31 July 2013

A Piddle in the Park.

My neighbor Jens has been arrested. The insane Dane is behind bars. I know this because when I arrived home yesterday evening and trudged wearily up the driveway to my condominium I was stopped by the two friendly Indian security guys Raj and Raj. They as is usual saw me approaching and snapped to immediate and rigid attention and gave me incredibly elaborate salutes. I have repeatedly asked them to stop doing this. I have implored them in fact - however it makes no difference. They are insistent.

"At ease fellas" I greeted Raj and Raj.

I have found that saying this is the only way to stop the salutes.

"Good evening Mr. Peter Sir" one of the Raj's said to me. His voice was quite excited. The other Raj broke away and rushed into the guardhouse and picked up the phone.

"The Danlander man has been being arrested" Raj continued.

"The Danlander man?" I enquired.

"Yes the big fatting man on the motorcycle Mr.. Peter sir" he replied.

"Raj is calling Mr. Tan now to be telling him that you are home" he added.

I knew then that Raj was referring to Jens. The crazy one. My lunatic Danish neighbor.

Before I had a chance to respond to Raj I saw a flash of movement from further up the driveway as the building manager Mr. Tan came rushing towards me. The other Raj had re-emerged from the guard hut and both went immediately rigid in the salute posture as Mr. Tan arrived.

"For fuck's sake guys relax" I sighed.

No response.

"At ease" I commanded and the saluting hands dropped.

"Mr.. Peter. Mr. Peter. Mr. Jens has been arrested" Mr. Tan panted at me. 

He was waving his hands around a bit and it was obvious to me that he was not his normally composed self. He was in fact in a highly agitated state.

"So what's up Mr. Tan?" I enquired.

"What is this about Jens?"

"He has been arrested Mr. Peter"

He was still puffing and panting. I was unable to determine whether this was because of the sprint he had made down the driveway to meet me or because of the brouhaha of the moment. 

Brouhaha is a brilliant word. It is a noisy and overexcited reaction or response to something or someone. There is somewhat of a brouhaha over the etymology of the word brouhaha. I would have guessed that it was Irish but it is not. There is one school of thought that suggests that it's origins are from French medieval theatre and another that it is biblical. The latter school think that it may have derived from the Hebrew term 'barukh habba" - which translates to "blessed be the one who comes". I have no idea how such a term relates to a noisy and overexcited reaction - nor indeed do I actually care - but I most definitely like the word brouhaha. 

I like to occasionally cause the odd one too.

"Take a couple of deep breaths Mr. Tan", I said and I gave him a reassuring couple of pats on the back. 

He was slightly hunched over now and he had his hands on his knees.

"I am alright Mr. Peter" he gasped.

"The police they came and took Mr. Jens away today"

"He didn't do another pony in the pool did he?" I asked

A pony is a poo - a shit - a turd. I have explained this once before but I will repeat myself. I often do. I often do. It is English rhyming slang. A pony and trap - which was an old English form of transportation - rhymes with crap, which is a poo. It is abbreviated to a 'pony'. 

I asked this question of Mr. Tan because several months ago a floater was found in the swimming pool of my apartment complex. It was a very large poo. It was adult size. I was a coincidental witness to it's discovery and I informed Mr. Tan at the time that I thought that the most likely suspect was Jens the lunatic Dane. Jens later discovered that I was his accuser and he has been my enemy ever since. I shall not recant the whole drama again now as I have written about it before - at length and in a piece that I most unimaginatively entitled "The Floater". 

"No No Mr. Peter it was worse" Mr. Tan declared.

"He was being caughted piddling in the park with his pants being off" one of the Raj's interjected.

Mr. Tan cast the Raj in question a withering glance which triggered an immediate apologetic salute. I am beginning to suspect that the Raj's are obsessive compulsive saluters. It is bizarre.

"At ease Raj" I instructed the rigid security guard.

"Piddling in the park with his pants down Mr. Tan?" I enquired.

"Where was this?"

"At the Eastcoast park Mr. Peter" he replied.


"This morning he was filmed and he was arrested this afternoon"

The Eastcoast park is a large green strip of land unsurprisingly located on the east coast of the Island. It is a very pleasant place full of meandering paths and food stalls and beaches. There are many public toilets there as well - and cameras. Singapore is awash with security cameras. Big brother is a watching.

"I assume that he was drunk then?"

"He is always drunk I think Mr. Peter" Mr. Tan replied.

"I think he is" I agreed.

Piddling in the park could well be a major offense in Singapore. Many things are and any form of public nudity is very illegal. Jens could be in some very serious shit.

"Well I told you that he was a dirty fucker didn't I Mr. Tan?" I said.

He nodded a furtive agreement.

"Do you have any idea what will happen to him?"

"I do not know Mr. Peter"

"Well keep me posted if you hear any more please?" I asked.

"I need to go upstairs and have a pee myself" I then announced.

"See you later guys" I said as I walked to the lift lobby. 

The two Raj's started to move into a salute position so I barked a quick "at ease" at them and it stopped them in their tracks.

I hope nothing too bad happens to Jens over the peeing incident. The man is certifiable but no one deserves to be incarcerated for doing a widdle on the lawn. I have done a few myself in my time. I will make some subtle enquiries with the Authorities tomorrow and see if there is anything that I can do to help my Danish neighbor.

The future Queen of Denmark is after all Australian. 

29 July 2013

The Unconditional Love Covenant

I have returned to Singapore from London and I am still abuzz with the thrill of being in London for the birth of the Royal Baby. As a result I am therefore more attuned to babies than I would normally be. I am more aware of their presence. They seem to be everywhere. I have become a little obsessed with the Royal Baby and I don't know why.

This both worries and alarms me.

I was thinking only a moment ago that if the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William were all suddenly tragically lost - say in a plane crash or something - then the Royal Baby would be the King of England. There would be a baby Monarch. King George. I have never before been an active Royalist and I should not be having such thoughts. It is un-Australian but I can't help it. The birth of the Royal baby while I was in London has affected me.

It is a little disturbing. 

Since returning to Singapore I have noticed that there are many blokes about my age who have young children or babies and in some instances both. Some of these men are older than me. Considerably older. Many of these old fathers of young children are the English. The mothers of the children are typically local girls who appear to be perhaps half the age of their husbands.

I cast no judgment here.

I offer kudos.

If it is required.

Personally though I think this is madness. This is simply my opinion but what were you thinking? What were you drinking? Parenthood is beautiful but it is very hard work. It is best started when one is in their twenties so that the worst bits are over by your forties.

Your early fifties at the latest.

Parenting is energy sapping for the first twenty years of each child's life. That is two decades - which is a hell of a long time. The middle and later bits are the hardest. The teenage years.

Being a parent requires a great deal of vim and verve and vivacity.

Verily I say.

The rearing of our children is a demanding task. It is one that is continuous and requires the utmost in perseverance and patience and persistence. It requires devout dedication. The journey is undoubtedly a joyful one but it can often be a bumpy ride. Who am I kidding? It is a very bumpy ride. There are highs and lows and peaks and troughs and ebbs and flows. Parenthood is a bond that demands protection, safety, responsibility and happiness. Happiness most of all. From birth until forever. 

Parenthood is an enormous responsibility but It is also bloody hard work.

Much of the time. 

These older-fathers-with-young-children will be in their sixties and seventies when the-children-they-have-now are in their teenage years. The teenage years are the nightmare years. It could well kill them. I know this for I am a parent. I am the sire of two children - a male and a female and I have survived two terms of teen-hood. 


I do not think that I could deal with being a father of a teenager in my seventies. I would not have the energy required for the proper fathering of toddlers in my fifties or sixties. It could most certainly kill me.

Don't get me wrong. I like children and I love my own. I get and embrace and live the concept of unconditional love and I fed on it's necessity as a father during the rearing process.

I feed on it still.

My baby-who-is-not-a-baby daughter is nearly eighteen. She is in her final year of school and she is sensible and flourishing and she is beautiful. She devours learning. She is confident and optimistic and she is a wonderful young adult. 

She wasn't always though.


She was tough in her teens. 

Her mood stages were many and varied and they were often traumatic and tragic. Emotions and perspective magnify a hundred fold during throughout the teenage years. Rationality is impotent and reason is non existent. Some of my baby girl's moods were hilarious. Most were highly emotional and many were challenging. Very challenging. We got through them though.


However I still worry about her and I will always worry for her. I worry for both my children and all of my nephews and nieces too. Anguish is part of being a parent and it is a part of being a family too. It sits aside those other wondrous parental emotions of joy and pride and astonishment and tenderness and adoration too - and love of course.

Worry is a shadow that is a component of the covenant of unconditional love.

We parents are allowed to do it and we should worry - even when our kids are all grown up. 

It is a big and sometimes bad world out there.

I worry a lot.

The male fruit of my loins was much more challenging in his teens than was his sister. I will see him next week as I am flying back to Australia for his twenty first birthday. My boy is now a man. Turning twenty one is a milestone age in Australia as it is in many Western countries and I am going home for the occasion.

I would not miss it.

It was excellent swimming and surfing and doing sport with my son when he was growing up. We reveled and romped a lot and spent much of our time outdoors - mostly on the beach. We also played basketball and tennis and kicked footballs around. The normal things that dads do with their sons. 

I could not imagine doing any of that in my sixties or seventies.

I would be physically incapable. 

My son chose a different form of education than his sister. His was a less formal one. He trod a different path. He challenged and rebelled and he ran away and he got lost. He was constantly pushing the boundaries in his teenage years and he sometimes crossed them. He tore down fences. He was Art and Creativity and later Risk and Danger. He was attracted to Danger.

He was perhaps addicted to it.

He was angry and he was bitter for a time too for no apparent reason. He was irrational and he was inconsolable and there was a wildness about him that we could not tame. Then he ran away again for a long time. He vanished and we didn't know where he was or if we were going to get him back. For parents this is something that is beyond fear. We think that there are limits to the dimensions of terror but the dread of losing your child is an endless fall into chasm of blackness. It is a plunge into an abyss. To succumb to such despair and hopelessness and helplessness is paralyzing. We felt that we were losing bits of ourselves.

My son told me recently that he thought that he was looking for himself during this dark stage of his teens and I got what he was saying. I understood and felt his explanation. I had behaved similarly myself when I was his age. I strayed as well and I still occasionally do. In exploration there is often peril. Some of us need the tonic of wildness. It is a craving.

It is a yearning.

My son is now starting to find his place in the world. He is traveling. He works with plants and he has developed a love for the Earth. He has established a connection. He loves animals and music and the mountains of Nepal. Witnessing his growth and maturation from a boy to a man is one of those joyous bits of being a parent - but my son caused his mother and me a lot of worry back then.

In his teenage years.

There was Grief and Pain and Incomprehension and we had many dark days and sleepless nights.

I am not sure if I could manage such experiences again if I was a father of a teenager in my sixties or seventies. 

It would most certainly kill me. 

27 July 2013

The Knowledge

I am leaving London sans Royal Baby memorabilia. "Sans" is French for "without". I am unsure why I have just used it now but I have used it before and I will likely use it again.

The House of Windsor have not yet approved any Royal baby memorabilia so I could not get any Royal Baby George tea towels or stubby holders or mugs to bring back to Singapore with me.

I am disappointed.

I am also a tad disgruntled to be leaving London as it is one of the Great cities of the World. I quite like a lot of Englishness and London is full of it. It is only some of the English who annoy me and who I don't like. 

Great Cities have a buzz. New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney Rome, and Paris and there are others as well. Buzz cities. London is one. It is Summer in London and there has been a Royal Baby born so there was an even bigger buzz than normal.

My departure from London is imminent. 

My bag is packed and I have checked out of my hotel and I am sitting in the British Airways Business Class Lounge at Terminal Five in Heathrow Airport. There are a lot of people here and they are all on the move. 

We are all of us leaving London.

I feel some sadness at leaving. That is an adequate enough descriptor of the emotion. It is not as deep a feeling of sadness that I experience when I leave Sydney or Melbourne or Kathmandu - but it is a sadness nevertheless. 

It is melancholy. 

I appreciate the architectural and historical glory of London and I love the palaces and the castles and the ancient buildings. I like the beautiful gardens and the well preserved facades and statues and arches and museums. They are everywhere and I will miss them. 

I love Harrods and Marks and Spencers and Sainsbury's and Waitroses. I love the pubs with names like the Lamb and Flag and the Barrow and Bush and the Pig and Whistle. They are classic and are very English. 

In a nice sort of a way.

I like the Monarchy and all of it's pomp and ceremony and I love the drivers of the London Black Cabs.  

I like the word 'pomp.' I enjoy both writing it and saying it. As a general rule I like words that begin and end with the letter 'p'. Pomp. Pimp. Pump. Poop.

Pomp means splendid and magnificent and London is full of it.

I have caught many a Black Cab during my brief week in London. The Black Cabs of London are no longer just black though. The Black Cabs I caught were grey and white and only two were black. Canary Wharf is a fairly isolated place to stay and I had social meetings with friends one night in Shepherds Bush Green and another in Covent Garden. I caught Black Cabs to and fro.

The drivers of all Black Cabs in London are still required to do the Knowledge. This is the test for getting a London Taxi license. Passing the Knowledge is required no matter what color the Black Cab you drive is. It is mandatory and you get a badge and a license to drive when you have completed it.

The Knowledge is regarded as being the most difficult taxi licensing test in the world. The taxi license test that is required in Sydney is far simpler. All that is needed to drive a taxi in Sydney is proof that you can not speak English, you do not know your way around the city, you are a very dangerous driver and you will scream into your mobile telephone the whole time that you will be driving. 

It is that easy.

The process of "Taking the Knowledge" was initiated in London in the year 1865 and it has changed little since. The very best can complete it in two years but for others it may take up to a decade. The Knowledge requires that all drivers be able to navigate their way around all of Greater London without consulting a map or using a GPS. It is the ability to recall the location of every street, lane, road, avenue, motorway, expressway, circle and boulevard in London. The Black Cab Drivers of London must be able to know their way around London intimately. 

This is the Knowledge.

The sixth century Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote that:

"To attain knowledge add things every day.  To attain wisdom remove things every day"

I just thought that I would throw that one in there. It was written long before motor vehicles or Black Cabs were invented.

One of the Black Cab drivers I used in London told me that acquiring the Knowledge was the hardest thing that he had ever done. His name was Stan. I guessed that Stan and I were about the same age. I told Stan that I was not surprised that it was very hard.

Stan - the driver of my Black Cab driver was not black and nor was his taxi, The taxi was grey and he was white. Stan was a Londoner. When I asked him about doing the Knowledge he told me:

'It wuz 'arder than dooin' me schoolin' 

"What exactly is involved in doing the Knowledge then Stan?" I put to him.

"Appearances guvnor" he replied gravely.

"Twelve bleedin' Appearances"

Stan was speaking cockney English. 'Guvnor' is a term used by some of the cockney English in a way we might use the word "Sir". It must go back to days when there were a lot more actual Governors around. 

I like it. 

"Bleedin'" you can substitute for "Bloody" or "Fucking" if you want. It is a bit of harmless swearing. The London cockney English who speak this way tend to drop off their "h's" at the beginnings of words and "g's" off the end and "t's'' sometimes also disappear.

I had some very good banter with Stan and I learned quite a bit. Stan told me that "Appearances" were the twelve tests someone doing the Knowledge had to take to prove that they knew their way around London. He told me that they are very tough.

When I asked Stan what - as an Englishman - he thought about the birth of the Royal baby he told me,

"I's bewaful en et?"

Writing cockney English phonetically is sending my auto spell-check on my laptop computer into a frenzy. It does not like it.

"I's bewaful en et?" is normal English for "It is beautiful isn't it?

I agreed with Stan that it was and I told him that I thought that it would probably be a pretty tough life though growing up in the Royal Family.

"Poor lil bligh'er. Is ol man is a right good geezer an all. bu I wouldn't swap me life for is few love or money"

OK my spell check does not like this at all and manually re-correcting is annoying. 

Bugger I will have to do it again to explain what Stan said.

"Poor lil bligh'er. Is ol man is a right good geezer an' all. bu I wouldn't swap me life for is few love or money" 

....... is cockney English for: 

"Poor little fellow. His Father is a nice man but I would not swap my life as a Black Taxi driver for the life of a just-born baby who is now third in line to the English throne"

A "geezer" is a word some English use as a substitute for 'man' or 'bloke'.  

A geyser is also a natural phenomenon that sometimes occurs in seismic areas of the world. It occurs when a lava flow deep under the earth heats up below-surface water which is then periodically released through a fissure on the earth's surface in a high pressure gush. These are geysers. Their gushes are called "blows'. There is a very famous geyser in Yellowstone Park in the US. The Americans named it 'Old Faithful'. It gushes regularly. I have visited the Yellowstone National Park and I have seen 'Old Faithful".

I have seen it blow. 

The English word 'geezer' emerged amongst the cockneys in London in the early part of the nineteenth century. It was thought to have been originally used to describe 'odd or unusual' people - however in modern times it is just used to describe anyone male and it is mostly used by the cockney English.

Strange characters lurked the streets of London in the 1820's. They lurk there still. In the 1820's they wore unusual costumes and the fashion of the day was peculiar. Some would argue that the fashion of this day is peculiar. Such opinions are subjective - and I digress. I am referring to the early part of the nineteenth century - think Sherlock Holmes. Some people were thought to be in disguises and they came to be known as "Guisors". These people who were dressed in disguises were perhaps the odd people seen by the London cocknies and they adulterated the word to "Geezers"? 

This is one theory on the origins of the word and it is the one that I like the best.

I like the sound and use of both words "Guvnor" and "Geezer". When I return to work back amongst the English in my office on Monday I shall use both words and I shall use them liberally. I am sure that it will not be appreciated. 

The English with whom I work are not a very grateful or gracious lot.

I told Stan that I also thought that the life of the Royal Baby George would not be an easy one. I told Stan that I thought that he was going to be watched by the world media for his entire life and he was going to be scrutinized. I also told Stan that I hoped that the Royal Baby George ended up being like his uncle Prince Harry. 

Stan told me that he hoped so too. He told me that he liked Prince Harry as well.

My driver to the airport this evening had not done the Knowledge. He told me that he had tried and failed on numerous occasions. This drivers name was Jack. 

Jack was not driving a Black Cab. He was driving a normal type of car. Jack worked for a company named Addison Lee. The English for whom I work use Addison Lee to drive us in London. They have an Account. Addison Lee a very big Company. They have many cars all over London and they are a major competitor of English Black cabs. Jack my Addison Lee driver tonight was a geezer.

“Yorright” he said to me when he picked me up at the Marriott hotel.

“Yorright” I replied to him.

Eefrow or Gatwick son?”

Heathrow please” I replied. “Terminal Five”

“Awright me old mucker”

“Good one”

“’Edding ‘ome to Oz are we?

“Nah back to Singapore”

“Nice place to’ ide out until youze fellas learn ‘ow ta play cricket again' me lad. Maybe learn' ‘ow ta play rugby as well”

England have been giving Australia a hiding in the Cricket Ashes Test Series that is currently going on in the UK. We have been destroyed by the English in the first two games. The British Lions rugby team also recently beat Australia. I have copped a lot of shit from the English for whom I work in London this week.  

Australia being bested by the English in any field of sport is as rare as it is difficult to swallow. I have however remained stoic. I have maintained my dignity.

“I am not talking about sport today Jack” 

“I am also a Kiwi” I added.

“You ain’t?” the driver asked.

“No I am not really” I confessed.

Pretending to be a Kiwi is not a very bright idea.  They have done very little in the world sports arena and less than the English in fact. The accents with which New Zealanders speak are also grating.

They are an abomination. 

Jack and I mostly chatted about the cost of living in London and Singapore and politics and wars on our drive to Heathrow airport. We talked about the weather and the monarchs as well. When I asked Jack whether there was a man named "Addison Lee' he told me there was not. Jack told me that the Company was started by a geezer called John Griffin in the 1970's with a single car. He told me that the first job John Griffin got was a pick up on Addison street and the passenger's name was Lee and that was the origin of the name.

When I asked Jack whether he knew if Lee was the surname or the first name of the first passenger John Griffin picked up - he told me that he didn't know.

We agreed that the name could be male or female or a first or a last name. Jack laughed when I suggested that the person could have been Chinese or English. He told me that he was going to look it up when he got off his shift and I am going to look it up myself. 

Not knowing will otherwise gnaw away at me. 

It will drive me mad.

The drive to the Airport from Canary Wharf took less than an hour and the conversation Jack and I had was pleasant and comfortable and we had a laugh or two.

My flight is now being called so it is time for me to board the plane and leave.

Until next time London. 


Thanks for having me.

It's been nice.