"Mountains My Lab" Part 2

Posted by Jeremy Windsor on Feb 05, 2019

Jim Milledge has just completed a memoir entitled "Mountains My Lab". Although not intended for publication, Jim has given us permission to reproduce extracts on our blog. During 2019 we'll bring you images and text that describe the extraordinary life of one of mountain medicine's leading figures.

Part 1 and a short biography can be found hereIn Part 2 Jim describes his early years living in China...

China – Part 2

“My early childhood in China was a very happy one. Tsang Chow, where my father worked in the mission hospital, was a modest town in the North China plain about 80 miles south of Tientsin. It was on the Grand Canal constructed to bring rice from the south to the Emperor and city of Peking. One of our regular outings was to walk to the canal and watch the rice boats sailing, if there was wind, or being towed by men along its placid waters. The compound contained a school, a church and a hospital as well as houses for the half dozen ex-patriot missionaries and Chinese staff members. My mother had been a music teacher before getting married and she taught in the school and led the church choir. There was a surrounding wall and beside the buildings there were trees, shrubs and brick paths. I can just remember driving my pedal car around the place with my teddy bear as passenger.

Jim in his pedal car aged about 5 in the compound at Tsang Chow

Besides our main base at Tsang Chow there was an “up country” mission station at Siao Chang. My father had to go there on occasions when there was a staff shortage and my mother and I, with my Nanny, Li Ni Ni, might go too. The journey was quite an expedition taking at least two days. We went partly by train but mainly by cart. These were two wheeled, flat decked, covered, un-sprung conveyances and pretty uncomfortable rides on the unmade country roads. These were lawless times, when bandits were not uncommon. On one occasion when I was about two, I think, we were crossing a dry, sandy riverbed when the driver suddenly whipped up the horse and we started careering along in danger of overturning. My mother asked what was the trouble, “Bandit” yelled the driver! He was trying to get to the village on the far bank before the bandit caught us. We made it and all was well. However, we were aware that a gang of bandits, around that time, shot one of my parents’ colleagues, an Englishman. I don’t remember the bandit escape but I do remember, when I was about five, riding pillion on my father’s motor-bike on the same journey. My little legs were unable to reach the foot-rests, and with my shorts riding up, I got my thighs sunburnt!

When I was very young there were a couple of older British children with whom I played but latterly my playmates were Chinese and I spoke both English and Chinese from the start. My particular friend was Jar Sur the son of the Headmaster of the Mission School. My father took a delightful picture of the two of us with catkins on our ears pretending we were brides with dangly earrings! One of our misdemeanours when we had just learned to write our names was in Jar Sur’s father’s study where we found his writing brushes and ink. We decorated his walls with our names his in Chinese characters, mine in roman script - "JIM". My mother said we were surprised that the grown ups knew it was us who had done it!

Winters were dry and very cold and we wore padded clothes. Summers were very hot and we used to go to the seaside east of Tianjin to my birthplace, Bai Dai Hu. In those days it was little more than a fishing village with a few concrete beach huts where we stayed. Later it became a favourite holiday place for Mao Tse Dung and now is a large resort town with continuous restaurants and hotels along its sea front. We loved it and one of my earliest memories was of waking up and seeing the sun rising over the shimmering sea through the open door of our hut. I remember the shear, unalloyed joy of realising I had another whole day of delight ahead”.

Part 3 can be found here.

1 thought on “"Mountains My Lab" Part 2

david howard commented 1 year, 7 months ago
Dear Jim, Wonderful, fascinating, funny, extraordinary, full of adventure and description.What a life and we are still in your early childhood !! I look forward very much to the next episode.Why not publish it Jim?!! David (the second oldest member of Xtreme-Everest! -a mere youngster)

Have something to say? Comment on this post