It’s been a funny kind of summer.
To kick-off my six weeks back ‘home’ in England I played that well known expat game of musical beds. 30 days meant I stayed with 16 different sets of people in 10 different towns, visiting several of them more than once. I counted three hotels plus two nights spent on board a 777. I only fully unpacked once and rarely had a wardrobe anyway. I managed to shoehorn in a week in Devon and indulge in the Ways With Words literary festival as well as my business’ AGM and a fair few days on a fruitless househunt. And art galleries. And The Sales. And a couple of London shows.
In the usual way, Ian only joined me for two of the six weeks at which point the itinerary went up a gear when his family was added to the mix. I gained half a stone because, well, when you travel around the country visiting best friends and dear family members you are indulged by more full English breakfasts, pub lunches and fish and chipses than usual. And we always found plenty of reasons to raise a glass and toast something special: a graduation, a new job, or taking a play to the Edinburgh Festival.
Sound familiar? I am sure that most of the people reading this have had the same experience. Oh the joy of the Expat Summer Shuffle!
By the end of it I felt fat, frayed and filled with warm fuzzies from spending six weeks with people who have known me longer than a decade and with whom the laughter over shared histories and misdemeanours warms the heart. Apart from the monotony of the M25 it’s a time of action-stations and confusion over whether we’ve just told a story for the second time to the same bunch of friends. We regularly visited three sets of folk in one day and it can be hard to work out whether were were repeating ourselves or withholding information.
It’s a rollercoaster of many more highs than lows. Our biggest highs included Joshua’s graduation ceremony, when a year earlier we’d doubted he’d finish his degree at all, coupled with the discovery that he had got a first. We also celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday at my brother’s house with a splendid family barbecue. Sam singing Perfect Day on Uncle Rob’s roof at sunset was a highlight. But then we spent the best part of a week cleaning the boys’ flat and moving their possessions into storage.
And now we’ve been back in Kuala Lumpur for a month and it feels like the fairground ride has been packed away fo another year. The majority of my KL friends are still on their own holidays and my usual routine does not look like starting again for another few weeks. I go down to the pool and there is no one there. I message people to see if they are free for coffee or lunch and their Whatsapps tell me they have not been online for weeks. Hungrily I scour Facebook for clues that tell me familiar faces are back in town.
It’s a weird way to live your life, isn’t it? When trips ‘home’ are crammed to the brim with action it adds to the illusion that ‘home’ would be a fun place to live again. Only, holiday experiences there exist outside normality, away from routine; no Sunday trips to the dump or weekly shops. They are unreal.
Then, for a few weeks at least, after that 777 hits down on the tarmac, what’s ‘normal’ for us takes time to recalibrate away from warm beer, farm shops and the wonder that is John Lewis and back to sweet baby bananas and fresh coconut water, spicy hawker food that slaps you on the back of the head with its deliciousness and doing lazy laps of the pool in the guaranteed morning sun. Oh and the bliss of a walk-in wardrobe.