Tomorrow marks the beginning of the month in which I will celebrate my 40th birthday. I’ve not yet decided upon a suitable present to myself. Currently, it’s a close call between a new motorbike (black, with big handles, obviously) or a new sound system. A drum-kit seemed too much of a cry for help.
In reality, I’ll probably settle for a new suit-case, as my two have both recently submitted to the perils of non-stop travel these past four years, hurtling around the region. Continue reading →
I am back in Saigon, having missed most of the Tet celebrations this month. Instead, London was calling, and I returned there for two weeks…
Tet, by all accounts, went off smoothly without me.
The weather was perfect and, in Daddy’s absence, Florence and Martha at least dressed up ‘proper’ for the occasion…
I still can’t quite believe that, this time last week, I was sharing a pint in a Nunhead beer shop with a certain Mr Barmby – kept warm later that evening from the (frankly) glacial temperatures, thanks to our wise move to follow up the pie and gravy supper with a boat load of apple crumble and custard.
In the UK, we may entertain far too many grey and cold days each year than is good for anyone, however, we are also world class experts in tactics to at least keep the soul and the belly in fine fettle, whatever the conditions.
In every house at which I stayed throughout this last trip, without exception, the living room fires were roaring, and the alcohol and indulgent food made for a daily, and delicious, concoction.
Fish and chips, curry, roast beef, lasagne, bangers and mash. I could go on.
It tends to be unsatisfactory, trying to make sense of flying halfway round the world, immersing yourself in surroundings so familiar you feel an integral part of what is going on, only to then jettison back into surroundings utterly removed from where you have been, yet at the same time also totally familiar.
On this trip, whether I was with family, with friends, on the London Underground, or pounding pavements that I used to run down to catch my evening bus home, I could very easily have forgotten all about Vietnam in an instant.
London, in particular for me after 14 years living there, will always hold a special place in my heart. I know it intricately, yet it is also not quite how I left it, and I saw myself bounding about last week as if observing a former me from the past. Steering a pushchair through a park, tapping out a text message as I headed out of the office, leafing through a Metro newspaper, waiting for something to jump off the pages at me.
On the one hand, my visit was intense on the work front (although hugely rewarding) but then surprisingly calming on the social front. Non-stop “catching up” with various folks, everyday, was, for a change, a much more languid and reflective and nourishing affair.
And I thank each and every one responsible for that – it was needed!
There were family trips to watch England vs Italy at Twickenham, visits to new babies, meeting new partners, rubbing shoulders with new and old work colleagues. There was nostalgia, contemplation, and a barrel of laughs (more pics below for posterity).
Meantime, over in Laos, heady with exploits of coming face-to-face with abandoned wild bears, and riding on the backs of elephants, my children threw themselves into yet more adventures and experiences that will shape them forever.
That, and I was also sent a photo of Martha yesterday learning how to fire a crossbow. I can only imagine how excited she will be tomorrow when she tells me all about that.
With Tet decorations now down, and schools back tomorrow, the end of February will close out what has been a very special few months. On all fronts.
In missing people along the way, I only feel more deeply touched by what is to come, and how lucky I am.
For this, and on many other levels (including the important role that pictures play in my life) my anthem of choice flying back here at the weekend was a real blast from the past – and therefore it does come with a warning to anyone who, like me, fast approaching 40, may not need reminding that this track first came out twenty six years ago.