Thursday, 19 April 2012


it is a farewell dinner for a group of visiting students at the university
we are in a basement spanish tapas bar by the canal
munching on a cornucopia of tasty delicacies
the vegan options are surprisingly good
quinoa salad and fried mushrooms
generous plates of patatas bravas
the sangria is flowing nicely
in between the various demands for photo opportunities
and noisy whoopings at the sniff of a suspected romantic liaison
between members of the party
i keep up a playful if fragmented conversation
with three girls from indonesia and india
the general atmosphere puts me in mind of a birthday party
of mixed fourteen-year-olds from rather privileged backgrounds
the kind of party i was never invited to
and never dreamed of going to when i was a kid
i notice one member of the group sitting alone
seemingly not interested in interacting with his fellow students
or the members of staff who have turned up to see him off
he is spending most of his time tapping at his phone
tapping into my own outsider mentality
i find a suitable opportunity to go over and have a chat
it turns out that he is disdainful of the superficiality of the evening
and i can't disagree with his sentiments
i ask him about his experience of visiting england
'disappointing' is the main adjective he uses
the formerly pre-eminent colonial power
reduced to a country of faded grandeur
wallowing in nostalgia and a backwards-looking mentality
hardly surprising given that he lives in go-ahead singapore
looking around him
he talks dismissively of the culture of individualism
the narcissistic era of the facebook page
(not to mention the blog!)
where his monied peers post endless snapshots of themselves
grinning inanely in front of some or other international cultural icon
while gaining no understanding of the deeper significance of the place
or emotional experience of visiting it
i say it's all part of the cultural zeitgeist
a manifestation of our collective lack or loss of wisdom
and so we sit there
a pair of outsiders
looking in
and shaking our heads...
until we are asked to pose for a group photo in front of the bar

No comments:

Post a Comment