ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 270
Sunday 30 August 2015.
Greetings to readers around the world to this week’s glimpse of life in Sri Lanka, including a look at a curious collectable.
There was a four-day motor show held in Colombo last week. I went there with web wizard, Andrew, out of curiosity and was delighted to discover a new model three-wheeler (“tuk tuk”) vehicle on display. This is assembled in Sri Lanka with parts imported from India. When we’ve bought new tuk-tuks before, we have had to upgrade the upholstery to make the seats more comfortable. This Sri Lankan version comes with plush driver and passenger seats, a sturdy canopy and even an inbuilt sound system. It costs Rs475,000 [£ 2,275; US$ 3,527]. Since we need a new tuk tuk at home, this might be our eventual choice…
The motor show pavilions were excessively noisy, not only with music blasting out but also with the revving and roaring of engines. Also, as though to make spectators feel at ease in the tranquil park outside, there was an exhibition of daredevil motorbike stunts to remind everyone of Colombo’s traffic chaos.
Refurbishment of the old Union Bar & Grill at the Hilton Colombo Residences has resulted in the opening of the latest buffet dining venue, called Flow. Whether it’s named after “go with the flow” I don’t know. In spite of finding the name rather unappetising, I was lured there by the press release: “a state-of-the-art multi cuisine all day dining restaurant complete with five open kitchens dishing up a delectable spread of Asian and Western cuisines…”
Perhaps I misunderstood, as Flow doesn’t do all day buffets at all, but breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets at the usual times. There are some novel serving pans with holders for lids as “state-of-the-art.” The open kitchens are five separate counters behind which chefs wait to warm up whatever you choose from the display. There were Indian, Japanese, Oriental, Sri Lankan and Western (roast lamb) dishes on the day I lunched there.
The dessert counter (unfortunately placed near the flow of people by the busy entrance) was formidable with a chef ready to make crêpes. However, his effort in response to my request for Crêpe Suzette was disappointing (no liqueur-infused fruity sauce but strawberry syrup squeezed from a dispenser). The buffet cost was Rs2,650 [£ 12.70; US$ 19.68 ] (including tax and service charge) per person. It’s ok for agile gourmands but not for a lunch when you want to talk business, instead of having to leap up and down between courses. And the service not only flowed, it ebbed too.
Thank you to the many readers around the world who responded to my request for identification of the two chickens I have inadvertently acquired. The consensus seems to be that the white one, at least, is a silkie bantam although perhaps not pure bred while the other is a cross breed.
One correspondent reports that “This is a Chinese form of chicken … they have “pompoms” of fur on their feet. They are very entertaining – the ‘Barbara Windsors’ of the chicken world”
Other correspondents comment: “Silkies are usually very tame and quite characters all the same!” and “Said to originate in China, named for the silk-like texture of the feathers. They are even less bright than regular chickens, but they have nicer natures and they don’t smell like most hens. Make great pets.” Also: “The fluff around the ankles being distinctive and the Silky being the smaller of the Bantam family.”
However, another correspondent suggests my hens might be Sultans, a breed originating in Turkey. Since a silkie hen has black flesh, much favoured as a gourmet treat in China, perhaps that’s how I shall eventually identify the breed…
Air sickness bags
It’s amazing what people collect. Surely one of the oddest items is air sickness bags, presumably unused. How do I know that people collect them?
Because recently there were eight offered for auction on ebay and the bidding rose progressively from 99p (my bid) to £74.72, that’s over £9 [Rs1,889; $ 13.95] a bag.
I’ve discovered too that there’s a website (www.airsicknessbags.com) for “barf bags” (as they’re called colloquially) which lists 2,687 bags for potential collectors to reach for, and 260 enthusiastic collectors (barf baggers?) around the world.
Why did I bid? Because one of the bags came from Air Ceylon and I am interested in items connected with the history of aviation in Sri Lanka. Air Ceylon began flying from Ratmalana Airport, now a domestic airport north of Colombo, in 1947, and from 1967 to 1978 operated from Bandaranaike International Airport. Then it ceased operations to re-emerge as Air Lanka which, in turn, became Sri Lankan.
I guess an air sickness bag over 40 years old must be pretty rare, but I think I’ll stick to cheaper souvenirs of Sri Lanka.
(From 50 years ago. Issued by British grocers Seymour Mead & Co Ltd)
No. 23: PACKETING TEA
“In a modern tea warehouse the leaf is not touched by hand. It is blended in bulk in a large rotating drum. The blend is then tipped into an automatic weighing and packing machine where cams and levers clutch and shape pieces of paper into packets. The packets pass under nozzles through which the tea pours into them, then continue on to machinery which seals and labels. Finally, off they go on a conveyor belt to be parceled up and sent to grocers’ shops all over the country.”
This week’s good read
Read about life when Sir Cliff Richard and yours truly were young – and on the road together. Available from http://www.tomahawkpress.com or all the amazons as a really readable paperback. (ISBN 9780956683472).
If you want to share this weekly newsletter (and the photos) with others, the best way is to tell them to check the link: www.roystonellis.com/blog. I also write about Sri Lanka on: http://www.srilankatailormade.com/blog/
and on: http://www.thesrilankatravelblog.com