It has been an unusually colourful but cold, wet autumn. It will be a hard winter they said. I packed a bag and flew to my second home in Sri Lanka – for three months.
Flight EK 018
On a cold and blastery November morning, I took a taxi to Manchester airport and bordered the early afternoon Emirates Airbus 380 to Dubai. The 380 is an excellent aircraft with generous leg room and good service. I had a G&T, ate Sumac chicken and saffron rice washed down with a rather ordinary South African sauvignon Blanc and watched Mission Impossible 4. (The sumac bush, native to the Middle East, produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into coarse powder and added to meat dishes. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice). Emirates now have the odd habit of offering an ‘aperitif’ after serving the meal. I asked the air hostess why it is so. She too thought it is strange that the management wants it that way and urged me to complain to Emirates.
Seven hours later I was in Dubai and caught a flight to Colombo departing early in the morning. An hour or so into the four hour flight they started serving breakfast. I could not face another Sri Lankan style chicken & rice or cheese omelette and opted for fresh fruit and black coffee. There was no prospect of sleep. I chatted with the Ukranian air hostess. We spoke Ukranian. I told her that I lived in the Eastern Ukranian city of Kharkov for four years in the late 1960s. “Wow!” she said. “Kharkov is my own home town!”
I went to the Aspire Lounge at Manchester airport for a quick coffee using one of the airport lounge passes I get from the bank. The girl at reception said: “Don’t waste a pass just for a drink. Have one on the house.” I had a bacon sandwich and a hot chocolate, both ghastly.
Unlike most European airport lounges, those in the middle east and Asia serve excellent hot food throughout the day. At Merhaba Lounge in Dubai, I had a Scotch on rocks and tucked into superb Arabian beef stew & saffron rice and good coffee at 1.30 in the morning.
Colombo has become one of the friendliest and welcoming airports in the world. There is a relaxed atmosphere and formalities are minimal. The woman immigration officer chatted and smiled and stamped my Sri Lankan passport as well as the British. In the duty free shop, a young woman followed me with basket in hand pointing out current offers and bargains. I bought Hendricks and Johnny Walker Gold Label. A porter loaded my bags on to a trolly and guided me quickly through customs. At the Airport Drivers’ Association counter I booked a car to take me to my house just out side Colombo. It was all pleasantly pain free.
The place was in a mess. The garden was overgrown, the phone was dead, the water tank and roof were leaking, the patio roof was brocken by marauding monkeys and termites were on the warpath on my staircase. A hired gardener fixed the pocket handkerchief size garden in a day, the village plumber changed the ball valve of the water tank in a couple of hours, Sri Lanka Telecom fixed the phone and a team of cleaners got the house habitable again in half a day. A builder was called in to fix all broken bits and Action Pest Control to deal with the termites. That evening I sat in the verandah after the rain and listened to lapwings calling incessantly “did he do it, did he do it… and sipped cold beer. Everything was alright.
Things That Pleased Me
- Whole body massage at home by visiting masseus
- Grilled sea bream for supper with Hugel Gentil 2012
- Crab curry for Sunday lunch
- Fabulous Tamil vegetarian food from a nearby outlet
- Local phone shop fixing my mobile phone and refusing payment
- House looking clean and tidy again!