FIVE (AND A HALF) YEARS

I’ve now been back in London for almost two months and am, for the time being, working for myself, so it seems the ideal time to resurrect my blog which I began in Beirut. Former readers may remember some of its important key narratives such as power cuts and water shortages, being drunk then hungover, and an amazing love letter and diary we found in our flat left behind by a former tenant.

As with any kind of diary it is of course funny reading it back with the benefit of hindsight. There’s a paragraph where I slagged London off for being hectic (in comparison with Beirut, it is) unaware of how stressful I would find the pace of life a few years later in Asia. While I gradually became quite cynical about expat life in Hong Kong, I can sense the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm I had for my first couple of years abroad. Certainly I ran out of steam in the end, but then again, after three moves in five years, I think a lot of people may have. Life became much more complicated than when I was keeping my salary inside a cardboard star above my bed in Beirut. It is also worth noting that improbably, I visited somewhere called ‘Love Island’ off the coast of Tripoli in 2013; at least this is what the strange ‘sea captain’ who took us out there claimed although I now can’t find any evidence of it on the internet.

Following 18 months in Lebanon I moved to Shanghai for two years, and after that, Hong Kong for another two. These are five (and a half) years that I would like to eventually turn into some sort of travel memoir, and it begins with putting it all in this blog. I don’t expect to make sense of any of it, or for it to have some kind of point, because, well, I don’t think your own life necessarily works like that even if you are trying to turn it into a bit of creative non-fiction. Maybe it would be nice to have some sort of epiphany, because the truth is, I left Hong Kong under a black cloud. I had just been through a devastating break-up, found myself sinking at work, was generally burnt out, and was without a proper support system to help me deal with everything. Rock bottom was sitting alone, hungover, and weeping in a cat cafe in Seoul. The only cat that deigned to come near me was one of those scary bald sphinxes; it sniffed my finger and then stalked off.

Thankfully that black cloud has for the most part lifted. People keep telling me how well I look and this is because I have spent the past eight weeks basking in the endless sunshine of the most brilliant summer in London – the World Cup, Pride, the anti-Trump protest, my birthday (a national event), and lots of wild swimming in Hampstead Heath ponds and Shadwell Basin, although now it’s the summer holidays there are lots of loud children in the latter, jumping in and shouting things like ‘I fucked your mum!’ and ‘I fisted your grandma!’ constantly at one another which spoils the relaxing atmosphere somewhat. Come to think of it telling someone you fisted their grandma is surely more embarrassing for the person that did it, so maybe I’m remembering it wrong but it was definitely something along those lines. Anyway, in the words of Renee Zelwegger who denied having a facelift despite suddenly looking like a totally different person, ‘I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows.’ Oh, and having a tan helps. Even gingers can tan, you know!

Anyway, I stopped writing the blog not long after arriving in Shanghai, so I guess I’ll pick up from where I left off; retrospect may give it a different sort of tone but I am sure that it will still be filled with the kind of complaints, uninformed observations, and SHOCKING indiscretions that previously captured the attention of a few friends and my mum a global audience. Plus I’ll tell you about the time I went to Hello Kitty World and then saw an old man wanking on the side the road. Don’t forget to tune in!

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