King’s Pavilion

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 15.10.15Burgess writes in Little Wilson and Big God, Being the First Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess:

There were good ghostly reasons for not wishing to stay in King’s Pavilion, but the real causes for our dissatisfaction with the place were more mundane.

It was

beautiful enough, an ample structure of the Victorian age, and the view from its verandahs was sumptuous. It looked down on great trees and gardens tended by thin Tamils drunk on todi or palm wine; beyond was the confluence of rivers; beyond again the jungle and the mountains.

But

the gorgeousness of the vista was inadequate payment for the responsibility imposed on us. We inhabited what was in effect a huge flat cut off, but not cut off enough, from the classrooms and dormitories of the preparatory school. At the beginning of the school year weeping Malay boys would arrive with their mothers and fathers, who would stay a night with them and try to stay more, and prepare to be turned into sophisticated collegians.

When lessons were over the boys

made much noise and pissed from their balcony into the inner court, visible while Lynne and I ate lunch. If I railed at them they ran away. If I entered their screaming dormitory they would drag out their prayer mats and howl towards Mecca, knowing that their religious devotions rendered them untouchable by the infidel. They called me Puteh, or white, and also Mat Salleh, or Holy Joe.

The other teachers of the Malay College

could go to quiet houses on Bukit Chandan, meaning Sandalwood Hill, when their work was over. Lynne and I had to cope with noise and responsibility. It was literally a responsibility for life and death.

The garden

was full of snakes, of which Malaya has a large variety, and a king cobra with a growing family was much around King’s Pavilion during my tenure. Scorpions would get into the boys’ shoes or beds and sting them bitterly. Hygiene was a problem, for the water supply was erratic and sometimes totally failed.

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