Sunday, 27 November 2011

One for the Birds

Thanks to my good friend in Singapore, James Seah, and Dr Tan Wee Kiat for kindly sending me a lovely book this week called 'One for the Birds'. It features images of banknotes and stamps from Singapore, many of which I can remember from when I was a boy in the 1960s (seems a long time ago now!).
I think I've mentioned before in my blog that I once had a wonderful collection of stamps from all over the world. With my dad being in the Navy, he would send home stamps from every country he visited. I also had a lovely collection of stamps that we'd collected in Singapore, Malaya and Penang. However, sometime in the 1970s, they all disappeared. I can't remember if they were given away, swapped or (hopefully not) thrown away. I certainly wish I had them all now!
This lovely colourful book certainly brought back happy many memories for me. I doubt that stamps are much collected by kids nowadays but back then every boy seemed to have a collection.
It's a wonderful book and I'll certainly treasure it.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Nostalgia sites on the internet

There are many nostalgic sites on the internet remembering Singapore and Malaya as it once was. Many show old photos and include people's memories of the time. There are quite a few such pages on Facebook too but by far my favourite is 'On a Little Street in Singapore'. If you haven't seen it already, please check it out and join. There are many photos that you won't have seen before and every day, more and more people are joining and adding their memories to the page.
Singapore has certainly changed a great deal since we were all there in the 1950s and the 1960s but 'On a Little Street in Singapore' shows it as it once was.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Home movie from 1967

Here's a lovely home movie that's on Youtube which features Singapore in 1967. It's certainly a lot clearer than our home movies! It brings back a lot of memories of that time. I loved the monkeys at the Botanic Gardens and I'd forgotten quite how many of them there were, always pestering you for food.

The next scene shows Tiger Balm Gardens and it's just how I remember it, complete with the huge gorilla at the entrance.
Next, there's a scene of all the sampans and bumboats on the Singapore River. This area has certainly changed over the years.
There's shots of the streets, the cars and the people. It's one of the best movies I've seen of Singapore from that time.
Hope that you enjoy it and hope that it brings back happy memories for you too.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Who's that on the telly?

When I was a little boy, lying in my bed in Jalan Wijaya at night, listening to the chirping crickets and the croaking toads in the monsoon drain, I couldn't have imagined the future - returning home to England and living a totally different life back there. I couldn't have imagined future inventions such as colour televisions, cassette players or walkmans. Now, there's mobile phones, ipods, ipads and, of course, the internet. All this weird modern stuff would have seemed like something from one of the many tv shows, that I loved watching as a kid in Singapore and Malaya, like Star Trek or Lost in Space. I certainly wouldn't have imagined that one day I'd  be on the telly myself talking about our life back then.
So, it was a strange experience when Sitting In Pictures asked me to record a bit for their show 'Foodage'. Sohkiak Chang had already sent me the first episode via the internet and I was pleased to see all the people that I'd made friends with in Singapore appearing on the show. To me, they seemed natural speakers and I enjoyed every minute of it.
My bit was recorded and put together with photos and cine film of my idyllic childhood and appeared on the show last Thursday. Sitting In Pictures did a very good job of making me look not as bad as I was (like a startled rabbit in the headlights of a car!) and I think that it all turned out okay.
Watching everyone else's memories and experiences of Singapore past just makes me want to return even more!
Hopefully, people in the UK will one day be able to see the show (you can close your eyes when my bit comes on!).

Sunday, 14 August 2011


There's an excellent series showing on Okto television in Singapore at the moment. It's called Foodage and is shown at 8pm on Thursday evening. It traces Singapore's food history in the years since independence. Through collective personal memories, home movies and photos, the series recaptures the lifestyle and food trends of the past.
It features many of my friends and bloggers from Singapore reminiscing about food sellers, markets and the many changes over the years.
The show really captures how Singapore was in days gone by. The country has changed vastly and there are many clips of old buildings, kampongs, Tiger Balm Gardens and all the other places that we remember from our childhood.
If all goes well, I'll be in the episode shown on the 18th August (the day before my 50th birthday!). I've seen the first episode but I'm not sure I'll be as good as my other bloggers have been!

Here's a clip from episode 2 showing The Wise Old Owl - Unk Dicko. Dick Yip sings and plays the ukelele. Excellent!

Here's another clip, this time showing my good friends, James Seah and Dick Yip.
If you're in Singapore try to catch it and, if you're not in Singapore, let's hope that it will all pop up on YouTube eventually.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


There were certainly many dogs roaming around Century Gardens in Johore Bahru in the 1960s. Occasionally, we'd hear about someone being bitten and they would have to be taken to the local hospital to get a tetanus jab. This happened to Alan one day when he was out. I don't know what happened to the dog but Alan was fine (after he'd had his tetanus jab!). Some dogs were wild and just seemed to roam around scavenging for food and some dogs were owned by Forces families and stayed with them while they were in Singapore and Malaya. Unfortunately, most of the pets were left behind when their owners returned home.
To stop rabies etc (Singapore has been free from rabies since 1953) policemen would travel around on trucks and shoot the dogs with rifles. I never saw it happen but I remember Alan telling me that he'd seen it. The only contact that I had with dogs was being barked at when we were walking around the estate (the dogs were probably pets but looked ferocious to me!) and the time when I cracked my head open and was walking home and one stood up on my shoulders and licked my face! The dogs in Singapore and Malaya (well most of them) didn't look much like the dogs you got in Britain at the time. Most looked something like a dingo! I think I remember someone further down the street having a couple of poodles but they seem odd dogs for Singapore so maybe I'm remembering it wrong!
The photo shown is the only one I have of Alan and me with a dog. It was taken at Sandycroft in Penang in about 1966. The dog belonged to the cafe owner and it would play with all the kids. I loved it. I'd have been about 5 at the time but I still remember his name - 'Pepper'!
I suppose he was some sort of Labrador, he certainly looked friendlier than the dogs that lived near us!

Monday, 1 August 2011

School photos

Every photo we had taken at school, on sports days or on other occasions was taken by Mr Lee. I wonder how many people remember him? I think that he probably took all the photos of our parents' functions and parties as well. Looking at the back of my school photo I see it's stamped 'Lee Photo Studio, Admiralty Rd West, HM Naval Base, Singapore 27. Photographer T K Lee.' He seemed old to me back then but probably wasn't (I was only a small boy). I think that Peter Banks told me that a few years ago that he had visited him in Singapore and he still had all the negatives. I don't know if he'd still be around today but I hope that one day that collection of pictures from our past isn't all just thrown away. I haven't been to Singapore for a very long time and it's all changed greatly over the years. I doubt that Admiralty Rd West is still there. Or is it?
I remember the photo shown here being taken in December 1967. I can only remember the names of a couple of the kids though who included Ian Bagwell, Nigel Barton. I'm third from the right in the front row, by the way.
It's funny how little I remember of my school days but I remember so much about everything else!

Saturday, 2 July 2011


Kindle seems to be the thing of the future so I've uploaded 'Memories of Singapore and Malaya', 'More Memories of Singapore and Malaya' and 'Monsoon Memories' onto there. If you're like me, you won't have a Kindle reader but I know that many people have, so here's a chance to download the books. I hope to add more books gradually over the next few weeks.
'Memories of Singapore and Malaya' can be found here:
'More Memories of Singapore and Malaya' can be found here:
Meanwhile, I've discovered a site which dispatches books all over the world, postage free. If you want to order my books but don't want to pay high postage costs, check out the Book Depository at

Friday, 6 May 2011

Ebook version of Monsoon Memories

When I got to about 45, I realised that technology was passing me by. I don't own a DVD recorder, a flatscreen tv, an iPod, an iPad, a Blackberry or even an ordinary mobile phone and I'm happier for having none of it. I don't even own a watch!
However, I realise that things have changed a great deal since I was a kid living in Singapore and Malaya and one of the things that seems to be the future is the ebook. I realise that many more people around the world would read my books if they were easily available and didn't always have to be ordered from England. For that reason, I've published 'Monsoon Memories' as an ebook and it's available at
I hope that it will prove popular and I hope to list many other titles this way in the near future.
Don't worry, if you haven't got a Kindle player (I haven't!) - all titles are still available as good, old fashioned, normal books!

Friday, 29 April 2011

My first photo

Here's the first photo that I ever took when I was about six years old in 1967. It's of my mum at our house in Jalan Wijaya, Johore Bahru. It's amazing how well all of our photos came out in those days. This was taken with an old Bakelite Kodak 127 camera. It seems funny now that you had to buy rolls of film which you had to find somewhere dark, not always easy in Singapore and Malaya, to load the film. It was a long time before digital photography would be invented. In the background is the road leading away from our house towards the shops where the films would be developed. Every Naval family seemed to have seats like these at the time, my parents brought them home with us when we returned in 1968. We're lucky to have so many photos of our time there, especially colour ones, and every one brings back a memory. I think that this one was taken after school had finished at 1pm. Dad was still at work and Alan had disappeared out somewhere, probably to go fishing or to make a den, perhaps.
The TV set was nearby where I'd watch Samurai which always seemed to be on even in the afternoons. I remember when we first got a telly and all the Chinese kids sat on our front gate to watch it.
Seems a very long time ago now...

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Neighbours from Jalan Wijaya

When I first started writing this blog, I never thought that I would ever hear from anyone who lived in our old street in Jalan Wijaya, Johore Bahru. In the last couple of months though, I've heard from quite a few people who would have been near neighbours when we were there. An older post tells of a very close neighbour, Tracey Jamieson (then Lattimer), who lived at 97 Jalan Wijaya. This morning, I heard from Steven Rayment who lived at number 78 (we lived at 103) so we must have lived quite close to each other. We were both there at the same time in the 1960s.
I also recently heard from Eric Williams who lived at 99 Jalan Wijaya which was just two doors away from us! Strangely, we didn't remember each other but we must have passed regularly. Eric kindly sent me some photos of a visit in 2003. Finally, Keith Galway wrote to me from Perth. Keith lived at 20 Jalan Wijaya much later. 

Here are a couple of the photos that Keith kindly sent me with the film. The first shows the view from our front door. I walked along this road many times to get to the shops which were just in the next street. On the left is Mr Lee's house. I'm sure that he must be long gone now. The house has been extended but the original slate-type wall was there when I was a kid. In the distance, where the red roofs are, can be seen Dato Jalan Sulaiman. The skyscraper certainly wasn't there back in the 1960s! Around the corner on the right was a grocery shop, an insurance salesman (who had his own monkey), a photographers and a cafe.

The second photo shows the view walking down into Jalan Wijaya. I walked that way many times and it reminds me of the time I came off my bike as well as the time I cracked my head open and walked all the way home and a large dog stood up on my shoulders and licked me! I ran after that!
Eric's first photo shows where the shops at Dato Jalan Sulaiman once stood. Today, there's some sort of car dealership there. This photo really brings back memories for me because we were always at 

the shops there. I remember the box of cornflakes that we bought which was full of ants! We'd catch the bus just a little further down which would always head up 'Flipflop Hill' before heading off to Johore.
Eric's second photo shows his house at 99 Jalan Wijaya in 2003. The gate is exactly the same as it was in the 1960s!

Anyone who reads my blog regularly would have seen the 1960s home movies of Jalan Wijaya posted here, as well as the home movie I made in 1990.
Seeing everyone else's photos makes me want to make the trip back and walk along the streets of Jalan Wijaya once more!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

New edition of Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans

The new edition of Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans should be available from Amberley Publishing very shortly. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the cover. It should go to print sometime this week so will be in the shops very soon. The original version has sold very well, selling all over the world, and I'm hoping the new version will appear in many more shops and get a lot more coverage. It's already available on Amazon and Waterstones on the net to pre-order if anyone wants to check it out. I love the front cover with all those sampans covering the Singapore river!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Wanchai Burberrys

This photo shows me and my dad outside our home in Jalan Wijaya, Johore Bahru, in about 1965. It's the only personal photo that I have that shows a Wanchai Burberry. Have you spotted it yet? It's standing in the corner behind me against the wall. Wanchai Burberrys are what everyone called the paper umbrellas you got back then. I think they cost $1 and were very handy if there was a sudden downpour. All I remember about them is the strong smell of fish glue which was used to hold them together. The smell got far worse when it rained. Perhaps that's why our Wanchai Burberry is outside the house! The paper umbrellas got their name because many were made in Wan Chai in Hong Kong and 'burberry' was the name that Naval personnel called their raincoats.
They still sell them, even in England, but I wonder if the girl who runs the nearby shop selling Chinese produce would know what I wanted if I asked for a Wanchi Burberry today?

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Beetle Drives

It probably seems odd now but back in the 1960s, the game 'Beetle' was very popular and many service families seem to play it in Singapore and Malaya especially many of our mothers. Beetle Drives would be organised and the game was popular at parties. Maybe no-one remembers it now, it was a long time ago! Perhaps it's still played somewhere!
I remember plastic models of the kit, as shown in the first photo, but you could also draw the beetle and play. As far as I can remember, players used to roll a dice and each number on the dice would relate to a part of the beetle's body. The first player to complete their beetle with all sections would shout 'Beetle!' and the game was over. I enjoyed playing it when I was a kid but I probably enjoyed more playing with the large plastic insect. The toy seemed to better resemble the giant ants we got in our garden at Jalan Wijaya than a beetle! 

If you remember the game and want to play it again, all you need is a piece of paper and a pen. The diagram shows what numbers you need to roll to complete your beetle. I'm sure, almost 50 years later, that people wouldn't get so excited about the game today though!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Ninja stars!

Every kid we knew in Singapore and Malaya in the 1960s watched Samurai and most had a go at making Ninja stars. Coke tins back then weren't made of thin aluminium and you had to be bodybuilder to squash one. Because of this, many of the cans were rolled out and used again in things like toy tin cars and robots. They also made the ideal material for making Ninja stars. I remember making some hopeless ones out of a toothpaste tube (even they were more sturdier than they are today) but I think that Alan made some out of old Coke tins (although maybe my memory is playing tricks on me because I always remember Coke and 7-Up coming in glass bottles). I think that I remember sitting in the garden throwing the five-pointed stars at the old wooden packing crates that lay in the garden left over from us building a den out of them. Other people have certainly written to me saying that they did exactly the same thing and some of the stars sounded quite deadly. I never heard of anyone ending up in hospital because of one but it must have happened. I wonder what Koichi Ose who played Shintaro Akikusa would make of it all today. 

 It was reported that he died a few years ago but apparently, he's alive and well and living in Japan and here's a photo of him appearing on tv very recently. He hasn't changed much, has he?

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Green Hornet

Seeing the recent remake of the Green Hornet reminded me how much we used to enjoy watching the show in Singapore and Malaya. It was never shown in England because it was felt to be too violent. I'd have been about 5 when I watched it there though! The show starred Van Williams as Britt Reid and, of course, Bruce Lee as Kato. In Hong Kong, the show was known as 'The Kato Show'.
Bruce Lee once said that the reason he got the job was that he was the only Asian actor in the business who could pronounce the name 'Britt Reid'.
Alan and me used to re-enact the programme in the garden at Jalan Wijaya. I was always the sidekick so would have been Kato, which doesn't seem so bad nowadays. We probably had masks but I can't remember. I remember our Green Hornet playing cards though. I think that the only game I knew back then was 'Snap!'.
Playing the Green Hornet we never got up to anything on the estate and we certainly didn't do any Kung Fu. I wouldn't have even known what it was back then! It's amazing the imagination that you have when you're a kid. One week we were characters from Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea or Lost in Space and the next week, we'd be Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin or Batman and Robin. There was never any violence involved although Alan did once get stabbed in the arm by a Chinese kid on the estate. Where was the Green Hornet when he needed him?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

DVDs from Singapore

I love it when people kindly send me things in the post especially when they come from Singapore. Recently I was sent two DVDs from Peter Lamb who is the senior writer and director for the Moving Visual Company in Singapore. The first DVD featured a series of shows presented by Julian Davison called 'Site and Sound'. The shows are excellent and show the differences between the Singapore we all loved and Singapore as it is now. I particularly liked the episode about shopping which featured Tangs as we all remember it at the beginning of Orchard Road. It's certainly changed today but amazingly some of the same staff are still there! Site and Sound is very popular in Singapore and Julian Davison, who is British and lives in Singapore, is very well-known there. It's a pity that we don't get these shows over here in England. They'd certainly brighten up the cold, wet winters!
The second DVD is a collection of films shot in Singapore by Ivan Polunin who is now in his 90s. It includes colour film of life beside the Singapore River, the many stalls and trades that lined Chinatown, concrete nannies, kampongs, boat races and much more. The collection is called 'Lost Images'. It certainly brought back a lot of happy memories for me. I tried to find clips on YouTube to show here but couldn't find anything but there is a Lost Images website at
Thanks, Peter, for the wonderful DVDs, they're very much appreciated.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Singapore markets in the 1960s

These two colourful photos appear in the new version of 'Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans' which should be out some time before March this year. Both photos bring back lots of memories of all the open air markets that once lined the streets of Singapore back in the 1960s. The first photo shows a couple of children looking at the many Chinese lanterns on display. I would have been about their age when I first visited a market back then. I remember the streets busy with shoppers and full of fruit stalls selling all kinds of fruit. I remember the bananas were very sweet, not like the ones you get nowadays in England. Of course, I mainly remember the rambutan sellers. I loved them at the time and haven't had one since but can still remember what they tasted like. Some stalls seemed to sell only rambutans but maybe that's just how I remember it. I also recall that there were coconuts for sale too. They seemed very exotic back then but you can get them just about anywhere nowadays. You can even buy Rambutans in Sainsburys now! I remember the smell also. Perhaps it was the smell of the nearby river or a mixture of the fruit, vegetables, meat and other products. I especially recall the smell of all the wicker work and material. Of course, the sun and heat enhanced all these smells. I can't remember my parents buying any fruit from the stalls although we probably bought bananas for the monkeys in the Botanic Gardens. I used to get given rambutans free from the stall holders as we walked through the market because they liked my fair hair! 
The second photo shows a night market. There was a totally different smell at these markets. The air was filled with the smell of Kerosene lights and heaters which would attract moths and other insects. They would then attract chit-chats who would wait by the lamps for easy prey. There was also a moth ball smell especially around the stalls that sold wooden trinkets. Perhaps it's the smell of the wood? There were allsorts of items for sale that remind me now of Singapore including the Wanchai Burberrys held together by fish glue, the many colourful paper kites, Chinese lanterns, toys and wicker hats. All had a smell of their own and combined gave Singapore its own unique smell. I haven't been there for a very long time now but I wonder what it all smells of today?