30 August 2014


Dosh. Wedge. Coin. Bread. Bills. Bones. Greenbacks. Dead Presidents. Loot. Sawbucks. Scratch. Shekels. Loot. 

The folding stuff.


There are so many different terms for Money. I think we would all be richer without it. Cash is King here in Singapore and life is all about Money. It is the national religion and the collection and accumulation of it is worshipped.

How much does that cost?

How much do you earn?

These are all opening gambits in everyday conversations. The Singaporean loves money and their worth is measured by it. 

The pursuit of it here is relentless.

Now don’t get me wrong for I know that money is important. We all need it to get by. I like the sound of it jangling in my pocket and I like the feel of it. I always have some cash on me.

Multiple currencies actually.

I am looking in my worn leather wallet now and I have $100 or so in Singaporean currency, $75 in US notes, 1000 Nepalese Rupees and two Australian five dollar notes.

I have a wad.

I am a walking foreign exchange office.

Money does keep the wolves from the door. It puts a roof over my head and food on my table.

Food and shelter - I like and need both.

I certainly don’t work for free either but I am not obsessed by how much I earn or how much I spend. I guess that is easy to say because I don't really want for anything. I would probably be a bit more concerned and have a different perspective altogether if I didn't have any. 

Or if I didn't earn any. 

Money that is.

Money doesn’t buy happiness nor love though. I know this for a fact. I am acquaintances with many very wealthy people here in Singapore although I won’t claim them to be friends. They are often sad and are more often miserable. On the flip side some of the poorest people I know live in Nepal and these people are my friends – they are not just acquaintances. They have no money.




None at all.

They are the happiest people I have ever met. 

By far. 

By a long shot in fact. 

The whole money shemozzle is complicated further by the credit system. This is perpetuated and promoted by the Banks. I work for a Bank. I work for a very BIG one. I am a part of the machine, a money making machine. We banks make most of our money selling credit.

We finance debt.

We rake in billions.

Credit is a system whereby a person who can't pay gets another person who can't pay to guarantee that he can pay. Then he doesn't pay. He can't afford to and he never could - which is why he got credit in the first place. Then it all falls apart and we have a global financial crisis or two. Messy huh? Ridiculous. 



I actually have enough money to last me the rest of my life. This is providing that I die tomorrow - or unless of course I buy something. 

Then I am fucked. 

There is a perception too that money can actually solve any problem - all problems - particularly here in Singapore. It obviously can't solve problems but it can certainly create them. All money can really do is buy things or it can lease them. It can perhaps then free people up to pursue those things that can't actually be bought. Ironically these are more valuable things.

Does that make sense? 

I don't know. 

I should ask the Nepalese.

Money - it's a gas. It's a crime too apparently. So said Pink Floyd. I wouldn't argue with those boys.

I wish you were here.

I get the gas analogy because my money seems to evaporate. It disappears into thin air all the time. I am not so sure about the crime bit. I think it is only a crime if you steal it.

Isn't it?

Abba sang "Money money money. Must be funny. In a rich man’s world."

Crazy fucker Swedes. I have no idea what they were trying to say. 

I went to a barbecue hosted by a bunch of Swedes on Saturday night. They were a very strange group of blonde haired and blue-eyed people with whom I couldn't really relate. They stood around the barbecue drinking schnapps and munching on meatballs and they were mostly talking about the joy of nudity.

I ate their food, I told them that I thought that IKEA and Volvos were an abomination and then I left after only an hour.

I left before they started to take their clothes off. 

I think a rich man is nothing but a poor man with money. 

Nothing more. 

Nothing less.

I hesitated before I accepted my current position in the BIG bank.

I baulked.

I am a firm believer in social justice and I am appalled by the inequity of the fiscal system. There is no doubt at all that the almost constant global financial crises that the world is currently in was caused by greed perpetuated by the Investment Banks on Wall Street.

Lending money to poor souls who could never afford repayments.

Then selling debt.

A catastrophic collapse was inevitable.

Yet I became a part of the machine.

I wanted to change the world and I still do. The issue of climate change and global warming and the extinction of species and other environmental calamities must stop. I am a father and I want my children and my children’s children to inherit a world that is not ravaged by pollution or ripped asunder by war and poverty.

I remain convinced that the Financial and Insurance sectors are key players to sustainability and change.

Over the past five years I have witnessed the concepts of citizenship and corporate social responsibility transform into something tangible.

Something real.

The energy crisis the world is facing is biting and carbon economies are crumbling. There is a realisation in big business that fossil fuels are in fact a finite resource and they are becoming very expensive. Innovation in renewable energy is suddenly blossoming.

It is blooming.

In the machine in which I work the ideology of responsible lending and sustainability and citizenship are becoming very real. In the past twelve months alone I am seeing hard evidence of the very big brands and players banding together and espousing schemes labeled sustainable letters of credit, net deforestation and green bonds.

I delight in the fact that my Employer is leading the way.

The global polluters and big business that are killing our planet and making our animal kingdoms extinct rely on the financial and insurance sectors to survive and flourish. What if we say to them “no more”?

What if we say we will not provide credit or banking or insurance to you unless you repair the damage you have inflicted?

This is happening.

It is a reality.

I am seeing it for myself.

Come on then you organisations that are not responsible.

You can’t survive without us on board.

Clean up your act or we will clean it up for you.

Bring it on.

Let’s dance.   

26 August 2014


I am peeved.

I have returned from a session with my tailor – or I should say my now ex tailor – where I was being measured up for some new work shirts. Mr. Ting is not my original tailor. I have only been with him for the last couple of years after the retirement of Mr. Chen – who tailored for me for many years. Mr. Chen made several beautiful suits for me, and a number of very nice shirts.

Mr. Chen was eighty years old when he retired in 2011 - after more than sixty years in the tailoring business. He was dear old fellow and I thoroughly enjoyed his companionship and his great professionalism.

I sought out Mr. Ting two years ago when I needed some more shirts made. They seem to wear at the collar and cuffs after eighteen months or so and even though I am pretty much a slob – I do like nicely tailored shirts. Before moving to Asia I was quite content with off the rack shirts and suits but there is nothing like custom made outfits. They contour the body and not only feel more comfortable but they look quite nice as well.

I only wear white or light blue shirts made from pure cotton. Don’t ask me why on the colour front – it is just my personal taste. The pure cotton thing is essential though here in the tropics. They allow the body to breathe but are also quite effective in cooler climates that I occasionally encounter when doing stints in Tokyo, Shanghai or London.

Places that have winter.

I miss winter sometimes.

Being hot all the time is better than being cold all the time but variety is the spice of life and I strongly suspect that the constant heat and humidity I live in is a major contributing factor to my ever-increasing madness.

I think I am perhaps losing my mind.

So I am in need of some more business shirts. Not only are some of them a bit worn but also they – like many of my clothes - seem to have mysteriously shrunk. Or is it shrank? Shrunken? Shranked?

Such words confuse the fuck out of me at times and getting the correct tense makes me – well tense.

I need to chill out.

It is the madness.

Anyway off to Mr. Ting I went after work and despite having all my measurements on file he insisted on doing the whole tape measure thing. From armpit to wrist, from the throat to the waist, around the neck – and so on.

It takes forever.

There are also many choices to be made on the design of the shirt. For example I like a pocket and I also like pleats on the rear of the shirt. I want my cuffs to have buttons but also the option to wear cufflinks. I don’t wear cufflinks very often as they are a bit like my sock situation – one of the pair seems to mysteriously disappear and I have a little box full of single cufflinks.

It pisses me off.

When I was telling Mr. Ting about my shirt design requirements he made a peculiar tutting noise when measuring my girth.

“Why do you tut Mr. Ting”

I enjoyed the poetry of saying that.

“You are fatter than the last time you were measured Mr. Peter Sir” he replied.

“I most definitely am Mr. Ting – but please do not allow too much for that for I am taking some quite determined measures to reduce my fatness”

He tutted again.

“Tut me not Mr. Ting” I retorted.

“I am making headway”

“Alright Mr. Peter – I will allow just a little bit extra at the waist then”

I let that pass.

I think I need a couple of months to rid myself of my waistline. I blame my surge in weight on ten days in the US a month ago eating cronuts and drinking incredibly nice red wine with my best mate Berty.

The discovery of the cronut was particularly devastating.

It is a cross between a donut and a croissant and is absolutely delectable. My appetite was enhanced in the US was by doing things I cannot speak of here – lest the Singaporean government read about it and then come to arrest me.

They will then cane me, hang me, shoot me and set me on fire before sentencing me to life imprisonment.

I wouldn’t want that.

Neither would my mum.

Whilst he was scrawling down my measurements and showing me his finest white and light blue cotton material I asked Mr. Ting why it was that on men’s shirts the buttons are on the right side of the shirt but on women’s shirts the buttons are on the left.

In a most Singaporean manner he simply stared at me and said nothing.

I am quite used to this and take it as an ”I don’t know”

It irks me.

Both the staring and the button thing.

So I started messaging some people to see what they thought. It was a little foolish of me to message some of the English – for they are generally a foolish and a not particularly bright race of people – but I had a gut feeling it was an English thing and they may have invented the shirt.

I received some immediate and of course ridiculous replies. A couple of people suggested that it harked back to the Victorian era when women were ‘dressed’ by their domestic help and having the buttons on the left was easier for them. I dismissed this immediately as I know that men were also ‘dressed’ by their butler type dudes – so that didn’t really make sense. One of the English advised me that it had something to do with drawing a sword from a scabbard, which was equally nonsensical.

I quite like the Victorian era fashion and way of living though and would have enjoyed being a part of the gentry. I would have enjoyed saying things like ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ and ‘come hither’ and may in fact attempt to bring it back in my conversations in the office. The not-particularly-bright English with whom I work could pick it up.


I think my madness is creeping in again.

It is difficult to keep it at bay and I shall turn down my air conditioning a notch.

When Mr. Ting had finished his staring I said, “Mr. Ting I would like you to make these shirts with the buttons on the left hand side. I want them made in a girl-buttoned fashion”

No one can actually tell the difference when the shirts are worn.

“Cannot,” he replied

“Cannot?” I asked.

“Cannot,” he repeated.

“Why not?” I enquired.

“It is man shirt”

“It will still be man shirt – just with girl sided buttons” I retorted.


“Alright let’s do this then. I want alternative buttons. One on the left side and one on the right side all the way down the shirts”


“It will be a new fashion craze that could make you very famous Mr. Ting”

“Cannot Mr. Peter”

“What the fuck Mr. Ting? It is not such a difficult thing to do”

“Cannot,” he very annoyingly repeated.

As a general rule the Singaporean is a very inflexible creature. I encounter it all the time and it is terribly frustrating. For example when eating out one may order a Caesar salad and ask to hold the anchovies. Or perhaps request that a meal that comes with vegetables be served instead with a salad.

One will generally receive either a very long Singaporean stare or a resounding “cannot”.

It can be countered with an imploring “can” but it will have no effect

They are an inflexible lot.

In a rather compulsive and possibly rash moment I sacked Mr. Ting on the spot. I cancelled my order of shirts and advised him that I would seek out a tailor who would make my shirts with either girl-sided buttons or even better, alternating boy and girl sided buttons.

I will probably have to find an Indian tailor who will do this for me.

Yes I know.

It is my madness thing.

It is the incessant heat and humidity I think - and a withdrawal from cronuts.

24 August 2014

Been there. Done That.

The French call it déjà vu.

Its literal translation in the English language is ‘already seen’ - however it is more than that really. It is an experience of having experienced something before.

Or someone.

Even though you haven’t.

Experienced it.

Or them.

It is a strange and somewhat eerie phenomenon that has on occasion afflicted me. I am sure that most people have. Well I am not sure but I suspect that they have.

I am not very sure of anything nowadays.

Anything is possible.

Everything is possible.

I have been to places where I have had an uncanny feeling that I have been before. The first I can recall was when I was a young adult – such a long time ago – going to Copenhagen.  It was in my days of carefree travel.

Those were the days.

I went to the famous and most beautiful Tivoli Gardens and I just knew that I had been there before.

Even though I hadn’t.

I walked around with a very distinct feeling of familiarity. There are a lot of meandering paths in the Tivoli gardens and I knew what was around each corner. I remember that it was like being in a semi dreamy state and that I was confused. At the time I wondered whether it was something I may have read about but as I reflect even now, I knew that I hadn’t done any reading or research on places. It wasn’t my thing back then – nor indeed is it really now.

I like to travel and explore and the joy and mystery of discovery is a part of the whole travel experience.

There have been other times and places since then as well. I remember having strange repetitive dreams about buildings and little villages. These are disjointed and blurry as many dreams are – but in several cases I can recall simply gasping as I recognised these places when I arrived. Tiny details that I could not possibly have known about were retrieved from some deep dark recess of my mind.

There have been people too.

I meet a lot of people in my work and in my life and I am a social animal.

I talk to strangers all the time.

On a very rare occasion I will instantly connect with someone. It might be because we have similar views or likes but to me it seems more than that. It is as if I have known them before. I know how they think, what they like and what they dislike and I find that we will complete each other’s sentences.

It is strange.

It is uncanny.

It is a bit disconcerting but it is nice.

It is very nice.

I have discussed such things with friends before. In the sorts of conversations that one has over dinner with large groups. I love these types of philosophical discussions. I love any sort of intellectual dialogue where there is debate and a swapping of experiences.

I love scenarios where the subjects include a “what if” line of questioning.

The very discussions that I have had on the déjà vu subject has been with my many Buddhist and Hindi friends in Nepal. Some of these guys are lamas and one is in fact a monk who is an incarnation of the Ranag Rinchen Buddha. His full title is Guru Ranag Rinchen Rinpoche and he is also known as the Dolpo Buddha – or simply ‘Guru’. To me he is just Rinpoche – and whilst I am not a follower or devotee of his, he has become my good friend.

Rinpoche is a healer and a master of Tummo - a curative power that 'generates heat'. Those few lamas that practice such healing are required - when they complete their teachings - to sit on a frozen lake enshrouded in a thin shawl that has been soaked with iced water. They must dry the shawl by generating 'internal heat'.

I have been treated with Tummo healing by Rinpoche for my chronic migraines.

I have felt the heat.

It was very painful but effective.

The Guru has followers from all around the world. His temple – or monastery – lies amongst a cluster of other monasteries known as Shey Gompa – and it has been the seat of his ancestors - called the Dolpo Shel-ri Rinpoches - for more than one thousand years.

The Guru’s monastery is in the very faraway region of the upper Dolpa and sits at about five thousand meters above sea level. Monks constructed it by hand on a narrow precipice and in some places it has been carved out of red rock.  It is located within a cradle of the Himalaya ranges and lies in the shadow of a sacred mountain named Shelri Drug Dra in the Nepali language – but is known as the Crystal Mountain by we Westerners.

I don’t know why.

Nor do I really care.

I digress.

I sometimes do.

The conversations I have with Rinpoche are always enlightening and delightful. I never fail to learn something and we always laugh a lot. On more than one occasion he has told me that the feelings of déjà vu that I have experienced are echoes of my previous lives.

Buddhists and Hindus believe in reincarnation. It is in fact one of the pillar stones of their faith.

The Hindu people refer to reincarnation as Punarjanma. They believe that our bodies are simply vessels but our selves – or our souls as the Christian faith describes them – go through an endless cycle of birth, death and then re-birth. The deaths and rebirths are called Samsara. The Hindu people refer to the soul as the Jiva - which they believe is eternal and indestructible.

Rinpoche explained to me that the manner in which a Jiva is re-born – or the vessel into which it next manifests - is dependent upon something called karma. I thought I knew what karma was but I think it is more complicated than my understanding.

Many things are.

In its very base form karma is what we do. It is our actions and our inactions. It relates to kindness and humility and temptation. It is the process of the accumulation of wisdom and recognition of the insignificance of things that are material.

It is the absence of desire.

It is a process of love.

My friend the monk told me that the Christian concept of heaven and hell does not exist at all in the Hindu or Buddhist faiths. People who are bad or evil or simply ignorant will be reborn in a lesser vessel than they previously were. In some instances their rebirth will be in the form of an animal rather than a human.

Rinpoche told me that the journey of life and the accumulation of wisdom is what generally described as a search for enlightenment. This is a complete understanding and acceptance that virtuosity is the purest form of being and that benevolence and solicitude are the ‘true path’. Achieving absolute enlightenment is a very rare and difficult thing but when obtained it is a form of pure divinity where the soul or jiva requires no vessel in which to live.

It is an absolute purity of essence.

I like the concept a lot.

When I asked Rinpoche whether this was being a god he laughed and said that gods were a pagan and Christian belief – and that man was responsible for his own destiny. He told me that the state of divinity was known as ‘Moksa’ and the final recognition of ones true self is called ‘Sadhana’.

I told Rinpoche that I thought that this very beautiful and he told me that he agreed.

I told Rinpoche this because I think it is.

Very beautiful.

I often talk to Rinpoche about matters of faith for I have little in the way of spirituality.

He doesn’t seem to mind.

We tend to talk about things that are both Hindu and Buddhist. Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist monk but he has explained very patiently to me that in the mountain kingdoms of Tibet and Nepal the two faiths have co-existed for more than two thousand years. Many of the very ancient temples of Kathmandu that I so love are actually both Hindu and Buddhist. They are shared sites.

There is no other place in the world that such places exist.

The holy man has told me that whilst there has been much conflict in both ancient and recent times in Nepal – none have ever been for religious regions.

I like this a lot.

Many of the world’s wars are caused by religion.

Look at the Middle East.

Look at Ireland.

Man’s inhumanity to man is an abhorrent thing.

The guru Rinpoche is a master of a type of meditation called Vipassana. It is the fundamental principal of his healing powers and he teaches this discipline to his followers. On more than one occasion Rinpoche has offered to teach me Vipassana but I have told him that I do not think that I have the patience.

I find it difficult to even sit still.

From what little I can understand – and I do understand very little – Vipassana meditation is an endeavour to enter a trance like state where there is an absolute denial of ownership or judgment or memory.

It is simply a state of being.

Rinpoche has told me that the concept of desire is the biggest obstacle to moving towards total enlightenment. To achieve such a state man must go through many forms of suffering. Such dolor is called ‘Dukkha” by Buddhists and when achieved it will eventually lead to something called “Nirvana”. Nirvana is where the physical world and the physical body lose all significance. The word and concept of “Nirvana” is derived from the Sanskrit concept of “Nibbana”.

The literal translation of “Nibbana” is “vanishing” where the world stops and there is complete self-awareness.

Nice huh?

I think so.

So back to the whole issue of déjà vu and my discussions with the guru on this subject. I have told him of the strange connection I feel with Nepal and the fact that I felt a type of kinship with the country the very first time I went.

And every time I return.

It was an immediate and deep fellowship.

I have told him too of the similar type of connection I have always had with the ocean – and as with the mountains of the Himalaya - I have a sense of absolute peacefulness and imperturbation that is difficult for me to describe. I also tried to explain to Rinpoche the peculiar feelings of déjà vu I have described earlier in this writing - and I remember him nodding his head in a knowing fashion.

He does this often.

Nods his head.

He thinks these feelings of mine are simply echoes of my past lives.

I may once have been to these places that seemed familiar to me. I may have known the people who I feel an immediate connection with.

He thought I might once have been a sea creature too.

When I suggested I might have once been a whale he laughed and said that this was possible – but I could also have been a turtle.

I don’t mind either actually

I don’t mind at all.