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Ginformation

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Information

ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 232

Sunday 30 November 2014.

Greetings from Sri Lanka as the holiday season approaches, with information on gin and whales.

Information

Thanks to an unexpected invitation from Martin Straus, MD of the British Food & Beverage Training Centre of Colombo, I was privileged to sit in at a Gin Cocktail training session given by Mr Straus and Mike Sweetman, the visiting chairman of the UK Bartenders’ Guild. This was conducted for the staff of the recently opened Pandanus Beach Hotel just five minutes along the beach from my cottage.

Since one of my pet peeves about a lot of hotels is the lack of knowledge of their bartenders, I was happy to attend, and to join the GM, Anil Perera, in the presentation of certificates to participants.

Martin Straus & Mike Sweetman, shaken not stirred

Martin Straus & Mike Sweetman, shaken not stirred

I also learned a lot about gin. Mike is of the stirring school of Martini makers but when he uses a cocktail shaker he does so vigorously because “you have to shake it up to wake it up.”  Next time I go to the bar at Pandanus, I shall ask for a Vesper and see what the barmen remember of the training session. (If this photo of Martin and Mike seems blurred, perhaps it’s the result of sampling too many cocktails!)

 

Watching for Whales

Whale watching has never been something that’s intrigued me. I have always maintained the best way to help conserve the natural wild is to keep out of it. So I haven’t joined the safari jeep jams disturbing wild life in the National Parks, nor motored backwards and forwards in a boat belching fumes across tranquil bays hoping to excite a whale to spout.

But in Sri Lanka whale (and dolphin) watching is a popular outing for tourists, both in Kalpitiya in the north and Mirissa. That’s a bay on the south coast that, although it has its own railway station, is tucked away, out of sight of trains and traffic. Perhaps that’s why the bay remained unnoticed for so long, and why it has recently become popular as an alternative to Unawatuna, as an independently developed seaside resort.

There are many makeshift shack-style beach cafés purveying fresh seafood and snacks, and places offering beach massages, boat trips and surfboards. At the western end of the beach, there is a neat cove with rolling waves ideal for surfing beginners.

Martin Straus & Mike Sweetman, shaken not stirred

Martin Straus & Mike Sweetman, shaken not stirred

I found of greater interest Mirissa’s fishing harbour. It is flourishing, clean and well organised. It costs Rs25 [£ 0.12; $ 0.19] to visit and rewards visitors with some spectacular sights of fish being landed, vivid red nets being cleaned, and rows of colourful fishing boats bobbing at the harbour side, their green, orange and blue pennants fluttering in the breeze.

Mirissa fishing harbour

Mirissa fishing harbour

There’s a separate boat yard for the dozens of boats especially designed for passengers, offering trips out to sea in the early morning to areas that whales frequent and dolphins leap. Prices vary according to the season and demand and, because there are so any boats available, visitors can bargain. You’ll see the freelance guides stationed at the turn off point to the boatyard, ready to offer their services.

A dull day for whale watching

A dull day for whale watching

One wall on the approach to the boat yard is painted with the rules of whale watching, the object being not to disturb the marine animals. The whale season is on now, from November until April, and the operators are so confident of giving every visitor the thrill of seeing whales that, if for some reason no whales are spotted, guests can have a free trip another day.

 

No strings

A cappella performance

A cappella performance

A pre-Christmas concert that sounds worth going to. In this case it’s an evening of a cappella choral music by the Victoria Chorale from Singapore. The other chance to hear the choir is at Raffles, Singapore, where these enchanting singers appear every Christmas. In Colombo, the performance begins at 8pm on Wednesday 10 December at the Lionel Wendt Theatre; tickets from Rs500 [£ 2.43; $ 3.84] to Rs 2,000 from the venue and The Commons Café and Park Street Mews restaurant.

 

Dig? Cool!

I was amazed to learn that within the first two weeks of publication by Tomahawk Press, my new book Cliff Richard and The Shadows, a rock’n’ roll memoir jumped to Number 13 in the http://www.amazon.co.uk pop biography sales charts.

Back and front covers

Back and front covers

It is based on two books that I wrote 55 years ago about my friendship with Cliff Richard and touring with him and his group, The Shadows. In his foreword to the book, Sir Cliff Richard, has written: “I hope you will enjoying reading and discovering (or remembering) how it all began for us 55 years ago.

The preface says: “The story of Cliff Richard and The Shadows during the early, innocent days of pre-Beatles, pre-Led Zeppelin rock and roll has one person in common, Royston Ellis. He was then a rock and roll beat poet who performed his poems as ‘rocketry’ backed by The Shadows, The Beetles (it was Royston who convinced them to spell their name with an “a”) and Jimmy Page, later to found Led Zeppelin.”

The book includes many new anecdotes and rare photographs, some from own collection. It’s of interest not just to perennial teenagers but also to all intrigued by the period at the dawn of the Swinging Sixties that reverberates even today. I hope you enjoy it!

Beat regards

Royston

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