Hi, there. Maggie Shaw here, proud owner of Eregendal and author.
As a lifelong lover of reading, each month I choose one of my favourite books – and tell you all about it.
For October’s Book of the Month I have chosen A Changi Childhood by Martin Jones (2021, ISBN:9780993552236; available through Waterstones). Martin wrote this book during the Covid lockdown in 2020/. It is being sold as a fund raiser for the RAF Association and the RAF Benevolent Fund for their work in the RAF community. His previous publications include another autobiographical work: Haircut Tom: Memories of a Southern Grammar School in the 1960s (2020).
A Changi Childhood is a warm, affectionate memoir covering the three years the author lived on a Singapore RAF base as a child in the late 1950s, when his father was posted there as a civil servant and his family relocated there with him. The book is written sequentially, covering many areas of base life, travel and local geography. Sections towards the end, also cover two subsequent return visits the author made to the area, the first with his widowed mother in 1994, and the second with his sister in 2002. The narrative is supported by a comprehensive collection of colour and monochrome photographs, from family snapshots to maps of the base and the surrounding area.
The book is described as a must read for anyone who remembers the RAF presence at Changi, Singapore and the Far East generally. However, even though I have never been to the Far East, I found this memoir a very engaging read too. The narrative and photos evoked the long gone era of my own childhood in north Surrey, as well as the author’s experiences in Singapore and beyond. What made the book particularly powerful for me was the author’s descriptions of his return visits decades later, showing the great changes to many of the places of his childhood, as well as those that hadn’t changed in themselves, such as the peace of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore, now surrounded by skyscrapers.
Although I don’t usually read autobiographies, I came away from this book feeling very glad to have made the effort. Beside learning so much about living in places I had previously seen only as photos in my postcard collection, the book also made me think about my own childhood and the changes that have happened in the years since then. The author’s gentle, respectful tone of voice and style of writing will also stay with me long after I have put the book down.
So there we have it, October’s Book of the Month! Be sure to check back in November as I’ll be revealing another must read.