A Tactful Critique

The last few days’ entries have really been more of an extended diary: a mere account of my comings and goings. I must try to rectify that.

Today, I was the only male in school (apart from the gardener), so I tried winding up some of the girls by saying I was in charge. They looked surprised but my response was that, as the only male teacher, it was obvious I had to be the boss. Needless to say, I did back down and admit the truth, but it was fun while it lasted… I didn’t dare try that line with Angela!

There was quite a lot of disruption to normal classes as there were rehearsals for various performances to take place on Thursday’s New Year celebrations. I did enjoy watching the kids – of all nationalities – practise their local dancing. Some of them were very good, but one of the local boys – I won’t embarrass him by using his name – caused quite a lot of mirth with his attempt at copying the teacher: she was sinuous, with several flexible joints between shoulders and finger tips, whilst he was more like a cross between a scarecrow and a loaf of bread. Before members of my family make comments about my lack of dancing skills, I should say that I think I could have done a whole lot better, though probably not have been any less embarrassing to my nearest and dearest.

It’s been hot and close all day and I have been awaiting the arrival of rain. I said as much to the nice lady who runs Anura’s café: Anura’s wife in fact, but she says no. I commented that I’d not seen Anura for a week or two, other than a momentary appearance outside the café today, when he shouted a brief greeting to his wife and sped off again on his motorbike. She, hot, sweaty and tired from the kitchen, missing the other member of staff who had not arrived, and run off her feet, said that Anura only worked when they were “busy” and he was off having a party with friends. Later, whilst paying my bill I suggested she should ring Anura up and tell him she needed his help. “Now he is sleeping,” she said with a small smile. I briefly felt guilty, thinking of Sonia having to both feed the cat and take the bins out.

Sri Lankans, as I’ve said before, seem to be hospitable, friendly and caring. Until they get on the road, as drivers, pedestrians or passengers. After lunch, I had been waiting docilely for five minutes or so for the 381 back to base in a sort of cattle-run / queue management system they employ in the bus stations. The bus arrived and I was barged out of the way by a stream of people, mostly women, who quite shamelessly hacked their way through the queue often using their own children as battering-rams. This didn’t seem to be because I wasn’t a local as they all barged past everyone else who wasn’t nimble or brass-necked enough to forge their own path, despite the fact there would clearly be enough room on the bus: some were sufficiently brazen to force their way on through the crowds coming off, causing, of course, a complete bottleneck. I’m not as good as them, but I am learning to fight my corner as much as anyone else. Survival of the fittest: that’s something else I won’t miss.

I got a seat next to a window and a middle-aged chap sat next to me, leaving his lady companion to stand, though he did deign to take her bags for her. We chatted briefly about the bus seeming to take a different route out of the town centre: I have noticed that the drivers do give themselves some leeway in exactly what route they take. My companion and I expressed some slight pity for the folk waiting for the 381 on its normal route, but not too much as we were both on the bus, which was all that really mattered.

I spotted some more tuk-tuk slogans and – more difficult – have remembered them. I liked “Girls are most dangerous tools” on a cab roof also decorated with “Without friendship, life is nothing”. Presumably that’s male bonding and would naturally exclude those dangerous girls.

There was also “Time will comming soon”, accompanied by a picture of Bob Marley. It reminded me of the banner I saw here back in January outside some Christian sect’s place of worship: “Jesus Christ is coming very soon”. That’s the trouble with these predictions: at least this lot didn’t give a date, but depending on your definition of “very soon”, they’re about to shoot themselves in the foot. Mind you, impressionable folk seem to fall for it time after time. Back in 800 and something, Archbishop Wulfstan preached a famous sermon (“Sermo Lupi Ad Anglos”) starting “Þeos weorld is on ofstede…” (This world is hastening to a close). He based his theory on the increasing number of raids by the Vikings who were raping, pillaging, sacking monasteries, doing unspeakable things to monks and all the sorts of stuff Rangers fans do on a night out. He was no doubt sincere, but equally wrong, though that doesn’t seem to have stopped a long line of others from treading the same path. I suppose it’s relatively harmless and gives the gullible something to do at weekends unless you decide to hasten the end and take a lot of susceptible fools with you: anyone remember Waco, for example?

As a less dramatic example, my sister had a school friend whose parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and were convinced the world would end soon (back in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s, if I recall correctly). The girl was forbidden to apply for University because of the imminent “Second Coming” and the need to spend her time more “fruitfully”. She’s had her whole life screwed up – mentally and emotionally as well – because of this. Her parents’ beliefs and attitudes had an even more serious impact on her brother, but I had better refrain from giving further details in a relatively public setting.

Speaking of religion, tomorrow is a Poya (full moon) day for Buddhists and the schools are closed. I was asked today if I believed in astrology and said “No”. That’s 99.99% true. I can see that the moon has an influence on events on Earth: tides, menstruation, behaviour of some mentally-disturbed / disabled people etc. (If you don’t believe that, just ask a teacher in a special school – but then so does the wind.) I suppose it’s possible that the stars, incomparably bigger, yet also immeasurably further away, might exert some sort of gravitational (or what have you) influence on us. But I don’t believe that just because Orion, Alpha Centauri and Procyon (for example) happen to appear from Earth to be in a straight line, that means it’s a good time to get married, make a will or dig the garden: it just can’t be that “focussed”. When I was discussing the SL New Year poster with V&S last week, almost all of their explanations of anything less trivial than a kids’ game, started “At an auspicious time…” I just can’t swallow that at all.

Let’s hope I’ve not offended too many people!

Back to tomorrow: Poya Day though it is, I haven’t decided what if anything I’ll do, apart from another handwash of some clothes, not that that will take all day. I suppose, that like some of the less spiritual Sri Lankans, I could just go and get drunk, though I don’t know if it’s auspicious for that, though it apparently is for wearing green. As they say, “There’s nowt as queer as folk”.

To round off, I’ve been told the reason for some monks wearing maroon rather than the commoner orange is simply due to their preference for certain dye-stuffs: orange is, according to my informant, an artificial dye whilst maroon is the naturally-derived equivalent.

The End of the Blog is Nigh.

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