In the Mean Time

The “elevator door” where east meets west


Back in school eons ago, the subject that caused me most grief was Geography. Didn’t help when the teacher was also the discipline mistress with cat-eye glasses like Roz of Monster Inc.

Had a hard time understanding longitudes and latitudes. It’s a matter of attitude, my Roz used to say, that I picked up so slowly. She must have been well travelled for she spoke of places beyond my imagination. Coming from a working class family, it was really hard for someone whose idea of the world was just a map on the wall.

Years later I dare say, I’m as well travelled as I imagined my geography teacher was. How true it is that you never really forget what you’ve been taught before – landscapes, climates, river systems, clouds and all the chalk drawings on the blackboard. The knowledge somehow cramped itself somewhere inside a dusty rusty part of the head waiting to be used again when you least expect it.

Yesterday was one of those days when the little that I manage to learn about geography came back to me. It was a lovely day, the start of more to come I was told.

My niece, Sheen invited me to an outing and decided to treat me to a bit of tourist fun. Took the train to Waterloo, browsed around the street food market, queued for the Thames river bus, listened to the wicked witty narration on east London, transferred to another boat at St. Katherine and down the river towards Greenwich.

Many people were there before us. Not surprising. The sun was out, the air was cool and relaxing, flowers blooming, buds sprouting on bare trees, the sky was blue, am I dreaming? The day was so different from a few days ago when I first arrived here.

We walked around the Maritime Museum, the Old Naval College with its awesome painted hall, the Queens House, past Cutty Sark and up the hill in Greenwich Park to the Royal Observatory.

And that is where you’ll find the big fuss over a line – the Greenwich Meridian, the zero longitude that separates the eastern and western hemispheres, where technically east meets west right here when time starts at GMT + 00:00 .

The ghost of my geography past came alive, the laborious classes of old Roz in her cat-eyed glasses punishing those who couldn’t figure out how the world was split into different time zones like a cantaloupe and that London is eight hours behind Singapore as if it mattered to any of us then.

Except today, the clocks moved an hour forward and yes, it mattered to me now. Spring time is officially here and I’m glad Roz taught me well. If she didn’t, I can’t imagine how I could have enjoyed travelling as much as I do today.


Joan Yap




2 thoughts on “In the Mean Time

  1. the sun is out, the leaves are beginning to fall n yellow in colour for some, with autumn just round the corner plus temperature forecast to fall in days ahead…how the time flies and the season change….enjoy!!

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