IF YOU THINK your life is tough, spare a thought for Ilyas Khan. He is, at this moment, on a race across a wilderness that includes deserts, mountains and the bones of previous sojourners. The pic on the right shows the frazzled remains of a zebra who foolishly decided to stop and enjoy the sunshine for a moment.
Minutes ago, I got an email, forwarded to friends by his wife Mara, in which he reports having just finished one non-stop stretch which took 32 hours. (And I complain about the long walk to the TV when the remote is mislaid!)
Ilyas, who lives in the UK and is a fantastic supporter of the many literary ventures I’m involved in, told us about his day.
2 a.m. Wake up call.
Four hour bus ride.
8 a.m. Race starts.
Next 32 hours – running while carrying a backpack in 40 degree heat.
He described the desert as “grandly prehistoric”, he said, adding: “By 50 kilometers, my shoes were full of blood after every 15 minutes.” This is not my idea of fun. With this sort of feat, you’d think he was an athlete. But he’s actually a charming, skinny guy who works in investment banking.
Meet Julie, whose life is somewhat different. She lives in Canberra, Australia. A former librarian, she is nearing the end of a gap year. Here she is in characteristic pose, reading a book. “Of course, if I were reading a Nury Vittachi book I would be laughing, not just smiling,” she said.
Flattery will get you everywhere, Julie. Meanwhile, I love the idea of an adult taking a gap year. I’d love to do that. Hmm. How do you get the mortgage company etc to give you a gap from paying bills?
Above is Lisa, who lives in Hong Kong. She has one child, or two if you count her husband. But I saw her recently and can report that she is about 12 months pregnant, so her family is about to grow again. Lisa is one of the most multicultural people around. She can fit comfortably into a Chinese setting or an English language setting, and is married to a young man from Poland. Her surname has changed from the simplest surname in the world, Ip, to one of those famously difficult Polish ones which include a z and which are pronounced in a way which seems to have little resemblance to how it is written.
Thomas, or TS, is blurring his way around the world. Originally from Denmark, he left for Singapore about twelve years ago. Then he moved to Sydney, Darwin and Perth, and now lives in London, UK. “The wife and I have been following your feng shui detective series since we stumbled on the first one in Singapore a few years back (Borders on Orchard Road, where else?). I came upon your blog while searching the net for the latest installment in the series,” he said.
Thomas has brilliant taste in books (by which I mean he likes the same authors I do).