The year was 1980 and the place was Kuantan, Pahang. On one hand, I was a young mother with three children aged 5, 3 and 1. On the other, I was a very hassled writer with deadlines to meet and editors to please.
The man of the house was hardly home for his job took him to the length and breadth of Pahang for long periods at any one time. I was thus mom and dad all at once, indulgent yet strict, a disciplinarian with a heart (I suppose).
Life moved at a much slower pace then, especially in a laidback place like Kuantan where the only excitement was chancing upon some naked tourists making out amongst the boulders at Teluk Chempedak.
Kuantan was just a provincial town with a wide expanse of empty land, a few housing estates, plenty of quaint kampung houses, villages on the suburbs, long sandy beaches in Beserah and Cherating, the RMAF base where all the handsome young fliers could be found, and weekend markets near Gambang.
Kuantan was a million miles away from West Hampstead, my previous abode prior to coming home. The 'Tube', the watering holes on Fleet Street, the jazzy & snazzy Carnaby Street, the hustle & bustle of Edgeware Road and Victoria Station - in Kuantan it felt as though London was just a pleasant dream.
Kuantan in 1980 was something else altogether. It was neither dead nor alive. It was breathing, but only just. Back in KL some time later I thought I would not survive another Kuantan.
Not so long ago I took a trip down memory lane when my husband joined his buddies for a round of golf in Pekan. I took the opportunity to wander around my old neighbourhood.
How Kuantan has grown! There were development everywhere. It took us a few missed junctions to locate my old house just behind the MARA Junior Science College. The college's water tower where my family and I had spied a strange "being" one Maghrib, sitting atop the tower with its legs dangling to the ground, is no more.
Teluk Chempedak has changed beyond belief. It is so commercialised now. There is even a McDonald drive-in smack by the seaside! In fact, it looks no different from Port Dickson's seafront. The character of Teluk Chempedak is lost forever. What a shame.
But some things remain the same, thank heavens for that. The golf course by the sea is still there and it looks much better than it ever was. "Beverly Hills" of Kuantan still looks as posh, with lots of new villas belonging to royalty and the rich and famous, I reckon.
With the new East Coast Highway, reaching Kuantan is a breeze - a mere 3-hour drive away. It is no longer the sleepy hollow it used to be. I can live in new Kuantan, I think.....