I have a few friends on Facebook who are always complaining about how bad Singapore is. The list is endless: “The government is horrible. The education system is terrible. The MRT is always breaking down. There’s nothing to do here except shop and eat. Their neighbours kept them up all night with karaoke. Someone peed in the lift and it was so smelly. The traffic jams are Third World. Their Uber cost them $25 when they should have taken the bus for 95 cents, but that would have taken them an hour and peak ERP rates. Working life is so stressful.”
Honestly, it’s like being at a taxi drivers convention.
Saffy just plonked herself down next to me and read the first few lines.
“Ugh, if I hear another person complain about Singapore, I’m going to grab them by the neck of their Bossino tee-shirt and drag them here! Then, we can talk about how bad Singapore is!” Her formidable bosom inflated to a dangerous volume.
‘Here’ is Luton airport in London. Amanda had a meeting in town, which apparently is a valid excuse for three of her best friends to tag along.
“I very scared go to London by myself,” Sharyn had said in Singapore. “When people tork to me, their England so powderful, I always say ‘Hah?’. But if you all go, I come also!”
I want to say it’s been a fun trip, but it’s pretty much rained the entire time. And I’ve forgotten how cold London can be. And damp. Refusing to spend £15 to get the hotel to wash a tee-shirt, Sharyn has spent most of her free time doing laundry and hanging them up in the bathroom. Which, owing to the dampness, takes forever to dry, and leaves that fusty, vinegary smell.
“Aiyoh, my clothes so sook!” Sharyn moaned during our tour of Buckingham Palace.
“I told you to just get the hotel to do it!” Amanda murmured. “And please keep your voice down!”
“Is fifteen pound per tee-shirt, you know! Siow, ah! At today exchange rate, I can buy three new shirt from Giordano!” Sharyn’s voice, honed by years of screaming at her children, carried all the way to the other end of the long gold corridor. From the heads that snapped around, you could tell which of the palace visitors were Singaporean – instantly drawn by the musical and comforting sound of home.
Last night, Amanda suggested that since we were in the neighbourhood, we should pop by Florence for a few days. “I want to busy some shoes from Ferragamo!”
“Yah, I want to go! I want to go!” Sharyn said.
“How is Florence in the neighbourhood of London?” I wanted to know.
“Excuse me, Mr Wet Blanket, but do you mind?” Saffy said stiffly.
Which is how we’ve ended up at Luton waiting for our cheap Easyjet flight.
The whole place is literally a construction site. Half the airport is boarded up for renovation, and the other half is covered in road works that seem to have been going on for years. It took forever to get through customs. And when we finally staggered out, we found the place is so crowded there aren’t enough seats. Everyone is piled on top of one another, while the rest sit on floors. As Saffy puts it in technical terms, “This place is so packed you could not swing a dead cat!”
Squashed onto a tiny stool at Pret-a-Manger, both arms sandwiched between two big burly Bulgarians, Sharyn looked up from her iPhone where she’d been WhatsApping her children to make sure they were all still alive and passing their exams without the benefit of her close supervision. “Eeee,” she said eloquently. “Where got dead cat?”
“It’s just a phrase, Shaz,” Saffy told her. “It means it’s so crowded here that if you were to swing a dead cat, there’d be no room!”
“But why must be dead cat?”
Saffy paused and gave the matter some thought. “Well, it’d be cruel to swing a live cat, no?”
Sharyn shook her head. “Wah, your England so cheem. Aiyoh!” Someone bumped her as he tried to navigate the narrow space between her and a flock of baby strollers.
“This is how plagues are spread,” Amanda murmured. She has always said that if it were up to her, Changi airport would be listed as a national monument. “Whenever I arrive home, I just want to get down on my knees and kiss that ugly carpet!”
Saffy nodded. “People have no idea.”