Thursday, June 6, 2019

I Want To Be A Nationalist


Whichever direction I glance in it seems that Nationalism is on the rise.

Be it Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism over your way, the good old US Trump flavoured Southern fried variety out West or the drink tea and keep calm we're British and let's get rid of all the foreigners and fuck the country in the process kind that we have over here, it's all the rage.

Of course, the intelligent types will tell you that it's always happened historically whenever there has been mass migration of people and I'm sure that's true. Hitler, Castro, Napoleon, Boris Johnson, all these truly powerful and mental leaders have used it as one of their weapons of choice.

So I was thinking the other day that I might give it a try. I'm fifty three and open to new ideas. I bought my first ever pair of raw denim jeans the other day so it must be true. To tell you the truth they do still hurt my balls a bit after about a month of wear but I'm persevering, with the knowledge that after merely a year they should feel like a second skin.

But the thing is I've realised that I don't think I can qualify to be a nationalist. Here in the UK I'm brown. Well I'm brown wherever I go but you know what I mean. I'm brown, with a proper South East England accent, the kind that no one understands in Sri Lanka.

If I was white, apart from my name, people here in the UK would never think I was a foreigner. But I'm brown, which I love by the way, and it means I can't really enrol into the whole Nationalism thing. Thai is somewhat counterbalanced by the fact I can wear many colours and I never look pasty and washed out and I have a decent sense of rhythm.

Then, in the motherland, I'm half Muslim and half Tamil, which well and truly fucks me up on all fronts.On top of that no one there ever thinks I even look Sri Lankan. I continually have arguments with tuk tuk drivers and the like when I tell them I'm Lankan and they insist that I can't be; that I must be Thai or Nepalese or something. 

So I'm a bit stuck on this one. Nationalism, that club that everyone wants to join, is not going to let me in.

But, the good news on thinking about it, is that my balls are hurting a bit less from these jeans now.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Too Many Books....


Ever since I was very young I've loved reading. I'm quite good at it now and able to recognise most words I come across, occasionally even knowingwhat they mean.

I'm also a firm fan of the Kindle app on my ipad, something I blame squarely on divorce. You see I owned hundreds of books. Some were bog standard high street fiction, cheap in production and cheaper in quality, for I'm definitely no snob in my tastes either, and others were of the lovely coffee table variety, many about Sri Lanka.

When the divorce happened I was faced with book issues, amongst other far more serious matters too. I didn't have the space for all the books, didn't want to give away the nicer ones, but also knew that many of them I wouldn't read again.

And so I moved over to ebooks. I now have a sizeable library that is happily stored in the cloud. I can annotate them to my heart's content, carry the whole lot anywhere on any of my devices and don't have to worry about taking up many cubic metres of storage space at my office.

I'm not one of these evangelist types though. I like the Kindle app for most books; the coffee table ones are always (to me) better to read and feel as real books and I draw the line at sitting on the toilet with my ipad. A man must have standards. It's just me, if you like to read real books that's fine by me. I have no desire to convert anyone or get into some sort of argument over which is better. All reading is good I figure.
 
The thing is, I've realised that I'm currently reading too many books.

I used to be a one book at a time person, with very occasional forages (not to be confused with "Farage" - a British word for lying wanker) into two book territory. But that would be strictly one piece of fiction and one of non fiction at any time.

The trouble with ipads, tablets and probably computers in general is the whole switching thing. Chaps sell it as a feature; switching between tasks and functions easily and seamlessly, but I'm starting to think it's too easy.

And so I've drifted into an existence in which I read several books at the same time. I noticed it at first when I was reading two or three. No big deal I thought, I can handle it, I can give up any time.

But I glanced at my current being read books this morning and counted seven. Fortunately only one of them is fiction. I think my mind would struggle to keep track of more than one story at a time. But I'm not sure if six others is too many. Can I keep track of where I am in each one? Do I have to read a good chunk of words to get back into the swing of things every time I go to one?

Or is it good to be able to choose a different book according to my mood? To switch quickly if I'm not 'feeling it'?

Us oldies grew up listening to whole albums. We'd sit there for half an hour listening to a record, then turn it over for side two. We'd be familiar with the flow of an album, the sequence of tracks and how  one song led into the intro for another. I can't listen to the end of Breakout by the Foos now without expecting that snare hit and hearing Learn to Fly immediately afterwards.

But you kids can barely listen to a whole song, let alone an album, before you're looking for the next thing to treat your ears to. And I fear that I'm going that way with books.

Should I just focus on one at a time, digesting every word and chapter, or should I flick channels?

Hmmm...




Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Loving The Lotus Tower














At first I was afraid, I was petrified.

I'm no Rajapaksa fan by any stretch of the imagination, so my first thoughts were wholly negative.
It was / is downright ugly; that hideous green and purple Chinese erection soaring into the Lankan sky.

For some time I've thought that Sri Lankans just don't do subtlety. From the delicious food, chock full of every spice and flavouring known to man, to clothing crammed with more colours and patterns than an accident in a rainbow factory subtlety is just not a fundamental Sri Lankan trait.

The Lotus Tower is the biggest example of this; massive, mutli coloured, flashing lights and, well just everything about it screams for attention. It's so gaudy I suspect even Singaporeans might object to it. Or Americans.

Most cities have a few iconic buildings, the kind that are recognised by people all over the world even if they've never been to the place. In London we've got the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, the Gherkin. New York has the Empire State, the Chrysler Building, the apartment from Friends etc.

Colombo did have its twin towers, which have now been dwarfed by all the new ones coming up and I think the Altair, though residential, will prove to be a bit of an icon. But other than those I feel Colombo, though it has a damn good size portion of gorgeous buildings, has lacked in landmarks.

And the Lotus Tower in all its garishness is starting to change things.

You types who live in Colombo and know your way comfortably around won't appreciate this, but for me, a chap with the sense of direction of a singer without a decent drummer behind him, it's become a bit of a guiding light. Not a guiding light in the way C is to me of course, but a pretty important one nonetheless.

Pretty much wherever I am in Colombo, and parts of Europe, I look up and see the Lotus Tower and can figure out roughly which direction I need to go in. The other day it surprised me by popping into my eyeline as I came into the metropolis on the Expressway. It's there, lurking like a Sri Lankan Mother, permanently watching and making its presence felt but without calling every evening and asking silly questions.

It's still hideous, garish and attention seeking.

And I rather like it.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Test Post

Hello?!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Hanging and Influencing.



Recently I've become aware that these two words, as nouns, have become things. I don't know how they crept into everyday usage, but what the hell?

Maybe it's a muso thing, but every day I see muso type 'friends' of mine talk about what a great 'hang' they had with someone. And that someone is invariably a (slightly) famous sort, which makes me think that there's some kind of grovelling going on here.

It's that whole Facebook / Twitter narcissistic thing going on again. A desire to tell others that they spent some time with Tom Jones' guitarist or Will I Am's drummer, coupled with a need to let the famous person what a good bloke they think he is.

And influencers?? Seriously, I know it makes me sound old, which I am, but from what I can see an Influencer is someone who has a large enough following on some social media platform to influence their readers to buy something. That's it.

Said thing doesn't have to be good, said influencer often gets paid or gets a free house or something in return for their endorsement and said readers go off and spend money on a diet thing, a pair of trainers or an operation that they don't need and probably wouldn't even want were it not for one of those Kardashians telling them how good it is.

It's all gone a bit mad.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Perspectives



It was a normal Saturday morning in September 2015. Normal except for the fact that my Dad had just died. He actually passed at around 6am but, by the time all the official declarations had been done and the undertaker had arrived, it was around 9.30 when we carried his body out of the house into the hearse.

There was myself, both my brothers and the undertaker, who was giving us, the shocked sons, instructions on exactly how to negotiate two flights of stairs as well as a grieving wife, Granddaughter and daughter in law. My parents moved into that house when I was twelve, I know those stairs pretty intimately, as do my brothers, but that was the most challenging time I've descended down them.

Their house is opposite a small local shopping parade with a little car park attached and the hearse was parked directly in front of the house on the street. And one of the things I remember vividly is how, as we loaded my Dad into the vehicle, I looked around and saw people arriving in their cars, parking in the car park and walking to do their shopping.

I saw others come out of the shops with their goods, getting in their cars and driving off, maybe a bit pissed off because Tesco didn't have their favourite brand of butter. A few cars drove past us. We had just lost our Dad / Husband of fifty years / Grandfather and everyone else got on with their Saturday morning.

It has stayed with me; that massive lesson about perspectives and how every individual has their own universe that they inhabit. Some of us have overlapping bits, others don't.

The recent bombings in Sri Lanka have also illustrated this phenomenon in full. I got back to London last week on Thursday evening, four days after the attacks. In Sri Lanka, though thankfully I didn't suffer any loss of loved ones, I felt the pain and heartbreak that so many of you did. I still do.

But the mixed reactions I've had from different people in London have been another eye opener about perspectives.

Even the media seems to have largely stopped its reporting of the situation there. There are articles, obviously lots of us have our feeds tuned into Sri Lanka anyhow, but last week's attrocities in a brown country have become the electronic age's fish and chip wrapping very quickly.

Some people have been genuinely interested and empathetic with me about the situation. A few though, on hearing what happened and after expressing interest have then said "apart from that how was the holiday?"

Others, like a band mate last night, have listened and then just moved on to talking about the new guitar pedal they've got, as if what I was saying was just a topic of conversation, which it clearly was to them.

One person said to me that it just means that Sri Lanka is off his list of potential holiday destinations now. That was all it meant to him.

And that's the thing about the whole perspective business. Hardly anyone is wrong. They're all just different views of the same thing.

Makes me think though.






Monday, April 22, 2019

Thoughts from Colombo



I’m currently in Colombo, probably feeling like most people; a mixture of heartbreak, confusion, loss (for the many lives as well as the peace we’ve got used to) and, I’m sorry to say, relief that myself and my loved ones are okay.

I’m old enough to have lived through many terror related incidents, from being here in July ‘83 to living in London during the height of the IRA’s reign of terror to witnessing the more recent attacks in London, Christchurch and Paris.

C and myself were with some friends at The Kingsbury on Saturday evening. They were staying there and at one point we were having a poignant discussion about the Central Bank bombing, as one of them was working right there when it happened. It was the past. We felt like we were talking about a different Country. I took that picture from the rooftop bar of The Kingsbury looking at the Shangri La, with the Cinnamon Grand lurking somewhere in the distance. It was just another hot Colombo evening and I was just another person taking another picture.

We woke up yesterday morning to see news of the bombs, mixed with that early event confusion about exactly what had happened and where. Our friends messaged and told C that they were late for breakfast at The Kingsbury because she had been hiding Easter Eggs in their room for the kids. They were safe and had jumped into a taxi and escaped to the haven of his parents’ house.

That’s the thing about these events; so many of us have stories of close calls. A few months ago I was staying at the Shangri La, for a few days C and I had breakfast in that room. We were having dinner in the Cinnamon Grand a few nights ago. I was here with my Girls last year and we were doing the full on tourist trail. These events could have happened at any time, to anyone.

It feels to me like most Lankans have an old wound from the civil war. For each person that wound has healed to a differing degree. Yesterday’s events poked at that wound. Some people feel huge pain, some remain as stoic as ever and others want to sleep, just so that they don’t feel anything.

My best friend, a Brit in the UK, had his birthday on Saturday and, in the course of happy birthday messages, told me that he has decided to finally visit Sri Lanka next year with his wife and daughter. My youngest daughter K, whom you know well, is planning to spend a month here in July.

I just don’t know what to advise them.

I so love Sri Lanka. If anyone reads this blog anymore I do hope you understand that one thing.

I’m British, I’m Sri Lankan. And I feel the loss.