You may want to skim over the next paragraph if you’re just settling down to your coffee and croissant.

As the day wore on yesterday, I became aware of a rash on the back of my right calf. It was curious in that it consisted of three parallel horizontal lines, close together and of the same general configuration. By this morning, the rash was more pronounced and lines of blisters had started to appear. I manfully resisted the temptation to scratch the living daylights out of it, but decided it needed some attention: with neither antihistamine nor Savlon to hand, I resorted to a dab of hand-gel to keep it clean and went in search of a pharmacist, who prescribed a hydrocortisone cream and anti-histamine tablets. Having made use of both in the last half-hour, I can simply say the general swelling has increased, the blisters are approaching marble-size and the itching has intensified. Ho-hum.  Pictures at the foot of the post.

Thursday’s swimming trip was good. The school bus – donated by the Board to mark the school’s tenth anniversary – is a comfortable, modern 26 seater, equipped with seat belts and various other mod cons. The kids all wore their belts and the driver was exemplary in his approach to his occupation. We went to the pool of St Aloysius’ School. This is one of the upmarket fee-paying establishments and just last weekend it had a huge carnival with the usual rides, games etc. just outside the Fort. TGS has booked the pool for 2 mornings a week: as Rick pointed out, the 45minutes in the water consume two hours of the school day, what with changing times and transport, so even apart from financial cost, there is an educational one too. For this reason, if no other, Rick is keen for the pool-time to be used effectively: the hire includes a swimming coach, Mr Gamini, who seems excellent. Rick, both as Head Teacher and a PE teacher to trade, also got heavily involved, so the seven “seniors” had plenty of close or one-to-one tuition. I opted not to go in the pool, but sat and read, keeping in the shade as much as possible. At one time, hearing music from the other side of a wall, I investigated and there was a silver band formed by St Aloysius pupils whilst further across the grounds, cricket nets were in full swing. Stands the Church clock at ten to three and is there honey still for tea?

In my case, I’ve mostly been drinking coffee at Sera’s and I’ve been thinking about kettles. We need to get Dyson onto kettles because they need completely re-designed. Firstly, we need them to be thermally efficient: i.e. insulated. Secondly, they need to be as electrically efficient as humanly possible, not just for the obvious reason but to sustain my last point: they need to be much less power-hungry. The kettle in the kitchen here is of the usual chrome design, but so slow that I am very careful just to put one mug’s worth of water in at a time, if I’m not wanting to read another chapter of my book before my coffee. Whether the kettle is frugal in its hunger for power or merely desperately inefficient, I can’t tell. However, it seems to me that very efficient but low-powered kettles seem to be the answer: less wasted power as you’ll not want to wait to boil a litre when a cup will do. Personally, I fancy one of those modern electric geysers that sit under the sink and boil water on tap as it were, but I’ve some persuading to do yet!

I pinched a book from the bookshelf at The Regent, but I think that’s OK as I’ll leave it somewhere similar some other time. I mention this not merely to confess, but to recommend it. “Travels with my Briefcase” was written by Peter Biddlecombe, apparently a pretty high-powered businessman, in 1994. I’m about half-way through. Each chapter is named for a city or country and recounts his thoughts and actions – sometimes pretty hair-raising – whilst visiting there. The early chapters centre on Europe and it’s quite a contrast to see attitudes to Europe from less than 25 years ago. Sure there’s plenty of the “aren’t foreigners funny, and the French in particular” but it’s good natured and humorous. The writer’s attitude to the EU – as it was – is sceptical in terms of its functioning at times, but the benefits shine through. I can’t see a book written today being the same: the Brexiteers would want something much more acerbic and the Remainers would be too sensitive to their apparently lost cause. The other thing that strikes me, bearing in mind I’m only halfway through, is how little Africa seems to have changed. Sure, Ghana had an upsurge economically, but it slipped back. Sierra Leone is still poor, though the recent ebola outbreak was a new factor. Corruption is still endemic in many African countries to such a scale our politicians look honest. Biddlecombe gives stories of how the World Bank, IMF etc. do their best but get nowhere, of shady deals and backhanders, of mercenary groups who extort money at road blocks: plus ça change.

But perhaps the most interesting section so far has been his assessment, based on experience twentyfive years ago, of the beginnings of Islamic fundamentalism. Whilst he is clearly concerned about it, he does tend to be rather flippant – something I’d never be – and scores places and incidents on his “Prayer Mat Futures Index”. I’d lend you the book, but I’ll have to leave it somewhere in Sri Lanka if I’m to live with a clear conscience.

First it was a plague of boils, now it’s locusts. Well, blisters and flying ants or at least I think that’s what they are. A few got in under the door and I managed to cull them all with flicking my towel, then I was silly enough to go outside and there were hundreds. Quick as I was bolting inside again, a couple of dozen of the fluttering things got in and I spent the next quarter of an hour with my towel, flicking the brutes to kingdom come. Then Vanushka came to the door with a plate of wedding sweetmeats. I don’t know the names of any apart from the delicately shaped koekjies (Sp?) which, like virtually all the others, are deep fried but tasty with coconut featuring a lot. “Shut the door, the…” Vanushka waved his hand at the insects, but too late and once again I was flicking my towel. I now realised I also had to block the gap under the door and it looks as though no more are getting in. My room looks like an insect’s abattoir now and I’m not sure I want to dry myself on my towel tomorrow morning. Luckily, due to the wedding reception and my Colombo trip, my bedding and towel haven’t been changed yet this week, nor my room swept, so after work tomorrow the carnage should be no more. In the meantime,  every now and then one I missed pops up.

THE GRAPHIC DETAILS, taken 9am and 3pm



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