Her English husband may joke that she’s been on vacation for six years, but if that’s true it’s been an extremely busy holiday for jin shin jyutsu practitioner Kathy Dunderdale, who hails from upstate New York.
I’m ostensibly here to talk about the house; but I haven’t seen my friend for some time; so half an hour has passed and we’ve covered a dozen different subjects before we get on to what brought the Dunderdales to this three-level home on Coronation Road. (It’s extraordinarily difficult not to write “Street”.)
This is a beautifully quiet neighbourhood where “everyone walks”, according to Kathy, with or without dogs.
Their previous home, in Jalan Tempua, was considerably bigger; but daughter Chloe went off last August to study Art History at the American University of Paris, so it was time to downsize. This house is much cosier, but having three levels, it still provides plenty of room for a family of three. Son Alex (nearly 16) is in his freshman year at the Singapore American School.
“We had to get rid of some furniture, but we’re so used to moving home every 18 months to two years that that’s become easy. I live by my mother’s mantra: ‘Get rid of it.’ ”
On the other hand, she admits, “What’s in our house reflects where we’ve lived before – from Egypt, where Ian and I met, to Abu Dhabi, Aberdeen in Scotland, Surrey in England, Dubai, Houston and now Singapore.”
Aberdeen to Abu Dhabi
Having five sets of French doors, this living room is probably not the easiest in the world to furnish. Dividing it into three spaces – a dining and two seating areas divided by a screen – was Ian’s brainwave. But the glass lets in masses of light; and Balinese lamps hung in the surrounding greenery look magical after sunset, says Kathy.
The coffee table and side tables are modern Spanish; an antique chair with barley-twist legs was found in Scotland; in the opposite corner, a low Pakistani chair (bought in Egypt) is draped with a length of fabric that was once part of a Bedouin tent. The Iranian rug is an old one acquired in Egypt. Most interesting are a corner-piece, a screen and a console table made from mashrabiya, the ornately carved wooden oriole windows found in traditional Arabic architecture. You can easily imagine languorous, kohl-ringed eyes peering through its little windows.
Above a floor arrangement of brass domestic utensils hangs a pen and ink drawing of the main market in Cairo, the Khan el-Khalili, where they were purchased. “These items would be instantly recognisable to anyone who has shopped there,” says Kathy.
Nevertheless, she and Ian have bought a few pieces of furniture during the nearly six years they’ve been here. Two of them – a Tibetan scripture cabinet and an altar table – came from Lee’s Antiques and Interiors. Above the cabinet hangs a colourful, naïve-style painting bought in Singapore on a visit 20 years ago. “I liked to show it to my daughter when she was little, and it still makes me smile.”
Every wall tells a story. In the master bedroom on the second level, it seems there’s no point my coveting the lavender-print quilt; it came from the US. Kathy points out a watercolour of the gates of Jerusalem bought on a trip to Israel some 25 years ago, and another of Ian with the e-nor-mous sailfish he caught off the coast of Mexico five years ago. He has more fishing to look forward to as the family will be vacationing in Florida this summer.
In their son’s room – sorry, Alex, it was just a hasty peep – is a treasured, signed Lord of the Rings poster. On the top floor, in Kathy’s jin shin jyutsu treatment room (also her study), is a portrait she commissioned on the occasion of her 40th birthday. We agree that having your portrait done – including having a photo taken – is an excellent way of marking an important milestone.
Goats and Pagodas
“I practise feng shui,” Kathy reminds me. “Each year, I go through the house with my compass and rearrange things in the most auspicious way. In Chinese astrology I am a sheep, and this is not a good year for sheep, so I placed this little five-element pagoda on a cabinet in the southwest corner of the room to bring in healing chi and convert negative vibrations into beneficial ones.
“And as water is generally depleted this year, I have brought a fountain into this room. After all, it is my healing space.”
Her healing space is filled with the heady fragrance of lavender; this essential oil is one of the top-notch Young Living range, which you can get from massage therapist and healer Frances Fuller (www.fullerlife.com.sg).
Kathy is, to put it mildly, enthusiastic about holistic health, and she sings the praises of various practitioners in the Singapore complementary health community.
“It’s nice to be able to recommend other service-providers: particularly Dr Christine Cheng’s Divine MedSpa.
“Christine treated my face with Sculptra, a series of injections with facial fillers that plumps up the appearance of the skin and also stimulates the production of collagen. You generally have it done from two to four times, with a break of two or three months between sessions. I’m very happy with the effect, and it’s expected to last for about three years.
“What’s more, Christine is an extraordinarily sweet person. What I most like about Divine MedSpa is that it offers such a wide range of complementary services apart from the high-tech aesthetic technology that it is generally known for. In addition to my jin shin jyutsu, you can experience reiki, body talk, chios healing, colour therapy and more; there’s a range of spa-type therapies, too.”
Kathy is also excited about the recent burgeoning of holistic health fairs. “In the past, there was only the bi-annual one in Fort Canning Park; now there’s a big one at Suntec City at the end of February, and the British Club is holding one in mid-March.”
Before I leave, she has shown me two health products that she swears by. The first – brought in by Kathy from the States – is the Stirwand ($150). When you stir the wand for 20 seconds through water or any water-based beverage before drinking it, it is clinically proven to greatly increase the liquid’s ability to hydrate, oxygenate and detoxify the body.
“The wand is amazing; it’s a product that’s way before its time. Its detoxing effect means that excess weight in the form of bloating quickly disappears; skin clears and nails and hair become stronger, too.”
The second is a nifty, fibre-based cleaning system (from Enjo; starting at $48) that completely eliminates the need for any of the toxic, spray-on household cleaning materials that most of us use. “My house is a chemical-free zone,” declares Kathy, who is an Enjo consultant.
Jin Shin Jyutsu
I experienced Kathy’s healing hands a few years ago, and can confirm how wonderfully relaxing the art of jin shin jyutsu can be.
“It’s so easy to do,” she says of this highly refined form of acupressure that moves the chi energy around the body, relaxing it completely.
“Through experience, you learn to listen and harmonise to the body’s energy, which in turn releases tension. It’s something you can easily do for yourself: I hold a JSJ self-help workshop once a month and love sharing the art with others.”
Kathy says she has seen a lot of people with stress-related problems this year; some with cancer, children with autism.
“JSJ is wonderfully empowering, because you discover that you can help yourself and your loved ones, and that you do not have to live with pain and discomfort.”
It seems to me that Ian is right. When you love what you do, and do what you love to do, every day is a holiday.
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