My family and I moved to London when I was ten. We spent one day and one night in Singapore on the way. I was still learning how to calculate time zones and understand the size of the world. If you traveled far enough, hours of your life disappeared when you walked onto a plane.
The four of us slept in one hotel room. My brother and I shared the sofa bed. Out the window, and down what felt like hundreds of floors, cars and taxis darted around like goldfish in a pond. We spent the next day walking through shopping centres that were three and four times the size of ones in Sydney. There were indoor fountains surrounded by waxy leaved plants with pink and white flowers. Mum bought me a pair of blue Hello Kitty pyjamas while I ached over mannequins in designer printed dresses, and picked out the diamond watch I imagined I’d wear on my holiday to a resort in Thailand.
We visited mint-green gardens and grand temples. Tourists saw everything through their cameras. Guides wore lanyards that said ‘Hello’ in dozens of different languages. We hovered between other families, who spoke in accents that I’d never heard before. The air reminded me of Noosa. We went on holidays there with my grandparents most Easters and stayed in a unit next to the National Park rainforest. In the rainforest, your hair stuck to your neck, and if you walked far enough along the dirt track, it became hard to remember how it normally felt to breath. In Singapore, you couldn’t escape this feeling.
As we walked back to our hotel in the afternoon, it began to rain. No one went running for cover, or held a plastic bag over their head. Dozens of umbrellas went up and we crossed the road at the traffic lights. ‘But it’s been sunny all day,’ I said. Mum reminded me that we were above the equator. The red line ran through the middle of the world, hugging its waist like a dressmaker’s tape measure. ‘Singapore has a tropical climate,’ she said, ‘it’s the same almost all year round, hot, sunny, rainy. Best for holidays and honeymoons and business trip stopovers,’ she said. I asked her what London would be like. ‘Harder to predict,’ she said. I walked a few metres ahead, tried to ignore the rain, and pretended I was by myself. I could be a tourist forever, I thought.
When the cabin lights turned back on as we prepared to land, Mum told me I’d slept for about four hours. But really I’d been stuck somewhere between daydreaming and sleeping, imagining the plane moving further away from the equator and from home, rainclouds swirling below us. My brother spilt his orange juice all down his front and I helped him cover himself in napkins. I wondered if I could predict what would happen to us in London.
Grace Finlayson is studying Honours in creative writing at QUT. You can follower her on twitter @gracefinlayson.
Col McElwaine is a Brisbane based designer and illustrator who thinks a washing net would be a great idea.
Chloe Hume is a Brisbane based producer who thinks making movies and pouring coffee is a neat way to get by.