15 April 2014

“M” is for Mangoes and Madness and Mum

Getting current information about what has been going on at home has become difficult of late. 

My mother is now being very careful with what she says to me on the telephone. I live in Singapore but all my family live back in Australia. I normally ring my mother once a week and on a Tuesday night. If for some reason I don't ring her then she worries. When I tell her that her worrying causes me worry then she worries even more. 

It is a no win situation. 

It is a bit of a worry.

I rang home on Sunday this week because I actually wanted to speak to my Dad. I wanted to ask him a question about the Ghurka soldiers of Nepal. My Dad was a career army officer for most of his adult life and he knew and worked with some of the Ghurka people. I will not disclose the question - just to annoy you.  

When I rang home however it was my Mum who answered the phone.

"Hi Mum. Howzitgoin?" I asked.

"Oh hello dear is that you Peter?" 

"Yes it is"

My Mum is sometimes unsure whether it is me or my younger brother Richard ringing her. We apparently both sound quite similar on the phone and also my Mum is getting a little deaf.

"It's not Tuesday Peter"

"No I know it's not Mum. I am ringing to talk to Dad"

"That’s nice dear but he's just out walking the dog and he won't be long."

"No worries Mum - so what's going on and how are you?" I enquired.

"I am fine thanks dear. We had a lovely time up at your sister Jane’s house this afternoon and she made a banana and walnut cake for your father. I hope that you and your brother had a nice time in Nepal"

"Nice one Mum. We had a wonderful time thanks. Richard is still there. What have you been up to then?"

There was a moment’s hesitation from my mother before she said:

"You are not going to write about this are you Peter?"

My mum asks this of me quite often now. She has told me more than once that she doesn't like me 'telling the world' - as she describes my writing - about things that she thinks are a bit personal. She has made mention that such things have included me writing about my niece Georgina's now finished relationship with the reformed junior gangster Rory and the fact that I have made the comment that my brother Richard has a very big penis.

I have reassured her on many occasions that Georgie likes being written about and she often rings me and begs me to write more about her. She did so recently in fact. I have also told my mum that my brother Richard is equally very pleased for me to write that he is very well endowed.  

By the way I have never actually written specifically about my brother's large dick before - I merely mentioned it in passing on one occasion.

My mum has also told me that she does not think that I should use so many swear words in my writing and I have told her that I thought that this was a bit rich coming from her. I have heard my mum swear many times on the golf course.

We all have.

I have heard her say 'fuck" very loudly and very often when she has sliced a ball off the tee and when she has missed a very short putt.

The phrases 'Keeping Mum' and 'Mum's the Word' mean to keep quiet or to say nothing. The English came up with them. The terms have been around for quite a few centuries and are thought to have originated from the word "mummer'. A 'mummer' was a mime actor from pre-Shakespearean times. 

British propaganda posters were produced during World War Two that said "Be like Dad: keep Mum" - warning the populace that German spies may be lurking in their communities. The British also put up posters that said, "Loose lips sink ships" - which meant much the same thing.

I have noticed that in recent months my mum is not telling me all the news that she used to - and when she does start to relate a little family or neighborhood gossip she will very often pause before she reaches the juicy bits - and she will say – as she said today:

"You are not going to write about this are you Peter?"

I have had to reassure her that I won't write about such things if she doesn't want me to but she is getting a bit repetitive and annoying in this request. Mind you, some of the stuff that she does tell me is worth writing about.

She is a bit of a gossip is my mum.

I told my Mum that it was somewhat of a shock for me to return to Singapore as I have been away from the Island for over a fortnight working in India and then not working in Nepal where I met up with my brother Richard.

Yes the one with the big dick.

Sorry Mum.

Most people will know that a fortnight is a unit of time that equates to fourteen days. Fewer people will know that the origins of the word are Old English – or Ye Olde English - that actually means fourteen nights.

I am one such person – and now so are you.

This word is ‘feorwetyne’ – which looks Welsh but it is not. Unsurprisingly the automatic spellcheck function on my computer utterly rejects the word ‘feorwetyne’ however it does not reject words from the same era such as ‘hither’ or ‘thee’ or ‘betwixt’. I particularly like the word ‘betwixt’ and will endeavour to use it in a conversation tomorrow. Interestingly too the automatic spellcheck function on my computer does not reject the words ‘fuck’ or ‘fucker’.

Life throws up many mysterious things and the working of the automatic spellcheck function on my computer is one such thing.

I told my Mum that the not working in Nepal with my brother was excellent and that I have returned to the Island feeling relatively chilled and relaxed.

I told her that I am temporarily at peace with myself.

She asked me if we were in Nepal doing our charity stuff building schools and I told her that we were. When I say it was not work it is work but it is not of the paid kind. It is volunteering. She then asked me if it was just Richard and I that went to Nepal this time and I informed her that it was just the two of us.

Mum knows that I go to Nepal often and that we now run a little charity building schools and installing solar power and supporting education in remote and spectacularly beautiful communities in the Himalaya. She is aware that my friend Jess and I started the charity and that we organize groups of people to go over and help out on a regular basis. It is mostly Jess that does this actually – she is much better than me at organizing and I just go.

It is nice to get as many people as we can involved in our projects although few people are repeat visitors. I told my Mum most of the people who have been to our school projects from Singapore have very good hearts and they are touched by the plight of the children and the lack of educational opportunity. How could they not be? They help out our Foundation with fund raising - however there are some who have spent more time shopping than doing charity work at our schools.

I informed Mum that Singapore is full of strange expatriate women who are attracted to the concept of helping out in Nepal but in reality they are of little use. These are the ones who spend much of their time shopping. I told my mother that such individuals really believe that by them buying massive amounts of trinkets from places like Mahaguthi – whose motto is ‘Craft with a Conscience’ – and drinking free trade coffee - they are doing their bit. I told Mum that they waltz around Kathmandu wearing designer colored face-masks so they don’t breath in the dust. They also embarrassingly and constantly spray their hands with disinfectant that they keep in their handbags as they loudly proclaim how dirty things are.

Accompanying such people in the visitor groups make me cringe.

I told Mum that these women then go back to Singapore with all the trinkets that they have bought. They proudly display framed pictures of themselves playing with the cute little Nepalese children. They drink champagne and cocktails in ridiculously pretentious places - and they tell each other how nice they all are. I told my Mum that the cost of each bottle of champagne that they drink - like water - would pay for the education of a Nepalese child for a year.

That makes me sick.

These women rarely return to Nepal though after their first trip. They prefer resorts in Bali or Phuket. They are typically vegetarians or vegans and are generally divorced and confused and unhappy. They are shallow and empty and they have insurmountable problems with alcohol and relationships and self esteem.

I informed Mum that these women are sad and pitiful cases but they are mostly harmless and that thank goodness none of them came to Nepal on this visit with my brother and I.

That would have ruined the experience.

I told Mum that when I arrived home last week and my taxi pulled up at my condominium complex - the two men who are both named Raj – and who are the delightful and over-doting Indian Security Guards of the building in which I reside -were there to greet me. Before the taxi had even stopped there was a Raj on either side of the vehicle.

I told Mum that they simultaneously opened both doors.

I informed my mother that had a temporary quandary through which door to alight - as I did not wish to offend either Raj. Instinct however drew me to the curbside door - which was to my left – the opposite of what it would be in America.

I generally follow my instincts without too much fall-out.

Before I had straightened both Raj snapped to immediate, rigid and imposing salutes and I quickly barked an:

“At ease fellows”

I followed this up quickly with a more gentle:

“Owzitgoin guys?”

My Mother knows all about the two Raj and that the two Indian guards refuse to stop saluting me whenever they see me.

She knows too that although it still disturbs me a bit, I have now just begrudgingly accepted it.

“Gidday Mr. Peter sir” one of the Raj beamed.

“Gidday Mr. Peter sir we are be welcoming you back from your most tiring of travelings” the other added.

He was also grinning.

The Raj’s both now say “Gidday” to me.

I am teaching them Australian.

I explained to my mother that when the taxi driver popped the boot of the car one of the Raj swooped and removed my bags. While I was wrestling to take it away from him the Manager of my complex Mr. Tan stepped out from behind a column. He often appears from shadows or as if from nowhere. He moves very quietly too – like a phantom – and his footsteps don’t make any noise.

It is frequently disconcerting and occasionally a little creepy.

“Good evening Mr. Peter and welcome back”

“Good evening Mr. Tan and thank you”

I told Mum that I managed to get a hold of both of my small bags as the Raj who had them released his grip to snap to attention again at the appearance of Mr. Tan.

I told Mum that I had to “At ease fellows” them again to get them to stop.

The Raj’s only salute Mr. Tan and I.

I don’t know why.

 “I have something for all of you” I declared to the Raj’s and Mr. Tan.

I opened the larger of my two bags to reveal 10 gorgeous southern Indian mangoes. I bring back as many as I can carry when they are in season - for they are the best mangoes in the world. This lot I picked up from Bombay – or Mumbai as it is now known – on the way home from Nepal.

I informed Mum that at that moment the boom gates to the complex opened and a Dane roared up on a Harley Davidson and pulled up next to where the Raj and Raj, Mr. Tan and I were standing. As the rider cut the engine I asked:

“Are you Jens or Dag?”

My mum knows that Jens is my somewhat unpredictable and most definitely deranged Danish neighbour and Dag is his visiting identical twin brother who appears to be equally mad.

He is visiting from Copenhagen.

“I am Jens,” replied the Dane. He said this as he released then shook his wild mane of hair from the ridiculous Viking motorcycle helmet that he wears – it has horns – and he grinned manically at me.

“You are going som ver Skeepy mudderfukker?” he asked.

“No I have just returned from India and Nepal Jens. Is your over-fed twin psychotic brother Dag still staying with you?”

“Da da” he replied.

“Da” is Danish of sorts for yes. I don’t know why Jens chooses to say it twice but he does it often.  It could be a part of his madness or it could just be a Danish thing.

I do not know enough Danes to determine this.

My Mum knows that Jens calls me ‘skippy’ – or “skeepy” as it is in his guttural Danish accent - as he thinks it is funny. ‘Skippy’ is the name of a bush kangaroo. It was once a television show made in the 1960’s about the adventures of a kangaroo. The name of the show was Skippy for she was the main character and star. He was portrayed as being an uber intelligent beast that was the best mate of a boy called Sonny. Sonny was the son of a Park Ranger. Skippy could understand everything that Sonny said and they had many adventures where Skippy was inevitably a hero. The series was shown all around the world. It was popular in Denmark apparently.

It was huge.

I don’t mind what Jens calls me. I prefer Peter – because it is my name - however I don’t really care what anyone calls me actually. 

I don’t give a fuck.

I informed my mother that Mr. Tan slunk back a bit into the shadows when Jens appeared. She knows from our previous conversations that Mr. Tan is quite understandably a bit fearful of the Dane. Mr. Tan is a very slight and passive Singaporean chap and Jens is a crazed and hulking monster.

“Dag ees seek” Jens added.

“Dag is sick” is the English translation

One hand was scratching at his wild and disheveled beard when he said this and the other was scratching his crotch. Jens is a most disgusting individual and I could have sworn that I saw living things moving around in his beard. Perhaps ticks, mites or gnats – or even mosquitoes. 

I informed my Mum that mosquitoes are illegal here in Singapore. I told her that the Government has a very large mosquito department whose sole mission is the extermination of the insects. Mosquitoes have killed hundreds of thousands of people in the tropics from diseases such as malaria and dengue fever and like many things in this country, the Singaporean government exercise a zero tolerance approach.

“Dag is sick Jens? Is that what you are trying to say?”

“Da da” Jens replied.

“He haas a very beeg hangoover” he then roared.

The roaring caused the two Raj to take a step closer and I held up a hand to reassure them that all was OK. The two Raj are very protective of me and they have seen first hand Jens madness. He generally roars “modderfokkers” at the Guards as he comes and goes from the complex but I told them a while back not to take it personally.

I told them that Jens yells “modderfokker” at everybody.

I told my Mum that Jens stopped his roaring as soon as the Raj’s stepped in and he immediately became a bit more timid. Raj and Raj are very big boys and Jens is undeniably crazy - but he is not stupid.

I explained to Mum that there was Mr. Tan who is afraid of Jens and the Dane who is scared of Raj and Raj – and it was a small circle of fear that had surrounded me. For some perverse reason that I could not really elucidate to my mother, I momentarily enjoyed the tension of the moment.

“Yes be careful my fat Danish fucker friend” I warned Jens.

“Both Raj and Raj are fearsome Punjabi warriors who have killed many Pakistanis with their bare hands and I have a secret Australian code word that once uttered will compel them to attack and destroy you”

Raj and Raj swelled a little in size at this comment and the Dane looked somewhat sheepish. He was quietly muttering incomprehensible Danish guttural noises into his beard.

I informed my Mum that to the best of my knowledge neither Raj has killed anyone nor had I programmed them with an attack and kill command - but Jens did not know that.

“I have mangoes for you all – including you fat Danish fucker,” I announced – deciding to break the slight tension that had emerged.

I than gave two mangoes each to the Raj’s, Mr. Tan and to Jens.

I told Mum that tears welled up in both of the Raj eyes and Mr. Tan’s bony little arms emerged from the shadows to receive his. I could see a part of his face and he looked a bit stunned.

He often does.

Jens looked bemused holding a gorgeous mango in each of his mitts and I knew that it would take a while for him work out that what they were and whether he could ride his Harley holding the fruits.

I let my Mum know that I have decided that unconditional kindness and friendly banter is the best way to deal with the insane Dane Jens – and also with his seemingly equally mad brother Dag – for I suspect that they have not been recipients of much kindness in their lives.

I could well be wrong though and their apparent lunacy could again simply be just a Danish thing.

“Dees ars coocoonots Skeepy?”

“They are wicked mangoes from India you dumb Danish dude – give one to your brother and eat one yourself”

I told Mum that I then bid them all a swift goodnight - announcing that I was a bit tired - and I wanted go upstairs and unpack and eat and write all of this down. I also took advantage of the fact that neither Raj could salute with a ripe mango in each of their hands – nor could Mr. Tan shake my hand with his damp and limp little grip.

I informed my Mum that I could see confusion still in Jens expression and the agony in the facial expressions of both Raj’s at their inability to salute. Mr. Tan remained just looking stunned.

I smiled wryly to myself and then I turned and wheeled away.

I kept two mangoes for myself.

I will eat both for my breakfast in the morning.

“That’s nice dear” Mum said.

Once I promised my mum again that I wouldn't write about anything that she had to share with me she filled me in about a few things that had transpired - such as her recent victory in a tournament at her golf club and a new partner she has in her weekly Bridge games.

Boring shit.

Then my Dad arrived home from walking the dog and she put him on the phone and I chatted away to him for a while and I asked him the question about the Ghurka - which I shall not reveal here. It was very revealing though. I talked to Dad for a little while about the football and the family and where I was traveling to next for work before he passed the phone back to my mum to say goodbye.

Mum asked me if I was going to ring again on Tuesday and I reassured her that I would.

I know that she would worry otherwise.


  1. That was one hell of a phone convo, Peter. Thanks for telling us all about it :).

    Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2014, My Latest post

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  2. It certainly was a hell of a phone conversation,and quite entertaining. Thanks for letting me in on it. AtoZer http://www.writer-way.blogspot.com