Archive for November, 2015

Plumpkin

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 283

Sunday 29 November 2015.

Greetings to readers around the world to this week’s quirky newsletter.

Plumpkin

We first noticed the tiny plant sending out shoots behind the outside shower about two weeks ago. Kumara suggested it might be a cucumber since I have freshly prepared cucumber juice every morning and he reckoned seeds could have fallen on the grass near where the juicing machine is washed every day. Now the vine seems intent on colonising much of the lawn and has proved itself to be a pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima).

 

Pumpkin bloom

Pumpkin bloom

There are several local versions of pumpkin (originally a native of Central America) and I don’t know what this is. From the website of the Department of Agriculture in Sri Lanka, I learn that pumpkin is “the largest fruit in the plant kingdom” and the vine can be “25ft long and produces both male and female bright yellow coloured flowers. The female flower has a little pumpkin at the bottom.”

It seems we shall have to wait from 40 to 60 days after flowering to harvest whatever plump pumpkins this crawling vine yields.

 

Tropical marathon

The date of Sri Lanka’s annual marathon race has been announced: Sunday 2 October 2016. Time to start training for the full marathon of 42,195km (26 miles 385 yards) or the various lesser-distance categories.

In the Colombo Marathon held in October 2015 there were 6,400 competitors (more than twice the number of competitors in previous marathons). Two hundred athletes from 39 foreign countries took part alongside men, women and youngsters from Sri Lanka. Not surprisingly, athletes from Kenya dominated the front runners.

It’s the fun of the run in Sri Lanka that attracts many competitors while for serious athletes, because the marathon is recognised by the world marathon authority, participation is recognised as valid for their marathon career.

 

Colombo's marathon 2015

Colombo’s marathon 2015

The race starts from Colombo’s Independence Square and follows a route through Borella, Dematagoda, Peliyangoda, Wattala along the Hamilton Canal, Pamunugama, Thalahena, Pitipana and Duwa to Lewis Place to finish at the Beach Park, Negombo.

The prize to the winning male and female are the same, US$2,500 each with an air ticket on SriLankan Airlines for each winner. There is also a veterans’ event for the over-50s and special Fun Run contests.

Marathon running only began in Sri Lanka when the travel company, Lanka Sportreizen (LSR), under its dynamic chairman, Thilak Weerasinghe, organised the first LSR International Marathon in Sri Lanka in Galle in 1998. Since 2010 it has become an annual event, internationally recognised as the Colombo Marathon.

There are special hotel packages and airfares for athletes and their supporters from overseas so arrangements should be made early, with entry forms submitted by August 2016. [email protected]; http://www.srilankamarathon.org/

 

Dish of the Week

In the run up to Christmas, on a visit Colombo, I decided to try more richer fare for lunch than usual. That’s how I added on calories with a visit to The Gallery Café where the emphasis is on food with flavour, appetising presentation and an impressive ambience. That’s created by courtyard dining (either alfresco or in a covered space) with fans to chase away the humidity, and intelligent and attentive service.

 

Roast lamb lunch

Roast lamb lunch

Instead of a starter I plunged straight into a hedonistic experience with this scrumptious roast leg of lamb served on a nest of walnut and blue cheese risotto with garlic and thyme jus. It was memorable for its sharp taste of genuine cheese (not ersatz stuff) in the creamy rice and tender slices of roast lamb. It looked slight on the plate but was satisfyingly filling. (Rs3,195; £ 14.85;  $ 22.39 plus service and tax).

Jaggery sundae

Jaggery sundae

As I didn’t have a starter I decided to indulge in my favourite dessert: the exotic Jaggery Sundae. This is a knickerbocker glory concoction of vanilla ice cream with chunks of jaggery topped with spun jaggery. Jaggery? That’s a kind of hard fudge made through the slow boiling and stirring of sweet sap tapped from the kithul palm.

Jaggery hunks

Jaggery hunks

 

Early Christmas Concert

From an old friend, Lakshman Joseph De Saram, the Artistic Director of The Chamber Music Society of Colombo, comes news of a Holiday Season Gala Concert next Friday, 5 December. It’s being held at the Lionel Wendt Theatre in Colombo beginning at 7.30pm with tickets available from Rs3,000 “downwards.”

Holiday season concert

Holiday season concert

The orchestra of The Chamber Music Society with the Colombo Philarmonic Choir will be performing music associated with the Christmas season in fine style. If you’re in Colombo and nostalgic for Christmas of yore, that’s where to go on Friday.

 

Collecting Sri Lanka: Badges

Collectable lapel pin

Collectable lapel pin

Finding this lapel pin for the Ceylon Artillery Association (CAA) helped me discover that the organisation is very much in action with HQ in Bristol Street, Colombo, and a website: http://www.gunner.lk. It has lots of souvenirs for sale including tie pins but no longer sells lapel pins like the one shown here.

The CAA has its roots in the founding in 1888 of the Ceylon Artillery Volunteers, which went on to see action in the Boer War as well as being a vital force in the defence of Sri Lanka during the two world wars. A note on the website requests all retired Gunner Officers and other ranks to join the Association, which holds an AGM and several social events every year.

Other small collectable items from Ceylon that I have seen recently (but not bought) included an attractive brass Royal Ceylon Air Force cap badge.

Brass RCAF cap badge

Brass RCAF cap badge

This badge “Ceylon MR” had me puzzled for a while but it turns out to be a Ceylon Mounted Rifles badge from World War 1.

From WW1

From WW1

 

Discover Sri Lanka

If you want to know more about Sri Lanka, my Bradt Guide to the country has been published in an up-to-date edition by Speaking Tiger of India. As yet there doesn’t seem to be a stockist in Sri Lanka, but the book is available through http://www.amazon.in/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=Royston+Ellisor from the UK & USA amazons.

My latest guide book

My latest guide book

 

Beat regards

Royston