The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Where the hell is my winter coat??

on October 1, 2014

‘WHERE THE HELL IS MY WINTER COAT??’

That was the distressed bellow of yesterday afternoon. I know it’s been years since I last saw it which is neglectful of me. I thought maybes it had been completely eaten up by moths. Or maybes I sensibly asked the in laws to take it back to the UK some time ago. But as it turns out, it’s under the bed and will take up about 3kg of luggage allowance.

So, you know, when you need an answer to anything, you just put it out there to your friends and you’ll get lots of helpful replies. They keep telling me just how warm the UK is right now and that I really wouldn’t be needing a winter coat just yet. Some were still wearing short sleeves, some were wearing flip flops, some were even doing without a full set of pyjamas at night and some were saying how a heat wave is predicted for this month.

Let’s put this into context. With visual aids no less.

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Need I say more?

I’m telling you now, that there better be temperatures below freezing point in the six weeks and three days I’m back in the UK. Otherwise I’m demanding a refund.

I’ve packed all my winter gear. Beloved scarves, gloves, shoes, bags, jeans, tops, coats and my very favourite woolly hat I came across last night.

Am I overly optimistic? Not as much as #1 and 2 who are talking about building snowmen and have been wearing welly boots, hats and gloves to ‘practice’ being in the cold. They will soon learn. They are so excited that #1 woke up at 6.30am yesterday and declared he’s just going to pack his suitcase.

He also asked if the people of England spoke English. A Daily Mail headline contender if ever there was one. Yes, they do but all slightly differently, with a much more pleasing ring to it the further north you go. Do they speak Chinese? Not all of them do. Why not? Yes, why not exactly?

I can hardly believe the day has come! I’ve been waiting patiently for this return trip for a whole year. I could have made it back earlier this year but I’d rather be able to attend Big D’s wedding and that of sister in laws with all the stuff inbetween. Plus we really wanted to do the Japan trip and you can’t do everything. Besides we thought we would have moved back before now. Though that’s by the by and lucky you Singapore.

But it has been a hard, emotional struggle, especially at the start of this year when October seemed so far away. There were times I felt quite upset at the thought of having been away for so long from my family. Of the fact that many, including my parents haven’t met #3 yet.

My excitement is not just about getting a fix of cold weather. It’s about being with my family and friends, back to the people I love the most. The ones who help you to recharge, reconnect and reassess whether a privileged Expat life is still for you or whether it’s time to come back.

It will also be a time to take a realistic look around and consider the prospect of a move back. Where to live, what schools to choose, what form of gainful employment to take on. All things that you already know about.

It’s been a while so forgive me and allow me to marvel at the everyday British things that may seem mundane to you. I’m well aware I’m viewing the UK with rose tinted glasses right now but wouldn’t you rather that than I put a downer on things?

So I’ve been preparing myself to integrate back into UK society and have come up with a Note to Self list.

1. Remember to pack own groceries at the supermarket and not idly wait doing nothing whilst wondering why the cashier is taking her time and the shopping is piling up and overflowing off the conveyor belt. This actually happened on my first return trip, just a mere six months into being an Expat.

2. Same goes for filling up the petrol tank myself and not wait for someone to rush over and do it for me.

3. Whilst driving a manual car, remember to change gears. And that the speedometer is in miles not km.

4. At traffic lights when the red light is on, it means STOP with no exceptions not even to turn left or right when pedestrians are not crossing.

5. Laundry will take a lot longer to dry.

6. That I must do my own laundry and clothes will not miraculously re-appear each time you open a drawer or wardrobe.

7. There is no $5 chicken rice option should you can’t be bothered to provide a home cooked nourishing meal for #1, 2 and 3.

8. My Dad, Mr Li is monitoring my every move.

9. Do not constantly remark out loud how cheap everything is in the UK in comparison to Singapore.

10. Do not buy any more books, shoes, bags and clothes or other sundry items because of number 9. Except for a new milk pan. I really need that.

I asked Husband if he could just check whether I’ve overpacked and he says, ‘I don’t need to look to know that you have’.

Like all well organised people, there were a few jobs I realised I forgot to do, just two days before setting off. I needed new glasses having sat on the ones I’ve got many a time.

The Optician did all the usual checks and is pleased to inform me that my prescription has weakened. (Has yours Nana Moon?) Feeling quietly smug, I’m about to hop down off the chair when he casually says, ‘So how’s your reading?’. ‘Very good thank you, I no longer read books with pictures in and can manage some really long words by myself’. If only.

Me: Why do you ask?
Him: No reason, can you hold this at your usual reading distance and read out loud the bottom line.

So I did, it was simple. Back to feeling quietly smug. Then he said, ‘Tell me when the words get blurred as I move this closer to you. Now try again wearing these.’ I honestly fell about laughing at the implication of this. Sort of like hysterical laughter. I’ve reached that stage of needing reading glasses. You have got to be kidding me!

I spoke with Nana Moon on Sunday to let her know what time I’ll be at hers on Friday with Uncle Monkey giving me a lift there. (I bet he’s really looking forward to an hour and a half of good quality interrogation with no escape). She’s already concerned at the high levels of giddiness I’m displaying and thinks I might wear myself out halfway through the wedding and find me asleep in the Maze. Quite possibly.

But at least I know I’ll have had my lunch as she proceeded to tell me our movements for getting from hers to the hotel to the venue via M&S for a sandwich so that we won’t miss out on eating lunch at the time lunch should be had. She couldn’t understand why I thought this hysterical. Neither can I actually but I guess it’s down to the fact that I’m the one who is constantly planning when to eat and for someone else to take care of that for a day is quite refreshing. I also asked her if it would be bare legs or tights for the wedding we’re going to but we all know her assessment of the correct attire suitable for the weather as per our Hanoi trip.

I have an itinerary of where I’ll be during the next six weeks and three days. I’ve got most of you booked in but I’ll be in touch again once I’ve figured out where to get a phone thing.

If I get a chance, I will let you know how we’re doing but this has been a long time coming and I just want to be with people, go places and quietly enjoy it all.

But I was very touched when Little Red told me she would miss us whilst we’re away. No tears though. And for the stoical amongst you, don’t worry, I do know how you really feel.

Farewell for now to Mosquito bites and sweat, couples in matching outfits and inappropriate work wear, free flow champagne and a beautiful skyline.

The ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign is about to light up.

We’re ready.

Are you?

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