February 25th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

We made a late start today – the crash pad is dark, so it was an easy thing to do.  So we had to push ourselves along a bit to return to the Air Niugini office – we were a bit more bright this time + took the bus.  Approached the office with a degree of apprehension, so were pleased when, explaining why we were there to the guy behind the desk – the people we’d spoken to yesterday weren’t there – he seemed to know what we were talking about.  What was more, he said it was all OK, + asked us to sit down while he made some calculations – so far so good.  After 10 mins or so we were called to the counter again, + asked to sign receipts for our cheques.  I can’t judge Val’s reaction, but I suppose it was the same as mine – I was completely stunned, but completely… my cheque was for S$407, + Val’s was the same.  Just completely, totally, absolutely unbelievable, beyond anything we had hoped for.  We didn’t pause for calculation at the time, of course, just signed with as calm a hand as we could manage, + took the money, + ran, but later, when we were able to wipe the dazed but stupid grins off our faces, we tried to work it out + reckoned we’d been overpaid by about US$200, which, in our situation, in one hell of a lot of fucking money.  Maybe we were wrong – the airlines use their own currency, flight units or something, making it nearly impossible to calculate the bloody things for oneself, but whether the guy in the office made a mistake or somehow we’d underestimated what we were owed, it still made a pleasant… surprise is not strong enough, shock describes it better.

We rushed to the bank as fast as our legs would carry us – it shut in an hour, + we didn’t want to give the guy time to realise his mistake (if mistake it be) + cancel the cheques.  We were still sure something would have to go wrong, that they wouldn’t be able to cash them, or we would have to wait till Saturday, but everything went off with no trouble, + we wandered out with 814 Singy dollars, most of it switched to US dollars, + feeling (sorry to labour the point) as tho’ we’d been struck over the head with a sledge hammer.  We wanted to celebrate, but didn’t really know how, so bought coffee from an automatic vending machine on the street, sat on a step, + gazed at each other.

When we’d more or less come to our senses, we headed back.  On the way we passed a shop selling cassettes at S$2 each, so we splashed out on 3 – one with some Mozart, a Pink Floyd, +a Men Without Hats tape.  I was also tempted by a Bob Dylan one, “Infidels”, but I resisted.

Next stop was the bakery once again for a beautiful gorgeous crusty French loaf, + then went crazy trying to find a supermarket to buy something to put in it.  Eventually we made do with some frozen packet ham, but it thawed in no time, + as we’d also indulged in some real butter, the result was the perfect – or at least very good – sandwich.

We caught a bus out to the People’s Park shopping complex near Chinatown, where we had made enquiries at the opticians yesterday.  There are about 4 or 5 of them there, + the professional approach goes out the window, replaced by the basest form of hard sell commercialism, with haggling over prices, pressure to buy there and then… the lot.  Eventually we found one a bit less pushy than the others, which was also able to match my requirements as to price + delivery time.  My new pair, with brown tinted photo-chromatic lenses (for some reason they were reluctant to use these) cost S$50, + would be ready in 3 or 4 hours.  They are similar to my stolen Aussie ones, but with paler, almost opaque, pinky-brown frames. 

While we were about it, we bought a flash-gun for the camera, Val haggling + getting it for S$17 with batteries – a good deal there.

During our time in the artificial environment of the shopping mall, however, the weather outside had deteriorated rapidly, + the rain was lancing down.  Val was opposed to taking a bus, however, so we headed back on foot, sheltering wherever possible under the shopping arcades.  The rain did ease fortunately, so our similarity to drowned rats wasn’t too acute.  Just as well, as we were on our way to Raffles, Singapore’s famous old colonial hotel, still preserved in planter’s style.  We poked our head around the various bars before settling on the Long Bar + a Singapore Sling, a gin cocktail.  Devilishly expensive, but really rather nice, + besides, we had our windfall to celebrate.  I suspect going to Raffles is far more touristy than Singaporean, but a pleasant experience nonetheless.  And seeing as we were playing the tourist, we asked the waitress to take our picture, thereby checking that our new flashgun was in working order.

After Raffles, we collected one of our films from the developer – we hadn’t left ourselves with sufficient cash to take more – by which time it was about time to collect my glasses.  We walked there, the first flash of excitement over the money being over, tho’ we did bus back.  I was pleased with my glasses , they at least approximate to the right prescription.  We now wandered thro’ the Indian quarter of town, making for a restaurant serving South Indian vegetarian food, recommended in the guide book.  (Incidentally, it seems Pete has turned vegetarian – very strange.)  The meal was excellent value, + very filling.  We were given a banana leaf each, (tho’ the décor was certainly not exotic- formica-topped tables, matching steel tube + plastic chairs) + onto this was dolloped various curries, chapattis, etc, etc, which would just keep coming.  We started off on a bad foot, unfortunately, by refusing to have rice, but no complaints about the meal at all.  We were both fat + bloated by the end, largely because we had drunk so much water to put out the fire in our mouths.

Even so, by the time we returned to Bencoolen St, where we were living, we had enough room to fit in 2 big slices of cake from the bakery, + eat those with coffee at a small café across the road.  We also looked thro’ our photos – we’d changed money at the shopping centre + reclaimed the rest.  Generally speaking, they were very good, with a few excellent ones dotted thro’ – pretty much as normal, in fact.  Back in the crash pad, we were able to borrow a small tape recorder, and set to record an answer to Pete.  We just switched it on + let it run, + managed to keep talking, + were fairly pleased with the end result, tho’ that was probably because it was to Pete, to whom it was much easier to chat.

Well, quite the result. I am not sure, from a moral point of view, what I thknk about our various ways of making money; all the more so if it might mean the people at the airline office suffering personally. But actually, in this case at least, we were not even sure that our gains were actually ill-gotten – and we certainly weren’t going to question the amount we were given. So we took it as more or less a “Bank error in your favour” sort of piece of good fortune. And there is no doubt t all that we rally were in need of the cash. And, despite the Singapore Slings, it didn’t rally go to our heads.

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