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People in the World | Natalie Lau

While most of us strive to attain a ubiquitous level of what is socially accepted as success, Natalie Lau, MNC marketer turned gardener, perhaps has it all figured out in a way us city folk haven’t thought of yet. Don’t let the seemingly labour intensive job fool you into thinking that Natalie has settled for less, but take away from her experiences a whole new perspective on life!

ActuallyMAG finds out more, as she tells us about her experiences, favourite haunts and living in the UK.

Hey Natalie, could you tell us a little more about where you live?

N: I’m living in Bath, Somerset in the UK, it’s about 3 hours away from London. It’s been 3 months now.

So what is it that you do?

N: I was a serial MNC marketer for a good decade or so and after a 9 month sabbatical I’m getting myself transplanted from Singapore to UK in stages. I’ve got to be legal of course so am still on the hunt for a full-time job with a company that’ll sponsor my working visa; in the meantime it’s not an occupation since I do it for free but I keep myself very occupied by doing gardening for old folks. My other half does that part-time (he earns the real dough though) and since I started tagging along just to help I find it thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling.   No powerpoint reports to rush out, no corporate politics, no grey cubicles…. Just green grass, blue skies, fantastic flora and pearls of wisdom from the elderly clients. How’s that for an office!

Your friends like you because…

N: Gee… Because they get to enjoy the fruits of my culinary labour? Probably because I’m fairly open-minded, am game to try most things and never say ‘never’!

Could you recommend us some restaurants and cafes?

N: I like Lime Lounge for their unassuming, attentive service and tapas-style appetisers… food always tastes better when shared with good company! The Griffin Inn is also another one I really like for its ambience.

Without a doubt Chelsea Café, just down the road from where I live… for their toasted brie and cranberry sesame seed paninis!

Your city’s Best Kept secret (anything from places to food, or things normally tourist do not know)?

N: This is a tough one to answer! I think it’s Bath Ales – locally brewed, they have an organic pale ale called Wild Hare which is my favourite, and The Dark Side which is a stout for those who fancy a more robust drink.  There’s a list of special hand-picked gastropubs and restaurants which serve Bath Ales, and they’ve all got good atmosphere and aren’t chockfull of people trying to out-talk each other in volume, just my kind of place. This list from the Bath Ales website makes for a great pub-hopping checklist! I like their marketing and branding – they’ve introduced a loyalty program called The Loyal Hare Force where you climb up the ranks, and I also love their beer names, bottle labels and packaging. I think it’s really clever!

We should visit your city because …

N: It’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of London, which I find too cold and typical of a major city at times. With Bath you get to experience whatever’s quintessential British but without too much of the trappings of city culture. It’s a world heritage site famed for its Roman Baths, the only English city with natural hot springs, and if you’re the sort who tires of the monolithic-type architecture (read: tall glassy skyscrapers in a gleaming metropolis) Bath offers a refreshing change as it’s characterised by a variety of buildings made up of unique golden-coloured Bath Stone. It’s all very tactile. There’s a mix of Georgian, Victorian and even Edwardian style architecture. The big thing for me is Bath’s garden culture – people here are very garden-proud, and know their shrubs and trees very well! In Singapore our gardens tend to be nicely manicured and laid out in designated green spaces (and are often taken for granted), here in Bath I find that gardens are grown in a more natural fashion with an organic use of space; it just seems to fall into place without trying very hard. The sheer variety of flora changing with the seasons is reason enough to visit at different times of the year! And oh, have I mentioned the art scene yet? Loads of small galleries that specialise in  different mediums… I fell in love with this gallery which features limited edition prints, called Rostra & Rooksmoor Gallery. There were fantastic screen prints and some very fascinating 3D pictures.

With the current community you are in, how do you stand out from the crowd?

N: That’s easy… I’m the one who’s dressed in layers, always bundled up warm! Even in the summer when the ladies are in their shorts and sleeveless tops I’ll be the only one with a cardy on… I get cold easily! Seriously though, I don’t really think about standing out. I much prefer being understated, and then pleasantly surprising if I’m comfortable with the company.

What is your fashion style?

N: Practical! I’m mostly in gardening gear which consists of utility trousers, kneepads, my green waterproof hoodie for the (very frequent spells of) rain and fuschia gardening gloves (which were given) – these are the only bright colours I wear – but otherwise I tend to dress in layers of muted colours of greys, greens, browns, navy and black (not all at once or in that combination!). Understated and nothing too loud or in-your-face; I tend to avoid signature looks from well-known brands, and hate it if the brand name is screamed out loud with a large crest or logo or even used as a print! I’d much rather no one was able to identify the label or pinpoint a particular kind of look on me. I like a lot of different textures and fabric, and small details in the tailoring or cut.

Where is your favourite chill out spot?

N: Mostly in gardens or Victoria Park (Vicky Park as it’s commonly called) or the Cotswold public footpaths which are walking trails around buttercup, daisy and clover fields. I love being outdoors and close to nature.

Where do you like to shop?

N: There are a couple of shops I love browsing in – Rossiter’s and Meticulous Ink. The former sells a variety of made-in-Britain tableware, kitchenware and furniture, much like how Style Nordic sells ‘hip scandinavian’ in Singapore. Meticulous Ink is a bespoke printing and stationery shop that uses traditional methods for their cards and letter sets, they have really beautiful letter-writing sets made from lino and woodcuts, with quirky takes on quotes from Shakespeare and wrapping paper with silkscreen prints. They even have quills and inkpots… so rare to see such things when the days of fine penmanship and the art of handwritten scribe are slowly being lost.

Your inspiration in life ( eg. live life to the fullest , or a quote)

N: My parents are my inspiration. My dad passed away from a rare debilitating motor neuron disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) which causes the muscles to slowly waste away, and I saw both in him and in my mum; incredible strength and patience. Those days when you think you have it bad, you only need to think of how a simple task like breathing, eating, drinking and talking can be such a challenge for ALS patients and their care givers; and you can go on. Every single dragon boat race I do is dedicated to my dad. He was a big Bruce Lee fan and so I think this Bruce Lee quote is pretty apt in summing up my “never-say-never, never-say-die-or-at-least-die-trying” approach in life: “There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.”

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