The evening started perfectly. I had turned the air-conditioner off, opened the windows and pushed aside the slats. Warm moist air flooded the room to the accompaniment of bird chatter and the background hum of air-conditioners hanging off walls in the lane I look onto. A few minutes after doing that, as if by invitation a crack and rattle of thunder banged over the top of us. Leaning out the window to catch a glimpse of the sky above the flowering mango tree blocking my view I could see the setting sun adding apricot tints to a purple-grey thunderhead. No breeze but the boiling cloud was enough to indicate there was some serious rain on the way. I persisted working at the laptop until the next flash and bang and that was my cue to get out there. That sort of weather gets up my fur. I made it only a couple of blocks – to the Buddhist temple before the warm flood arrived.
I sheltered under the awnings and joined most of the locals who stood in silence and watched the rain. Rickshaw riders joined us and a few stall holders who, despite the awnings and plastic, beat a reluctant retreat from their little shops in the interest of protecting their stock. Only a roadcrew of mainly Indians persisted and we all watched them tamping hot asphalt onto the top of their refilled ditch. Steam poured off the pile of asphalt as they raced through their routine but in the end they gave up, covered everything and stood to one side. Steam leaked out from under the tarpaulin. I suspect they watched that and worried it would soon be too cool to ply to their will.
I bought an umbrella. And was soon through Chinatown and heading for Orchard Road – aiming for a popular bookshop. By they time the train got me there the rain had eased but it still leaked down from the trees and the paths were awash. The ground smelled warm and earthy and the soft dank foliage fragrance carried on the humid air, while yellow flowers, belted out of the tree canopy above, still floated in a slow tumble down to the pavement where they were quickly crunched under foot.
The evening ended perfectly as well. No books bought but a warm evening stroll back to Duxton Hill, waylaid for a few minutes by a very fine plate of garlic and chili noodles washed down by an ice cold Tiger Beer. A meal had with the stall holders, who by now had waved off the sightseers and were shutting shop while also feeding each other. There is a relaxed family air in these backstreets at that stage of proceedings and I was soon in conversation with a broken toothed vendor who was amazed that I wanted to eat out here with them. He was happy to take my money though, although his sleight of hand with my change was not so good that I could not see him flicking some of my change into his pocket! No matter – it is cheap at half the price and never worth the fight.
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