Settling in

We’d been in the bleak bungalow a fortnight when Alastair went off on exercise with his signal troop to Mersing on the east coast of Malaysia. Ah Mai, my amah, had been with us since we moved in, and as it was Saturday she was about to go home to her family for the weekend.

She, like the bungalow and most of the furniture, had been found for us by the well-intentioned older army wives. I needed organising and they wound me up tightly in their web of good intentions.

Jane Weeks, the woman Ah Mai had been working for, invited me to lunch to meet her, and a brightly clean Chinese girl in a blue cotton blouse and loose floral trousers opened the door to me, her shiny black hair tied back in a pony tail. I caught a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror in the hallway, hot and sweaty, with my hair sticking to my head. The paisley-patterned dress I’d carefully chosen in England was too tight; how much more suitable were her clothes.

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