Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A backwards-ticking watch

First impressions? Misleading of course, but a useful guide to the pathology of a city.

Scratch that, start again:

Singapore reminds me of nothing so much as a precision watch. Everything is ordered, every interaction is controlled. It is clean and neat. The service is brisk and efficient, the people friendly and helpful. Traffic congestion is a rumor from abroad, public transport runs on time. It is, in short, the very worst place on earth.

In Alfred Bester’s Galatea Galante, he states that the secret to a lasting attraction is the kinks. “There are many sweet confections that require a drop of acid to bring out the full flavour and keep them enjoyable”, it is the acid that makes the girl, the unexpected quality that makes them impossible to live with them or without them. Singapore is a city entirely devoid of acid.

In fact, my most relieving experience in this cloying clockwork city was that of buying, quite naturally, a mechanical watch. “The cheapest shop in Singapore”, the sign proclaimed, and whilst this statement may have been broadly true it would have been entirely more accurate (and still, in my opinion, quite catchy) to proclaim “the cheapest shop in Singapore to buy watches that tick backwards”.

… A watch, that ticks backwards.

As if my time in Singapore wasn’t moving slowly enough, we were now in possession of what we can only assume was some kind of Singaporean fetish property, a watch that, when the mood overcame it, decided to tick in reverse.

It never occurred to either of us for a second that this could be a malfunctioning watch, that sort of thing simply doesn’t happen in Singapore, so we are now stuck with what I’m sure is a prized and near irreplaceable collectors item, and indeed one which may hold the secrets to the very nature of the universe and the flow of chronology, but which has the unfortunate quality of being entirely unable to tell us what time it is.

It’s hardly necessary to expound on the work of Dr Steven Hawking, but suffice it to say that this watch sits currently on the end of my bed, eagerly awaiting inspection by the Cambridge Physics Department. It will be with enormous relief that I leave this little city-state tomorrow, and start…dare I say it…unwinding


Current Location: 1.20.54 N / 103.40.54 E, Singapore, Singapore