Archive for January, 2011

A VIEW FROM SRI LANKA

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Sunday 30 January 2011. Number 42

Art Fair

The Colombo street art fair, first held in 1993, attracted the usual crowd of the curious, citizens stuck in Colombo on Sunday, and the rare purchaser of art when it was held last Sunday. I say “rare purchaser” because I didn’t actually see many people in the crowd bearing away paintings in proud triumph.
One reason may have been the usual suspects: appalling abstracts, obvious copies of other artists, and dreary Sri Lankan scenes (those stilt fishermen again and again) and dearth of identity and focus. There were a few modest female nudes (but no males) and very little original work. One that did attract my attention as being original was of shunting trains but unfortunately the proportion and composition was muddled. I ended up with the charming depiction of houses in Galle Fort seen here.
At the auction I mentioned last week, Segar’s painting sold for Rs 400 , 000 ( US $ 3 , 636 ) to a buyer in the USA. I opened the bidding at a measly Rs 5,000 for an evocative painting by Anura Dahanayaka (reproduced here from the catalogue). There was some spirited bidding for it and I had to stop reluctantly at Rs30,000. Just as well, because it eventually sold for Rs 154 ,000 ( £ 880 ; $ 1 , 400).
Dominica

Older readers know that I spent the most important 15 years of my life (24-39) in Dominica, which is what made it impossible for me to live anywhere other than in a country where papayas grow and people grin broadly at the slightest provocation. Sri Lanka is 100 times larger than Dominica but with similar absurdities that delightfully define tropical living.
So it was a wonderful surprise to receive during breakfast on Wednesday a copy of Twenty Years In The Caribbean by Pete Brand who was the founder of Dominica’s iconic Island House Hotel. It’s available from www.authorhouse.com and I am already enjoying every page of it, as will anyone who knows – or wants to know – the loveable (wacky?) charm that is Dominica. Thanks Pete.
Jaffna Ice Cream?

Yes, it does exist, according to this blog:
Since I do not have a Sri Lankan passport, I am not allowed to travel to Jaffna by road (and only by air with special permission) so I have yet to discover the pleasures of the city. Instead I have stolen, without permission but with due acknowledgement here, this fine photo of the interior of The Lingam Cream House which seems as much fun for its murals as its ice cream. Perhaps I could bid for one of those?
Lunch in Colombo

Jaffna may be more fun at lunch time than Colombo.
Where to go for lunch in Colombo has long puzzled me. In my greedy youth when I wanted as much as possible for as little as possible, a hotel’s buffet was the perfect answer. But discretion (surely not age) has made me despise buffets as troughs of tired, re-heated dishes of doubtful provenance that lead to one staggering away with a plate piled with a combination of the most unsuitable meats, vegetables and sauces, possibly crowned by mistake with strawberry jelly.
Those who can resist temptation might take just a little of what they fancy and leave it at that. But buffets are no longer cheap; they also involve tedious queuing, invariably behind a fat tourist with hairy armpits who hasn’t bothered to put on a shirt for lunch.
My solution for lunch when I am in Colombo is to go to the Cricket Club Café. I don’t sit with the fancy expats in the restaurant but head straight through to the bar at the back where the real drinkers perch on stools around barrels and enjoy proper pub grub, Sri Lanka style.
Invariably I have Spinners Spinach Salad topped with a poached egg (OK, some of the dishes are tweely named after cricketers) at Rs. 275 ( £ 1.61 ; $ 2.50 ), followed by Drovers Pie. This comes with a pastry crust (or mashed potatoes for whimps) and is filled with tomato infused chunks of tender, tasty lamb, accompanied by coleslaw – and costs only Rs.730 ( £ 4.17; $ 6.63 ). I’ve even been known to top it all off with Pavlova ( Rs. 235; £ 1.34; $ 2.13 ).
So much more fun, and cheaper, than a buffet, especially when I once found my dining companion was Brian Lara. So now you know where the cricketers will be eating during the World Cup.
Finally, a mention that my book The Big Beat Scene is still available from
Beat regards
Royston