A VIEW FROM SRI LANKA, Number 60
On my way home from the hill station of Nuwara Eliya recently, I stumbled across an amazing place for breakfast. Green Hills Retreat Centre & Restaurant, creeps down the side of a hill, with only the summit, the restaurant, visible from the A7 road, just before Hatton.
It is actually a retreat where groups gather for meditation or conferences, with guests staying in bunk beds in dormitories or in comfortably furnished bungalows (of four bedrooms with bathrooms en suite and hot water). There is even a mini-waterfall and a fresh water pond for bathing. It seems the perfect place to detox, as neither cigarettes nor alcohol are allowed on the premises.
Accommodation costs from Rs 500 (£ 2.85, U S $ 4.54) each to Rs 8,000 (£ 44.44, U S $ 72.72 ) for an entire bungalow, sleeping 10. The food is amazing, with breakfast of well-cooked chicken curry (it is so often undercooked in wayside restaurants), lentils and other curries, red rice, bread and string-hoppers, at just Rs 175 (97 p, U S $ 1.59) per person.
Good news for real coffee drinkers travelling between Colombo and Galle. Silk Route, the café, gallery and restaurant on the Galle Road just south of Bentota, has begun to serve real Arabica coffee from beans freshly ground for each cup. I have begun to pop in there for an espresso (R s250 – £ 1.38 U S $ 2.27; cappuccino is the same price) on my way home from my shopping expeditions to Alutgama, the nearest main town to my cottage.
Last week I mentioned that one of joys of spending time at auctions is to acquire something worthwhile that other people have missed. So I was astonished when my job lot of golf umbrellas arrived at home to find that included were two beautifully created framed prints of Sri Lankan flowers and trees. Since I paid only Rs 2,000 (£ 11.11, U S $ 18.18) for the complete lot, and each print is worth double that amount, I am very pleased. And I’ve got three gigantic umbrellas too.
There’s another hotel auction this weekend and I’ve already got my eye on the garden chess set (as I missed one at the last hotel auction)
Cannon Ball Run
On Tuesday I went to the annual Cannon Ball Run, one of those delightfully eccentric occasions that thrive in Sri Lanka. To a sound track of Noel Coward appropriately warbling Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and the lilt of bagpipes, the French and the Norwegian Ambassadors, both women, ran along the Galle Face Green promenade to the Galle Face Hotel where the Norwegian ambassador was declared the winner as she was the first to touch the treasured cannon ball.
The occasion commemorates the day in 1840 when a 30-pound cannon ball crashed through the roof of the building that was the forerunner of the Galle Face Hotel. The cannon ball was fired during artillery practice on the green during a particularly wild monsoon day. Luckily no one was injured by this friendly fire and the cannon ball came to rest under a chair in the drawing room.
It makes a jolly good excuse for a party and, as always, the hotel’s chairman, Sanjeev Gardiner and the General Manager, Mr Mohotti, together with their executives and staff, treated guests to a wonderful evening with lashings of good booze and great food. The stewards added a period touch being nattily attired in white shirts topped with a ruff and a black bow tie.
At long last, I collected the Chilli Cheese ball especially made for me by Christopher Worthington, MBE, a retired British resident, formerly a planter and the secretary of the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club who lives in the hill country.
The cheese is a gouda type with none of that ersatz creamy taste of processed cheeses. Chris told me it needs time (at least 30 minutes) to settle to veranda temperature when removed from the fridge, to be ready for eating. At a tasting at home with sundowners, everyone agreed it was “delicious.” The chilli pieces add punch to counter the saltiness of the cheese. It cost Rs 1,850 (£ 10.27; U S $ 16.81) Next I month I’m going to try the Caraway version.
Regular readers will recall I attended the opening of the exhibition of Ida Kar’s photographs at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in March, where a portrait of me as a Beat Poet in 1960 is on display. While there I was filmed reading my latest (and perhaps last) poem for a special event called Poet In The City.
This event, subtitled Vintage Bromides, celebrates the photography of Ida Kar and the poets who sat for her. Bernard Kops, my fellow erstwhile Scorpion poet (we were both published by Scorpion Press in the 1950s) will be reading live, while I appear on video.
Appropriately the event takes place at the Ondaatje Wing Theatre (Sir Christopher Ondaatje who donated it was born in Sri Lanka) on Thursday 9 June, commencing at 7pm. If any readers manage to get to the event, I look forward to hearing about it, as I will be at home in Sri Lanka that evening.
Book online at
Beat: The Collected Poems with all my early poems, both published and unpublished, is available as an eBook from www.wordsmanbooks.co.uk. It costs less than the chilli cheese ball, and is just as spicy!
5 Responses to “A VIEW FROM SRI LANKA, Number 60”
Leave a Reply