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Eels, Heels and Liquid Meals


Our week away in London for Anna’s cousin’s wedding and other adventures


“Does Siri know when the world is going to end?” – A tech-savvy, but extremely ugly nine year-old boy obsessed with death in a crêpe shop in London.

It’s a beautiful day in New York City today — The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the air is rich with the aromatic siren song of the combination of urine and festering garbage juice, which can mean only one thing: Summer is upon us. Yesterday was 30°C (86°F) and the rest of the week looks like it is going to follow suit. So how am I making the most of this incredible weather? By sitting at home in agony, but more on that later.

Last week we went to London for the wedding of Anna’s cousin, Will, and his lovely now-wife, Sarah. We had a great time catching up with Anna’s family and friends, despite losing probably half of the week to jet lag. Here’s the lowdown:

Wednesday, May 18
We flew out of JFK Airport at 11:30pm on Wednesday night, but even getting to the airport was half the fun. We called a Lyft and it picked us up in front of our apartment, admittedly flying headlong into oncoming traffic in order to collect us on our side of the street. The driver wasn’t bothered with all of the honking and cursing, his main concern was getting us on that plane, dammit!

We arrived reasonably early, got through immigration relatively hassle-free and were then left to try and find something to eat for dinner. Only one problem — JFK is one of the shittiest airports I’ve been to, there is almost nothing there! The best we could do was half a toasted sandwich and a bottle of water for US$15.00! We savoured those bad boys while watching the NBA Playoffs and soon it was time to board our Norwegian Airlines flight to Gatwick Airport.

I mentioned in my last post that I had a seizure on the last flight I took and I have had them on a few flights previously, so maybe it was just nerves, perhaps it was just the fact that I couldn’t get comfortable in my seat and I had had a sore back all day, but I got absolutely no sleep on this six hour flight to London. Factor in the timezones and it was about 11:00am when we landed and I was exhausted. I was trying so hard to get in a comfortable position that I accidentally brushed my leg twice against a guy in another seat and he threatened to hit me! What do you think he was, American or British? The correct answer is obviously ‘A’.

Thursday, May 19
When we finally arrived it took us over an hour to get through immigration and customs at Gatwick Airport, but Anna’s parents had rented a car and were there to pick us up and take us to our hotel. Now, I love Anna’s Dad, he’s an awesome dude, but to say he’s a little eccentric would be somewhat of an understatement. Case in point: Him feeling the need to use two different GPSs, one in metric, one in imperial, both offering different routes, but essentially ignoring both, because he didn’t want to take a motorway due to the traffic. I was trying to nod off in the car, but I kept hearing loud directions coming from both GPSs and it was just impossible.

Anna had managed to get a decent amount of sleep on the plane. She was tired, just not as tired as I was, so she went out for lunch with her friend, Deena (more on her later), while I just collapsed on the bed in our hotel and crashed until it was time for dinner. Now, the wedding we were in town for was that of Anna’s cousin, Will, but I get on particularly well with Will’s sister, Catherine and especially her fiancee, Darren, and another of Anna’s cousins, Robin, this time from Canada. Dinner was at Darren’s local pub with Anna’s parents, as well as several of her uncles, aunties and cousins, and the food was great, the beers were better and it would turn into quite an interesting night.

Myself, Anna, Darren and Robin decided to stick around and have a few more drinks. While I was sitting with just Darren, a middle-aged woman approached us and asked if we would do a survey about the dating site, Tinder. We then just chatted about random topics until her drunk “male friend” emerged from a supermarket with a bottle of wine. The woman went on to explain that her companion was a mathematician with a very important job with the government. She then gave him a series of complex equations to which he would just instantly bark out the answers. The lady then said, “See? Isn’t that incredible?”, all the while the man told Darren and myself that he was just making the numbers up.

After discussing the finer points of the film Con Air, the drunk maths whiz’s favourite movie, he commented on how some idiot had left an unopened bottle of wine at his table. We brought it to his attention that he had just bought it, so he cracked it open and started to drink it. The pub staff realised he was way too pissed to be there and sent him on his way. That’s when Anna and I decided it was time to get going as well, but not after I made an agreement with Darren — While I was writing this article for epicthings.com, I bought the second item on the list, the Steve Buscemi t-shirt, a man who just happens to be in Con Air. I agreed with Darren that I would wear it under my shirt at the wedding and bust it out when everyone started dancing.

Friday, May 20

owen noodles

Owen eating my favourite noodles at Tiong Bahru Market, right next to our apartment in Singapore at the weekend.

In what turned out to be a strange coincidence, my best mate, Owen Howard (right) and his girlfriend, Rochelle, were going to Thailand for a wedding, but had a 24 hour layover in Singapore. It would’ve been great to catch up with them, Owen took Rochelle to all the places I’ve taken him that he loves and from the messages she sent me, they’ll definitely be visiting us again when we’re back. In the meantime I guess I’ll just have to wait until Anna and myself go back to Australia for Christmas to catch up with them, especially at our insane annual Boxing Day party that I generally only make it to bi-annually now.

Friday was to be an interesting day for many reasons. I’ve possibly written about this before, but I’m too lazy to read through everything and check, but in Chinese culture, it is traditional before a wedding to have a tea ceremony. The couple getting married pour a cup of tea for each of the older guests to drink, while the younger guests pour a cup of tea for the couple and in each scenario, the guests give the couple an ang bao, a red envelope with some money in it. This was the plan for Friday.

We had to get up relatively early as we were catching a water taxi with two of Anna’s uncles down the Thames to Greenwich, where the ceremony was being held, but both of us were still exhausted. We were still jet lagged, so we kept waking up at about 6:00am and then would have trouble getting back to sleep, but we made it. In fact, we were over an hour early, so we decided to have a look around the Greenwich Market and get some lunch before the ceremony. I was too tired to think, but it had to be done.

Previously I’ve mentioned that one of my favourite TV shows is The Mighty Boosh , so if you want the low-down on the program then just click that link. But why is any of this important? Because one of my favourite episodes was one called Eels. Here’s a plot synopsis courtesy of Wikipedia:

Naboo and Bollo go away to go to Dennis the Head Shaman’s stag party, leaving Howard and Vince in charge of Nabootique. The two challenge one another to a sales contest, each trying to sell their latest fads; Elbow Patches and The Indie Celebrity Radar, respectively. Later, while Vince is out to tag Pete Neon for his Celebradar, Howard is paid a visit by The Hitcher, who frightens Howard with eels into a protection racket. Howard proceeds to prostitute himself to a transvestite called Eleanor for the required €1,000, but when the Hitcher comes to collect the money, he decides to kill Vince and Howard anyway. Before being able to do so, he is shot by Eleanor. The Hitcher awakens, having been saved by the Survival Elbow Patch he had stolen from Howard earlier. Feeling dejected, he turns to leave, before being stopped by Vince and Howard, who convince him to perform a song about eels with them in the New Rave style.

 

The entire episode is on YouTube if you’re interested. Anyway, in Eels, The Hitcher reveals that Elsie, proprietor of a Pie and Mash Shop, gave him free eels “on account of being an orphan n’ that.” And what did I happen to encounter hidden around the corner while I was strolling about as Anna was checking out rings? This!:

IMG_8942

We had to, it’s the rules

I pissed myself laughing, went back to get her and showed her the sign. She looked at it, mouth agape, and then we both laughed maniacally again and burst into this song, almost in unison:

Lunch was planned. It turns out that this pie and mash store has been there since 1890 and run by the same family ever since. We went inside, but it was hard to keep a straight face when I was ordering. Maybe it was just exhaustion, maybe it was having that Eels song on loop in my head but we both kept bursting out laughing the entire time we were there. I ordered a chicken & mushroom pie with gravy, Anna got steak & ale, then there was the difficult choice; Cold, jellied eels or hot ones. We got the hot ones with liquor sauce, all the while the woman serving us constantly referred to me as “Darlin'”, “Sweet’eart” and countless other terms of affection. Health and safety is obviously their priority, too, as I was warned about the small bone in the eels at least five times, by three different employees. It was similar to Peter Gibbons getting told about his TPS reports in the film Office Space. “Be careful, there’s a small bone…”
We pulled up a seat upstairs and my mood immediately changed as we ate our pies, mash and eels while Africa by Toto played on a speaker in the background. What a combination. I was feeling so content that Anna wishes she could’ve got before and after photos of me, I was simply a new man. My breath absolutely reeked for the rest of the day, even after chewing gum, but it was worth every penny. Here are some pics of possibly the funniest lunch ever:

It was also so nice to be able to go out to eat and not be constantly hassled by the waiter coming over every five minutes, asking, “How’s everybody doing over here?”, “Everything okay?” or something to that extent like they do here in the States. They sometimes ask you before you’ve even had a chance to try the food! At least in London they just leave you alone and don’t go fishing for tips.

Soon it was time for Anna, myself and my awesome cassette shirt to make our way to the tea ceremony, which was being held in the Greenwich Fan Museum, which was small, but had an impressive collection. There’s a tradition in Anna’s family on her step-mother’s side that the women wear Anna’s Grandmother’s wedding dress to their tea ceremony. Pretty much all of the married women on that side of the family have worn it, including Anna, and on this occasion Sarah would be wearing it, too:

Will and Sarah got off relatively easily at their tea ceremony, because we had 200+ guests at ours, whereas Will and Sarah only invited around 25 people and most of them were older. Even if only a quarter of the people at ours were younger than us, that still equals about 50 cups of tea and I can’t think of a time where I’ve needed to pee so badly in my life.
I almost made quite a bad faux pas when it came time to hand over the ang bao to Will and Sarah as well, because I almost accidentally passed them my Oyster card instead. If you haven’t been to London before, that’s your pre-paid train ticket. Oops.

The tea served usually has dried dates in it which can make it kind of bitter, but Will had a stroke of genius. He used to work as a chocolatier, so he decided to make some chocolates that, to me anyway, were similar to Belgian truffles, but incorporating the dried dates and these were spectacular! This was followed by a cream tea with scones and a heap of different cakes. I don’t really have a sweet-tooth, plus I had been getting toothaches from eating sweet food, so I just avoided it all. At the end Anna and myself were given two bags full of cakes, but we already knew what we going to do with all of those.

Anna’s best friend, Deena Ong, and her husband, Ben, live in London so we went to dinner with them, a really fun night at The Duck and Rice. The Duck and Rice is a huge microbrewery that also has some pretty special Asian food as well. We had a great time kicking back, just chatting and reminiscing, but before long we had to get going. We thanked them with a bag of cakes and made our way down to The Harp, a pub in Covent Gardens that still does hand-pumped ales, to meet Darren and Robin, as well as Owen’s sister, Tabby, who lives in London now, too. In fact, it was Tab who found this place and it was great!
On our way there a beggar asked me for some change. I had no coins so I just gave him a cake. He really didn’t seem that impressed, but he has no right to be a chooser, either. The Harp was great, catching up with Tab was a blast and another night out with Robin and Darren is always a good idea, but when the pub called last drinks, Anna and myself decided to call it a night, giving Tab the other bag of cakes as we left. We were both still knackered, but Tab, Robin and Darren soldiered on. Apparently during that time Robin got called “China” and Darren got hit on by a bisexual homeless guy who had to be in his 70s.

When we arrived back at our room I had a shower and then went to the bathroom before going to bed. The last thing I remember saying to Anna was, “It still smells a bit eely.”

Saturday, May 21
This was the big day and we also finally got a decent night’s sleep, waking up around 12:30pm from a 12-hour snooze. Boy, I needed it, too. We made our way down to a crêpe store where we encountered the really ugly nine year-old that I quoted at the beginning of this post. Among his various morbid pearls of wisdom to his mother was this classic line; “I’m going to be 13 in four years… If I don’t get murdered by then.” Don’t worry, kid, steer clear of Baltimore and you should be fine. Nevertheless, the crêpes were great but Anna had a hair appointment soon after so I just kicked back in our room watching Antiques Roadshow while reading the latest issue of Viz.

The wedding itself was in Westminster Abbey and I have to say it was one of the most insanely decadent weddings I have ever seen! Imagine if Downton Abbey did a crossover episode with Harry Potter and you may be getting the general idea of this thing. It started out with signing the guestbook upon arrival and I had no idea how hard it was to write with a quill, but I had to do it because Anna’s writing is completely indecipherable at the best of times, plus she’s left-handed so she would’ve just smudged it.

Next, it was on to the vows, which were done in small room, followed by champagne and canapés, before heading into the main hall for dinner. I don’t know if she still is, but Sarah used to be a taxidermist, so the wedding cake had two little mice on it that she had stuffed. It looked pretty cool, but, besides birds, Anna is terrified of rodents so she wasn’t going near that cake.

When it came time for their first dance, things started reasonably traditionally before Will disappeared behind a screen. The music changed and Sarah did a burlesque dance as Will emerged decked out in stilettos and an afro wig! Apparently, he proposed to Sarah while crossdressing, but none of us were really expecting it that night as well! It was funny as hell, but it was a little disturbing how quickly he got those heels on and how smoothly he moved in them. Definitely not his first time.

Enough of me telling the story, how about I just let some photos do the talking?:

It was such a fun night, my Steve Buscemi t-shirt was met with both horror and admiration and a great time was had by all. Anna’s mother was both mortified and in fits of laughter over the t-shirt and never before have I received so many compliments on my clothing from gay men, first for my cassette shirt and then my shoes for the wedding.

Sunday, May 22
We were flying out that afternoon, so we had brunch with Anna’s family at a great café for a full English breakfast. Everyone kept commenting how nice the weather was, but it was about 17°C (62°F) and overcast with a breeze. No wonder the British tried to conquer around 80% of the globe, I’d be doing whatever I could to leave, too, if that is what is considered a particularly nice day!
After brunch we jumped in Anna’s parents’ rental car and played duelling GPSs, three this time, back to Gatwick Airport for our flight back to JFK. Gatwick is a really old airport, not that clean, but I was still surprised to find a turd in the urinal while I was there. Anna stocked up on Marks & Spencer chocolate there and then we were on our way.

Upon arrival at JFK I instantly remembered how much I hate that place. To be honest, I just hate airports in general, but JFK is horrible. We lined up for about an hour to get through immigration because only a couple of counters were open. We were eventually told to go to a certain counter number, so we did, waited for what felt like eternity in that line before being told that we can’t be served at that counter we’ll have to join another. The other counter took ages because their equipment kept crashing, not exactly what you feel like going through after an eight hour flight, but we eventually emerged from the airport tired, hungry and annoyed. JFK Airport constantly has messages saying “Welcome to JFK Airport,” but judging by their demeanour toward people there, in reality their attitude is more along the lines of, “F___ you for coming to JFK Airport.” Their slogan cracks me up, too; “JFK Airport — Where America meets the world.” Is the USA another planet of something? Well, I guess when you watch the news here there is almost no international news unless it’s a story about terrorism. Maybe that slogan should be “Where America meets the rest of the world.”

So far I’ve covered the ‘Eels’ and the ‘Heels’, but what about the ‘Liquid Meals’? Well, I mentioned I had a seizure the last time I flew. Previous to that seizure I had one where I broke a bit off a back tooth and chipped off part of a filling in another. “No big deal,” I thought after I eventually calmed down. “I’ll get it fixed when we go back to Singapore.” The last seizure made a large portion of the tooth snap off near gum-level, as well as breaking most of that filling off. I was still delaying it, but then about three weeks ago I had an excruciating toothache, but it wasn’t in either of those teeth. It kept coming back periodically, but I noticed it was when I ate something sweet. I just kept putting numbing cream on it and tried to ignore it. I’m used to Anna nagging me about stuff, but I was putting the cream on it on Friday night and Tab and Robin kept telling me to get it sorted, too. Then there’s the added problem of having a heart condition, so if it got infected it could be fatal.
I made an appointment on Tuesday and they could fit me in the next day. I was that nervous about making the appointment that I was trying to make a cup of coffee before hand and shook all the coffee over the floor and ended up just pacing the room after I spoke to them. Even talking to them was difficult!

So, on to Tim’s adventure at the dentist…

Wednesday, May 25
My appointment was at 4:45pm and it was about a half-hour walk from work. I wanted to walk it to clear my mind, but as I got closer I started to hyperventilate, I was that nervous. I arrived, filled out the necessary paperwork and proceeded to do my extremely smelly sweat. They took an x-ray and told me that I need a crown on the one that had a broken filling. Not too bad, I should be able to handle that, but what about the bad tooth? What had happened was that it was a wisdom tooth that had had a cavity in it. When I had the seizure I broke the tooth to the point where the nerve was exposed and it would need to be extracted. I asked how long it could wait and the dentist described it as being “a time-bomb.” We’re going to be climbing Machu Pichu in Peru in a few weeks, so if anything happened there I could be in a world of trouble. Might as well get it sorted now.

The tooth that required the crown took about half an hour, I have a temporary crown now and go back for the permanent one in a couple of weeks. But the extraction! Oh god, the extraction. It took about 10 minutes and was so uncomfortable. I tried to think I was somewhere else, but all I could think of was trying to pull a rusty chain from between two rocks at the beach, because that’s how it felt at my end.

The dentist was amazed at the size of the tooth, he was just gob-smacked. You know it’s a big tooth when a dentist in New York City is shocked by it! If you have me on Facebook you may have already seen the pictures, but if not, here they are. Scroll past this quickly if you have a weak stomach…

The sadomasochist even asked me if I wanted to keep it! He was going to show me the hole in my gum, too, but I pointed out that I’d rather not know. We walked home and it was about a block away from our apartment that the anaesthetic began to wear off. About half an hour after that I was in sheer agony. The painkillers hadn’t kicked in yet and I couldn’t do anything, putting ice on was painful, sitting hurt, laying down hurt. I ended up taking sleeping pills to try to knock myself out and went to bed, the only time I can remember something more painful than this was when my appendix burst!

Right now I look like Dwyane Wade and sound like Mike Tyson, but it’s nowhere near as painful as last night, but I can only eat soft foods for a while so I am absolutely starving.

To get the thought of that tooth out of your mind, take a look at this notice we saw in a window in Greenwich:

IMG_8963

Seems legit

Well, I’m about to make some soup or something, but I’d like to take this time again to congratulate Mr and Mrs Will and Sarah Sprunt, Anna and I wish you a lifetime of happiness together and we hope you have a blast on your honeymoon!

Darren and Catherine, we’ll see you at the Malaysian leg of your wedding.

 

 

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About Dr. Tan's Travels (102 Articles)
My name's Tim. I'm a freelance writer and former ESL teacher from Melbourne, Australia, who taught in Daejeon, Korea for six months in 2007 and, until February 2015, had taught in Singapore for seven years. My wife, Anna, is an ophthalmologist. Between March 2015 and July 2016 we spent a month in Pondicherry, India, three months in Bonn, Germany, and 12 months in New York before returning to Singapore, all for training and work placements for her. The reason I wanted to keep this blog is because I suffer from epilepsy and have a terrible memory, therefore this would be a great way to help me remember our travels. I will do my best to keep it updated and even continue writing now that we're back in Singapore, but there is one problem; I have a pretty severe phobia of anything medical.

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