Sunday 29 November 2009


Here's a photo I found of my dad recently setting up his barbecue at Jason's Bay in about 1966. Barbecues seemed very popular back then. Dad would carry this home made barbecue with him if we were going out for the day. It weighed a ton!
We were always having barbecues in the garden, sometimes in the evenings, watching the chit-chats run up the walls while the crickets started to chirp. Sometimes dad's friends from work would come around and there'd be a bit of a party or a game of darts. It seemed at the time that everyone owned a barbeque and everyone was invited.
Even when we went to the nearby restaurant, George's, at Johore, there would be a barbecue going with all you could eat. The trouble with being outside eating was that the mozzies always got you (my dad more than most!) but the smoke seemed to keep them at bay. I remember sitting at the front of our house having a barbecue and the Flintstones being on. So, whatever time the Flintstones was on must have been the time when we had our tea! Adults used to enjoy the Flintstones then too and it wasn't seen as a cartoon just for kids.
Incidentally, I was pleased to find this picture because years ago, it somehow got thrown away. Then, a few months ago, I was scanning some slides that I'd taken in the 1970s and I found that I'd photographed the missing picture! I'm glad it wasn't lost forever because it really reminds me of having barbecues in Singapore and Malaya. I know that people still have them today but somehow it doesn't seem quite the same (and I'm a vegetarian now).

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Stamp collecting

It would probably seem boring to kids today but when we were growing up in Singapore, all of the kids seemed to like collecting stamps. We had quite a collection and my dad's friends, Poon and Omar Mahmood, would keep them all for us. I remember Poon sending us stamps from Borneo and then when we returned to England, he continued to send them. With dad travelling all over the world, he sent us stamps from every country he visited also.
There were some beautiful stamps in Singapore and Malaya in the 1960s. Anyone who was there at the time will remember the fish stamps. They were all quite colourful. There were also stamps depicting local traditions, flowers and wildlife. Just seeing these stamps takes me straight back to our days in Singapore and Malaya.
When we returned home to England, we had quite a collection of stamps and they would probably be worth something today. Unfortunately, after a few years, our interest in stamp collecting waned and I think all those lovely stamps were given away sometime in the early 1970s. I wonder where they all are now?
I have a few stamps from Singapore today. They're mainly the colourful ones from the 1960s that remind me of our times there. Incidently, I've quite a few spare stamps from Singapore in the 1960s so if anyone wants to rekindle their stamp collecting memories, let me know!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

The Balloon Man

Here's a photo of the balloon man touring the estate some time in the 1960s. He sold ordinary balloons, stripy balloons as well as inflatable cartoon characters, dogs and reindeers. There's an inflatable girl on the front of his bike here but I think I also remember him selling inflatable cartoon characters such as Marine Boy and, maybe, Gigantor.
It made me think about all the other people who used to call around with all their goods piled on their bikes or small scooters. I remember the brush man who had every variety of brush you could imagine. He had so many brushes on his bike that you couldn't see him underneath! Then there was the man who came around, again on a small bike, with plastic buckets, washing up bowls and every other plastic utensil you could ever want. It seemed that they had to get as much on their bikes as was possible, so much that you wondered how they managed to see whaere they were going! Of course, the ice cream man would come around regularly but he wouldn't just have ice cream, he'd have toys, transfers, stickers, popcorn and anything else a kid could want. There was also the satay man and also other people selling curry. Aparently, the was a fish and chip seller but I don't remember that one! All these small enterprising businesses sprung up purely to supply the influx of Western servicemen and their families. They must have noticed the difference when they all disappeared!
I would look forward to the ice cream man coming around. He would stop right outside our house in Jalan Wijaya and, even if you were just buying an ice cream for a few cents, he would always give you a free gift like Marine Boy transfers, which I loved. It made it all very interesting for a kid back then, I bet it's not like that nowadays!

Friday 20 November 2009

Naval Parties

There always seemed to be parties going on when I was a kid. Sometimes they would be around our house and we would love all the visitors though I was packed off to bed and slept through most of it! This photo doesn't seem to have been taken in our house though I recognise many of my dad's Naval pals and their wives. In the back row, is Pete Barton who lived near us at Jalan Dato Sulaiman. He was always in charge of showing the films at the Naval Base and always got hassled when they broke! In the middle row, is my mum in the centre and her friend, Bette Sharpe is on the right. In front of them are Jean and Tom Bagwell and Les Sharpe and Ron Morrison are at the front. I think this might have been the party where Les came as James Bond complete with a plastic duck strapped to his head! My parents had a great social life with knowing so many people at the time and there were always barbeques, firework displays and banyans. I'll always remember the firework show at Les's house when the Catherine Wheel flew off the fence post it was nailed to and shot straight up the leg of his shorts! The Naval Base always had events going on too including the Summer Ball, Chinese New Year and shows which included celebrities of the day such as Harry Secombe and Anita Harris. We loved Christmas day parties for the kids which included food, cinema shows, firework displays and lots of games. When I think of it now, there seemed to be something going on all the time! It must have seemed strange for all our parents when they all finally returned back to England.

Thursday 19 November 2009


When I was a kid growing up in Singapore and Malaya, there was one thing that I loved - robots! My favourite cartoons were Marine Boy, which I'm sure everyone remembers, and Gigantor. Set in the year 2000, the cartoon features Jimmy Sparks, a 12-year-old boy, who controls Gigantor, a huge flying robot. When I wasn't playing Samurai, or pretending to be the characters from Time Tunnel, I was pretending to be Gigantor. I watched the show when I was three years old but apparently it had to be edited to take out the violence when it was shown in America. Like Marine Boy, it was made in Japan and dubbed into English. I've not seen the cartoon since the 1960s but here's a photo from the show.

I think that's what started my fascination with tin robots. I had two - a talking one and one that showed a space scene in a television in its chest. Alan had a walking tin robot that would stop and fire guns! We used to have battles in our bedroom with them. Alan's lasted until we got back to England when he dismantled it and found that it was made from tin from old Coca-Cola cans and other re-used metal. They never wasted anything in Singapore! My robots lasted until the 1980s when, unfortunately, they were thrown away. They'd be worth hundreds of pounds nowadays and are very collectable. As I mentioned Marine Boy earlier, here's a clip from the show, I hope it brings back memories. 


Gigantor was colorised and released on DVD, though I haven't seen any of the episodes. I wonder how many other people reading this remember the show?

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Driving in Singapore and Malaya

I found my mum's old Singapore driving licence the other day. It's dated the 31st July, 1965.
I don't remember my mum driving the car at all but I do remember her taking lessons. Her instructor was called Ahmed and he use to drive a black Morris Minor. He was always chewing betel nuts which made his mouth very red. If my mum wasn't driving too well, he would say, 'I think you fight with husband!' or 'I take you out when you cool down!' It was scary learning to drive out there and everybody seemed to just drive down the middle to avoid the monsoon drains which ran

down either side of the road. There was often a car stuck down one! They would even over take you on both sides.
Mum passed eventually with a few extra lessons from friends who were more used to the roads. I think that the licence had to be re-newed each year.
Her photo in the back certainly sums up the times and fashions!
What was funny was that when we returned to England, a Singapore test pass didn't count so she had to take the whole thing again!

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Road trip to Penang, 1966

In 1966, my dad decided to hire a car and drive us all the way from Johore Bahru to Sandycroft in Penang. I'm sure it must have seemed a good idea at the time but it was a very long, tiring journey. Dad's friend at KD Malaya, Poon, had said that all should be well if dad stuck to the proper roads and didn't stop as some areas were known to have bandits. Dad hired a Toyota, which I think must have been one of their first models. It had no fuel gauge so we never knew how much petrol there was in the tank. Also, the car wasn't that big so dad had his knees up around his chest for most of the trip! The journey was hot and humid on the way up. I remember seeing dead snakes on the road. At first, we thought that they were old fan belts off other cars that had travelled the same way but then we realised what they were. Mum had got us lots of games and puzzles to play but we soon got bored with them. She told us to look out for tigers, and I've no doubt that there were some. She had just said this when we turned a corner and three elephants walked across the road in front of us! With it being such a long journey, and with us not stopping much, the obvious happened and being just five years old, I was bursting to go to the toilet. We pulled over at a row of shops or shacks and mum asked if I could use their toilet. They were only too happy but as I went in, I saw that they were slaughtering chickens and there was blood everywhere. It was like something out of a horror movie! They really do run about without their heads! I was shown the toilet which was just a hole in the ground and I can't really remember if I managed to go or not with all the commotion going on! We were soon on our way again and strangely enough, it never gave me nightmares. That journey was the first time I remember getting car sick. It was a mixture of petrol fumes, dad's cigarette smoke, the cramped car and the humidity. Mum gave us some rice pudding but it just tasted like petrol to me and that was enough to make my stomach start turning! It's funny, I don't remember many buildings or much else between Johore Bahru and Penang. I bet it's a lot more built up nowadays. We got to Sandycroft safely and had a great time but we made sure we got the plane after that!