The Return

Singleton Park, Swansea, 5 May 2017

Greetings, one and all! I am back in Swansea after having been in Singapore between 12 Apr and 2 May.

Those three weeks were bitter-sweet. Yes, it was good to see family and catch up with friends, plus eat favourite foods and savour those tastes that cannot be found in Swansea, after over five months of being away. At the same time, I was busy researching topics to fill gaps in my knowledge for my novel and taking care of financial matters.

But the most unsettling part was the state of my mother’s health. While we celebrated her 93rd birthday successfully, she had suffered a fall and hurt her ribs one week prior to my flight back to Singapore. This injury and other issues made her frailer and more dependent on others than before. At one point, there was a possibility that I could have delayed my return to Swansea, pending the rate of my mother’s recovery. I am glad to say that she is on the mend. By the time I left on 2 May as planned, her spirit was much improved and she had become more mobile and self-sufficient.

Witnessing my mother’s changing health was a big wake-up call. This factor, plus the rate at which my savings are being depleted for the PhD, means that I can only spend one more academic year here in Swansea at most and then I will have to complete the last stretch of the PhD back in Singapore via long-distance means. So the hard slog starts now. Within the next sixteen months, I must make sure I write a solid first draft of the novel in Swansea so that I can spend the third academic year in Singapore just revising the novel and writing the exegesis. To facilitate speedy writing, it is unlikely that I will be back in Singapore until April 2018. (I will see my family in October 2017 when everybody will be travelling to Germany to witness my niece’s wedding.)

Overall, visiting Singapore was a good boost. I have returned with renewed energy to work on the novel and revived pep to work on my health. The three weeks of munching, as well as the previous months of relative inertia because I was absorbed in writing and research, have meant that I have gained too much girth and lost muscle tone. So I must now really watch my diet and make sure I exercise. Hopefully, the exercise will help blood/lymph/energy circulation and make my brain tick more efficiently, allowing that novel to manifest itself at a faster rate.

Poppies, Swansea, 5 May 2017

For the most part, the last few days in Swansea has been clear and sunny. There are periods of cloudiness, but no major rainstorm yet. Oh my gosh, sunset is now circa 9 pm… To think that a few months previously, it was dark by 4 pm. I walked to and from yoga class on the evening of 4 May and it was very strange to do so in daylight.

On the National Express coach from Heathrow to Swansea on 3 May, I observed how practically all the roadside/countryside trees are pregnant with leaves, no longer bearing the brown-limbed, anorexic look of before. Some trees are claiming their few days’/weeks’ of glory in the year by spouting out white flowers (I don’t know why — but if I see flowering trees now, they tend to have white blossoms). Lower to the ground, a different range of plants (compared to early April) are also joining the beauty parade and shouting “Look at me!” with their variously coloured blooms.

Temperature-wise, the daily highs have been averaging 15, 16 degrees Celcius. To Singaporeans, this sounds cold. Surprisingly, if you wear two layers of coats, you can perspire. If you wear one coat, you are slightly chilled, but if you move about, you warm up after a while. Again, sunny Swansea days are so deceptive — back in Singapore, you would be sweating buckets with that amount of sun because of the humidity. Here in Swansea at this time of the year, if the sun is fully out and shining directly at you, yes, you can exist for a few minutes with 1 layer of clothing. But the moment the wind blows or the sun is covered by clouds, a Singapore-raised person will need to add at least another layer.

Swansea, 4 May 2017

Swansea, 4 May 2017

Ah yes, one unique thing to report. Several months ago, a circular came through the mail inviting me, being a Commonwealth citizen, to join the electoral roll. I did. So bright and early on 4 May before 8 am (undeterred by jetlag), I exercised my civic duty and voted in the local elections. According to the Labour candidate who was at the front of the polling station counting the number of voters and noting down the area registration on their poll cards if they brought their poll cards (apparently the Labour candidate does this tabulation so that he and his colleagues can go round and knock on doors to remind people to vote after a certain time if the turnout is low), I was Voter No. 12.

Hmmm… By comparison to the hoo-hah of elections in Singapore, the set-up for local elections here in Swansea was pretty low key. The polling station that I was assigned was the vestry of a local church. There was just one big sign outside the church to denote its status as a polling station. Inside the vestry/hall, there were just 3 polling agents at a desk, 4 booths to make your mark, and then the vote box on the polling agent desk. I was the only voter who showed up at that point in time. The fifth person in the area was the Labour candidate outside on the street kerb. As I spoke with the Labour candidate after I had voted, Voter No. 13, a young man in a van, showed up.

Having only lived in the UK for six, seven months, I cannot say that I understand in full the mindset of the UK, or more specifically, the Welsh electorate. Although granted that the hour at which I voted was early and not many people were about, my voting experience sadly illustrated for me the political malaise of UK citizens that I have heard the UK media talk much about. Ah well…

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