Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Do I jump right in?

I have never been one to start at the beginning. However, I guess I really should give a little background which as time goes on will become more transparent, if that is the right way to describe this journey.

Dad, Bill short for William, was a canny Scot was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1903. Here he remained until his early twenties after graduating from school and some years working in the accountancy field. Always a man with a vision his eyes scanned towards the horizon for a new adventure, a new journey. One day as he glanced through a local paper he spotted an advertisement for someone to travel to Indonesia to train as a rubber planter! Yes, you guessed it. To cut a long story short he travelled out there which in those days was considered a monumental upheaval. Think of it, he was leaving the comfort of his home, his mother, father and sister to travel around to the other side of the world. The journey would take for ever and communications nigh on impossible. In those days, it really was immigrating unlike today when you can fly to the other end of the world in a matter of hours compared to sailing which would take you weeks.

In years to come he was to have spent about 5 years as a rubber planter but then decided to go back to accounting which the discipline he had followed in Scotland. By doing so he graduated to actually owning and running his own export/import business. Moving to Indonesia was to be instrumental to his meeting with my mother (Ena which was short for Gezina) who was Dutch and lived there with her widowed mother, sister and two brothers. Engagement

Here we have the engaged couple in 1933 surrounded with the many, many flowers sent by their numerous friends.

In 1934 my father and mother were to be Marriedmarried in Bandung, Indonesia on 23 January. It was a marriage made in heaven! Two soul mates who led a very full life together enjoying work and a wonderful social life. Still, that will be another story! image

Meanwhile, we move forward to 1942 when Dad was aged 39 and living happily with my mother in a place called Bandung, Indonesia. On the map you will see it south east of Jakarta which is the capital. I would like to start with his own words as he described the start of an adventure he never ever thought he would have to endure and was to shape and influence the rest of his life. Please note that the language Dad used is not meant to offend but underlines a very strong sense of indignation whilst encountering the many difficult situations.

**********

Their Arrival

***********

"What is it?"

I am just slipping over the edge from waking to sleeping, but Ena's whisper recalls me sharply and I raise my head from the pillow, straining my ears to intercept the sounds which penetrate to the darkened room from the outside night.

Crunch! Crunch! The sound of heavy boots on the gravel path at some distance and a mumble of indistinguishable voices.

I look at my watch. It is only 11.05 pm. The date is 14 April 1942.

With mouth open so that nose breathing will not interfere with hearing, I lie tense, listening.

There is a sudden silence and then for the second time the same sounds are heard again. Then again silence which continues. I relax, grunt "Oh, it's nothing", lay my head in on the pillow and in a matter of seconds, am fast asleep.

Trrring! Trrring! Ena and I are immediately awake, startled into complete wakefulness by the ringing of the door bell in another part of the house. What we say to each other in these first moments, I cannot recall.

Trring! As I get out of the bed, the luminous dial of my wristwatch shows it to be 12.15 am.

I open the door of our bedroom and step out onto the verandah. At my appearance a group of dimly seen figures detaches itself from the shadows at the front of the house and moves towards me. As they come within range of the light which burns on the verandah, I realise with a sort of dull, apathetic shock "So, it has come at last!"

Behind me, Ena switches on the light in the bedroom. The light is reflected momentarily on the long, wicked looking bayonets carried by two apelike Japanese soldiers. A burly Jap officer, carrying his Samurai sword, pushes me and goes into the bedroom. A native Indonesian policeman steps under the verandah lamp and importantly consults a number of papers which he carries in his hand.

He speaks in Malay. " Your name - Grey-ig Smit?" (the name is Greig Smith but with an accent would sound different)

"Yes"

"Partner in the firm of De Koek, Spark-in and Co. Office situated at 59 Groote Postweg, Bandoeng?" (The spelling of Bandoeng was the old way of spelling today's Bandung but is still pronounced the same)

"Yes"

Sundry other questions as to nationality, date of birth, name of wife, etc which can all be answered in the affirmative and then the laconic order "Toeroet (come along)".

I go back into the bedroom to dress. Ena has hastily donned a dressing gown. The Jap officer sprawls, as only a Jap can sprawl, in a chair; his sword held in one hand between his wide spread knees. The two soldiers follow me inside and immediately begin rummaging about the room, opening drawers and cupboards, grinning and drawing each other's attention to the various articles they pick up and drop on the floor with complete indifference as their attention is drawn to some other object, for all the world like a pair of monkeys. The native policeman stays outside.

The Jap officer barks hoarsely,"Lekas, lekas!" (quickly, quickly). I dress hastily. I put on a jacket and take my topi (a light-weight hat worn in tropical countries for protection from the sun), but for some reason or other which even now I do not understand, do not put on my tie. Fortunately, my suitcase is fully packed as it has been since we were for the second and final time evicted from our house at Dennenlust on Good Friday, ten days ago, so I am soon ready.Sunney Corner

At the last moment, I slip into my pocket the Penguin novel of which I had read the first few pages that night before going to sleep. The title is encouraging. It is 'Fate cannot harm me'.

Ena and I face each other. She looks at the Sumarai bearing lord of our destiny and says hesitantly, "Bolih tjioem?" (May we kiss?) We already are aware of the disapproval with which the Japanese regard western demonstrations of affection. The Jap grunts and nods an affirmative. We embrace. We whisper to each other quite silly inconsequential things. I say to her "Ring of Pierre", meaning our good friend Pierre Ursone who had said to me just a day or two before, "If you are interned, tell Ena to call me immediately and I will do all I can for her." Ena says to me "I'll let Dr Bijdeveld know," meaning she will inform my dentist with whom I have an appointment next morning that I won't be able to keep it. Only she has got her names mixed. She means Dr Beierwaltes.

I pick up my suitcase. The Jap lumbers to his feet. The two soldiers are behind me. Ena follows us out on to the verandah. I turn around, put my free hand on her shoulder and give it a squeeze. "Chin up, Wifie." We smile at each other. "Lekas, lekas!" I turn away and walk into the night surrounded by my escort. I do not look back, but I know that Ena is still standing there.

We won't see each other again for almost three and a half years.

**** to be continued.

11 comments:

Rosebud Collection said...

Oh lord, this is frightening..what a story and thank you for sharing it..will be back to continue..

makeyourpresentsfelt said...

Pat, this already has me gripped. I'm not surprised your eloquent father had a Scottish education!

Chauncey said...

wow. that was a great place in the story to pause, I am anxious for the next installment.

Sixsisters said...

Can't wait for the next installment !!! Great blog Pat.

Pamela said...

What a wonderful writer your father was, I am on pins and needles to hear more! What a gift to have all these recollections in written form, most of us just have them as oral history so things get garbled and misunderstood over the years, but you have his first-hand accounts. Thank you for sharing with us!

ArmAzém da SaNdrA said...


parabens pelo conteudo do seu blog
o seu pai is merecedor de sua reverencia com certeza,um otimo escritor!
historias maravilhosas!
tenha um otimo dia!

http://sandradematthano.zip.net

Beth said...

Your father is a beautfiul writer. Thanks for sharing this with us and I can't wait for it to continue.

ArmAzém da SaNdrA said...


parabens pelo conteudo do seu blog
o seu pai is merecedor de sua reverencia com certeza,um otimo escritor!
historias maravilhosas!
tenha um otimo dia!
desculpe......
eu sou brasileira e esqueci
de traduzir.......perdao
congratulations for the content of his blog ,his father is deserving of his reveres certainly, an wonderful writer! marvelous histories! have a nice day!

Melanie said...

goosebumps and tears already and I'm just into the first installment!

Thank you for sharing this!

Archibald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tegar Achsendo said...

A really touching story.. that was indeed one of the darkest moment in Indonesian History.. I, myself as Indonesian can feel it too, the suffering under Japanese occupation.. Thank you for sharing this story. By the way i'm curious about Pierre Ursone who is mentioned in your story. I wonder whether he was from the renowned Ursone family, owner of Baroe Adjak farm. If so, do you have any particular information about him? Thank you in advance and i hope you read this comment, since it's already 7 years since you posted the story=)