Papa is now in the throes of planning for my first and their homecoming trip to “this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”. Almost thirty years ago, Papa was among a group of nine JPA scholars (including three girls) who were UK-bound to be trained as professionals in the various fields that the young country on the cusp of adulthood desperately needed.
Margaret Thatcher had completed the first year of her eleven Downing Street years. In Malaysia, the change of guard to a “tough, shrewd and practical” leader was less than a year away. Their first stop was Malaysia Hall, then situated in leafy and elegant Bryanston Square, a short walking distance from the Marble Arch tube station and the famous Hyde Park. During the early days in London, a few seniors took them to some of London must-visit places including Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and the halal Indian food restaurants in Paddington.
On one occasion they bought Indian food take-aways and had a glorious picnic in the park overlooking the Royal Albert Hall. As for the food served in Malaysia Hall, breakfasts were invariably depressing. His face fell when he saw people all around him tucked not too keenly into their bowls of cereal. But lunch and dinner were a different kettle of fish all together, with young people enthusiastically and patiently lining down the stairs to buy 50-pence set meal of fluffy rice, daging masak kicap (or chicken dish) and vegetable (sometimes bean sprouts?), served by plump Caribbean ladies.
After a few blissful days in London, they made their way to a very archetype English market town in East Anglia to begin their A-Levels programme under the tutelage of some eccentric yet keen sixth form teachers.
For the impending homecoming visit, Papa looks forward to revisit the sixth form college and the house opposite the college where he lived at close quarters with other 17/18 years old former students of VI, MCKK, KGV, Anderson, MRSMs, SMSes, etc etc.
Alas, no such opportunity to revisit the great Malaysia Hall that we have lost. Wish us a safe, hassle-free and meaningful trip to the Old Blighty, will ya.
UPDATE (Jan. 2013): Cartoonist Lat has also documented the atmospheric dining experience in Malayisa Hall here