It was somewhat of a shock for me to return to Singapore this afternoon and see that scaffolding had been erected around my apartment building and painting was in progress. I have been away from the Island for a little under a fortnight and had attended the monthly Owners and Tenants meeting only days before my departure - where the decision was made to ponder further over the costs that painting would involve.
This pondering has been going on for more than a year.
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’. Nor does the automatic spellcheck function on my computer 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 have been away working in India and then not working in Nepal so I am relatively chilled and relaxed.
I am temporarily at peace with myself.
When my taxi pulled up at my condominium complex this evening the two Raj’s who are the delightful and over-doting 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. They simultaneously opened both doors.
I had a temporary quandary through which door to alight as I did not wish to offend either Raj however instinct 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:
“Gidday Mr. Peter sir” one of the Raj’s 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.
The taxi driver popped the boot of the car and one of the Raj’s swooped and removed my bags and 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 had managed to get a hold of both of my small bags then as the Raj’s had released their grip to snap to attention again at the appearance of Mr. Tan.
I had to “At Ease fellows” them to stop.
The Raj’s only salute Mr. Tan and I.
Ordering them to cease the salutes does not work.
“What’s all this with the painting Mr. Tan? I only left two weeks ago and everyone was still considering the price”
“It is Mr. Howard Peter. One of his companies is doing it”
“One of his Companies Mr. Tan?”
“He has many”
It turns out that strange little Howard owns many companies. Mr. Tan told me that he also owns 86 of the 192 apartments that are in the complex.
I have only met Howard twice and on both occasions at the meetings of the Owners and Tenants Committee on which we both sit. I have written about these bizarre and highly entertaining meetings before and how I find the strangeness of Howard to be very appealing. His suggestion that the new pool rules should include a prohibition of cats from swimming was simply brilliant.
He has obviously done very well for himself.
“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.
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’s, Mr. Tan and I were standing. As the rider cut the engine I asked:
“Are you Jens or Dag?”
Jens is my somewhat unpredictable Danish neighbour and Dag is his visiting identical twin brother. 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 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.
Mr. Tan slunk back a bit into the shadows when Jens appeared. He 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.
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.
Mosquitoes are illegal in Singapore. 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’s to take a step closer and I held up a hand to reassure them that all was OK. The two Raj’s 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.
Jens stopped his roaring as soon as the Raj’s stepped in and he immediately became a bit more timid. The Raj’s are very big boys and Jens is undeniably crazy but he is not stupid.
So there was Mr. Tan who is afraid of Jens and the Dane who is scared of the Raj’s – and it was a small circle of fear that had surrounded me. For some perverse reason that I cannot explain I was 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”
The Raj’s 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.
To the best of my knowledge neither Raj has killed anyone nor had I yet 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.
Tears welled up in both Raj’s 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 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 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 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 my self and then I turned and wheeled away.
I shall make further enquiries from Mr. Tan tomorrow about the mysterious millionaire Howard.
I kept two mangoes for myself.
I will eat both for my breakfast in the morning.