Truth and lies (or myth-busting home visits)

There’s plenty of talk about what it’s like to be an expat on home leave. Well, here I am coming to the end of my UK summer hols, so I’m now qualified to comment on all the quotes that get bandied about on what to expect when you go back home for a visit:

‘There’s not enough time’: True, there is absolutely not enough time.

‘Nothing changes when you go home’: Poppycock. Any old chat with the person pouring the coffee will reveal that everything changes, for both good and bad. Open your ears.

‘Next year I’m hiring a farmhouse in Suffolk and everyone can visit us’: What, everyone? Will you have enough bedding? Will there be enough wine? No, that won’t work for us, or for any of my family and friends apart from those who happen to actually live in or near Suffolk.

• ‘No one wants to know what you’ve been up to’: Partly true, partly false, but it depends on who you’re seeing, how much time you have and what the kids are digging up while you’re trying to chat. I have found most people are keen to hear about work and school, not the swimming pools, and I think that’s a nice reflection of the kind of life I had before we left and the kind of people my friends are. So that’s alright.

‘You can’t see everyone’: Very true. Apologies to Parrot, Michaela, Mr Laing (for the second year running), Louise, Pam, ohgodeveryone – and the Cornish lot too #sadandguiltyface

• ‘Haven’t you grown?!’: Yes, if directed towards my stomach, and definitely yes for the children, yes indeed, they have all grown so much since last year, and now I know why old ladies say that a lot. Amazing and a little bit scary.

• ‘I hate living out of a suitcase’: So do I, and that’s why I blow most of our home leave allowance on a rental apartment. Here we can recuperate, chill, allow our pants to spill out of that suitcase, and drink cups of restful tea in anticipation of doing it all over again the next day. An essential booking.

‘We spend our lives on trains’: Same here, but I quite like it. Yep, it’s exhausting and can be costly, but what a great way to pack in precious glimpses of my home country.

‘It’s hard to work out where home is’: Not such a big deal last year, very much so this year. I’ve got lost in London a couple of times this past month, which is bonkers, yet I feel completely at ease walking around my old neighbourhood. I find I keep referring to Singapore as ‘home’, yet the homesickness I feel for London is very strong this year. I can only see the lines becoming more blurred as time goes on.

• ‘Coming home is a great reality check on how lucky you are’: You betcha, and just to prove how grateful I am I’ll be in that pool before my cases are out of the [fast, plentiful and inexpensive] cab. And to the Sing friends I’ve made, I have missed you (and you, and you).

‘Leaving gets harder every time’: Immeasurably so. No-brainer. Sadface #heartemoticon #kiss

• ‘You need another holiday when you get back’: Vietnam? Check.

Home leave

It’s 5am and I’m awake. I’m on the couch in the front room of our rental apartment. We’re making the most of Mr PC being back in Sing by having a full-ish house: BestFriend is stopping over for a few days just like old times and she gets my bed, with SM on the floor in the same room and me in the living room where, I have to say, it gets light fairly early and is noisy, looking straight down onto my busy high street, but it’s not that loud, or light. I can’t possibly still be jetlagged, can I?

Kids get overtired and can’t sleep. It happened to SM last night. There’s not a huge divide between the front room and the bedroom and we had the telly on loud and we eventually had to switch it off and just talk (again, like old times), but I’m not sure it was just the TV noise keeping him up. Over-stimulated, kept up late night after night, pumped up on playdates, maybe I’ve got a dose of that?

We are in Week Three, suspended somewhere between Arrival Adrenalin and the cosy entrenchment of faux repatriation. I catch myself referring to Singapore as ‘home’, which is nice, but at the end of each day we come back ‘home’ to this little temporary campsite high above the posh shops somewhere near our actual proper home. So there’s the limbo thing, I guess. We make visits every day and are high on caffeine and chatter, staying up late and doing it again the next day, but really, back to back fun is nothing we can’t handle.

As always I’ve an eye on the clock, tick-tocking slowly towards TheEnd, and I’ve also spotted yet another airline crash, buried deep in South-East Asian news so not as globally trumpeted as The Big One from last week. I can’t say it’s making me overly happy to hop on a plane in ten days time, but then Syria and Gaza dance across the news and I’m reminded that I could be living in a warzone. So that’s alright then…

No doubt about it, I’m definitely up. I think I’ll finish the article I am supposed to be sending any day now (just as well I’m awake and ready to write, then), and maybe after that I’ll heave my extra pounds around the block on a ‘run’ (hobble) while BestFriend and SM slumber on, and after that I’ll get some more caffeine on the boil in advance of today’s social antics. Sleep is so overrated.

Just a sec

We’ve been in the UK for a week and I’d like to sit down and wax lyrical but I just can’t put anything into words quite yet. Jetlag was bad this time, that must be it. I know by now I should be ready to write a whimsical and poignant post about the pleasures of home, the oddness of returning, the gritty London streets and green fields beyond and the familiar chill of cool mornings against paling skin. More than anything, the sheer deliciousness of being back amongst old friends and family.

I’m mute, though. Said friends have kept pointing out, since touchdown, that we told them we’d be coming home about nowish and we’re not. As such, I feel like this is a rare and special visit that needs to be savoured and strung out, and that’s pretty much how it’s been. It’s been a case of full-on sensory overload since we landed, drinking in every last drop of all the people and places we’ve missed, and it’s only Day Seven. We sleep deeply but briefly, up and ready early each morning for more. I have tweaked the chubby cheeks of England, ruffled my fingers through its shaggy mop and cuddled it on my lap over endless cups of tea and proper pub measures of vodka and I’m still not quite ready to put all that down on paper, quite yet.

So I’ll be back in a tic. Top up, please.


Postcards from the hedge

Three sleeps. I couldn’t have planned the countdown to UK better: this has turned out to be one of the most frantic and busiest weeks I’ve ever had, and that keeps the butterflies out of my tummy. When I sit down to think about our trip I’m a popcorn pan of excitement. By turns, as if to trumpet its own treats before I leave, Singapore has unfurled a couple of funky local sightings over the past few days:

• large parrot riding on handlebars of old man’s bike (Victoria St, nr central library)

• massive and beautiful vine wrapped around street lamp (Loewen Rd, Dempsey)

• crazy red bird with dark blue rooster-type head ruffles (Sentosa Cove Village)

• jagged red clouds on morning run (corner of Commonwealth & Queensway)

Touché, Red Dot.