006-2007)

I lived in an ancient red brick building by the Royal Albert Hall which was so old and poorly insulated that staying warm in winter meant going to bed wearing fur. The building was a residence for women, and all my housemates were students---neurotic ballerinas, law students, medical students, art students.  We took our meals---tasteless, limp, barely lukewarm slop---in the basement, standing in line like Dickensian orphans. I expressed my distaste at the offerings; and received a verbal abuse not unlike Oliver Twist. Not amused. Also, the no-guests-after 11pm rule; enforced by reminders over megaphone barking your name and room number were a bit of a kill-joy. So I moved to...

2) Euston (2007)

Still student accommodation, but with a difference. This was a Christian student accommodation slash hotel and conference centre. On one hand, it was two to a room---but not for me, back then I was a atheist and had to be separated from the other God-fearing pious souls---but on the other, the food was a catered buffet affair. I gained a ridiculous amount of weight eating two English breakfasts every morning, spend a lot of time reading the Bible placed on my bed, and hissing at the other students. Inevitably I got kicked out for sneaking guests in overnight and being just generally a impudent, nasty, little heretic.

 3) Brick Lane (2007-2008)

Decided that student accommodation had too many restrictions. Decided to flee that lifestyle of oppression & stress by moving into...a tiny room in a flat shared with far too many strangers, in a council estate occupied with unsavoury characters; criminals, anarchists, and despondents alike. What can I say, back then I had yet to develop the ability to make intelligent and well informed decisions. But! I was spoilt for choice when it came to curry houses that all boasted some form of outdated award.  "Best curry house of 2005?" That was three years ago, you need to step it up.
The landlord still owes me my deposit... *glowers*

4) Dalston (2008-2009)

Having been nothing but introverted, antisocial, & isolated as a teenager (translation; I had no friends) it took this much later in my life for me to go through my 'rebellious years'. This for me meant drinking, shaving a side of my head into that once-fashionable but now-so-mainstream sidecut, and going to squat parties, illegal raves, and dance nights in gay 'nightclubs' which were really a basement underneath a shop in Dalston (the fire hazard! quelle horreur!) Laughable really, that I had to do all that to assert the notion of being liberal, free, and wild.

Even this bus thinks that Dalston and the Dalston lifestyle is a joke. >LOL<

How can one properly be a Party Monster---Michael Alig, hey!---if one did not live in a huge but dirt-cheap loft apartment above a pub, in a dodgy party of town, with a crazy-eyed, raging landlady who violated every single law of landlordism? That included; coming up randomly without warning into the flat AND withholding my deposit from me because "It ees with dee estate air-gent, and dey have left town so I keh-not geeve you bak yoh ma-ney." Tough luck lady, you should know that the law requires you to put the deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme and that your failing to do means I am well within my right to take you to court and sue you for three times the amount. Not to mention that trying to intimidate me into leaving without my deposit is harrassment. The woman got her daughter to pretend to be her legal rep to go all lawyerly on me and get me to back down. Her 'legal rep' produced a piece of paper with photos of the now defunct estate agent thinking that a few crappily composited photos would hold up as, hmm, I don't know, The Bible of Real Estate Law? I saw through it right away, rolled my eyes, asked her again if she wanted to be taken to court where I would successfully sue her for three times the amount she rightfully owed me, and suggest that the court investigate if she was paying taxes on the rent from her tenants who certainly signed a contract that most definitely illegal. The fake lawyer trembled, the landlady gaped, and gave me back my deposit in cash the very next day.

5) Whitechapel, E1 (2009-2010)

Moved into a rather charming flat, with high ceilings, wood floors, furnished simply but tastefully, and managed by a landlady who knew what she was doing (Having repairs made swiftly and with no fuss! Being nice about late rent! An contract that's actually by the book!)

The only problem with the flat was that it was on Commercial Road. A huge stretch of commercial buildings, with no real sense of community---no flower markets! No bijous boutiques and family-run cafes! In the evenings it was completely deserted but for wandering drunkards and troublemakers from the nearby hospital, and foreign men with disgusting ideas on how women should be treated. Once, a leering man follow me up to my building door, clearly intend on assaulting me knowing that noone nearby would come to by aid. He asked me "Do you live here?" Yes you stupid piece of filth, I'm obviously going to tell you that so that you can make me a target for whatever sick ideas you have. I replied, "No I'm here to see my boyfriend, he's just finished his sentence in prison, for assault. BABY! I'm here!" The would-be molester swiftly made his exit.

I witnessed a horrific incident on that very street outside that flat; a woman being abducted by two men that she clearly knew. I called the police and insisted they come straight up to my flat so that I could give a statement, but when they showed up they never so much as crossed the front door. Instead I hid by the window, holding my breath, and had to make the hardest decision of my life when the abducters returned in their car with no woman, but with her handbag which they quickly disposed of. Do I run down to the street, grab the police and demand that they immediately arrest the men, possibly saving the woman? Or do I listen to my friends who held me down and insisted that I not give myself away, for fear of my safety? I'm ashamed to say that I didn't have the courage to leave the flat and expose myself to the kidnappers, and selfishly stayed where I was, hoping for the police to do the right thing. The police never spoke to me, my phone calls to the station to inquire about the case were never answered, and to this day I still torture myself thinking about the woman's fate.

Dark days, indeed. I try not to think about those years...

Satisfied that I had sufficiently horrified my parents and having had more than my fill of the 'fauxhemian' lifestyle, I decided to put my childish ways and days of squalor behind me. Like my shaved hair, I was beginning to outgrow my pretentious lifestyle---when I say grow out of I mean I went from 'eating, living, & breathing it' to 'parodying myself for my own amusement'---and embrace being the bland, bourgeoisie, vanilla biscuit that I really am. Living in abject filth and being harassed by dodgy landlords had long since lost it's novelty. Having squandered enough money on rent, I decided it was time to buy.

In 2010 I became the happy owner of a Shoreditch apartment, where I now live in & work from.

So ensued an addiction to Apartment Therapy, IKEA, and hunting down furnishings at auctions, thrift stores, vintage shops, & antique markets. Whether I actually bought anything is another story, but! interior design & decorating (or at least fantasizing about it) became my new passion. I can proudly say that I know the measurements of every crevice in every room of my apartment, that just by looking at a piece of furniture I can instantly tell if it will fit a certain space, and that I can assemble an IKEA Billy bookcase without consulting the manual. 

Not long after, the itch to collect knick knacks for my apartment graduated to, well, investing in apartments. So it was decided that I should look around London for a second property. Initially I had my eye on the Avant Garde development on Shoreditch High Street, just down the road from where I currently live. Location wise it was almost perfect; literally right in the centre of all my favourite places---right across the street from Shoreditch House and Richmix, two streets over to Aubin & Wills cinema, The Boundary, and my favourite little shops & boutiques on Redchurch Street.

Avant Garde Tower, Shoreditch

I eventually decided against it because it was either ---
a) Overlooking Sclater Street ie. the filth and foul of strewn rubbish from the Brick Lane Sunday markets
 b) Too close to the Overground, the constant coming & going of trains & commuters would drive me insane  
c) All the units on floors high enough to be somewhat quiet with a decent view were already snapped up.

I should really just live in a derelict, empty, crumbling castle on the edge of a cliff with nobody around for miles. All I need to be happy is high-speed broadband, a car, and a helicopter. Oh, and 25 dwarf hamsters.

No matter. Easy come, easy go, that is the nature of property hunting. Fast foward 2 years and hurrah! I've got my second London flat!

I now happily own an apartment in Circus West, the property development at the iconic Battersea Power Station!

How gorgeous is that penthouse?! Sadly I couldn't afford one of those, I'll have to save up like mad. Maybe by the time I'm 35!

Circus West is the first phase of the new Battersea Power Station residences, "a mix of 800 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, townhouses and penthouses as well as a blend of offices, shops, leisure and hospitality." £600 million of property was sold in four days, in a "stampede believed to the fastest selling property development on record." Madness! The developers happen to be Malaysian companies so luckily hospitality was extended to a fellow Malaysian and I managed to get my hands on a decent flat, with a discount too.

I don't intend to live there though, as adorable as the apartments look I think they're much better off as investments as opposed to the kind of home I want to bring up a family in. I know it's not going to be anytime soon, and the apartment won't be completed for another 3 years anyway. Hopefully by then I can sell for a nice little profit, or rent it out, or who knows turn it into a 'me' space like Carrie Bradshaw? It would be nice to have little flat away from the marital home (whenever that happens, gods of love, are you listening?!) where I can paint, peruse magazines and sip tea at my leisure, a quiet small space for just myself and one or two friends. No men or children allowed!

Like this, but less blue.

February 09, 2013


*No, this is not an ode to Chris Brown; and can I just say that I think Karmin's cover of Look At Me Now killed it? Surpassed the or...