Archive for June, 2013

Royston’s Report 167

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

ROYSTON’S REPORT, Number 167

 

Sunday 30 June 2013

 

Welcome to this week’s report on some good things in Sri Lanka.

 

Made in Sri Lanka

I have written several times before about jaggery (a kind of fudge made by distilling the sap of the kithul palm) and I am always happy to discover new sources and shapes.

Jaggery chunks

Jaggery chunks

 

The nearest village market to my cottage is about 2kms inland at a small village called Gonagalapura where, on Tuesday mornings, an open space beside the village road is filled with market traders. I was attracted by this small oval chunk of jaggery, priced at Rs100 [50p; 76c]. It’s fine, sweet and smoky – lovely to nibble with plain tea.

Haputale Railway Station

Haputale is my favourite town in Sri Lanka. It exists because of tea, having developed after Thomas Lipton snapped up failing coffee plantations in 1890 and encouraged planters to grow tea, which he successfully marketed through his grocery shops in Britain.  Although Haputale thrived, it remains a small town perched on hills with a high street that seems to swoop off into space.

Haputale railway station

Haputale railway station

 

At 1,431m above sea level and 246km from Colombo, Haputale has been served by trains since 1893. Even today the railway station preserves some of the characteristics of the early days of rail. It is carefully maintained, clean and abloom with plants. It has semaphore signals, hand operated points controls, and a Tyer’s Patent Train Tablet Apparatus. This consists of two bright red boxes with brass fittings that issues a token when the single track line is clear for trains to proceed.

Inside ticket office at Haputale

Inside ticket office at Haputale

 

Staff at the station are happy to explain the working of this Apparatus to visitors. It is to be seen in the ticket office, where tickets are still cardboard ones issued from a specially designed cupboard.

Haputale railyway station ticket office

Haputale railyway station ticket office

Even the office clock, with the initials CGR (Ceylon Government Railways) is still working.

CGR station clock

CGR station clock

The station has two waiting rooms with toilets, one for Gents and one for Ladies, although the only furniture is this outsize table in the Ladies.

Ladies' rest room furniture

Ladies’ rest room furniture

I also found an old cast iron plaque, the original sign for drinking water, although the fountain has now become a plastic pipe.

Edwardian drinking fountain

Edwardian drinking fountain

High Cliffe

Haputale town centre wth High Cliffe (right)

Haputale town centre wth High Cliffe (right)

One reason why I like Haputale so much is because of its old hostelry, High Cliffe. Originally a colonial bungalow by the railway track that, with its bunk beds in dormitories, became a haven for hippies in the 1970s, it has now evolved into a tall hotel with smart, clean rooms and staggering views of the distant hills. And it costs only R2,500 [£ 12.50; US$ 19.23] a night, double.

High Cliffe room with a view

High Cliffe room with a view

It also has a popular first floor bar with a secret entrance, where service is summoned by electric bells and food is prepared on demand. The devilled beef has the added flavour of plenty of garlic and costs Rs550 [£ 2.75; US$ 4.23]

High Cliffe devilled beef

High Cliffe devilled beef

Strangely, although it has several attractions, like the original Lipton’s tea factory at Dambatenne and Lipton’s mountain top seat, as well as the colonial bungalow retreat and museum of Adisham, Haputale is seldom visited by travellers. They seem to prefer Ella, a town 23km further along the railway line to the east, that has a rash of guesthouses and cafés – but none as jolly or  as cheap as High Cliffe.

 

Out of the Frame

That’s the clever title of a an exhibition of photographs by 45 photographers with Sri Lanka connections being held from the 5th to 10th July 2013 at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka. A press release says: “These photographers’ innovative perspectives help to change the way we see women.”

 

R ‘n’R

 RnR top floor lounge

RnR top floor lounge

To those of a certain age, R ‘n’ R represents Rock ‘n’ Roll, or Rest & Relaxation for military types, but in Colombo it’s the name of a new theme bar & restaurant by the restored Race Course, now turned into a rugby field. Rejuvenate & Rejoice is the theme and since the restaurant serves meals and drinks all day, it’s perfect for a late lunch of good quality food. My satisfying Australian tenderloin steak cost Rs2,700 [£ 13.50; US$ 20.76]; a full bodied margarita Rs850 [£ 4.25; $ 6.53].

RnR Steak & Margarita

RnR Steak & Margarita

The rock ‘n’ roll concept is pursued in the décor of the upstairs viewing lounge with its pop posters, cushions emblazoned with song titles and gaudy retro juke box. But I got a rude shock in the loo when I faced a poster advertising a concert featuring “the return of Jet Harris.”

Reproduced Poster

Reproduced Poster

Only the day before I had finished reading the biography, Jet Harris: In Spite of Everything, and the memory of Jet, who died in March 2011, was still haunting me, hence my surprise at seeing the poster. When Jet was bass guitar player in Cliff Richard’s Drifters and renamed his group, The Shadows, he was a great friend of mine, as well as a tantalising star.

Jet & Royston, 1959. From THE BIG BEAT SCENE

Jet & Royston, 1959. From THE BIG BEAT SCENE

It was Jet who set me on the path to fame as a performing poet when he and The Shadows accompanied me on stage and television shows while I belted out my beat poetry. The biography is almost embarrassing in its revelations and with the candid recollections of some of Jet’s friends.  It’s available from Music Mentor Books: http://musicmentor0.tripod.com/book_jet_harris.html

Jet's biography book cover

Jet’s biography book cover

Beat regards

Royston