My mother called from the UK. So I immediately knew it was serious.
Always aware of the international charges involved, she rarely calls Singapore from England. A death in the family is not always a good enough reason to call.
She once sent a Whatsapp message that read: "Call me. Someone just died."
In truth, the deceased was a very distant relative I'd met only twice and perhaps not worth the IDD rates, but it should give an indication of my dread whenever my mother does actually call.
With a degree of trepidation, I answered the phone.
"You didn't shave, did you?" She shouted down the line. "How many times do I have to tell you, when you meet royalty, you shave!"
My mother thinks she's qualified to give advice on meeting royalty because her hairdresser is a drag queen.
He is a rather successful drag queen. The trouble is he favours a rather outdated hairstyle that makes him look like Rod Stewart. And whenever my mother leaves the hair salon, so does she.
"And you didn't brush your hair," she continued. "What is it with you and hair brushing and shaving? You think the Princess wants to shake hands with a lanky Yeti?"
That's my mother.
She glossed over what I assumed might be the more pertinent aspect of the story, that her eldest son had been invited to an event organised by Fauna and Flora International - a non-profit conservation charity - at the National Orchid Garden to discuss ways of saving the Sumatran tiger.
The guest of honour was Her Royal Highness Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands and when we were introduced, the Princess said: "Ah, we are both children's book authors."
And I blurted out: "So you're a competitor then."
That's my mother's son.
We are cut from the same sarcastic cloth.
But my mother and my daughter had both insisted that I get a photograph with the Princess, for entirely different reasons of course.