Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best Wrapped Up

Indeed, it has been a long sabbatical break since the last time I updated something here. Well, admittedly life has been busy and everything's been pretty much a whirlwind, I don't even know where to properly begin! Well, I guess first things first -- I'm in Singapore now till the 21st of this month before leaving for the States. I've been busy running errands ever since I got back; this time round I don't have a return flight back to Singapore and I don't know when will be the next time I'll ever be back.

Admittedly though, I really do miss life here -- the food, the people, the familiar faces, the familiar streets and basically just familiarity in general. Well, no time to harp on it, best to get out there and enjoy as much as I possibly can while I still can! So, picking up from where I last left off -- I was writing about the London Jazz Festival. Well, that does seem like a distant memory now, but still pretty unforgettable! Indeed, it was such an honor to be sharing the same stage as other established jazz bands like the Neil Cowley Trio and the Kit Downes Trio.

These people really epitomise what a young jazz talent is supposed to be -- Kit Downes is still a student at RAM! The amount of jazz talent in London is astounding, to be honest. And most, if not all of them, are young upstarts with a fiery passion for music and consummate skill to boot! I can confidently say that if you take a pebble and throw it towards the direction of the stage of any established jazz club in London, you'll probably hit an instrumentalist that is better than any locally-trained and bred jazz musician in the entire of Singapore. (Read: locally-trained and bred.)

Anyhow, getting to do one set with Tyler Rix and the rest of the trio was really enjoyable, and definitely a gig that I'll fondly recollect in years to come. In other more uplifting news, I've managed to find a piano teaching job in London. The pay's pretty decent, and I start next term. What would be nice though would be to land more gigs -- not even the regular sort, just one-off gigs here and there at the bigger clubs would be nice! Well, I'm sure most people will agree, London's not a place for opportunities to come your way -- you have to go out there and hunt like mad for your own slice of the pie.

In even better news, I was informed during my term-end tutorial on the last week of my term that I've been granted a year's advanced standing for my course (apparently due to stellar performance). Which is indeed very good news! That means I don't have to complete the remainder of my PGDip year that I've been originally doing, and from next term onwards I'll be following through with the MMus course itself. Which means my entire length of course is shortened by one year, from three to two. I guess the biggest implication now would be that I pay significantly less fees, which is what I'm most glad about!

The last week of my term, however, was not all smooth sailing -- I got struck with a chest infection (bronchitis, apparently) a few days before I was due to return back to Singapore. What started out as a running temperature turned out into a 39.5 deg Celsius fever and acute bronchitis within two days. By the second day I was so deliriously ill I checked myself into the A&E ward at University College Hospital. So there you have it, my first term in London and I've already benefited from their infamous NHS coverage. Which is simply great when you're a broke student desperate for some proper antibiotics! Thankfully the treatment and medication worked -- I was almost as good as new in two days and now I'm almost done with my course of antibiotics.

The last day of term was the Guildhall Festival, of which most of the folks in my postgrad course were involved. For the festival I performed with the (newly-formed) Guildhall Folk Ensemble, which was basically a very riotous, a very fun and a very energetic half-hour set. Admittedly, this term was my first proper encounter with folk music throughout my musical development and career, and I must say it has been most fun! Daphne came to watch as well, and she very kindly took some awesome photos of the show.

Paloma looking dazzlingly vibrant in red!

Tom on guitar and Aileen on double bass.

Eiko and the fiddlers having a ball!

Striking up the band.

And the next thing I knew, I was hopping on a plane the next day for my return flight from Heathrow! The most unfortunate thing happened to me on this flight -- as I got this flight after changing it from another date, I was given the 'lowest priority' in terms of seat choice. Which basically means I couldn't choose my seat at all. Which also basically meant that I was guaranteed a damn lousy seat, which in this case was a window seat. The horrors! And, to exacerbate things, the two old fellas who sat on my right seemed to have failed kidneys -- they almost never went to the toilets at all during the entire 13-hour flight!

I tried getting some sleep but all I could think was the impending bursting of my bladder. So in the end I stayed up and distracted myself with some inflight entertainment, in the form of these four movies: Hellboy II, Tropic Thunder, Meet Dave and the docu-film Where In The World Is Osama bin Laden. Tropic Thunder was such a hilarious film, and I actually caught myself laughing out loud a couple times on the plane! Robert Downey Jr. is spectacular with his role as Kirk Lazarus; apparently his role was created as a way of lampooning the great lengths that some method actors will go to depict a role. I'm sure those who've watched the movie will know what I'm talking about!

Once I landed it was then a mad rush to Raffles Town Club for a wedding gig! Yes, I really miss doing those so much I couldn't say no to Ginny when she offered me one just two days before I returned. Monday night was actually Ginny and Edmund's wedding, of which I had the pleasure to attend. It was so good seeing familiar faces again, such as Jon Lim, Kewei (and Ke-mei!), Ein Ein, Zheng Quan, Chanel, Alfredo and of course Ginny and Edmund themselves. Congratulations to the both you! Her wedding was nothing short of a musical extravaganza, where all her friends (including myself!) went up and took turns performing a couple numbers onstage for some enthralling all-night long musical entertainment!

After the wedding, Jo and I went over to Thumper to meet her friends Darelle and Dennis for some post-dinner beers. I actually do miss those pints of Heineken served in your standard Heineken pint glass! Strangely enough, they don't seem to have those in London. The next day was back to the airport for me -- but no, I wasn't going anywhere else! I went to pick Foi up who flew in from Switzerland and will be staying here for about a week or so. It's so good to have that girl around!!

We then wasted no time that night and headed out went for drinks; I also asked the boys out for some drunken debauchery at the sorely-missed Cuscaden Patio. Towards the end of the night it was a rowdy crowd of us consisting of Vannie, Junsheng, Albert, Dennis, Tony (and his new girlfriend Lisa!), Jo, Foi, and her friends Nicky and Citra. Now you see why I miss Singapore so much -- the familiar gang was really such a joy to hang out with! And of course, it's always so hard to deny $10 jugs of beer on those miserable Tuesday nights. After Cuscaden, we went over to Balestier where I finally had my first go at the dish that I've missed so much back in London -- bak kut teh! The feeling of having the soup envelope your taste buds is pretty indescribable, I must say.

So yes, apart from all those errands that I've been busy running, I've also tried to maximize time and meet up with friends as much as I can -- I really don't know when's the next time I'll be back! Yesterday I met up with Pin-Ji (she didn't wear her sunnies!) for a arthouse flick outing. She's really a definitive source for all your up do date arthouse movies! We went to Plaza Singapura (god, I missed that place too!) and watched this Taiwanese rom-com music-drama film titled Cape No. 7. It turned out to be a very heartwarming and insightful movie for me. I usually enjoy movies which are completely written out of the normal predictable context, and usually these scripts come with some sort of insight into a lifestyle or culture which is relatively unknown to most people. In this case, it showcased the livelihoods and lifestyles (albeit in a slight comedic way) of the Taiwanese aboriginal people.

Well, that's pretty much a warp-up of all the ongoings since my last post -- which does happen to be quite a bit! In the meantime, I shall return to my long list of to-dos that I've managed to compile. That's if I don't get distracted by my Xbox 360 -- I've just finished Gears of War 2 (in a short span of one day!) and now I'm back to Infinite Undiscovery. Yes, I finally bought the strategy guide for it! Ah, choices, choices...