Mature ‘motherly ladies’, probably form the WRVS helped at the Cheero Club and China Fleet Club helped if needed on welfare matters at home. I recall it was one of these ladies who arranged delivery of flowers to my sister Joan, when she was married. Incidentally, these turned out to be the only English ladies we ever had the opportunity to make contact with in the whole of our service in Hong Kong and our return 18 months later.
I made special reference in one of my first letters home, dated 15 April 1950, to a visit to the China Fleet Club and part is perhaps worth quoting:
[T]he three of us had the meal on a balcony overlooking the harbor, and waited on…it was a pleasant change to have a table cloth and choice of knives and forks. First we had a terrific tomato soup with fried bread, then sardines on toast with chips. After these tasters we had…pork, roasted spuds, carrots, green peas and apple sauce. This was delicious. For sweet we had some macaroni which tasted just like ice cream. To finish we had coffee. The whole for HK$ 3.20
That is about 4/- shillings, now UK 20p, or US 30 cents.
Victoria and Kowloon
We explored both Victoria and Kowloon. It never made any difference whether it was a weekday, Saturday or Sunday they were always busy. We never got far from the main streets or the European areas as everywhere else was ‘out of bounds’ to us. In any event I never felt the urge to explore the Chinese districts of narrow ladder like streets and tall tenement buildings hung with flags and washing, or the overcrowded and squalid shanty towns. Everywhere day and night the streets thronged with busy people cooking, sleeping, chattering and selling fruits and vegetables, along with barbers, letter writers and mahjong players. All this was accompanied by incessant clamor of strange noises and peculiar aromas as well as unpleasant smells. The teeming people, the noise of it all, the discordant Chinese music, exotic and unpleasant smells pressed in and demanded your attention.
The Chinese paid little heed of us. In army fashion and slang they were to us all ‘chinks’. This was true of them generally in the country or in the town. Whether we were in uniform, on duty or in civilian attire they were indifferent and never imposed themselves nor importuned to the extent of the Arabs and Indians we came across on our outward voyage. There seemed few beggars as such but many had nothing but the street to make their home. With each other they conversed at the top of their voices in a hard piercing tone and what seemed an aggressive manner. It appeared to us that every one acted only for themselves in a forcible manner showing little compassion and courtesy.