Posts filed under Memories

Malaysia’s first Merdeka FDC

Filed in Memories

My late father had collected first day covers (FDCs) of various countries, including our own. Recently, I got down to sorting through them, more than a year after he left us. Well, not really sorting through them, but transferring them to plastic boxes that will protect the FDCs better.

Later, when thinking about the approaching 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence, and what I can do on this blog to commemorate it, I remembered seeing an FDC of the 10th Merdeka in the collection. I remembered lingering over it to admire how clean and well-kept it’d remained all these years. So I went back through the box holding the Malaysian FDCs, and came across an even older FDC – in fact, the country’s very first Merdeka FDC, postmarked 31 August 1957. Its condition was less clean and less than well-kept, but it was a historic FDC, nonetheless. But there was not all – I also found an alternative version, so in fact, there are two versions of the country’s first Merdeka FDC.

Put side by side, all three FDCs tell a story of how we’ve progressed – the language used, the racial communities represented. So here, in chronological order, Malaysia’s first Merdeka FDC (both versions) and the 10th Merdeka FDC.

(Oh wait, the 10th Merdeka FDC actually commemorates the 10th anniversary of Malaysia; Malaya, the country’s original name when it gained independence in 1957, had been renamed Malaysia in 1963 to reflect the addition of the states of Sabah and Sarawak to Malaya, so this FDC commemorates the 10th anniversary of that event and not of the 1957 independence.)

FDC commemorating Merdeka in 1957, postmarked 31 August 1957, and featuring three of the four main languages (English, Malay and Chinese):

A second version of the 1957 Merdeka FDC:

By the time of the 10th anniversary of Malaysia in 1973, the country had standardised its choice of main language – Malay – which is the only language featured on the FDC, including on the postmark. In additon to the Malaysian flag, the FDC also featured the flags of the 13 Malaysian states:

Happy Birthday, Malaysia. We’ve come a long way.

Merdeka Eve

Filed in Family, Memories

On the eve of celebrations for Malaysia’s 50th year of independence, I find myself wondering where were my parents on that morning of 31 August 1957?

This is a question I’ll never have an answer to. I can’t ask him because he’s not here anymore. I can’t ask her because only her body’s here, her mind’s wandering most of the time. I can try. Maybe I’ll do that when I see her this Saturday.

Remembrance of Merdekas past

Filed in Family, Memories

I remember my mother telling me the year Malaysia turned 10 in 1967 that the 10th Merdeka (Independence Day) was a milestone for the country, and that the next milestone would be the 25th Merdeka. And now look at us – a few days away from our 50th Merdeka.

The family shop used to be a favourite gathering place on 31 August each year. Relatives and friends would visit as, thanks to the shop’s location right in front of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (or Batu Road as it used to be called), the first floor had the best view of the Merdeka parade that would begin at Selangor Padang (old name for Dataran Merdeka) and go along the entire length of Batu Road right up to the roundabout (where the Chow Kit Monorail station is today).

In those days, Jalan TAR was the longest and straightest road in all of Kuala Lumpur. The family shop was located somewhere near the end of the long stretch. Each year’s parade would include schools represented by their students. Most everyone growing up would probably have participated in one of the Merdeka parades.

We would watch and wave to family members involved in the parade each year. But because by the time the parade got to our part of the road, it was almost at the end, they would be tired and out of order, totally unlike when they started at Selangor Padang, marching past the King, the Prime Minister and members of the Malaysian Cabinet. The year my brother was in the parade, he perked up as he and his gang approached the shop and waved to us as they marched past.

All this was before the overhead bridge was built near the old Post Office just in front of the Chow Kit market, which made it difficult for the taller Merdeka floats to pass under, and also before Jalan TAR was made one way (unfortunately, the wrong way). Even then, I think the road was closed for the parades along Jalan TAR each year. I don’t remember watching recent years’ parades. I was out of the country between 1986 and 1990, and the year I returned, we moved out of the family shop and out of the neighbourhood. These days, if I get to watch the Merdeka parade at all, it would be in front of the TV. And even if I do, it would be just so totally different from how it was when I was growing up and living along Jalan TAR.

Friday Night Nostalgia

Filed in Memories, Music

BBC Entertainment (Astro 26)

10:50 p.m. Walk on By: The Story of Popular Music
11:40 p.m. Sounds of the Sixties

I’d discovered the second programme first, a wonderful trip down memory lane every Friday night for me, in all its black and white psychelic glory. Those around my age will understand what I mean.

Some Friday nights, I would tune in earlier and notice a similar programme, also in black and white, but featuring musical eras earlier than what I grew up in. Then, this evening, it all changed.

As usual, I’d tuned into Astro 26 earlier than 11:40 p.m. The programme was in colour this time, and taking centrestage was a familiar long-haired singer with guitar and harmonica … Neil Young! Singing what is probably his biggest hit, “Heart of Gold” . Gotta watch, gotta watch …

As if Neil Young was not enough, other singers featured on the programme included America ( “A Horse with No Name” , “Ventura Highway” ), Bill Withers ( “Ain’t No Sunshine” , “Lean on Me” ), Joni Mitchell ( “California” ), The Flying Burrito Brothers ( “Sin City” ), The Eagles ( “Take It Easy” ), and The Band ( “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” ). Wheeeeeeeeee … looks like this story of popular music has entered the 60s, which makes it a must-watch from now on.

Onto the next programme, Sounds of the Sixties. The first singer to appear tonight, Sandie Shaw, gave me an inkling of who else to expect in the rest of the show. And I wasn’t wrong – the artistes included the late Dusty Springfield, Long John Baldry, Tom Jones, Cilla Black, and a very bouncy Cliff Richard (before he was “Sir” ) singing Britain’s entry to the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest, “Congratulations”. But it was the last singer and his song that really floored me and had me in tears even after all these years.

After the show, I came online to search for the song on YouTube, and found a version from a German show, Beat Club. Now that’s another stop along my memory lane. During the May 13 curfews in 1969, RTM had put on an interesting line-up of shows to keep everyone happy in the safety of their homes. One such show was Beat Club, featuring a popular UK radio deejay, Dave Lee Travis, and a German girl, Valerie. This was where we saw a lot of our favourite British pop stars – even the likes of Crazy World of Arthur Brown (I am the god of hellfire and I bring you … ), and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (“Legenf of Xanadu”, complete with whip – anyone remember them?). This was where my sister first saw Cliff Richard, and screamed when she did, which prompted a scolding from my uncle (“Do you want the soldiers in here?” ), but I digress.

So here is Peter Sarstedt singing “Where Do You Go To, My Lovely” , and introduced by the German host of Beat Club, Valerie. The last couple of verses was what brought the tears.

(Video courtesy of OzDrDj on YouTube)

Six weird things about me

Filed in Fun Stuff, Memories, Personal

Got tagged by Sharon a while back to write about six weird Chet-related things. Off the top of my head, I could only think of one, at most two. After some thinking, I came up with the rest of the list, so here goes.

Six Weird Things about Chet

I was brought up by a nanny

The three of us were – my sister, brother and I. We were not a well-off family – grandfather had a couple of Chinese medicine shops that his sons jointly ran – but we had a working mother (something quite rare in the 50s) , a work-from-home father (we lived upstairs of the shop) and a live-in nanny. Mother had always worked and continued to do so even after she married father. It was a good thing as the job took her away from the petty squabblings among the other daughters-in-law at home (yes, the various families lived under one roof). But it also took her away from her children, and growing up, I remember being closer to my father (he was the one who took me to the doctor when I fell ill) than to her. And of course, to our nanny. I’ve already written about her here, so I won’t say much more, except she was a very important part of my young life. She passed away in 1996, and on the 10th anniversary of her death, I emailed my brother to tell him, and he wrote back to say his clearest memories of her are when we were young. Here’s a “family” portrait (father’s in it, too – behind the camera – and that’s nanny in the background, a shadowy but strong presence in all our lives):

I had my fingernails painted while in kindergarten

For some reason, my strongest memory of this is a close-up of the offending fingernails painted bright red. I was in the teacher’s arms, being rushed to the staff room to have the red washed off.

I was only 4 or 5 at the time, it was a strict kindergarten (the baby section of Kung Cheng Girls’ School) with a “dress down” rule for the older girls which apparently also applied to young ‘uns like me! But we’d just returned from the holidays, and I think I’d spent some of it with my nanny’s daughter, hence, the painted red nails. Thinking back, I think that was the reason I grew up sans painted nails, or any form of make-up.

I love giant pandas

They really, really help me destress after a day (especially a horrendous day) at work. I first made a conscious effort to learn more about them at the start of this century (the year 2000, lah), and haven’t looked back since. There’s a lot of giant panda stuff here on my blog, in fact a whole category called “Stress Busters”.

One positive outcome of my crazy panda love is that I adopted a little one born last September at the Wolong Panda Reserve in China. I’m making plans to visit her later this year. Can’t wait to hold her in my arms. Here she is, at around 100 days old:

I’d named her Yoong Ping in memory of my niece and in honour of my parents but that’s just my name for her. Her official name is Feng Yi, given to her on her first day at Panda kindergarten. So yeah, she’s in kindergarten now. Not sure if she’ll have a red nail experience like me.

I used to volunteer at the Women’s Centre in Norwich, and I did pregnancy testing

I wanted to do something meaningful with my life. I was pretty impressed with the stuff the Women’s Centre in Norwich was doing – they had their own building with various things going on. After looking at what was available, I decided I could do pregnancy testing. I’d go in on Saturday mornings, sit around and wait for women to come in with their urine samples, and do the tests for them. There were two particular incidents that stuck to my mind, both happened on the same Saturday, both in reaction to being told their results. First woman, whose result was positive, looked shit scared and said “He’s going to kill me.” The other woman’s face crumpled as she said they’d been trying so long for a baby (her result had been negative). Years later, I wrote a story about both incidents, with an ending of my own choice, since I never knew what happened to the two women, especially the first one.

I shaved my head bald not once but twice while in college in the States

I’d like to blame this on my days at UEA, but I’d already left England by that time, so how can I? Or can I?

Actually, it’s all E’s fault. I saw her one sunny day on campus and she was all clean shaven, and I thought to myself, “oh cool, I must do this one of these days.” A few months later, I bumped into M in the city, she was wearing one of those furry Russian looking hats. She saw me and raised the hat to me and … she’d gone bald, too. But the effect on me was the opposite of E’s – I was shocked to see how much M looked like a concentration camp victim. I decided then, I wasn’t going to shave my head.

But shave my head I did, a year or more later across the ocean and the wide American expanse in San Diego. It had been quite a traumatic move from Norwich to San Diego, and I think going bald was my way of dealing with it. The campus had claimed to be radical (maybe it was back in the 60s) but it was tame compared to my beloved UEA. So I decided to show them RADICAL and I went bald. I was a teaching assistant at the time and on the first day of class, in a huge auditorium, the professor introduced her team of TAs, each of us standing up when our names were called. When my turn came, I stood up and took off my baseball cap to wave at the kids. But far from shocking people, someone later told me he thought I was recovering from some illness that’d made me bald. WHAT??? (Insert nasty expletive here.)

I shaved bald a second time while still in San Diego, but for reasons totally different from the first time. And yes, I did send some pictures home, in a sealed envelope and a warning on the front. Parents’ reaction? “Your father wants to disown you” wrote mother in her next letter to me. Of course, he never did.

Going bald revealed what a lovely round head I have:

Something I’ve had even when young (and in my nanny’s arms):

I have OCD

That’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In my case, I’m obsessive about making sure doors and windows are closed and locked (and in the case of my car, rolled up). Those of you who’ve taken a ride with me may remember I’d go around checking and re-checking that the doors are locked (even tho I’d clicked the remote and locked them) and the windows are rolled up (how? – by sticking my fingertips up the top to make sure there are no gaps to indicate windows not completely rolled up). It’s even worse at home. I’d be ready to leave the apartment, and I might’ve checked all the windows and doors are closed and the power switches off, but once is not enough, I go back and check again – and I must do this in a particular order, or I start all over again, and again – and even at the door, ready to step out, I look back and go check one more time, just in case. So if you’ve been out with me, and I’ve been late – now you know why. Altho I must say, it’s getting better.

And that’s it, six weird things about Chet. Writing them has brought back a lot of memories. Thanks for this, Sharon. And I mean it in a good way.

And now I tag the following friends to show their weirdness to the world:

Dear Gette in Kuching, Tito Rolly in Manila, Kim in Penang, Anne in Toronto, David in PJ (hmm … ), Ms Doolittle, too

I love you all and I think you’re weird enough (and wonderful, too) to join me in showing your weirdness to the world.

Your assignment – should you choose to accept it (actually, you have no choice) – is to write a blog post of 6 weird things about yourself, and pass this weirdness onto six other weird people to do likewise. Oh, and you need to state the rules clearly, which are as follows:

People who are tagged should write a blog post of 6 weird things about them as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.