Wednesday, 16 November 2016

What if democracy fails?

Last Wednesday was so déjà vu. Woke up in the morning to learn of a Trump triumph, reminding me of how I felt when on June 24th I learned Britain had voted for Brexit.

Truth be told, I had not really been following the US elections. They tend to be very long drawn out and frankly, I did not have the time, or I was bored, or both.

Social media of course provided the drip-drip-drip of news as friends and some friends of friends 'liked' various links and pages. I continued to be misinformed/underinformed. I did not think I could change the outcome in any way.

Brexit is not the same as Trump. Why he managed to win had been discussed to death. What I am interested in is the aftermath.

Protesters on the streets.



Had Clinton won, would there be similar protests, riots and vandalism?

Someone had gone to court to challenge if Britain can now actually Brexit without the parliamentarians approving of what the majority of Britons who bothered to vote decided in a once-in-a-lifetime decision.

When the Brits first voted in a referendum to join the EU, did this require approval by parliamentarians?

If a referendum could get us into the EU, why can't a referendum get us out of EU?

I digress.

Obama was elected because he promised people that he could 'be the change'. Were there protesters on the streets when Obama won? Trump -- as would be the case of any incoming presidential candidate -- was also that he could make much-needed change in government.

So it's OK for a Democrat to be elected to 'be the change', but not a Republican?

So it is OK for the Democrats to win by a specific democratic process, but not the Republicans?

Are these protesters saying that democracy is bad, or only good - and acceptable - when it goes the way of the Democrat?

Otherwise, change the democratic process! Yes, as we have seen it done in Singapore.

The US have their electoral college. We have our GRCs. Apparently there is now a petition for the candidate who gets the most number of votes to be declared the winner. So, just one vote more than your opponent would make you a winner (really?). Forget about the electoral college!

The words 'baby' and 'bath water' come to mind.

One of my favourite courses at university was social and political philosophy. (Thank you, Mr Pang.) We looked at every other option and decided that despite the shortcomings of democracy (as in the 'majority rules', or even the 'tyranny of the majority'), the other available options are worse.

A dictator perhaps? So there is corruption and factions. A dictator will sort it.

Look at dictators around the world, past and present. How do you get rid of a dictator once they are in power? They keep changing the rules to keep themselves in power. That is Dictatorship 101.

Democracy sucks if your side loses. Of course. I've had to live with it for the past 20+ years in Britain. In local government, the mayoral post in London, the House of Commons, the EU parliament ... I seemed always to have backed the wrong horse. My favoured candidate somehow always lost. But life goes on. I wait for the next chance to vote these people out.

Trump might be the demon personified. What do I do? I can do nowt, except pray and believe that my sovereign God will overrule whatever unsavoury decisions that politicians and presidents might make.


Meanwhile I help my neighbours, encourage friends, minister to the downtrodden, etc. I cannot change the world. But I can make a difference in the people I come into contact with every day, one person at a time.


I don't always agree with Piers Morgan. His observations here are pretty accurate:
Memo to millennials, that awful feeling you've got is called losing. It happens. If you want to know how to win, stop whinging for a bit and learn some lessons from Trump

Thursday, 27 October 2016

What is a frozen shoulder?

It was soon after Christmas 2015 when I noticed that the intermittent pain in my right arm was getting more frequent. I am right-handed. Went to the GP in January 2016 and for the best part of this year I had been suffering a lot of pain, loss of muscle strength and spent many hours in hospital and clinic waiting rooms.

Not nice.

I had to give up some voluntary work which required a lot of note-taking. My right hand was so weak that I could barely sign my name, let alone write. Even working at a computer took a great deal of effort and I had to stop after every hour or so to recuperate.

I recently found this post (below) and thought it describes very well the pain, anxiety and embarrassment that I had gone through.

Embarrassment, yes. For a long while I had no strength in my hand to cut up food. Husband had to cut up food for me, at home, at restaurants, etc, so that I could pick the pieces up with my left hand. I could not raise my right hand to my mouth without pain. Instead I bent down to it! Looked like an idiot, I did.

Thankfully I am recovering. I am no more in constant, constant pain. The stiffness is still there, but I can do a lot more after going to a new physiotherapist. I can now cook, without having to wait for husband to get stuff out of the oven for me.

Praise God!

If you are in HR, or have friends and colleagues (usually menopausal women) who are suffering a frozen shoulder, this blog would put things in perspective. Be kind! Be very kind. :)

My frozen shoulder experience

I quote the first paragraph from her blog here which says much of what I went through:


Your life is 100 times harder, you struggle to dress yourself, can’t wash your face or hair or brush your teeth (with the arm involved), can’t get your hand to your face, can’t put a shirt over your head, you struggle to tuck yourself in if wearing jeans or skirts (I stopped trying), you can’t lift things, can’t move your arm more than a few inches in any direction, you can’t put your bra on, can’t even shrug your shoulders (the most basic thing of all!).  You can’t go through any kind of drive through (for food or the bank) – or if you do you have to park away from it, get out of the car and walk to the ATM – you can’t feed yourself properly, you can’t sleep, using a hairdryer in one hand and a brush in the other is out of the question – it’s hard to even wash your hair unless you do it one-handed. You start walking funny because you ache all over, your neck aches, your shoulders ache because your body is “out of whack” and distended – it starts affecting every aspect of your life, both waking and sleeping – it is just a horrible, horrible predicament.   It is still somewhat of an enigma, nobody REALLY knows what it is, what causes it or how to cure it, there are lots of opinions, and myriad medical doctors who will offer expensive surgery.  There are multiple options out there for other types of treatment, most of them (I believe) are detrimental to the healing process.  Sure, some of them may help, but some of them may hinder, but the most important thing is that you are not bullied into having surgery or doing anything that doesn’t feel right for you.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Financial abuse of the elderly +

My letter to Straits Times published on 4th October and response.

Note also AGE UK Factsheet #78: Safeguarding older people from abuse and neglect

Protecting the elderly from financial abuse an urgent matter

The Yang Yin saga illustrates the issue of financial abuse of elders that few Singaporeans talk about ("Six years' jail for taking $1.1m from widow"; last Saturday, and "Study flags financial exploitation of elderly"; yesterday).

Sometimes, this is due to a potential loss of face. Mainly, it is because we do not know where to start.

Given our rapidly ageing population, safeguarding our elders from financial abuse should be an urgent matter on our national agenda. Both individuals and organisations can take proactive steps to prevent elder abuse.

Alarm bells must ring when an individual unrelated to a customer shows up at a bank to ask for his name to be added as a joint account holder, and even more so when large amounts of money are subsequently transferred into his personal account.

When I applied for a business bank account, a bank manager insisted on visiting my home to get a better picture of my situation.

Perhaps banks could implement similar anti-fraud protocols for customers of a certain age.

At least two bank staff should interview the account holders in private (in their own homes), to ascertain that the account holders have thought through the consequences of adding a stranger to their joint bank accounts.

Likewise, the additional account holders should be interviewed separately. Checks should be made to establish that they are what and who they say they are.

If there is any doubt, family, friends and other professionals approved by the account holder (such as doctors) should be consulted.

When unusual activities are noticed on the elderly person's bank accounts, a safeguarding protocol should be triggered, just as credit card companies sound the alert when they think a transaction is suspicious.

Despite these precautions, a determined fraudster who has taken time to "groom" his victim might still succeed.

As individuals, we must ensure that there is a network of people we can trust.

Lasting Power of Attorney should not be signed away without consultation with this network.

Anyone asked to be a witness to the drawing up of a will should be reminded of the responsibility that this entails. Perhaps they, too, need to sign a declaration - with information on how to report potential financial abuse - testifying to this, for "do-it-yourself" wills.

In addition, we should have a well-publicised helpline for people with concerns for their elderly family, friends and neighbours.


Response from Mr Lee Teck Chuan

Boost legal, social safeguards to protect the elderly

In recent times, we have read of sham marriages, nominated beneficiaries of Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies unrelated to a dead person and feuds over estates.

The perpetrators certainly came prepared, with tactics that seemed premeditated and well researched.

Lonely aged citizens are especially vulnerable to feigned affection ("Elderly people less able to process cues of social threat" by Ms Huang Yi; Sept 23).

We need to boost legal safeguards to protect our aged men and women ("Protecting the elderly from financial abuse an urgent matter" by Dr Lee Siew Peng; yesterday, "More types of elder abuse should be considered criminal offences" by Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng; Forum Online, Monday, "Govt unit saw over 100 cases of vulnerable adult abuse" and "Study flags financial exploitation of elderly"; both published on Monday).

Any person of a certain age should be accompanied by at least two relatives before he drafts his will, assigns Lasting Power of Attorney, opens a bank account, transfers funds beyond a threshold, or makes arrangements to dispose of his assets, including nominating beneficiaries to his CPF monies.

Utmost care must be exercised, and perhaps a certification of an aged person's mental state procured, before carrying out instructions given by such a person.

The law should afford watertight protection to the vulnerable aged, who may not have the capacity to act or are under the influence of unscrupulous people.

The authorities should be stringent in checking that visitors who stay here for an extended duration have legitimate reasons for doing so, and that their sponsors are genuine. They should also ensure that registered businesses carry out genuine activities.

Let us have comprehensive legal and social safeguards in place so that we can all grow old with dignity.


Comments, ideas, etc to build on these??

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Parenting: on bragging rights and wrongs

Three Thursdays ago, son found it difficult to sleep. I woke up in the early hours of the morning and he was still sitting up. I persuaded him to lie down and try to sleep.

A few hours later, he was up again, 'seeing stars', as he logged onto his school account to check his I/GCSE results.

"Hmm! Well, alright then," and he soon went back to bed.

He didn't just do well. He has done extremely well.

There was only one tiny blot on that horizon and we are going to query how a candidate who scored 90+% and 100% in three papers could only manage a 73% in a fourth paper for the same subject. (Every other paper in the other subjects were 90+ or 100%, bar one at 88%.) The result meant he missed an A-star by just five marks in a subject for which he was predicted an A-star after his mocks.

It took some persuading for him to come round to our way of thinking. He was happy enough with his overall results and so were we. But if he had put in A-star effort and was then subsequently deprived of the correct grade, should we not at least query that?

(This is only the second time we had to query an exam result. The previous time was when his marks did not add up. It turned out that a Maths teacher (!) had fed the wrong formula into his Excel spreadsheet and everyone in the class lost a few percentage points. A very apologetic letter came from the headmaster, no less. After that, the teacher decided that he did not like me very much.)

We were so chuffed about these public exam results that it was a good few days after that that I found myself thinking: this is official proof, vindication at last!, that I had done the right thing in giving up my career for this young man.

Recalling those years when every day was 'the WORST day of my life' and he was in tears even as we walked home from school, the steps we took to keep him on an even keel, the pleas with his piano teacher* not to push him so hard, etc. The boy, well, young man now, has done well. "Boy done good!"

*The piano teacher bit is really strange. Contrary to what most people think, we are not tiger parents. So we cannot understand why the piano teacher was pushing our son to pass grade after grade of exam. Son was literally learning three exam pieces and sitting exams every few months. I kept going to the teacher to say, "Hey! Let him play anything other than exam pieces. Learn some jazz, for example." The teacher would let him play some jazz for a few weeks and then it was back to exam pieces.

I was the odd parent telling him that my son was moving up the grades too quickly. In hindsight I think the teacher just wanted to showcase him, so that he could brag about getting a 12-year-old to pass the Grade Seven ABRSM exam.

Then three months before his Grade Seven exam, the teacher walked out on us. Just like that!

I scrambled about to find him a teacher because he had learned exam pieces that were going to be out-of-date if he did not sit the next exam. The new teacher then asked, "How did he manage to get to Grade Six on 20 minutes of lesson every week during term time?"

What this teacher did not know was son was not even practising at home! The only piano he played was at these lessons! He passed his Grade Seven just before or after turning 13, I don't remember, but there was no joy. There was no celebration.

Because he was quite ahead of his peers at music, we were expected to enter him for a music scholarship at his current school. We did not. Son was bent on getting an academic scholarship to this school and we could not have stopped him if we tried. We supported him.

It was clear to us that he did not have a passion for music despite being technically good at it. When playing his clarinet for his academic scholarship (to demonstrate other interests) the head of music (himself a clarinettist) asked whether he had considered a music scholarship. Had we pushed him into trying for one, he would have gone completely mental.

Thankfully the new piano teacher at his new school could also see how, much to my relief, he needed to be challenged into playing a wider range of music and not just pass exams. So, he might well be sitting his Grade Eight finally, at age 16. Even if he does not, so what?

The lesson for me as a parent today: we need to know when to push and when to refrain from pushing. Just like childbirth, isn't it? :)

Or as the Preacher said in Ecclesiastes: there's a time and place for everything under heaven.

(Tonight, husband returned from the office to say his colleague also queried his son's A level grades. A paper marked 'E' has been revised to 'B' (!!). They are now challenging another paper of the same subject so that the overall grade would be good enough for him to get to his first-choice university.)

Update: 1/11/16 Son missed his star grade by 0.75% after a re-mark. Ah well, we did try. Could have appealed. But as he was not continuing with this subject, we let it go.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

When I'm sixty-four, and more

Any 51-year-old should really think about how well he wishes to age.

So should Singapore, as it turns 51 this year.

The problem is that young people who think their bodies are infallible are often the policymakers. When they realise something more must be done, it may often be too late ("When I'm 64...what kind of Singapore can I grow old in?"; Aug 7).

I have had a head start, having studied ageing since 1984. My conclusions are:

  • We need holistic thinking.
  • Housing Board flats, transport, town planning and so on need to be redesigned to help seniors "age in place".
  • Employers need to plan for an ageing work force and/or one that has to care for our elders.
  • Young people need a career progression/training structure so that we have the best to look after our elders.
  • We must invest in technology, including robotics, to help the elderly age with dignity.
  • It may be that we will need to sell our homes to pay for care.
  • We need to discuss dying and "end-of-life" options with our loved ones while we are still lucid enough to do so.

The Lien Foundation proposal for home-like settings for our elders sounds very much like the Green House Project in the United States pioneered by Dr Bill Thomas. It may sound expensive to develop and sustain, but these homes have reduced hospital admissions and bed-blocking (thereby saving money), enhanced the quality of care (happier residents, more assured family members) and raised the self-esteem of carers (happier employees, lower staff turnover).

I recently found myself with a medical problem that left me in such debilitating pain that I could not even sign my name or raise my hand to my mouth. My husband had to cut up food for me. This was a reminder. My soul does not inhabit an infallible body, despite going to the gym twice a week.

The sooner we recognise this, the sooner we will find the impetus to do something.

We thank Dr Chey Chor Khoon ("VWOs have a role in eldercare") and Dr Lee Siew Peng ("Get moving on helping people age well"; both published last Sunday) for their views on ageing well in Singapore, and we agree that we need to take a holistic view on this issue.

The Ministerial Committee on Ageing has launched a $3 billion Action Plan for Successful Ageing that covers more than 70 initiatives across 12 areas - spanning from employment and learning to transport and housing - as a coordinated whole-of-society approach to prepare for a rapidly ageing Singapore.

With initiatives at the individual, community and city levels, the action plan has clear programmes and specific targets to help the elderly lead healthy and active lives.

Under the action plan, we are promoting community befriending programmes, as mentioned by Dr Chey.

More information can be found on

At the same time, we have continued to improve and evolve aged care services.

For instance, we are co-locating and integrating residential, day care and home care services, so as to serve our seniors holistically.

In particular, we are focusing on enhancing home and day care, as well as building Active Ageing Hubs in new HDB developments, to enable seniors to age with dignity in their own homes.

We are forming partnerships with agencies and voluntary welfare organisations to promote active ageing and enhance aged care in many communities.

We encourage more Singaporeans to partner us to make Singapore a nation for all ages.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

NUS Orientation

This link from Straits Times 1st August refers.

Teach kids to walk away from uncomfortable activities

(Hey! I don't write the headlines)

Having just returned from a conference at an Italian university where I spent much time "getting lost", I recall my own university orientation as I mull over reports on "sexualised" orientation events at the National University of Singapore.

I had opted to join a group of "seniors" from the Varsity Christian Fellowship who were taking us around the then-new Kent Ridge campus.

Although this batch of seniors had themselves only just moved from the Bukit Timah campus, they did their homework and pointed out to us the yellow ceiling that connected the whole campus, where to find the toilets, how to use the library, where the departments for our intended majors were located, how to sign up for tutorials, and even the shuttle bus system.

For this, I am eternally grateful.

The "sexualised" orientation activities I read about are more about rituals - of rebellion - although some call these "rites of passage". The organisers have the mistaken idea that such activities would help in team-building, "spiritual bonding" or the making of fictive kin.

Those who succumb to peer pressure to "perform", no matter how humiliating the rituals, become an "insider". The "outsider" tribe is deemed squeamish and uncool.

Parents should tell their children to walk away from activities that make them feel uncomfortable for whatever reason.

Someone, somewhere (perhaps even a potential spouse) will notice that the individual is not prepared to compromise personal principles for a few minutes of "easy passage" into a community that they may not actually wish to belong to.

University is an exciting time of life to explore ideas.

The objectification of a woman's body (or man's**, for that matter), however, is never acceptable. Rape, even if only simulated and thus "institutionalised", must never be condoned.

Lee Siew Peng (Dr)

Even the beggars beg in Italian

Why should this be surprising?

Only in the context of how Italian was spoken by all (except tourists) in Milan where I had the privilege to attend a conference at a new university built on the former Pirelli factory.

On the morning before my conference started, several others and I were taken around the city on a free walking tour (google Frog Walking Tour) by a graduate of the Milan State University. He impressed on us how Italians love their language.

Everywhere I went Italian was being spoken by people who might appear to be foreigners in Milan.

At the restaurant where my new Italian professor friend took me, the owner is Italian but all his staff are ethnic Chinese. But they spoke impeccable Italian.

Around the Duomo I found several beggars: an old lady with twisted ankles and walking stick, several younger people just sleeping with signs in Italian, people selling knick-knacks for pocket money, etc. Incidentally these older ladies with twisted ankles and walking stick (and begging cup) seem to be at every Duomo I came across. (They also look remarkably alike. Clones?)

Even the beggars spoke Italian.

This is a very strange experience to me. The only time I visited a place where I understood everything that was being said was in Guangzhou where everyone spoke either Cantonese (my mother tongue) or Mandarin (which of course I learned in school). I cannot tell you how exhilarating it felt to know exactly what people around me were talking about.

I have never got that feeling in Singapore, Jakarta, Amsterdam or London, all those cities where I've worked. And the many more cities I had visited for work or pleasure.

In north-west London where I now live, I could walk past 10 people between house and station and chances are they would be speaking Gujarati, Arabic, Polish, Romanian or some other East/European language rather than English. I can feel very 'lost' linguistically in any English city.

In Singapore, due to our language policy there will almost certainly be someone speaking a different language or dialect which I won't understand.

So my recent Italian sojourn had been very interesting that way. And I suspect that should I decide to take up residence any where in Italy I will soon be speaking the language too.

In comparison:

The ridiculous situation in London re: Uber drivers and English


Sunday, 17 July 2016

JC: I will give you rest

As I write, information is emerging that the driver of the truck that mowed down and killed 84 (current death toll) in Nice was, allegedly, "not a Muslim ... was a s*** .... beat his wife ... a nasty piece of work." (Source) Maybe they are trying to distance this act from any religious motivation.

Was he 'radicalized'?

Or did some people just made him feel guilty and ashamed that he had not done according to a religion that he was supposed to adhere to?

The remedy? Do something to prove that he was worthy.

This is pure speculation on my part but again and again I read of purposeless wayward men -- not those middle-of-the-road ones who stick more or less to religious convention -- who somehow were made to feel that they have somehow 'missed the mark' and must make amends ... by becoming more religious and evangelistic.

I mourn with these, their families, those they have hurt and killed, the families of those they have maimed and killed and I can only contrast this with what Jesus said while he walked on earth:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
(Matt 11:28-30)
Jesus offers first of all REST.

There is a yoke and there is a burden. Jesus did not offer trouble-free and pain-less futures. Let us be clear. (Or x number of virgins, for that matter.)

But first, Jesus offers REST for our world-weary souls, souls that might have been defeated by racism, inequality, poverty and every kind of personal, social and political injustice.

After our salvation (being rescued or 'salvaged', and therefore set free, from sin) which comes about only by faith (belief) and not by any amount of 'doing good' (accumulating merit, etc because this God is gracious, not vengeful) comes the 'sanctification' (being made holy).

Nowhere in the Christian Bible does it teach those who have been thus salvaged to go massacre others of other or dubious beliefs.

So if you are afraid that people around you might become 'radicalized' (whatever that means), do yourself a favour: look out for those in despair and point them to the rest that Christ offered.

It does not matter whether you are a Christian or not. Offer them the rest that Christ offers.

Would you rather the 'weary and heavy-laden' person working next to you be given rest in Christ than be radicalized by some other set of beliefs?

It is one way of securing the peace that you need.

This morning at church I was alerted to this story of a young man who was one of the most dangerous young prisoners in the country. You can view a short version here: Shane Taylor. Or a longer version here.

He could have been radicalized in a different way. Instead he was radically changed when he found REST in Christ.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

I'm a 'qualified disabled'

I have a new physiotherapist. Long story. (See previous post on possible corruption in the NHS.)

He tells me that he used to be a case manager handling claims for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance = sickness benefit) and PIP (Personal Independence Payment = until recently disability benefit. Name changed to 'independence' to encourage people to get better).

Said he used to ask what the prospective claimant did for a living. Some of them tell them they are 'qualified disabled'.

He explained, "Some are qualified doctors. Some are qualified lawyers. These are the qualified disableds."

He explained why my physio treatment was rationed. If it is a problem with my joints, it means I could do something to make it better – through exercise – so treatment is rationed. 

Being an alcoholic, however, is a result of a "disease" that the patient cannot do anything about(!). So he/she gets all the treatment they need – as well as a tranche of  disability benefits – to get better.

In reality, those who works on ‘qualifying’ to be disabled – like those who work to qualify as doctors and lawyers – are not going to try to get better. Their goal has been to be certified ('qualified') as disabled so that they can forever draw on public resources.

He felt frustration. As a physiotherapist, he is trained to get people better. Instead, he kept meeting people who just wanted him to certify them as being ill and unable to work. He left that job to work privately.

He's an immigrant from an ex-colony and voted 'Leave'.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Why I 'sacked' my physiotherapist

I had suffered intermittent pain for several months. When the pain became more frequent and I was finding it increasingly difficult to do the things I used to be able to do, I went to see my GP.

The GP knows I don't usually kachow him unless I really needed to. I was referred immediately to physiotherapy, as I hoped.

It was several weeks later before I was called by a private physiotherapy service (APS) to make an appointment. I assumed that the NHS physiotherapy service was overwhelmed and they had to farm out services to the private sector.

Fine, so long as I am not paying for this privately. Saw the physio a month after I saw the GP.

The GP had given me the impression that I was 'entitled' to six sessions. The physio (VS) told me I had five. OK. I was not going to argue.

What was my problem? After lots of questions and testing for range of movement and muscle strength VS told me I was suffering from 'inflammation of muscle/s'. This has restricted the movement of the joint thereby causing the pain. Or maybe it's the other way around.

He demonstrated the exercises that I should do (pendulum swings, wall presses, etc) and gave me printouts on exercises to do.

I said, "Is this it?"

"O yes, physio appointments are usually 15-20 minutes."

(It takes me half an hour to get to the clinic and another half an hour to get back.)

Why then did the GP tell me to take co-codamol before appointment in anticipation of pain, I wondered, but did not say anything.

So many friends and colleagues seem to have had, or known someone who has had, frozen shoulder. I was asked repeatedly, "Is it a frozen shoulder?"

The next session I asked VS, directly, "Is it a frozen shoulder?"

He said it was not a frozen shoulder. What is it then? He refused to tell me in simple English. To paraphrase: It could be this. It could be that.

By this time I was in a lot of pain, much more than when I first started physio! Pain was constant. Sleep was difficult. My movement was getting even more restricted. Writing by hand was too painful. I could not even sign my name! I had to stop some of my voluntary work as a result. I was suffering spasms in my right hand making me fearful about driving. I was dropping and breaking stuff because I had lost so much muscle strength in my right arm.

I had three other sessions. Each time he would start by asking how I thought I was doing, was I any better followed by "Any questions?". Then he would 'test' to see how well I was doing my exercises, pointing out if I did those wrong. Each time he gave me new exercises and more printouts. I had to do Set A three times a day, Set B two times a day, and Set C once a day. You get the picture.

The last session was a bit weird.

Earlier that day, I was teaching a class of old people how to use the laptop. One student was late. I helped her to remove her polyester coat. I felt static and I jumped. That sudden jerky movement caused me to double over in pain. The rest of the class looked on in horror as I took minutes to recover. (One was a retired nurse, so I would have been OK.)

VS applied ultra-sound which was supposed to relieve me of the pain. It did not. This was the only time he performed any 'therapy' on me.

He spent much of the time at the beginning of the session talking about being 'signed off' because I had finished my fifth and last session. I could continue as a private patient paying £42 a session. I could go back to the GP to ask him to refer again. Or VS could 'change the numbers' and I could have three more sessions.

Surely 'changing the numbers' = 'creative accounting'? The taxpayer is supposed to have paid for five sessions of physio treatment. Why would this private company provide three more 'for free'?

It suggests to me that this company (APS) was mis/representing itself as providing 'five sessions' and hoped to get away with 'five sessions of 15-20 minutes' when the taxpayer is paying for 5x30 minutes (150 minutes). Unfortunately I am a stubborn patient and they have to do a little bit more. Having been seen for 5 x 18-minute sessions (on an average), I am still 'being owed' 60 minutes, equivalent to about 20 minutes each.

I opted to have another three sessions.

But I also returned to the GP as there was no real improvement. By this time I was feeling quite anxious as to what could be the cause. VS said my spasms had nothing to do with the shoulder as 'nothing' connects my shoulder to my fingers (!!). I was mystified by this statement.  He also hinted that surgery might be an option, in which case I needed an orthopaedic who specializes in upper limbs.

To cut a long story short:
(1) GP requested X-ray and referred me to a specialist (this was at the end of April).
(2) X-ray showed minimal wear-and-tear.
(3) VS gave me three additional sessions during which he actually manipulated my arm and shoulder causing some pain. The irony was I felt better for it. I was signed off again.
(4) Finally, in mid-June, saw a specialist (JK) who quickly diagnosed frozen shoulder. He would refer for more physio (hopefully not with VS's company, but he could not actually designate), ultra-sound scan and steroid jab.
(5) Returned to GP to tell him I had lost all faith in VS. Please refer to a different one, which he did.

After seeing the specialist (4, above) I was relieved but very angry. I have lived in distress and anxiety for more than four months thinking that something sinister was happening to me and that I might require complex surgery under general anaesthetic. It was merely a frozen shoulder, which would eventually unfreeze.

So I sacked VS. The specialist JK's referral for further physiotherapy resulted in my being sent back to VS's company (APS). I refused to go back. I am now paying for private physiotherapy at another private provider recommended to me by a fellow gym member.

Incidentally I could have been assigned to this new provider (PL) in the first place on the NHS under the 'choose and book scheme'. For some reason I was not given this choice. Instead I was simply told to attend APS. It caused me to wonder if there is a bit of corruption going on in that someone was sending NHS patients to a certain private practice despite it not being the one closest to where the patient lives. That 'someone' is also depriving patients the chance to 'choose and book'.

It is possible that my husband's private medical insurance might cover this new physio. Even then, there is an excess to pay. Speaking to the receptionist at the PL practice, I have confirmation that the GP practice has referred (the second time) to this same private physiotherapy service as requested. But there are -- wait for this -- 300 people on the waiting list. It would take eight to ten weeks for me to get to the top of the list if I did not have the resources to pay.

Such is the beauty of an 'all-free' NHS which our taxes have, ostensibly, already paid for.

My new physio RP is great. He causes me a lot of pain but I can see almost immediate improvement in my range of movement and for that, I can only be thankful.

Still it is going to be a long time before I can get rid of the bingo wings that have developed as a result of my not being able to exercise those muscles.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Brexit: the sequel

Update 13/07/2016:  Democracy and prosperity are closely linked

Update 30/06/2016: Concessions from France and Finland

First of all, this post refers: Owch! Should have bought Euros on 23rd June*

Referendum day last week was a very, very wet day for most of us.

Some of us struggled to the polling stations to cast our votes. Others, mainly young people, were having a great time wallowing in mud ... and either did not bother, or forgot to vote. My heart bleeds.

So, a week after, they are still out on the streets protesting the results, asking for a second referendum, etc.(O, maybe they have stopped, as it is raining again.)

No, young people, that is not how the real world works. You had one chance, just as everyone else in this country who is eligible to vote.

You took the trouble to ensure you got yourself the £228 (+ £5 booking fee) ticket to get to Glastonbury. But you were too lazy to make the arrangements to vote (by post or proxy). Tough.

You whinge about us 'old people' not caring for your future, when the exact opposite is the truth. Hopefully, in 30 years' time, when you get to my age, you will understand the personal sacrifices we (the 'old people') had to make.

Such as my shares losing value, big time, overnight. Sadly Richard Branson lost a bit more in his Virgin empire. My heart bleeds, again.

Or that the value of our properties would go down, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer so accurately predicted with his crystal ball. (In reality, no one knows.)

While some banks were losing share value as they gambled with other people's money, I was here, watching my personal nest egg haemorrhaging away. Just how much further could it fall? Some of us saw that the future of Britain was important enough to accept that we will take a personal hit.

So DON'T even dare say that I am being selfish.

Truth is, everyone was expecting volatility after the vote if 'Leave' resulted. However, as Lord Digby Jones said (paraphrased), "Hurray for the people who -- despite knowing that homes and shares might lose value -- there is something far more important than ... value of shares and homes."

There is something called 'democracy'. (See Video.)

Simple question: What IF the Remain vote has won by the same margin? What IF the Leave voters are the ones now out on the streets?

Would the Remainers not also say, 'Suck it up. You voted 'Leave'. 'Remain' won.'

While we are imagining things, let us also imagine that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to leave, and for some inexplicable reason England and Wales voted to remain by exactly the same margins. What then?

Would England and Wales be made to leave even when England and Wales wanted to remain?

I suspect if 'Remain' had won, the 'Leave' campaigners would just accept that this was the will of the people and carried on. (It is far easier to maintain 'status quo', inertia, whatever.) Why can't the Remainers have the same grace?

This mirrors what happened in my gym. (I am diligent in going to the gym due to early-onset arthritis, just in case you are wondering.)

A few gym members have been intransigent in attending instructor-led classes when they had not booked or had been too late to book. These few people kept disrupting the classes, arguing about why they should be let into the class/pool. Eventually the gym management implemented an onerous booking system requiring booking online, collecting a physical token, submitting the token to the instructor, etc. This was all down to a few members not having the grace to accept that if the class is full, there is no room for those who have not booked. Try to remember to book the next time.

The poor staff members now have a lot more to do. Instructors continue to receive verbal abuse, etc. from these few vocal people. At least, at the gym, the management could terminate their membership. But British citizens on British streets??!!

I made one other observation: many 'Leave' supporters were reluctant to make their stand clear on social media. My one friend who did was shouted down by others. Bullied, even. Not until after the 'Leave' result did 'Leavers' 'come out of the closet' on social media to explain why they voted 'Leave'. That was how toxic and intimidating the situation had been.

Why did the bookmakers fail to pick up this trend? A simple and perhaps simplistic answer is that these 'Leavers' are not gamblers, unlike the bankers and others who are.

I am also appalled by how people were going, "What about my house in France?", "What about my holiday this summer?" and "Who is going to pay for this?", etc.

Why should I care if you own a house in Britain and another in France when lots of young people cannot afford to buy their first home? (Rather like Singapore where people own both HDB and private properties and then complain that their children cannot afford to buy their own flat.)

If, as Mr Osborne said, property prices are going to drop, those young people who previously could not afford properties are more likely to buy one now.

When the banks do move their businesses abroad, they could always take their British staff with them. If they or the EU staff now working in Britain sell up, the house prices will come down to benefit the young people.

Worse, still, are the many British nationals who live abroad most of the year and do not pay any tax. They swan back to Britain whenever they need medical attention because it is free on the NHS. (There are in fact restrictions for those who have been away for more than six months.)

What about your summer holiday? Shame on you if you jet off somewhere instead of supporting local business. Incidentally, due to the weaker sterling, lots more tourists can now be expected. hospitality businesses can look forward to more custom. Is this not good?

Who is going to pay for your EU-funded research? Actually, Britain has been paying that all this time through what they pay into EU. It just comes to you 're-badged' as EU funding. Ultimately, the funding will be returned to British students.

Incidentally, if the pound continues to slide, lots more parents outside the EU can now afford to send their children to university in Britain, not only the rich and spoilt children of Chinese and Russian oligarchs. (Uhm, the pound is rebounding.)

I've said in the previous post that this country has, for a long time, been too lazy to train their own professionals: doctors, nurses, etc.

See what has happened to English football. Labour ministers around the world, take note. Train your own precious people instead of relying on foreign talent.

Meanwhile, for the young people who insist that they want to live in the EU: The last time I checked, the EU is still open to them. They could pick any of the other 27 countries and move there before they stop this freedom of movement between Britain and the EU.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Owch! Should have bought Euros on 23rd June*

But it was raining a lot, and I was aching from a physiotherapy session.

Friday morning, checked my phone and was shocked that the 'Leave' vote was ahead of 'Remain'. Someone from Singapore Whatsapped to comment. I still thought, maybe they have got it wrong. Surely, 'Remain' were going to triumph! Surely, I thought.

I voted weeks ahead by post. I have been called an 'economically-illiterate racist'. Here's why I am an 'Outer':

Having studied south-east Asian history and Singaporean (ie foreign), the ideology of self-rule is important. The sovereignty of a nation is important.

How could a country like Britain allow itself to be subjected to the diktats of Brussels? Imagine Johore telling us how to spend our money!

Never mind that the EU is run by overpaid, unelected bureaucrats. I went to school with one. He flew into London every week to attend class. Nothing against him personally (except that he thinks Foucault is the answer to everything). It was an illustration of the waste of money that Brussels and Strasbourg expect British taxpayers to tolerate.

[Much of local and national governments departments and QUANGOS are also money-wasting agencies.]

Immigration was touted as a major issue. I have no problems with immigration. I am an immigrant myself, albeit a reluctant one.

When controls were lifted on new accession countries, my local area was suddenly flooded by what can be best described as beggars.

How does a man with no legs (only thigh stumps) sitting (standing?) on a bit of wood on castors manage to get to Britain? Had he come to Britain for work? He had clearly been shipped in here by people traffickers or gangmasters to make a living by begging.

In the short 50 yards or so that he rolled himself with hands protected by some bits of fabric or bandage on his specially-designed wooden device, at least five well-meaning Britons dropped money into his begging cup.

Freedom of movement means that the vulnerable can very easily be exploited.

The other 'evil twin' in this equation is the generous benefits system.

Most parents get more in Child Benefit alone in one week than they get for a month in whatever Eastern European country they come from. Theoretically there should be no 'welfare tourism'. In reality, lots of EU migrants come over to the UK simply because they can and claim benefits as soon as they can.

My voluntary work has led me to encounters with many such migrants who simply rock up to Britain 'because I prefer the education in Britain' and expect us to provide for them and their children.

[NB. There are different types of EU migrants: most of my EU friends work and work very hard, pay taxes, interact with Britons, buy a home here, etc. Another would do the minimum work and claim maximum in-work benefits, sending most of these back home, to build their villas. There is another group with few resources to work in this country like the man on wheels described above. There are possibly other types.]

It is possible that I deal with the worst of the economic migrants and welfare tourists. With every additional one of these, the British public becomes less willing and able to deal with the genuine asylum seeker.

If the benefits system were scrapped tomorrow, I might have voted 'Remain'. Why are there thousands camping in Calais trying to get to Britain. France is a safe country. Why do they not seek asylum there?

If migrants want to come to Britain despite not getting any social benefits, then they are very welcome.

There is another effect of this mass legal and illegal in-migration: complacency and laziness.

Why invest in nurse/doctor/other professional training when we can easily import EU citizens?

Indeed why invest in education at all when we can depend on eager EU migrants to staff farms, cafes, restaurants, factories, care homes, supermarkets, bus companies, etc?

Meanwhile, thousands of Britons are left to rot on the welfare system as they cry, "No jobs, there are no jobs."

If there are no jobs, there will not be such high in-migration from the EU.

So which is true? There are jobs or there are no jobs. They appear to be mutually-exclusive conditions to me.

For so long as we remain in the EU, corporations and government will not bother to think where they could draw literate and diligent labour from. If these supply lines are cut, there is a chance that there will be a re-think of how we teach our children.

Better still, scrap the welfare system, so that children will aspire to be successful in something when they grow up. It is heart-breaking for me to see how in a country where everyone gets free education and health care, there are families who have spent generations on the dole.

This cannot be right. Our generous welfare leads to a poverty of the soul. Hence the obesity and mental illness.

Another classmate noted 'we shouldn't have come to this', and she is right. The intransigence of Brussels has led to the referendum. If they had been more amicable in renegotiation, then the result might have been different.

But the EU bureaucracy has grown so cumbersome. It has, like many organization with good intentions, suffered mission creep. Not being accountable to the people who fund them (they are unelected), there is no way we can keep them in check.

Perhaps Brexit will make Brussels think again about their mission goals.

Meanwhile, 'self-rule'!

Sadly Britain does not seem to know what to do at the moment.

I try to imagine how our forefathers felt as we cut our umbilical cord from our colonizers. Not just in Singapore, but elsewhere in the world. It will be great if more Britons could feel a little more like that.

Video: Former (economically illiterate?) director of the CBI, and business minister, Lord Digby Jones tells BBC Breakfast that the UK has a "golden opportunity"

Me, economically-illiterate? I am probably guilty as charged. But it goes against every fibre of my body to think that a nation like Britain is not able to thrive on its own again. Interestingly, some of my 'settler' friends from other ex-colonies think like me.

This is an opportunity for Britain to reform so much of its social infrastructure that is so wrong, and in so many other areas of public life.

There are many of us who are keen to work with you on that. We can put the 'Great' back in Great Britain.

Update: 27th June 2016 -- Way forward? A cross-party group to work on exit, taking into view the opinions of cross-section of electorate, including those who voted remain.

Update 2: 27th June 2016 -- businesses threatening to leave. Like the rich individuals who threatened to leave if a particular party comes to power, only people with the power and money can afford to leave. Just as many 'refugees' in this country are the richest and most powerful from where they originate. Those without the resources are left behind. Just as many Britons do not have the wherewithal to do that. Leaving is not an option. Threatening to leave shows these agencies do not understand the plight of the common people.

Update 3: 27th June 2016 -- There is one downside to this result: that of racism rearing its head and possibly extreme right-wing activists who have mistaken a vote to leave the EU for a right to abuse those who look foreign. This is tragic.

*It was fascinating to hear how some Britons were only concerned about the value of their holiday money, European football and whether we could still compete in Eurovision.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

How to read scriptures wrongly

[OK, I might have used the word 'wrongly' wrongly but it is more impactful in a title than 'How not to read scriptures'.]

In the light of recent atrocities I recall how I once sat in a department seminar at which a sociologist was adamant that the Christian Bible wrecks family relationships.

I reflect on this also in the context of some Muslim friends struggling with Ramadan falling in the period where we are enjoying the longest of days.

We are approaching the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere where on 21st June the sun will rise at 0443 hours and set at 2120hrs. Pity the Muslim student who is sitting national exams.

The sociologist quoted in part from Luke 14:26 saying that the Bible teaches believers to 'hate their father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters'.

The verse in its entirety is:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple."
This sociologist assumed that this text should be interpreted literally by all Christians.

How wrong could she get? What sort of anarchy would we have inherited if every believer since the resurrection of Jesus had been hating their father and mother? Is this even logical?

I won't go into an exegesis of Luke 14:26. You could read more on this link and here.

In short, we could say 'hate' was used to suggest how our love for God must trump all other loves, to the extent that the way we love our parents could be considered 'hate'.

In other words, on a scale of 1 (hate) to 10 (love), we should love God at 10 and hate our parents at 1.

But if we put this whole scale on a significantly larger scale (A for hate to Z for love), then the whole of the first scale is in fact between Y and Z in the second scale, while rape and murder would fall into the 'A' zone.

Hyperbole. See definition.

Then there is the issue of letting Scripture interpret Scripture:
As a hermeneutic approach, "Scripture interprets Scripture" is the idea that we should read a passage in the light of the entire Bible. It also states that we should interpret confusing passages based on clear passages. (Source)
Thus we interpret this hating of parents in the light of, for example, the fifth of the Ten Commandments:
"Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12)
And if anyone has difficulty with this (as some people hold that the Old Testament is full of bloodshed, and full of contradictions), then let us go straight to what Jesus taught: "Love your neighbour as yourself".

I have not, hand on heart, studied the Koran, but is the requirement for fasting 'from sun up to sun down' literal? And if so, within what historical and geographical context did this instruction originate?

Being thus ignorant, I ask, what if Ramadan falls in the period of the shortest day, as would be the case in the southern hemisphere?

Nobody here complains when Ramadan falls in winter. In London, the shortest day will see the sun rise at  0804 hours and set at 1554 hours.

I mean, that is nothing more than missing a brunch rather than a fast, isn't it? Do believers then just go, 'hurray, a short fast!'??

What are the first principles of fasting?

Jesus taught about fasting thus in Matthew 6:16-18:
“When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
My Muslim friends in Singapore have very regular sunrise to sundown hours. What if these hours shift as they do when we move away from the equator?

If Ramadan falls in winter, do Muslims extend their fasting to at least 12 hours so that they could feel the impact of a fast? I don't know. By the same token, could my Muslim friends get away with fasting for just 12 hours in winter so that they could continue to perform their normal duties at work and school?

What should the theology behind Ramadan fasting be? Just fast between sunrise and sundown according to Mecca sunlight hours?

The letter of the law or the spirit of the law?

Is it acceptable that one fasts fastidiously from physical food but harbour evil in their hearts?

Whatever the answer may be, whether you are Christian or Muslim, gay or not, an Alice Fong or a Bryan Lim, I will subscribe to what Jesus said in the following context:

The Greatest Commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Please, do discipline my son

Two Sundays ago I did something I have never done before. I went to the local M&S to try on some swimming costumes. But I did not buy.  I went home to order them online as they did not have my size.

On my way out, I stopped by the sunglasses to see if there was something that might be suitable.

I waited for a parent to manoeuvre his pushchair out of my way. A toddler was taking glasses off the rack, just because she could.

I stood in front of the rack, and the toddler wandered off to the opposite side of the stand whereupon she picked up the cases for the sunglasses and threw them on the floor.

Her dad was about. He is of Asian origin but all I could understand from what he said was 'nein, nein'. I assumed that 'nein' is German, but perhaps it could be another Asian language. In any case, I figured that 'nein' means 'no'.

[I also know for a fact that many Sri Lankan refugees in Britain come via Germany and other EU countries. Having acquired EU citizenship, a large number of these than move on to the UK. Many of these speak German, Italian and French much better than English.]

Then something strange happened. I found myself saying, "You should put her in the pushchair."

Dad: "She does not want to stay here."

Me: "You are bigger than her. You can make her do it. You are the one in control."

The little girl had started throwing more stuff on the floor.

Dad: "At the moment, she is in control, it seems."

Me: "If you don't keep control, you are storing up trouble for yourself."

Dad: "It's OK. I will pick these up when she finishes."

Me:  "I've never had that kind of trouble with my child." [NB It does not apply to teenagers.]

At which point I think Dad got tired of being polite to me: "Well, you know, every parent is different."

Neither of us wanted to continue with this. He said, "I appreciate what you are doing," but I don't think he actually did.

I was thinking of an Asian mother who used to attend the toddler group I helped to run. She refused to keep her daughter in control despite many other mothers trying to support her. (The child had been hitting and biting other children in the group.)

She then had a second child.

The last time I saw this family, mother was dragging the toddler and pushing the younger one in a pushchair.

The toddler was screaming blue murder as the mother tried to get her to walk with her to the nursery. Now that she was bigger, much bigger, her mother was finding it immensely difficult to control her.

I came alongside them and made sure they crossed the road safely. I then hurried away.

At the rate mother was dragging her, it would be another 20 minutes before they make that 80 metres or so to the nursery.

It is often said that 'it takes a village to bring up a child'. These days we are so scared of helping mothers and fathers who might do with some help but are too embarrassed or too proud to ask for help.

I have often wondered why on earth toddlers have tantrums ("terrible two's"). Is this a phenomenon only in industrialized, nuclear families?

Why did God in his wisdom allow young children to behave in this way? Is it to try the patience of the parents or is it an opportunity for them to mark their boundaries?

I remember feeling very vulnerable when my son threw his first tantrum. I thought he was sick and wanted to call an ambulance. Then I noticed that he would cast his eyes backwards before throwing himself down.

Terrible Two's? He was barely 18 months then!!

With my husband we decided to show him who was boss. The tantrums persisted, but they became better managed. We had a united front. Our actions were consistent.

Quite often we just held him, told him what to do, that we loved him, but he had to do as we said. We put him in a safe place to cry off. Set the egg-timer. When it went, punishment was over.

My hypothesis is children need to test their boundaries and be ensured of their security and consistency from their adult carers. Between two and three they are physically sturdy enough to be held very tightly (not as fragile as babies), but small enough for parents to just pick them up, particularly when there is a safety issue.

Perhaps God in his wisdom has designed the Terrible Two's to give parent and child that opportunity to bond in a special way.

If so, it begs the question: what if the child does not have his/her parent/s to bond with?

I often wonder what our hired helpers do when toddlers throw these tantrums in the absence of mum and dad.

This article refers.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

A Singlish Conspiracy?

As an academic -- OK, a failed academic, if you insist -- finding and citing the source of information is critical.

I took little notice of the excitement about Singlish in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) until the debate about the NYT article and a certain response from 'on high' came into the picture.

I did notice that the person who put the Singlish in OED is a delightful young Filipino consultant who is known to want to include ‘Filipino English’ in the OED: ‘English’ terms that had hitherto been deemed inadmissible.

Then there is the context. Political context.

I am living in a country that has become very unsure of herself (itself?). There is the Brexit vote coming up. People are saying that Britain cannot function politically, economically and militarily outside the EU.

This is the Britain which was once ‘Empire’, on which the sun never (used to) set.

If the newspapers are anything to go by, the agenda is being decided by the transgender set, as yet another establishment has been told to remove the words ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gents’ from their toilets because they discriminate against the transgendered.

When I used to spend time in North Thailand, I often saw women in the gents’ toilets. (With hindsight, I had assumed those were women.) I would never go into a Gents’ toilet unless there is a very good reason.

[OK. I did once, when the queue outside the 'Ladies' at Musee d’Orsay was so long and my husband and son exited the Gents telling me and two other anthropologists that there was no one in the Gents. We went in, leaving dear husband to stand guard.]

But the transgender men are saying that they want to use the ladies’ toilets. Heh!

I digress.

Fact is the Brits are so unsure of who they are at the moment. A Filipino consultant on the world-embracing OED seemed like a jolly good idea.

Why did she choose to include Singlish terms? She seems to have a very good understanding of Singlish. I give her that.

Is this to subvert the use of proper English in Singapore? No standard English, no jobs.

That’s Conspiracy Theory #1.

#2 is old hat. Another confession.

My siblings and I have done well in education and career because we were often ahead of school mates in our English language. Let the truth be told.

This was partly due to my Mum's diligence in correcting our English when we went wrong. (My father spoke no English at all.) She might have had only four years of formal education. But they must have been four very good years as she could speak grammatically correct English.

Proof: You do not need a PhD in English Literature to speak and write good English. You do need a respect for rules, and my word, did Mum drill those rules into me when I was young.

“My one”, I can still hear her chastising me. There is no such thing as “my one”. This is my book. This book is mine.

No, you cannot open the tap. You turn on the tap.

No, you may not borrow the phone. You may use it.

And so on, and so forth.

One of my most cherished memories of her was when we got on a crowded bus and a young person on the aisle seat refused to move. Mum eventually went, "Excuse me, I would like to sit there." The young person reluctantly let her move into the window seat.

And then I heard my mum's voice filling the bus, "Young people these days. They don't have the courtesy to let old people sit," or something to that effect, in perfectly grammatical English.  

Hand on heart, those of us who are so prone to singing the delights and charm of Singlish, are we the same people who can, in a heartbeat, switch from Singlish to standard English (whatever this means)?

Then, I beg you, consider those families with children who do not yet have this privilege.

Let them first learn to speak and write in standard English. When they have acquired those skills, by all means, let them speak Singlish in their leisure, amongst family and friends.

Or even when they are addressing election rallies.

The only reason for not letting this happen is to ensure that we retain this privileged position that we now occupy. I have called this ‘linguistic hegemony’ elsewhere back in 2010.

It is a bit like the demise of grammar schools in Britain. Some have compared this to their beneficiaries, having climbed up the social ladder, who then turned around to pull up the ladder.

We make our children learn times tables because that is ‘knowledge’, ‘facts’, that they need at their fingertips to move on to higher-level mathematics.

An understanding of how numbers work and the consistent manner in which they work helps us grasp the music of mathematics whether it is trigonometry or calculus.

In the same way a good grasp of English -- the British are now insisting that children learn proper grammar at school -- will give us the tools to use Singlish in the most creative manner.

I am not putting down Singlish. Far from it.

Sylvia Toh, author of Eh Goondu, was the person who gave me my first writing job. (I am eternally grateful to her.)

I know for a fact that her England is very powderful.

[See also: GE15: Singlish good, English bad]

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Have you signed Neo's petition yet?

If not, the Singaporeans against gutter politics petition is here. Watching the numbers go up every time I refreshed the page was kind of therapeutic.

I remember LKY ruminating on 'what is the educated Singaporean?' many years ago. I cannot find the newspaper cutting, sorry.

But he alluded to someone who reads books (against magazines or work literature) and has 'stuff' like paintings (I suppose, as against photographs) on the wall.

'Educated' is sort of equated with 'Cultured', with a capital 'C', or as some would say, 'arty-farty'.

I think any 'educated' person would be a 'gracious' person as well.

The meaning of 'grace', biblically-speaking, means 'something given where none is deserved'. That is, sinners being forgiven by God because of Jesus dying on the cross is 'grace'.

Being 'gracious', to that extent, is being Christ-like. He taught us, 'Do to others as you would have them do to you.' (Luke 6:31)

This is significant as most religions and philosophies teach a more negative version of “Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you.” This is also known as 'the golden rule'.

There was also a time when Singaporeans were not so well-educated. Ad hominem remarks could be accepted as the speaker claims the moral high ground ... because we, as philistines, did not know any better.

With education we now understand that such fallacious arguments and attacks 'to the person' (hence hominem) are a sign of weakness. A weakness writ large as previously ad hominem arguments were followed by ad baculum action, an appeal to force (physical, fiscal, legislative, etc).

Thanks to LKY whose government gave me such a good education, I now consider it most undignified to have to resort to ad hominem arguments when I am losing ground.

Thanks to LKY showing me the way I will always choose the path of graciousness which, note, is not the same as gracefulness.

If your parents had the money to give you piano and ballet lessons and other cultural pursuits with a capital 'C', you might be able to play and dance with sublime grace-fu-lness gracefulness. My parents did not.

The good news is: We can all model graciousness!

You don't need to rejoice with me by singing, 'Hallelujah! Jesus is alive!'

We can all simply 'do to others as you would others do to you'. Simples!

O! And what about the courtesy campaign? ???

Friday, 29 April 2016

Singles Villages for real

Update 2nd January 2017: What is there not to like about this? If I were a young single professional, this will be ideal.


Some weeks ago someone in Singapore suggested that 'singles villages' be built in Singapore.

As if with one voice, the writer was showered with brickbats and worse.

So I stood up for him by providing a different perspective of the appeal of living as single adults in Straits Times Forum. Clearly something else more important was happening that day as nobody seemed to have read my piece.

A stone's throw from Wembley Stadium a huge block of 'singles rooms' has just been completed.

The objective here is not to match-make singles. Single adults from all over the country come to London to work and they need a place to live.

What I found quite astonishing was that Singaporeans objected to singles living apart from their parents. Some say this is equivalent to student housing.

It is not.

Clearly those who made such comments have no idea as to what student housing and/or single living is like.

Then there were comments, hinting at fears, about indiscriminate sex if singles were allowed to live apart from their families liddat.

Come on. Let us not be naïve. Young adults will indulge in sex whether or not they live with their parents if they are so inclined. Living in one's parents' home does not preclude promiscuity.

It seems so totally illogical to me that parents think it is OK to send teenagers across the world to live with strangers in student housing, or shared houses in order to gain an education.

How do they ensure that their children do not indulge in indiscriminate sex when these children are times zones away?

What about graduate children who work abroad, living on their own, or with colleagues, etc?

If that is OK, why is it so objectionable for unmarried children to live with other singles away from their families in Singapore?

The objection is just nonsensical, as far as I am concerned.

An old classmate posted a photo of her son working abroad, ironing his own shirt. Yes, that is just what we need. Getting sons to iron their own shirts whether or not they live with us.

Monday, 18 April 2016

R-E-S-P-E-C-T! and my own Wilde comment

I was not kidding when I said in my last post that I have developed great respect for my teenage son.

Yes, of course, he has his silly and awkward moments. We still do not see him except at meal times. But meal time conversations have become much more interesting.

Last Friday we went to the British Museum. He is very keen to study classics at university at the moment. Not terribly pragmatic, his father thinks. Still, Dad researched the British Museum online and decided that he would enjoy nosing around Rooms 77 and 78.

So you can understand Dad going nearly ballistic as we approached Rooms 77 and 78 and a sign said the rooms were closed. No explanation given.

We tried to get Dad to enjoy exhibits in the surrounding rooms, but Dad is Dad.

I found an intelligent looking staff sitting nearby and I thought, 'Perhaps I should ask him when the rooms would re-open.'

His answer surprised me, 'It's unlikely to open today.'

Me: I wasn't expecting it to be opened today. But is it going to be weeks, months?

Then he said they decided to close those rooms that day due to a lack of staff.


So it is best to phone on the day to find out if those rooms are open.

Me: That's no good. If I told my husband that, he will go ballistic.

Him: [laughs]

Me: That's not funny.

Him: Sorry.

Anyway, we walked around other rooms with Greek and Latin bits. Then I realized that Son was telling us about the various exhibits there without him even having to look at the information on display. He was explaining how the pots were made, for example, and what they were used for, and by whom.

Clearly he knows much more about Greek and Roman civilizations that either my husband or I.

'I learned this at school, you know.'


Earlier, as we entered the Museum (after walking past my former university and pointing out the Senate House doorway that I walked out of as I phoned my husband about being successful in my PhD viva) the security man looked into my bag and asked, 'Anything sharp?'

I looked at him after a momentary pause and replied in all sincerity, 'Only my mind.'

His response was loud laughter, 'Very good. Very good. Enjoy your visit!'

Thanks, we did. Despite the incredibly expensive food there. Having said that, the carrot cake I had (£4.75 or something like that) was the best I had ever tasted.

And we did not tell Dad about why Rooms 77 and 78 were closed until we got home.

Monday, 4 April 2016

No mothers-in-law in heaven

This thought suddenly struck me. An epiphany?

What if we stop looking at our mothers-in-law (and father-, sons-, daughters-in-laws) as if they are our obligatory family by marriage and simply treat them as a neighbour?

You have heard it said, “God has no grandchildren.”

Yes, we are all, as believers, ‘children of God’.

In heaven it matters no more that we might have been related as fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, or in-laws, or even ‘out-laws’!

In heaven, believing sons- and mothers-in-law are brothers and sisters.

Even slaves are no longer slaves in God’s sight (Galatians 4:7): “you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, also an heir through God”.

Here, of course, Paul is teaching of how slave and free alike become the sons of God when they believe in Jesus. If the boundary between slavery and liberty can be broken by the broken body of Christ, why not the boundary between in-laws?

OK, that is not very good for stand-up comics who thrive on ‘mother-in-law’ jokes.

What about Jesus’s commandment that ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

If I love myself, then, in obedience, I must love my mother-/father-/son-/daughter-in-law. As MYSELF. No more. No less. No but’s.

My son turns sixteen in a few weeks’ time. The last two years had been difficult for me.

My sweet young thing whom I had taught “hooligan or gentleman?” and “time and place for everything”, p’s and q’s and a firm handshake, he wanted little to do with mum because he is a teenage boy.

Sometimes he was so rude and scathing I physically hurt. I wondered whether I had wasted a lifetime being a stay-at-home mother, giving up all possibility of becoming a university professor.

I would say that I am seeing some light at the end of this long, long tunnel. Hallelujah!

More importantly he is growing up in such a way I found myself thinking: respect.

I have to respect my son for his insights. I have equipped him with the tools to get on with life and now he is helping me to get on with my life by sharing his insights.


These things I wish to remember, God willing:

First, whatever differences I might have with my mother-in-law, she played a big part in making my husband what he is: that husband I chose to marry.

The Chinese has a saying, ying shui si yuan: when you drink water, reflect on its source.

My wonderful husband is what he is because of what his parents made him.

Second, in anticipation of the day I acquire a daughter-in-law, I want to respect her decision in choosing my son as her husband. Surely a person who makes that very wise choice cannot be a ‘bad’ person.

I remember vividly the first time my in-laws stood at my front door after my mum died. Mum-in-law said, “We are your only parents now.”

I nearly cried. I was their daughter. Full stop. No hyphens.

In view of what I have been thinking today, maybe I don’t even need to aspire to be a good mother-in-law after all.

If there are no mothers-in-law in heaven I should jolly well start practising loving my (future) daughter-in-law first as a fellow believer/neighbour/friend, and then perhaps the in-law/out-law business would ‘fall into place’ (ie become unimportant).

We manage to love so many others despite their faults. Why should we set higher standards for a daughter/mother-in-law?

8 Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another, for the one who loves someone else has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are summed up in this statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does not commit evil against a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Growing (away) a Teenager

My husband is driving our son some 70 miles back to where he boards. Son had been asking to board since he was five, and nearly three years ago he made this wish come true by sitting some of the toughest exams to win a scholarship.

I look at Facebook photos of my friends and envy them. They all seem to have perfect families.

My 15-year-old, on the other hand, does not want to have anything to do with me.

It has not been very good for my mental health as such, thinking: I spent 13 years of my life as a full-time mother. When this one son reaches 15, he completely ignores me. In fact, he seemed to hate me.

Why did I bother?

If I had left him at four months old -- I attended an interview for a postdoctoral fellowship but decided that this wasn't something I wanted to do -- would I be a professor by now?

Instead I am unemployed, and worse, possibly unemployable.

This friction between mother and son was not unexpected. Some years ago, in anticipation of this phase, I read a well-known Christian writer who noted that teenage boys go through this as they are awakening to their own sexuality.

Yeah, sure, I was a teenager once and I never had that problem with my mum or dad.


When teenage boys first awaken to their sexuality, who is the female that he knows and loves best? Usually the mother. There is no need to bring in the Oedipus complex at this point. My son is not neurotic.

On the contrary, he wants most to grow AWAY from his mother. He needs the confidence to know that he is not in love with his mother. That is why teenage boys row with their mothers.

This also explains why he says "It feels weird" when I sometimes give him a hug.

I turn again, naturally, to studies in other people groups where young males undergo rites of passage. I conducted research amongst some teenage girls in secondary school many years ago. The main finding I had was that it was difficult to be neither child nor adult in your parents' eyes.

Sometimes they treat you like a child: Do this because I say so. At other times they expect you to be an adult: "Why did you not do that? It was your responsibility."

In anticipation of this period I talked to my son often, "Sometimes you would feel like you need to be a man. But sometimes you wish you are a child again. That's OK. We can occasionally do childish things together." (Like a bubble-wrap dance.)

Would it be easier if teenage children have a clear-cut status: You are an adult now. You make your decisions. You bear the consequences.

Even so he might still have issues about relating to mother. (So often, rites of passage involve taking the boys away from their mothers for a long period.)

I see my redundancy in this mothering role as being imminent. When my son was born I had set myself the objective of teaching him to be an independent person, to grow away from us eventually.

I watch his 'growing away' with some ambivalence. "It was so much easier when he was younger," I kept saying to husband. Those days are gone. While I treasure the memories of us mother and son together doing all sorts of silly things (cooking 'numbers curry', dancing madly to "Lovely Day", going for a 'shadow walk' around the block, etc)*, I don't particularly want to relive those moments.

I am pleased that he is growing up into a ... what?

Hopefully a well-adjusted, God-fearing, fully-functioning adult. Not asking for much there.

This past weekend was such a pleasant weekend. He was back on Friday for an 'exeat'. He gave me a hug when I came home. We went out for a meal and we had a lovely conversation. He hopes to get a summer job. 

Yesterday we had trouble ordering a pizza and he took over. (He does this a lot at boarding school, we learned.)

This morning he was up and showered in time to go to church. No arguing, although when we parked up he moaned, "O! We are 15 minutes early. Could have had an extra 15 minutes of sleep." (Husband who usually goes ahead to set up the AV rang to say there are temporary traffic lights on our route; start earlier. Which we did.)

I said to him just before he left how I had enjoyed his time at home. Not because he played Rachmaninoff on the piano as he thought, although to hear him play the piano is always a treat. I had enjoyed our discussions on philosophy, which he is thinking of reading at university. Together with Physics.

This was really special to me because I was a Philosophy major as well. After I was sacked by my son from bed-time reading when he was five, he occasionally said, "Mum, can we read Philosophy together?"

I had bought Philosophy for Kids (David White) and son enjoyed reading this with me because I could explain some unfamiliar concepts to him (but Dad could not). Hmmm. Maybe I had done something right after all.

Three months to go before he turns 16. Has he finally grown 'up and away'?

* Numbers curry: his Godmother gave him wooden blocks hand-carved into numbers 0 to 9. We used to put these in a pot, gave it a good stir and pick out a block from our numbers curry. We went, "Number five. Mmmm. Yummy." This was a play activity to help him recognize numbers.

We were given a free CD. Sometimes when I ran out of ideas while waiting for Dad to come home, we would play "Lovely day" (Bill Withers) because the last note went on forever, and we danced madly around the living room, repeating, "lovely day, lovely day, lovely lovely day". He used only to see Dad for a few minutes before he was put to bed.

Shadow walk: We noted which way our shadows fell and talked about how they change and why as we walked round a corner, or between lamp-posts (if we were out in the dark, as winter days are very short here).