Slight return


It took me about an hour to get home from the office this evening; I hailed a taxi as soon as I got out onto the street, I arrived at Victoria station with three minutes before my train pulled out, and I got picked up at the other end a minute after the train had deposited me in Beckenham. Even with such an efficient movement across the city, it still took me an hour. Then again, when I lived in London it would take me an hour to cycle home. Or an hour in a car. Or an hour and a bit to run. It’s like London is a chronological vortex, where no matter how you travel through it, it will always take the same time to traverse your route.

That meant that I didn’t get out for a run until 9:30 this evening. In Singapore, I’ve got used to black skies, the sun vanishing shortly after 7pm. In Beckenham, on a cold, clear night, with the sky still a magical deep blue rather than a sweaty orange or gloomy black, I felt like I was in a very strange place. I didn’t understand why there was so much space, why the buildings were all so low, and especially why it was so cold.

I’d forgotten about the cold. Before I went out, I went through the hamper of sports gear I’d left at my parents’ house, and it was almost all cold weather gear: thick gloves, extra heavy lycra tights, layer upon layer of thermal clothing. I risked going for a run in skimpy shorts I bought in Hong Kong, and just two t-shirts. I didn’t feel cold until I got home, when my shoulders and neck began to protest. I’m not sure if it was from being crunched over a laptop all day, or because the cold weather was making my body seize up and refuse to work for me. I used to suffer a lot with aches and pains when I ran in England. I suppose I still do sometimes in Singapore, but that feeling that your body is rebelling against you just because it’s too damn cold is something I’d forgotten about. The cold, dense air is full of delicious oxygen, there isn’t the stench of fried food but just the smell of flowers, and it’s altogether more pleasant in many ways to go for a run when you aren’t sweating through your eyeballs, but I’d forgotten all of that. I suppose it’s been a long time since I was last here.

I’d forgotten about the wheezing. I’d forgotten about the tiny pricking of needles against any parts of your body you’d left exposed to the chilly night air. I’d really, really forgotten how much my neck doesn’t like me going running in the cold, late at night. And I suppose I’d forgotten about how dark it gets on this side of the world. Before ten in the evening, houses are dark, there’s no massive spray of neon spurting into the sky. It feels like the suburbs of London are somewhere that you go to sleep.

Oh. That would be what a commuter dormitory is; acre upon acre of storage facility for businessmen and women to sleep in before they go back to their jobs in their offices again. I suppose I’ve got reverse culture shock, coming from a building full of shouting drunks eating fried rice at ten o’clock at night, screaming Asian cuckoos waking me up at 5 am, and then depressurising back in the old country. Like an angler fish raised up from the benthic depths into daylight, the change in pressure is too much, I’m about to explode.

Or I’m about to go to sleep. It’s been a long day. I’ve travelled for an hour you know.


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