Two suitcases and a bag of cuddly toys!

It just dawned on me that although you’re all familiar with my love for cooking and all the shenanigans that happen in my kitchen, you don’t really know who I am or indeed my background. So I’m going to do a series of extracts of my life in order for you to get to know me and how Dapur Mariae came to be. Hope you enjoy it.  

This is literally how my life in UK began way back in 1989 when I left Malaysia to pursue a career in nursing. In Malaysia after sixth form, I was full of disappointment at not getting into the Law Faculty, and I was at a loss at where my career or indeed my life was heading. So I got a part time job teaching English in the day and sang (yes sang!) in local pub called ‘Strikers Lounge’ in the evening. 

Not exactly the glowing future I had envisaged but at least I was earning some cash and had a few fans who would loyally listen to my crooning. I wasn’t Whitney Houston by any stretch of the imagination and in all honesty, after my ‘fans’ had downed a fair few drinks they were oblivious as to whether I was belting out do re mi or ‘I will always love you’! It was good fun and apart from clutching my microphone for dear life as I dodged the odd drunken brawl on a Saturday night, it was quite enjoyable. 

One year on and my classmate Anastasia asked me to come along with her to study nursing in England and without much thought, I said yes just like that. So I sang for one last time in a pub called ‘San Jose’ to the usual drunk but this time rather sad lot who came to say goodbye. It was quite touching as they actually chipped in to get me a hamper of goodies, but I was under no disillusion that memories of me would quickly disappear once a new vocalist took the stage! On the day I was due to leave for the airport, I vividly recall my big permed hairdo and very 80’s outfit complete with faux fur coat. 

As a 21 year old who never lived away from home, I was filled with extreme excitement at the adventures that lay ahead tinged with some nerves. Leaving my parents, brother, friends and relatives behind was intensely heartbreaking as you can imagine. A small consolation was to bring along cuddly toys which reminded me of those I loved. The first was a pink panther from my brother, and the second a rag doll my folks lovingly gifted one Christmas. And yes even though a bit threadbare, I still have them to this day (if only they could talk!). 

My welcome to Britain was a full strip search at Heathrow Airport, which was humiliating to say the least, but that bleak episode was swiftly replaced by a startling realisation.

Here I was, a girl from a small town called Seremban in a strange country, lost in a sea of people with all the familiarity of my old life gone. I would have given my left arm to have even my drunken fans waving at me from the corner of Heathrow. 

A sudden mixture of panic, anxiety, and loneliness descended upon me until I caught sight of my cousins whom I’d only met once before, and instantly breathed a sigh of relief.......

To be continued, Mariae xxx

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