Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Strangest Circumstances

In January, I stumbled upon this quote*: 

"Sometimes you meet someone, and it’s so clear that the two of you on some level belong together. As lovers, or as friends, or as family, or as something entirely different, you just work, whether you understand one another, or you’re in love, or you’re partners in crime. You meet these people throughout your life, out of nowhere, under the strangest circumstances, and they help you feel alive. I don’t know if that makes me believe in coincidence, or fate, or sheer blind luck, but it definitely makes me believe in something."

It resonated, because I have felt this with so many of the people here. That we get each other, that we are on the same wavelength.

People who will, on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday, at 10pm, say yes to a game of pool and drive with you to the other end of town, for whiskey sodas and 80s music, the bright green of the pool table, the crack and scatter of balls. Who will make papier mache pig pinatas with you, whilst watching Mad Men. Who share the belief that there are few things in life that aren't improved by the addition of pineapple. Who on the day that the office air-con breaks down, and there is no running water, will jump in the car with you at lunchtime to go eat salted caramel ice cream, blackcurrant sorbet. Who will mirror dance in the reflection of the sliding doors, to Shakira, full blast, hair swinging, hips shaking. People for whom Graceland is also the album to be driving down African roads listening too. Who also get excited by the blue and orange lizards that do press-ups in the car park, by 3D Lion King, by the way the lightning zig-zags violently across the sky. Who will ask their families for inflatable pool animals for Christmas so we can have an entire menagerie on river trips. Who will go on the swings with you, gladly, and not think you are strange for asking, not think it is strange to still love the feeling of kicking higher and higher into the air, despite no longer being seven. Who will dance like crazy things, until 4 in the morning, but equally make you chocolate brownies and do a puzzle with you on your darn-it-fell-on-a-Sunday birthday, whilst drinking copious amounts of tea. 

Sometimes this amazes me. That it takes going halfway round the world to find these people. That when you share stories, of London, of your life back then, you realise you were all existing in the same spaces, without knowing it. Orbiting, circling, but never coming into contact, until now, here, in this place of hot heat, and violent rainstorms. That E and I both think longingly sometimes of Dotori in Finsbury Park, specifically, that umami-sweet-salt salad dressing. That M and I can recall exactly the cold, fresh hit of the Hampstead Ponds. That E and R lived for a time a stone’s throw from where I grew up, Chalk Farm, and remember ice cream from Marine Ices, walking with a cone to the top of Primrose Hill, sweetness melting onto your fingers. The others too, who I knew in London, but didn't really know fully, properly, until we all found ourselves here. 

That it wasn't whilst browsing the postcards in the Tate Modern gift shop, or whilst topping up drinks in plastic cups at a mutual friend's house party that I met these people.

Rather that it was only here, in this bonkers, brilliant, often frustrating, but never-a-dull-moment place that we have all come together, found each other. Friends, yes. But also a family, of sorts. 

*On Pinterest, so I don't know where it came from I'm afraid

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

One year

A year here. 

Over a year. 

I arrived 16th February 2013, and now it is March, 2014.  Everyone says this, so to say it again is a cliche, but I don't know where the time has gone. 

How things become normal. 

That here, Orion lies on his side, as though resting in the hot night air. That milk is either UHT or powdered. That Larium and radio check Wednesdays, and femme-de-menage Tuesdays, Thursdays, have become the routine, along with locking your car doors automatically on entry and visiting three different supermarkets just to get the ingredients for a G&T. That fruit is orange or yellow or white. Papaya, mango, passion fruit, banana, pineapple, star fruit, mangosteen, lychee. That I don't know what films are out in the cinema, or when the next season of Homeland will start. That I get most of my popular culture updates through a Whatsapp group with my university friends. That looking out of the office window I can sometimes see multi-coloured lizards doing press-ups on tree branches, red yellow orange blue, the bright, garish colours of a child's paintbox. That occasionally there is a gecko in my fruit bowl, wide eyed among the wrinkly skinned passion fruit. That the heat becomes welcome, so that the entire time I was in England over Christmas I thought about the feel of the sun on my skin, and missed it, terribly. That I can tell now when a storm is coming, when the air presses down around you, to the point that the only possible release can be rain. 

It has been a crazy, tumble, helter-skelter of a year, full of music and dancing, of meeting new people and experiencing new things. Full of sunshine and pineapples and brightly coloured fabric and swimming in rivers and learning the French subjunctive. And without wanting to get all sentimental on you, or too rose tinted, because honestly the itch-like-hell mosquito bites will never, ever be a good thing, and the bonkers road traffic, whilst amusing for the Instagram photos, is more than a little stressful in reality, all in all it has been really rather wonderful. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Written in November

I wrote this in November.

Recently, these things:

Tying up bunting on a veranda, sheets of rain. On a horizontal cross piece between two vertical wooden supports, the tiny mummified skeleton of a bat. White bones, remnants of red brown fur.

The stick of the white kitchen tiles against my back as I watch the girl from Benin mix crepe batter in her too-warm kitchen. Watch her open sachets of vanilla sugar, zest a lime. 

A boat, noisy, the spray of water, the smell of petrol. And the speed, fast, so fast, so that with the sky above and the sky reflected on the river below, and the upwards angle of the boat itself, it feels like we’re flying. The way home, one motor not working, the craft low in the water, and slower than before. The setting sun, everything pink and gold, burnished, beautiful.

An ant bite, on my right thigh, that is painful, and hot to the touch, like a burn.

All these things. And this – that a cream envelope with a blue stamp can land on your desk. Inside, a thick card, embossed with the image of a tandem bicycle, two names and a save the date. On the reverse, handwritten in blue ink, two more names, mine and his, 'Dear B --- & M ---, hope you can make it'. A wave of sadness then. At what was, but no longer is.

For days the heat building and building, unbearable. Until yesterday, after work, the air cool, the sky bruise-coloured, yellow, grey, deep blue. A storm coming. Today we woke to grey skies, rain, seemingly endless.