Not Wishy Washy

It doesn’t seem to matter what time I settle down for the night, I always seem to wake just before 6am, in time for the bread man and “Für Elise”.

Today was room cleaning / bed linen changing day and I hoped to head out to the laundry I spotted a day or two back and either wait until it’d been done or go back later to collect it. When I got to House of Hidayath corner – named after the “department store” there – and walked the short distance to the laundry, I discovered it was closed for Sunday. In a Buddhist / Islamic country this came as something of a surprise, though I suppose they’re entitled to their days off as much as anyone else. So it was back to base again. Eventually “Manuel” turned up and did the business.

I must admit that Sera and his family do look after me, even if the ministrations are occasionally unwelcome. He appeared soon after my abortive laundry trip with a soup / drink called “Kolikanda” (Sp?), which later Purmina described as “porridge”. It was slightly warm and made of liquidised leaves of some sort and rice. Sonia makes an enjoyable concoction which we jokingly refer to as “pondweed soup” but the resemblance was merely in terms of colour: a murky green with bits, in this case rather resembling chopped maggots. I can’t say it was quite my cup of tea and once I’d been fulsome in its praise, I have to admit to having flushed the rest away. Not long after that, Venushka turned up with a slice of watermelon. I’ve never really seen the point of watermelon: I like “real” melon and happily accept the importance of water, even going so far as to drink it from time to time if there’s nothing better available, but the combination, along with myriad pips, doesn’t float my boat.

By now, having worked more on my rather poor Muvizu movie, it was time to go into Galle for lunch. Anura’s (Buddhist) and Pedlar’s Inn (Muslim) had both chosen to close on Sundays, so I went a bit up-market and ate at Fortaleza, a tourist-oriented restaurant playing Sade-style music that I’d always passed by before. I was briefly tempted by the “Chilly Crab, Singapore style” but reckoned it might have been out of the deep freeze. My lunch – with a very eclectic European style – started with Tomato and Basil Bruschetta (very good), continued with a main course of Mezze (humus, grated carrot, olives, some sort of spicy yoghurt – probably Buffalo curd from Matara – galette thingies etc.), moved on to Banoffee pie-lets and ice cream and was washed down with a Lion beer and rounded off with an Espresso. It’s the first 3 course meal I’ve had here and very nice it was too, though I don’t think I’ll go back. I passed the time trying to guess the nationality of the other exclusively European diners. The first I heard of Banoffee pie was about 20 years ago, when preparing the IRA’s bicentennial cookbook, from a long-gone IRA head of PE – later promoted beyond his abilities, as so many ageing PE teachers are – and to my eternal shame I assumed it was named after some place on the Fife coast! Maybe I’m just jealous that I was never promoted beyond my abilities. Or perhaps I was…

Next to my table were a youngish English couple and their baby girl (it might have been a boy, but the clothing colours suggested otherwise). The child was in a push chair and really very well-behaved but when she got fractious Dad took her up and danced with her over his shoulder, doing a great routine to Sade. I almost clapped.

Just as I finished my coffee, the heavens opened. I rejected the idea of waiting and having another beer as, given the traffic on the way back to the bus station, I wanted to be able to walk straight. I was lucky as the rain died down until I got back to base, at which point it really poured down.

I still can’t understand how Sri Lankans – who presumably love their children at least as much as other nationalities – can pack two or three of them onto a motorbike and not provide them with helmets. Yesterday I spotted a Muslim father (Islamic apparel, beard etc. topped with helmet) roaring along the road, his son protected by no more than a lace skullcap. That seems to me to be putting rather too much faith in Allah. Today I saw a rider wearing a plastic bag on his head, presumably to keep the rain off rather than for any imaginary protection it might give in event of a crash. I do tend towards the “Health & Safety gone mad” brigade, but surely there’s a happy medium!

Yesterday, after my dives, I was chatting to the staff member who had been my buddy. I already knew that, due to weather conditions, the Unawatuna Dive Centre would up-sticks in early April and head to Nilaveli on the NE side of the island, but he said they’d make a partial move earlier, maybe mid-March. He said the reefs are better in the NE: more colourful, less post-tsunami damage, different fish etc. There are plenty of dive centres in SL, but I asked about getting to Nilaveli in case I fancied going there. Apparently there’s a helicopter/light plane service from a small airport this side of Colombo to Trincomalee – return cost about £40!, followed by a 45 minute tuk-tuk ride. This sounded like a wizard wheeze and I was getting quite enthusiastic until I mentioned it to Hans, the boss, who knocked it on the head by saying they’d not make the move until 10th April, by which time I’ll be in Inverness. So, I’m beginning to think I might head into the Hill Country next weekend. At this stage my plans are sketchy at best, but I might do a trial run of the Expressway bus to near Colombo, then make my way to the bus or train station for Kandy. I could visit the Temple of the Tooth (Buddha’s tooth!), see the well-known Botanical Gardens, visit Ella (the Guidebooks all call it “an English village in SL” – not that that’s necessarily a recommendation) and a number of other attractions. I think it was near here that Sonia was bullied into taking her top off in a wood 8 years ago so she could be rubbed down with Ayurvedic essential oils. At least that’s what the masseur claimed!

Kandy is tea country, thanks originally to Mr Lipton and his ilk. Before that, SL grew coffee but some disease wiped it out and the tea took over. There are also low-level tea estates not far from Galle and Angela the IT teacher at TGS – whose parents have such an establishment – has promised me some “good” tea as she claims to be quite knowledgeable on the subject. She also told me about cinnamon growing, but I think I’ll keep that for another day as you’re probably falling asleep by now.




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