|Birth of Buddha at Lumbini - beneath|
the sorrowless tree
At one point I was surrounded by adolescent Sri Lankan schoolgirls all smiling in their starched white uniforms and at another point a young family latched on to me as we ambled around - so diminutive that they made me feel like Gulliver.
In a particular zone of these spacious gardens there are various trees planted in the past by visiting VIP's. As I wandered back towards the entrance gates I noticed an ashoka or "sorrowless" tree. This is a tree that figures importantly in religious legends of the Indian sub-continent. It had a plaque in front of it:-
It was a "take two" moment. The tree was planted on 24th October 1981 by our esteemed Queen Elizabeth and her Greek husband! In my life, this is a very significant date because on that very day at St Martin's Parish Church in the village of Owston Ferry in Lincolnshire I was marrying Shirley:-
There we are on that memorable autumn day, almost thirty two yeas ago, outside the ancient church with my three bearded brothers - Simon, Paul (now deceased) and Robin. It was a perfect and extraordinarily happy day - a simple, unpretentious and traditional wedding witnessed by our friends and families in the remote agricultural parish where Shirley was born and raised.
And the fact that Elizabeth and Philip were simultaneously planting a "sorrowless" tree seems somehow eerily appropriate. It was after all sorrow-less, not sorrow-ful if you see what I mean. Though we cannot match our queen and the duke or indeed the Bragues of Canton, Georgia who just last weekend celebrated fifty years of marriage, thirty two years is surely still quite remarkable in this day and age. And after writing this post, I think it's now time for another cup of tea with a slice of toast smothered with some of Shirley's homemade marmalade. Excuse me...