It’s summer, and how. The temperature never gets much above 30 degrees, but the humidity never falls below 85%. I constantly feel sultry, but not in the alluring way that word might imply: rather like some sort of sticky fat-skinned sweat-radiating fading lady with my dress stuck to my lower back and tendrils of hair plastered unrulyly about my neck. Sure most of the time I’m moist in the knicker region, but it’s only the flow-up effect of my thighs squeaking against each other with each torturous step taken out of doors.
Sometimes Joel and I have weekdays off together. Though it’s sultry, daytime sexual relations are inconceivable, involving as they surely would the chafing enjoinment of our two hyperthermal forms, not to mention my unattractive red visage (see previous post re resembling Cameron Ling when the temperature soars).
So instead, Joel and I have taken to enjoying long hikes during those golden hours when the kids nap in the afternoon. Of course it’s a sweaty pursuit but when actively engaged in exercise, it’s okay to be a GLOWING PINK HOG. There’s no pressure to secretly wipe the perspiration off your top lip between kisses (and at least at night it’s dark enough that Joel will never find out my secret use of our topsheet as a sweat towel).
Sometimes we hike over to dad’s and go for a paddle in his kayak. (That is not a euphemism. SERIOUSLY IT’S TOO HOT!) I don’t know if we have to change the kids’ nap schedule or what, but whenever we get there the tide is way out and we have to drag the kayak about 800m to the water. And dude that fucker weighs HEAPS.
First, though, we have to bring it down to the sand from underneath dad’s house. It’s stored upside down so rain doesn’t pool in it, and upon flipping it over many spiders crawl up our arms. We then drag it down an embankment littered with old broken-down canoes, bits of wood, weedy bushes, and that random junk most people have in the hidden parts of their back garden, plastic bottles and the like. Then we are on the mud flats, and I curse myself for wearing thongs as with each step I sink deeper into the mire, and Joel curses me as with each step he ends up carrying the whole weight of the kayak. I guess I am the only person in the world who would hike in thongs. (What’s wrong with you all?? It’s SO HOT!) Thousands of little stony crabs run over the top of my feet. It’s uncomfortable. I complain ceaselessly, and enforce rest breaks every three steps or so. Dude that damn kayak is heavy. Eventually Joel realises it will be easier if he just goes on without me and stalks ahead, dragging the craft behind him.
I squelch along slowly, at last joining Joel at the water’s edge, removing my mud-encased thongs and chucking them inside the boat. We push the kayak in until the water’s knee-height, and then I delicately get into my seat while Joel steadies the rudder (or whatev) before taking his position in the rear seat. He can then take a rest from his manful travails as I definitely share the load of paddling. I’ve never rowed before but I find I more than make up for my lack of finesse and completely random stroking by talking constantly about the kids, which Joel LOVES. I am the vessel’s captain of entertainment and I strive to rehash as many old anecdotes as I can, turning in my seat each time so my voice doesn’t get carried away on the wind because I know Joel loves to hear about cute stuff the kids have said, over and over again. Apparently this constant turning affects the weight distribution of the boat but I’m pretty sure he says so affectionately. I can’t really tell, I’m too occupied with making grand gesticulations as I re-enact Rufus’s latest episode of constipation.
Despite my front-seat position, I fancy I am the cox and incessantly yell instructions relating to direction and stroke depth, hilariously referring to myself as the “cockless cox” if I sense Joel’s spirits flagging (or, becoming too violent and pre-emptive of a strike to the back of the head with the oar; whatev).
We dodge dragon-boat teams training for the Tuen Ng Jit festival as we row out to Dog Island, so called because it’s inhabited solely by a pack of wild dogs. These dragon-boat crews are very skilful and fast, and stoke in precise unison with the beat of a huge drum at the back of their boats. Nevertheless I can often find some fault in their technique and don’t hesitate to share my insight with my fascinated companion.
Eventually the lactic acid build-up in our (or Joel’s; whatev) arms becomes crippling and we turn the kayak around and head for shore. I row especially hard on the turn because it’s soooooo fun to go around in a circle, what!
Back on the mud flats, Joel spends a quiet moment reflecting on the romance of the afternoon.
Then it’s time to put his runners back on in preparation for returning the kayak to its moorings. In this instance I could have helped him by allowing him to put a steadying arm on my shoulder, but I was too busy facing the other way taking photos of the mangroves. Turned around just in time to see him accidentally plant one socked foot straight into the bog. Guess you’ve still got your sealegs on, hey, my love?
On the way back I’m usually so exhausted from my combined duties of rowing/cockless coxing/rallying the crew that, understandably, I don’t help carry the kayak at all. I do have muddy feet so it’s kind of like I’m helping in spirit…?
So that’s how we’ve been spending the searing afternoons. Delightful!
At home, Rufus and Zadie entertain us with summery eyewear and head furniture.
And we also bought them a little wading pool from Shun Kee Homewares Emporium. Why the hell haven’t I bought a wading pool before, I mean even before I had kids? It’s so relaxing! Kong Pau Pau, wearing her huge Hakka hat, peers over our fence and babbles gaily in Canto as Zadie frolicks with her bath toys.
And Rufus, with his maternal-line OCD, decants tiny cups of pool water into each of our 75 potted plants before giving the grass a drenching.
Daddy’s not rich, mama’s not good-lookin’, but there’s no babies being hushed from crying around here. Life under this sun is good.