August already as my sabbatical draws to a close. One year over quick as a flash, but has it been so fast. I remember those long days of packing box’s, moving, waiting. Weeks until that first plane out of England, long days that were replaced with nail-biting journeys, steering away from earthquakes. Long nights wondering about aftershocks and how/if we would wake. The rum bottle-shaped like a monk. Long sleepless nights in the heat of India’s monsoon, Southern Thailand restlessness and the beauty of Yangon. Thoughtfulness after my first days on the streets, itchy blankets, filthy toilets, spiders the size of my fist and the most glorious warm smiles that lasted forever, last forever. And rats.
Long days cycling around Angkor Wat, long days looking for lost accordions and airport after airport after train after bus after room, after train after train, after room after bus after train after bus bus bus tuck tuck bus train flight room room.
Long walks through the lower Himalaya , across borders, across bridges and no mans land. Long days on tropical beaches swimming towards the sunset, long nights in Chinese karaoke bars singing to The Carpenters before a long ferry ride, a sharp short air-bound shift and submerged in a totally different culture. Tada. Temples, stupa, temple stupa stupa.
Shooting movies for German TV, judging art contests in gymkhanas, day boats, night boats, night boats, day boats. Riding camels across the dunes of the great Thar desert, riding bus roofs for days in the Burmese countryside, hours of wondering and sneaking into five star pools. Long inductions into cults, friends dying of TB and falling in love all over again. Long lines waiting to be hugged by goddess and friends long goodbyes. Long hours between meals due to the fear of fish sauce. Beaches and swimming, searching for coral, avoiding the source of the sauce. Long days trying to book train tickets and the days drifting into each-other, as the sun turned me brown and browner. Long bus rides with fragile Burmese stomachs vomiting into bags and long nights running from lady-boys. Sunrises and sunsets staring out across the earth. The long wait for the apple store and the sheep waiting for slaughter. Waiting for red wine. Waiting for the bus. Waiting to return.
Street parties, room parties, bus parties, train parties. Friends never forgotten, connected forever by memory and the shared experience. Mrs. Popcorn and her avocado slat, Denis Sweeney and his re-appearances, the masseuse, the train worker and the boy from Israel. The vertical gardener, the wondering mistral, the girl who was desperate for action and the two Adams. The son of the Burmese government, the bagpiper and the fellow hope. The cigarette selling footballer, mamma z and the Shrew. All there, all here.
Designing shops for random Keralan men met on trains, hiring boats to sail great waters and water parks with segregated wave machine ropes and fake Bollywood rain storms. All taken in stride after taxis, rooms, bus’s and planes. Beetroot upon days of beetroot. A life really worth living. A lucky man.
Reflecting on this year that unfolded, with joy and with sorrow as i unpack the packed. Nothing presented as expected, days that just couldn’t have been planed. Excitement and freedom ever single day, but sometimes perhaps not. All documented, all lived, always cherished. Days of the then unknown, mystery on tap. Laughing, crying but mostly joy, with a little fear now and then thrown into the mix.
So as i drift through my final few days, before i resume my post i thank myself for making this choice, wondering how it will impact on my British reality. My only regret is that it didn’t last forever.
Life and living have halted to a stand still but without a crash as i find myself doing nothing instead of everything. No more beaches, cities, temples, bars. No more wandering along hot dusty streets, dark back lanes studded with pagodas, cows, living. No more boarding planes and hanging around in train stations. No more trying to find food without fish sauce and a bed for under four pounds per night, camera clutched. Skin back to white and brain back to dead – inactive, not stimulated, i may as well be asleep.
England enveloped by thick grey cloud, how do i spend these days when there is no light or warmth? With no income and no plans. There is only so long one can stay under the duvet. At least being ill gave me an excuse before i was forced to take the medication, nausea being this weeks recurring theme.
The furthest down since, back being the reason i went. There is nothing i want from England but selected people. It’s just a big grey expensive repressive miserable mess. Good country sir – NO!
I have no inspiration, or rather it is slipping through my fingers, fast. No focus, no focus to inspire. Ideas i had before i returned not materializing. The emails i send are not being returned, darkness and cold, summer? The reality of a post travel come down. Hard just to slip, fit and return to a space i feel so far from. Lives are busy, I’ve had it too good for too long. Hum drum.
Going out onto the street and finding adventure, as oppose to walking out on the street and being surrounded by it, the exotic, the unknown. Existing on doorsteps under lanterns and strings of twinkling lights, so vividly etched on my brain. Where has that sense of wonder gone, the sense of community, the sense of excitement, the glorious colour and movement of a race that looks beyond drinking and television.Not square eyed and not beer bellied, a race that is not British. Living in box’s not mixing, heads down. Street-life being the thing i miss most. Will it come with the Olympic flame?
Thud. And then came the sun.
Awake well before sun rise, i shift from bed to plastic chair overlooking the pigs, an ancient gnarly tree, mango’s on the cusp of turning ripe, pigs grunting and trotting as the transition from dark to light is aided by cigarettes, vodka and my iPod. Sitting in underwear being something i am fully appreciating as it wont be for much longer. Ten days. Legs perched on a concrete plinth, shimmering in mosquito repellent. I feel below the surface of something, bones and veins running towards the knees, visible below the skin.
Chickens and pigs. Chickens on pigs backs all free trotting. Trees triple my age, gnarled, hanging spiny lengths to the floor, providing a perfect vista as the silence rises with the warm light. Pig tails flapping, wings rising, their equivalent to repellent or just habitual?
The night-light globes finally turn off, another swig as i am almost ready for the day, but somewhere partly drunk. It’s morning. Longing to see, hold, touch those i have missed for so long; a list that could go on for sentences, including a tripod cat. The deep inhalation of the green. One more cigarette.
Five more minutes and i will return to my bed, asleep catching up on the lost but gained hours. Mangos pigs chickens.The sky full of light. One more aid to cancer, one more swig and my final word, sleep.
“Oh Thom, we met a huge group of girls from Trinity College yesterday and it was such a shock….and i had my first pice of meat in days…..it was sooooooo yummy!!!!!!!!!! Hows Barney and Flip??? Oh classic! We just had a red snapper ya, and we were surrounded by candles on the beach, it was like being in heaven, Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaa……Im so done with this being vegetarian thing. What are you going to wear, have you packed…Have you bought any nicey clothes???, but Thom, Goa is literally a holiday!!! Your going to have sauch a great time and soooooooooooo much fun……Oh and the tuna Thom, we are all putting on sooooooooooo much weight as the suppers here are huge and only five pounds for the biggest tuna. Oh no, you cant get your legs out in Kerala, its backward, but bra’s and knickers are fine here , pause, yaaahhhhhhhhh.
Pull the silliest face you can for me Thom, oh please, pretty please….it would give me soooo much fun. Go on, go on. Oh hahahahahahahaahhaahahhaahahahaha you are serch a comic Thom, so comic. Classic”.