kiri win

Mostly public

This journal is mostly public with some friends-only entries that will primarily be visible to my close real-life friends.

I'm currently in the process of importing my thousand-ish entries from my mammoth Diaryland journal which I have decided to abandon because it's not letting me archive my entries. Hopefully that would be done sooner rather than later.

Leave a comment if you want to be added.
Charah coffee

A Fortress for Two

There are some days--such as yesterday, and a brief moment this morning--when I find myself in a state of disbelief. For the past four months and 17 days, my days have seemed to drift away and come at me with an unbearable ferocity all at once: the repetitiveness of taking care of a baby lulls me into a sense of surrealism, whilst the demanding nature of what is now my full-time job leaves me exhausted, drained, such that it takes effort to even engage intellectually, let alone summon up the energy for self-reflection.

But there are moments--such as yesterday, such as this morning--when some light breaks through the dense fog of domesticity, and I am able to hover above the fog, look down at the fortress that I have constructed: a fortress of he and I, of nursing, sitting in the same spot for too long; a pair of unrecognisable breasts; sleep deprivation; diaper changes; and sweet, innocent smiles, his high-pitched peal of laughter, the warmth of my love for him smoothing over the exhaustion, frustration, boredom.

What do I see? I see my life on pause. I see a woman once hopelessly lost, now anchored, somewhat, to something--someone--more important than her frustrated, nebulous ambitions. But I see an unreality, too; or rather, the truth that I can't do only this for the rest of my life. An earnest attempt to meet other mothers, manifested in my downloading the app for just that and creating an account, went nowhere; I realised that, quite frankly, I'm simply not that interested. My new identity as a mother is merely a part of me: foisted upon me by accident, but which I embrace because it gives me a sense of purpose. Yet, it is not all that I am, and it cannot be all that I am. In my moments of clarity, sometimes tinged with resentment at the intellectual poverty of the last few months, I know that the pause button has to be lifted at some point.

This is a fortress, too. I have birthed him into existence; now I fear, as much as look forward to, the person whom he will become. I have been reading about sons who are violent, sons who murder: the River Valley High murder, Elliot Rodgers, a BBC article about young sons who physically abuse their mothers. I read about these stories and I feel the heartbreak that these mothers must feel; I imagine it happening to myself and my first response is regret. I think I would rather have a murdered child than a murderer for a child; at least I would be able to hold on to my memories of him.

And so it is a fortress because the world is a vicious place, and I wish he could retain this innocence forever, and I fear even the slightest misstep that would turn him against all that is good and moral. But he can't stay in here forever. One day, he will find his way out--and all I can do is to guide him, teach him and love him to the best of my ability.
Charah coffee

(no subject)

I forgot to write this in the previous entry.

One of the most beautiful moments of my life is in the morning, when I'm awaken from medium-sleep by the sound of my baby's cries, and, after I turn to him and his eyes meet mine, his face breaks into the sweetest, most open smile.

I wouldn't trade this for the world.
Charah coffee

My Traumatic Labour

During the pregnancy, I had often thought about what labour would be like. I’d wanted an unmedicated vaginal birth, and I braced myself—or tried to, for I realised that one could never adequately prepare for these things without first having experienced it—for the pain that everyone has warned me about. Just take the epidural, my OB/GYN cousin in Singapore had said. If you can relieve the pain, why wouldn’t you?

My logic was: if centuries of women had given birth without our modern-day pain relief, surely I can, too. My logic was also: if my mother had given birth to my brother and I without the epidural, why can’t I? Fairly or not (probably not), it’d become a goal to achieve, as if it’d been something that I had to prove to myself. Why? I don’t know. It’s a bit like the mindset that got me into running half-marathons: I just wanted to know that I can do it, for its own sake, nothing else.

So when I’d envisioned labour, I thought only about the pain of vaginal birth. But it was entirely abstract. Even the various warnings about how painful labour contractions are weren’t fully appreciated. How could they have been? Some things simply need to be experienced to be understood. And so, even after I was told that I’d need to be induced at either 37 or 39 weeks, I still held on to my goal of achieving (a telling word, isn’t it?) an unmedicated vaginal birth.

In hindsight, I think it’d been rendered impossible the second my bile acid level spiked to 96, and I had to be induced at 37 weeks. I’d known that my body wasn’t ready to give birth. I’d had the sense that Shrimpy wasn’t ready to be born. So perhaps the induction was always doomed to fail; but I can’t help but feel, after what had actually happened, that I wasn’t given the best shot at a successful induction. And so what actually happened was so far away from anything that I’d ever envisioned. What actually happened was something that I’d never thought possible. Even when I expected the worst whilst waiting for the hormones to work in the hospital, I didn’t expect to go through what I eventually went through.

So after the first round of the two doses of Prostin, I was examined by this cold and curt midwife at 2am or something ridiculous, and she said that I needed a second round of Prostin. Okay, great. After two more doses of it, I woke up on Thursday, 10 March, at 7am with extremely painful contractions. They were way more intense than anything I’d felt until then, and when I timed them, they were about a minute long and five minutes apart. A few hours later, at around 10am, I was examined again by another midwife (a really nice one this time), and she announced that I was 2cm dilated and therefore ready to have my waters broken. But alas, there was no space in the delivery unit, so I had to wait.

I proceeded to spend the rest of the day suffering painful contractions, not knowing when I would be going to the delivery unit, and thinking that I wasn’t going to survive it. I was in so much pain. The pain was unimaginable. No amount of warnings by people who have been there was enough to prepare me for how intense the pain was going to be. Like I said earlier, it’s something that needs to be experienced to be appreciated, to not be merely abstract. I can’t even describe the pain right now; I think my brain has blocked it out, forgotten it. I was told that we forget the pain of labour after giving birth—perhaps some evolutionary instinct to ensure the propagation of the human race? I don’t know. I suppose what I can say is that they felt like menstrual cramps on crack: the most intense menstrual cramps, but dialled up in intensity by like, 100%. And they kept coming in waves: one minute of intense pain every five minutes.

The worst part of it was not knowing when I could proceed to the next stage—that is, the waiting. It would become a recurring theme for the next 24 hours. I suppose I was lucky to be whisked off to the delivery unit at 5pm on the same day: a way better fate than one of the women next to me, who had to wait for more than 24 hours to go off to the delivery unit. And it got better for a while because E could finally be with me, and his presence was reassuring.

At some point, my waters were broken, and I had to mobilise for about two hours to get the process going. I was in pretty good spirits: I was on my feet, walking around the delivery room, talking normally to E between contractions. But it didn’t seem as though I was progressing much, as E was timing my contractions and they hadn’t gotten closer than maybe two or three minutes. Still, it seemed to be some progress, and we were both hopeful that I wouldn’t need to be put on the hormone drip.

At 9.15pm, the midwives—a senior one and a student midwife, who was probably the most helpful and caring person I’d encountered throughout my 10-day stay in the hospital—came back in. They assessed me. Said I was still only 2cm dilated. So popped in the cannula (had no idea this word existed until then), which was fucking disgusting; the senior midwife kindly wrapped it in a bandage as I didn’t want to look at it. I think the hormone drip was started; I can’t really remember right now. Because the next thing I knew, after a trip to the toilet, my poor contractions-wracked body had finally had enough. The next thing I knew, my temperature had spiked to 38 degrees.

Maybe it was inevitable. I’d spent the last four days sleep deprived, my body had been treated to irregular doses of unnatural hormones to force-start a labour process for which it was not remotely ready, and I’d spent the whole day in a lot of pain and perpetually dehydrated. I was exhausted, I was coming apart, I was crumbling. I can’t remember the sequence of events anymore, only fragments:
• Asked for the gas, just to be advised, very gently, that I was better off with the epidural;
• This was because I had to be 10cm dilated to give birth, and I was already not coping well with the pain at 2cm;
• They’d known that I would need the epidural when I’d asked for pain relief at some point, either before or after my waters were broken;
• Cried my eyes out when I heard that;
• I don’t think the hormone drip was even started;
• Temperature spiked, but can’t remember when in this sequence of events it happened.
I agreed to the epidural. I’d reached a stage where I couldn’t imagine the thought of withstanding those contractions for hours on end: eight, maybe ten, however long it would take to get me to 10cm. The pain was so bad that when the anaesthetist was suddenly called away to an emergency just as he’d inserted the needle in my spine, I begged him not to go. I’d been waiting for so long: so many hours, so many days, please just do this, please don’t go.

It was a very humiliating night, amongst other things.

But of course, he had to go. It was a baby, they told me. Well, what could I have said? I shut my mouth then, and just waited for his colleague to come and finish the job. After that was done, I was on the delivery chair, numb from the waist down. I could no longer feel the contractions, just a tinge every now and then. I thought perhaps we could get on with it…but then, a doctor came in to see me. I think they’d started giving me antibiotics at this point; I don’t remember. But Shrimpy’s heart rate had spiked because of my fever, so the doctor came and basically said that a c-section was in the baby’s best interest.

What could I have said except yes? It was about 1ish am. I signed a form, and I thought, Okay, it’s going to be over soon, perhaps in the next hour. Just an hour more and I would be able to hold Shrimpy in my arms.

I ended up waiting for the next four or five hours to get to the operating theatre because there were too many emergencies ahead of me. I spent four or five hours lying on the most uncomfortable chair ever, no longer suffering painful contractions, but suffering back pain because of the chair. And I was made to wait because Shrimpy’s heartbeat had normalised after a while (what a fighter he is) and there was no need to prioritise me. I’d even considered maybe labouring again and delivering vaginally…but another doctor came in and basically said that it would be hours, literally hours, before I had any chance of getting to 10cm because I was still only at 2cm at that point. So c-section it was then.

I slept for an hour or so. E slept too; I could hear him snoring. But it was uncomfortable, so I woke up at around 3 or 4am. Nothing was happening. I needed to know when something would happen. I kept asking when it would be my turn. All they could say was ‘any minute now’, which became two hours later. 6am. It was finally my turn at 6am. Before that, I burst into tears again at some point. The wait was killing me. The not-knowing was killing me. Erica, the student midwife, was very supportive, and she made it a bit better; but I was still in distress. I couldn’t get off the bed because I literally was unable to stand (or so I was told), I couldn’t find a comfortable position, I was exhausted, I just wanted it to be over.

At around 6.15am, it was finally my turn. I was wheeled to the operating theatre in the same chair, given an epidural top up which left me shivering like crazy, another anaesthetist took charge of the situation and told me what was going to happen…I had no time to even be scared. I had no energy to even feel any fear. I was lifted off the delivery bed and onto the operating table by like, six surgeons, I don’t really know. They put up a screen between my face and the rest of my body. I felt absolutely nothing when I was cut open, just some pressure around my stomach area as they pumped and pushed and did whatever was necessary to pull Shrimpy from my womb.

I cried when I heard him cry. But they didn’t hand him to me immediately; I think E got to hold him first. They got him cleaned up, weighed. I heard him crying the whole time. Then he was brought to me, already wearing a red hat on his little head. He was stark naked and they placed him next to my skin.

I am still amazed by how he’d stopped crying the second his skin made contact with mine. The anaesthetist—Dan was his name—commented, ‘Look at that. Isn’t that amazing?’

In the end, all that matters is that he is safe and healthy, and I am so thankful that what I experienced was the worst of it—that nothing worse had happened. Because I look at him now, sleeping in his beanbag, and I can’t believe that I’d carried him for nine months—that I’d nourished him, grown him, given life to him. How is it possible? His birthweight was 3.3kg: hefty for a baby born at 37 weeks (+5 days), heavier than some babies born full term.

But I can’t help but feel melancholic when I think about what I’d gone through. And I don’t feel as if I’d given birth to him because I didn’t get the chance to push him out. I feel a sense of loss, as irrational as that sounds, and maybe because of that, a part of me can’t believe that he’s real, or can’t accept it, or can’t really bond with him. I think, too, about the fact that I’m supposed to still be pregnant now, and that he wasn’t supposed to be due until two days later, and it makes me sad as well, as if I’ve cheated him of…something. Whatever it is. The chance to grow even more? But what does it really matter? As E said, if he’d been bigger, a vaginal birth would’ve been even more unlikely because of how slender I am.

Maybe. But we’ll never know, will we?

I proceeded to spend the next five days in the hospital. They were complete hell. I had to take care of a newborn baby, virtually by myself and without E, while recovering from a major surgery. Great stuff, isn’t it? Most of the midwives and nurses were helpful. Some were bitchy. The best—‘best’—was this British auntie type who had the audacity to question why I needed ibuprofen despite having paracetamol and dihydrocodeine when I asked her for it; this was after I’d been discharged from the maternity ward and was transferred to the babies ward because Shrimpy had to finish his antibiotics and some other issues. I told her that I’d gone through a c-section. I should’ve told her, too, to take it up with the doctors at Addenbrooke’s who were the ones who prescribed me precisely that medley of painkillers. Stupid bitch.

The hospital stay is another entry in itself. I am now officially tired of writing this, and need to check on the Shrimp. So that's it for now.
fuckyou

Hating the world tonight.

I just spoiled my evening by reading an article in the Guardian about some 800 cattle being ‘destroyed’ after they’ve been trapped on some shitty commercial ship for two months. And now I’m reeling, once again, from how utterly fucked up, barbaric and horrendous we are as a species.

First: destroyed? This word speaks volumes about how we view these sentient creatures: not as beings in themselves, but as things to be owned and ‘destroyed’.

Second: how are people still eating meat? It’s the 21st century. How are people—that is, people in developed modern societies with ample options and absolutely no necessity to eat meat—still blithely unaware and/or ignorant of the realities of where their food comes from? How are people still so absolutely dismissive and uncaring about the fact that farmed animals are sentient, have the capacity to feel pain, and have a subjective experience of themselves in the world? How do people not care that they’re not much different from us? I cannot understand the profound cognitive dissonance that people—perfectly decent and reasonable, if unenlightened because uncritical, people like most of my friends and family—are mired in. I really cannot.

Third: E and I had a discussion about raising Shrimpy as a vegan/vegetarian over the weekend. He’s nowhere near as committed to the morality as I am, and he’s also a scientist, so he had doubts about whether it wouldn’t harm Shrimpy in the long run. While I will not do anything that will harm my child, I absolutely do not want to raise a meat-eater. I would rather not have a child at all. Since I will be having this baby, I will do whatever it takes to make sure that he thrives on a plant-based diet. Whatever it takes.

Fourth: on nights like this, I cannot believe that I’m going to be bringing yet another human being into our fucked up world with its associated fucked up societal norms that so many perfectly decent but uncritical human beings do not question. Once again: how do people not care? How is it that only about 1% of the world’s population is vegan? What the hell is wrong with the rest of the 99%?
Charah coffee

34.

It feels appropriate to write an entry on my (34th) birthday even though I haven’t written in here for over a month. The good news is, the paucity of entries here is directly related to the near-daily writing that I have been doing. That is: I am (finally) writing a novel, a proper one this time, not the fanfiction crap I did two years ago. Having said that, there’s no good or immediate reason why writing a novel has to lead to my not writing here at all. Still: there hasn’t been that much to say, has there? It’s not like my life has been teeming with excitement, new opportunities. It’s still the same old shit; only difference being that I have Covid as a handy excuse for the complete non-event that my life has become.

In all honesty, my life has never felt as pointless and dull and empty as it does now. I have no career; as expected, getting the PhD lost its lustre the second it happened; and the realisation that I am 34, thirty-fucking-four, and have pretty much nothing to show for it, have done nothing of significance so far this year, is pretty damn depressing. Sure, I am playing the game, the academic game, but half-heartedly at best; and the paltry money I’ve made has only eased my finance-related worries somewhat. It has not made me happy. Finishing the novel might make me happy, but I’m certain that once it’s done - if it’s done – I will hate it and put off the revision until it becomes just another Word document in my hard drive. And I honestly don’t think it’s going to be any good anyway.

Clearly, I have not found the solution to my perpetual negativity. Sigh. I don’t know why I’m like this.

Here’s a tiny silver lining though: E and I are going to move into our own flat sometime around the end of the month. I can’t wait. It’s been trying camping out here in his flat, mostly because one of his housemates, this 20-something dude, is probably one of the most disgusting and dirtiest people I’ve ever had the misfortune of living with. He’s also rather socially awkward, and mumbles when he talks so I don’t understand what he’s saying half the time, so I’ve stopped trying to make conversation. I’ve even stopped saying hi when I see him due to the couple of times he’s said nothing in response when I tried to be polite. So why bother? Also, it’s already bad enough that he’s a carnist; but he buys these really crap, cheap meat and cooks them without seasoning and at a very high temperature, so the whole flat smells like burnt dead animal body part (which is fucking disgusting in and of itself) whenever he cooks meat. The smell even lingers until the next morning. And because he doesn’t wipe off the surfaces properly, the hob still smells like his cooking the next day when someone else (usually me) uses the hob. I really can’t wait until we move out.

This entry wasn’t supposed to be a complaining one about a person who will have absolutely no significance in my life very soon. But I don’t have time to get into the thing that has been troubling me for the past few weeks, and which provided the impetus for my novel, because I have to leave the flat in 20 minutes to meet John, who’s coming up from London just for my birthday. How nice. He’s forgiven for not remembering when exactly my birthday was, as Raffael revealed to me in our group chat.

Lastly: I am supposed to be in Singapore now. The plan was to return to Singapore in July. I am obviously not in Singapore. This Covid shit, the sin of ALL carnists, has fucked with my life so badly. Thanks to Covid, I didn’t vote in the General Election last Friday. I think my homesickness may reach a fever pitch that I would just risk catching Covid on a 12-hour flight and fly the hell home in December.

Have to go.
fuckyou

Angst

I had some white wine with E and his housemate last night while watching a film called Clemency. I don’t know if it was the wine, or the fact that I hadn’t been drinking very much at all; but two glasses of it caused my entire body to flush a bright red and some parts of it to itch. My desperately drinking copious amounts of water to stave off the physically painful effects of the alcohol (i.e. muscle aches in my legs) woke me up in the middle of the night. While floating in between deep sleep and no sleep, I tried to resist the pressure in my bladder because I knew that I would have immense trouble falling back asleep if I got up.

But it was irresistible. I got up, peed, and got back to bed. Then lay in the darkness, eyes wide open, mind filled with thoughts soggy with anxiety. Such as: it’s already May and I have done nothing to improve my CV. Such as: when was the last time I wrote? When was the last time I worked on any sort of writing? Such as: this freelancing shit is a waste of time, but what do I do for money if I don’t do this?

There’s also the perennial problem. The things that I feel like I ought to do are not certainly the things that I want to do. The things that I certainly want to do are not the things that I feel like I ought to do. And this seemingly unceasing conflict has produced inertia, a retardation, the opposite of drive; and so avoidance, stress, anxiety, confusion.

Four years later, post-PhD, a rightful claim to an ego-stroking title, and I still feel as if I am not good enough. I still feel dreadfully and thoroughly inadequate, like an abject failure, a pathetic and pitiful nobody.

I should take a break from the freelancing. But what do I do for money? Yet, if I keep doing this for the money, the things that I should do but am not doing keep me up at night. E said he can support me, but no. He can’t. Even if he could, I absolutely hate relying on someone else for basic things, let alone money. I already feel inadequate enough as it is; why exacerbate that? And yet, this isn’t sustainable, and it is meaningless. I don’t know what to do.

I wonder if I would be happier or less confused if…I don’t know, where do I start? Where should I start? If I hadn’t gone to law school? Am I really still harping on about that? If I hadn’t left the profession? Do I really think that I would have survived any longer than the time that I had given it? If I had been the type of lawyer that I had wanted to be? Do I seriously think that I have the emotional toughness and detachment to stomach endless disappointments? If I hadn’t done the PhD? But what would I have done? Do I really think that I would have abandoned the idea?

The conclusion is simple, isn’t it? My life has unfolded in the exact manner it was always going to. But then again, this isn’t accurate; this is question-begging. It assumes that I wouldn’t have chosen anything other than law school. So yes, I guess I am still harping on this. I am still naming it as the cause of my constant dissatisfaction, unhappiness, lack of fulfilment. How would my life have turned out differently if I had chosen differently? It is a fantasy to suppose that I would be writing if I had chosen differently. Because here’s the thing: what has the choice to write, or not to write, got anything to do with the decision as to what subject to study at university?

I need to stop faulting myself for the choice that I made. Not only is it useless, but it is also a cowardice: it allows me to shirk responsibility for my present failures by blaming it all on my past failure. But it’s past; it’s done; and I’m here now, with three fucking law degrees, and it doesn’t matter at all that perhaps I’d never really wanted them, or needed them. They are mine, and so is this shell, this void, this constant failure to be the person that I want to be.

Maybe things would change once I start seriously taking ownership for the things that are within my control, and letting go of the things that are not. One can always hope.
Charah coffee

Cold Weather is Running Weather

Now that we’re stuck indoors with nowhere to go, the sunny weather that we’d been having for the past week or so had begun to feel like a personal affront. As in: what right did the weather have to finally be pleasant when we can’t go out to enjoy it, such as on a tennis court? So I was really happy when the weather reverted to its default self: cloudy, cold and rainy. It’s comforting to be indoors when it’s raining outside; it’s soothing, for some reason. I don’t know what it is.

More importantly, the relatively warm (relative to Singapore, that is) weather had been messing with my running. I hadn’t felt like running because I don’t like the heat, and because I’ve been having some problems with my skin after I started using the Body Shop’s Drops of Youth range of facial products, I didn’t feel like going out to run under the sun. I didn’t want to put sunblock because it would clog my pores further and presumably irritate my skin even more, and obviously I didn’t want to be running under the sun for 30 minutes without any sunblock. So the sunny weather had not been good for my running.

Today, though, after I was finally done with another freelancing thing, I went out for a run at around 4pm. The rain was slightly heavier than a light drizzle, but not heavy enough to deter me from exploiting what was pretty much perfect running condition, save for the rain. As I hadn’t been running more than 7km max since the 21.1km I did earlier this month, I thought it was high time for a longish run.

Well, I ran only 10km. But I managed to set a new personal record: 52 minutes and 22 seconds. I was, however, shocked to discover that Garmin informed me that my training effect for this run was a measly 1.8 on a scale of 1 to 5; and an 1.8 training effect had only ‘minor benefit’ for my fitness. While I was not completely gassed or anywhere close to that during the run, it wasn’t a walk in the park either as the 1.8 score suggests. In fact, I cannot understand how my maximum heart rate did not go over 156bpm for the entire 10km because I was definitely pushing myself at the last 2km when I was trying to beat my previous PB of 53minutes something. My conclusion is that there is something wrong with my Garmin’s heart rate monitor because this run wasn’t as easy as the stats suggest.

I guess the good news is that I can be even better than this. But the cold weather definitely played huge role in this. I would take having frozen hands and actually be able to breathe over non-frozen hands and feeling like my lungs are about to collapse any time, any day.

*

In other news, my freelancing work has been…interesting. On second thought, I don’t really want to talk about it. The key thing is that it is taking up a lot of my time; that is, diverting my time from things that I ought to be working on, like publications, my book proposal, all these things. I feel a lot of pressure – from where, I don’t know; probably myself – to pretty much get another, better CV; and I’m not doing anything about it. It’s hard to believe that April is almost over and I still don’t have a second publication, let alone a draft book proposal. I really suck at this life shit. Sometimes I wonder why I did the damn PhD, for it’s not like anyone gives a shit, and sometimes I include myself in that camp.

Needless to say, I have not been writing. Ugh, this is all so annoying.

*

I’m still slowly but surely reading Bleak House. What I really want to read right now is Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth. It’s basically vegan story, written by a vegan writer, so obviously I must read it. Waterstones has just shipped it; the prospect of having it any day now is lighting a fire under me to finish, just finish, Bleak House. Alas, I am only at page 538 of 989…
Charah coffee

(no subject)

I have spent the last two weeks, including weekends and evenings, working practically non-stop on my freelancing work. Today was the first day I finally had a bit of a breather, though I have deadlines coming up again soon. The plan was to make substantial progress on my other freelance job which I find dreadfully boring and thus cannot motivate myself to do; further, it doesn’t have a deadline, which doesn’t help at all as I work best when I have deadlines. Anyway, the plan was also to revise an article based on a chapter of my PhD that I want to publish, in view of comments by Raff and John.

Alas, I ended up spending about two hours this afternoon baking my first cake ever, an incredibly sweet chocolate cake that is, of course, 100% vegan. These two hours include the washing up which was just…I mean, I’m someone who quite enjoys doing dishes because it can be quite relaxing, but washing up after lunch, then after putting the cake in the oven, then after removing the cake from the tins—all of that was a bit much, to say the least.

I tolerate cooking, sometimes enjoy it, but mostly cook because I want to eat the foods that I like. Baking, however, has always seemed very complicated and not worth the effort. That’s why I’d never attempted anything more complicated than a banana bread or some crappy brownies with banana as the main ingredient. But the lockdown has denied me the freedom to go into a shop and order a slice of chocolate cake when I want to, and I’d been craving chocolate cake for a while now. As such, I was compelled by circumstances and my avarice to attempt baking a two-layer cake, with frosting, for the first time ever.

Thankfully, it turned out not disgusting, even rather nice, albeit too sweet; otherwise, I would have been really angry to have wasted all that effort and, more importantly, time. I was a bit worried at first when I removed the cakes from the tin and one had broken into discrete chunks. I also almost made the mistake of using the broken piece as the bottom layer, as I’m not sure it would’ve been very stable. In the end, I used the piece that was intact as the bottom one, and placed the broken one on top like a jigsaw puzzle.

But oh my god, the amount of sugar that went into this. I didn’t reduce the sugar because I’d never done this sort of cake before so I wasn’t confident of it turning out okay if I mucked with the recipe. Knowing exactly what is in there, though, especially the goddamn icing, is having the very annoying effect of making me not want to eat it…when, obviously, the whole point of spending all that time making this cake was to bloody eat it. Thankfully, one of E’s flatmates likes it quite a bit. He had a slice after dinner, then came back into the kitchen and asked for another. That was quite cute. As I’d known he would, E said it was nice but too sweet. I told him that I found it too sweet, and since I have way more of a sweet tooth than he does, he’d get diabetes from it.

Another thing: baking isn’t as easy as cooking. I had to sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. I couldn’t find the baking soda so I didn’t add it, and added baking powder despite using self-raising flour. I also didn’t know what the point of sifting was; no matter how I sifted and how I crumbed the hard bits left of the sieve, there continued to be hard bits. In the end, I was fed up of sifting and threw the rest of the mixture away, including quite a bit of sugar. That part really annoyed me. Actually, that was the only part where I was completely clueless. Measuring the ingredients is annoying too, but that’s because I don’t have a method for it. My point remains though: baking is harder than cooking. That said, now that I’ve baked a pretty good chocolate cake, I wonder if I’d be willing to spend a few pounds on just a slice of chocolate cake when this lockdown ends and life goes back to normal.

*

On another note, I’ve been having skin problems ever since I switched my skincare from Shiseido to the Body Shop for ethical reasons. There’s something about the latter’s Drop of Youth range that’s caused spots to break out continuously on my forehead and red patches to appear on my cheeks. This is really distressing as I haven’t had skin problems since the obligatory adolescent acne. The obvious solution is to go back to Shiseido, but I don’t want to fund companies that are not certified cruelty-free, so I’ve been looking for cruelty-free, preferably vegan, Asian skincare companies. I found a few Korean ones and almost dropped 100 pounds on six products from Klairs, but was shamed by E into not doing the smart thing and asking for samples first. In the end, despite asking for samples, I didn’t have the patience to wait for a response, and bought some products anyway, albeit not entirely the ones that I wanted (two of them went out of stock). In any case, my request for a sample was denied, as expected.

This isn’t very interesting, is it? I thought I might write a deeper, more reflective entry, but having just re-written the introduction of my article, I wasn’t in the mood for anything serious. But I do need to seriously say that I am absolutely slogging through Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. It’s slowing down the amazing speed at which I was reading books up until now because 1) it’s over 900 pages long and 2) it is so meandering and full of random characters and scenes that make you go what the fuck is the point of this? As Dickens is one of the few writers from before the 20th century whom I enjoy (or enjoyed?), and since this is a book about the law, I wanted to like it. I still do. But the truth is, I can’t keep track of the ten million characters in this book, and it’s frustrating when new characters are introduced 300 pages into the book because you don’t know why they’re there, and it’s hard to keep reading when you’ve already guessed the obvious plot twists 200 pages in and the conflict isn’t very clearly stated. Obviously, I should try to read it for its other merits, like Dickens’ satirical eye for the ridiculous things that society does, such as its class divisions, its laborious legal processes, etc. And I do enjoy the satirical bits, insofar as I understand them. There are also a few passages of literary genius in terms of the prose style, so there’s that.

But there’s also his famed sentimentality towards the working class. (When I said this to Ivan, he said, ‘That’s such a middle class thing to say.’ But he hasn’t read Dickens so…) There’s also the black and white nature of his characters: either good or bad, no nuance whatsoever. There’s also these long, random scenes, these conversations between characters, some of whom I barely remember, others whom he introduces 300 pages later like I’ve said. There’s also the question of why I ought to care about any of these people when it’s still unclear, after 300 pages, what’s going on with them, and what the story even is. Of course, I have a vague idea of all that, but this book is really way too long.

Okay, E is back from watching some crappy 80s B-movie called The Fly with his other housemate, so I’m just gonna post this now.
Charah coffee

(no subject)

I spent about 45 minutes this evening writing my first entry in a while in Notepad, just to lose everything save for the last bit which I took a picture of, when I pressed ctrl+s by accident and the programme froze. The reason I write my blog entries in Notepad is because the LJ text editor crashed one too many times in the past, and I liked the simplicity of Notepad. If my memory serves, this was the first time it’d crashed on me, and it had to be my first blog entry in a while. So that kind of sucks, and I’m writing this on MS Word now. I’m going to try to rewrite what I wrote, but it’s common knowledge that rewriting, trying to recreate something, is more painful than the original process. As such, this entry is probably going to suck. But I’ll try to make it less painful by trying to avoid consciously rewriting as such, but writing a new entry on the same subject.

This subject is the virtual half-marathon that I ran yesterday. I was supposed to run my second half-marathon in March, at the London Landmarks Half Marathon, which would have taken place on 29 March but for Covid-19. The organisers called off the event (without quite cancelling it) and in its place, called for people to run a virtual half. That is, run 21.1km anywhere you want (around your local landmarks, they said, since we’re in lockdown) and at anytime before sometime in May; I forget the exact date. I’d wanted to do it sometime last week but I was too swamped with work, so I put it off. Or maybe I used work as an excuse to put it off. Whatever it is, I’d been putting it off…until two factors finally pushed me off my ass, out of the door, and dragged me to my usual starting point on my casual runs and forced me to do it.

First, the weather. I did not bring any of my running shorts to Cambridge, as I couldn’t be bothered digging them up from wherever I’d packed them when I went back to London to pack things to lockdown in Cambridge. As the weather has been taking a turn for the better and hotter, it had been quite a challenge running under the sun in my running tights. Sometime last week, I checked the weather forecast for this week…and was alarmed to see that BBC Weather had forecast sunny days with 20+ degrees every day this week—except Monday. When I checked, Monday was forecast to be slightly drizzly, but more importantly, cloudy and without sun, the normal amount of wind, and 10ish degrees. In other words, almost perfect running weather.

Second, there were reports over the weekend about a possible ban on outdoor exercise due to the absolute fucktards who are a combination of illiterate, deaf, stupid, selfish, and pure assholes who have taken the liberty to sunbathe in public parks over the sunny weekend, and basically demonstrating their lack of comprehension skills and basic humanity. As it was too uncertain whether we’d still get to go outside for exercise this week, I decided, fuck it, I’ll bite the bullet and do the damn run on Monday.

Before the race report, as it were, I would like to preface it with some relevant information, which probably acts subconsciously as a shitty excuse for my disappointing performance, but whatever. The longest run that I’d done since the Cambridge half was a 10km run—that is, a grand total of one 10km run. I’d done a few random 5, 6 and 7km runs here and there, but nothing serious at all: no interval training, no long runs, no recovery runs, just random runs at a pace that aimed to achieve nothing. Granted, I did clock my personal best 10km of 53min and something seconds; but that required some effort. I’m still waiting for the day when I can run a longish distance at an average pace of, oh, 5 minutes and 25-30 seconds effortlessly.

The point is, I didn’t train seriously at all and was hoping that the training I did for Cambridge had not completely disappeared. Still, despite my low expectations, I nevertheless seemed to have expected some sort of miracle, or magic, from this unremarkably average body and fitness, because when I finished the 21.1km in 1:57:31 (Garmin) or 1:57:48 (Nike Run Club), I was disappointed.

Why disappointed? The real question is, why be surprised at the disappointment? I have always been hard on myself for no reason whatsoever. The quickest way to diminish the value of a thing in my eyes is to achieve it. Once I have the coveted thing that was x, x ceases to have any value; x becomes attainable, easy, worthless. It was true for the PhD, for anything that I’d ever done in my life. I wonder if it’ll ever stop being the case.

In all honesty, I should be happy to have finished it in the time that I did because it was a real slog. Don’t get me wrong: the first 45 minutes were great. It was cloudy, there was no sun, it was cooling, and because of the grey skies, the guided bus way (on which I ran up and down for most of the 21.1km) was mostly empty. But then the sun came out, and along with it, random people emerged from the woodwork, presumably to take advantage of the sun. Fuck the sun, I say. Fuck the sun because it made my tights cling to my legs, my long-sleeved running top stick to my arms. It was hot. It wasn’t boiling, but it was hot enough that, at around 15km, I started to lose motivation; I started thinking, why the fuck am I doing this? Why not just stop now and end this torture?

I also thought, No bloody way in hell I’m going to do this again, so just finish it and get it over with.

But boy. What a struggle it was, the last 3km. Although I put a bottle of water under E’s car, I made the probably dumb decision of not running to his car for a drink because I didn’t want to disrupt my rhythm. So I ran 21.1km without any water whatsoever, and under the sun—partly filtered at times, but at other times, unfiltered and with no shade whatsoever for 2 or 3km at a stretch—in long sleeves and long tights for almost two hours. Was this why I struggled so hard during the last 3km? Was this why the last 1km felt like, and probably was, one of the longest and most gruelling kilometre I’d ever run? Now I finally understand why some people don’t dash the final few hundred metres of a race with everything they’ve got—because it takes everything they’ve got to keep running, no matter how slowly.

I really should be proud that I wasn’t slower than 1:57:xx. Still, I’m quite bummed that, for the first time in six half-marathons, I didn’t improve on the previous timing. Maybe I’ll try this again; maybe I’ll the effort to run longer distances. It’ll require me getting out of bed at least an hour earlier though because I’m doing these law essays (don’t feel like going into details) and they take up so much time. It’s also because of these essays and how I felt like I was on the verge of a burn out this evening that I took time for myself and wrote the entry that I went on to lose.

Well, this entry hasn’t turned out as excruciating and gross as I’d expected it to be. The truth is, I really miss writing. I obviously haven’t been writing in here, and I haven’t been writing any fiction at all. I joined a writing challenge for April and I did manage to write one short story thing. It sucked, but it reminded me, yet again, of why writing is a need. So why don’t I do it? Why am I such a loser? When will I stop being such a loser?

I thought I might type out the part of the lost entry that I managed to take a picture of, but I’m too lazy, so I’m just going to post the picture.





I will try to write more often, even if it’s to write about inconsequential things. Writing is truly the only thing that keeps me sane. The only problem is, I spend way too much time sitting at this random desk that E’s landlords left in his room and which he’d stored outside in his balcony for the past few years, such that I suffered a cramp in my neck for a few days last week. Now I’m starting to feel some pain in my lower back. Even though I actually have home exercise equipment and have access to Les Mills on Demand, working out as regularly as I did when I was going for gym classes is REALLY BLOODY CHALLENGING, mostly because I’m lazy.

I’ll go for a run tomorrow. I’ll try to get up earlier. But I say that every single day and it just doesn’t happen. Perhaps some things just aren’t meant to be.