Writing Rules: It pays to have a BOOM opening sentence...
Why is it that now I like living in Singapore, whereas my first few years were traumatic and irritating? Have I become a more forgiving person, or is it Singapore that has lifted its game?
I admit that the medication I have been taking for chronic neuropathy (off-label), is in fact a "mood stabiliser", so perhaps I am less grumpy, less irascible, less irritable, less easily pissed off. But people in Singaporeans stand aside at the train doors now (mostly); they don't run you over with their shopping trolleys (as often); they don't spit at your feet or squat on the toilet seat; they move to the back of... OK, I'll stop stretching it: they don't move to the back of the bus, but in my international experience (I used to catch the school-bus in Australia), no-one does.
One might get the feeling that Singaporean are more polite than they used to be. Or is that there are heroes out there...?
I bring this up because I was approached in the street by two high-school-aged kids, a boy and a girl. The boy held his arms bent up, palms out towards me at chest height, and moved them slightly as the two walked in my direction. I was a bit taken aback, as you would be, but realised that he was just asking me to slow down, to stop, indeed, for they wanted to chat with me. It reminded me of the time in Beijing that a young Chinese person, innocently enough, asked me if they could practice their English by talking to me - it used to happen to tourists in Tienanmen Square all the time.
These kids had no clipboards or badges with IDs, but they wore tee-shirts which had an illustration of a giraffe's heads on the front. The girl was quiet and said nothing, but smiled brightly. The boy took the lead.
First of all he told me that they were not selling anything, nor asking anything special of me, but one thing.
He began to explain what the giraffe's head meant. I saw that a web address, giraffe.org, was printed underneath.
As you would as well, I expected this to be a wildlife, endangered species, don't shoot lions, or giraffes for that matter doorstopper. The sort of faux-interview and the hit-up for funding support thing.
How gentle, wrong reader, was I.
"Giraffe.org", he said, "is a sort of movement. You how, like, for a giraffe, it's stick your neck out for things? To do things?"
I nodded "Mm-hmm."
"We are looking for stories. Of people who you have seen stick their necks out to help other people. You know, like random acts of help and good things. Kindness, like that."
Impressed that he hadn't mentioned religion so far (he never did), I raised my eyebrows (in a good way).
He continued: "So if you have recently seen, or even heard of, normal people helping people they didn't need to help, you know like someone was in trouble. Good people..."
"You shouldn't ask me that," I said, smiling. "I am as close to evil as you've ever come." (Thinking of Pete Cook's Mephistopheles in "Bedazzled". Cheeky and mischievous, rather than actual evil, while still being The Devil.)
The girl continued her cheery smile and the boy gave a chuckle. "I don't think so, sir. We are always trying to show to the public the helpful people, like they are heroes to others, small heroes in everyday things. If you can think of any incident, or anyone you know like that..."
* Indy bought me a beer the other day... nah, we're probably even by now.
* Bruce took me to new club in the 4FoWs and offered to shout a round of tequilas to the six girls who were hanging off me... but that was the year before last, hardly "recently". (Tempus fugit like the fuck!)
* My maid took my suit to the laundry to be dry-cleaned... Nah, that's her job.
Well, maybe I should branch out and think of what I have seen people do for people other than myself... But no, nothing comes.
"Sorry," I said. "I can't think of anything right now. But I do like your programme, it sounds... nice."
The boy pulled his a face into a resigned-but-not-yet-exhausted-by-rejection smile and the girl's smile started to wilt, but I gave them one of my patented Chin UP! smiles and they brightened again (or made an effort to).
"Thank you, sir," they said.
"You are entirely welcome." What a nice cause, what polite children, thought