Lionel Layman (2005)
Perhaps you are sipping a cup of coffee, or would it be the nectar from the two leaves and a bud? I hope so. Then, come along with me, hold my hand, and journey with me into a day’s panoramic fantasia in the green valley. I’ll take you into the verdant pastures and hold up to you a sight which, to us, who have gazed on it day after day, has been a part of our life.

There, before us stands the lofty mountain in all its rustic simplicity, yet lording over its bevelled valleys, like a mighty colossus, sometimes clothed and garbed in mist. At its foot in humility, but in verdant splendour, lies our world.We stand and wait, in expectation, for the veil to be lifted, and anon, the grey dawn waftsaway and there we behold the mighty mountain and the luscious “green carpet”! Soon it becomes chequered with the “gunnied” pluckers, some young, some old, some beautiful and some not so beautiful, each one dedicated to use her nimble fingers to pluck the two leaves and the bud, which goes to make our “cuppa”. Then as we wander along, hand in hand, the tall acacias gaze down at us spreading its leafy head to shadow the little pigmy bushes beneath it.

Let’s meander up the rugged pathways and watch the mottled crowd of newly recruited, over 14s, coup de grace, every Planter’s bane, the obnoxious growth that, by stealth, deprives the tea bush of the nutrition that is provided for its well-being. As we go a little further, we watch with interest, the mature men slash the pruning knives across the hapless bushes, like retributive injustice, taking off branches that have served their purpose, leaving the old tea bush to rejuvenate itself. There in the distance, you can spy the brawnier men, with shovel and spade in hand, scouring out the drains that need to be kept free of accumulated silt to let the rains fill and flow. Yet further up you can see what appears to be like a wedding corroboree and men are throwing confetti. Not really; it is the inorganic nutrition for the tea bushes that are being broadcast along the rows. Looking still further up, you can see masked men spraying an atomised insecticide on bushes that are sick, being afflicted by a blight, a blister more like smallpox. So we better keep our distance.

May we pause awhile and sit on this culvert to ease our aching feet and partake of the sandwiches and drink we brought along. Glad to have you with me as I reminisce the many past glorious, gorgeous and scenic grandeur of my green valleys in Bogo., Agras, Norwood, Lindula, Maskeliya, Dickoya, Hatton – all, God’s country! “I have owed to them in hours of weariness, sensations sweet”. Ere long, the streaks of twilight will begin to steal across the sky and after lingering for just a while, softly and silently, will fade into a grey. Then suddenly, the setting sun will envelop my “green valley” with a cerise conflagration and its beauty will touch my soul with an inerrable delight. Of such stuff is happiness!

Down to earth. That stentor voice you hear is a Supervisor, Kangany, bawling at some helpless worker, knowing that we are around, to let us know that he is doing a job. There’s the muster horn – that’s the call for all the “gunnied and combleyd” pluckers to return to the muster ground or weighing shed. You see a parade of women, with baskets slung across their backs, wending their way to unload their picks and quietly slink away to their little homes and household chores.

We cannot pass this day without sparing a thought for what’s happening in that large silver building over there, the Factory. It churns our two leaves and the bud into the golden brew that inebriates us.The verdant leaf passes through many processes, withering, rolling, sifting, drying, grading and comes out as little black crystals or dust to grace our pot at home, over many beautiful housewife’s tales.

Let us wander back along the road, bedecked with rose-petalled avenues, dahlias, bougainvillea and dancing daffodils, to the old colonial cottage – our cloister and our hearth, where we have dreamed dreams of our little cherubs and cherubim, our very own, prancing and cavorting in gay delight. Where we have listened to the music of the crackling fireside; where we have sat cuddled together; where we have rocked in the old rocking-chair; or lolled with a “book of verse, a glass of wine and thou……” With the parting day, I will release your hand, but keep me tenderly in your heart. So, the shades of night have fallen and the busy world is hushed. “The white silence brims the hollow of the hills”. I am afraid to talk, lest I mar the silent beauty I beheld.

Lionel Layman became a tea planter in 1947 and remained so till he migrated to Australia in the 70s where he is now retired. More information on Lionel’s plantation career can be found in the planters register.

These images can be seen in a larger size in the Photo Album. Please check Lorna Layman in the “Sent By” section in the search page which will bring the images up.


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