National Day


Today was Singapore’s 48th birthday, and, like every year, having practiced and rehearsed for what felt like six months beforehand, they had a grand celebration at Marina Bay. We are blessed with friends who live in an apartment on the 20th floor of a building overlooking the bay, with floor to ceiling windows to watch the fireworks through.

The fireworks didn’t start until around eight, so until then I did my beat to explain the English class system to a curious Singaporean, who was dumbfounded by the idea that wealth alone would not confer upper class status upon someone, and from there it was a simple saunter into Keynesian macroeconomic theory. Yeah, because I know how to party.

British nobility, the monarchy and pretty much any part of British society are all things you think you understand, until you try to explain them to an outsider and you realize how maddeningly complicated and impractical they are, conveying the mystery that passeth human understanding as to how Britain can continue to exists, while possibly explaining that the reason for all our colonization was people needed to get away from the barminess of a constitutional monarchy or hereditary peerages.

Like I said, I know how to party.

The fireworks came and went. They were ok, but compared to the assault on the ears and eyes that is Hong Kong’s July fireworks, they were nothing. An hour or so after the official celebration came to an end, there was another ten minutes of fireworks, as though they’d just found a crate of rockets that nobody wanted to take back to the depot. (That display was actually much prettier and more interesting than the bog standard boom-bang-a-bang from earlier, but then I’m English, we enjoy watching the apparent consequences of incompetence or laziness.

We walked home afterwards, past crowds of well-behaved Singaporeans. Celebrate anything in England and there’ll probably be a riot at some point; by comparison Singapore feels almost unfeasibly well behaved. Except for the masses of people who don’t look where they’re going and repeatedly bump up against our stroller. In London, you avoid knocking into people for fear they’ll stab you; on balance, I think it’s good for Singapore that people aren’t worrying about that. I wonder what it will be like in another 48 years.


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