Rice and curry days and the toffee man

My father, Norman Dru Drury, was born in Ceylon in 1900. He was a tea broker in Colombo and became head of Forbes and Walker before he retired. His father, too had been a tea broker.

He married my mother, Beatrice Angela Mackwood in 1931. She was a member of the Mackwood family who owned a tea estate and had the firm Mackwoods in Colombo. My father's mother was Beatrice Mary Grigson. The Grigson, Mackwood and Drury families had all been in Ceylon since the mid-nineteenth century.

I was the second of four children and we were all born in Ceylon. I was born in 1935 in a house called Blossholme in Green Path. My mother's family home when she was a child was a house called Arncliffe which is now Bishop's College. I revisited the house where I was born in 1993, when I was on holiday in Sri Lanka and also the house where my sister Juliet was born - 'Harbledown' No.22 Queen's Road. This was the house I have so many childhood memories of. It became the Danish embassy later but has been pulled down since.

Amongst childhood memories of life at 22, Queen's Road was sitting cross-legged on the floor with my ayah, eating her rice and curry with my fingers. Another was attending Sunday morning service at St Michael's Church, Polwatte and sitting in the choir stalls with my parents and making faces through the carved holes in the stalls at the St Margaret's girls, who tried hard not to giggle. Then returning home to hoppers for breakfast.

More memories - curry lunch on Sundays. The 'toffee man' coming round the houses, selling his delicious coconut fudge. The fish seller, walking down the drive with a pole across his shoulders with a basket on each end crawling with live lobsters and crabs, which he would immediately grab as they tried to clamber out. These would appear on our plates for supper and having seen them alive in the morning, I simply couldn't bring myself to eat them.

Swimming at the Colombo Swimming Club, flying my kite on Galle Face Green, riding in a tea chest on the conveyor belt rollers at children's parties are all fresh in my mind. The 'gully-gully' man, hired for children's parties would have his cobra coiled up in his basket, gradually rising up and out of it when he played his flute. The way the mango stone he placed under a cloth would gradually grow into a mango bush before our eyes.

I was sent to Nuwara Eliya to be boarded at Miss Saye's school when I was five or six. My English governess came with me and stayed on during my first term. I was taught to read and write by Diana Parmentier who later married my uncle, Charles Mackwood.

I used to stay in Badulla with my great-aunt and uncle, the Grant Cooks, on the tea estate called Sarnia and play with Pearl, my great-aunt's walking doll and with their pet mongoose, Ricky-Ticky. I didn't like the leeches!

I also remember visits with my parents in the hot weather to Nuwara Eliya to stay with the Sanders on Pedro Estate.

My mother, sister and I were evacuated to South Africa during the war for 2 1/2 years. On our return to Ceylon I was sent to the Hill School in Nuwara Eliya - but not for long, because the war ended in 1945 and we immediately returned to England, to be reunited with my older brother, Michael, whom we had not seen for seven years and also my four grand-parents.

I was then sent to boarding school in England and did not return to Ceylon again until I was l5 when I went out for the school holidays, with my sister Juliet. By this time my brother Christopher had been born. I returned again after I had left school, when I was 18, for about nine months and have only visited Sir Lanka twice since, in 1993 and 1997.

In long gone years, we would visit the Colombo Zoo and ride on the back of elephants and giant tortoises. I also recall visits to Trincomalee, the ruined cities and the Temple of the Toooth in Kandy, as well as watching the Perahera from the windows of the Queen's Hotel.

On the most recent visit to Sri Lanka we stayed at the Galle Face Hotel, which had not changed since I was a child. So too the famous Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya. I remember also walking along the jetty with my parents as a child and watching the boats coming in and going out. The Sigiriya Rock with its beautiful and ancient frescoes on the walls and the beehive half-way up, the famous Buddha statues, the very colourful temples, the elephants...... and so many other things come to mind.

Sri Lanka is not only the place of my birth where I feel totally at home, it is also just about the most beautiful island that exists.

Five generations of Mackwoods

By Diana Mackwood nee Parmentier
I can honestly say that the happiest days of my life were spent in Ceylon.

I was born in Colombo but spent my childhood on a tea estate. It was a very simple life. We were very fortunate in having a wonderful English nursery governess who thought up all sorts of games and took us on picnics to a secret place on the estate so we were never bored. We had numerous animals, dogs (my parents bred cocker spaniels) cats, a pet jackal, a mongoose, our own cows, chicken, ducks, guinea pigs, pet rabbits, also Flemish Giants (hares) for the table.

I was given my first dog at the age of five. Unfortunately he died of distemper, but a kind neighbour gave me a Greyhound who was as mad as a hatter but great fun. He sadly came to a sticky end when he jumped over a high wall and broke his leg very badly. There were no vets near us so my father had to shoot him.

Our pet jackal went off to find a mate but came back later bringing his pack with him. Our social life consisted of attending rugby and cricket matches as my father was a keen sportsman.

We also went to Radella Club for the annual children's party but the highlight of the year was going down to Mount Lavinia to bathe and play on the beach.

One incident that I have always remembered was when the Talawakelle factory was burnt down. My father rushed us to the scene; it was a spectacular sight with flames shooting up to the sky.

I left Ceylon to go to school in England in 1933 and returned in 1940. I was delighted to come home as we had seen little of our parents while in England.

I met my husband in 1947 and we married in Nuwara Eliya in 1948. Our son was born in 1950. He became the fifth generation of the Mackwood family in Ceylkon.
Due to my husband's ill-health and upon doctors’ advice we had to leave the island for good and return to England. It was a sad occasion as the Mackwood family had been in Ceylon from 1841 to 1958. We were delighted that so many of our friends whom we had met through being members of the Canine Club of Ceylon came to the jetty to wave us goodbye.

Avocado: that much-maligned fruit

The versatile and
delicious avocado has an undeserved reputation for being high in calories and cholesterol. Bill Habets puts the record straight.
Tempting and delicious though avocados are, many people are reluctant to eat them in any quantity because they believe one or more of many quite untrue myths that have somehow become associated with them.

It's rather a shame that this should be so, because eating avocados can bring some very positive health-giving benefits as they're very rich natural sources of a number of vital nutrients, including Vitamin E, various members of the Vitamin B group, as well as potassium, phosphorus and manganese, these latter trace elements often being deficient in many diets.

To further set the record straight, here are the facts about some of the popular myths that surround this much-maligned fruit:

Myth: Avocados are fattening.

Fact: Half an average medium-size avocado contains 161 calories, or only 20 calories more that two digestive biscuits, and just a little more than a smallslice of Cheddar cheese.

Myth: Avocados are brimming with cholesterol and bad for the heart.

Fact: Totally wrong. First, avocados do not contain any cholesterol whatever.

Secondly, they are rich in vegetable oils, not solid fat. Strictly speaking, the fat in avocados because it is not solid should be referred to instead as an oil which, like olive oil, has many beneficial properties. Of the 12g of oil in an average serving, 7g of this is the 'good' monounsaturated type that's also foundin olive oil. Monounsaturated oils do not raise cholesterol in the blood and most medical researchers believe they instead may have a definite protectiveeffect against heart disease and possibly strokes.

Myth: It's better for your skin to put avocados on it rather than eat them.

Fact: While it's true that avocado extracts, because they are rich in Vitamin E,are used in cosmetics and many manufacturers use this to promote the 'natural goodness' of their products, your skin will derive considerably more benefit from being 'fed' Vitamin E from the inside rather than the outside.

A further example of just how health-giving avocados can be is that the fruit is an integral part of the so-called 'Mediterranean diet' which, although high in fat, was found by researchers to reduce the risk of heart disease - the big difference being that most of the fat intake consisted of monounsaturated fats and included very little animal fat. Just how dramatic the impact of the Mediterranean diet can be demonstrated in one landmark study that revealed thatCretans, who essentially followed this diet, had a staggering twenty times lower rate of deadly heart disease than Americans.

The avocado originated in Mexico and Central America, where it has always been valuable part of the staple diet and is the essential ingredient in the classic Mexican dip, Guacamole.

The word avocado comes from the fruit's Aztec name 'ahuacatl', for which, when the Spanish discovered the avocado they substituted their similar sounding word avocado, which, oddly enough also means 'lawyer'.

The Spanish explorers brought it back to Europe in the sixteenth century but it could not easily be propagated in most of Europe and it remained something of a rarity for nearly 300 years. However, with the discovery of new grafting techniques earlier this century, the avocado could be produced on a commercial scale outside of South America and during the 1950s it began to make regular appearances on our dinner tables.

The avocado is widely acknowledged as one of the most versatile fruits in the world but each country has its own favourite way of eating it:

In South Africa, avocados are mashed with lemon juice and used as a spreadinstead of butter. In the United States, avocados are served with crab meat or scallops and mint, or mixed with sour cream to make a chilled soup. In Brazil, they serve Crema de Abacate avocado sieved with lime juice and sugar. In Austria, people dice avocados and pour kirsch over them for dessert. If all this has whetted your appetite for avocados, here are some useful tips.

First of all, a quick course in stoning avocados, something that can at times be a little tricky. Here's how the experts do it:

1) Cut the avocado in half lengthways through the skin down to the stoneand all the way around. Hold the avocado in both hands and twist the two halves in opposite directions. Then gently pull the two halves apart.

2) Take the half with the stone in the centre. Ease out with a spoon then lift up the stone and discard it. Once the stone is removed, the flesh will begin to discolour quite quickly - to avoid this, brush the flesh with lemon, orange or lime juice if you don't plan to eat the avocado immediately.

Next, the easy way to peel and cut avocados:

To peel, strip the skin away from the avocado beginning at the narrow end. To cut a peeled, stoned avocado, lay cavity side down and cut either lengthways or, for crescent shapes, crossways. To dice or cube, cut both ways.

To make rings, cut around the whole avocado crossways with the tip of

your knife to form rings, then remove the skin.

To make an avocado fan, place halved, stoned, skinned avocados cavity side down on the work surface. Slice lengthways without quite cutting right through at the narrow tip. Transfer to a serving plate and flatten slightly to fan out.

-Asia Features


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