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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Engineering as it used to be.–Part 3

Following on from Engineering as it used to be  - Part2, here is the next in the Saga. (Bloody hard work to remember that far back, believe you me). Anyhow, here goes.

The stage is set in the year of our Lord 1967, and the venue is Heathrow. I’d been driven there by my parents,  in their motorcar, (that’s what they were called in those days) and deposited at the terminal complete with two suitcases and hand luggage. My parents bid me a swift goodbye and departed in a cloud of smoke from the tyres on their motorcar. I always had the feeling that they’d been trying to get rid of me for many years. After all they had sent me to a prison camp boarding school, for three years.

Any way must get on.

In those days there were no wheels on suitcases and no trolleys in racks for the use of the fare paying passengers, so I lugged my bags to the check desk by sheer brute force and threw myself  at the mercy of the stewardess at the check in desk. A quick check of my passport and the issue of a boarding pass, (There was no “Did you pack your own cases in those days”. Mind you would you say, “My luggage was packed for me by a man in a dress sporting a bushy beard”, No.). Anyhoo, straight off to the departure lounge to await my aeroplane. After a short while we boarded the mighty bird of the skies. A Vickers vanguard turboprop.

To jump ahead after 26 hours of flight and stopovers we finally reached our destination. Singapore. After passing through immigration, cursory at best, as we still had significant influence on the island, we emerged into the heat and oh Fuck me, it was hot. Not only hot, it had a humidity that you could barely cut with a bread knife. I luckily was met by a crown agent who  informed me that the ship I was supposed to join had not actually arrived and he was going to put me up in a hotel for the next couple of nights.

My apologies for the lack of engineering so far. This bit just sets the tone of what it was like back in the dim and distant past.

Now comes the fun part, expenses were regulated, like a troughing MP would die for. The agent hands me 80 singapore dollars and tells me that it is to cover my hotel bill and expenses. Well in those days there were 8 dollars to the pound which equates to £5 per day. I was used to subsistence in the UK of less than £5 per week. Even better when I found that my hotel was only 5 dollars per night, and Tiger beer was  only 50 cents per pint. I’d truly found a job made in heaven. Or so I thought.

To be continued………………….Hell begins.


  1. Your saga's like the early 1950's Saturday morning pictures: just when you think it'll get interesting, you have to wait till the next episode!

  2. It's called suspense.

    It's bad enough remembering what happened yeserday at my age, let alone 40 years ago.

  3. Write a book before you forget it all, otherwise it's lost forever.

  4. Don't forget the scrapes, like that young lady who seemed remarkably friendly.

  5. Captain Haddock14 April 2011 at 10:47

    Ahhh .. Tiger Beer (or "Tiger Tops") .. The Dockyard "Wet Canteen" .. Sembawang "ville" .. Egg Banjos, or cans of Campbells Condensed Soup (cos you knew exactly what was coming out of both types of packaging) .. Nee-Soon & "Virgin's Corner" .. Tri-shaw "races" into Singapore City .. Bugis Street ..

    Happy, heady days indeed .. ;)

  6. Kranji W/T 66 - 68 lived in JB, 90 Jalan Aneka, Serene Gardens.
    Had a lovely Ahma who, besides her other duties used to baby sit and cook nasi goreng every Wednesday.
    In contrast to the heavy, damp, heat was the inpenetrable wall of water during a monsoon attack.
    wonderful memories and a bright start to the day.

  7. I experienced the stifling heat and humidity of Singapore in 1988. But by then air conditioning was standard in the new terminal and most coaches. This meant I was alternately sweating profusely, or shivering in damp clothing!!

    The tourist coaches had a separate 2 cylinder engine just to drive the air con, which they left running all the time. I remember a LAKE of water underneath one when returning from a visit to a Chinese temple...

  8. Captain Haddock14 April 2011 at 19:13

    When I was in "Singas" you could almost set your watch by the daily 3.00 pm downpour ..

    We all bought those green, Chinese umbrellas, referred to by the Matelots as a "Wanchai Burbs" (Burberry were the makers of RN issue raincoats back then) .. which were coated with fish-based glue & stank to high heaven when they got wet .. ;)

  9. I've still got a Wanchai burberry in the bottom of my wardrobe.

    If you been out to Singapore lately, you wouldn't recognise it. They're slowly concreting over the whole island.

  10. Captain Haddock14 April 2011 at 19:44

    Yeah, I know FE .. I used to work with a guy who's married to a Singaporean girl & they used to go back to see her folks every couple of years ..

    He was telling me that Arab Street, Change Alley, Bugis Street etc are unrecognisable now ..

    Think I'd rather hang on to the old photos & the happy memories ..

  11. Mind you. In Sembewang they still have the lovely old colonial built houses built for the British military.

  12. Captain Haddock15 April 2011 at 18:22

    Do they still have those sodding Monsoon Drains opposite Sembawang Gate ?

    I became rather intimate with them .. ;)

  13. CH. Yep the're still there. Sadly the village has virtually gone. The "Golden Grind" is now a motorcycle shop. sacrilege!

  14. Captain Haddock16 April 2011 at 01:20

    Oh well, I suppose they've just swapped one kind of bike for another .. :)


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