I live in Hove. My son Richard and his family live in Bath. My daughter Julie and her family live in Devon. I have three bedrooms, Richard’s house has six and Bath is equidistant between Hove and Devon. It therefore made sense to hold my 80th birthday party in Bath with Richard and Margaret and my two grandchildren Benjamin and Victoria and with Julie and her husband Mark and my other two grandchildren Breanna and Alexannder, motoring up from their farmhouse in Devon, bringing. Magic, who is part of their family, an oversize border collie, highly intelligent but crazy.
We had a splendid time and Richard served an excellent burgundy dated 1952 the year he was born. I was also able to enjoy lunch with their mother Maureen and recall old times.
However a few days later I was due to fly to Sri Lanka where I have usually spent the winter months for the past two decades, enjoying the warmth of the sun and watching the tea grow. So I drove back to Hove in my battered but faithful B. M. W. locked the garage door, gave my pretty char-person who looks after No. 84 her Christmas present and drove away in a taxi to Heathrow to enplane on B. A. for Colombo.
I was somewhat unhappy feeling unwell and not being able to travel to Sri Lanka in late 95/96. In June 1996 my friend of longstanding Sri Robert M. Gamage, a tea planter and businessman called me on the telephone and said he had heard I was unwell. I admitted I felt at a low ebb and was not inclined to move far from 84. I told him I had just had a visit from Hassan Al Ansari and his wife Sheikha who tried to cheer me up and suggested I get about more, which I did, spending a few days with them at their house in West London. 0. K. said Robert Gamage I’m on my way before the end of July after I have cleared up a few things, I’ll be with you, and he was.
We travelled to Bath and Woodbury in Devon and up to Nottinghamshire to see friends and to attend my elder sister’s 90th birthday party. She was very fond of Robert Gamage and he of her and it was sad blow to both of us when we attended her funeral only two months afterwards.
One morning over breakfast I opened the company newsletter and remarked to Robert G. I can’t believe it, Larry has died. We were taken by surprise at Larry Harrison’s demise for he had been a good friend of mine and Robert G. knew him well. It was Robert G. who pointed out he had died just one week before his birthday. Larry and I used to phone each other on our birthdays, his on 23rd June and mine on 23rd November. There was no reply when I called on 23rd June. He would have been very ill when I was experiencing my unusual bout of depression.
In January 1997 Robert Gamage returned to Sri Lanka to finish building his fine new house on part of his best tea land. He invited me to see it and stay on when it was completed by the end of November. Thus here I am on Christmas Eve standing under a simulated Christmas tree illuminated by pretty electric lights which also power a tiny transistor amplifier the size of a match box playing a tinkling musical version of Bing Crosby’s carols. Clever people these Taiwanese.