Daily routine

A Sri Lankan day starts and finishes early for all concerned. I am woken by Buddhist chanting that starts at 6am: it’s touch and go whether I am able to turn my alarm off in time to avoid an even ruder awakening. At 6am it’s still pretty dark, but by 6:30 it’s definitely light.

At the other end of the day, things seem equally prompt: twilight hardly has time for gloaming before it’s fully-fledged night and my impression is that most of the island’s human inhabitants are tucked up their beds about 9pm. I know “tucked up” is the wrong image out here, but inspiration deserted me.

My room has two windows: one facing south, the other west so it gets a lot of sun and I’m reliant on air-con most of the time I’m in my room. Thank goodness, occasional power cuts aside, it works very well. By 4pm, you could probably fry an egg on the outsides of my walls. If you turned them horizontal and gave them a bit of a clean and a dribble of oil of course, but you get my drift.

I’m intrigued by the 3 or 4 “Russians” who are staying here. There seem to be slight changes in personnel, but they’re generally strapping lads in their mid to late twenties, the odd tattoo, very short hair, t-shirts and shorts. Possibly military background? They don’t seem to be working anywhere as they’re around a lot of the day, looking rather bored and using up the bandwidth. This is a “hotel” miles from the town centre, with no nightlife, no alcohol, no style: so what appeals or why were they sent here? We need a good thriller writer to continue the scenario.

Today’s a fruit and nut day: I’m eating my way through salted peanuts, papaya, bananas and wee oranges. I could be a fruitarian, you know.

I’m trying to stop calling the Hillside a hotel. Not because it isn’t, but because calling it that may give the folks back home the wrong idea. “Living in a hotel”: the very phrase can be indicative of a pampered existence, living in luxury and various hedonistic activities.

My room has not been cleaned, sheets swapped or towels changed and I’ve been here 10 days or so: judging by the fruits of my earlier entomological studies, I doubt it was cleaned out much before I arrived, but I do know it was in use and there are a couple of Malarone-orange tablets lying in corners. I’m not sure if my reduced rental rate meant cleaning went by the board or if I’m supposed to put in a request. As I’ve mentioned, my room has three beds, so I’ve been able to get a fresh towel and I think I’ll swap mattresses to get a clean sheet.

I’ve already referred to the swimming pool problem. The communal area, a largeish rather dark hall with big exterior doors always open, and a couple of sturdy metal-framed glass-topped tables at one end with plastic garden chairs – some tricked out with cloth covers – is hung with framed posters of London: the tube map, a Buck House guardsman, Westminster etc. They do seem a bit incongruous, but don’t show up much in the gloom. At the opposite end from the dining area there are some comfortable leather arm chairs generally occupied by the Russians and some rather less comfortable wicker seats where I can generally be found if I’m not in my room or in the garden. That’s another misleading word: there is a fenced off area and some of it has grass and it’s all pleasant enough but “garden” is misleading. There is a huge boulder a few feet from the building: it may be fifteen feet high and roundish, but the builders have skilfully incorporated a little “terrasse” with steps from the first floor balcony.

The staff are all friendly and pleasant: their level of English varies, so interaction can be a bit sparse: I must try to get a few words of Sinhala together.

Sweeping generalisation coming up: My experience of bits of Africa and now here suggest to me that development does happen, but maintenance lags far behind. There may be financial reasons, or maybe it’s cultural.

Anyway, cleanliness standards lag a bit behind the bug-obsessed west: a bit too far behind, if you want my opinion.

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