Category Archives: UK

Exciting news!

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Hi folks – apologies for the long hiatus, it’s been tricky to fit in finding my feet in my new job, seeing friends, going back to England for Christmas, an Indian wedding, a friends 30th birthday long weekend, and blogging! Phew…

Anyway, excuses out of the way. I wanted to share some super exciting news with you – after a long time of knowing each other (8 years!), the boy and I got engaged over Christmas!

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He proposed near to where he grew up, on a beautifully crisp and cold English winters day – it was just perfect. It goes without saying that we are hugely excited about being engaged, but also the years we have to come. So, as if I wasn’t already busy enough, I have our English countryside wedding to plan now. That’s the kind of busy I really like!

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A trip home: London 2012

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Unless you’ve been literally living under a rock the past month, it won’t have escaped your attention that my fabulous home city of London just played host to the 2012 Olympic games. Having been excited about it since it was announced 7 years ago that London would be the host city, there was no way Will & I would be missing out on being part of it. After a  bit of drama actually getting our hot little hands on our tickets (combination of moving abroad and the fact that Locog would not let us change our delivery address months in advance of delivery), we managed to pick them up from the post office when we popped back in June.

We were still in Singapore for the opening ceremony but we managed to watch quite a few events before we left, such as seeing Bradley Wiggins win gold in the road race time trial. There was something magical about seeing a British athlete winning gold, cycling through areas that I’d grown up in, around Hampton Court and Bushy Park. It actually got me a little choked up and definitely pining for the UK.

Before long though, we were back in London and, despite having landed at 5am, were heading up to Wembley arena to watch Mexico play Senegal in the football. We met up with our friends Adrian & Camilla, who also had tickets to the same game.

Inside Wembley Stadium

Will it be a goal?!

Our stylish tickets

After watching Mexico beat Senegal in a surprisingly action-packed match, we headed down to Hyde Park to experience one of the free to enter Fan Zones. The Fan Zones were spread over London and allowed people to come together to watch the different events. Well, we picked a great evening to go down! It was the evening that saw Mo Farah win the 10,000 metres, as well as Jessica Ennis scoop gold in the heptathlon, finally proving to all her critics that she was indeed worth all the hype. The atmosphere in Hyde Park was incredible – the crowd roaring and cheering, the tension watching Mo Farah creep up to the front of the pack, the sudden rush of adrenaline when we realised he was going to win – amazing!

The next few days passed in a blur of seeing friends and family, and soaking up everything London and the UK has to offer. It was so wonderful to be back on familiar territory. Will managed to go to Hyde Park with his sister, to watch some of the triathlon (she competes in triathlons herself), but I was up in Yorkshire seeing my Granny!

Thursday saw our next dose of Olympic excitement, with a visit to the Olympic Park over in Stratford. We took one of the high-speed Javelin trains from St Pancras to Stratford which was great fun. Luckily the sun had come out, so the whole park was bathed in glorious sunshine.

Welcome!

Anish Kapoor’s striking ‘Orbit’ tower

I really loved the Olympic Park. It’s vast with the aquatics centre, velodrome and the main athletics stadium. The landscaping was really pretty, with lots of green spaces filled with wild flowers. There was something really ‘British’ about the whole place. We had a good wander around, as we’d arrived super early to soak up some atmosphere. This included eating a traditional British curry (!) down by the riverside, as well as enjoying some English cider in the sunshine. We met some terrific people, who we just got chatting to, who were incredibly friendly – they even bought us drinks … this NEVER usually happens in London! I think one of the things I loved most about the Olympics was how happy and friendly everyone was. The volunteers did a superb job of being really cheery but hugely helpful, and all of the members of public that we met were so excited and happy to be a part of it. It was like all the cynicism and British whining had been sucked away! The patriotism blew me away as well – there was barely a single person who wasn’t wearing some kind of team GB t-shirt or who didn’t have a Union Jack transfer stuck to their cheek!

Union Jack trainers!

Will gets his paws on some Team GB merchandise

Before too long, the sun had started to lower in the sky and it was time for us to head into the Olympic stadium for some athletics action! We got really lucky with the session we went to, as we got to see Usain Bolt compete, and take gold, in the 200m final. We also saw some of the closing events in the decathlon – javelin and 1500m. We also got to see a World Record be broken by David Rudisha of Kenya, in the men’s 800m.

The stadium was full of noise the whole time we were there – everyone was cheering on all the athletes, regardless of what country they were representing. During the track events, there was a ‘wall of noise’ that followed them around the stadium. I can’t imagine what it felt like competing there, but I got some serious goosebumps at times! I don’t think I’ve ever felt so proud of where I come from. Can you imagine what I would’ve been like if we’d won a gold that evening?!

Inside the Olympic stadium

That’s Usain Bolt in lane 7!

Jamaica take gold, silver, and bronze in the 200m

The Olympic flame

Being a part of London 2012 was one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ moments for me. Congratulations to all the athletes who competed, in particular to Team GB of course! Best medal haul yet!

I’ve never felt so proud to be British, and a Londoner, and I really want to say thank you to everyone who made it a reality – you did an incredible job and these memories will stay with me forever.

Policemen and kids doing the ‘Bolt’

Thank you London

You can see more photos from London 2012 over on my Flickr set by clicking here

24 hours in London & a Tuscan wedding

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Back at the end of June we took a trip back home, and then to Italy to see our gorgeous friend’s Tony and Jacquie get married. I had been looking forward to this trip so much – I was going back to England! Only for 24 hours but still… better than nothing.

After touching down at Heathrow at 5am (ouch) we were suddenly sitting in a taxi going down the M4, towards Will’s parent’s house. All around me was the beautiful English dawn, fields either side of the motorway, and SHEEP (how long has it been since I saw a sheep?!). I just couldn’t help the tears that sprang to my eyes – all of this was so beautifully familiar – it was totally overwhelming. I found myself with such an ache in my stomach as I realised just how much I had missed my green and pleasant land. We spent the next 24 hours in the company of family – talking, laughing, catching up on news. We also went to visit the money pit flat, which actually was starting to look like it could be a home again, rather than just a pit of money with damp, crumbling walls.

I can’t tell you how much of a delight it was to see my Mum – to sit and eat lunch in one of Brixton’s gorgeous little eateries, and chat away like no time at all had passed. We then went back to Will’s parent’s place to sit and talk some more. Then my little brother arrived! I will embarrass him now but I have missed him very much indeed. We sat and ate proper English sausages, gorgeous English strawberries and drank cider. It was probably the most blissful afternoon I had spent in a long time. But all too soon it was time for them to leave, and for us to go to bed. My familiarity tank (thanks KJ!) had a much-needed emergency top-up.

The next morning left no time for wistfulness – we were straight back to Heathrow, this time to fly off to Rome. After security we went to find our friends Phil and Sat. Boy can those two give good hugs! It was so great to be back with people you’ve known for years – chatting and bantering away like we’d been away for no time at all. Phil used to live in Australia so he totally gets the expat weird thing which I love. After a short but bumpy flight we landed in Rome. I had forgotten how much I love Italy – the last time I was here was when Will took me for my birthday after I’d finished my finals, so some time ago.

We were in Rome just for a day – time spend eating and wandering around the city, before bumping into more of our friends by the Trevi Foundation (so strange to just be walking in a foreign city and then spot familiar faces).

Will & Phil enjoying a cold beverage in Rome

Trevi Fountain

That evening saw us meeting up with the bridal party, and enjoying some delicious Italian food, before watching Italy make it to the final of Euro 2012! This was followed up by much singing and dancing in some of Rome’s bars.

The next morning, a bit sleep deprived and hungover, we took the train down towards Pienza, where the wedding was going to be held. We were staying in a little agroturismo nearby to the wedding venue. It was a great option for our large group, as we all had our own rooms with en suite, and many of the units had kitchen/living rooms as well.

What a view!

That evening we went out into Pienza town, which is really picturesque. It kind of clings to the side of a hill, meaning you get the most spectacular views from the town wall. There are lots of twisty little paved streets, and apparently a great cheese shop (although I didn’t make it there myself). It was great just hanging out with friends, enjoying the view and a glass of perfectly chilled white wine.

View from Pienza

The next morning we headed over to La Bandita (the wedding venue) early, as Will was doing a reading and they needed him for a run through. I had a great afternoon getting ready with the bride and bridesmaids.

The wedding itself was gorgeous. La Bandita is set up on a hillside, with a big infinity pool – you can see more photos on their website here. They had set up the aisle outside, with a beautiful covered area next to the house where we ate dinner. We had a fantastic time, listening to all the readings and seeing our friend’s pledge to be with each other forever. There were definitely tears (I always cry at weddings!). I will leave you with some photos.

The bride and groom

Will & I all scrubbed up

A date to remember

We have arrived!

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After I think what was possibly one of the most stressful and tiring weeks of my life, we have finally arrived in Singapore. Hooray, we are here! I can’t really believe it – the whole move has been on my mind for months now, so I am finding it slightly strange to think that I am really here.

The past week has seen us packing up every single thing in our London flat and deciding whether it should be shipped, stored, binned or anything else in between. I can safely say that I don’t think either the boy or myself realised how much stuff we have! The day the shippers came was actually really great – they were upbeat and friendly, telling us lots of stories about people who they’d moved in the past, which really helped keep me positive about the move.

We also had a big drinks do with all our friends which was absolutely wonderful, of course, but emotional nonetheless. It was lovely to see everyone, and I feel very blessed to have so many amazing friends, who care for us both very much.

But then suddenly, it was Sunday morning and I was waking up at the Will’s parent’s house for my last English morning in some time. It all felt remarkably normal and uneventful but then as the day progressed I started feeling more and more nervous. Thank goodness that the Will’s Mum is an absolute gem and kept me topped up with hugs whenever I started looking a bit tearful. Leaving at the airport was actually not as painful as I’d thought it would be – all our family members were there to wave us off, which was just wonderful. I am going to miss them all masses but I was glad we could all be together, even if briefly.  A quick trot around Boots for painkillers (I have managed to bruise my ribs…long story!) and then we headed to the gate. The flight itself was very smooth and amazingly I managed to sleep for quite a bit of it. I think by that point I was so exhausted that my body had just shut down!

And now we are here in our temporary apartment, not too far from Dhoby Ghaut MRT. It’s a serviced apartment, basically like a hotel room with a little kitchen, but it has everything we need in it which is great. Tomorrow, we have to go and set up a bank account for the boy, and one for me if they can do it tomorrow – we may have to wait until his is authorised. We are also seeing our estate agent, Woon, on Wednesday to see some apartments. The boy has found a really smart and new complex in Novena which we both really like the look of, so fingers crossed that we like it in the flesh! We also need to sort out our visas with MOM – at the moment we just have in principle letters, so we need to go and get them turned into the real thing (Employment Pass for the boy, Long Term Social Visit Pass for me). On Saturday we have a bit of treat in store – some of our friends bought us a leaving gift of a dinner package on the Singapore Flyer, where we get to be wined and dined whilst seeing Singapore from the air – very excited about doing that and celebrating our move properly.

I’ll make sure I dig my camera and charger out of our suitcases so I can a few photos for you all in the coming days, so that those of you at home can see where I am. For those of you in Singapore – Hello! I am really looking forward to meeting you all in the coming days and weeks.

Culture shock

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I found this excellent website via Leone’s blog – it tells you all about the different stages of culture shock, and gives some really helpful tips and advice to help you recognise and cope with it. I found it really interesting reading, and wondered how many people recognise those stages looking back now that they’re settled?

I want to keep this link so that I can look back it once I’m actually in Singapore, and remember that probably what I’m feeling is totally normal! Despite never having lived abroad, I recognise that relocating is not without its challenges, and in my opinion, the more realistic you can be about that, the better. That’s not to say I won’t be embracing all the amazing things that Singapore will have to offer, but I do know that it won’t be smooth sailing.

However, I know with the boy by my side, family just a Skpye call away, and whatever new friends I have by then, that I’ll be able to get through anything.

You can read the culture shock guide here:

http://www.expatsingapore.com/content/view/1169/86

Tough day

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Today has been a kind of tough day on the old ‘pick-up-your-life-and-move-it-abroad’ front. I’ve been sorting through the boxes in our back room, which have remained there ever since we moved in. I’m amazed they haven’t organically merged with the wall they’ve been up against it so long! Anyway, the reason I was content to leave them is because they have loads of my old stuff, that I had to move out of my Mum’s when she rented out our old house. She lives with her other half now, and between them they have 4 grown-up kids so limited room to store stuff. So most of mine has come with me. Those boxes have all sorts of stuff in them – right from childhood books, exam certificates, cards and notes from years back, old diaries … etc

So going through them has been like a huge trip down memory lane – old forgotten notes from my old school friends, that we passed in dull English lessons, all about what we’ll do later and the latest boy gossip; angsty teenage diary entries (again, mostly about boys!); my exam certificates from my GCSEs and A-Levels. But then there have been more emotional things to uncover – birthday cards and letters from my grandparents; the order of service from my granddad’s funeral; sweet notes from my Mum when I was having a tough time when I first left home.

I’ve been quite tearful going through them as I think part of me feels like I’d be leaving all that behind, all those experiences and people I’ve met who have made me who I am today. It’s just made me think a lot about my family in particular, and those who aren’t with us any more. I know these feelings are normal, and probably part and parcel when you are getting ready to leave in 10 days, but it has been a tough old day.

I’ve got to go out now for the boy’s leaving drinks, so I’m sure this is nothing a large glass of red won’t sort out!

A P45 and a few prohibition cocktails

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Last week was my final week at work. It feels so strange to have left after almost 5 years.  It’ll be strange to not go back into the office and see all those familiar faces. I’ve been really touched by all the lovely things people have said – there have been a few emails and conversations that have made me a little bit teary … I feel very loved and grateful to have worked with such lovely people.

And they did see me off in style! First we had a lovely Italian meal on Old Street, where GW read me out a poem (rather more like an epic poem – there were several verses) that he’d written to ‘celebrate’ my time working there. It was so funny and sweet – I can’t begin to tell you what it meant to me, but he is a complete star! Suffice to say, I feel very chuffed to have people like that in my life. After we’d eaten, and much to the amusement of the restaurateur, out came some of the fancy dress – we were off for a 20’s themed place afterwards so there were headbands, long strings of beads, and magnificent ostrich feathers to play with!  Once we’d accessorised ourselves appropriately, we headed to Bar Nightjar, which is literally around the corner from the office.

Almost every evening since it opened I’d walk past this mysterious door, set between two cafes, that had a little picture of a bird on it, and lights leading down some steps. I always wanted to explore it, but somehow never got round to (you never do when its on your doorstep I often think). Inside is Bar Nightjar – a gorgeous little slice of old school glamour.  It’s a prohibition style bar, all incredibly glamorous Art Deco décor inside, plus live jazz and absolutely show stopping cocktails. The have a no standing policy, which means you can relax at your table, and the staff take your drinks order from there. We ordered a sharing cocktail to start – a Nightjar ‘Ti’ Punch – which came served in a smoking teapot, with tea cups to drink from, complete with big slices of cucumber and cinnamon sticks.  Amazing stuff! We may have enjoyed a few gin cocktails after that and then had some fun on the dance floor, trying to emulate 1920’s dancing (not very well – its surprisingly energetic!). There was much silliness, laughter and good fun, which seemed like a very fitting way to say goodbye. Thanks to everyone who was a part of it (you all know who you are) x

Some photos:

A week of sorting

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This week has seen everything ramp up a gear in terms of getting ready for the BIG MOVE to Singapore. I think it’s really hit both the boy and I how quickly time seems to be flying by, and now we have just over 3 weeks before we leave on a jetplane (I am resisting the urge to sing this a lot a la Armageddon!).

We had our medicals this week which involved me having to go to a very swanky health centre on Finsbury Circus. NHS it was not! I have to say the doctor was very thorough and nice, despite me being so nervous about the whole thing that my pulse was racing so much she had to take my blood pressure 5 times before it was remotely normal! I then had to go and have some more travel vaccinations – Typhoid, Hep A&B, Diptheria, Polio, Tetanus, and Rabies! Two injections in each arm, plus a blood test, left me looking a little bit like a pin cushion. But on the plus side, I now know exactly what injections I’ve had, seeing as my doctors only seem to have records of my childhood immunisations this is rather helpful. I will have to put that little booklet in a SAFE place (rather than my usual and questionable filing method i.e. non-existant).

We also had a meeting with a tax consultant to go through our personal circumstances and work out what the tax implications of our move would be. I think this is the first time I have been truly grateful for having worked for an accountants, as it meant I was able to follow most of what he said. Essentially, we should both qualify as Singapore tax residents which is a good thing.

I’ve also been speaking to some shipping companies to get a quote together for moving all our stuff out. They’ve actually been really helpful, and I have two surveyors coming next week to have a look at the house. Thankfully, we rent a furnished flat so most of the things we take will be kitchen stuff and personal effects. The best thing for me is that you don’t have to pack anything yourself – in fact, you aren’t allowed! Because of customs and smuggling stuff, we aren’t allowed to pack anything that goes into a container; they do it all for you! AMAZING. They also give you advice on what you can and can’t take into the country. DVDs are a bit of an issue because of all the censorship – the boy has been trying to find a list of banned DVDs on the internet, and was very upset to find one list that has Wild Things on it as a banned DVD – tee hee! So this weekend, we are going to try to go through our stuff and think about what we want to take, what we want to put in storage, and what needs to be chucked/donated etc.

Let the planning commence!

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So we are getting ever closer to pinning down a date (finally). It looks like we’ll be going sometime w/b 14th November. The boy has a few relocation days that he can use – either in the UK or in Singapore so we just need to decide how best to use them. We started making the mammoth list of exactly what we need to do before we leave – it is already very long! Things on it range from the essential (documents we need to take with us), boring (telling HMRC that we’re moving) to the random (making sure I have enough Frizz Ease to survive the Singapore humidity – yes, I have got my priorities right!).

It’s an odd feeling because I feel like I’ve been preparing for this move for months, but suddenly it a month away and I feel totally unprepared! I suppose a lot of it has been emotional preparation – getting my head round the idea and believing that this is ‘a good thing’ – rather than the physical and practical preparation. On the plus side, I am really happy and excited about the move now. I spent a lovely Monday lunchtime in the pub with my lovely colleague Sarah who lived in NYC for 2 years. She had lots of great advice about how to manage moving abroad, and some good tips for staying sane whilst everything is changing (thanks Sarah!). I’ve also been making contact with some of the other Singapore expat bloggers so that we can meet up when I arrive. I’m really excited about meeting up with new people.

I’m going to spend this weekend putting my project management skills to good use, and planning out everything that needs to be done on the practical side, so that I can attack the to-do list next week. I think mostly now I’m just keen to get out there now and make everything that is swirling around my head a reality!

Visas all sorted!

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We got confirmation this week that our visas have been approved. The boy’s is a done deal and mine is to all intents and purposes – I think I just have to go and sign some papers when we get out there. Everything is moving forward! We’ve been busy this week making seemingly endless lists of all the things that we have to do before we go. There seems to be so much to think about and I’m worried that there will be things we’ll forget!

I’ve also finally come clean about my plans to everyone at work. Its such a relief to be able to tell everyone! Their reactions have been overwhelming positive and encouraging which has cheered me greatly. I’m sad to be leaving them but excited about this big opportunity.

It all suddenly feels like we are racing towards the finish line, and all the time I thought I had to organise everything and see friends and family, seems to be disappearing between my fingers!

This weekend we are spending time with friends – eating, drinking and celebrating birthdays – which I am really looking forward to. I’m also enjoying the arrival of autumn, after the brief heatwave of last week. I love watching the seasons change – I think it will be one of the things I miss when I’m in Singapore. There’s nothing to beat England in the autumn, watching the leaves change colour, and walks in the late autumn sunshine. Just beautiful. I will have to get my camera out this week I think!