In praise of Philip Larkin

I took some night time pictures of Seravilla: I think you’ll agree it looks lovely.


Good old Philip Larkin remarked in “Whitsun Weddings” that “sun destroys the interest of what’s happening in the shade”. A line or two later he refers to “porters larking with the mails”: I don’t think that’s code for anything. Anyway, it’s true: everywhere here in the shade, standing under a tree, loitering in a darkened doorway, there are people and you don’t spot them until you start looking.

I slept like a loggy-shaped thing but woke – as normal out here – to chanting and traffic about 6:30. No need for an early start though.

Having looked at the GLF programme and with you, dear reader, very much foremost in my mind I decided to sign up for a workshop on writing to bring a foreign place alive. Clutching my pencil and Kindle, I leapt goat-like onto a bus and headed into town. Bummer No.1 was that the Dialog shop where I can probably resuscitate my SL mobile phone, was closed for some unspecified reason despite the “Open 10 to 2 on Saturdays” sign in the door. Bummer No.2 was that the writing course was fully subscribed, so you guys will have to put up with the same old crud as usual.

It’s a bit of a tourist cliché, but I really do like the Fort area in Galle. If you want to know more about it, I refer you to my blogs of a year ago. (How’s that for descriptive writing?) Walking the ramparts is an almost obligatory experience, and rightly so: the breeze is cooling, the sea goes on forever, you get a good view of some of the Fort’s old Dutch architecture, family groups of Sri Lankans splash about in the sandy corners under the walls and there’s never a shortage of ice cream sellers. And there’s very little begging or hassle. Today, I was asked once if I could buy some dollars off a guy for SL rupees – I declined – but that was the lot.

I marked my return by going to Anura’s café for lunch. I frequented the place last year: a bit grubby perhaps but it has something that appeals to me. And then there’s the “Jambo Prowns” which put anything less than a well-fed Scottish langoustine in the shade.


Talking of shade (I hope you noticed that…), I had occasion to bless old Phil again when, as I sat in the shadow of the doorway, who should pass but Sylvia Macdonald and she didn’t notice me. Sylvia is a frequent visitor to Sri Lanka, having come out just about every year since the tsunami on Boxing Day 2006. She was part of the impetus for Jo and Ben – now Mr & Mrs Robinson – coming out here about 8 years ago, which led to the rest of the Morrisons visiting for Christmas that year as well as my recent visits. Much as I appreciate her dedication to SL, I was glad we missed each other. She would probably have felt the same if the sandal were on the other foot: but would probably have been too tactful to say so.

Another foray into P&J City, a rather down-at-heel, not-so-supermarket in a grubby “mall”, supplied me with milk, fruit, Corn Flakes (!), tea, coffee etc. The milk is full cream UHT, but (as Sylvia Macdonald and Tony Blair are both wont to say): “hey”. The fridge at Sera’s will be a useful addition to my modern lifestyle.

I have established contact by email with Rick and he’s coming over tomorrow (Sunday) to show me round, chat over the details and then I’m invited to lunch. Currently TGS, directly across the road from my room, is hotching with GLF people – it seems to be being used as a venue for kids’ activities, sensibly enough as it has a lot little chairs.

The rest of today has been uneventful and really not worth committing to virtual paper, pleasant enough as it was.

A mobile phone advert I saw – I think in Abu Dhabi – with the slogan “My Life, My World, My Honor” got me thinking about the way big business manipulates us. I don’t suppose there’s anything ground-breaking, or any sudden original flashes of insight, but here goes. Big business deals with people in their millions and it is in their interests to manipulate us as a mass, not as several million individuals. On the other hand we all feel we’re a bit special, a bit unique (I know pedants will object to that phrase), more than just a part of a bulk supply of consumption units. Hence all the “my…” advertising, particularly relevant to customisable electronic goods, but generally applied to everything for sale. “Give’m a sense of ownership”, “Make’m think they they’re unique”, “Sell’em the idea of freedom and we’re made”.

Of course you are unique. Just like everyone else.

The monkeys are rather messy eaters, but nevertheless efficient as these Jack Fruit can attest.



One response to “In praise of Philip Larkin

  1. love the photos makes you wonder what in the shade

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