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The brightly coloured, hard-cover book adorned with a child’s drawings grabbed my attention as soon as I pulled it out of the protective package on my office desk.
‘A Muddly Medley’, proclaimed the title. The author was Grace-Sienna Maharaja.
You won’t have heard of Grace-Sienna. Not yet. But I suspect you will hear a lot more of her in the future.
Here’s an excerpt from her author’s note. “Putting these short stories and poems together was very hard for me because even though I like writing, I am on the other hand a very short 11 year old with a very short attention span and have a very annoying brother at hand.
“My English in this book may not be perfect but yeah, I’m not perfect… nobody is.”
Well, Miss Grace-Sienna, I’m not so sure about that. I think your English in this book is very good indeed. More of that in a moment.
Grace-Sienna Maharaja, by the way, is the grand-daughter of travel retail veteran Rakhita Jayawardena (pictured below dining with me in Cannes) and child of Rakhita’s own daughter, Yuvani, President of Centaur Travel Retail.
The Author’s note touchingly acknowledges her grandfather (‘Papa’) thus: “Most of all, thank you to my Papa, who despite being the busiest person I know, made the time to publish this book for me with regular reminders and deadlines to make all this possible.”
My copy includes a note, beautifully written in fountain pen ink. Dear Mr Moodie, I have heard that you are one of Papa’s best friends so I would like you to have this copy of my book. Best wishes, Grace.
So to the contents of ‘A Muddly Medley – A Collection of Short Stories and Odes’. Grace’s anthology includes six works, though I will focus on just three of them: A Conversation in the Woods, An Ode to the Rose, and (with deference to Grace’s travel retail lineage) Lindor Chocolate.
I’ll start with A Conversation in the Woods, a lovely little poem about one of my favourite flowers, the Bluebell.
Hello there Bluebell!
My name is Jake
How are you today?
I’m as happy as a big blue whale
But I don’t think you’re ok.
For you are curved like an arch
way down the ground
“But I am fine if I do say so myself”
Well if you say so…
But then why are you so blue?
Have you been weeping in the woods?
But I’m not weeping that’s for sure!
If you would like to see a plant that’s weeping
in the woods
Go to Weeping Willow over there!
I need to get back home for supper
So good day to you Bluebell
“And the same to you Jake”
In An Ode to the Rose (another of my favourite flowers), Grace writes with moving poignancy:
Oh Rose oh Rose
You make life go on
As long as you can dream
You might seem all prickly and spikey
But that makes you, you
Many wish for your colours
But they all can’t have
For you are the almighty Rose
The one of a kind.
Of course, there are many roses in this world
But you are the Rose that stands out
You are the best rose anyone has seen
There is a downfall of being a beautiful flower
People pick you and keep you for their own
Then you bow your head and weep and wither
And so you lose your gorgeous colour
Your spectacular leaves begin to crinkle
As they gradually break off
After that you feel hungry but can’t eat a thing
You know that death awaits
Your owner throws you away forever.
And so, in some beguiling lines that would surely gladden the heart of Lindt & Sprüngli Duty Free Head Peter Zehnder and all his colleagues, Grace writes her part poem, part love song for Lindor Chocolate…
In the middle of the night,
I was in my bed.
And there was a smell,
And it was in my head.
What could it be?
It’s not under the sea.
Wait a second…
Could it be…
The heaven that’s not under the sea?
It waits for me.
Down the steps,
Into the kitchen,
Over to the fridge,
Not over a bridge.
Search for it.
Don’t go to a church for it.
There is it!
That’s not under the sea,
Or over the bridge,
And certainly not in a church.
But it was there right in front of me.
The Heaven I was waiting to see.
It makes your mouth water.
And drip with glee.
It’s the thing I’ve been waiting to see.
It’s not a bee.
It’s as wonderful as a new puppy!
It’s the best of the best.
It’s there to impress.
And it doesn’t give stress.
It’s a Lindor chocolate,
I’d do anything for!
But then my brother sneaks out of bed,
Creeps up behind me,
Snores and says…
“Give me more!”
Thank you Grace-Sienna Maharaja for your lovely, insightful and evocative words, all written I assure you in pitch-perfect English. They are every bit as sweet and sumptuous, in fact, as those Lindor chocolates you so tantalisingly describe.