You know when you’re on holiday and one place really reminds you of another? We’re getting that a lot at the moment. In this ‘Here And Not There’ life I suppose it’s only natural that we seek familiarity in all the new adventures.
Last Sunday, on a foray to the very chilled and lovely West Coast Park, Mr PartlyCloudy (propped up beside me under a shady tree) said: ‘It’s a bit like Hyde Park, isn’t it?’
It kind of was, a bit, sort of, except that Hyde Park is flat and vast. This place was tufty and lazy, sectioned off with dips and turns. It had a hawker centre and a McDonalds; I can’t think of an equivalent in Hyde Park. It had a random and jolly field full of enthusiastic campers in actual tents; I think it’s illegal to nail down a tent in Hyde Park unless you’re in the canvas bar at a concert. It was lined on one side by a dazzling crescent of harbour and had the hugest climbing frame from which our son, tiny against the big blue sky, was now waving, and it was all much hotter than it ever gets in Hyde Park: you could’ve fried eggs on that tall steel frame, no joke.
I knew what he meant, though, the place had something of the London park about it and so his brain had flicked through its virtual photo library and come up with a broad equivalent from home. I’ve done the same plenty of times in the last few months – Orchard Road is my Oxford Street, Botanic Gardens my Kenwood and Holland Village my Camden. (The west coast of Sentosa, we have agreed, is just like a party scene out of CSI Miami but that’s going to be another blog post altogether).
Why do we need such comparisons, and not just for places but also for things? Why are the expat websites full of threads about finding specific foods or brand names, favourite household gadgets or places to get something done just like you had it done at home? So often we qualify our new experiences with the reassuring line: ‘It was just like xxx’ [insert name of familiar and comforting place]. We all do it, me too. In amongst the embracing of a new culture we all need a little bit of Marmite on our toast.
I’ve always been teased for comparing places with my parents’ homeland, Cornwall. If I like a place and it looks a tiny bit Cornish then there I go, likening it to such and such a beach, to this village, to that pub. Mr PC is very patient with me about this but it must get jolly boring, and a bit daft at times.
Yes, I said eventually. I suppose it is a bit like Hyde Park, isn’t it?