21 May 2013


Birth of Buddha at Lumbini - beneath
the sorrowless tree
Four miles south west of Kandy in the heart of Sri Lanka, you will find the island country's impressive botanical gardens - at a place called Peradeniya. These mature gardens pre-date European colonisation but were amended and developed by sympathetic British enthusiasts in the nineteenth century. Early last month I wandered there, marvelling at the coco-de-mer trees and the giant bamboo groves, the avenues of palms, the orchid house and the radiating display of lawn grasses. It was delightful.

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...


  1. Fifty will be here before you know it. By then Her Majesty will have been reigning for nearly 80 years, her eldest will still be waiting patiently with the Duchess of Cornwall for his mum to go to her final reward, the child of William and Kate will be sowing his or her wild oats, and the Bragues of Canton, Georgia, will think Simon, Paul, Robin, and Neil were the BeeGees. Shirley will be as lovely as ever.

  2. What a delightful coincidence!

    1981 I was a corporal serving in Northern Ireland. All this time later I have two wives behind me and am now trapped in Angola.

    On my rare trips to UK I would visit my bank and saw the guy I finished school with progress over the years from cashier cashing my cheques to manager approving my overdraft requests, no doubt a well settled pillar of the community, his mortgage paid and a decent pension to look forward to. Reading your blog I now have someone else to be insanely jealous of.

  3. I love the wedding pic, we are coming up to our 50th wedding anniversary next year, 4th Jan, hope we make it. lol

  4. What a lovely couple! Congrats on your anniversary.

  5. Life is full of coincidence. What a lovely story Sir YP.

  6. Mr. Pudding, you surely were the rebel of the family. (As was I!) Three beautiful beards and you standing there, smiling and content of course, fresh-faced and hairless-faced!


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