29 January 2013


I am rapidly losing faith in the Singaporean Health Care System. In the past 24 hours I have been poked, prodded, probed and pricked by an array of dentists, doctors and surgeons. They have battered me. Every which way. For the past couple of years I have been suffering intermittent pain in my jaw. Well that's where it seems to start anyway. Sometimes it works it's way up my nose and quite often it sits behind my left eye. 

It thumps and pounds. 

It throbs and pulses.

My initial feeling was that this was a dental matter. My dentist – who is a very nice man named Derek, he thought so too. Over a 12 month period he and his endodontic colleague undertook root canal work on one of my top rear molars. I had implants and a crown installed and it seemed to get better. When the pain recurred early last year they thought that the tooth next to it might also be a problem. So there was more root canal work and more titanium implants. Then another crown. They seemed to think that the root system of my teeth is more complex than normal. My bank account was getting a thumping.

Who am I to argue?

When the headaches returned in the middle of last year I returned to Derek the Dentist. He now thought that the pain might be sinus related so he referred me to an ENT. An ENT is an Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon. This is all they do. Ears. Noses. Throats. I first underwent a barrage of investigations. X-Rays then a CAT scan followed by an MRI. They were painless but uncomfortable. Medical acronyms are often such. 

The dude then wanted to look into my nasal cavity. This involved the insertion of a thin snake-like camera up my snout. Now I have since learned that when a medical practitioner says that a procedure might feel a little uncomfortable they are likely vastly understating the experience. 

It made my toes curl. 

The good doctor kept telling me to relax. Sure. No problem. This is no easy task with a flexible wire being pushed deep up your nostril. Then down - right into your throat. It makes it difficult to scream too but I managed that anyway.

So it seemed that I had some sort of small growth underneath one of my sinuses. I referred to it as ‘the thing’. The doctor didn't seem too concerned. Not as much as me anyway. He assured me that the treatment was simple all that would be required was a weekly blast of radiation. Up the schnoz. I recall asking him whether it would be painful and he told me that it would be a little uncomfortable. 

My alarm bell started ringing and I could feel my toes curling at the prospect. I could envisage my screams of anguish. 

Anyway, I endured this treatment for a couple of months at the Mount Elizabeth hospital. I took a myriad of pills as well. Some were for nausea and others were for pain. I remember that they upset my stomach. They upset my stomach a lot. Regardless, the thing in my nose - well behind it really - diminished in size. Eventually it was blasted away to nothingness.

So all seemed OK for quite a while. I was pain free. It felt good. Alas a couple of weeks ago my headaches returned. It really felt to me that it was originating in my teeth - the ones with the crowns. Despite that I first went back to the ENT. There was another CAT scan – and once again the snake up my nose. From me there was a further muffled scream. All seemed to be clear though. There was no sign of the thing. 

So back to the Derek the Dentist I went - last week. The pain was pretty bad. Derek thought that one of my repaired teeth might have a small crack at the base. He thought that it was a part of the real tooth and not the crown. I asked what could be done. He could re-build it he suggested. I asked him if he removed the tooth would the pain disappear? He seemed confident that it would. Then pull it out I commanded. I am growing weary of constant pain. So out it came. Last Saturday. It was nasty.

Very nasty. 

I have also learned that when a dentist says "this might sting a little bit" and “you might feel a little pressure”, they are also understating the experience. I discovered too that I can also scream quite effectively even with a pair of hands in my mouth. I can scream very loud.

Job done? I wish. My mouth was quite sore all of Sunday but the headaches returned with a vengeance yesterday. They were pounding. They were blinding. So back to the Mount Elizabeth hospital. Yesterday. This time to see a neurologist - who then sent me to an ophthalmologist. Both are Singaporeans and are very nice men. The ophthalmologist thought that I might have a problem with the drainage system in my left eye. I had no idea that the eye even had a drainage system. 

Isn't that just crying? 

He said that he wanted to insert a catheter into my eye to drain off some fluid and check it out. Yes in my fucking eye! None of this can happen for another couple of weeks as his schedule is full.

I am on a course of powerful antibiotics now and I have some spanking pain killers. I think I feel a little better. I however want a second opinion before I let anyone stick anything in my eye. To drain it of my fluids. I am seeking out an Australian Doctor – even a  British one will suffice. 

I also want my Mummy.    

27 January 2013

The Visitors

I have spent the afternoon with some visitors from the US of A. From Manhattan to be precise. There was Chuck, his wife Rebecca and their 12 year old son Chuck Junior. I kid you not. I had met Chuck - senior that is - a couple of years ago in New York. He is an investment banker. Despite his occupation he seems like a nice guy although admittedly I do not know him very well. 

It was one of those things that we all do. "If you are ever in Singapore do look me up". Not really expecting that he would. Look me up. But he did - and here he is.

Here they are. 

It is their first time in Singapore. For Rebecca and Chuck Junior it is their first trip overseas. Chuck Senior has only ever been to London before and he told me that he likes the English.

Enough said.

They landed yesterday morning in Singapore and I received a call from Chuck last night. He wondered if I was free to catch up. I replied that I was. I suggested that I come by their hotel mid Sunday morning and we could have some brunch then I would show them around a bit. Chuck suggested that we meet later in the day. He told me that they wanted to go to church first. I told Chuck that this was no problem for me and I arranged to meet them about noon. I told Chuck that I would take them out for lunch somewhere nice.

I arrived at the Fullarton Hotel about a quarter past the hour. I was fashionably late. Chuck and his family were waiting for me in the lobby. To my horror Chuck and Chuck Junior were dressed identically. They were wearing very loud yellow checked shorts with stars and stripes tee-shirts. Chuck Senior had on knee-high white socks with patent leather sandals. Junior was sock less and was wearing unlaced Nike Runners. He had a New York Yankees cap on his head. Backwards. He was also chewing gum. Open mouthed.

Chuck’s wife Rebecca is a big girl. She is humungous in fact. She was adorned in a bright green sundress and had an enormous Panama type hat perched on her frizzy bright red hair. She is a ginger - a blood nut - a ranga. She is also as pale as a ghost and is fully freckled as well. The poor girl. The Good Lord obviously gave her a savage beating with the ugly stick as she entered the world. Then he thought what the fuck, and he beat her some more. To complete the picture both Rebecca and Chuck Senior had cameras slung around their necks and they were wearing bum-belts as well. Big ones. 

Very big ones.

Upon seeing them my first and instinctive reaction was flight. Swiftly. Immediately. Alas Chuck had spotted me. He called out my name very loudly. He called me Pete. Only Americans seem to call me Pete. I don't know why. I don't like it.

So I greeted Chuck and he politely introduced me to the wife Rebecca and to Chuck Junior. I shook both their sweaty hands. 

I said "Welcome to Singapore"

"Gosh" replied Rebecca.

"It's so great to be here"

"It is going to be confusing for me with two Chucks" I said.

"Is it OK if I call the young fella Junior?"

"Sure" replied Senior.

"That's what we call him." 

This did not surprise me. 

Junior replied "Awesome". 

This did not surprise me either. 

"How was church?" I asked.

Did you find one OK?"

"Gosh" said Rebecca.

"We went this morning. We weren't sure if there were any churches here. And they spoke English too. It was awesome." 

Both Chuck Senior and Junior nodded in agreement. 

Oh fuck was all I could think to myself. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.

OK. I needed to get more positive about this so I tried to push the oh fucks from my mind. This whole event needed to be accelerated. Perhaps I could also find some entertainment. 

"Before we go" I declared - looking at Chuck Junior 

"I should warn you that chewing gum is illegal in Singapore" 

Junior stopped chewing immediately and Mum looked panicked. Dad did too. 

"So is wearing your cap backwards" I added. 

"As is having your shoelaces undone." 

Junior made a gulping noise as he swallowed his gum whilst Mum whipped the cap from his head. Big Chuck knelt and tied his son's shoes. Despite these adjustments to Chuck Junior's attire the urge to set him on fire was powerful. I needed to resist.

"Let's go then" I said.

"I will take you to my favorite Indian restaurant" 

There were no objections and I thought I might be able to blast them with a good curry. We jumped into a cab and I instructed the driver to take us to Muhtu's. They make the best curries on the island. When seated I ordered a large serve of fish head curry, a spanking Bhindi Jhaipuri, some Roti - and a serve of jasmine rice. 

Needless to say all three were reluctant to eat. 

Out of sheer politeness Chuck Senior took all small serve of everything except the fish curry. He mostly pushed the food around his plate. The other two claimed jet lag and a big breakfast and they refused to eat anything at all. Even the rice. As I was wiping up my curry sauce with a hunk of roti I asked Rebecca what she did back in New York. When she replied that she was a preacher I nearly choked. 

Even though I was quite desperate to say "What the fuck Chuck" I knew now that I couldn't swear. 

I had to concentrate.

After our meal - or non-meal in the case of the visitors, we headed down to the quays. The Americans were sweating quite a bit. They were suffering in the humidity. Rebecca and Chuck Senior were very inquisitive though and asked me what many of the buildings were. They took a lot of photos. I told them that the Esplanade theatre was designed in the shape of a Durian. They had never heard of a durian before so I had to explain the fruit and it's strong but unusual smell. Junior looked horrified when I suggested I get him some durian ice-cream to try.  

When we saw the new High Court building Junior said it looked like a flying saucer. I told him that it actually was. I told him that the Singaporean government had constructed it in the event of a hostile invasion and that the Prime Minister and all his cabinet had spent all day in it last month - when the Mayan's had predicted the end of the world. I told Chuck Junior that they were prepared for take off.

The Ginger said "Gosh" and Junior said "Awesome". Chuck Senior looked doubtful but he said nothing. However they all went on a photo taking frenzy.

After an hour or so of walking around poor Ginger had turned bright red. She looked like an over ripe tomato. The poor dear was dripping sweat and was claiming that she felt faint. Junior was eying off a McDonalds. I suggested that they should probably go back to their hotel and take a swim. When I dropped them off in the cab I stayed inside the car. I asked them to ring me if they needed anything at all. 

I hope they don't. 

Yet I somehow expect that they will.

26 January 2013


Once again I have been outwitted. Less than 24 hours after taking possession of my condominium's mandarin bushes, not a single fruit remains on either shrub. Both "EAT ME" signs have also been removed. Now I am talking well in excess of 300 fruits. I arrived home yesterday to discover this. The once glorious and heavily laden Mandarin Orange trees now look very sad without their golden fruits. 

I am a little sad myself.

I marched down to the security control room to see if the dopey guard knew anything of their disappearance. Unsurprisingly he was dozing. I took some small joy in rapping on the window and seeing him jerk awake. He nearly fell out of his chair. Rubbing sleep out of his eyes he quickly recognized who I was and instead of the normal stare of anxiety that I was now accustomed to - his narrow little lips curled up in a self contented smirk. 

"Who has taken all my fruits?" I enquired

"They have been eaten" he responded. I could hear some smugness in his voice

"Who has eaten them?" I demanded

The fucker shrugged his shoulders in reply. He was still smirking. I could see that his little belly was swollen with what I suspected were copious amounts of mandarin oranges.

"Ok" I smiled and then I walked away.

I could tell that my smile had disarmed him a little as his smirk had disappeared and a furrow of worry appeared on his brow.

This was my own fault. I should have anticipated such an act.

With the coming of the Chinese New Year it is customary for people to give Red Packets - known locally as Ang Pow - to one's Helpers. These are envelopes containing cash and are an expression of appreciation for people less well off than oneself. I have always given Ang Pows to my cleaner, the gardeners and the security guards at my complex. 

The amount of money given in each Ang Pow depends on the relationship between the giving and receiving parties - and their social standing. The amount of money given must always be an even number though. Amounts ending with 8 are very popular. The number 8 is important in Chinese culture as it symbolizes both prosperity and luck. In Singapore the most popular amounts given in an Ang Pow are $18, $68, $168, and $888. 

I normally give $68.

An amount that ends or includes the number 4 is usually avoided in Ang Pows. The word for the number 4 in Mandarin - and in fact most of the Chinese dialects - is very similar to the word for death, so the worse amount to give in a red packet is $44. It is very bad luck.

Guess what dopey is getting this year?