He Changed His Mind – (Our Present Past 6)

Get caught up on this story – 

CLICK HERE   FOR PART 1 – OUR PRESENT PAST  
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 – WIDOW’S DILEMMA   
CLICK HERE  FOR PART 3  – ANNA GOES TO SCHOOL
CLICK HERE FOR PART 4 – THE NEWTONS OF OLD PARK VIEW
CLICK HERE FOR PART 5 – A BRIDE FOR SHADRACH

                                                                        ………………..

There was excitement at the fine brick residence on Forest Office Lane in Chundikuli. Shadrach Samuel was expected in town as the guest of his relatives, the Newtons of Old Park View. 

Posing in a “fine” brick tile-roofed residence in Chundikuli.  Most homes of the time were of wattle-and-daub with coconut thatch roofs.  The items in the room betoken affluence in keeping with the upscale neighbourhood. Note the victrola (wind-up gramaphone) with its large acoustic horn, bird in an ornamental cage, table-top keyboard instrument, potted plants and miscellaneous ornate pieces of furniture. Elizabeth Thangamuttu Porter, wife of Charles Selliah, in her home at Park Road, Chundikuli (circa 1920s). Mrs. Selliah, an unidentified individual, was perhaps a relative or friend of the family. (Courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)

Mrs Charles Newton (nee Anne Rose Perinpanaygam), his mother’s first cousin, was also Aunt Rebecca’s sister-in-law. Anne Rose was famed for her culinary expertise and Charles — her husband — was a hospitable man who needed no excuse to turn an occasion into a party.

Charles Newton, circa 1930s. The picture published in the St John’s College magazine, was photographed by this writer at the college library during a visit to Jaffna in 2017.
Anne Rose Newton
Anne Rose Thangamma Newton (nee Perinpanayagam) (circa 1930s)

Their two  daughters — Grace Nesaratnam and Mercy Sugirtharatnam — were young women now.  Petite Grace, a studious bookworm, was married to Mutuvelu Fred Aiyadore in 1924. Fred Aiyadore was attached to the Civil Service of the British Government, in the employ of Ceylon Railways.  

 Old Park View was part of the substantial dowry Anne Rose had received from her father, the wealthy landowner, Joshua Perinpanayagam.  The property was signed over to Grace as her dowry when she married.

The first son-in-law, Mutuvelu Fred Aiyadore, bridegroom of older daughter,  Grace Newton (circa 1930s) (Courtesy the late Sybil Thapararatnam)
 
 Fred Aiyadore, a man of arresting good looks,  in his stationmaster’s uniform. He was posted to different parts of the island during his long tenure with Ceylon Railways (circa 1930s)(Courtesy Ranji Ratnasingham)
grace and fred
Fred (left) and Grace (Newton) Aiyadore in the earlier years of marriage (circa 1930s/40s)(Courtesy the late Sybil Thapararatnam)

Mercy, four years younger than her sister, was a student at Chundikuli Girls’ College, steps away from her home, Old Park View.  She, like her sister, had acquired the skills required of a genteel lady of her time.  She played the piano, was a proficient dressmaker and had learned the finer points of cookery from her mother.  She was also a gifted artist.

Chundikuli Girls’s School at its inception, circa 1896, as pictured in a school magazine, from the 1930s. (Photo taken at the school library by this writer, on a visit to Jaffna in 2017)

The infant Shadrach once held in his arms, was now sixteen.  She was tall, slim with a distinctive beauty spot above her upper lip.  She scaled the fruit trees in the orchard surrounding her home and roamed the grounds of Old Park View barefoot, engaging with gusto in the boisterous pastimes of Victor and Arthur, her  young brothers.  She still found time for her dolls. Life was lovely and uncomplicated.   There was no hurry to grow up.

Young Victor Newton in his early teens (circa 1930s)
Kid brother Arthur Newton, circa 1930s

The senior Cambridge class at Chundikuli girls’ school (1910) published in a copy of the school magazine from the 30s. Seated (centre) are the British headmistress and vice-principal. (Photo taken at the school library by this author during a visit to Jaffna in 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                     ……………

There was something about the marriage-market game that brought sparkle to the humdrum of day-to-day duties.  Rose Newton’s spirits rose as she oversaw the dusting and sweeping of the home and issued orders to yard and kitchen staff. 

Her husband and she were to accompany the young man, Shadrach on his visit to the home of the prospective bride.  Rose had picked a suitable saree for the occasion.

The rice boiling on the wood stove was from her paddy fields, delivered yesterday by bullock cart and piled up in gunny (burlap) bags on the kitchen floor. There was fresh Seer fish which she would spice and cook to practised perfection.  Oorukai prepared with limes from the kitchen garden, dried on the back porch and pickled last week, would be the tangy accompaniment to the afternoon meal, along with several side-dishes of curried vegetables simmering in clay chatty pots.  Water was drawn from the well in the  yard outside — northern water that was famously known to tinge Jaffna cuisine with a distinct flavour which would make the two-hundred-mile train journey from the south well worthwhile. 

A feast of special things awaited the guest.

A coconut-thatch bullock cart, circa early 1900s (Google images).

                               ………………….

Shadrach  didn’t seem inclined to rise from his seat at the Newtons’ table.  Though gravy-stains spattered the white tablecloth and lunch was long consumed, he chatted about inconsequentialities while his gaze strayed through the open window to linger on the slender form of a boisterous girl, a pretty tomboy blooming into womanhood.  Her braided hair askew, Mercy clambered up a tree in pursuit of a mischievous brother whose bare legs dangled from the branch above her.  

A fashionable bullock hackery (buggy cart), circa early 1900s (Google images)

 

The buggy waited outside, the driver at the ready.

The wall clock chimed the hour. 

Charles Newton glanced at his wife and cleared his throat.  “We have to leave in a little while.  They’ll be waiting.”  

“I changed my mind. I’m not going,” Shadrach announced flatly.  He eyed his host and declared, “I want to marry Mercy!”

Husband and wife succumbed to seconds of stunned silence.

“Mercy?”  Charles rasped.  “She’s sixteen.  Still at school!”

Shrewd Rose gathered her wits to take stock of the situation. Young Samuel was an up-and-coming entrepreneur, they said.  He hadn’t made a fortune, of course — not yet — but his prospects were good, she’d heard.

The busy northern grapevine was rarely wrong. 

There was discussion around the table in the course of which the surprised pair agreed that a union between their younger daughter and Shadrach Samuel was something to be desired.  Despite the fact that she was a teenager and he sixteen years older.

Rose stepped onto the front porch and called to her daughter. “Mercy, come inside.  We have to talk to you!”

                                  ……………

A man in love: Shadrach Samuel, in his early thirties, circa 1930s

One can’t help but feel bad for that young woman who would have been attired in her best and put on display, coached on the etiquette of serving tea to the visitors and speaking only when spoken to.  Some unfortunate individual would have had the unenviable task of informing her parents that the eligible bachelor from the city of Colombo would not be visiting their home as arranged. 

For the first time in her life, Mercy had a saree draped around her frame.   A formal engagement ceremony took place the next day, with an exchange of gold rings and an Anglican minister officiating.  A guest at the occasion later reported that she looked tall and grown up in her unaccustomed attire.

Childhood was now officially behind her.

The Newtons made it perfectly clear  that their younger daughter would not be given a  dowry,  their unusual reasoning being  that the bridegroom-to-be was a businessman and should well be able to make his way in the world unassisted.  This was an unprecedented decision at a time when it was expected that a father would bestow property and jewellery on his daughter.  Still on the precarious cusp of acquiring financial stability, he had fallen so much in love that it never occurred to Shadrach to protest or argue the matter. 

Why the wealthy Newtons decided to act in this manner is a mystery.  

Shadrach returned to Colombo with a band of gold on his finger, excited to share his news with his youngest siblings– Anna and Solomon — who were living in his home at the time.

He was caught off guard by the twins’ unexpected reaction.

To be continued …

                                             ………………………………………….

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A Bride For Shadrach (Our Present Past 5)

Get caught up on this story – 

CLICK HERE   FOR PART 1 – Our present past  
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 – Widow’s dilemma   
CLICK HERE  FOR PART 3  – Anna goes to school
click here for part 4 – the newtons of old park view

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The orphans spent their childhood shuttling between foster-homes and boarding school.  It would be years before some of the six siblings set eyes on each other again.

Early one morning in 1905 Shadrach Samuel, aged twelve, stepped off the platform at the Fort Railway station in Colombo and into the open arms of his mother’s youngest sister, Rebecca (Danvers) Perinpanayagam. 

Fort Railway Station, Colombo, circa early 1900’s (Google images)

Aunt Rebecca’s husband, Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam, was an accountant in the employ of Bousted Brothers, the agents for Colombo Electric Tramways and Lighting Company.  Their residence in Messenger Street, Kotahena became home for the next several years and Shadrach was the unofficial eldest child of the newly weds.  He called his aunt Amma (Mum) and thrived in her care.  His siblings later followed suit and accorded her the same honour  when they addressed her as they would their mother.

1912 Boustead Bros (Agents for Colombo Tramways & Electrical Ltd.) cricket Team and Club members. Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam, indicated by red arrow (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)

 

Uncle Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam (1872 -1918)
Aunt Rebecca (Danvers) Perinpanayagam (1876 – 1951)

The family grew when the babies came.  Cousin Stephen Edgar Rasasingham arrived when Shadrach was fifteen then baby Donald Edwin Balasingham who died before his first birthday, and finally George Walter Kulasingham. 

Aunt and Uncle  also adopted a little girl they christened Anna Mae Gnanmonie, who didn’t survive her teens. 

As he grew into manhood the twelfth birthday letter from his grandmother remained Shadrach’s most treasured possession.  He found quiet moments to feast his eyes on the elaborate handwritten curlicues of the Tamil script.  The notepaper was fragile from frequent handling, the stamped, addressed envelope frayed and falling apart.  He could recite the words off by heart —

Samuel Alfred and Rebecca Perinpanayagam, with baby George Walter on his mother’s lap, little Stephen Edgar holding a hat. Grandma Harriet (Thevanei) Danvers is seated left (Courtesy Vasanthy Narendran, from the archives of the late Rev. Donald Canagaratnam)  

May you, little one, go from strength to strength, and become a millionaire (Chinnavan aigiramum siriyavan palaththa seemanum aavaan) …

The passage of time ushered Granny Harriet Danvers into eternity, but the prophetic power of her written words lingered to become a compelling, guiding force in her young grandson’s life.  

The years in Aunt Rebecca’s home were happy ones, but the memory of his paternal uncle’s betrayal was an unrelenting, plaguing presence .  As soon as he reached the age of legal majority, Shadrach filed action against his father’s brother, the man who robbed his widowed mother of her home and property in Vavuniya.  He laid claim to the house and the surrounding property, but was – perhaps unwisely – uninterested in taking on the burden of farming the extensive acreage of paddy fields extending beyond.

Shadrach’s Colombo – Main Street, Pettah, circa early 1900’s, with tramway tracks.  (Courtesy Google Images)

 

 

The court ruled in his favour.   Shadrach had the land divided equally, earmarking a sixth for himself and his five siblings.  These parcels of property would later be passed on to the oldest son of each Samuel brother or sister. 

In 1918 bereavement came to the home in Messenger Street with the death of Uncle Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam.  Aunt Rebecca was prematurely widowed after fourteen years of marriage.  Shadrach slipped into the role of surrogate father-figure to his two young cousins.

A group of southern Sinhalese villagers , culturally different from the inhabitants of the northern Ceylon, circa 1900’s (Google images)

His fascination with scrap-metal (which he salvaged and sold for pocket money during the boyhood years of World War I) and the years in the service of his employer, made him an authority in the hardware business.  He rose from the ranks at the British firm of Hoar and Company — from apprentice errand boy and general dogsbody — to the position of Store Manager.                                                                                       

Traffic on 4th Cross Street in the heart of Colombo city, bustling with bullock carts, circa early 1900’s. (Courtesy Google images)

Shadrach learned to speak Sinhalese, the language of the south, with the flawless accent of the native. With wisdom unprecedented for a man of Tamil heritage, he taught himself to read and write the language as well.  The latter was an unusual move which would stand in his favour in a nation that would experience ethnic unrest and bitter division in the troubled post-colonial decades to come.

Rickshaws and umbrellas, Main Street, Colombo, circa early 1900s. (Courtesy Google images)
Galle Road, the main artery of the city or Colombo, circa early 1900’s (courtesy Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Town Hall, Colombo, circa 1915, with coconut-thatch shops, pedestrians and bullock cart traffic (Google images)

As Shadrach approached his thirties, his unerring business acumen guided him to purchase a home on Messenger Street in close proximity to his beloved Amma.  Shortly thereafter, when Hoar & Company wound up their business, he took a massive leap of faith to invest in the firm’s unsold stock — steel and miscellaneous hardware — which was delivered to his address and piled up in the yard around the house. 

And so commenced the era of the entrepreneur and the birth of a business that was first named Ceylon Hardware Stores. 

The busy streets of Pettah, lined with shops, circa early 1900’s.  Christmas and bridal shopping, when this author was a child, was mainly done in Pettah and Fort, then the commercial hub of the city of Colombo. (Google images)

Shadrach operated a shop out of a shed at his residence and hired Cousin Stephen Edgar Perinpanayagam, a teen-aged student at St Benedict’s College, to walk over from school and mind the store. On weekdays, clad in school uniform, Stephen Edgar held the reins during his lunch interval while Shadrach took a break to eat and attend to other matters.

Young cousin Stephen Edgar Rasasingham Perinpanayagam (standing, second from right) in a St Benedict’s College, Kotahena school photo, circa 1922.  The Roman Catholic Institution was founded in 1866. Seated, centre, the principal,  probably a Frenchman belonging to a teaching order of Catholic Brothers. (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam).

There were advantages to living in the vicinity of the Colombo harbour. When commercial vessels sailed into port, Shadrach scoured the ships’ cargo for bargain merchandise for his store shelves.  He also kept a sharp eye out for unique items he would acquire as gifts for his family. An elderly niece remembers the German clock which, for decades, took pride of place in the home his sister, Anna Chinnathangam.

Colombo Harbour, Kotahena, circa early 1900’s. (Google images)

When Shadrach purchased his house on Messenger Street, his brothers and sisters had an official family home in Colombo.  One by one, they found their way to the capital city and took up temporary residence at the bachelor abode.  Anna Chinnathangam, now a young schoolmistress who lived in a boarding house in Jaffna during term-time, looked forward to the school holidays and the train-ride south.  This thrice-yearly exposure to city life influenced her style and sense of fashion in a way that made her stand out amongst her provincial contemporaries up north. 

The business began to grow and Shadrach got his older brother, S.V. Chelliah on board as manager of Ceylon Hardware Stores.

Graduates of the American Missions schools of northern Ceylon were highly sought after in Colombo and in the British colonies of Singapore, Malaya and Burma.  Young Tamil men in search of employment flocked to Colombo or sailed off to Far Eastern ports to enlist in the service of the colonial government.  One such ambitious hopeful was David Sinniah Kanagaratnam, who journeyed south from Jaffna to the capital city.  He obtained an introduction to Shadrach Samuel, who, in the northern circles, was making a name for himself as an up-and-coming businessman.

The dashing David Sinniah Kanagaratam, circa 1930’s (courtesy Vashanthy Narendran, from the archives of the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)

Shadrach, in the absence of a father, had assumed the responsibility of procuring husbands for his three sisters.  When the tall, good-looking young Kanagaratnam presented himself, Shadrach hired him to fill a position in the bourgeoning business.  The offer, however, was conditional.

“If you became a Christian,” Shadrach suggested, “and married my sister …”

David Sinniah raised no objection. The bride in question was pleasant, petite and pretty.   He agreed to give up the Hindu faith to marry his future employer’s older sister.  The couple exchanged their vows in church under the auspices of an Anglican minister, and Sarah Chinnamma Samuel, the oldest child of Samuel Vethanayagam Subramaniam and Mary Chellamma Danvers, became Mrs. David Kanagaratnam. 

David Sinniah and Sarah Chinnamma (Samuel) Kanagaratnam with their first child, Florence.  They had three children – Florence, Donald and Helen.  Their marriage was solemnized in church, but David never assumed the practice of the Christian faith.   (Courtesy Vasanthy Narendran, from the archives of the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)                  

 

………………………………………………………………………….

The steam engine rattled northward along the coastal tracks leaving plumes of smoke in its wake.   The passenger grew drowsy as he peered out at the dark forms of swaying coconut palms and flying pin-pricks of light dotting the shadowed landscape.  He was stocky and slightly short of average height, with a thick shock of jet-black hair and dark line of neatly trimmed moustache grazing his upper lip. 

Shadrach Chinniah Samuel, a budding businessman in his early thirties (circa 1920s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadrach Samuel was riding the rails all the way up to the northern tip of Ceylon.  He’d been summoned home by the relatives who’d  located a suitable candidate on the local marriage market. It was time, they said, to marry and settle down.  Thirty-two years old, a self-made man of modest means, Shadrach had no reason to object.  After a flurry of letters and  telegrams he packed a suitcase and boarded the overnight train to Jaffna.   

He was going to stay at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Newton of Old Park View, Chundikuli.  

King George V, grandfather of the present Queen, Elizabeth II, is the monarch on these Ceylon stamps from the 1920’s. At top centre, is Queen Victoria. This writer remembers, as a little girl, helping her mother shred mountains of letters stuffed into boxes in a store room in her mother’s childhood home. This writer saved a few stamps for her collection, making sure she didn’t keep duplicates. She recently took this picture of a page from one of the stamp albums of her childhood.  Her heart recoils with regret as she wonders about the contents of the letters that were disposed of without a second thought and wonders if the stamp with Queen Victoria’s head was from the precious twelfth birthday letter.

Mrs. Newton was his late mother’s first cousin.                   

To be continued …

A young Tamil woman from northern Ceylon, circa early 1900s (Courtesy Google images).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pettah, Colombo, early 1900’s (Google images)
Galle Road, Ceylon, early 1900’s. (Courtesy Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Click here to go to Part 6 – He Changed His Mind

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Mr. A In Time Of COVID-19

I popped in on Mr A in March this year. 

“Finally found a buyer.  Sold the house.  Have to be out by the 1st of May,” he said.

A frown furrowed his forehead.  

“Couldn’t do much clearing out over the winter.  I’m fed up,” he mumbled.  “Arthritis is killing me.”

He looked tired and on edge.

“You’re allowed to be fed up,” I reassured him.  “At your age.  It’s a lot for anyone to deal with.”

Self-confessed hoarder.  Mr A’s garage is bursting with stuff.

My fed-up friend, Mr. A, at the entrance to his packed garage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I pulled out my phone to take pictures to post on Kijiji. Of random stuff he might be able to sell.

Like these –

A treasured, dusty collection of miniature cars .

A ferocious coconut pirate head hanging from the basement ceiling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stars of the silver screen. 

Hollywood hotties of yesteryear …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some items he will not part with.  “That’s coming with me to the retirement home. Not selling!”

… this little tin bucket. “My grandma brought milk home everyday, when I was a little boy, in this pail.”

… Grandmother’s kitchen scale, a real beauty of an antique.

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“These things I want to keep ….:

 

Framed family photos are definitely not for sale! 

The chalet he grew up in on a Swiss-German mountain village.

Framed photo of grandparents stiffly posing in Victorian attire.

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Little mother holding a log as large as she is.  “Dad chopped the tree down. She was a strong woman!”

Rickety sheds scattered around the sprawling backyard, all bursting at the seams – 

He built the sheds himself with bits of this-and-that …

… and kept adding makeshift structures in the backyard …

 

 

 

 

 

 

… to house the increasing mountains of stuff he kept finding!

Even the abandoned outhouse is probably full of useless things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Albert nursing a beloved miniature car he hopes to sell. “It’s hard to say farewell to a lifetime of memories.”

 

We said goodbye and I promised to come back again soon. 

Then lockdown happened.   Two days later. 

The world changed.

Hadn’t been out in 12 days when I drove past the mall some days back.   A long weekend Saturday and there wasn’t a single vehicle in the parking lot. 

Strange, surreal sight, but angst at being away from home urged me on.  I didn’t stop to take a picture.

Wore a mask, of course — dust mask left over from home renovations — and disposable rubber gloves.  I felt foolish and looked ridiculous.

Pulled into the supermarket parking lot and encountered masked, gloved figures like myself, hurriedly dumping bags of groceries into trunks and backseats. 

Didn’t feel all that foolish after all.

The line-up stretched out into the street.  I was thankful we weren’t in the dead of winter.

At every turn, grim warnings and reminders of the strange season we find ourselves in.

Cautionary warnings posted on  glass doors and windows.   A grim-eyed security guard waved me in.  He was masked, no gloves.  I snapped a photo of the poster on the door, but dared not ask if I could take a picture of him.  

My mask and see-through rubber gloves blended beautifully into the collage of crazed shoppers.  

Designated shoppers feverishly foraged for food.  Tension hung tight in the air.

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Masked mother and son in produce section

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The look in the eyes above the mask speaks volumes.

 

 

“Gotta get out of here!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ominous urgency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bakery aisle was empty of flour.  Not one bag left.

No flour in the baking aisle. (Forget about finding yeast.) The whole world is stuck at home baking their hearts out — and posting pictures of their products on Facebook, of course.  Boredom births maestros!

 

 

Flour is now the new toilet paper it seems.

 

Masked cashier, behind a plexi-glass screen. Surprised to notice how many store workers were not wearing masks or gloves.

 

 

 

Hopefully the lot from my cart will last the next two weeks.

Called Mr A to check in on him.  He’s unhappy.  Naturally.   Unable to visit the wife in the nursing home, time hangs on his hands.  A friend gets his groceries, he told me, when I offered to do his shopping. 

“There’s only so much time you can spend in a day feeding the birds and visiting with rabbits,” he mumbled.

He was worried he wouldn’t be able to move on May 1st.  Anxious about the mountain of stuff to be discarded.

I told him not to fret.  “A bunch of girlfriends and I will head out there with mops, brooms and garbage bags.  We’ll come.  When lockdown is all done.”

He sounded relieved. 

The last time I visited, we walked around his yard.  I watched as Mr A fed the birds and wild rabbits and shooed the neighbour’s cat away.

“Keeps coming back. Terrible fellow,” Mr A grumbled. “Steals the rabbit’s food!”

I almost twisted my ankle when I tripped over a bunny-burrow mound rising from the raggedy grass.

Tea time and Bunny popped out of his burrow. 

His handiwork. One of the many hand-built bird-feeders in the backyard, with metal cones at the base to deter thieving squirrels.

Mr. A pumping water from the well he dug himself over fifty years ago.

Snack-time for the critters. A squirrel nibbles his way through a fine feast. 

 

This structure with grim graffiti was from a former place of work. Used to store petroleum, I think he said.

 

Then the world changed.  Suddenly, in an instant.

The enforced isolation is hard on seniors,  particularly those who live alone and aren’t willing or able to navigate technology.

Like my dad.  And Mr A.

Mr A’s wife owned a computer – she was an accountant by profession – but she’s been in the nursing home for the past few years.   A single landline phone sits on his kitchen table.  His only connection with the world outside.

Mr A sleeps on the hospital bed his wife used until she was moved to a nursing home. He pressed buttons to show me how the head and foot of the bed could be raised and lowered when required.  It’s now for sale.

 

“You must miss seeing her,” I murmured.

“What do you think?” he replied.

Wish there was more I could do.

 

 

Then, on a brighter note … Bunny is back!  

Spotted the rascal hopping outside my study window last week – the bunny, my-sworn-enemy!

Caught occasional glimpses of Bunny in the winter, staring at the stone rabbit by the chair under the apple tree, then he was gone for weeks at a time.

 

Who’d have thought I’d be happy to see him? The wretched creature chews up my flowers!

Bunny’s my reminder that life goes on nevertheless.  That Nature won’t pause.  And Joy will return.

Thankful the weather’s getting nicer. Finally.  Pruning and digging time again. 

                                            Garden went from this in the summer —

 

 

 

 

 

To this —

 

 

 

 

 

And now this mess that I can’t wait to started on  …

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Thankful for technology in this time of stringent distancing.  Thankful for Zoom family and other online gatherings.  

Oh! The blessing of Zoom! A church committee meeting.

Puppy can’t believe everyone’s home.

Puppy checks in on anyone who’s not to be seen.  He can’t believe the good fortune that keeps us all home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful for family dinners.  All four of us.  Together.  Everyday. After ages.

Thankful for time.  To write –

That’s me!

 

 

 

 

To stop and stare –

Time to catch my breath and take delight in a light-and-crystal shadow show on the window sill …

Time to stare at pink streaks of setting sun glowing on the bedroom ceiling …

 

Life changed. Overnight.  An un-imagined, dystopian pause.  The world over. 

Our front window – a call to prayer for safety and protection of the nation and our frontline workers.

When normal returns, we’ll forever be changed.  What will  that normal be?

While we wait, what do we do with this time on our hands?

A pause to ponder and re-prioritize?

Perhaps.

 

 Stay safe, stay home.  Reach out. 

Be thankful. 

Love this precious life. 

Our entire street stood outside on their driveways one Saturday night and banged on pots and pans in appreciation of our medical and frontline workers.  Listen …

 

Until next time,                                                                                                  

 

 

 

 

PS: Click here  to read Mr A’s story in Goodbye Yesterdays

Click here for Thursdays With Harold by Selina Stambi                                                                                                                                                                                                           SelinascoverKobo
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Goodbye Yesterdays

Summer’s done.  Trees begin to burn with autumn angst.  

Backyard bursts with bloom.  Garden glows.

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A glance through the dining room window, just as sunlight spills all over the kneeling angel under the apple tree.  Heavenly moment …

A shaft or sunlight swoops down on Kneeling Angel.  She shines against an emerald veil of vines. My heartbeat halts for a fraction of a stunned second and I’m all awash with the delight of summer past, the fascinating fragrance of my Secret Garden.

Such a summer of serendipity it has been.  Such finds …

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View from the bay window where I sit at my desk to write.  Summer garden of 2019 — my living museum of broken, abandoned and unwanted things.

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A once-upon-a-time fondue set preening on a tree stump by the fence.

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I found this beautifully rusted, ancient wheelbarrow abandoned on the kerb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like I’m pushed to pass by just when this stuff is outside, begging to be taken and pleading for a new destiny.

Click on the arrow below to savour 30 seconds of my Secret Summer Sweetness …

 

Which brings me to my Last Summer Serendipity 

Saturday morning, off to the mall.  Spy something intriguing as we drive by.  Little vintage school desks.  The kind with a bench attached to the front of it.  There’s a pair of them.  In front of the old house that has a pile of stuff out each week, ancient things, free for the taking.  Sometimes there’s a handwritten sign on a large white board: For Sale.

I have an image in my head.  Of a chronic hoarder, who’s amassed stuff for years, urgently requiring to rid himself of a huge pile of junk.   

“Could we check them out on our way back?” I ask.

Husband nods.

So shopping done and happy hubby holding the first new suit he’s acquired in years, we head homewards.                              

The desks are gone.                                                

It’s only been an hour …

I’m crushed.

“Maybe they took them back inside,” he suggests.

“Why would they?  There must be someone like me on the prowl! We should have stopped right away!”

“But there was no room in the car.”

True.  

I feel forlorn.  

I remember from time to time in a sad kind of way and when I do, I whisper, “Please, if he’s right and the owner took them back in, let me pass by when they’re out again …”

A fortnight goes by.  Then one day, on my way to the dentist, my gaze strays to my left … and …

Whoa!

 … they’re back.

U-turn, park in a by-lane and trot over to inspect.  These are not from the ’50s as I’d guessed … the two darling desks are relics from the late eighteenth/ early nineteenth century.

Straight out of a late-Victorian era classroom or Anne of Green Gables novel.  There are holes for the inkwells and circular openings in the ornate cast-iron legs to bolt them down to a wooden floor.

Be still, my heart!

The munchkin school furniture is chained together on the grass by the kerb.  The chains are solid.  Rusty.  I waltz up the driveway.  There’s an elderly gent sitting on an aged white garden chair, staring out into space by his garage door.

Waiting for customers …

“Are these for sale?”

“Yes.”

He’s all I imagined he’d be.

Self-confessed hoarder.  Eighty eight years old. 

The house is hidden behind the trees.  Possibly the last of the original homes on the avenue. 

“I have a garage full of things,” he mumbles.  “I’m tired now.  Just want to get rid of them and go.”

The desks? 

He shrugs.  “Found them downtown. They were tearing down an old schoolhouse, I think.   Don’t remember.  I pick things up. They’ve sat in my garage for over 30 years. ”

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Late Victorian schoolhouse desk.  The little beauty that took my breath away.  The bench folds up. Dear hubby was right.  The desks were taken back in as the owner had to visit his wife in the nursing home and couldn’t risk his possessions being stolen from the kerb.

We agree on a price.  For one of them. I’d like to have both, but the other one’s already taken.

I ask if he’s got old books.  He shows me. A load in the entrance-way, tidily packed in boxes for donation, awaiting pick up.

“Help yourself,” he says.  “They belonged to my wife.  I never had time for books.  But was she ever a reader!”

Mustn’t be greedy.  I’m running out of shelf space at home.

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My library of vintage and antique books bursts at the seams.  No shelf space left!

 

 

 

 

 

I pick 20 hardcover copies — many from the fifties — several first editions and a 100 year-old beauty.  The books are in marvellous condition.  Most of them in vinyl cover-protectors. They look brand new.  

Cared for by a woman who delighted in her books …

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This book, over a century old …

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… contains some fascinating historical photos and maps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He invites me inside and I enter a rabbit warren of rooms in the Land that Time Forgot.

There’s some medical equipment, fine china and a collection of miniature cars.  I take pictures and promise to put the items on Kiji on his behalf.

We sit at the kitchen table and chat awhile.

“My wife had a computer.  She was an accountant.  She did all that kind of stuff.  Now she’s at the nursing home and that’s all I have …”  He points to an old wall phone from the seventies, looking lost on the kitchen table.

“I live like a hobo, I’m sorry,” he adds.

“Don’t be,” I reply. “I’m amazed at how you’re coping. I’d love to help.  Could I bring you some meals – dinner once a week, maybe?”

“No.  Food is not a problem.  I take those.” He shows me a crate of protein shakes.

“And there’s a collection of china teacups and stuff … my wife used to have tea parties. People don’t do that kind of thing anymore …”

“I do, actually!”

He mentions the wife a lot.  I admire the faded cross-stitch pictures on the walls — her handiwork, he tells me.  “But no one does that kind of stuff anymore.”

I do, actually!

“Could I take a photo of you with the desk?”

“But I’m honest,” he protests.

I smile.  “Not because I don’t trust you.  I’d like to record this moment.”

“Oh … okay!”

He sits and strikes a pose.  I click. 

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My new friend and the antique school desk (picture used with permission).

He picks the desk up with effortless ease.  It’s heavy.

“You’re strong,” I comment. 

“You don’t know what I had to do for my wife until two years ago,” he replies airily.

There’s something endearing about him.

“It’s hard to dispose of your entire life,” he adds.

I see desolation in his eyes.

“I can only imagine,” I sympathize softly.  

His sadness reaches me. 

Goodbye Lifetime of Yesterdays … 

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All alone.  Mr. A taking me to the shed in the sprawling backyard, to show me his grandparents’ stuff.  He built the shed himself using old garage doors!  My kinda re-purposing guy!

I remember that I’m not as young as I used to be and reaffirm my resolve to squeeze every last precious drop out of the rest of my life.

I’ve been back to visit a couple of times.  Bought more stuff for myself and on behalf of a friend.

His name is Albert.  I call him Mr. A.  

It’s kind of a privilege to have met him.

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This suitcase would already be old if it were checked onto the Titanic.  There’s a single handle located on one side.  With solid wood trimming and brass embellishments, it certainly wasn’t designed for air travel! I plan to turn it into a coffee table

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This beautiful Singer treadle sewing machine is over a hundred years old.  Mr. A purchased it 40 years ago from an old farmhouse.  The carved drawers hold the original machine accessories, bobbins, needles and spools of thread.  It weighs a ton and I have no idea how he and his son carried it down the narrow flight of stairs ready for pick up.   It’s now my whimsical new foyer table

                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I said … such a summer it has been, of delightful discoveries and intriguing encounters.

Sweet, surreal serendipity …

 

Until next time,

sincerely

 

PS:  Pause to breathe and linger in this year’s Secret Garden.  Take a stroll in the Garden of Dreaming 2019 and savour the splendour of this summer past …

 

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Root Of The Matter

For years it sat in a backyard flower bed.

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The dead remains of an ill-fated evergreen in the brown planter. Everything struggled and died.

Nothing thrived. The toughest annuals barely survived in the glazed clay pot.  Shade might be the problem, so I tried to heave the hefty thing to a sunny location.

It wouldn’t budge.  Stuck a shovel inside to empty out and lessen the load.  Struck something hard.  

Attempted to tip the thing over.  It moved a bit, not much.  It was firmly anchored down.

On my knees in the grass, I discovered the culprit.  A stray rootlet from the apple tree, creeping in through the drainage hole had grown upwards. The lower three quarters of the container was blocked by a solid serpentine coil of unyielding root.

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A root from the apple tree (left) growing upwards into the pot, created a gaping hole in the process.

Who could have guessed?

I hacked the ropey mass away – not an easy task – chopped and eased it out. Most of the soil was gone.

No wonder  …

It blazed with joy in its bright new location and burned with bloom all the way through July until October’s first frost. Brand new beginning.  Plenty of sunlight.  NO sinister strangling roots.

Food for thought …

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Sunny new location.  An old CD rack repurposed as a trellis support for a vine.

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No hidden roots to contend with. These gorgeous pink trumpet-shaped blossoms created a spectacular bright-spot at the foot of the deck steps.

Isn’t life like that?  Think of how relationships fail and situations deteriorate because of covert root issues lurking beneath the surface that never get acknowledged, dug out and disposed of.

Abandoned things are like hurting people. It’s worth investing time in them.  A little care, nurture and a dab of creativity might go a long way towards bringing about a transformation of loveliness.  

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Abandoned things are like hurting people going through life wearing masks, when all the while there’s possible loveliness waiting to be excavated, if one only knew how

It would require a certain eye and angle of perception, of course, to realize the hidden value and immense potential in discarded things (and difficult people). 

The site of unwanted cast-offs gets my imagination all fired up —

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Thrift store finds.  Note the upside down chair at the top of the pile …

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Here it is. A lick of leftover paint …

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… glue and a pack of rose-print paper napkins.  Several coats of lacquer and behold! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What wonderful things get tossed out and lie listlessly on the kerb, yearning for a second chance.

Clueless, careless people pressed for time, seek the trash can as a quick, convenient way out.  

First world solutions …

The owner of a local antique store told me she pays someone to scour the streets of certain neighbourhoods on garbage day.

“You won’t believe the valuable things we’ve found and sold at a price,” she said.

I believe her.

I’ve made some magnificent finds myself.  

Like these –

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Something similar to this darling drop-leaf tea cart from the 1920’s-40’s (straight from a Downton Abbey-type setting) had a price tag of $350 plus taxes at a local thrift shop.  It would go for double the price at an antique store.  In excellent condition, I rescued this one from the kerb just minutes before the garbage truck roared by.  All it needed was a good scrub to get rid of dust and cobwebs.

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This adorable tilting mirror (I can just picture it in a scene from Jane Eyre) was lying face down in the grass as I jogged by just after dawn one morning.  I paid a few dollars to have the murky mirror replaced, had it sanded and stained, and what a conversation piece!  The price tag on a similar one at an antique store was astounding!

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This little bit of old-world loveliness sat forlornly outside a front gate after the owner failed to sell it at a garage sale.  He was delighted to give it to me for nothing.  It’s a whimsical reminder of a summer visit to my sister in the US. (Yes, it was driven back over the border to Canada!)  A bit of popsicle stick to repair the chip at the edge and …

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… more paint, glue and rose-print napkins and …

               

           

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I just managed to grunt my way through the process of lifting this heavy carved triple mirror into my trusty hatchback.

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Reflections from a bygone era …

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… here’s where it ends up, with a pair of Daughter’s boots, an ancient two-legged chair (right) which serves as a pot-stand for a brilliant coleus. (The bridge is an online purchase, a fabulous Mother’s Day gift from the kids and their dad).  Not entirely visible (left) a birdhouse perched on a tall floor-lamp base.  #Repurposedlife !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend, Gail’s eye fell on this ugly blanket box as we drove by.  She suggested I pick it up –

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Looking quite hideous. Peeling wood with splinters, a cracked lid and stains from water damage …

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Sand it down, a coat of white paint ..

 

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… shredded tissue paper and some glitter glue …

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… and behold!  A bench to sit and dream (and a chest to store twenty years’ worth of a hand-written journals).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love browsing in thrift stores –

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Treasures. My favourite thrift shop.  Cash only, no tax and all the proceeds go towards mental health awareness.

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A great place to hunt out vintage books. The Salvation Army Thrift Store is not-for-profit, so no taxes on top of the price tag. Children’s books are just a dollar.  I picked up a 1915 hardcover edition of Little Women (Luisa M. Alcott) with dust jacket in mint condition, for a buck. (E-bay tells me it’s worth way, way more.)

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Prices at value village have sky-rocketed lately and there is tax on top.  Books average $7.00 for hardcover, exactly double what others charge.  Someone is making a hefty profit out of donated junk.

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You never know when smiling serendipity will direct you to the find of a lifetime.

Perhaps a gold-embossed book published in 1915 that you hold breathlessly in your hands to gaze at the faded name scrawled in elegant fountain-pen handwriting across the fragile fly leaf.

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Classics from a hundred years ago 

You might even find a bonus in the shape of a Christmas or birthday card tucked inside, with formal, handwritten greetings from almost a century ago.

Sentimental birthday greetings and Christmas wishes from the early 1900’s …

Or a rare first edition of a book by Dickens that you didn’t even know existed.

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The Life Of Our Lord, written by Charles Dickens for his children.

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Contrary to his wishes, it was published posthumously in 1934

The creative possibilities are endless.

Check out the evolution of this found item from vintage breadbox to desktop knickknack holder –

Or the resurrection of a sorrowing three-legged chair –

Or an ancient soccer ball reborn as glowing garden gazing ball preening on a cast-off plastic lampshade –

There’s no better place than a garage sale to locate sad things dreaming of a fresh purpose and renewed destiny.

Last summer I drove by a lawn sale and screeched to a halt when out of the corner of my eye, I saw this worn wooden ladder from the 40s/ 50’s.

The perfect stage for seasonal decorations –

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Old ladder.  Perfect garden display stand for vintage kitchen implements, including meat grinder, sandwich toaster and Mum’s old tea kettle and teapot.

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Porch platform for autumnal Thanksgiving decorations.

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Winter world .  Ladder aglow with Christmas lights and silver stuff.

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Ladder hosting assorted antiques ‘n’ things for in-between times (including an ekel broom from Sri Lanka).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came across an identical ladder in an antique-store window.  The price tag was exactly ten times what I forked out for my weathered treasure!

A garden is the perfect platform to showcase dreams of discarded things.

–  Blooming barbecue planters …

– Chair plant stands –

– Coloured bottles –

– Old windows

– An unloved bicycle, a sad old door –

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This decorated door took three of us to haul it out when I was done with it.

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Old bike festooned with flower baskets.  Squirrel finds a moment’s rest on the handlebars.

– Abandoned light fittings –

The pipes from an old tap for stems, glass lampshades from an ugly old chandelier and solar lights make for stunning garden decor that lights up the night …

The chandelier itself becomes a bird feeder with coconut shells for bowls …

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Chandelier birdfeeder with cocunut shell bird seed bowls.

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Blooming three-tier shoe-rack planter stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Solar bulbs clipped to the skeleton of an outmoded chandelier create a dreamy glow under the cherry tree at night.

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A single solar light inside a wee crystal chandelier lights up the corner under the apple tree  

A garden bedroom –

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A garden bed (literally).  A mesh for a perennial jasmine to crawl all over and create a blooming summer bedspread.  Old cupboard door for bedroom window.

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Optical illusion … a frame placed in a flower bed creates the appearance of a reflecting mirror.

You can never have too many mirrors in a garden …

Reflected dreams …

When the sun sets and the stars come out –

How they glow …

From hideous, useless to one-of-a-kind wonderful, these once-unwanted things shine in a quiet space of gentle dreams, enhancing this place of rest and relaxation.

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… and haven of rest …

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A place of discovery …

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… to meet and eat

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… and sweetly dream.

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These newest acquisitions have been out all winter, weathering nicely to acquire the perfect patina of age, all ready for spring planting.

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The plumber didn’t think I was nuts when I wouldn’t let him throw out this old laundry tub.  (He knows me well.) It’s going to be re-purposed as a pond this summer, with fountain water flowing out of the taps.

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The old downstairs powder room wash basin got re-purposed as a shallow pond some years ago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to draw the line at old toilets, however.  

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Spring and fall renovations see dozens of these on neighbourhood sidewalks.  As we drive by I’m told, “Don’t you dare, Mom!” (I have my standards, of course – I wouldn’t dream of it!)

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Upcycled toilet adorning a garden.  Doesn’t feel too sanitary … (courtesy Pinterest)

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Spent hours last week, picking up a winter’s worth of lap-dog droppings.  All ready for spring and then … woke up on Sunday morning to a marshmallow world.  #thisismycanada!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longing for spring, in spite of this past weekend’s dump of snow.

Dreaming of those long summer days.  Of pounding the pavements in running shoes at dawn and sitting out on the deck, reading till the stars come out at night …

Always mindful that there is a fresh purpose for everything.  The ugly-useless and despairing-broken — people and things.  

Keeping a sharp eye out …

Until next time,

sincerely

nvr2old2dream_nametag

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Re-purposed picture frames make a fine a bathroom collage

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Present Past (1)

“So what do you want to know?” she enquired.

“Everything,” I replied.

She chuckled. “Okay.  How much information do you have already?”

“Bits and pieces.  There’s a newspaper clipping  …”

“What does it say?”

“According to Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam who wrote an article which was published in the Morning Star, a young man named Kadirgamar Danvers from Tellipalai was baptized into the Christian faith in 1835. The villagers, angered by the conversion, burned the local church down.  Danvers fled to the village of Panditherruppu, where he met and married Anna Saveriyal.”

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A clipping of the article by Rev. Donald Kanagratanam published in 1981 in the Morning Star (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam).  The Morning Star was the oldest English newspaper in Jaffna, established by the American missionaries in 1841.

“There was a lot of missionary activity in Panditherruppu at the time.  They were more tolerant towards the converts,” she explained.

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The American Mission Church in Tellipalai, Jaffna (prior to civil war damage and reconstruction)

“According to Rev. Canagaratnam, Kadirgamar Danvers and Anna had seven children.  One of them was Solomon Danvers,who trained as a medical practitioner under the famous Dr. Green of Manipay.  An old Bible geneology that came into my possession recently, makes mention of only four offspring.”  

The children of Kadirgamar and Anna Danvers (as recorded in the Bible of Solomon Samuel, their great grandson) –

  • David Danvers (married Harriet  Theivanei)
  • Solomon Danvers (married Thangam Vethanayagam)
  • Jane Elizabeth Danvers (married Joshua Perinpanayagam)
  • Gabriel Danvers (married Mary Santiago)

 David Danvers (son of Kadirgamar and Anna) married Harriet Theivanei.

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Victoria Harriet (Theivenei) Danvers  (courtesy Vasanthi Narendran)
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1. Gabriel Danvers and wife, Mary (nee Santiago)     2.  Gabriel’s son and wife – Alfred Muttiah Danvers and Archimuttu – with their daughter  3. Albert Seevaratnam Danvers and his sister, Muttamma, children of Gabriel’s brother, Solomon Danvers (from notes by the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The children of David and Harriet Danvers –

  • Mary Chellammah Danvers (married Vethanayagam Samuel)
  • Elizabeth Annamma Danvers (married Jacob Arumainayagam)
  • Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers (married Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam)

 “Mary Chellammah married Vethanayagam Samuel, who was your great grandfather,” she said.  “Her sister, Rebecca Ponnamma, married Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam. Samuel Alfred’s father was Joshua Perinpanayagam, who married Jane Elizabeth Danvers, (the daughter of Kadirgamar and Anna), David Danvers’ sister.”

My head begins to swim in a muddle of recurring last names …

“Ah … so that’s the Perinpanayagam connection.  And Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers and Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam were first cousins,” I commented.  “There’s a connection to the Newtons, too, I noticed …”

Mary Chellamma (Danvers) Samuel
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Samuel Alfred and Rebecca Ponnamma (nee Danvers) Perinpanayagam (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)

 

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Samuel Alfred Chelladurai Perinpanayagam, at age 25 (born 1872)
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Family tree notes from the files of S.E.R. Perinpanayagam (son of Rebecca Ponnamma and Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam) (Courtesy Thavo Perinpanayagam)

 

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Samuel Alfred and Rebecca (Danvers) Perinpanayam with their children and Rebecca’s mother, Harriet (Theivanei) Danvers (from the archives of the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)

“There have been Danvers/Perinpanayagam/ Newton marriages over a few generations,” she replied. “My mother told me the old stories.  Now I can pass them on to you and they won’t die with me. I’m so happy you are doing this.” 

Her eyes grew misty.

I’m visiting the Colombo home of Aunty Paranidhi, Mum’s cousin.  We’ve just met for the first time.  She responds with ease to my barrage of questions  …

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Aunty Paranidhi, a goldmine of ancecstral history.  I managed to snatch two more visits during my brief stay in Colombo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My journey of inquiry commenced shortly after      Mum’s funeral in 2015, when I came across a battered copy of a formal family portrait from the 1930’s.

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The photograph that began it all.  Shadrack Samuel, wife Mercy (nee Newton) and their children, taken before the birth of their youngest child, Elizabeth.  Left to right: Ruby, Pearl, Dan (seated), Peter. Beatrice is the toddler held by her father.

Faded photos on relatives’ Facebook pages – fascinating pictures of men and women from generations gone by – fanned curiosity to a compelling flame. 

The search began. 

I embarked on a voyage of e-mails, long distance calls and some stamped, addressed pieces of snail mail. Pictures, obituary notices, genealogies and newspaper clippings poured in from all corners of the globe.  Through Facebook introductions, Whats App texts and hand-written letters, relatives contacted each other on my behalf, and people I’d only heard of by name leapt onto the ancestry bandwagon.

An inundation of images and information descended on me.  Tantalizing clues, fascinating glimpses into a bygone colonial culture and whispers of a skeleton or two in the ancestral cupboards. Riveting.  The stuff bestselling novels are made of.

The first stop on the trail led me to Wellawatte (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Aunty Paranidhi.  Her eyesight is almost non-existent, but her mind is razor-sharp, her recollection flawless. I see pieces of my mother in the facial features.  The family resemblance is evident. 

My pen flies across the pages of the notebook I balance on my lap …

“So Mary Chellammah – David and Harriet Danvers’ daughter – was given in marriage to Vethanayagam Subramaniam Samuel.  He was a farmer who owned land in Urumbrai – 

Vethanayagam Samuel and Mary Chellammah had six children –

  • Sarah Chinnamah (married David Sinniah Kanagaratnam)
  • Subramaniam Vethanayagam Chelliah (married Annam)
  • Shadrack Chinniah Samuel (married Mercy Sugirtharatnam Newton)
  • Elizabeth Thangamma (married Godwin Wesley Sittampalam)
  • Anna Chinnathangam (married Albert Kanthapoo)
  • Solomon Chinnatamby Samuel (married Mercy Atputhanayagam Gnanaratnam)
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Subramaniam V. Chelliah
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Sarah Chinnamma

 

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Elizabeth Thangamma
Shadrach Chinniah

 

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Anna Chinnathangam
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Solomon Chinnathamby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Aunty Renee found handwritten notes in her father’s Bible  – that’s the Bible I mentioned.  She sent me scanned copies of the geneologies recorded on the fly leaf.  My heart almost stopped when I saw how the entries confirm the details set out in Uncle Donald’s article.  Just imagine, how information from a source in Australia confirms the data acquired from another source in Western Canada! Within weeks of each other.  It has to be providence!”

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Handwritten family records from great uncle Solomon Samuel’s Bible

“Your interest is inspiring,” she commented. “No one seems to care about these things these days. Renee is Solomon Chinnathamby’s daughter. He had ten children.  She is my first cousin.”

 “Yes, I know. I remember great uncle Solomon Samuel and the annual Christmas visits to his home in Mutwal. 

“Anna and Solomon were twins,” she continued.  “Shadrack Chinniah was your grandfather.  Anna Chinnathangam was my mother.  And Rebecca Chinnammah was the mother of Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam who wrote the article you told me about.  He was my cousin and your mother’s.”

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Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam (standing) with his sisters and mother, Sarah Chinnamma

“According to the genealogy in the Bible, Anna Saveriyal – Kadirgamar Danvers’ wife – was a Bible Woman,” I noted.

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Bible Woman, circa late 1800 – early 1900’s.

 

“Bible women worked among the women in the village.  They visited the homes, shared the gospel of their faith and cared for them,” she explained.

A group of Bible Women (1910), Bibles in hand. (Courtesy ceylontamils.com)

“I remember your mother,” I said. “We called her Asai Granny. She came to stay with us once when I was about seven years old.  I remember the glasses and the white hair knotted at the back of her head.  She taught me how to make a rag rug with strips of leftover material and a hairpin.  I never forgot that.”

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Anna Chinnathangam (Asai Granny) as I remember her

Aunty picks up the threads of her narrative …

“Vethanayagam Samuel, a successful farmer, wanted more land.  After the birth of his two oldest children, he relocated his family to Vavuniya in the undeveloped Vanni region of the northern province of Jaffna.  In those days, people of the Vanni were considered wild and uncouth, even the British avoided the area, so land was dirt cheap. Samuel disposed of his property in Urumbirai, and with the proceeds from the sale, invested in several acres in Vavuniya. He built a house for his growing family and began to cultivate the land.

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Jaffna province in northern Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

Once established and beginning to prosper, Samuel encouraged his brother and family move to Vavuniya and make a new life for themselves. The brother sold his land in Urumbrai and purchased the stretch of property adjoining Samuel’s fields. The families became neighbours.

Vethanayagam Samuel distinguished himself as a prominent citizen and earned the respect of his peers.  He was appointed chairman of the village council, which was a position of authority and responsibility.

The were no proper roads in the region.  Daily journeys on foot could involve traversing stretches of jungle inhabited by snakes and wild animals.  Legend has it that Samuel was skilled in the art of herbal medicine and would venture into the jungle in search of plants for his potions.

The farming life called for disciplined manual labour.  The older children, still all under ten, had to wake up at dawn each day to perform assigned chores.

Sarah Chinnammah had the unenviable job of cleaning out the cattle shed.  One morning she pretended to be asleep and refused to be roused.  Her father, whose task it was to wake her up, finally declared, “If my child is really asleep, her feet will move.”

Rebecca reacted as expected and wiggled her toes.  She received a spanking for her naughtiness and was shooed out of bed to complete her daily task.

The twins – Anna and Solomon – were born in Vavuniya.  During the pregnancy, an astrologer made a grim proclamation.  He declared that the birth would not be a good omen and would bring about the untimely demise of both parents (Samuel and Mary).

Solomon showed no signs of life when he was born.  The midwife placed the tiny body on a banana leaf outside on the open verandah of the home and rushed back inside to attend to the mother who had gone into labour with a second baby – a twin – whose appearance was an unexpected surprise.  Rebecca, the oldest child, sat beside the lifeless form of her new little brother, shedding tears over the loss.  Providence intervened when a fly settled on the infant, who shuddered in response and began to bawl loudly as if nothing had been the matter. 

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Solomon Samuel in his twilight years.  He lived to a ripe old age and was known for his vigour and boundless energy.

Custom dictated that on the thirty-first day after the delivery of a chid, a traditional ceremony of cleansing (thudakku kaliththal in Tamil) must be carried out.  The woman who had given birth would take a ritual herbal bath and the house had to be washed and cleaned from top to bottom.

Vethanayagam Samuel and his wife were about to begin the task of house-cleansing when a message came from the village counsel.  Samuel was needed to arbitrate on a matter involving a dispute.  Samuel sent word asking to be excused. He requested that the vice chairman to act on his behalf.

A second summons came.  The matter was urgent, they said.  His presence was mandatory.

Samuel left home on the mission of mediation, assuring his wife he would return in an hour.  He conferred with both parties and reached a verdict.  The disgruntled man who hadn’t been favoured by the decision, reached for a weapon concealed in his clothing and struck a heavy blow.  Samuel’s head split open.  Never pausing to retaliate, Samuel re-tied his turban and headed home. Blood gushed down from the wound in his head.

He passed a pond (kulam) as he walked, and saw the family dhoby (washerman) scrubbing his way through a pile of villgers’ clothing. 

‘Dhobies’ – washermen – human washing machines, beating garments against rocks and washing boards to get them clean. Circa late 1800s, northern Ceylon.

Samuel stepped in to cool off and dipped his head in the water.  The dhoby, concerned to see how the water turned crimson from the blood, reached for some fresh-washed clothing spread out on the ground to dry.  Samuel shed his blood-stained linen, donning the clean sarong (veshti) and turban offered by the dhoby. He walked into the house to his waiting wife, stepped over the threshold and announced that he was ready to start cleaning. Then, barely pausing for breath, Vethanayagam Samuel collapsed at her feet and died.

In an instant Mary Chellammah Samuel found herself a widow with six young children on her hands.  Rebecca – the oldest – was 10, the twins – Solomon and Anna – were barely a month old.

Rebecca Chinnammah, a child herself, had to take charge of a brood of fatherless siblings while her mother attempted to salvage the pieces of their shattered lives.

Get caught up on this story – 

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 – WIDOW’S DILEMMA   
CLICK HERE  FOR PART 3  – ANNA GOES TO SCHOOL
CLICK HERE FOR PART 4 – THE NEWTONS OF OLD PARK VIEW

 

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CLICK HERE FOR THURSDAYS WITH HAROLD, THE NEW NOVEL BY SELINA STAMBI

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Uncle’s Rollicking Rumba!

“Come on … poems?  On your blog?  Forget it!” 

Crushed by the vehemence in her voice …

“Why not?”  I felt two inches tall.

“Don’t want to hurt your feelings and all, but nobody reads that kind of poetry anymore!”

 “You mean with rhyme and stuff?”

“Yep!”

“But the world’s a stage”, my eyes pleaded.  “It’s teeming with actors.  They beckon and beg for someone to observe, pick up a pen and weave tall tales.”

Which is how Chronicles of Archie-Baldia came into being.

Meet Uncle Archibald …

Archie loves life. Harriet is his stoic spouse, unwitting co-star of hilarious hubby’s boisterous adventures.  Aunty H is also on her own matchmaking mission to marry off her spinster pals, the Greying Gals.

So no one reads ‘that kind of poem’ anymore.  Would you listen to one dramatized and spoken aloud, costume and all?

Here it is — first in the series.  Old fashioned music hall-type farce.  Slapstick comedy-in-rhyme … narrated for your listening pleasure.

An experiment to titillate the tired literary palate of the jaded twenty-first century non-reader of poetry.  Archibald makes his debut at the Marriott Hotel in –

Uncle’s Rollicking Rumba!

 (The video clip might take a few seconds to appear on screen.  If you are on the email list, the video won’t show up in your notification.  Click here to view this post with the video.)

 

So what’s the verdict?   

“Laugh and the world laughs with you”, as Mum used say …

 Thankful for the folks I find.  Fabulous fodder to feed this frenzied imagination!

 Until next time,

sincerely

 

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For Her Eyes Only

Life’s poignant vignettes erupt at unexpected moments.

Like that time in the hotel in Delhi …

She hovered uncertainly and looked anxious.  Out of place in a sprawling hotel lobby teeming with tourists and brass-buttoned bellboys. 

A bouquet of flowers in her hand.  Red roses, in orange florist’s wrapping. 

A dark swathe of garment flowed from the crown of her head all the way down to her heels. Only the hands were open to scrutiny.  And the eyes.  Beautiful eyes. 

Elegance and grace.

He stepped up from behind.  A brief exchange of words and she relaxed.  The fabric of her shroud merged into the black of the couch.

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“Only have eyes for you …”

The quiet tête-à-tête played out in the mirrored wall behind them.

His eyes never left hers.  She leaned towards him.  An ease, a pleasant familiarity in their interaction.

A glint of gold flashed on her fourth finger.  I caught my breath.

The blinding brightness of Diwali, the annual Hindu Festival of Lights, crawled all over the streets outside, dripping off buildings and dangling from trees.

India ablaze …

… with light —

Bargain hunters poured into late-closing stores, negotiating traffic-snarled streets.  Pavement hawkers squawked and beckoned. 

Loud distraction painted the cosmopolitan metropolis and seeped into the marbled luxury of the hotel.

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… other symbolic Diwali decorations 

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Images of Hindu deities in the hotel lobby and …

She nodded and waved a slender hand.  The band of gold gleamed in the light of the crystal chandeliers. 

Her eyes smiled.

The aching weight of might-have-been.

Playing with fire …

…………………………………………………………………………

And then there was Farah …

My tiny friend  flirted toothlessly and allowed me to hold her when harrassed-mom-of-three-kids-under-six looked like she could do with a break.                                 

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She sat on her mother’s lap, smiling all the way through a 15 hour flight.                           

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Farah: “That’s my mommy and she’s wonderful!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She nodded off from time to time and I caught this moment  in cameo.  It touched my heart –

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Sleeping Farah – an allegory of rest in complete trust

as I recalled lines from the Psalms –

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast. (Psalm 131:2)

A powerful visual image. 

 …………………………………………………………………………………

There is an air of haughty luxury about some Middle Eastern airports –

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and a mysterious modesty surrounds the veiled women –

The preoccupation with cellphones, of course, is global –

In the Middle East …

In India …

Sri Lanka …

A worldwide phenomenon, here to stay.

Does one even remember life before mobile devices?

………………………………………………………………………………

Thankful for leisured people-watching fiestas during long layovers at far-flung international airports.  Life at its unselfconscious best. 

And thankful to be home.

Puppy found his present …

 Until next time,

sincerely

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“Get lost, silly tourist!” (Amritsar,  India) 

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Good Morning JOY!

Dear Judy,      

The sun glowed orange during rush hour this morning.  My heart sagged under a weight of joy and I slowed down to take pictures –  

I almost sent them off to you.                                         

Then I remembered …

I recalled a recent dialogue we had.

Me: Could I use these pictures of you, please?  There’s such a beauty about you that’s riveting.

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… and this one. (Judy wrote:that is Eamon reading a letter that I wrote to him. I love my bedhead look.”)

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I asked her for this picture  … (Judy with a mixing bowl and the rubber chicken she used as a ‘bell’ too summon assistance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

You:  You can use every picture you want.  You don’t have to ask.  Surprise me!

So I’m surprising you today …

You: How long was your fight with cancer?

Me: The cancer battle was over a year and a half.  My oncologist calls me a success case (I prefer miracle patient).  I don’t look like myself in the picture, do I?  Within two weeks of your first chemo, the hair starts falling out and you mutate into someone else. I began to practice intentional thankfulness.  When gratitude seeps in, joy is not too far behind.  Those were beautiful, dark, lovely, intense and precious times.  God sends angels, as you know, in many shapes and forms.

You: I don’t look like myself anymore, either.  I was always on the go.  Now it is my mind that is on fast.

Enjoying the evening
What a girl! My friend, Judy, as she used to be.

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Judy (right) standing tall at 6′ 1″, with her mum and sister, Linda (left)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The aircraft commenced its descent into Halifax last Thursday afternoon and my thoughts overflowed with vignettes from your heart –                                                           

  • My mum sent the pink rose to me today … just because.  The Ford Escape is on the lawn because Cam wanted me to see it.  He just bought it yesterday as a second vehicle.  My wheelchair van rides low so it’s not practical for snowy days ahead.  I always loved a Ford Escape and Cam would drive a van.

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Her mum’s rose in a vase on the window sill and Judy’s view of the Ford Escape, parked by the hen-house.

  • We have a cottage on the Bay of Fundy and watch the tides go in and the tides go out.  Nature at its best.  September is a special time.  Most cottagers are only there on weekends, so the solitude and beauty is magnified.  My paradise …

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Her paradise – the cottage on the Bay of Fundy

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A serene spot to sit stare in a sky-blue chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your beloved Cameron –

  • Cam and our brother-in-law are re-shingling the back of the cottage.  It has been a  busy day.  For me, the moments when I can look out the window and see the eagle fly, sandpipers having their last meals before heading to South America and the magnificent clouds being reflected in both water and wet mud are highlights of my soul.

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Judy and  Cameron

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Judy and her beloved Cam on their wedding day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Today it was 29 degrees and sunny,  so I went out in my wheelchair to enjoy.  On impulse I drove on my lawn around to my gardens to see the tulips and bleeding heart.  I felt free until my wheelchair got stuck in soggy lawn.  Resourceful Cam got blocks of wood and we managed to get out.  BUT my tires were full of mud.   Cam cleaned as much as he could off and them I wheeled myself in.  A flashback hit me.  How many times had I told the boys NOT to wear their dirty boots in the house?  Cam, patient Cam, has been working at getting the wheels clean ever since!!!

JOY was your three-letter codeword –

  • Went to the Festival of Lights today in Wolfville, where Cam and I met while going to Acadia University.  At the farmer’s market, it was all about Indian food and entertainment.  I got a dragonfly and the word JOY done with henna and several Indian silk scarves for Christmas gifts.

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Waking up to JOY on her arm each morning …

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 Henna tattos: dragonfly-and-JOY  (the dragonfly is the ALS symbol)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I am waking up immediately to JOY in the morning for the next couple of weeks.

 

  • What made my day?  My careworker this morning for 4 hours was Holly. Someone that previously had only been there for my half hour tuck-ins at night.  We were sitting at my kitchen table in the sun, when I asked her about her heart-shaped ring  … and that was my further joy for the day.              

You infused JOY into every moment, Judy, distilled, savoured, sipped on it, then infected the air you breathed and intoxicated those around you.

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… in Judy’s home

This says it all
JOY glowing on her front lawn and …

You: There is no such thing as coincidence. 

Absolutely. I agree …

You:  Maybe I came into your life to show you the other side of ALS.  The joyful side.

You did just that.  And you did it so well …

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Always smiling.  Judy (left) chose joy during her four-year journey with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)

Your boys: your pride and JOY – 

Our sons or Charlie's angels
Judy’s/Charlies’ Angels! The three Starrit brothers all grown up. 

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Judy’s JOYS: Cam and her sons

  • Tim is home. Happy heart.
  • Just got back from taking Tim to the airport.  What a lovely visit and a wonderful son.  He left such wonderful memories behind.

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Tim with his newest nephew, Henry

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Andrew and his boys  

  • Andrew came home on Friday and stays till this Friday.  Check him out on You Tube in the Hot Fireman ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  (Click here to watch  Judy standing at Andrew’s side as he takes up the challenge.)

 

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    Matthew visits at Christmas

    Matthew was home from Wednesday to Saturday.  Shared the big news that Laura is pregnant!  Be still my heart.  We are so blessed.

Those grandbabies –

  • Got a wonderful card in the mail today, with an ultrasound picture on the front and the announcement inside saying “It’s a boy!”  Our third grandson is due the end of October.  The Starrit genes were working again.  OverJOYed!!!!
  • He was born yesterday and all is right with the world.  8lb 11 0z of pure JOY! Yesterday was such an emotional day.  Waiting, wondering, wishing, praying.  And then the phone call came.  Rejoicing, heart exploding, celebrating our new JOY!  And then by 10.00 at night, emotional breakdown.  Thinking about what I will be missing in his future, but being so overjoyed he is here.  A part of me.

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Celebrating Henry, the newest JOY …

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Judy with sister, Linda, and tiny Henry

  • He’s Henry now.  Named after Cam’s dad.  We are still on our baby high.  Will be for quite a while.
  • Cam just stenciled a picture of him onto a pillowcase.

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Cam’s handiwork: Baby Henry-on-a-pillow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Tomorrow Andrew, Findlay and Eamon are coming for Thanksgiving weekend. I am beyond excited!!!

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    They’re here!  Watching for Findlay and Eamon through her bedroom window.
  • I have arranged for the pilot, Debbie, of the only plane that travels to Sable Island, to come and speak about her experiences.
  • I took pictures, but my hands were unsteady with excitement.

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“Starfish or a shell?” (Pilot Debbie engages the kids in discussion)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandad, Grandma, Findlay and Eamon
“Smile guys!” (Gramps and Grammy with Findlay and Eamon)

 

 

 

  • Eamon just messaged me.  Andrew is taking them to a movie.  He likes to keep me informed.

Your sister —

  • Tonight Linda comes.  Any minute now.
  • Linda is here and we are going to listen to the sixth CD of the Book Of Joy, a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu.  This is our sixth Monday night doing it …

The Rhuda girls
Sister Linda (right) with Mum and Judy

… and the whacky, wonderful friends –

  • My friend, Mary, and sister are coming out to play a card game called Quiddler.  A weekly event.  I am on a winning streak.
  • Mary brings muffins for Cam
  • My tree is trimmed and …

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The tree is trimmed … (in Judy’s living room)

 

 

 

 

 

… the Wild and Woolies are coming at 4.00.  Laughter will abound.

  • The Wild and Woolies have been getting together for over thirty years

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“Wild’s the word: wool’s the game!”  (The Wild and Woolies, Judy’s crazy rug-hooking gang at her Celebration of Joy)

 

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Laughter abounds. Judy with Wild and Woolly Pal, Jean

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The Wild and Woolies hooked a pun-ny Christmas gift for Judy:  JOY TO THE WOOLED

Don’t forget the goats

  • Andrew and Cam have just taken the goats up the hill for a walk.    If we let them loose too close to the house, they would eat all the flowers coming up …

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Playing the giddy goat … Cam at her bedroom window

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Goats-on-a-quilt. Judy’s handiwork …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I always have flowers in my view.  I even got flowers for Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

Gotta be kid-ding – goats at a wedding?(The “kids” are included in Andrew and Shantel’s backyard nuptials) …

… and the chickens (of course) —

  • Just had the chickens playing the xylophone at my window.

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Chicken serenade.  Pecking a little tune.   (JOY on the windowsill)

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Cereal inducement.  Cam scattering cheerios on the keyboard of a toy xylaphone! 

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  • Homecare just arrived, but chickens come first!

 

On living with ALS –

  • I have a whole new view on listening.  My boogie board is my voice now.  People don’t wait until I finish writing and assume what I’m going to say and rush off to do their own thing.  Also, they read it wrong, and I have to get their attention and underline a word or words.
  • It cost less than $30 at Costco.

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Judy’s “boogie board”.  She used a tablet-type device to communicate.

  • I WAS a talker!
  • I do most of my writing on my phone now.
  • I am using my BiPAP for about 20 hours a day.  It gives me the freedom of not having to think every time I take a breath.  The strength in my hands has diminished as well.  I will NOT let that keep me from living a full life but it has put limitations on what I can do.  ALS sucks sometimes.

Sucks? The beast stinks …

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Judy: Bipap to breathe, crimson manicure and loads of laughter.

  • Thank you, my dearest friend, for caring so much

You have no idea how much, Judy …

About the annual ALS Walkstrong fundraising campaign

#9 PALS Award (1)
Judy (right), active spokesperson and ALS Awareness campaigner with Kimberly Carter (left) of the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

  • Success.  Beyond resounding!  My mind is still going.  Still walking.  Still enjoying yesterday.  There were 59 people, including care-workers, friends and family on Judy’s Joys.  I am blessed  Truly blessed.

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Judy’s Joyful Angels – one of the  teams representing Judy in the ALS fundraising walk – and …

 

 

 

 

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… Judy’s Joyful Jewels

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Took 5-6 days to get over the walk.  SO worth it!

 

 

We shared our rainbows, you and I —

In your home …

… in mine –

You: We are definitely sisters from another mother.

There’s no doubt about that!

You: The physical meeting somehow eludes us, but we are so much beyond that.  We are so much closer than that.  What we have done for each other is beyond friendship.     

Me: Can’t wait to meet you, Judy.  It will be odd, though.  Kind of like having a first date after being married for a year!

You: I, too, want to meet you!  If I could, I would be on a plane now.  But the other side of reality is that I know I won’t be travelling by plane anymore.  Too many uncertainties. 

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Just a text away.  Judy used pictures, video clips and GIFs to express herself.  They were dead on and often hilarious.  (Bottom left, her Facebook profile picture.)

You:  Wish, wish you lived nearby.  Always thinking about you.

Me: Me too.  I love how Cam cares for you, love the chickens, love the red bike.  I even love your ghastly puns!

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Flowering bicycle planter (painted red by Cameron)

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Hilarious hens partying at the window

 

 

 

 

 

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The lady loved her puns. One of the many groaners on Judy’s Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

You: Our friendship goes much deeper.  I needed you as much as you needed me.  You took me outside of myself.

  • By the way, Cam is going to mail a parcel to you tomorrow.  No parcel from you yet.  Tomorrow.

Your parcel arrived by express post on December 23rd.  Icicles dripped off the eaves as the mailman hopped from one foot to the other and blew on his hands, while I hastily inscribed a signature on the electronic board he held out to me.

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DREAMS made from Scrabble pieces  Hangs by my desk to inspire me as I write.   

Such a treasure trove of thoughtful things inside …   

         

Me:  Did you make the Scrabble ornament?  Love it!

You:  Bought it at the ALS sale.

Me:  It was meant for me.

You: I found your DREAMS, didn’t I?

You sure did!

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We called on Christmas Eve, before heading out to church.  Husband, Daughters and I sang We Wish You A Merry Christmas on speakerphone.  Cam said you raised your arms in delight and crossed your hands over your heart.

On Christmas day we shared cameo moments.

You sent me –

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Joy on the Christmas tree

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Mum sipping a cup of yuletide tea

and I sent these –

  • Isn’t this fun?

Absolutely!

  • Our house was always the ‘go to’ house at Christmas.  I used to make rolls and shape them in the form of wreaths and Christmas trees.  Decorate them, of course, and wrap them in clear, cellophane with fancy ribbons.  That is a thing of the past now, but Christmas still comes and goes!

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I sent you a song on Saturday night.  It came with my heart.  Your response set my heart ablaze.

Click here to listen

I picked up Cameron’s message on Sunday afternoon.  You crossed over an hour after we last messaged each other.

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Cousin Preman met me at the airport and drove me to the afternoon and evening visitations. 

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Joyful Judy moments up on the  screens at Knox United Church

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Judy’s JOY all over the church foyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Cam and Linda, Mum and your boys.  And the Wild and Woolies, of course.

Linda told me she’d packed my Christmas box of  goodies for Cam to mail.  She recognized the necklace I wore.  

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Wore it to the funeral.  The breast cancer ribbon necklace from my Christmas box – celebrating survival

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Judy’s sister, Linda, at the evening visitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I laughed with the Wild and Woolies.  Such stories they had to tell …

It felt like I’d known your friends and family forever.

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Your final farewell on Friday was one immense celebration of joy.  The church was packed.

An unusual, uplifting occasion.  You planned it all yourself, Linda said in her tribute. 

Your beloved Bhangra Boys danced their hearts out.  

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Judy’s Maritime Bhangra Boys performed 

(Click here to dance with Judy and her Bhangra Boys, on her birthday last year.)         

I picked up my tea bag and one of your dainty, embroidered white hankies on my way out.

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There was a tea bag ‘party favour’ for everyone, with Judy’s instructions to have a cup of joy with a friend and an invitation to take one of her lovely old fashioned handkerchiefs to be used to wipe away tears of joy and sadness.

 

 

 

 

(Click here for photos and video clips of Judy’s funeral Celebration of Joy)          

 

 

 

 

It felt strange to visit your home on Saturday.  To walk up the ramp and knock at your kitchen door. 

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Cam and Mum on the volunteer-built wheelchair ramp 

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Judy’s hospital bed (from which she took many pictures), all neatly made up, will be donated to the ALS society.

 

 

 

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Google Earth view of her home posted on Judy’s Facecbook Page

 

 

 

 

 

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Cameron with Andrew (left) and Matthew.  Tim had left for the airport

Joy all over the house, pouring from every corner.

Cam and I sat in your room.  We chatted like we’d known each other forever. 

My Christmas package finally made it out to you after New Year’s, he told me. Two days before your final departure.  Cam said you smiled when he showed it to you

He showed me your rubber chickens.  I peeped into the henhouse on my way out.

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Cam with the rubber chickens. Judy used them like a bell, to summon assistance

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Had to check out  the henhouse.  An infrared light keeps the cluckies warm in the winter

You wrote three months ago: PS:  Oct 11 – went to my regular 3 month appointment with all the specialists today.  They are all pleased with how I’m doing …

 The only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability, isn’t it?

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I’m sipping, as I remember and write, from the mug I found nestled in my surprise Christmas box.               

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From my Christmas box.  Life sure surprised me with you, Judy.

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From my Christmas box.  The dragonfly is the ALS symbol

                            

 

 

 

 

The dragonfly brightens my kitchen window.  I love how it begins to burn when the sun seeps through.           

We never said ‘hello’ in person, Judy.  I never got to write about what I discovered in the bombed out jungle graveyard in Tellipallai, Jaffna.  This was not how our Dear Judy travel series was supposed to end.

I’m thankful you found this blog and reached out in joyful friendship.

(Click here to read how we met)

Thank you, my courageous friend.  You are proof that a purpose-driven life does not necessarily embrace a bed of roses. You were a true and unique gift.

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RIP Judy Starrit, my amazing, inspirational friend. 

  • Loving you from afar. Love, xx Judy

I love you too, Judy …

We’ll meet face-to-face.  On the other shore some day, when my own journey’s done. 

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nopain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 RSV)

 

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

His Master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the JOY of your master.” (Matthew 25:23 RSV)

Until then,
sincerely

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Good Morning (Again) Colombo!

Dear Judy,      

Splashes of butter and blood met my eye when I looked through the kitchen window, just two weeks ago.  Time to put the terra cotta flower pots away in the garage.

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View from kitchen window two weeks back.  The Virginia creeper blazed up and down the fence as the morning sun buttered the landscape with gold.

                                   

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My friend Judy Starrit (centre), who lives in BeaverBank, Nova Scotia.

                                                                                               

 

 

 

 

So summer’s officially done.      

I messaged you two months ago: What can I bring you from Sri Lanka?

You replied: Send me pictures of your culture.

Puppy had the usual anxiety attack. Suitcases are a rotten omen, as far as he’s concerned.  

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Puppy hoping to halt the packing process. 

I decided to visit Dad later in the year, to avoid the hot season.   Got fried last April.

Texted Aunty Rom  (who’s not really my aunt!): I’m arriving in Colombo in two weeks. Looking forward to our morning walks.                        

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Aunty Rom, my stalwart walking companion.  This birthday card she mailed on one of our morning meanders never reached its destination.     

The familiar sense of homecoming as the plane touched down on the tarmac. I’ve spent more than half my life away from the motherland.

Sinhalese words came diffidently to my lips, then slid out with fluency. It takes my tongue a few minutes to get acclimatized.

Dad’s driver was waiting outside.  He cranked up the air conditioning.  The roads were congested, though it was still early in the morning.  

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Vijitha, Dad’s faithful driver and general factotum

 

 

A bewildering sea of highrises punctured the sky around me.

Colombo is currently the fastest growing metropolis in Asia, I’ve been told …

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The Lotus Tower (new since my last visit).  A Chinese investment.  The tallest free-standing structure in Asia.  

 

 

The Lotus Tower , dominates the skyline.

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City of Colombo growing upwards for as far as the eye can see

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Higher and higher …

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View from my friend, Angali’s balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NO LIMIT.  Sure looks like it …

Rush hour traffic is in full swing and Dad’s just waking up when we get home.  

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Dad’s home

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Dad’s halfway up. Never thought the parents would adjust so well to condo living. 

 

 

Everything’s spick and span, crisp linen in the guest room, a fresh breeze and the sun streaming in through the open balcony doors.

A resounding emptiness, though.  A sort of hollow ache  as the eye alights on an empty rocking chair, the laptop idling under a dustcloth and the vacant seat beside Dad’s easy chair in front of the  living room TV.

It’s been two and a half years.  Hard to believe.

I missed Mum’s embrace, her radiant smile.

 “How are you, my darling girl?”

Latha had prepared pol roti and katta sambol for breakfast.  

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Pol roti (coconut flatbread) and katta sambol (a fiery mixture of dried red chillis and raw onions). A carb-laden breakfast favourite.  Homecoming heaven!

Yum …

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Latha, Dad’s cook/ housekeepeer

 

 

 

 

 

Dad drove us to Independent Square in the evening to catch some fresh air.  I struggled to keep awake.  

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Independence Square, where the who’s who of Colombo go to keep fit, see and be seen

This is my Dad, Judy.                                        

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Dad enjoying a quiet moment under a banyan tree by the walking track at the old racecourse. 

He was a strikingly handsome man in his day. 

Independence Square is a great place for people-watching.  I got unobtrusively busy with my camera.

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A place for  lovers …

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… and loners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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… and quiet reflection

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Backpack and burkha

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Caption: My Shirt Made a Difference (It did.  I paused to take a picture of it)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daddy and his princess

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Secrets of childhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A moment to breathe

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Palm trees in silhouette.  Twilight shrouds Independence Square.  Time to go home for dinner. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A change of scene the next evening, when Dad headed for Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park).  An imposing statue of Queen Victoria appears to have materialized out of nowhere.

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Queen Victoria’s Statue (purloined from where it had been dumped decades ago, after independence) restored to its original spot just before the recent Commonwealth Conference. 

There’s a different ambiance in this space, besides the gnarly, mammoth trees, probably planted in Victorian times —

…  it’s the lovers cuddling beneath the colossal branches!

For as far as the eye can see …

Maybe because someone forgot to put up a sign like this one —

Tongue in cheek, of course …

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Sign set up at the old racecourse: This is a place of National Significance.  Keep Discipline

Around six o’clock, dusk begins to fall and uniformed decency police appear to guard the morals of the nation. The amorous pairs are shooed out of the park.

Don’t laugh, Judy.  I’m not fibbing – honest!

Three-wheeler tuk tuks swarm all over the city like a plague of locusts.  They are the quickest and most precarious mode of transport in this traffic-choked city. The captions adorning the bodywork often had me chuckling —

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“City Boy” — as opposed to … Country Boy?

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“Don’t touch my heart” (scroll in to see the words)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“God bless you”

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“I am strong to carry you” (I certainly hope so!)

 

 

 

 

 

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“Bad Boyz 008” (Like James Bond 007?)

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True liberty is to be A free of viceses (think they mean VICES?)

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Pirat 

 

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So why is this one stuffed into the open doorway of an empty showroom?

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The door hasn’t been installed yet, so for overnight security …

Still good old tuk tuks are the go-to mode of emergency transport, I’ve often resorted to myself.  A wild ride.  Kids find it a hoot.

Uber is the latest trend, though, and so much cheaper with heavenly airconditioned vehicles …

I was up all night for the first ten days,  Jet lag kills me.  It gets worse with the passage of time.

The early walks with Aunty Rom were my day’s highlight. 

In spite of these urgings –

and the necessary tools left lying around —

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Road sweeper’s ekel broom on the sidewalk,  leaning against a tree 

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Garbage collector’s handcart 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… and these willing workers

— the streets looked uncared for, garbage piled up in corners, picked over by crows and stray dogs.

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The instructions are pretty clear

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Check out the mess under the sign …

 

 

A disappointing regression since the government changed hands.

The supervised disposal of crow’s nests has been abadondoned, Aunty Rom tells me.

Animal rights activists or government cutbacks.  Don’t recall  …

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Mama crow guarding her nest. These raucous scavengers are becoming a problem again. 

The morning walks energized me, Judy. I began each day embracing the essence of the city with all its quirks and complexities.    

I remember this woman from last year —

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This gentle homeless woman has a puppy in her arms today.  

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This was her last year with just the one dog. (Click here : Good Morning Colombo! for story)

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Aunty Rom and me as the sun rides highter

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Dawn over Colombo city.  My favourite time of day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The homeless slumber on –

… and the dogs —

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The stray dogs – all mild and minding their own business –  have increased in numbers since I was last here.  A troubling threat of rabies.