1963, Around May, three young Bootnecks recently returned from a stint in Sarawak, decide to hit the big city (Singapore ) for a night, all night on the town.
My self, David(Shiner) Wright(from London) Michael(Mick)Mc Donaugh(Stoke on Trent) and John(Mac )Mc Kenna( Burnley Lancs) a very good UK ethnic mix of personalities, well, we all thought so.
“Runs a shore” in Singers were few and far between,mainly due to the cost and there was no point in going unless you were going for a budget busting blast and come back skint but happy.
Bugis street at this time was the same as it had always been, a sort of cross road to the world, everything could happen in Bugis Street, entertainment, you name it, it was probably there, real tasty scran(food) from many street side(in the street) stalls and can I say the eateries?
Backing up the food establishments were many bars and other dens of inequity where if one so desired, you could hook up/meet with females, males, males masquerading as female, performing performers, you name it, it was in and around Bugis Street.
To say the least it was an interesting place to spend an evening. Into the back of a three ton truck (the liberty vehicle) and off to Singers, first port of call, the Britannia Club, beer was cheaper and we could get a head of steam on(warming up the engine) before strolling down to BS.
To be kind, the aroma of Singapore was exotic to say the least, Bugis Street had it's own special flavour, black bean, sweet and sour, hot chilli,garlic, barbecue, sauces and plenty more, beans sprouts stir frying in very hot woks, chicken ,pork, duck, squid, fish sauce, your mouth began to water as you approached.
Apart from salivating in anticipation of the culinary delights we would soon be enjoying, there was one aroma that didn't quite add to the gastronomic ambience, Rochor canal .
Boy did that “pen and ink” it ran from the north west to the south east, passing relatively close to the east side of BS, it was an open sewer, backing up when the tide was in, to minimise the effect on your evening spent in BS, check on the state of the tide, after heavy rain was also an advantage, flushing out all the dead stuff, you name it was in there.
Bugis Strasse(as we called it) had a reputation for being the centre of the gender bender brigade “lady boys” “kai tais” in female garb done up to the nines, many an inebriated service man had enjoyed an encounter with said “bender”, convinced it was his charm and personality that had one him a leg over, “nah it was a bloke you dip stick” kind words from seasoned comrades only too glad to put him wise after the event and take the piss.
Food lads, lets get some scran, a favourite was a simple dish called mamee soup, a combination of sliced pork, duck, chicken, prawns(any thing the chef could lay his hands on)vegetables , phat choy, spring onion, lots of garlic, all skilfully brought together in a hot wok with chicken stock, great stuff, then the chef dropped in a raw egg beat it until it became like noodles, you seasoned it to suit your self which was usually enough chilli sauce to turn it blood red.
Our first experience of this culinary master piece was in the Chinese saw mill canteen,situated across the main Koto Tingi road opposite Burma Camp, after a boozy session in the Naafi, we would stagger down to the canteen, “you wanna mamee soup bootneck's “ the chinese chef would call out, oh yes please chef.
Next day on parade, standing in the hot sun, you could feel the chilli coming out in your perspiration under your arms and stinging as it trickled down your sides. I remember the inspecting officer passing me and Ray Ives, giving us a wide birth as the stench of chilli and garlic was oozing through our pores and on our breath, and only 50 cents a bowl delicious and devious.
That's enough haute quisene Singapore style, whilst sedately quaffing Tiger beer in The Britannia Club, we decided upon the task for this evening, Bugis street the venue, objective, to drink all night until the sun came up over the Rochor canal, sunrise at that time was 5:45am.
Rules of engagement, no frigging engagement, we would desist from our usual Singapore week end, ie, getting pissed and bagging off( a few beers and enjoying the carnal delights on offer, no, none of the queer stuff, genuine Susie Wong look-a-like fanny a difficult choice but one we intended to keep.
Sitting at a table just off the south east corner off the cross roads approx 23:00hrs we settled in to to our allotted task, what ever happened this night we would all meet up on Saturday at the Brit Club by 12:00hrs.
Across the street were two Kai tais, unusually dressed as bloke's but wearing make up, one in a purple shirt and the other in serese(pink, we tought maybe there signal colours) well, we were getting a head of steam on.
Sitting with the KT's was a real ugly looking woman,approx 6f tall, quite muscular(there's a clue) sallow, pock marked complexion, despite the the eye shadow, rouged cheeks and lipstick, she still looked like Johno the camp post corporal.
Was it corporal Johnston in drag? He was not the finest example of handsome, bulbous nose, sallow pock marked complexion, even slightly jaundiced in appearance if you ever read this Johno, nothing personal mate, could have been your sister/brother?
Mick was smitten, never could hold his drink, couple of sherbets and he was burbling like a bloody chipmunk, “She's essence, look at the body on that” oh for Christ Mick are you blind as well as pissed, it's a fucking bloke you dip stick.
Mr Mc Donagh was having none of this, he continued in giving the Johno look a like the glad eye, then the bender gender stood up straightened her tight fitting dress with sexy aplomb and sloped off down the street, with a casual glance over “it's” shoulder in Mick's direction.
That was it, Mick jumped up, knocking over his beer and chair, and steamed off after “it” waving a ten buck note,(expensive) gone into the night, me and Mac looked at each other and in unison said “crazy bastard”.
Now passed the bewitching hour, and some of the stalls were closing, we decide the best chance of achieving our objective was to move away from the cross roads and up the northern road where the bars got less share of the business, there for more likely to stay open.
We settled in for the long haul to sun rise, we'd drunk beyond the “burbling stage and were now into “lamp swinging” tales of daring do when along came some Norskies (Norwegian ) merchant seamen, spotting that this bar was still selling grog they came across and joined us.
They hailed from Narvik, the only ice free port in northern Norway and the scene of two battles against the Germans in WW2, they offered to buy us a drink, which we refused explaining that we were down here on a once a month run and short of mazuma and that we were Royal Marines, just back from Borneo but thanks all the same, Jackpot! The beer began to flow.
The subtle use of the “Strangling Cord “(Naval patwa for drink trapping from the gullible) and we were virtually swamped with ale, boy they could knock it back and insisted that it was an honour to be in the company of such an illustrious fighting force, almost felt guilty, not for long, cheers Olaf.
They asked were with 41 commando, who were the first brigade strength unit to go winter war faring, no, but we know some one who was, Mc Donnagh. Mick told that that he became snow blind and went doollally, running out of the line of march and eating handful’s of snow cackling pieces of eight, we think he was trying to work his ticket, no joy.
Popular rumour has it ,that when 41 arrived at the location the mountain side was covered in little fir trees, when they left there wasn't a tree left standing. Olaf and his pals were pissing them selves laughing, the Tiger kept coming, there for we felt duty bound to continue with “tales from 41s Norse Sagas”.
Baring in mind that these were mostly passed on by Mc Donnagh, there may be some slight interpretation irregularities, Mick told us that he wasn't that clever at skiing, on one occasion he was gingerly going down hill when another pair of skis suddenly appeared between his and two arms gripped him firmly round the waist, a voice said”oop's sorry” as the pair rapidly gained momentum, totally out of control heading at a rate of knots for the trees , big ones.
They cannoned onto the forest ended up in a heap, but no broken bone's, the uninvited skiing partner was an equally crap skier who had lost his poles The following evening they were told to wax up their skis as there was no likely hood of any over night fresh snow, wrong! Skis were waxed, itwas chaos, particularly if you were a mortar man with a base plate on a man pack, bodies O.O.C every where.
Those who thought they could ski went down into the local village, shushing down the piste, finding it difficult to stop with any style and coming a cropper and ending up in a heap, much to the amusement of the local crumpet who were observing “Royals” gallant efforts from the comfort of the local cafe; particularly when some actually hit the cafe.
Arthur(Wankie) Smith, nick name self explanatory, was in a troop skiorging(being towed by a snow cat on a long rope all members on skis), Arthur, being tale end Charlie and crap at control(in more ways than one) could not handle the whip effect of the rope when going round bends, he ended up off road in snow drifts, head first, the nco ic would yell “ get a grip you wanker” which of course was very much to the point in Arthur case.
The piste de resistance for Arthur was the cross country ski, as usual Arthur was toiling well behind every one, the rest of the troop were having a fag break when they heard this scream and observed a body going over the trees. On investigation they found Arthur at the bottom of the ski jump, visible only by his skis sticking out of a snow mound.
When Arthur was de snowed and suitably recovered, he was asked what he screaming whilst air borne, I didn't realize I had taken a wrong turn until I was hurtling down the ski jump at a rate knots, didn't even know what it was, I thought I was going over a cliff, almost shit myself with fright and yelled “Mother”.
Arthur was not alone in his lack of skill on the pointy planks of wood. Many an out of control Bootneck was heard to shout “ save me a late supper” to any one in ear shot as they sped past, trying to remember how to stop with out breaking some thing.
Popular rumour had it that the C.O. Had not been observed skiing, until the last day of the exercise, when he suddenly appeared shushing down the piste like a pro, he unfortunately found a hole and broke his leg, they(the lads ) said it made their day.
I think our Viking friends were feeling home sick or they were running short of cash as they bade us good night and good luck, the good luck was on our side they must have bought four pints a piece, insisted they did, would not let us buy a round, that's what you get for being a Bugis Strasse Blagger.
Sun's coming up Mac, one more for the road, felt sorry for the Chinese guy who was serving us, he was kipping on a bench behind us waiting for us to go for a piss, then he would grab the table and chairs and close up. Nothing doing we took in turns to prevent mission drink till sun rise from being scuppered.
We arrived at the appointed rendezvous at 11:50 hrs and awaited the arrival of Mick, in he comes, all smiles Mac and I said in unison, “it was a bloke wasn't it?” he said well sort of, When we got back to her/his flat she/he said do you mind if I turn the light of to undress, I'm shy( oh yeah) Mick said I couldn't care less,I was as hard as a chocolate frog and as horny as a boar in the sows pen.
We slipped into bed, I put my arms round her/him and discovered a very hairy back, it was then that she/he told me she/he was saving up to get the gender operation to make she/he female, and did I mind, by this time I was passed caring, and said “ what ever, it aint gonna save you” and bashed on regardless, and she/he cooked me a fry up this morning
Me and Mac, in unison again, “good was it?” oh yeah, cracking bit of bacon, and we promised not to tell any one, well not until now'
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