When you've reached legendary status in the Lankanosphere been blogging for a hell of a long time things can start to tail off a bit.
It worries me. Is this the beginning of the end? Will I eventually blog so infrequently that no one will read anyhow? Is Facebook taking over the world? Are blogs being superceded by Twitter and Facebook? Was "superceded" spelled correctly? Should I ask more questions?
These are some of the things going through my mind. And, as all you bloggers know, there comes a point where you can't be arsed to sit down and write a blog post. Unless of course you're an intellectual like The Auf, then you can write and talk endlessly about world politics and brainy things.
So, in a random way, here are some odds and sods that have been happening and have caught my eye and also a few snippets I've been up to.
Two new blog related things have grabbed me. Firstly, perhaps secondly but I'm going to write about it first, there's Drama Queen with her poignant and constructive initiative. I can best describe it as a campaign to increase awareness of the amount of violence against women in Sri Lanka. DQ tells us, and I have no reason to doubt her but can't verify the fact myself, that sixty percent of women in Sri Lanka have suffered from some form of domestic violence in their homes.
Yes, you read it right. Sixty percent!! That's almost six out of ten. Seriously it's a statistic that disappointed me yet, when I thought about it, didn't surprise me. Life shouldn't be like that and you too can do something about it. There's a Facebook group here that you can join or you can get in touch with DQ on her blog. The chances are that you probably know her anyhow. Do it. Or DQ'll come round and bust your balls and smother them in fish.
On the lighter side of life Naz Sansoni, one of Dominic Sansoni's daughters, has started a new photoblog. It's called "An Image a Day" and it pretty much does what it says on the tin. I've seen these people doing 365 images in a year and whatnot. My own version is called "A few photos put up on various social sites throughout a year or so" and seems to be taking off nicely.
Naz's new place depicts photographs of random things that go on in her life, much of which is Barefoot centred. There are people, places, things and baths. If a photoblog could be classed as honest then this would be one. Why? I dunno really, it just strikes me like that.
SL2G, the diasporic group I told you about, held our Talking Pictures photo event a couple of weeks ago and it was a resounding success. Attendance was, well like, huge and a good, yet I hope meaningful, time was had by all. In a matter of mere days we'll have a Flickr site and more info up online to show you what happened and exactly what The Auf really looks like. You'll love the first bit and be scared at the second.
I've been mamboing. My new drum tutor has moved me into the Latin arena, which sounds a bit gladiatorial but isn't at all. The mambo has been the first Latin groove to suffer at the hands of the RD drum skills. If you turn up at RD Towers any evening you're likely to hear the sounds of Tito Puente's Japan Mambo with me attempting to drum along with any one of the about eight different mambo patterns I'm learning.
It all sounds a bit like a bull in a china drum shop at the moment but progress in these things is always slow and sure but enjoyable. Tito Puente, were he still alive, would be turning in his grave and demanding to be let out. Then he'd go straight round to my place and beat seven shades of shit out of me. Then I'd dress up as a woman and get in touch with Drama Queen and tell her all about it. Then she'd go round to his place and beat the crap out of him after smothering his balls with fish. Then he'd be sorry. I'm doing my best after all.
Tomorrow, possibly today if you're reading this tomorrow, I'm test driving a new car. I won't tell you what it is yet as things are a bit uncertain. But the test drive is going to start with me taking my bass drum out of my current car and seeing if it will fit in the new one. If it does, then we move onto step two. Then the further steps, involving things like discovering I can't afford it but figuring what the hell I'll buy it anyhow. It's exciting, yet sometimes I wish I were a lead singer who only ever had to worry about remembering a microphone stand and perhaps a tambourine or two.
The gym is my new friend and I go there about two or three times a week, sometimes even doing some exercise there too. There's one weird blonde girl who always seems to be there when I am. I thought this was strange until I realised that she could be saying exactly the same thing about me.
That's about all I can think of. Oh yes, the mindmap experiment continues with eagerness and interest. I think it's improving my enjoyment of day to day life, something I must class as a positive thing.
I feel the beginnings of manflu coming on. There's nothing more serious but I'll do my best to fight off a full scale attack of the much dreaded illness. I'll leave you with a bit of advice; if you buy tickets for a dinner at a literary festival then try not to arrive an hour late and expect to be welcomed as if you're Jesus himself returning to play in goal for FC Barcelona.
I mean to say, I write "installment" in the title and the spellcheck threatens me with expulsion from the universe, being whipped by Angel Delight (butterscotch flavour) and all sorts. But it looks right I think, so look it up in my trusty Collins English dictionary, where Mr Collins tells me that it can be spelt with a double L or a single one. I choose the latter and decide to open this blog post with a mini rant about it. Pah! is all I can say.
The first two parts of this post can be found here and here. An apology is necessary, for no other reason than sometimes that Brit in me feels a need to apologise. That's what we do. But the real apology is for a three part post, something I never intended, just that the story is a long one. I hope, as do you no doubt, that this is the final part.
So I'd spoken to A about the mess, I'd accepted her worryingly grovelling and out of character humble apology and life sailed on, as it does by the river.
You've never met my neighbours before have you?
Well the ground floor of RD Towers has two apartments; mine and the one next door. There's a wall that separates us and we have a hall that contains each of our front door. They're a really nice couple called J and D. They must be in their later forties, he's divorced with a grown up daughter and she, the D in the couple, is a air stewardess for Virgin. I'm pretty sure she's not a virgin, that wall is quite thin you know.
J (the he) works in oil. But he's not a painter, I mean he works in proper oil, so he spends a lot of his time away from his apartment. D, being air crew, also spends mucho timeo awayo. The result is that they convene at their place every few weeks and I don't see them that often. They're nice, easy going and pleasant enough.
J likes to play music and with the wall being what it is, this means I often hear his choice of playlist, something that's never a problem for me. Life, as far as I'm concerned, is better to music. Because of this it means that he's a fellow who never has an issue with noise from my side of the wall, such noise usually being the dull thud of me practicing on my electronic drums, which some find annoying.
So I reckon we're pretty perfect neighbours for each other, though J might prefer me to be a blonde large breasted nymphomaniac. As I would prefer him to be come to think of it, though proper girls' breasts I mean, not a bloke with manboobs.
And last Sunday J and D were around, the first time I'd seen them this year. I bumped into them by the lift. We shot the shit for a bit, then we chewed the cud and then finally we chatted about things.
There was talk about the weather in New York, where D had just flown in from, some bits and pieces about what they did for Christmas, a section on my sojourn to the motherland and then J hit me with it, the thing.
"And how was your flat?"
"Eh?" said I.
"How was your flat, after the parties?"
"The PARTIES??" I said.
"Erm yes, parties. It wasn't a problem, your daughter even came and apologised about the noise the next day. And she warned us about it before as well. "
All of which made me feel a lot better, as you can imagine.
"Parties?" I said. You know when you get stuck in that place, the place where there are thousands of things going through your head yet you only manage to get the same word out repeatedly? Well I was there.
"Did she have more than one?" I asked, as if that wasn't clear enough already.
J hesitated, his mind already feeling sorry for A, for the trouble he might have dropped her in. But, as Marty McFly knows very well, you can't go back in time.
"Well yeah, she had more than, ahem, one. There was New Year's Eve and at least one more a couple of days before...... but the noise wasn't a problem at all, we're not bothered by that sort of thing. Really it was fine."
I offered my profound gratitude for his act of grassing up my eldest, we swapped lighthearted banter about the things kids do and off I went to the gym, where I slowly seethed, realising exactly why A had been relatively quick to apologise and admit to things, why she'd agreed to my every demand. It was all a cover up and I'd so nearly been duped.
I returned from the gym, knocked on J and D's door and gave them a bottle of champagne as an apology and a thank you for putting up with the noise. J refused it, then took it and we did that manly dance of not accepting something but not being sure at precisely which point to back off. We got there in the end, him taking the bottle and me being pleased that he had.
I was back in that situation that every parent has had to face; when you're actually proud of your child for doing something and getting away with it, almost in this case, but you have to let them know that you know and that it's not to happen again.
I was also pretty angry with her. Two parties? It was out of order and she needed to be told.
After some tactical pondering my favoured course of action was one of letting A know that I'd found out the truth without coming down too heavily on her. I sent her a text saying
"I hear you had 2 parties while I was away"
The response came instantly
Which put me in an awkward posish.
I let it lie, figuring the best thing was to wait until she was with me a few days later.
Wednesday came, as Wednesdays do, and I picked up the girls. After some preliminaries, mostly involving them raiding my fridge and chocolate drawer and eating things as if they haven't eaten for weeks, I summoned A into my room. She followed me, trying to look cool and nonchalant. I led her, attempting the same. Both of us failed with massive success.
"So" I opened with. It seemed like a good way of setting the tone.
"I hear you had two parties while I was away." I'd decided not to divulge my sources early, to see how she'd react. That, as well as opening with "so", was pretty much my plan.
"No" A replied, but said it with that indignant teenager voice, so it sounded more like "nooo ooooerr" going down about a semitone, perhaps a tone, in the second syllable. The word "no" as far as I can make out, is one small word consisting of one syllable and two letters. There's not much to it. If it was a food it would be a salad with only lettuce and no dressing. How every teenage in the world can say it with so much expression and meaning is a mystery to me.
I knew that I had to ramp things up, that we were close to a stalemate. At the risk of their wrath I had to reveal my sources. It was sensible but perhaps not a good way to ingratiate myself to the average journalist.
"Well I saw J and D next door, they've been away, and they said you had two parties actually"
And I said the "actually" in that petulant "ha I've sussed you out" way. I meant it to sting.
"Well I had friends round twice, but they were hardly parties. And we didn't really make that much noise so I don't know why they're complaining."
"Well they weren't complaining, they just mentioned it. They were fine about it" I said, realising that I was on precarious ground that was about to collapse underneath me.
"You never said I couldn't have people round twice. And they were okay about the noise yeah?"
....Despite the eleven or twelve hour flight, my tiredness and need of rest I absolutely had to tidy things up and make it respectable before I even sat down. My Mum helped me, all the while standing up for her eldest granddaughter. And, while we're here, when you continue something, like I have above, with the dots like this...... well should I start the first word ("despite" in this case) with a capital letter? I never know about these things.
"Don't be too hard on her RD"
"It's not too bad RD"
"It's like that time we went away and you had a party"
"No Mum it's not" I said, for the reason they found out was that I got the carpets cleaned and they came back and noticed that things were too clean. What the hell is it about grandparents? As parents they give us hell, then when our kids do the very same stuff that we got hell for doing, it's all different.
It only took us about half an hour to get things in a wholly respectable state. A quick Dyson over the floors, empty the bin, put the dishwasher on, wipe the surfaces down, handwash a couple of things and we were done.
Which kind of disappointed me more, the fact that it wouldn't actually have taken A that long to have made it perfectly nice.
I rested and seethed, wondering how to tackle the situation with her.
We all have things in our life, situations to deal with and problems to handle that are challenging. I don't want to sound like I'm moaning. One of my things with A, not so much with K who has reacted differently to things, is that I find it very hard to "parent" her. By "parent" I mean things that a father who wasn't divorced would probably take for granted.
Four years down the road, though she's healing, she retains some anger towards me for the divorce and the consequences. I understand this but it's very hard to deal with sometimes. I want to be the Dad, to be able to counsel, to tell off and advise where appropriate. And I have two daughters and, as everyone knows, girls are evil.
So the thing is with A, often when faced with a situation in which I have to tell her off, a concept I'm not a fan of anyhow, preferring to try to talk calmly, she'll literally remove herself from the scene, by just storming off in a huff. When you live under one roof this is one thing as they'll usually eventually return, seeking food and shelter, that sort of thing.
But, when you're divorced and living separately the dynamics are a bit different and the storming off is back to the other home, where one parent can be played off against the other by the smart kid.
Vut too doo?
I knew that the situation was unacceptable, that something had to be done. I just wasn't sure exactly what it was that had to be done and how to do it. After a spell of pondering and a nice poo, the first in my own toilet for a couple of weeks, always a pleasure, I sent a text to each of the girls.
To K I just said that I'm back, a bit about the flight and how I was looking forward to seeing her. I said similar things to A but also that I was sad to see the state of my apartment. A lot of thought had gone into my wording. I reasoned that a mere "I'm back and angry with you" type of text would have backfired and felt that use of the word "sad" was wise.
She responded with some "I'm entirely innocent what are you talking about?" message. I told her that I'd talk with her on Wednesday about it, the next time I was due to see them. I know full well that a sixteen year old girl, whose head is filled with things like drama, boys, clothes and why that other girl is angry because she like you know well said that like to her and then she like told me, really really really worries about being told off by her parents.
Wednesday came round and I collected the girls. I was nice, giving them the presents I'd bought in Sri Lanka and catching up with things. Then I summoned A to my room where I told her, in calm tones, that I was really disappointed about the state of my apartment. I told her that she'd been disrespectful to me and that, if it was going to happen again (a big "if") she needed to understand that my apartment has to be left exactly how she found it.
There was a brief few seconds of fight from her, just token words really. Some garbled things about not knowing how to put on the dishwasher or where to put the rubbish. But, after I more or less laughed at these objections, she apologised profusely, told me she understood and said that it wouldn't happen again.
This left me feeling like a salesperson who's just made a big and good sale but knows that he set his price too low. I got the exact result I wanted; an apology and a promise of no repeat, it just didn't feel right. But, when you sell something for too little, you can't go back and ask the customer for more money, unless you're a graduate of the Sri Lankan school of customer service, which I'm not.
Still, job done we moved on. I knew she'd had a party of sorts on the 31st Dizzember, I knew that she'd overstepped the boundaries, I'd dealt with it and I knew that next time I'd let her do it again as long as she tidied properly, which she probably wouldn't do.
That was, as you may have worked out, about three, nearly four weeks ago. Life ticked on as usual during that time.
Until last Sunday.
........... to be continued. Yeah I know, sorry about that, but there's more.
Remember I told you briefly, in not much detail, about A, my sixteen year old asking if she could "have a few friends round" to RD Towers when I was away in the motherland for the new year?
Well here's an update, as well as a precis of what happened in the first place. I'd appreciate your help, advice and wise counsel. Not you Blacker!
A few days before I departed for Serendib, around the 20th of December, or Dizzember as it's pronounced in Singlish, A asked me if she could have some friends round on the 31st to RD Towers.
My gut reaction was No, with a capital N and, as I think on it, probably with a capital O as well, so more of a NO than a mere No. But logic and rationale raged a battle against gut feeling and instinct in my head. I wouldn't have wanted to be a fellow passing through the RD mind at around that time. Most of it was absorbed by that last few days level of excitement I get whenever I'm about to hit the shores of Lanka.
I feel a constant urge to poo, a conscious need to remind myself to breathe, something I'm normally pretty good at, and a disconnect from what's actually going on around me at the time. So, while all of this was happening, my mind had to also deal with that fierce war between the logic and the gut about letting A have my apartment.
Gut feeling was shouting pretty loudly about boys, alcohol and Facebook messages telling people that there was shindig going on at A's Dad's luxury pad. Logic was muttering slightly under its breath about points that I, the Dad who struggles, would score by letting A do this. Rationale was also mumbling things about A having the apartment a couple of times before and there never being a problem, that she'd actually been quite responsible. Even Cerno would have been bewildered by the variety of voices in my head.
So, after listening to all the voices, I had a poo. Then I texted A and said a firm, a resounding and an emphatic NO. There are times, and all men will relate to this, when we're firm, strong and resolute. We mean what we say and we say what we mean. We don't negotiate, we don't waiver. This was one of those times.
About four minutes later I'd agreed to let her use the apartment. I can't be entirely sure how it happened, but, to be honest, I'd never fully made up my mind in the first place. A few text messages, that deadly combination of sweet talk and threats, of "Dad I'll be really grateful" with "Yeah Dad, there's never been a problem before, what's YOUR problem?" seemed to do the trick.
And so it came to pass that, on 31st Dizzember, I celebrated with friends, flashed a bit of nipple and shook a leg or two, all with a mental background of worry and anguish about what was going to be taking place in my apartment.
I'd laid down some strict conditions; no boys, no alcohol and a maximum of four girls apart from A were allowed to stay the night there. I knew that my conditions were about as powerful and effective as the department of bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka. A's fuss free acceptance of my terms only made my anguish worse.
During the course of the night I sent A a couple of texts. There was a happy new year one, its hidden message being "is my flat okay?" She replied saying all was fine, with that exasperated tone in her text message. How on earth can a woman, particularly one who's only sixteen and still in training, manage to portray a sighing and exasperated tone in a text message? They do it though, it must be ingrained in their genes or something.
On New Year's day I spoke to her and was told in sighing tones again that everything was cool, that all went well and no apartments had been burnt to a cinder. I let it go, figuring that I could do no more and would find out the truth upon my return.
I got back to Londinium on the 9th day of 2011, coincidentally it was also the 9th of January. My 'rents picked me up at the airport. As hard as I try, I can't seem to prevent from happening. As usual I navigated for my Dad as he negotiated that tricky journey; from the airport to my place. He manages to make every road appear as if it was only built the day before despite the fact that he's lived in that very neck of the woods for about forty years.
We got to the flat, I was tired and had aeroplane breath, that strange smell of sickness and tiredness that only happens after a long flight and is never quite remedied by brushing teeth and using mouthwash on the plane itself.
I didn't know what to expect. The apartment might have been spotless, sparkling and clean as a whistle, it might have been as grubby and dirty as could be or anywhere in between.
As me and my olds entered the place my heart dropped. It was, on a scale of grubbiness from one to ten where ten is as bad as it gets, hovering at about a twenty seven. The kitchen dustbin was full to the brim, the bag tied up but not emptied. The dishwasher was full, badly stacked too would you believe, and hadn't been put on. There were dirty glasses out, bits of tobacco around, mud all over one carpet in one of the bedrooms and I felt totally pissed off......