Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some Miscellany

1. This Southern Expressway thing. I worry about it. Really. 'cos let's face it, you lot aren't up there winning prizes in the best driver in the world competition, are you? The only rules of the road most Lankan drivers adhere to are the ones in your head. And you each have a different set in your head. This is bad enough at low speeds. At high speeds things are going to get nasty.

2. Things are getting all a bit Christmassy here in London. Every town has its Xmas lights on, the shops are full to the brim with festive goodies and I saw a real life Coca Cola forty foot Christmas lorry the other day, like in the adverts. I was so excited, I texted A and K to tell them about and they understood. No one else did really.

3. I played at Wembley Stadium last weekend. In a suite, the Royal Suite no less. Okay, it wasn't on the pitch itself, but it was a highlight so far of my musical "career". I have stories to tell.

4. I've decided that I don't like the normal "Drive" setting on the auto gearbox on my new car. I only really use it when crawling in traffic. The rest of the time if feels as if the car is being driven by someone's Dad on an economy drive. I spend most of my time with the gearbox in "sport" mode or just using the flappy paddles. Driving that way things are a bit wicked.

5. I just finished reading that Man Booker nominated book called Jamrach's Menagerie. It's brilliant, fantastic and I'd thoroughly recommend it, though it took quite a while for me to get fully involved. Once I did, I was hooked, like a fish. Or a hook.

6. My Dad's progress continues. He's now in his fifth cycle of chemo and things are as positive as can be. It's hard work though, not least in trying to keep him and my Mum motivated and happy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fat Germans And Aircraft Seats

Hello, sorry about the recent radio silence. Things have been madly busy at work and play and that looks like continuing for a while. So please don't go getting your hopes up by thinking "Oh great RD's back with some regular posts so I'll have something to smile about during my day".

I must start by saying that I've got nothing against Germans per se. Okay they can lack a sense of humour and fun, but that Posingis fellow, the good looking photographer one, is as funny as they come. Sometimes I've even wondered if he might have some British blood there, he can be that funny.

And, if you want a fellow to wake up early and get you the best deckchair by putting his towel on it, then let's face it, you wouldn't ask a Sri Lankan or a Brit. The Lankan would amble over sometime after brunch, find an already occupied deckchair and grab it when the occupant nipped off for a minute. The Brit would look at you weirdly then swear and headbutt you. Or something. No, your Germans are perfect for this sort of thing.

There I was, on the plane flying back from Serendib a few weeks ago. At check in I asked, as I always do, whether it was a full flight and received an affirmative answer. It was one of those SriLankan flights that stop at the Maldives, usually pretty full from both Colombo to Male and from Male to London. Fucking tourists!

Just so you know I put that exclamation mark at the end of the last sentence very deliberately so that you saw I was using the word "fucking" as a swear word against tourists, not as a verb along the lines of tourists doing things along the sexual path. I always find witticisms are so much better after a full explanation.

But there I was. Sitting in my seat with a woman who seemed to have won first prize in the most boring companion on a long distance flight competition. ( I came second, before you ask) At first glance she wasn't worth a second glance. Practical and untrendy clothes that wouldn't have looked out of place on Mr Small, my Design and Technology teacher when I was at school. Comfortable trainers with velcro fastenings, a fleecy type of top and a similar hairstyle to Mr Small too.

No, she wasn't going to be a companion who I'd strike up a sparkling conversation with and then stay in touch with for the rest of our lives. Our brief chat confirmed this, with her telling me that she'd just been on a cycling holiday to Kerala, had enjoyed it but the only thing she couldn't abide was the whole eating with the fingers concept. It turned out that there were a few of her fellow Kerala cyclists scattered about the plane and they all looked as unappealingly square as my one. As if to confirm all my suspicions she had her cycling helmet attached to her hand luggage by some kind of special clip.

I settled myself. I've now got to the stage with flying these long distance journeys that I have some routines in terms of hand baggage, what I take out of my bag and what I put in the seat pocket etc, that make things much more comfortable and easy for me. I knew I wasn't going to introduce myself to the next door neighbour, that would have been deadly.

Not long after take off the Sri Lankan woman in front of me decided to recline her seat, fully. I've come to some conclusions about the whole reclining seats concept. If you turn left when you board the plane, as I've been lucky enough to do a few times, then you can recline your seat all over the show without even remotely affecting the person behind you.

However in Economy we're scum. That's pretty much the definition. We have no rights, no luxuries and are wise to have no expectations, particularly if we're flying with SriLankan Airlines, on which just having a seat that isn't broken with an entertainment console that functions are things that they'll soon be charging extra for.

And also, in Economy, there is no space. That's how it works. Yes, the ticket, for most Brit tourists who don't really have that much money, costs a lot of money. But that's a reflection of the distance travelled, not the luxury one should expect.

So, when the person in front of me reclines her seat fully and I only have a centimetre in which to move instead of the five centimetres when it wasn't reclined, I just make my own positional adjustments and get on with life. If I'm too tight / poor / stupid to fly Business Class then that's my problem.

As a kind and considerate chap though I always try to recline my own seat gradually, not that sudden press the button and whack it fully back thing that some do, often creating bad feeling. I tend to put mine back a bit, then a bit more some time later. Feel free to use this method too if you want, though it is my invention.

That's what I did. I did it partly because of the woman in front, partly because of a desire to recline and partly because the seat is made to do so.

There were two fat Germans sitting behind me. I knew they were fat because I'd seen them and I knew they were German because I, along with most others on the plane, had heard them. They were a couple, in the male and female way, and were exhibiting all the characteristics of a couple who'd never been on a flight before; ordering drinks continually and talking excitedly about plane related crap.

Not a few seconds after I'd put my seat back came German shouting along with a hard smack on the back of my seat. All of a sudden myself and the cycling woman were as British and united as can be imagined. A German! Shouting and banging just because I've reclined the seat that's supposed to recline! Good God! We both thought.

I knew that I couldn't let this lie. I was doing this for my country (Britain on this particular occasion) and there were principles at stake. I had to think quickly and come up with a retort that would shut them up and win the battle. My considerable years of experience, wit and finely developed and honed conversational skills came into play, all in a few quick seconds.

I turned round, glared at the fat woman and fired my weapon. So to speak. It wasn't a real weapon you understand, nor a willy metaphor.

"Sorry". Then I turned back and sat down.

But I'd said it with a lilt so it kind of went "Soh oh reee". It positively oozed with sarcasm, wit and intelligence. I'm pretty sure that it reminded my cyclist neighbour of Oscar Wilde. She didn't say so, but I could tell. It was the way she looked at me, smiled and made a face.

I kept my seat reclined and heard nothing from the fat Germans for the rest of the flight. Though the cyclist wasn't too keen on putting her seat back I made a point of doing it at least once, perhaps twice, during the flight.

And incidentally we used to have a girls' PE teacher at school called Miss Dexter who was tiny, probably about four foot tall, though quite fierce. She got married to another teacher; Mr Small.

Seriously. I kid you not.

But really, if the airline gives you reclining seats then why on earth do some people get so upset when a chap reclines it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Am I The Only One?

Who doesn't find that Typo In Colombo thing that funny?

Some of the mistakes are quite side splitting. But, in general, it's something that makes me roll my eyes (not all the way round the back mind) far more than it makes me chuckle in a good old fashioned way.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Miscellaneous And Random

So I'm back after a week's R + R in the motherland. It was good, with a capital S, but this monsoon business is a bit of a dampener isn't it? Grey skies and rain should be banned, does anyone actually like them?

There's much to tell you. Firstly I can't believe that it's Thursday already, that last Thursday I was in Colombo thinking my week was about to end. Time never passes as we think it should. I've come to conclude that it always feels quicker or so much longer than we think it should be. We spend much of our lives saying that something rushed by or that it seems like only yesterday that it happened. Rarely does anyone say "you know what? It was two months ago and that's exactly how it feels to me."

I caught a chest infection last week, quite possibly I caught it in London, but it reared its head in Colombo, who knows?

But, I enjoyed the self medication aspect of Sri Lanka, steaming down to a pharmacy, buying antibiotics as if they're only available with a Doctor's note here in the UK, then promptly dosing myself up with it all. And I bought supplies to keep me going in the future. Bargain. But, don't tell my Mum.

There was also THE conversation that I had. It was big. Not long, just big.

LD's often talked in her blog of how people have remarked on the rather sexy huskiness of her voice but, despite all of that, I wasn't prepared. I immediately adopted my best Jason Statham impression, which was somewhat spoilt by my spluttering and coughing every ten seconds or so, and tried to think of interesting things to say.

It is weird to speak to bloggers. I've done enough and never have got used to it, when you feel as if you know them really well from their written words, then hear the voice and think the total opposite. I hope that I'll get to meet LD at some point, ideally with DQ, though I'll be apprehensive about the cakes, cats and dogs that DQ will have her.

But, it was quite a thrill to finally speak to the legend that is LD.

Seeing the girls last night was lovely. I bought them each a little silver tuk tuk and they loved them ( I think), as well as a small armful of friendship bracelets that they never seem to be able to get enough of. Our evening was filled with its usual and lethal mixture of arguments, laughter, fun and farts. All good.

My Dad's progress continues at a pleasing pace. He's so much more like his normal self than he was a few months ago, which brings its own set of "issues" too. All though is looking good and, were I a religious person, I'd probably be thanking my God or Gods.

I've got a new car too and have been having fun with that, mostly with the gearbox. I think I'll write more about that another time, but it's a steptronic one, so I've been mixing it up a bit with the flappy paddles, pretending I'm Jeremy Clarkson on the test track in a properly fast car. There have been a few awkward moments when I've hit the wrong paddle or found that it's quite hard to operate them when in a corner. The rest has been good.

And I'm getting increasingly pissed off with that retro ring tone, you know, the one I've got that you've got too. I never used that "famous" Nokia one, but now everyone's got the retro one, with the result that you hear it in public and see just about everyone scrambling around to see if their phone is the guilty party.

It's so right and oh so wrong.

That's it really, I'll bid you a good weekend and jot some thoughts down next week.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thoughts From A Stormy City

It's about four months since my last visit and it feels good to be back. Even in those four months there's a noticeable increase in prices, prices of just about everything. I wonder about this, on one hand it's good for the country, on the other it's not good for the people, the ones who have to pay the prices.

I was talking to an intelligent lady about profit the other day, about people being driven by it, by the pursuit of profit above all else. What do you think? Is it a stage that many go through, only to grow out of it with age and discover the joy of other more meaningful values? Or is it a sad sign of the times and the world we live in today?

As I write this rain and thunder lashes Colombo with that warmth and wetness that we just don't get in England. I'm looking over the city's skyline, from ten storeys up, and can see the sights and hear the sounds of the city. There's the continual horning, the splash of tyres on wet road and the distinctive two cylinder engined sound of the tuk tuks as they go about their business. Why do they call them Tuk tuks anyhow?

It's funny how rain affects the lives of people here so differently to in London. Here it's wet and it impacts the infrastructure much more, but the temperature means people don't feel physical discomfort so much. In the UK the rain is cold as well as being wet, but people wrap up more and go about their business. I guess a lot of that's to do with prevailing conditions and what have you.

I was talking to a Dane the other day and comparing British winters with the Danish versions. I told her that it's all a bit shit in England when it snows, whereas in Danmark they're geared up for it and things continue more or less as normal, just with snow as a backdrop. It's the same sort of thing I suppose.

This week I've been wearing a lot of Paul Smith, just saying. And Superdry of course.

I've been pondering on the missing "the". And how Sri Lankan English omits the word from everyday use so frequently. People here "go to office" instead of "the office" and have many other situations in which the "the" has gone missing. Why? Where is it? I suspect there may be a stockpile of them, probably somewhere on the way to the airport there.

That's it really, I'm sure I'll see you around in the next few days.