One day Barbara asked me if I objected if she competed in the miss China town contest in London. Some people at the Burger King where she worked had suggested that to her. The first price was a fully organized trip to Hong Kong, she liked that. The winner had attend to some official meetings but there would be enough time for a holiday in Hong Kong (obviously I was not invited if she should win, she would take her mother with her). She had been asking around if she should do it and most people told her to go for it. I didn't mind. For me it was one of those Chinese things in which Barbara preferred it if I got not involved. Barbara tried to avoid me getting in contact with her Chinese life. I guess she did this to avoid the discriminating comments and also that her mother wouldn't be asked awkward questions about her daughters relation. I didn't mind not being involved as everybody would talk Chinese anyway, which was very boring for me. Sometimes some Chinese would be polite and speak English, but they nearly always end up speaking Chinese. This is not strange as I always talk Dutch to the students from the Netherlands.

Another reason why Barbara didn't want me to get in contact with the Chinese in London was that she was afraid that her mother would find out that I stayed so much time with her in London. Barbara had never told her mother that I came to see her during the week. She was to afraid that her mother would stop paying the rent and that she had to go back to Histon and commute to London. This fear of being caught by her mother gave twice a very strange situation.

The first one was on a Monday evening. I was in Barbara's room and suddenly Barbara's mother and uncle knocked on the door of her room. Someone had let them in the house. Normally Barbara would arrange to see her mother in China town, she seldom let her mother visit her in her room. There was no way out for me. Barbara didn't answer the knocking on the door and we kept as quiet as we could. Meanwhile we were trying to find a hiding place for me in that room. This was impossible of course. We tried the cupboard and behind the curtains, jumping out through the window was impossible, it was a long way down. Luckily Barbara's neighbor, a sweet German girl, who knew about our situation, came to the rescue. She told Barbara's mother that Barbara had just left. I don't think her mother believed her, but as Barbara didn't open the door, she had no choice. She gave the meal she had brought with her to the neighbor and finally left. It was a close escape. We gave the meal to the German girl being thankfull for saving us.

The second time was when came home late after being out. As we walked to Barbara's house I saw a man sitting on the stairway before the house. I thought it was her uncle waiting for Barbara. Near the house there was a group of guys sitting on a park bench. Without further thinking I went to sit next to them and acted as I knew them. Barbara was not only surprised by this strange action; she thought I had gone mad. After she convinced me that is was not her uncle, and the guys told me that it was one of their mates sitting on the stairway, I dared to go further. I wonder what those young men must have thought of this situation.

Back to the beauty contest. Barbara applied and she got invited for an interview. She was very excited about that, especially when she heard that the jury elected her for the final. The final was held in luxurious nightclub at Leicester square in London (I remember that Grace Jones had the evening show there in the weekends). Every Friday, late in the afternoon Barbara had to go there to practice. She learning how walk, how to smile, how to talk in a microphone, she learned the routine of changing clothes, paying attention to the lighting and how to behave on stage. I would be waiting for her outside the artist entrance. She never let me in.

I didn't see the show, she didn't want me to be there. I can't remember if her mother was there. It was on a Friday night. I suppose she was.

I came to London the next day. She told me that she became second, which she thought was very unfair. Especially as the girl who had won couldn't speak Chinese. She complained about it "how can someone attend formal meetings in Hong Kong if they can't speak Chinese".

That afternoon she had to go for photo shoot with the winner. The pictures taken came in nearly all the national newspapers. I still remember it. Barbara and the girl who won in traditional Chinese costumes asking a typical London policeman the way.

1980 02 miss chinatown

I don't really know what this publicity did with Barbara as a person and if it changed her ambitions. She never talked about it; neither did she keep the newspaper cuttings so far as I know. She didn't enter more beauty contests or pursuit a career as a model. Maybe it was because I didn't encourage it, I was indifferent in this. For me it wasn't important if Barbara was a beauty queen or not.

I looked all over internet to find pictures of this contest. I even went to the British library to look into the newspapers of that period. But I found nothing, and I am sure there must have been hunderds of pictures taken. I hope that one day someone who has some pictures of that beauty contest, will read this story and then publish some pictures.


belsize av met bankje

Last january (2011) I went back to Belsize park nr 37 for the first time since 1983. I was pleas-antly surprised to see that the bench described in this story is still there. Looking at the garbage it is still in use as a place to hang around. The first house at the back (with the lights on) is the house where Barbara used to live.



2011年1月我自1983后首次回到Belsize公园。 我惊喜地发现本故事里提到的长椅还在原处。在停车场后面的左边,人们还会在这里闲坐。 后面一排房子的第一座(开着灯的)就是Barbara原来的家。



19800218 strait times


19800220 SCMP



一天Barbara问我我会不会反对她参加伦敦华埠小姐选美。 她打工的汉堡王店里的同事提议她去参加。第一名的奖品是一次香港旅游的机会,她很喜欢这个奖品。尽管冠军需要参加一些正式的会议,但应该有足够的时间在香港度个假(我明显是不会被邀请的,她会带她母亲去的。)她问了周围很多人是不是要参加这个比赛,大多数人鼓励她去。我也不介意她参加。对我而言,这件事情是Barbara更希望我置身事外的一些中国人的活动之一。Barbara尽量避免让我接触她的中国部分的生活。我猜她是为了避免听到那些歧视性的评论,另外她的母亲也会被人问到关于女儿男朋友的难堪的问题。我并不介意不参与这些事,因为他们每个人总是讲中文的,我也会感到非常无聊的。有时候一些人出于礼貌会讲英文,但是几乎每次都会转到讲中文的。这不奇怪,我和认识的荷兰学生在一起,也总是讲荷兰语的。


另外一次是我们出去回来晚了。我们正朝她家走去,我看见有个人坐在他们家门口的台阶上,我以为是Barbara的舅舅。 在房子前面的长椅上坐着几个人。我想也没想就一下子坐在他们边上,假装我认识他们。Barbara不仅仅是觉得奇怪,她以为我发疯了。直到她告诉我那不是她舅舅,边上的那几个人也告诉我坐在台阶上的是和他们一伙的,我才敢走。 我总想那几个年轻人会怎么看那种情况呢。

回到说选美的事情。Barbara申请参赛也应邀参加了面试。她很兴奋,尤其是当她听说评审团选她进入决赛。总决赛在雷塞斯特广场(Leicester square)的一个豪华夜总会举行(我记得Grace Jones在那里举办过周末表演)。每个周五下午Barbara都得去那里训练。她学习如何走路,微笑,用麦克风说话,学习了换服装流程,灯光位置以及舞台举止。我在艺人入口处外边等她。 她没让我进去过。我也没有看到决赛表演。她不希望我出现在那里。 我记得她的母亲出席了。比赛是在一个周五的晚上。




(Thanks to Natalie for the translation)



# RE: Miss China town contestMei Ling Fan 2011-02-10 22:12
Thanks Rob for another chapter. The hiding part reminds me of a scene in Legend of The Condor Heroes. :lol:
# RE: Miss China town contestHannah 2011-02-11 02:15
The videos:I think she was nervous. Any girl would be if they were up there on stage being judged, hehe.

Love this story. Again shows how cautious you guys are. I cant imagine how uneasy Barbara felt all the time having to look over her shoulders for her Mother and Uncle. I am sure there were times that she just wanted to give up. She obviously tried to make it work by separating one life into two. Shows a lot of love for a person to have to work so hard to keep a relationship. This definitely goes for you too Rob.
# RE: Miss China town contestBarfan 2011-02-13 02:05
I guess it all started here then. The ambition of being a beauty queen, the longing for a different life in Hong Kong, and everything that followed. Would things be different, had you been a little more assertive than merely being 'indifferent'? We'll never know.

Will you tell us more about your 2011 trip? How do you feel when seeing everything once again after almost three decades?
# RE: Miss China town contestBarbara Fan 2011-02-18 15:04
Hi Rob, I have some questions to ask u. During this time u were half way through the relationship, at this time did u see a breaking up occurring or did the relationship become strained at this point. Were u annoyed and angry that Barbara would invite her mother instead of u to HK if she won first price. Were u upset that she did not invited u to see her in the pageant. And if she won and had invited u to go to HK would u have gone.
# RE: RE: Miss China town contestRob 2011-02-18 16:27
When you read the next story than you see that this time was the best time in our relation. It was obvious for me that Barbara would take her mother, I didn't consider or even ask if I could come, the same with the pageant. If she wanted me to go to HK then of course I would have gone.
# RE: Miss China town contestFan From USA 2011-07-30 20:40
Hi Rob,
Just wondering, the picture from this newspaper cutting, is it about the time Barbara doing the Miss China town contest?
# Clearer picture of Miss ChinaTownsammo 2016-11-11 17:43

Loved your life story with Barbara

Here's a clearer picture of Miss Chinatown London 1980

To quote Bruce Lee "The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering"
# RE: Clearer picture of Miss ChinaTownRob 2016-11-11 18:13
Thank you, amazing that you managed to find this picture.
# Clearer picture of Miss ChinaTownsammo 2016-11-11 18:55

I travel a lot on the A14 going to Ipswich passing Cambridge. Next time, I will stop in Cambridge to pay my respect.

As the photo is copyright, let me know via my email address if you need help to obtain a copy of the picture
# RE: Clearer picture of Miss ChinaTownRob 2016-11-14 09:01
Yes, you should make a stop at Cambridge, it is a nice cemetery. I dare not publish the picture as there is an obvious copyright on it. I can be reached by mail at Thanks
# RE: 38. Miss Chinatown contest 华埠小姐选美 1980Simon 2019-06-01 14:13
The girl that won Miss Chinatown looks like mix race. I'm surprise by Barbara's reaction saying the girl cant speak Chinese so don't deserve her win. Chances are this girl may not be able to write in Chinese or even follow Chinese customs. For a moment I think Barbara became like her mother. I think there is a strong desire of Chinese identity in Barbara even though she was dating a foriegn boyfriend.
# RE: 38. Miss Chinatown contest 华埠小姐选美 1980Rob 2019-06-12 11:44
I think Barbara reacted like that because she didn't like losing. During the rehearsals everybody told her she was the prettiest, so becoming 2nd was a big disappointment for her.
# Positive in life(Miss Chinatown contest)Ken Chau 2020-06-16 13:52
Despite of her previous suicide attempts, she was very positive about her life and did a great achievements in show business.

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