On the Road Again*

This tends to be an occasional blog, mainly centring on my travels. Sometimes, the trip is no more than an overnight camping expedition. Other times it’s a bit more. Here’s an outline of what’s coming up.

Traditionally I monotonously intone “We’re on the road again…” in a tepid voice as we join the A9 south but Sonia will be spared that in the next few months as any travels are by air.

On the 23rd, Sonia and I are going down to visit Jo and Ben in Southampton and spend Christmas in their new home. It’ll probably be the last time I see Jo before carrying her down the aisle – or whatever my duties will be – in August, when she and Ben get married.

On the 29th, after a night in the futuristic – i.e. cheapish do-it-yourself – sounding Bloc “hotel” in Gatwick, the two of us are flying to Agadir for New Year. Nearly everyone’s reaction has been: “Oh, is it safe? I hope you’re all right!” which is slightly off-putting. However, there doesn’t appear to be any significant threat out there and we’re looking forward to a lazy week.

We arrive back in Inverness, re-assuming our cat-feeding duties from various put-upon neighbours, on 5th January.

Whilst Sonia starts to knuckle down for another term at the digital-projector-board face of Special Education, I will be rushing around getting ready for my next jaunt. I’ll go into a bit of detail as that may make later blogs clearer.

On Sunday 10th Jan I start my journey to Sri Lanka, by way of an overnight at Heathrow’s “Yotel”: comparitive reviews may appear. I will be in SL – if all goes according to plan – until early April. In a way, it’s Jo’s fault. Following the Boxing Day tsunami, she and Ben spent time in SL – or “the Shlank”, as she called it – doing voluntary work. To cut a long story short, the three remaining Morrisons visited Jo out there the following Christmas. Fast forward a few years until last Hogmanay, specifically a party at Ben’s family home in the Black Isle – the very party where all this wedding malarkey finally took form – and I was chatting to Sylvia, a lady who had provided Jo and Ben with some SL contacts when they went out. She gave me her email address and I more or less forgot about it until the spring and Jo was visiting. She was bemoaning the loss of / damage to her phone and I magnanimously gave her mine as I was now using something else. As I checked the phone and its case before handing them over, there were Sylvia’s details, tucked away in a wee pocket. And, well, I’m going out for just under three months.

Sonia has been very good about it: she was there during the initial chat with Sylvia and didn’t once kick my shins; in April she even suggested renewing my GTC registration might be useful if I was looking to teach out there. So I feel I have her tacit approval, or acceptance at least. She’s even been suggesting possible lesson ideas.

I have been in sporadic email contact with a lady who holds some senior position in the education department in Galle and I’m going to be teaching English. Her plan is that I work with little ones – not an area in which I claim any experience, let alone expertise. At one point, there were even suggestions I could sing songs with them. I soon disposed of that fatuous idea and it may be that I can make further representations once I’m there.

Modern communications such as Facebook are wonderful, especially when combined with willing and helpful friends: so, thanks to Susan Appleby and, in particular, toWendy Anderson for their helpful suggestions as to materials I might use. I am already arming myself with books – “Elmer” and the Mrs Large stories in particular. Do you spot a theme there? Wendy also pointed me to a wide range of web-based resources, so I’ve been downloading talking books, video clips etc. School Librarians – you gotta love ‘em.

I’ve not got any accommodation set up yet, but one of Sylvia’s contacts has an hotel in Galle and I’ve arranged to spend a few nights there until I find somewhere else. Ben’s mum has also stayed in the hotel, so I’ll almost be family!

I’m still waiting for official confirmation of my visa. The SL Immigration website has updated my status to “approved”, so that’s promising. It’s only for 30 days, so that’s another thing to deal with when I get there.

If you don’t know where Galle is, it’s on the SSW coast of the tear-drop-shaped island off the southern tip of India, which many of us still have to stop ourselves calling Ceylon. In fact, it’s there even if you did know already. We passed through it in 2007-8 and I clearly recall seeing the ochre-red walls of the old Dutch fort on our left as we headed south… But, neither Google Earth nor The Rough Guide makes any mention of such ochre-red walls and anyway the Fort would have been on our right, so my memory must be playing tricks.

I’m told the school day starts at 7:30, which is a bit of a bummer, but the quid pro quo is a 1:30 finish. I’m hoping, therefore, to have most of my afternoons and evenings free. Whilst my main aim will be the teaching, I may try to wangle the odd Monday or Friday off so I can go off on the occasional jaunt. In 2007-08, Jo, Sarah and I did some scuba diving at Unawatuna, a bit further south round the coast: in fact Jo went on to do her PADI certificate there. I’m probably not a natural scuba diver and fell into the beginner’s trap of breathing too forceably, but I really enjoyed it and who knows…

So, that’s the plan. I’ve no idea what sort of connectivity I’ll have, but I do plan to write the odd blog over the next few months. I may even see some elephants apart from Elmer.

*These words are from Canned Heat, not the Willie Nelson song, good as it is.


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