Living in the Past

My childhood home, the wooden colonial government quarters on Jalan Skudai facing the Straits of Johor is to be demolished.  It has been left uninhabited for quite a while and this was probably inevitable. Whatever charm it might have had continues to erode not just with its disintegration but also the building of the motorway in front of it - who would want to live in its shadow?

Moving on to more pleasant thoughts, a visit to the Penang House at Rimbun Dahan just outside Kuala Lumpur last weekend fittingly brought back powerful memories of being inside that old house. The furniture here is different from ours which was not so ornate but nevertheless share the same character of heavy wooden sturdiness, the chairs usually with cane panels.

The 'feeling' however of the space was the same, high ceilings with the diamond trellis venting, the grid pattern of contrast trim color, contrasting light and deep shadowed spaces. The further back in time I go, I remember the sheets never being anything other than white- which over time would include blues and faint candy stripes and florals. The windows started out as wooden shutters, later replaced with louvered glass.

Even though we didn't have four poster beds we did have something I haven't seen since- wooden frames- just like the top of the one in the picture, except hung from the ceiling to attach mosquito nets. Looking out the window was just like this, slightly elevated as the house is raised and unfiltered through darkened glass. 

There is also a different aural experience, the creak of your footsteps on floorboards that dissipate quickly into high ceilinged spaces and an abundance of doors and windows that allow more of the ambient outdoor sounds to seep in. The latter being particularly true for the verandah spaces where you are neither inside or outside but somewhere in between. We had fabric lined rattan blinds that screened off these areas during the afternoons and stormy weather.