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Memories of the Malda and a scary encounter

PUBLISHED: 09:15 18 August 2017

Malda's dragon-style weather vane.

Picture: PEGGOTTY

Malda's dragon-style weather vane. Picture: PEGGOTTY

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Social media can be a blessing and a boon...or an unnecessary nuisance, depending on your viewpoint.

The oriental-style Malda on Middleton Road in Gorleston.

Picture: PEGGOTTY The oriental-style Malda on Middleton Road in Gorleston. Picture: PEGGOTTY

Whereas I use my computer for writing this weekly column and searching for information or confirmation, Mrs Peggotty loves her i-Pad and its Facebook facility and often shows me items therein about Great Yarmouth’s past.

Sometimes its contributors revive a long unaired Peggotty topic, or add detail or correction to past items. Chords are often struck, so to speak.

Recently she drew my attention to somebody asking if anyone remembered “the Chinese-style house between Yarmouth and Lowestoft.” Another user recalled seeing it on holiday visits as a child and showing the property to her own children later. A third remembered making deliveries there but never seeing the owners.

Then came a post that the Great Yarmouth Mercury once featured it - but unfortunately, the Facebook contributor had lost the cutting he had long kept. That cutting was probably my comprehensive column in 2005 when the pagoda-like chalet bungalow named Malda on the corner of Middleton Road and Poplar Avenue in Gorleston was advertised for sale.

Pupils at Gorleston's Stradbroke Road Junior School in 1954-55, more than a decade after Peggotty was educated there and went out collecting books.

Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY Pupils at Gorleston's Stradbroke Road Junior School in 1954-55, more than a decade after Peggotty was educated there and went out collecting books. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

Mrs Peggotty passed on the date and page numbers to him so he could print a full copy from the Yarmouth Central Library files.

In the late 1980s I interviewed new owners Harold and Lavinia Johnson who had resided in Waunci Crescent, and learned that despite the “willow-pattern” appearance, oriental-look front gateway and dragon weather vane, Malda was not Chinese style, as we had all long believed, but was designed pre-war by its architect to resemble a superior Burmese dwelling!

That architect was instructed by a retired Royal Navy commander whose wife had accompanied him on a posting to Burma and was so enamoured by the traditional appearance of some homes there that their new abode back in England should be in Burmese style as a happy reminder.

As my boyhood was spent in West Avenue, only a stroll from Malda, I often passed it and was curious about it. To my young mind, it had a mystique and I could never envisage it being somebody’s home.

Then I had the opportunity to visit it - a few minutes I still clearly recall 70 years on. It was a frightener like those I had seen in A-rated movies at the Gorleston Coliseum cinema. Because of my age, my mother had to accompany me if an A-certificate (adult) picture was in the programme; U-certificated (universal) films were all right for unaccompanied youngsters.

Like other local schools, my Stradbroke Road Juniors participated in wartime “good cause” schemes, one of which was collecting unwanted books from family, friends and neighbours. The pupils’ incentive was being awarded military ranks according to the number of books each boy or girl collected.

My enthusiasm and the decimated libraries of those from whom I begged books earned me Colonel rank, I recall. But my military promotion did not take courage into account.

I knocked on the door of Malda as I worked our neighbourhood in my quest for books and possibly General rank. When it opened, I was faced with an unsmiling and silent bald man with unblinking eyes. He was wearing a blue and white striped butcher’s apron over his clothes...and was holding a meat cleaver!

It was my scary-movie nightmare, with no cool hero to rescue me in the nick of time from some unthinkable fate, screened by the Malda shrubbery.

Before he had a chance to speak, I began to blurt out the reason for my book-seeking visit but fled before I could finish, scampering home as fast as the shopping bag laden with my already-collected books permitted me.

At least I lived to tell the tale, although I probably deserved another oft-filmed symbol: a shameful white feather for cowardice!

Recently I visited Malda to tell the occupants I was photographing and writing about their home, but unfortunately there was no reply.

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