Turn­ing back the pages of time to see your fu­ture


My view I’ve been do­ing a spot of time­trav­el­ling this week.

I haven’t ac­com­plished this mar­vel by step­ping into some Tardis-like sci-fi time ma­chine, and I haven’t stepped through a se­cret door in the back of my wardrobe. I’ve sim­ply been read­ing.

I be­gan my time travel by reread­ing The French Lieu­tenant’s Woman by John Fowles, a novel which I first read in the early 1970s.

I fol­lowed that by read­ing a cache of let­ters re­turned to me by the friend to whom I had ad­dressed them when I lived in Brunei in the early 1990s with my young daugh­ter, and my then part­ner.

The French Lieu­tenant’s Woman, set in Vic­to­rian Eng­land, is the story of a fraught love af­fair be­tween a ‘‘fallen’’ woman and a wealthy gen­tle­man, who is also an athe­ist and a keen am­a­teur palaeon­tol­o­gist. re­turned with pages torn out of them. I feel a mis­fit in the ex­pat com­mu­nity.

It takes months for my daugh­ter to be­come hap­pily set­tled at the In­ter­na­tional School. It’s too hot. House­keep­ing is a trial. The geckos which skit­ter up and down the walls also lit­ter the house with their drop­pings. There’s too much wash­ing to do in a cli­mate which ‘‘makes sweat­ing an art form’’ and ‘‘I have no en­ergy for cre­ative ac­tiv­ity.’’

The mon­keys which ap­pear in the jun­gle at the back of the house are amus­ing, but we’re ner­vous about the pack of stray dogs which roam out­side the front gate.

TV fea­tures hours of Ko­ran read­ing filmed with a sin­gle fixed cam­era and badly-made movies dubbed into Malay.

In gov­ern­ment of­fices the air con­di­tion­ing is turned up so high that the clerks wear padded jack­ets.

If it’s not too hot, it’s too wet. My daugh­ter might stand out in the yard dur­ing a mon­soon del­uge ‘‘like a lit­tle pa­gan with her face and hands held up to the sky’’ but the boom­ing thun­der, and the light­ning which forks across the

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