23 June 2014

See you later Alligator


It is the morning after the night before. 

Yesterday I attended another Russian-Jewish pre-wedding event. Unsurprisingly the previous two nights were carnage where much vodka and beer was consumed by the young folk. I dropped in for a token drink on Friday and had another wedding to go to on Saturday – however I could tell from the pallid faces that alcoholic mayhem had ensued.

It was apparent that the Russian super-model type girls had bested the Australian boys again though. Their capacity for alcohol is enormous and the big Bogan boys never stood a chance.

It was a nice change though from the farewell soirees I have been going to of late. There have been many of those and they are as sad as they are drunken. Many of these farewells have been for departing English.

Any event involving the English here on the Island is inevitably drunken.

It is what they do.

The weekend before last though I did attend a farewell event and it was for an English. Despite his nationality he is not a bad bloke. The name of the Englishman who is returning to the Mother country is of no consequence. He is gone now and a few others and I will miss him. He is a kind and decent person and Singapore will be a lesser place without him.

It really will

The English often refer to their homeland as the Mother Land. The Mother Land is not actually an English term at all. Its origins are Russian. A very large and hairy man named Dmitry informed of this at the pre-wedding soiree and such was a his size that I dared not doubt him – at least not out loud.

Dmitry informed me that "Mother Russia" is a term used by Russians to describe their homeland. Quite a few Germanic and Scandinavian countries refer to their homelands a "Fatherlands". The Dutch call Holland "Vaderland". Danish refer to Denmark as "Faedreland" and to the Swedes it is "Fadernslandet". We Australians just call home "Australia".

It has no gender.

We tend to keep things straightforward and simple. 

It is what we do.

The un-named English friend to whose departure event I attended a week ago is relocating back to his hometown of Bath. This is a spa town in the county of Somerset. I have been there before and it is very pretty.

Bath was first established by the Romans a couple of thousand years ago. They constructed a village on top of a hot spring. The Romans liked to bathe in hot springs and they bathed together. The Romans also invented the orgy. I am assuming that the orgy arose from this bathing together.

Ironically the English do not like to bathe at all.

The Roman baths are remarkably well preserved in the city of Bath and they are a major tourist attraction. When I first visited Bath I was a tourist.

The Roman Baths attracted me.

The un-named English dude who was departing the Island told me at his event that he was very excited to be returning home. I suspect that he was looking forward to a bath but I did not say this.

He has been living in Singapore for a decade or so and he told me that life on the Island has worn him down. I replied to him that it wears us all down and we will all inevitably leave.

The heat and humidity of this place is punishing and even as I write this I feel some madness beginning to engulf and consume me.

I struggle to push it away.

Home is also somewhere that we all desire to return to. I miss my home and my family. I am feeling quite homesick right now just thinking and writing about it. Home is a place where we feel that we belong. Home is memories - it is places and faces and times gone by.

It is comfort and familiarity.

Home is not just a place. It is an irrevocable condition and at this exact point in time I yearn and ache for it. 

I pine for it.

I miss it a lot.

Much of the normal crowd was at the farewell function last weekend. There were a great many English of all shapes and sizes – they were mostly Londoners but also some Northerners as well.

Ay Oop.

There were also Scots and Welsh and several Irish. Wherever there are copious amounts of alcohol involved there are always the Irish. Australians and New Zealanders were also well represented and there were also some people in attendance from Germany and France. There were many Singaporeans too. Our friend is much liked and there was a healthy gathering to say our goodbyes.

There were quite a few other rowdy groups at the Bar where we had gathered for the English farewell. The venue was in a pub district of Singapore called Club Street. The roads are blocked off on the weekends and people tend to spill out into the street in this area and groups get intermingled.

I chatted to a group of Israeli tourists who were sitting at a table next to where I was sitting for a while. They seemed to be both intrigued and a little concerned by the drunken English and Europeans that were surrounding them.

I introduced myself by reassuring them that they were mostly harmless.

I told them this because they mostly are.

Harmless.

There were half a dozen Israelis in their group and they were all women. The women were of various ages. I was quite surprised when I said hello that they collectively announced that they were all lesbians. I was a little taken aback at this unexpected declaration of their sexuality and I didn't really know how to respond.

I think that I simply congratulated them.

I then told them that I was a heterosexual.

It was a bit strange but this is Singapore and weird shit happens here all the time. It is why I quite like it.

I mostly chatted to two of the Israeli lesbians. Their names were Liat and Maya. They told me that they were a couple. When I asked them why they thought that it was necessary to tell me that they were all lesbians they looked at me in a fairly blank fashion and said, "Because ve are"

"But I don't generally go around announcing to strangers that I am heterosexual" I argued.

"Because men are all peegs,” the girl named Maya replied.

That simply didn't make any sense to me.

I told Maya and Liat this and they got a bit arrogant and petulant. Israelis are a bit like this. I quite like this as well.

"Men are all pigs?"

"Steenking peegs"

"Well it is obvious that many of these guys are,” I agreed - pointing out some of the English who were reveling around us.

"But I think it is a bit unfair to say that I am actually a stinking pig" I added.

"You don't know me at all"

"All men are peegs,” Maya asserted

"Israeli men are all pigs?' I enquired.

"Beeg peegs" Maya replied.

"You think this too?" I asked Liat.

She shrugged in a non-committal manner.

"I assume that you both have fathers? Are they pigs"

"You are calling my father a peeg?" Maya demanded.

Her aggression was delighting me.

"No I am just asking. You said all men are pigs"

"He ees not a peeg"

At that moment my mate Australian mate Simon lurched up to me. He is an affable Bogan and was as pissed as a newt.

"Owitgoin Hep?" he enquired.

His speech was slurred and he was a little wobbly on his feet.

"Who have we got here?" he grinned.

Simon was holding a stubby of beer in one hand and had an unlit and fairly sodden cigarette in his other.

"These are my new lesbian Israeli friends Maya and Liat" I replied.

"They think all men are pigs. Except their fathers"

"Lesbians huh? Fair dinkum" Simon declared.

"Sweet".

Simon is pure Bogan. He is however a very friendly drunk and a genuine and likeable bloke who like me seemed amused by the Israeli lesbians.

"Vot ees thees fair deenkum?" Maya demanded of me.

"It is Australian for 'Oh Really'" I explained

Both Israeli lesbians cast Simon withering looks of disdain.

He just laughed and staggered away.

I persisted in my attempts at friendly conversation with Liat and Maya and after awhile they chilled out a bit and realized that I was neither drunk nor being sleazy. I very often strike up conversations with strangers and it can take some time for them to let their guard down and realize that I mean no harm.

I found out that these lesbians had just completed their national service and were doing a whirlwind tour of Asia before going back to serve in the Israeli army.

They told me that their next destination was Nepal. I spend quite a bit of my spare time in Nepal for I love the Himalaya Mountains and the Nepalese people. Nepal is the exact opposite of Singapore and visiting there puts my life in perspective.

It punches the petty out of Peter.

I showed the Israeli lesbians some photos of Nepal on my IPhone and I gave them some tips on where they should go and what I thought they should see when they were in Nepal. I also gave them the name and contact details of some of my Nepalese friends who live in Kathmandu and told them that they would be pleased to show them around this ancient city.

I assured them that none of my Nepalese friends were pigs.

Both Maya and Liat reminded me a lot of my Hungarian Grandmother. They even sounded quite similar when they spoke and they threw their hands around in the air a lot and they shrugged and they pouted.

It was classic.

The Israeli lesbians warmed quite a lot when I told them that I had Jewish blood. They knew not though that my Hungarian grandmother was a mad woman.

She was certifiably insane.

Simon lurched up again at one point and told me that he was leaving. He said, "Hooroo Hep. Seez ya later lesbian sheilas"

"Vot is thees ‘Ooroo Hep’ and ‘sheilas’ meaning?" Liat asked suspiciously.

"Hooroo is Australian for goodbye and a sheila is Australian for a woman" I explained.

"Hep is my nickname. It is a shortened version of my quite long surname'

"Oosralians speak in a strange language,” Maya observed.

"We sometimes do,” I agreed.

I then asked the lesbian Israelis what it was like living in a country that was surrounded by Arab people who wanted to exterminate them. They told me that it was very difficult and stressful. I have talked about such matters to both Israelis and Palestinians before and can only imagine what it would be like.

Living amongst such constant violent conflict must be a real bitch.

It must be fucked actually.

I was surprised when the Israeli lesbians informed me that they had many Palestinian friends and that they thought that Israel should remain out of Gaza. I told them that I agreed that Palestine should be allowed to rule its own destiny.

My Northern friend the Hammer and one of the Scottish lads I know then wandered over to the table I was sitting at with the Israeli lesbians. Both were holding very large glasses of vodka and tonic and were noticeably inebriated.

"Ay Oop 'Ep" the Hammer roared and he put his large and hairy and disgusting arm around me.

"Ay Oop Hammer" I replied as I shrugged off his attempted embrace.

"Before you ask,” I explained to Liat and Maya, "Ay Oop is a Northern English greeting. It is the equivalent of your Shalom"

"This is the Hammer and Ernie,” I said to the Lesbians.

"The Hammer is Lancastrian and Ernie is Scottish. They are both pigs" 

"Tha's noot fooken right" the insipid Scot Ernie moaned.

"Ahm noot a fooken pig"

"You most certainly are Ernie" I responded

"Ernie and you girls have something in common too,” I added.

"Ernie is also gay"

"Ah ahm fookin noot". Ernie protested.

"Yez shood net be saying that ta these lassies" Ernie continued in his irritating and whining and Scottish voice.

"Vot language ees these peegs speaking in? Maya enquired

"Drunken British" I explained.

Ernie and the Hammer hovered around the table for a little while then staggered off to refill their empty glasses.

The Israeli lesbians began asking me questions about Australia. They enquired about where I came from and what I was doing in Singapore. I told them about Sydney and Melbourne and they informed me that they planned to visit there one day. They told me that they were interested in Australian animals and that they liked kangaroos but were afraid of sharks.

I told the girls that my most favorite animal in the world is the wombat and they said that they had never heard of a wombat before. This is quite common for many non-Australians. I got my phone out again and I pulled up a picture of a baby wombat for the Israeli lesbians to see. They told me that they thought that it was very cute.

"Thees vombat it ees dengeroos?' Maya asked me

"Not at all" I informed her.

I told Maya and Liat that wombats are docile vegetarians who sleep most of the day in holes in the ground. Then they snuffle around at night eating roots and leaves. I also informed them that the male wombat has one partner for his entire life and the couple usually only produce a single baby. I told the Israeli women that I was unsure if there were any gay wombats but I would do some research into the matter.

I won't though.

Research the matter.

I just told them that for reasons that I myself don't understand.

Wombats are very close and have tight knit families. They mate for life and there is no animosity or divorce in the wombat world.

"They are very friendly and hairy little Australian pigs,” I told the Israeli lesbians.

I laughed when I told them this and they laughed back.

We ended up chatting quite amicably - these Israeli lesbians and I. They were very interested in Australian idiom and language so I explained as best I could things like bludgers and blokes and chooks and lamingtons. I told them the meaning of chundering and dunnies and bogans.

They were a bit perplexed at times and they asked lots of questions.

We all chortled a lot.

Not long before midnight I told the Israeli lesbians that I was tired. I informed them that I had to go and say goodbye to my English mate who was leaving the island and then go home to bed. I said that that I had a very big week ahead of me with a monstrous Russian Jewish wedding of two friends of mine.

I told both Israeli lesbians that it was very nice to meet them and that I hoped that they would have an enjoyable time for the rest of their stay in Singapore and then a wonderful trip to Nepal.

They both smiled warmly when I shook hands with them as I departed and the Israeli lesbian Maya said to me, "You are not a peeg after all"

"I think I might be sometimes actually Maya" I replied.

"However hopefully I am not for most of the time" 

"See you later Alligator,” I said as I began to walk away.

"Vot ees dees you are saying?" Liat enquired.

"Oh it is another Australian saying that just means goodbye" I responded.

"You should now say 'In a while crocodile" I added.

"So see you later Alligator,” I repeated.

"In a vile croocodile" they both giggled.

I laughed and waved goodbye to them. Then I went to say a sad farewell to my English friend.

Then I went home.

Tomorrow I have the big and long-awaited Russian-Jewish wedding where I will let my hair down and have a few drinks.  There will be some Israelis amongst the throng and some of who may indeed be lesbians.

Their sexuality is of no concern to me at all.

I don’t give a fuck.

18 June 2014

Not Quite a Love Story

 

I was out the other night with two of my friends. We had dinner at a place in Club Street – which is a restaurant area here in Singapore. We ate at an outside table. These two friends of mine are Russian. One of them is engaged now actually – and is to be wed on the weekend. She and her husband-to-be are good together because they accept, understand and appreciate each other. 

Acceptance. 

Comprehension. 

Appreciation. 

I think these are the fundamental requirements of a sound relationship - plus love of course. 

So I am confident it will work out well.

I was once again the only bloke at dinner but I didn't mind. I quite liked it in fact. There was much discussion about their wedding plans. It is going to be a big event apparently – more than a hundred guests coming from all over the world but there will only be a few close friends attending from here in Singapore. I am honored to be one of the close friends. The majority of people are coming from overseas. 

The bride is Russian. 

The groom is Australian. 

I like weddings - they are happy events. This one is going to be Black Tie so I get to wear my tuxedo. I have my own tuxedo and I have my own black tie. The tie is not one of those elastic or clip on jobs - it is one that I knot myself.

It takes me a while to tie it properly but it is worth the effort.

All good things require effort.

With the incessant heat and humidity Singapore is not the best place to wear a tuxedo however I have donned one before here and I have survived. I quite like getting dressed up on the odd occasion - but I am normally otherwise a bit of a slob. 

I feel most comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt. 

No shoes. 

The bride-to-be is always immaculately dressed. She is very stylish and is most fashion savvy. She is classy.

Beautiful.

Elegant.

It is my belief that elegance is innate. In my mind it has nothing to do with being well dressed. Elegance is in fact refusal and it is sometimes surrender. Charles Dickens once wrote, 

"Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire"

Don't judge a book by its cover he is saying. 

Good one Charles.

So the talk of weddings led on to discussions of love and romance. Girly stuff. I have seen the bride-to-be petting the future groom on many occasions. She strokes his hand across the table when we are out. 
He loves it. 
He laps it up. 

The song “I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ was the first single released by the Beatles. It was brilliant. The Beatles nailed it with that one because it is what everyone wants really. Holding hands is a public expression of affection. It is an unhidden demonstration of connection. John Lennon wrote the music and he penned the lyrics as well. 

Nice one John. 

We miss you.

The bride-to-be wanted to hear a romantic moment from me and our other mutual friend did as well. I resisted but they implored me to tell them a love story. So I gave them one.

- A moment that is.

The moment I gave them happened a long time ago - when I was a youth. So that's a really long time ago now. It was a time when I was just traveling around Europe. I was just back-packing about the place. I was flitting here and there – taking myself to wherever I fancied.

I moved on a whimsy.

I was footloose.

I was fancy free. 

Those were the days. 

They really were.

I told the girls that on this long ago occasion I was in France and it was Summer. I had caught a bus to a little village on the French Riviera. The name of the village was Beaulieu-sur-Mer. I got on the bus at Nice and as I alighted at the village square a girl got on. We passed each other in the doorway and as she stepped up and I stepped down for a split second we locked eyes and we smiled at each other. It was one of those moments where in a single glance souls were instantaneously exchanged. 

The Italians call such moments 'colpo di fulminate.' - the thunderbolt. The Italians understand passion. They get it. 

Their passion is often entangled with a maelstrom of lust but they do it very well. I have tasted love with an Italian before and it was both a sweet and a fiery fruit. 

But that's another story - to be told another day.

Anyway in this singular moment - in Beaulieu-sur-Mer - my chest felt as if it had cracked open. I temporarily lost the capacity to breathe. By the time I realized what had struck me the bus was driving away. I looked up at it departing and this girl - this angel – she turned from her seat at the window and she smiled again and then she gave me a little wave. 

I didn't even have time to wave back.

It is one of my life regrets.

As the bus disappeared in the distance the breath whooshed out of my body and everything around me froze for a moment. I felt as if I was looking at her departing through a telescopic camera lens. I was zoomed in all the way and the world around me paused for that tiny span of time between the opening and the closing of the shutter.
Click.

I was only planning on staying in Beaulieu-sur-Mer for a couple of days before moving on to Monte Carlo. 

However I stayed for a whole week. I spent much of the time waiting at that bus stop.

Every day.

Hoping to see this girl again.

This complete stranger had stolen my heart in a blink of an eye. She had spellbound me.

Those were seven timeless days filled with Hope.

Anxiety.

Anticipation.

Then ultimately there was devastation. 

I have heard that when you meet the love of your life, time stops - and when it starts up again it moves extra fast to catch up. 

This is what it was like. 

I never saw her again. 
The re-telling of this tale opened up an old wound and I told these friends of mine thus.

The bride-to-be told me that she thought the story was beautiful and her friend nodded in agreement. I replied that it was all just a bit sad.

When I think about it now though I realize that some people flash into and then out of our lives but they can leave imprints on our hearts. I don’t think that it happens very often - however this was one of those moments. 

Missed as it was.