In Thailand the months slide in effortless fluidity from one to the next; the year seems to lose its footing around May and then it’s December and you’re wondering how you seem to have missed being present when October happened. When living in the land of permanent summer it’s hard to keep track of the year.
November is the time when it gets properly cold in the UK. I remember standing, shivering, my breath mushrooming out into the night air as I watched fireworks explode over Bournemouth Rugby Club at their Bonfire Night display.
Now I’m sat in shorts and a t-shirt hoping for a refreshing and cold beverage to be brought to me by my wife (it’s a hope that has very little chance of being realised but what can I say – I’m a dreamer).
And I know what you’re about to say. It’s going to centre around the idea that you are reading this with rain, or snow, or hail lashing against your windows. That a trip to the shops involves more kit than an Arctic expedition. That you’ve had to thaw the cat out three times this week. That slate grey skies can go to hell; get me to Thailand.
But just consider for a moment what it is to live and function in a place where most days the mercury tops out in the high 30s and the humidity rarely dips below 75%. And you have to wear a tie to work.
I only really notice the changing months in two ways. The first is in relation to how the boy is developing. Look at that, it’s November. He’s six months old. He’s mobile, eating more solids and has two budding teeth. When did that happen?
The other is that when I Skype home my mum seems to become more enveloped in ever thicker layers of clothing. By this point in the year she’s just a face poking out of huge rolls of fabric, voice muffled by a woollen scarf you could tow a battleship with. I shout at her to turn the heating up but she can’t hear me under all the layers. We communicate through a combination of flash cards and emphatic nodding.
The sight of her looking like an alpaca makes me feel somewhat melancholy.
I genuinely miss grabbing cold weather gear and going for a walk in the rain. I miss hot Sunday lunches after running through muddy puddles. The roar of a fire in the local with a pint of the nearest brewery’s finest. The smell of woodsmoke in frigid air.
What I miss most though is knowing where I am in the year. Being attuned to the seasons is a profound thing that I think gives closure to the changing months. Not having that can give the sense of reliving the same day over and over.
A tropical Groundhog Day if you like.