Kurunagala was a world apart in the sixties, when I stayed at the Old Place, a large rambling house, with different wings for the two households it contained. These were set on either side of the large dim drawing room, which was hung with gloomy black and white reproductions, including of Franz Hals’ ‘Laughing Cavalier’ and two Pre-Raphaelite pictures of scenes from Dante. These now hang in the lower room of my country cottage, where on a tiny scale I have tried to reproduce the compartmentalized household I loved so much at the Old Place.
The ‘Laughing Cavalier’ has vanished, as has another picture my father recalls fondly, of a nymph sitting on top of a globe. The upright piano, on which I played ‘Chopsticks’ and strange mixtures of my own composition, is now with my cousin Ranil since our sisters, who presided over the division of goods after Lakshmi’s death, decided that his wife at least was musical. The other prized relict of Old Place, an elaborately worked glass lamp, was given to me, and it now adorns the upper room of the cottage, and has to be locked away when I am not there in case monkeys invade through the windows. These have neither glass nor curtains, only bars, so that there is little between me and the river and the trees. The pictures were not wanted by anybody, and it is only recently that I have managed to rescue them, along with the oval portrait of John Marcellus.