Friday, January 29, 2010

The Election, The Blogs, The Book And The Twits

I was sitting at Heathrow airport yesterday, dropping C as she headed off to the motherland, chatting and watching the Lankans milling around waiting for the plane. One of the things we talked about was the Presidential election and our respective thoughts on it.

I've observed myself as I've observed things happening and I've been amazed and fascinated by the impact of the various internet mediums (if that's the term) and how they enabled me, and probably millions of others, to get real time information and feedback on the state of play in Sri Lanka on a minute by minute basis from all those thousands of miles away.

There were four main platforms I used, the obvious ones; Facebook, Twitter, the mainstream press (on the net) and the blogs, mostly fed to me from Kottu or the ones I link to from here.

In the days preceding the election the blogs and press were the clear winners in terms of getting across their message. For months each Sri Lankan newspaper had told us of the virtues and benefits of its chosen candidate, the majority had gone for MR but some still extolled the virtues of the retired General. In the run up each paper had time to produce nice wordy and well thought out articles, as well as a lot of rubbish.

There were also emails going around, the usual sort of "fan" thing, as well as people putting things up on Facebook, though usually copy and paste jobs or links to blogs.

The blogs did their thing too. There were people like Sittingnut and Voice In Colombo on one side, others on the opposing side and many who, to me at least, didn't really appear to be on the side of either of the main contenders, but on the side of change. By that I mean that there were people who weren't really pro SF but were going to vote for him because they'd had enough. Had I been a voter I would have bunged myself in that category.

Then, when we got to the 26th (election day) and the 27th (results day), the situation in terms of the coverage changed dramatically. The online newspapers, all except the Daily Mirror, though that's more like a forum these days anyhow, couldn't react quickly enough to act as "real time" information providers, so other platforms rose to the occasion, a word I always have trouble spelling.

Most bloggers, those that had kept their allegiance a bit quiet before at least, came out and showed their colours. There were some suprises. Indi's support for SF surprised me more than I could believe. With many of his posts seeming quite pro MR recently I'd thought that the incumbent prez had managed to seduce Indi somehow. How wrong I was.

On the 27th, as the results started to filter through and the Cinammon Lakeside got more publicity and TV footage than Yasmin Cader could ever dream of, it was Twitter that came into its own, with the blogs taking a firm second place. Facebook seemed to fade away and only acted as an outlet for people tell us that they'd written a blog post or that they had a gig the next weekend and we're all invited.

I was surprised that Facebook became a bit pedestrian in that sense but, with hindsight I probably shouldn't have been. After all it is a social networking site first and foremost. The chat thing was something I used, to talk to a few people to see what their take on this was, but that was more because it was there than anything else.

Twitter became like one of those old fashion newsroom machines, the ones that churn out all the news on ticker tape. Everyone was telling everyone what was going on, then everyone else was retweeting things in case we missed it the first time around. Tweets were coming through at a rate so fast that even Michael Schumacher a Sri Lankan bus driver would have struggled to keep pace with. It was mad but in a good way.

Those people who had a little more time somehow managed to dash off quick but informative blog posts giving better detail than possible on Twitter. Indi and Groundviews were particularly prolific in this sense and I genuinely thank them for the updates. In the middle of all of this the Daily Mirror site went down, I don't know if it was sheer volume of traffic or what, but it was as much use as a clown's outfit to a fish, one that doesn't want to work in a circus at all.

I came across some blogs that I've hardly ever read before, one of which was this Telshane one. As with all the information sources it was vital to try to apply one's own filtering mechanisms to things. People were forwarding rumours, heresay, Chinese as well as Taiwanese whispers and things they'd heard from their driver who had heard it from the cousin brother of his friend's sister.

As I read posts like this one I wondered first what they've done to the pool at the Cinnamon Lakeside, as it looks as though one end now has a sort of barrier. Secondly and rather more importantly I felt incredibly involved with the goings on. It was like an out of body experience. I was at my desk, in between meetings on a pretty busy day yet only seconds away from events as they unfolded.

So that's my take on things, or how things were revealed. It was a lesson to me, a very positive one about how the world is so small and accessible. It's not about journey times and physical distances, it's all about broadband speeds, Blackberries and HD video, Tweets and blogs.

The post of the day?

This one. It made me laugh.

Have a good weekend all.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Land Like No Other (unconfirmed)

Like so many other diasporic Sri Lankans I'm at my desk watching things unfold from afar, which is not to say that there are loads of us huddled around my desk, you probably know what I mean though.

Twitter, Facebook, email and text messaging are working as hard as a Polish builder in London to keep me as informed as possible. With the way the motherland is I wonder if I'm more, less or just differently informed compared to you people out there.

Latest reports, all unconfirmed, say that SF is at the US Embassy at the moment, the Cinammon Lakeside is surrounded by armed personnel and Delifrance has run out of Tuna mayonnaise. Things are that bad.

The election results look to be firmly in favour of MR, but who knows for sure at this stage? As I type I've just seen on FB that state media has declared MR to be the winner, but that there's no word from the elections commisioner.

The government is to sue SF and four German tourists in the swimming pool at the Cinammon Lakeside have complained about the noise.

The vote went with SF in the North East and MR in the rest of the country, or so it seems. It suggests that those in the North East, those who voted at least, wanted change. The rest of the country wanted more of the same.

And now a government minister has announced that they've provided security to the hotel where SF is staying. Hmmmm....... is my considered opinion on that one.

And crazily I've just been looking at the availability of flights in the coming weeks. I doubt I'll be able to organise the time and diary windows to do it, but I really feel that calling, the one to get out there and smell that aroma of Serendib, to be immersed in things.

Yes, it's fucking mental and crazy, but when Sri Lanka is in your blood it stays there. (unconfirmed).

PS - thanks to Groundviews, Indi, Dinidu and too many others to mention for all the updates on all the mediums.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The View From London

So here we are, the most important week in Sri Lanka until the next very important one. Everyone's talking about the election, of who'll win and, maybe more importantly, who'll lose.

Yesterday I had lunch with a bunch of diasporic Lankans and the conversation, in between juicy chunks of gossip about various CMB 7 types, wandered over to thoughts on the election. One fellow said that he reckoned, if the turnout is high, then SF would win. But he said that the turnout could be low and then Mahinda will get his next term.

If I was voting I'd face a tough choice. In one corner we have the President incumbent, the one, the only President who managed to defeat the LTTE. It's a fact, one that really cannot be disputed. We can argue about the methods, the Human rights issues, the allegations, the videos and the Western conspiracy theories, but we can't argue against the fact that Mahinda Rajapkase was the President who finally ended the decades of conflict.

In the other corner we've got Sarath Fonseka, a fact you probably don't need me to tell you, the General who won the war. As a politician he has a track record that's about as long as something very, very short, like me or any other average height Sri Lankan. I don't mean we have a short political track record, I mean we're short, often so short that we don't get any taller as we walk towards you.

As I see it you're faced with a simple scenario; vote for Rajapakse if you want more of the same. The nepotism, the despotism, the corruption and the two fingers up at the international community will continue, maybe even get stronger with MR in for another term.

If you want change then the only option is a vote for the General (retired). But you don't actually know if he can give you change, or if he does, whether it will actually be change for the better.

If I had a vote I think I'd give it to SF, just to take a chance and hope for reformation.

I wouldn't hold my breath though, it just seems like the only way to find out what will happen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kottu Stats Gone Mad?

A cursory glance at the Kottu stats made me do a double take. Twice.

Are the most popular Lankan blogs getting even more hits than usual or has there been a glitch in the system?

One thing's for sure; with the election looming larger than a pair of old Muslim aunts at a Sri Lankan wedding, the Lankanosphere's taken on a very different look and feel to normal, whatever normal is. Politics, of the Presidential kind, is all the rage these days.

Meanwhile I've been learning Mr Brightside and wondering what it is about it that so many people love.

Et vous?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stay Away From This Blog

If you're one of these diasporic types like me.

The type who yearn for Serendib, who see a picture of some fairly innocuous thing like a bus and get all piney and Lankasick.

If a photo of the motherland makes a thousand words, ten thousand sounds and about eleven thousand smells jump to attention in your mind quicker than one of the assistants in a BIA duty free shop when a flight full of Suddhas arrives, then seriously, stay away from my good friend's, and probably your good friend's, new blog.

It's called Off The Beaten Track and it's full of those things that make me, DD, Darwin and chaps likes that want to hop on a plane for a long weekend over your way. I've linked to it on the left for your, and my, convenience. As Naren says

"However having returned home for the next few years watch this space for tales of my wandering around the island and other trips I have taken/will take in other lands."

You heard it here first. Or not, but, well, you know.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To Not Vote Or To Not Not Vote

David Blacker's comment on this eloquent and well written piece by Electra got me thinking. DB says, and I quote, hence the quotation marks:

"Whatever your viewpoint, I don’t think not voting is the answer. That’s the equivalent of saying I’m going up to my room, lemme know when it’s all better. To not vote is to avoid participation. I think a major fault of many SL voters is to want to back a winner rather than vote in a winner. In SL sometimes change for change’s sake isn’t an entirely bad thing. However, I think there are clear differences between the candidates — and just as important — between their allies."

It got me thinking about the issue of choosing not to vote in a democratic election. You see, fundamentally I believe that we, in whatever democracy we live, have the right to abstain. That right in itself is a part of the democratic process. It's an example of freedom, one of the two pillars of democracy, the other being pol sambol as we all know.

However, David also has a valid point when he says that not voting is the equivalent of saying I'm going up to my room until it's all better. In one way it is avoiding participation, in another way it's participating by not engaging with the process, which in itself can be interpreted as engaging with the process of democracy.

In the very specific case of the forthcoming Lankan Presidential election we have two main candidates and the likelihood, or the definite situation, is that one of them is going to win. Go and vote for one of the other twenty candidates and you're effectively throwing away a vote. So the choice lies between throwing away a vote with one of the minor candidates or giving your backing to SF or MR.

Many people don't back SF or MR, saying that it's a Hobson's choice. It's like being up shit creek without a paddle then getting thrown one made of crepe paper and chewing gum. These people are then in the position of voting not for the person they want but against the person they want the least. Of course not voting adds to the equation the very real possibility that your vote gets used without your knowledge anyway.

To me this is one of the most frustrating aspects to politics and elections and it's not unique to Sri Lanka by any means. We're facing the prospect of an election here in the UK and I'd be in the same position, that of voting for the party I thought was the least bad.

What is the solution to this dilemma?

One possibility is that, should the turnout for an election be below a predetermined figure, then the results are declared as invalid and a further election be called. But it's impractical. An invalid election would mean that the incumbent Prez or Government would probably remain in power until the next election, thereby perpetuating the problem of the people's dissatisfaction, not to mention the potential cost of further elections.

A further option is to somehow share power between the people who get a percentage of the vote if the overall turnout is low. So, if the required number of voters isn't reached, then a coalition government must be formed with the power divided in proportion to the votes each part actually receives. I don't know how this could work with regards to a Presidential election and it's got more drawbacks than the circumcision department at Apollo.

What ideas have you got? There must be a way in which we the voters are able to express our dissatisfaction with the options we're offered. Or is that what democracy should be to start with?

I'm off up to my room now.

Monday, January 18, 2010

No Island Is An Island

"Pity the poor Sri Lankan voter" began Chris Patten in his Op Ed in the New York Times.

And, before he'd even typed that final r in "voter" a band of people could be heard shouting from their platforms. They weren't just any platforms either, they were platforms on rooftops. They were shouting about the enemy West not supporting Sri Lanka, how it oh so hates Sri Lanka, of Chris Patten's "awful, patronizing and counter productive piece" and sounding like a "colonial dick".

From where I view things, yes I know, a million miles away from Sri Lanka, never having actually lived there and about as Lankan as George Dubya B wearing his cowboy boots and cowboy hat, at least that's what some think, the picture is vastly different.

"We have a real choice at this election and it's already delivering results" Indi says.

I say you're faced with a choice that really comes down to which moustache you prefer. The fact is that your next Prez will have a moustache, all well and good if you're a facial hair fan but not so rosy if you want a clean shaven chap.

Some of those results are the emptying of the IDP camps, the release of Tissainayagam and of course the building of the new flyover at Dehiwala junction. It's pretty much indisputable that they're good things. It's just the motivation behind them, the what might happen next after the election and the incredible coincidence that these things have only happened since the election was announced that many question.

Tissa's out on bail, the IDP's are no longer the grave potential threat they were to national security they were a few weeks ago and the flyover's only got two lanes anyhow. Putting innocent people in captivity then releasing them is good is it? Or is it fundamentally wrong that they were held in the first place?

"How dare the West criticise when the Americans and British went and invaded Iraq under false pretences and they're not being held accountable for that?" I've been asked.

"A million people protested against the Iraqi invasion in the UK and you still went ahead" I've also been told.

It has more or less been proved that Saddam didn't have WMDs and therefore we, the British public, were misled or misinformed. But to me the most salient point is that a million, or however many people, were allowed to voice their opposition. I didn't, I think I had a band practice that night, but I could have protested without thinking realistically that I might get shot or put in prison for the rest of my life as a consequence. I quite like that.

On top of that, I wasn't personally responsible for the Iraq situation, nor for Afghanistan, so telling me that I've no right to criticise things in Lanka because of the actions of the West is akin to telling me that I shouldn't talk about the dangers of driving at speed because a friend of mine got done for speeding once, which is to say, irrelevant.

Indi, and I'm sorry to focus on him so much but his is one of the most widely read blogs and his opinion is weighty at times, goes on to say

"The JVP and people like Gotabaya Rajapakse are trying to spread this idea of an international conspiracy against Sri Lanka and Patten plays right into their hands."

I think it's actually people with opinions like Indi's one who are playing into the aforementioned hands. The first line of defence, that of the international conspiracy, is becoming cliched and tiresome, it's a way of avoiding the very real issues, like a child sticking its fingers in its ears and saying "I'm not listening, I can't hear you."

"You don't live here, you don't know what it's really like" is another thing many say to many people. As a fellow who falls firmly in the you don't live here category I can only concur. But I don't necessarily agree that it's a bad thing.

The views of the diaspora and of any individual from afar are going to be different, they'll perhaps be more detached and less influenced by some of the nitty gritty and very local issues. That, however, doesn't make those views wrong or bad, just different. Perhaps, just perhaps, there's something to be gained from listening to the Chris Pattens of this world.

We the diaspora sit here in our ivory sugar coated towers and preach at you, the poor Sri Lankans who have to deal with things on a day to day basis. Well yes, in a way that's true, but another way to view things is that the perspectives of people at ground level and those at other levels can be used together to build up an overall picture upon which ideas and solutions can be based.

Let's stick two fingers up at the West, let's tell them where to put their money, their GSP Plus concessions, we don't need it, we'll manage without, some also say. Sri Lanka, like most other countries, depends heavily on international trade. There's tourism, garments and a plethora of other trading that goes on between Serendib and other countries.

It's all well and good to make a big gesture and say that we'll do fine on our own, we don't need your aid, but it's not about aid alone. There's also international relations, diplomatic relationships and strategic alliances to be considered.

I for one don't want my motherland to become the Chinese Republic of Sri Lanka. I want the chinese restaurants in Sri Lanka to be called chinese restaurants, not just restaurants.

For what it's worth I think Sri Lanka, the entity we all love with that weird passion we can't explain, needs to stop acting like the petulant kid. Disagree with the West? Sure, feel free. But stop telling others that they don't have the right to an opinion because their shoes are the wrong colour or because they once did something wrong.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What Would The Lankan One Be Then?

As much as I'd love to take the credit for this, I can't. I saw it, I laughed a lot, I copied and pasted it for your pleasure.

What would the paragraph for Sri Lanka read?

Alert Levels around the Globe.

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved."

Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

The Scots raised their threat level from "****ed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards" They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the frontline in the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France 's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.

It's not only the French who are on a heightened level of alert.

Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout loudly and excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbour" and "Lose".

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual, and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Americans meanwhile are carrying out pre-emptive strikes on all of their allies, just in case.

New Zealand has also raised its security levels from "baaa" to "BAAAA!". Due to continuing defence cutbacks (the air force being a squadron of spotty teenagers flying paper aeroplanes and the navy some toy boats in the Prime Minister's bath), New Zealand only has one more level of escalation, which is "****, I hope Australia will come and rescue us".

Australia , meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, mate". Three more escalation levels remain, "Crikey!', "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend" and "The barbie is cancelled". So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

Have the finest of weekends out there.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Am I the only one who smells a large portion of blogstitution in the Lankanosphere, from one particular blog at the moment?

Just wondering.

That's it for now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More On Poo

Morning all. Sorry for yet another poo post but I felt I have to share this with you, particularly after my last one, on involuntary emissions here.

There I was, last week in casual conversation with a friend who's a Doctor, a medical one no less. The chit chat strolled over to the area of pooing, as many conversations people have with me tend to. I really don't understand why this occurs, there must be a common denominator in there somewhere.

I mentioned, all nonchalantly, how there's little better than a nice comfortable poo in one's own bathroom, with the reassurance of some warmth, a bit of good reading matter and a good chunk of time. A copy of Modern Drummer is often my choice but you might go for a newspaper or even a good bit of fiction if you're so inclined.

Most men would agree with me, it's one of the things we do. I draw the line at taking food or drink with me but, in my smoking days, I'd happily take a cigarette with me. Sometimes I'd even smoke it.

Women, we're told, are far more functional in toilets than us. This might be one of those great scams that the female sex often pulls on us, like this one on Facebook about the colours or that G spot fallacy, or should that be phallacy? But the fairer sex maintain the story that they barely even fart let alone sit on the throne and enjoy a good dump.

So anyway, I digress. I was involved in this mens' tete a tete with Dr M, the Doctor whose name begins with M. His response to my nonchalant comment about nice, long leisurely pooing was that we should all do quick poos, that ideally a dump should take about the same length of time as a decent pee.

I couldn't help myself. I winced and grimaced, making that face as if I was squeezing a slightly larger than the aperture one out. The same time as a decent pee? Seriously, that's what he said. Then he went on to explain that protracted sitting, straining, huffing and puffing can make the muscles get weak and loose.

The little men, those chaps in my mind who make it work at times, started to work a bit of overtime. Images of curtains flapping in a breeze compared with a good solid rollerblind sprung up as I thought about weak arse muscles, about what might happen if, hypothetically of course, a fellow had some of them. I put the question, hypothetical of course, to Dr M.

"So, if someone had weaker muscles around there, could that mean that they do a fair amount of involuntary farting, random ones when they're not expected?" I said. I could chuck in the "hypothetical of course" line one more time for effect. I won't, I don't want to overdo it, but I'm fairly sure that I did say it to him.

"Might that explain why, as we get older, we might drop a few unexpected ones when we cough or laugh or breathe?" I added.

Dr M pondered, in that way that academics do, he scratched a chin or two and looked upwards and to the right. I've noticed this in brainy people, they always look up and to the right and slightly squint when they're thinking. Normal chaps like me just look blank, wide eyed and startled. I think I might cultivate a looking up and to the right pose just to deal with brainboxes and to try to fit in with them.

"Hmmmm....yes that could happen" came the considered response.

"Damn" I thought, possibly out loud.

I'm now faced with a few dilemnas, or should that be a dilemni?

Is this involuntary emission business something I should be worried or proud about?

If I want to discourage the phenom then should I start to do quick poos, express ones? A sit down, perhaps one rapid push and then wipe and go.

If I go for the express option then how will I get through my back issues of Modern Drummer?

Your advice will be much appreciated.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Objects In The Mirror....

....may be closer than they appear.

So said the little stickered bit of writing on the American Cadillac El Dorado or whatever it was called that I pulled up next to the other day.

I heard a head teacher being interviewed on the radio the other day. She'd been asked exactly how schools make the decision whether to open or close at the moment, in view of the extremely snowy conditions we're facing here. All the kids love a day off school, the parents are usually less enthusiastic.

This head teacher went on to explain that, in this litigious ambulance chasing society we've suddenly found ourselves living in, through no fault of our own of course, they have to consider very seriously the possibility of being sued, or the threat of being sued, if a child, or anyone for that matter, falls on ice and gets injured.

The commercial radio station we have on in the background at work is awash with adverts for no win no fee compensation seeking companies. "Have you had an accident lately?" "Have you fallen over recently? Then call us, you may be entitled to compensation." they scream at us.

Life over here is like that. It's getting to the stage where someone has to be at fault for everything, not the same person, but you know what I mean. Slip over on some ice and someone's accountable. And, by accountable I mean that you can get money from them. You don't even have to be injured, you just have to be prepared to say you're injured.

Have a car accident here, go to your Doctor and tell him you've got whiplash and you get a certificate. Then you get money. You have to make a couple of phone calls and sign something to say you're telling the truth and that's about it.

In Lanka of course things are different. I like that. There you can drive into a sixty foot pothole on the Galle Road, fall down to the bottom of it, get eaten by deadly poisonous snakes, then get electrocuted just for good measure and it's an act of God, one of those things. The official verdict will be something like "death by falling down a pothole and snake bites and electrocution", the important thing is that no one's responsible.

On those very rare occasions where someone is responsible they usually suffer a fatal illness while in custody or have to hurriedly exit Sri Lanka for the most urgent of medical treatment. Allegedly.

If a chap had an accident in Sri Lanka and he was driving an American car, one of the ones with the "objects in the mirror" thing, he could probably claim that he wasn't at fault because he was too busy looking at the mirror, reading the text, which I reckon would be ironic.

I do yearn a bit for the days when people would slip over and not sue someone, just accept that bad stuff happens and get on with their day. The days when Americans would have accidents and not blame it on their wing mirrors making the image too small. Not that their cars are ever fast enough to have accidents, but you know.

Have a good week out there. We've got more snow and the fun and games that entails.

Friday, January 8, 2010

My Thoughts On The Election

With only a couple of weeks to go until the Presidential election things are hotting up and reminding me of everything that is bad about politics the world over.

The mudslinging is relentless and the arms of the slingers are rotating like those of a cartoon character throwing, well mud at a wall. I was chatting to an old friend at lunchtime yesterday about the imminent general election here in the UK and was I remarked on how governments, Prime Ministers and Presidents are voted out, never in.

Some would jump up and say that Barack Obama was voted in, but I beg to differ. Dubya was voted out for bad grammar, we all know that.

MR's campaign is seemingly being paid for by state funds and based around pointing out the things that are so wrong about SF. SF's campaign isn't being paid for by state funds and largely consists of saying bad things about the Rajapaksas.

And then we all know that the few positive election promises made by both of them will be reneged upon anyway. The MR supporters tell people not to vote for SF as he'll never actually abolish the executive presidency as he has promised to do, but MR promised and failed on that count too. So it's better to vote for the chap who's failed on one count than on the one who'll no doubt fail on the same count if he gets the chance.

I'm glad I'm not eligible to vote. It would be a Hobson's choice for me; do I vote for the bloke who has never really run a country during peacetime or do I vote for the other one? Do I vote for the crook or the patriot? I'm as confused as a fart in a colander.

Vut too dooo?

Which way to go?

I know, I'd vote for the one with the moustache.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Here In London Town

The big freeze is settling in for what the weather experts are telling us is going to be some time. This morning I left home early, about six or so and drove over icy roads with my car telling me that it was as low as minus six outside.

Driving is precarious fun. Last night it took me an hour to do a fifteen minute journey. At times my car was wheelspinning from rest. That is, I'd accelerate just to move off and the wheels would spin wildly as they failed to get any traction on the road.

I remembered the tips my old Danish Uncle taught me when I was about seventeen; try to brake as little as possible, use the gears to slow down and stay in as high a gear as possible. They actually take a fair bit of discipline but make a big difference. To a driver it's instinctive to slam the right foot on the brake in times of panic, sometimes these things have to be unlearned. And, when I say stay in a high gear, I mean be in third when you'd normally be in second, that kind of thing. I'm never really sure if third gear is a higher or lower one than second, but I understand the theory.

It's getting so cold that they tell us grit on the roads won't be much use, schools are closed and the rest of our infrastructure is struggling to handle the situation, like a tree sagging and struggling with the weight of snow.

As I sit at my desk and write this I'm feeling a bit like a batsman facing Murali. The balls coming at me are varied, from one colleague texting to say she can't make it in through the snow, another ringing in sick to a customer calling to see if they'll get their collection today. Which, come to think of it, is not really anything like a batsman would have to face, but it's just a simile, there's no need for you to split

It's only just gone eight in the morning and the fifteen year old has called to excitedly inform me that their school is closed. Her and her sister are going to be out with the toboggan today. That makes me smile, it's an old wooden one that was given to me and my brothers in 1981 when we went to Denmark one Christmas. I was fifteen then and we had the best snow filled Christmas you can imagine. The divorced Dad in me wishes I could close the office door and go and play in the snow with the girls.

I'm wearing my new DM shoes, the perfect footgear for the conditions, practical yet stylish too. There are extra warm socks on the RD feet and I even have a hat and a scarf.

It's funny to read the Lankan blogs, to see the facebook pictures and statuses of people there. Our respective climatic conditions couldn't be more contrasting and they're both fun in such different ways.

Then, in other areas, I've got three new songs to learn by Monday. There's Sunflower by Paul Weller, a rocked up and stripped down version of Poker Face, as done by You Me At Six and Uprising by Muse. Three really brilliant choons that will be quite challenging for me in varying aspects.

My birthday yesterday was one of the best ever, surrounded by the people that mean the most to me. Thank you for the wishes.

That my friends, is the latest from auld London town.

The Ectoplasmic Mystery Solved

In the kitchen bit in RD Towers I've got a stainless steel wall of sorts. You can see it in the picture, in between the top of the work surfaces and the bottom of the cupboards. It's a classic case of form over function. It looks nice, it's trendy and sexy and it's about as easy to clean as the mind of many a male Sri Lankan bus passenger at the sight of a woman, one with breasts.

And, on the other side of the equation, I have a cleaner. We'll call her P, she's from Bulgaria I believe, though it may be Romania. She can't speak much English except bits about money and prices and times and she's not particularly talented in the whole cleaning thing either. Some might say that she's not ideal for the role. Before you ask, no, she's not in the least bit good looking either.

As all cleaners do she charges me an hourly rate, supposedly for two hours of work. Then she whizzes around the place in far less than the two hours, takes the money I leave her and pretends that she's been there for the full whack. I actually wouldn't mind this in the least if she did a good job. Generally she doesn't and eventually, when I can be bothered to stop complaining and do something about it, I'll stop complaining and do something about it, like sack her and get a new person to do the job.

In the meantime I make do with Eastern European P, as Darwin would no doubt call her.

At this stage of my post I feel a sense of satisfaction. I've introduced the stainless steel wall to you, my reader, and I've also introduced Eastern European P, or EEP as we'll call her. I guess the next thing to do is to bring them together, to blend all the ingredients into a nice cake, perhaps a chocolate biscuit pudding.

Well, the thing is that every Thursday, which is when EEP does her thing, though it used to be Wednesday but she asked if she could change the day, she attempts to clean the stainless steel wall. Every Thursday evening when I get home from work, until last week, I would look at the stainless steel wall and it would make me feel surprised, bewildered, a bit startled and slightly scared, like Dinidu must have felt when he saw his first naked woman.

For the stainless steel wall would be cleanish, with smears and the appearance as if it was bleeding. It was like something from a horror film, as if there was ectoplasm being expelled from it. I know about these things from Ghostbusters and other academic studies. The ectoplasm was clear (I'm not sure if all ectoplasm is clear or is you can get the stuff in different colours) and would slowly ooze down the wall. It smelled funny and was oily to the touch, it had that familiar sense to it, like an old friend whose name you can't recall.

Talking to EEP is quite an arduous task for two reasons. The first being that I'm rarely at home when she pretends to be there doing her two hours, the second is that her command of English is only slightly better than that time when Dinidu saw his first naked woman. She's rarely able to get a word out, let alone a sentence that makes sense. I suspect she might be quite good at the old Bulgarian, but I'm not.

The result is that all our communication is by text message and each session of textual intercourse must make the predictive text part of EEP's phone want to commit suicide. I tell you all this to explain why I haven't done what might seem to be a simple task and just ask her what the story about the ectoplasm is.

Then, lo and behold, the other day I solved the mystery.

EEP has a bucket full of Bulgarian cleaner's equipment that I very kindly allow her to keep in the coat cupboard, the one by the front door. I was going through it, looking for my new specially formulated cloth that I'd bought at great expense a few days before. My first finding was the cloth, which annoyed me anyhow. My second finding was a bottle, a clear one, one that was out of place.

It was a bottle of......... oil.

I knew straight away that this was the mysterious ectoplasm. Damn, I tell you. Or I ask you.

What on earth do they teach these people at Bulgarian cleaning school? Presumably they reckon the trick to clean a stainless steel wall is to smear baby oil all over it. Pffff is all I can say.

So, if you are bulgarian and you've been to one of their cleaning schools then please explain what goes on there. Also, while we're here, if you can tell me how to ask EEP to stop using the baby oil on my wall, in Bulgarian, I'd be eternally grateful. It's a sentence that I must get entirely correct, or things could go so wrong.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

And Now We Are 2010

You'd think that my first post of the year might be one of those humorous and stimulating ones, regaling you with stories of my festive period and the incredible things that happened to me and my loved ones.

No, not because those things didn't happen, more because I'm lacking in inspiration. It's an interesting concept to me, not so much about what has happened but more about how a person views the events and is able to narrate them afterwards.

Here I am, back at my desk and about to deal with a bit of a work crisis that has loomed up out of the calm and quietness that was the past week or so. If I had a penny for each time I've thought that life would be easy if it wasn't for staff or customers I reckon I'd have about twenty four pence, sadly no way near enough to retire on.

The Lankanosphere is predictably filled and dominated by posts about the presidential election. Some are interesting but mostly I find myself feeling fortunate that I'm not a voter there. Why? Because neither candidate would be my choice yet not voting seems a waste. I don't envy you lot, I really don't.

I went to Scotland you know. Me and C drove up there to spend a few days with her friend. It was a nice and relaxing time with good company and fun and laughter. Edinburgh was covered in snow like one of those Danish Christmas cards. The drive there and back was fun and hard in a concentrating all the time sort of way.

At one point the driving machine told us that the outside temperature was seven degrees in the negative. The roads were mostly clear and gritted but demanded my attention at all times. The drive from Edinburgh to the motorway was about an hour's worth on an A road that was a mixture of every driving condition you can think of, except heated ones of course.

The snow laden scenery was spectacular. There were so many points at which I wanted to pull the car over, get out and take photographs but stopping on a narrow road in those conditions might have resulted in some fantastic pictures at a very high cost. We made do with C taking some picture on my phone.

The trees looked like intricate sculptures, the heavy snow making each one droop with an eyecatching delicateness. I reckon that God, should he or she exist and should he or she ever get bored of running everything, could easily get work as a sculptor or pehaps even an interior designer.

At one point we drove through a small village and just about every house had ginormous icicles hanging down from the roof. They were deadly and beautiful looking things, maybe like some would describe Angelina Jolie, not me though as she's not my type.

The trip also gave me a chance to fully road test the new Kindle. It passed the extensive range of RD tests with flying colours and I finished my first Kindle book, the third in the dangerously addictive series by the late Stieg Larsson. If you fancy a good thriller chock full of interesting but at times stereotypical charcters, then I'd recommend you go out and buy yourself the first of Mr Larsson's books. Whatever you do make sure you start with the first one and then move through the next two in order, trust me on that one.

Then, we get back and I find out that TMS has only gone and retired. What the WTF? as the youth these days say, when they're not writing Lankan political posts. It sounds to me as if she's about to embark on a journey, not one to Edinburgh in the snow, I mean one of life's ones. I wish her well and thank her for the words and for letting us into her mind, just a bit.

I'll be off then. I really must get on with the award writing stuff too.

PS - It's my birthday, keep it quiet though.