Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Asia 101

Lovely readers, I'd like to share a bit more of the story with you - don't worry, there aren't any spoilers in this excerpt if you've read Single in the City -  I hope you enjoy this little scene :-))

* * * * * 
Bangkok was my introduction to life in the East. Given that London’s backpacker ghetto (aka Earl’s Court) had been my most exotic home to date, I needed an “Asia 101” sort of city. Upon landing at the airport I realized that I’d enrolled in a PhD course. It wasn’t the heat, or the press of small people that told me I was out of my depth. It wasn’t that the signs were written in squiggle. It was the sight of a golf course on the runway. A golf course. On the runway. Our plane interrupted a stream of oddly dressed men wheeling their clubs to the next tee. Al Qaeda’s  foursome may not be putting on the green, but surely Thais had to be a little worried about terrorism. Was their Buddhist nature so comprehensively peaceful that they couldn’t imagine a man teeing off with a grudge and a rocket launcher? Or even a golfer with a mean slice? Between the noise and the fumes and the responsibility for not bringing down a 747 with a bad drive, Thais must be some of the best golfers in the world. Isn’t Tiger Woods half Thai? Point made.

My arrival would have been enormously exciting even if, after fifty six days of Samlessness, I wasn’t about to see my boyfriend, a.k.a. Lovely Sam, The One, love o’ my life, and similar monikers that made people reach for a bucket. Sometimes I had to remind myself that I wasn’t dreaming – I’d really agreed to move my worldly belongings to be with this man. Feminists everywhere groaned at this betrayal to the sisterhood, but I saw it as an adventure, with regular sex. Plus my job in London was as dead as the electricity during Hurricane Catrina. What better excuse to try a new city than at the invitation of your one true love? They say that love is often right under one’s nose. My mother loved to quote what “they say”, usually when she meant “I think”. Well in this case they were right. I practically tripped over Sam, though for most of the year that we worked together he was solidly off my romantic radar. He wasn’t disqualified for any physical or psychological shortcoming. He’d simply had the misfortune of being born American, and I certainly hadn’t moved 3,000 miles to London to date the same guy I’d have met back home. Besides, the only sparks between us were the result of friction, not romance. In a way he held a mirror up to me, often when I looked my worst, like a best friend who’s not afraid to tell you unpleasant truths. Then the most remarkable thing happened. After prolonged exposure I came down with a terminal case of the Sams. Once I started thinking about him, in that way, I couldn’t stop. I think I loved him from the first time we kissed. Now where’s that bucket?

How ironic that two months could fly by when something like a term paper or a baby were due, but crawl backwards when waiting for a reunion. And the past two months did crawl. Not even the giddy anticipation of living in a new country (read: terrifying second-guessing of decision) sped the days along.

As we passengers shuffled towards immigration a crowd pattered towards us.  Within seconds we were swamped in a sea of squealing, kissing, wee people. It was a family reunion on the moving sidewalk. We were in airport limbo – the land of Ticketed Passengers Only Beyond This Point. Yet here were mere mortals, mere unticketed mortals, mingling with the passengers. A few were dressed like golfers.

My heart lodged somewhere in my windpipe. In that moment I realized that “weak in the knees” wasn’t just an expression. On overboiled-spaghetti legs, I went to my boyfriend. We kissed for long minutes while the other passengers streamed past with their families. He felt, smelled, tasted so good I didn’t want to stop. Despite our separation he was completely familiar to me. Who’d have thought that I, Hannah Jane Cumming, could be so happy?

‘Good flight?’ He clasped my hand like he was afraid I’d disappear. Fat chance of that.
‘Wonderful. I was nicely tranquilized.’ That was an understatement. I could have taken out my own appendix. Flight fear aside, it was a good trip. Raised solely on a diet of domestic airlines, it never occurred to me that altitude didn’t guarantee insolence in flight attendants. My flights always involved stale peanuts served by one-time-shot-put champions. Sometimes we didn’t even get the nuts. How refreshing, then, to be welcomed aboard the Asian airline by an immaculate, smiling Thai woman who handed me a tiny purple orchid by way of greeting. The flower was meant to make up for the long stretch between meals, and my seatmate’s thigh, which showed no appreciation for boundaries. But the flight attendants were still lovely.
‘Han, I’m so glad you’re here. God I’ve missed you! I love- I love that you’re standing in front of me. You look beautiful.’
I knew for a fact that I did not look beautiful. I’m not saying I’m bad looking– that would be disingenuous. At five foot six, I’m neither tall nor short. I’ve got boobs and hips but am not fat to look at (the squishy middle bits don’t bother me). Most people assume I play sport (I resolutely do not). My features are regular; I don’t hate my nose or crave collagen injections, but neither are my lips bee-stung, pillow-soft or any other Scarlett Johansson-esque adjective. Eyes (two), are light brown and look in the same direction. Boys seem to like me. My best friend Stacy says it’s because I’ve got a gleam in my eye. I think she means they assume I’m easy. I’m not (always). The one thing I’d change is my hair. Not the colour (light brown) but the way it comes out of my head. Other people have waves. I have reverse cowlicks and sticky outy bits that fuzz up like candy floss. It’s out of control. This is how I know Sam wasn’t looking at me with his eyes, but with his heart. Picture Helena Bonham-Carter. Then rub her head against a balloon for 12 hours.


  1. I like the bits about Tiger Woods and Hurricane Katrina. As a small comment, would the third last sentence of this superb excerpt not be better placed as the last sentence? It ends it on an "ahhh" rather than a giggle, but this might just be me (having written approximately zero novels in my life)...

    Keep it up mate!

    1. Thanks, and the whole point of getting readers involved is that you've read many many books and know what you like and don't like, so your opinions are as important as the writer's! :-)

  2. Love it! Can I make one comment though? Hurricane Katrina is with a K not C. That's all! I am so excited!

  3. Thanks Caroline, and thanks for the eagle-eye spell check, will make change in the manuscript :-))

  4. Hi Michele! I'm so excited you're doing a sequel. Quick question, I may be mistaken didn't Hannah say she was 5'8" in "Single in the City?"

  5. Hi Victoria, thanks so much, it's wonderful to get to spend time with Hannah and friends again :-)

    And thanks for spotting the discrepancy! I have a lovely editor who will review Misfortune Cookie, but a different editor worked on Single in the City, so she wouldn't have spotted that one.


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