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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kirkby Reunion: 50th Anniversary(1959-1960 batch)

Kirkby Reunion: 50th Anniversary(1959-1960 batch)

Memories Etched in gold

by C S Wan

Many years ago, they answered the call to return and serve their homeland _'The Golden Chersonese'. Now, in their golden years they have come together again to celebrate their Golden Anniversary

A stranger who happened to stroll by the building that December morning would be forgiven if he thought he was in Paris. From somewhere inside the building, the melodious and nostalgic strains of ‘Under the bridges of Paris’ rose and wafted across the balmy morning air. If he had paused to peek into the dining hall he would see a singer, replete with a red beret and swirling scarf, giving a rendition of the song in exquisite French.
However, no river, no bridge, no lover and no vagabond could be seen in the immediate vicinity. And instead of the murmur of the Seine flowing by, the room echoed to the sound of excited voices and spontaneous laughter. Not a single Caucasian could be seen among the sea of faces. Instead the room was filled with people of different colours and creeds conversing in fluent English.
Fifty years ago, in the middle of a cold winter night, 120 young Malayan landed at London Airport and made the long coach journey to the Malayan Teachers’ College in Kirkby, on the outskirts of Liverpool.

Here in ’Kampung Kirkby’ which would be their home for two long years they learned to work and play as one big family.
On their return to Malaya, with the passage of time and separated by distance, some of the family members lost touch of each other.
On a warm December morning of 2010, inside the Sime Darby Convention Centre, most of the family members had come together again to renew and strengthen the family bond, fostered five decades ago. Although it was a joyous occassion, those who had left us were not forgotten. As Rama read out the names during the one minute silence, it left many with lumps in their throats and a few wet eyes.
Sime DCC

Much water has since flowed under the bridge, but the many happy moments they shared during their two years stay in Kirkby will remain as precious memories etched in gold.

Writer’s notes
My sincere thanks and appreciation to the following:
1. Chew Hing, Vimala and all the members of the Organizing Committee. Your tireless effort and commitment have made it possible for us to meet many of our family members.
2. Our sifu photographer, Chong Hong Chong, for all the well taken photos.
3. Lean Aing and the evergreen ‘Dream girls’ for their lively entertainment. Hope you will continue
sharing your dreams with us.
4. Cheng Swee, Vin Quen, Patsy, and Cheah for being such wonderful company at our
5. Cynthia, Emily, Cheng Bee, Rama and Poh Yuk and others for taking the trouble to join us at our table.
6. Zainal, thanks for reminding me that I used to paint a long time ago. I can still remember the words you said that morning.
“Wan, do you still have the painting of me playing the
bongo? I want to buy it.”
Unfortunately, the painting has gone missing or else I would gladly give it to you as a souvenir. Perhaps, I should start searching for my brushes and paints that are gathering dust somewhere in the store room.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to grow bougainvillea from a branch

How to grow bougainvillea from a branch

“Wow! Must have taken years for the bougainvillea to have a trunk of that width,” my friend said, as he gazed at the plant in the garden.
“Not really, only a few years,” I replied.
“My bougainvillea is still spindly after so many years.”
“Well, here’s the trick,” I told him. Thought I'd share the little 'secret'.


1. Get a fairly large, healthy branch, about two three feet in length. ( You can get the branch from a matured plant that you intend to prune or from other available sources)
2. Soak about a third of the root side of the branch in a pail of water. Ensure that the pail is well covered to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in it.
3. About three to four weeks you may see tiny roots at the soaked end.
4. Get ready a big pot filled with potting medium. Make a fairly large hole in the potting medium.
5. Slowly lower the branch into the hole and compress lightly the potting medium around the branch to stabilise the branch. You can also tie it to a stake.
6. Place the pot in a shady place and water regularly around the branch. However, do not over- water.
7. Wait for some weeks for the branch to root and sprout young shoots.
8. Once the plant is established, place the pot in a sunny spot.

9. Prune the plant to achieve the desired shape.
10. Get rid of the water shoots( the young shoots that may sprout out after pruning) on the main stem.

Happy gardening and enjoy the bloom.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Italian Vacation 2010

Italian Vacation 2010
By C S Wan

The photo was old and faded. But, the four faces that smiled back at me were young and beautiful. I remember sitting at the edge of the Trevi Fountain under the heat of a Roman summer. I watched and smiled, as the girls threw coins into the fountain. Perhaps, they harboured dreams of returning to Rome. But, I was not going to waste my money on a silly belief.

At the Trevi Fountain

As I looked at the photo which evoked fond memories of a trip made more than fifty years ago, I asked my wife, “Why don’t you go to Italy for a change?”
“I love to, but there’s no one to accompany me.”
Accompany her? Pottering about the garden was already exhaustive for me. Walking the streets of Rome and climbing the many steps were unthinkable.
Then one morning our son, Lenny, rang and informed her that he was at the Matta Fair and there was a package tour to Italy.
“Would you like to join the tour,” he asked her.
“Yes,” she said without hesitation.
So, on a fine May morning of 2010, my wife and son joined twenty-one other tourists on the much awaited trip to Italy. Although I could not join them on the trip I was happy to keep track of their journey through the daily calls and sms from my wife’s mobile phone.
‘At boarding gate’
‘Going 2 Venice’
‘On board a gondola’
“Wow! Wish I could be there with po po,” Shanita, said as she read the message on the phone. Her younger sister, May May, snuggled up to her, amused.
A few days before the tour group was scheduled to depart for home, the messages from my wife ended abruptly. “What happened to her?” I wondered. Then on the day of the departure a message on Lenny’s phone read: ‘Coming home. At boarding gate’. I gave a sigh of relief.
Later I learned from my wife that she had lost her phone. “Must have left it in the hotel room,’’ she said.
One weekend we waited anxiously for Lenny to bring back his new digital camera so that we could view the photos and upload them in the computer. The moment he entered the house he rummaged through his bag for the camera, but it was not there. "Must have dropped it in the car park while loading my luggage," he said. Fortunately, my wife had taken some photos using her relatively old but reliable Kodak camera. As I looked at the photos in the camera, I noticed there was no photo of the Trevi Fountain.
“Did you take any photos at the Trevi Fountain?" I asked.
“Oh yes, but they were in Lenny’s camera.”
On the whole they had an enjoyable and memorable Italian vacation. All went well except for the missing phone, the missing camera and the missing photos of the Trevi Fountain. Perhaps, I should have thrown a coin into the Fountain fifty years ago.

Below is a slideshow of the trip.

Kirkby College: Random recollections of a summer vacation in 1959

Kirkby College: Random recollections of a summer vacation in1959

by Wan Chwee Seng

"Here's the folder," my wife said, as she handed me a folder she had finally found buried under a pile of old files. It was just a plain green folder, now frayed and coated with fine dust. It has no intrinsic value, but I felt as if she had unearthed a precious archaeological relic. The folder was one of the projects we did for our Art and Craft lessons at Kirkby College. What I treasure most are the papers within the folder.

A page from the folder
On the pages now mostly stained yellow with age and written in my cursive handwriting was an account of our 1959 summer vacation in Europe. As I flipped through the pages, memories of a summer vacation that had lain dormant all these years came flooding back. 

Some members of our tour group

I hope the account will bring back memories of those halcyon days when we hardly knew boredom and college life was not only confined to poring over books, but of time spent on planning for weekend's trips, mid- term breaks and the long summer vacations.

Here are excerpts of the trip as recorded in the faded pages of the folder.


“We sat on a long wooden bench in Ostend’s famous garden, the Leopold Park. We listened to the throbbing music of the Belgium Band, while the fragrance of flowers assailed our nostrils. Tourists in tight-fitting shorts and colourful summer dresses strolled passed us, occasionally throwing inquisitive glances at us. Out on the emerald, shimmering water, boats skimmed its surface. A peculiar warmth pervaded the atmosphere. The warmth, odour, and colour made a sensuous pattern in my mind into which memory weaved meaning. Memory of our journey from Dover to Ostend came flooding back.”


“We’re in Cologne!” shouted a voice closed to my ears. With drowsy eyes I slipped on my shoes and clambered hurriedly down the train with my luggage.
The clock on the wall registered the hour of three.
“Where’s my camera?” inquired my friend, Jin Eng.
It suddenly dawned on me that in the mad rush to get off the train, I had left the camera on the side table. We stood on the platform and watched helplessly as the train pulled out of the station and vanished into the pre-dawn darkness. Our voices drowned by the blare of ’Achtung! Achtung!’ we explained our predicament to the German station-master. He made a phone call to the station at Bonn and within hours we had the camera back in our hands. A railway officer than helped us to find accommodation at the nearby Railway Hotel.”


"It was on 16th August(Sunday) that we arrived in this wonderful place. A dark and gloomy weather greeted our arrival. We arrived at an impressive hotel, just before a downpour, with a Brinsford boy and two other girls from Rama's party. After the rain Jin Eng, Cheng Swee and I went for a walk to the city centre. We stopped at a self-service stall and helped ourselves to four sticks of skewered liver. As we stood there and savoured every single morsel with relish, they reminded me of our own pungent satay back home in Malaya."

18th August(Tuesday)

“Another gloomy day. A boy approached us and asked for money. We ignored him and walked away. We were coming down the steps of a railway station when a German lady attired in black stopped us. She looked like a poor farmer. She asked us something in German and as we could not understand her we just shook our heads. She took a purse from a basket and fished out ten marks which she offered to us. Using sign language we tried to tell her we did not want her money. However, after much persuasion we took the ten marks and thanked her. Suddenly, she held my hand and led me to a fruit stall where she bought grapes for each of us. Her unexpected action and generosity remained a mystery to this day. As we left Germany and headed for Italy we were full of admiration at the efficiency of the German administration and greatly touched by the friendliness and kindness of the people we met.”


St. Peter's Basilica

" We were deeply engrossed in marvelling at the artistic creation of Michelangelo that none of us noticed that Rosalind was not with us. We made a frantic search for her in the basilica, but all was in vain."

"After lunch we were in the midst of browsing through some postcards when we suddenly caught sight of Rosalind strolling calmly down the road. We were relieved to have found her."

Below is a video of the summer vacation

Writer's Notes:

All the photos in the above video are courtesy of our late friend, Jin Eng who was our cameraman during the trip, as he was the only one with a camera. If not for his kindness and generosity there would be no visual records of that trip. I lost contact of Jin Eng after our return to Malaya and was looking forward to meeting him at the Penang Kirkby Reunion. However, I was sad to learn he had passed away just before the Reunion. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A cry in the night


A cry in the nightBold

by C S Wan

It was dark. It was late. And she was alone. Yes, mother was all alone in the darkness of a kitchen lit by the pale glow of a small, solitary kerosene lamp Her kids were fast asleep, but she had to tidy up the place before she could retire for the night.
The few neighbouring houses were already shrouded in darkness as their occupants too were deep in slumber, Outside, all was still and quiet, except for the sound of the night wind and the rustle of leaves from the jering tree that stood stately just outside the kitchen’s door.
She had just stacked the last plate in the cupboard when she heard the plaintive cry; the unmistakable cry of a baby. Perhaps, there is nothing strange about the cry of a baby in the night. Yes, nothing unusual, except that there was not a single baby in the immediate neighbourhood. And the cry? It did not come from any of the neighbouring houses, but from the top of the jering tree. The tree that stood next to the kitchen‘s door.
Mother picked up the oil lamp and retreated hurriedly into the security of the bedroom. She was told that the cry would sometimes be followed by a laughter, a mocking laughter that would send cold shiver skittering down your spine. She heard that was how a Pontianak would announce its presence and strike fear on its intended victim .
I cannot remember if she did hear the laughter, but I remember her telling us that on another late night she heard a goat bleating from the top of the same jering tree.
Mother only told us about the night’s incident long after we had moved out from the old house. As for the jering tree it was chopped down prematurely and a clump of banana trees near the house was also relocated as she was told they were the favourite haunts of the pontianak during the day.
When we were kids mother used to tell us story about the Pontianak. I remember at meal times we would sit at the long dining table in the kitchen. Whenever we spilled rice on the floor she would tell us,
“Don’t eat like a Pontianak.”
We wondered how a Pontianak which was believed to be the ghost of a woman who had died while giving birth could eat rice .

“Yes, it is a ghost,” she told us, “ but it can change into a woman if a nail is inserted into the hole on top of its head. And in its human form, the food it consumes will just fall to the floor.”
Then she told us a story about a man who had encountered a Pontianak. He took a nail and plunged it into the hole in the Pontianak’s head and the Pontianak was transformed into a beautiful woman. Captivated by her beauty, he married her. The couple managed to have a child. One morning while her husband was at work she asked her teenage daughter to pick the lice from her long hair. While combing her mother’s hair she noticed a nail sticking from her head. She pulled it out. Her mother changed into a Pontianak and with a shrill cry flew away into the morning air, not to be seen again.
Today, with the glare of street lights, the incessant drone of traffic and the blare of siren and horns, the Pontianak is perhaps a thing of the past. Maybe all the stories I used to hear were the creation of old folks who wanted to frighten their children from venturing into the night or of wives who wanted to deter their wayward husbands from their late night outings.
Then early one morning Tijah, our part-time helper, burst excitedly into the house and said,
“Did you hear about the Pontianak?”
“Where?” I asked.
“Padang Jambu.”
“When?” I asked, my curiosity aroused.
“About a week ago,” she replied.
Then she told me about a young Malay guy who was driving home after a late night meeting. After dropping off his friend, he drove home along the dark and deserted road. As the car made its slow descent down the dark road leading to his house, he switched on the distant headlights. The glaring light revealed something on the roof top of one of the houses. He stopped the car and peered through the foggy windscreen. The figure of a woman with long matted hair and clad in white was perched right on the roof top. Two red eyes from a hideous face glared down fiercely at him. As it began to bare its fangs, he quickly recited some Holy verses, reversed the car, stepped on the gas and headed straight for his friend’s house.
Although I tried hard not to believe the story, I could feel goose bumps rippling up my arms as Padang Jambu where the incident occurred was just a few hundred meters from our housing estate.

Sometimes at night as I lay awake in bed and listen to the sound of the night birds from the nearby cempedak tree and hear the grating of its branches against the window sill, they remind me of Tijah’s tale and about the cry mother heard long ago_ just a cry in the night.