I never fail to be surprised at just how interesting Asia can be, even in the simplest of things. Even in my short time here in Singapore and even while I struggle with the jet lag. Come to think of it the most difficult thing is probably not the time difference and more the climatic difference – from fifteen degrees Celsius (combined with a stiff and cold breeze off the Quantock hills – conveniently, at least for us, keeping the significant part of the threatened rain in South Wales on the other side of the Bristol Channel (sorry to any Welsh friends out there) to over thirty degrees and humid. Almost hard to breathe but then as a confirmed North Easterner I do not really do well in heat of any sort, much preferring to lurk in the shade. In fact apart from being away from the Lovely Wife probably the thing I miss most is that I’ll be away for all of May – one of my favourite times of the year. A month where the birds are fully in their breeding season and the summer visitors starting to arrive, culminating in the arrival of the swifts at the end of the month and the literally screeching arrival of summer. It is often sunny and bright with that kind of light intensity that the season brings but without the wearisomeness that can develop as the summer rolls on an mellows into a pedestrian pace – May is a month that skips along like a six year old girl, full of unrestrained joy. Well, in my head anyway. So I’m going to miss the British spring, here’s hoping for a great June to compensate.
Anyway, back to Asia. Whether it is Japan, China or here in Singapore, there is always something to look at. Different ways of expressing things (and not just in terms of hilarious English – let’s be clear about the number of terrible uses of English in the UK – including having to looked out for ‘Slow Children’ and worried about the mental state of the poor ‘This door is alarmed’). Pictograms, warning signs and reminders to jog on the left are fascinating. But it is food that is the true wonder of many Asian countries for me. Having landed two hours beforehand I was obviously determined to shock myself into getting rural Somerset out of my system a kill or cure way by walking around one of the many food halls here. Assaulted by colours, smells and noise, I could wander around these places for ages constantly seeing things that make me think first ‘what on earth is that?’ closely followed by ‘I wonder how it tastes?’ Sadly, or perhaps happily for my already ample waistline, I think go into equivalent of being caught in the headlights of all of these culinary delights and end up unable to choose. It is a common problem for me; at a music festival Canada a few years ago I ended up going hungry because I could not decide what type of poutine to have – and considering that poutine is basically cheesy chips with gravy (and in this case some meat and/or vegetables thrown in) that is indecision of the highest order.
It may take me some time to get used to the heat – I’ve not had the courage yet to venture outside in my running kit yet in fear of heat exhaustion – but there is plenty to keep me amused in the air conditioning (outside of work of course). Most amusing thing so far is some cooking oil branded as ‘Duck’, going on the reassure us that it is 100% vegetable (to put off any concerns that the name might be more a description of contents, I presume!).