Posted by: danguard | June 9, 2009

Day 2 – Jazz-hands, climate, and blackcurrant fruit pastilles

Howdy all. I am just in the middle of demolishing a packet of all-blackcurrent fruit pastilles! Why BritainFruitips constantly misses out on such innovative confectionary variations that the rest of the world gets to enjoy is beyond me.

Well, I made it to the Singapore national archives today, albeit a little later than I’d hoped as my body clock’s still aclimatising. It’s so much more relaxed than the UK one, for a start nobody’s there, and you also get free prints of the microfilms! Saves on lots of time-consuming note-taking. Very happy to find an early service journal for the Singapore branch of the Malayan RNVR circa-1956, with stories from the war and before. Also some interesting propaganda/recruitment posters and insights from the Governor. I’ve barely scratched the surface though.

Esplanade_-_006Afterwards I headed to the Esplanade, Singapore’s iconic premier performance venue, to book tickets for a couple of events that are part of the Singapore Arts Festival. One’s a piece of theatre called ‘Etiquette’ set in a public cafe, where you take on one of two roles, and are directed your lines and actions through headphones. I also got a ticket for a classical performance by the Moscow Soloists, Yuri Bashmet, and Moscow State Chamber Choir. That’s on Friday, with ‘Etiquette’ tomorrow, so will let you know how they both go.

While at the Esplanade I caught a free live performance by what seemed to be some stage school kids. It’s good (or perhaps bad) to see that concepts of over-acting and ‘jazz-hands’ are universal. Some of the group harmonies were decent, but when it got to the soloists I had to leave. The male soloist attempted to capture the current zeitgeist by performing an only slightly less-cringeworthy rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ than X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, while the audience (all except me it seemed) were going wild for the female soloist’s ridiculous warbling (I couldn’t name the song, something from the US judging by the American accents adopted). I’m sure the Hunter House Rd-boys would have loved it! 😉 There wasn’t a hint of any Singaporean, Chinese, Malay or Indian influence to the performance. You really could have just lifted them and placed them in a US or UK Cowell-derived talent show and they would not have sounded out of place (and by that I mean interesting, different or original). I heard before I came that Singapore was fairly westernised compared to other Asian cities, but it’s rather sad that this extends to cultural events such as this. Even when you walk through the many ‘malls’, you see very few Asian models in the windows, most are Caucasian. Clearly nobody questions this. I guess historically, ethnicity has been a delicate subject for Singapore, being a Chinese-dominant immigrant society (both politically and deographically), with a smaller native Malay population surrounded by larger Malay-dominant countries, and with groups of Indians and Eurasians too. Perhaps it is less contraversial and more politically-correct to embrace ‘neutral’ attributes of western culture than promote the country’s own ethnic heritage at the risk of alienating one or more of its other ethnic groups?

I wouldn’t be a Brit abroad if I didn’t continue to reflect on the weather out here. It’s hot, hot, hot. I’ve never experienced heat like it. The more I feel it, the more I start thinking about British imperial racial ideology regarding how climate affects character. It was said that those native to the tropics were innately lethargic and less martial than those of cooler climate, e.g. Bengalis were dismissed as effeminate, wherease Punjabis from the cooler north of India were considered one of the Empire’s premier martial races. I am not agreeing or justifying such rhetoric, but part of me is beginning to understand how such misguided notions first came about. For example, needless to say the heat is unquestionably energy-sapping, and as I alluded to yesterday, I’m finding that things which would normally piss me off, such as missing a bus, or mislaying something, I’m suddenly accepting with a newfound and uncharacteristic stoicism. To get angry, would be to get hotter, and become more uncomfortable, therefore it’s better to just shrug them off. Perhaps this natural avoidance of confrontation and emotion was seen to reflect a reluctance to fight, and thus, an inability to make a good soldier? The actions of colonial troops in the First World War clearly disproved this theory, but its influence still resonated amongst British military and naval planners until the disolution of Empire.

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Responses

  1. Hang on, you’re supposed to be teaching me about history and you end up on the set of Singapore Idol?

    For shame

  2. hello dan

    just read day 7….sounds much more cultural than the day out i had with your brother!

    Simon was doing the Dragon Ride – a 120 mile cycle around south wales… blazing hot day. 4 cyclists were staying with us – i never saw any of them as they were all off at 7 a.m. however, they left detritus of their early breakfast – tomato ketchup, porridge etc… like a frat party.. anyway, i picked up oli from the farm and we went to Neath – the food stop where we hoped to meet Simon. Were early – so we decided to start the picnic early at Neath Abbey. First course – quail’s eggs and smoked salmon pate…and pea shoot tops..

    met Simon – he wears lycra – like they all do.. simon did look smart tho… he’d lost patrick somewhere… anyway, we followed him around the mountain and then stopped ata picturesque stop overlooking Cwmparc. Stunning vistas… Dan – this is called The Bwlch – where your grandfather Stan used to go running. It looks really beautiful.
    so main course…. Smorgesbord of hams from Italy, and potato salads, breads and various …..followed by cherries and chocolate brownies and cheese and biscuits.. all washed down by flutes of rose..
    Simon whizzed past us…. we felt pretty lazy but relaxed..
    anyway – quick whizz around villages of the Rhondda and i took Oli back to your mum’s … listened to the Murray win at Queen’s.
    By the way, i have secured tickets for simon and mself for Centre Court Wimbledon second monday… How great is that!!!!
    Back to Brecon to find Simon asleep . Patrick took a wrong turning and did he veyr long route…. anyway, all pretty pleased with themsleves.
    rained today.
    take care of yourself Dan and i shall read blog again. all sounds fascinating. esp the fireworks.
    Have you been to Raffles yet?????????????

    sian and simonxxxxx


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