Childhood Holiday Memories

When I was little, my dad worked for the railways. Our holidays involved either going to Singapore or to the holiday house owned by the Malayan (now Malaysian) Railways, or KTM as its now called in the official language of Malay, which stands for ‘Keretapi’ (which means ‘train’) Tanah Melayu (‘Malay land’).

KTM Holiday house, Port Dickson, Malaysia

This was the gorgeous house. It’s in Port Dickson, which is just over 30 miles from the capital of Kuala Lumpur, where we lived. I don’t know if it’s still standing and, if it is, whether KTM still owns it.

The Port Dickson holiday tradition started in the 1950s, I think, before I came along. I remember the wonderful holidays we had there as children. It was so easy to escape into ‘fantasyland’. Up to two families would stay there at any one time, and we always went with friends. We never had to do anything ‘domestic’ as there was a caretaker and cook/housekeeper.

I wish I had photos of the inside. I remember it being very roomy and open… though the fact that I was little might have something to do with that memory! The upstairs lounge area was open to the elements, in that there were no windows, only roll-up ‘blinds’. It was lovely sitting there, reading or just looking out at nature with no buildings to interrupt the view. Though it would get a little scary during stormy weather.

The house was on a hill overlooking the sea. Just past the bottom left-hand corner of the photo was a path that led down to the beach, with steps cut into the hill. The best part – we didn’t have to share that section of the beach with anyone else as that, too, was the property of the railways.

These photos were taken in the 1980s, apologies for the low quality.

The view from the top of the path leading down to the beach

The view from the top of the path leading down to the beach

Partway down the path

Partway down the path

The end of the path, right by the sea

The end of the path, right by the sea

Despite going to the seaside for our holidays, I never learned to swim. The initial reason stemmed from something that had happened to my mum before I was born.

My dad was a very good swimmer, my mum not at all. She and the other ladies and children would paddle about in the water close to the beach. What they didn’t realise was there was an area close to where they’d paddle where the seabed fell away quite steeply.

My mum had gone close to it only to find there was nothing under her feet. She disappeared under the water. The other ladies created enough of a racket that my dad, who was swimming further out, realised pretty quickly what was happening and came racing back. He got to her in time and pulled her out of the water.

That experience scared my mum enough that, when my third sister and I came along, she never let us venture too far out into the water. And we always had to have an adult with us.

Once I reached adulthood, there was nothing stopping me having lessons. But I never got around to it. There’s still time; who knows? I might yet learn.

The Fascinating Design of Dogs

Growing up, we always had dogs for pets.

My dad’s last dog, Prince

My dad’s last dog, Prince

My dad’s first dog was a mongrel called Brownie. He died before I was born, but from the stories we were told, he was a smart dog and much-loved.

The first dogs I remember, who’d been with the family before I was born, were a German Shepherd (my dad’s favourite breed) called Prince, and a little Pomeranian, Fluffy. Years later, we also had a Dachshund; he’d been a gift for my dad, and we called him Rex.

After the original Prince, we had two more German Shepherds – King and another Prince.

That second Prince, my dad’s last dog, was the only one who had formal training. There were times he was a bit like a mischievous toddler at school, but, for the most part, he took to the training really well. My dad was the only one who took him through his paces and the only one Prince really paid attention to, the only one he obeyed without hesitation. Mind you, my dad not only had a commanding presence, he had a ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ voice to go with it.

My dad and Prince

My dad and Prince

I’ve always been interested in learning about animals, but never pursued it formally because I didn’t have good enough grades. Recently, I’ve come across more and more articles delving deeper into the canine physical structure.

The articles I’ve linked to are by Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. A professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, he co-founded Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals with Dame Jane Goodall.

Professor Bekoff has written articles, published in Psychology Today, covering the dog’s 5 senses, starting with the sense of smell.

In ‘Dogs Should be “Unleashed” to Sniff to Their Noses’ Content’, he quotes Norwegian dog nose expert, Dr Frank Rosell:
With 300 million receptors to our mere 5 million, a dog’s nose is estimated to be between 100,000 and 100 million times more sensitive than a human’s.” (‘Secrets of the Snout: The Dog’s Incredible Nose’)

Not only is a dog’s sense of smell superior to ours, “the section of a dog’s brain related to processing smells is almost seven times larger than ours”!

The part where Professor Bekoff explains their amazing sense of smell – dogs don’t exhale when sniffing a faint scent! – makes for riveting reading.

In fact, reading about the dog’s sense of taste, touch, sight and hearing is so interesting. They are remarkably well-designed creatures.

To finish, here’s another eye-opening article, this time Professor Bekoff’s interview with Dr Gregory Berns who, in his book, ‘What It’s Like to Be a Dog: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience’, shows the striking similarities in the way animals’ brains function, and that includes humans.