It seems that no sooner had I clicked on “post” for the last blog entry than I found myself at Heathrow waiting for a plane to Munchen and on to Singapore for our annual birthday frivolities.
Actually, I’d had two really interesting and pleasing e-mails overnight. One came from a fellow blogger in Australia, the other the wife of a long time business associate and friend in Johannesburg.
The first traversed my post and mentioned a fellowship as a psoriasis sufferer. Comparing notes helps, but does little to assuage the difficulties (for me) of dealing with the NHS. The other bought a fascinating life story of growing up in East London, hardship and changing times. Here’s a glimpse:
“I grew up whereby my grandmother knitted my shoes. That is woolly socks with rubber stuck as soles. We were poor, I worked in a pub and fish and chip shop from the age of 14! The deal when you grew up was you married the boy next door, lived in close proximity to your parents, bought a house two up two down… I nearly married a Jamaican, when his parents found out he was shipped back to the States!”
How times have changed.
Last week also saw us catching-up with South African friends who now live California. We see each other irregularly and is so often the case, within minutes, we’ve picked-up where we left off. This time, we met at a classic (and favourite French restaurant in Mayfair) called Le Boudin Blanc (The White Sausage). It’s been around too long to be a jape at Boris Johnson’s Johnson and his erratic womanising, so I have to assume it’s real.
The lunch was. Real that is. A classic Table d’hôte, three exquisite courses for very little. Great company, great food…
Earlier in the week, I’d travelled out to Beaconsfield, deep in the stockbroker belt, to meet with a small group of school pals. Our lives have diverged unimaginably since we left grammar school in the late 1960s. A couple have travelled, one worked in South East Asia, fought the demon booze and then returned to Good Old Blighty before it was too late.
My best mate is continuing to fight the good fight against the Big C, still playing in a folk band and despite everything, still funny, great company and a friend I’m happy to stand alongside.
Me? I’ve to admit my gauche, abrasive and often profane view of the world doesn’t seem to sit well amongst such otherwise genteel company. I was reminded twice that I spoke too loud and said fuck much (much) too often, especially given the sensitivities of the well bred local community that might have been within hearing distance.
I left smiling, but feeling more than a little introspective. On the I’m OK, you’re OK scale, I’ve always felt quite content; enough of this and not too much of that. Being told that I am loud or just too un-English took me by surprise.
Money. Live here and you’ll need lots of it. And, when you’ve got it, suddenly, you might not need it after all. Few folks around here carry cash. Most use contactless credit and debit cards, or a phone-based option like Apple Pay.
It’s facilitated massively by the zero charge a card transaction attracts.
Walk through the turnstile for a Tube, or Overland train? Tap your card on the reader. Buses too. Buy a round in the local, cashless. Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco too. Almost no-one uses money any more.
Imagine! No cash. Less theft, less loss, less cost.
Trouble is, it’s hard to imagine FNB, ABSA or Standard Bank in South Africa writing off their card charges. After all, we’re a captive market and so, why shouldn’t we pay the excessive bonuses the managers of these usuries feel they deserve?
Singapore. Just about our favourite place to visit. Many years ago, we promised each other that we’d come to South East Asia every year and so far, not broken our word. We know people ask what we do in such a city state, as surely, we’re past the shopping now?
We are and have been for years.
What bring us back is the easy lifestyle, a collection of restaurants we’ve tried and liked, food we can’t always find at home, honesty, safety and a chance to temporarily live among interesting people. In truth, we’d happily live here, but the smallest of apartments are beyond our pocket and the lifestyle we enjoy elsewhere carries a price tag that causes hilarity to even consider. So we visit, usually longer than many folk spend on their beachfront holidays.