Letters of Life


Inspired by English playwright Alan Bennett’s Diary in the London Review of Books (9 Jan 2014), I decided to pull actual content from my 2013 pages of a journal. 

30 January. The tragedy of the two young brothers who died when a cement mixer accidentally crushed them as they were riding a bike home from school hangs heavy over this tiny nation, as senseless as the shooting of the even younger 25 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

When a very young person dies tragically, suddenly, even bystanders feel the loss, and strangely responsible.

I know these children are in a better place and are happy beyond the imagination. We grieve for the ones left behind.

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind

(Ode to Intimations of Immortality, William Wordsworth)

No. of kms run: 20.

14 February. A sty in my left eye. And seeing a bunch of people tomorrow. Staying off Facebook over the season of Lent (pre-Easter) the fourth year running. Insight #1: FB is loaded with details and micro-information about who ate what, soft news, human interest stories ( e.g.), life on Mars, other people’s children and their marvellous exploits (drum improvisations at age 4.) Staying away from this means I’m shedding the clutter my mind can’t help but pick up like a dustbuster everytime I trawl the newsfeeds. And I’m not *looking* for things to post to interest my readers. Face it, if without any reason the like button was disabled for one day, would you even post? Or would you wait for the like button to come on again? What does this say about you? And is FB a reciprocal medium? (You like my inane post on what I had for breakfast, I then like your similarly inane post of how you’re stuck in a traffic jam for 30 mins.) But if it were truly reciprocal, then why do people mostly post happy events and good news? Rarely are there bad-day posts, and for the most part, these are blithely ignored or briefly commisserated upon, and the cocktail party moves ahead, with or without you.


“Yup! See you there!”


No. of km run: 0.

1 March. HongKong was fun, but it’s losing its charm.

The Soho district still retains the charm of 80s HongKong.

Good thing the Soho district still retains the charm of 1980s HongKong. When our eyes meet, I hear a connective clang, and a match is struck.

Mostly due to the consumerist demands of the mainland Chinese. Big brands dominate where it was small old shops.

And then there was travel to Cebu in the Philippines.

A baby whale shark off the coast of Oslob, Cebu, in The Philippines.

A baby whale shark off the coast of Oslob, Cebu, in The Philippines.

No. of kms run: 6.5

28 May. Ryan’s 12th birthday. When my children were very young, I soon forgot — in the care and raising of them — that I was growing old. I used the strength in my arms to carry a baby until he was a toddler, I walked miles pushing a stroller, often laden with bags bulging with groceries, I got up early, I managed my time according to school schedules and school buses, and music, swimming and Chinese classes. And so my 30s flew by and while I was mindful of the 35-year-milestone, it paled in comparison to a child turning five, or six, or just one. Turning one is a big deal, to all who are not one.

No. of kms run: 17.5

30 June. Arrived back from the UK this afternoon. A long week of long days, 6am to 9 pm of daylight. Favourite moments were walking the streets of South Kensington, running in Hyde Park, admiring the Art Deco style inside Harrods, walking among ancient stone buildings in the old town of Cirencester in the Cotswolds, staying at the modestly-named Beechfield House (actually a manor).

A village in the Cotswolds called The Slaughters.

A village in the Cotswolds called The Slaughters.

Driving the country lanes, walking the cobbled streets of Cirencester, the pretty river banks of The Slaughters, and cream tea (scones, clotted cream, and hot tea), admiring the Georgian architecture in SW London, breathing in the cold fresh air. (Singapore was choked up with haze and smoke from the forest fires of Indonesia then.)

No. of kms run: 35.3

28 July. The 30th reunion of girls from my alma mater. I was so late (from a previous appointment and a traffic jam in the rain) that most of the girls crowded around to say hi, and I was touched by their warmth, unexpected as it was. It’s a fact that people who’ve hung around each other in their adolescence find it effortless to return to that original state of youthful behavior, where an unguarded humour and sincere chatter abounds. But still the gap of years is felt, but not in an unkind way. With some people, the gap is never there, and it’s absence regarded as a profound blessing.

No. of kms run: 78.79. No. of injuries: 1 (heel). 

13 August. Eighteen days before the half marathon. I’m re-learning how to run cadence [links to a relevant post on featherglass]. This is partly alarming, partly exciting. Not knowing how I’ll end up on September 1 now seems like a journey into unknown regions with my body, mainly my heart, lungs, and legs. An 18K run this Saturday.

No. of kms run: 116.8. No. of injuries: 3 (heel, knee, shin.)

30 September. Can’t believe I ran the half on the first day of September. It seems eons ago, a lifetime, yet I feel I’m still caught in the momentum of training although the pressure to go out and run is no longer there.

No. of kms run: 38.5. No. of injuries: 0.

25 October. The re-entry of a friend from The Hundred Acre Wood after 24 years of not speaking to each other. Undeniably happy.

No. of kms run: 41.31

6 November. A Sicilian lunch: White asparagus and poached egg drizzled with shavings of white truffle. Followed by rice pasta well-mixed with bone marrow and chopped octopus and followed by salt-baked sea bass infused with Italian herbs.

18 November. Time slowed down in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Four days felt like eight, but every hour seemed important because it was spent with people I’d met when I first visited this country 20 years ago. When you visit a place for the sake of its people, it changes forever the way you view the country. You could never quite play the tourist, even after a long absence.

No. of kms run: 27

15 December. 

Khaolak, Southern Thailand. A good place to fly south for the winter.

Khaolak, Southern Thailand. A good place to fly south for the winter.

How did I get from Lou Reed’s Perfect Day to John Coltrane’s In A Sentimental Mood? Sharing memories *is* a good way to spend time. There are some things Mastercard can’t buy.

No. of kms run: 17.7

My little Diary post is a far cry from Mr Bennett’s. In fact, it’s a little thin if one is looking out for events and milestones, but perhaps, all I wanted to do was to measure the passing of time. One thing I discovered is that as a traveller, time travels at different speeds depending on where you are.  

. . . I’d love to hear what your year was like.

Tagged as: , , ,

Categorised in: Been Around The World (Travel), Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought (Reflections)

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