Emily Was Never Being Boring

 

I’ve been in a Pet Shop Boys’s mood lately and with that came a flurry of thoughts I thought long forgotten. A kind of musical pensive so to speak. Now, because PSB are British and I started listening to them during my years in a British based school, I started to remember all things associated with my ‘Brit years’ so to speak which is really the Jeddah and the Uni years.

There I was happily remembering things from way past when cue in Being Boring. For some reason this really resonate with those wonderful 3 undergraduate years spent in that bastion of higher education in the North aka the University of Leeds. Then came that ubiquitous verse:

” all the people I was kissing, some are here and some are missing…
but I thought in spite of dreams you’d be sitting somewhere here with me…”

And immediately, without warning nor fanfare, Emily flashed into my mind…

In my third and final year, no longer wanting to share house with squabbling roommates – I’ve enough of the drama, but not really looking forward to live alone, I opt to move back to the comforts of the hall where the rent includes; food (not great but at least I don’t have to cook everyday), utilities (North of England is COLD for my tropical sensibilities) and laundry (it gets expensive and annoyingly boring to have to wait for one’s clothing lest it be stolen by those ruthless fellow students!). However, not wishing to live in the main building with rowdy, rambunctious freshers, I requested to live in the annex, a smaller 3 story building in the next street or road as it was small.

I caught a rather nasty cold just as the term about to start. Not wishing to fly when my sinuses are congested, I decided to wait and recuperate in the comfort of my parents’. Thus I was a couple of days late getting into the annex. After settling my stuff in my single room (blessedly I got the smallest one in the whole house. Great) I venture into the common lounge. I met Becky first, with her distinctive twang she said, “So you’re Sita! Your friends been looking for you! Hey Em, come here!”
Seconds later, a chocolate-brown eyes got into my view, smiled broadly and said, “Oh good, you’re here, now you can answer your door miss Popular!”

Apparently my friends been calling ever since the first day of term. Since we had to fix our final year lodging by the end of our second year, we pretty much know where everyone is going to live so no surprise that they knew where I live. Becky and Emily, while having the good fortune of getting the largest room in the house, it is also situated up front where, like it or not, they would hear every single coming and goings of the annex inhabitant, thus became the unofficial door person of the annex.

They thought I was popular, I quickly corrected, I’m merely a final year student hence the (not so rowdy) people at knocking at the door. Becky and Emily are quickly known as the Americans duo that lived in our hall. Like any good university, Leeds has exchange programs with universities around the world including Vanderbilt University. There’ll be a group of them and they’d be scattered among the various halls and student residences including the one I was in, Ellerslie Hall. Usually they would be paired with a Brit kid like Maura (the American) and Caroline (the English) and placed in the main hall. Becky and Emily are different in that they’re already BFF, shared a room, and lived in the annex.

The annex is basically a small house, so all the inhabitants pretty much see one another nearly everyday and got to know each other pretty quickly too. Since my room is the smallest and their’s the biggest, it wasn’t long before I start popping down there to chill out on their floor. We talked about nothing and everything. I’m curious about America and they would answer all my questions while I tried my best to answer theirs. I love to hear their accents, so different from the Brits. Their commentaries are amusing too; “I opened this magazine, lords and ladies start tumbling out of the pages!” was one that stuck to my head 😀

We talked, we laughed, we go out, I even helped Emily packed once. She had to go on this trip somewhere and was confused as to how to bring all the stuff she wanted to bring. With all my years of packing and unpacking I got curious and opened her suitcase. Well, no wonder. It was packed rather haphazardly. So I simply repacked it to fit everything in. Then, when summer rolled in, they decided to throw a traditional American BBQ. Or was it a picnic? I can’t remember. What they did was somehow they convinced the ruler or the annex to open the back door so we can have it in the yard. I have no idea how they managed to get a grill out. Or was it fried chicken only? It’s a while ago so details are kinda blurry. In any case, the American duo got a bucket of KFC, I made potato salad, and there were burgers, sodas, and rather stronger drinks later on. It was one of those blissful moment where everything is cool, everything is dandy, we’re all full and happy.

With summer came the end of the academic year. We had our teary goodbyes in front of the annex. The American duo returned home. I graduated, went back to my parents and potter about wondering what to do next. That wasn’t the last I saw of them actually. At some point the following year I got a chance to visit the States for the first time! And I got to see them again! This time in their home turf. So different from Leeds.

dinner_beck_em

Only Southern style cooking would do!

It is now Becky and Emily’s final year at school. They were freaking out about grades. I was freaking out about live in general. They rent an apartment off campus and I marvelled at how they simply drive everywhere. Back in Leeds I only know one or two people who brought a car. Most just use public transportation. I got to eat Southern food, visit Grand Ole Opry, and had a fabulous time with the gals. The next year I was enrolled in grad school in Boston and lost touch with all my American connection. Great. My fault really. I’m pretty bad at correspondence.

Fast forward to 2008, Facebook is now available to everyone so of course I started searching these long-lost friends. Becky! Hi! Where’s Emily?

Sadly Emily is no longer with us…

For someone I haven’t seen in years this news knocked me in the solar plexus. I can’t believe Emily is gone. So soon. I’m sad for Becky too. It’s terrible to lost a friend, a best one at that. Especially since they’ve sometimes talked about the future, how fun would it be to take walk in the park as mothers pushing their babies strollers, how they’d plan to live close to one another so their kids can be best friends too. It’s not like I plan to pack my bags and move to Nashville either, but somehow I fully expect to also see their kids via social media, to wish them happy birthdays from afar.

“And we were never holding back or worried that time would come to an end”

But time does come to an end…

I cried then. I cried again now.

I won’t ever see Emily again. Those chocolate-brown hair and beautiful smile… Guess I’ll never found out what happened to that guy who followed her around back in Leeds eh? Not that it mattered anymore.

Becky, I am glad to note, is happily busy with her beautiful family and friends. I love seeing her photos, following the renovation adventure and all the daily family stuff. Forward and onward!

Someday I hope I’ll have the chance to see them again. Until then, good night Emily and good day to you Becky.

beck_Em

The Beautiful American Duo

 

In Praise of the Fish and Chips

It has come to my attention, as one entered studenthood, they would most probably encounter a situation – unless they happened to be one of those obscenely rich ones – that in the middle of a bleak winter, with with nary a penny to one’s name, while there’s an upcoming exam or an extra important essay looming ahead, they must also face the fact that at that precise moment, they are also faced with an equally alarming threat. That of the rebellious rumbling tummy to boot!

Disaster! One simply can not think on an empty stomach! That is simply not done.

Now, of course you can say; well they ought to learn money management better and perhaps to cook as well so they will never be in that dire predicament. But I would wager, as for the rest of the student body, that they would be in similar situation. I mean, we’re talking about uni years here, fresh from mommy’s home, off to fend themselves for the first time, do you really think the majority of them would behave logically?

Well… maybe you would. But, it is safe to say, at some point any student would find themselves skint and hungry. What to do?

If, like me, you were in England, the answer is fairly obvious; beans on toast! What else? Frankly, I never got the taste of that I’m afraid. I did once on a sudden bout of nostalgia, took a piece of toast and slathered a healthy serving of beans. Two mouthfuls later I remembered why I only like the idea of it as opposed to the actual partaking of the meal.

So that’s not the solution for me. What then? Am I to withered away my youth until the next bundle of coins find their way to my reticule? Why, of course, the quintessentially British cuisine of Fish and Chips!

Joy!

I adore Fish and Chips. I do. I really do. Nothing quite like braving the gust of chilly winds up a block to our wonderful Chip shop in the corner. Entering the toastily warm shop, waiting for our orders to be wrapped up, nesting the package under our coats to warm our grumbling tummy while we trek back to the hall. Then, once safe in the common kitchen, it is time to tuck in. Oh heaven! Thank you for small mercies.

In all honesty, our Chippy shop is probably not the best in the England, nor Yorkshire, heck, or even the best in the city.  But, as it is the closest from our hovel (okay okay, our equally toasty hall) it is the best Fish and Chip shop in the entire city of Leeds. So there!

How about in other places? My Australian counterpart claimed that they rely extensively on a wonderful creation called; the meat pie. Cheap and filling, this delicacy has saved countless starving students from the brink of extinction during those cold cold winter nights. Practically each and every one of these former Ozzie got glazed eyed when they’re waxing lyrical about this baked goodies.

So of course when I finally got to visit Kangaroo Land I simply must taste this invention. And I did.

IMG_2870

This is it baybeh!

It’s…. interesting. Better than shepherd’s pie, more filling than ramen noodles, cheaper than beer, no wonder they fall in love with the humble meat pie. Perhaps had I gone there to school, I too would be a glazy eyed devotee. Since I didn’t, I pledge allegiance to the aforementioned dish. But since I know what it is like to hanker for something from our youth (yikes! I sound terribly old!), I got some to take back home for my friends. Got very positive reaction from most of them. Glad they do.

But you know what, they have Fish and Chips in Australia! They do! They really do!

Oh my, I am back in heaven!

Of course there are establishments here that can fry fish in a batter served with a portion of chips. But it come on a plate not wrapped up in paper and the ones in Oz does. Well, they are still part of Britain, I suppose that’s why it is so similar to the ones found over there. One bite and I’m in reverie reliving uni days. Of Ellerslie Hall, Hyde Park, Roger Stevens, Eddie Boyle, Parkinson Steps, Casa Latina, Sports Ball, the Dry Dock, the Old Bar and lest we forget the ubiquitous PolyBop! Woohoo!

Be it fish and chips or meat pie, a mighty big cheer to those wonderful creation that sustain and nourish us in our time of needs. The fact that it can turn us from (reasonably) sensible people into poets and lyricist upon a mere mention years after we left Uni… Such, is the power of food.

Now, if I can only find somewhere that serve a decent Yorkshire pudding, I’ll be one happy bunny.

Scrumptious. No?

Of Round Table Dinners

Enter students...

A friend was writing about bringing wine to a gathering and not sure why, but suddenly it reminds me of my uni days.

Back in ole Blighty, I used to share a pint cider until my friend moved up to lager and the other one took a fancy to Guinness. There I was at the Met, nursing half a pint of cider forever while my former ‘drinking buddy’ is on only he, the barman, and God knows how many pint of whatever.

and that's what a pint looks like...

Shortly after, another friend introduced me to Bailey’s. Sweet, smooth Bailey’s. Double shot with ice courtesy of the trusty Old Bar and their selection of after exam specials, desperately trying not to rehash the papers we just sat. We didn’t do too badly though my friend did better.

"I hereby declare I am of legal age..."

Then I moved to the States. There, they don’t do lager but this piss coloured, and probably tasted as well, liquid called beer. Smells foul. But being older students, my friends don’t do beer. They do wine! I can not tell the difference between a Merlot and a Chablis to save my life but I do hang around them enough to know that Rose is not just a type of flower.

I don’t know whether it is the libation of choice or the age but the wine set definitely mellower than the lager/Bailey set.

No wine by the looks of it. Is that why Rob looks unhappy?

Brandon would tuck into his steak and taste the reds appreciatively. Fred and Rob would be twirling their goblets while discussing the merit of various years they’ve tasted and bought and pour some more. Where was I? Usually nibbling on cheese, cracker, grapes (the actual fruit) with a glass of water. Or just happily eating my dinner while listening to dinner chatter.

The lager set were bouncy (as in bopping up and down the clubs) happy people. The wine set were chilled out happy people. I don’t miss the drinks but I sure miss the people. I miss them. I miss the camaraderie of hanging out, lounging after a good dinner talking about this and that and when the clock strikes 12, we turned into pumpkin and start talking about God and existentialism, sprouting all kinds of communication theories and ideologies. Hello there Marx, Stuttgart, Truffault, Chomsky, Weaver, the burning bed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for good measure.

Under the influence even cleaning up is fun!

Oh! How I miss those days.

Well, one of these days I’ll see them again. Sooner rather than later. I hope.