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Wild horizon

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Wild horizon

ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 248

Sunday 29 March 2015.

Welcome to readers around the world to this insight into life in Serendipity.

Wild Horizon

A shout from Kumara to come quickly while I was working made me guess he had seen yet another snake in the garden. “Bring the camera,” he shouted.

It wasn’t a snake but Sri Lanka’s national bird, the Ceylon Jungle Fowl (Gallus lafayettii or weli-kukkula in Sinhala). In his entertaining Guide to the Birds of Ceylon, G M Henry states: “In the neighbourhood of villages and roads it is shy and wary, but in remote jungles it is sometimes very tame and will strut about and crow in full view, like a village fowl. A slight acquaintance with man and his ways, however, quickly changes it into the embodiment of caution.” 

It certainly moved away swiftly into the neighbouring wilderness when Kumara tried to get close enough for a photograph by our renowned wall of bottles.

Sri Lanka's national bird

Sri Lanka’s national bird

By sheer coincidence, as I was typing this entry in my attic studio, I heard a familiar noise on the roof of my cottage: the sounds of a jolly purple faced langur monkey about to tear up the roof tiles out of exuberant curiosity. Since only the day before we had employed a tile man to relay misplaced tiles, I rushed down stairs and out into the garden to remonstrate with the monkey. They are endangered, but so is my roof.

However, it wasn’t a monkey but a trio of peacocks dancing on the roof. By the time I got the camera they had flown off into the coconut trees. The ever reliable G M Henry, writing in 1955, says of the peafowl (Pavo cristatus; monara in Sinhala) is “a very wary bird, endowed with keen sight and hearing; it is not easily approached.” Since it delights in “a mixture of jungle with open country” perhaps that’s why three of them paid me a visit.

Visiting peafowl

Visiting peafowl

And then the next day as I glanced out of my attic studio window at Horizon Cottage, there was my neighbour, the Western Purple Faced Langur, listed among the 25 most endangered primates in the world, enjoying hibiscus for lunch.

Hibiscus for lunch

Hibiscus for lunch

Food as Art

As a change from the usual trencherman fare I favour, here’s a dish that’s pretty as well as palate pleasing. I had it at the beginning of an ambitious seven course dinner with four different wines organised by Trekurious (http://www.trekurious.com). This is a new Sri Lankan company intent on improving one’s lifestyle. On the back of the menu at the dinner, Trekurious states: “…we are essentially democratising access to amazing experiences so that no one gets left behind.”

The dinner was prepared by Alfred Prasad, the youngest Indian chef ever to receive a Michelin star who, until December 2104, was the Executive Chef at The Tamarind, London. It was held at Aditya hotel about an hour’s drive from my cottage on the coast near Galle. The drive was short compared with friends who had driven for over five hours from their hotel north of Dambulla especially for the event. “See how far we’ll travel for good food,” said one.

It was the promise of an unusual eating experience plus wines that lured me, even though the fee was a Michelin-style price of Rs10,000 (£ 49.50;  $ 76.92) per person.

After lashings of enjoyable Prosecco (I wanted my money’s worth!), 55 guests sat down to start the feast with a beautifully created Amuse Bouche of thinly sliced beetroot studded with chilli peanuts. My dish of the week.

Pretty amusing

Pretty amusing

 

Galle Flea Market 

This is held on the first Sunday of every month in the cobbled square in front of the Court in Galle Fort, so enter 5 April in your diary if you’re in Sri Lanka.

Trendsetting art at the Galle monthly market

Trendsetting art at the Galle monthly market

Vendors of everything from home-made feta cheese to aspirational art and antique brass, boldly display their wares.

A front parlour that's become a coffee shop

A front parlour that’s become a coffee shop

There’s music too. It’s great to catch a train to Galle and spend the day in the Fort, which has become très trendy with lots of cosy cafés, picturesque nooks, and secret retreats.

 

One of Galle Fort's charming alleyways

One of Galle Fort’s charming alleyways

Card Slot

I’ve been lucky enough to obtain a complete set of 24 pictorial cards featuring Ceylon published in England over 50 years ago by “The Grocers for Quality” – Seymour Mead & Co Ltd and Burgons Ltd. I plan to reproduce one, together with explanatory text, every week.

Pearl of the East

Pearl of the East

Ceylon lies immediately south of India, separated from it by the narrow Palk Strait. It is shaped like a pear or pearl-drop and is sometimes referred to as “The Pearl of the East”. Ceylon is 271 miles long and 140 miles broad – about half the size of England. Its ancient name was Lanka, when it was ruled by Sinhalese kings. Today Ceylon is a member of the British Commonwealth. The population of 9 million comprises a diversity of races, with the Sinhalese as the majority community, but all people who come from Ceylon are known as “Ceylonese”.  The chief products are tea, rubber, coconuts and rice. On this map the main tea regions are shown.”

Book of the Week

A rollicking good read

A rollicking good read

The Maldives Adventure. It’s not a holiday, it’s my new paperback (yes, a real book) historical novel published by Kicks Books of the USA and available through all the amazons (even in India and Canada). It’s a rollicking swashbuckling read about how a Maldivian hero led a seaborne guerrilla revolt to oust the Portuguese occupiers of the islands in the 16th century.

 

Happy reading

Royston