The Light That Lets Me Travel In Lockdown
I've never really been a morning person and, though I'll never be one of those that leaps out of bed first thing, lately, my favourite time of day is just before sunrise.
Like thousands, maybe millions of others during this Godforsaken global pandemic, we got a pet, a tabby cat called Marlin. My six-year-old finally eroded the mountain of my resolve by raining down constant (annoying) cat impressions upon me.
We acquired Marlin from a shelter where he had ended up after his owner passed away. He's a curious kitten, just over a year old, but with a bitchy resting face that is hard to read. He is very much an early riser.
Every morning between 5 and 6 his plaintive howls can be heard outside the bedroom door, descending in tone like an alarm clock with a dying battery. He is relentless. I get up, put the kettle on, top up his food and water, then make myself a cup of orange-chocolatey Fleur du Maroc coffee from Bacha. (Outside the house I am not a coffee snob but at home I insist). Then I return to bed, prop myself up on the pillows and stare.
What I notice at that time of the morning is the colour of the light that leaks in around the blinds in our bedroom. It's blue. Before long it will become a blazing orange, so fierce that the blinds will be hot to the touch. But in that precious moment the light is as cool and refreshing as it would be in any destination further north or south of here.
Here, by the way, is Singapore, where I have lived as a British expat for over 12 years. It's a tropical island and it's beautiful, seriously, this is where I am sitting right now...
However, the average daily temperature in Singapore is a thick and humid 32 degrees, there are no seasons and every day consists of exactly 12 hours sunlight, 12 hours dark. It NEVER changes. But in that hour before sunrise, when the light is cool and blue - even though the temperature outside the air-conditioned bedroom is already 28 or 30 degrees - you can imagine yourself to be anywhere on Earth. At that moment, outside those blinds, could be the bustling streets of London or New York, the epic skies of Australia, the cascading waterfalls of Norway or the cozy cafés of Copenhagen - all places I love and long to see again.
I try to linger in this moment, I have music and books to hand that allow me to sink further into the fantasy. If I want to be in London I'll read a few pages of a Bryant & May mystery, if I wish I were in New York I'll listen to Gershwin, if it's Australia then I might tune in to Triple J or any number of local radio stations around the world via Radio Garden. I love to hear the news and ads from far away places; county council announcements, school sports bulletins and the latest deals from the local car showroom all delivered in different dialects. It's proof that life - normal, everyday life - goes on somewhere.
One my frequent fantasies is to live by the British seaside, so one of my favourite things to do is settle into my school-mate Dave's Breakfast Punx Podcast from Hastings and listen to his Bromley-accented banter whilst I watch the live webcam of the pier.
Being locked down in Singapore is not the short straw by any means but living in a mono-seasonal country that is, roughly, half the size of London leaves limited options for fun or escape. If, as they say, variety is the spice of life then I'm afraid I require more than Singapore's famous chilli padi to survive.