29 September 2013

If you wish to be Loved - Love

It has been a rainy Sunday morning here in Singapore. I like the rain and clouds on the Island for whilst it doesn’t exactly cool the place down – the heat is a little less stifling and more bearable.

As is normally the case now, I awakened very early and I took some time just pottering around my tiny apartment cleaning things up and readying myself for the coming working week. I don’t really mind the vacuuming and mopping and wiping down of surfaces – but I have put off the ironing of my shirts until this evening.

I don’t like ironing.

I then rode my bicycle over to Starbucks where I had some toast with vegemite and a couple of double shot vanilla lattes and I caught up on the local news. Reading the Straits Times is entertaining and enlightening and whilst much of the real news is censored – it gives me a snapshot of what is going on.

I read with great interest that the emotional issue regarding Singaporeans has again reared its ugly head and the Government are about to launch another campaign to try to do something about it.

The Singaporean government loves a good campaign.

So do I.

The emotional issue to which I refer relates to findings from research that was conducted last year by Gallup and was published in many newspapers around the world. The Gallup survey found that, ‘only 36% of Singaporeans report feeling positive or negative emotions on a daily basis’. This ranked the Island as ‘the most emotionless society in the world’.

Gallup is not the sound of horses running – that is gallop. Gallup is a market research company founded in the 1930’s in the US by a bloke named George Gallup. George wanted to discover what people thought about a variety of different things and he did this by asking a lot of questions. I very much like the concept as I too also like to talk to people about what they think about things and I ask a lot of questions. Tragically – at least from my perspective – George made a fortune from his questions – but many people just think I am weird.  

There is a fine line that separates fortune from folly.

The Gallup report went viral around the world and became a hot topic here in Singapore. Bloomberg published some articles on the Gallup findings - which added to the fire. Bloomberg are not a type of flowering hamburger – they are an American media company that focus on the financial sector. One of the quotes from Bloomberg that I read this morning – whilst sipping on my second coffee – stated that,  ‘If you measure Singapore by the traditional indicators, they look like one of the best run countries in the world …. but if you look at everything that makes life worth living, they’re not doing so well’

I looked around Starbucks after I read this and the place was very crowded but there was not a great deal of emotion being expressed. There were few smiles on people’s faces and there was no weeping. I did notice a group of sweaty English tourists who appeared to be moaning about the price of coffee but that was really the only emotion I could notice.

Emotions are who we are. We are formed by what we desire and we are shaped by what we experience.

Si vis amari, ama – if you wish to be loved – love.

The subject matter was of great interest to me and I probed deeper into the publications online. The questions put to people in the Gallup survey included “Did you feel well-rested yesterday?” “Were you treated with respect all day yesterday?” and “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?”

Everyone around me at Starbucks seemed to be immersed in serious conversations or engrossed in their own little worlds and while I was literally bursting to ask some of them this question set I decided to ride home and go and see my own happiness consultant – the manager of my Building complex – Mr. Tan.

I departed to Starbucks on my bicycle this morning through the rear gate of the complex to avoid the saluting Rajs but I returned through the main front entrance to say hello – and because it is more convenient to access Mr. Tan’s office.

At the security gatehouse I dismounted my bicycle and was greeted by both Rajs. As is always the case, they were beaming and they snapped into immediate and magnificent salutes.

“Good be morning and gidday to you Mr. Peter” one Raj said.

“Gidday morning Mr. Peter” said the other.

“At ease and good morning to you both” I smiled.

I really like these guys and I am delighted that they are adopting the Australian that I am teaching them. The two Rajs are Sikh Indian chaps and they are definitely not emotionless. I always find them to be very happy and cheerful and I enjoy their company very much.

“We have not being seeing you for much longness Mr. Peter have you being undertaking your worldliness of traveling in a manner that is bonzer?” a Raj asked.

“I have Raj” I responded.

“I have just returned from a quick visit to Lahore in Pakistan”

Both Rajs immediately frowned in what I assume was concern. They come from a region that is very close to the Pakistan border and both men served in the Indian army. As I recently described in an article entitled “The French Hooker” – there is a great deal of animosity between Pakistan and India and there is much bombing and shooting of each other.

“It is alright Raj – I was in no danger and I do not think I have to go back any time soon”

“May I ask you a couple of quick questions?” I added.

“Most certainly Mr. Peter” a Raj responded.

“Did you feel well-rested yesterday?”

“It was our off day Mr. Peter and we were mosted rested” a Raj replied.

Residents of Singapore refer to their day of non-work as their ‘off day’. I always have a little internal giggle when I hear this as to we Australians an ‘off day’ is a ‘bad day’. It is when unpleasant shit happens and we feel – well off.

I digress.

“Were you treated with respect all day yesterday Mr. Raj and Mr. Raj?”

This question bizarrely triggered an immediate salute from one of the Rajs and I had to order him to stand at ease. I hate doing this but it is the only way to make them stop.

“We are always being respectful Mr. Peter”

“I know you are Raj – you guys are the most respectful men that I know - but were you treated with respect?”

“The Danelander man has been calling us modderfokkers still Mr. Peter” the other Raj replied.

“But we are being respectfulness of him at all times”

The Danelander man referred to by the Raj is of course my insane Danish neighbour Jens. I have reassured the Rajs that he calls everyone modderfokkers and not to worry too much about it.

“OK – did you two laugh or smile a lot yesterday?”

“We are being smiling many times on our off day Mr. Peter. We were in our temple and are always being smiling there”

“I thought so” I said.

“Thanks Mr. Raj and Mr. Raj. Do you know if Mr. Tan is in his office?”

“He is being there Mr. Peter” replied a Raj.

This did not surprise me. Despite it being Sunday Mr. Tan seems to always be at work. According to the Gallup Poll on Global Emotions, Singapore’s more than five million residents work on average 46.6 hours per week. This is the most for any country on the planet. Despite these long hours – of which I too am a victim – only 2% of the Island’s workforce describe themselves as being ‘engaged by their jobs’. The global average is 11%.

That means on average 89% of the employed people in the world are not engaged with their work.

It is no wonder there are so many wars and conflicts.

“Alright I will pop in and see him then. Thanks very much my friends. I will see you later”

I wheeled my bicycle up the driveway and ignored the departure saluting of the security guards. I presume and hope that once I am out of sight the Rajs eventually cease their salutations.

I parked my bicycle in the foyer of my apartment and I strolled to the Building Manager’s office. The door was closed so I knocked and then I walked straight in. Mr. Tan was sitting reclined in his office chair and he was trimming his nose hair with a small pair of scissors. My sudden entry obviously surprised and alarmed him and he squealed at my unexpected entry as the scissors jerked up into his nasal cavity.

Blood started flowing.

“Jaysus Mr. Tan I am sorry” I said – and I rushed to his side.

“It is alright Mr. Peter” he replied – as he reached around to open his desk drawers where he fumbled about and found a packet of tissues.

It was not all right. Blood was streaming from his right nostril.

This is the second time that I have inadvertently caused – or contributed to an injury to Mr. Tan. We previously head butted each other when Mr. Tan leaned over me whilst I was dozing by the pool. It was a few weeks back and the incident resulted in an injury that caused some minor bruising to my forehead but hospitalized the Building Manager.

It was a most unfortunate and a quite accidental event.

I stood patting Mr. Tan on the shoulder while he remained seated and he wadded his nose with tissues. He wanted to stand but I had to gently restrain him. Patting him was as much as I could do and while I had a compelling desire to say ‘there there’ to him I did not.

“Is everything OK Mr. Peter?” Mr. Tan enquired.

This is a question that he asks often of me. Mr. Tan is a fairly constant worrier and I think that this is an emotion that I most associate him with.

He is an excellent Building Manager.

“Everything is quite OK thank you Mr. Tan. I just thought I would drop by and ask you a couple of questions but they can wait until another time. I am so sorry that I barged in and startled you”

“It is quite all right Mr. Peter please ask me the questions”

Mr. Tan is such a polite and well-mannered man – he really is very endearing.

“No really Mr. Tan they can wait until another time”

I was quite concerned at the amount of blood that was coming from the Building Manager’s nose.

“Should we take you to the doctor?” I asked.

“It is fine thank you Mr. Peter – I have just nicked the inside of my nose”

He had now stuffed a rolled tissue up his nostril and it was impeding his voice. Had I not been so concerned it may well have been a comical sight.

“Please ask me your question Mr. Peter” Mr. Tan repeated.

“Have the painters been disturbing your peace? Is Mr. Jens again drunk by the pool? Are there more cockroaches in your apartment?” he asked with no small degree of anxiety.

These were all very relevant questions from Mr. Tan and are a testament to his proficiency as a Building Manager. There are painters currently at the complex. They are painting the outside of the building but they have not disturbed me in any way - primarily because I have been away. I also did find Jens collapsed in a drunken state by the pool the other morning and I once sighted a random cockroach in my apartment. The drunken and unconscious Jens is a common sight and is rarely a problem for me – and even though I do not like cockroaches – I have only ever seen one. However I raised the matter at the Owners and Tenants Committee – and fumigation of all common areas has already been completed.

“No I have no problems at all with the Painters, Jens or cockroaches Mr. Tan, I was merely interested in your opinion on a survey of the emotions of Singaporeans that I have just read about. But it really can wait until another time”

“Emotions Mr. Peter?”

“Emotions Mr. Tan” I repeated.

“What are your questions Mr. Peter?”

The blood flow seemed to have subsided a bit now.

“Please take a seat Mr. Peter”

He gestured to a chair on the opposite side of his desk and I stopped patting him on the shoulder and sat down.

“Well Mr. Tan I am curious to know a couple of things from your perspective. First off did you feel well-rested yesterday?”

There was a bit of a pause of deliberation.

“No I am not well rested Mr. Peter. The painting is causing many problems with the residents and for me”

“I am sorry to hear that Mr. Tan – how about respect then? Were you treated with respect all day yesterday?”

There was another pause.

“Mostly not I am afraid Mr. Peter. Some residents have complained about the painters and Mr. Jens swore at me many times yesterday”

“I am again sorry to hear that Mr. Tan but we both know that Jens is a crazy fucker and he swears at everybody. You must not take it personally nor take him seriously. I think it is a Danish thing”

Mr. Tan nodded a grave affirmation and he replaced the blood soaked tissue wad with another. The bleeding had seemed to diminish and I was quite disgusted by the sight but given I was the root cause I pushed away my revulsion.

“ Do you recall if you smiled or laughed a lot yesterday Mr. Tan?”
There was a much longer deliberative pause this time and I could see the Building Manager mentally running through his yesterday.

“No I did not Mr. Peter” he eventually replied.

I suspected that would be his answer. In my now long association with Mr. Tan I cannot recall him smiling much – or if ever.

He is a very serious dude.

We chatted for a while about some mundane things and I hung around until the nosebleed abated.

I then bid Mr. Tan a fond farewell and I shook his clammy little hand and apologized once again for startling him whilst he had scissors up his nose.

I have now returned to the sanctuary of my apartment to think about all this and to write it all down.

It has triggered some reflection and introspection.

I feel relief that there is no hatred in my life and gratitude at the many fortunes that have fallen my way. I feel great pride in my children and I feel unfathomable joy in witnessing the adults that they have become. There is remorse of course for many things that cannot be undone – but we all have that.

Vonnegut wrote, “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘what might have been’”

Nice one Kurt.

The world is a lesser place without you.

I guess the overriding emotion though is love.  Boundless and unconditional love for my family and the closest of my friends – and this is the one thing that over washes all other emotions.

It is the main thing.

It is the everything.

I am not really sure how I feel about this entire emotion thing – but I do feel quite emotionally drained now and the dread of ironing is still upon me.

I think I will have a nap.

28 September 2013

Drunk for a Tuppence

I went down for my now occasional rather than regular swim this morning and was unsurprised to see a drunken Dane collapsed poolside. He was sprawled half on and half off one of the sun lounges and was surrounded by cans of beer and an empty bottle of Smirnoff Vodka.

I had risen early as my body clock has been destroyed by a whirlwind trip to Pakistan where I think I spent as much time in the air as I did on the ground. The time that I unwillingly lost crossing three time zones was returned to me on the flight back to Singapore - but my body does not seem to have received it yet.

I am somewhat battered.

I was unsure whether it was my psychotic neighbour Jens who was collapsed next to the pool or if it was his equally mad identical twin brother Dag. I poked the Dane gently with my left foot to make sure that he was still alive and was relieved to see one blood-shot eye open.

“Are you Jens or Dag?” I enquired.

I received only a groan in reply.

“Hvad hedder du?” I demanded – and I poked him again.

I have been learning a little Danish from the crazy twins. It is useful for communicating with them sometimes and I enjoy making the guttural noises that are required in speaking the language

“I am Jens Skeepy” the Dane moaned.

“Have you defecated in the pool Jens?”

“Wheesky” was his response.

“Yes sure Jens. I always carry whiskey down to the pool for my swim. It is seven o’clock in the morning you Danish fucker.”

“Modderfokker” was his weak reply.

The blood shot eye then closed.

I put my towel on a sun lounge that was the furthest from the drunken Dane as I did not want it to be soiled by his rancid breath or a sudden stream of projectile vomit. I then did a perimeter walk of the pool carefully checking the water for ponies. A pony is a poo. It is a term that some of the English use and I have explained its origins in previous articles that I have written so I will not repeat myself here.

Suffice to say that I like the term and I have adopted it as my own.

The dirty Dane Jens has been guilty of doing a pony in the pool before – or at least he remains the primary suspect. I was a witness to the discovery of the pony in the pool and a part of the subsequent police investigation – but again I have written of this abhorrent act before in an article I appropriately titled ‘The Floater” – so I shall not recant the horror of the incident.

I have no desire to re-live the moment.

When I was satisfied that the pool was pony free I put on my swimming goggles and floundered my way up and down the pool thirty six times. I would like to say that I glided through the water with powerful strokes doing impressive tumble turns at the end of each lap – but that would be deceitful. I was once a reasonable swimmer but age and flubber is mine enemy – and the best I can manage is a pitiful & ponderous paddling.

Pathetic I know - but at least I am trying.

Jens had not moved during my swim and whilst I was toweling myself dry I wandered over to his prostrate body and I again poked him with my foot.

This time I used my right foot.

I appear to have suddenly had a preponderance of word's beginning with the letter 'P'.

I don't know why.

My poke extracted another moan from the Dane and he rolled onto his back on the sun lounge and I could hear it creak under the weight of the man. Jens is a very big unit. He is well over six feet six inches tall when he is standing and he is unhealthily overweight.

I cringed a little at the sight of his hairy distended belly that was now exposed through a stained and mostly unbuttoned shirt - and I was further disgusted when he reached to his groin and gave it a vigorous scratch.

He is a most repulsive man.

I was about to voice my repugnance to Jens when I felt hot breath on my neck and I was startled by a dulcet voice.

“Good Morning Mr. Peter”

“For fuck sake Mr. Tan how do you do that?”

“Do what Mr. Peter?”

“Appear from nowhere”

Mr. Tan is the Manager of the Building complex in which I live and he does this all the time. He just appears. I rarely see him coming.

Mr. Tan ignored my question – as he often does – and replied:

Is everything alright Mr. Peter?’

“I think so Mr. Tan. Our good friend Jens has been on another all night bender”

“A bender Mr. Peter?”

“A bender Mr. Tan”

The origin of the term ‘bender’ is English and it is strange and obscure – like the English themselves. The phrase he has been on a bender’ can be traced back to the middle of the nineteenth century when a coin called the sixpence was referred to as a ‘bender’. It was thus named because it was made of silver and could be easily be bent. In those days sixpence bought a lot of booze – and drinking sixpence worth of beer guaranteed a severe state of drunkenness. A quite common sign that was posted out the front of many taverns of the era was “Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence, clean straw for nothing”

I am not sure whether the ‘clean straw’ bit of the sign referred to a soft place where drunk patrons could have a bit of a lie down or it was an absorbent material for their vomit.

Nor do I particularly care.

I explained all of this to Mr. Tan and he nodded with interest but his face was impassive and his emotions are often difficult to read.

“Shall I call the security guards to remove Mr. Jens Mr. Peter?”

“Nah just let him lie there and sleep it off” I replied.

Even though I am very fond of the two Rajs, the security guards of the complex in which I reside - I did not want to deal with their incessant saluting at this time of the morning.

It drives me mad.

The conversation between Mr. Tan and myself must have roused the drunken Dane and he moaned and groaned again and then he dragged his great bulk into a sitting position. Mr. Tan took two dainty steps backwards when this happened. He is quite afraid of the Danish lunatic. To my great revulsion Jens then let loose with one almighty fart.

“You are a disgusting pig Jens” I said.

“Ja ja skeepy modderfokker” Jens grinned at me.

Then he leered at Mr. Tan

“Good morning Mr. Jens” Mr. Tan said nervously.

“Jeg elsker dig” the Building Manager added.

Jens looked alarmed and I had to stifle a chuckle.

A couple of weeks ago I told Mr. Tan that he should remember the Danish phrase “Jeg elsker dig” and say it to Jens whenever he saw him. I told Mr. Tan that it was a polite Danish greeting that would possibly stop the aggressive snarls of “modderfokker” that Jens tended to utter at everyone - but it was a bit of a fib.

“Jeg elsker dig” is Danish for “I love you”.

The big Dane made as if to rise and the look of alarm of his face had been replaced by one of anger.

I don’t think that Jens is used to being told that he is loved and he does not know how to properly react to it.

“Steady on you big Danish fucker” I said.

I held my hand up as I said this to both reassure Mr. Tan and in an endeavour to keep the big Dane in a passive seated position.

“Don’t be concerned Mr. Tan – Jens is a harmless dipsomaniac”

I turned to explain to the little fellow that a dipsomaniac is a person who has an uncontrollable urge for alcohol but he had disappeared as suddenly and as mysteriously as he had appeared.

He is most definitely a man of shadows is Mr. Tan. His ability to appear and then disappear is thaumaturgic.

I have thrown the words ‘dipsomaniac’ and ‘thaumaturgic’ in for the more articulate readers – of which I suspect there are few. I have provided the definition of ‘dipsomaniac’ and I take some small amount of perverse pleasure knowing that some people will now be clicking onto their online dictionaries to look up the meaning of ‘thaumaturgic’. There is very little joy in my life nowadays.

I take it when I can.

I then once again told Jens that he was a disgusting drunken pig and suggested that he should retreat back to his apartment before the two Rajs came to get him.

Jens is as afraid of the two Rajs as Mr. Tan is of him - and he once more looked a bit panicked.

I grabbed my towel and left the pool area and as I departed I gave the Dane a cheeky  “Jeg elsker dig”.

“Modderfokker” he smirked back at me.

Then he farted again.

27 September 2013

The French Hooker

Lahore. Chill out Mum. Relax - take it easy - I am not with a French hooker. I have heeded your advice to steer clear of all loose and conniving women and I am mostly a good son.

Well sometimes I am.

I have just returned from a lightning trip to Pakistan - to the city of Lahore. The trip was work related and it was my first time.

I was a Pakistan virgin.

I had to dash over to Lahore because a recent earthquake broke one of our buildings – just a little bit.

I went over to get it fixed.

Pakistan is very much like India - where I spend a lot of time - but of course it is - it was once a single country.

Why prostitutes are often referred to as hookers is an interesting story. There is a popular belief that the term is related to - and named after - the American Major General Joseph Hooker - who served in the Union army during the Civil War. Legend has it that the good General's soldiers were not very well behaved and they enjoyed mingling with prostitutes. Apparently legions of such women followed the troops around and General Hooker allowed them to ply their trade.

Some say Hooker actively encouraged such interactions and transactions to provide a form of relaxation and respite for his soldiers from their daily routine of slaughtering and being slaughtered.

This is not the origin of the term though. It was nearly two decades before the Civil War and the term ‘hooker’ was recorded in illustrations in a New York magazine in the middle of the nineteenth century where loose women 'hooked' their horny male victims into paying for ‘favours’.

There you go.

The word ‘whore’ is an old one – as is the profession. It is often described as the world’s oldest profession actually – although I am not sure if that is accurate. There is a very Old English word ‘hore’ that means prostitute or harlot that was supposedly derived from the Germanic word ‘khoran’ which translates to ‘one who desires’. There are a few Scandinavian terms as well which are similar. In Old Norse the word ‘hora’ was used to describe an adulteress - as was the Swedish word ‘hore’.

It is quite interesting that there are so many different words for this profession and I think that the word prostitute is probably the kindest descriptor. The word ‘prostitute’ comes from the Latin term ‘prostitutus’ - which loosely translates to ‘lust for hire’.

I like that.

I personally have no problem with the general concept of people willingly selling their bodies. I would not get very much for mine. Sex as a commodity is fine in my book and far worse things are bought and sold.

Pakistan and India were once a single country and it was the British who split it in 1947. They did this on religious grounds in the British Parliament in something that was called the India Independence Act. Pakistan came into being on the 14th August 1947 and India happened the next day.

So Pakistan is one day older.

The name ‘Pakistan’ means ‘Land of the Pure’ in the Urdu – or Persian language and ‘India’ is a derivation of the Urdu word “Indus’ – which means ‘Land of the Hindu’.

Wars are fought, countries split and mayhem reigns on the basis of religious arguments. Millions of lives have been lost in battles of belief and faith and worship.

I wonder what the respective deities of these religions think about all this killing and blowing up in their names?

I don’t think that they would like it.

My faith is not in an unseen deity. It is a hope for goodness and niceness and honesty and decency. My Mum taught me this – and my Dad too.

Anyway the Hindus and Muslims of what was the main continent of India mostly hated each other, so the British decided to split the India colony into India  - which was predominantly Hindu  - and Pakistan  - which was predominantly Muslim. Both religions hated the British.

There was a lot of violence in the split and this animosity and hatred remains to this day – particularly on the border of the two countries.

There is much shooting and blowing up of each other.

Two very big blokes picked me up from the Lahore airport. Both were immaculately dressed in dark suits and white shirts and they were armed with very big guns. Their names were Aahil and Rehan. I was whisked into a car that had blacked out windows and I was told that it had armoured plating. It felt very dangerous and exciting.

I loved it.

As we were driving from the airport to my little-bit-broken office I asked Aahil and Rehan if their names had an English translation and they told me that they did. Aahil told me that his name could be translated to ‘Prince’ and Rehan to ‘King’.

I had a royal escort.

They asked me if my name had a meaning and I told them it did. I told them that the origin of the name Peter is biblical and it meant ‘rock’. I acknowledged that it was nowhere near as impressive as their names and they said nothing in reply.

I think that their silence on the matter was pure politeness.

When I asked Aahil and Rehan if I was really in any danger in Lahore they said that there was some potential for kidnapping as some Muslim extremists might think that I was an American and could hold me for ransom. They told me that there have been kidnappings and beheadings in Pakistan before. When I informed Aahil and Rehan that I was a pacifist quasi Buddhist Australian they said it didn’t matter. They said that the Muslim extremists would not know that and could grab me anyhow.

I asked Aahil and Rehan if I could have a gun while I was in Lahore to protect myself and they said that it was not possible. I told them I had some experience in shooting guns and blowing things up and they were still not deterred. I have had some experience – well once actually. When I was in Cambodia I shot and blew up some coconuts and jungle with an AK47, a rocket launcher and then a small tank. I told Aahil and Rehan that I was offered the opportunity to blow up a cow but I declined and they did not seem very impressed. I have written about this experience before in an article I titled ‘Hamburger’ and it was my first and only moment of weapons handling.

I was previously an armament virgin.

It was such a quick visit to Lahore that I did not get to see much of the city although I had quick peaks at the ancient walled town and I did a drive-by of some really beautiful mosques.

I am very much looking forward to going back and spending some more time in Lahore and Pakistan. The Pakistani people I met with were very friendly and nice and they were extremely accommodating.

None of them were hookers Mum - and I did not hire any lust while I was there.

Don’t worry on that front.