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

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Re-purposed picture frames make a fine a bathroom collage

 

 

 

Widow’s Dilemma: Our Present Past (2)

Click here to read Our Present Past (1)

 

Life changed with the grisly demise of her husband, Vethanayagam Subramaniam Samuel. In ways Mary Chellamma never imagined. The breadwinner struck down in his prime, she was left alone to raise month-old twins amongst six young children. There was neither time, nor expertise to tend the land which was the family’s only source of income.

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Rice farmers in Ceylon in the early 1900s, clad in loin cloths and driving buffalo yoked to hand-crafted ploughs.  Similar scenes are still to be seen in rural parts of the island (now Sri Lanka) (Google images)

Mary turned in desperation to her brother-in-law, her husband’s brother, who cultivated rice and raised cattle on the adjoining property.   He agreed to take on the management of her farm. Mary was relieved to be rid of the burden.

Blood is thicker than water, after all, and they were neighbours …

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Rice (paddy) cultivation in the early 1900s – back-breaking manual labour.  The same primitive methods are still in  practice in certain rural areas of the island. (Google images)
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Woman of faith: Grandma Harriet Danvers, wife of David Danvers (who was the son of Kathirgamar Danvers, the first convert to Christianity in the family line)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harriet (Theivanei) Danvers – Mary’s mother, the children’s maternal grandmother – a widow herself, lived in her own home, a stone’s throw away. This pious woman was a bottomless reservoir of strength.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw evangelical activity at its height in northern Ceylon.  The numerous schools and hospitals in the region bore witness to the presence and commitment of the American and British missionaries. Mary Chellammah, a young woman still, found employment with the CMS Missionaries in the area, who offered her a position as nurse’s aide at the local missions hospital.

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The Misses Leitch (AMS missionaries) with Tamil converts in Jaffna.  Foreign missionaries did not venture into the untamed Vavuniya area (wary of both inhabitants and jungle animals). Mary would have been assisted by native Christians, who were sent to serve in this region (courtesy, Google images)
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American missionaries in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, where the Samuel family originally hailed from (courtesy Tishan Mills, ceylontamils.com).

 

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Northern provinces of Ceylon (highlighted)

 

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Vethanayagam Samuel relocated from the Jaffna province (shaded pink) to Vavuniya in the Vanni region (shaded brown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disaster struck again.   Neighbour-brother-in-law turned perfidious predator and assumed ownership of the widow’s property.  By unscrupulous means he had changes were made to the the title deeds and the cattle were re-branded accordingly.

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Bullock carts (a common mode of transport at the time) and a cow trussed up for branding.  The young sarong-clad  boy wields a branding iron. (Circa 1900, Google images)

Grandma Harriet – Paatti to the little ones – was a woman of prayer and unshakeable faith.  She was known to sit in her house for hours by herself, lost in prayer. Her hands one upon the other, palms facing heavenwards, she pleaded with tears for heaven’s favour. 

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Aunty Paranidhy (Anna Chinnathangam’s daughter) recalls the stories her mother told her. She shows me how her great grandmother Harriet’s hands reached heavenwards in prayer.

Subramaniam Vethanayagam (S.V.) Chelliah, her oldest grandson, looked in through an open window one day, and heard the old lady praying out loud in Tamil: “Heavenly Father, what am I to do about these children?  Open the windows of heaven and bless them, I pray.” (“Aandavaney, intha sinna kulanthaihalodu naan enne seivan?  Vaananthin palahanhelai thiranthu intha chiruvarhalai aasirwathiyum.”)

Irreverently tickled by the pious woman’s fervour, Chelliah summoned his brothers and sisters to witness the peep-show. The amused youngsters gawked at their grandmother while she made her petition to the unseen Almighty.

“Look at how her hands are open and reaching upwards,” he snorted with  laughter.  “She’s waiting for heaven to open and blessings to fall into them.”

The yield from the land continued to be purloined by the greedy uncle. Mary and her little ones lived in a home, which, according to the doctored deeds, was theirs no more.

Life was a struggle. 

The stuff that ugly fairy tales are made of …

When the twins – Solomon and Anna – were six years old, Mary Chellammah took ill and was confined to her bed. Grandma Harriet, who carried on as best she could, was out of earshot when young Chelliah complained, “The food is not good (chaapadu chari illai).”

“Be patient, my son,” his ailing mother urged. “I’ll be up and about to cook tasty meals for my children (porungo rasa, naan elumbitu wanthu, nalai chamaichchu kudukiren pillaihalukku)

Mary was unable to keep her promise.  Fate struck another foul blow when she succumbed to her illness and died a short while later. The six fatherless offspring of Vethanayagam Subramaniam Samuel  were now orphans.

Grandma Harriet – was left to raise the children on her own.

The children became unofficial wards of the Anglican Church.              

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The Anglican Church of the Holy Spirit, Vavuniya, where the family would probably have worshipped.

Elizabeth Thangamma, who showed no particular interest in academic learning, was constrained to give up her schooling in order to remain at home and help cook and care for her siblings.

The boys were fostered out to benevolent families in Jaffna, sixty miles north of Vavuniya. The providential intervention of the church enabled them to continue their education at the reputed CMS Missions boys’ school, St. John’s College , Chundikuli (Jaffna).

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St. John’s College, Jaffna, as it stands at present, renovated and reconstructed after the civil war.
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Jaffna town is approxiamtely 60 miles north of Vavuniya

 

 

 

 

 

 On Shadrack Chinniah’s twelfth birthday he received a letter from his grandmother (who remained in Vavuniya with his sisters), mailed to his new address in Jaffna.  The single sheet of notepaper was laced with weighty words of blessing written  in the Tamil language. 

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

This birthday proved to be a milestone marking the end of Shadrack’s formal schooling.  He bade farewell to Saint John’s College where he learned to read, write and speak with the polish and ability of a highly educated individual.    His dreams lay beyond the confines of the arid northern province, far away in the colonial metropolis of Colombo.

The landscape shifted from dusty-dry to lush-verdant as the tracks snaked inland and the train rattled on its way, two hundred miles down to the capital city in the south of Ceylon.

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A steam train speeds along the British-built coastal railway lines of early 1900s Ceylon (courtesy Google images)
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Mud-walled coconut-thatch rural homes give way to …
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… the wide, wide world.  Dam Street, Colombo, circa 1900 (courtesy Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

In his shirt pocket, pressed to his heart, was the precious birthday letter.

The memory of his mother grazed his thoughts. The grim ghost of his uncle’s unthinkable actions haunted these quiet moments.  

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Mary Chellamma (Danvers) Samuel, young mother of Sarah Chinnamma, S.V. Chelliah, Shadrack Chinnathamby, Elizabeth Thangamma, Anna Chinnathangam and Solomon Chinniah

Shadrack pressed his face to the train window.  Coconut-thatch huts and green fields flew by.

The new life beckoned. 

World War I was still to come.

 

To be continued …

………………………………………………………….

Geneology of the Danvers and Samuel lines (from the files of the late S.E.R. Perinpanayagam, courtesy Eric and Tim Perinpanayagam)

 

Danvers family line –

 

 * Kanthar married Thangam and had 4 children – 2 sons and 2 daughters (Circa 1790)
 * Their son, Kathirgamar Danvers (born 1809) married Anna Saveriyal.

 

*  Kathirgamar and Anna Danvers had 7 (8 ?) children – only 1 daughter
           David, Jane, Daniel, Gabriel, Samuel, Solomon & Joseph.

 

* David Danvers married Harriet Theivanai
* David and Harriet Danvers had 3 children, all daughters.
      Mary Chellammah, Elizabeth Annamma & Rebecca Ponnamma

 

* Mary Chellammah Danvers married Subramanium Vethanayagam Samuel
* Mary Chellammah Danvers and Subramaniam Vethanayagam Samuel had 3 sons and 3 daughters –
      Sarah Chinnamah, Subramaniam Vethanayagam Chelliah, Shadrack Chinniah, Elizabeth                      Thangammah, Solomon Chinniah and Anna Chinnathangam

 

*Rebecca Ponnama married Samuel Alfred Chelladurai Perinpanayagam

 

Samuel family line –

 

Illanganayagar Udaiyar of Kaithady – Vethanayagam married: Seeniachi of Urumpirai
They had 6 daughters and 3 sons which included
* Subramanium Vethanayagam Samuel who married Mary Chellammah Danvers
&
  Thangam Vethanayagam who married Solomon Danvers

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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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 …

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Mary Chellammah Samuel (nee Danvers) (From the archives of Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)
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Rebecca Ponnamma Perinpanayagam (nee Danvers) (far left) (1901 Uduvil Female Seminary matriculation class. She obtained a Queen’s Scholarship on the results of the Calcutta Matriculation examination.  Her mother and she were among the earliest batches to graduate from Uduvil Girls School, established by American Missionaries in 1841) ( Courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)
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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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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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Rebecca Ponnamma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elizabeth Thangamma
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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, Rebecca Ponnamma

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

“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.

“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.  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.

 

Click here  to go to Part 2:  Widow’s Dilemma

 

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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)

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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 – 

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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

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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!

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

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.
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Abandoned coverlet and water bottle.  Someone just woke up

Vigorously cleaning business premises —

At the bus stop. To school and work –

And so the day begins –

Early morning moments –

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Beggar freshening up at public tap
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Maid going to work at the big house
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Young vagabond with electricity in his eyes …
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Dust pan and broom seller
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Newspaper delivery – motocycle and …
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… by bike. (Sarong tucked up high)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my favourite moments, captured just for you, Judy –

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Walking his employer’s dog
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Happy to pose for camera lady
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“Where’s that wife of mine? …”
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“… where the heck is she?
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Lady in red 
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“Just dropped in at the temple …”
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Jaunty three-and-a-half-legged dog …
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… pausing to check out a pile of garbage before hopping merrily on its way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Whats App, Doc?”

The streets at peace half an hour before morning mayhem breaks out –

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Peeping Tom
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Laurel and Hardy. These billboard pasters came rolling up and spilled out of a tuk tuk ..
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… and asked to pose for a second picture, pot of glue and all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Graceful lady cop
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Flock of nurses off to work
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What’s in the hand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast from the corner vendor

 

 

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“Hey, thanks for the brekkie money!”
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In a mighty hurry
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Shoolgirls packed like sardines into a private van.

Business is brisk at the food truck –

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At the corner of Dad’s street

Aunty Rom and I pass these two every  morning –

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Determined walker. This one means business, down to the nifty running shoes
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On her way to work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aunty Rom pauses to pick up her newspaper –

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A moment to chat with the vendor.  English newspaper, please.

From time to time she suprised me with a detour.  Like the time we popped in at Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine’s home and sat for a while chatting.

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Aunty Rom with Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine (not my uncle and aunt!), aunty Rom’s cousins and my cousin’s in-laws.  I met them for the first time last year when we ‘dropped in’ during one of our walks.  
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Uncle Chandi’s  lovely garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I acquired a new aunty when I took this picture last year. 

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Her name is Welai.  Met her at the corner store by the church, early one morning last April. (Click here for the story in Good Morning Colombo)

Found out later that the smiling woman was the employee of Aunty Rom’s friend, Sharmini.

Only in  Sri Lanka …

Newest aunt, Sharmini, invited us both over for breakfast one Tuesday morning. Aunty Rom and I walked over.  We’d been Facebook friends since the photo incident, and met face to face for the first time today.

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Aunty Sharmini (right) in her beautiful home (with Aunty Rom)

Warm, generous Sri Lankan hospitality …

Welai had prepared a delicious meal of pol roti, chicken curry and spicy, accompaniments. Fresh bananas for dessert.

So good …

She was all dressed up to meet us and quite overwhelmed to encounter the camera lady once again!

 

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Welai, feeling shy, in her Sunday best.  All dressed up for Aunty Rom and me

New aunty has a lovely Secret Garden.

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Aunty Sharmini and Welai at the entrance to the Secret Garden. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welai looking coy and posing in the garden wearing her regular work clothes!

 

 

The sun rode high in the sky.  Too sticky to walk.  Aunty Rom and I took a tuk tuk back home.

The next week,  Aunty Rom, New Aunty and I went to breakfast at the Commons Coffee House, steps away from new aunty Sharmini’s home.  

Scrumptious cheese toast with good friends, all because I made a random click on my I Pad …

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Singing in the rain.  Aunty Sharmini (left) and Aunty Rom outside Commons Coffee House, Cinnamon Gardens.  

 

 

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Sri Lankan Menu (Commons Coffee House)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some mornings Aunty Rom surprised me with a different route (to feed my appetite for photography), pointing out stately homes.  Many of them are commercial buildings now.

The remaining single unit homes lurk behind high fortress-type fortification walls and iron gates.

A handful old mansions still remain private residences –

… a couple of them in varying stages of disrepair.

Love how flowers and foliage create waterfalls of colour along walls and from balconies —

Destructive love language along the sidewalk …

Architecture and construction accommodate behemoth trees –

The iconic Cricket Club Café has changed locations. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the old location is for sale —

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FOR SALE proclaims this gate …

… or not!

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NOT FOR SALE declares the gate at the other end.  Didn’t notice till Aunty Rom pointed it out.  Someone can’t make up their mind!

Paradise Road Galleries on Dad’s street has been torn down –

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The rubble of Paradise Road, a classy tourist shopping spot
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Took this pic last year

 

 

 

 

 

to make way for yet another highrise.

Found time to browse at Dean the Bookman’s secondhand store – 

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Discovered Dean at the Saturday pola (farmers’ market) at Torrington Square last year.  Bought this copy of short stories by Guy de Maupassant
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A 20 volume collection of Dickens novels, over a hundered years old, on sale for Rs. 20,000 ($200 Canadian approx)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the old colonial cemetery where we buried Mum two and a half years ago, Judy.

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Kanatte Cemetary.  I never saw it as a place of beauty until now

I’ve just discovered the beauty of  the old memorial monuments.  Wonder why I’ve never noticed before. I was almost tempted to stand in the sunshine and recite Victorian elegies, surrounded by discoloured Italian marble gravestones.  Some of the sculptures are really quite exquisite.

China is pumping money into this country. Thousands of Chinese construction workers are swarming all over the city of Colombo. 

This is the future Port City, a Chinese enterprise –

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View of Port City from lighthouse.  Reclaimed land, stretching fifteen miles out into the sea, leased to China for ninety nine years. 

The ocean at Galle Face, where generations of Colombo dwellers came to relax and enjoy the fresh, salt air is gone.  The Galle Face Green where you could fly kites, buy a cone from the Alerics ice cream van and have a ride on a sad, mangy pony, barely exists anymore.  What’s left of it is all withered and brown.

Not sure how smart an idea this Port City is, politically speaking …

Slave Island is the dizziest hub of construction in the city –

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The star of them all is the Leaning Tower (Altair building).  By day …
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… and by night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka, Judy, are very much like India, with a lot less people, of course, and not as colourful.  And less dirt, I suppose.

The varied face of Colombo fascinates me –

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Working girl carrying her saree with grace
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Beggar commencing his day

 

 

 

 

 

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Woman and street dog: crossing the road in opposite directions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shoe shopping
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Cool dude!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Cheque, please!”

 

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Dapper gran’pa …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Texting and walking

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flexibilty of the Sri Lankan woman is pretty amazing …

Umbrellas, come rain or sun —

Tried my hand at rainy day photography.  Quite pleased with the outcome –

The street of my childhood grows less recognizable each time I go back.

Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen’s home is one of the few original houses in the old neighbourhood.

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Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen at their front porch. The last of the original homes.  They lived two doors down from us. She was one of Mum’s close friends.

A highrise is under construction on the premises of  #13 where my old home used to be located —

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A highrise at #13, stomping on memories of the past

I’m embarrassed to admit that lunch become another highlight of my day.  Latha excelled herself –

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Red rice and curry accompaniments.  Three meals a day, served up on Mum’s Noritake dinnerware, with linen napkins and everything.  I packed on the pounds fast!

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I miss the leisured  simplicity of life as it used to be when I was growing up.

Change is inevitable of course.  It just took longer coming to Sri Lanka …

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Sidewalk strewn with temple flowers (frangipani) before the sweepers get going
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Betel juice.  An ungenteel ‘provincial’ habit that needs to change. Red spittle on the sidewalk from chewing betel leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The old Parliament building from colonial times

 

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Colombo lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

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Galle Road in Sinhalese, Tamil and English.  The city’s main thoroughfare, leading all the way down to Galle down south

 

 

 

 

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View from the lighthouse

 

 

 

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Little Lion ice cream from Top Shelf.  Consumed copious quantities of it as a girl!

 

 

 

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New concept.  Hindu temple (golden dome visible) atop a highrise.

 

 

 

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… and Elton John!

 

 

 

 

 

Judy, have  I mentioned the research I’ve been doing towards writing a  book on Mum’s ancestry?  I chased clues all over the city.

Felt like a character in The Da Vinci Code

I spent fascinating hours with Mum’s cousins and some distant relatives I’d never met before –

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Aunties Daisy and Sybil (real aunts!), Mum’s cousins with old photograph albums. 
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Mums’ cousin, Paranidhi.  Met her for the first time.  Went back to visit twice more.  A fount of old family history and intriguing insider stories.  

 

 

 

 

Heard some incredible stories from the family archives, gathered a goldmine of information and tons of old photos.  A  mountain of notes to be transcribed. Almost wore my hand out writing in longhand as fast as it would move!

So when Daughters enquired (during a Whats App phone conversation) if I was bored, I answered: “No, I create my own adventures.  There’s a new one every day and I can barely keep up with them all!”

The plan was for Husband to fly out from Toronto and join me after two weeks. While talking on the phone before he arrived, we decided, on the spur of the moment, to visit the Jaffna peninsula together.  This area, a war zone for decades, is where our ancestors hail from. 

With only days to go and a specific cut-and-paste tour in mind, I had to figure out how to make it happen.

Then I remembered … Jungle Fowl!              

Jungle …what?                                                                           

I’ll tell you all about it in the next post. 

Until then, take care, my friend. I intentionally recorded every detail of this trip just for you, so you were sort of travelling along with me, you know.

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Judy with  her grandson, Eamon, and JOY on the windowsill
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My friend, Judy, chooses to live out her diagnosis of ALS with joy.  She is an inspiration to everyone she encounters.  Click here to read Judy’s story in Love Those Bhangra Boys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I’m thankful for you, Judy.  You inspire me to keep living out joy, because joy doesn’t depend upon external circumstances. It comes from within.  

Love always and thinking of you, my friend,

sincerely

p.s  Woke up to our first snowfall this morning.   Oh Canada …

Just got a text from Aunty Rom.  She wrote:  A few days ago, I met the dog lady.  She said the puppy had been run over.  I was happy for her, so she didn’t have to find food for another mouth. This morning, she had another, carried in a box!

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  THUMBS UP ! To like my Facebook page: Click here

When We Were Very Young

“My dear Beatrice …” Mum read aloud from the letter in her hand.

Postman has just delivered the mail …

Sister and I dared not meet each other’s eye. Bit our lips to keep from giggling.

“I don’t think you will recall me.  I was a friend of your cousins, Daisy and Rosie, and have met you in their company on a few occasions in our young days.”

Mum’s voice rose to a squeak.  “I write to you now regarding my son …”

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Some mother’s boy …

Sister and I held our breath.  Our lips trembled with mirth.

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Hmm …

“He is a good boy.  Very sober and steady (no vices whatsoever).  He graduated as a doctor …..”

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Mum’s eye popping out of her head …
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So his mother says …

Sister swallowed hard.  Her shoulders shook.  I covered my mouth with my hand.

“We have heard about the goodness of your daughters.  People all say they are good and smart, clever girls …”

No vices whatsoever/ the goodness of your daughters … good grief … who even writes like that?

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And so the letter went (in sister’s heavily disguised handwriting ) …
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From one mother to another …
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Sis and I barely contain ourselves …

 

Mum eyes continued to scan the handwritten lines. “I would be so happy to hear from you regarding this matter if your elder girl is still unattached.  My friend, Mrs. M. tells me she is 22 years of age.  In fact, your sister, Ruby …”                    

I’m the ‘elder girl’ …

“You may remember the times we shared as children.”  Mum began to look puzzled.

Her jaw finally dropped when she came to the end of the letter.  “PS:  We prefer a spacious house in Colombo with garden and attached baths.”

Dowry details!  Eek …

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Who better than a boy’s fond mama to take the bull by the horns …

We could almost read Mum’s thoughts –

What cheek!

 “I don’t remember this lady,” Mum mumbled almost to herself, and ran to the phone to dial Aunty Ruby’s number.

Hello, how are you dear? I just received a strange letter … sounds a little eccentric … who are these people?”

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Definitely not!

Sister and I held our sides and roared.  We laughed ourselves into stitches.

It all began some months before, when a close school friend of Mum’s asked if she would contact a certain family (who had an eligible son) regarding a formal proposal of marriage for their youngest daughter.

Girl in question was pretty, a recent university graduate, now on the Marriage Market. Parents were anxious to have her fixed up and settled.

True story, honest (down to the phraseology)! Absolutely no embellishment …  

Older sister of said Young Lady got entangled with Completely Unacceptable Young Man and eloped when well-to-do Daddy refused to give his consent.  Daddy disowned her.  A year later, when First Grandchild was born, Starving Couple were ushered back into the family fold.

Get the picture? God forbid that history should repeat itself, right? Okay, so stage is set …

Mum obliged and our home served as venue for introduction between Sweet Young Thing and Very Acceptable Beau.

Cousin Ranji was staying over that weekend.  She, Sister and I eavesdropped from behind the drawing room drapes.      

No TV in Sri Lanka then.  This was far better, delicious entertainment, served up on a platter …                         

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Me (left) and Sister (centre) with Cousin Ranji, possibly that same weekend. 
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We had too much fun to miss TV when we were kids.  (Pic. of Daughters celebrating 12th birthday at Disney World)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Pair sat at one end of the room to get acquainted.  Mothers made small talk close by.

Recipes and stuff …

Two dads at farthest corner.

Mum and Dad sat in on the powwow – being it was their home and all.  Awkward …

Things suddenly grew ugly.  Raised daddy-voices.

Dirty dowry matters …

Young Man’s father haggled for more. 

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What Girl’s Dad said …
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What Boy’s Father hoped to hear …

Sweet Young Thing’s father finally agreed to throw in a lorry along with the house and land.  

Or something like that  …

Cousin Ranji, Sis and I are horrified. 

 We’ve travelled back into antiquity …

 Deadlock.  Evening concludes in chilly huff.

But no one counted on Young Pair falling madly in love.    

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Definitely! Head over heels for each other …

Completely unexpected turn of events …

Now unacceptable, Young Man contacted and romanced Sweet Young Thing on the sly.

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Was it ever! Boy, oh boy …

 

 

 

 

 

Mum politely declined when asked to intervene.

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He won’t!

Sweet Young Thing phones to weep on Mum’s shoulder …