Archive for April, 2012


Saturday, April 28th, 2012

TROPICAL TOPICS, Sunday 29 April 2012.


Greetings from my favourite country rain or shine: Sri Lanka.


Made in Sri Lanka

Regular readers will know of my penchant for cocktails and canapés and unusual products made in Sri Lanka. So you’ll understand how delighted I was to discover in my local supermarket, cans of Chicken Spread in chilli or curry flavour. Although it doesn’t look particularly attractive, it has a smooth consistency that makes it ideal for a dip, and a full taste when served with raw, juicy bright orange carrots (from Sri Lanka’s hill country) as a nibble with a vodka martini.

The ingredients of the chilli spread shown here are listed as Crysbro chicken, mayonnaise, corn flour, vinegar, bell pepper, carrot, salt, permitted flavour enhancer (E621), onions, dry chilli, pepper, garlic. It seems to have mixed parentage, being manufactured by Apollo Foods (Pvt) Ltd for Farm’s Pride (Pvt) Ltd and distributed by C W Mackie plc, all Sri Lankan companies.

It’s Halal Certified and carries an ISO Food Safety Management System. A tin of net weight 155g costs SLRs180 (80p; US$1.38).  Same again?


Hopeful Village

The Village of Hopes and Dreams was officially opened last week by HE John Rankin, British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. This is run by the Manacare Foundation, a charity started in Britain in 1994 by Mrs Joy Butler Markham.  The Village is Joy’s response to the damage to lives and livelihood caused by the 2004 tsunami. She realised that while NGOs were helping with re-housing projects, there was a need to help people re-build their lives.

The Village, built on jungle land cleared and developed by volunteers, consists of several buildings and sections. There is some accommodation for the disabled as well as a physiotherapy clinic and vocational training rooms for teaching life skills (such as a course for girls who want to work abroad as housemaids), and dance/drama classes.

In an email to me last week, Joy said: The whole idea really is that the sustainability ideas at the back, i.e. the soaps, candles, jewellery, coir, carpentry, sewing … can start to make a small profit and thus pay for the teachers, doctors, physiotherapists, carers, cleaners, etc … thus making it totally sustainable … problem thus far is that I have built the houses which interfere with any profits … my fault entirely.”

Jewellery, work clothes and over 100 types of soft toys and useful household items (seen here) are produced at the village.

Tiny bars of soap using natural oils, perfect for guest rooms, are also produced there. Soap sales are currently 12,000 bars a month, helping to create industry and income for villagers as well as generating some income towards costs. Donations, of course, are always needed (see the Wish List on

To see and understand this amazing enterprise (Manacare Foundation, Godagama, Telewatta, Hikkaduwa) just drive along the Galle Road and turn inland up the lane opposite the 93km marker. Drive over the railway line and into the interior for about five minutes to reach the entrance to the village.

Visitors are welcomed on weekdays between 8am-5pm, but best to check first with Raja on 0772 063552.



The architecture of Sri Lanka since the 1950s is beautifully represented in a massive tome, a publication of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, called Identity: The Sri Lankan Architect (ISBN 978 955 0508 003). The book impresses from its sheer size, let alone content. It weighs 3.6kg, is 6cm thick, contains 536 pages and features notes on, and photographs of, the creations of 124 architects and 19 Architectural Practices. The concept, design and production of this book was by BT Options; it costs Rs4,000 (£ 17.77; US$  30.76).

I suspect it might have been inspired by the desire to show the world that there are other notable architects in Sri Lanka besides the vaunted Geoffrey Bawa. However, judging by the photographs of their work, many Sri Lankan architects seem unable to shake off Bawa’s influence.

While touring Sri Lanka, I have enjoyed the fun of modern buildings such as The Tangalle Bay Hotel and The Tea Factory Hotel – both featured in the book — and the Chaaya Blu and Chaaya Tranz hotels, too new to appear. But I have also been disturbed by the ugliness of covered space created by exposed concrete pillars that conjure up the grim ambience of an underground car park, instead of the charm, grace and essence of Sri Lanka.



Attic Archives

After last week’s video clip of me in Brighton in 1960, another blast from the past has emerged, this time a magazine called Today The New John Bull, published in London on 15 July 1961. It’s an unintentionally hilarious account of a visit I made to Moscow and met a Russian girl who had been my pen pal when I was 16 and we went for a walk to a park where people were dancing.

…“This is a very popular new Russian waltz,” Svetlana told me as we danced to the strains of ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ “I hope you like it!”

The next dance was a faster one. I took Svetlana into the arena and tried a few rock ‘n’ roll steps with her. She was horrified.

“No,” she said, “you must not do that. Rock ‘n’ roll is very bad.”

I put my arm round her, whispering a phrase I had memorised for the occasion: “Ya lubloo tibaya (I love you).”

She smiled and fumbled in her handbag for the phrase book. In the faint light she pointed to a sentence. I peered at the book excitedly.

“Do you always have fogs in England,” it said.

I leaned forward to kiss her. My lips brushed on to her cheek.

“For Peace and Friendship,” she murmured passionately as she slipped away into the night…

To read about the dawn of the Swinging Sixties, try the re-issue of my book The Big Beat Scene, which has a new foreword and afterword added to the text originally published in 1961. It’s available through:


Beat regards

Royston Ellis