For anyone who has filled their car with petrol over the last year and baulked at the bill, I can set your mind at rest: the price was worth paying. Of course, that’s with the exception of the share taken by western governments, who fritter it on useless activities.
However, here in Abu Dhabi, where the oil is drilled, the proceeds are being put to good use. The other evening we went to a party to celebrate the country’s National Day. The United Arab Emirates was formed 37 years ago. It is quite strange to live in a country younger than oneself, although of course Helena pretends she is younger still.
As we stood on a balcony overlooking the Corniche we suddenly saw four microlights flying in formation, spraying fireworks like rockets. Then there was a roar from a barge in the bay and the fireworks began. Trying to describe fireworks is like trying to paint water, but here goes: huge circles of colour, sapphire blues, grass greens, gold and silver, then other rockets with lights that parachuted down into the water, roman candles throwing up yellow and pink sparks, other rockets with colours like the French flag, then the UAE flag, then more rockets and bangs and sparks like fireflies. At times it was as if the sky were filled with giants chandeliers.
All the while this was happening a simultaneous show was taking place opposite the Emiratres Palace Hotel. It was a firework display in Dolby Stereo. The children stood looking in awe, uttering the odd “Wheee” before collapsing either cold or asleep. The display went on longer than a firework show decently should. It was like eating a kilo of caviar or drinking a full bottle of Chateau d’Yquem.
For the first time ever, when the show ended, I felt like I had seen enough fireworks for the day. “That’s enough fireworks,” I said. And went inside to talk to our Pakistani hosts, who poured me a large whisky and discussed economics and the stock market with grave faces.