Eventful England and Europe experience

During the Movement Control Order (MCO) and Lockdowns due to the global pandemic, we are staying connected and engaging with others beyond our homes through social media and the internet.

In Rome, in front of the Arch of Constantine,
next to the Colosseum [Right]
While we stay home, the internet is providing us with loads of news and interesting information about the prevailing pandemic, oftentimes overwhelming us with too much information.

On the other side of the coin, we also have online access to entertaining material like comedy shows, Do-It-Yourself guides and of course, recipes to cook up a storm.

Virtual concerts and museum tours are another form of exciting and entertaining experience and I have been receiving links to virtual tours of various destinations, local and abroad, including an interesting visit to the Holy Land.

International travel seems a long way off and after this global pandemic, air travel will never be the same again, especially with temperature checks, physical distancing and the higher costs due to the lower capacity in each flight.

In front of the iconic Cathedral
of Notre Dame, Paris
Considering the new-normal lifestyle that we are compelled to adopt in the post-pandemic time, I am ever grateful for all the travel experiences we enjoyed in the pre-pandemic years.

In A special bond with Bernice (April 24) I shared about our epic trip to Europe when I travelled with my mother and Aunty Polly, Bernice’s mother, to meet up with Bernice who was then based in London.

My second sister, Pearly, and her family lived in Chinnor, a village close to Thame in Oxfordshire, and all of them turned up to welcome us upon our arrival at Heathrow.

This was not our first time in the UK as my parents and eldest sister, Ruby, were there for Pearly’s wedding, and I too have visited Pearly and her family for my own English experience with an unforgettable time at Windsor and Shakespeare Land.

So, this trip was mainly to enjoy a special holiday with our mothers.

Our old albums, filled with a wide collection of photographs and souvenirs from this trip, reminded me that it was such a good trip and I am more than pleased that we shared this European experience with our mothers.

One of our daily briefings with Bernice in her London flat
Pearly had arranged time-out from her family to join Aunty Polly, our mother and I on the European sector of the trip and from time to time, she too stayed with us in Bernice’s flat in London.

We had planned to explore destinations in London before heading off to Paris by train on the Eurostar and after a brief break back in London, we would fly out to Rome for a visit that included the Vatican City.

On our return, Pearly and Bernice were on leave to join us on a self-drive road trip North to the Lake District in the next sector of our holiday.

In our self-drive tour, we also spent time with Pearly and her family in Chinnor and we also visited her in-laws who lived at Banbury.

A visit to Banbury was not complete without seeing Banbury Cross because it reminded us of the charming English nursery rhyme:

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
And she shall have music wherever she goes

Banbury Cross at Banbury in
Oxfordshire with Aunty Polly
Bernice’s flat was our base in London and every day, she would sit us down for a briefing with a map of the London Underground to help us find our way around that usually ended with a rendezvous for dinner at home or somewhere in the city.

The London Underground had its origins as the world’s first underground passenger railway and one of the oldest networks of trains in the world.

At first it was rather intimidating and complicated but thankfully, we managed to read the map and mastered the art of reading signs so that we always walked in the right direction to exit from underground!

My trips to the UK were always marked by taking in a live theatre show or two and it was no different this time because we had tickets to enjoy two musicals, The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre and Mama Mia at the Prince Edward theatre.

There was always something special about watching a live performance and for me, it was an even more spectacular experience when it was enjoyed in classic theatres in London’s own Theatreland!

At the Lyceum Theatre to watch
The Lion King
We also went to Knightsbridge for a visit to Harrods, a landmark department store, to buy Harrods branded souvenirs and gawk at the shrine set up in memory of the late Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed.

[This has a special place in my heart because my first trip to the UK was just after the Princess’s tragic passing and I remember joining the throng in front of Kensington Palace which was flooded with flowers and souvenirs presented in her memory.]

After 13 years on display, this memorial was removed in 2018 when Harrods was sold to the Qatari royal family’s investment company, Qatar Investment Authority.

While it was fun and exciting to browse around in renowned department stores like Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, I still preferred to walk along cobblestone paths to shop in village stores and sniff out vintage souvenirs from charity shops.

And that was what we did when we explored the charming countryside in Oxfordshire and the beautiful Lake District.

At Prince Edward theatre to watch Mama Mia!
Among the tasty treats to savour and satisfy on our snack attacks – which were plenty – were fresh and preserved fruits, potato crisps and a wide range of delicious chocolates.

And with so much walking in the lovely cool weather (natural air-con!), these calories were all burnt off and when we returned from this trip, we ended up thinner than before!

Looking back, it was indeed a timely trip because there was such a great deal of walking to explore and enjoy, and it was so good that our mothers could still share the experience with us.

As they advanced in age, it would be challenging for our mothers to keep the pace to explore all the must-see sights in Paris and Rome – that included a climb up the flights of stairs up the Eiffel Tower – but they did very well.

On our self-drive road trip North to the Lake District
Our eventful holiday culminated with an unforgettable family gathering to celebrate Aunty Polly’s birthday held in the comfort of Bernice’s flat. This was also the last time we met with other Ng family members who were based in London.

As the new-normal looms ahead in the post-pandemic era, come with me on an armchair travel experience to relive our precious family travel memories.

Daiman Cares shines through the darkness

On Monday, April 13, it was reported that there was a short supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front-line personnel treating patients affected by Covid19.

Parcels presented by the Daiman Group to
Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Johor Baru
The report stated that PPE is one of the disposal items that are used daily and the current stock would last for just another two weeks.

While the Ministry of Health would proceed with their normal channel in the procurement of PPE, it also welcomed donations from Non-Governmental Organisations.

Incidentally, among other things shared in A season of darkness (April 12), I said:

While you may feel helpless and restless, just waiting for the MCO to be over, give serious thought to the front-liners who are working hard and risking their lives to care for the sick.

Parcels delivered to Hospital Sultan Ismail,
But if you can contribute in one way or another, in supporting charities for the less privileged or to do volunteer work, please step forward. Just reach out to the charity of your choice now.”

Meanwhile I was glad that socially conscious individuals, groups and organisations were already contributing their time, effort and resources to the marginalized community here.

Then on April 28, I was delighted to learn that the Daiman Group presented Hospital Sultanah Aminah and Hospital Sultan Ismail with parcels of protective equipment that would go a long way to supplement their current stock.

Through their Daiman Cares Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm, the Daiman Group responded to the plea for public donations by the Johor Doctors’ Association to battle the Covid19 pandemic.

A small team from Daiman Cares delivered the parcels and presented them to hospital representatives at the two main government hospitals in Johor Baru.

The protective equipment donated included 2,000 N95 face masks and 300 sets of PPE comprising disposable coveralls and safety goggles for use by medical front-liners.

The parcels presented by the Daiman Group was safely received at Hospital Sultan Ismail, Johor Baru 
The Johor Doctors’ Association continues to appeal for donations as this protective equipment are disposable items that they need to use daily.

If you or your organization, is ready to contribute, please do not hesitate to contact

Thank you. Your contributions are a bright ray of hope in this season of darkness.

Photos courtesy of The Daiman Group and Brand Culture.

A special bond with Bernice

Over the years, we stayed in close touch with cousin Bernice at all the places which she once called home, from Johor Baru and Kluang in Johor to Kuala Lumpur, Perth, Melbourne and then London.

Waiting for our train at an MRT station in Singapore;
[L to R] Bernice, Gillian, me and Melina
The growing-up years for Bernice and her sister, Gillian, was an extraordinary lifestyle in the dairy farm located at Ayer Hitam-Kluang when their father, Uncle Steven, was working with the Government-run Central Animal Husbandry Station.

In the farm, they shifted at least three times to various quarters and their final home was a rambling farmhouse set on a hilltop, surrounded by rolling hills of grassy paddocks that were often dotted with grazing cows.

The farm, where the number of cows – and later, goats too – outnumbered people, was a refreshing change for city-slickers like us, who longed to escape to this green lung that was modelled after an Australian dairy farm.

Their home in the farm had an open-door policy that welcomed everyone in the extended family, and it was always a popular weekend destination.

At the farm with Bernice and Gillian;
[Back Row] That's me with Aunty Irene
So, the aroma of fresh cow dung – derived from eating lush grass – soon became a familiar fragrance when we visited the milking sheds and calf pens, and whenever the wind changed direction and sent the pong in the direction of the house!

Developed on the edge of secondary jungles where wild animals roamed, wild boars would often break through the fence to terrorize the grazing cows in the paddocks.

To protect the herds that were bred for the supply of milk, Uncle was assigned a licensed double-barrel gun to shoot and kill wild animals that intruded into the farm.

Armed with his gun, Uncle would hop into his four-wheel drive vehicle for a slow drive-about in the farm at night, to check on the herds left in the paddocks.

Meanwhile, dad also used to have a licensed gun for hunting while he was based in the districts for work but had given it up after his retirement.

So, when Uncle invited dad to join him on his night rounds to check on the herds, it was yet another reason for us to be at the farm.

Even while they were staying at the farm, Uncle and Aunty did not hesitate to pack the family into the car for a drive down to JB or Masai for our family gatherings.

Take a closer look at the masthead design for My Johor Stories [See above!] for a snippet from a note written by my dad to me, that’s included in this design.

In the center, the last line my dad wrote reads as: “Kluang gang came down yesterday.”

Dad was fondly referring to Uncle Steven, Aunty Polly and their two girls as the Kluang gang, an adventurous family who would make excursions to JB or Masai, sometimes even on the spur of the moment!

Bernice and I on holiday in Hong Kong
Uncle and his family also earned the nickname, Champions because the scenic drive from the farm to JB was never an obstacle to deter them from joining us for any special occasion.

When asked how long was their drive? Gillian would bluntly reply, “Five minutes.”

This was because she would doze off to sleep in the car and when she woke up on their arrival, it must have felt like just five minutes ago when she had boarded the car!

During the girls’ school-going years in Kluang, I remember accompanying Aunty to send or pick them up from school and then going shopping or having a meal in town.

I also remember the year-end school holidays when Bernice and Gillian would be in JB to join us for Christmas shopping and of course, our Christmas party.

Enjoying a seafood dinner at Lamma Island, Hong Kong
When the girls were old enough, they also joined me on an annual trip to Orchard Road in Singapore to take in the city lights and soak in the season’s festive cheer.

Since the day she was born, I had the joy of seeing Bernice as she blossomed into girlhood and was also there when she started her exciting and eventful career.

After graduating from University, she was ready to start her career with an internship, and I remember going through my wardrobe and presenting her with a few pieces of smart office outfits.

From then on, she made her own way up the proverbial corporate ladder to reach new heights of achievement with every organization that she worked with.

Suddenly Bernice was a fellow career woman and we moved into a cousin-peer relationship.

I was thrilled when she invited me on a holiday break with her to Hong Kong in 2000 and she even took care of arranging my return flights, JB – KL – Hong Kong.

It was a very interesting experience for me because our roles were then reversed as she took the lead to organize our trip to meet with her colleagues who were based there, with a side trip to Macau too.

After our Notting Hill street fight:
That's Bernice pointing to my (ouch!) facial wound!
Later, while Bernice was based in the UK, we arranged an epic European trip where I escorted our mothers from Malaysia to meet with her in London.

With her help, we planned two separate trips to Paris and Rome, with my sister Pearly, who also lived in UK, who joined our mothers and I to make up a foursome.

While we stayed in London with Bernice, I remember every day when she would sit us down for daily briefings to discuss logistics and other travel details to ensure that we should find our way about the city on the next day’s outing.

The romantic-comedy, Notting Hill, which starred Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, was BIG since 1999 so I asked to visit the weekend street markets there and Bernice kindly obliged.

It turned out to be an unforgettable outing, not because we had a close encounter with the charming Hugh Grant but because we were involved in a street fight that ended with a rude woman trying to take a swipe at Bernice but she missed.

Instead, one of her claw-like nails grazed my face…

Enjoying our English Tea at Windermere, Lake District;
[L to R] Aunty Polly, mum, Bernice, Pearly and me.
It happened so fast that I did not feel any pain, not until we were on the bus and the cool breeze brushed my face… and Bernice spotted fresh blood trickling down.

Our eventful holiday continued to Paris and Rome, and then back to the UK after each destination, and in the next sector of our holiday, Bernice joined us on a self-drive trip, North to the beautiful Lake District.

In 2002, Bernice was back in JB again to join the extended family gathered for a grand celebration of our grandmother’s 90th birthday.

Then when Bernice got married on 30 December 2004, for some reason, I could not attend her wedding arranged in Melbourne.

Bernice and Gillian with their parents
at grandmother's 90th birthday celebration
Bernice and Jay’s wedding was held in a gorgeous setting of a beautiful vineyard on a sunny summer’s day and everything went on beautifully, but I also heard about their battle with uninvited guests – flies!

The following year Bernice and Jay hosted a wedding reception for relatives in JB and I was honoured to be one of the two MCs at this happy event.

After their two sons were born in Australia, the family relocated to the UK.

One day, Bernice sent a message telling me about Karen, her friend from Kluang who was also based in the UK, whose grandfather used to operate a Shanghai Dhoby (laundry) shop in Johor Baru.

I instantly knew who she was talking about and happily replied, confirming that I was in touch with Karen’s uncle who had taken over the family business and that this Shanghai Dhoby story would also be featured in my book!

Soon after my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage was launched in July 2017, I had the pleasure to personally deliver my books to my sister, Pearly, and to Bernice in the UK.

With young Jackson and my book in 2017
[We had planned a family trip to Finland and on our return, we stayed with Bernice’s family.]

Bernice reminded me to bring along more books as she wished to share them with her friends, especially to present an autographed copy to Karen.

I remember, one morning, while I was signing my books for Bernice when Jackson, joined us at the table.

When Jackson looked at my book cover, his eyes widened when he suddenly recognized me from my brand identity (avatar) printed on the cover design.

“It’s you!” yelled the excited 10-year old.

“Yes, it’s me,” I calmly replied, trying hard to keep a straight face.

“You’re an author?” Jackson asked in an incredulous tone.

Bernice and I on Jalan Trus, JB in 2018
I replied, “Yes.” And Jackson jumped on me, clutching my arm so hard and almost broke it (thankfully it was not my signing arm!) as he gave me a big hug.

With her sons well trained and already quite independent, Bernice was able to visit JB again with her parents in 2018.

It was my pleasure to take them on a walking tour of the JB heritage quarter with a visit to the Shanghai Dhoby shop (then still open) at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and onward to a food trail to savour all her favourite local street food.

Since her most recent visit to JB for an epic Chinese New Year reunion in 2020, our special bond with Bernice continues with regular WhatsApp chats and video chats.

Note: My books, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage and My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People are available from MPH bookstores nationwide and online from www.mphonline.com

Bernice, our Miracle Baby

PLEASE BE WARNED: Explicit photographs may be disturbing.

Bernice dear,           

Let me continue from where I left off about you, our Miracle Baby because sharing this is an affirmation of God’s goodness and mercies towards you and your family.

Aunty Polly with baby Bernice on your
One Month Old celebration at 154
When you were old enough to understand, I believe your parents may have shared this Miracle Baby incident with you. It was then buried away because the horror of this traumatic incident was just too painful and ugly to bear.

When I discovered this set of photographs among the collection of photos by Uncle Victor, I couldn’t help getting vivid flashbacks to that awful night at 154.

The impressive quality of these Black-and-White shots have kept so well since 1972 and they serve as a firm record of what happened to you and your mother on that unforgettable night.

These photos are proof that it was truly God’s Mighty Hand that shielded you and your mother, and of course, Saroja the helper, from harm.

Ber, I was there too, and this is my version shared to give thanks and praise to GOD Almighty for preserving you and your dear mother through that ghastly incident.

I’m also sharing this with a SERIOUS WARNING to drinkers who drive under the influence of alcohol, to remind them to NEVER EVER drive after a few drinks.

Alcohol in the body will cause drinkers to lose control of their faculties and they are in NO condition to drive a motor vehicle. So please say NO to Drink-Driving!

Aunty Polly feeding baby Bernice; She is
seated on the low bed inside the bedroom.
Grandfather’s house at No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng, was a double-storey bungalow with an adjacent badminton court that was surrounded by tall bamboo bushes growing through the wire fence, to keep breezes out during badminton training.

The downstairs section of this bungalow was constructed in bricks and concrete while the staircase and upstairs section was built of wood. After the building renovation, the kitchen, bathrooms and toilets downstairs were rebuilt in bricks.

My mother told me that during World War Two, the family left the house to hide from the Japanese invaders and this property was left in the charge of a caretaker.

Built of such sturdy materials, this old house survived the ravages of war and later when it was safe to return to town, the family moved back to 154.

Jalan Ngee Heng was then a two-way main road in Johor Baru for motor vehicles and public buses so while we lived at 154, we got used to the street sounds of motorists passing to and fro, from early morning till late at night.

The road behind 154 led to a round-about with roads that branched out to Jalan Tebrau, downtown to Jalan Wong Ah Fook and to the Causeway into Singapore.

It was a busy thoroughfare and every now and then, we would hear cars hooting or screeching to a sudden halt and sometimes it would end with a loud crash followed by heated arguments when vehicles happened to collide.

Whenever we heard a loud crash, it was normal for us to head to the nearest window upstairs to watch the altercation with morbid interest for any bloodshed, violence or gore, and to see if the parties settled the matter or if the Police would be involved.

As you know Ber, your mother welcomed you into the world in the absence of your father, who was then in Tasmania, Australia, on a Government study scholarship.

I’m sure he dearly wished to be by your mother’s side as she advanced in her first pregnancy, but they had reached a brave decision for him to proceed with the study course because it was a rare opportunity to be awarded such a scholarship.

Grandfather and grandmother were thrilled to have you at 154 and we, your cousins, were happy to have the newest addition to the family in the house for us to play with.

Our second sister, Pearly, was gifted in caring for others so your mother would entrust you into her care quite confidently. (Her skills were put to good use because later she qualified as a nurse in the UK and enjoyed a long and exciting career there.)

Your mother also had Saroja, a helper who stayed in the same room with the both of you, ready to lend a hand especially when you got up for feeds at night.

Your mother and Saroja slept on two single beds that were arranged end-to-end, with both beds lined against the right wall of the room, and the higher bed was placed closest to the room door.

In the room, your baby cot was placed parallel to your mother’s bed, the lower one (used by Uncle Billy when this was his room), arranged close to the back wall.

Back then, houses were designed with strategically placed windows for cross-ventilation because people lived with natural ventilation and there was no such thing as ceiling fans or air-conditioners.

There was probably an electric table fan to use but during the confinement month, the new mother was traditionally not encouraged to expose herself to any wind.

If grandmother were to sit down to relax, she would be steadily waving a hand fan to cool herself down. Hers was usually a strong satay fan that carried more wind. So, if your mother felt warm, she only had a hand fan to cool herself.

At night, the room windows were closed to keep out mosquitoes and other insects and on most nights, the double-doors of your bedroom downstairs would be closed.

But on that unforgettable night, it was just too warm, so the room doors were left open to allow more air to circulate from the sitting room and hall.

It happened that Aunty Annie and her baby, Derek, were staying at 154 because her husband was then based in Batu Pahat for work.

It also happened that Uncle Arthur was home because the next morning he was to head to Kuala Lumpur to represent the Royal Malaysian Navy in a badminton tournament.

I have mentioned that Grandmother dubbed Uncle, “Tah Poh Wan Sek,” meaning he played badminton for a living, because he often represented the Navy in this game.

There was plenty of room at 154 so Aunty Annie and her son slept in the Girls’ room with Aunty Sylvia and our eldest sister Ruby, while Uncle Arthur slept on a canvas bed, set up in Uncle Victor’s room upstairs.

It was an ordinary school night for us, the children, who prepared for bed after doing our homework and studies because the next morning was a school day. So, the four of us, Philip and Kenneth, Pearly and I, went to bed in the Children’s room.

As usual, Uncle Arthur, Uncle Victor, and other players were at badminton training on the court while the grandparents would watch television before turning in for bed after the News.

The force of this crash that brought the
 fence down [under the car!] and through
the brick wall into this bedroom at 154;
The solid window frame is resting on the car;
A chilling sight of the baby pram...
Just as they did in the previous weeks since you and your mother returned from the hospital, Aunty Polly and Saroja settled you down for bed after your feed.

The uncles were probably the last people to turn in for the night and then everyone in 154 were in bed, drifting off to slumberland.

All of us were already in deep sleep when we were rudely awakened by such a shockingly loud bang that I thought it even shook our bed. 

From such a loud bang, we naturally assumed that it was a nearby collision and instinctively got up to open the back window to have a look.

Aunty Annie, who was sleeping in the Girls’ room located directly above your mother’s confinement room, heard the loud bang and she too felt her bed shake.

She too jumped up and opened the back window in their room almost the same time as we, the children in the next room had thrown open our window to look outside.

But in our initial scan of the panoramic view, there was no sign of any collision.

It was Aunty Annie’s screams that drew our eyes downwards and we were momentarily stunned when we saw the back of a car sticking out of the wall of the room directly below hers!

Fearful that the upstairs room might collapse, Aunty Annie immediately grabbed her son and rushed downstairs.

The shocking realization that no collision happened on the road but that a car had crashed INTO our house, galvanized us to move and all of us rushed downstairs.

A cloud of smokey dust had arisen from the rubble which obstructed our vision in the pitch darkness and our nostrils were greeted by the pungent smell of a mixture of concrete/brick dust, vegetation (broken bamboo!) and petrol.

Aunty Annie urgently called out instructions to open the front door and windows because she was worried that there might be an explosion.

Power supply was suddenly shut off because electricity cables were suddenly severed, and this overwhelming darkness added to our fear.

I am unclear about the sequence of events because everything happened so quickly. But the situation was simply chaotic.

I heard voices of grandfather and grandmother but as children who might get in the way, we stood aside (trembling in fear!) while the uncles dashed ahead into the horrific scene.

The lower bed, on which Aunty Polly was asleep, had been shoved under the higher bed by the impact of the crash!
When they saw the bonnet of the car half-way INSIDE the bedroom with a layer of bamboo fence under the car, surrounded by rubble from the broken wall and window strewn all over, emotions ran strong and wild in a mixture of fear and anger.

Grandfather panicked because he assumed that the baby cot was under the car!

While he called repeatedly, “Bernice! Bernice!” grandfather frantically dug through the rubble with his bare hands, attempting to find baby Bernice!

Someone stopped grandfather and assured him that Bernice was safe because the impact of the car crashing through the wall, had hit the wooden cot and sent it sliding safely out to the sitting room through the semi-opened room doors!

The baby cot, draped with a mosquito net canopy [Right]
went safely through the open doors of the bedroom!
It was indeed Divine Providence that kept the room’s double doors open that night for your cot to slide out smoothly through its doors, safely into the sitting room!

When they opened the pink canopy that covered your cot Ber, they saw you lying down quietly, still soundly asleep!

You were gently lifted and cuddled – waking you up in that process – and your soft cries were the most beautiful sounds we heard because you were virtually unharmed.

Assured that you were safe, grandfather turned his attention to your mother and by the light of torches, he searched for his daughter, urgently calling out repeatedly, “Polly! Polly!” because she was nowhere in sight.

As described, the two singled beds were arranged end-to-end with the lower bed on which your mother slept, placed nearest the wall and window that had collapsed.

Because that very spot for this bed was then occupied by the car which had crashed inside, the next few moments was of pure panic again…

Once again, it was Divine Providence that the impact of the horrific crash had sent the lower bed DIRECTLY under the higher bed, where your mother still laid!

Aunty Polly was retrieved from under the higher bed;
Note the dark outline on the bed that marked the spot where
Saroja was still asleep when the brick dust settled on her bed.
She might have passed out for a bit due to the impact because her muffled cries led us to discover her lying below the higher bed.

When your mother was retrieved from her tight cocoon, it was a huge relieve to see that she could stand up in spite of some bleeding from wounds on her knee and she was helped to walk to the next room (the grandparents’ room) where she rested.

Later your mother and Saroja were taken to hospital for a thorough examination and while Saroja was treated as an outpatient, your mother was admitted for observation.

Your mother described this hospital stay as two of the most dreadful days of her life because she was apart from you, her newborn baby girl.

Meanwhile someone had dispatched the uncles to inform eldest brother, Uncle Roland, who was then based in the Johor Baru General Hospital and lived in the Government quarters there.

Right view of the car halfway inside the room!
Uncle Arthur rode pillion while Uncle Victor drove grandfather’s Lambretta scooter.

Remember the crash happened so unexpectedly while everyone including Aunty Polly, Saroja, and you, were soundly asleep.

Moments after the brick dust had settled over Saroja (the outlines of her prone body were evident from her bed covers!) she got up to the shocking scene of the bonnet of a car INSIDE their room.

Covered in a whitish coat of brick dust, Saroja looked a strange sight and we remembered the first words she uttered in shock, “Nasib baik, kaki tak patah!” [Malay for, So fortunate that my legs were not fractured!]

As the cloud of dust cleared, they saw a strange man standing in the room – the driver of the car – who was obviously drunk because his first reaction was concern for his car!

Everyone was in shock and so stunned that nobody knew how to confront him!

Left view of the car; the tortoise
aquarium was on the ground [Right] and
grandfather's orchids hanging on the stand
At some point the uncles returned with Uncle Roland, along with a lawyer friend who was in a better position to offer professional advice.

When Uncle Roland witnessed the horrific scene that involved his sister and newborn baby, he could not help his furious reaction towards that drunkard driver.

We know Uncle Roland… and this irresponsible driver would have suffered untold physical damage if Uncle unleashed his barely suppressed fury on him but thankfully, grandfather stopped Uncle from laying a hand on him.

By this time, it was already dawn and we, the children were ushered away to get ready for school and firmly instructed not to breathe a word about what happened.

Everything that unfolded later that day passed in a blur because we were still in shock and with so little sleep, the unsettled feeling was like a horrible nightmare.

Someone must have done a physical assessment on the building structure and deemed it safe to go upstairs even though that wall downstairs had collapsed.

Bernice at the JB Railway Station with her
mother [Right], cousin Catherine and my
sister, Pearly [Left] all ready for a train ride; 1974
In the light of day – and from these explicit photos – we saw that the car had shot through the thick fence of wire and tall bamboo, crashed on shelves of grandfather’s potted orchid plants and across Uncle Victor’s tortoise aquarium on the ground before it smashed through the window and wall of the bedroom.

Uncle Roland then spent the rest of the day at 154 helping to sort out the situation.

I later learnt that Uncle was scheduled to participate in a badminton tournament the next day. But due to this horrific incident at 154, for once he gave a poor performance in his game.

Meanwhile we were worried that grandfather’s heart might fail him, but thankfully he held up quite well. After the debris was cleared, the wall downstairs was quickly rebuilt.

I do not know the outcome of this case, but I overheard snippets of adult conversations and learnt that the drunkard driver was in fact, a Police Inspector.

Ber, on the two days while your mother was warded in hospital, Aunty Annie cared for you with the help from our sister, Pearly, and of course, all of us at 154.

Cousin Bernice and I share a special bond
At the hospital, the doctor’s examination revealed that there was damage to your mother’s inner ear. While the wounds on her knee may have healed, this horrific incident left her with hearing issues that continued to bother her over the years.

So, at your One Month Old celebration we had every reason for thanksgiving because my dear Ber, you were our beloved Miracle Baby, preserved by God’s merciful grace!

On your father’s return to be with his beloved wife and first-born babe, words could not describe your parents’ joy and great relieve when they were reunited again.

Even though this was so many years ago, we can still look back and acknowledge that it was clearly GOD’s divine intervention that preserved our precious Miracle Baby.

And by God’s grace, this Miracle Baby grew up to be a charming girl and confident young lady who developed an exciting career that took you to live and work abroad, and now, blessed with a loving husband and two handsome sons.

Ber, God is always so good.

Much, much love
from your Peggy jie jie

Note: Photos of the horrific incident by Victor Ng; Information gathered from first-hand experiences of Polly Ng-Choo, Annie Ng-Gan, Sylvia Ng-Mok, Arthur Ng and my sisters, Ruby and Pearly.