Sunday, 1 March 2009

My hair is a science experiment

Today we decided to go for a walk at Peirce Reservoir. DH had seen monkeys there when he was last driving past, and he wanted me to see them too. So we set off armed with mosquito repellent, sunscreen, umbrellas, sunglasses and a spare pair of shoes. As we drove out of our south-facing condo we got our first sight of the drama unfolding in the northern sky. Think of bright cream and white sunlit buildings against a purplish navy backdrop with pale grey candy-floss wisps racing across at building-top level. Think of tropical monsoon season. Think of the barely believable daily 3 o'clock downpours reported by holidaying friends and on those National Geographic documentaries. Yup, we were going to get very wet indeed.

We headed north, with me oohing and wowing in the passenger seat, and DH watching the road ahead for the first signs of buildings disappearing into a sudden haze of water. We saw a girl hailing a taxi by the roadside, her long black hair blown into a rippling banner with the ground-gusts that herald the rains. Then the bucket tipped on top of us and the flashing and crashing started. We saw an entire bus shelter crammed with what appeared to be a motorcycle learner's class, and suddenly we were driving through lakes the width of the road. The windscreen wipers couldn't go fast enough. It eased off as we turned off onto the road through the rain-forest to the reservoir. Those pre-storm winds had brought half-trees down onto the road. And there were the monkeys, sitting in little bedraggled groups around parked cars. As we watched, food was thrown from the windows, in blatant disregard to the signs up everywhere.

We carried on and parked up near the reservoir to watch the storm. We could see the lake, a light apple green in the dim light, and the swathes of rain turning the trees on the far banks into tinted mist layers. Treetops appeared, then vanished again. We suddenly saw a building roof which hadn't been there before, and then the tops of two red and white transmitter towers emerged from the haze - but not the bottoms. The lightning forked and flickered around us, and with the car engine switched off, we could feel the thunder through the soles of our shoes. A big group of at least 14 youngsters was hanging about under one of the rain shelters, but they were taking photographs, studying together, laughing and talking - there was no sign of mischief. We sighed, wishing it could be like that in England.

After the conversation we always have between my restless and impatient self and my calm electrical engineer DH about the dangers of umbrellas and thunderstorms, he finally agreed that the storm was calm enough to go for a short walk. We set out along a straight path, with the water on one side of us and fields and trees dropping down, down to the distant Kallang river on the other. We were fish-spotting. It was still spitting, rumbling and flickering. DH suddenly looked at me differently. He said "your hair". I said "what? I know it's a mess" smoothing it down. He said "it's sticking straight up" Huh? I have long, heavy, curly hair tied into a pony-tail. It simply doesn't do "up". But it was.

Did you ever play with a Van-de-Graaf generator in Physics lessons at school? You know those gadgets that you put your hand on, and they generate a static charge, then you touch someone and they get a shock and scream? And those little hairs on your head stick up? Well that was what mine was doing. Then there would be a lightning bolt and it would go down again. Then rise back up until the next strike. DH stared around at the ominous skies, and decided very firmly that we shouldn't be there any more.

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