TONGUES ABROAD

by Ross Sharp

“I have to go over in a couple months and I’ve got a weekend free. What did you do on your day?”

“Wandered around. The shops don’t open ‘til about eleven o’clock, so I just farted about ‘til then. Walked down to the bay. Went down some of the underground linkways, found myself going around in fucking circles between the same three shopping malls for about an hour and a half ‘til I figured out how to get where I wanted to go, which turned out was only  a block away from where I’d been anyway. Had a couple beers at Raffles – you know a pint of Tiger lager cost twenty bucks? Plus GST and a service charge. Alcohol’s fucking expensive over there, you wouldn’t want to run a tab without knowing first – then I went back to the hotel and had a lay down and watched a crappy Christian Slater movie* on Fox.”

They dub over the cuss words in movies in Singapore.

At one point in this memory-searing spectacular, one character tells another to “Get the tuck out of my car!”, and all I could think was, “Put a bit of bloody effort into it, at least.”

After that, I went down the hotel bar, had three gin and tonics and ate some nuts.

“I think I’d get bored if I had to stay much longer than three or four days”, says my boss.

“Mostly, all people seem to do is eat and go shopping”, I say. “You could stay around the hotel, watch some crappy Christian Slater movies, go for a swim in the pool. I was going to do that, but by the time I got back from buying some board shorts, I was too buggered to bother. There might be something at Changi to see, I know there’s a war museum somewhere. I didn’t really look into it, I only had a day, and I didn’t want to fartarse about like a lunatic trying to cram shit in.”

“I’m not really into the food, either. I don’t mind it … “

“I was out walking one night, came across this open mall about the size of Queen Street, all there was, shopfronts selling food on both sides. I saw so much food being made, eaten and bought while I was there, I lost my appetite the fourth day, had to force myself to eat half a burger about midnight at the airport before the flight back. They took us out for dinner one night, this steakhouse for some reason, a couple blocks from Chinatown. I had fish and chips. It was fucking awful. I think they’d put spackle in the batter and tried to soften it up by pouring oil over it.”

“I went to the zoo last time I was there”, says the boss.

“Did it have a foodcourt and a mall? Everything else has”, I say.

I had seen a place in a foodcourt up from the hotel couple days earlier called “Pig Organ Soup”, but, alas and alack, my normally robust spirit of gastronomic adventure failed to grasp my imagination at that time, and I settled for a hot and sour phở instead.

I thought I might buy a camera while I was there, so one night I ventured to the premises of a purveyor of fine image-making apparatus to make enquiries thereof, all of which were most eagerly received, encouraged and answered by an exceptionally polite and helpful salesperson, who not for one second hesitated to show me about a half dozen models, taking them all out of the box and out of the plastic and putting a battery in and taking a few shots and asking me to take a few shots too, and then I realised I didn’t want to buy a camera in Singapore just so I could make like a tourist for a day and take photographs of tourists hanging around all those places I’d be taking photographs of, so I hastily made my excuses and backed out of the purchase and then the store, leaving my poor, but exceptionally polite and helpful salesperson now looking truly clouded by defeat and disillusionment, all his enthusiastically well-intentioned efforts to earn a hundred and eighty bucks having now come to nought, and now he has to take all the cameras and all the batteries and the memory cards and put them all back into their bits of plastic and their boxes and back onto the shelf before he can go home, the time for which has now, for him, become a faraway thought and increasingly distant desire indeed.

I felt a right cunt for a short while after that.

I wandered back to the hotel, had a light meal at the café there and two glasses of wine, the second, much to my surprise, being pronounced “on the house”, perhaps because it was late and they were beginning to set the tables for breakfast the next morning.

“You can have for free”, the exceptionally polite and helpful waitperson said to me, and off he went to fetch the bottle, leaving me to mutter, Bogart-like, under my breath, “Yeah, sure. Nothin’s free in this world, I know that much”, and perhaps he overheard, for upon his return he presented me the bill and said, “See? Free”, in an exceptionally polite and helpful way, if not positively cheerful almost.

“Oh. Yes”, I said, a little shamefacedly, “Thanks very much for that. Cheers.”

The power of positive thinking has never been a strength to which I have ever dared lay claim.

Ditto chirpiness.

On the flight back to Brisbane, the almost eight hour flight from Changi airport that left shortly after midnight Thursday, I watched a Jason Statham movie called “Killer Elite” which co-starred Robert De Niro and Clive Owen and about two dozen Australian actors, Ben Mendelssohn, Nick Tate, Grant Bowler, a whole bunch of others.

Christian Slater wasn’t in it.

Film Victoria was involved in the making, maybe they don’t like Christian Slater, who knows.

It was okay, I suppose.

Although that opinion is offered on the strict proviso  that it was about one a.m. in the morning and the airline had just served us fish, so I may well have been completely fucking delirious by that stage.

 

* Is there any other kind?**

** Possibly the nastiest thing I’ve ever written.

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