I wake up alone for the first time in over a week, in the attic room that Robert kindly moved me to and charged me less for when I explained my mistake on dates. I sleep a long time and feel a bit empty. This will be a long day of just getting ready to leave.
Robert makes a tea for me and gets me a slice of sticky pink/white coconut cake, and I chat with him and his friend Mr Tan about the welfare state and cost of living.
I stroll to the internet cafe and print my boarding pass, then in the heat, make it to Simple Life (this time open) for a big lunch, which is similar to the one with Cyrus except for my main dish I have a medly of asian mushrooms, steamed luffa (not sure what this veg is) and beancurd sheet. i also have an apple/carrot/ginger/honey smoothie.
At the fountain there is a newly wed couple both in white having their photo taken. In fact everyone on this little square seems to be armed with some kind of camera, all of these being pointed at every conceivable view there.
I cross the bridge and spend a pleasant 15 minutes discussing Chinese birth signs and my personality type with the 2 ladies working there. One has a daughter married and living in Essex. I am told that my match should be a rabbit, horse or pig and that in times gone by when Chinese customs didn’t allow dating, a future spouse would be chosen according to their year of birth and their compatibility. These days there is more flexibility and people are allowed to adapt themselves and compromise to make themselves more suitable. That’s good news. Cyrus is a snake….
I question the description of my character, which funnily seems quite accurate. I’m told that I must be talented as I’m a teacher. That’s an interesting complement. I had already been told by the novice at Vientiane that I’m a good teacher and that I changed his life. Eyrique had said that he appreciated my conversation, and later when I say goodbye to Robert he tells me that I’m a great man and he has learnt a lot from me. Does this mean something? That I’m a a natural teacher? It’s given me food for thought.
I have one more cendol in the same place and at the same table, but no Cyrus. I find Robert watching the blacksmith hammering knife blades and we talk about the individuality of each blade. We have our photo taken together, looking like presidents posing at a summit meeting. Our goodbye is sincere and heartfelt.
The taxi to the bus station is a good idea (perversely costing more than a bus to KL), and gives me time to wander and spend my remaining ringett on some slices of fried tempeh and some sweet buns. I also bump into the Shropshire couple, which is nice, as it allows me to say goodbye.
It is raining a little as the bus pulls out and Cyrus and I speak, both missing each other. we speak again just as I enter Johor, then as I leave Malaysia and am on the Causeway. Our connection is cut as soon as I’m in Singapore. Separation becomes total…..
The bus drops me at City Plaza and from there I get the MRT, which is a block away, and this takes me all the way to the airport. Easy. It’s a big airport and I need to get a sky train to the right terminal. Having spent all my ringett, I then spend most of my remaining Singaporean Dollars on some duty free mango vodka (well, it’s kind of Asian). Back to reality with an email from UK about my video job with ALA. The brief has been radically changed without consultation and I need to give it some deep thought..
The flight on the Airbus (360 tons fully laden with 800 passengers) lasts 13.5 hours and is a bit arduous. Sleep isn’t easy, the movie choice is poor, and I give up on Cowboys and Aliens), though the CD selection does surprisingly contain Nils Peeter Moelvar. The food is stodgy and not well cooked.
I have a stopover at Frankfurt. It’s dawn. Asia and Cyrus feel far away. I feel a bit empty, a longing for belonging, and not feeling I belong back in UK. USA Today’s cover story is about the decline in deaths from lightning strikes. (compare 26 in 2011 with 432 in 1942). According to the paper I can expect 5 degrees in London. I have been used to 25-30 recently…..
The connecting flight is short and takes us over a wind farm before we cross the east coast of England and the rough geometric street patterns of villages and towns. And there is London as we circle waiting to land; the clear sky reveals a frosty early morning city. All the landmarks are visible, the soaring Shard, the dominant shape of the London Eye, Emirates stadium, Kew hothouse. I can even see troops of khaki clad recruits doing their morning jumps and exercises on the fields of Sandhurst.
It’s morning, but I feel I’ve lost a day. How can the train prices be this high? £24 from Victoria to Brighton. I could travel from Singapore to Bangkok for that price. By the time I get home its been 27 hours since I left Melaka.
What to do now?