Tuesday, 1 March 2011
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
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
Friday, 14 January 2011
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
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 http://www.lostimages.com.sg/
Thanks, Peter, for the wonderful DVDs, they're very much appreciated.
Monday, 10 January 2011
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?