Saturday, May 31, 2008

Short Ugly People Getting Lucky In Sex

My blog has been discovered by someone in New Zealand who had googled the rather nifty little phrase above. I don't know whether to laugh, cry or nod knowingly in a Joey Tribbiani thinking about breasts kind of way.

Was it a slightly perverted Kiwi looking for some dwarf porn? Was he trying to find a dating site for himself and ever so slightly lacking in confidence?

Is it a reflection on me, or on my blog?

I'm hardly up there with my head in the clouds in terms of height, I doubt whether Will Smith wakes up in the middle of the night worried that he's not as good looking as me. But then again I'm no Joey in terms of "getting lucky in sex" either. I suppose it's fair to say I'm no Chandler even. Though it would be fair to say that Janice gets my vote as the best side character of all time.

These are the things that go through my head at 3.26 AM on a Saturday morning. The sleep cycle in Rhythmic Towers has gone AWOL, mostly because of my eye. I'm lying here, for all the world looking like a one eyed fly, big plastic patch taped over my left eye and I'm as sleepy as an eight year old on Christmas eve.

I know from experience that the average eight year old wouldn't have just polished off the remainder of the tub of lemon sorbet (with Sicilian lemon pieces). What is it about sorbet? It's nice and it tastes good but it really is ice cream with all the fun taken out of it isn't it?

Oh well, think I'll try sleep again. Failing that there's my engrossing book that I'm reading, all through the right eye. It's about India, Mumbai specifically and every time I open a page and read about two words it pulls me into its world. Spine tingling metaphors, sensual similes and all other herbs and spices come at me at about twice the speed of Sri Lankan inflation.

And, motivated by Cerno's recent Abba post I've now got the Swedish beauties on in the background. Agnetha and Anna Frid are kicking out the lyrics to "Head over Heels" in those slightly sexy Swedish semi tones. I'm an unashamed Abba fan and have been since as long as I can remember. We've now moved on to "When I kissed the teacher". One of the beauties of Abba lyrics is the way they got the English just ever so slightly wrong, perhaps translating literally from Swedish, maybe just trying to make things rhyme, I know not, but it's a fantastic Abba characteristic.

" I was in THE seventh heaven when I kissed the teacher" - Where did that "The" come from?

Good weekend all. I leave you as I listen to "head over heels"

Those harmonies get me everytime!

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Question To The Creatives Out There

I've noticed that the Sri Lankan blogosphere is jam packed to the rafters with creative advertising types. By "jam packed to the rafters" I mean that there are several lurking about. They don't hide, they blog about Sri Lankan related things like the rest of us and then, every once in a while they put something up about the advertising industry, about the Chillies or the latest tattoo that they've had done on their right ball.

For the record I quite like advertising types. My covers band is full of them, apart from me, and I love it in a band practice when I listen to the latest gossip about who's sleeping with who, or should that be whom, in the UK ad industry.

But my side of the fence, if I had a fence and a side, would be more that of a client. I co run and co own a company and any professional involvement I've had with ad people has been as a client. In all ad industry and client environments there appears to be this "us and them" mentality, a polarisation of positions.

I often see situations in which the creatives get frustrated by the client's unwillingness to let them have a free reign at things. Or perhaps the client's reluctance to go ahead with a campaign or ad that may be a bit too "out there" or a bit radical.

Then, the issue of what exactly is a successful ad rages on. My view is that a successful ad is one which achieves my objectives, me being the client. This post by TMS touches on and elaborates on my thinking quite a lot. If I'm the client it makes sense to me that my objectives are the ones that I want to achieve. If I want to win a D+AD black pencil, then let's go all out and try for it. If I want to double my sales figures in the next month then let's go out and do that. Surely achieving the objectives of the client is what it's all about isn't it?

As a layman, one who is interested in the advertising game and all, I know what I think makes a good ad. It's simple and it's easy; a good ad is one that sticks in my memory, whatever the format. But that means that the ad sticks in my memory, not necessarily the product or company that the ad is for.

The Honda ad below is one that sticks in my mind as a piece of artistic genius, but does it make me any more likely to buy a Honda? No way. Does it make me think that Honda make great cars, that things "come together" more on a Honda? No. It could have been an ad for Mihin Air and I still would have thought that it was a little slice of genius.

The only thing that this ad does is make me want to hire the creatives who made it if I were to ever commission my own TV ad. That's got to be a classic case of one to the creatives and nil to the client. In years to come I bet there'll be many like me who'll recollect the ad with warmth and nostalgia but won't have a clue which car company it was for.

My question is a simple one, unlike the answer.

What exactly does make a good advert?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Elephant House Cream Soda And Sit Ups

Are some of the things I've been doing in the last couple of days.

This eye surgery is a fascinating thing to recover from, that is if you're like me and can get fascinated by the simplest of things. I've been marvelling at the way the eye is healing and my vision through said eye is getting better. It's like seeing everything through a fog that is slowly clearing. As the fog clears, a little bit more each second, I get glimpses of pinsharp vision through the translucent bits. All looks good and the miracles of modern, albeit only available to those with some money, medicine continue to amaze me.

But, recovering is a pain in the arse, or eye in my specific case. There's not much to do without an eye, a statement I'm sure Mr Wonder would disagree with but I think you probably understand my view. Watching TV makes it hurt, reading makes it hurt, looking at porn my laptop makes it hurt and so do all the things that sick people traditionally do whilst recovering.

Even typing this is taxing and I can feel my eye starting to pound a bit. These are the sacrifices a dedicated blogger makes for the sake of a post. Listening to music is an enjoyable activity that I can do, one that I'm currently doing, partly to prove that us men can multi Red Hot Chili Peppers task with the best of them.

You know, parents are wonderful things aren't they? They nurture us, they do all that parental stuff over the years and, when we get to about forty and get divorced, they do some of that stuff all over again. My Dad, who some of you know in person, has been a stalwart in the last days. He drove me to the clinic to have the op done, he drove me back home and today he took me to the clinic for the one day check up, then dropped me back home.

I'm grateful, but the drives, or being a passenger, have been shall we say, hard work. They get old these parents, and my Dad has got to a stage in his life in which his driving operates by his own rules, no one else's, not the police's, not the government's and certainly not the highway code's.

He heads into a roundabout and takes the racing line, a plan that is okay for a chap driving at breakneck speed in a high performance car on an empty road. But his turn of pace has diminished a bit over the years so that necessity to take the racing line isn't there. It's just habit, unlike looking in the mirrors to see if there are any other cars in the vicinity. I've lost count of the number of times in these past 48 hours that I've surreptitiously glanced into a mirror to see an irrate driver in the car behind who's just been cut up by my Dad, who's wholly and blissfully oblivious to the whole thing. Even in Sri Lanka he'd be breaking the rules of the road. That's how bad it is.

On the way back from the clinic yesterday we stopped at one of the local Sri Lankan shops, a treat for both of us. My Dad bought curry leaves, Maldive fish and all the usual things he needed to stock up with.

My haul was very different. It was one that had no practical day to day uses, it consisted entirely of "novelty" items, but ones that I think you'll understand:

1. One bottle of genuine Elephant House cream soda.

Is there anything better than this nectar? Its colour is like nothing that ever occurs in nature, except maybe plutonium. I don't know what colour plutonium is but I would imagine it to be that bright greeny yellow. Watch manufacturers probably buy container loads of the stuff to use it as paint for the luminous bits on expensive watches. But it tastes of my childhood and of long holidays in Sri Lanka. It tastes of the warm glass bottles it used to come in and of Green Cabin chocolate eclairs. And it's now in my fridge.

2. Six mutton rolls.

Pancake stuff, filled with mutton and potato curry and fried in breadcrumbs. Six of the beauties. Well there's four left now. I reckon we actually can buy better ones here in the UK than I've had in Sri Lanka for a long time now. Which is nice.

3. Two Godamba rolls.

A couple of them, filled with the scrumptious and mouth watering Sri Lankan mixed vegetable curry. That one that tastes of mush, but lovely mush, with a few discernible vegetables here and there. They're just a fading memory now.

4. Two large bottles of Lion Lager.

No description needed. Except to say that they are better than the elephant house cream soda. One sip takes me to the Galle Face Hotel, watching the sunset and wanting for nothing. Just me and Colombo and that sunset and that sea.

Now you see where the sit ups will be needed.

This convalescing thing is hard you know!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Fourth And Final Installment

Expect a quiet one from me this week. On Tuesday morning I'll be heading to my eye clinic for the fourth and what I expect to be the final laser eye operation to fix my previously piss poor eyesight.

For the last six months or so I've had perfect vision in my right eye and slightly less than perfect in my left eye. That was because, about six months ago, I had the laser thing redone on my right eye after the first op wasn't quite as successful on both eyes as had been hoped. Confused? Me Too.

So, I'll be having the best part of a week off work hanging around the house. As this is the fourth time I've gone through this I'm a bit of a dab hand and know what to expect. I expect some days of tiredness, of headaches, of not wanting to do much and of sheer boredom.

The thought of sitting around and reading, watching TV and listening to music is a nice one but alas, idealistic and wholly unrealistic too. Anything involving use of my eyes just feels knackering for the first few days. Sleeping will be my main activity, which is one that will play to my strengths, then some serious drum practice may be in order too.

I think it will mean some very quiet blogging days. A week of no posts whatsoever is a distinct possibility in these parts. But I know that I'll return with perfect eyesight and the ability to proof read both sides of anything I write rather than just the right side.

I think that I should come back with a full write up of laser eye surgery too. How it feels, how it looks and how it smells. Yes, I think I just might.

Have a good week all.

See you soon!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The F Word Post

In a sort of reverse tag situation I've imagined that I've been tagged by Darwin. She wrote another post about flowers and I imagined that she'd tagged me to write a post about something that begins with F.

I don't think this game will rival Grand Tag Auto but it's got potential, the beauty is that anyone can take it forward. You can pretend that I tagged you and write a post about anything that's vaguely related to anything I've ever blogged about. Choose your subject and write. You'll need a blog or ownership of a newspaper or similar publication. Or you'll need the ability to hack into a newspaper's computer system and change its copy, as if that could happen these days.

My F word post is about fish. They're weird things these fish. I was watching a fascinating documentary about China the other day and the presenter called them "fishes". This confused me as I've always though that the plural is "fish". Perhaps it's boths and things have changed since I was at school.

Either way I'm not a fan. Of fish that is. I like China, though not the ornamental kind. I don't hate fish, just that I'm nowhere near being a paid up member, with posters on my bedroom wall, of the fish fan club. Give me a choice of fish or meat and it'll be a good chunk of the red stuff every time. If I'm in a restaurant the fish section of the menu will be given a cursory glance, then I'll make my way to the meaty stuff, like meat.

My general demeanour towards fish is very different in England compared to how it is in Sri Lanka. Unsurprising really as in SL we have fish of all sorts coming at us from all angles and all of it tastes pretty good. Stick me in that "choose your own fish and we'll cook it however you want it done" place in the Cinammon Grand, or Colombo Plaza or whatever it's called these days and I'm happy as a fish in water. Yes, I can slum it with the best of them. It's still the Oberoi to me anyway.

Give me a fish curry and I'll happily devour it with gusto, as long as there's rice or something carby with it of course. I'll pop into a fish and chip shop here in England and tuck into a cod and chips with mushy peas like a native. I'll bung four fish fingers (Birds Eye of course) on some fresh white bread, smother them with Heinz tomato ketchup and chuck the lot down my gullet as if I'm a competitor in the food olympics, the fish finger sandwich section, and I've got through to the final.

So I will eat the stuff, I'll enjoy it, I'll just choose meat over fish any day. Shellfish is a different matter. Prawns, crab and lobster will often be found rising to the top of my pecking order, beating chicken, beef or any other meat into a poor fourth place. But shellfish has a place all of its own for me, a place in that "delicacy" section of my mind. Everyone loves a prawn, except my old friend Amanda, I could never figure out why but she just didn't like them.

Foody types will no doubt be up in arms at this but I can't find the taste in fish. Maybe the flavours are far too subtle for my unrefined palate, maybe I'm so used to strong flavours that my taste buds need to be smacked round their face with a big mallet rather than tickled with the lightest of feathers, not that fish have feathers.

The little taste I get from most fish is just that fishy taste, which is great when I add some maldive fish to more or less every Sri Lankan dish I attempt to cook, but not so welcome when I'm tucking into a hearty dinner. A piece of cod just tastes white and watery to me, the texture's quite pleasant but so is the feel of writing with a ball point pen on a piece of rubber, that doesn't mean I have to eat pens or rubber for dinner.

Whenever I go to the Beach Wadiya and tuck into the finest of fishy fare, it's the prawns that I love beyond a level of love that's legal in many East European countries. The big slab of fish, done in that mixture of ingredients that is actually making my mouth water as I think of it, just tastes of the ingredients and a bit of a fishy background taste. The ingredients are a bit special, but I'd prefer them stuck in a pot with a chicken or a cow anyday.

The effort to pleasure ratio is way too high for most fish too. I was out at a restaurant with the chaps in my covers band the other night. It was a great evening. We chatted, (mostly music related stuff), we drank (within the legal limits that applied to our respective modes of transport) and we ate (like Kings).

Our lead guitarist ordered steak tartare, a fascinating dish if ever there was one. I took one look at it and turned my nose up. If it were mine I'd have sent it back immediately for being way too rare, it hardly looked cooked at all. The rest of us tucked into our choices all happy and merry. But the bassist, as one would expect from one of that club, ate fish. I watched as he spent what seemed like hours deftly extracting the tiny bits of flesh from the thousands of bones that came with it.

As I savoured my liver, bacon and mash I wondered quietly to myself why the average fish needs all those bones anyway. It's not like they do anything all day apart from swimming around a bit. I'm a fairly crap swimmer but the little knowledge of swimming I have tells me that you're supposed to relax your body and go all floppy, so surely bones can't help at all.

Once we'd all finished our meal I surveyed the scene, before the waiter had cleared it. There were two totally clean plates; mine and the lead guitarist's. Of course you'd expect that from me. Two more plates were clean apart from a tiny bit of steak bone. The bassist's plate looked like a Colombo nightclub that's just held a birthday bash for Mervyn Silva while the Rupavahini staff were on an adjacent table. There was debris everywhere and I fail to see how he could have enjoyed it.

All those little, big and medium bones were everywhere and for what? A bit of tasteless white fish. Pah, I thought, in my best Bertie Wooster tone. And I meant it. That's bassists for you.

There you have it.




Friday, May 23, 2008

What I'm Listening To

I so love this song. Check it out.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

About Time

"Dad, why are there sixty minutes in an hour?" said K to me the other day.

I didn't know the answer, a recurring feeling these days, but have since googled it and discovered that the ancient Babylonians used to like counting to a base of sixty. This morning I rang K and told her the results of my research. She was on the bus on the way to school but, even though there was lots of showing off in front of her friends to be done, she seemed suitably interested and keen on me explaining it to her friend Anna.

K's continual thirst for knowledge has been evident since she was very young. She went through that thing that little children go through, when they ask "why?" to everything, but she kept going. It's endearing and taxing and keeps most around her on their toes.

When she asked me the question, although I didn't know the answer, it led to a brief disussion about the concept of time, though as I've written it I realise the phrase "a brief discussion about the concept of time" is one of the most oxymoronic phrases I've ever written, perhaps just a bit influenced by Stephen Hawkins, who clearly isn't a moron of any kind.

Time fascinates me. Maybe it's a factor in my passion for drumming, that whole thing about keeping time and subdivisions is a fundamental element of drumming, as is having a car big enough to carry a drum kit.

K asked me what "they" did before time was invented. The way kids and even adults talk about "they" is amusing isn't it? Like it's a group of people elected by the general population and their role is to invent things. Maybe "they" would have morning meetings and brainstorming sessions, although I don't think brainstorming had been invented in those days, so they would have just been called "sessions".

Perhaps "they" would decide, in the Tuesday morning meeting, that they'd invent the wheel that day. But how could they decide on that if time hadn't yet been invented? Or did time always exist, but it was man who decided how to measure it? How could they know that it was Tuesday morning if they hadn't come up with the concept of measuring time? Unless they called Tuesday something else, like Wednesday. I guess morning would have been quite easy to figure out as it was that bit before lunch and after breakfast, but then someone would have had to sort out what time to serve them. Presumably it wouldn't be the same people who decide what time to serve breakfast in hotels, because they're just cruel. Or German. Or both.

K and I were discussing the time thing for a while, or a time. We knew that a year is the time it takes for the Earth to go around the sun, or thereabouts. It's also the time it takes for the Sri Lankan calendar to have exactly four times the number of public holidays as the rest of the world put together. After that we were a bit stumped.

She asked me what "they" did before time was subdivided by man. She didn't use the word "subdivided", but she meant it. It's really got me thinking about the man made aspect of time. As far as I'm concerned time exists, it's just there hanging around whether we like it or not, a bit like the heating always being on in my parents' house.

Maybe in the future we'll be able to travel through time. That in itself would be wild and interesting. We could play tricks and do silly things. I'd immediately come back and write this post with some incredible insight to make you think I was a scientific genius. Imagine if Sir Arthur C and those other brilliant science fiction writers were / are actually time travellers who have come back and conned us all.

What if the reason they're so insightful is because they've actually seen the things they write about? "They" could make a film about that sort of thing, with a time travelling kid in a American / Irish crap sports car converted into a time machine. Remember where you heard the idea.

K and I chatted and pondered aloud. It's nice when we have one of these spells. She has this kind of advanced intelligence mixed with a childish curiosity about almost everything and I have childish intelligence mixed with advanced curiosity, so it all balances up quite well. We contemplated life without clocks and man made measurement of time.

A day would be sunrise to sunset. A week wouldn't have existed and each day would have been a natural progression from the previous one. Presumably my Sri Lankan cousin A, the sniffing one with no concept of time whatsoever, would have existed in a state of equilibrium. Anyone meeting him would never complain about him turning up three hours late as hours hadn't been invented. The sniffing would still bother them though.

But time always did tick away quietly in the background, it was us who came up with the way of measuring it. For so many years man must have existed without measuring time so accurately and specifically. Then "they" must have invented the watch. In one of their Tuesday, or Wednesday morning, or before lunch meetings, one of the chaps would have been proudly displaying his new Casio G shock.

The problem would have been that no one knew what it did. Fellows around the table would have stared at it and marvelled at its ruggedness and its ability to deflect magnetic fields, but they wouldn't have known what the hours, minutes and seconds stuff related to.

Until that chap at the back, the one who never said much since he came up with that idea about the round thing that rolls, the wheel he called it, said

"Hold on a minute lads, I've got a great idea..."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reflections On A Gig

Sunday afternoon was filled with gig. A nice relaxed gig at a VW festival, one of those things where people bring along their Beetles and Camper vans, in fact anything with a VW badge. It's the second year that Mimosa have been one of the featured bands and this year's event was sunny, warm and throughly enjoyable, a contrast to last year which was still enjoyable but grey and rainy.

It was an open air do, with cars and people, stalls and steeples, all mixing in the grounds of a big sort of manor house. There weren't actually any steeples, not even any churches, but I added it in for poetic effect. Cars and people were in plentiful supply though. If only I could have thought of another word that rhymed with people, something like Beetle would have been perfect. Damn!

We were set up at the back of the manor house. It's a bit hard to describe but we were in a kind of verandah area facing the gardens and grounds with our backs to the house. Me and my drumkit were in an alcove of sorts, my back to a big set of glass doors, behind the doors was the inside seating area in the bar, full of leather sofas and cosy surroundings. People could have sat or stood comfortably inside that area and watched us play, albeit from behind.

After a bit of an altercation with the DJ we kicked off. It's quite normal, in fact it's almost de rigeur, that when there's a combination of DJ and band there'll be some form of argument, or at the very least a bit of friction, between the two. It's understandable. We've got talent and ability and the average DJ just has a couple of decks and some records and thinks he, or she, is some kind of musician.

This argument involved the DJ shouting something at us and walking off in a huff. He failed to grasp the complicated concept that an eight piece band has to tune its instruments and do a semblance of a soundcheck before it plays the first song. It was a tad unfortunate as an eight piece band is also a little bit loud when it warms up, but it has to be done. As the mature and sensible bloke that I am I went over to try and pacify the fellow but he was well and truly in the middle of throwing all his toys out of his pram.

Still, we started our set. There were supposed to be four bands playing on the day but two had pulled out, so we were one of the remaining two. This meant there was a bit of set extending and some reshuffling to be done as we were asked to play for about an hour and a half instead of the original hour.

It was a lovely relaxed and mellow atmosphere. I've played gigs where it's too laid back, festival type things when people have been milling around so much that it's demotivating. That's when a DJ can be useful. This time there was a pleasant balance between people watching and listening to us and people strolling around, enjoying the sunshine and having a good time.

About two or three songs into the first set I glanced to my right, towards the bassist and G, the percussionist. I caught a glimpse of several people behind me in the bar area going a bit mental. There was some serious dancing going on inside the room on the other side of the window. The next time I glanced I saw, kind of in my peripheral vision, that they were still at it and that there was a chap air drumming too.

Surreptitious glances during the rest of the set confirmed my suspicions, though they were nice suspicions, not ones like Miss Marple would have about the vicar's wife and the Colonel. Mine were motivational ones and they made me smile and feel good, they weren't caused by the vicar's wife though.

Air musicians are a phenomenon that both puzzle and amuse me. They only ever play one of two instruments; drums or guitar. You never see an air keyboardist or an air bassist do you? Occasionally you'll see an air guitarist who plays air bass but that's normally because he doesn't know the difference. Over the years I've been lucky enough to play for several air drummers at gigs. Some have looked good, hitting cymbals when I have, flailing round the toms when I have and generally playing along and looking impressive.

Others have been poor, hitting things randomly and only being vaguely in time with me. There's one thing that they have in common; the clear and obvious fact that they are not real musicians. They may well be DJs, but they're not musicians. We wouldn't that kind of thing to another musician, it would embarrass us and them. It's only wannabe musos who play air instruments.

But, as the gig progressed I realised that the air drummer was a competent sort of player. He certainly wasn't a total idiot, not up to the level of a Sri Lankan newspaper editor, but he showed a certain level of knowledge and competence. There were moments when he played the wrong thing totally but most of the time he kept up with me. Fair play to him I thought, there's nothing better than an enthusiastic fan. He certainly fired me up a bit and made it just that little bit more enjoyable.

The end of the set came and I turned round fully to give a rock star wave and a smile to my air drumming fan. I wanted to thank him for the support and the energy and there was always the chance that he was a cute blonde girl.

I pivotted fully and looked at him. He looked at me and there was a familiar look in his face. Sort of puzzled recognition with a hint of disappointment. I turned back round and tried to look nonchalent, thinking it was the best way to behave, that no one had caught me.

The air drummer was my reflection. That's what big glass windows do to a fellow's vision. The people I had thought were dancing were the reflections of the rest of the band.

"Bollocks." I thought to myself quietly.

Keep it to yourself though.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sex Ed For Dummy Parents

Some time ago Dinidu, probably my favourite sexual rights activist of all time, said that my blog should be sub titled "parenting for dummies". I laughed at his wit and chuckled at the thought that secretly I'm a great father, despite the image I might portray to you and all who are kind enough to read around here.

Then I went to collect the girls on Wednesday for our weekly evening together.

I'll digress for a moment and tell you about a tangential thought that's just entered my head. As I write this and think about what to write next I pondered on the approach, if that's the word, one should take when blogging. I know that I have the occasional regular reader and I wonder whether it's best to talk about my girls as if you, the reader, already knows all about them, or if it's best to introduce them every time, for the benefit of newbies around here.

I wonder what's best, I wonder if it matters at all.

Still, at least I don't over analyse these things!

Back to the beginning. I was at their house and doing the usual hassling for them to get ready. Wednesdays are great fun and enjoyed by all ( I think) but they're not easy going and relaxed. The idea is that it's a "normal" school night for the girls, just one that's spent with their Dad instead of their Mother. The idea is that it's not a big treat on which I take them out for fancy food or do glamorous things like gigs or outings.

This means that it's an evening on which I leave work early, pick them up and take K to her piano lesson. Me and A then rush off to buy things for dinner, then rush back to collect K. Then it's homework for them, cooking for me, clearing up, arguing, shouting, cramming a week's worth of Father and daughter stuff into a few hours and dropping them back for 8.30.

It's hard, it's fun, it's sad and it's happy. It's also a massive learning curve for all of us. One of the things about this divorce business is that I've had to reevaluate my role as a father, to redefine many of my own ways of behaviour and try to maintain the right balance between all the elements involved in this parenthood thing. Anyone can be a parent these days, being a good one is a different matter. Being a good divorced one, with time as a scarce resource, is yet another matter.

As A and me were driving to Tesco to get dinner the first bombshell hit me.

"Dad, we're going to be doing sex education next week and we're going to be shown how to put a condom on a banana". She said.

My head felt as if it contained nothing but rubber arrows of confusion bouncing around in all directions. Damn this whole fatherhood thing. Sometimes when you're supposed to be serious you can only think of funny things and other times, when you're supposed to be funny, you're busy thinking about serious things.

I felt pleased that sex education is done at school, that I live in a society in which it's accepted that young people have sex and that they're taught how to approach it. I felt nervous and anxious that A, my 14 year old, is reaching that age. I also felt sorry for their male biology teacher. It's a girls school you see. He's probably quite used to it by now but I feel huge amounts of male sympathy for any chap who will have to show a class full of 14 year old girls how to put a condom on a banana. Poor bastard!

I listened to A, I had nothing to say really, but sincerely hoped she wasn't going to ask me any questions. She didn't, so I cracked a joke about how useful it would be if she ever had to put a condom on a banana. She laughed, I laughed and we continued our journey. I thought I had got away with it. We did our shopping and went to collect K from her piano lesson. A car with K in it can be a dangerous place. The conversation went like this:

"K, I was just telling Dad that we're going to be doing sex ed and Mr X (I can't remember his name) is going to show us how to put a condom on a banana" said A.

"Uurgh, urgh, urgh" said K.

She said it in that teenager's accent, the one where the voice raises and lowers in pitch, usually to indicate to listeners that the user of the accent is a male whose balls are currently dropping with the force and speed of a few roof tiles falling off in a violent storm. I think they call it voice breaking or something, I don't know if it happens in girls, perhaps a girl might read this and enlighten me. Then K went quiet, which can only mean she is thinking or asleep. She was wide awake. Then she said

"That's nothing though. We're seeing a video soon and I heard it's got pictures of men with boners in it."

I positively choked on the steering wheel. There was a strange split second silence from A, the elder but more middle of the road sister. The split second gave her enough time to figure out a response. It came:

"Uuuuurgh, that's disgusting. A boner, really?"

"Yeah, seriously." responded the younger sibling.

I realised something important, something that filled me with fear and made me wish for an ejector seat in the car. Perhaps that should be an "erector" seat. It wouldn't have mattered which seat ejected, I'd have pressed the button either way just to get away from them. My realisation was that neither of them knew what a boner is, that they were half bluffing and half telling the truth. They knew it was something to do with sex, with men and with things that are rude. That was about it. They also knew that someone in a position of authority, like a parent, would know what a boner is. I was that person.

"Dad" came the voice.

"Umm. What?"

"What's a boner?"

"Um well it's a erm you know well it's erm like well a well you know." I reckoned that my explanation was pretty good under the circumstances.

"It's a what?"

"Well it's erm a willy, you know, like when two people are having sex."

I was feeling chuffed with myself at the level of technical detail I had managed to get into the explanation. I'd done the science bit yet still made it easy to understand. Even as I write this I predict a flood of calls from TV people asking me to present their next nature or biology show.

Things went silent for a few seconds. I could hear cogs turning. There were cogs in A's and K's head turning and thinking about similar things. I didn't have to look but I knew there would be perplexed, puzzled and disgusted looks on their face. The loudest cogs were the ones in my head. Turning at hundreds of miles per hour and producing a fight inside my head. The fight was a big one and was between the mature Dad bit of my brain, the bit that thought it was good that we were having the chat, and the childish bit of my brain, which is more than a bit and actually about 98% of it.

Then the thinking was done, it was time for more.

"What do you mean Dad?"

I wasn't sure which child said it, but it didn't matter.

"Ermm it's the willy. You know, when two people are having sex."

I thought this added more detail and approached things from a different angle. Some more thinking was being done by the girls and I, like most Sri Lankans, drummed on the steering wheel.

A, the 14 year old was a bit more pensive than K, the younger sibling. I think it was because she knew more and was getting embarrassed. It was K who piped up with the closing argument.

"Ah I know. Is it like when two people are having sex and the man lies on top with his willy?"

"YES, YES THAT'S IT!!" I grabbed at the escape hatch that had been suddenly appeared through the mist, not that escape hatches normally appear through mist. It's normally wolves, monsters and cars without foglights on. The explanation was only vaguely near the mark, but these things are relative and I wanted out.

"Uuurgh yuk" said K.

She was thinking, I was thinking and A was thinking. It wouldn't have taken Sigmund Freud to figure out that we were all thinking about sex. He may have been needed to look inside each of our minds and make sense of the different approaches.

K was thinking that it was all disgusting, a bit chee and unnecessary. A was more advanced, still uncomfortable that we were talking about the dreaded sex thing, but fascinated and fixated too. Those couple of extra years meant that her interest was more healthy. RD (that's me) was fascinated and fixated, half loving the moment and half hating it.

We got home in silence, then all jumped out of the car as quickly one of those chaps who's been trapped on a desert island and has to jump onto a passing ship. We went inside, did some token unpacking of shopping and relaxed. They started to watch TV and I sloped up to my room. I felt as if I had been sent up there.

I spent some time mooching around then went back down when I thought the coast was clear. We had dinner to make, homework to do and anything was likely to happen....

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Blogging, Writing, Talking And Thinking.

Ian S left a comment here that reminded me of a post I've been meaning to write for some time. He asked whether I talk as I write, or something like that, I can't quite remember.

It's a highly interesting subject, that of writing versus talking. I'd never written much before I started this blog and frankly the way I write is, I think, a fairly accurate reflection of the way I think. But the big difference is that of planning and forethought. I write without a style, well without a thought out style. I throw a word or two in here, a simile or metaphor in there and often see a funny side in things that many don't.

But when I write I get time to think about the words I use. I can read, edit, erase, deleted. I can go over things and decide whether they get published or not. My decision is often as dodgy as a Sri Lankan Policeman, as I rarely know what's going to get interest and what isn't. My ongoing problems in figuring out the posts that will get comments are still there, my concern is far less though.

Talking, the kind that involves using the mouth and making noises that turn into words, means split second thought and quick use of the mind. It means one has to think of things and say them straight away. There's no "save in draft" option, no reading it later and deciding if it's funny before you actually say it. It just happens. I've found that this blogging thing has helped my vocabulary immensely. I can start to write a post, pause on a word or a phrase and try to think of a different way of presenting it. Increasingly this new found way with words comes through in my day to day conversation and I'll find myself using a word, phrase or sentence that I might have written. But it's the written bit that comes first for me. Talking isn't my chosen platform to try out new words and sentences.

The little bit of writing that I do in this blog has made me appreciate skill and effort that goes into proper writing. The thought, talent and brilliance that true writers possess and exhibit now astounds me as I sit and peruse a newspaper or a blog. From young up and comers like the Gutterflower and Sach to old sages like Java, David Blacker and Dhammika I read and hang on their every word and marvel at the way they weave stories and play with sentences and language.

So, to anyone whose blog I read, I'd like to say thanks for the knowledge and the sharing. It's an ongoing learning experience for me.

Now, I must go, it's sleep time and I've got a gig tomorrow.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sometimes Only A Mac Will Do

I was in Singapore a few weeks ago and decided to take a stroll up and down Orchard Road.

Orchard Rd, for those who aren't aware, is full of shopping centres. It's also full of shopping centres for those who are aware, I wouldn't want you to think there's a load of awareness discrimination going on in Singapore by any means.

It's like Oxford Street only with good shops. Each shopping centre is like Odel's big fat American cousin, the one that wears only designer labels and knows what the world is about. Next door to Brad Jr, the American cousin, is Brad Sr, the bigger and better version.

Scary shit indeed. And I say that as a bloke who likes shopping. It's certainly not lack of choice or lack of variety but shopping in Singapore just leaves me bewildered and dizzy, like I'm drunk but it's caused by sheer volume of shops. They come at you from all angles. Along Orchard everywhere you look there's another designer label shop, another expensive watch gallery or another place selling more of the same.

I think my sense of mindfuck is because of my simpleness. A short walk around Kingston or Richmond is my thing, browsing in shops I know in areas I know. The busyness of Orchard Road and the scale of it messes with my head in the same way that my iTunes library messes with my ears. I can sit on a plane and spend so much time browsing through the songs that, by the time I've chosen what I want to listen to, I've changed my mind and decided to read a book instead.

Perhaps it's compounded by the fact that labels and clothing in Singapore actually seem to cost about the same, perhaps slightly more, than here in the UK. But then again, perhaps not. Too much choice makes perusing hard but perusing when I could get it for the same at home makes it seem pointless. Electronic bits and pieces is a different kettle of fish. If only I didn't already own just about every electronic gadget ever invented.

On the other hand one of the things that is great about Singapore is the hawker markets. Everywhere you turn there are these conglomerations of food outlets selling every type of food you can think of. For a Sri Lankan, with that innate love of carbohydrates we all have, Singapore is a culinary paradise. There's rice or noodles with everything, there's chilli and spiceyness on top of all the rice and noodles and it's all available whenever we want it.

There I was, on Orchard Rd and hungry. I had investigated the rather strange concept of Singaporean Chicken rice on my last trip. It was a dish that I read about in magazines and books and I was keen to try. Rice and chicken is usually a mouthwatering combination so I figured that it had to be good. Well I was unimpressed, it's basically rice cooked in chicken stock with some cucumber, some soup and a few other things. There's chicken pieces which are just plain old chicken and that's about it. But, in my search for chicken rice I had accidentally bought some claypot chicken rice, which is very different and very delicious, all spicy and saucy and full of flavour.

I found myself a hawker market type of place and spent some minutes "window shopping", if that's the term for hawker markets. I stayed away from the fish ball stall for reasons of ethics and decency, I looked at some noodle places, a Thai place and a Indian one. Then I settled on the claypot stall. I should have known better. As I checked it out the woman was busy chopping the most strange looking sausages you can imagine. I say that as a confirmed sausage lover too.

I glanced at the menu and figured that the claypot special rice would be a good move. The claypot chicken rice I'd had recently was so good that this "special" could only be better. Couldn't it?

It came in a claypot, no surprise there really, and was so hot that the woman serving it had some special device to pick up the pot with. I waddled to a table with my tray and chilli sauce things balancing precariously. Disaster could have struck at any point. There could have been hot rice, chilli soya sauce stuff and London, Lanka and drums sprinkled all over the floor so easily if it wasn't for the sheer strength and power of the motivation given to me by the thought of rice, more specifically eating it.

I sat down and peered at my choice. It looked good enough to eat. So I ate.

These Singaporeans may be clever and advanced in many things but this Claypot Special Rice was not an example of their brilliance. There was too much going on and too much of that tasted like rubber. The rice itself was passable but had some crispy bits where it had got a bit burnt. The sausage things that I had seen the woman cutting up were poking out randomly through the rice. They tasted like no other sausage I had ever tasted, not in a good way either. I am a serious sausage connoisseur and these things didn't make the grade. Were I a member of the sausage Police I would have arrested the woman and her sausage supplier and carted them off to a life of hard labour at once.
There were pieces of chicken involved too. But it was scrawny meat that looked like feet. In cockney rhyming slang feet are called "plates of meat". Clearly in Singapore rhyming slang plates of meat are called "feet".

I persevered for a short time but it was useless. I love my food and I wanted to enjoy this but it just wasn't happening. I remembered a phrase that my old mate D always uses to describe food he doesn't like, that's it's a "waste of stomach space". Never had that description been so apt. There was only one thing for it.

I gave the food a parting glance. I stood up with an air of confidence (fake) about me. Then I walked out of the hawker area, looking as if I was a man of a mission, as if I was quickly nipping out to the toilet and would be back in a second or two. A quick glance back at my table showed the rice still steaming and I felt guilty for the waste and embarrassed at my extravagance. But I knew what I had to do and I knew that this was a time to get my confidence back.

Some years ago I had a head on collision in my car. It was a pretty bad accident but both myself and the chap in the other car were lucky in that neither of us were injured. But after I had got home that night I knew that I had to drive as soon as possible. I went straight out in my ex wife's car, just to buy some food, knowing that it would have been easy not to drive and that my confidence might have suffered. In those days she wasn't my ex wife so she let me.

That's how I felt. I had ordered badly, suffered some pain and trauma, but the way to beat the psychological blow to my eating skills was to get straight back into the ring, to get an easy win, a quick confidence booster. As I walked out of the hawker centre there was a purposeful look to my gait. I knew what was needed and I knew where to get it.

In Orchard Rd, in Singapore where I could have got almost anything I wanted to eat within a short walk I headed for the easy win, the quick get back on the first rung of the ladder place. I walked up to the counter and said those words. They were painful yet comforting, they were cheap and nasty yet they meant something to me, they'd make it all okay. It was like going back to your first girlfriend, the one who lived in that council house, after you've split up with Jennifer Aniston. Poor quality but you know what you're going to get.

"A Big Mac meal please, with Diet Coke" (mindful of my health as usual).

I took a seat and felt as if I was back at home in my planter's chair. The Big Mac contained all the familiar flavours and characteristics. The lettuce was limp and lacklustre, the sauce had that strange tanginess that McDonalds can only do, the two slices of gherkin, or pickles, were hidden somewhere inside as they always are.

The Big Mac, true to form, looked nothing like the pictures up on the wall. The pictures show a Big Mac on steroids, all pumped up and pristine, with a plumpness and scale to it as if it would take a crane to lift the whole contraption up to your mouth. In real life a Big Mac is about half the size, the bun is flattened and the sauce and half the contents of the burger spill out of the side of the bun as you get to the fourth bite. The top and bottom beef patties slide so that, by the time you've eaten all the bun, one patty has got a tiny bite taken out of it and the other one has all but vanished.

It's about thirty years since I ate my very first Mac and I think there's hardly been any changes. In fact, judging by the state of the lettuce, the Orchard Rd one may well have been from that same batch.

Damn, I enjoyed it!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ten Random Things That Make Me Feel Happy

  1. Colombo - the feel, the sound, the sights and the buzz it gives me

  2. My daughters - hanging and listening and talking and laughing. Being in the palm of their hand and knowing it and loving it.

  3. Sunshine - feeling it on my skin, waking in the morning and seeing it streaming through my blinds

  4. Driving fast - acceleration and adrenalin.

  5. Playing the drums - feeling in my place, peace and total excitement at the same time.

  6. Making money - still get the buzz, still feel the thrill

  7. Learning new things - growing all the time and using the knowledge
  8. Laughing - just feels good

  9. Converse All Stars - because

  10. Getting lost in a great book - Visiting worlds and marvelling at chaps what can write.

I hereby tag the following people:






Give us your ten random things then.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Just Gay Enough?

Down the end of my road is a little parade of shops. It houses all the staples of the traditional English small shopping parade. There's a couple of Indian "open all hours selling anything you want at high prices" shops, there's an old fashioned barber, there's a greasy cafe (highly recommended), an off licence, a pet shop, a dry cleaners and a few others. Also there's a disproportionate number of fast food places. We have two Indian restaurants, one kebab and burger shop, one pizza place, one Chinese restaurant, one fish and chip shop and a greasy cafe. I kid you not. There's also a florist.

The florist is the unashamed star of today's post, though I'd put money on the fact that none of the people in it actually read my blog, so will probably never be aware of the situation. It's an unusual looking place, reminding me more or the sort of shop that one would see in Paris than West London. I have to walk past it to get to the "open all hours" shops and it spreads an atmosphere of flowery sunshine.

The whole front of the shop is open to the elements with one of those big sliding partition doors that they only close when the shop is closed. So, when you walk past it feels as if you're walking through the the place, not past it. It's a decently stocked florist too. That two second glance as I stroll past fills my vision with splashes of bright colour, of reds, oranges, yellows and greens. My nose stocks up with that naturey smell, the one that reminds me of summer and nice things until the hayfever kicks in.

The more I gaze at it the more I deliberate and ponder on the issue, that delicate one, that one of men buying flowers. More accurately that one of men buying flowers for themselves. It might be that I've been lured by the clever displays and the smart marketing. It could be that I've been reading too many "Men's" magazines, telling me how to be the perfect metrosexual, in touch with my feminine side and proud of it.

It's all about this living on my own business. I know there are many men who buy flowers and probably read Darwin's recipes and copy them at the weekend but I'm not used to this behaviour. Even if I did buy flowers I don't have a vase, or a vase as you Americans say.

If I go out and buy a vase then I'd simply have to buy flowers to put in it. So there'd be no decision to make. But, if I don't buy a vase, then buying flowers will be pointless. Unless I bung them in a pint glass, or perhaps hang individual flowers off parts of my practice drum kit.

The temptation to walk into the florists and just look around is growing. But even that fills my mind with problems. It's okay to browse in a clothes shop, a bookshop or the local branch of Toys R Us. But, when the kind flower lady asks if she can help me and I tell her that I'm "just looking" she'll probably press that button that connects straight to the Police station, the one that's labelled "weirdo alert". Then I'll have to buy some flowers just to prove my innocence, making some idle chit chat about buying them for my wife or mother.

Then, as I walk out of the shop as the proud owner of a bunch of flowers she'll turn to her colleague and say

"These gay blokes pretending to be straight make me laugh with all their wife and mother stuff"

And I'm cool about gayness anyway. Some time ago someone told me I was "just gay enough" or "JGE". Apparently that's a good thing, I didn't know as it was a new term to me. I do use moisturiser on my face every day and I often drink gin and tonic. (slimline too)

You can see the situation developing here. As time ticks on I know I'll end up buying some flowers, perhaps falling short at buying myself a dozen red roses. Then, self consciously, I'll take them home and put them on display in my newly acquired man's vase. The vase will be as macho as a vase can be, ideally made by JCB and chiselled from rock and steel, without a feminine curve anywhere near it. If a vase could have stubble then my one would.

The flower shop girls, not to be confused with the pet shop boys, will think I'm a raving metrosexual. The neighbours will give me knowing glances. My daughters will think I've totally lost it. Academic bro will think I'm perfectly normal and not have the slightest idea what my fear was in the first place. My Dad, like any good Sri Lankan Dad, will think I have gone gay and that must have been why my marriage ended in divorce. My Mum will then spend some months trying to persuade my Dad that I haven't and that he shouldn't ignore me for the rest of his life.

Yet, after all this clever and intelligent reasoning I'm none the wiser. What is the definitive opinion on a chap buying flowers for himself?

Do I do it or should I continue to walk past the quaint little flower shop with that sulky look on my face?

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Sleepover Report

You're likely to be aware that I had ended up as the the slightly reluctant but mostly nervous host of a sleepover at my place for K, my eleven year old, and A2, her friend. I'll call her A2 so that you don't confuse her with A, my fourteen year old. A3 doesn't work because you think I'm talking about an Audi, even more confusing as A2 is also German.

Friday's departure from work took me straight to collect the brace of eleven year olds from K's place. I did not pass go and I sure as hell didn't collect £200. I had probably spent close to that on a bag or two of chocolate flavoured goodies for them though.

Now I'm about average height for a Sri Lankan male, roughly three feet tall, which means that I've got quite used to most white people towering over me. I met A2 for the first time and looked upwards towards that area where you see planes, clouds and planets. Somewhere above there I saw her head. I shouted "hello" and did the polite Dad thing. K, looking a bit wary and sounding a tad nervous said

"Dad, I've told all my friends about it but you're not going to do the dancing in your pants thing are you?"

I assured her that it wasn't on the cards and that I'd behave, feeling uncomfortable but also proud that my underpants dance is rapidly becoming quite well known. Not as legendary as the whole twig in Naz Sansoni's navel episode but it's getting there. We loaded up the stuff into my car and set off. As usual I wondered and marvelled at the ability of you girls, even eleven year old ones, to pack the entire contents of a small town for a mere one night stay.

K was wearing her usual casual gear. These days it's a pair of skinny jeans, Converse All Stars, her My Chemical Romance T shirt and her My Chemical Romance hoodie over that. A2 had on some similar looking garb and I rather cleverly guessed that she was into the same sort of music and things. K had of course brought a CD for the four minute car journey and I was asked to play it. I say "asked" to give you an impression that I had some choice in the matter. Of course the reality is that I didn't, but you knew that anyway.

We drove for a while with an early MCR track blasting out through the speakers and all of us quite content. Then I became vaguely aware of some sort of grunting noise from the back. I turned the music down and asked for a repeat of the noise. A2 said

"I like your car"

Cool, I thought, though I'm fortunate to have a nice car and it does get a few compliments.

"It's much tidier than my car" she continued.

It struck me as a strange thing to say for an eleven year old, the whole "my car" bit. I hoped she wasn't one of those spoilt types who, at eleven, already owned a car, perhaps one that she drove on the farm at weekends or something. I developed a cunning line of enquiry that I thought would answer my questions.

"What kind of car is yours?" I asked

"It's a Zafira" she said.

I was happy and not just because I have several cousins called Zafira. It was also because I know that a Zafira is one of those dodgy Vauxhall MPV things. A middle aged person's car, one built for carrying lots of kids and camping gear. It's not a rock 'n' roll cool Dad's car. Not that I'm competitive or anything, but I think I was winning on the cool Dad issue. One for Sri Lanka, nil for Germany. Things looked good.

As we pulled up at my house they spotted a friend of theirs walking along the road. We got out of the car, they asked if they could go to the chip shop with P, the friend, I replied in the affirmative and off they trotted. Ten minutes later they returned with chips and friend. They marched up to K's and A's bedroom, sent a request down to me for tomato ketchup and brown sauce and they were happy for about half an hour. After that the friend left and K and A2 were hungry. Pizzas had been ordered and we steamed into those as soon as they arrived.

Now, in my small one TV and one sitting roomed house there isn't much space for doing your own thing without treading on each other's toes. So after dinner they wanted to watch a film and I left them to it. I went up to my room, feeling like I was a teenager leaving my parents to watch TV while I went up to do my homework, or pretend to. Every half hour I checked on them and would find more chocolate wrappers strewn around the floor and more remnants of things scattered around but all were happy. At some point I got a phone call on my mobile from
A2's mother.

It was a bit weird, she asked me if she could speak to her to say goodnight and then had a conversation in which she was very obviously asking her daughter about me, my house and whether I was ok, not deranged or something. I felt sorry for A2 and pleased that I hadn't done the underpants dance. I heard A2 say things like

"Yes he's very nice"

"Yes it's fine"

all in slightly awkward tones.

At around eleven the film finished and I sent them off to bed. I had expected several hours of them messing around and me telling them to go to sleep but fortunately this didn't materialise. With minutes of them turning out the light they were fast asleep and I had the prospect of waking them at 8AM to look forward to. Why? Because A2 had to go somewhere so was being collected at 8.45 AM. Old Mrs A2 had said to me on the phone that she was sure I'd be up at that time but I'd have to wake the girls up early.

I think you know what sort of words were actually going through my head. Ones like

"Fuckinell, I've got to fucking getting up at fucking bloody 8 on a fucking Saturday just to fucking wake up your fucking bloody daughter because she has to go trampolining or something."

What came out of my mouth were words that were just slightly different. Ones like

"Oh yes, ha ha ha, I'm sure it will be no problem, I'm usually up pretty early on a Saturday morning anyway."

I stumbled out of bed at the allotted time, made my toilet, then sat on it and did a poo. Then I showered, changed and knocked on their door to wake the girls. They were already up and on the laptop. Apparently the internet opens early on Saturdays, I guess it's probably run by Germans.

There was some frantic doing of make up and hair and things, then they were ready and we waited for the arrival of the parent. With the punctuality one would expect from a German the doorbell rang at roughly 8.45 and zero seconds. I opened it and tried not to choke, laugh or stare, in that way you try not to stare at a person with twelve toes and maybe a couple of extra arms.

There are three requirements for a woman to look good in skintight lycra clothing. They must have the body of an important female character from a Baywatch episode, they must have the looks of a Ferrari and of course they must have the skin tight lycra clothes.

As I opened the door and did the polite introduction bit I saw immediately that Old Mrs A2 wasn't exactly knocking on Pamela Anderson's door. In fact she'd probably fail in the audition for one of Tommy Lee's home videos let alone for an episode of Baywatch. She looked more like the Zafira she drove than a Ferrari, even one of the less attractive ones. I also noticed that she DID have a surplus of skintight lycra gear and that she was wearing it all in one go. Perhaps it was national wear all the lycra gear you can get your hands on day and I just didn't know about it.

Surely there must be a law about people like that wearing that type of outfit at such an early hour of the day, particularly a Saturday. I didn't know where to look and, when she apologised for the clothing, saying some line about going running or something, all I could do was say that it was ok and that lots of women dressed liked that for me. She laughed, I laughed and I tried to ascertain exactly why I had said such a thing. It must have been the combination of the pressure and my incredible wit.

She then made some half baked comment about the state of my front garden, along the lines of "I like your gardening skills", or something similarly sarcastic. Now my front garden is a total state these days but I've got a fellow coming out on Thursday to take care of it and I felt a bit aggrieved at Old Mrs A2's comment, it wasn't as if we were old friends or cousins or something and, being the archetypal Sri Lankan gent, I had calmly decided not to remark on the tightness of her lycra around the crotch area, tempted as I had been.

No, a less cultured fellow would have said something like

"Nice fanny, that lycra doesn't leave much to the imagination does it, have you thought about a Brazilian?"

But I kept my calm and composure despite her quite vicious and brazen attack on my gardening skills and of that I'm sure you're proud. She carted off her daughter after forcing her to say thank you. Me and K were left alone at this unearthly hour. We decided, or rather I decided, that we'd go the the local greasy cafe for breakfast. As we ambled to the cafe happily in our own respective worlds we spotted Mrs A2 jogging up the road. We laughed and headed to the cafe for our fry ups.

And that's the sleepover report.

Have a great week out there!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lately In The Sri Lankan Blogosphere...

Things have been a bit quiet out there lately. Why is this? Maybe there's been an abundance of Poya days and public holidays in Lanka. Perhaps it's the end of year and all of you student types are busy doing exams and cramming. I don't know. But it has been evident and I'm disappointed about it.

But, through the scarcity and the lack of good chunky and interesting posts there shineth some gems, some interesting titbits and some juicy gossip, some poetic pieces and some alliterative altercations.

On my ventures into blogging pastures new I came across a new gem of a Sri Lankan blog. It's called Lost Landscape and you can find it by clicking on the title, a few words ago. His first post caught my attention, in all honesty because my blog was referenced in it, but when I read it I was instantly captivated. Here's a young Tamil chap who appears to be willing to put his balls on the line, a phrase I use with some trepidation as he's also openly gay. Accusations of cheap attempts at humour using innuendo could fly at me quicker than warrior bees attacking German tourists at Sigiriya after they've thrown sticks at the hives.

But his writing is informed, even if you disagree with his opinions. His language is rather musical, not like mine may be when I talk about drums and stuff either. There's a lilt and a poeticness to his words that literally excites me as I read them. And that comes from a chap who's just used the word "poeticness", which I suspect doesn't even exist. I urge you to check it out.

The Right Honourable Lord Cerno continues to enthral and excite us. His interesting post on illegal street racing in Colombo has attracted a lot of attention and comments. The videos he has attached are a bit uneventful though, they just look like everyday street driving in CMB to me, albeit a tad slower and safer than some things we've all seen. For some really dangerous Colombo street stuff have a look at this.

While we're on the subject of the blogger formerly known as the 1 truecoolguy let's touch on what he's been up. Mostly going to lesbian weddings, wishing for a Kazakhstani bride and introducing the happy couple to lethal cocktails. Read all about it here. I'm full of admiration and envy. I've never been to a lesbian wedding before, in fact I'm not even sure where Lesbia is. I think it's somewhere in North Africa.

Up in the towers of academia our favourite domestic goddess has been suprising her readership. First there were recipes and then there came this post. If it was an episode of Friends it would be called "The one with the flower pictures". Darwin's definitely a girl and occasionally she can't help but reveal her feminine side!

The Gutterflower has made it into the realms of stardom and the higher eschelons of the SL blogosphere. Yes, I added her blog into my links. It will bring her at least two extra views every month and I'm sure she now feels as if her life is complete. I agree with most who suggested I add her blog to my links. She's one of these fellows who can write, one who bungs words onto a screen via a keyboard and, when you read the words, you experience certain emotions and feelings.

Scandal and fun seems to be the order of the day in the Sri Lankan ad industry as Brandon uses his blog to defend something that seems to have been going on, or not going on, or whatever. I often have this feeling when reading the blog of a person who's a good few years younger than me. It's a feeling of

"mmm I wonder if they'll really regret putting that post out on a blog in years to come."

Maybe they won't, maybe they'll be cool with it. I wonder though.

Over in theatrical circles there's another debate kicking off nicely. Tracy Holsinger has written an open letter to the editor of the Sunday Observer Magazine. I've been watching the scenario with interest and it opens up all sorts of debates in my mind. Things about reviews, whether reviewers have a responsibility to get their facts right, whether there is anything positive about negative criticism and a whole manner of ruminations on the goldfish bowl aspect of Colombo society.

Indi has put up this one about the benefit concert at Barefoot for Mo. I know I'm not the first and I know I won't be the last to wish him all the best. I only met him a few years ago for the first time but I know he's such an integral part of the general ambience at Barefoot and liked muchly by all.

This post by Janusis caught my eye, made me smile and made me laugh. The nail has been hit firmly on the head. This discrimination and unfairness against the slightly older and fatter TVs must stop at once. They're as good as flat screens and they're real TVs with real screens and cathode ray tubes and wires too.

Ravana, who surely must be the least anonymous anonymous blogger in the Sri Lankan blogosphere, perhaps only second to Electra who rarely posts these days, has chucked out a nifty chunk on patriotism, or false patriotism. I've got a far less, erm what's the word, ah yes, a far less eloquent post that touches on the subject sitting in my drafts somewhere and I may retrieve it and brush off the dust and whack it out at some point. If you do head over to Ravana's post make sure to read the comments, they're an integral part of the beauty of it.

I'll leave you and sign off with the following gem. Java emailed it to me and it's excited me tremendously, which admittedly isn't too hard. My excitement is multipled by fact that I now know how to embed a youtube video into my blog. You've been warned. Happy times!


Friday, May 9, 2008

Wish Me Luck


Because tonight, were you to creep into my back garden and peer through the windows of my house, you'd witness a first, one that's making me tremble like a chocolate biscuit pudding on the back seat of a Sri Lankan bus.

A, the 14 year old, has got her birthday party. It means that she's off into the wilds of Kingston with a gang of her friends. Then, some of those friends will get taken back to her and her Mother's place and they'll stay the night and do whatever it is you girls do on sleepovers. It means that I miss out on my fortnightly overnight visit from A but that's ok, it's her birthday party and I'm relaxed and cool about it.

What it does mean is that K, the 11 year old who needs little introduction these days, is coming round to mine for the overnight stop. But it's not just her. It only life were that simple. No, there's a friend of some kind coming too.

You can imagine my trepidation. Two of them. In my house. The days of a big house in which they could have been left to wander are long gone. I can't leave them in a room with a TV and a DVD player, some food and drink and check in on them every five hours or so like any good parent would normally do. No, my small house won't permit that. I'll have to entertain them and mix with them.

I'll have to try to maintain my "cool Dad" status. Letting the friend have a go on my drumkit may help me in that avenue. There's always the option of playing something on the drums myself to keep my street cred up too. It doesn't have to be anything complicated, just playing something by a band they like should do the trick.

K has already expressed some concern that I'll embarrass her. She said this on Wednesday when I was doing the underpants dance to her and A. You know, that one that involves wearing just pants (pink striped ones available from Odel) and flip flops. Why she thinks my behaviour might be a cause of embarrassment is beyond me.

I figure that a cupboard load of chocolate and chocolate related biscuit things, lots of Diet Coke and pizzas will be useful. Snack things for the night and lots of whisky for me may come in handy. Suppose I better wash the towels and maybe a bit of silent farting around the house practice would be useful.

So wish me luck. I'll let you know how it goes next week. For now I'm concentrating on survival.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Alternate Realities (The Simplified Version)

Java's post about realities, like so many of his very delicious bits of writing, got me both thinking and downright confused.

I'm a simple fellow and many of Java's more complex posts are beyond me. Think Britney Spears and nuclear physics and you'll get the picture. But reality is a topic I find quite interesting. It's all about perspective, judgement and each person's mentality. Over the years I've come to look at the subject with what I consider a pretty all rounded viewpoint, which is my reality and you may disagree with of course.

Up until only relatively recently I had a very different attitude to these things. I say relatively because it's all relative isn't it. I'm talking about a few years' ago, which to me is relatively recently, but for an ant, particularly one of those flying ants that only live for a day, a few years' is a long time. Or to a goldfish, because they have the memory of my Dad.

I used to wonder how on Earth I could look at the bare facts involved in a situation, the plain and objective facts, those that are indisputable, like so and so said "you've got brown hair" and come to a conclusion or view that may be different to that of another person. I'd think that it was so clear that we were both looking at the same data and therefore it was unbelievable that the other fellow could be so wrong.

That's when the alternate reality theory started to apply in my thinking. I realised, after many years of frustration, that it's possible, or actually probable, that two people can look at the same facts, figures and data and come to two very different conclusions. Simply because they have different brains and different ways of thinking. I'm not you, you're not me. Unless I'm reading this back to myself before publishing it.

The brain is a hugely complex piece of kit, like an iPod but one of the larger memory ones with video and all, obviously not as advanced but close. And all of us have different models. We've got different experiences, education and influences. It's rarely the case that I'm right and you're wrong, more that we're both right but we take different views on the same thing.

Confab's post here touches on the subject too. It's all about choices and opinions, the mindset of each individual rather than a collective mindset in which we all agree with each other. There are things that most people agree on, there are certain values that many wouldn't argue with. But outside of those norms it's all down to opinion and differing views.

It's so easy to give someone advice when you're not the person actually experiencing the feelings that the unfortunate recipient of your advice is going through. We (the agony Uncle) can look at things nice and objectively and dispassionately, we can weigh up cold hard facts and nice clear figures and we can tell someone what they should do with a sense of confidence and righteousness.

But we don't have their feelings inside our head. Our brain isn't the one actually going through that situation, our emotions and feelings are all different, except when they're the same.

And, after quite a few years, I've come to realise the massive and ginormous power of acceptance. My Grandmother used to have that old pearl of wisdom framed on her side table:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..."

Isn't that a nice way to look at things?

Acceptance is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Together We Can Stop This Cruelty

As bloggers sometimes we have a responsibility to bring attention to an act of cruelty, something that bothers us, that we want to change.

Some fellows talk about cruelty to dogs, some highlight the plight of dolphins in nets used to catch tuna fish. Others talk about the ways in which some animals are used for lab experiments and other talk about the cruelty inflicted upon foreigners by Darwin.

Different folks eat different things around the world, I think that's acceptable and understood by all. But, whilst in Singapore last week, I came across something that made me feel ashamed and a little queasy. They like their fat on meat over there, they're keen on dishes with "lard" in the name and they have items on menus that just sound wrong to me. I saw a menu with "glutinous chocolate rice" listed. Luckily there was a picture and I saw that it was what I would have called "chocolate rice pudding".

The thing, the outrageous one, the one that has made me feel sympathy and pain for the poor creatures involved in this frankly barbaric dish, must be banned. If I knew how to start an online petition and put a link to it in this post I'd do it. If my Dad was an MP I'd ask him to put in a word to the Prime Minister. That's in the UK, in Sri Lanka I'd use his status to allow me to do anything I wanted in nightclubs.

It's one thing for some countries to kill dogs and eat them, it's one thing for people to refuse to eat factory reared chicken because of the conditions the birds are kept in, that's all well and good. But how come no one has spotted the intense pain and cruelty that surely must be involved in what I saw brazenly being served to anyone who wanted it?

My understanding is that it's perfectly legal in Singapore, I saw a few stalls openly advertising and selling the stuff in hawker markets without the slightest hint of embarrassment or shame. These people are profittering from cruelty and must be brought to justice.

Yes, it's fish ball soup. As I write this I think of those poor fish being led to the ball cutting off place. I bet they're not even blindfolded when it's done. It's the ultimate cruelty, to deprive fish of their manhood like that. No wonder you never see a fish swimming along happily with its bollocks dangling freely. They've all been chopped off and made into soup or added to noodles.

I saw these fish balls for sale and it dawned on my why I've never seen a couple of fish mating, I've never received an email of fish porn and I've heard stories about cod and other fish becoming scarce.

So I respectfully ask all of you to join my campaign to stop this hideous and despicable treatment of fish. We can get together, organise marches and send petitions to people in power. Maybe a concert would be a good idea to raise awareness and highlight the issue. Perhaps a photo spread in Hi! magazine with some famous fish. An "at home with the fish" feature would be nice.

Hopefully it's not too late and we can save the fish. but, in the meantime please stay away from fish ball soup, noodles with fish balls and any other variants. Of course Sri Lankan fish balls, the fried type with chillie and maldive fish, are fine. But they're lovely, we all know that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Explosion At Rhythmic Towers

I'm back in London after a rather nice flight on the fourth Singapore Airlines A380. I'll tell you more about the aircraft later, after I manage to upload the photos I took. I was one of about five people in my section of the plane who were taking pictures and frankly I don't know whether I'm proud or ashamed to be part of that little club.

Arrival back in London was planned to coincide with my eldest's fourteenth birthday. No longer will she be known as "A, my 13 year old", from now on she will be formally known as "A, my 14 year old". There was some present buying, some lunching and some taking her to see her paternal grandparents to be done. It was all nice, all very jolly and all very " God I can't believe she's 14 already!"

Like any good Sri Lankan after some time away from home, wherever home is, I was pining for a good rice and curry upon my return. A proper Sri Lankan rice and curry, not one of the Indian imitations mind. My options were simple; I could have made a phone call to a random Sri Lankan in London and cadged an invite for dinner, I could have carted myself off to one of the few Sri Lankan restaurants or I could have cooked myself a veritable feast.

My preferred option was the latter. It was a relaxed option and one that didn't involve social niceties and the thought of driving somewhere and getting tired and having to make conversation. These are the things a fellow thinks about when living alone. Had you crept into my back garden and peered through my kitchen window at about 6.30 on Sunday night you would have seen me doing all those familiar things; cutting onions, frying them with mustard seed, garlic and curry leaves, then adding my chicken and exactly seventeen times the recommended daily allowance of salt, as any half decent Sri Lankan recipe requires.

After doing all that and getting my chicken curry just right I started on the rice, pretty straightforward with a rice cooker these days. I washed it, added more salt and was just about to plug in the rice cooker and turn it on. Now you know me as a fearless fellow, a kind of cross between Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Walker, Texas Ranger. But, and I know you'll be suprised at this, I am scared of two things in life; women and electricity, both for the same reason; that I don't understand them.

If ever I was confronted by a female police officer brandishing one of those Tazer guns I'd let her do whatever she wanted to do to me, no hesitation and no problems, I'd be putty in her hands. When I see an electrician working away on wires I'm instantly filled with a sense of respect and admiration rather like a kid on a tricycle would watch a motorcycle stunt team.

The rice cooker was ready to go. I plugged it in and turned on the power at the plug socket. All was looking good. I went to flick on the switch on the rice cooker itself. At this point I had no idea of the disaster that was about to fall upon me, of the sheer magnitude and the emotional turmoil it would cause, of the way I'd have to fight through the crisis and push through the other side.

I casually flicked the on switch and "BANG" was the sound I heard. It happened instantly and my reaction was as quick and as sharp, like a finely tuned instrument or a leopard waiting for its prey. I jumped backwards, almost falling over the Brabantia bin and, with all the bravery you'd expect from a man of my measure I went:


It was a carefully thought out phrase, many would have thought it sounded like a scream, but it was carefully designed to scare an enemy and reduce him to a mere trembling heap. Miraculously it all happened so quickly that I hardly had time to think, my reactions were instant and it was over in the blink of an eye. I must have been unconscious for exactly twenty four hours for when I came to I saw that none of the clocks had changed, it was as if time had stood still and I was still hungry.

There was a smell of electrical burning and chicken curry. I realised that this was caused by electrical burning and chicken curry. My predicament was big, but my appetite was bigger. I was faced with a fresh pan of curry and a broken rice cooker. Like a fox that's professor of cunning at Oxford University I thought through my possible courses of action. There was one in which I used one of the many microwave packets of rice I have in stock, mostly for K. Another involved getting some rice from the Indian takeaway at the end of my road and the final one, the one that I eventually went with, was to use one of the two spare rice cookers I had in the cupboard.

I don't want you to think I'm spoilt here. I'm well aware that I'm one of the luckier ones, that there are some people in the world who might only have one rice cooker, but this was still a testing time for me. You see both of my spare rice cookers are those ones that always seem to burn the rice at the bottom, an annoying scenario indeed. I opted for the silver one, as it matched the decor, and I started again. When I got to switch flicking time I felt a bit nervous but more like a chap who has fallen of a horse and is keen to jump straight back in the saddle. I've never been on a horse let alone fallen off one but I've heard it's easy.

This time though, as I flicked the switch, there was nothing at all. No bang, no burning and no sign of any electrical looking lights. Things weren't good and I was getting hungrier and grumpier by the second. I ventured into the cupboard under the stairs and found a fusey looking thing that was in the off position. I turned it on, went back to the rice cooker and approached it again. This time all went smoothly. Twenty minutes later I was tucking into the rice and curry as I had planned.

My nerves had been shattered by the whole experience and I could only eat four or five helpings. The turmoil of losing a favourite rice cooker is great and weighs heavily on the mind. You'll be pleased to know that it looks like it may pull through after all. After some hours of surgery I've got it to a level in which it can cook rice but won't keep it warm once cooked. Or at least the keep warm light may not be working. It's not ideal but I might be able to work around this.

Luckily the episode hasn't put me off rice and curry. Unluckily I'm still shit scared of electricity, possibly a little bit more than I was before the explosion. Even now, as I think of it, I feel my heart speed up and a few beads of sweat on my forehead.

It's tough being a man!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Checking In

A quickie from Changi Airport. The free wireless isn't without strings but I'm about to board an A380 to go back to London.

How cool is that?