Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hot Flushes

It was fifteen minutes to landing in Perth, eleven minutes, nine minutes and still we were flying over bush, only the fact that you could see more than one road in a glance at the landscape indicating that there was a city coming up. At eight minutes to touchdown Perth arrived in my view, and it was as big as a postage stamp. I was alarmed at how VERY small it was. Certainly I had known it would be small, but the reality emphasised how large Perth had seemed to be when I left, and how my sense of size had adjusted to a London measure.

I was painfully astounded by the fact that the city became farmland on three visible horizons. I winced as I realised I could see both Midland (the end of the Perth Metro Area) and Rottnest Island (kilometres off the coast) in the width of the plane window while I was flying low enough to see cars on the street.

A hot, flushed feeling of reluctant isolation swept through me again, as it had regularly throughout the flight.

I had been perfectly fine in the 11 hours to Kuala Lumpur, watching movies, reading my book, not sleeping a wink. Perth was still far away, I was still safely distant from imminent arrival.

Then I boarded for the last five hour flight and I started getting cramps from the horror of two years passing and yet I was back where I started with only dreams that I had touched and then been forced to relinquish to keep me company. Once these cramps and shaking were over however the excitement would scoop me out until I was a motionless membrane, vibrating and waiting for the heat, the sun and the salt water to fill me up once more.

I was a roiling mass of dread and love, endlessly revolving like serpents fighting, endlessly showing one colour over the other, endlessly dizzing and sickening in its intensity.

After the rush of greeting those at the airport, after slipping effortlessly back into the banter of the family, after holding court for hours on end to family in the house and on the phone, I got into bed and by default thought that tomorrow I must tell Laura and Ozy and everyone what it was like to get home … and it took me a rather difficult moment of crashing mental gear-changes to relinquish the friends of the last two years to the ‘I’ll have to email them about this’ category instead of the ‘I’ll have to mention it when I see them’ category.

By the same token, the diary is filling up rapidly with dates to meet and greet and I am looking forward to being enveloped by my much missed and rather excited family. As the first traveller of the grandchildren I have been requested for family meals at each family home, the uncles and aunts sounding determined to wring every little drop of overseas wonderfulness from me, whether I like it or not!

This morning I got up at six thirty (damn body clock) and because the day was that special crisp sunlight of a flawlessly clear Perth winter day (read an English summer day that was only chilly enough for a thin jumper), I got my walking shoes on and went for quick squiz at the changes in Perth. Three hours later I had covered an area barely the size of the Square Mile and my parents nearly crashed the car when I told them later that day how far I had gone. ‘It’s quite small really!’ I assured them, smugly relishing their disbelief that I could cover that distance and still call the city small.

It was one of the best walks in recent memory – each corner was achingly familiar, but strangely devoid of sadness as the memories stayed hovering in the back of my mind, comforting in their familiarity, but reassuringly not swamping me with nostalgia. Perth has been important to me, but it resonates comfortably like much loved pyjamas, present, but not powerful.

I enjoyed seeing everything again, but I enjoyed even more the feeling of relaxation that accompanied my effortless navigation of places to get the best views, my walk along my favourite beach, the winding through the back alleys to the wharf for fish and chips. This really is going to be a rather enjoyable holiday!

Originally posted on Exiled Britophile, a blog I updated for about twelve months when I returned home from London. Due to it's frank discussion of how horrid I found Perth, these pieces had only been read by my London readers until 2011.

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