After the drama of the previous post, this text, by comparison, will be very tame, for finally, I have achieved some sort of stability in my timetable to enable me to make my first serious attempts at discovering and shaping my novel that will constitute my Ph.D. Hence, this blog will ramble a little as it reveals some small insights that I have gained over the past few weeks, plus some observations of my day-to-day existence in Swansea to enlighten curious friends and family members.
You will be pleased to know that the right knee has behaved itself over the past few weeks. Apart from minor twinges of pain/strain now and again, there has been no recurrence of that major collapse at the end of October. I confess that I could be steadier and spend longer amounts of time doing my morning exercises; hence I have not built up enough strength/nerve to go to the uni gym as yet (I am also too lazy to work out the logistics of using the uni gym plus also feel that I ought to spend the few hours of daylight that I have on my writing/studies). Instead, I compensate by going for walks in the afternoon or making as many trips between uni and Beck Hall via foot.
Although I have not weighed myself, I believe I have lost a little weight (the main measuring instrument: being able to tighten my belt several notches in compared to when I first arrived in Swansea in September). Since I am not exercising hard enough, this loss has come about primarily through diet control. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not starving myself. I have two or three good meals a day. But compared to my eating habits in Singapore, I am more discerning. I snack less and generally do not eat after 7 pm until the next morning (simply because I do not subscribe to having my own TV at Beck House, whereas snacking while watching night-time cable TV at home in Singapore was my major failing). So hopefully, my knees are now feeling less burdened and are happier…
Ohhh… one incredible discovery over the last week or so. For those who know me well, I have had a perennial problem with my sinuses. No matter how much care I take, a million things can set my sinuses into overdrive and inevitably the build-up of phlegm would result in full-blown sinusitis. About two weeks back, the balance was once again tipping towards me wheezing and coughing and blowing my nose profusely and infection was nigh and the fear that whatever medication my sister had given me to control my sinus problems would run out quickly…
I bit the bullet, researched online for alternative strategies of overcoming sinusitis and ultimately tried the following combined tactics:
– Ate the usual antihistamines plus phlegm-reducing pills
– Used both saline and methol-infused nasal sprays three times a day
– Ate Bromelain (an extract made from pineapple) pills and garlic pills three times a day
– Downed spoonfuls of pei pa koa plus a commercially available manuka honey-cider vinegar extract
– Mega-dosed on homemade honey-sliced ginger-lemon tea
– Slept and drank lots of water
And EUREKA!!! For once, I have been able to REVERSE on my own the downward spiral towards sinusitis. I am not saying I am totally breathing clearly now. There is still some phlegm, but by comparison to before, it is clear and occasional.
VICTORY IS SWEET!!! Buah-hahahhah… Fellow sinus sufferers, please, by all means, experiment with the above formula. I totally recommend it.
This section is meant to satisfy the perennial question: so what do I eat here in Swansea?
Breakfast typically consists of varying combinations/quantities of the following:
– sandwiches made from wholemeal bread, pate, cheese, sliced salami/meat
– a bowl of granola plus apple juice
– fruit (e.g. mandarin oranges, plums, apples)
– boiled egg/s
– cup of coffee (if I feel I need the caffeine zip to help me through the morning for my studies/writing)
Snacks (when necessary)
– granola bars
– chocolate bars (Bounty, Twirl, Twix are typical)
– pasties or sausage rolls (if I pass bakeries in town/Uplands)
– fruit (see above)
Lunch and dinner vary, depending on whether I prepare my own food or I eat out. If I eat out at uni, the hot lunch that is really worth one’s money is the carvery at the Taliesin Arts Centre cafe. £4.85 will get you a few slices of the roast of the day, plus a helping each of roast potato, mac-and-cheese and stuffing (sometimes there’s Yorkshire pudding), plus as much carrot/broccoli/Brussel sprouts and additional potato/sweet potato and gravy as you want. I try to have this at least once a week. (I am at least guaranteed that I have some meat protein for the week since I do not like to touch uncooked meat and hence tend to prepare vegetarian meals for myself.)
By dinner time during term time, most of the uni canteens/cafes are either shut or no longer serve hot food. You can get some kind of hot food from Blas (the cafe on the ground floor of Fulton House), but it is nothing much to speak of. However recently, I discovered the Fayre and Square pub, that is just beyond the life science section of Singleton campus, which definitely improves my options of having a hot meal for dinner if I stay late on campus and don’t want to cook.
Regarding meals that I prepare myself: If I eat sandwiches for breakfast and need to go to campus directly after, I then prepare extra sandwiches for lunch.
A simple, brainless lunch prepared at breakfast if I’m busy with the computer in the morning and staying in at Beck House: add hot water to rolled oats and raisins in one of my food flasks. By the time I’m ready to eat, the oats are nice and soft.
Apart from the above, I have developed three basic recipes that I love for their simplicity and ease of preparation.
(1) One of the pieces of equipment I brought with me from Singapore is a tiny rice cooker. Hence one type of meal is to boil some rice plus steam beaten egg in the steamer above the cooking rice. And then fry/boil some vegetables to go with the rice and egg.
(2) Cut and boil different vegetables (e.g. white cabbage, courgette, carrot, sweet pepper, french beans, sweet peas). Other possible things to boil up: noodles/pasta, tofu (dried/fresh), sausages, mushrooms. The best combination is just four of the above-named items. Place boiled items in a big bowl and toss salad-style with sauce (e.g. chilli/sesame/pesto/combination of soya sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce).
(3) Cut root vegetable (e.g. carrot, turnip, parsnip) and lay at the bottom of a pyrex dish. Place salmon pieces as a possible second layer. Top off with mushroom slices or canned chickpeas. (If there is no salmon, add some olive oil.) Season with salt/pepper/garam masala. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the root vegetables are soft.
As you can see, I am very much in favour of the one-pot meal. By trial and error, I have confirmed for myself the adage that no more than four main ingredients in one dish is just nice enough for substance and variety. I really cannot stand making tomato- or cheese-based dishes because tomato tends to overwhelm anything it touches and eating too much dairy products is not good for my nose. And one last thing that I discovered in experimenting with the baked salmon: I am not a fan of fried salmon, and for once, by baking salmon, I could eat a cooked version of the fish without feeling nauseous from the presence of too much rich oil.
Life in the Slow Lane
As mentioned in previous posts, I deliberately chose to begin my Ph.D. studies at Swansea University to recharge my creative batteries. In some ways, it has been hard to slow down and get into the groove of full-time studies due to the need during the first few weeks of school to still proofread the final layouts of the books that I launched in November and my brief return to Singapore for the Singapore Writers Festival. Since mid-November, I have had to travel still within the UK during December: a few days to Sandhurst/London to catch some performances, a weekend in the Darlington area up north to visit a dear old family friend, and soon a week in Guildford to spend time with other family friends over Christmas.
Nevertheless, at last, I am beginning to seriously chip away at the mountain of reading and writing that must be done. It has helped that over the last few weeks that I decided to attend less of the Masters classes that I had asked to sit in earlier in the semester. And it is scary how time flies. The last teaching week of the semester was last week. I went into uni yesterday and was shocked at how empty the campus was with most people having stopped coming for classes and left for the holidays.
But yes, it feels so good going through the tonnes of books I brought with me from Singapore, the books I have bought while here, plus the reading materials gathered from the Swansea University library. And there is also time to savour the popular and art films shown at the Taliesin Arts Centre on Monday and Tuesday evenings. And the writing… To report: I’ve not written much yet for the novel (around 1700 new words — at least that’s a start over the last 2 weeks), but I’ve written some poetry over the past few months, stretching my creativity that way.
But life has been slower in other ways as well. When it is term-time and there are many students walking into campus at the same time as myself, I cannot help sense how slow I am moving compared to these sprightly late teens and twenty-somethings. How different from the time when I myself zipped around and friends, who I was out with, would complain, “Slow down! I can’t catch up.”
Ah well, now call it ‘age’, call it ‘my tricky knees’, I just can’t zip around anymore. But more importantly, I don’t want to anymore. This is my time to breathe, watch the sky change, feel the air against my skin, let my imagination play with words and ideas…
Well, this will be my last post for 2016 for I plan to next write in January. So I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a joyous Christmas and may 2017 be a good a year for you as possible. Cheers!