As a number of you guys seemed to find my other post about my life in Singapore way back in the middle of the last century entertaining, I thought I would add another to the collection for your amusement.
When we moved to Singapore we found ourselves in a very odd situation, in so far as my Mother was to the extreme left politically, and my father was an Australian dentist, not much given to enjoying the drearily “correct” attitudes that were considered essential for the whites who ruled that place back then.
No schools for English kids over 8 years old.
So socially we had one or two problems, and one of the major problems was to find a school for me to go to. The normal practice for the ruling Brits was to send their kids off to boarding school in England as soon as they were 8 years old, and keep that up until their entire education had been achieved (or not). The result of this was that there were no English schools in Singapore or Malaya for English speaking kids over the age of 8. Nor any kids of my age for me to play with either of course, as all of them were languishing in one or other expensive English boarding school.
Since my parents found the idea of sending their kids off to school on the other side of the world totally repugnant we had a problem.
Happily for me, rather than simply giving in and sending me off into exile in the UK, my parents decided that it was more important for me to be part of the family than to have an English education, so it was off to a Chinese school for me, as it was felt that given the choice between an Indian, a Chinese or a Malay school, I would probably do best and get the most out of a Chinese one.
And in fact I did get a lot out of my Chinese school, and loved it.
It was a huge school as I recall, catering for all ages from kindergarden to the then equivalent of Grade 12, and I was the only non-Chinese kid in the entire place!
Perforce I rapidly learned to speak Cantonese, needed in the classroom, and much more importantly, in the playground too.
Also, it meant that all my friends were of course Chinese kids of my age, a situation that in no way phased my parents, but caused a lot of problems for the racist whites who felt that no white kid should socialise with “natives” of whatever type. Inevitably it had the knock on effect of leading my parents to the happy situation of having a lot of Chinese friends as well (the parents of my friends).
So there we were, in the middle of this dreadful lower middle class English society, with most of our friends coming from the Chinese and Indian communities… We were all perfectly happy with this, but it did make for social problems which we – as a family – cheerfully ignored.
Being a perfectly normal kid, and as my Chinese mates were also normal kids, we did a lot of playing truant from school, and mainly went off to an amusement park that I think was called Lunar Park, where I was introduced to the mysteries and joys of Peking Opera, a love of which I have maintained ever since – to the point of actually performing in one in Beijing many, many years later while I was working there.
So, whilst the war that was being fought there, and the racial/religious riots were scary, I actually enjoyed my time in Singapore.
There are a couple of other things I wish to tell you about, but I shall save them for another post later on….
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If you lived in one or other of the colonies, do tell us about how you found it to be.