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This article is taken from PN Review 55, Volume 13 Number 5, May - June 1987.

Wordsworth's Prelude: A Chinese Perspective Shirley Chew

Only a tongue of land, a sportsfield, separates Clemenceau Avenue in the south from Tank Road, and where it narrows and the thoroughfares meet, Clemenceau Avenue takes over. This, as I remember, had not always been the case. When we came to live in the row of shophouses which lined one side of the street, the other being taken up by a disused railway depot, the entire stretch sweeping down for half a mile from the sportsfield was Tank Road. The new name was an invention of the 1950s but, by then, the ground of the depot had been cleared of rusty tracks ready for rebuilding.

There were times when it seemed we had two streets in one. First, Clemenceau Avenue which meant Government House (as it was then called), smart offices, and George V Park girdling the base of Fort Canning Hill; then Tank Road with its pre-war shophouses, most of them converted into flats, a coffee-shop and bakery, at least two sweet stalls, a Chinese school (to which the sportsfield belonged) and a Hindu temple. In retrospect, what they stood for was the same thing. Whether Chinese, Indian or British, we had, as foreigners and immigrants, laid claim to our own portion of an island in size little more than two hundred square miles.

Taking possession, we often remembered the past. Transliterated into Chinese, 'Tank Road' shed its associations with military and railway transport and, depending on which ideogram of a similar sound ...


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