Making Personal History

My last blog was just after I had voted for the local elections here in Swansea. And now a month later, I am putting down my assorted thoughts after having my first, and probably my only, opportunity to vote in the UK General Elections.

Like on 4 May, I got up early this morning, braved the drizzle and put in my vote before 8 am, at the very same polling centre. The only people I encountered were the three female polling agents and one woman and one man coming in to vote after me. Very quiet, low-key affair here for this Swansea West polling centre in a church vestry.

On the 4 May elections, two out of the four people whom I voted for got into the local council. From today’s elections, all I can hope for is that my vote will count towards making the UK a more peaceful and equitable place to live in. It is truly a strange thing that I, a Singaporean, have been able to vote in two UK elections just because I am a citizen of the British Commonwealth, a real honour since I do not have a long-term stake in this country…

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Okay, regarding my life here in Swansea during the last month after returning from Singapore. I have largely kept my nose to the grindstone, although no huge amounts of writing have materialised as yet. That novel will be finished, eventually…

In terms of life outside of my dorm room, weather wise, summer is in some ways the same as the colder months (e.g. the changeability of the weather) and yet at the same time not (e.g. warmer overall, more periods of intense sunshine). The last few days have been rainy and extremely gusty, so much so that I missed going to watch two evenings of movies at the Taliesin Arts Centre because I would have been soaked completely if I had tried.

Clyne Gardens, Swansea, 1 June 2017 (This is a panoramic picture–please click on it to get the full impact.)

So different from Thu 25 & Fri 26 May. It was dry and sunny that whole week, and the heat and mugginess built up, such that history was made–I was able to go out and about just wearing one layer of clothing, even a light coat was not necessary, as late as 10 pm–all because the thermometer reached a high of 24, 25 degrees Celcius.

Yes, finally, I got to witness two of the perhaps five days in the year that Swansea approximates Singapore’s weather. And what a change to see all the locals, even the older folk, in the lightest of clothing, and not buttoned or swaddled up tight in coats and sweaters. There was a genuine lighthearted holiday mood that I sensed on the street those two days, marred only by so many of the locals looking like boiled lobsters, having exposed their skins to the sun.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I have not found the architecture of Swansea particularly inspiring and hence the lack of pictures of the city that I have posted online. I still adhere to that view. Indeed the true beauty of Swansea is not in the buildings but in its parks and native flora.

For about five months, I suffered from leave-less trees and anonymous green shrubs here there and everywhere. Singleton Park, next to campus and not far from Beck House, was a nice place to walk and get some fresh air during the autumn/winter months. Then as spring approached and slid into summer, the true natural beauty of Swansea began to emerge and reveal itself bit by bit.

While my earlier shots of spring flowers were exciting, they cannot surpass the sheer array of flowers that have appeared since early May. During the last few weeks, everywhere I look–a crack in the pavement, hanging over garden walls, within tended or un-tended home gardens, or the public parks–flowers of all sorts have bloomed in turn to grab their moment of the year before the respective tree/shrub/weed fades back into obscurity. (Yes, even weeds can be pretty here in Swansea.) Although they do not photograph as well, what is equally amazing is the sheer diversity of wild grasses that are resident in this part of the world. Their feathery heads come in all patterns and shapes and sway with the wind, showing off their ripening seeds.

Field of buttercup gold, Singleton Park, Swansea (14 May 2017)

Dandelions going ‘poof’ in the midst of buttercups, Swansea, 9 May 2017

One observation: I always thought that dandelions bloomed all through spring and summer. However, I may be mistaken. In April before I left for Singapore, they seemed to be quite abundant. In May, the appearance of even more abundant buttercups everywhere seemed to have chased most of the dandies away, forcing them to go poof and then disappear. I see an occasional bloom here and there, but truly buttercups have swamped their territory. And now to observe when buttercup season will end…

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Two more things to share with regards to making personal history.

1) I made my storytelling debut in Wales at the Cardiff Storytelling Circle on 7 May. And on 26 May, I told my first story in Swansea at Swansea Storytelling. At both occasions, I told the Batak folktale of why there is only one sun in the sky.

2) On the first heatwave day of 25 May, I made meatloaf for the very first time in my life. Because I had bought too much beef to make a new batch of beef con carne, I decided that I did not want to make more of the same and would try to cook something else. I did some online research and got the general gist of the ingredients and methods of making meatloaf. Then I bought the necessary extra ingredients, put aside my hang-up against touching meat, and created my own version of sambal chili-flavoured meatloaf. One week later, I made my second batch of meatloaf. Hee, hee, hee…

Meatloaf #1, 25 May 2017

Meatloaf #2, 4 June 2017

Ingredients for meatloaf:
– minced beef,  grated carrot, onion, garlic, crushed cream cracker crumbs, Greek yoghurt, 2 eggs
– 25 May variation : sausage meat, salt, pepper, dried rosemary & basil, packet of Prima sambal
– 4 June variation: minced pork, minced fresh mushroom, packet of Prima nonya sambal

Instructions: – Mix all the ingredients thoroughly
– Bake for about 45 minutes

Voila!

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And oh yes, if you have yet to see a performance of my play, The Car, here is a fantastic chance. The Esplanade has commissioned Our Company to produce a production to be staged at The Esplanade Theatre Studio in early July. Tickets for two public performances on the evenings of 6 and 7 July 2017 are now on sale. Please click here to find out more.

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