Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.

"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2: 9 Sciennes Road

We went for our honeymoon to Loch Awe in the Scottish Highlands, my intention being spend a week or two hiking through the highlands, living in a tent and living off the land, doing our own cooking. After a day or two at Loch Awe Hotel, we did spend half a day walking through the countryside and one night in a tent. My idea of a camping holiday was too naive, and after one night I had the wisdom to call off the hike and to return home which was my old lodgings that I shared with Chong Eu at 28 Sciennes Road, -- south of the Meadows, to place it in Edinburgh.

Rosie shared my room while Chong Eu had his own room and we shared a sitting room. Mrs. Rutherford, our land-lady had her own bed-sitting room and allowed us to use her kitchen. Chong Eu and I had cooked our meals during the week-ends and otherwise usually only had breakfast i the flat. When Rosie joined us, we cooked our evening meals most days and my Boy Scouts training made me the most expert cook of the three of us. The Meadows was just south of the University and our daily walk to our classes took only fifteen minutes – ten minutes if we had to run because we were late. We lived moderately well on my scholarship of 400 pounds, for food prices were government controlled as were prices of other so-called essential goods.

Not to be idle, Rosie joined the University as an Arts student and thoroughly enjoyed the lectures on English literature, especially those on Shakespeare’s plays, given by one of the great English language teachers of the time, Professor Drover Wilson. She also found unexpected delight in her Geography classes, her lecturer being Lady Swanzie Agnew, which was a coincidence, for at the time that Rosie was attending Lady Agnew’s lectures, I was attending Chemistry II classes with her husband Sir Ffoulke Agnew. Ffoulke was a hereditary Scottish baron, and had spent some time in China as a reporter. Why he was studying chemistry I never found out, but we worked at the same bench for a year.

Rosie studied at the University for a little over a year (1942-44) and then had to give up because she was expecting a baby. This was not quite planned for but we took it as fulfilment of our destiny. Our daughter Sing Po was born on 15 April 1944 in a nursing home in Chalmer’s Street. The obstetrician was Dr. Ethna Little, one of the consultants at the teaching hospital who did not charge us anything. By another coincidence, Rosie found Swanzie Agnew in the bed adjoining hers, for she too had a baby, a son named Crispin, born on the same day as Sing Po. The name Crispin brought to mind immediately the lines from Shakespeare’s Henry V, spoken by King Henry on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, “This day is call’d the feast of Crispian: he who outlives this day and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d .... Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, but he’ll remember with advantages what feats he did that day.” From that day a life-long friendship grew up between Swanzie and Rosie.

Sing Po’s name was given us by Hsiao Ch’ien, a British Council scholar from China studying in Oxford. Hsiao had been giving Chinese language lessons to overseas Chinese members of the Chinese Students Union and when we asked him to help us find a name for the prospective newcomer, he gave us a name for a boy and a name for a girL Sing Po’s name meant Star Waves -and recalls the name of her parent’s home, Singapore. Chinese like puns! I was much pleased with the name because of its association with “The Planets,” a symphony by Hoist suggestive of the music of the spheres, though I did not care very much for the music itself. A local reporter translated the name as “Starry Ripples” which I thought somewhat clumsy.

(Editor’s note: Or, befitting my somewhat kooky pursuits in later years, it could be translated as “Astral Vibrations”)

On a recent trip to China I found Hsiao Ch’ien hale and hearty at over eighty years of age. His name in pin-yin is spelt Xiao Qian and he holds several important appointments including that of Director of the Central Research Institute of Culture and History. Xiao was kind enough to help me make names for Su Hui’s children: Xiong Kang for Bernard, and Xiong Qian for Christopher, meaning Healthy Bear and Strong Bear.


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