Do you like that rhyme? I made it up myself. It’s good, no? Catchy. Just like impetigo. Christ almighty. One day the Girl had a teeny cut on her thumb, three days later they all looked like lepers, bits of skin flaking off them, noses hanging off, arms and torsos like they belonged to rotting cadavers. The initial shame of being seen in public with them was quickly replaced by the horror of being ordered to keep them away from EVERYONE, plus NO SWIMMING ALLOWED. Basically we spent last week shut up in the apartment, sweeping up scabs and flakes of skin. But as quickly as it appeared, it – with the magic of antibiotics – disappeared. Except not entirely. The Baby’s has morphed into something which makes her look like she has been transported from 17th Century London slums (although fatter, and with fewer club feet) and so today I eventually sought medical intervention; scales growing on a child can only be ignored for so long. The doctor more or less told me he had no idea what it was, and handed me some cream “to try”. “The Tropics, huh?” he said, as we left.
Huh, indeed. It is just beginning to dawn on me that we are living In. The. Tropics. The writing has been on the wall for sometime, but I – with my English Breakfast Tea, BBC World Service, Guardian Weekly, and penchant for fish-finger and tomato ketchup sandwiches (oh yes) – chose to ignore it. Which is fairly impressive, considering what I’m up against.
The first – and overriding – tropical indication is the heat. But more than the heat, there’s the humidity. Currently it’s hovering around the 100% mark. To give you an idea of what that’s like, I opened the dishwasher the other day (it must have been Sunday, when our maid was off - why else would I be opening the dishwasher?) when it had just finished its cycle, and while I could feel the heat, there was hardly any steam. (It’s nice to know that our kitchen is as hot as the inside of a full-speed dishwasher.)
Then there are the bugs. A bumble bee so big that I momentarily thought I had shrunk stumbled against my head yesterday; if I had had my wits about me and not been screeching dementedly I could probably have held onto its legs and hitched a ride home. There are currently moths as big as bats flapping around. (Put one thumb above the other and stretch out your hands; that’s how big they are. Now imagine the noise of one of those fuckers trying to mate with your light bulb while you're trying to unwind with a post-kids-bedtime
bottle glass of wine.) Ditto the wasps and the ants and the (venomous) caterpillars.
Bugs are super-bugs here – there must be something in the (wet) air.
Plus there’s the thunder. As the old saying goes, with great humidty comes great thunder. Back in civilisation there’s something very comforting about a nice thunder storm; you, cuddled up in bed; the elements raging futilely at your secure window pane. Here, however, the elements have crept in through the mosquito screens and are ripping the sky apart several inches from your head. It is TERRIFYING. It is also constant and relentless. Someone showed me a weather app yesterday that tracks lightning bolts, and last night, in one half-hour slot, there were 1672 over Singapore. Why they bother having street lights here is anyone’s guess.
HOWEVER. In three weeks I will be gearing up for TWO MONTHS of European chill. Packing- and travelling-hell aside, I am rather excited. As well as wearing jumpers, squishing normal-sized bugs between my fingers, and sleeping through the night, unblighted by celestial strobe-lights, I plan to spend a disproportionate amount of my time gazing at, fondling, and generally acting inappropriately towards the dairy products in the supermarket (I’ll be in Sweden, no one will even bat an eyelid).
Assuming they let us in, of course. Let’s hope the baby-leprosy clears up before then. And the maid's visas come through. Because otherwise we’ll all be staying put...