In early June this year, I was in Stockholm for an afternoon to give a presentation at Fujifilm Nordic.
At some point during the proceedings, I had an hour to walk around Stockholm by myself. It was Sweden’s national day, so aside from a numerous wedding parties at City Hall, the waterfront was quiet.
I headed for the old city which couldn’t have been more than a kilometer or so away, guided by its distinctive outline of spires, so different from the angular urban skylines I’m used to. It was breathtaking from a distance. I’d never been to Stockholm before this, and I was taken aback by how gorgeous it is. Not only for its spires and old buildings (as a child of a young nation, I am irresistibly drawn to the weight of history in cities that have them), but also for its geography – an archipelago of floating hills in the blue reaches of the Baltic sea. Stockholm, on that still, overcast day, possessed a gravitas that shadows epic tales of nobility and magic.
I never made it to the old city though.
I was completely derailed by Singapore, down by my walking path along the river front.
The boat, that is:
A plaque staked to the promenade had the vessel’s history:
“This ship was built in 1961 as a trawler in a shipyard in Norway. She served for 30 years fishing in the waters of Sweden and Norway. In 1992 she came to the harbour of Hudiksvall in the northern Baltic sea. There the vessel was registered for 88 passengers for excursions along the coast. She was also used as a floating restaurant and pub in the harbour. In 2000 the ship came to Stockholm and was registered as a member of the Stockholm Ship Association in 2001.”
I was quite amused to read of the number of identities Singapore has had in its short life. It isn’t too different from the nation state I assume she was named after, which found independence 4 years after she was first launched as a trawler. In this time too, the modern republic that is today’s Singapore was crafted from ceaseless, strategic change.
Intrigued by the short blurb on the sign, I hung around for a while, hoping that someone who knew why she was named Singapore would emerge from her depths.
It appeared the boat was unattended though, slumbering on that cool summer afternoon.
I walked on, leaving an unexpected familiar in the fairy tale.