I remember the days in my home town – before it became a city – when the roads were few and almost empty of cars and it was safe for young children to walk to school and back unsupervised – though of course grandmother walked me to my first day in primary school. We had time to smell the wild gardenia flowers which we spotted with delight in their hedgerows, or taste the honey dewdrop from the pistil of the suntan (ixora) flower.
Later, as teenagers, we would cycle to school in the hot sun, unaware of harmful UV rays, or dexterously hold an open umbrella in the rain whilst also wearing a raincoat. Somehow not that many students cycled, so it was especially welcoming to chance upon another cycling friend.
I remember the smell of fresh bread which mother made in the kerosene oven. When any came out small because it had not risen, the crunchiness was still amazing. The years passed so fast, we were soon old enough to help make Chinese New Year biscuits hours on end. I remember the crates of coloured fruit drinks we stocked for visitors. We called at many houses then, any time, without an appointment, unlike today.
We ate at home in those days but bought delicious instantly fried wheat or rice noodles served up on our own plates from vendors who pushed their carts around. One of the hardworking vendors deservedly earned so much he owned two to three houses and managed to send his children overseas for education. Snacks were also purchased from vendors who served goodies like dried plum on a piece of paper – no plastic or foam containers then!
Comedies on TV consisted of clean light-hearted humour. Coming to mind is ‘I love Lucy’ starring Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, which poked harmless (I think) fun at women but also men, as stereotypes. They would be considered sexist these days in many developed countries. We watched Lucy first in black and white, then in colour. I recall father standing watching from the back of the living room and laughing his head off.
I have fond memories of gathering in the field in front of our home, with lots of neighbours, and watching Charlie Chaplin on a huge white screen, when I was a very small child. When the cinemas took off, we watched ‘The King and I’ by Rodgers and Hammerstein. They were father’s favourite musical team as he also bought an LP record of their musical, ‘Oklahoma!’ The pleasing songs there are not something one easily forgets.
I still love musicals but have a penchant for science fiction, so nowadays I watch movies like Star Wars and Thor. Still, my all-time favourite is the TV series, Babylon 5 – I even have a collectors’ CD set!
Growing up in my tweens, music was songs over the radio by Frankie Avalon with ‘Venus’, Ricky Nelson with ‘I will follow you’, Cliff Richard with ‘Summer holiday’. Of course, there was Elvis Presley blaring out ‘It’s now or never’. Believe me, even in those good old days, the lyrics of the love songs were not what a concerned parent wanted their children to hear!
I have always loved country music and today appreciate groups like ‘American Young’, not only John Denver of old. Traditional music and songs are the best, Irish and Scottish being my top favourites; few others can write such soulful and stirring songs about love and their homelands, for example, Robert Burns and ‘My love is like a red, red rose’. One New Zealand folk song that stands out from my university days there is ‘Manu Rere’. Who cannot love songs that are so close to the wellspring of life?
In the all-girls secondary school run by Franciscan nuns, we were placed in single rows so that we would not be able to talk, only listen attentively – and politely – to the teachers who were the kings or queens of their classrooms. Truth be told, our minds would wander a bit, depending on the teacher, and we would laugh quietly at something inadvertently funny and share it after class. Also, being “well behaved”, we knew better than to challenge our teachers openly. We had plenty of free time after class, despite the homework, so life was great!
Our science teachers demonstrated the experiments for us. We did them vicariously and still did well. At one time our teacher failed his own experiment twice – we felt quite bad for him as he looked sheepish but we still laughed good-heartedly.
Bible Knowledge was one of the subjects I took for my Cambridge GCE Examinations. I used to sit at the shady, though still rather hot, back apron of the house to learn by heart the ‘Acts of the Apostles’, as well as the gospels of Matthew and Mark, from tiny printed books with miniscule print. Today they are available online.
How life has moved on and technology has advanced! Now of course I use the iBook and iPhone for Facebook, email and some other convenient applications for our modern society. What would one do without the Internet these days? We need it to keep in constant, even instant, contact – and for us authors to publish over cyberspace! That is quite a miracle.