Saturday, 26 June 2010

Monsoon Memories


I have been putting this blog together for quite a while now but many people who were in Singapore and Malaya don't get to read it because they have no access to the internet. Because of this, I've compiled all the tales featured here into a new book, 'Monsoon Memories'. If you have relatives or friends who would like a copy, or if you would rather have a book version for yourself, then there are more details about the book on the right hand side of this page.
The more I write about our times in Singapore and Malaya, the more I seem to remember. I enjoy sharing all these memories with everyone and there are still lots more to come. I hope that the book will bring back many happy memories.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Buddha's Belly, Tiger Balm Gardens


Here's a lovely photo of my mum and me in Tiger Balm Gardens in about 1966. My mum had just been rubbing the Buddha's belly and many people did this because it was meant to bring them good luck! When I went back in 1990, the Buddha was still there and people were still rubbing his belly for luck!
At the time, I saw this statue as being quite high up but when I saw it again in 1990, it wasn't really much off the ground.
Most of our photos of Tiger Balm Gardens seem to have been taken on the same day as we're wearing the same clothes. This must have been the day also when my dad took his cine camera.
It's funny, I remember going to Tiger Balm Gardens on many occasions but, wouldn't it be funny if my memory has played tricks on me all these years and we only went a couple of times? I'll have a look through my old photos and see if this is the case.
I remember that we had a lovely time on that day. Of course my favourite statue will always be that fierce gorilla at the beginning of the park!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Sea Cadets

Unlike me, Alan loved joining things. Here's a photo of him in his Sea Cadet uniform in the drive of our house at Jalan Wijaya.
I'm not really sure what being in the Sea Cadets involved, probably a lot of marching, being given orders, swimming and messing about on boats. Alan had several badges but I can't remember what they were for. I'll have to ask him sometime.
One thing that I do remember him learning in the Sea Cadets is how to tie knots. The main reason I remember that though is because we were playing Man From Uncle and, as usual, I was the baddie, so he tied me up with the promise that he'd let me go if I couldn't escape. Of course, he then went out and my mum had to free me sometime later!
This would probably explain why, when he came back, I gave him the water from the jar I'd been cleaning my paint brush in and told him it was orange juice (I was only five)! He must have been thirsty because he drank the lot and didn't even notice the strange taste. It didn't do him any harm though!
I think that the Sea Cadets was perhaps designed to prepare you for a later career in the Navy. Alan had a lot of fun in the cadets but neither of us ever joined the Navy!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Birds


It's strange, I can't remember there being many different sorts of birds around when we lived in Singapore and Malaya in the 1960s. There were certainly many chickens and also ducks and some kids would bring their eggs home to watch them hatch. The ducklings would happily swim around the tin baths that we all had. However, there didn't seem to be many other sorts of birds and all I can remember are the few sparrows that used to come to the back door for bread crumbs and probably to eat the many insects that crawled around. There's another reason why I remember there were sparrows near our home and that's because, one day, I was walking along the side of our house and one flew straight into my eye! It didn't do any damage although the sight in my right eye has never been so good as it is in the left.
There must have been many other birds in Singapore and Malaya but I just can't remember any. There must have been pigeons because they seem to be everywhere else! When I went back to Singapore in 1990, I thought that it was funny that the crossings tweeted to let you know when you could cross which was more interesting than the bleeps we get here.
When we returned to Britain in 1968, as a boy, I thought it was strange that sparrows were also in England as well as in Singapore. It seemed then that there were only so many different types of birds in England; robins, blackbirds, sparrows, seagulls, thrushes and pigeons. There certainly weren't all the magpies, birds of prey, jays, goldfinches, greenfinches, blue tits etc that are around today. Or is my memory playing tricks with me?

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Picture nights


KD Malaya had its own outdoor cinema and my parents would go up there in the evening to watch the latest films. Dad's friend, Pete Barton, was the projectionist and the films quite often broke. I remember mum and dad taking us to see Goldfinger although I think that was at the Cathay. I could have only been about 4 at the time! I remember the beginning and the bit where Sean Connery nearly gets cut in half by a laser but, as always happened, I fell asleep before the end. All the kids that I knew at the time had Corgi James Bond Aston Martins complete with ejector seats. I've still got mine!
Another film I remember seeing there, I think, was the Sound of Music. It was very popular at the time and mum and dad had a reel to reel tape of the soundtrack. There were normally two films shown together complete with cartoons, even for the adults. All the servicemen used to love watching Road Runner and Bugs Bunny and would roar with laughter. You can't imagine it now, can you? Other films that I remember seeing were Born Free at Sandycroft in Penang and Pinochio outdoors one evening at KD Malaya. I think I've mentioned many times before that a boy was sick nearby and everyone watching the film slowly drifted away. It might have been the evening of the Christmas party and perhaps he'd eaten too much.
We went to the cinema often but, now after 40 or more years, I can't remember what films we saw. It's funny how some stay in your mind though.
Mum and dad would go up the base on their own to watch films and we'd stay at home and would be babysat by their friends or Azizah, our amah.
I mentioned Lingha earlier and how his body was collected to be driven home sat up in the back of the car. Lingha ran the bar at KD Malaya along with his brother, Pow. Lingha hurtled around on an old scooter, with a carrier on the back, which was usually full of curry puffs which he sold up at the Officers Mess. My parents would sit outside on a picture night, eating curry puffs and having a drink. Going to the cinema was probably more of a social outing then than it is today and my parents would meet up with friends on the base.
There were many cinemas all over Singapore and several on the Naval Base. I think that we went to most of them but, today, I have a job remembering many of the films. Perhaps I fell asleep!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Kindergarten


I've never been one for joining in things or joining clubs or regimental organizations such as the scouts or the ATC. That may explain why, when I was 4, that I wasn't at all happy when my mum decided to enroll me in the local kindergarten. All the other kids went and enjoyed it apparently but I was happy enough at home watching Marine Boy or Samurai or watching my pet fish swim around his jam jar.
When the day came for me to go to kindergarten, I'd already played up before the van arrived. Two happy, smiling Chinese people, a man and a woman came to pick me up. I can't really remember the journey to the kindergarten so don't remember if I kicked up a fuss or not. I probably just sat quietly because I was quite shy back then. I also don't quite remember what went on while we were there although I remember the kids all playing games on a small field. The strange thing was, that everyone in charge was Chinese and only spoke Chinese. Even before the end of the day, and even only being 4, I think that I could see a problem coming before it even happened.
Whatever we were doing, finished and everyone was taken home. Everyone that is apart from me! I'd been unhappy enough going in the first place but to be left behind as well soon had me very upset. I remember a Chinese woman talking to me and she was probably asking me where I lived but as she only spoke Chinese, we didn't get very far. I don't know how but eventually, very late in the day, I was returned home.
I thought with all the fuss that I made on my return, that that would be it. But, sure enough, the next day, the smiling Chinese couple turned up once more in their van to take me off again. I grabbed the table leg and refused to go. I remember my mum pulling my legs, perhaps all three of them did, but I wouldn't let go and eventually the Chinese couple left empty handed. So, that was the end of my education until I was forced to go to school at Kebunteh a year later. I can't remember ever enjoying school although I look happy enough in the photos!
The photo above shows me running into the sea at Sandycroft in Penang. I think I'm happy in this photo but I probably let out the same sort of shriek when the Chinese couple turned up in their van!