Archive for March, 2011


Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Greetings from Sri Lanka to readers far and wide.


Although I live in a cottage overlooking the beach, I dare not venture into the sea there. While the sand is golden and attractive, the sea has many undercurrents and is dangerous. The safest beach for swimming on the west coast of
Sri Lanka is at Bentota, where most of the beach hotels and guest houses are located.

The only lifeguard tower in Sri Lanka has been built there with a concrete post in the middle down which lifeguards are supposed to slither from their lookout post in an emergency. Alas that exercise proved a little too painful while wearing only swimming trunks, so now the boys on watch run quickly down the 60 steps and out to sea when they see someone in trouble.

They go armed with a lifebelt which they wrap around the person in difficulty and swim with the floundering swimmer to safety. They report having saved 30 people since November 2010. This photo is of two of the heroes, Kumara Silva and E A Nandana.

Cheese quest

My search for spicy cheeses continues. My latest discovery is this Cheese Spread with Red Onion and Curry Leaves, made by the Sri Lankan company of Kotmale Diary Products Ltd. Its ingredients are listed as cheese, fresh cream, curry leaves, red onion, citric acid, salt and various E numbers. It cost Rs280 ( £ 1.60 or   $ 2.54 ) for a 175 g  jar. Alas, to me it tasted more of salt than anything else, although it is certainly creamy.

Tips for FITs

When I was in London recently I considered the options of getting to Heathrow for my evening flight back to Colombo. (I had travelled by minicab booked in advance at £ 70 ( Rs12,250 ) on arrival as I was alone with luggage and didn’t want any hassle after a 12-hour flight.)

That was a good decision. The bad one was to try the Heathrow Express train to get to Heathrow. First I needed a taxi ( £ 20 ( Rs 3,500 ) ) to  Paddington Station. To my horror the luggage trolleys were blocked so I had to carry my luggage – but fortunately Eddie, my Caribbean son, was with me to help.

The Heathrow Express ( £18 [ Rs 3,150 ] ) train was so full it was standing room only and took 25 minutes instead of the advertised 15. Then we had to change to another train to get to Terminal 4, again requiring a long walk lugging the luggage.

So my tip for anyone coming to Colombo — or flying anywhere else from London Heathrow — is to go to the airport by taxi, and to hell with the expense.


Innovative local recipes

Neel’s cousin, who used to be a ship’s provisions purchaser, stayed a few days in Neel’s house just a few minutes walk from my cottage. He prepared some remarkable dishes of the kind visitors with nervous tummies would like, utilising local ingredients without excessive chillies.

Baby cuttle fish stuffed with chopped, locally grown oyster mushrooms and onions, shown here, made an exquisite starter. He also made a rice noodle dish enhanced with tender small prawns and slices of young, soft coconut.

His recipe for sensational garlic soup is simple. Boil a handful of garlic cloves in freshly-made vegetable stock and blend the mixture. When it’s blended thoroughly, add a dash of cream and – for extra zest – some uncooked garlic and blend again. Share it with your partner — or sleep alone that night.


Collected Poems

Apollo Magazine gave the exhibition of portraits at the National Portrait Gallery that I attended earlier this month, a glowing review. I especially liked this bit: “My favourite was a portrait of London Beat-poet Royston Ellis, a poet and friend of John Lennon who inspired the song ‘Paperback Writer’. Ellis gave a reading of one of his poems at the opening of the exhibition.”

The poem I read was called “Gone Man Squared” written in 1959 as one of the poems I used to perform to music. It is included in my newest electronic book, BEAT: THE COLLECTED POEMS.

The eBook consists of several sequences of poems centred around the jazz clubs and night life of Soho and its street life. Many were published in book form during the 1960s and those books are unobtainable now unless you pay huge sums to rare book shops.

There is a long poem “Burn Up” that I wrote for backing by chamber music, about two motorcyclists “doing the ton on the M One motorway.” It was performed once but has never been published before.

There are also poems set in Berlin when the wall dividing east and west was being built.

Another sequence — “The Cherry Boy” — is set on the beaches of the Canary Islands, while the epilogue poem is a reflection inspired by Sri Lanka.

The book consists of over 100 pages and can be downloaded immediately from  It only costs £ 9.95 and payment can be by credit card to the company’s Paypal account.


Beat regards