Woke up at 6am, showered and went through the checklist. Morning called mm, and she drove over at 8am to take me to the airport, so nice!!
Check in was straightforward. The plane was full, so I got upgraded to premium economy. When I checked in 48hrs ago, there were only 3 available seats, so I thought something was up. We had a quick breakfast, then I had to go in. On the way to the gate, I stopped by the duty free out of habit. They had Mortlach in the new bottle, so I tried that. Nothing special, to be honest. May be too early in the day.
The flight was definitely very full. Even in premium economy. Looked like they upgraded a bunch of people from economy, because couples/familes weren’t seated together and there was a scramble with people swapping seats.
I couldn’t sleep very well even though they pulled the curtains so only around 30 people in the cabin and it was fairly quiet. So I spent almost the entire flight watching season 5 of bake-off. Great season as usual, very skilled group of contestants.
Flight arrived early, at 1.30pm. I was prepared for a long wait at customs, but now that they’ve gone electronic, it was so much faster. Luggage came out at a reasonable time too. Carleen came to pick me up (thanks, dear!) and we went for a quick Mexican meal before heading back to her house. Unpacked and showered.
Very tired, couldn’t open my eyes much longer. Went to bed at 8pm.
Went to lunch with sis for her birthday. She wanted to take me to this restaurant where robert is an investor; it’s fine dining but there is a relatively reasonable set lunch. The restaurant is on the 28 and 29/F of one of the entertainment buildings in the central district. Fancy decoration, the upper floor is a bar with an open terrace; the lower floor has an open kitchen. The manager is a French guy who is knowledgeable and friendly. Apparently the head chef is a big shot, award winning or Michelin star or something like that. Many business people as well as ladies who lunch. Uh oh, we were two ladies lunching there too, does that make us one of them? eeeeek.
For starters sis had duck foie gras terrine with citrus cranberry chutney and I had marinated quail salad with summer truffles. The terrine was full of flavour and smooth in texture. The quail was tender if a little salty. There was a lot of shaved truffles on my plate.
We both opted for beef tartare for mains. It was fabulous. Fantastic cut of meat. Perfectly chopped, perfectly seasoned with subtle onion and capers. Topped with a runny poached egg. To finish we had the cheese board. Lovely cheese too, all from France, some not readily available here. We ordered a bottle of Fleurie—their wines are a bit expensive so I tried to get one that was good for a hot summer’s day that won’t break the bank.
Overall, a great meal. Definitely fine dining, and I’d probably feel uncomfortable at the prices at dinner. We plan to take our dad for for his birthday coming up in August.
The training schedule for this weekend is 6 miles, for next weekend is 11 miles. I switched the 2 weekends because I’m travelling and unlikely to have time for 11 miles next weekend. It’s a band-aid solution, because in 2 weeks it’s 13 miles and I’ll be in Chicago. I wonder how I can run a HM on the treadmill.
Anyway, it was a tough run. It started okay, I had oatmeal breakfast so I felt fueled up. It was very hot though, I was dripping and thoroughly wet quickly. So much so that my t-shirt and shorts were totally soaked.
Ran to the end of Bowen Road (6km), back to the first water fountain, then back to the end. I’m lucky that there are 2 water fountains, so I didn’t need to bring water. I split the run into different missions on zombies run, because that’s how ZR4 missions work now. There was a 5min rest period in the middle. Towards the end, I was pretty knackered so it was a lot of walking. Went to the supermarket to pick up some quick stuff and I could feel my calves beginning to tighten, but I walked it off.
It was so hot and I was so tired I didn’t have much of an appetite. Ham & egg sandwich for lunch, and I couldn’t finish the sandwich. Fish and salad for dinner. Definitely lots of calories left over for the day.
My fb feed, twitter feed and all the news sites I visit are full of happy rainbows today, as the US supreme court voted by 5-4 to make gay marriage legal. What a day for marriage equality. I especially like the big picture gallery.
I didn’t tell my parents about my back pain; I did the stretching exercises in my room, and went about my business as usual, albeit a little bit slowly. I did that for my own sanity. I know that their first reaction will be one or more of: take medicine, put on medicated rub, see doctor. They are so convinced that the only solution to medical problems is to medicate, and seeing a doctor is the only course of action. It’s come to a point where I daren’t sniff, cough or even rotate my shoulders in front of my mum.
I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, or an age thing. I definitely hope not the latter; I can’t stand thinking that I’d become them, counting out half a dozen pills every day and going to the doctor’s at the drop of a hat. May be it’s the elephant in the room, the fear of dying. As we grow older, we are more aware and afraid of every little pain or discomfort, because it may signal or turn into something more sinister. My parents are lucky in that their medical care is free, may be if they needed to pay (like I have to get insurance myself), they’d behave differently. I really don’t know.
I find that I’m not the only one with a different attitude towards healthcare than my parents:
Doctors and medicines – my mother’s belief was that these and only these could ever have a positive impact on health.
I applied to study medicine at university before being rejected and switching to chemistry. While I’m satisfied at the way my career worked out, sometimes when I’m watching a medical documentary or a program like ER I wonder if I would have been a good doctor. The reality is the medicine is all about business nowadays, to the detriment of its fundamental operating principle, helping people.
It seems though, that the world has turned into lose-lose propositions for both doctors and patients. Atul Gawande talked about overkill and the proliferation of no-value care: a study of 1 million medicare patients found that 25-42% received at least one of 26 tests and treatments determined to have no benefit or to be outright harmful. The problem is, health services are paid based on treatment provided, not illness prevented. An interesting analogy:
Why would doctors and nurses want to help people look after themselves? It is tantamount to a top restaurant learning that their new task is going to be – in addition to serving splendid food in a smart environment – teaching people to cook at home. Why undermine the business by running cookery classes?
Scrap that. There is a big winner in all of this. Pharmaceutical companies enjoy profit margins of almost 20%. Yes, I know R&D costs are high, risks are high and once a drug comes out of patent the company can no longer make money. But these companies don’t seem to be suffering. It’s an endless cycle—patients expect drugs, doctors prescribe drugs, pharmaceutical companies charge more and more for the drugs. It’s an endless cycle.
When I was in my teens and twenties, I had a great GP. His prescription to most of my illnesses, especially when it was flu-like, was rest and a few paracetamols if I want to. I’m probably at the extreme of the spectrum. I don’t like going to see the doctor, not because I’m afraid of going to the clinic or hospital, but because I don’t think a course of antibiotics is the solution. Rest, healthy eating and exercise will help strengthen our bodies against common infections. The only exception, I take anti-histammines for my allergy, that can’t be helped.
I think it’s called taking responsibility for my own health.
One of the discovery channels has just started showing The Food Hospital, where nutrition is used to target medical conditions and symptoms such as diabetes, acid reflux and skin allergies. It’s fascinating viewing. Food isn’t the cure for in every case, but if it can help cancer, it can’t be dismissed out of hand.
I recently met a lady in her 70s who look barely older than me, who had been diagnosed with cancer several years ago. She is now the picture of health after changing her diet to a healthier one, and taking up meditation and taichi. She teaches a class every saturday at 9.30am, I need to get off my arse and go to one of those. And drag Mum along too.
Should we reach for the pill bottle every time we feel under the weather? Probably not. Should we abandon medicine for alternative or nutritional therapies? Probably not. The answer is somewhere in between. Eat sensibly, exercise often, go to the doctor when necessary. Figure out what works for ourselves. We only have one body each, and one lifetime each, if we don’t take responsibility for it, no one else will.
All of a sudden yesterday night my lower back started to really hurt. I get back pain sometimes after a run, which is why I rely so heavily on my foam roller. I’m at parents’ so no roller or alternative, and this time it’s especially painful and stiff. I googled and found quite a lot of stretches aimed at reliefing lower back tension. Put the images together in one place for easy reference.
Wow, I didn’t realise how stiff my hips and hamstrings are. I could feel the strain when I do these exercises. Not quite cured of back pain but feeling a bit looser in places. Plus, improving hip extension is good for running.
I especially like this hamstring stretch. I use a resistance band and a small pillow in place of the yoga gear.
After almost 9 years away, Mike Shinola and Fort Minor released a new single, Welcome. It’s available as a free download** or a paid mp3 (wonder how many people will go for the paid version vs getting it free). The 360º video is of Mike painting a giant mural made from 1000 blank vinyl jackets, which will be signed and sold as limited edition vinyl records. I’m not a huge FM or Linkin Park fan, but I can imagine there will be lots of interest and demand for the vinyl.
In Mike’s own words:
I didn’t intend to write a new Fort Minor song, it just kinda happened. It’s not part of a new album. It’s a song that I knew I wanted people to hear right now.
His full handwritten words:
I like the song. I think LP is too loud, but I’ve always enjoyed FM’s one and only album. Their big success Where’d You Go was one of my first running playlist songs. I’m adding Welcome to the playlist. I hope there is a new album somewhere down the line. It’s long overdue. Almost 10 years on hiatus, they really do practice what they sing:
Where’d you go
I miss you so
Seems like it’s been forever
That you’ve been gone
**the free download is available on their website, upon submission of a working email address. It’s of course for marketing purposes. I use a disposable email service for stuff like this.
I was cleaning my freezer and was reminded that I still have a stash of 35mm film in a ziploc bag. Film stored in a freezer can last 15 years and be defrosted and refrozen. I think mine are coming up to the 15 year mark. I don’t know if my film camera still works, or may be I should use my dad’s Zeiss camera, which is older than me. I don’t know if I have the skill to do the pictures justice though. Plus, not being able to preview and re-do, that’s pressure.
I remember going on safari with mm before the days before I bought my first digital camera, and ending up with something like 30 rolls of film to be developed. Had to find a friendly shop that offered a discount. If we were to go on the same safari now, I’d still take my DSLR, but all I need to worry is having enough memory cards and backing up every day. How the landscape of photography has changed. This graphic, spotted via truthfacts / petapixel, is a perfect illustration. Well, I tend not to print pics but I do look at them. My iphone has only 200 pics because I delete ones that have been processed and uploaded to flickr. I’m probably not typical, mm has thousands of pics and screenshots on her iphone and I can say probably Sis and Mum too. My niece is more like me, her camera roll is organised, she’s the one who introduced me to tidy.
Digital photography is come a long way. My iphone camera, at 8MP, has caught up to my big camera (EOS350D). One of these days, I’ll have an iphone that surpasses my small camera (s110) at 12.1MP. I used to carry my small camera in my backpack, more frequently nowadays I only have the iphone. This b/w picture by Michal Koralewski from Poland won first place at this year’s iphone photography awards aka IPPAwards. What a great picture. It’s not the camera, which is a mere tool; it’s the photographer. I have so much to learn.
I’ve been known to text or IM people sitting a few feet away from me, so I understand the idea behind the recent New Yorker cover. I showed it to my niece and she nodded in agreement. I’m afraid to show it to my sis though, I don’t think she’ll get it.
At first glance, it’s about 2 kids each engrossed on their own computers and seemingly ignoring each other. The article title is Playdate, so it stands to reason that these 2 kids are supposed to be playing together. Parents may be worried about the lack of f2f interaction, the addiction to computer games.
But as the article explained, the kids are actually playing Minecraft. And for this generation of kids, Minecraft is their way of playing together. I must admit I tried playing, and I got hopelessly lost and my interest waned. It’s definitely a generational thing. The BBC asked should parents be worried about Minecraft? I think the danger of addiction is very real, but there are definitely lots of benefits to Minecraft. It encourages creativity and fosters community, my niece told me they have Minecraft parties and they even created a birthday cake in Minecraft for one of their friends. Seems to me that in moderation, there are more benefits than harm.
It’s a combination of summer solstice, dragon boat festival and father’s day this weekend. Needless to say an extremely hot day with heavy but shortlived showers. Unexciting day for me, 5k running in the morning, going to parents’ place after lunch, reading. On the other side of the world, mm sent me this double rainbow from Assisi, how blessed. I think it’s from her hotel room, it’s underneath St Francis Basilica and facing the road leading to the coach station. Before she left, I reminded her of where the landmarks are in Assisi, I tend to be better at navigation than her.
We had our pre-father’s day lunch a day early. My dad picked the restaurant (german pub buffet) and made the reservation himself. Sis and I paid though. Nice buffet, with salad, seafood, a really delicious poached salmon, pork knuckle, roast beef, sausages, sauerkraut and a small beer included. Dessert wasn’t as exciting, they had mango and blueberry dreyer’s ice cream which was more than enough.
Parents went off to the market and library. I was supposed to teenager-sit my niece in the evening because sis and Robert had a dinner. Most of the afternoon was spent sitting on sis’ armchair and reading. For dinner I made salmon and broccoli. Quite a late night, didn’t get home till 11pm.
Recent whisky purchases include 3 bottles of Nikka from the Barrel, a Mars Iwai, Amrut fusion and a umeshu-whisky liqueur. I went to get the Nikka from the Barrels, which were on special and the saleslady there suggested I get the Iwai too. Not very expensive, so I did. Wonder how it tastes like, it’s a blend from the little known Mars distillery.
I did get to try the umeshu-whisky liqueur, which tasted mostly of umeshu with a hint of whisky. At the tasting they had a umeshu-brandy liqueur which was very sweet, but none for sale.
Rounding off the selection is an unknown 45% chinese liqueur bought at a supermarket in Shunde. Chinese liqueurs tend to be very strong and burning, but the bottle of opera masks was cute and it was cheap so I got it, for decoration if not for drinking.
Woke up early, at 7am. Had some cereal then headed out for the midweek 5 mile run. It was already quite hot at 8am and the sun was quite strong in some parts of the running path. Ran to the second water fountain and back. I’ll probably need to get up at 5 or 6am to avoid the sun, eeeek.
Made lunch of chicken drumstick with a warm salad of quinoa, halloumi and green beans. Nice. The halloumi is quite old, so needed to be used up. Love mixing it with either quinoa or couscous and a vegetable. Perfect for stuffing peppers or beef tomatoes actually.
Went to the library to borrow a couple of guidebooks on New Orleans. I should begin to do some research on where to visit, there will be a day or two free before the conference starts for exploring.
Haircut next. It’s been over 3 months so my hair was looooong. When I sit around doing nothing, I’m dripping with sweat. There were a lot of people at Sam’s when I got there but the wait wasn’t long. He cut off a lot of hair, he said probably around 2/3rd, there was definitely a big pile on the floor.
The original plan for today was to go home. But mm is flying off tonight and even though we met yesterday I wanted to see her again. So I went off to her place, helped her pack and we had an early dinner. I took the airport bus with her to the airport, we had about an hour so we had tea and coke at Mcdonald’s. Finally it was time for her to meet her group and time for me to head home. Sniff. It seemed to be a long lonely ride home for me (including changing buses). So strange, this clinginess, we never experience this. She did part of her articles in London and I was away for a total of 6, 7 years and we were fine.
Met up with mm in the afternoon, sat on the sofas in Ikea chatting. Moved on to walking around the supermarket then early hotpot dinner. It’s an AYCE place where we had to leave after 90mins so we decamped to a German pub. Lots of chatting, talking and catching up. She’s flying off tomorrow for 10 days on pilgrimage, then I’m off to the US for a month so we won’t be seeing each other for a while. Sniff. Even when we were saying goodbye we didn’t want to. She went to another bus stop so she could walk with me to my bus stop. Sniff.
What’s that got to do with the pics? Nothing. I snapped those when I went out. Blue skies over the park to show a rare blue sky day—and why it’s too hot to run. The mango tree is in the barracks next to the bus stop.
My niece was complaining about her Chemistry teacher so I offered to give her some Chemistry help over the summer holiday. She didn’t really say yes or no; can’t blame her, who in their right minds will voluntarily do schoolwork during the summer holiday? Anyway, I’ll have to read up on the topic if I do need to help her, I’d all but lost my chemistry knowledge. Why did I leave my research job? It was boring and there didn’t seem to be a good career progression.
People are allowed to express their opinions in private; this is the basic tenet of a free world. But he wasn’t in private, and as a Nobel Laureate, he is a role model and speaking from a position of eminence. Did he think before he spoke? Obviously not. Did he think what he said was wrong? From his half-hearted apology afterwards, no. He only apologised more profusely after the backlash. It’s another case of being sorry that his remarks were heard by journalists.
Here was someone who took credit for work done by scores of undergrads, postgrads and postdocs under his supervision, and yet his attitude towards 50% of the population is so backwards that I wonder at atmosphere in his labs. Then again it’s likely that his labs had around the national average 12.8% women (oh sorry, Prof Hunt, “girls”) so it’s not like they count, right.
Lots of commentaries, tweets and opinions about this incident. Women scientists started posting pictures of themselves looking #distractinglysexy. Other prominent male scientists rushed to his defence. Even Boris Johnson chimed in. Astrophysicist Dr Katie Mack summed it up nicely:
A rare beautiful blue sky day without visible pollution. Going out during the day was impossible so I made dinner early and went out at around 7.30pm. Still a little bit of light out in the beginning. The park was probably lit and still open, but since it’s just a 5k scheduled today, I ran up and down the street. Gentle hills, not a lot of foot traffic and definitely not stiflingly hot.
When I started running, I used to run after dinner, well into the evening. I remember chatting with Car (on yahoo messenger!) and she was so worried because it was almost 11pm. Yes, need to be careful, but it’s pretty safe. The downside of night running was that I drank a lot of water afterwards and I normally avoid drinking so much water too late into the night. Then again, it’s replacing water not storing. I think it’s worth going for the short runs at night, makes a change and I can do some speedwork.
I saw a whisky promotion at a small shop mm and I once stumbled upon. They had bunnahabhain and the dalmore on specials, and on their shelf they also had highland park, talisker, the balvenie and the usual macallan and glenmorangie. The more unusual selection was on another shelf, they had a few amruts and kavalans, from india and taiwan respectively. I have an amrut fusion already, so I bought a second bottle to open. The kavalans were miniatures, and kavalan is hot right now, since their solist expression won 2015 world whisky awards best single malt. It’s a bit like new world vs old world wines, so many new interlopers muscling into the world previously dominated by scotland. So many whiskies, not enough money to buy or time to try them all.
Woke up early at 8am, even with the aircon on, it was hot at night. Decided to brave the 32ºC weather to do my long run. Supposed to be 8miles, so I did the just-under-12km route to the end of bowen road and back. I was pretty exhausted towards the end, and my shirt was so completely soaked, it had taken on a darker colour altogether.
Had ham and egg sandwich (which I cut into rectangles, see yesterday’s post) then met Sis and niece for more lunch of ramen. Cute cartoon of how to eat ramen at this authentic hole-in-the-wall place where the chefs were from Japan. I took my niece on the train to her school friend’s place so they could work on their school project while sis went off to do some errands.
Met with sis at the fcc and introduced her to bourbon—she had a bit of a cough and wanted whisky to clear it up, I thought the sweetness of the bourbon will be more pleasing. I had a Glenrothes Special Reserve, which I thought was surprisingly nice.
The good thing about a long run is I didn’t have to worry about calories. Had fish soup followed by paneer korma. The korma was delicious, very creamy and not spicy at all. Vegetarian to boot.
An interesting tumblr with drawings highlighting the difference between different types of people. More or less, extroverts vs introverts, type A vs type B, neat vs messy. Some of them quite true.
People seem to have either zero notifications or unread emails, or 30,000 of them. I’m the one of the right. Notifications on the iphone are limited to line, whatspp and phone. Absolutely no push email notirications. I clear notifications, missed calls immediately. I’m also proudly inbox zero.
Actually I organise my books alphabetically so I’m neither.
When it comes to sandwiches, I’m the one on the left. I don’t mind triangles, and I understand the argument that they are more aesthetically pleasing. I just find rectangular sandwiches less messy.
Still ridiculously hot. Met mm near the big computer place and had a relaxing afternoon and evening, despite the heat. Based ourselves at a foodcourt, had some juice and snacks for tea then explored the nearby computer place and market. Back to foodcourt for dinner. Lots to eat for 2 greedy pigs: ginger stir-fried gai lan, lemon steamed fish, chilli prawns. I actually wanted to take her out to this place to try the chilli prawns, a family favourite. Sometimes, the best food doesn’t come with the best location but it’s the quality that counts.
We were watching a cookery competition program where one of the sets of contestants made salmon with potato stacks and asparagus with lime vinaigrette. Mum turned to me and said, “can you make this tomorrow?” So I did.
First time I made potato stack, I wonder why it took me so long? I normally bake or sautée my potatoes, but this will definitely be part of my repertoire. Thinly slice the potatoes, toss in s&p, rosemary and olive oil. Stack on a lined baking tray and bake at 200ºC for about 45mins, until golden brown on the outside and soft inside.
Didn’t have asparagus, so I made some carrot and cucumber disks that mirrored the round potato stacks. The downside was I slightly overcooked the salmon, sigh.
I have new glasses. I got the last pair over 3 years ago, after the sunglasses attachment of an earlier pair fell off in the middle of Chicago marathon, I was so annoyed I immediately switched to photochromic glasses.
These look innocuous, but they are superduper glasses. Super light, super thin lenses, photochromic and, because I can no longer live in Egypt, varifocal. Luckily there isn’t the telltale split of traditional bifocal lenses, these are progressive.
Apparently it takes from a few hours to 2 weeks to get used to new glasses, especially those with a varifocal element. They seem fine, I’m getting used to where to focus when I’m reading and when I’m switching from short to long distances I need to blink once to refocus, that’s it.
18 weeks till Chicago Marathon marks the beginning of proper marathon training. Following Higdon novice 2, like last time.
According to the program, today is a rest day actually. But I changed his plan a little—switched all his tuesday runs to monday. I’m also not going to find a HM race, or any race, in August so that’s a bust.
I went for the first run of 5k (3 miles) around the neighbourhood. This means up and down hills. Not required, but I’ll try to add more intensity if I can. Running through Central London with a backpack for my midweek run last time helped with the weekend long runs. The heat will also help build my endurance.
In terms of bizarre holidays, it’s chocolate ice cream day. There doesn’t seem to be a reliable source of origin for the day, it was probably invented by an ice cream manufacturer to market their product.
Chocolate isn’t my first choice ice cream flavour. Not even second, third or tenth. That said, I came across chocolate hazelnut flavour the other day and stocked it in parents’ freezer. Had a couple of scoops with a pear. Pear and chocolate go very well together and the nuts gave it another texture.
For the second time in a week, we’re off to shunde again. I stayed over at mm’s last night because we were catching the 7am coach from the stop near her place. I checked the bus schedule, the earliest bus that would go to the coach station is 6.30am, which doesn’t leave enough time for me. Didn’t sleep well last night, struggled to wake up at 5.30am. Slept a bit on the coach, compared to during the week, there were a lot more people, coaches and traffic. The journey took longer.
The purpose of going up was to visit the cemetery. They moved her sis up there last year, and it’s the first time either of us had visited. We paid our respects and said short prayers.
There was time after lunch before the return coach. We (me, mm, her brother) used the time wisely at a massage place opposite the coach station. Foot massage with additional head and shoulder massage. Perfect timing to catch the bus back. Traffic again but few people at the border so crossing was fast.
Quick dinner with her mum, then we went our separate ways home. Tired. But still needed to do laundry—hot day meant wet and smelly clothes.
There seems to be some sort of universally acknowledged rule, that if you need to make an appointment for a technician to come to your home to fix something or to set up something like the internet, a) they can only offer you a vague, not useful time range; b) they are always late.
I spent the whole day waiting for someone to come fix my fridge. When I came back from shunde wednesday night, I discovered that the fridge and freezer had stopped working sometime between Monday afternoon and Wednesday night. The light was on in the fridge compartment so it wasn’t the power supply. For good measure I reset the fuse box of the whole flat. Nope. Everything in the freezer had defrosted so I had to throw most of them away, luckily I didn’t have ice cream that would have made a mess, or raw meat that would have smelled. I did however have some leftovers from the restaurant yesterday and some fruit that is barely surviving at room temperature. It’s hard not to have a fridge in 33ºC weather.
Anyway, the appointment was 1-4pm. I waited, and watched tv, and did a bit of TRX. 4pm rolled by, of course he hadn’t showed up. I called the service centre and was told he was still stuck at another job and it’d be an hour. Sigh. When will I ever get to be the 1pm appointment?
Almost 6pm and still no one. I called the service centre and no surprise they’re gone for the day. I called up the sales department and wouldn’t let them fob me off. I told them I was aware they were the sales department but if there was someone there who could help me please. To their credit, they found the appointment in the computer and rang the guy for me.
Technician showed up around 6.15pm. The fix took him all of 10mins. Apparently the timer on the thermostat flipped and was stuck at the off position. Argh. He also told me to leave an even larger gap between the fridge and the wall to let the heat dissipate. Strange, because my fridge isn’t in an enclosed space, but whatever. At least my food isn’t going to spoil anymore. There’s nothing in the freezer apart from dried food and film (35mm film, from pre-digital camera days) so I’ll have to do a mini shopping run soon.
Most of my career was spent at what are euphemistically called Banks That Are Too Big to Fail, ie companies that people love to hate. Before I got corrupted, I spent around a year at a small management consultancy that was based in a building shared with a pub, with a view of cows and sheep.
I participated in pensions from all the companies I worked at, including schemes from 3 countries. The only pension plan I don’t get statements from is from when I was at the consultancy. Because they were so small, they set us up with an external provider, Equitable Life. I was the conscientious sort, so even in my twenties I contributed £200 a month (the max I think) to the pension, which was a big chunk of my salary then.
My life took an unusual turn, I ended up making a career out of being transferred to various places around the world. I sort of forgot about the small pension and didn’t keep track of what was happening for ages. Somewhere along the line, I read that Equitable Life came close to collapsing due to large unhedged liabilities, was no longer accepting new business and wasn’t sure if existing policyholders would be paid. True, I only had a small pension with them, compared with people who have lost their life savings, but it was still bad news.
About a year or more ago, out of the blue, I received a letter from an entity called the Equitable Life Payment Scheme requesting confirmation of my policy details and an explanation that I may be due some form of compensation. Initially I was skeptical, thinking it was a scam, but I did some googling and it seemed to be legit:
The Equitable Life Payment Scheme was set up by HM Government to make fair and transparent payments to Equitable Life policyholders who suffered financial losses as a result of government maladministration which occurred in the regulation of Equitable Life.
When I got back from our trip, there was a letter waiting for me from the scheme. It says that they have contacted all those policyholders it can trace and enclosed a statement on the amount of payment I will receive.
From what I can gather, the value of my pension is £5,500 but if the government had regulated Equitable Life better, or if I had invested in a comparable policy with a comparable company, my pension would be almost £7,900. The theoretical loss I suffered is £2,400. There isn’t enough money to compensate me for the entire loss so I’ll be getting £540.
It’s disappointing. Because Big Insurance was allowed to run around promising what it couldn’t afford and not subjected to sufficient oversight, we poor folks are getting a measly 20% of what the return we would have enjoyed. I know, it’s ironic, coming from someone who spent so much time at i-banks. The value of your investment may go up or down, or you can lose the whole lot, isn’t that the disclaimer that goes with every single financial product?
What I’m confused about, and I can’t find any information anywhere, is whether my £5,500 is still around. Has it been lost? Repackaged and sold? Floating around someplace unclaimed? How do I set about finding out, I don’t have any point of contact at Equitable and I’ve never received any communication or statement from them. Again, it’s a small amount compared with other people, but it’s a useful lumpsum.
Anyway, I don’t have the payment yet. Looks like I’ll be getting a cheque, which is annoying because it means I’ll have to mail it back to my UK bank. Who uses cheques anymore? Ah well. At this point, any compensation is better than none.
Another load of laundry this morning, luckily it’s hot so stuff gets dry quickly. We popped out for brunch of congee and noodles. Original plan was to go to the market but it was way too hot. We ended up back in the flat where I read and mm took a nap.
The bus ride back home was quick, no problems or delays. Even got a bottle of bailey’s at the duty free. We headed straight to the restaurant again, this time it’s dinner with mm’s family. We seem to have become suitcase people, ugh. I went to the supermarket to quickly get fruit and veg, since I skipped the market earlier. Dinner was the usual: lots of food and watching the kids play.
We hadn’t been back to mm’s shunde home for probably a year, and although she has a cleaner coming in regularly, there are some things that needed to be done. Most importantly, we had to change out all bedding last night and run a load of laundry. Then set the alarm for early today to run a second load. It still took us till 11.45am before we were able to leave.
Lunch was at a dim sum restaurant. They served tea in a fancy clay teapot, which we thought was just a way of charging us more. We had a few dim sum dishes, not a lot. The most unusual was a red rice cheung fun stuffed with crispy…something that tasted like the scraps you get at a fish and chip shop. Nice and seems to be healthier.<
Ran a few errands after lunch, including getting sidetracked at a tea shop. We were looking for tea for my friend A, which they didn’t have (I actually don’t know what the translation of the tea in question is, so it was a bit harder to ask the people at the shops). We saw some other teas and were able to taste two types of iron buddha and a selection of ginseng oolong. The girl made tea in the traditional way, brewing the tea in a lidded cup then pouring into a pot.
The actual destination was to get a massage. We stayed at the massage place for 3.5hrs, getting a Thai stretching massage, foot massage and head & shoulder massage. Dinner was back near mm’s place.
We’re off to Shunde for a few days. Took a mid-afternoon bus, arrived around 5pm. Got a public bus then went straight to the restaurant to meet her dad for dinner. Chicken, fish, vegetables and a dessert of steamed milk in young coconut. No internet. No fb, twitter, bbc, guardian and all the websites I normally use.