14 October 2013

The Old Bill

I met the new Head of the Security Department of my company for the first time today. We crossed paths whilst we were inspecting an office refurbishment that our mutual Employer is undertaking. The Security team had been sent over to guard a consignment of chairs that had been received from Malaysia and rolls of carpet that had been delivered from Mexico.

The new Head of our Security Team is English and he is an ex-policeman. His name is Melvin and he was once a London Copper.

He was a Plod.

He was the Old Bill.

There are interestingly a number of different names by which policemen are referred. I have already noted a couple but I could also add the Fuzz.

In fact I will add it.

The Fuzz.

There you go.

Many people believe that the origins of the term ‘copper’ related to the buttons that adorned the English police officers jackets but this belief is unfounded – and the buttons were brass anyway. The term ‘copper’ was derived from the Latin word ‘capere’ – which translates to ‘one who captures’. It arose on the streets of London in the very early part of the eighteenth century and the name stuck.

The term ‘the Plod’ was derived from a wonderful children’s story called ‘Noddy’ that was written by the delightful English author Enid Blyton. One of Enid’s characters in Noddy was the village policeman PC Plod – who was so endearing that the English adopted his name as a term for policeman. ‘PC’ stands for ‘Police Constable’.

The Old Bill is the term I like the most and its origins are the most obscure. There are more than a dozen speculative theories about how it originated but the one I prefer is the story that it relates back to the reign of King William the Fourth – back in the 1830’s. King William – or Bill to his mates – laid claim to establishing the modern British Police force and in his Charter he gave them a “Bill of Authority”.

I like writing the Old Bill and I like saying it too.

The Old Bill.

The term the Fuzz is American and I do not really care for it - nor am I interested in its origins.

“Y’oright Melvin?” I said as I introduced myself to Melvin the new Security.

“Y’oright” he returned.

This is a popular form of greeting amongst the English. I speak this English of the English well for I am immersed amongst them in my day-to-day work life. “Y’Oright” is basically asking “are you alright?” – but rather than answering the question you ask it back.

Answering a question with a question is always annoying and I will not even pretend to understand it, but I accept it as just being one of those things that the English do.

“So I see that the carpet has finally arrived from Mexico” I asked of one of the contractors at the site.

“Underlay” Melvin interjected.

“Nice one mate” I said.

His response was brilliant and I liked him already.

“So where were you in your previous job Melvin?” I enquired.

“I was in Qatar innit?”

Some of the English use – and indeed misuse the term “innit”. I come across it often and I occasionally adopt it myself with the English.

It amuses me.

“Innit?” It is basically asking the question “Isn’t it?”

“Qatar innit?” I enquired of Melvin

“Y’oright” he replied.

“Y’oright” has great flexibility amongst some of the English and it can also be used as an affirmation.

“Qatar y’oright innit?” I threw back at Melvin.

He nodded his head in agreement.

This was excellent.

“And you were in the Old Bill before that?’ I asked.

I knew this because I had been briefed on Melvin and his appointment some weeks ago.

“For twenny free years” Melvin responded.

Some of the English drop the letter ‘t’ from the middle of words and they replace the letter ‘th’ with ‘f’. It is quite easy to understand when you get used to it although the spell check function on my computer does not like it.

It does not like it at all.

“Did you ‘ave to wear one of vose funny ‘ats Melvin?” I asked.

You will note that I was speaking colloquially here and adopting some of the English ways. In this instance it is by replacing the ‘th’ with a ‘v’ and dropping the ‘h’.

I do this simply because I like it. I do not offer nor do I feel compelled to offer up any other explanation.

“Only on special occasions”

The funny hats I am referring to are called ‘custodian helmets’ and they were introduced to the London Metropolitan Police Force in 1863. They are conical in shape and have chin straps and a badge on the front of them.

I told Melvin that I liked the custodian helmets.

“I like ‘em too”

I informed Melvin that I was conversant with British law and was aware that there was jurisdiction that allowed for a pregnant woman to urinate anywhere that they chose to in the city of London – including into the helmet or cap of a policeman. He seemed impressed with my knowledge of this law.

“Not everyone knows that innit” he told me.

“In your years in the Old Bill did any pregnant woman wee into your helmet Melvin?” I asked.

“Innit?” I added.

“Vey did not” he replied.

Some may not believe that this is an actual law but I assure you that it is. Look it up yourself.

I asked Melvin what it was that he did in Qatar and he told me that he was the Head of Security for a company that was involved in the construction of Soccer stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. I asked Melvin why he left.

“It was ‘orrible vere”

It is ‘orrible vere. 

I have been to Qatar and the heat and rudeness of the natives is intolerable. Qatar’s treatment of their foreign workers is nothing short of a disgrace. I have no idea why they were awarded the World Cup but the human rights abuses that have and continue to occur there are an abomination.

They really are.

I told Melvin that I was aware that in the past six weeks alone fourty four Nepalese workers had died on World Cup construction projects.  I told him that this equated to more than one death per day.

I informed Melvin that the British Newspaper “The Guardian” recently published an expose on this atrocity and they reported allegations of ‘a chain of exploitation’. Melvin told me that he knew this and more and I could tell by the way that he was shaking his head that he felt as disgusted by this as I did.

I told our new Head of Security that I have many Nepalese friends and that I am acutely aware that nearly one quarter of Nepal’s total national income is derived from their people sending back money from overseas work - and that much of this work is conducted in the Middle East.

The Director of an organisation called ‘Anti Slavery International’ was quoted by the Guardian as saying, “these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening."

It is predicted that more than 4000 foreign workers – mostly Nepalese – will lose their lives in the construction program in Qatar.

I told Melvin that I do not for the life of me understand why the governing body of the World Cup Soccer event had done nothing about this. I also asked Melvin if he knew why the Americans had not yet invaded and occupied Qatar. Melvin told me that he thought that it might have something to do with oil and greed and corruption and I told him that I thought that he might be right.

We both paused in whimsical thought for a couple of heartbeats before I suggested to Melvin that America had a long and colourful history of invading and occupying Middle Eastern countries where similar or less atrocities have occurred.

We agreed that Qatar and Americans and the governing body of the World Cup soccer were fuckers.

We concurred that they were motherfuckers in fact.

“Vats why I left innit” Melvin told me.

“I don’t blame you mate innit” I responded.

“It’s bleedin’ ‘orrible over there an’ I couldn’t stan’ it anymore innit” Melvin said.

“They was terrible conditions to work in an’ all” he added.

“Y’oright Melvin innit” I agreed.

13 October 2013

Russian Revolution

I have been under a cyber attack for the past twenty-four hours. A quite old post of mine appeared on the Facebook Page of ‘Russians in Singapore’ and Russians from all around the world have been launching into me.

It is brilliant.

The post was written quite some time ago and it was very unimaginatively titled ‘The Russians’. I had all but forgotten about it and it was a very simple piece describing a night out with some Russian friends of mine. There was much vodka and mirth - and vodka – on this night out – and there was no malice at all in the article. No harm or insult was intended. There has however been a Revolution of sorts.

A Russian revolution.

Let me say now that I did not put the post ‘The Russians’ on the ‘Russians in Singapore’ Facebook page. Some Russian did and he – or she – said they thought it was funny.

Others did not.

I was alerted to the viral state of the Post as my Inbox suddenly swelled with messages.

I was quite surprised.

When I went to the ‘Russians in Singapore’ Facebook page I saw that I was also under attack there – not by everyone mind you - but a few Russians were revolting. I had to re-read my article to make sure that I had not directly insulted anyone – as I sometimes do – but in this instance I had not.

Not in my opinion anyway.

I was a bit concerned so I rang some of my Russian friends here in Singapore and they all seemed to be aware of the post. All of them laughed and told me not to worry. They told me that most Russians had a sense of humour but some did not.

I told them that it was the same for Australians.

Some comments on the post were directly derogatory, a few others were supportive -and some were just plain cryptic. Some were also Cyrillic – which is the written Russian language – so they were both cryptic and Cyrillic. One lady asked me whether all Australians abbreviated Russian names and she cited the name Pav by example. Pav is the shortened name for Pavel – and I replied that this was indeed a common thing for we Australians.

I rang my friend Vlad – which is a shortened version of the name Vladimir – not to get his opinion but to see if he would be prepared to protect me. A Russian man named Viktor seemed to take great affront at my post ‘The Russians’ and he wrote me an email saying he was going to do unspeakable and violent things to me when he next came to Singapore. I met Vlad a while ago in Singapore and discovered that he was once an assassin and he was proficient in killing people with an icepick.

Vlad answered his phone on the second ring.

“Hello Vlad”


“This is Pyotr”

Pyotr is my name in Russian.


“Pyotr” I repeated.

“The Australian” I added.

“Da Pyotr” he roared into the phone.

Such was the volume of his voice that I had to hold the receiver away from my ear.

Vlad is a very big and extremely hairy unit. I had a huge night out with him and his Russian mates down at Marina Bay a couple of months ago and we got on very well. I have had lunch with him and his colleague Alexei a couple of times since our first encounter and they are both very funny and likable men. I like them a lot. I sometimes refer to Vlad as ‘misha’ – which is the Russian name for Bear.

It suits him well and he likes it.

I explained the cyber attack that I was under to Vlad and I expressed concern at the threats that I had received from the man named Viktor.

“Do not vorry Pyotr I vill keel dis peeg eef he tries to harm you”

“I don’t think killing will be necessary thanks Vlad but perhaps if he manages to track me down then you could either explain that I meant no harm – or at worst scare him off”.

“Nyet Pyotr I vill keel him”

“Jaysus Vlad nyet” I replied.

We chatted idly for a while and I think I managed to convince Vlad that I did not want the blood of Viktor on my hands. I explained that I did not really want the blood of Viktor on his icepick either.

Vlad asked me if I wanted to come to the Marina Bay Sands Casino with him and some of his mates for a night of gambling and drinking and I thanked him but explained that I could not as I had a wedding to attend. I then asked Vlad whether he planned on playing Russian roulette at the casino and he roared so loudly again in laughter that I had to once more hold the phone away from my ear.

Russian roulette is a lethal form of gambling that will not be found in the Marina Bay Sands casino. It is played by putting a single bullet into the cylinder of a pistol – then spinning the pistol and putting it to one’s head. There is a one in six – or a one in eight chance of shooting yourself in the head when playing this game - depending on the size of the cylinder. The term first arose in 1937 in a story written by a Swiss writer named Georges Surdez,

Surdez invented the term – but I have no idea why he deemed the deadly game to be Russian.

I have no idea at all.

I got a reassuring email about my article ‘The Russians’ this morning from one of my other Russian friends here in Singapore – who is exceptionally cultured and charming. I will not name her, as I do not wish for her to be embroiled in any scandal – nor do I want her to be threatened by the madman Viktor. I will use the code name Tasha – which is an abbreviation of the name Natasha. Neither Natasha nor Tasha are her real name – but she knows who she is.

Viktor does not.

Tasha told me that she had read my post called ‘The Russians” and the various responses that were posted on the Facebook Page of ‘Russians in Singapore’ - and like Vlad she told me not to be worried about the Revolution.

I told Tasha that one of the revolting Russians was a woman named Ox who had written, “I didn’t like it at all. Bullshit” and Tasha told me that the woman was Estonian. Tasha told me that Estonia was once part of the Soviet Union but it had been occupied by Germans and Danes and it was not a particularly cultured country at all.

Nor was it Russian.

I told Tasha that another of the revolting Russians was someone named Denis who lived in Moscow and he had written, “Terrible. The old guy need to meet some cultured and educated Russian group of people. He will be surprised” Tasha told me that she had seen this comment and she had then looked at this guy Denis’ Facebook profile. She informed me that Denis lived in Moscow and that he declared on his Facebook profile that he was ‘Chief Executive Officer of Never Worked a Day in His Life’. I asked her whether this was true and she told me that it was - and we both laughed and questioned how cultured and educated such a person must be.

I explained to Tasha that I didn’t think that there was anything offensive at all in my article ‘The Russians’ and she agreed that there wasn’t. She told me that my explanation of this that I put on the Facebook Page of ‘Russians in Singapore’ was more than enough and I should not worry about the comments of a minority.

When I told Tasha of the threat of violent and unspeakable things that I had received from the bloke called Viktor - she asked me whether I had informed Vlad.

I told her that I had.

“Don’t vorry then Pyotr darlink” Tasha informed me.

“Misha vill protect you vith hees icepeek”

We both laughed again.

5 October 2013

Blue Sky Mine

I am seated at an outside table at Starbucks in Novena. It is one of my weekend haunts and I am eating some very soft and delicious cheesecake whilst sipping on my second double shot vanilla latte. It is late on a Saturday afternoon and I am nursing a sore mouth after yet another bout in the dental chair where Derek – my dentist - has once again subjected me to great pain.

Derek has been undertaking a series of root canal treatments on two of my rear upper molars for many months and he has commenced the construction of a crown. I became convinced this morning that the college fund for one of his many children must require replenishment for I have surely paid a fortune to the man. In a moment that with the great benefit of hindsight I now consider somewhat rash - I instructed Derek to simply rip the fucker of a tooth out.

Rip he did. 

The fragile tooth shattered into six pieces and my jaw and gums were cut asunder.

I am feeling some pain.

Hence the soft cheesecake.

Whilst I was on my first luke-warm cup of coffee and awaiting the arrival of my cheesecake my mother rang me on my mobile phone. I knew it was my mum before I answered as I have assigned her a special ring tone that sounds like an air raid siren.

Blessed be the smart phone.

I was expecting this phone call as my mum is an avid reader of everything that I write and despite my written pleas for her not to panic – she panics. She was aware that I have just returned from Tokyo where I had some interesting moments with the godfather of a Japanese crime family. The Oyabun was a very nice and hospitable man and I was in no danger at anytime. I went to some lengths to explain this in my writing – knowing that my mother would be reading.

“Hello Mum”

“Is that you dear?” she said.

I could hear the anxiety in her voice.

“Yes it is me Mum”

“You haven’t been tattooed or had any of your fingers cut off have you dear”

“No mum I have not”

“You are not working as a drug mule either are you?”

No mum I am not”

“Are you sure Peter?”

“I think I would know Mum and even if I were it would be unlikely that I would tell you would I?”

“Your father wouldn’t be very happy if you ended up in a Japanese jail cell Peter”

I wouldn’t be very happy either mum”

“I don’t think that you should be writing all this stuff down for the whole world to read Peter I mean Daphne and the girls at the golf club all know that your brother has got a very big penis thanks to you”

“I don’t know who Daphne is Mum and the fact remains that Richard has got a very big penis”

I have been through all of this before with my mum and she seems very caught up on the fact that I once mentioned in an article that my brother is very well endowed. I did not write about it per se – it was just a by-the-by comment. I since discussed it with my brother and he was not the slightest bit concerned about me mentioning it.

He rather liked it in fact.

My mum also keeps mentioning the name Julian Assange and she tells me repeatedly that she does not want to see me seeking asylum in an obscure African Embassy for the rest of my life. I have told her that this is simply bizarre and I am not disclosing any state or national secrets to anyone and I have no association with Wikileaks.

None whatsoever.

I told my mum that I simply observe stuff and I write it down.

I have also told my mum on many occasions that I did not think that either the Swedish government or the CIA would try and track me down on the basis that I revealed that my brother has a very big dick.

It is to no avail.

For still she carries on.

I accept it as I mother’s prerogative.

"What about that ghastly Russian man that kills people with an axe?"

"He uses an ice-pick Mum. What about him?"

"You shouldn't be associating with people like that - your father wouldn't like it"

"I think Dad would like him Mum and he only kills Danish dudes"

My mother was referring to a man I met named Vlad. He is now a Russian Oil and Gas Executive but he was once a KGB assassin. He is quite a nice guy but he drinks a lot of vodka.

"You still swear too much in your writing Peter it is unnecessary"

"What the fuck mum?"

"That's not funny Peter"

"Sorry Mum - you need to chill out though"

"Don't speak your hippy talk to me Peter"

"Yes Mum"

There was a bit of a pause then before my Mum asked:

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

She asks this of me fairly often now.

"I might actually"

"But why dear?"

"Why not Mum?

There was another bit of a pause before I heard something that resembled a sigh.

I chatted with my Mum for another quarter of an hour or so - where she didn't reveal too much. I eventually reassured her though that I was healthy, happy and I was not yet a member of any Yakuza gang nor was I likely to become a drug mule anytime soon.

When I hung up the phone and commenced the eating of my cheesecake - I noticed that there were two young Singaporean guys who were seated at the table adjacent to mine staring rather intently at me. Their table was overloaded with three laptop computers and a very large folder of what looked like technical notes.

The guys were dweebs.

A dweeb is a studious and nerdy type of person. There are many in Singapore and I like them a lot. These dweebs were fairly typical in that they had bad haircuts, wore thick spectacles and they looked as if their mothers had dressed them. They were likely very smart - as dweebs often are.

“What’s up guys?”

“You are Australian?” one of them asked.

“I am” I replied.

“We are looking at starting up a start up’ the other one said.

“We are thinking about using an Australian name” he added.

“Starting up a start up?” I asked.

“Yes” they said in sync.

“What sort of business?” I enquired.

“Data mining using cloud technology” the closest dweeb responded.

‘Fuck’ I thought – but I did not say this. This was super dweeb stuff that I had no idea at all about.

None whatsoever.

“What is the Australian name that you are thinking of?” I asked

“Blue sky mining” a dweeb responded.

“The song by Midnight Oil?”


Midnight Oil were an iconic Australian band of the 1990’s. Their lead singer was a giant bald man named Peter Garrett who left the band to become a politician. Many of the band’s songs were about important social issues in my country including the plea for native title to be given to the aboriginal people, environmental causes and the atrocities of politicians. Many people think that Peter Garrett sold out the band when he became a politician.

I am one such person.

“Not a good idea boys. Do you know what the Blue sky mine is all about”

I received a blank stare from both the dweebs - which in Singaporean can mean any number of things.

In this instance I assumed that it meant ‘no’.

I then explained to the dweebs that to many Australians the name Blue Sky Mine is synonymous with death because the song was about miners in a small town in western Australia called Wittenoom. Many of these miners and the residents of this town died because they were mining a deadly substance called blue asbestos. I told the dweebs that the ‘Blue’ referred to the type of asbestos that was mined and the ‘Sugar Refining Company” was the owner of the mine – the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. 

This company is better known by its acronym – CSR.

I told the dweebs that many thousands of miners had contracted and died from horrific diseases from digging up blue asbestos in the 1960’s and a generation of families were affected. I also informed them that both the state and federal governments tried to cover up the environmental catastrophe that was Wittenoom and they had even removed the town from maps. There is a much-photographed signpost where the name was first scrubbed out – and then replaced. Wittenoom no longer exists as far as cartographers are concerned.

I let the dweebs know that in no uncertain terms that the Blue Sky mine was an abomination.

“So you think it is a good name for a data mining start up then?” one of the dweebs asked

“My brother has a very big dick” I replied.

Sorry Mum - but he does.