Archive for February, 2015

The Maldives Adventure

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

The Maldives Adventure

 

ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 244

Sunday 1 March 2015.

Welcome to this week’s newsletter with news of the release of my latest novel – and there’s another to come next month.

Nesting ants

A recent item I bagged at an auction is an account by a 70-year old doctor, Casey A Wood, of  “rambles through the jungle” written 80 years ago. He begins with a modest justification for his exploits by quoting Charles Kingsley: “Some day, ere I grow to old to think, I trust to be able to throw away all pursuits save natural history and to die with my mind full of God’s facts instead of men’s lies.” He adds: “For carrying out such a plan I offer the jungle of Ceylon.”

A jungle ramble 80 years ago

A jungle ramble 80 years ago

He reveals as much about himself and his times as he does about the jungle when he writes: “During my sojourn in Ceylon I found it politic to offer small rewards for gathering such plants and animals as I could induce the indolent natives to collect. Among desiderata were nests of the Indian tailor bird and although I was never made richer by a single nest I did secure similar dwellings of the tailor ant.”

He was fascinated by ants, reporting: “This wonderful insect does not sew but glues the edges of leaves together, afterwards lining the cavity, not with cotton or other fibre, but with a kind of self-made transparent paper which is also used for joining the leaf edge.”

Yesterday morning I photographed the very same kind of nest during a ramble in my garden.

Ant nest bound with self-made transparent 'paper'

Ant nest bound with self-made transparent ‘paper’

 

Dish of the week

I am writing a fortnightly column in the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka about “affordable hotels”. (see the latest on http://www.sundaytimes.lk/150222/plus/have-perfect-no-frills-holiday-in-negombo-136621.html).

In the course of research I recently stayed at the curiously named Cinnamon Red Hotel in Colombo (of which more in a subsequent newsletter). It was there, by chance, I had a lollipop. Not just any kind of lollipop but a crab one – in fact a dish of six lollipops. This was in the rooftop terrace bar on the 26th floor with an astonishing view of Colombo, revealing how green the city still is.

Cinnamon Red crab lollies

Cinnamon Red crab lollies

The lollipops were made of crab flesh wrapped around a skewer of lemongrass and cost Rs730 [£ 3.61; US$ 5.53] for six.

 

More on rail travel

A reader has sent me an article by Ian Holmes from the in-house magazine for tour managers of the travel company http://www.greatrail.com. Here’s an extract. The original photograph of the Viceroy Special on the Nine Arches Bridge that illustrates the article is by Gemunu Amarasinghe and appeared on the back cover of my 1994 book, Sri Lanka By Rail.

Steam on Nine Arches Bridge

Steam on Nine Arches Bridge

On the run to Badulla: “A fascinating section of the line called the “Lizard’s Spine” by locals takes the line to Idalgashina and offers an unbelievably breathtaking panoramic view. On one side, can be seen a section of the ‘Top’ of the country beyond the vast Welimada Valley and on the other side an even more fascinating view of a vast area of the ‘Bottom’ of the country down to the coast. This section of the line has 13 tunnels within about 5km.

“Soon after Demodara station the railway descends to travel over an arch viaduct several hundred feet long, built across a valley to connect two mountains. This bridge built over 90 years ago entirely of stone without any concrete or steel reinforcement has nine arches, some as high as 90ft and was dubbed by the British as the ‘Bridge in the Sky’.

“In order to reach the viaduct from Demodara, the surveyors discovered that the elevation of the terrain was too great for the track to negotiate and the line would have had to descend at a gradient far steeper than that allowed on the CGR (Ceylon Government Railway) which was one foot in 44.

“Folklore has it that when the surveyors were in a conundrum as to how to proceed beyond Demodara, a local farmer suggested to them that they build the track bed in a similar manner to the way his turban was tied. The idea became reality and the track bed was constructed to leave the station, go around a hill behind it, making a circular descent, then under the station through a tunnel, descending to the Bridge in the Sky. The track to Badulla was finally commissioned with the first train in 1921.”

Book launch

Unfortunately, I missed the panel discussions and launch last month of Illustrated Field Guide to the Flowers of Sri Lanka by Jacob De Vlas and Johanna De Vlas-De Jong organised by the Institute of Environmental Professionals of Sri Lanka. (http://www.iepsl.lk) The book contains mention of 1,060 species of flowers photographed throughout Sri Lanka, including very rare plants, some that are new to Sri Lanka.

Monkey cup in the Sinharaja Rain Forest

Monkey cup in the Sinharaja Rain Forest

This photograph comes from Issue number 9 of Amazing Sri Lanka, the quarterly magazine for which I am editorial consultant.

 

Tea with the Paperback Writer

Talking about tea

Talking about tea

A reader from London asks whether I will be providing polythene to don for guests who come to tea, since I was also the inspiration for another Beatles’ song, Polythene Pam. Just come and see: http://www.srilankainstyle.com/day-experiences/tea-with-the-beatles-original-paperback-writer/

 

New novel

Kicks Books of the USA have just released internationally my new novel (well it’s the unexpurgated version of one published exclusively in the Maldives 15 years ago), called The Maldives Adventure. It’s the story about the Indian Ocean tourist destination, the Maldives, that tourists don’t know.

 

In the 16th century, the Portuguese invaded the islands and imposed colonial tyranny. The inhabitants, devout and simple fisherfolk, traders and rustic islanders, were powerless to resist…until a young man, Mohamed Thakuru, who became a favourite of the Portuguese governor of the Northern Atolls, returned from martial and religious training in India. Appalled by the ruthlessness of the invaders, he led a seaborne guerrilla campaign to oust them.

Fabulous new novel

Fabulous new novel

It’s a swashbuckling yarn of adventure, intrigue, lust, passion and faith in the face of adversity. It’s a novel I’m proud of, and I hope you’ll enjoy. Available by post from: http://www.amazon.com/Maldives-Adventure-Royston-Ellis/dp/1940157943/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424827366&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Maldives+Adventure

and from: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Maldives-Adventure-Royston-Ellis/dp/1940157943/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424827238&sr=1-1&keywords=Maldives+Adventure

Back cover blurb

Back cover blurb

Beat regards

Royston Ellis