Every time I return to Singapore I am struck down by swollen eyes, streaming nose and horrible hair, and vanity-based gloom manages to depress me quite significantly. At the troughs of depression the flashbacks I get of London are always incredibly simple: me, on a street in London, it doesn’t really matter which street, just feeling good. This is the element of the comparison which stuns me: take a random day, time, place, and state of mind in London, and I am almost always going to be feeling better, whatever combination of those variables you come up with, than I do in Singapore.
But that’s just the explanatory prelude to Thursday. It was overcast, and the walk from Parkway Parade to the library left me pleasantly unsticky, except for the drips from my ice-cream. I walked along roads I never realized were so beautifully tree-lined until I remembered London, passed a bus stop that looks like a huge conch shell (my neighbourhood is by the sea), under an overhead bridge brimming with flowers. I was feeling London levels of good.
The library was as wonderful as it’s always been, huge glass windows letting in all the natural light that’s lovely to read by but none of the glare, students on the floor using the benches that line the windows the way I used to do my homework on our coffee table, an old man nodding off in one of the big comfortable chairs, a small earnest bespectacled boy using what must have been three family members’ worth of library cards to cart out a pile of books. I had to get travel guides to help Mum and Dad plan their trip to Ireland and Wales, so that left only two more books for me. I eventually decided on Enduring Love (Ian McEwan) and Felicia’s Journey (William Trevor), which I should be able to finish in a week at most (along with Julian Barnes’ A History Of The World In 10 1/2 Chapters which I’m reading at home).
It finally rained at night, quiet but intense rain, the sort where you look out and see sheets of water moving across vast tracts of Singapore like a purposive entity. I opened the balcony door a crack while I was reading. In the morning the pages of my book were wrinkly.