Rickshaw Reporter

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George Peet’s memories of colonial Singapore begin in 1923, five years after the Great War, when as a young man of 21, he arrived from his Colchester bedsit to become a reporter at The Straits Times. Fresh off a Blue Funnel steamship. He tastes fully the flavours of the Straits Settlements: being outfitted in tropical topee and tutup; living in a high-ceilinged, pukah-cooled bungalow with a ‘boy’ at his disposal; sleeping in balmy nights under a mosquito net; and commuting to work in a rickshaw. Almost instantly, and without even realising it, this new boy from Home had become a member of the Establishment—the colonial hierarchy where social dos and don’ts were aplenty. Above all, he remembers those hectic rounds about the dusty roads of Singapore, interviewing Somerset Maugham, reporting cricket on the Padang, being a member of the first expedition by car ‘up-country’. Indeed they are the memories that are very rare in the world today. This memoir is the ‘swan song of an almost extinct breed of colonial man’ heightened by the special sensitivity of its writer. George Peet was neither Tuan Besar nor Pukah Sahib but a keen, thoughtful young journalist conscious of the social mores of the multi-racial milieu around him. The result is a unique reflection on colonial life from the pen of someone who lived life on the line separating the worlds of white-washed mansions and cluttered tenements. George Peet brings these people together in a warm, personal account of life in the colony of Singapore during its belle epoch.