Thursday, July 07, 2005

Welcome to Manila

I've a few free minutes in Kuala Lumpur airport, so I just wanted to post a few thank yous. First and foremost, thanks to Lena St. George-Sweet of the British Council, and to the British Council for bringing me in to Singapore. Lena is a treasure and I'm not sure I'd have survived it without her.

There are lots of other people I ought to thank here -- Eddy Teo, the indomitable Jane Tay, Loi Zhiwei, all from Penguin Books (who distribute Headline Books in Singapore) ("Hey," said Eddy casually, the day after the library@orchard reading. "After you did that reading from Anansi Boys, I doubled our order for it. I think people will like it.")

The Borders folk (too many to name but starting with Sallie Fox and Farokh Mohamad), Kenny Chan and his team at Kinokuniya, and Lee Han Shih and Carol Tan & Meng at ComicsMart who did so much to make the Cineleisure events work.

And thanks to Ker Lay Hong, Tan Siang Teck and Boey Ying Hao from the British Council for providing support.

Also especial thanks to whoever brought the packet of Marks and Spencers chocolate raisins during the Borders signing, which helped when I flagged. And everyone who stood for a long time to get something signed, and was still cheerful when they got to the front of the line...

I wore a leather jacket in Singapore -- it was new leather jacket, an Armani thingie I got on sale, with a perfect clean line I've already ruined by stuffing pens and things into the pockets, and honestly not much thicker than a shirt, so it was perfect for all the refrigerated environments I kept walking into.

I'm in Manila now (the phone just rang, and it was my host letting me know that 10,000 people are about to have a spur-of-the-moment political rally somewhere fairly close to my hotel) and I doubt I'll wear the leather jacket much. They don't quite seem to have the same sort of enthusiasm for serious air conditioning here.

It was a huge contrast, coming out into in the funky sprawl of Manila from the gleaming bustle of Singapore. I was VIPed through the airport quite wonderfully by a lady who was puzzled that I didn't have an entourage (Me: "Er. Sorry.")

And other than that, I'm just starting to recover from the last few days, blinking a lot and smelling a little like Tiger Balm. And I am staying in my hotel, I learned on check-in, under an assumed name. "Hullo," I said to the lady checking me in. "I'm Neil." "I know," she said. "But we'll be calling you Mr _________." Identity can be so gelatinous sometimes.