Currently, and for the last seven months, in self-determined exile in the Philippines, to the inspiration to write which for me is as natural and involuntary as breathing, is the additional encouragement of confinement by coronavirus quarantine. Both stimulus and provocation are enhanced in this context in which I am continually a spectator, a witness, an auxiliary.
Though I am learning Tagalog – the natural way, that is, without books, as they are not available for the serious grammarian like me – and though the Philippines is incorrectly perceived to be bi-lingual – with English as its lingua-franca, retreating rapidly as it is from all vestiges of its American subjugation in the guise of rescue– it has been made abundantly clear, perhaps for the first time in my life, that I am better off with mouth shut, ears open.
Only now entering into the rainy season, as a lifelong pluviophile, I have missed the rain. I miss all four seasons. Though a country of islands, here in Makati during quarantine, I can’t get to the water; so I miss the water, the ocean. I miss broad-leaf deciduous trees. I miss dirt, and rock. I miss my books, every one of their many hundreds. I miss all those inanimate companions to whom, yes, to whom I have given names, as beloved members of my small but intimate family. I miss gardening. I miss cooking, for real, in a real kitchen. I miss driving. I miss neighbours I know, whom I can greet, and to whom a can speak briefly when I go out for the mail or to drop the trash and recycling. I miss raw milk, and cheese, and butter, and yoghurt. I miss berries, and cherries, and apples. and pears. I miss home-made crêpes, and pancakes, and pizza, and omelettes, and ice cream. I miss my coffee grinder, and freshly ground coffee beans, and heated milk…I miss my desk, my chair, the view of the grass and the trees from the window just a glimpse away as I write.
I will be back to the Philippines, because there are things I will miss here, too. Before then, though, I must return home to Wales, back to France, back to India, back to Africa.