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The Ice Cream Man
It was a hot and sultry afternoon,
A Malay Kampong
Near yonder place, where once a jungle smiled,
My Visit to the British Battle-Cruisers
Readers who expect this essay - if such it may be called - to unfold before them a scientific description of a school boy's visit to the British Battle-Cruisers, with all technical terms in it may as well turn over the next leaf; for such a property will not be found invested in it. The reason is not far to seek. One may begin at any time to learn the technical terms, but it is not at any time that one completes the learning.
After almost hours of monotonous landscape of rubber plantations, my friends and I, with other schoolboys and girls, arrived at Port Swettenham, and hustled ourselves into the waiting ferry. With the ferry laboriously cleaving its way, we kept our eyes sharp for the cruisers. The evidence of their presence could be found in their fast moving motor boats, running to and from the pier.
At length, as the ferry rounded the curve, the cruisers seemed to loom out of the recess of the sea. Though it is a fact that the Hood is longer than the Repulse, I could not be accordingly impressed when I observed them from the ferry. After some skilful steering by the skipper of the ferry, it came alongside of the cruiser, H. M. S. Hood, which we were to visit. We took some time in boarding the cruiser and a cinematograph cameraman took a record of it.
On board the cruiser a sailor volunteered to guide us. We were shown the side guns, with the opening of the breach and various other movements. I was not much interested in seeing them and I glanced listlessly at the eager, pressing crowd about me. Our guide then motioned to us to follow him. We pushed our way through the crowd and followed him to a small upper cabin, where he showed us the compass. Unfortunately for me, I was pushed away from him and the intervening space rendered his explanation inaudible to me.
While strolling along the lower decks later on, I came across the torpedo compartment above the water line. Two torpedoes were suspended above the torpedo tubes, from which they are shot forth against the enemy, when in action. These torpedoes have small propellers attached. Fortunately this room was not far below the water line. For if it had been, I could not have helped feeling that I was in some sort of a sixteenth or seventeenth century dungeon, as I had occasion to feel when I was in the engine room.
The temperature here (the engine room) could almost be called unbearable. My feet had hardly touched the floor of this room, when realising the heat I hastened up again. I heaved a sigh and proceeded along the corridor until I came across a little knot of people. Curious to discover what interested them, I stopped. There was a beautiful, miniature bookshop. A man behind the counter showed us fountain pens, erasers and post-cards, the prices of which were by no means cheap. Few of us purchased anything if at all.
I then resumed my journey about the cruiser. Suddenly a bugler rushed in, formed a megaphone with his hands and yelled out some words, the last of which I heard to be something like "Hurrah!" Wondering what on earth he had yelled out, I accosted a nearby sailor and inquired of him about it. He explained to me that the ship's visitors were to bid good-bye to it. Well, good-bye it was to it and to that day's cruiser-seeing events.
My visit to the H.M.S. Repulse
This was the day of which I can say that I had a thorough enjoyment. With two of my friends, I pushed along with a pressing crowd to the cruiser, H.M.S. Repulse. Though our boarding this cruiser must be confessed was a surprise to us, yet, nevertheless, it was profoundly welcome.
Our faces beaming with joy, we wandered aimlessly for some time. It was during these wanderings that we came across a Corporal B. Oakley who proved a very friendly and an indefatigable guide. If I am able to recount my visits to the various compartments of the cruiser, I owe it to the untiring efforts of his to gain admittance wherever possible. We proceeded to the turret where the twin 15-inch guns are installed. We had to wait for a mass of people to leave it before we could find room in it. A stout man explained to us about the guns.
The shells for them are stored some one or two decks below, so that in the case of the enemies' shells striking the turret, the fear of their own shells inflicting some extra harm is forestalled. Every movement is controlled by levers. First the breach is opened. Then with a rumbling noise, a carrier swiftly ascends carrying a shell from the storeroom below and stops in line with the yawning breach. With the application of another lever, the shell is thrust into the breach. The breach is locked and an electric wire-end is inserted into a small opening in the shutter, just large enough to admit it. The aim is taken from a place between the guns. The switching on of the current into this wire is equivalent to the pulling of the trigger in an ordinary gun, and with a loud report away dashes off the messenger of destruction.
We listened and watched these movements with silence and genuine interest. Of course, I must not be confounded to mean that we actually heard the report, for, although these actions were shown us, a shell was not admitted to enact its share of the performance.
As we were later going along the corridors some decks below, a sailor invited us to enter a sundering corridor. No sooner had we three reached the end of this, when, with a click an iron door closed on us. There was barely room for us and it was suffocating. I was conscious of a feeling of something formidable in all this. And, in spite of that, I knew I could not rely upon myself to do any Houdini stunt. Without further ado, I concluded that the same feeling had pervaded the hearts of my friends. Imagine our horror then! Cold beads of perspiration stood on our foreheads. Each was staring into the face of the other askance.
"Courage, friends!" I uttered, but the words, however, fell with a chill on my own heart. I knew that if such words were needed at all, I was the one needing them most. Suddenly the planks on which we were standing sank under us, and all of a sudden the movement ceased. The door was opened by a sailor and I stepped out taking in a deep breath. My two friends also left that Black Hole of Calcutta, perhaps Black Hole of H.M.S. Repulse would be a more appropriate term for it.
"What is this?" I inquired of the sailor.
"This is the stoke room," he replied. I turned round and looked at the Black Hole and discovered it to be an electric lift. Feeling ashamed to look at it again, I, with my friends, followed the other to the stoves, which contained angry flames, leaping furiously.
We got a glimpse of the beautifully furnished captain's compartments. An orderly stood guarding their entrance.
The bookshop was slightly smaller than the one in the H.M.S. Hood. Photographs recording the finishes of the athletic events in which the members of the cruiser had taken part in different climes, could also be seen hanging nearby.
Here also we visited the engine-room, but it was not so hot. To my enquiry, Mr. Oakley told me that the heat would radiate when the cruiser is on the move.
To us it was very interesting to see a telephone exchange on board. There was a man on duty with a book and we were told that always there was a man there.
While again going along the corridors we came across the torpedo compartment. The torpedoes were stored here just as they were stored in the H.M.S. Hood. There are 4 twin tubes above the water line and 2 below. Each torpedo costs £1,200.
As regards the sporting side of the cruiser, we can say that it is very good as the reader himself or herself can judge from the little of what I am able to inform below.
The Cock Trophy, which they hold, is a cock made of silver. This trophy is to be competed for by battle-cruisers only. Every year all the battle-cruisers compete for it, sending separate classes of boats to win the races held for this purpose. The cruiser which wins the most points holds the trophy for one year. At the end of this period the competition is repeated. Last year the races were held at Skagen in Norway and the H.M.S. Repulse won by 81 points out of 230.
The Gold Vase was presented by Her late Majesty Queen Victoria to her Majesty's godson. Victor Alexander Ewart, at his birth. He became an officer of the Royal Navy and lost his life in the Battle of Jutland while serving on the H. M. S. Princess Mary. His wife, wishing that his name should not be forgotten, gave the vase to be competed for every year by Ward Room officers and Galley Crews.
The Glass Cut Bowl valued at £700, was presented by the Russian Government to the best ship in the British battle-cruiser squadron in 1914 at St.Petersberg, as it was then called. This was won by H.M.S. Inflexible and has been handed down to each succeeding ship since then. The International Cup was presented by the Brazilian Government to the warship which won the most points in all sports. In this competition nine nations competed. The Americans were especially trained for this with special diets, etc, while, on the other hand H.M.S. Repulse did not even know of it until it had arrived there. In the competition, however, it came out the winner.
These are the most treasured ones of the cruiser and about which I shall trouble the reader. The first three of the above mentioned prizes have been held by it for three years.
It may also prove surprising to my readers to learn that the first Repulse was built in 1596, the model of which can be seen in the present Repulse. Its length was 97 feet and tonnage 600. The length of the present H.M.S. Repulse is 794 feet and the tonnage is 37,100 and it is said to be the fastest cruiser in existence.
Well, we may as well join the chorus and take our cue to say just
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves."
Fishing in Malayan Waters
Fishing is one of the chief industries carried out by Malays in Malaya and they are, perhaps, the most successful in this work. Many present day fishermen are as adept as their forefathers, and account for large hauls of fish daily. These poor fishermen risk the dangers of the sea and deserve our sympathy in their work. It is easy work during calm weather but when storms break, the fishermen must become nervous when their small boats are tossed about upon the angry billows. When the storms break suddenly, it not infrequently happens that the small fishing boats are overturned and the occupants drowned. In spite of all these hardships the men carry on with their work.
There are various methods employed in Malaya for catching fish, namely, the methods of - kelong, jaring, belat, pukat, kisa and jermal, these being Malay terms. To exemplify the terms mentioned, I shall make an effort to describe the method called mengelong to interest my readers. The kelong (fish trap) itself is made of strong bakau wood which is obtained from a forest reserve through the kind permission of the Government. As the kelong has to stand all manner of winds and weather, the wood used is of a sturdy and durable type. Hundreds of hard wood trees are cut down and after they have been stripped of their branches and leaves, they are conveyed to the desired spot by means of sampans.
The selected spot is usually about ten fathoms deep. These piles are firmly fixed in the sea in the form of two triangles, one larger than the other, about seven hundred yards from the base. They are then netted closely with strong rattan so that the fish once inside cannot escape. Fish, which are attracted by the reflections of the wood in the water, or the rattan, fall blindly into the trap because fish are numerous in still water. The larger triangle of wood marks the spot for the haul, and to this place the boats are directed. When they get there, they proceed into the smaller triangle with baskets. The fish are then put into these baskets and carried away by the men. I have been to a real kelong during my stay at Morib during the last Christmas holidays. The kelong looked very tiny from the shore: but we were lucky the pawang (chief) asked us to accompany him out to the kelong.
Fishermen are very superstitious folks. Anyhow I will relate a story told by the pawang to us. It seemed this pawang had a hand who was rather a "bat in the belfry". By chance this man caught a fish weighing about eight katis. He was so excited that he forgot he was on the water. He held the fish proudly on his hand. The fish wriggled furiously but the fisherman held back. The fish stopped wriggling and panted for breath. The man held it in his left hand pretending that his right hand was a parang. He called his friends to witness his generosity in dividing, the fish equally.
"Listen friends," he said, licking his dry lips for he had already fancied he was tasting the fish, "this head shall be mine of which I shall make a nice curry." Here, he was unable to control himself for his mouth watered. "The tail," continued he, "is for you, my neigh…" but he got no further as the fish had lost its patience in listening to the talk and had just time to say good bye and plunged headlong into the water. The poor man, to assure himself that he was not dreaming, followed suit but the water soon brought him to his senses. So he returned drenched to his boat. He had "skinned his hare before he had shot it."
The Hill Railway
The day was indeed sombre. Outside, in the distance, the heavens had put up a huge cloud the significance of which was already obvious. Phoebus was passing through a veil of darkness. Already the winds had begun to blow violently, increasing in intensity as the minutes dragged on. Far out across the western hills could be seen flash after flash of lightning followed by the low yet audible intonations of thunder. The distant sea moaned, and huge waves began to dash vehemently upon the barren shore. The morning brightness was suddenly changed to evening gloom. The storm, "the accursed breath of Satan, the destroyer of all things...." was upon us.
It was my last day in Penang - the day that I proposed to go up the Penang Hill, by the hill train. The day that I had selected did not seem propitious but on the contrary, I was determined that nothing could frustrate my desire. My friends entreated me not to go out amid such an elemental onslaught but I remained inexorable. I reminded them that any fiascos bored me to point of exasperation, and turned a deaf car to their entreaties. We were soon seen going down the Penang Road, half walking, half running, to the Magazine, where we got into a tramcar, which, very soon sped through Datoh Kramat Road, leaving house after house, lane after lane, until we were about half the way when the rain poured down upon us in thick columns.
We could hardly see the way but I was positive we were in longer in the town, but somewhere in the vicinity of the small village of Ayer Itam. Soon afterwards with a clash which made us wince, the traim pulled up, and we concluded that we had come to our destination. It was still raining heavily and, wrapped in our raincoats, we got down and made our way for the small coffee shop, which stood by the roadside to get shelter from the ever-increasing rain. It was some time afterwards that the rain moderated in its intensity. The station is, more or less half a mile away and we, afraid of being late for the next train, ventured our way in the rain. Twenty minutes later, we were in a train which very soon began to ascend the Hill. The speed it took was, indeed, very slow.
The storm had subsided and the violent winds which had crept up so menacingly upon us had abated but mists still filmed from our eyes the whole spectacle below. Far away across the valley the Ayer Itam Reservoir presented to us a view that was blurred by the intervening mists. Beyond that nothing more could be seen, save dark patches of what seemed to be cocoanut trees. Through this film of mist, the train made its way to the second station, which stands halfway up the hill, where on arriving we had to change carriages. We seated ourselves in the other train which now began to climb the steep hill with no more additional speed to that which had been taken by the previous one.
And now the black clouds that had overcast the sky, to our surprise, had rolled away suddenly and with them also had gone the mists. In place of an inclement morning we had one, as a substitute, more bright and promising. The sun was once more shining (as we had expected) on the resplendent sea which, like a broad mirror, reflected the dazzling light, cast on it from the rays of Phoebus into our eyes. "It is truly wonderful, this sun that comes after rain" The panorama which now welcomed our eyes was indeed stupendous. Far away above the horizon in the unknown obscurities of Kedah towers the gigantic Gunong Gerai, whose highest peak, like an egoistical monarch, looks down with scorn and contempt at the lowest ones, which, like servants, lie prostrated towards His Majesty.
I then shot my eyes eastwards, into the heart of Province Wellesley where they struck patches of green meadows, which, on closer observation, convinced me that they were really paddy fields. The narrow strip of sea that separates Penang from the mainland seemed placid after the departure of the storm. Georgetown, the capital of Penang, presented to us a view which was serene and remarkable. The memory of such a glorious sight will live with me forever; nothing can obliterate it from my mind. At the Cape (I think it is Tanjong Panaga) where the town is situated, the houses are close together, but as it extends eastwards they become more and more scattered. The town, as a whole, seemed small, very much smaller than my imagination had created it. Down below, at the foot of the hill, nothing could be seen but cocoanut trees whose palms seemed to dance with the soft breeze as if delighted at the wonderful sunshine.
We had gone high enough now to feel that the air had become chilly. The train was approaching the last station. When it stopped we got off and made for the Craig Hotel, where we helped ourselves to some food. We then sauntered around the hill. Here we seemed to roam through another Garden of Eden where the aroma of wild flowers enticed us to penetrate further and further into the obscurities of Penang Hill. Under the stress of this temptation we gradally yielded ourselves, to be dragged by an unseen yet powerful force into the heart of this forest of wild flowers. I breathed a prayer that I could roam through this beautiful spot through eternity.
Father Time, it seemed this day, had taken a motor boat to go down the Stream of Life. It was already half past six in the evening. The sun had just disappeared behind the distant giant trees, leaving behind it a ray of purple light which inflamed the sky. The glorious beauty of the setting sun was only transient. The scene was continually changing until, at last, it grew to grey. The day died like a dolphin. It was apparently seven o'clock. The sky was illuminated by the many twinkling stars. The full moon was already high up, casting a faint silvery light upon ground and tree tops. Under this gaudy and brilliant sky of an Eastern night, we retraced our steps to the station.
My Visit to the Shwe Pagoda.
Many years ago, whilst appearing for a General Knowledge test in my class, I was asked by a certain teacher to state what and where Shwe Dagon was. I can distinctly remember that I described it as a big lake in the Argentina Republic whilst many others had it as a forest in New South Wales, a mountain in Southern California, a fertile plain in Asia Minor, and such guesses as would, but could not deceive the Argus eye of our shrewd examiner.
Needless to say, zero was all that I got for that particular answer and not being in any way discouraged, I turned to the index of my atlas an answer hoping to get an answer there. But what was my astonishment when I found that not only could I get no enlightenment there, but that the very name was not recorded in the big red book. I swore at Carter and called him a cheat.
However, an encyclopaedia that happened to be close by was resorted to and there, in brief, was recorded:
in the Buddhist World; in Rangoon;
One of the show places of the World.
And that was all - sixteen words. Not in any way satisfied, I determined in my boyish fancy that I must some day visit Burma and see for myself this grand temple, this magnificent pagoda that was dedicated to the glory of Lord Gautama, whose image is today worshipped by one third of the human race.
Shwe Dagon, encrusted thickly with gold leaf could be seen from the River, and as one reached the foot of the shrine, the sight was really one of glory and splendour, for it is to this pagoda that all travellers' paths converge. It is, truly, the most sacred place in all the Buddhist World, and pilgrims from distant China and Siam annually come here to pay tribute to their adored one. Up a long flight of stone steps you walk, on either side of which you see beautiful Burmese maidens dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, vending flowers, cheroots, oranges and candles. They chatter and smile as you pass by, and for a moment you feel that your dream is fulfilled, that you have reached the land of a thousand wonders, this country of mystery and fascination.
One hundred and fifty feet from the ground above the platform stands the gorgeous, glittering pagoda, which is very wide at the base and tapers gradually to a ball-shaped top, on which is a crown of solid gold and jewels, alone worth about a million dollars. With a feeling of awe you see Buddha itself on the main altar, so covered with gold and gems that the public is kept away from it by iron bars; whilst everywhere in the one hundred and one shrines, you see the same calm, unwinking image, contented and immovable to earthly joys and sorrows, Gautama, as he attained the long sought Nirvana.
The Fox and the Grapes
His parched throat to quench
The neigh'ring farmer's fence he scaled,
To see what he could "pinch".
An over-burden'd vine he spied
Supported by a prop
"If in the bunch my teeth I set"
Quoth he, "They needs must drop."
So rushing forward like Loke Meng
He made a gallant try,
But fell down with a wistful look
Full on the stones near by.
Three times he tried, three times he failed;
Not deigning it worthwhile.
"The grapes are sour, I need them not,"
Manfully he did cry.
The march, tactical scheme;
The bugle sounds at last,
"Lights out." Good-night! Good-night!
The sky is white with stars;
The tents are gleaming white;
Cadets from the sham fight
Sleep soundly through the night.
Sleep soundly till day dawns
And ends their dreams so brightl,
Until the morning breaks.
Good-night! Good-night! Good-night!
Dream or Vision?
The evening was a close, hot one and feeling too slack to do anything, I lazily strolled out of my room at Rumah Tikus down and sat down on the beach facing the sea. As my thoughts went from one subject to another, a large vessel ploughing her way out of the harbour attracted my attention. She was homeward bound, and, as I sat watching her, my thoughts flew far ahead. From this my thoughts flew to airships. I had only that afternoon read an account of the successful French ship of the air, Patrie. Suddenly I felt a touch on my shoulder, and I started to find my old friend Captain Unc of the coaster Nyok standing beside me. His vessel was an old one, she was so rapid that Unc himself used to call her the "Sudden Jerk."
"Hullo, old man," I said, "how's the old 'Sudden Jerk'?"
"Very well, thank you," he replied, and Unc smiled and then said, "So you haven't forgotten the old vessel, I see. If you are doing nothing, come along and see my new ship." I expressed my willingness and together strolled down towards the Harbour. As we came in view I stared and rubbed my eyes. The quay seemed strangely different from what it was when I saw it last.
"Good God!" I gasped, "Old man, what are those?"
"Those are airships," said he. "What year is this, old man?" I asked trembling with excitement. "Why, 1924, of course," said the old man. I stared and stared at them and they were so curious. "Come aboard my ship and I will show you round and give you a run down to Singapore." I boarded my friend's ship by means of a short ladder which led on to the top of the Torpedo-shaped vessel.
Soon I heard a long humming buzz, "What's that?" I asked. "Oh, that's only the lifting of the ship," said the old man, "Step outside and you'll get a better view of Penang than you have ever seen from the Crag." As I moved on to the deck, around me was the sky and later I could see the whole of Penang. "We go one hundred and fifty mile and in another four hours you'll see Singapore. You were out on the deckand if I had turned on the.third speed you would have been swept away like a leaf. Shut the door and watch through the glass. Here goes for one hundred and fifty miles an hour."
As he spoke, I heard a swish-h-h and the hum of the propellers. "That swishing sound you hear," said the captain, "is made by the ship against the rushing air. Penang is out of sight now." My friend spoke in such a matter-of-fact way that I began to question him, "You do not carry cargo, do you?" I asked. "Oh, no, we only take passengers and the mail. Go and take a look round her passenger saloon. My ship is only a two thousand miles radius one, so we have no cabins."
I hastened and found myself in what looked like the interior of a first class railway carriage. Just as I had finished my look round, I heard my friend calling me, "Come and see an aerial warship," said he. I hurried back to him and, on looking through the glass, I saw a glittering shape three times the size of ours. "That," said my friend, "is Hell-of-a-Devil, for she is a terrible air ship. That single vessel could wreck the whole of Singapore in half an hour." We swept by her side. With an interjection of surprise, "Oh! How pretty. Ah! How wise," said my friend, "that's Singapore, now we had better turn back."
The vessel swung round in a graceful curve and we were on the return journey. I stared with glittering eyes like the Ancient Mariner staring at the Wedding guest. In a short while, I saw the hilly island of Penang rise above the horizon and rush towards us as it seemed. Soon we were over the town. "Now we will drop back to the place," said my friend. I seemed to feel the ship sinking down under me, faster and faster. Suddenly, I felt we were falling and gave a great start. I opened my eyes to find myself still seated on the beach of Pulau Tikus and the sun setting redly away over the blue hills towards Tanjong Bungah. I had been asleep!
The Kuala Lumpur Mosque
Having seen various mosques throughout British Malaya, namely, those in Johore, Malacca, Perak, and Kedah, I cannot help appreciating the unique splendour of the mosque at Kuala Lumpur. The first sight of the mosque cannot fail to impress itself deeply into the minds of beholders. Many influences combine to impress a visitor - its brilliant situation almost in the heart of the town, and at the confluence of two waterways - the Klang and the Gombak Rivers. Contrast this with the several magnificent buildings of the Federal Capital, and with the hurrying bustle of modern life that environs it.
It is calm and peaceful. Its serenity is due to the two above-mentioned "yellow eddies," for they wall it on both sides; and separate it from the busy and noisy streets. In addition to that, it has exquisite premises where cocoanut palms and shady trees scatter here and there; under which green grass and beautiful flowers of many kinds grow luxuriantly.
The mosque is built in the form of a Malay Rumah Sereh and is one of the most remarkable examples of modern architecture in this country. Its most striking feature is the two lofty minarets which flank its dome. These cannot make a visitor remain indifferent to their admirable height and beauty. Beside these, there are several minor minarets, which protrude vertically from its square walls. The two lofty minarets are reached by winding staircases. On the top of one of these is the place where the belal, or priest, will, every Friday afternoon, musically shout at the top of his voice the warning of the commencing of Friday prayer.
The best view of the mosque is obtained from the bridge which is opposite to its front side, and from the embankment. Special interest centres in its interior, and in the little rectangular fountain which is just in front of its yawning door. The water of the fountain is used for washing face, hands and legs, as it is compulsory to every Mohammadan before saying his prayer to "have a wash".
The interior, indeed, is very spacious, and the marble floor is strewed with beautiful carpets of splendid quality. It is unlike the interior of a Roman Catholic church where lovely pictures are hanging round the walls as it is unfurnished and has a bare appearance which can almost be compared to the interior of a Protestant Church. Electric lights illuminate this beautifully carpeted hall with costly globes overhanging from the snowy white ceiling. On the altar which is said to be facing the holy city of Mecca, or in the direction of Phoebus' journey end, is the place where the solemn imam or chaplain will take his stand and conduct the Friday service.
The mosque is still in its infancy and there is no history of great importance; but during the British Empire Exhibition, it had the opportunity of imposing its lofty minarets onto the eyes of the millions who went to Wembley, for the architecture of the Malayan Pavilion consisted partly of the reproduction of this particular 'House of Allah', the pride of Kuala Lumpur.
Last update on 23 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min