Archive for August, 2014

Mapping the weather

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Mapping the weather.


Tropical Topics, Number 219, 30 August 2014.

Greetings to readers new and old with this week’s topics touching on ancient weather and sybaritic revelations.



From gherkins last week to chutney this week. I had some chutney that inspired raptures of appreciation recently at a bar, in the middle of an abandoned paddy field, that was so grotty I won’t even mention its name. But the black pork curry there (which we had to buy by weight) was sensational, as was the chutney made in the bar’s own kitchen. Its base seemed to be small cubes of mango, but it was savoury not sweet.



Now a restaurateur friend has presented me with a jar of “Date Plum & Lime Pickle Chutney.” It uses imported dates together with sugar, plum, spices, ginger, lime and salt to make a ravishing relish that’s a great sweet accompaniment to curry. It is manufactured by Fruits & Vegetables Ltd of Rajagiriya and the label carries the note: “Not For Resale” so perhaps it’s restaurant-only stock? The 450g jar is priced at Rs160 [£ 0.74p; $ 1.28]


Weather map

I have enjoyed collecting antique maps since I lived in the Caribbean, perhaps a reflection of my childhood in England when a rare old map of Middlesex (where I was born and bred) adorned the drawing room wall, bringing a little class to the family semi-detached. So I was thrilled to receive this week, from a dealer in the USA, a fine, contemporary hand-coloured edition of this map of Ceylon, the Maldives and India.

Rare weather map, Bonne 1785

Rare weather map, Bonne 1785

This map is particularly interesting because of the arrows showing the direction of the monsoon winds, blowing into Sri Lanka’s west coast from May to September and away from November to March. The same winds are blowing today (almost gale force with rain) 229 years after this map was engraved on copper and published. It’s by Rigobert Bonne (1729-1795) who was the Royal Hydrographer, making maps for the King of France, hence the names are in French.



I love learning something new every day so I was full of anticipation when I was invited to an “Exclusive Gin Evening” at the enchanting Whispering Palms Hotel to sample what has been acclaimed in the New York Ultimate Spirit’s Challenge as the World’s Best Gin. Like everyone present, I had never heard of Broker’s Gin; now I’m glad I have, especially as it’s made in England.

Andy Dawson who, with his brother Martin, created and owns Broker’s Gin (, wearing the gin’s trademark bowler hat, presented a lively history of gin.  I was gratified to learn that one of my favourite tipples, pink gin, is actually good for one’s digestion because of the herbs in the Angostura bitters and is the perfect blend with the 10 botanicals steeped for 24 hours in the quadrupled-distilled pure grain spirit, which is then distilled a fifth time to produce Broker’s.

The world's best gin

The world’s best gin

This care lavished on producing Broker’s Gin to a 200-year-old recipe in a 200-year-old still was evident in the gin’s quality which resulted in a clear (not a hung-over) head the next morning. The gin’s named after an iconic British figure, the stockbroker with his bowler hat (not after the marriage brokers of Sri Lanka). Look for it; once you’ve tried it, all other gins will seem inferior.

All of the cocktails offered were far too sweet for my palate and even when the barman tried to make a Dry Martini for me, he chucked in too much dry vermouth. I should have insisted on the Winston Churchill Martini, which consists of 120ml (4oz) of Broker’s Gin shaken with ice and poured into a chilled martini glass while looking at the vermouth bottle on the other side of the room. Don’t forget to add an olive.


Dry State

News has filtered through that Sri Lanka’s neighbour, the southern state of Kerala in India, is banning alcohol consumption. The plan will see Kerala become alcohol free in 10 years, with the first phase of the ban prompting the closure of some 730 bars and increasing “alcohol free days” in the state to Sundays and the first day of each month.

As of April next year, only five-star hotels, of which there are 23 in the state, will be allowed to serve alcohol while 10% of the liquor shops owned by a state-run monopoly will be shut down each year, leading to total prohibition in 10 years.

The changes are expected to cause a loss of more than 20 percent of revenue in the state’s annual budget. I guess tourism too will drop, perhaps to Sri Lanka’s advantage since liquor is banned here only on days of the full moon and certain holidays.

Sybaratic Revelations

In keeping with this week’s theme of indulgence I have news of an autobiography with the mouthful of a title Mr. Smith, the Sybarite Who Also Was A Teacher. I first discovered the book’s author and polymath, Warren Allen Smith, when I was editing a weekly newspaper in Dominica and he used to contribute an intriguing column about Manhattan from his base in New York.

Now 92 years old, he was a chief clerk for General Eisenhower (1944-1945) before becoming a teacher and co-owning Variety Recording Studio in New York where he recorded, among others, Quincy Jones, Arthur Miller, Liza Minnelli, Tito Puente, Sun Ra and His Arkestra, Paul Simon, Sarah Vaughan and Stevie Wonder and on and on… including having shared bottles of champagne with me whenever I visited him in his studio in the 1970s.

Warren's story

Warren’s story

Warren tells me there is no index in the book, but his sybaritic revelations about our encounters are to be found on several pages in it. The book is available through


Swinging Sixties

My own recollections of London long ago form the background to my naughty novel, Rush At The End recently published by Kicks Books as a paperback and as an ebook by Kindle. It’s available from all the amazon websites.

The Swinging Sixties

The Swinging Sixties

Beat regards

Royston Ellis