Somehow never got this one done. But I don’t intend to, as it’s been two whole years and the feelings would not be the same. My memory doesn’t work that well anyway 😛
May Oh Mee in Singapore, 02-12-2016
Had been wanting a holiday badly ever since last summer. A holiday when and where I could be myself, without having to worry about my duty as the wife, mother, and daughter. And, without having to feel guilty for not revolving my day around others, for being myself.
當女人真的不是件容易的事，尤其在我們的文化中。結了婚，你就成為夫家的財產，可能連回個娘家探望父母都必須徵求同意 — 雖然，照理說，娘家父母本該享有公婆的平等地位（我常常覺得「百善孝为先」是騙人的，娘家父母除非是懂得強勢做人的，不然只有吃癟的二等公民身分）。很多時候，丈夫的經濟大權在握，成了控制我們這些全職媽媽的手段。說到底，不過當你是免費的女佣、家教、 保母和雞。
You see, sometimes, it can be hard to be a woman. Particularly in our culture, once you get married, your spouse and in-laws basically OWN you. Meaning, your every move is in their control and needs their approval, even a simple thing like visiting your own parents who’re supposed to be part of the newly-merged family (Merged? Really? It seems such a big lie to me more often than not, sadly. What about the old, old Chinese saying ‘Filial piety is one of the virtues to be held above all else’? So why aren’t my parents yours if you want me to treat yours as my own?). And for someone like me, a homemaker cum stay-at-home mum, the meanness with money is the way to manipulate you. In other words, you’re not exactly treated as the ‘other half’. It’s more like you’re working hard as a maid, a private tutor cum babysitter and prostitute… All for free.
我懂這是基於愛護的心理，怕萬一被夫家藉口虧待了，遠水救不了近火（我還真的有過經驗：在公車轉運站無路可去 — 因為娘家遠在重洋外 — 只能抱著還不會走路的祥祥在原地哭）。
When the doctor advised us to arrange hospice care for Dad, I started planning moving back to Taiwan with Beam, in the hope of keeping Dad company for the last part of his journey after having been absent for ages. He’d given us his all and this was the least I could for my beloved Dad. Time to repay the love I owed. However, even Mum and my brothers made such remarks regarding this plan of mine, ‘Is it really alright? You know you’re married, a daughter-in-law. Wouldn’t it upset your ma-in-law and your husband?’
They were only trying to protect Beam and me, for they wouldn’t be able to reach out in time if my in-laws decided to pick on me because of this. Such as once, when I came to a bus interchange and realised I had nowhere to go since my family of origin was thousands of miles away; I was hit by the immense helplessness and just burst into tears with Beam, who hadn’t learnt how to walk yet, in my arms.
‘Filial piety is one of the virtues to be held above all else’… my arse! You can flush that down in the toilet bowl once you get married, because your parents and other family just don’t count any more. In your family tree of origin, you wouldn’t find your name, because you’re female. Then, in your ‘new family’, everyone’s above you, because you’re an outsider. Literally, you’re a second-class citizen. But the worst part is that many women just condone this shit…
Lucky daughters like me can always count on unquestionable support in all forms from our family of origin, but what about families that don’t function that well?
After last summer, Beam and I had made up our mind to stay put for the next summer. The lovely sunshine, gardens in full bloom… Nothing beats a fine English summer!
But, this summer, after much consideration, I booked the flights back to Asia anyway. Frankly, England is the only place where we call home, because we worked hard for it. The thing is Mum’s aging, meaning family is really the only reason that makes me move my butt. This is also why I always have mixed feelings and pre-commencement jitters when it comes to trips back to Asia. It’s great to spend time with your loved ones, but I just can’t relax much in a place where I don’t belong.
This restlessness reached a peak when the school holiday started. I tried to keep life as usual, calmly; but to be quite honest, I felt empty deep down.
One night, when I stared at the pop-up ad by some travel website, all of a sudden, my heart skipped a beat! I thought to myself: You know, we’ve only had each other for most of the time throughout the years, so how come we haven’t yet shared any travel memory which is exclusively ours and ours alone?…
I did some calculation.
Cool! Enough for a three-night mini break!
So, I spent two nights planning and arranging the trip.
I announced proudly, ‘We’re going to London!’
Beam was on her laptop, and she always had a ‘zombie’ face at moments like this. She looked up at me and after a few seconds, ‘Well, I hope we’re not staying in some crap hotel then.’
I don’t blame her. London is an expensive city. We stayed in some cheap B&B before and the experience wasn’t all that great. It was cramped, particularly the bathroom. I’m very curious about how those who are of bigger body frames shower. We’re not as big but apparently had problem turning around in there. Moreover, Beam’s hit puberty and proper privacy is called for.
‘You’ll know when you get there. Ho! Ho! Ho!’ I gave her a smug grin. To think that we might be rubbing shoulders with my IH No. 2 — Tom Hiddleston… I almost exploded with excitement.
‘Then can we have McDonald’s?! ‘
Huh? This was what got her thrilled to bits? Oh well…
Saxmundham 到 Ipswich 是不對號的，所以找位子要碰運氣，尤其兩個人不如獨身好辦事。出發當天是週日，所以人還滿多的，走到第二節車廂才看到零星的座位。正自忖約莫得站一段了，就見到一張桌子還有相對的空位，靠窗的位子已經被兩個老杯杯坐了，趕緊停步詢問。
Free seating for the journey from Saxmundham to Ipswich, therefore luck is needed if you’d like to have a proper rest. Travelling alone would be much easier to get a seat. It was a Sunday, so the crowd was expected.
Just as I was about to give up searching, suddenly, a table caught my eyes. The two window seats were occupied by two old gentlemen but both the aisle seats were vacant. I stopped and asked.
One of the gentlemen answered with a kind smile, ‘It’s not taken. Oh would you like a hand?’
Sir Hercules meant it. He actually got up, which really surprised me! From what I could see, he was at least 70. We were of about the same height. He wasn’t skinny, but by standing next to the plump Polar Bear Queen, that is moi, he definitely looked like Pinocchio.
This is the good old England I love!! The older generation are the real ladies and gentlemen. Ever so courteous, warm-hearted and civilised.
‘It’s alright. It’s alright. I’m fine. Thank you so much!’ I just couldn’t tell him enough how appreciative I was of his kind gesture!
‘You sure? Alright then.’ He sat back down, and carried on the conversation with his friend which was interrupted by me.
Luckily I didn’t let him. Because, even I myself failed it. In the end, I had to ask a succulent young man who sat on the other side of the aisle for help.
坐下來後，祥拿出素描簿，邊聽音樂邊畫畫，我也戴上耳機，稍微放空一下。我是那種沒辦法在車上或飛機上看書的傢伙（不過，看免稅商品就 okay，哈哈～我猜是圖片比較不需要用心理解？也或許是瞎拼令人放鬆？雖然我通常只看不買，作作有錢人的大頭夢還是挺爽的 ^_^），所以只能靠音樂潛入當下的自我。
After having settled into our seats, Beam started scribbling in her sketchbook while listening to music. I took out my earbuds too, trying to rest a little. Unlike many, I’m not able to read in a car or during a flight as it makes me dizzy, therefore music is the only mental outlet for me at moments like this. Flipping through a Duty Free magazine is different though… (My guess is looking at colourful pictures doesn’t demand much of your brain? Or it could be that shopping, even window shopping, is simply relaxing. Daydreaming of being a millionaire is always fun ^_^)
I spaced out for quite a while with my favourite music.
When I finally came back down to earth, I noticed something unusual about this friend of Sir Hercules’. He had the face of Chor Yuen, pink glasses with an unnecessarily large red spectacle frame sitting on the nose, dressing in a pink suit with camel ankle boots. Sir Hercules wasn’t as queer with his conventional grey suit. They did have some things in common though — The identical neckties with the interesting pattern of rats, the identical rat-shaped pins on the shirt collars, and the most eye-catching items came to the chunky gold necklaces with rat-shaped pendants.
大力士北杯開始熱心講解：「我們是 Water Rats！（台灣叫「河鼠」嗎？）聽過嗎？」
A master of busybody such as me waited patiently…
Finally, the conversation seemed to have come to an end and that was my cue!
‘Excuse me. I couldn’t help but noticing your necklaces and pins. Are you part of some special association?’ (Somehow, I guessed it could be the Rotary Club even though rats didn’t seem related to it.)
Sir Hercules declared, enthusiastically, ‘Oh we are the Water Rats!’
總之，北杯們是 Grand Order of Water Rats 的會員，Water Rats 是由娛樂圈人士組成的兄弟會，已經成立超過百年，此行是去倫敦參加會員大會。我聽得很入迷，都忘了問北杯是唱歌呢？變魔術呢？腹語？還是演員等等等呢？
I’ve always enjoyed listening to the older generation’s life stories. Just a few days ago, John my beloved neighbour said to me, ‘I know you said you’re shy and socially awkward, but it’s always refreshing talking to you. So, do talk with us more, please!’
And from this conversation, I learnt that John served overseas in the WWII while his dad served in the WWI. To think this year is the centenary of WWI… Wow… We are all specks of dust in the infinity of time. This fact makes me feel so small, but also serves as a reminder that we’re all part of the history of mankind nonetheless.
Anyway, they were members of Grand Order of Water Rats. It’s a century-old entertainer fraternity. The story of Water Rats is the story of show business. They were travelling to London for a member gathering.
I was so fascinated that I forgot to ask about their specialties. Were they singers? Magicians? Ventriloquists? Actors? Etc.? Etc.? Etc.?
‘Love those spectacles.’ I said to Sir Giant Spectacles. My own sun glasses for jogging were of red and pink spectacle frames respectively.
This compliment seemed to startle him somehow (Maybe he thought I’d had interesting taste?) and he went silent for quite a few seconds.
Finally, he replied, ‘So I don’t walk into lampposts…’
Mm… Does that mean pink actually sharpens your vision? Intriguing response, indeed.
到了 Ipswich 要換車，原本有些小緊張，因為通常轉車之間的空檔都滿短的，而且看新聞最近似乎鐵路常出包。不過，感謝 神，一切平順。
一回，第一段車程因故延遲了幾分鐘，終於到了 Ipswich 下了車，只見我們要搭的下一班車已經慢慢在走了。本來我急了準備拔腿就追，卻被眼前的世界奇觀驚到呆了：大夥兒跩著行李，一邊揮手呼喊「哈囉？！哈囉？！」，一邊不慍不火地向前走著。。。
We needed to change trains in Ipswich. I was a a little nervous at first because the interval between trains could be quite tight, and recently, there were quite a few unpleasant railway incidents in the news. But thank God, everything turned out to be fine.
Once, our first leg was delayed; when we finally got off the train at Ipswich station, the connecting train had already started to move. I could feel my adrenaline surging and was about to charge! But, the sight before my very eyes put me in awe and halted my steps: A whole bunch of people — my fellow passengers who just got off the same train — were literally taking this incident in their stride, ever so calmly, with one hand dragging their luggage bags along, and the other waving, ‘Hello?! Hello?!’
And guess what! The ~ train ~ stopped ~ eventually!
I don’t think I would ever get to see this impeccable patience of the passengers and the customer-oriented service provided by the railway staff in Taiwan or Singapore. At least, not in this lifetime. I understand if they did it for the old people because they may not move as swiftly; but what truly amazed me was how even the young people behaved just as calmly, no one got worked up and ran after the train. Luckily I was walking at the back, or it would be so embarrassing for me to charge and throw fervent knocks on the door.
We had to wait a couple of minutes for the doors to open after the train had stopped moving due to the setting of its computerised safety lock system.
說到這個車門，兩年前從巴黎回來的時候，也是在倫敦搭火車，到了 Ipswich 準備下車，突然發現，怎麼都找不到門把或按鈕之類的；本來我前面有個旅客下車，可是我走得慢沒跟上，所以沒見到她怎麼開的，門就關上了。急得我像熱鍋上的螞蟻，只差沒向天空伸出雙臂大喊「芝麻，開門吧！」
Speaking of which, I didn’t know these doors were to be unlocked manually until two years ago. I was coming home from Paris, taking the train in London and getting off in Ipswich for the final leg of my journey. There was a passenger walking 100m before me; she eventually made a right turn and disappeared. When it was my turn standing in front of the door, I was shocked to find that there was no door knob or a handle in sight! I started panicking, pressing and clicking everything that looked like a switch. So desperate that I almost shouted ‘Open Sesame!’ with my arms open wide in the air.
Well, my God is a faithful God, always. Just as I was looking around frantically for help, a drawing next to the door popped in…
Oh wow! To get off the train, all you need to do is open the window, stick your arm out and press the handle on the other side of the door to open it.
As soon as I stepped onto the platform with my baggage, there came the train whistle, signalling its setting off again. *PHEW*! How lucky was that?!
I chitchatted about this funny incident with Coach Waba later on. And what a coincidence — When she and her family travelled to London few days later, they encountered the same train. After they came back from the trip, she thanked me for sharing the experience so they knew what to do. Well, yet another great example of ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ Ha! Experience, good or bad, there’s always a lesson to be learnt.
這是我的放鬆之旅，因此選擇了南肯辛頓車站旁的酒店公寓，南肯辛頓是全英國最大的文化藝術與博物館特區。我們的落腳處，距離主要目標 — 自然史博物館 & 科學工業博物館 — 只有兩分鐘腳程。
～【倫敦地鐵 — 自由旅行精品書】 by 楊春龍（采葒初版社）
I booked a service apartment next to South Kensington Station because the purpose of this trip was to relax, and what could be better than staying here — home to large numbers of museums?（Our chosen destinations were Natural History Museum and Science Museum, which were literally two minutes’ walk away.）
A local friend told me that the wealthy Victorians contributed immensely to the museums. All for one and one for all, I liked that.
We went out for a stroll after a short break. In the hope of finding some nice dinner too.
In fact, London is great for strolling as there are an awful lot of magnificent old buildings to see. So stunning and so many that I actually forgot the existence of my camera! But then again, what really matters is that present moment, when the sight sends me into transports of delight and be etched in my heart eternally. I’m not a good photographer anyway.
我們從 Little Waitrose 買了晚餐，住的比較花錢，就從這方面省下來，小廚房有烤箱很方便的。而且，可以邊吃邊看電視，也滿爽的，家裡沒電視，所以有點「卯起來看」的可怕心態，哈哈。
一切看似圓滿，卻在近午夜時，接到好友的簡訊，又酗酒了。因著種種個人因素，好友沉溺在酒精裡企圖麻痺自己，四年了，好不容易在今年初才戒掉。我慌了，但是真的不知道我還能再做些甚麼，Pearl Bailey 說：『You never find yourself until you face the truth.』 只有當你勇敢面對現實時，你才能找回真正的自我。
We ended up getting ready meals from Little Waitrose. This is how we do it — If more money’s spent on accommodation, I just cut corners somewhere else to balance. It’s all about priorities. We had a mini kitchen with a proper oven so it was convenient. Besides, we got to enjoy our meal while watching TV. We don’t have TV at home, so, how cool is that?!
We were going to Natural History Museum the next day. Mum commented jokingly, ‘Wow! My daughter is sooooo classy!’ But actually, I’ve been very into prehistoric stuff since I was small.
Summer holiday had begun, hence the long queue waiting to enter. Luckily, I bought the tickets online beforehand. We just produced the booking numbers and walked right past the big crowd into the exhibition halls, with them looking on at us jealously.
～【倫敦地鐵 — 自由旅行精品書】 by 楊春龍（采葒初版社）
我們在 Waterhouse Building 的 The Restaurant 吃午餐。套餐 12.95 英鎊，包含前菜、主餐及飲料。我們當時沒有那麼大的胃口，所以是單點。
We had lunch at The Restaurant in the Waterhouse Building. They offered a meal deal: Get a starter, main and a soft drink for £12.95. But neither of us felt like having that much, so we just ate a la carte.
Ever since I first read Gerald Durrell, I’ve been in love with donkeys and the dodos. Look at this beautiful creature… Human beings are simply vile.
Images of Nature Gallery, ‘showcasing a selection of exquisite botanical and zoological watercolours, historic prints and paintings, alongside modern images created by scientists, imaging specialists, photographers and micro-CT scanners.’
Frankly, even just looking at the magnificent building itself is worth the trip.
冰河紀猛獁特展的主角之一，是一隻於２００７年在西伯利亞出土的猛獁寶寶 Lyuba。Lyuba 寶寶經測定，生存於距今四萬兩前年前，僅滿週月便夭折。Lyuba 寶寶身高８５公分，身長則有１３０公分，大型狗的尺寸（歐洲的大狗真的好大！）；想想，才滿週月就這個尺寸，不曉得媽媽生產的時候是不是很痛。
This is Lyuba, a female woolly mammoth calf who died c. 41,800 years ago at the age of 30 to 35 days. She is by far the best preserved mammoth mummy in the world. 85cm tall and 130cm long, about the size of a large dog (European dogs are truly huge!).
30 – 35 days old and this big… I wondered if it was very hard baby delivery @_@
Speaking of which… Long, long time ago, one starry night, we were watching a documentary film about a zoo on TV. They were showing the elephant mummy in labour. It gave Beam a start when the baby finally dropped onto the floor.
‘What?! Not an egg?!’ She turned to me, with her doe eyes open wide.
我一直以為，猛獁是大象的祖先，再或者就是遠親之類的，想不到竟然不是。好玩的是，當我仔細端詳 Lyuba 寶寶時，一個華人爸爸牽著小孩走過來，說著廣東話：「哎呀你睇，baby elephant！」不知道是英文程度不佳，還是純粹來看熱鬧，所以沒細看解說。
All the way, I thought that mammoths must be elephants’ ancestors, or at least faraway cousins, but apparently not so according to this graph below. Funny though, when I was observing Baby Lyuba, a dad came over with his child and yelled, ‘Wah! Look at it! Baby elephant!’ in Cantonese (A Chinese dialect). Either his English wasn’t that great or just didn’t care to read the details, which I do too, sometimes XD
我們還看了英國史前人類特展，梅小獸的評語是「還滿無聊的」，我承認動物一向比人類可愛多了，即使是史前時代；但我覺得很有親切感，因為展場有播放幾年前在 Norfolk 海岸的 Happisburgh 發現的八十萬年前人類的腳印紀錄片，而 Norfolk 正是我們 Suffolk 的鄰居。
We attended the ‘Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story‘ Exhibition. Beam commented, ‘Kind of boring.’ Well, I had to agree. Humans are not exactly that loveable like other beings to be honest, even during prehistoric times. But, this exhibition followed a team of scientists working on an archaeological site in Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast as they made a remarkable discovery of the oldest human footprints from Europe. (The elongated hollows found on the beach have been confirmed as ancient human footprints of probably five individuals, from more than 800,000 years ago!) And, Norfolk is our neighbour!
最後原本打算看看達爾文中心的 Spirit Collection（spirit 是酒精，存放這些標本的液體，是由９５％的乙醇以及５％的甲醇組成），有２千２百萬個物種標本。可惜，一進門，娘倆就被毛毛的大蜘蛛和大蜈蚣驚嚇過度，夾著尾巴灰溜溜地掉頭就跑
The Spirit Collection at Darwin Centre was our last destination. With 22 million specimens, it is named after the alcohol in which they are stored, a mixture of 95% ethanol and five% methanol.
Unfortunately, we got stunned by the sight of giant furry spiders and centipedes as soon as we entered the hall. And off we ran… far far away.
Like British Museum, it’s impossible to see everything Natural History Museum has to offer at one go, so, WE’LL BE BACK!
A trip to places like this really puts life into perspective. Limited lifetime in an infinite universe… Yet, we humans are so arrogant, believing that we rule the world. Ridiculous.
當晚問了梅小獸對隔日行程的想法，小少女說想去 Hamleys — 世界最古老、最大的玩具店；１７６０年創立，１８８１年遷至攝政街現址。Okay，自己出門就有這好處，時間很彈性，不必顧慮太多。原本我的計畫是去科學博物館，但因為就在自然史博物館的後面，退房當天再去也還來得及。倒是 Hamleys 位處 Oxford Circus，距離酒店腳程有多久我沒啥概念，還是先去好了。
During dinner, I asked Beam about her thoughts regarding schedule for the next day. Her answer was Hamleys. Hamleys is the oldest and largest toy shop in the world and one of the world’s best-known retailers of toys. Founded by William Hamley as “Noah’s Ark” in High Holborn, London, in 1760, it moved to Regent Street in 1881.
We’re always flexible about time as we’re not fussy travellers. I myself would like to see the Science Museum, but it sat right behind the Natural History Museum while Hamleys was at a further location — Oxford Circus. I had no idea how long that would take on foot from where we were staying, so better visit Hamleys first.
We do have Oyster Cards, but I prefer sunshine all the way. In fact, throughout the years, wherever we go, we’re quite used to travelling on foot if possible. It’s either that or by bus, because these are the two ways that can guarantee you to see the most of the place.
I asked the handsome receptionist for directions. He gave us a map and drew the route for us, concluding it would take approximately 45 minutes on foot.
經過海德公園的 Serpentine Lake 時，見到了賣 gelato 的攤攤，決定解饞。一球２英鎊，我覺得整體來說算是合理，因為前一晚在酒店附近吃的，雖然也好吃（據說是得過獎的），但是分量小一些，價錢也貴了一些。
海德公園很大，給人一種天高地闊的神清氣爽感，嘴裡享受著消暑的美味，腳步施施然，真是一大樂事。吃得 high 了，我興沖沖跟梅小獸建議，不如來挑戰自我？從現在起，只要見到 gelato，咱們就攻擊吧？！梅小獸，用她打出生起就有的洞察世態的淡定眼神瞅著我：「I don’t think so…」
Embracing the splendid sunshine, off we went.
As we were passing by the lovey Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, we saw a gelato stall. One scoop for two quid. Reasonable, I reckoned, as this was London after all, one of the most expensive cities. We popped around a gelato cafe which was not far from our service apartment last night, it was good (And awarded, according to the poster on the wall), but the portion wasn’t as generous and actually cost more.
Hyde Park is a magnificent asset for London. Being in an immense place in nature like this is my idea of sheer bliss. The sheer bliss teamed with our scrumptious gelato — Heaven! I got thrilled and came up with a brilliant suggestion: Let’s challenge ourselves! We’re gonna raid each and every gelato seller that comes into sight from now on! *fist pumping*~
My doe-eyed Miss World Baby gave me that look which was full of perspective insights into this big, big world: ‘I don’t think so…’
I love to eat, so how I managed to have such a self-disciplined child remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the century. Have I been given the wrong baby at the hospital??
We exited from Hyde Park and walked onto Oxford Street. There were gelato stalls everywhere, but even the cheapest one cost 20p more than what we had at Hyde Park. Fine! I gave up.