In March 1969 Lawrence’s contract in Egypt came to an end. UNESCO in Paris contacted him and asked him if he would stay on, and he said ‘No’. And they said ‘Well with your peculiar qualifications, we don’t think we will find another suitable post for you’. So Lawrence said ‘fine’ and headed off home. Sometime later they must have taken another look at his CV, because they offered him a job in Malaysia. We went to Malaysia and arrived in Ipoh and stayed at a hotel at the station. UNESCO never found us accommodation, we always had to find our own! I always remember that at tea time they always served Nice biscuits with evaporated milk.
We found a little house to rent, it wasn’t very nice, but it was a stop gap. Then low and behold there was another emergency! One group came out against another group, and there was a real blood bath. They clamped a curfew on us for 24 hours, and we had to sit it out. Lawrence couldn’t go to work, the girls couldn’t go to school. But we had a very nice Chinese family next door, with two daughters called “Ping” and “Pfong”.
When we were going into Ipoh to buy food and there was a grocers there and the Chinese man who ran it said that he had a house that we could rent. It needed some work done to it, but he said he would attend to it. It had a split-level living area, and the bottom part was really quite dark. Lawrence asked if it was possible to put in a patio door, because there was a patio outside, that made such a difference. It was so hot that you needed as much air as possible. The bedrooms had air conditioning, which clattered away all night. It was quite a basic three-bedroom house, with a small kitchen but a large one-acre garden, but it was fine for us.
We had a house girl called ‘Cheng’, who was really part of the family. She and her husband and little girl had a little house in the garden. She was a delight. If Lawrence and I went out, she and her family would come and watch Chinese movies on the TV with the girls.
We were there for five years and for me this was the happiest posting. The project was very good. They were developing a polytechnic. Lawrence was on the mechanical and production side. They sent quite a few students to England to get degrees, and whenever the course was finished, industry was queuing up to employ the students. It expanded a lot whilst we were there. Lawrence had some fantastic workshops.
The girls, again, went to the local school. I don’t know how much they learnt. Probably nothing! We had a very good project manager, Australian, a real character. He was excellent at organising the transport for all the children, all of who went to different schools. There were so many children at the girl’s school, that they ran two shifts each day. The first shift started at 7am to around 1pm, and the other shift from lunchtime to 6pm. At one point the girls were on opposite shifts, so it was a real juggle getting them to school and back.
There were lots of Peace Corps and Volunteers who were also resident, and fitted in well with the UNESCO family. At Christmas we always had a party for the staff and family which would be around 50-60 people. There was a super swimming club with great amenities, you could get really good meals there. Such a change from Egypt. When we had a party at our house, one of the waiters ‘Alwot’, from the club would come and do the drinks, and he knew what everyone drank.
Lawrence was also so involved with the Hash House Harriers, so we made a lot of local friends, Chinese, Malay, Indian. They all mixed well.
They also had the ’Harriet’s’, and that’s where Donna would run. She was seven years old and Chris was ten. We went to umpteen weddings and events because of the Hash.
We travelled a lot, we went to Panang and Pangkor Island. Panang was a duty free area, so we used to go there to buy essentials. We used to stay at the Pannang club, which was right by the sea, it was quite colonial with it’s large portrait of the Queen in the foyer.
Towards the end of our stay, plans were being made to start a project in Viet Nam. The head of the project was going to be Des Hutchins and the Paris headquarters told him to go to Ipoh and see the project because that was a good example of how successful it could be. Des came over for a week or so, and Des requested Lawrence for the Vietnam project. They phoned Lawrence from Paris and he accepted over the phone without even talking to me about it! I could have killed him!
We left Malaysia in March 1974 There was a debrief in Paris for a few weeks, between the two projects, and then we went to England and stayed with Kath and Ken Hargreaves. At this point Christine decided she was going to stay in the UK and go to school with Catherine and Trish Hargreaves, a decision that she subsequently regretted. It was arranged that she would be a weekly boarder and go back to Kath and Ken’s at the weekend. We weren’t particularly happy with the arrangement, but it was what she wanted although Chris did come out for a holiday to Saigon.