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 …

 

 

Tell Me The Story, Daddy!

“Tell me about Singapore,” I said.  “During the war. When you were a child.”

Dad set his fork down, a rush of memories spilling into his eyes.

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The famous Raffles hotel, Singapore,  playground of the colonial elite,  circa 1920 (Google images)
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High Street, Singapore in 1945, just before the outbreak of WW2 (Google images)

“My father was a radio communications officer.  He worked for the British government in Singapore …”

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I don’t remember Grandpa James who died days after my first birthday.
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A WW2 radio communications officer (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“He was a highly intelligent man, but he had a volatile temper!  He was my hero, though it was frightening to live with someone like that.

He flew into a rage one day and struck me with the radio wires he was working with.  My mother had to apply a hot fomentation on my back for days until the marks subsided.

I don’t remember my mother ever cuddling or kissing me. But there was plenty of food. A laden table.  She was a good cook.  My father was a hospitable man. The house was always filled with people and she fed them gladly.

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James and Violet. Grandpa James was part of the diaspora of English-educated Ceylon Tamils who were wooed into coveted government posts in colonial Malaya and Singapore.  He sailed home for a brief visit  when an inter-marriage was arranged for him and his sister.  Grandpa James wedded my grandmother, Violet;  grandma Violet’s brother married Grandpa’s sister, Fanny. 
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Dad’s older brother, Rigby, was born in 1935. Dad arrived thirteen months later. Granny Violet had three children during the Malaya/ Singapore years.  Dad grew up speaking Malay and Chinese.

“We lived in a sprawling home on Mount Rosie, surrounded by a large compound. I remember climbing fruit trees and playing for hours outside.”

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An old colonial home on Mount Rosie Road (circa 1940’s) which matches Dad’s description of the home he lived in as a child (Google images)
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Mount Rosie Road — the current street sign (Google images)

“The Japanese considered their monarch a god.  They worshipped him as such.

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Screaming headlines (Google images)

The West was distracted by Hitler and Stalin.  It was the perfect time for the Japanese to leap in with their own agenda.  They worked their way through the East, carving out an empire …”

 

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Map of the Japanese Empire in 1942 (Google images)

“When the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour, the Americans got involved.  This was the beginning of the Pacific War.”

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Hawaii 1941.  US Soldiers watching the explosion after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. (Google Images)

 

“The tanks rolled into Singapore.

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Japanese troops storm the shores of Singapore (Google images)

Headlines screamed.

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Singapore surrenders (Google images)
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Screaming headlines (Google images)
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Singapore: the newest feather in the cap of the Japanese Empire (Google images)
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Invaders patrol Singapore streets (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was one of the worst defeats in British military history …

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The fall of Singapore was one of  Britain’s greatest military defeats.  The 1942 battle ended with 140,00 troops and citizens of Singapore captured, wounded or killed.  Around 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops based in Singapore became prisoners of war.
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POWs in the Changi Prison, Singapore WW2 (Google images)

“Pretty much everyone was labelled a traitor.  They shipped them off to POW camps.  By the thousands.”                

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Singapore surrenders, 1942 (Google images) 

“So how did Grandpa survive, Dad?” I asked.

Dad’s tone was matter-of-fact. “My father worked for the Japanese,” he said.

My jaw dropped.                                  

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Sword held high, ready to strike.  Japanese officer, Singapore, 1940s (Google images)

“After the surrender of Singapore, the Japanese generals stood at our doorstep with drawn swords.  They threatened to cut off his head if he didn’t work for them.  There was no other option.”    

“On our way to school, we’d see rows of traitors’ heads impaled on the walls.”

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POWs who were used as targets in practice had their heads blown off (Google images)
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Katana (Samurai) swords laid out in rows.  They were long, curved, single-bladed and could slice a man in half. (Google images)

“The Japs began losing ground after America entered the war with a powerful fleet of fighter planes and bombers.  I remember them.  There were the B-27s, B-23s, B-24s and B-26s.”

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Anti-American propaganda (Google images)
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The Chinese and Japanese were hostile to each other. If the Chinese had been for the Japanese, the Americans would never have won the war.”

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American bombers (Google images

“I remember watching the Japanese bombers flying overhead in formation with anti-aircraft units hot in pursuit.”

“The air raid sirens could go off at any time of day and you were supposed to seek shelter immediately in the bunker, under a staircase, or under furniture.  Our bunker was in the basement of the house.”

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Singaporeans waiting out an air raid in a bunker (Google images)

“I remember the dog fights in the air, when the Japanese bombers came in V-formation and the American fighter planes went after them.”

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Japanese boat plane (Google images)
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Japanese fighter plane (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aerial dogfight, WW2 (Google images)
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American ground forces observing the wake created by aerial dogfights.  Pacific War (Google images)

“I stood outside one day and watched as a Japanese plane got shot down.  It caught fire and made a nose-dive to the ground.  It crashed into our compound, its tail pointing upwards.  There was a huge crater in the ground.    

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Tail pointing upwards.  Downed warplane (Singapore) and gaping onlookers.  (Google images)

After the flames burned out, the gardener ran up.  He was an eccentric Indian man.  We were all convinced he was mad. He dragged the dead airman out, pulled off his boots and pillaged the corpse.  He pocketed the wrist watch and searched for gold fillings in the teeth. Then I saw the allied planes pass overhead – massive aircraft, gleaming in the sun.  You could hear them from miles away.”

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Allied planes. Massive aircraft, gleaming in the sun … (Google images)

 

 

“One day my father was shaving upstairs, when a shell came flying in through the bathroom window and rolled down the staircase.  Thank God it didn’t explode. 

 

Our home was like a refugee camp for the Ceylon Tamil community – injured boys and girls were brought there.  Providentially, Mount Rosie was never bombed.”

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Singaporean students being taught Japanese, circa 1940s (Google images)

“We attended an Anglo-Chinese school.  There was a Tamil priest on the teaching staff.  The Singaporean teachers were compelled to learn Japanese and then teach it to their students.”

“Our formal schooling was sporadic through the war years.  English was forbidden.

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A Japanese class with soldiers in attendance, Singapore, circa 1940s (Google images)

My father taught us in the basement bunker at night.  We had to memorize poetry and I was able to read far beyond my years.

I remember reciting The boy stood on the burning deck …

 

 

The Japanese soldiers had funny uniforms – long, long khaki shorts and hats with elongations at the back from the brims, covering their necks.”

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Dad’s amazing power of recollection: “The officers wore white shirt, khaki jacket and leather boots”. And the long swords he described … (Google images)
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Japanese soldiers wearing long khaki shorts and hats with “long extensions at the back”.  I was amazed at Dad’s accurate description, culled from his memories from over 75 years ago. (Google images) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The officers wore white shirt, khaki jacket and leather boots.

 I remember coming down the hill, one particular day, where the school was situated.  There were steps going up the hill to the school building. The students were all lined up on either side of the road to greet and wave flags at visiting Japanese army dignitaries.  They came in a convoy of lorries and military vehicles.  A boy standing across the street called out to me.  Without thinking, I dashed across the road to reach him, cutting through the oncoming parade.  A lorry hit me and I was knocked unconscious.  They drove on.  They didn’t stop.  The entire convoy passed over me. 

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“They didn’t stop.  The entire convoy passed over me …” (Google images)

When the parade was done, the Tamil priest — the teacher from my school – picked me up and took me to the government hospital.  Miraculously, there was no serious injury and I recovered.”

“How old were you, Dad?” I queried.

“I must have been about 7 or 8.”

“That was nothing short of divine providence,” I commented.

Dad nodded.  “Yes,” he said. “And I used to collect all the shells and metal fragments I found lying around. That was my hobby.”

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Grandma Violet looking fine, wearing a saree (1961)

 

 

“My mother carried her jewellery in a pouch tied around her waist, under her saree.  She finally buried it all outside in the garden.  When the war was over she wasn’t able to find the spot to dig it back up.”

“You mean she lost all her jewellery?” I asked.

Dad shrugged.  “Many people buried their valuables and never found them again.”

 

 

“The Americans bombed Singapore before the Japs surrendered.  I remember Singapore harbour up in flames.”

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Inferno.  American forces bomb Singapore, 1945 (Google images)
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Singapore harbour in flames, 1945 (Google images)

 D-Day came and the Germans surrendered, but the Japanese hung on until the American bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  That was when they finally gave in.

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Mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan officially surrendered on September 12, 1945 after the US military dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.  About 200,000 people died in the horrific aftermath of these nuclear explosions (Google images)

” Japan would never had surrendered if not for the atom bomb.  America was the only nuclear power in the world at the time.    The bombs were dropped two days apart.”

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Singapore is signed back over to the British, September 1945 (Google images)
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The British return to Singapore, 1945 (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father had a radio hidden in the basement.  He tuned in at night to listen to the BBC news.  There was no other way of knowing how the war was progressing.  Suddenly one day, the war was over.  Everything fell silent.  The Japanese forces vanished.      

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The Union Jack flies at full mast over liberated Singapore, 1945 (Google images)
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The allied troops roll back in to Singapore, 1945 (Google images)

“A Ceylonese Burgher gentleman who was a friend of my father’s  – his name was Mr. Garth, an educated man, slightly brownish in complexion — ended up in a Japanese POW camp.  After we knew for sure that the war was over, my father took me with him to the POW camp.  I remember sitting  in the car as we drove there. 

The camp was a place of the living dead.  Men, women and children had been starved and made to do hard labour.  We found Mr. Garth.  He had been a prisoner for four years. He was plain skin and bones.  We brought him back home. My mother had cooked a good meal and set it on the table.  Mr. Garth sat and stared at the food for quite awhile.  Then he ate slowly, savouring every mouthful.   He saved the boiled egg for the last.”

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Plain skin and bones.  A starving POW, Singapore, circa 1940s (Google images)
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Parade of prisoners in a Japanese POW camp (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The war ended in September 1945. 

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Rejoicing survivors (young boys in their midst) exit the Changi prison camp, Singapore, 1945 (Google images)
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Rows of Katana swords after the surrender of Singapore at the end of the war (Google images)
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Captors now captive … Japanese forces being guarded by Indian troops in Singapore, 1945 (Google images)

 

 

 

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Captors captive. Japanese soldiers being hauled off to POW camps,  Singapore 1945 (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The British returned.

Many Ceylon Tamils who lived in Burma had walked to South India to escape the invasion.  They were found and rescued.

Everything was in a mess.  A new administrative system had to be set up. All residents of Singapore had to get their British citizenship renewed.  Those who were not originally from Singapore were given the option of staying or receiving a free passage back to the country of their birth. 

Mother wanted to stay, but Father had no choice.    He had worked for the Japanese during the war years and was declared a traitor to the British Empire. 

His name was on a formal list of Traitors To The Empire that appeared in the newspapers directly after the war ended.

The British arranged for our repatriation.  We travelled in a massive ship which had been used as a troop carrier during the war.  It was called the SS Arundel Castle.”

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The SS Arundel Castle. I was delighted to find a picture of the liner and amazed at the accuracy of Dad’s recollection.  (Google images)

Our passage was paid and they provided us with clothing and food.  With a load of over one thousand passengers – all Ceylon Tamils – the vessel set sail soon after the war was over.  The voyage lasted five to six days before we docked at Colombo harbour.   I remember being loaded onto a boat and coming ashore, where there was a big reception committee awaiting the home-comers. 

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Colombo harbour, circa 1940’s (Google images)

My mother’s sister’s daughter — my cousin, Mabel — came to meet us at the dock.  We slept the night at her home in Maradana and caught the train to Batticoloa  the next day.”

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Maradana Railway Station (Google images)
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The journey by rail from  the west coast of the island of Ceylon to Batticoloa on the eastern shoreline.
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In the land of their ancestors.  Rumbling through the countryside on British-built rails …  (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At breakfast the next morning, a heavy-eyed Dad informed me that he hadn’t had much sleep the previous night. “The horrible scenes kept playing in my head,” he said.

I picked another subject for that evening’s conversation. 

A year and a half in later, after the birth of his youngest child — a son — Grandpa James returned to Singapore.  He approached the British authorities in anticipation of being reinstated into his former civil service post. Representatives of His Majesty’s government grimly reminded my grandfather that his name was etched on the infamous traitor list. They concurred that Grandpa’s only other choice would have led to the instant annihilation of himself and his young family. They graciously granted him a pension for his service to the British Empire.  Then they showed him the door.

Grandpa sailed back to his native Ceylon.  He disembarked at the port of  Colombo and rode the railway back to Batticoloa in the east, where his wife had inherited extensive acreages of profitable paddy land.  

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An old steam train (1940’s Ceylon) rattling its way around the island on an efficient network of railways that still remains in use (Google images)

The new baby symbolized the end of an era in their lives.

Old dreams dead and buried, life commenced anew and in earnest. The three youngsters, foreigners in the land of their parents’ birth, were constrained to learn a fifth language. English, Malay, Chinese, Japanese and now … Tamil.

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Settling in nicely.  Dad in his teens some years later, thriving in academics and sports, sporting his trademark moustache and burgeoning film-star looks. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Grandpa was granted his pardon, if Granny obtained her heart’s desire, Dad wouldn’t have met Mum and allied himself with a new country and people.  

And I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.     

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Looking good at 82.  Dad at Christmas service, 2017

 

 

An interesting thought which strengthens my conviction in the knowledge that life is directed by an unseen hand.  A hand that masterfully orchestrates circumstances in such a manner as to bring an undeniable destiny to pass.  With one hundred percent accuracy.     

                               Until next time,      

sincerely

      

 

 

 

P.S. Dad meets his bride in Matchmaker, Matchaker! (click here)

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Just Junk (Or Maybe Not)

Fascinated by the art of decoupage as portrayed on Pinterest, I began to look for forlorn bits of this and that at garage sales and thrift stores.  Ideas for their transformation simmered and stewed until the magic moment arrived some weeks ago. 

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When you wake up know it’s time to tackle the task …

The relentless force of it carried me through a fortnight of sanding, painting, gluing, lacquering.

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When you start and simply have to keep going …

Exhibit One –

A handcrafted stool lurking on a pile of junk in a country thrift store.  One word: hideous. The darling drawer with the dangly handle was my undoing. 

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Exhibit One – after sanding.  Lovingly handcrafted and painted by someone who knew what they were doing.  Water damage and peeling paint …

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Mixed two shades of Dollarama paint to obtain the colour I needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A coat of Dollarama paint, two favourite hymns on the top and all around …

Et voila !  A quirky stool to tuck into a corner.  For occasional extra seating …

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The music sheets of old hymns on top and all the way around

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Aerial view of stool.  I ‘aged’ the sheet of music using a soaked tea bag.

Exhibits 2 & 3 –  Plain brown wood straight-backed chair and child’s rocking chair –

Forgot to take pre-painted ‘before’ pictures …

 

There’s a story to tell … 

I’d hunted fruitlessly for wrapping paper or paper napkins with an old fashioned sort of rose design. 

Months go by …

Searched for wrapping paper or paper napkins with a design like this one.  (Image downloaded from Pinterest)

A week before Easter my friend, Gail presented me with a bouquet of lilies.  The bridal blooms were done up in a layer of tissue paper printed all over with … red roses.  The exact kind I was looking for.  The attached card was from the florist at the mall up the street.

Woo hoo! Can’t wait to get going.  Transformation time.  Decoupage, here I come …

 

 

Pleasing finale. Tissue paper roses on garage sale salvage …

 

Wait …

That old flip-top table could do with a matching makeover. 

Rose-covered table to set off the seats.  Lovely …

Gail’s tissue paper yielded just enough for the two chairs – nothing left over.

Alas …

Flash of inspiration.  The mall florist might have a sheet or two to spare.

Right?

So I went.

Me: I received a bouquet of flowers from your store some days back.  It was wrapped in an unusual tissue paper with a beautiful rose print on it …

Pretty straight forward, huh?

Florist guy:  Yeah.  I know the one you mean.  You know what’s weird, though?

Okay, what?

                    …. We never ordered that kind.  We never have.  Don’t know why they came here.

Opens drawer and fishes around …

                                                            …They’re all gone.  Guess the girls used them up.  And we won’t …

Me:  … be getting anymore.

Florist Guy:  Weird, huh?  As I said, we never ordered it.  We only use the plain kind.

Weird all right …

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So what’s going on? (Which door? Dreams or reality? Thanks, Nicole, for this pic.  Luvit!)

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Love how life works … noticed this licence plate at the traffic lights on the disappointed drive back home!

Roses on two chairs AND a table would have been overkill anyway.

So I covered the table top with white lace, edged with baby ribbon.

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Forgot (again!) to take a pre-painted pic.  The ghost of a once elegant table, with chipped paintwork in a floral crackle-effect off-white and blue design

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A chandelier rainbow settled on the tabletop as I worked .  It turned out rather nice.

 

 

 

 

Love the finished effect …

I paused to ponder on the Tale of the Florist and the Tissue Paper

A light went on –

There’s a dream waiting to come alive in every rejected thing and there’s a dream-bringer who makes it happen. At the top of the chain is the Dreamgiver who creates the dream, orchestrates and manipulates events to make it all come true …

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The way I saw it …

This poor monstrosity has lived in the basement since forever –

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Haven’t been able to bring myself to toss it out …

Just had another idea for a fabulous furniture facelift.  

Watch out for the next Cinderella table-metamorphosis story coming to this blog!

I love breathing new life into dull, dead things.  Adore the thought of being prompted by a dream-giver.

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Found this book in a clearance bin at a bookstore.  Couldn’t put it down. (The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson – author of The Prayer of Jabez)

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Check it out …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there’s really no such thing as junk …

Thankful for beauty-basking-beneath-ugly-if-you-only-choose-to-look

Thankful for dreams.

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A passerby as I took a walk one morning …

 

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Why ever not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s always another dream.  And then the next one.   And the next.                                                      

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Roses … tiny dreams-come-true.  Teddy bears’ teaparty time for two little tykes! (Thank you my friend, Liesl, for the vintage ‘roses’ table lamp – a perfect match!)

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On my desk to remind me …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t stop dreaming, no matter what!

Until next time,

sincerely

 

 

P.s.  ‘Crafty’ weekend guests offer invaluable input.  Thank you Roshini!

 

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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!

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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)

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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 – 

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

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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.

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

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?

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

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!