Bridget Jones’s Baby – movie review

It’s been 15 years since the first Bridget Jones movie and twelve years since the second. So it’s no wonder that my companion and me can’t recall why Bridget didn’t end up with Mr Darcy (Colin Firth), whom she met at the funeral of Daniel Cleaver (Huge Grant).

At her 43rd (we thought she looks really wrinkled at 43!) birthday, against her better judgement as always, she goes to a music carnival, gets drunk and sleeps with McDreamy (Patrick Demsey), here known as Jack, multimillionaire of online dating website. A week later, she meets Darcy again at a christening, discovers that he is soon going to be single and sleeps with him. (Reminds me of what our Minister Grace Fu says the difference between Singapore society and the Western one.)

Three months later, she is pregnant but who is dad? The funniest scene must be how her colleagues try to extract a sample of DNA and family history from this American stranger she slept with, questioning him why is he still single if he owns a dating website – perfectly valid to me.

I would have been swept off my feet by Jack, who comes to her apartment, bearing dinner, bouquet and a soft toy in what he describes as their perfect dates – dinner at a nice restaurant, bouquet for their first quarrel, and a soft toy he would win for her from the carnival they visit. As she describes, Darcy is stiff, unromantic, and always not available as he is a barrister, complete with a robe and a wig.

We agree that this is the more enjoyable movies of the three. We enjoyed the British humour – Jones and her verbal incontinence, how the gynae (Emma Thompson) describes as her a geriatric mother; and if she wants to be a whore, at least she can compensate by using environmentally green condoms.

So who does she ends up with? No surprises there even as the men competes for her affection even as they aren’t sure who exactly the father is. What I would have like to see is he marrying her despite he being not the father. Now that would really be true love.


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I don’t know how other woman writers do it,  juggling a full time job with writing.  My mentor said she used to write into the early mornings,  after all her family members have retired to bed. Thus she has developed the night owl habit of night writing, as opposed to me writing in the day. 

Just a few days ago,  she sent me a text,  telling me about the blurp she wrote for another fellow mentee’s new book –  a short story collection,  and ended the text with the hope to write one for my future book,  and how I had a good story which needed more work. 

I felt touched, encouraged, depressed, envious and helpless upon receiving her text – that gentle nudge I needed  to not neglect my dream. Depressed because I am not pursuing my dream,  helpless because I can’t seemed to make myself sit in front of the PC at night after 9 hours of doing the same at work, what with the mountain of laundry competing for my time, not to mention much needed exercise and sleep. Also, I can’t do creative writing in demand when my mind is a whirl of activities. 

But I am fortunate,  for the encouraging nudge not only comes from my dear mentor,  but also from news that NLB will my publishing my short story in an anthology Feast!, launching this Saturday, and a random poetry will be published in a collection next January by Book Council. These were results of writing classes early this year. 

Today,  my online writing class starts. Just thinking of it makes my heart skip a beat, wondering when I am going to schedule it and how I will manage.  But it’s a push I need to rev my writing. 

I am also seriously considering doing a master in creative writing overseas, perhaps in Ireland.  Such plan gives me the lift I need to meet the demands in my current life. 

2016 is ending and I look forward to a more creative 2017. The future is not so daunting after all.

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The Vegetarian  by Han Kang

I view my relationship with books like my relationship with people I just met. Sometimes it feels like fate played a part in it. A book which I never would have thought of reading somehow landed in my hands,  much like some people who randomly appear in my life and made an impact. 

I was having lunch with a neighbor, something I have never done before in my years of living in this estate. We had just gone bird watching together – something new too – and she started asking what my hobbies are.  When I said reading (a safe way to continue the conversation into books), she immediately recommended this book and promptly passed to me as soon as we arrived home. 

I read about this book after it won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, a first win for a translated book.  

The Vegetarian is told from the perspectives of three persons related to Yeong-Hye, who had a dream and decided to become a vegetarian,  much to the chagrin of her husband and her parents. 

The first part, narrated by her husband, Mr Cheong in first person, hints at a woman whose behavior is so bizarre he is at a loss. She goes around braless in public and refuses meat in his company’s dinner.   At a family dinner hosted by her sister, her father tries to force a piece of meat into her mouth, which ends up tragically when Yeong Hye cuts her wrist with a knife. He realizes he doesn’t know this woman he marries at all. 

In the second part narrated by Yeong Hye’s brother in law, an art videographer who lives off his wife. He has a vision of a naked couple painted in flowers having sex but never could put it into his work,  until he heard about a Mongolian mark on Yeong Hye’s buttock and the vision comes alive. It is easy convince Yeong Hye and colleague J to let him paint their bodies but J refuses to take part in the sex act. So he paints himself and video their  flower-covered bodies coupling. They are discovered the next morning by his wife In Hye who reports them to the asylum. 

The final part, narrated in present tense by In Hye,  tells of her divorce and how Yeong Hye is dying of starvation in a mental hospital. There is almost a sense of envy at how her younger sister leaves behind reality to live her life as a tree,  not eating and wasting away,  while she struggles as a single mother to her young son while running a cosmetic retail business. 

As a Korean drama fan reading this book,  it’s easy to imagine the scenes as they unfold, much like watching a Korean movie – with the abusive father,  the dead marriages and finally the strong woman holding the fort, complete with kimchi and side dishes. 

It’s a ride of a book,  where the destination is uncertain.  The Vegetarian in the end,  tells of how family members cope with patients suffering from mental illness, either by running away,  taking advantage of them,  or caring for them in resignation and helplessness, never  knowing if they will ever recover. 

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Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.)


Mangroves in Lankawi

The first time I paid attention to mangroves was after the 2004 tsunami, when it was reported that the clearing of mangroves into touristy beaches in Phuket and Krabi had resulted in the disaster being more catastrophic, because the mangroves could have prevented the tsunami from entering so far inland.

Since then, I have made it a point to go for mangrove tours, in Sabah as well as in Langkawi, among other places. The tours were rewarding and therapeutic, breezing in the wind in a small boat and meandering through rivers in search of wildlife.

I didn’t know there were mangroves in Singapore, since most of our swamps have been turned into industrial areas. As early as late 1960s(!), large mangrove areas in Ubin were cleared and turned into aqua-eco ponds for prawn farming. Such farming were not sustainable with the use of artificial feeds and antibotics, resulting in unhealthy water and thus poor yield. The areas were thus abandoned. A ground up initiative involving passionate volunteers, off-shore fish farm owners and the Geography department of NUS have come together to try to restore mangroves to these areas, so as to increase the biodiversity in these water, provide fishes with baby nursery, control erosion and store carbon.(Info courtesy of RUM).

I was fortunate to be invited to a private tour to learn what R.U.M does, and to learn about mangroves. There are more than two thousands species of mangroves, and a mixed community are usually found at different gradients along the banks. Mangroves are like humans, with the mother plant bearing offspring called propagules- baby plants, which drop off and grow immediately into a new plant, without the need for fruits or seeds.

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Thus, restoring mangroves does not involve any planting, but it does involve much initial preparation of the site by cleaning up (too much of coastal garbage), site survey to know how much tidal water mangroves like and the appropriate elevation. When site conditions are favourable, regeneration occurs naturally,

Working through bureaucratic Singapore is difficult as we are well aware. There is the NEA, SLA, AVA and Nparks to deal with, all of which have different ideas on what kind of Ubin they want. As we walked along the island through on-going construction last Sunday, I heard many grouses – on the use of gleaming stainless steel on staircase, an eye-sore indeed in a rustic environment; the differing agendas between government agencies; the needless effort to spruce Ubin into another touristy, artificial park. I feel both sympathy and admiration for the group’s passion and enthusiasm. We definitely need more such groups to take ownership of our country and they deserve our support.

If you are interested to learn more, volunteer or take part in their monthly walks, do visit:

or like them on Facebook:



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Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan


Meng, as he is affectionately called, is an ambassador for the VWO I work for and recently was in Singapore to give a talk on the same title, which unfortunately I couldn’t attend as I was outside working during the seminar. So the next best thing is to read the book.

I didn’t read his first book, Search Inside Yourself, written while he was working at Google. So I am new to his writing, which is witty and has many self-deprecating  jokes to balance out the many name-droppings in the book,  including Dalai Lama, which also in a way lend credibility to the book . I actually laughed out loud during a bus journey that the passenger in front turned around.

How to you get joy on demand? The only way is mind training through meditation. He lists the many benefits of mind training, and there are many – success, attractiveness, resilience just to name a few. And it’s easy to start, with just one breath. And with that, you slowly incline your mind towards joy.

Meditation aside, one must also develop compassion and loving kindness. For that brings joy. Just meditating about loving kindness towards another brings joy to oneself. He describes: loving kindness is the wish for self or others to be happy, and compassion is the wish for self or others to be free from suffering. 

The difference…a strong feeling of compassion will motivate you to do something. So having compassion and doing good bring joy too.

After convincing you that it’s easy to feel joy, even if fleeting, and showing you how, Meng goes on to describe how you can work with emotional pain. One statement which resonates with me because I have read basic psychology and know is that our brains have a strong negative bias (among many other biases). They perceive things that affect us negatively much more strongly than things that affect us positively. (So be aware and don’t fool yourself and make yourself feel worse than is actually.)

It’s like what Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk whose name has appeared a few times in the book had reiterated, don’t focus on the two bad bricks on a wall of perfect bricks. (Which incidentally is the title of a book – Two Bad Bricks by Ajahn Brahm.)

With every chapter in this book, there is a grey box to revise what Meng has taught, which allows you to put down the book and do the actual practice. The book is an easy read, filled with caricatures by fellow Singaporean Collin Goh. An easy read it may be, but practice may be hard.

As my sister, who is dealing with a difficult teenager, describes : I breathe and breathe until I am to the point of bursting. She has my sympathy and I hope she continues in her practice.


With Chade-Meng Tan at Joy On Demand Seminar



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Bittersweet – Japanese movie review 

This movie was shown as part of the Japanese Film Festival at the Singapore National Museum. 

It was laugh out loud  throughout with witty dialogues and a pair of very good looking leads. 

Mika works in advertising. She just broke up with her boyfriend,  her lease is up and dejected,  she gets drunk and is sent home by a very attractive Nagisa. He cooks her a delicious breakfast and she tries to seduce him,  only to discover that he is a vegetarian gay who lives in a shack. She blackmails him into letting her move in by threatening to expose him to the prestigious boys’ high school he works in. 

He cooks for her,  packs her bento lunch but she fails in making him fall for her. She learns of his deceased brother and he discovers that her father owns an organic vegetables farm whom he is fan of, but she still harbours anger towards her father and has refused to eat vegetables until Nagisa. 

There are some iconic lines. She gets a major project advertising for bittergourd and he makes her bittergourd pudding to show how she should “cooked in her bitterness and get nourished from it“. (Hence the title Bittersweet.) 

He persuades her to visit her parents just so he gets  to visit the farm.  Before he leaves,  her father pleads with him to marry Maki,  to which he replies with a straight face with a statement like, “I am into men,  and more into you than your daughter! ”

Throughout,  there are hints that maybe,  just maybe he will change his sexuality,  especially since his foster elder brother who had introduced him to men has decided to get married to a woman. At times,  you think perhaps he is falling for her too.  

But not a chance. 

I left the cinema,  wondering if this is the ending I had wanted. 

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Birding #2 @ Sungei Buloh

I have been to Sungei Buloh, a wetland reserve a few times but the experience is different going with a birding group. Upon entering the car park, we went in search for the owl who used to lived near the bird nest ferns on one giant rain tree. He was not at home.

As we entered the compound, we spotted a few giant lens directed onto a few trees on one end of the bridge. Nothing was happening there to my untrained eyes. Instead at the opposite side, two huge monitor lizards were swimming and busking on the floating platform, causing some loud excitement among PRC visitors. Monitor lizards actually swim free style, one arm lifting followed by the next. They are rather cute to watch.


My birdie group told me the photographers with the giant lens were waiting to shoot crimson sunbirds, because the trees were flowering- small yellow green clusters – which sunbirds love.

We entered to the next bridge, spanning across a river mouth. Far ahead we saw a white stork perched still on the banks.  Across the other side, a water hen was busy foraging.


We ventured into the park and was disappointed to find the wetland flooded. I was told this is to regulate the nutrients for the birds. Alternating the flooding in the various parts of the wetlands regulates food supply for migratory birds.

We walked in further. In the distant, thunder growled and the sky got darker. We were determined to see Hide 5, where it should be dry. It was but other than a few storks, there were no sight of other migratory birds.


What we noticed, other than the absence of birds, were the absence of mosquitoes. “Perhaps they fogged the place because of Zika?”


We debated but it was true. No mosquitoes, no insects, thus no birds.

As the thunder rumbled on, we decided we should leave. As we approached the bridge again, I saw the storks circulating in the sky.

“Birds in flight!” I told the birders, feeling pleased with my new found birdie lingo.


Then H with her hawk-eyes spotted a crocodile, still and camouflaged. It took me a long time to locate it while she patiently explained the location.


What I couldn’t spot were the pair of hornbills despite their repeated attempts to point out the location. I make a poor birder.


Luckily my husband with the camera was quick enough to capture the bird in flight.

With that, we quickly made our way towards the exit, not wanting to be caught up in the approaching storm, which never came.

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