Plus - Appreciation

A lingering fragrance of a bygone era

Christine Spittel Wilson

My mother, (Christine’s aunt) used to describe the youthful Christine as the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. This beauty was maintained until the end.

When I was young, she was to me, an elusive vision. Always busy—with her writing, her activities as wife of the Chairman of The Colombo Commercial Company, as a caring daughter, her involvement with the fields of art and theatre (including radio plays, which were broadcast regularly over Radio Ceylon), and her frequent excursions into the jungle.

I really got to know her well only after she and her husband, Alistair, returned home for good, in 1996 after twenty odd marvellous years spent in Kenya, where Alistair had a World Bank posting. In those early years, she resumed her jungle trips, was a gracious and charming hostess and was actively involved with the writers of the Wadiya Group and Channels. She shared her writing experiences with us, and strove to get us up to an international standard.

It was sad to see her physical deterioration in the last few years. She never really got over the death of her husband, three years ago. However, her spirit remained indomitable. She was always perfectly groomed. It was only on Friday, a week before she died, she mentioned her desire to have tea on the terrace, in Galle Face Hotel. We were going to do so when I next went down to Colombo.

Up to the time of her final brief illness she was actively involved in painting- a still-life from the garden, or a painting based on a photograph taken on her afternoon drives. She had a sensitivity and gentleness which made her fearful of causing offence to anyone.

A sensitivity which masked a core of steel, inherited and nurtured by her late father, Dr R.L. Spittel. This helped her to overcome the many adversities she encountered through-out her life.

Her talents were many – a versatile artist who painted in oils and water colours, and continued with the very delicate art of porcelain painting well into her nineties. She had a successful exhibition two years ago, the proceeds of which went to St Nicholas Home (founded by her father). She had a flair for cooking and was a connoisseur of good food. At one stage, she was an excellent seamstress.

Her achievements as an internationally recognised novelist, are well known, and require no elaboration. Her autobiography was completed when she was 93 - surely a record! She dearly loved her daughter Anne, who is domiciled in Denmark.

Christine, in her beautiful bungalow, surrounded by the flowers and trees she loved, assisted by her loyal staff, was an oasis of graciousness in a cut-throat society.

A lingering fragrance of a bygone era.

We shall miss you, Christine!

Premini Amerasinghe

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