Saturday, 26 February 2011

Gardening is in my blood

Many of you will know that I am very keen to pass on my love of gardening to my children, and now my grand-daughter Lara. This happened in my Father's generation too of course. My Dad retired quite early (55) after spending most of his working life living in Malaya, where he met my Mum, and where eventually I was born. My Dad's retirement hobby was gardening, and he rapidly became proficient at it, and grew lots of lovely vegetables, notably potatoes, runner beans and tomatoes. I'm sure that my own love of vegetable gardening was initially inspired by his achievements. Regrettably my Mum died very young and I knew far too little of her past. Here is a picture of her on the front steps of our house.

Mum, surrounded by plants - Coleus, Caladiums etc.

Just recently I acquired a brilliant device called "Slides2PC" which allows you to convert old 35mm transparencies (slides) into digital files, such a Jpegs. This has opened a new window onto my past, because I have been able to view easily all the slides that I inherited from my Dad, which probably had not seen the light of day for the past 20 years at least, since we do not have a slide-projector. Most of these slides are at least 50 years old, many of them much older, so the quality (particularly in respect of the colour) is not so special, but considering their age I think they are quite good still. I have been able to adjust some of them with photo-editing software, though they don't all respond to this.

The slides show many fascinating insights into my early years, and into life in Malaya in the 1950s and 60s, but for me the most significant thing they demonstrate is that my Mum was also a keen gardener!

Here is the house in which we lived, in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. It was right next to the race-course.

16 Thompson Road, Ipoh

Note the massive garden - I think it was about 2 acres in total.

Here is the office in which my Dad worked - The Perak River Hydro-Electric Power Co. Ltd. He was the Chief Accountant of the firm.

Perak Hydro offices

Here is a view of a prominent Ipoh landmark - the railway station.

Railway station

Here is the "padang", which serves as parade-ground, sports field etc.

Ipoh padang

Here is the Court House.

The Court House

Here is the archway erected to celebrate Merdeka, or Independence, from Britain in August 1957.
The Merdeka arch

Here is a view of the Swimming Club, scene of many happy memories.

The Swimming Club

I know that some of my readers live in Malaysia, so I wonder if anyone can tell me what those places in Ipoh look like now.

But now what I'm most interested in, evidence of my Mum's love of plants (flowers in this case). In the collection of slides there are lots of pictures of flowers and flowering trees, mostly taken in our own garden.

Canna lilies



Flame of the Forest


More orchids

Here's a picture of our lovely cat Fluffy - obviously a fan of the flowers too (though I suspect she had just been drinking water from that very impressive cut-glass vase...)


And finally, here's a photo of Yours Truly, aged about 7, on his first bike (shared with brother Paul).

So, the photos are rather faded, but the memories they evoke for me are nonetheless vivid...


  1. Your mom is lovely. And you look like you were full of yourself! Great pics! It wouldn't matter if the photos were black and white! They're fantastic! You must be thrilled to see these. It's better than finding buried treasure. I'm so happy for you! We are trying to collect all photos from all of our family while we were at my grandparent's farm. Wonderful memories!

  2. How wonderful. Now you have something else, even better, to share with your children and grandchildren - their history too.

  3. How interesting, Mark. And the flowers are the same as we have here in Florida. I adore looking at old photos....makes me want to put some on my blog, too. What a special blog you created!

  4. Really great old photos Mark. How fortunate to have these to spur your memories. Thank you for sharing these fine reflections.

  5. Wow! What a treasure trove! Memories are funny things...I find some of my recollections are inaccurate when I discuss them with my sisters. We all put our own spin on events. Photos, however are good evidence and prompts for memories. Don't you find it funny that everyone of a similar age has similar photos. We all wore the same clothes, had the same hairstyles, rode the same sort of bikes...etc. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Mark, I did not know you were born and raised in Malaya. No wonder you know so much about our food and plants. It was really great to see all those pictures from the period that my parents have not conceived me yet and they were still small children themselves. I was brought up near our capital city so I don't really know much about Ipoh except some occasional visit. Your newest follower 'Milka Jishiben" is from Ipoh, she can help you about how Ipoh has changed now. You must have many "gadis Melayu" (local Malay maiden) admire when you were living there ;-). So homesick now.

  7. Gorgeous scenery and photos, I think the faded colours really add to the nostalgic feel of them.

  8. These are really precious photos to have. It's great that you can now access and preserve the slides from your childhood. Your mum looks very beautiful and that dress is gorgeous - so of its time. Almost makes me long to be elegant! I am sorry that you lost your mum at a young age. My mother died 20 years ago, when my first child was a year old, and I regret that my children never knew her.
    But what a lovely creative connection to have with your mum, that you've inherited her love of growing things and are passing it on to the next generations.

  9. I bet you would love to have that two acre garden now!

  10. Great story!
    Now I've understand why Mark are so enthusiastic for gardening!
    I also hope my kids will take over my attitude toward gardening!

  11. Looks lovely! Great photos / memories.

  12. Those photos are just fabulous Mark, and you are so lucky to have them :) I love the photo of your mum, she looks just lovely, so elegant in her beautiful dress. And what an exciting life you were all leading. I do love where I live, but I travelled for a long time before very willingly settling down, and I do still sometimes crave a little lifestyle adventure. Lovely one of you on your bike, and it's the first photo I've seen of you!

  13. How fabulous Mark. Wonderful to be able to recapture some of your childhood, particularly when spent in such an unusual place.

  14. Thanks for sharing your family with us. My grandfather passed down his love of gardening to all of us - it's wonderful that you have pictures of your mom's plants.

  15. These pictures tell stories. Beautiful. Didn't know you're born in Ipoh. I'm from the 70's from Ipoh. Those buildings remains but the landscape ofcouse have changed a lot. I'm so excited to see those old cars, haha.

  16. What special memories Mark. Pure treasure.

    Your Mum looks stunning in that priceless photo.
    She obviously loved plants and flowers which have obviously been passed on to you :D

    Having lived in that part of the world ourselves it brought back lots of memories for me too.

    I've got boxes and boxes of old photo's that I need to bring into the light too.

    By the way that's one huge Brandy glass....hic!

  17. Just chance upon your blog. Lovely pictures you have there of colonial Ipoh. I myself was from 'colonial' Malacca but lived in KL for most of my adult life until about 12 years ago, I moved to Cardiff. I got my allotment last June and been having a great time. All those building in the pictures are still standing reminding of our past 'white masters'. They brought back good memories as I frequent Ipoh during my time there.

  18. Hi Mark, Your bike is a real beauty. I am sure I never had one as good as that, though I remember how much I use to like cycling on our drive way, which was circular in part, much like your drive way appears to be. We lived on Gopeng Road 1950's - 1960's. The house and beautiful grounds were demolished for a housing development. I went to school at Tenby and we were members of the Ipoh Club and the Ipoh Swimming Club. I loved the ice cream sodas we could get at the Swimming Club. I am sure our parents would have known each other and our paths may well have crossed as children. My mother played a lot of bridge and was secretary (or something like that) of the Swimming Club in the early and mid 1960's Your photos have brought back a flood of memories. Thank you. Patrick Mugliston

    1. Hi Patrick; Thanks for taking the time to leave me this comment. Isn't the internet wonderful!
      I looked on Google Earth to see if our house in Thompson Road still exists, and it seems that it does. I wonder who lives in it now? I really do remember cycling around the (yes, circular) driveway at the front of our house. Actually we learned to ride on a more functional bike belonging to our servants, before our parents bought us the one in the picture. Happy memories!

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  20. Mark, I am so delighted to have come across your blog which is absolutely top notch! Today, I am going to trial one of your recipes - the spiced lamb with pasta. I forgot say to say in my earlier note that your mother is stunningly beautiful in every sense. Once again, many thanks for sharing so much of such great value.

    1. Glad you like the blog, Patrick. Let me know how the lamb dish turns out, eh? Are you a cook? a gardener? or maybe both...?

  21. A great recipe thanks Mark. I try my best at cooking and I enjoy it more as I get older. Best wishes, Patrick

    1. Hi Mark, I 'tested' the pork casserole and cannelloni beans recipe on the weekend. I loved it and plan to be serve it at a dinner party I am giving on 22 February. You will make a cook out of me yet. Patrick

    2. Hi Patrick; I'm glad you enjoyed that dish - it's an old favourite of mine (especially when it has loads of garlic in it!).

  22. Dear Mark, I was born in the same state of yours ~ Perak but at the north part of Perak ~ Lenggong. The Ipoh Railway station is still same as your photo but they've made renovation inside the station to cater for more crowd i guess. Others are quite familiar to me from my last visit to Ipoh. I am now permanent residence of Selangor state. I've been working at Kuala Lumpur territory for many years. I love reading your humble writings with lots of tips and advise. Your backyard edible garden really inspired me. I am a novice gardener - just starting gardening activities somewhere on 2012. Terima kasih Mark! :)

  23. I know about your India connection but not the Malay one. Your mum was beautiful! Loved going through the pictures of the place and the flowers from your parents' garden. Such elegant vases for the orchids!
    Clicked this link as I was looking at your latest post about the winter garden beds. Everything looks so neat. I'm sure your harvest(s) will be plentiful.


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