Joining the Sisterhood

Sister Act The Musical

Come join the sisterhood

There is nothing I enjoy more than a night (or day) at the theatre. Musicals in particular have an appeal like no other. I swear I must have had some connection to the theatre in a previous life. Sadly I don’t think I was high kicking with Liza Minelli or serenading Michael Ball; probably more like running around polishing shoes or sewing sequins. So it is with much excitement that I have recently been talking to the company who bring all the best shows to our little red dot, Base Entertainment. Today I was fortunate enough to be invited to the press call for its latest show at the MasterCard theatre, MBS, Sister Act  – sequinned wimples and all.

Anyone too young to have watched the movie Sister Act needs to get themselves a couple of hours on the sofa right now as it’s a rare treat. Real old school comedy, fine female (and some male) actors and fabulous music. What more could you want? Obviously Whoopi Goldberg is forever associated with the film – but did you know it also featured Maggie Smith (pre Dame hood) and Harvey Keitel?

So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that a musical based on the film is also a must see. A huge hit from Broadway to the West End this production features the cast direct from the Broadway show. Obviously I’m not going to give too much away about what we were shown to say but suffice to say I’m more than a tad excited to be seeing the show.

From a 16ft tall Virgin Mary (with a not so dark side), to racks bursting with sparkling habits, our tour backstage was fascinating. Molly, the production stage manager showed us where she cues stage crew, audio and actors alike from left of stage (or right of stage if you are her as she has to do everything backwards) and the ‘God mike’ – for when things go wrong.

Gondola row – or wardrobe walk – was much smaller than I had imagined. This is the area where actors do quick changes. I can only imagine the swan like activity that goes on – with calm changes on the surface and utter panic underneath. I spotted a Wurlitzer (which looked original and I immediately coveted) bar stools upended, bottles of drink and glasses, Dolores coat and lots of slippers amongst many other gems. I can’t wait to see where they all feature in the show.

It was fascinating to hear how the sets, costumes, props, lighting and so on are all shipped around the world in five sea containers. How parts of the set are moved on and off stage and how the huge cast and crew work together to ensure the show is as good in one country as the next.

With shows as good as this hitting our shores I for one will make sure I’m supporting them – please go and do the same so this sister can carry on feeding her ‘habit.’

Look out for my Facebook post for my thoughts on the show itself.

Sister Act is on at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands from 9th – 28th May.

Costumes back stage

Watch out for the wimples!

Sister Act The Muscal

Part of the scenery

Props backstage

An original Wurlitzer?

Scenery, backstage at Sister Act the Musical, Singapore

A different view to usual

Wires, cables, musical

Can you imagine trying to find the fuse that blows in this lot?

Delores Sister Act Costume

You can never have too much fur and fringing – Delores costume.

Scenery, backstage at Sister Act the Musical, Singapore

She’s looking very virginal right now – but she has a hidden side. All 16ft of her!

sister act

Not to be missed!

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Join the Revolution

Working from home meme

Working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

As a writer you get used to being in your own head – and space. It’s a well-known fact that writing is one of the lonelier jobs. Ernest Hemingway once said: “writing, at it’s best, is a lonely life” he wasn’t wrong.

Hours spent tapping away at the keyboard filling the blank pages, or not. Deadlines being met in the middle of the night as the day has been taken up with research.  Sat on your own in your ‘writing space’ –  be that a spare room you’ve converted in to a writing office, a corner you’ve managed to snatch in the house, or maybe simply the kitchen table or propped up in bed. Wherever you are writing, it’s likely you’re doing it alone.

Keep calm and write something

Writers block is real

In fact, it can be crucial to the job.

For me, I need quiet, I need calm, I need to not have music playing or tv on in the background. Which is why the middle of the night tapping becomes a necessity sometimes; working around the family.

A study by Kay Jamison, professor of psychiatry at John Hopkins University found that writers are ten to twenty times more likely to suffer from depression than other people. Why is this?

Not getting to speak to anyone but your keyboard all day must have something to do with it. Some even go so far as to say we need it to aid creativity. From Sylvia Plath to JK Rowling, depression has played in a part in their lives, and possibly their creativity.

I’m not sure about this. What I do know though is that I love writing and happen to be half decent at it. But, I don’t particularly like working at home, feeling isolated and not being part of team as it were.

Interestingly, what isn’t widely looked at is how other people working at home on their own cope. The freelance accountant working from a home office after setting up on his own, the stay-at-home mum who is managing a craft business between nappy changes, the entrepreneur building an empire from her kitchen table, the website designer who is a single parent and therefore can only work school hours. All of these people, and many more, work from home on their own. Either because of necessity, practicality or lack of choice. Maybe a combination of all three?

Studies show time and time again that those of us working at home alone are more prone to depression and anxiety. With only ourselves to answer to we often berate ourselves for not getting as much done as necessary and let things slide that we really shouldn’t (working in your PJ’s, why not?)

No pants working from home day!

Well, why bother, no-one will know right?

Which is why I started looking for other options. I wanted to continue to work for myself and be my own boss. But I wanted to feel part of a working community. I needed to stay freelance and work around the family but wanted the stimulation of working amongst other (like-minded) people.

The answer came in the form of co working.

Moreover co working spaces.

I know, it all sounds very hippy-dippy and free loving doesn’t it?

It’s not. It’s a business that is growing daily and could be in your neighbourhood very soon, if it’s not already. In essence co working spaces are shared working spaces. An office set up that has various facilities – dependent on the space – from meeting rooms, free wi-fi, printers, photocopiers, conference facilities and so on. The first co working space was in San Francisco in 2005. By 2007 Google recorded ‘co working’ as a trend on its database. Since then the industry has boomed meeting the needs of lonely freelance workers all over the world.

It’s important to find the right space for you and your needs. Do you want somewhere that offers a  spare desk in an existing office? These can often be good value, but you are working with people who are already part of another company. Or a purpose-built space specifically for freelancers like yourself where you can hire a desk on anything from a daily to hourly basis? A good option if you’re starting out and not sure how many days you need to be in the office.  Another choice is what is known as co working ‘incubators’ where there is more of a slant towards start-ups and offer businesses the chance to connect with other businesses.

Also consider the environment and visit a few – often spaces will offer a trial day. For me, it had to be somewhere that was quiet – no noisy, sales based banter for example. Also find out the type of people the space currently attracts. If it’s like-minded people – be it creative, entrepreneurial or serious execs -they all could have something to offer or share with you. Be it contacts, advice or support.

What are the benefits of taking your job out of the home in to an office?

Working in a co-working space

Maybe get to know like-minded people. Woolf Works

For me it was about being more productive – I get twice as much done in the office than I ever do at home. Without the fridge, kettle and dog to distract me and no door to answer I am getting more done.

I also found I’d often get stuck at home, lack of productivity meant lack of inspiration, meant lack of new ideas. Getting up in the morning and ‘going to the office’ gives me a clear focus and I try to make sure I have a plan of what I’m going to achieve that day.  Not to mention the fact I get to slap on a bit of make up and brush my hair. Although this isn’t necessary as the dress code is, there is no dress code.

Not only that, I am getting to meet new people.  People who have something interesting to say and who are interested in what I’m doing. It’s already opened up some promising work ideas and prospects too as even though we are all working on our own individual projects, there is a feeling of being part of a team.

The co working space I am working in is slightly different as it’s solely for women. This works for me, publishing has always been heavily female dominated anyway so I’m used to it. Michaela Anchan, the founder decided to open Woolf Works only to women for a number of reasons, not least of which being it’s often harder for women to re-enter the work place after having children. Her aim with the business was simple, to offer a space and community that can help women find the valuable support and connections they need to thrive.

Woolf Works Co working space

Come and join the co working revolution

There are plenty of other co working spaces here in Singapore including those that offer child minding facilities, (Trehaus), a beer garden (The Working Capitol) and dedicated spaces for craftsmen (The Refinery Workshop). Just google co working and you’ll find something that is ideal for you.

Another advantage of joining the
co working revolution I’ve found useful is that if, like me you find a good space manager they also facilitate and organise training courses, business networking opportunities, lean in circles and support for improving not only your business but your wellbeing. What’s even better is you can choose not to go if you like without the fear of your boss asking  why you didn’t go along.

It all works out rather well. I choose when I want to go in, I decide if I want to hold (or attend) a meeting, I pick and choose what jobs I do and get on with them without interruption. I’m inspired by the people I work amongst and am encouraged to aim higher. I even drink tea and get to have something other than a ham sandwich for lunch.

Add to that the social meet up once a month, Oh, it’s almost like being back in Broadwick Street in the 90’s – minus the ad execs and drunken secretaries!

 

Speed bump ahead!

I originally posted this almost two years ago when I hit my ‘speed bump’  A lot has changed for me since then but I know many of you are just getting to ‘the speed bump.’ Honestly, you’ll get over it – it is only a bump in the road, I promise.

The other reason for re-posting is so that the next post I’m currently writing make slightly more sense… I hope!

Speed Bump Ahead!

So, you are now officially an expat. You are living in Singapore. This is your ‘home’.

You’ve made the huge move away from all you know and love. You’ve found somewhere to live, made friends, visited some amazing places and been blown away by the amount there is to do on this one tiny island. The kids (if you’ve got them) are settled, you may even have found yourself a job. You have even been tour guide to visiting friends and family. Things seem to be going swimmingly well.

Yeah, that’s what I thought too. And then… bleurgh!

Speed_bump

Being a bit under the weather didn’t help, but after a couple of weeks of feeling a bit ‘out of sorts’ I started to wonder. What was wrong with me? I was physically ok’ish (well I’m no olympic athlete still) really.  A friend noticed and asked if I was ok. Not really I admitted. I felt low, fed up, bored and each day seemed to be a non starter.

You see, I have all this time on my hands and find I am literally busy doing nothing. What do I do all day is a question I battle with constantly. And it is a battle. To answer! I tend to cough a bit when people ask and shrug nonchalantly. I might splutter out something like:

Well…I catch up on Facebook – which is a whole other story but mark my words, there will be a Facebook Anonymous group. I read and send emails, I do house admin. I might go to the shops if I need something, (but as you know, me and shopping malls do not get along so I only do that when absolutely necessary). Oh, on a Monday I do Yoga – yay! And yeah, I might meet someone for coffee (I hate coffee, but saying you’re meeting someone for tea doesn’t sound right does it?) every now and then.

mood-writingAll these plans I had for filling my time. Writing every day, VectorToons.comgetting on with trying to get my book published, getting uber fit, seeing the hidden gems of Singapore.

Nadah!

And why?

That’s what I couldn’t work out. Why I wasn’t spending my time in a way that was more fulfilling? I haven’t got the excuse of house work, or young kids at home, or anything really.  After weeks of visitors you’d think I’d be glad to have my days back to myself and want to get stuck in. I did wonder if that was the problem. I had got used to having people here. But no, it’s not that.

Then, my friend told me. I’d come to the six month speed bump. Hit the wall.

Apparently it happens to many of us expat women.

We have spent the first six or so months running round like headless chickens setting up home, making sure the rest of the family are ok, learning where to buy meat, fruit, veg and toothpaste, got to know the neighbourhood and generally got ourselves used to this new life.

And then it starts to feel more normal. The satnav isn’t on the whole time – both in the car and in your head. You no longer feel like a visitor and you feel more at home.

Speed_bumpBump!

But it’s not really quite home. There are still things that you haven’t worked out. Like why the milk is not quite right. Why everyday things cost SO much.  There are still places you’re not sure of. Still new challenges to face each week. So you feel comfy, but not comfy enough.

For me it’s also the friendship thing. I’m lucky to have met some lovely people since being here and I’m sure some of them will be friends for a long time (God help us!)

But there are also those that I know I have nothing in common with aside from the fact we both live in Singapore. There is definitely a forced friendship thing going on in this kind of situation. I’m so used to having a solid group of friends who’s needs we mutually fulfil. I’m struggling to know what to do with these new friends I’m not really connecting with. Who should I call to come shopping when I need to find a dress for a special occasion? Who’s going to be a good person to ask for help with the kids? Who can I trust to listen and not judge when things are not going well? Who’s the one who can be relied on for a good night out? Who is more of a sit at home and watch a movie kind of friend?

These are all things we have to keep learning and this in itself takes up a lot of time. No wonder I’m not getting anything done eh?

From talking to others, another bump can be around the other half. Long working hours, constant travelling and work commitments take their toll quite quickly.

I’m know I’m not alone not being comfortable being regarded as ‘the trailing spouse’. Many women I’ve met have left behind good careers to come here. Getting a job here isn’t necessarily an easy option when here on a Dependent Pass. Also, the fact that their partner, who’s job has brought them here, is working so many hours and travelling so much that any kind of work commitment on the women’s part would tip the balance for the family.

Even the term ‘trailing spouse’ makes me feel so insignificant. Like I’m a damp mop being dragged around the place. Or, worst still, some kind of limpet.

Of course, we can’t complain because without their important job we wouldn’t have been given this amazing opportunity to live here on the dot. Right?

No one back home really gets it either. After all, in their eyes we’re here in our lovely big places, with help of some kind usually, money is possibly a bit easier, we have lots of exciting new things to see and do. Also, a big part for anyone from colder climes –  it’s always sunny. 🙂

That seems to be the general opinion doesn’t it?

Yes we have a lovely house/apartment – but it’s not OURS. If we have help – although we do feel grateful for this every day, it brings a whole host of new things to learn. Yep tax benefits are brilliant, but Singers is not a cheap place to live. Yep, there’s loads to do, but do we want to schlep around on our own? And as for the weather. Wow it is warm.

But… hang on, you’re right. I can’t argue with that one, sitting outside every day for every meal is amazing.

So that’s when I check myself.  I remind myself about the good stuff. The sound of the birds as we eat breakfast outside every morning. My daughter said recently “I like living here; it’s like being in a rainforest every day. Oh, we are aren’t we.” 

The freedom to let the children be more independent. The fact that I can drive straight in to the city in 10 minutes (traffic allowing) and find every shop imaginable. That we can go for a night out in town and be home in 20 minutes tops.

IMG_4223

The Substation wall in Armenian Street

I love the fact that I see amazing new things every day like the wall art next to the Peranakan museum, the temple opposite the park I walk the dog in or the beautifully colourful shop houses in Little India.

I am grateful to be here. I’m happy to be here. I am excited about what’s to come. It’s just a bit lonely at times.

IMG_0438

Some of the colourful shophouses around Little India

But it’s good to know that these feelings are completely normal and will pass. They are just another part of this new life we’re making for ourselves.

It’s good to know that others hit these speed bumps too. Let me know if you have won’t you?