Singapore: My Memories of a Changing Country part one…
Taking a short break from my writing and guest posts. I hope you enjoy my photos.
When I was a little girl I lived in Singapore with my parents. My dad had just been posted there from Korea (Korean War), and we joined him there from England. He hadn’t seen me since shortly after my birth and by the time we met up again, I was almost three.
Apparently, when he met us off the plane and I immediately shot up inside my mother’s skirt to hide from him when he approached us, yelling, ‘tell that man to go away!’ Poor Dad.
Singapore was still surrounded by jungle back then and very different from the hugely successful, hi-tech, country it has become. I have memories of it, vague of course, but certain smells for instance can transport me back in seconds.
Our apartment, as I recall, was in a block situated close to the parade ground where the soldiers were drilled daily.
I had a friend who was a little older than me called Janice, and we swam and played together and shared a carefree childhood.
Life is strange. Many years ago one of my brothers, who was in the Army, was taking part in a ‘Passing out’ parade in England and our parents were in attendance. One of the officers came across to speak with them. He’d recognised both my parents, and it transpired that he was the father of Janice, my friend from Singapore, and this was the first time my parents had seen him since leaving Singapore in the mid-1950s. The officer was an instructor and had been teaching my brother and his colleagues, and he didn’t have a clue that he was educating the son of a friend from all those years ago. Small world!
We had a live-in nanny, known as an Amah. Her niece lived nearby with her family and she would play with the older children. Most families had an Amah to help the lady of the house with her childcare.
I spent most days with my Amah, when I wasn’t out playing with Janice, and would often be found squatting on the floor in her room sharing a meal of fish and rice with her. At age three I was able to use chopsticks and speak a few words of Mandarin and Cantonese.
I wish I’d learned the languages properly. Many years later I lived and worked in Singapore alongside my husband when we were in the international music business. At that time we were working with a Chinese singer/actress we managed. She taught us some Mandarin and Cantonese too.
Not only did she record in English, Mandarin. and Cantonese, she also perform live in these languages. A versatile artist she was just as at home singing Chinese Opera, and Rock, as well as R&B/Pop in concert and also in musicals.
I’m sure there were festivals and places of interest to see and enjoy when my parents lived in Singapore, I have no such memories because I was too young. However, having spent several years in Singapore working with our artists, my husband and I enjoyed seeing many festivals. We had a lovely time being shown around the city and taking part in many events, including being VIP guests at a New Year celebration held by The Lions Club of Singapore on New Year’s Eve.
On one day off we took a traditional junk and sailed around the islands, stopping off at Kusu Island to see the terrapins.
Singapore has changed beyond all belief. It now boasts one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
The areas where we could play as children were few, but we had a play area on the hockey, cricket, football field.
The British families had a great life, I think. I know they had an amazing social life and I can still remember the beautiful evening and cocktail dresses my mother wore. Some years later when she and my father were no longer moving around with the army, I wore them for ‘dressing up.’
Day dresses, evening dresses for women, and men’s day and evening suits, as well as clothes for children, could be made to order, on the street, by tailors sitting crossed-legged inside small businesses. An item could be ordered in the morning and would be ready for a fitting or collection later that day! These were beautifully made and from the best materials such as cotton, linen, silk, and taffeta.
The photo below is of a local brewery, well-known for making Tiger Beer.
I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of my photos from the 1950s and the early 2000s. Next time I will share some more from Singapore, and some from Taiwan too.
Stay safe and well.
All Photos (c) Jane Risdon 2022 All Rights Reserved.