Archive for October, 2013

Royston’s Report 184

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

ROYSTON’S REPORT, Number 184

TROPICAL TOPICS, Sunday 27 October 2013.

Greetings from Sri Lanka with news of cruising and caterpillars, on the day the new Airport Expressway opens.

Made In Sri Lanka

This week’s forage in the supermarket (actually one in Nuwara Eliya) yielded a 50g plastic tub with the label: Camper’s Spicy Sandwich Spread. It sounded intriguing but when I tasted it as a dollop on a slice of cucumber, I realised I should have read the very small print ingredients first: Mustard, Margarine, Sugar 15%, Cornflour, Vinegar, Salt 4%, Clove, Turmeric, Pepper, Cardamom and the dreaded “permitted preservative, E211.”

Camper's spicy (?) spread

Camper’s spicy (?) spread

It tasted just as you’d expect, of margarine and mustard cream; not pleasant at all and hardly appropriate for energetic campers. Perhaps that’s because I tried to have it on slices of cucumber and not in a sandwich as recommended. Even when I tried it on a gluten free cracker, it wasn’t a patch on Marmite for flavour and appeal. But then it only cost Rs48 [£ .23p; US$.36c].

 

Cruising

In August (see newsletter 173) I attended the opening of the Hamilton Canal; last week I returned for a cruise along the waterways. The introduction of a commercial and competently run boat service based on the northern bank of the Hamilton Canal and also serving the Kelani River, is a fitting complement to the newly restored canal with its cute suspension footbridge.

The footbridge is located at Hekitta Junction, Hendala, Wattala, and is easily reached on the way to or from the airport on the old route. (The new Airport Expressway opening today [27 October] bypasses it). The bridge marks a triumphant entrance to the Hamilton Canal from the sea and from the Kelani River.

Hamilton Canal

Hamilton Canal

The bridge’s buttress of granite on the southern bank bears letters in brass stating: Hamilton Canal. The Gateway to the Aquarina [sic] in the north of Colombo. An attraction with diversity. A polished granite plaque below it records the names of dignitaries who attended the opening in August 2013, and gives thanks for the funding provided by the Government of Japan for the canal’s restoration.

The first part of the river cruise is unexciting unless you are interested in Victorian warehouses with porthole windows, sand miners in flat bottomed boats dredging the river bed, river houses on stilts and the occasional ungainly pelican lumbering skywards. Flights of concrete steps lead down the bank to the river, enabling housewives to do their laundry, and there is even a commercial river laundry complex to gaze at.

Riverbank tea shop. Photo by B Kumarasiri

Riverbank tea shop. Photo by B Kumarasiri

After passing under a railway bridge, the scenery changes dramatically, with bamboo and palm trees leaning towards the water and the river banks on both sides covered in lush, and seemingly impenetrable, greenery. A pleasant stop would have been for tea in a shack on stilts made out of bamboo

A recycled boat. (Photo by B Kumarasiri)

A recycled boat. (Photo by B Kumarasiri)

Returning to cruise up the canal, we saw a woman paddling herself along in the broken hull of a fishing boat, pulling up her crab pots to see what the day’s catch was. Alas, nothing. A man sitting in the glare of the hot sun, patiently fishing with a rod and line, also had no luck.

Fishing on the Hamilton Canal (Photo by B Kumarasiri)

Fishing on the Hamilton Canal (Photo by B Kumarasiri)

We lunched on an elegant newly converted vessel under the shade of trees on the river bank. The vessel has been cleverly designed; it has a single 45hp outboard motor with chrome tables and chairs fixed to the deck. There are glass panels at the side that can be opened to let the breeze flow through, and a high roof. There are lights on board so the boat can be hired for an evening cocktail cruise, as well as for daytime picnics.

The Floating Restaurant approaches the canal bridge (Photo by B Kumarasiri)

The Floating Restaurant approaches the canal bridge (Photo by B Kumarasiri)

This floating restaurant is one of the tour boats operated by Hamilton Leisure Crafts. With fees starting at Rs1,000 for a group of five to cruise, it represents remarkable value for exploring the undiscovered (by tourists that is) waterways. http://www.hamiltonboatsservices.com

Indian Palm Bob

This is not another precocious cocktail but the solution to last week’s mysterious photo of a creeping piece of palm frond. Sheila Hasler, a reader who is soon to visit Sri Lanka, commented: “I wonder about the caterpillar. In Dominica there was one which used to cover itself in twigs before turning into a chrysalis.”

Michael Friend from the UK said: “This is not unusual and the leaf is definitely not part of the caterpillar but a protective “home” made by the insect rolling up a leaf and sticking it together with silk it produces from its mouth parts. This is defensive behaviour to protect it from predators (birds, wasps etc) and/or ultra violet. It is quite common amongst tropical species but not exclusive to them.   It is probably lepidopteral (i.e butterfly or moth but most likely the latter) but might conceivably be a beetle larva.”

A marvel of nature

A marvel of nature

Thanks to Nancy van der Poorten for her swift response: “The photo is of the caterpillar of the Indian Palm Bob (Suastus gremius). The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of many different palms including coconut as shown in your photo. The caterpillar puts down silk on both edges of the leaf; as the silk dries, it contracts and so pulls the two edges of the leaf together to form a shelter. The leaves are in no way stuck to the caterpillar. It’s a little unusual to see it walking along as your photo shows but perhaps it inadvertently cut the leaf off and fell from the plant. It’s a very common butterfly.”

The Big Beat Scene

Interest shown in my recently published book of beat poems Gone Man Squared (available from http://nortonrecords.com/kicksbooks/ellis.php with the Kindle version sold by www.amazon.com) reminds me that I haven’t plugged The Big Beat Scene for a while. Someone commented last week: TBBS is a bl**dy good book and deserving of great success.  

The Dawn of the Swinging Sixties

The Dawn of the Swinging Sixties

It’s available from www.amazon.co.uk or direct from the publisher:

http://musicmentor0.tripod.com/book_big_beat_scene.html.

 

Beat regards

Royston Ellis