I had to go to Orchard Road yesterday. It is an area of Singapore that I usually try to avoid. Orchard Road is the main shopping and tourist district of Singapore and it is always very crowded. The locals and tourists tend to move very slowly along this thoroughfare and they create congestion by constantly stopping and taking photographs. On the very rare occasions that I go there I have to beat and thrash my way through the human traffic.
It drives me mad.
This is Orchard Road:
I was compelled to go to Orchard Road to buy myself some new trousers and shirts. I need clothing that is thicker and warmer than the attire that I normally wear here in Singapore as I must soon go to London for work and even though it is Summer in England I am anticipating cool weather. Like the inhabitants of the country, English Summers are often bleak. Despite the fact that I will be amongst the English I quite like London. It is one of the great cities of the world and I am looking forward to escaping the humidity and depravity of Singapore for a couple of weeks.
The word "trousers" is quite a strange one. It sounds French but the origin of the word is very obscure and whilst I am sure that if I trolled the Internet I could find the etymology but I simply couldn't be bothered. Americans refer to trousers as 'pants'. This is probably an abbreviation of the word 'pantaloons'. Why the Americans have chosen to use the word 'pants' rather than 'trousers' is a mystery to me.
To me 'pants' is something that my dog does when he is hot and thirsty.
In Australia we often refer to trousers as 'dacks'. This term is most commonly used by the Australian bogan population. The word 'dacks' is being rejected by the spellcheck on my laptop. It is auto changing it to the word 'sacks'. It just did it again. Manual adjustments have had to be made.
One Australian bogan could well say to another bogan, "Geez mate that's a great pair of trackie dacks youse have got on"
"Trackie dacks' are tracksuit trousers - or tracksuit pants if you are an American. They are the preferred attire for our bogan population.
I have no idea why.
The English may also refer to trousers as 'slacks'. The people of Scotland refer to them as 'trews'.
After battling my way through the crowds of Orchard road and buying myself several pairs of trousers and shirts at the Takashimaya shopping complex I sat for a while to rest my weary body. I sat in one of the designated smoking areas in a small recluse just off Orchard road. I bought myself a green tea and was smoking a cigarette and having a quiet moment when a lunatic walked up to me and asked me for a light. I was not in the slightest bit surprised as I am a beacon for lunatics.
You may well ask how I could tell that this person was a lunatic? He was dressed as a clown and had an inflatable rubber duck around his waist and he was wearing a multi-couloured wig on his head and was clutching a fistful of balloons. Only a lunatic would be attired in such a fashion. Here he is:
"Got a light mate?" the lunatic clown asked.
I recognized his accent instantly. The clown was a Northerner.
A Northerner is someone from the north of England. They are the brunt of many a joke amongst their own kinfolk and have a distinct way of speaking. Whilst the vast majority of the English with whom I work in Singapore are lardy dardy toffee nose Londoners, I know quite a few Northerners here on the Island. I count several amongst my friends. Whilst they often appear dour and miserable they are deceptively nice people.
"Ay Oop" I responded as I handed the Northerner clown my cigarette lighter. "Ay Oop" is a traditional greeting amongst the Northerners. There is no direct translation but it could mean "Hello", "How Are you?" "Nice to meet you" or even "Goodbye". I enjoy both saying it and receiving it.
I say it loud and with gusto.
"Ay Oop me ole mukker" the Northern lunatic clown responded. It is traditional amongst the Northerners that when you receive an "Ay Oop" you must give one straight back. It is considered impolite not to do so. "Me ole mukker" loosely translates to "my friend".
I understand and speak Northerner quite well. My good friend the Hammer has taught me much of this dialect. The Hammer is quite a character who lives here in Singapore. He is originally from Lancashire. I wrote a piece about him awhile back titled "Coloured Birds"
"A bit fooken 'ot" the Northerner commented.
"Yep" I replied.
"Aaa ye gooin' on?
"I am alright thanks. May I ask why you are dressed in such a ridiculous fashion?"
"Ahm doin sem promotion wook fer a pool cleanen coompany"
"I hope you are getting paid well. You look like a pillock"
A "pillock" is Northerner for an idiot or fool.
"Ah no ahm neht really gotten mooch wedge bit ets a bit of a larf and et pays few a couple a jars"
I best translate this whole sentence for non Northerner speakers.
The Northern clown was saying, "No I am not really getting paid very much money but it is a bit of a laugh and the money I get will pay for a few beers."
"Wedge" is Northerner for "money" and "Jars" is Northerner terminology for beer. The Northerners love beer. They drink it like water.
"I don't think it is a very good look mate. Do you think it's a good idea for a clown such as yourself to be seen smoking with children around?"
There were quite a few children hovering around the Northerner clown. They were keen I think to get some of the balloons that he was holding.
"When ah need a fooken tab ah need ah fooken tab" he responded. A "tab"' is Northerner for a cigarette.
"I think you should go back to your job now my Northern friend" I said and I nodded towards the awaiting Singaporean children.
"Aye" he agreed and he butted out his cigarette.
"Would yez like a balloon?" he offered.
"Only if you would like me to set you on fire" I replied.
"Ay Oop" he responded and then he bounced off to the main street to hand out his balloons
"Ay Oop" I returned.
I have never liked clowns. They always scared me when I was a child and so did cornfields. I had recurring nightmares when I was young that involved a host of really creepy looking clowns emerging from a cornfield. They were coming to get me. I would awake from these dreams in the middle of the night screaming and calling for my mummy.