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’).
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.
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.