A Wilde Weekend – Act II

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In an earlier post, Oscar and I illustrated the first 24 hours of the Wilde Weekend in London. If you thought my sister and I may have used up all our energy on eating, drinking, shopping and comedy-ing, you would be right. We went to bed exhausted. But nothing that a 7-hour sleep didn’t cure.

Saturday
If laughter is the best medicine, a cooked English breakfast comes a close second. Better yet when cooked at home and washed down with copious mugs of hot tea.

Later, we take a walk along Putney High Street, but this is not a stroll without purpose. It includes a stop at Putney Market where a delightful Malaysian bakery sets up a stall every other Saturday.

“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”
Agreed, Oscar. But you have not tried these pineapple tarts. Or these peanut cookies. This is not just happiness. This is bliss. The cookies are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The pineapple tart is love at first bite. When the buttery exterior gives way to the generous filling,  I am transported to my Malaysian childhood where jars of these tarts are abundant at Chinese New Year. Oh, Pandan Bakery, there was not enough time or belly space for all your deliciousness, and don’t get me started on those spicy sardine curry puffs which are a true triumph of pastry over perception. [Photos from Pandan Bakery’s website]

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Are you drooling yet?

The sardine-pineapple snack will tide us over till dinner. It is now time for the man himself. We head to the Vaudeville Theatre for a masterclass in quick-witted dialogue. The play is ‘An Ideal Husband’ – a study of moral flexibility, forgiveness and class hypocrisy, all wrapped up in a fun, theatrical package. Wilde’s genius lies in, among other things, his use of paradox to comic effect. His humour is unexpected: “I like looking at geniuses, and listening to beautiful people.” He combines ideas that shouldn’t go together, but somehow, do: “When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.” A bit like sardines and pineapple. The play was a real treat.

“I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.”
Not wanting to be shallow, we have already planned our next gastronomical adventure. My sister has an immensely talented friend who has set up a Malaysian Supper Club (hosted at different venues around London) called Wild Serai. The menu is clever, the ingredients are authentic, the labour is clearly one of love, and the result is pure pleasure on a plate. Nasi lemak with chilli crab. Never have 5 words held so much history, mystery and delight. And just when I thought it could not get any better, we sample the best ikan bakar (literal translation: burned fish) I have ever tasted outside of Malaysia. This is stingray, barbecued to perfection and served with a tamarind-chilli dip. We are in the middle of Soho but my taste buds are in a hawker stall in Petaling Jaya, and my appetite is suddenly teenage. Yolanda, terima kasih!

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Fish with attitude. 

While the appetite is teenage, the metabolism is not. There is now an undeniable need to burn some calories. We head home, and for a brief moment, contemplate pyjamas and channel-surfing. But this weekend is a rare one, and not meant for sitting on the sofa. So we get changed and head to a local Putney bar.

“She wore far too much rouge last night, and not quite enough clothes.”
Oscar wrote this in 1895. In many ways, still relevant today but certainly a matter of opinion. And anyway, in the words of Taylor Swift, haters gonna hate (hate*4). May as well wear whatever you like. We have opted for flat shoes so we dance till closing time. This bar is cool, friendly and unpretentious, and they play Blackstreet’s No Diggity, which is my yardstick for a good time on the dance floor.

Putney, I like the way you work it.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

How to write haiku

Carve into your soul
then scoop out the feelings that
suggest poetry.

Bleed from the heart, use
just seventeen syllables
to contain your wounds.

Write five-seven-five
for traditional haiku
or be a rebel and disregard the rules.

Fuse three phrases like
setting gold leaf in glass, the
result will sparkle.

To be authentic
plant your haiku in nature
and include surprise!

If you get it wrong
first drafts of haiku make great
origami cranes.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

You can check out any time you like…

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Dear Willpower,

You’ve got this. You know The Rules. You’ve done the groundwork. Now execute the plan. We’re in this together, you and me.

Rule #1: Never go shopping when hungry.
Well done on lining the stomach beforehand. This challenge requires stamina. If our blood sugar is low, so is our resolve.

Rule #2: Make a list…
…and check it twice upon encountering the aisles of temptation.

Rule #3: Follow the process.
We begin with the warm-up: we wrestle with a trolley until it breaks away from its nest. Then we proceed on the outer ring of the track at a slow, consistent speed.

Rule #4: Stay focused.
May I remind you of our recent trip to a certain Swedish furniture shop? Store layouts are designed with the sole intention of distracting us from our goal. We went in for a bedside table and came out with candles, ceramic cacti and stemless wine glasses. Come on, we can do this. Stay on the fringe and we will be fine.

Now that we have the essentials, we pick up speed. Shopping can be a great cardio workout. Power through the list.

Rule #5: It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it.
It may be half-price but if it’s not on the list, walk away. These are traps, some of them baited with Double Brie. We don’t want to be prisoners of our own device.

The perspiration starts to flow. This is hard work. Push, push through. The end is within reach.

Rule #6: Speed up at the checkout.
We’ve made it this far. We will not allow ourselves to fail now. Avert your eyes. Stick to the plan. Resist temptation in all forms, including impulse Kinder Eggs and unplanned purchases of breath mints.

As we make our way to the exit, we take a deep, smug breath in, then release with a satisfied sigh. We think about the protein shake we will have when we get home. Post-workout refuelling is required. High-fives all round.

Then just before we are out of danger, there she stood in the doorway, blocking us from liberation. Big smile, holding a tray of samples. This could be heaven or this could be hell. She is targeting incoming shoppers but there we are, being drawn to her as if by some magnetic force. “Would you like to try one? Double brie with prosciutto and chilli jam.”

Noooooooo! I say, trying to guide you to the shimmering light of safety but then I hear your voice blurting out, “Sure, why not?” And with that comes the shattering of a thousand promises.

Next time, we must remember to bring Luck, along with our reusable shopping bags.

Sincerely,
Motivation.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd (feat. The Eagles) 

A Trio of Halloween Haiku

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A haiku is a short, Japanese poem that follows a set structure: three lines, 17 syllables in a 5/7/5 distribution, unrhymed.

Here is my seasonal offering, a semi-traditional trio of haiku.

1.
Monsters and witches
walk among us every day:
Groundhog Halloween.

2.
Beware of the masks
that cannot be removed, some
creatures wear plain clothes.

3.
In the costumed haze,
Clowns with painted smiles offer
tricks disguised as treats.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

A Wilde Weekend, Act 1

temptation

A few months ago, I spent a wonderful weekend in London with my sister. Part of her plan to ensure maximum fun in 72 hours included tickets to the Vaudeville Theatre in Covent Garden for my favourite playwright, Oscar Wilde.

Oh, if you were hoping for wild tales of alcohol-fueled madness or hazy recounts of debauchery, I’m so sorry to disappoint you. Those were (mostly) contained on stage. Oscar is as Wilde as it gets. But here is my travel log of the visit, with some help from my pal, the Master of Wordplay.

Friday
On the Underground from Heathrow airport, my suitcase and I are not welcome amongst the suited, city types who are jostling for elbow room while simultaneously avoiding eye-contact. It takes a certain skill to show disapproval without looking up from one’s mobile phone.

“Travel improves the mind wonderfully, and does away with all one’s prejudices.”
Fortunately for my mind, once the tube deposits the Disapprovers at their stations, it is left with Tourists, Students, Musicians, Non-City Workers, and Others. It is as if the air in the carriage has filtered out the busy-ness. People now smile. They give their seat up if required. The closer we get to East Putney, the happier everything seems. A kind soul even offers to help me with my suitcase. “It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”  

I surprise my sister with an earlier than expected arrival and we catch up over a hot mug of (what else?) English Breakfast tea. She opens up a world of possibilities that the next 72 hours may present. But first, we must eat.

“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” What better cure for jet-lag than food that nourishes the senses? We sample tapas and Tempranillo at a local place called Home. After all, we are only 2 hours from Spain. It would be rude not to. The ‘cheeky bar food’ is delicious and the atmosphere is friendly and comfortable. So you feel at home, except with plates of tapas brought to your table. #win.

Home

As we are already out, we take a stroll along Putney High Street. There is plenty of temptation in the form of shop-window displays and SALE signs. Oscar offers a reason to yield: “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

I don’t know if it is the jet-lag or the Spanish wine but a 3-hour nap follows. Then it is time for more food. We jump on the tube to an old haunt, C&R Cafe, a Malaysian institution tucked away in a back street near Piccadilly Circus. I resist my favourite dish, nasi lemak (pictured), for other, smaller dishes to share. “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

cr5.jpg Did not have this.

“My doctor says I must not have any serious conversation after seven. It makes me talk in my sleep.”
So our next stop, for the opposite of serious conversation: The Comedy Store! Stand-up comedy in a venue that’s small enough to be intimate but big enough to be comfortable. I am delighted that one of the acts is Larry Dean, a hilarious Scottish comedian who I recently saw in Sydney. We leave after lots of hearty laughter and also get to chat to Larry on our way out. He may or may not think I am a groupie.

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Nothing left to do but crawl into bed and dream sweet dreams of the next 48 hours of indulgence. To be continued….

[Exit Stage Left]

Venn will you be serious?

…is a terrible pun. But I couldn’t come up with anything better for a blog post about Venn diagrams. It’s not my usual subject matter.

After a few comments from readers of this blog that my last poem was a bit sombre (read: depressing, and why can’t that pigeon find that morsel of bread/love), I thought it best to take a break from the deep feels and turn to LOGIC and REASON and what could be more fitting than…MATHS! But don’t worry, poetry fans, it is only a temporary hiatus. 

Venn diagrams are beautiful illustrations of logic. They show relationships between different elements: where they overlap, where they have no connection whatsoever, and where they can be grouped together with other elements that share the same characteristics.

If I created a basic Venn diagram of picking out something to wear from my wardrobe, for example, it would look like this:

The Wardrobe Dilemmavenn-basic-12.jpg

Set A = Clean and not overly crumpled. Note I did not use the word ‘ironed’ because I try to avoid that at all costs. (Both using the word and doing the activity.) Maybe one day I will be the type of person who always looks freshly pressed, but it is highly unlikely.
Set B = Appropriate for work. Sadly excludes yoga pants, slogan t-shirts and onesies.
Digression: Here is a great story on the two-word dress code implemented by General Motors chief executive, Mary Barra. But please come back to finish this post. 🙂
Set C = Things that fit. No need to elaborate. 

So you can see where the sets intersect and where they don’t. And the number of items in each set could help me make life decisions. So useful! For example, too many items in the B/C intersection (B∩C) = it’s time to do laundry. Too many in A∩C = one should stop buying yoga pants and consider more work-appropriate purchases. And last but certainly not least, too many items in A∩B = one should wear one’s yoga pants whilst actually performing yoga.

It also explains why my black trousers are a staple, go-to, twice-a-week wardrobe choice.

The internet is full of funny Venn diagrams. This is a clever one from Stephen Wildish:
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And here is one on the beautiful Japanese concept of Ikigai, or finding a reason for being. Hector Garcia, co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, says: “Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing.” If it is also what the world needs, and what you can be paid for, then you’re on to a winner.

ikigai
And for the finale, here’s one I made earlier, which I call The Triumph of the Trivector:
venn espresso
Maybe there is some poetry in Mathematics after all.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

The Waiting Perch

pigeons

Love is a tiny morsel of bread
flung by a careless hand.
The lonely pigeon, one amongst hundreds
swoops down from her waiting perch
open-hearted and hopeful for a taste of happiness.
She surfaces hungry, pitiful
while others emerge victorious,
strutting around with full bellies and smug expressions.
So she returns to her perch
to wait for the fling
of the next morsel
that surely will be hers.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd