What I am.

I am 50. As of today.

Teen and Hubby bought me all kinds of silly presents and bling, which was lovely. They also made me a little movie with them singing and playing and going on about how I’ve made them into better men.

(It’s a song by Thunder)

After I got over my initial delight at this touching gesture I realised that I’d never thought of it that way. I suppose I just hoped I was making them cleaner, and slightly more nervous men. Just goes to show.

I also started to think…where did all that time go? When I think back to the child and young woman I was I want to reach out across the years and tell her some things. It feels to me like she’s an alien being from another planet.

I want to tell her to worry less, laugh more and say ‘fuck off’ to a lot more people. I want to hug her and slap her around the head in equal measure.

She was skinny, too tall, shy, weird, full of doubt, and had no faith in herself.

That was then and this is now.

I am…

Not skinny. Rounded, large-ish, carrying too much weight etc etc. I just need to stop stuffing my face with crisps and get on with some exercise. Of course, at the moment my physio won’t let me but that’s another blog.

I have more grey hair than black and that is fine. My hair would very rarely ever change colour no matter how long I left the stinging stuff on my scalp. It wouldn’t curl either. So now I am old and I live in Malaysia and I have grey hair with a curl to it so who says dreams can’t come true one day…?

I am annoying and weird. I say strange things and make inappropriate jokes. I also find my own jokes funny. And I dress like a colour-blind toddler sometimes.

I am a writer. I’m pretty okay, not going to set the world alight but I do pretty well and am proud of the plays and books I’ve written.

I am antisocial. Grumpy. Arsey. Stand-offish. Rude. I don’t play well with others and don’t see why I can’t just tazer people in the face if I don’t like them and have done with it.

I am sore. Most days I’m in pain to some degree. I have arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica and am short-sighted. My warranty ran out years ago…

I like to paint and do craft stuff. Whether it’s a Lego kit or some kind of bead/wool/sticker combo I’ll give it a go. I usually get frustrated and moan about it non-stop while I’m doing it but I’m enjoying myself on the inside. Honest.

I can knit and sew but just the basics.

I’m a whizz at DIY.

I can’t cook and I don’t want to.

I like mint choc chip ice cream best of all.

I invented our family motto which is ‘No Cheese Left Behind’

Most days I could easily nap for about 2 hours.

I have spent the last 20 years forgetting why I came into rooms or went upstairs.

I’m not a fan of lettuce, or apricots, or talking on the phone.

I can nag as an Olympic sport.

I can’t sing very well and don’t like to sing in front of people.

I like watching movies and reading and messing about in the pool and walking on the beach and making people laugh and sleeping and thunderstorms and ironing.

I don’t like snow, sleet or generally cold weather, spiders or any size, or making polite conversation or any shopping trip that lasts more than 2 hours and starts at lunchtime, or sharing, or having a sore back.

I am me. The good, the bad and the ugly….

All in all I’m very lucky…here’s to the next 50 years (….!!….)

Foreigners Rock!

It’s true.

That’s what Batu Ferringhi means apparently and since it’s my new home I can honestly say that I, as a foreigner here, think it rocks.

When we first looked up Penang way back in the pre-apocalypse world of ‘let’s find a new continent to live on, it’s always a bit of a headache but we’ve done it a couple of times now so we know what to expect’ we were pretty blown away by the images. There was a sweeping beach and rolling waves and green, green jungle heading up into mountains. There were stalls selling food and festivals being celebrated every 5 minutes and monkeys and temples and sunshine. How could we resist?

We didn’t. And although we went into it knowing that not everything is as it appears on the internet (sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true) we hoped it would be most of what we’d seen.

It is. It, as I think I’ve previously stated, rocks.

We live a 5 minute walk from school, which after the 20 minute Wacky Races commute in Joburg is bliss. You have to watch out to make sure the naughty monkeys don’t steal anything and there’s usually packs of stray dogs wandering about but apart from that it’s a breeze. To be fair the monkeys tend to keep their distance unless you are carrying a little blue carrier bag because they know that’s what the vendors put the fruit in. And the stray dogs aren’t aggressive, just sad and lonely-looking.

If you carry on past the school you get to a T-junction and then you have the heady choice of going left or right….

Left leads to Hard Rock hotel, various small markets, other big hotels, bus stops and an easy beach access. We can be front door to beach within 10 minutes…not too shabby.

Unless it’s a weekend or a holiday you tend to have the place to yourself. I head out early and stride up and down trying to look confidently windswept and interesting and not the stumbling fool I know that walking on sand makes me into.

You can also apparently get your baby a shave, which seems unnecessary but who am I to judge the hirsute youth of Penang.

Hard Rock hotel is as cool as you would expect it to be. As a Christmas present to ourselves we’re probably going to get a family pass which means we can go there as much as we like and sit by the pool, listen to cool music, sip cool drinks and try to pretend that we are also cool.

(what’s that saying about fooling some of the people all of the time…?)

Keep heading left and eventually you’ll end up at Escape – the local waterpark – or Cat Beach – the local cat rescue centre – or a batik factory.

And then it’s miles and miles of jungle and Durian farms. But more on Durian another time.

If you decide to turn right then you can catch a bus and head into Georgetown or stop off at Tesco, Gurney Plaza, Island Plaza etc etc and shop to your heart’s content.

At the malls you can buy many interesting and badly explained items (see here and previous post)

Wrong on quite a few levels.

Or some disturbing snacks…

(shudder)
‘Paint me like one of your French women’

Or a vomiting egg toy, because who doesn’t need one of these in their lives, right? ‘Suck it in and vomit it out!’…there’s a life goal we can all aspire to.

But if you decide to give the bus a miss – or if you happen to ever so slightly shake or wiggle your head as the bus approaches and it gives you a miss instead – you can stay in Batu Ferringhi and here you’ll find a wealth of stuff and things.

As the sun slowly tries to melt your head through your hat, you can see the sights of Penang’s seaside town.

During the day you can walk up the street past crumbling buildings, Tardis blue corrugated iron walls and various sizes of roadside altar.

You can wander past the closed-up metal stalls of the night market and the sleepy street doesn’t come alive until 10am earliest. Possible half past. Maybe even 11am. Depends on how late the shopkeepers sleep in.

You can play ‘spot the monkey’…

Or ‘spot the gravity-defying sink’…

Just try not to wake the sleeping rickshaws.

We have many options for your stomach’s delight. For lunch you could go to McDonalds (yes, I’ve never lived within walking distance of The Golden Arches of Artery Hardening until now) or Subway (limp sandwich made to order) or Starbucks.

Does your local Starbucks have sunloungers out the back and access to the beach? Well then…(insert raspberry noise here).

And then at night the whole street comes alive.

We have a night market where you can buy your knock-offs in pretty much every size and shape. Designer handbags? Yup. Hard Rock t-shirts at a third of the price they are in the hotel shop. Done! Football shirts? The Teen has already started a collection.

Lights flash, music plays and I keep expecting to see a waltzer just around the corner. You can buy Mr Bean’s teddy, have a massage, eat Lebanese food and get a ride on one of the now-very-much-awake and lit up rickshaws.

(Note to self – take some photos and put them in the next blog)

With a cool drink you can watch the sun go down and pretend you’re on holiday…

Then make your way home along the road with the jungle on one side and rustling bushes on the other.

Bushes which could contain monkeys, dogs, cats or lizards the size of a microwave oven.

Life is certainly never boring here in Batu Ferringhi…

In fact, I’d go so far as to say it rocks…!

Does not mean what you think it means…

I love to shop. Not so much for the actual accumulation of stuff. That novelty wears off pretty quick and leaves me feeling regretful and a bit guilty.

And not for the hustle and bustle because both hustle and bustle are overrated if you ask me. I like to get there early, get what I need, have a bit of a mooch round a bookstore and then bugger off before the crowds arrive.

I can’t shop in crowds because people are, on the whole, imbeciles. And before you get offended I include myself in that. I have had many moments when the Darwin Award should have come my way but not when shopping. When shopping, I am a finely tuned machine. It’s just when walking, talking and breathing I get flustered.

I know what I want to buy and I want to go get it now. I may get distracted for a moment by a shiny object but 99% of the time I am on a mission and I need you not to be fannying around in front of me with your dithering and your strolling and your stopping and your pausing and oh my god I will tazer you in the arse……..

See what I mean?

So, for everyone’s sake I tend to get in, get out and be done.

Except that here in Penang there is a special lure…a certain something that will distract me more than all the shiny objects put together.

Bad English.

I love it.

Can’t resist it.

I see a certain type of package or item and note that it has instructions or writing on it. My pulse rate picks up as a I realise this could be it, this could be the one.

To be fair, I’m spoilt for choice. I thought Ghana was bad enough but Asia…it’s a whole new level and I am loving it.

I’ll attach some here to show you what I mean…I hope you get as much enjoyment/confusion out of them as I do.

…if you insist.
…clap along if you feel like a room without a roof…
…alrighty then…
…the what now?
Pretty sure that was a description, not what you were supposed to write on the actual bag…?
I know, right, booooooring!

And finally…I may have found the ultimate, the pinnacle, The One.

This is either what happens when you lose the will to translate and it’s 5pm on a Friday, or it’s a coded cry for help, or it’s that one of the monkeys got their tail caught in the typewriter.

Whatever it is, I love it dearly…

You’re welcome.

And remember, if anyone says you have a big butt, just tell them you have…

A hair-raising situation.

Being an expat is full of glamour and excitement. And hair. Usually my hair.

Most of the places we’ve lived have been comprised of mainly tiled floors. This works well in the ‘hotter than Hades what the scallop is going on’ months and looks smart and shiny when it’s all clean.

In the inbetween times it looks like something out of Watership Down.

Bunnies.

Big, huge, dust/hair bunnies as far as the eye can see.

It’s like that scene in the cowboy films where a big, dry bush goes rolling across the street.

When you live in a tiled apartment and you’re me this is daily life.

Dust bunnies come rolling out from under beds and behind doors like something out of a black and white Doctor Who episode.

I have viciously killed with a flip flop many, many more dust/hair bunnies than I have actual insects.

And I miss my hoover. So much.

(it’s on it’s way from Durban to KL. ETA 12th September – ish)

For now I have a smart, new dustpan and brush – long-handled for the more mature cleaner. Unfortunately all that did was throw the bunnies up in the air and send them flying behind me, over me, or back into the corners whence they came.

It was like an aerial ballet, majestic and graceful and fucking annoying.

Never one to be outdone by inanimate objects (for long) I have now come up with a method that works. I start sweeping in the guest room and work my way through the apartment until I have a collection of bunnies only slightly smaller than, but almost exactly the same look as, a Labradoodle.

Only at that point, when there’s some weight behind it and it won’t fly away, do I sweep the whole lot into the dustpan and straight into the bin. Then I carry on…and on…and on…until I finally reach the laundry room which is end of the line and the room I care the least about. Then I again wrestle the last few kilograms onto the pan and into the bin and collapse in a sweaty heap.

It takes about 2 hours and, because you obviously can’t have the a/c or fans going – that would be like trying to push ice cream up an escalator – you lose about half your body weight in sweat doing it.

So, by Halloween I should be:

As thin as a rake…or have enough hair to knit my own Chewbacca onesie as a costume…

I can already do a daily pair of Hobbit feet.

I did a pair today and took photos.

I won’t share that image with you though.

That’s a step too far, even for me.

Oh, who am I kidding…

Previously…

Last week on ‘Escape to Penang’…our intrepid (or tepid) heroes were packing to leave quarantine – did they manage to get out without being rugby-tackled by an Oompa-Loompa? Did they find their way to Penang? Did they get to see the outside world?

Yes, yes and yes…and it’s been more than a week! Time really does fly when you’re working out new life, new apartment and what to push to make things go. Or more importantly, what to push to stop the things from going in the first place.

So, we packed and left our quarantine room. We were escorted by the hazmat Oompa-Loompas over to a new and different lift and came out in a whole new world.

(hum the song if you must…)

Real, actual people…and not Oompa-Loompas!
Who knew our hotel was this fancy-schmancy!

It was a bit of a shock to the senses. After 2 weeks of being in one slightly dingy room suddenly there was light and shiny stuff and plants and air….actual air from the outside world.

Made us all a bit giggly to be honest.

We lined up to get our bits of paperwork that said various things which amounted to ‘not as unclean as they look’ and had the joy of people with faces. Masked faces but faces. People were wearing headscarves and uniforms and skirts and shoes and even hair…it was colourful and cosmopolitan and started to go to our heads!

Then Hubby and Teen asked if they could pop over the road and they were told they could! Unheard of freedom and luxury! They went to the 7-Eleven that we’d seen from our window and I honestly thought they might just do a bunk and run up the road screaming ‘Freedom!’ but they soon returned with nature’s bounty.

Sandwiches (only slightly curly) and crisps (only slightly soft) and Coke. It was heaven. Mainly because it wasn’t freaking curry. Never has a basic sandwich tasted so good.

And the culinary delights kept on coming…

We got to stop at a motorway service station. Two different ones in fact. This was starting to feel like being at Disneyland.

‘Look! A motorbike!’

‘Look! A person that isn’t in hazmat gear!’

‘Look! A motorbike!’

‘Look! Fruit!’

‘Look! A motorbike!’

‘Look! Curry….run away!

Note the lack of hazmat!
Not curry…

We got to wander up and down, and by looking at the posters on the stalls we began naming some of the meals we had been eating for the last 2 weeks. But we kept walking. We looked, we saw, we bought more sandwiches…cheese this time because a change is as good as a rest, right?

We ate fruit with a stick for the first time, and wondered how long it would take for us to do some serious injury to ourselves with the pointy ends.

We marveled at how similar and yet different it all was from the service stations in the UK. Similar in layout and the general feeling of people shuffling aimlessly around to put off getting back into their cars again. Different in the range of healthy food on offer – no grey sausages and sloppy boiled eggs here, thank you – and the toilet facilities.

Yes, it was squatty time.

Seen worse on the M25…

I hadn’t encountered one of these for many years, not since we were on holiday in Italy. But at least they come with instructions…

Noted.

After successfully managing to not lose my mobile and remembering to take my own toilet paper with me I decided to count that as an adulting win for the day and buy some local delicacies for the bus.

The ‘Smarties’ in Malaysia are a bunch of thieving bastards…

Not even half full…shocking! I’ve a mind to write a letter.

And I don’t know what these are but they taste like paper. Not the nice sort of edible rice paper but the sort of paper you get stuck on your tongue and makes you go ‘bleurghbleurghbleurgh’ as you try to prise it off…

Mmmmm…no.

Enough of this culture immersion and adulting, back to the bus, over the bridge and through Georgetown…ever closer to home.

Join me next week (maybe, or tomorrow, or sometime) when I’ll show you more of the sights of Penang.

Can’t all be temples and colonial columns you know…
Asia has a lot of bikes. You heard it here first.

Learning curve.

As our last full day in quarantine crawls slowly to an end I have been thinking about all the things I will try not to forget about this experience and especially all the things I will try not to take for granted in future…

Washing machines are an awesome invention.  So are those big fold-out airers and tumble dryers.  Washing stuff by hand is overrated and tiring.  For the first few days, you try to pretend you’re some peasant woman down by a stream just beating those clothes against the rocks like you see them do in the movies.  For the next few days, you start to realise that it’s not nearly as fun as it looked on the movies and that no matter how hard you scrub some clothes stay just a little bit whiffy….(mmm!)

A breeze.  Wind of any speed and quantity really.  Fresh air blowing in my general direction is something I’ve missed.  The background hiss of the a/c just isn’t the same and whether it’s cold, hot, or anything in between I’ve realised I miss an actual real-life breeze.

Weather in general.  Living in the sealed hotel room means we have observed sun, cloud, and rain through the glass of the window.  Whether it’s a hot day that makes you melt, a cold day that makes you stamp your feet, or a rainy day that gives you trench foot I miss the weather.  The constant not-quite-cold-not-quite-hot-sameness of the hotel room only adds to the unreal feeling of it all.

Walking.  I do love to walk.  I tend to walk pretty much everywhere whenever I can.  I miss that.  I can walk up and down the room as much as I like but nothing beats putting trainers on, headphones in ears, and striding off in one direction for an extended period of time.

Privacy.  As someone who usually spends the bulk of her day on her own this experience has been….testing, shall we say.  Things came to a head yesterday and there were some tears and tantrums – from me, Teen and Hubby!  Chocolate and hugs made it all better but it’s testament to how close we are as a family that we haven’t killed each other and hid the body in a hazmat bag full of rice. And if that sounds like I’ve been thinking about it then….yes. You can sit in a corner with your headphones on or even in the bath with the door closed but nothing beats having the place to yourself.  Teen has done well to put up with being in a room with his elders for so long but now we all need our own space.  There’s only so many times I can put my head down the toilet and flush it as I scream.  Not that I’ve done that.  Yet…

A view.  We’re luckier than most in that respect.  We look out over the ‘exciting’ car park, monorail and a highway.  We can stand at the window for hours and judge people’s parking ability, or laugh at their scooter versus pedestrian moments or flash our food bellies at the passing monorail passengers.  Lucky us.  But now I look forward to having more than one window, a choice of views, how very spoilt of me!

A chance to switch off.  I am not by nature a people person.  Shocking, right?  You’d never have thought that about me.  I have a point where I just need/want everyone (even those I love dearly, sometimes especially those I love dearly) to go the fuck away and stay the fuck away for their own good.  That point is now waaaaay back behind me in the rearview mirror.  I don’t want to have to smile or laugh or chat or look like I’m interested in stuff.  I want to just switch off and do nothing.  Zone out.  Put on my resting bitch face and go with the flow.

Soon…

Tomorrow we check out, get picked up by the school bus, and head to our new apartment.  Then we are free to unpack, wash clothes properly, open any one of our many windows, go for a walk, be in a room on our own, and ignore each other.

Oh, the total and utter freaking bliss.

I would like to think I will remember what this has been like and learn from it to grow as a human being and be more thankful every day for the little things that make my life comfortable.

But in reality, I give it a week before I’m blogging about how I keep getting rained on or it’s too darn hot.

Until then I’ll get on with packing and look forward to a heady taste of freedom tomorrow…wish me luck!

feet and view

Food, baby!

We have a tradition in our family.  When we eat so much that we get that little (big?) swollen belly we call it our food baby.

Sometimes we even lift up our t-shirts and pat the food baby.  (Don’t ask….!)

Anyway, during quarantine with a diet of noodles or rice 3 times a day and limited exercise options, this food baby has turned into twins…or possibly even triplets!

For instance, this is breakfast:

food breakfast

This is lunch:

food lunch

And this is the evening meal:

food dinner

Then sometimes they swap around, and sometimes it’s all covered in mad-hot sauces and sometimes we also get a little cake for pudding, and sometimes…when the gods are smiling upon us…we get a cooked breakfast!  It’s stone-cold but the roll, butter, scrambled egg, and grey sausages make a nice change nevertheless.

At the moment I’m feeling less ‘food baby’ and more ‘Stay Puft Marshmallow Man meets Michelin Man’ if I’m honest.  Just as well I packed a lot of elastic-waisted clothes and shift dresses!

 

Dear Malaysia,

We haven’t had a chance to get to know each other yet but I think I’m going to like you.  It’s the kind of ‘like’ that could even grow into love one day.

However, you’ll have to forgive me if I take a few weeks off from rice, noodles and all things curry once quarantine is over and done with.

It’s not you…it’s me.

P.S I would sell the Teen for some cereal, milk and a cheese sandwich right now.

Wibbly Quarantine Timey Wimey

Time means nothing, a week is quite long, a day is forever and 14 days is the same as the blink of an eye, and the life span of a whale all put together…

We wrote out a sort of mini-calendar so that we could cross off the days, it’s about as helpful as one of those Advent calendars except there’s no chocolate.  It’s always nice to see all those days crossed out (or little doors opened) but there still seems to be far too many still to go!

One of the things we found out early on was that we would be checking out on 14th and having our second Covid test on 11th.

Both of these things were wrong.

Information is a moveable feast at the moment and just when you’ve got a grip on what is happening and when it all goes a bit shit-shaped and starts to run through your fingers like sand.  Shit-shaped sand?  Yeah, my brain’s gone all quarantine wibbly too…sorry about that.

It turns out that we leave on 15th, not 14th and until about 9:55am today (the 10th) we didn’t know our second test wasn’t on 11th.

When you spend long enough in a hotel room with Oompa Loompas insisting that you don’t leave you tend to give in, go with the flow and let it all hang out.  So, when the hazmat crew rang our bell at 10am to say it was testing time we were…unready.  I had an outfit all picked out for the occasion.  Well, when you haven’t been in public for this long you want to look your best while people shove sticks up your nose, right?  The outfit I had chosen was not my black and white rhino bed shorts and my screamingly racist Simpsons t-shirt from OR Tambo airport shop…also I needed the loo.

Quick pee, quick change of t-shirt, and application of a bra, and we were ready.  Pop back to get our passports.  Pop back again to get cash.  Now, we were ready.

I don’t know much about the people of Malaysia.  So far all I know about them is that they smile a lot – I can tell, even with the masks on.  They’re also very polite and friendly.  Which is just as well.

2nd test

Coming into a room that looks like something out of Chernobyl is unnerving, to say the least.  You suddenly become very aware that you are at the mercy of the people around you.  They will do whatever they need to and you are going to go along with it.  It is as simple as that.

Teen was a bit worried and, in all truth, so was I.  Not that I thought it would hurt or be traumatic but just that you always have a little niggle in the back of your head that says ‘it could be positive…it could happen’.

With lots of thumbs up and smiling eyes, we were led through the paperwork and over to the testing stage.  First was the finger prick.  Done and done, quick and easy.  The Teen had to have his finger squeezed for a while as apparently, it wasn’t ready to part with his blood without at least being bought dinner first.  Then it was on to the throat swab.

We’ve done these in the airport and if you’ve read my other blog you’ll know about my tendency to throw myself backwards during this and any other procedure that comes at my face.  This time I sat back, gripped the table next to me and closed my eyes.  Quick jabby – done and done.

With pieces of paper clutched in our hands, we shuffled back up to our hotel room…to the strange sight of our door from the other side…

coming back to hotel room

Once in the room we got back into ultimate slob mode and rewarded ourselves with a Curly Wurly each and some high-fives.  We agreed that it was probably just as well that we had no warning, it meant less time to think about it and get ourselves worried.

Then we carried on our day – me jigging about on the spot in one corner while listening to my music, Teen hard at work trying to kick-start the grey cells with some online learning in another corner and Hubby on the bed manically writing emails like only a teacher who is due to start work at a new school on a new continent a week today could.

All this and we got little cakes with our hotel lunch.

hotel cakes for being brave

I guess they ran out of ‘I Was Brave Today’ stickers….nom, nom!

 

Quarantine: not as fun as it sounds.

14 days in a hotel with nothing to do and nowhere to go used to sound like heaven to me.

In reality, it’s not so much fun.

There’s the issue of not being able to go out.  The door sets off an alarm if we open it and I know that if we tried to wander down the corridor we’d get about halfway to the lifts before a gang of hazmat Oompa Loompas would rugby tackle us, spray us and chuck us back through the door.  And we’d probably lose our cake priveledges too.

It’s a large hotel room but even the largest room is still just one room.  The Teen sits on the floor of the bathroom sometimes – or in the bath if there’s no washing hanging up – and gives himself the illusion of privacy.  Other than that we go through set times of pretending like the other people don’t exist and averting our eyes to have some ‘alone time’.

Fresh air is something that you don’t really miss until you don’t have it.  Obviously, you can’t open the windows or there’d be people chucking stuff out or in all the time, like chocolate or McDonalds or their bodies/loved ones.  Makes sense but means we live with the gentle hum of the a/c at all times like our own little bout of tinnitus.  And it’s me, the Teen, and the Hubby…with what is basically a variation of curry 3 times a day…and room service don’t sell matches!

No alcohol and no smoking.  Not a huge problem for us.  Hubby is always up for a detox and we both stopped smoking years ago but I can only imagine what that’s doing to some people.

Handwashing is overrated.  It’s not as if we get all dressed up every day, it’s mainly slob-tastic, but nevertheless, it’s good to put on underwear sometimes.  My lack of sense of smell will only take us so far and it’s pointless to try and watch TV if your eyes are watering from the fumes coming off your loved ones.  We’ve divided up the chore as me doing the actual washing, Hubby doing the manly wringing out and then Teen dries anything that’s still a bit damp the next day with the hotel hairdryer.  There’s no ‘I’ in team, people!

Numb bum.  It’s a very real danger.  You sit on the bed and then you sit on the armchair and then you sit on the desk chair and then you have to run madly back and forth pummeling yourself on the arse to get the feeling to come back to your butt cheeks.

Too much information…sorry.

Your get up and go tends to slither under the bed and assume the fetal position.  I’d love to say that I jump out of bed and shower, get dressed, work, eat, meditate, do exercise and generally lead a productive and focussed day but this is me…if you don’t know me by now, etc.  We do some yoga, we play games, I write and the time gets filled but it’s mostly at the pace of a drunken sloth and the only reason I get out of bed in the morning at all is because Hubby opens the curtains and Teen starts threatening to talk to me about football cards.

There’s a feeling of time stretching out in front of you that’s full of potential and grab-ability which is then overshadowed by the same feeling slapping you over the head and telling you there’s no point and you might as well just go back to sleep.

You worry about your health – is that cough just a cough?  (spoiler – it is)  You worry about your mental capacity to deal with all this.  Will you flip out and slap someone around the face for humming under their breath? Are you going to suddenly burst into tears and not be able to stop?  Will the Oompa Loompas forget about you and leave you curry-less?

But on the upside, there are the upsides.  It makes for great stories for Teen to tell his wife/kids/grandkids in the future and let’s face it, it gives you all a rest from my photos of rhino bums or whining about FNB bank.  We get to hang out together and play retro arcade games, watch TV, do jigsaws, and perfect our badminton, ping pong, and volleyball skills.  I get to make the boys do all sorts of strange stuff and pass it off as yoga positions then we all do our 7-minute workout and laugh at how useless we are at planking (is that the right verb for it?  I plank, you plank, they plank, I am planking?!).

But most of all we get to look out of the window and see that we’re in Kuala Lumpur.  We made it, we’re in Malaysia, and since we plan to make this part of the world our home for the next few years we can walk out of here on 15th August with the sure and certain knowledge we are virus-free and of no danger to our fellow man.

So maybe that’s worth the curry breath and the numb bum and the slightly stinky clothes after all.

Typhoid Charlie and The Magical Mystery Tour

Test done, we all settled down to wait for our bus to the hotel.  You don’t get a choice of hotel, you get allocated.  It went about as well as every other raffle or game of chance in my life.

Also, I realised that there are some things I probably shouldn’t have watched before going into this journey – they are ‘Doctor Sleep’ and ‘Chernobyl’…

There is something slightly unnerving about moving through an empty airport under guard.  We tried at one point to put our bags down and sort out something but the guard asked us to move along with the rest of the passengers from our plane.  We had got into a bottleneck you see when everyone tried to gather around a small poster with a QR code so we could download the ‘don’t you dare break quarantine or we’ll know and hunt you down’ app for our phones.

There were other QR codes dotted about for this and that, most of which didn’t work and needed someone in full hazmat gear to talk you through the process anyway.  This is tricky when they have masks on and you can’t hear what they’re saying and they have gloves on so they can’t work your touch screen.

Apart from that, everything ran like clockwork…no, really.  It wasn’t quick but then getting a plane full of people through tests and paperwork and immigration and all that jazz was never going to be the most speedy of processes, let’s be honest here.  Everyone we met was doing their best to be smiley and helpful through six layers of PPE and in some ways it was reassuring to see the levels of health and safety.  Very different to when we’d arrived in Heathrow a few weeks ago and been waved away into the dead of night to lick anyone and anything we fancied.

Having watched ‘Chernobyl’ I couldn’t help seeing the similarities and being convinced someone was going to hand me a small bell with my snack and water so I could ring it and chant ‘unclean’ wherever I went.

After waiting for our busload of people to all arrive we were walked over to the empty baggage carousels and then to the bus.  Our bus was a delight.  There was nothing modern or clean about it…the delicate curtains at the windows looked like they’d come from a smokers’ lounge!

It did have some interesting ‘do not’ stickers though…

KL bus signs

(and we obeyed all of them except the farting one…honest!)

We then had the fun of the loading of luggage.  This was the first of many times we had to step back while someone sprayed our bags with what looked like insecticide but probably wasn’t.  Probably.

Then there wasn’t enough room for all the bags in the luggage hold under the bus so random suitcases were put in the aisle so that in the event of an emergency we could all die horribly and not have to worry about quarantine.

Then we waited and this became the theme of the next hour or so.  We waited some more.  The driver got off the bus.  We continued our waiting.

When the driver came back he walked around outside the bus for a bit and then started to knock on one of the windows.

He had locked himself out of the bus.

We all agreed that if we’d know that was what had happened we would have made a break for it but as it was too late for that we decided to let him back in.

We all cheered as the bus moved.  After about 30 metres the bus stopped again and we continued our epic waiting.

Eventually, the police escort arrived and we were off.

KL police escort

I’m beginning to think that I can’t get on a bus anywhere without needing the local Rozzers to be in front of me with lights flashing – it’s the only way to travel.

Now that we were finally on our way it quickly became clear that our driver was…well, unwell.

KL bus driver

The journey to the hotel took about 45 mins and he spent the whole time coughing.  Not just coughing though…it went a bit like this:

Cough, splutter, sneeze, hack, gag a bit, sniff, sniff, sneeze, cough, repeat.

And every third or fourth round he would add in a couple of barks like a seal just to keep it fresh and mix things up.

Oh, the joy!  Because what you want when you arrive in a new place during the apocalypse is for the first person you spend any amount of time with to be Typhoid Charlie, right?  Luckily he was also head-to-toe PPE-tastic so hopefully whatever ailed him was kept in his suit and away from us….we’ll soon find out I guess.

We arrived at the hotel to a team of hazmat Oompa-Loompas who sprayed our feet, our luggage, our hand luggage, the walls, the bus, the doors, and each other.  It was quite the strangest check-in ever.  I wish I could have taken some photos but my phone was in my bag and as such busy being sprayed to within an inch of its life.

There’s nothing like slightly damp bags to start your hotel stay…and nothing like empty hallways stretching into the distance with a mad-patterned carpet to make you think there just might be a pair of identical twin girls round the next corner…yes, we are quarantining at The Overlook.

As a writer, this is equal parts cool and worrying.  I’ve checked though – there’s not a single baseball bat or axe to be found so I think we’ll be okay.

And besides, I’ve got lots of writing to do and it’s not snowing and there’s no maze outside and why on earth would 2 weeks in a hotel room with my nearest and dearest be anything but an absolute and unadulterated freaking joy………..

Don’t answer that.