Archive for September, 2013

Royston’s Report No. 180

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

ROYSTON’S REPORT, Number 180

TROPICAL TOPICS for Sunday 29 September 2013.

Welcome to this week’s topics including some official advice for those contemplating leaving Britain.

Apologies

My apologies for the late delivery of last Sunday’s newsletter. I don’t understand what went wrong. However, you can read the newsletter every Sunday (and the 179 previous issues) on www.roystonellis.com/blog. I hope this one gets to you on time.

Made in Sri Lanka

A useful box made of coconut palm wood

A useful box made of coconut palm wood

This week’s prized purchase is a wooden box. Not just any wooden box but one beautifully crafted with grainy coconut palm wood. I use it to keep paper serviettes in place on my patio breakfast table – so they don’t fly away in the wind.

Junk? Not to Upul Nishantha

Junk? Not to Upul Nishantha

 

Secondhand items galore

Secondhand items galore

I bought it at a new store run by a chap, Upul Nishantha, I’ve often seen at auctions. He specialises in buying items in bulk, like 50 second-hand letter racks, and then selling them singly to customers like me who only want one of an item.

His store is on the Galle Road, at Bentota, and he has some interesting items, like bathtubs, chandeliers and showcases. It’s an enterprising idea and, with a sign only in Sinhala, he’s not out to fleece tourists, as can happen in some “antique” shops.

 

Devilled

A devilled dish in Sri Lanka is not like the traditional devilled eggs with yolks mashed up with mustard and mayonnaise. It really is a fiery creation with capsicums, leeks, tomatoes, onions, garlic and, of course, chillies tossed in a pan with whatever one fancies (meat? prawns? fish?). It makes an ideal bite (nibble? tapa?) with a drink.

So when a Sri Lankan friend told me he had enjoyed the best Devilled Beef he had ever tasted, I went to Susantha’s Garden Hotel in Bentota to try it. Devilled Beef so often incorporates bits of tough, leftover beef that’s been deep fried to a cinder on the assumption that who ever ordered it is probably drunk anyway and just wants something to chew.

Scrumptious devilled beef and chips

Scrumptious devilled beef and chips

Susantha’s Devilled Beef turned out to be gourmet-tender with man-sized slices of beef in a kind of sweet and sour sauce but with plenty of kick from the chillies. What made it even better was that one portion is enough for two people – and it came with a separate plate of French Fries (chips to me). The unbelievable price for such a great dish was Rs690 [£ 3.28; $ 5.11].

Map of Ceylon

Another map of Ceylon has just fallen into my eager collector’s hands. This time, though, it’s not one that’s 300 years old but is equally charming. It was published 82 years ago under the orders of A H G Dawson, Surveyor General of Ceylon, by the Survey Department of Ceylon, Crown Rights Reserved.

With a scale of 24 miles to an inch, it shows areas of the island coloured and devoted to Rubber (purple), Tea (green), Coconut (yellow) and Cacao [cocoa] (orange). The coconut belt stretches from Kalpitiya in the northwest to Tangalle in the south, with rubber inland in the southwestern quarter of the island, and tea in the central hills, from Matale down to Balangoda with some green dots near Galle. (Those low country tea plantations still exist.)

Bucolic Ceylon, 1931

Bucolic Ceylon, 1931

The 1930 average rainfall figures are shown (100 inches a year at Induruwa where I live; 50 inches in the hills around Nuwara Eliya) and average temperature (80 degrees Fahrenheit at Induruwa; 60 degrees in the hills). It seems to me (and to people living in Nuwara Eliya) that the rainfall patterns have reversed today.

The map also shows botanical gardens, agriculture research stations and lots of paddy seed stations. It’s fascinating as it presents the island in its bucolic days, when it was renowned for its tea and rubber plantations and before tourism took over in the 1970s and Ceylon became Sri Lanka.

Moving to Sri Lanka?

The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is remarkably concerned that Britons leaving Britain to settle in other countries, including Sri Lanka, should not make complete fools of themselves. The FCO has produced videos cautioning eager emigrating Brits to take care, and has just published Top 10 Tips for Moving or Retiring Abroad.

Settle in Sri Lanka?

Settle in Sri Lanka?

These tips advise: proper prior research; familiarisation with local customs and protocol; caution in property purchasing; the seeking of legal advice; wise financial and health planning; advising the UK authorities of the move; and being prepared to integrate oneself in the local community and not live in isolation.

Little England is a housing subdivision in Nuwara Eliya.

Little England is a housing subdivision in Nuwara Eliya.

If I’d read those tips 50 years ago when I left England they would have blunted the spirit of adventure and discovery that makes re-location so thrilling. My own tip to anyone wanting to switch countries is: Do it while you’re young and adaptable, not leave it to retirement when you’re going to be old and hidebound.

Beatles Party

Detail of a prized invitation

Detail of a prized invitation

I’m highly chuffed to have been invited to the launching party of The Beatles: All These Years, Volume 1: Tune In, the biography of The Beatles by Mark Lewisohn that “covers everything up to 31 December 1962.” Mark has spent 10 years writing the book and has proved a charming, responsible as well as indefatigable researcher. We are still in touch even after he interviewed me many years ago, when he unearthed film footage and references to my own association with the Beatles in 1961.

The book, out as a mass market paperback in the UK from Little, Brown on 10 October and from Crown in the USA on 29 October, promises to be the ultimate definitive biography that will put the record straight about the Beatles and those who were associated with them. Mark is extraordinarily frank in interviews to be heard at www.kenmichaelsradio.com which will surely make listeners dash out to buy the book.

Alas, I won’t be able to attend the launching party, intriguingly at the Liverpool College of Art, but I’ll drink to the success of Mark’s book with a sundowner in the garden at my beach bar on that day.

My Beat(les) Days

The poem I read when the Beetles, as they then were, backed me at the Jacaranda Club in Liverpool, appears in Gone Man Squared a collection of poems evocative of the days of the British beat generation as they segued into the Swinging Sixties. It’s available from: http://nortonrecords.com/kicksbooks/ellis.php with the Kindle version sold by www.amazon.com.

 Signed & paperback editions now available.

Signed & paperback editions now available.

 

Beat regards

Royston Ellis