It is a truth universally acknowledged that all places, at all times, are envious of the South London suburb of Crystal Palace, and that given time, for any particular place, you’ll always be able to amass evidence to prove this.
And so that was that we went to Singapore’s attempt at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Gardens By The Bay, to find this maxim proven once more.
It’s the Children’s Festival until April, and because children love building-sized monstrosities that tear and eat flesh, a large number of dinosaur statues have been erected through the gardens. Just like in Crystal Palace Park, they peer out from between shrubberies and frighten the young and impressionable. Because it’s the 21st century, instead of being in drab neutral tones or covered in moss, they’re all neon shades of pink and green and purple, and most of them are motorised and either growl or move their heads left and right, eyes and mouths twitching open. I guess the Victorians didn’t have access to modern animatronics.
There were blood red velociraptors sprinkled through the park, and we saw a girl of two or three reduced to tears and screams, while her father held her close to the enormous mouth of one such specimen. It’s always nice to see total disregard for somebody’s peace of mind. La Serpiente and Destroyer were unfazed though.
That was because they were more intent on collecting stamps in a free booklet. There were brightly coloured eggs dotted through the gardens, and if you could find each one and its attendant stamp, you could check it off. We found most of them, but as the day ground on and we began to succumb to heatstroke, patience grew short, until my wife was accosting random passers-by and demanding to know whether they’d seen the eggs. Good times.
As well as schlepping around in the sunshine, we got to see a half hour music show, where seven unlucky thespians got strapped into enormous foam rubber dinosaur costumes and had to dance under the blazing sun, encouraging the watching children to clap their hands and dance. Our kids were spellbound, although they may just have been out of their minds after eating a whole ice cream each. But whatever works, works.
We got all our stamps by 530 and then beat a retreat. (The last egg is hidden up some stairs, behind an out-of-commission lift, which is suspicious in this city of super high efficiency and no broken infrastructure. Maybe the dinosaurs nobbled it.) I don’t know if we qualify for a prize, but i was just proud that the South [London] would rise again.
Just give it a few million years and some fossilisation, that’s all.