Who Gives A Fig About A Fig?

I didn’t give a fig about probiotics. More money-making schemes, I said to myself sarcastically, for years. I was foolish to disregard The Mrs’ advice, since I was a witness to how my own father struggled with bowel problems. We did everything we could – extra fibre, laxatives, extra fluids, more vegetables and less meat. Hardly any meat in the end. What he couldn’t avoid was to stop taking his medication. It was much later that I learned that many medications e.g. narcotic analgesics such as codeine and Tylenol are known to cause chronic constipation. The Mrs’ dad, Gung-gung, had it much worse – chronic constipation weakened him so much it eventually affected his health. His episodes were so bad we had to take him to the Royal Adelaide (RAH) a few times. What the doctor dug out from him one bad night was a load of shit as big and round as a soccer ball. Poor doctor. Poor emergency ward at the RAH, actually. No matter how many squirts of air freshener and odour eliminator they sprayed, the stench lingered all through the long night. The ward and its immediate corridors were enveloped by that foul invisible “presence” that overpowered all and sundry who were unfortunate to be in its path. Gung-gung didn’t give a fig about the ruckus he caused that night – he went home a visibly happier man and more importantly, a much lighter man.

Poor Baby Son and The Mrs who accompanied gung-gung there were clearly unhinged from the visit. Baby Son decided medicine was not a career path for him to pursue after that episode – he didn’t give a fig anymore about his ambition to be the first doctor in my family. His image of the medical profession was forever ruined after the doctor almost succumbed to one of the foulest odours he ever encountered. Baby Son was also horrified to see the doctor put his hand right into gung-gung‘s backside and shove the shit out like how Murray would dig out his doggy bone from under the dirt with his paw. The Mrs suffered from breathlessness soon after that trip to RAH. She didn’t give a fig anymore about having her windows closed all the time to keep the rooms dust-free. She decided fresh air was more important than stale air.

Recently, I also had problems with my bowels. It was “all in and no out” for quite a few days. The over-riding sensation was that I desperately needed a “traffic cop” inside my body; my waste system was in turmoil – it reminded me of a chaotic situation recently in the CBD with some of the major traffic lights failing. It desperately needed the cops to arrive quickly to tame the road rage that was imminently threatening. Similarly, I could do with a kind and friendly “cop” that could direct the flow inside me smoothly but without the ridiculous antics. Remember the dancing cop who directed traffic in Bhubaneswar, India (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9NAQW9hBnI), or the robotic North Korean traffic ladies who wowed every tourist in Pyongyang (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLQ3lFhckLg)? In and out, in and out, without a traffic jam – that was all that mattered. I found my “traffic cop”, thanks to The Mrs. I know you won’t give a fig what it was, but I will tell you anyway.

The Mrs put me onto Kimchi but the strong garlic repulsed me as I imagined people being repulsed by my breath. She then suggested I add 3 scoops of Greek-style yoghurt to my rolled oats for breakfast. I disliked yoghurt forever after the first scoop back in the early 1990’s. Anything fermented tasted off to me, such as chou tofu. People call it stinky tofu – you won’t need to wonder why. I could smell it a mile away, it was as if the streets of Shaoxing along the night market stank of blocked drains that night. I shunned yoghurt even when they were free in hotels and cruise ships. But, the situation was dire. I was desperately bloated and the farts were becoming decidedly toxic. So, I listened to The Mrs and started adding yoghurt to my breakfast. Half a tablespoon of Gumeracha honey was enough to take away that “off” flavour, so it wasn’t so bad at all. Miraculously ever since then, I feel the ever-present “cop” waving its hand ever so smoothly directing the flow of food and wastes inside my body. No more jams! A good friend, Keith, warned me against too much yoghurt. According to Ayurveda teachings, yoghurt is very cooling and “too much” will adversely affect one’s sex life. I told him celibacy affect one’s sex life a lot more. I didn’t give a fig about his mumbo-jumbo superstitions.

Yesterday, I took the afternoon off to spend a short holiday in Old Reynella. I wasn’t quite five minutes away from home when I realised I had forgotten my mobile phone. I remembered an old friend, Aloysius, also forgot his phone when he left Penang for a short-stay in Singapore. For him, he felt so lost and helpless as if he had lost a limb, so attached was he to his phone. But, I didn’t give a fig about it, and didn’t turn back to get my phone. No one would miss me (that much) and as it turned out, it was bloody fantastic to be really away from everything. No football, no social media, no fake news. The Mrs and I stayed at St Francis Winery in Reynella. It is only a winery in name only, they converted it into a resort a long time ago. As soon as I walked into the premises, I felt we had been there before. And, as soon as I saw the dining room which overlooked a retirement estate across the quiet street, I knew we had lunch there a few years ago. The Mrs was adamant she, the one with the superior memory, had never been there. “No, no, no!” she argued. “Unless you’re telling me you had a rendezvous here with someone else!” she seethed under her breath. I quickly changed tact. “You’re absolutely right, darling. I got a memory like a sieve. It’s just a feeling of déjà vu, and not a rendezvous!” I corrected myself without further ado. Who gives a fig about my defective memory anyway! Third Son later told his mother he remembered we were all there for lunch on Boxing Day just 3 years ago. Phew!

It is important when visiting any place to walk around the streets and parks if you want to learn about its history. I discovered that the township of Reynella was formed in 1854 when John Reynell sold 40 acres of land which cost him £40 15 years earlier, for nearly £3,000. He was also the same bloke who planted the first commercial vineyard in South Australia. The famed winemaker, Thomas Hardy, worked for him and together, they became the largest wine producers in the McLaren Vale, a well-known wine region here. But, will anyone else give a fig about John Reynell? I don’t think so. This morning, we came across a fascinating high-end boutique store called Woolcock. The name itself fascinates me. I mean, how and where does a name like that originate from? The store proudly sells classy and high-street designer clothes from Italy, Germany and France. If one wears a piece of garment from them, one will never be worried to see someone wearing the same clothes. That is the meaning of “exclusive”. I told Mr Woolcock I had full admiration of his shop but “I have to lodge a complaint,” I said. “You do not sell men’s clothes.” He didn’t give a fig about my complaint, he said. “You’re not the first to complain and you won’t be the last,” he said softly with a smile as he waved me away. I was thoroughly impressed with the glass dome ceiling he made himself though. Years ago, I designed something for a fee-free client that was as wonderful but a lot less gaudy. It would have cost the owner $26,000, a steal, I thought at the time. But, she said she didn’t give a fig about that idea. “One could roast a chicken in the room with such a glass ceiling in the middle of summer,” she reckoned.

The glass-dome ceiling in Woolcock Ladies Clothes, Reynella

My mother was with us in Reynella. “Why don’t you tell him he needs a haircut,” Ma nudged at The Mrs during a short coffee break. It was the best cappuccino I had in years. I meekly conveyed to the barista that Big Sis enjoys her coffee hot, not lukewarm that most places serve. Hot is the only way, the barista agreed. Isn’t it good not to give a fig about what others say is right or wrong? They say the right temperature should be 60 C to 70 C. Bullocks, I say. both Big Sis and I like our coffee hot, say 85 C, ok? The Mrs feigned a fainting spell when Ma prodded her again about my shoulder-length hair. “The old man is as stubborn as a mule,” The Mrs protested. “Will someone force him to cut his hair and shave his beard?” Ma persisted. Why does she give a fig about the length of my hair? I should be glad that Ma no longer criticises me about fasting. So, her list of complaints about me is getting shorter, thankfully.

Who gives a fig about a fig? A sister-in-law in Kuala Lumpur told me earlier this week she woke up at 3.30 in the morning in a panic. She rushed downstairs from her third storey luxury penthouse and was lucky not to have tripped herself when she missed a step due to her eagerness to get downstairs quickly. “Eagerness in the middle of the night?”, I asked wryly. Whatever could have turned her on in the wee hours, I wondered. She explained in tedious detail that she was awakened by the thought that a squirrel would help itself to her ripened fig whilst she slept. It was the fear of missing out (FOMO), a common emotion – the hokkien word is kiasu but honestly, fear of losing out to a squirrel is a bit too much to understand. “First come first serve! Not my fault!” she yelled in the dark at the squirrel. Poor squirrel – life must be so stressful for the pitiful animal. It did not think the lady of the house would give a fig about a fig. If only it knows the fig sign, it seems appropriate here.

A ripe fig in a Kuala Lumpur garden stolen from a squirrel.

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