2 April 2013

Coloured Birds

The Hammer is driving us mad. Ever since the big northerner finished up his contract with the Bank he has been pestering us all to come out and have pints with him. Pints of beer. It seems like every second day one of our phones will ring and we hear the dulcet tones, "Ay oop lad. Fancy a pint?

Sales at the Bank's staff cafeteria have suffered greatly since the Hammer's departure. They have plummeted. The Hammer was their best customer. I have witnessed the Lancastrian devour several full English breakfasts – well before breakfast - in the staff cafeteria. 

They ordered in black pudding especially for him.

Since the Hammer has left the building the milo machine on our floor in the office is now rarely empty. The Hammer would drink dozens of cups of Milo a day just because it was free. Milo is a chocolate malt powder used to make chocolate milk drinks. It is very popular in this country and the Bank provides free drinks of this to all of our staff in Singapore. We have milo machines that dispense both hot and cold cups of milo. I don't like to drink it but I will occasionally sprinkle it on my vanilla ice-cream as a special treat. I recall once asking the Hammer how could he possibly drink so much Milo every day and he replied with a very straight face that he drank it because it was free.

He was earnest. 

This is the Northern way. 

They consider free food to be the best food.

I once witnessed the Hammer dispute the price of curry puffs in the staff cafeteria. He was new to the Bank then.

"One quid for a curry poof? You must be fekkin avin a larf."

He soon however endeared himself to the cafeteria staff and won them over with the combination of his Northern charm and his bulk purchasing. Each working day in the office was commenced with a grumpy Lancastrian enquiry, "Where's mi tea?

Despite the Hammer's broadness of girth he is quite an athlete. Do not be deceived by his appearance. He has competed in a number of triathlons and long distance bicycle rides to raise money for charity. 

The Hammer has a big heart.

Here is a picture of a hammer - it is a tool used to drive nails into wood and it may also be used as a weapon.

Here is a picture of our Hammer. I took this photo during a triathlon that a few of us from the office did last year. I easily beat the Hammer in the opening two kilometer swim leg and was able to position myself on the beach change-over station to take this photo. The Hammer was a little tired after the swim and he foolishly lay on the sand to recover. Unfortunately for him a group of Japanese tourists saw him and attempted to drag him back out to sea.

They thought he was beached.

The Hammer flew past me on the bicycle leg of the triathlon and then he blitzed me on the run.

We have still not fully recovered from the Kingfisher incident. The Hammer worked on a number of construction projects for us over in India. Despite his outward appearance of a disheveled rotund Lancastrian sloth, the Hammer is a very good engineer. He has worked on some very tough assignments for us in places like Chennai and Pune. These are hot and dry and dusty cities and building stuff the Indian way can be difficult and frustrating.

As a sub-contractor the Hammer billed all his expenses back to the main Contractor that we had engaged. The big English unit with whom I work checks off all contractor expenses before we submit them to our Finance department. Nothing dodgy ever gets through. The Hammer is renowned for his mean and tight Northerner ways so his expenses are examined closely. Having traveled with him many times before we have noticed the Hammers stingy practices. For example he always gets his clothes laundered and pressed the day before he returns to Singapore and we suspect that he occasionally takes the curtains from his condominium with him just for the dry cleaning. 

We don't pay for this. 

It is the main contractor.

The Kingfisher incident arose a couple of months ago. Kingfisher is a brand of Indian beer and it is the most drunk beer in all of India. It is very popular. A Kingfisher is also a very brightly colored bird. They are found all around the world.

The incident involving the Hammer was beer related. 

Not bird.

Here is a picture of a Kingfisher bird:

Here is a picture of Kingfisher beer:

On the occasion of the Kingfisher incident the Hammer was in residence in the Indian city of Chennai and he was in the midst of a large and complex construction project. The Hammer had been there for a while and was flagging. This is understandable. 

We have all flagged before in India. 

We will again.

The word flagging in the sense that I have used it - in reference to the Hammer - means drooping or limping or declining in strength and vigor. It can also mean to attempt to stop something by the waving of a piece of cloth.

The etymology of the word flagging is unknown but it arose sometime in 16th Century in Great Britain. Etymology if the study of the origins of words. I am a bit of an amateur etymologist at times and where and how words originated interest and intrigue me.

To support the Hammer we flew out a mate and fellow Engineer of his whose name is Alan. Alan is also a dour and stout Northerner who is also a very competent engineer. We thought that Alan would give the Hammer some company and some much needed support on the job. The Hammer and Alan have worked very well together in the past on other projects in India and they have always got the job done.

Upon his return to the island the Hammer submitted his expenses claim to the main Contractor. As we always do we scrutinized his receipts with a combination of suspicion, awe and amusement. We disregarded the elaborate laundry and dry cleaning costs because we accept the fact that you get dirty and dusty in India and the odd steam cleaning of a carpet or curtain doesn't cause us or the main contractor too much concern.

What was of interest though was one particular receipt for a Tuesday afternoon. All receipts are now itemized and date stamped and for meals or drinks the main contractor requires denotation of who was in attendance.

This Tuesday receipt was date stamped 4.06pm - that is the afternoon. In attendance were the Northerners - the Hammer and Alan. There was no one else. The receipt itemized two bottles of Cloudy Bay chardonnay from New Zealand, a basket of poppadums and thirty six Kingfisher beers. Yes that is correct and I will repeat this again, thirty six Kingfisher beers! 

It was a classic.

The Hammer claimed that it was a tough morning in the office and he and Alan really needed those poppadums. Needless to say his claim was rejected by the main contractor but the Hammer took it stoically. His contract then finished. This had nothing to do with his competence or the Kingfisher incident - his job was just done. 

Now he is driving us mad.

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