Saturday, 1 July 2017

Barbara Yung's life in Cambridge

The CCAT art building where Barbara used to take her art classes

So the previous post was about my visit to Barbara's grave last week, accompanied by none other than Rob Radboud. This post is about the "Barbara Tour" I had in Cambridge with my knowledgeable guide, Rob. Click this to read Rob's report on this trip and click this to read our appeal to relocate Barbara's old tombstone to Hong Kong. 

I spent the first afternoon in Cambridge, a fine Thursday afternoon, visiting the CCAT (Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology – now the Anglia Ruskin University), about 10 min walk from the city center. CCAT was Barbara's and Rob's pre-university school back in the late 1970s. Rob showed me the place where he first talked to Barbara; a CCAT canteen that has now become a computer lab. He'd notice her already, the quiet Chinese student, always sitting by herself with a black note book, writing. But it was one day in that CCAT canteen that he first talked to her. He approached her and asked what she was writing. She looked up and, with a very bright smile, showed him what she'd been writing, in Chinese. 

This CCAT computer lab used to be a canteen where Rob first talked to Barbara

Rob also took me to the painting room where Barbara would sit and paint objects with her classmates. In fact, it was the first room Rob showed me. I tried to picture Barbara, the shy girl, sitting and copying the objects her teachers told her to draw. I couldn't imagine the shy girl, actually, for the Barbara I knew was a chatty, laughing girl who shared her laughters with Michael... But I do believe it when Rob said that Barbara was shy in the UK. I believe she had the shy part of her, which was more dominant in the UK where she was a foreigner. I also believe her cheerful part was not a made-up façade; it was also real at times. 

The CCAT drawing/painting room

By the way, to see Barbara's artworks, check Rob's recent post on our Cambridge trip. Artworks courtesy of Andrew Chan. Amazing artworks...

Then Rob showed the large sports hall where he and Barbara used to play badminton. She used to give art performances there too, and she enjoyed being in the spotlight. So there we have it again: Barbara the shy girl, who became lively and bursting with energy on stage. I think arts and acting made Barbara channel her lively self, the part which was usually dormant when she was not on stage. 

The CCAT sports and performance hall

Then Rob and I walked to his apartment where he shared his life with Barbara. The building that contained their unit was, still is, Bridgacre, somewhere 10 min walking south of CCAT. Rob’s parents bought the unit for Rob when his father’s work in Cambridge was over. Rob’s parents returned to the Netherlands while Rob stayed in Cambridge to accompany Barbara. Barbara never stayed in Bridgacre, but she spent a lot of time there. In between classes. After class. Before class. During weekends. She'd create stories to tell her family so that they were not suspicious of her and Rob; her mother was, after all, not fond of the idea of Barbara dating a foreigner.

Rob's old apartment where he shared his life with Barbara

Oh yes, there were many things that I didn’t realise happened to Barbara. Some of them I missed from Rob’s articles. Some of them were never told. But I also asked several trivia about Barbara, and Rob answered it candidly. 

Did she have an accent when speaking English? Her accent was a London accent. Definitely British accent. (Icha: How interesting...)

Did she like discussing politics? No, Barbara never showed interest in politics. Interesting, because HK students at that time were very vocal in expressing their political views… but Barbara never showed interest in politics.

Did she like cooking? She was a good cook, but she didn't like doing it. She learned cooking from her 2nd step father, who owned the fish and chip shop. 

Did she like eating? (Rob laughed) She loved food! If she was still alive, she’d be a chubby woman by now, for she loved eating so much!

What was her favourite colour? (Rob thought about it for a while. Eventually we concluded that…) She wore a lot of pinks

Favourite flowers? Not roses. Lillies, the orange ones.

The next morning (Friday 23 June), Rob and I met again at Barbara's grave at the Cambridge City Cemetery (click here to read the post). Oh, you can actually ride bus 3 as well from city center. It will take you to the back fences of the cemetery, very close to Barbara's grave actually. But the bus that takes you right to the cemetery gates are Bus 11 or 12.

After visiting the grave, we went to Histon to see the house that her mother bought after Barbara moved to HK, as well as the fish'n chip shop that used to belong to Barbara's family. The Histon house belonged to another family now, but it is let to yet another man who kindly let us in to take photos of the garden. Rob will make some posts of the visit to this house later, so I'll let him do the past and present comparisons. Suffice to say, Barbara indeed lived there. She indeed visited the house with Kent Tong in June 1984 (that was right before she filmed Chor Lau Heung with Michael Miu). The inside of the house was already renovated, but the garden was still recognisable.

The back view of Barbara's old house in Histon

Afterwards, we walked for about 10-15 min to the fish'n chip shop. The new owner, George, knew that Barbara used to live above the shop. He was very nice, George, he treated us to some fizzy drinks. Rob and I also bought lunch there. We sat down and he explained some more things in Barbara's life in Cambridge, including some unpublished photos of her life in the UK and in HK (pre becoming famous).

The Histon Village Fryer, the fish n chip shop that used to belong to Barbara's family

These windows belong to the Histon Village Fryer fish n chip.
The window between the pipes at the right-hand side belongs to a room where Barbara used to live in

Then Rob had a meeting with Andrew Chan, while I visited the Fitzwilliam Museum
 and returned back to Barbara's grave to put more flowers. Rob and I met again for dinner, where he explained more about his plan to write a book about Barbara's life in Cambridge. Rob also told me about Andrew's plan to replace the tombstone, because they will bury Barbara's mother's ashes at the same little patch where Barbara's ashes are. The tombstone would then need to be replaced with a new one, bearing both their names. The news came as a surprise for me, though it shouldn't be. I mean, we know that the ashes of Barbara’s mother would be buried in the same patch with Barbara’s. I was actually quite surprised when Rob and I went to visit Barbara and we didn’t see any indication of Barbara’s mother there. Turns out, Andrew and family had not inferred her ashes there.  

The next day (Saturday) saw us again at Barbara's grave. Although it would be the third time I visited the grave during this visit, I didn’t mind. It would be the last time I see the tombstone again, unless we can relocate the stone to HK (or China – click this to read our appeal for the stone).

After visiting the Cambridge City Cemetery, Rob and I took a bus to Rob’s old house in Trumpington, in the outskirt of Cambridge. This was the house where Barbara felt happy, for here she met a united, peaceful, functional family she longed to be a part of. The current owner, a kind elderly lady, let us in. Rob showed me the trees and backyard where Barbara sat down in smiles. It was a surreal feeling to step on a backyard where Barbara had been, more than 30 years ago…

The backyard of Rob's former house in Cambridge

Rob and I said goodbye at the National Express bus stop, where I would resume my journey to London. It had been another memorable trip in Cambridge, more so because I have a first-witness account this time.  Rob told me so many things about Barbara, and I shared with him what I thought happened to Barbara in her last year in HK. I still think Barbara suffered from depression, though from Rob’s reading, the depression might be “too mild” to be called depression. I obviously need to do more readings on that matter… However, we both agree on something: Barbara actually needed help… and that night, that fateful night of 13 May 1985, she didn’t get the help she needed…

However, I'm glad to report that we didn't only share sad stories. Rob shared some happy memories of him and Barbara, which invited my laughters. Rob also shared a particularly funny story about Barbara's time during the Fearless Duo shooting. This story came from Andrew, Babs' godson. There was a scene, if you remember, during the FD story, where Barbara's Chor-yin died, and Michael's Szeto Man-mo and Lau Dan's Supreme Master tried to return her to her body. After Man-mo sold his soul to the dark side, there in the Lam family hall (Ep 19), he and Supreme Master did some hocus-pocus that would return Chor-yin to life once more. 

FD Ep 19 when Barbara had to emerge from the coffin, yet she kept sleeping, LOL...

Chor-yin was supposed to wake up from the coffin, looking in daze. However, when the cue was on, nothing happened. Barbara didn't wake up. When the crew inspected the coffin, they found that she (Barbara) was sleeping sound, too tired because of the long day filming!

I had a good laugh when I heard the story. I bet Lau Dan and Michael Miu were ROTFLOL as well! 

The next time I visit Cambridge, Barbara’s stone will have been replaced with a new one, bearing also her mother’s name. I hope by that time, Barbara’s old tombstone will be safely installed in Hong Kong. For that, I – and also Rob – need your help. Contact us if you know anyone who lives in HK who would like to help us with relocating Barbara’s tombstone. We have only until mid August to decide what happens to the stone, and I certainly would like it to be preserved.  

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