I’ve been meaning to write to you to thank you profusely for the $50 I received from you for a win in one of your lovely competitions!! It arrived in time to give me a lift … my beautiful husband had just been run over by a little old man parked in a disabled bay in a shopping centre parking lot! The old man shot out of the car park without looking where he was going … big dramas!! People came out of nowhere, shouting at the little old man to STOP!! The ambos arrived and the police. After a preliminary physical examination my poor husband was carted off to the Base Hospital for a more thorough examination! 5 ½ hours later, they declared there were no broken bones, just extensive bruising.
Then I had a bleed behind my right eye; they think I might have had a small stroke … but the bleed is too close to the optic nerve and the specialist said he wouldn’t go in there with laser beams blazing unless it was strictly necessary.
As I consider you a highly erudite young lady, I was quite surprised to read in one of your recent magazines, the list of countries you mentioned, that, you said, are not Christian but still have a Christmas holiday. I feel the need to let you know something: Ethiopia, one of the ‘non Christian’ countries you mentioned is actually deeply Christian. They converted to Christianity in the 1st Century A.D. Their branch of Christianity is known as the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (Tewahedo is a Ge’ez word, meaning ‘made as one’, a belief that separated them from the Catholic Church doctrine). They have had, and still have, a very close relationship with the Egyptian Coptic Church.
My Coptic Egyptian father converted to Catholicism at the ripe old age of 12 and until his death at age 33 was completely devoted and committed to Christianity and highly conversant with both Catholicism and the Tewahedo doctrines. During WW11, Dad, who was a lawyer, a linguist and high up in the Egyptian Army, was sent (by the then British Protectorate hierarchy in Egypt), to Ethiopia as Military Governor, to hold that only African Christian bastion together, until such time as Emperor Haile Sellassie the 1st was able to go back to Ethiopia from his exile in England at the end of the War.
I was born in 1943 and was brought up by an Ethiopian Nanny, my beloved Bouzounesh (which in Amharic means you are plentiful) and that she was!! I absolutely adored her. I grew up on stories of Kings and Emperors and Queens and Empresses; stories about the holy Christian cities of Axum and Lalibela and how the Lalibela Churches had been hand-hewn, in situ, out of solid rock and Churches in the form of huge crosses and different designs. I wear a gold facsimile of one of the Lalibela crosses around my neck.
Then there were stories of the Tabot. Tabot means ‘Ark’ (of the Covenant, that is!), which is not kept in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion as the ‘white fella’ likes to think. Legend has it that the Tabot is hidden in one of Ethiopia’s highest, most inaccessible mountains (the mountains of Ethiopia are known as the ‘roof of Africa’) out of reach of any potential marauders.
The Ethiopian priests, who more or less ruled the country, had a nasty shock in the 1700s, when a wandering Scotsman walked through the mountains to reach Ethiopia, lied to them about his ‘mission’, bamboozled them into letting him see their precious Bible and then proceeded to steal a couple of the original books (one of which is now in the British Museum, the other has completely disappeared). The priests learnt a hard lesson and hid everything else they had. To them, what they have is a treasure that belongs to God, a treasure which they have been entrusted with and they will die defending it. Over the centuries, people have tried by every means to get information out of those priests, but are met by a wall of polite silence.
Those were the bedtime stories I loved … but, when my mother had time, she told me European fairy tales. After the story telling, the entire household had to conduct a thorough investigative search - under my bed, in the cupboard and behind the curtains - in case of hiding wolves wearing bed caps, and old gnarled witches trying to fatten me up. I couldn’t eat apples or gingerbread for years!! I was utterly terrified I would go to sleep for 100 years and miss out on everything that was going on around me, or be eaten – talk about traumatising a child!!
Also, in the Lebanon Christian community there are Maronites - a very large contingent of them - quite militant too! No self respecting Muslim would go up against them, or stop them from celebrating Christmas. They’ve had many Christian heads of State, in fact, the Christians there don’t have half as many problems as the poor Christians in Egypt do.
My mother wrote a book about Ethiopian Christianity. She was the only white woman ever to be awarded the Star of Ethiopia by the Emperor, a great honour. Mum was secretary to Emperor Haile Sellassie for 35 years, until the communist hordes overran the country and kept the old Lion of Judah, as the Emperor was known, under house arrest in a small hut, until he died of hunger, thirst and cold. My mother was abducted from her home, tortured, humiliated and abased for hours on end; they were trying to get information about the royal family out of her. She never said a word. God only knows what they did to her, because my very Catholic, Catholic mother, went home and tried to commit suicide. She was found by concerned friends who were able to save her life.
I have one more thing to tell you: the Ethiopians call their country Addis Abeba (pronounced ah beh bah, which means flower). Addis means new, so, when they decided to make it their new Capital City, they named it New Flower. For some reason, the Arabs had problems pronouncing Ah beh bah and called it Ababa … which in Amharic means Father – the ‘A’ before baba could be translated into the affectionate daddy (it’s baba for father in Arabic too). So now we’ve got a country called New Father, or New Daddy!! Heh heh!! For those of us who speak Amharic we find it hilarious.
Ok, in case you suffer from insomnia, my lengthy letter could become your soporific!!
Thank you Christine, to you and your team for your wonderful magazines, your amazing puzzles and your hilariously funny clues in the cryptic; just couldn’t live without you! You are the very spice of my life, my little ‘toccasana’!
You keep me sane Christine – although sanity is not one of my better known attributes. Thank you endlessly Christine.
May your year be full of wondrous events, full of love and laughter and well-being, full of good friends and sunshine and may God keep you safe for all those of us who love you so, and rely on you for keeping us on our toes and our brains fully functional.
I send you lots of love and deep squashes.
Mrs Claudette D’Amato
P.S. I don’t think I would have made a good poet!!
Dust if you must but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter
Bake a cake, or plant a seed
Ponder the difference between want and need?
Dust if you must but there’s not much time
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb
Music to hear and books to read
Friends to cherish and a life to lead.
Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes and the wind in your hair
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain
This day will not come around again.
Dust if you must, but bear in mind
Old age will come and it’s not kind
And when you go and go you must
You yourself will make more dust.
Remember a house becomes a home
When you can write I love you
On the furniture!!!
And ‘my version’
Dust if you must, but there is a lot of pleasure
In solving crosswords at your leisure
Leave the dust, and just for good measure
I will say Thank you Lovatts for being a National Treasure!!
Kingsthorpe, Qld What a beautiful cover photograph for the May 2009 BIG Crossword magazine. Just had to write and tell you what pleasure it gives me, so thank you.
I’m in my eighties, living alone, and my body is not so active, but my mind enjoys the stimulation from the magazines so much. What clever people Lovatts have to create these puzzles.
I am an Aussie, born in Warrnambool, Victoria and also lived in Melbourne, and now Im living in the U.S, so when I see an envelope from you, its like a little piece of home arriving. You do not know how much I appreciate you!
Port Townsend, United States