Give us a Clue…

Tuesday 7th

It must be getting towards the end of my stay in SL: I’ve clicked the right icons for my boarding pass (I think); I’ve been asked to make sure I’m at Assembly on Friday for a Farewell and I’ve just organised transport to the airport.

We’ve also been asked to do a little presentation at Assembly about what we’ve been doing in ICT over the last couple of months. I’ve organised three kids each to show a wee game they made and a fourth to introduce it all. Assemblies here are better than most I’ve attended over the years: the kids are always heavily involved: a “magic” show based round science, a song about eating fruit and veg., celebrations of birthdays and so on. So much better than “The Cosmic Dimension of Sin” I once sat through twice in a week: once aimed at 17year olds; also, substantially unchanged, to 12year olds. For all I know that particular train stopped at all stations in between as well. This hang-up on sin seems alien out here: the word cropped up recently in “The Lumber Room” and I had to try explaining it to Venushka.

I spoke to V and his mum about transport to the airport and it’s all organised now. For LKR10000 (£55), I’m being picked up from here and driven in a “van” – hopefully a minibus – by a guy they’ve used before and trust as a good driver. I’ve stipulated that I need to be there at 19:30 for a 21:00 flight, and the driver has allowed three and a half hours for the 150km, so that should be OK as my price includes the toll for the “Expressway”. It’s not too bad a price I suppose especially as it’s door to door, guarantees a seat, probably with aircon or at least an opening window, and removes the need to haul my case up and down the endless set of steps that constitute the footbridge across the dual carriageway outside the railway station in Colombo. That “simple” exercise, with me sweating like a pig and struggling against an oncoming tide of humanity, might conceivably have done for me last year: in the event I survived the palpitations in order to be tested again when trying to get off the bus at the airport… All that should be a thing of the past this year. How many chickens is that so far? I’ve lost count.

The Internet has gone dire again here, but I’m not going to bother mentioning it. There are brief moments when it seems to rattle along almost OK, but most of the time it takes forever to load a page and frequently gives up en route.

Fathima was off today: her mother cum childminder is unwell. It was a pretty quiet day anyway, so that wasn’t too bad, but I’m really not cut out for teaching Kindergarten kids. “Teacher, “Teacher”, “Teacher” they all shout – all four! – in their high-pitched whiny little voices and they seem incapable of waiting when I point out I’m helping someone else. They also don’t have the words to explain their problem but just point at the monitor. They were using Paint to make pictures of a house and just stabbing at the screen was rarely much help to me identifying their perceived problem. Despite their being sufficiently small that you have to be careful not to stamp them underfoot, some of them can still be very cheeky. I recently had to ask a colleague why some of the wee ones have a small cloth safety-pinned to the front of their shirt: the answer – obvious I suppose – is that they may need their noses wiped and this helps ensure the hanky doesn’t get lost. I’m OK with P2/3 – in small numbers – of course, but certainly prefer kids who are bit more like real humans rather than squawking little orcs. Maybe that’s also a sign that my time here is almost up.

Wed 8th

This Internet connection fiasco is no longer even mildly amusing; no longer just a gallic shrug and snort; no longer supportable. I have given up trying to get anything done about it as the impact on my blood pressure is just too great. Sera did get on to Dialog and a new router was provided: it solved the problem for a few days, but now we’re back to square one and have been for some time. It is all but impossible to email, use Facebook, check the news, research for classes or anything and I don’t know whom to blame, which is perhaps the most irritating bit of all. I am lucky to be able to access Internet at TGS, so this is where I’ll have to post this tomorrow, Thursday. I hope that there’ll be some sort of signal down where I’m staying Fri, Sat and Sun night, but of course I’ll not be taking my laptop.

Well, that’s today’s moan over with.

The Treasure Hunt went very smoothly, I’m relieved to say. The texting worked well; the kids did a good job and seem to have enjoyed it; the staff were complimentary and Rick was fulsome in his praise: of course he’s an American and it’s not possible to be within a hundred yards of him without a steady refrain of “Good Job” floating through the air, possibly augmented with High Fives. Nevertheless, all my Scottish cynicism aside, I think he was pleased. The whole trek looked like being unduly fast to start with, but the pace slowed and it lasted about two hours, giving time for the kids to have their packed lunch before going back in the school bus. There were two groups of five and they finished within about ten minutes of each other, giving me just the right amount of time to deal with one team and buy them each an ice-cream before the next one arrived. They and the accompanying staff were all hot and sweaty: I had been sitting in the shade at the Pedlar’s Inn and drinking lattes, so I was all right. Apart from coffee cups, Mission Control consisted of a table covered with a laptop, paper copies for use in extremis and my mobile phone: I did get a few strange looks from tourists as I texted, tapped away at the laptop and scribbled notes to myself. On the other hand, there were a few smiles when little Nethumi (or was it Lithuli?) appeared in a big straw hat and got a cuddle for doing so well!

It’s a bit early to be definite, but I think my mysterious rash is coming back. If so, I think I know the cause: the edge of a wooden seat digging into the backs of my legs as I sat at Mission Control. That would certainly help to explain the straight lines of the rash’s first appearance. Needless to say, I chucked the antibiotic cream out just a few days ago: it had been languishing in the fridge and as it was no longer needed… Mind you, if I have identified the cause, it may be that antibiotics aren’t needed. I’ve still got antihistamine tablets.

I’ve now put my last load of laundry into Poormina’s washing machine, so that’s another sign of imminent – a week today – departure.

If you listen to “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” on Radio 4 – possibly the best radio programme this side of Alpha Centauri – you’ll know they take the salacious mickey out of Lionel Blair ‘s miming skills in “Give us a Clue”: I think I could be his successor. I realised I was just about out of milk for coffee and breakfast so rather than go into town and the supermarket, I went to try my luck at the local shop, where I’m recognised as that odd foreigner. The husband was in the shop and, now I’ve set the scene, this how it went after the initial greetings and salutations.

Me: Do you have milk?

Hubby: (Blank look)

Me: (slowly) M-i-l-k

Hubby: (Encouraging smile, but blank look)

Me: Milk (Miming drinking)

Hubby: Ah. Water?

Me: No, white drink. Mooo: (Mime of milking cow)

Hubby: Not understand! (Blank look, but calls wife)

Me: Moo! (Miming horns and milking action)

Wife: Ah Red Bull!

Me: (Lionel Blair-like, you’re on the right lines hand-rolling gesture) Cow!

Wife: Ah! Freshmilk!

Me: (All smiles) Yes!

Hubby: For us, Freshmilk!

Me: (Swapping LKR 200 for a carton of UHT milk) Stoothi! (Thank You)

The scene ends with laughter and smiles all round.


That’s the sort of interaction I’ll miss. As I said on leaving the shop, but probably wasn’t understood: “We got there in the end!”

I’ll have a go at posting this, but if no success I’ll do it tomorrow – Thursday – in school before swimming.


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