A Day in the Life of a Roman Empress
- Name: Calpurnia circa 1978 A.D.
- Location: Malaysia
Formerly an Empress and the crowning glory of the Roman Empire, long-suffering glamorous wife of Caesar Augustus (a marriage of INconvenience, if you ask me!) Some people call me a drama-queen but then I'm often misunderstood. Deep down I'm really just a medium-maintenance princess. Some people think I have a puppy personality just because I have eyes shaped like an upside down smile. That would be one of the few times public opinion was accurate. Find out for yourself. Read on.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Right this moment I am taking a rare, medically enforced break from my normal breakneck routine. Doc ordered strict bed rest and maybe the occasional visit to the toilet but only when absolutely necessary. Which is why I’m right now sneaking a forbidden rant on my brand-new technological acquisition; my 12 inch screen 1.4 kg (inclusive of battery) wafer thin laptop codenamed Sasha. Small enough for my briefcase, tough enough not to contract my virus, & cute enough to get away with work even on a sickbed.
My own cleverness astounds me sometimes.
Working backwards, let me just say that my trip to KL was wonderful, productive, fruitful, the works. On the downside, I managed to catch one those virulent West Malaysian D & V bugs at the tail-end of my trip. “D & V” (aka “Diarrhea & Vomiting”) is just med speak for what the laymen would call, the “urge to purge.” For a while I thought perhaps the salmon at breakfast was the culprit. No fear. Imodium’s here. But at the check-in counter the airlines guy’s face suddenly disappeared from my line of vision. It was much later that I discovered I was the one who “disappeared” right behind the counter. Passed out cold along with Sasha, who miraculously broke my fall without sustaining any injuries herself. (Thanks to the super-shock memory foam bag I got her just moments earlier.)
Fast-forward a few days and here we are in bed. I am exhausted from sneaking out earlier to run some errands. I’m not a sucker for punishment but with my sister breathing down my neck re Sammy’s import license, I couldn’t afford to lose another day to chronic pet anxiety. Sammy is a 7 month old West Highland Terrier who looks exactly like Snowy in the Tin-Tin comics. His Mom who happens to be my younger sister Mei Mei is about to relocate from UK to Australia. So I get to babysit Sammy while she and her hubby are sorting things out Down Under. Provided I handle the application for Sammy’s import license. Something I promised to do a month ago but never got around to finishing due to various excellent reasons.
From my comfy bed I called the four numbers listed for the Animal Import Licensing Department. Each calls required a minimum on-hold period of 20 minutes followed by a supremely confused individual at the other end who doesn’t seem to know he’s working for the Animal Import Licensing Department. (Sometimes I suspect they make the cleaners pick up the phone when they sneak off work early.) I made a note in my pad to drive to the darn building myself. Then I called the Veterinary Section at the airport to figure out the procedures required upon Sammy’s arrival. This time I only had to call them 3 times but on-hold period was 25 minutes each. I hung up. Yelled at my bedroom wall for 2 minutes. Made another note to drive to the airport and track the relevant officer down like a bloodhound.
To aid me in my quest to liberate Sammy from his potential quarantine hell, was my trusty steed, Le-Le. I dressed her up like the doll she really is & tucked her inside my jacket to avoid detection in the government buildings. This being Malaysia, most people are allergic to dogs no matter how adorably precious they may be. For the Muslims, it’s because dogs are considered “unclean”. Wait till they meet some Brits I know. Haha.
Anyway, to avoid controversy, I bundled her up in my jacket & cradled her against my chest like a wriggling baby, thinking that would get us through the door unnoticed. Unfortunately, I did not consider the unerring radar of the red-blooded heterosexual male animal. My wriggling bundle attracted at least ten men who practically ran to peer at my chest region. I thought it was unusual for men to be obsessed with “baby” (since that’s normally the domain of giggling salesgirls and old aunties). Typical of most guys, when a group saunters over, the others start to catch up, asking what the fuss was about. That’s when I got my first clue. Some “kutu Muthu” guy told his friend “Dia sedang menyusui bayi!” (Translation: The chick’s breastfeeding!]
I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or dropkick my bundle of doggy joy. Now I was caught between having to reveal that I’d actually brought a little dog into a government building & risk being escorted out by security guards before I got the import license application form…OR…keep pretending that I was breastfeeding a “baby” smothered in my jacket. I thought about the last hour I’d spent on the phone being put on hold and chose the latter. Suffice to say, it was a pretty full lift to the 3rd floor! Those clowns wanted to catch a glimpse of the “baby's” natural sustenance, to put it delicately. And overseas, women are actually campaigning to be able to do this in public places?? Mind-boggling, this culture thang.
I practically ran out of the lift before the doors could open fully. MEN. They’re like hormone-operated tools with only one button: Predictable, simple, fail-proof. Blanket statements are not fair, so let’s just say that these traits only apply to males at the Animal Department ok?
In short after much effort & about 3 hours of being referred to one department after another (all of whom gave me special consideration since I was “nursing” an apparently very hungry “baby”), I finally got the necessary forms sorted out & returned home tired but triumphant.
Le-Le was a real darling throughout; never made a sound just played by herself at the backseat of the car on the way home. I was so pleased with myself that I managed to beat the traffic crawl by 30 minutes. Pulled into the driveway; opened the door to pick up the form & my dog.
And found the precious import license form in shreds.
Lesson 1: NEVER bring a dog to a Malaysian government building.
Lesson 2: NEVER put any documentation anywhere near a semi-intelligent mammal with teeth.
Lesson 3: If your dog is being suspiciously good in the backseat of your car, CHECK!
I yelled at the bedroom wall for another 2 minutes, knowing that Mei Mei’s gonna call tonight & I’ll have to explain yet again, WHY I haven’t got Sammy’s license sorted out after so long. This time I’ll have an excellent reason and I’d probably be one of the few who can claim this excuse for the truth:
“THE DOG ATE YOUR IMPORT LICENCE!”
Running the Roman Empire was never that difficult.
Calpurnia (& Sasha the Laptop)
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Calpurnia, My Alter Ego: Background
Caesar & CalpurniaA Sketch by Orson Welles
Some of you may be wondering why this blog's called "Calpurnia's Closet". First off, there's nothing remotely GAY about this whole closet business. Just as there was nothing remotely gay about the wardrobe reference in "Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe." Nor is this blog about fashion, secret fetishes or even carpentry.
Calpurnia, in the golden era of Roman decadence & dominion, was the uncherished, unwanted bride of Caesar. The most beautiful woman in Rome at that time, she was offered as a "bait" to tempt Caesar from the arms of the legendary Egyptian hussy, Cleopatra. She represented the subservient wife of old, in full knowledge of her husband's infidelities but submissive nonetheless. Wimp. (Ivana Trump could teach her a thing or two.)
Well he got what he deserved for not listening to her; she dreamt of the betrayal that would lead to his murder but he ignored her warnings, ultimately paying for his folly through death.
While I do have a special compassion for women unloved by the men they are committed to, like Calpurnia Mrs. Caesar, Leah wife of Jacob, and the two or three wives whose husbands I personally know are messing around, Calpurnia doesn't stand out in any way.
But for the fact she was my screen alter ego once upon a time in my misbegotten youth, I'd never even know her. But I'll not spend time talking about that miserable little episode. Everything was fine but the acting and I guess that put a permanent end to our Hollywood dreams, right after the first screening! Still, my on-screen "husband" Caesar (ok, part of the reason it didn't work was because we had absolutely NO chemistry to speak of, savvy?) and I had a lot of fun eating grapes during every take and prancing about in costume. We stunk, but I'm sure the real Caesar & Calpurnia didn't have it any better so in a way, we did take realism in the arts to another level. Caesar still calls me "Cal" six years later, and after the multiple marriage proposals from strangers in Oman on my Friendster, I've decided not to put my real details on this blog.
Calpurnia's Closet will be a revelation of my innermost being, my blank canvas upon which I will paint all those pictures that could've been, should've been, must've been, WILL be...and a chance to for my namesake to relive a life of love and purpose in an era of freedom for women. Because that's what I fully intend to do.
This is for you, Calpurnia.
Signing off, Calpurnia circa 1978 A.D.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Of Dogs & Diamonds
Absolutely NO peek into my life is complete without an introduction to my beloved baby, the joy of my daily routine, the laughter in my mornings & the apple of my eye!
Le-Le (Mandarin for "Joy") was my post-breakup present to myself and has proven to be better than therapy, antidepressants, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive", French truffles & retail therapy put together. And that's saying a lot.
Half Shih-Tzu & half Terrier, she is more intelligent than most homo sapiens I've encountered, smells better than most Brits (well, some of them anyway), more adorable than...well, ME, at my most charming, & a more faithful companion than most boyfriends. Not pointing fingers at anyone at this point. Yet.
They say dogs are a man's best friend & a similar relationship goes for women with diamonds. Hah. Whoever it was probably underestimated a woman's ability to have more than ONE best friend at a time.
I adore Bling-Bling but heck if I'm gonna cuddle one to sleep at night. Le-Le, you've saved Mommy's life in more than one way & I wouldn't trade you for all the good-looking Lotharios the world has to offer!
'Course, if the gentleman likes dogs, then we'll talk about the possibility of making some room for him in OUR lives. Until then, we shall endeavor to survive on just diamonds & doggy love.Signing off, Calpurnia & Le-Le
FORCE = Mass x Acceleration; OBESITY = Mass x 14 days (Scottish Fry-ups)
FORCE = Mass x Acceleration;OBESITY = Mass x 14 days (Scottish Fry-ups)
The devil hates exercise.
I'm sure if he had his way, all of us would've turned into sad muscle-less blobs of humanity dotting our already over-populated-with-clinically-obese-people world.
That was a mouthful. Quite like the five French truffles I just delicately consumed for inspiration. Which just reaffirms one of the sad facts about indoor sports like blogging, day-dreaming and watching TV: If you don't get fat from chronic inactivity, you will, on the accompanying "brain foods" needed to sustain the vigors of sedentary living.
As it is, the devil's had way too much success already. When I was in the UK for a rare holiday in August, my medic sister told me more than 65% of the school-children in Scotland are considered obese. The figures (if you'll excuse the pun) are pretty scary, but somehow not surprising. I put on 4kg after just 2 weeks in Scotland. And this, despite 2 hour treks in the Scottish Highlands! (Not to mention skinny-dips in freezing Loch Lomond! Which shall be the subject of another blog. No pictures.) I think the famous "Scottish fry-ups" have a lot to do with this burgeoning (ahem) phenomenon. Mackie's of Scotland aka Makers of Excellent Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream may have contributed to it slightly.
Here's a rundown of my typical meal in Edinburgh:
2 fried eggs shaped like a smiley face
3 strips of bacon (REAL bacon; none of that overprocessed stuff you get from Cold Storage in Bangsar)
2 fried tomatos2 fried sausages (fresh, big-assed ones; you can practically still hear the animal squealing when you chow down)
2 fried Tatties (that's 'potatos' for the uninitiated)
2 fried Neeps (TURNIPS!)
...and a host of other deep-fried odds & ends I can't identify because by then the excess cholesterol would've sent me into orbit.
This is followed by...
'Breakfast II' an hour later with another variation of fry-ups plus some dairy products thrown in for good measure. Don't even get me started on the cheese, jam, toast & smoked mackerels!
Lunch is normally Langoustine (a relative of our beloved Tiger Prawns, but with longer 'antennaes' & a more majestic aspect) swimming in Garlic butter, fries on the side, thick dark hot chocolate, cream of seafood soup or extra creamy clam chowder, followed inevitably with Mackie's of Scotland vanilla bean ice-cream.
Dinner is nothing much to shout about since it is normally a heavier version of lunch. But TEA! Oh, tea-time is an institution by itself. That's when a lot of sweeties & pastries & sugary stuff come out of Calpurnia's Closet & into Calpurnia's fat-saturated bloodstream! Marks & Spencer on Princes Street in Edinburgh alone will give you a diabetic rush, especially the food store section.
The diet is so rich there the only way I could balance it a tiny bit was by shopping. A lot. 'Course the only thing that got lighter was my chequebook. [Note: Forget about VAT refunds; I'm convinced it is merely a more sophisticated version of highway robbery.]
A funny thing happens when you get into the "Supersize Me" frame of mind. Your brain starts justifying every evil thing you stuff into your Holy Temple. (I meant body ok?) Suddenly, you decide that jogging in the cold for 2 minutes is equivalent to running a 2 hour marathon minus the frostbite on your nose. Which more than justifies Lunch II right after. Next, you figure that "big" in Asia means "petite" in the UK (another spin on Einstein's Theory of Relativity). BIG mistake.
Well, the Scots may be unwittingly breeding heartattacks in the playground, but I can't imagine a more romantic place to meditate on the wonders of God's handiwork than in the Highlands. I could hear the theme from "Braveheart" playing in my head everytime I walked (ok, heaved myself) along the winding path, staring at the craggy green & tan undulations, breathing air so fresh it actually cleared my sinuses. Loved it. Felt a bit nostalgic when I saw the Aquaducts in one of the scenes from "Narnia". I walked under those Aquaducts. Rode on that train (which, incidentally, was also doing double duty as the "Harry Potter" train!)
Coming back from Scotland was a shock since I could no longer fit into my old dresses. Thankfully, one of the standard "uniforms" I have for teaching in a government university is the muu-muu like 'baju kurung'. Fits all shapes and sizes probably until the 3rd trimester. Hence my project for the coming year was to trim, trim, trim the excess bacon off. My enemy the devil & his aptly named cousin, Procrastination, are hard at work. Which is why I'm typing in my bathing suit now, instead of working out in the pool as I'd meant to. Have you ever noticed that everytime you struggle into last year's gym gear, the telephone always rings with some urgent messages from the office? Or you accidentally walk past a newspaper advert saying "LAST DAY SALE!! 70% OFF EVERYTHING!"? (I DEFY anyone who will choose a 2 hour treadmill pounding over "70% Off EVERYTHING". Especially women& metrosexuals)
Ah, but with a picture of Kirsty Hume (who, incidentally is Scottish! How....?!) taped to my refridgerator, and the theme from "Braveheart" playing in my head, & Superfit Caesar Augustus' number on speed-dial, I WILL survive this brush with potential borderline obesity by Chinese New Year 2006.
The devil bedamned.
Now where are those truffles??
Signing Off, Calpurnia circa 1978 A.D
Friday, January 13, 2006
Journey to the Unknown
It is tradition, I think, to start each new venture with a suitably solemn and profound quote. Were I to abide with this tradition (something I rarely do as a rule since traditions are meant to evolve with one's sensibilities), I can choose no better quote to christen my first foray into blogging than this: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I've been writing most of my life, from the cradle some might say. (My former nannies certainly did not consider my freestyle application of bodily fluids on various surfaces as "writing" but I beg to differ.) Writing, is, after all, an expression of one's innermost thoughts and dreams, the blessed release of one's essence, the conduit by which the external world is perceived and conveyed. Since Bridget Jones wiggled and whinged her be-girdled self across our collective consciousness, self-indulgent oversharing and dramatic disclosures have never been more hip. Far be it from me to miss the ultimate diva's revenge: frantic displays of erratic chick behaviour passing off as e-literature.
Thus far my random musings have found their way into various sympathetic e-trashcans so at present I am under NO illusion about the world's interest in my views, neuroses or shopaholic attacks. Roman Empress notwithstanding.
Ah, but I bless the brainchild behind this technology! Now, at last, the world is your captive audience and your shrink, your readers are your therapy group and catharsis is the order of the day! Strike one for the feminist movement. The world is finally our megaphone and YOU, the writer, are in control.
My journey appears depressingly longer than the usual thousand miles, since I have yet to figure out how to change the photo after 3 hours of clicking every icon on this darn page. Bugger. Note to self: Call Caesar Augustus to get tips on navigating this blogging stuff.
Signing off, Calpurnia circa 1978 A.D.