Biographical Non-Fiction posted March 18, 2017


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A tropical memory

Fever

by tfawcus


I remember a certain climb on a certain hill, where shadows fell like slain men upon the undergrowth of giant ferns. Sun seeped through the canopy and tangled ropes of lianas dangle through the mists of my suspended memory. I remember the morbid dampness of Pine Tree Hill, and shiver still.

Smitten by Aedes aegypti, the odious Aegyptian mosquito, I could scarce place one foot in front of the other as I staggered back down. My mouth was dry and my skin was clammy. Dengue fever delirium was starting to take hold.

The Gap resthouse at Fraser's Hill lay several hundred feet below. It was an imposing colonial mansion set aside as a leave centre for British Forces based in Malaya and Singapore during the 1960s. I had been looking forward for more than a month to this break in the cool of the Cameron Highlands, a hundred miles north of Kuala Lumpur. God damn it - that precious two week leave pass still had twelve days to run.

The journey back down the east coast of Malaya, via Port Dixon, Malacca and Batu Pahat to RAF Changi was a fevered blur as I lay prostrate on the back seat of my car. Not that it has much to do with the story, but this trusty steed was 1950s Ford Zephyr adorned with the wings of a dragon and the rust of fifteen years in the tropics. It was still capable of outpacing a trishaw driver over short distances.

My most lasting memory of the return journey was at The Causeway joining Singapore to Jahore Bahru. A border control guard leant in through the window and said to my wife with a knowing grin, "Ah, I see Tuan had had too much drink, missy."

He gave a lazy, mocking salute before waving us through. If I'd had the strength, I might have hit him. As luck would have it though, I spent the next three weeks in a military hospital, instead of facing a Court Martial.


I Remember contest entry


Tuan: In Malay-speaking countries) a form of address used as a mark of respect, though not perhaps in this case!
Trishaw: The cycle rickshaw is, or was, a small-scale local means of transport in the Far East.

I served in the late 1960s as a navigator on a Hercules C130 Squadron at RAF Changi in Singapore (now rebuilt as Changi International Airport)
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