You're that ang moh, right?


    Apr 21, 2014

    You're that ang moh, right?

    THINGS have been very strange lately and it's your fault.

    The New Paper's readers seem to be ganging up on me in the last few weeks in a rather pleasant, but slightly unnerving, stalking kind of way.

    Recently, I was on a bus travelling from Mountbatten Road to Orchard Road. For 45 minutes, I was seated beside a chap who kept stealing glances at me when he thought I wasn't looking.

    If I peered across at him, he yanked his head away so violently, I thought it might come off.

    Finally, I got up from my window seat, said "Excuse me" and waited for him to do that bizarre leg-twisting thing that is unique to Singapore - where we spin our legs to the left but continue to sit bolt upright and look straight ahead as if our upper bodies are nailed to the seat.

    "Thank you," I said, admiring his leg-twisting thing like he was performing a scene from Riverdance.

    He smiled and replied: "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr Humphreys."

    But we hadn't met. We hadn't said a word to each other.

    He had just sat beside me in silence, staring at the side of my face for so long, I expected him to pull on a pair of surgical gloves, switch on a pocket torch and say: "Yes, Mr Humphreys, this is the worst case of ear wax I've ever seen. I don't know if I should use a syringe or a hose pipe."

    But the sly smile and phrase had me giggling for days. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr Humphreys. He sounded like a James Bond villain. All that was missing was a botak head and a white cat.

    I was rather disappointed when he didn't eject himself from the bus via an escape pod. Still, at least he remembered my name.

    I was shopping at Mustafa on Tuesday, partly for the ever-expanding range of goods, but mostly for the comedy. I like to amuse myself by approaching staff and enquiring about made-up stuff.

    "Excuse me," I say cheerily, "do you have a replacement nozzle for a Nasa space shuttle?"

    "Third floor."

    And it usually is. The beauty of Mustafa is not only will the third floor contain a box of replacement nozzles for Nasa space shuttles, but they'll also be placed beside bunches of plastic flowers, universal remote controls and a plumber's stopcock.

    As I pushed my remote controls and plastic flowers to one side in the trolley to make room for the stopcock, a man stopped me in the aisle.

    "You're the ang moh," he said.

    Sherlock Holmes has nothing on this guy.

    "I am, indeed," I replied. "How did you guess?"

    "No, it's you, right? You're the ang moh in Singapore."

    I had heard a rumour that there were two of us briefly, but then Mr Anton Casey cleared off to Perth and left me all alone.

    "But I don't know your name," my new friend continued excitedly. "Tell me your name and I'll know if I'm right."

    In these situations, the temptation is always to say: "Yeah, it's Peter Crouch. I don't expect to make England's World Cup squad, so I came to Singapore instead."

    But I mumbled my name sheepishly and he shouted: "Humphreys! Yes! Humphreys! Yes!"

    It all sounded rather erotic. Other shoppers wondered if we needed to get a room.

    At least he offered an indication of his thought process. A dapper uncle at Cold Storage didn't even bother with small talk. He just took my hand, shook it vigorously and said: "I like you."

    I was nervous. I'm not used to men shaking parts of my body while whispering: "I like you."

    But the sudden interaction with kind strangers has increased in recent weeks. I am always grateful, just slightly taken aback.

    On Wednesday evening, I was leaving a lecture at the National University of Singapore and a man pointed at me and muttered "Up the Hammers", which meant he'd either read about me growing up near West Ham - or he had mistaken me for Mr Low Thia Khiang.

    Only our mothers and Ms Sylvia Lim can tell us apart.

    But the cherry on the cake was handed to me by an auntie last weekend. She approached me while I was collecting my daughter from a dance class. She was picking up her granddaughter.

    "My son is a big fan of your writing," she said.

    "That's really kind, thank you," I replied sincerely. "What about you?"

    "Ooh, no, I don't read that kind of thing," she sniffed, pulling a face.

    That's fine. You can't please everyone.

    You can only smile, be mature and tell your little girl to step on her granddaughter's toes in the lift.