Sunday, January 23, 2011

Discovering Kirkby

The word "Kirkby" may not ring a bell amongst most Malaysians. But in my family, everybody knows that this is where Atok, went to school at the Malayan Teachers' Training College (MTTC).

Kirkby is a small town with a current population of around 40,000 located just 10km away from downtown Liverpool. It is also about one-and-a-half hour's train ride away from Blackpool, where I used to do my A-Levels. But out of sheer ignorance and being "too busy" perhaps with studies, I did not make it to Kirkby until very recently, last December.

I set off from Blackpool by train via Wigan. The journey is not that long, but with it being winter, it does have its fair share of challenges. Firstly, fending off the sub-zero temperature. Secondly, I had to rush it as the daylight hours is very short. Even so, and although I've never set foot  in Kirkby, looking for the former MTTC ground itself was quite easy.

You see,  I've had tip-offs from Apak's former college mates, and especially Frank Moorhead, a son of one of the former lecturers at MTTC. I had also looked up maps and figured out the exact boundaries of the MTTC. I guess all those training as a town planner is quite useful after all.

As soon as I stepped off the train at Kirkby Station, I set about getting my bearings. And as I walked towards the South Park Road, I soaked in the atmosphere of this quaint  little town and started imagining the ways of the Kirkbyites all those years ago. How they'd descent upon the station as they set off for their Teaching Practices. How they'd walk in groups, passing by the Railway pub as they visit the Kirkby Stores  to buy the papers, and so on.  

I had heard so much about Kirkby. I had seen old photos and even paintings of it by Uncle Jeff, a close friend of Apak from the Kirkby days. And of course, I had read so much about it too: form the Kirkby Website by Low Sau San, and the coffeetable book, Kirkby College-A Heritage. But today, I was finally discovering it for myself.

The MTTC campus is  actually located just on the outskirt of Kirkby town centre. The local commercial centre comprises a short row of small shops along the main street which is Glover's Brow. Today, some of the services found here include a newsagent, convenient stores, a betting shop, a Chinese take away and an estate agent.

But, the key to finding the former site of the MTTC is to get to the South Park Road. The South Park Road is a narrow road with little traffic nowadays. But it was just off this road that the main entrance gates to the MTTC was located. My guess is that, back in the 1950s, this road would have been the main thoroughfare and gateway for all Kirkbyites to get to the shops, the railway station, and beyond.

As I walked along the main street and the former MTTC campus ground, I had the good fortune of meeting and talking to a few people who did have some knowledge about the former college. This includes Sally-Ann Davies who stays in the residential area which has been built over the MTTC ground. Another is a gentleman who pointed out to me the exact location of the former MTTC entrance gates, and that the College border fencings was located just behind the Waverly House.

Unfortunately, nothing much of the old college is left to be seen now. As time passes by, not even any of the locals would be able to recall that Kirkby used to be the proud home to the Malayan Teachers' Training College.

That is why I hope that the idea of putting up a commemorative plaque on the campus site would become a reality soon. Kirkbyites would welcome it, I'm sure. And the locals too could be proud to know of the historical significance of their little town.

I left Kirkby that evening feeling very cold, hungry and tired. But deep down, I was very happy and contented.

I have been to Kirkby, Apak. I now have new pictures to show, and stories to tell, my brothers and sister, as well as my children. Hopefully, with these, the memory and legacy of Kirkby lives on among your children and grandchildren.

At the Kirkby station. The station building is on the left just after the railway crossing bridge. The bridge carries the road Glover's Brow and a pedestrian way which leads directly onto the South Park Road to the right of this photo

The South Park Road which would lead one directly to the former MTTC campus. The Railway pub seen here is a landmark at the junction between the South Park Road and Glover's Brow. From here, the MTTC campus is just about 150m away to the left

The view along South Park Rd looking directly towards the College ground

The junction between South Park Rd and Glover's Brow (looking in the opposite direction from the photo above)

The far end of the South Park Rd before it swerves to the right and continue on from here. But you can see that it also branches off at this point and the road actually continues straight on. From this point, there used to be a lane which continues a little (about 75m) before coming to a halt. THIS is where the College gates used to be!

Just for comparison, here's an old pic of Apak (r) and Uncle Jeff (Jaafar Saidin) in front of the College gates back then

The friendly Sally-Ann Davies. She stays on the housing estate which has been built over the College grounds. She was on her way to post her Christmas cards when I stopped her to ask about the MTTC. Her mother used to stay around here, she said,  so she knows about the College

Green open space within the residential area which is built over the College site. View looking towards where dormitory  Blocks 3, 4 and 5 used to be 

Another view of the residential development. This one is in the direction towards where dorm Blocks 8 and 9 once used to stand

The Waverly House which used to be the landmark right at the entrance to the College. It is now a protected building and still standing proud

The Carters Arms pub on Glover's Brow

The blue-fronted  shop is called Village News. When the Kirkbyites were here, it was known as the Kirkby Stores and much frequented by Kirkbyites for their supply of newspapers, sweets and stationary
The new Kirkby station building. Its just a small station, but serves its purpose to link Kirkby to the bigger cities of Liverpool and Manchester in the North West of England

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Kurma ayam, nasi goreng: Manchester revisited

Manchester is a world famous city. It was the birth place of the Industrial Revolution back in the 18th century. It was from here that industrial development, as we know it today, spread to other parts of Britain and, eventually, the rest of the world.  It is the home of the premiere British civic university which is The University of Manchester.

Oh, and not to forget, it is also home to the second greatest English football club - Manchester United.

But for me, Manchester will be fondly remembered as the place where I received my tertiary education, which would set me on my way to being a professional town planner.

Last December, after having completed my official work in the south of England, I took a National Express coach from the Victoria Coach Station in London and hit the M6 motorway to head north to Manchester. It was a golden opportunity that I would not have missed for anything.

It was, however, one very long, tiring trip, lasting more than five hours. But once the coach exited the M6, and especially when I saw the  Manchester International Airport sign, I began to get excited. And when we passed by the Trafford area, and began entering the city centre, the sight of familiar landmarks got my heart pounding as I got nostalgic and  more excited.

I was greeted at the Manchester Coach Station by Zol, a fresh-faced and well-mannered undergraduate student who would be my host during my stay here.

Zol stays in Rusholme an area south of the city centre fondly referred to as the "Curry Mile" for the large concentration of halal Asian restaurants along its street.

Initially, I had wanted to book a cheap hotel for my stay in Manchester. But when Zol offered me to stay with him, I just could not refuse the offer as it would give me the perfect opportunity to relive my student days of staying in a "rumah bujang".

But I was also looking forward to interacting with these bright young students. I wanted to be able to listen to them expressing their views and experiences - and trials and tribulations. I had also wanted to give them my views and experiences, as well as, share whatever little wisdom that I might have.

And I was not disappointed.

Although Zol and his flat mates Alip, Sopian etc. were busy with school work, they still had the time to "layan" me and hold conversations over meals.

But what I will remember most is the way they went out of their way to prepare simple but decent meals for this hungry traveller.

With the weather being unforgivably cold, one tends to get hungry very easily. So, home-cooked chicken korma and nasi goreng (even if fried without onions) can be very mouth-watering indeed!

Oxford Road. This is where the University of Manchester and the Manchseter Mteropolitan Univ. (formerly polytechnic) are located. The BBC Manchester is also to be found here

The University name signage over the Oxford Road at the Precinct Centre

The former Architectural and Planning Building. This is where I would go for my lectures and studio work. The studios are on the top floor

The former Architectural and Planning Building showing the studios on the top floor

Jenny, the friendly librarian at the Architecture and Planning Library. During my days here as a student the librarians were Val and one other petite lady

The oil painting at the far end of the library is still there. The only difference is that the table has PCs on it. We didn't have computers back then in the early 1980s

Overall view of the library. When exams are around the corner, one would be hard pressed to get a seat at the tables

The arch at the main university building. I received my scrolls here

The friendly sandwich man. When I was studying here, it was his predecessor who used to feed me almost everyday. The original sandwich man has since passed away, I learnt. But his replacement is just as friendly and helpful. He serves halal chicken sandwich.

To succeed at the highest levels one has to develop self- discpline. So, perhaps, it shows here. This is a notice pinned in the bathroom at Zol's flat urging fellow flatmates to follow a set of rules so as to maintain the cleanliness of the bathroom. I found this to be very interesting - and amusing!

Zol and Alip in front of their flat. Thank you guys

Yummy! Zol's chicken korma

Yummy too. Alip's offering of nasing goreng tanpa bawang! Thanks Alip. It kept me full and ready for the long trip to Heathrow

The China Town in Manchester. This is where I used to get my supply of kicap and maggi mee

Public toilets (urinals) at Picadilly Gardens. And it really is PUBLIC, for it is located out in the open in full view of passers-by. And its uni-sex too! Only in England...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sakinah @ UUM

We've just got back from Sintok, up north in Kedah, to send Sakinah for registration at the Universiti Utara Malaysia.

That was one very tiring, back-breaking 1,000km plus journey that was. But seeing my eldest daughter progress further in her education, plus the opportunity of meeting up with old family friends, made the journey well worth it.

Sakinah aspires to be an accountant ever since she was in secondary school. With so many aunties and uncles as accountants, I guess it was only natural that at least one of my children eventually gets hooked.

Sakinah already has her diploma. This stint in Sintok will earn her a degree insyaAllah.

All the best my dear. Go for it!

In Sintok we put up for the night at Azam and Fishah's place. Azam and Fishah are very close friends from our Tsukuba days in Japan. Those days there were just the two of them - no kids yet. But thirteen years later, they have caught up with us and have four of their own.

After such a long time, it was nice to see them again and see how their family have grown.

Thank you for receiving us Azam and Fishah, and many thanks for all your help.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Manchester city transport

Manchester is the second (or is it the third) biggest city in the UK. But it was, of course, the birth place of the British Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.

To this day one could still find the many large buildings which used to house the cotton mills and warehouses back then scattered throughout the city.

Within the very centre of the city one would witness winding, narrow streets laid out close to each other suitable for, and reflecting perhaps, the typical transport requirements of the day back then which was most probably horse-drawn carriages.

During the 19th century Manchester used to have its own tram system. But later, like in most UK cities (bar Blackpool), the trams disappeared which only served to bolster the position of automobiles as the undisputed Kings of the Road.

Credit to the city's planners, the trams were brought back to the city centre in time for the Commonwealth Games 2002. They are now a permanent feature in the Manchester streetscape.

Before the trams made their comeback there was of course the buses.

I used to take the No. 81 Greater Manchester Transport bus from Cheetham Hill to the university. But after a few weeks of riding on the smoked-filled buses (there were no smoking restrictions back then in the 1980s) I gave up.

You see, the cigarette smoke would make me dizzy and sick every time I ride the bus. So I bought myself a cheap second-hand Ford Escort which would ferry me to school everyday as and when I pleased.

Note: pic shows a town bus at the Piccadilly Gardens bus station, Manchester.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Off to school

Today my youngest, Nadiah, the baby of the family, starts her secondary schooling.

All the best Nadiah, work smart and enjoy secondary shcool.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device via Vodafone-Celcom Mobile.