Just like Anna, we also lived in number 14 Ventris Rd. after them.
I loved that house and I remember my time there fondly. It was a big old colonial house with large verandas and big airy rooms. And it was such a safe environment as was Hong Kong my whole life, where you could ride your bikes away from any motorized vehicles. My dad, Colin Green was the head of physical training for the Fire Service Department and that’s how we got to live there.
We were there for about 3 or 4 years before moving up to Leighton Hill where I lived until I was 12 and then we moved to the government quarters across the road from Island School in Borrett Road.
It was such a wonderful, airy house, you could smell the jasmine from the garden and hear the gentle tick tick ticking of the fans in the tall ceilings, it was so cool in the summer.
I remember Dad had some of the carpenters from the fire service build my sister and I a Wendy house one Christmas, which they then put together on the huge veranda on Christmas Eve. We were so thrilled the next morning and spent many many happy hours playing in it.
I also loved the delightful walled garden at the back, which became a cool little oasis by late afternoon, where one could get some respite from the heat. I remember the banana tree too.
My baby-amah Lin, who started working for us when my folks first arrived in Hong Kong and mum was pregnant with me, lived there with us. Her bedroom opened out into a little covered walkway which led into the walled garden. We would lie on the bed in her sparse cool room sometimes after lunch for an hour during the hottest time of the day and watch Chinese opera on her little black and white TV when she was resting during the hottest time of the day. She worked into the evenings feeding us and cleaning up after dinner. There was a lot of work back then as everything was done by hand. My parents hired a young amah to help her.
I used to love playing on the swings in the playground up behind the houses. I remember rolling down the hill behind the behind it and playing in the bamboo grove too.
I never wanted to go home, so one of the young amah’s jobs was to come and fetch me. One day she caused me to fall down the metal stairs by pulling me too hard, causing me to split my head open, after that Lin who thought she was pretty lazy and useless just wanted her gone.
Dad rushed me to Tan Shui Kin Hospital and for some reason I couldn’t get an anesthetic. I remember several nurses and orderlies had to hold me down while they stitched the big cut on my head closed and I screamed blue murder during the whole process. I was only about five at the time.
Sometimes when my mother had friends over, they would hear me chattering away to Lin in Cantonese in the kitchen and they would ask mum if Lin had a child. She was definitely like a mother to me and stayed with us until I was 12.
On the summer of my 12th birthday we had a ‘long leave’ and went on a world cruise on the HMS Canberra. When I found out I was saying goodbye for good and Lin was off to live with her son in California, I couldn’t bare it and clung to her for dear life. About five staff had to help my dad prize me off her (I’m beginning to see a pattern here!). I was so traumatized that when dad said I should keep my Cantonese up I thought that if I stopped speaking it maybe they would bring Lin back. Of course she never did return and sadly I forgot so much of the language.
I always stayed in touch with Lin, and many moons later I went to work for her son in his jewelry business down on Brannon Street in San Francisco’s Diamond District. Lin would visit me there and regale me with stories of working for Dean Martin when she first arrived in Los Angeles. Much of it had to do with picking up empty bottles and cleaning up in the mornings after the lavish parties he would throw. She told me how once she had a puff on one of the strange hand-rolled cigarettes that always seem to be in his special ashtray that she wasn’t allowed to throw away if they had only been half-smoked!
Here is a photo of my much-loved Lin with myself at about three years old, standing outside our house in Ventris Road. Also present was my baby sister Erica and my mum Thelma, who taught at Quarry Bay School.