Archive for October, 2015

Big in New Orleans

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

Big in New Orleans

ROYSTON REPORTS, NUMBER 279

Sunday 1 November 2015.

Greetings from Sri Lanka as the countdown to the Holiday Season begins.

Tree for Me?

Roystonea regia

Roystonea regia

For me to see, as I walked to my bedroom at Calamansi Cove Hotel, a tree apparently named after me – Roystonea Regia -  made me wonder why the hotel had gone to such extraordinary lengths to impress me. Of course, that wasn’t just for me: every guest when staying there surely gets the same impression of a property where the owners, architects and management have created the complete informal luxurious hotel experience anyone could desire.

There are many new hotels being built in Sri Lanka in response to their owners/developers visions of tourism of the future. The big companies seem to think Sri Lanka should cater for hordes of noisy anonymous tourists scoffing at buffet troughs and not understanding where they are or why. Huge blocks of hundreds of rooms are being built for them beside what little beach space is left.

Early morning at Calamansi Cove beach

Early morning at Calamansi Cove beach

Enter visionaries like the British couple who bought a couple of plots of land by a forgotten beach 80km south of Colombo and, instead of building yet another four storey tourist factory, have created an enchanting complex of 12 rooms in clusters of three hidden by stark bright white walls enhanced with lush tropical vegetation.

You enter the bedroom through a private, walled garden that has a daybed, lots of power points, a dining/smoking table, and a tea/coffee making counter, and outside shower to wash off the beach. There are steps to the roof top sun deck.

View from sundeck of my room at Calamansi Cove

View from sundeck of my room at Calamansi Cove

The bedroom is bright with two walls of floor to ceiling glass (there are curtains), neat wooden and white-painted concrete fittings, a wooden floor, and a modern four-poster king size bed with perfect mattress. The bathroom has a glass roof.

Calamansi bedroom & private garden

Calamansi bedroom & private garden

It’s just a short walk to the swimming pool and the idyllic bay, with fishing boats at one end and boulders at the other, with safe sea swimming. The surprise, on turning back to face the hotel, is to see how ruthlessly modern it looks, with huge diagonal beams, but the landscaping (by Dooland De Silva, the owner of the legendary Brief Garden) subdues the utilitarian sight.

View from the beach

View from the beach

The management is by the innovative Sri Lanka hotel company, Jetwing; the staff members are genial and keen, clearly happy to have guests who enjoy this discreet, personalised and elegant concept of tourism. (http://www.calamansicove.com)

 

Dish of the Week

Eating in Sri Lanka is not all rice and curry or Asian fusion. While the gourmet restaurants will rustle up moreish rack of lamb or smoked duck, the smaller cafés tucked away in coconut groves or down lanes away from the beaten track, cater for trenchermen (and women) tourists. I recently enjoyed this mixed grill at Rs1,400 [£ 6.46; $ 9.90] in the open sided restaurant by a swimming pool at the four-bedroomed Traum Villa, Bentota (http://www.traumvillabentota.com)

 

Country-style mixed grill

Country-style mixed grill

 

Collecting Sri Lanka: Ferguson’s Directory

Ferguson’s Directory was first published in 1859. It was begun by Alistair Mackenzie Ferguson (1816-1892) who was the proprietor and editor of the Colombo Observer newspaper. It was developed as an annual by his nephew, John Ferguson (1842-1913) born in Tain, Scotland. He trained as a journalist in Inverness and London before accepting his uncle’s invitation to become Assistant Editor of the paper.

He was to work with the newspaper for nearly 50 years, initially assisting his uncle, but gradually taking a more senior role, until becoming the proprietor and editor on his uncle’s death.

Ferguson developed an active role in the political, commercial and cultural affairs of Ceylon. He took a particular interest in the development and expansion of the railway system, and became closely involved in the tea, coffee, coconut and other planting trades for which he compiled and published statistics in the comprehensive Directory of Ceylon.

Ferguson Directories

Ferguson Directories

It used to be commonplace to pick up old editions dating from the 1950s at second hand bookshops in Colombo but that seems impossible these days. Older ones are even rarer. However, thanks to the diligence of archivists sponsored by the Dilmah Tea Company, editions from 1871 to 1930 have been scanned and uploaded to the website: http://www.historyofceylontea.com

I have several in my collection including the 126th edition (which appears to be the last) covering 1995-96 and published by The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon. It is A4 in size and three inches thick. It cost me Rs1,500 ( £ 6.92; $ 10.60) when I bought it on publication in 1997.

Any edition of Ferguson’s Directory is essential reading for those interested in Sri Lanka’s history, especially since the expatriate managers of public, plantation, commercial and social enterprises are named. Even the most recent edition is fascinating because it reprints a lot of the historical information compiled during its 137 years of publication, so dates are accurate.

Sections include information on: Trigonometrical Altitudes; Lakes, canals, tanks, rivers, waterfalls; Rulers, since 544BC; Historical events since 483BC;

Population statistics; Table of Precedence; Mercantile List; Public Enterprise & Colombo Trade Lists; Institutions; Commerce & Industries; Agriculture; Estate details; and lists of “Men’s Addresses & Women’s Addresses.”

Recently a copy of the 1952 edition sold in the UK for £ 6 ( Rs1,299) with postage to Sri Lanka adding a further £ 22 ( Rs4,763) to the cost.

 

Big in New Orleans

Book display at the Lousiana Music Factory, New Orleans

Book display at the Lousiana Music Factory, New Orleans

Thanks indeed to the reader who spotted a heap of my books published by Kicks Books (http://www.kicksbooks.com) on sale at the Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans. This serves as a reminder that my collection of beat generation poems Gone Man Squared (ISBN 978 096597779) can be bought through good book shops and all the amazons.

Beat regards

Royston