We’ve lived in this apartment for 18 months now and I’ve only just discovered a switch on the toilet that heats the seat. It’s a Toto toilet - I’ve never had one before so I wasn’t aware of its true potential and anyway, who reads toilet instructions? Actually, I’ve always found it slightly irritating because it has a mind of its own – the seat lifts up and down willy nilly whether there’s anyone near it or not. I like the 30 ltr or 60 ltr flush option though, and the self-cleaning wand is fun to watch if totally ineffectual. I have no strong feelings about the ‘massage’ or ‘oscillating’ modes – other than mild amusement - but now that I have found the hot seat I’m really feeling the love - especially when I forget its there and get a lovely, warm surprise every time I pay a visit.
When we lived in Mumbai, there was a shower head attached to the wall next to the loo, which I found very refreshing. The water pressure was high and I vowed to have one of these in my ‘forever’ home – however far in the dim and distant future that might be.
Other people would keep all these ideas on their Pinterest boards but I’m not that organized and anyway, I don’t need to ‘cos its all in my head. If you were to have a rummage around in there, you’d find, amongst all the cotton wool and images of Leonardo diCaprio (my secret love), a ‘file’ marked: Stuff for the Future Dream Home. This ‘file’ contains pictures of a free standing copper bath; an Inglenook Fireplace; an Aga; The Farrow and Ball colour chart; a shower head on a wall next to a toilet (with excellent water pressure) and now, a new entry…. ta dah…a heated toilet seat.
Am I getting a bit carried away here? Heated toilet seats and adjacent high-pressure shower heads? Where will my aspirations end? A man standing outside the door offering me a hot towel and a mint as I come out? (Preferably ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ era Leo)?! Today in the supermarket I was confronted with a wall of a thousand different brands of toilet paper and I chose a scented one. Goodness me! More than half of all Indian households don’t even have a toilet and here am I sitting on my hot seat like Lady Muck with loo roll that smells of roses. Aren’t we all lucky? – We were born in the right place at the right time. Because that’s all it is: luck- that’s the only reason any of this is available to us.
And as expats, we are luckier than most because we get to see how other people live. We can experience their world for a bit, hopefully broadening our own horizons at the same time. We can take away the things that we like, ideas and friendships as well as the odd stick of furniture. From India I take as my souvenir the friendly, open and generous people I met there everyday; I take south Indian cuisine – especially dosas with chutney and sambhar. And, of course, the shower head next to the loo idea. From Hong Kong I take super efficiency, respect for culture, tradition and family and definitely the hot toilet seat (oh, and perhaps a Mah Jong set and a couple of Foo dogs) I might never have known about many or all of these things had I never left England.
I’ve had quite a few different homes – mostly high up in the clouds - in three different countries over the past few years and I have seen some amazing things from the windows of each of them. Kites with enormous wingspans swooping through the air; hundreds of people gathering for prayer below; mass dog fights and huge container vessels silently gliding by. Some of it awesome, some of it awful, but all of it very different to the grass verge I used to see every morning when I opened the curtains before we moved overseas.
OK, so I don’t have a permanent home and I can’t plant bulbs or put up wallpaper and as a home bird that hurts. However, I have collected, over the years, a few choice items like the massive cabinet from Kolkata and the doorframe from Jodhpur that I had made in to a mirror. I can now add to the collection a beautiful vibrant cerise rug, which has been taunting me from the window of Lane Crawford all month. To be honest, it looks old and worn but for me that is the appeal. A Swedish friend described it as ‘bedagad skönhet’ when I showed her – which is a good thing. Now the Lane Crawford rug lives with the Kolkata cabinet and the Jodhpur doorframe, one day to be introduced to the old Grandfather clock who currently lives in storage. Not only do most of the pieces have their own history, they are now a part of mine.
I don’t think I’ll ever regret my days as an expat even though I have missed my friends and family and a permanent home to keep my stuff. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve tried to look for things, like the secateurs for example – did I have them in India? Are they in storage, lost in transit or at the bottom of the ocean? Anyway, not being able to find stuff is a small price to pay. There’s plenty of time to settle down in one place in the future and to be honest, once I’ve got my Cole and Son wallpaper up and painted the kitchen Wimborne White (Farrow and Ball No. 239) I’ll be twiddling my thumbs anyway.
No, much better to keep on trucking, collecting memories, experience and unusual and beautiful things to surround myself with for the few good years before they put me in a care home. It’s all about the journey, not the destination after all and hopefully, in the future, one of my great-great grandchildren will be polishing the Kolkata cabinet or vaccing the ‘bedagad skönhet’ rug and might pause to wonder about the batty old woman who lugged all this stuff home and her long-suffering husband who let it to happen.