Archive for August, 2012

ROYSTON’S REPORT, Number 124

Friday, August 24th, 2012

TROPICAL TOPICS, Sunday 26 August 2012.

Greetings to readers around the world to this week’s round up of tropical topics.

Made in Sri Lanka

 

I never knew (until I confirmed it through Google) that Dragon Fruit is grown in Sri Lanka – and now it has begun to appear on supermarket shelves. Apparently, like the rubber tree,  it is an import from South America. The plant is actually a type of cactus, and the fruit in Sri Lanka is a glorious scarlet colour with leafy tufts.

 

Dragon Fruit grows in Sri Lanka

Dragon Fruit grows in Sri Lanka

 

It doesn’t have prickles like kiwi fruit, whose taste/texture it resembles, and is much larger. Fortunately, it is low in calories and offers numerous nutrients, including Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, plus fibre and antioxidants. I say fortunately because the taste, concealed within the brilliantly coloured leathery skin, is disappointing: a vague sweetness, nothing dynamic, so one wonders what’s the point in eating it.

 

Dragon fruit wedges

Dragon fruit wedges

 

Nevertheless, it’s a pretty addition to a fruit platter, with the globe quartered so the fruit can be eaten with a spoon. This one (based on a price of Rs411.50 per kg) cost Rs213.98  [£ 1.06; US$ 1.64]

 

 

Ceylon

My trophy this week purchased on eBay is a reproduction of a 1618 map of Asia by William Blaeu. A beautifully designed ‘carte a figures’ first published in Amsterdam, this was incorporated unchanged into the magnificent Blaeu atlases of the next 50 years (says a note on the reverse.)

 

3 Reproduction of 1618 Blaeu map of Asia

Reproduction of 1618 Blaeu map of Asia

 

The detail is amazing and requires a magnifying glass to read. However, Sri Lanka is in the right place (below India and north of the Equator, not on it as in last week’s map) and is here named Zeylan. There are two vignettes that are intriguing. One is of Candy, which is depicted as well laid out and fortified.

“Candy” detail from 1618 Blaeu map of Asia

“Candy” detail from 1618 Blaeu map of Asia

 

The other depicts natives of “Invani.” If any reader knows what that means, I hope to hear from you. Since both the man and the woman are bare chested and each wearing a cloth, I wonder if they could be from Zeylan – perhaps from the Wanni district, called the heartland of Sri Lanka on www.wanni.org.

“Invani” detail from 1618 Blaeu map of Asia

“Invani” detail from 1618 Blaeu map of Asia

 

 

Located

 

Regular readers will know that I am the Warden for the British High Commission responsible for being in touch with Britons who stay in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka for more than 30 days. It sounds onerous but in reality, although there are probably hundreds of British residents (whether full or part time) in the south, only a handful – not even enough for a jolly garden party – have registered.

 

The British Foreign Office has introduced an online scheme, called LOCATE (www.fco.gov.uk/travel, click on LOCATE), to make it easier for long-stay visitors in any country to register. Why do that? “So you can be more easily contacted in the event of a crisis,” according to this leaflet.

 

 Leaflet promoting LOCATE

Leaflet promoting LOCATE

Registration expires after a year which results in even fewer registered Britons every year as they forget to renew or find going through the process every year too tiresome. That’s what happened to me and I am ashamed to say that it took me 25 minutes to re-register because of the  cyber slippery complexity of the form.

 

 

Heath Robinson

 

If a contemporary Heath Robinson, the early 20th century British cartoonist, were to visit Sri Lanka, he would find lots of inspiration for ingeniously designed contraptions. In Pettah, Colombo’s bazaar area, a kind of daytime equivalent of Bangkok’s evening street market of Patpong (with the emphasis on pong), Pettah bustles with porters ferrying goods on trolleys between delirious traffic.

 

Porter with trolley in Pettah’s traffic

Porter with trolley in Pettah’s traffic

 

There is also this knife grinder at work on a machine that is pure Heath Robinson. With his bare right foot, the knife grinder peddles a wooden shaft that is connected by a metal strut with another shaft. This goes up and down as the operator peddles and thus rotates a bicycle wheel spinning in a wooden frame. Each spin drives a chain linked to the grinding wheel which spins in response, while the operator swiftly sharpens the knife.

 

Knife grinder at work in Pettah. Colombo.

Knife grinder at work in Pettah. Colombo.

I was a bit careless in taking this photo because as I stepped backwards a man stepped forwards with a knife to be sharpened, and collided with my backside. Luckily neither of us was harmed!

 

Pavlova

 

I don’t have a sweet tooth and generally eschew desserts. However, I could not resist asking for a spare spoon so I could dip into my guest’s dessert, this scrumptious confection: Pavlova, as featured on the menu of Colombo’s world famous Cricket Club Café.

 

 

Pavlova dessert at Colombo’s Cricket Club Café

Pavlova dessert at Colombo’s Cricket Club Café

The cream stuffed meringue comes with a choice of two fruits, in this case papaya and passion fruit. Not only did it taste as good as it looks, the added pleasure was the price, just Rs295 [£1.44; US$ 2.25].

 

 Word of Mouth

We are told that word of mouth is the best promotion for something. So I was impressed when a friend sent me a link (www.dailymotion.com/…/xsssnb_travel-book-review-maldives…) with someone reviewing one of my books by speaking about it. The book is my Bradt Travel Guide to the Maldives. Of more interest to readers of this newsletter, however, would be my Bradt Guide to Sri Lanka, available direct from: http://www.bradtguides.com/Book/552/Sri-Lanka.html

 

 

Cover of Bradt Guide to Sri Lanka by Royston Ellis

Cover of Bradt Guide to Sri Lanka by Royston Ellis

 

Warm regards,

Royston