Carrying Gin to the Strait of Malacca

In 1602 I signed on a Dutch ship
And we sailed for nutmeg and clove
We had barrels of gin so good you could just sip
But this sobrin' legend we wove

The doldrums kept us for many a long year
That gin, it all tasted so fine
But when we sighted the land and we came near,
We found it had robbed us of time.

We were carrying gin through the Strait of Malacca
With just a few barrels amiss
And we hoped for some jewels, and maybe tobacco,
But nothing prepared us for this ...

Have centuries flown here? A city has grown here
With iron ships floating offshore
The chap says good morning, can I see your passports?
We've built a place called Singapore

Now what are you bringing? Those barrels for trading?
You can't bring all that duty free.
No money for taxes? Your hopes must be fading,
Your gin will be staying with me

So we carried our gin to the Strait of Malacca
Then lost it to Singapore laws.
With no gold of our own, and no wealthy backer
It turned out our plan it had flaws!

The country was blooming, the trade it was booming
And I thought that I'd find a way
So I brushed up my angles and tables assuming
That counters and mappers could stay.

They talked about sea and they talked about Java
And these were all words that I knew
And once I could navigate, with some palaver
I found I could bluff my way through.

So I practised my skills in the Strait of Malacca
And shipped a few things on the way
Many places, and maps, in a many byte stacker
And that's where I work every day!

I guess you may say that I've been a pirate,
But those days are long gone astern
I know what means public, protected, and private
And buy all the music I learn!

Just don't leave no trash, and don't get too sassy
There's nothing to give you a fright
Remember Xièxiè, and Terima Kasih
And smile! And the folk are all right.

So I carry my gin to the Strait of Malacca,
But not quite as much on each trip
No longer a pirate but always a hacker
It's true I still love every sip!

There are quite a few backstories to this poem / song. It grew out of various themes from my first visit to Singapore, including how heavily taxed alcohol is, the way people in business sometimes say "16-02" for the second quarter of 2016 rather than the year 1602, and that if a sailor from 1602 was to encounter a large city on the site of modern Singapore they would have to skip a few centuries.

Dominic Widdows, 2016

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