Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Back in the hood – Part 1

We leave Gay Ola reluctantly. We love all the staff and our fellow guests and they, possibly, love us. We stop off en route to stay at Jetwing Kaduruketha, a lux eco-hotel near Ella. Jetwing's Instagram feed is my main source for hotel porn and Francesca and I have been die-hard fans for a year so looking forward to taking Andrea.

Jetwing Kaduruketha
Jetwing backfires. Andrea is utterly scathing, calls it faux-eco and has to be forced to dip a toe into the idyllic river which she says is a cess-pit full of waste from the village upstream. I try to fight off the negative vibes with a visit to the hotel's “Gravity Meditation Area”, a pile of rubble near the swimming pool.


Despite my hour of quiet contemplation, Andrea’s hostility wins out and Francesca and I obediently fall in line. I still think Jetwing Kaduruketha is pretty nice but have to admit that last year's "Nature Tour" was pants and the “Gravity Meditation Area” doesn't cut it. The fact is that, after Gay Ola, nothing faux-eco is ever going to cut it. Gay Ola is the nuts. (Gosh, I hope Jetwing aren't reading this: I’m trying to get comped for my next visit as an “Instagram influencer”.) 

En route home we stop off at the Buduruwagala temple we visited last year with the Scrims. We admire the 1,000-year-old rock carvings of Buddha and his shapely assistants, then get back in the car. Andrea describes it a perfect visit as it took no longer than half an hour.

Back in the hood, we resume our normal life of lounging on the terrace at Andrea’s, lazing around on jungle beach and snorkelling in zero visibility under crashing surf. I wake up at 4am every day to the usual cacaphony.

dog barking, monkey howl; pig throwing up, peacock squall, bloke opposite clearing phlegm; ethnic chanting, birds, shouty version of The Today Programme; accordion music.

I don’t really mind early wake-ups as I get to see spectacular dawns. Also Benjo, Neil and Jen are having an “adventure” at Atlantic Casino in the Bahamas and are eight hours behind me. They are very funny in our Whatsapp group – a stream of messages updating me as soon as I wake up.

Andrea, Francesca and I spend an inordinate amount of time discussing Dots, a hyper-aggressive, nervy stray who is loved deeply by us and loathed by the rest of the village. Dots leads a double life; at Andrea's he is sweet and only growls/goes for people if approached while sleeping or if they're a man. At his other (real) home – Dorian's Guesthouse – he's known as "Gangsta" and goes for anyone who touches him while he's under a table (he's always under a table). I have been bitten twice by Dots – once two years ago when I approached him while he was sleeping (rookie error) and this year when I accidently brushed him with my toe while he was under a table. He grabbed my foot and held on for over a minute. Then he came to say sorry. We blame it all on his unhappy childhood. 

Our beloved Dots (aka Gangsta)
I continue to meet and engage with random tourists. A German couple in the room next door are vehemently offgrid and consider pretty much all online activity as dangerous and negligent. I think they’re Christians but, at any rate, they're very nice and gave my a pack of Gingelly Balls for my birthday. I don’t even mind their lectures about how awful facebook, Instagram and whatsapp are. As they can’t be tagged in photos, I don’t take any so you’ll just have to believe me when I say Miriam is breathtakingly beautiful.

Gingelly Balls

I spend a lot of time with Katya, a visual artist and film-maker from Moscow, who has ZERO privacy settings. In fact, she is SO unfazed by it all that I am able to read a post she has written about me before she even accepts my friend request. She turned 28 two days before I turned 57 and she seems to think that behaving the way I do at my age is a great lifetime goal. She says privacy settings are a waste of time in Russia as they can read it all anyway. I assume “they” are Novichok dispensers so, personally, I'd set up a few basics but she is unconcerned.


I meet a nice Swedish couple who live north of the Arctic Circle. They currently don’t have daylight, just a slight uplifting gloom from 2-3pm. Horrific.

A bunch of hot Israelis have taken to putting up a tightrope on the village lawn every night. Christina, who studied at the only British school in Israel and has five A levels, eggs me on to have a go. As it’s my birthday, I decide that age IS only a number and step gingerly onto the strap, supported by hot Israelis; I wobble theatrically so they have to get a tighter grip. A village-load of locals stand around laughing.

I also like a nice Briish couple and their toddler who are taking a six-month sabbatical from being nice in Devon and being nice in Sri Lanka instead. They are sound, down-to-earth London escapees who now live in Totnes. Mrs Totnes does yoga but I am pretty sure that’s as far as she veers towards ley lines and crystals.

I do NOT like the pint-sized Austrian who likes to start his day by lecturing me. First on smoking (he gave up EASILY) and then on using the internet. He tells me he lived for two years off-grid in Costa Rica. Like I give a shit: I am immersed in a frenetic against-the-clock game of Wordsplay with Jen and Rod and the Austrian is stressing me out. Thanks to him, our global team ranking slips to #27.

The wildlife at Gay Ola was delightful but I can see a wealth of birdlife without even leaving my balcony at Dorians Guesthouse. Possibly because there aren’t any predators here but it’s like being inside the aviary at Basel zoo. Flashes of yellow, crimson and indigo dart past. Chirrup, Chirp.

Exclusive link to weird bird call:

One bird sounds like a Nokia ringtone, another is auditioning for Star Wars #9,: “pew, pew, pew”. He’s the loudest bird out there but there are numerous other contenders for highest decibel count.

Chino Rheem extra
As Benjo and Jen are in the past and I’m in the future, I threaten to tell them who has won the PCA. This is totally against media guidelines. Most of their WhatsApp updates can’t be published but the thread is rich in wit and wordplay. Early on, Benjo discovers that the word “ejaculate” used to mean “suddenly shout something” in the 19th century. He loves it and ejaculates constantly in a virtually silent media room. I challenge them both to use the word “ejaculate” in their nightly updates. Jen gives examples to Benjo as he’s French and doesn’t understand things like GADZOOKS.

"I am the duke's illegitimate child!" McTavish announced. "Good Lord!" ejaculated the bishop.

Benjo gets the hang of it, uses the word “Austen-esque” and says he will ejaculate if he doesn’t make it to the pasta place for dinner and will also ejaculate if he does.

Chino Rheem wins the Main Event for $1.5m and, rather than read PokerStars’ press release which DOESN”T mention he’s a total crook, I am usefully redirected to the 78-page thread on 2+2.

This fits right in with my current bedtime reading - The Last Chronicle of Barset. Anthony Trollope would have LOVED Chino Rheem but he would also have then ensured that Rheem gets his come-uppance and is banished from Barsetshire for ever. In real life, long queues form at the cage every time Rheem ever wins any money and his victims live in abject squalor. GADZOOKS!

Chino Rheem in Barsetshire