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Ken Lobb - The Letters (7) - October 1955

Trincomalee - Sunday, October 2

Hello My Love,

What a delightful card from Susan, I wondered what it was going to be, I thought someone had made a mistake for my birthday or something. Well, I've had a long outing today, so nice to get away from the ship for 12 hours. I've been on a bus ride to Anuradhapura, the old capital of Ceylon (over 2,000 years ago) which was greater than greater London now is, and used to have 3 million people living there. That was when there was real civilization here in Ceylon. Later it was invaded by the Indians and laid to waste and the jungle grew over it, but much has been excavated during the last hundred years. It's wonderful really, really ancient temples (I've been taking off and putting on my shoes all day going in and out of holy places), one with an enormous Buddha lying down, 50 feet long, full of beautiful ornaments and carvings and full-size ancient scenes (like Madame Tussauds, only very old), people praying and chanting all over the place, shaven-headed orange-robed priests, enormous heaps of fresh flower petals, and above all an overpowering sickening smell of incense and burning joss sticks.

I've seen the oldest tree in the world, over 2 thousand years old, a Bo tree, and it was a cutting from the original tree under which Buddha attained Nirvana, and it is laid down that it will live to be 5,000 years old, it's certainly looking very healthy and it's an enormous tree, standing on very sacred ground; we had to take our shoes off a long way from it, and the monks gather every leaf that falls from it. I've seen enough old relics to last a long time, there's one enormous Dagaba (which is a holy place with a relic of Buddha built into it, big dome-shaped buildings over 200 ft. high) with Buddha's right collarbone in it that has a courtyard and outer wall with 430 full size stone elephants around it, a wonderful sight!

At another place there was a rock temple with a sacred pool full of lotus plants, and beautiful carp and turtles that the faithful were feeding. All this is 70 miles from here, through the jungle, and it's certainly a different world, they must have been very clever here 2,000 years ago, it's a pity it's all been spoiled and grown over.

These bus rides are jolly good, a naval bus hired for the day works out at 3s/9p for 36 people, and a picnic of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and bananas from the ship costs nothing, so an instructive and interesting day is had at very little cost. We moved in society again today! After our sandwiches the officers (12 of us) went to the biggest hotel there for tea, and suddenly up screamed a police car, detectives came in and hung around and in came the Prime

and sat 10 feet away from us in the dining room and had lunch. He seems to be following us around, actually he'd come to open some new building there.

I've seen lots of monkeys again, including one sitting on an ancient statue of Buddha among the trees, and lots of water buffalo, lying in the lakes, some of them with just their eyes, nose and horns showing to keep cool. And I've seen an iguana, which is like an enormous fat lizard three feet long, they're regarded as a delicacy to eat by the natives but they have to get someone of low caste to kill it because their religion forbids them to take life. I meant to tell you that the other day I followed a mongoose along a track for a long way, I thought of that old serial in the "Girl" at the time.

Yesterday afternoon Schoolie, Doctor and I took a routine Naval transport around the other side of the harbour (an hour and a half's trip) and saw all around the old wartime Naval Air Station I've always heard a lot about. It's a large place with five 3-storey permanent living quarters, not used now, but in a good state of repair, it must have been very busy 10 years ago.

Otherwise |I'm much the same, my back is OK for walking and sleeping, but I'm not very agile yet. It will come right in time. 150 days to go now, it will soon pass, give my love to the infants, thank Susan for the card, I love you dear.

Your own Daddy xxxxxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Tuesday, October 4

Hello Honey,

Never again! I arranged with Steve Bullen to show him and his kids around the guns and so on, this afternoon for an hour. Sure enough they turned up but his wife turned too! The problem is that it is quite unsuitable when the sailors sunbathe in the afternoons. So I decided to leave her in a deckchair on the quarterdeck which would have been OK but then the kids didn't want to leave Mummy! Apparently, they've been talking about this for days too, and actually saw nothing. I shall never ask anyone else's kids on board again. He brought a camera too, which is not allowed as an admiralty employee. He ought to know that. The final embarrassment was that he was unable to sit down either due to a boil on his bottom! Very uncomfortable. After the kids had each had a cry I packed 'em all off ashore after an embarrassing three quarters of an hour. Don't take your kids on board a warship, dear.

Well I've been feeling much better yesterday and today, much more cheerful too. I'm so pleased I was getting quite depressed you know, crippling about. I had a long walk yesterday afternoon, out through the jungle to Elephant Point, where I actually bathed my feet in the sea, wonderful. It was hot of course, but I felt fine and outwalked my companion, the young doctor, who had to sit and rest twice. There were lots of my old friends, the monkeys, about; and I think I'm beginning to get over my childish delight at seeing them now, they're so commonplace really. I like the jungle noises too, it's never quiet, always a sort of screaming of cicadas, crickets and grasshoppers, really loud too, and all sorts of birds calling and whistling, and crashing of monkeys swinging from bough to bough. They've seen too many Tarzan films!

I haven't done much today, I slept for two hours after lunch, it's been much hotter again today, last night was a scorcher too, 95 degrees in the cabin. Never mind it will be winter soon, the nights have even started to draw in a bit here, it's dark by six o'clock now instead of the summer half-past six. There's very little change from summer to winter though. I've got to go to the hospital tomorrow for my back to be x-rayed, I hope they find it all there. I collect my re-made suits tomorrow too, I hope they'll be OK. I had a letter from you today, telling me all about the party preparations, so I expect the next one will tell me how they misbehaved themselves.

I hear today that when we take the Ethiopian prince back next year, all the officers are to be taken up to the Capital, Addis Ababa, and be royally entertained. I never thought I'd even go there, we'll wait and see! Now dear I'll leave you, loving you of course, 147 days to go, a mere nothing.

Your Own Ever loving,

Daddy xxxxxxxxxxx

Trincomalee - Thursday, October 6

Hello My Lover,

Ken Lobb: Introduction | April 1955 | May 1955 | June 1955 | July 1955 | August 1955 | September 1955 | October 1955