Monday, 30 July 2012


One of my very old friends, S****, who I saw while I was in England was almost speechless. Which is quite something for her.

''Wakeboarding?! L**** H**** going wakeboarding? And climbing? And scuba diving? Gymnastics? L**** H**** doesn't go wakeboarding."

Which is a fairly accurate appraisal of my sporting prowess.

When the DFP asked,
"Would you like to start diving lessons?"
I replied,
"No. That sounds really scary. I definitely don't want to do that."

So it will come as no surprise at all to you that for the past four Saturdays from 5 - 6.30pm we have been taking diving lessons. 

To clarify, when I say diving I mean Tom-Daley-diving rather than scuba-diving. Though what I am doing doesn't resemble what Tom Daley does, apart from both of us leaving a springboard and soon afterwards entering a swimming pool.

The pool complex we go to is like those I remember from my childhood in England. Proper local authority, slightly crumbly around the edges, not shiny but very functional, cheap to get into and well used by everyone. There is a 'caf' where you can buy your crisps or your cup of tea after your swim. Or, because this is Singapore, your noodles.

Surprisingly, I like it. Like wakeboarding it's a good thing to do in Singapore where it's so hot that most of the time you want any excuse to submerge yourself in cold water. The bright colours of sky and water remind me of those David Hockney prints of swimming pools in California.

The first week we turned up the coach was an amazing Scottish woman, O***, who had trained the Singaporean junior national  team. Unfortunately it was her last week teaching before returning to Scotland to train to be a doctor. 

The diving club seems to have been a bit lost since her departure. We've had almost a new coach each week  of varying levels of competence.

Last Saturday T**, who we'd seen training the first week we were there and doing the most amazingly complex looking spin-ey, hurtle-y dives, was our coach. T** looks like he should be on a plinth. He also has a fantastic eye and gives very precise, useful notes. And he takes no s***. For example:

Him:   I think it's time for you to go and try that from the 3m board.
Me:    No. That looks really frightening. I think I'll just stay and do some jumps from the 1m board.
Him:  There's quite a long queue for the 1m so you can go and get a couple in from the 3m board and not loose your place. Off you go.

Hmmm. I cannot fight tactics like that.

In between wakeboarding (Saturday morning) and diving (Saturday afternoon) we watched the Olympics opening ceremony. Shamefully, this is the first time I have ever seen one. I absolutely loved it. It was completely how I want my country to represent itself. A mindful celebration with shades of dark and light, humourous and zany.

This evening I have (for the first time ever) watched the women's weight lifting, white water canoeing, a bit of table tennis and I'm just about to watch the diving. I have broken all my sport watching records and achieved my personal best.

What has happened to the girl who in the two afternoons a week allocated for sport while doing her A-levels chose to do community service and art? That's the girl that S**** knew. Where has she gone?

Well. Not that far.

I showed this to my 7 year olds on Sunday morning. They weren't that impressed. I love that about 7 year olds.

Saturday, 14 July 2012


A friend emailed to check if I was okay as it's been such a long time since I've written my blog. He was the last person I spoke to, in the airport departure lounge, before I got on the plane to come back. Not to come back home. Home isn't Singapore, it's definitely still London.

My trip was filled with the things and the people I love. The things that define me. Queing for dayseats at the National Theatre, watching plays, protracted cups of tea with friends, walking and enjoying it instead of being sapped by humidity, eating the occasional scone.

I traversed the country. From London to the Lake district where I saw my friend J* being wonderful in a play in Keswick. The next morning we walked around the lake, talking hard as it rained hard. The charcoal clouds hanging low over the hills. The sheep standing patiently, masticating, under trees waiting for the rain to stop.

Then onwards to Edinburgh where my Scottish niblings live. More rain. The Meadows are so flooded that ducks have taken up residence and are paddling there. And so are small children.

Back to London and my American niblings had arrived. As soon as the front door opened my niece L****, one of the twins, took me by the hand and led me inside. “There are toys!” she declared and, conversationally asked, “are you a little girl?”

I saw a lot of theatre. Matilda with the divine Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull. I was expecting to be cross that a man is playing a part that should go to a woman, but he is so, so good. So good. Really inspired. 

'Collaborators' and 'The Last of the Haussmans' both at the National. The latter has wonderful performances, but is a disappointing play. My wonderful friend A*** in a beautiful piece of puppet theatre, three small sets, filmed. The audience able to watch the creation of the puppeteers work on a screen as well as them hard at work below. I went to the Royal Court and queued for returns for 'The Witness' and got the last one. I bought plays and have been devouring them here. 'Constellations' is so beautiful if you have the chance to read it.

It did rain a lot. I got out my winter coats. They felt novel and exciting. But I know it's pants for everyone in the UK, such a non summer summer. Though my parents garden is looking lovely. Every dark cloud and all that.

In November I will go to Burma where my grandmother was born and brought up and which she wrote books about. It is the trip I've wanted to go on as long as I can remember and I'm finally going. Between now and then we are going to Bali for a long weekend and to Malaysia with the DFP's family while they are visiting.

I wanted to travel more. Now I am.

Having tea at St Pancras Hotel

Having tea and cake in the restaurant of the National Portrait Gallery

The set of Matilda

Sheep picking their spot in the lake district before a downpour

The set of Collaborators

One of the Lake District's lakes


Hamish Grig wonders whether it would be dangerous to venture outside

American twin nibblings