Imagine standing in the middle of the desert. Nothing as far as the eye can see. Imagine looking at the ocean. Only the horizon disrupts waves. There is a majesty and splendour in that frightening isolation.
Here I sit in a café. The cars pass by, horns sounding warnings to the market shoppers. The street vendor’s bell jangles above the humming drum of the city. All of the chaos of Asian life is crammed into the narrow streets of Phnom Penh and in the February heat it feels as if there is no space for air.
Here I sit in a café. I shift my focus. The heat cools and the sounds silence. In the glaciers of my psyche I create a shimmering isolation. The lone man lost in his mental landscape and divided from the jarring reality of life.
Once I found the world as an overload on my senses. It attacked and assaulted me with unwelcome sights and smells that left me aching and disoriented. Now I can disappear. I have made my Aspergers a rabbit hole and with a little focus I can fall into the detached wonderland of mind.
I can imagine standing in the middle of the desert for I do not fear the majesty and splendour of my own isolation.
Life is full of simple pleasures. I rediscovered one recently and I am loving the manifold delights it's bringing me.
I have always been a walker. From a very young age I would happily pound the paths of Wiltshire with my parents and explore the rolling hills and forests that surrounded the town I grew up in.
A few years ago, having moved from London to Suffolk, I decided to build walking into my healthy mind, healthy body mantra and I fell in love with Suffolk in general and the River Deben in particular. Bleak and beautiful, serene and scary, this tidal river with its constant ebb and flow was both the heart and border of Woodbridge.
Then a year ago I deserted my homeland and I ran away. Sydney was a revelation. Stunning National Parks fringe the city and the bus and train network opened up a plethora of opportunities. As I travelled Australia I realised that every town boasted great opportunities to get out and get my stride on.
Then in 2017 I landed in Cambodia and it all came to a halt. Searing heat and the traffic chaos of Phnom Penh meant there was precious little opportunity for a relaxing, life-affirming stroll. I knew I wouldn't last in the capital and in February I took a job in Battambang.
There are frangipani trees everywhere,here, and there's a magnificent muddy river that bisects the city. On both sides of the river there are shaded paths but the heat meant I never took advantage of the amenities.
Last week a look in the mirror horrified me and I decided to make a change. Now, when I wake at five, instead of bemoaning my fate and lolling like a beached whale till 8, I jump up and I am out the door. I drink a litre of fluids, brush my teeth and I'm gone. Early sunrises, other exercisers and a multitude of birds bring a smile to my face as walk up and down the banks of the River Sangker in the relative cool of the Khmer dawn.
I feel better. I look better. I get more done every day. Life has become a happier place to dwell. All of this I get from going for a walk. I try to do my 10,000 steps because on the Asperger Path we like a target but if I don't, I don't sweat it. I've already done my sweating for the day.
The first time the power went out I learnt a lot of things. Most surprisingly that no electricity means no running water in my second floor room. So this time, when the power went off again, I approached the situation with a Zen like calm that should please the predominantly Buddhist subjects of The Kingdom of Wonder.
The first clue was that my iPad mini could not connect to the wifi and I lost my calming classics that YouTube had been providing. Then I realised my ceiling fan was not rotating and that the room was getting hot. Bearing in mind that the temperature was a humid 31 degrees with a feels like factor of 36 I’m surprised that wasn’t noticed first. However I realised it was time to get up and get out of my sundrenched room and look for a shady spot.
So I washed in the dark windowless bathroon using the big water container and my handy jug. I brushed my teeth in mineral water and threw on some clothes. I assumed that the power might be on in the centre of Cambodia’s second city. I was wrong. However my favourite café has a breezy terrace and can still offer everything on the breakfast buffet menu.
Some days I would have been in melt down by now. Thankfully it is Sunday so I have no external pressures like work to tip me off balance. The insistent little voice in the back of my head is being kept under control but I keep thinking over and over and over that if they have gas to make an omelette then surely they could get a coffee on the go. I guess even on my good days I still have Aspergers. There’s no outage for me.