Datuk Paddy Bowie first came to Southeast Asia in 1954. 55 years, two husbands and three children later, she is still here, having seen a lot in her time.
I ended my last article writing about an unexpected blessing bestowed on our family – a new and incomparable daughter. She turned out to be the most exquisite little thing. And before long she was making her precocious debut in public and even at that early age finding her destiny in the world of entertainment. Readers will know her as Samantha Schubert – a former Miss Malaysia.
With her, our family was complete however, little did we know it at the time, my husband Carl had only six more years to live. But we made the most of it, and he lived long enough to become proudly aware of her talent.
This was to emerge even at pre-school. On one of our annual Xmas visits to the royal Palace at Sri Menanti, Negeri Sembilan, this diminutive little girl stole the show. It was the Boxing Day birthday celebration for Tengku Dara Naquiah. The band struck up. But before anyone could take the floor, she seized the opportunity for an impromptu song and dance performance. This was her debut.
On another occasion a famous Hong Kong singer was in town performing at the then one and only Hilton. I took Samantha to hear her but the little Madame vanished inside the crowd. I scoured the hotel in a state of growing anxiety close to agitation only finally to discover her up on stage performing with the famous guest.
All this before the age of five. And still she continues to upstage us all especially me. I can be on a platform having delivered myself of whatever I can muster of wit and wisdom. The Chairman will make the obligatory remarks – “This has given us plenty of food for thought etc. etc. I know there will be lots of questions. Over to you”. Followed inevitably by that chilling silence. Then after a few agonizing moments a bloke gets up. I lean forward eagerly; “Are you Samantha’s mother?” And I’ve lost the plot.
The next era in our little family life was the Alice Smith School phase. Again Samantha lost no time taking the floor. I’ll never forget one Xmas concert. The pre-enfants class were ushered on to the platform and lined up to sing a carol. But they all got stage fright – all but one. What was intended to be a choir turned into a solo performance.
And by now the boys were in on the act. Once we were giving a party for my son Peter’s school chums. Invitations had gone out – replies had come in; all but one -from Tun Ghazali Shafie’s son. So I volunteered that on the school run the following morning I would tackle the boy’s mother. Peter’s response? “Oh he doesn’t have a mother. He’s got a driver”. I dare not ask which was better.
I used to take my turn driving my lot to school along with one or two neighboring children. One day it could have been disastrous. They were just disembarking into the school playground when came the parting shot – “You are not his real mother are you?“ With which they had vanished, leaving me to agonize all morning on how to retrieve the situation.
I had always fully intended to tell the children they were adopted but was waiting for the right moment. I had envisaged a cozy scene perhaps in front of a log fire in Fraser’s Hill. Now I’d been pre-empted.
I got hold of Peter privately (the others were far too young). First I took the line that he had been very special. We, his father and I, were told we too were special because we were to have the privilege of being able to choose the child we wanted. We knew exactly what that was. We yearned for a little boy with brown hair and brown eyes.
Unfortunately at this nursery, we were confronted with scores of cots containing all these beautiful little babies. But many were girls. The others all seemed to be blonde or red haired. We were on the point of despair. Then right at the very end of the room was this simply adorable little boy with the requisite brown eyes and hair. Just what we wanted!
Peter burst into tears. What had I done? He soon enlightened me “Where’s the baby? You’ve let it go!” The truth would have to wait.
Alice Smith was (and still is in my view) the leading private English School in Malaysia. It did my children proud.
When the time came they had no difficulty in gaining entrance to the public schools in the UK. Whilst here, though we were not to know then, they were rubbing shoulders with some of Malaysia’s future VIP’s – Hishamuddin for one, and Tony Fernandez before Epsom College. I’d like to end by thanking the school and its Governors for giving my children such a great educational start.
Source: The Expat January 2012
This article has been edited for ExpatGo.com
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