The oldest car in Sri Lanka
By William de Alwis
First, the car, because that is how its owner would have liked it. It does not look like one but any veteran car enthusiast will tell you it is a treasure that would grace any museum of vintage vehicles anywhere in the world, even including the National Motor Museum of Beaulieu, Great Britain which is by far the best of them.

Chitru Peiris at the wheel of the Wolseley with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

Its founder Lord Montagu was in fact one of those who visited Sri Lanka in 1964 to admire this masterpiece and also drive it; a pleasure, he said, even if only for those few minutes.

No wonder, because this Chain-driven single cylinder two-seater Wolseley was produced when the internal combustion engine was in its infancy by Herbert Austin (later Lord Austin). It was the fore-runner of the sleek beauties you see on the roads today and was built, of all places, in a makeshift workshop of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company Limited in Birmingham in 1902 and named after Frederick Wolseley, the Managing Director. It is one hundred years old today.

The first death anniversary of its proud restorer/owner, Hithakami Chidrupa Peiris (Chitru or H. C. to his friends) was on Friday (September 13), which is why we are taking this short drive down memory lane.

Herbert Austin, the farmer's son, will always be remembered for his Baby Austin "7" which was his own design. He listened to the criticisms of his customers. An interesting story is told of him. In 1922 a customer wrote that he was very satisfied with the Austin "7", but was disappointed that it had no running board. A few months later, an advertisement appeared in the press - "WINGS AND RUNNING BOARD FITTED TO MODEL SERIES THREE". These cars were offered at $.225.

While others consigned treasures such as this - its local registration number was Q 53 - 1904 - to the junkyard or exported them to fanciers of veteran vehicles abroad, Chitru saw the value of preserving them for future generations to admire and marvel over how it all began in those distant days.

Q 53 changed hands for the third time and HC became its owner. The task of restoring it to her original splendour began. "My task has not been an easy one, and as I write, the formidable task that lies ahead on the 7th of August (1955) - the Ceylon Observer Old Crocks Rally looms in my mind." The task took him almost an year. "The chassis unfortunately was too deteriorated for repair which necessitated rebuilding it anew.

"Both axles were in fair condition though repairs were necessary on springs and shackles and the wheels had to be completely replaced." Came the day of the Rally and the Q 53 roared its way to success, all the way round from the Galle Face Green to Maharagama and back and out again to the Ratmalana Airport. "All she needed was a snort of water somewhere around Nugegoda", a jubilant HC said at the finish after collecting his trophy from Colombo's Mayor Dr. N. M. Perera. "She ran like a champion". The speed? Around 12 miles per hour! And that was great for one of the oldest cars in the world. Of the 50 models built, only two remain, Q-53 and the other in Australia.

HC's Museum is home to a number of other classic cars and the earliest transport vehicles, which have over the decades replaced the bullock cart. One other is probably the first horseless fire engine to have been imported to this country - a Morris "Magirus". There is the 1911 Adler built by Adlerwerke of Germany, and a 1904 Minerva manufactured in Belgium, a Rolls Royce Phantom I and of course the Baby Austin of the 1920s which made Herbert Austin famous.

HC made it a point to make friendly contact with Lord Austin who was a pioneer responsible for the motoring revolution.

The steam driven car was even in its earliest stages a very quiet mechanism although it did frighten people off the roads.

Of curious significance to Sri Lanka's motoring history is the fact that the Automobile Association of Ceylon was founded in Kandy in November 1904 one year before the Automobile Association of Great Britain was founded! Similarly the Veteran Car Club of Ceylon of which the late Mr. H. C. Peiris who introduced the Veteran Car Movement to Ceylon was the founder President in 1952 is the oldest Club in the East.

Dressing for success
by Nedra Wickremesinghe
Any professional either in a high-profile job or at the start of her career is expected to be attired at all times in appropriate office clothes. These clothes should be suitable and in style. Of course, the accepted dress codes continue to expand but there will always be certain accepted standards to conform to.

Anyone embarking on a career or profession should make a serious investment on clothes. The clothes she wears may determine the image she tries to create. Her aim must be to make her professional presence or her look work totally for her.

There are degrees of formality in office dressing. Those in the power seat are expected to wear no-nonsense, classic-style suits that are well tailored. In this part of the world we have the choice of the saree too. What is important for a woman executive is to use her clothes to project a confident, professional image and so it is 'bye' to the glamorous dress or the breezy blouse. The days you have meetings and when you have to entertain clients in the afternoon, dress for the occasion - A smart jacket over the skirt suit or a strand of pearls with the saree is just fine.

When you choose office wear - you have to be true to yourself and remember the basic rules of dressing i.e. wear clothes to fit your body, mind and reason. As much as how the colour you choose affects people in certain ways, both optically and by association, clothes that you think look drab and boring on you are sure to look uninteresting to others too.

Clothes should exude a certain aura. It is the non-verbal message that you convey of who you are. In a business world that is saturated with self-opinionated, ego-enhanced, macho males, the power-playing woman has to strike a profile of importance on equal grounds. It is vital you take time to plan your outfits, develop your already existing wardrobe and care about your success. This is a vital attribute of the female executive who plays to win.

A proven basic technique for building a successful working wardrobe is to keep your clothes elegant and simple. Elegant dressing is characterized by dignified richness and grace. Elegance is achieved through refined sophistication. Simplicity is itself being sophisticated with dignified minimalism - totally devoid of excessive buttons, frills and flounces and over-layers and collars. Simplicity can be best described as a basic design that is classic or contemporary where the fabric, colour and line blend harmoniously.

Cabana comfort in the hills
By Ruhanie Perera and Thiruni Kelegama
Even if you are an established coffee person, there's nothing like revelling in a cup of tea; especially when you are tucked away in a cosy cabana, breathing in the cool mountain air tinged with the smell of tea permeating from the millions of tea bushes around you. A smell one gets all too familiar with in the valley renowned for the very best of tea, Bogawanthalawa.

Hailed as the Golden Valley, the Bogawathalawa valley is truly, as the name suggests, the valley blessed by the Gods.

The valley begins with the Wanarajah Group of Bogawanthalawa Plantations Ltd and ends with the Campion Group. Acres of tea, golden sunshine, and rows of tea pluckers in the early morning - that is the essence of this place. Situated in the Central Province, the 11 upcountry estates of Bogawanthalawa Plantations are managed by five groups; Wanarajah, Norwood, Campion, Loinorn and Kotiyagala. In keeping with the latest trend, Bogawathalawa Plantations has opened up both plantation bungalows and eco-friendly log cabins, which make great holiday destinations.

An hour's drive away from the Bogawanthalawa town, the North Cove Cabanas are situated along a roadway through the North Cove Division of the Loinorn Estate.

The long winding drive amongst the hills takes you to a storybook wooden gate on which a tiny hoarding informs the traveller that he has arrived at the place 'where time stands still'.

The North Cove Cabanas are best described as an idyllic place for rest and relaxation with large doses of privacy added. Situated at an altitude of 5470 feet above sea level, partly concealed by the surrounding tea bushes, the cabanas present the harassed soul from Colombo with an escape from the chaos of daily life in the city. The entrance was breathtaking; water gushed from a stream above and did not stop with the cabins, instead glided through the two cabins, which were built so that a bridge connecting them cut across the stream of water. A small pool, perfect for a little dip provided one is in the mood to brave the cool water, lies comfortably in between.

The creeper-covered cabanas surrounded by flowers and greenery and bathed in pools of afternoon sun was originally just a scenic spot, a natural waterfall and sheer rock. Built in 1993, in keeping with the principles of eco-tourism, the rustic nature of the cabanas allow for one to be very much in touch with the proximate abundance of nature. However the immediate creature comforts like comfy beds, hot water and a barbecue on request (for additional charges) are options that make this feel very much like quite a comfortable holiday home.

Dharmasena, who was part of the one-and-a-half year building process of the cabanas, stays on as the caretaker. Friendly enough to make the visit a memorable one and aloof enough to give visitors a sense of privacy, he's reputed for turning out some mouth-watering dishes which have earned him words of commendation by every visitor. No entry in the guest book is complete without the mention of the delicious food; the descriptions alone leave one yearning for a taste.

If you're the type of person who wants more than just a lazy holiday, there are plenty of things to do. As Dharmasena inform us: "Horton Plains is just a walk away." A five-hour walk, that is, with twisting, winding roads that will definitely make it a hike to remember.

Cut away from the town, the cabanas border the forests of Mahaeliya, a lush green area devoid of human settlers, which serves as a habitat for sambhur, leopard and deer. Still, it is a central spot reachable from Nuwara Eliya, Balangoda, Maskeliya and Colombo. A trip to Bopaththalawa, or even Adam's Peak is a possibility and a soul-filling scenic drive along the Castlereigh Reservoir is a must.

With the crisp atmosphere ensuring that it does not get too cold or too hot, the climate is lovely all year round. However the best time to visit the cabanas are the holiday months of August and September during which time the bookings come pouring in, says Dharmasena, leaving no weekend free. The charges for the cabanas are Rs. 5500/=, with Cabana No.1 at Rs. 2500/= and Cabana No.2 at Rs. 3000/=. Guests are required to bring their own provisions.

Fantastic, writes one light-hearted traveller, but next time I would like to be invited stay on. He's not the only who thought that. The cabanas are an experience in itself and all that will remain in your memory when you leave the place will be the fact that whilst you were there, yes, time did stand till.

A fragrant bouquet for Joan Forbes
By Esther Williams
When Joan Forbes took up floristry in the early '70s there were not many in her line nor any as enterprising. Over the years her business has grown and today she is a household name when it comes to flowers for any occasion. Having been in the field for 30 years, her services are still in great demand in and around Colombo, an achievement gained through sheer hard work, dedication and of course, that all important creative flair.

Today, Joan's clients are the second generation - children of the brides she had made dream bouquets for years ago. Reminiscing, Joan says, "I am satisfied with my life thus far, and wouldn't want anything changed."

The accolades are still piling. She recently won a trophy for Garden Display at the International Flower Show held in Quebec, Canada in April, where 15 countries participated. Representing Sri Lanka, Joan Forbes was the only South Asian contestant at this triennial event, her display adorned with little elephants and other indigenous objects.

Joan recalls how her career was virtually thrust upon her when she had to help a grieving relative, a florist by profession. She imbibed her love of flowers from her and went on to doing arrangements for friends. "You wouldn't believe it, but I used the housekeeping money for my first order," she smiled.

Joan's big break came when she received an order from the five-star Intercontinental Hotel in the early '70s. Her career took off in spite of having to juggle with professional commitments and family responsibilities. "I had to take care of the house work, take my children to school and then go all the way to Maradana to buy the flowers," she recalls. Gradually everything fell into place - suppliers from Maradana, Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela knew that she bought flowers on a regular basis and would come home to deliver. Her family was supportive and she never felt the need to advertise or open a shop.

Recalling those early days when importing flowers was not as simple, Joan recounts, "It wasn't always easy to get the flowers I wanted, to match the colour scheme of a bride or match the decor of a venue." She then made arrangements to import flowers, which meant that she had to plan her designs well in advance.

The big assignments during her career include creating floral arrangements for visits here by Queen Elizabeth II of England, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, the King and Queen of Nepal, President Tito of Yugoslavia and Indira Gandhi's visit to the Maldives, to name a few. "It was an honour for me," says Joan of these high profile jobs.

She is also in demand to teach floristry. She organised an exhibition with classes in floral design for A. V. Thomas and Company in Kerala, India. "I wasn't used to public speaking and there were around 260 pairs of eyes staring at me." The Company then ran a scheme whereby all ladies were encouraged to grow orchids. The perfect blooms suitable for import were bought by the company. Joan taught them what she could within the given time - hair sprays, garlands, baskets, etc.

Back here in Sri Lanka, during Lent or before the Sinhala New Year each year, Joan conducts classes in floral arrangement. She has also attended several international demonstrations, workshops and seminars in flower arrangement that she greatly benefited from.

Joan had previously worked briefly with Sahanaya to teach its members certain basics of flower- making. She now hopes to start something along the lines of 'Flowers for therapy' to help overcome grief, a new concept that has gained international recognition.

On the job full time now, Joan says, "I don't know what I'll do if I don't have this work. I'm a senior citizen in this profession," she continues, thrilled that her daughter, trained in London has joined her in her work. Some of her helpers are doing well for themselves in the Middle East and Australia.

Joan is a distinguished member of the Zonta Club, Women's Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the SAARC Cultural Association.

To mark Joan's 30 years in the profession, a service of praise and thanksgiving will be held at St. Theresa's Church on September 17 at 7.00 p.m. Love cake, which Joan is famous for will be served. Scholarships for two students to follow a course in floristry will also be awarded.

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