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October 1985
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This page was written from memory 33 years later, with help from Yvonne's (unpublished) diary.


Wednesday, 16 October 1985 Rosbach → Kaarst
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Off this morning on our trip to Australia. First brought our cats Bianca and Clove to Mrs Kneip's, where they have Calimero and Cuching Merah as company. Greggie, our Borzoi, went to the Meyers down the road, where son Dirk is really looking forward to having him.

Off in the evening, round 17:30, through clogged Autobahnen to Neuss, where I somehow managed to arrive at Michael [Yvonne's brother] and Heike's shortly after 19:30 [an average speed of about 115 km/h]. Their cats (Wonny, Domino and Djengis Khan) all have had diarrhoea for weeks. though finally there seems to be some indication of improvement. About time, too: Heike is due to foal in about 2 months. She's already quite round.

Dinner was artichokes with a Michael's special sauce (mainly garlic), and then tortellini.

Early to bed, and slept badly. This folding couch doesn't help one sleep.


Thursday, 17 October 1985 Kaarst → Amsterdam → Athens Images for 17 October 1985
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Up at 6:15 and off to Amsterdam, where checkin and flight to Athens went smoothly. By the time we got to the hotel it was getting dark.

Walked around the port for a while, then back to the hotel for an aperitive, where a Greek grandma was only too happy to look after Yana. She's on the same flight as we are, and she'd like to baby sit her. The hotel dinner (part of the package) was early and tasteless, so we left it and went outside to look for better food. We didn't have to look far: just round the corner was a little ταβέρνα where we ate taramasalata and tzatziki, both new to Yvonne. The tzatziki was particularly full of garlic, clearly intended to shock the foreigners. The waiter came to me and asked me how I liked it, so I answered "not bad, but it could do with more garlic”. And for some reason he was amazed. You'd think he had never seen an Australian before.

More trouble sleeping: the airport noise was really irritating.


Friday, 18 October 1985 Athens → Singapore
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Woken at 3:00 as planned, but we had to wait nearly an hour for the bus. Yesterday's checkin might have been smooth, but this one made up for it. I'm reminded that “chaos” is a Greek word. Finally off, and I to sleep for a few hours while Yvonne watched what was apparently a very bad film. But she was happy with the food, taramasalata again with salmon.

Finally we arrived in Singapore, which felt like a homecoming to me, but for Yvonne it was the first time, and leaving the airport and going out into the hot, humid air was a bit of a shock for her.

To the Strand Hotel, where Tandem's Singapore office had booked us a cheap room, only round $40 a night. I think it must have been a special offer. The room still wasn't ready, though it was 23:00, so off down to the Satay Club on the north-east corner of the Padang, where I had my first satay for years, and Yvonne her first ever. Finally back and didn't get to bed until 2:00.


Saturday, 19 October 1985 Singapore → Kuala Lumpur
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Finally a good night's sleep! Despite the time difference we didn't wake until 10:30, and had breakfast in our room, introducing Yvonne to papaya in the process (she didn't like it). Then off to do some shopping, including changing money, which Yvonne watched with interest. Then off to buy new watches for both of us, both with stopwatches.

Left much of our barang behind in the hotel, and off to the airport to catch the 19:00 flight to KL, where they managed to lose our one bag. We were told that it could take 3 or 4 days to find it, and I demanded $150 costs from them, much to Yvonne's embarrassment, then off into town by taxi. By the time we got there it was 22:00, and all the shops were closed. Finally to Kampong Bahru, where we got some Nestlé dried milk for Yana, and stopped for something to eat at a place recommended by the taxi driver. The food was remarkably pedas, more than I recall, and Yvonne could barely eat it. While trying to get some water at a nearby tap, managed to break it off, with water spurting everywhere.

Finally back to the hotel, somewhere down Batu Road beyond Campbell Road.

It's not the best in the world. Worn-out mattress, old-style bathroom, glass windows to the hallway.

I forget how we chose the hotel, but we vowed never to do it again.

The only good news was a call from reception: our case had arrived, after which at least Yvonne slept better.


Sunday, 20 October 1985 Kuala Lumpur → Kota Bharu
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First thing in the morning back to the airport for breakfast, as in the 1960s, then off to Kota Bharu, by which time Yvonne was becoming used to the humidity. Hired an old car at the airport from “Tengku Awas” (I think his name is really Tengku Azam). KB has changed amazingly since I was last here, only 8 years ago.

Drove around town, showing Yvonne various places from my childhood, and then off to the Pantai Cinta Berahi, which they have now renamed Pantai Cahaya Bulan. Walked into the reception, where there were some photos from the visit of Queen Elizabeth of the UK on the wall, including one of mum with Tuanku Yahya Petra. One of the receptionists came up to me and said “That was our old Sultan”. I expressed regret that he was dead, and said “and that's my mother”. Wah! Suddenly I was like an old friend, and we were offered one of their best bungalows.

Had lunch in the resort, which Yvonne enjoyed, and then a siesta. We were so tired that we didn't get up again until 18:00, and then off into town for dinner.

Back at the PCB we couldn't get to sleep, and when some people in the next bungalow made a lot of noise, up and went for a walk along the (moonlit) beach. All new experiences for Yvonne.


Monday, 21 October 1985 Kota Bharu
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In the morning Yvonne had one of her first negative experiences in the tropics: Yana was covered in red spots, probably from mosquitos or sand flies. Time to spray some insecticide in the bungalow, drawing a dying cockroach out of the woodwork, presumably the one that annoyed us last night by chewing on the polystyrene insulation of Yana's baby bottle.

Off to see Pui Tiong Yeong, who promptly asked us to lunch. Pleasant lunch, as always with Pui. Then to a Kelantan silversmiths down Jalan Kota Lama, where Yvonne bought a number of brooches and pendants. And then to a batek shop, where we bought even more stuff, including a piece intended for mounting on the wall.

That could have been this piece, in 2018 hanging in my bedroom:


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It seems we didn't pay much attention to the motive.

Back home and did little in the evening.


Tuesday, 22 October 1985 Kota Bharu → Kuala Lumpur
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Checking out of the Resort PCB was a pleasant surprise: our stay was on the house. And we were offered 15% commission on anybody we sent there.

I can't recall ever taking advantage of the 15%. And I can't recall who was in charge of the resort at the time. Later it was Subramaniam Nachiappan, an old school friend, but I don't think he was there at the time.

Then off back to KL without any issues. We hired a car and off to drive around, getting a better hotel room in Bukit Bintang. Then to Bilal's in Jalan Ampang for lunch, narrowly missing a cloudburst.

In the evening off to visit Lokman bin Mohd. Noh in Petaling Jaya through some pretty terrible traffic, not helped by unexpected changes in the roads.

It turned out that Lokman hadn't been expecting us. I had called him before leaving for KB arranged to visit him. He had asked for a call when I got back, which I hadn't done, so apparently he wasn't expecting me, and they suddenly needed to conjure up 2½ new servings for dinner. Lokman is now paediatrician, and commented not overly favourably on the Nestlé formula we bought for Yana a couple of days ago.


Wednesday, 23 October 1985 KL → Singapore
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Back to Singapore this morning. After checking in to the hotel, into town to have some pants made for, while Yvonne lusted after a far-too-expensive jade horse. Ran out of money and couldn't get to the banks before they closed, so had to go to Tandem and borrow $200 from Mike Chaun. Then down to Change Alley and found a tailor to make dresses for Yvonne and some pants for me.

Back to the hotel and collapsed, but was soon woken, and off to the Rasa Singapura (recommended by Mike Chaun). Food is not bad, but full of tourists, which I could do without; so could Yvonne, it seems.


Thursday, 24 October 1985 Singapore
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Relations with my parents haven't been the best, and though Dad is in Singapore, we hadn't told him that we were coming. Ah, what the hell, he has a granddaughter now. Called him up and asked if he would like to meet me for lunch. Off to his flat, somewhere down Orchard Road, where he met Yana for the first time. He insisted on calling Mum in Bendigo, though it wasn't clear how she would react: we hadn't spoken for nearly 8 years. But it seems that Yana tipped the balance, and she invited us to come and stay with her when we got to Australia.

Off in the afternoon for yet more shopping, driven by a taxi driver who joyfully remembered us from last week. Bought another pair of pants for me, toys for Yana, suitcases and even a pair of wedding rings for Yvonne and myself, the last at People's Park. The vendor went to a lot of trouble stating the obvious, that they were white gold; when we got back we discovered that the receipt clarified that they were 9 ct. That's fine by me, but possibly he was concerned that we might have expected more.

In the evening Dad took us to the “King Prawn Seafood”, behind the Cathay at the Orchard Road end of Grange Road. Good food, Yvonne very happy.


Friday, 25 October 1985 Singapore →
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Our last day in Singapore! Things started off badly this morning with the breakfast: half of it was missing, and there was only plastic coffee. Some kitchen fiasco. Off to have breakfast in a nearby coffee shop, where I gradually became human again.

Off looking for video equipment, and spent some time discussing things on the phone with Dad, but in the end didn't buy anything. Had a quick Indonesian lunch with Dad—Yvonne liked it anyway—and then off to the tailors to pick up our stuff, some of which wasn't ready, and we had to wait around while it was fixed. Yana was also not her usual easy-going self, and managed to irritate Yvonne considerably. Took a few last videos of Change Alley, whose days are numbered. Singapore is changing beyond recognition.

Back to the hotel and packed—our bags have doubled in weight—then off to Dad's place, later to the new Crown Prince Hotel for dinner. Back to the hotel, where our favourite taxi driver was waiting to take us to the airport—he must have something to do with the hotel. We needed 2 taxis!

At the airport, an unexpected problem: I had assumed that Yvonne wouldn't need a visa for Australia, because she was married to me. Wrong!

That wasn't the first time that I made unchecked assumptions. On 1 August 1982 I had the same issue with my own visa for the USA.

Called up the High Commission emergency number, and actually got hold of somebody who was prepared to come out the the airport and issue a visa on the spot, but he couldn't be there before the ETD. Yvonne had to stay in Singapore, and though Yana would have been allowed to come (as an Australian citizen), it was clearly better to leave her with Yvonne. Damn! Especially when the flight was delayed and the official from the High Commission could easily have made it.

The airline (Olympus Airways) only flies to Melbourne twice a week, so Yvonne had to wait until Tuesday. Fortunately Dad was there and prepared to look after them, so things weren't as bad as they could have been.


Saturday, 26 October 1985 → Melbourne → Mandurang
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Uneventful flight to Melbourne, where I had an usual offer: while waiting for immigration, one of the stewardesses from the flight asked me if I were tired, and whether I would like a little sleep: she had a room in the airport hotel. That's the first time I've had that kind of offer. Of course I thanked her but declined (“I don't think my wife would like that”). Or at least, that's what I told Yvonne.

Got hold of the hire car (a Holden Commodore, not a very nice car) and off to Bendigo (really Mandurang) via the “scenic route” that Mum had recommended, via Kilmore and Heathcote. I had forgotten how dry it can be here, and I was less receptive for the “scenic” aspect.

I haven't seem Mum since February 1978, and we didn't leave on the best of terms. But things were civil today, even if there was a feeling of caution (as Yvonne had commented a couple of days ago, rather like trying to keep a tiger calm). But we had a good time, and of course there was a lot to talk about, and Mum made some good food.


Sunday, 27 October 1985 Mandurang → Melbourne
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Quiet day. I decided to cook, and suggested spare ribs. Mum told me her way of cooking, but I knew better.

But I had chosen beef spare ribs, not pork spare ribs. The result wasn't quite what I was hoping for, not nearly cooked enough. I should have listened to Mum and cook them much longer.

In the evening to Melbourne in preparation for tomorrow's Guardian Internals course, which I'll be teaching with Mike Lisenbee. We're staying with my cousin Mick (Lehey) and family.


Monday, 28 October 1985 Melbourne
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Into town today to Tandem in St. Kilda Road. The traffic down Toorak Road is terrible! Finally got there and met Peter Lloyd, who is the real real reason I'm here: he's interested in hiring me, and the Guardian course is only a way to pay for my flight. Also met John Donelan, who would be working with me. And Mike Lisenbee I know from my first Guardian course three years ago. He, too, flew in: he's living Hong Kong nowadays.

The class went relatively well. We've decided to take turns teaching for a quarter day at a time, which gives us a chance to revise. My recollection is that that's what Mike and Kevin Coughlin did last time.


Tuesday, 29 October 1985 Melbourne
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More teaching, this time with a slight reshuffle: Yvonne and Yana are arriving early tomorrow morning, and we agreed that I would take the day off and take them up to Bendigo to meet Mum.


Wednesday, 30 October 1985 Melbourne → Mandurang
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Off to the airport this morning and picked up Yvonne and Yana without significant issues. Off again to Bendigo. Unlike my trip a couple of days ago, Yvonne really liked the landscape and the many flowering plants and trees.

In Mandurang Mum was on best behaviour. It was new for her, too; she's seen a wife of mine before, but not a grandchild. Yvonne and I took the opportunity and left Yana with Mum while we went for a walk, in the process finding some foxes, and of course Yvonne was impressed by the colourful birds.

Later off to town to a pub, and on the way back up the One Tree Hill lookout tower, despite the wind. Back home and Mum put on some food that incorporated the beef spare ribs that I messed up on Saturday, which she had been able to improve to the point of tenderness. And of course some bubbly to celebrate the first granddaughter.


Thursday, 31 October 1985 Bendigo → Melbourne
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Off early back to Melbourne this morning, having difficulty pointing things out to Yvonne: fatigue had caught up with her, and she wasn't very receptive. Off to Mick and Diane's, where nobody was at home, but the door was open. Dropped the family and off to work, arriving not too late.

Didn't do much in the evening, but Yvonne got to know another thing about Australia: it's cold! Even towards the end of spring it was cooler than houses ever are in Germany.


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