Funny how things pop into one’s head. Okay, okay, my head. Today the topic of discussion, mine anyway, is bedposts and uses thereof. Why, you might ask? Well, this morning whilst sitting on the gallery overlooking a somewhat bruised Caribbean sea – striations of purple, blue and mercury – with the sky delineated by a streak of smudgy white which, the higher the eye travelled, turned to a soft swaddling blue, I saw the two bedposts. In the garden.
That well-known ditty popped into my head. First sung in Britain by Lonnie Donegan – it reached number 3 in the late 1950s, and was apparently his greatest US success. Donegan’s version was adapted to the UK audience because the original version mentioned ‘spearmint’ which, being a trademark, was a no-no as far as the BBC was concerned. Then he changed a few more words. And actually I prefer his rendition to the one written by Billy Rose, Ernest Breuer and Marty Bloom, and released by The Happiness Boys in 1924. Donegan’s is funnier.
Oh sorry, I forgot to mention the song. Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour on the Bedpost Overnight? Now you get my drift. Having bedposts in the garden, with a strong possibility of squalls throughout the night, could arguably diminish the gooeyness of any lurking gum.
Oh me, oh my, oh you
Whatever shall I do?
The reason the bedposts are in the garden is simple. We need a privacy wall. So they are in the process of becoming a frame for a passionfruit vine – rather apt really. Now these are not just any old bedposts, they are mahogany. Which as anyone who has lived in a country where termites also reside, knows it is a wood somewhat resistant to their voracious attentions.
And before anyone cries foul. Sacrilege. These particular bedposts are not in pristine condition. They could doubtfully be fixed even by Gary, the man who has brought many bits and pieces back to glowing life. No these particular bedposts, minus chewing gum, will by the end of the week be an elegant backdrop giving privacy both to us and our neighbours.
In areas not prone to hurricanes, the season of which we are in at the moment, sticking a couple of bedposts in the ground would not be cause for the engineering operation currently being undertaken. Ratios have been discussed. Akin to how deep a telegraph pole should be to lessen the impact of hugely high winds tearing across our island. And so our bedposts have been stabilized in breeze blocks – those ones with holes – then cemented into the ground up to where the bedrail would normally be attached.
The ditty continues to swirl around my head;
If your mother says don’t chew it
Do you swallow it in spite?
And those lines bring to mind Singapore. In 1992 that small island nation instituted a total ban on the sticky substance. And I’m with them.
Does it go all hard upon the floor
And look a nasty sight
Can you bend it like a fish hook?
It was an answer sought by the Minister of National Development when the Father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, was still prime minister. Whilst agreeing the depositing of said gum on mailboxes, in keyholes, on lift buttons, on pavements, under the seats of the brand new and very expensive railway system, the MRT and, indeed, on bedposts was a prohibitive drain on government coffers under the heading of public cleaning, Mr Lee believed it was a drastic solution. It was not until the second ever prime minister, Goh Tok Chong, took office that the ban was implemented.
Imports were immediately stopped. A selling off period was allowed. Discourse chittered around satay stalls and discontent caused some open defiance, which was soon quashed with the naming and shaming of chewers and spitters. A rumour, actually fake news, twittered in the international press that the penalty for chewing gum was a right republican caning. In fact the punishment was merely a fine, oh, and possibly imprisonment.
A BBC reporter had the temerity to question the edict, suggesting the outright ban of gum chewing might “stifle creativity”.
The question is peculiar
I’d give a lot of dough
If only I could know
The answer to my question
Is it yes or is it no?
It was a question Mr Lee was happy to answer. “If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.” Brilliant!
Then in 1999 when talks began for a bilateral free-trade agreement between the US and Singapore, big business in the name of Wrigley put their sticky fingers on the goal posts. Imagine that. Two overriding issues were the stumbling blocks – the War in Iraq and, wait for it, chewing gum. Singapore, recognizing compromise is not a dirty word, agreed.
Does your chewing gum have
More uses than it says upon
The sale and masticating of medicinal gum would be allowed, but could only be purchased in a pharmacy or dental office with all names being recorded. Said Mr C Perille, the director of corporate communications for Wrigley, “There’s many examples in our history of things that may have not made short-term financial sense but it was the right thing to do in a philosophical or long-term sense.” Really?
And there we have it. Back to Lonnie Donegan philosophising on whether chewing gum would lose its flavour on our mahogany bedposts over night.