Thursday, January 31, 2008

One I Won't Win

As I progress through this divorce business there are many things that I'd like to share with people who read this blog. Predominantly things about the way I feel, the way I'm dealing with things and the way those around me are doing the same.

But, I don't think it would be right. I don't want to write anything that one of my daughters would find at some point and feel upset about, and obviously it's much better to portray myself as one of these emotionless and rugged carved from steel types in order to impress my army of female readers.

This story is one that I reckon I can chuck in without fear of upsetting the apple cart, or rambutan cart if I can have one of those.

Last Friday I went over to collect the girls from their Mother's, where they live. It was the Friday of their fortnightly overnight stay with me and that's always exciting for me, mixed for them. It is funny how the relationships change and how I have to alter my behavour in so many ways with them. I treasure the time I get with them and look forward to it like I never used to, I took for granted the fact that I'd be able to kiss them goodnight and have an argument with one or both of them every other evening.

Often now I feel like one of those chaps who's been wandering around a desert for a few hours and hasn't had any water. Once he gets some, perhaps at a Cargill's Food City or something, he savours every mouthful and tastes each little droplet.

As soon as I arrived at the house the eleven year old, whom you know as a bit of a handful at the best of times, came towards me with the look on her face. I mean that look that every parent knows, a mixture of fear and grovelling, the feeble attempt that kids make to look scared but also angelic. The look that tells a parent that a confession is on its way.

"Dad"

"Yes K" said I, the Dad.

"I've got something to tell you" she said. I knew this, as you know that I knew it.

"What K?"

All this had been done quite sweetly, with that angelic look and voice that these eleven year olds are quite good at. I wasn't taken in but a lesser man would have been, if I hadn't faced all this from her elder sister a couple of years ago then I might have been too.

Then, as she launched into her story, she changed, or rather her voice changed, into that runaway steam train mode. The one where they talk and talk with no full stops and no commas and no pauses for breath and the words just come at you like tennis balls from one of those serving machines or like the words in a blogger's blog. It doesn't have to be a steam train either, it might be a normal one, but steam is that much more evocative.

"Well this morning before we left for school I couldn't find my mobile (that's a cellphone to you lot)."

"Ok" I said.

"So I called my mobile number from the home phone to try and find it."

"Ok" I said again, somewhat superfluously.

"And it rang and my voicemail answered the call and then when we (her and her sister) came back from school this afternoon it was still on."

Her Mother was standing behind her laughing at me and this wasn't even good humoured laughter, it was cruel sort of "you pay the phone bill" laughter. I was left in a state of mild and foggy confusion but the fog was clearing at a fairly advanced rate and I didn't like what I thought I could see through the patchiness.

"Hang on, let me just get this straight. You called your mobile in the morning before school and the message thing answered the call."

"Yes Dad"

"And when you got back from school the line was still open?"

"Urh huh"

"So you made a call from the home phone to your mobile and it lasted about 8 hours?"

"Well no Dad, about 10 hours actually."

She was nervous, but on balance I think I was more nervous as I contemplated the bill, the fact I pay it and the fact that it could be the equivalent of four years' of full entry to the Galle Literary Festival.

As I write this, some five days after the event, I'm coming to terms with the potential loss to my wallet. The bill has yet to arrive and the eleven year old is still living in a mixed state of fear and bravado. I've threatened her with the sale of her laptop, which accompanies her everywhere from bed to toilet. She's resisted that threat but offerred to sell everything from her sister to her mobile phone on ebay to contribute to the costs.

I got a text from her the earlier in the week, it said:

"I have 162 pounds in my savings account which should cover most of the bill"

I replied with that standard parents' statement "we'll see". Yet I know that kids are smart, particularly these days. A few years ago I overheard my girls talking in excited tones. It was just after they had asked me if they could do or have something and I'd given "we'll see " as a response. To me it was always a response that should have meant, well what it meant; that I'll think about it and perhaps let them have their request.

What I heard one of them saying to the other was:

"Yesss, we got a "we'll see""

I asked why they were happy and got the answer.

"Because a "we'll see" means yes" Clearly I'd been outwitted by my kids. Again.

Now the eleven year old and myself have reached a stalemate in this daring game of bluff. The £162 that she possesses is all of her savings, she knows that I won't take it. She knows that I won't sell her laptop and that I won't even sell her sister. She also knows that it will be almost impossible for me to punish her, these things are hard to do when you don't get that much time with them.

And I know that I face a whopper of a phone bill, that I'll show it to her and feign anger, that she'll smile sweetly and say all the right things and neither of us will be being honest.

And life will go on.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Should "Writers" Be Taken Seriously?

I think it's time to turn some tables. I hesitate to call myself a blogger but I guess the indisputable fact that I am a person with a blog makes me one. I don't have paper publications to my name and that means I'm not a proper "writer".

In the time I've been reading the odd blog and the time I've been writing this one I've noticed that the blogoshpere is being infiltrated by proper writers; fellows who really can write.

There's Sach, a journalist and there's David Blacker with his blog. Even Lakbima has now started a blog here and the time has come for action, or words, which are of course louder than actions or something.

As bloggers we have attained a certain level of competence in our writing and our etiquette. We all adhere some very specific standards and performance criteria and I am concerned that these so called bloggers just aren't down to our level.

The first thing that causes alarm is the undeniable fact that most of these "writers" actually have the audacity to write their blog under their own name. There's not even the faintest hint of being able to hide behind a pseudonym like mine or Ravana's, even though he's been outed to the whole world and his Mum now.

While we spend time and effort convincing no one but ourselves that we remain well and truly hidden behind our pen name, which is usually a name that gives us away anyhow, the proper writers just write and splash their moniker everywhere. This means that they are accountable for their words and can't shut down their blog and start another one up under a different pseudonym if the going gets a bit tough. Pathetic really.

Writers often meet up with each other, face to face would you believe? They talk to each other, organise literary festivals (as we know) and argue, debate and discuss things with their cronies. Bloggers wouldn't be seen dead doing this. We email, we comment and we bitch about each other any way you can imagine in this virtual world but we NEVER meet up or give away our real name.

Then there's the whole issue of smiley's, acronyms and those stupid things like :) and ;) and their billions of relatives. No half decent blogger would be caught leaving a comment on someone's blog without a few of the semi colon bracketed things or an acronym or two. The reasons for this are simple; we bloggers don't have the skill to explain what we mean. We can make a vague attempt at a jokey comment on someone's blog but we have to chuck in a smiley or its equivalent to make it clear that we're trying to be humorous.

Failure to do so inevitably results in someone (always a blogger) thinking that we're serious, which in turn leads to a scientific and factually based online debate on whether Theena's pants were black or white last Wednesday.

Trained journalists and writers spend many years learning how to do convey their meaning through the power of the written word alone, they're a special breed of people with superior intelligence and maybe even a dictionary or a brontosaurus. ;)

The issues of links and frequency of posts are two that I'll bind together, purely because this example in the Lakbima blog beautifully illustrates them both. In fact it is the Lakbima blog. It's one post with just one paltry link. The link isn't even one to Indi's blog and rule number one, that all posts must contain at least one link to Indi.ca, has been broken without the tiniest of thoughts about readership and the number of comments that the post might get.

Even the newest bloggers on the block know that rule number two tells us we should publish a post at least every two hours and the Lakbima blog goes against this too. Only one post, dated January 21st and nothing before and nothing afterwards. It's appalling that a publication can put out something that can masquerade as a blog without hitting these most basic levels of performance.

But the biggest worry is definitely that of literary and grammatical standards. Take a look at this by David Blacker, one of Sri Lanka's proper writers. Do you see any spelling mistakes or poor use of language? (apart from the minor one in which he's misspelled "Carlsberg", but it's probably just a typo).

No, and nor do I. He makes proper use of paragraphs, he ends sentences at the. Correct place. And he knows exactly where to use a comma. He even has the skill to throw in a word in italics, something I've been trying to master for months.

The single biggest problem is one that so many bloggers take for granted. It's a little topic we just ignore totally, many are even foolish enough tot think that we know all about them and use them correctly.

Yes, it's the subject of apostrophe's.

A proper blogger knows the blogger's rules, or should I say bloggers rule's, for the correct use of apostrophes. We really just chuck them in at random places in the average blog post. It helps if there's an "s" at the end of the word under scrutiny and many bloggers operate on the basis that an "s" at the end of a word necessitates use of an apostrophe.

Many will also throw in an apostrophe at the slightest hint of posession in a sentence and equally valid is the approach of removing all apostrophes from a post. It's common for me to read a post and wonder if some chap has crept in overnight and stolen all the apostrophes from it before the blogger has had a chance to read it properly. Then I've realised that we don't read our posts before we publish them anyway.

Proper writers just dont demonstrate that flair for the correct use of the little fellow's. It was all so different back in the 80's before blogs were around much.

There's my case.

Should "Writers" be taken seriously?

Not until they earn their blogger's credentials like the rest of us have had to.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rice Rice Against Cous

The natural title was "Rice against cous cous" but I guessed that would have been predictable. Unless it was going to be a post about spaceships or pies, then you'd be puzzled. Or disinterested.

I was watching one of those TV cookery programmes recently. Since moving into my own place I often use these cooking programmes as background TV. You know, that time when you're doing other stuff, not really watching TV but vaguely aware of it, occasionally glancing at something that catches an eye or listening to something that grabs an ear.

It's just that tiny bit more productive than having an old episode of Friends on, from one of the other cable repeat channels. I'm a bit of a Friends fan and, try as I might, I can rarely resist our Jen without having a good eyeful. Half heartedly watching cooking stuff means that I learn and pick up tips too. The lazy nature of my watching means that I grab soundbites and might gleen a great tip about how to roast Mangosteens or fry an anchovy, but I've rarely paid enough attention beforehand to know what on earth the bigger picture is.

So by all means come round to my place for a roast Mangosteen or a fried anchovy or two but don't expect them to be part of a bigger and more glamorous meal as I haven't a clue what goes with them. We can always watch some old repeats of Friends if you'd like.

But, on the aforementioned occasion I caught sight, or sound, of a scruffy looking long haired chef. One of the regular TV chef types; quite good looking in an average way, a bit trendy and with his own restaurant that would benefit greatly from his TV exposure. He had been presented with some cous cous to cook, or maybe some cous to cook cook.

He said that cous cous was his second least favourite thing in the world. Before his mouth had formed the sentence I felt a wave of affinity for the fellow. Top man, I thought to myself. Cous cous is definitely one of the evils of the culinary world as far as I'm concerned. Primarily because it tastes exactly like one of those things that has no taste whatsoever, those tiny things that make me do a face like a cat having a fur ball.

Stick some butter or chicken stock, some gravy or sauce on it and it can taste better, but that's the taste of whatever you put on it, the cous cous still tastes like hair made into little balls. It's about as extreme as I get in my food dislikes. There's hardly any food I don't or won't eat and even cous cous, when shoved under the Rhythmic nose, will be eaten.

You just won't find me cooking the stuff or even having a bag of it in my cupboard for emergencies. Check out the cupboard and you'll find every spice that any Sri Lankan should have a supply of, you'll find rice of every variety from Basmati to Ambrosia and tins of baked beans (Heinz of course) aplenty. But no way will you find a bag of cous cous, a Sri Lankan has his limits.

There I was, thinking that this TV chef had his head screwed on, when he finished his little bit of wordplay, his oh so little smartarse soundbite:

"And my number one least favourite thing in the whole world is rice"

Yes, he had the balls to come out with something as ridiculous as that.

Can you imagine?

My letter of complaint is winging its way to the BBC as we speak. It's one thing to hate cous cous, a tasteless and useless thing that probably only just scrapes into the category of "food".

But I won't hear a word against rice.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Letter

Dear Radha,

Thank you for your comment here, which I hope I've managed to link to. I think I can speak for my people, the bloggers, when I say that we all like to receive comments, even those we disagree with.

Sometimes I get comments so stupid and inane that I don't bother to reply, at other times I get ones that I reply to because I respectfully disagree with and occasionally I think the comment is deserving of a separate post altogether, well once actually and it's this time. This may be the one time that all of the elements have come together, like in a school chemistry experiment, or when I make a really great dhal.

I'd like to reply to you in some detail if that's ok, so here we go:

"You redefine serious"

- I'm not sure if you're referring to me specifically or all bloggers but, after lengthy consideration I've decided to take that as a compliment. So thank you.

"He did not make any scathing attack on bloggers....his attack was on the festival per se, the Sri Lankan writers etc"

- Firstly I did not say that thing, the thing about the scathing attack. I'm assuming that you're referring to words written by Java Jones here. Mr Jones is someone I consider to be a good friend (of mine, not your's) but that is his blog and, whilst he would probably cite me as a massive influence on his life and success, I am not responsible for his words. However I did say that I thought he had made "some rather negative remarks about bloggers", a statement which I think is accurate. Perhaps my Britishness shone through there and it was a bit polite, perhaps if I was more Sri Lankan I would have said something like:

"Machang the bugger just blackguarded us mercilessly and to think he's a Thomian as well"

or something similar, but of course I didn't.

Secondly I DO have a problem with, as you say, his attack on the festival per se. Seriously Radha? While the festival I'm sure could do with some improvements, a fact that I'm also sure the organisers would agree with, why just attack it per se? Isn't it a good thing for Sri Lanka? Isn't it something that we, as Sri Lankans, should be proud to host and be a part of, even if a little bit of fine tuning is required?

Personally I like criticism but I like it to be constructive and positive. I don't think Rajpal has made a positive contribution with his critique of the Galle Literary Festival and all that went with it, I think he's just slagged it off, perhaps for a bet or a mutton roll or something. I understand this as there are many things I would do for a good Sri Lankan mutton roll.

Admittedly he does say "make no mistake there were some things in it for aspiring talent..." but his article has been interpreted by many intelligent people, such as yourself, as an "attack on the festival per se" as you pointed out. I'm sorry for quoting that line twice in this one post but I'm not sure what the etiquette is for this whole writing game.

"Why drag Rajpal into it?"

I didn't. Honestly he jumped in with two feet, maybe with some mutton rolls, just to keep him going for a while.

But Radha thanks for the comment.

Yours

RD

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Can We Be Taken Seriously? - Part 27

The old Sri Lankan blogosphere is awash with talk about the Galle Literary Festival and most of these awashings are about the session on blogging and whether us bloggers can be taken seriously. There's this on ICT in General, there's these daily diaries on Sach's blog, this piece by David Blacker, who many of us didn't know had a blog. David, thank you for mentioning my blog as a "pimped out diary". I love that description and may use it in my header.

There's Indi's post and this one by the Missing S. My favourite is this in Lakbima News. There are more sour grapes in it than in the bottle of wine Rajpal brought to the last Sri Lankan bloggers' get together. And as a lowly blogger I respectfully suggest that Mr Abeynayake gives his young blogging cousin a call and asks for some variants on the word "kitsch". It's bouncing around that article as if there's been a "kitsch" deficit at Lakbima for many years and suddenly a crate of them has been delivered to the office.

The esteemed editor of Lakbimanews is keen to make some rather negative remarks about bloggers. That's his opinion and he's entitled to it, but somewhere in the back of my mind is a vague memory of a Sri Lankan Sunday paper copying and pasting a load of Sri Lankan blog posts and pretending that they were the work of its staff journalists. Bloggers were clearly good enough for that newspaper on those occasion!

I was thinking about blogging, journalism and writing and music and suddenly I felt as if it had all become clear. This sometimes happens to me and it's usually before I fuck things up big style so I shan't get too carried away. But, the music comparison is a big one as it's what I can relate to easily.

Here it is; I'm not the best drummer in the world by any stretch of the imagination, I'm probably not even the best drummer in either of my two bands (thanks Mr McCartney), but over the years I've put in a hell of a lot of effort in learning how to play the drums properly. I've studied with many great teachers (and a few crap ones), I've done lots and lots of practice and I think I've got quite a good grounding.

Music, the playing of it, is a study that can take many lifetimes and no musician would ever say that they have reached a level that cannot be surpassed, but I feel comfortable in the knowledge that I'm ok at my drumming. And, like any musician, I often see some half arsed fuckwit playing the drums in a famous band. Someone who clearly doesn't know how to play very well, who's just got lucky and is attaining a level of success way beyond that which his, or her, talent deserves.

That's what some people, the "proper" writers, those with books published and who make a living from their words, think of us bloggers. Not that we're crap drummers, although they may think that of me, but that we've attained a level of success we don't deserve. It's as if we've written a book, published it for nothing and then gone out and delivered it to people free of charge for them to read.

Many of us haven't had to learn how to write properly, we haven't had to sell ourselves to publishers and newspaper editors to get published and we sure as hell haven't had to deal with the pressure of trying to make a living from writing. We just chuck some words out on a PC monitor, hit the "publish" button and some people read them.

It's not as simplistic as all that, but I must admit that I can see the viewpoint. The lines can get blurred beyond recognition when blogs are written by proper journalists or bloggers get to publish stuff properly, but the fact is that many of us just haven't paid our dues. That's why we'll never get taken seriously by some, we'll always be looked at as a crap drummer in a successful band.

Rajpal made some points that seem valid in his article, but to me his credibility suffers from a massive surplus of negative criticism. His recurring theme, that the festival wrapped literature in a Barefoot sarong, seems trivial. I for one have no problems with that packaging. I have cupboards full of Barbara Sansoni sarongs and will not hear a word against them. There are few things I can imagine that would not look good in one of them.

But Sri Lanka needs things like the GLF, it needs to get people into the country and to get hold of their money and it needs unique selling points. The Galle Literary Festival is a big one and I think the organisers have done a fine job in getting it to where it is in the literary world.

When the mainstream media starts to write articles about the blogging workshop at the GLF then surely we must be taken seriously. When the GLF has a session centred around bloggers then surely we are already crossing over into the mainstream. When people think that literature is for all, not just for the elite, then we will be taken seriously.

Or will we?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Sun and The Moon

I was lying in bed last week, my mind was in that pleasant semi conscious Saturday morning mode, luckily it was Saturday so there wasn't going to be any of that sudden jumping out of bed because I'd hadn't realised it was a weekday business.

I looked at the blinds on my bedroom window, blinds I am pleased with and rather proud of. I'll tell you the full story about them another time but they're one of the rare examples of Rhythmic DIY, well a rare example that is still hanging up and working well. I may go home from work tonight to find them dangling precariously from half protruding rawlplugs but, as of this morning, things were still doing well.

Anyway, I looked at the sunlight landing on the bedroom ceiling in those lined shadowy strips that venetian blinds make and I thought about light and the sun and something struck me. I haven't searched for any detailed information but the I remember enough from "O" level Physics to know that our sun is many, many miles away. The heat and light from it are so strong and powerful that they can travel through space and time and what not, perhaps final frontiers and things, and they can arrive here on our great but dying planet and provide us with a bucketload of heat and warmth.

The strength of these sun rays, or whatever the technical term is, is so great that we feel direct heat on our bodies from them, that we can see the light coming through our windows and our eyes. We can close our eyes and can usually even detect through our eyelids whether it's day or night.

This energy coming from the sun can power things and be harnessed to make electricity and lamprais and the like.

And that's all pretty amazing in my book, or in my blog, at least.

I remember enough from my schooldays to know that light can't travel around corners, unless of course you've got one of those spy things that makes it look as if you're looking one way when in fact you're spying on a nudey woman in a different direction. But I know that light doesn't actually bend, that it travels in straight lines.

Yet it startles me when I think of how this light gets passed all the barriers and obstacles to get to us, then all we have to do is to stick up a small piece of something and the light can't go any further. What's all that about? It just doesn't seem right.

If I was a ray of sunlight I reckon I'd feel pretty pissed off to go through time and space, to travel through clouds and storms and dodge snipers and bullets only to finally get to good old planet Earth and find some pillock with a pair of cheap sunglasses or a bloke with a venetian blind up that, try as I might, I just can't get past.

In a similar vein I was helping myself to a bottle of mineral water and I glanced at the label the other day. It told the consumer that the water has taken fifteen hundred years to filter through the hills and mountains of the deepest English countryside to get to us. That it is pure and natural and does the most fantastic things to the people who drink it, all the usual stuff.

Underneath that it said:

"Consume within 3 days' of opening".

What's all that about? I ask you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The 2007 Blogging Awards

About this time last year I put out a little post, with links and humour and stuff, called the 2006 blogging awards. I've decided to do a follow up, again with links but I've left out the humour. You may have guessed all that from the title.

I predict that the post will be long one, I'll ramble on about nothing at times and in all likelihood, unless you're a nominee or a winner, you'll probably lose interest. So here's a link to Kottu and here's another to Achcharu where you can access lots and lots of other Sri Lankan blogs easily.

Everything will be biased, subjective and wholly based around the blogs I like and read. So there. Let's go.

Best Photo Blog

The nominations:

Alefiya Akbarally
Dominic Sansoni
Sebastian Posingis
Pradeep Jeganathan
Naren Gunasekera
Anushka Wijesinha

The winner:

Anushka Wijesinha

I don't know much about the fellow's background nor do I know him personally but I've admired his photography for a while. Whether it's London or Sri Lanka he has an incredible eye for a great picture and a knack for transforming an everyday scene into a gorgeous image. Class. Check out his stuff.

Best Newcomer

The nominations are:

Westcountry Life
Midnight Margaritas
Gallicissa

Four very contrasting blogs with different approaches. Westcountry life tells the story of Bea, her discovery of Sri Lanka and then her return to the UK and release back into society. It's always interesting to see Sri Lanka through the eyes of a Suddha.

Midnight Margaritas, by T, is an eclectric mix of bits and pieces. From music to finely written prose to thought provoking pieces on identity to girly stuff about love and boys, it's all here.

Gallicissa is a blog by a chap called Amila Salgado, a bird watching scrabble player. I use his name because he uses it, so hope he doesn't mind. It's a haven of stories and stunning pictures of Sri Lankan birds, snakes and other creepy crawly things that can be seen in any one of Colombo's 5 star hotel restaurants. I'm no bird watcher but this blog has grabbed my attention by the gonads and I read it with interest and intrigue.

The winner:

Gallicissa. Guest judge Britney Spears said:

"Along with Stephen Fry's blog this is one of the few that I check regularly. I've always been interested in scrabble and Amila's beautiful photographs have inspired several of my videos. Before I went mad and ropey I used to want to sleep with Rhythmic Diaspora"

Best Overseas Blog

Let me explain. I live in the UK but am classing overseas as anything outside Sri Lanka. It's illogical and simple, in a strangely logical way.

The nominations:

Disordered Thoughts
The Darwin Awards
Lady Luck Speaks
Life on Leave

The winner is:

Disordered Thoughts. The well deserved winner is a pot pourri of subjects and views. Not to be confused with a pot noodle, which tastes lovely but is made from rubbish.

Guest Judge Mervyn Silva said:

I lead a quiet and humble life, keeping myself to myself and focussing on acts of kindness. I pay close attention to the people of Canada and those marvellous people at Rupavahini, who I have been bonding with in recent months. Often, after a hard day of charity work I like to go home and read Disordered Thoughts to help me relax. Entrpy thoroughly deserves this award.


Funniest Blog

This award doesn't need a lot of explanation, so I won't give one. The Sri Lankan related blogs that made me laugh heartily are disappointingly low in number but still very funny.

The nominations:

Ravana
Mahinda Rajapakse

The winner is:

Mahinda Rajapakse. The only question I had in deciding this was which site to point the link to, whether it should head in the direction of the mocking comedy site that takes the piss and is so brilliantly written or whether it should have pointed in the direction of the official one that has about as the same amount of humour.

A deserved winner. Ravana came a close second but was let down by his tendency to bung in a serious and thought provoking post every so often. Mr Pres, whoever you really are, please update your blog more regularly.

Funniest Post

There's one nominee and there's one winner. The undisputed champion is this piece of brilliance by Ravana. Written in what, to most, was a clear and blatantly humourous mode, this post has caused outcry and bitch slapping among many Maldivians. Ravana has probably ruled himself out of the running for the post of Sri Lanka's next High Commissioner to the Maldives in the process. Believe me, this post was so funny that it almost made one of the immigration passport checking chaps at BIA break into a smile. Almost.


The shitload of comments whenever they post award

The nominees are:

Indi.ca
A Voice In Colombo

The winner is:

Indi. He's a sort of King of the Sri Lankan blogosphere, he's that geezer what started Kottu and when he speaks, or writes, people read and comment. Like Voice in Colombo he's a man who clearly feels passionately about the things he writes about and is never afraid to say what he thinks. Of course I wouldn't know about the things that they are too afraid to say, because they don't say them.

We're moving on rapidly now and have come to the penultimate award, which is almost the one before the final one. It's the award for the blog that the panel think is the best written blog, it's not so much about content as about flowery and poncey use of language, big words and plenty of nouns and things.

Best Written Blog

The nominations are:

Tiny Little Fascist
The Missing Sandwich
One One Things
Ravana
Poetlost
Ephemeral Ruminations

These blogs have a common thread for me; I read all of them and, at times, I marvel at the writer's use of language. They're ones that make me realise just how much I can work on writing and that going to bed and reading a dictionary isn't so sad after all.

The winner:

Ephemeral Ruminations


Java's blog, known and loved by so many, is always the epitome of good writing and, like a Barefoot sarong, comes in many styles. There are posts which are novelettes, posts which are intellectually stimulating comments on the Sri Lankan political situation and posts that talk about dogs and music. Java is one of those proper writer fellows who can pick a style and write that way. Kind of cool.

The Big One

Blog of the Year 2007

And now, the end is near as we face the final curtain. Previous winners include Darwin and Dave Grohl. To be a nominee your blog has to be well written, it has to demonstrate humour, a nice wide spectrum of content and some choice swear words. Graphics and pictures are useful, but essential is the fact that you must publish regularly. I don't have a firm definition of regularly but these chaps who chuck out a post once a blue moon just don't make the grade.

The esteemed nominees are:

The Darwin Awards
The Missing Sandwich
Indi.ca
Ravana
Ephemeral Ruminations
Cerno

Unsurprisingly all these rather spiffing Sri Lankan blogs have been up for awards already. They're an eclectic mix, from the brazenness and sheer balls of The Darwin Awards to the humour of Ravana. I reckon if I only ever looked at six blogs a week then these ones would cover me, which of course isn't surprising as this is my blog and my awards ceremony.

The winner:

After much thought and deliberation this closely run contest has been won by:

Cerno

It's a blog of infinite variety and Mr Cerno clearly puts a good healthy portion of effort and time into his online presence. There are Google Earth images of places we all know and love, there are entertaining posts with pictures galore about Sri Lankan grafitti, there are stories of Cerno turning into a transvestite. They're told with a mix of seriousness and wit and they keep coming at us, even while the newly married fellow is busy learning all about sex and things. The look of the blog is special too, I haven't seen another blog that looks similar and that's a pleasing change.

Last year's winner, Darwin, had this to say about Cerno

"Congratulations Cerno, in the struggle for the survival of the fittest you have been deemed worthy. So I hand over my darwin award to you, may it serve you well"

And she really did say that, it's not a made up quote like all my others.


That rounds up the awards for 2007. It's been another great year to read Sri Lankan blogs and I thank all those who have brightened up my working day.


Speeches are expected by all the winners of course.



RD

Do Ugly People Have Sex Too?

There I was, sitting on the bus observing life as it came at me from every angle. Yoofs listening to their iPods, Mothers with kids and bags, bags with kids and Mothers.

They got on the bus just past Teddingon Lock and came upstairs to sit about four rows away from me; the ugliest couple in the world, of that there was no doubt. The similes and metaphors all popped into my head in sporadic bursts, like the Sri Lankan army firing into the sky that time when the LTTE flew down to Colombo. My similes were a lot funnier though, and they hit things too.

Oh yes, it wasn't just one pig ugly person, it was a brace of them, looking like someone had put a fire on their face out with a shovel, like a bulldog chewing a wasp and like they'd fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. In fact they looked like they had fallen out of the ugly tree together, not just hitting every branch on the way down but also rebounding off each other a few times.

I'm sure they're lovely people, that they're the life and soul of every dinner party they go to and they're highly in demand on the after dinner speech circuit, but I was transfixed by their looks, or lack thereof. And I started to wonder and ponder about sex and ugly people, not in a pervy way, more in a "my God do they do it?" kind of way. I thought of Jennifer Aniston, as I so often do in times of need. I know that, unless she has a strange fetish for Sri Lankan blogging drummers, then the chances of her finding me attractive are pretty damn remote, even more remote than the chances of the two of us meeting.

So I figured that even a very ugly person would find a sex symbol like our Jen pretty attractive. And it follows that a very ugly person, even though they are low down on the attractiveness scale, would also recognise an ugly person of the opposite sex.

Then what happens? What goes on in their minds? Do they decide to "settle" for a fellow ugly or do they keep looking and trying in the hope of finding a highly attractive person who's going to go for someone less aesthetically pleasing than they could get?

And when a couple is made up of two of these uglies do they secretly look at each other and think that they could both do a bit better on the looks side? Or perhaps the total package is what matters, all that stuff about women going for men who make them laugh and who stimulate their mind is all well and good. But I reckon every woman really wants a chap who can make them laugh, who can stimulate their mind as well as look like Brad Pitt, preferably hung like a horse too.

The more I think on it the more flummoxed and discombobulated I become. What exactly goes on in the head of one of these people? I'd really like to think that they spend much of their time gawping at each other's beauty and sexiness, but I'm not so sure.

If they do then good luck to them.

But the bus uglies got off in the town centre and strolled off hand in hand, looking for all the world like they had the most beautiful partner they'd ever set eyes upon.

Maybe they did.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Search Search, Who's There?

The best searches end up on this blog. Here are some great recent ones:

Hot round girls buts

womens clothes men can get away with

hot european weather women

what number is soixante dixons in english

I've totally given up on trying to figure out why these people have searched for such ridiculous words and phrases and now I just enjoy the humour in them.

The winner in this batch though is: How to organise a modern orgy?

Ravana, was it you?

Friday, January 18, 2008

It's Hypocrisy Gone Mad

In the news here in recent days has been the story of EMI, the music company, and how many of its artists, specifically Robbie Williams and Coldplay, are having hissy fits because of proposed job cuts and cost cutting exercises.

My research tells me that EMI, which posted a loss of £260 million last year, was bought by a Private Equity firm called Terra Firma. The firm is now in the process of restructuring and regrouping to try and start making some money. That's what private companies with shareholders usually attempt to do so it shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone.

Mr Williams is apparently thinking of going on strike, perhaps not recording his next album, because he's unhappy at news of around 2000 job cuts at EMI. I've also read stories about the Rolling Stones leaving EMI after 20 odd years and that they will be at least the fourth band to express their unhappiness.

You know what? I find the behaviour of these artistes quite sickening. They seem to have been more than happy to sign massive contracts and reap the rewards of their undoubted talent and commercial success. True enough Chris Martin, the Coldplay geezer, does seem to be one of the few celebs with a semblance of a conscience.

But Robbie Williams signed an £80 million contract with EMI in 2002 to record six albums. Try as I might I can't think of him as a chap that's really concerned with the welfare of EMI's soon to be made redundant workforce, particularly as he shunned those Take That boys so harshly when they asked him to come back.

To be fair, a quick google search does seem to indicate that he does a bit of charity work. I found references to him working in a soup kitchen on Christmas Eve amongst other bits and pieces. But we, the general public, never really know if these stars do their charity work because they really care or because their advisors have told them that it would be good PR for them.

Then again I'm not sure if caring and good PR are mutually exclusive. My mind often says that if it's one thing it can't be the other but charity work is charity work, perhaps if it helps the celebrity get some publicity that doesn't matter as long as the charity gets something in return.

I must confess here that I feel as if my head is spinning somewhat. What started off as a semi serious post about EMI and "stars" going on strike has got me thinking in all sorts of directions about these rich people doing their charitable acts. One of the other relevant points is that we probably wouldn't know about any of the people who do lots of charity work but who don't brag about it. Isn't that the mad thing?

Back to EMI though. Can someone with a contract for £80 million really be concerned about the welfare of the other people at his record company? Should these superstars have hissy fits and go on strike when they're earning these super salaries?

I say no. What say you?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Bit About Noses

Sometimes I wonder whether I should write a specific post. This is one of those cases in point. It will tell you a bit about me that I'm dubious about putting out for all to know, well all who read here anyway. But, I'm half convinced that all I'm going to confess is that I do something that we all do, which of course means that I'm half convinced that I'm going to confess to doing something that we don't all do.

It's not like having a crafty sherman or farting, things that we all do in varying degrees and with differing levels of showmanship. I'm still baffled by one of most men's eternal questions; what to do when I've dropped a good smelly one and am likely to encounter another person who'll smell it. Is it best to exit the crime scene and get away quickly or is it best to hang around to limit the odour spread but effectively confess my crime to anyone who may casually stroll into the area?

No it's not about that, it's about nose picking. I do it. Not professionally, nor am I even an enthusiastic amateur. I just indulge on the odd occasion, I guess my habit would be classed as "recreational", usually kicked off by that familiar feeling of being alone and knowing there's a bogey waiting to be picked and removed.

Isn't it a weird thing that we all look at people when they're in their car having a good nose furrow with a sense of disgust, yet I bet we've all done it at times. I was sitting in my car at some traffic lights recently and caught sight of the fellow in the car in front doing some seriously deep excavation work. What's going on in our minds when our desire to stick a digit up the nose and dig stuff out is far greater than our common sense? We're sitting in a public street surrounded by windows. The only passers by that might not catch a glimpse of what we're doing are those that might be in a plane overhead. All others can just stare and shake their head in dismay and disgust.

We must momentarily forget ourselves and get blinded by the transient nature of cars. We can drive away from the crime scene and pretend that it never happened taking the evidence with us, or eating it as many do.

Do women pick their nose? I'm not really sure, but I'm hoping for answers. I can't remember a time when I've seen a woman sitting casually in traffic with a finger stuck up her nose but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

This post was prompted by the concept of nasal hair. For some weeks I've been wrestling with a particularly robust bunch of about three of the chaps dangling from my left nostril. I'm lucky enough to be the proud owner of one of the greatest inventions man has made; an electric nasal hair trimmer, one of the ones with a "soft to the touch" feel no less. Every couple of months I get it out, remembering that I really should buy some new batteries for it, and steam in.

The almost dead batteries mean that nasal hair trimming is now a sado masochistic sport round my way. With fresh batteries the hairs would be plucked into oblivion with a quick zip and a flourish. I'd feel nothing, except for the satisfaction when I crinkle my nose and marvel at the smoothness of its insides.

With fully dead batteries I'd feel no joy and also get no hair removal, which would of course negate the exercise. But with half dead batteries I get a lovely and delicious mix of the two extremes. The hair is removed. Eventually. Every now and again I feel a pang of ouchness as the hair is plucked a little bit too slowly from its root and it feels like my nose is about to be turned inside out.

But the battle against the little group of hairs continues. It feels like there's a force pushing these hairs through my nose every time one is cut. No sooner have I managed to get rid of one or all of them than I look in a mirror and see that they're back, poking out as if they're a set of World War One rabbits looking out of their holes about to be shot. As soon as they're shot another set of rabbits pops up. I suppose I mean hares there.

I figure that this might be a getting older thing, that the hairs become more resistant to attack, which would explain why old men always have big bushes of hair spouting from their nose and ears. I might have to get an industrial strength trimmer or take really drastic measures like buying new batteries.

I'll keep you informed on my progress. A bit of a ramble was this post really, at least I can relax safely in the knowledge that it won't be grabbed by some unscrupulous Sunday Newspaper and published.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Roll Play

Gaz, one of my business partners, told me this story. It made me laugh quite heartily, so I thought I'd share it with you. You've got to know Gaz to fully appreciate it, but I guess you sort of know him by now anyway.

He was despatched off to Sainsbury's by his wife, we'll call her S for now. I mean "S", rather than "S for now". He was given a long shopping list of the type many husbands may be familiar with. In my married days I used to do this once in a while and I'd pretend to listen carefully as the list was recited to me, then spend a lot of time trying to remember exactly what was said to me.

Everything was going according to plan. He got all the major items on the list and then came to the item that said "a hundred rolls". Gaz, being the unquestioning and loyal type assumed that S was doing some sort of catering thing for one of his childrens' schools, so went off in search of the hundred bread rolls. He went to the bakery bit and asked as there didn't appear to be enough on display. The spotty bakery kid came back and told Gaz that they only had about eighty five, which he grabbed and took home.

He got home, took the shopping in, including the ten or so bags of bread rolls. S asked him if he had managed to get everything. He replied in the affirmative, then said that he couldn't get a hundred rolls but he did get around eighty five. S looked at him puzzled.

"What do you mean a hundred rolls?" she said.

He took out the list and showed it to her.

"Here" he said indignantly.

"No you twat" replied the half amused and half livid love of his life.

"That doesn't say 100 rolls.

It says LOO rolls!"

True.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dreams - How Do You Make Yours?

Dreams are a fascinating subject aren't they. Not the old dream thing about having goals and things you want to achieve, like driving a Ferrari or storming the Canadian High Commission brandishing a pistol. No, I mean those proper dreams we have at night, about fantasy women and drums, about mad chases involving people we hate, that kind of thing.

Gaz, one of my business partners told me of a dream he had the other day which features me and his Dad. He said it was one of those dreams we have after we've woken, but have then drifted back off into a light state of slumber. When the things or people we have been thinking about while awake morph into our dream, if morph is the correct word. To be honest I'm just trying to be a bit flash with my use of it, bluffing really.

Apparently Gaz dreamt that he got on a bus with his son on their way back from watching a Fulham match. He asked the driver if the bus went to Hampton Court and the driver was yours truly. I had a cigarette dangling from my mouth and was wearing an old fashioned peaked cap, as bus drivers here used to do. He tried to pay me the fair but I told him to go to the back of the bus and pay the conductor, who turned out to be his Dad. I assume Gaz had fallen asleep while thinking of people in his life who have had a huge positive motivational effect on him and who have taught him valuable things. Yes, that must be it.

Recently I was at a dinner thing and the hostess was telling a story about a dream she had had. Fortunately I wasn't a bus driver in this one, I wouldn't want to get typecast so was relieved about this. The content of the dream is not relevant and was also quite rude, which may be another reason I didn't feature in it, though I hope Gaz's Dad was well out of the way for both of their sakes.

She told us about the dream though. She said that she woke up, told her husband about it, then went to sleep again and "went back into it".

At this point I had to ask her.

"Wait a sec, what do you mean you went back into it? Do you mean you CHOSE to keep the dream going?"

"Yeah, I often do that" said the dreamer.

"Wow" I said, but I was really thinking "Wow".

She was absolutely serious. Apparently she often does this, as she said.

I asked her again and she said that she frequently has dreams that she can "re enter" almost at will. This amazed me. As I thought about it later I realised that most people have and have had dreams that are interrupted by consciousness which we would give half our kingdoms to go back to. Like the one about Hillary Clinton and the sexy underwear, a common dream for all men I'm sure.

I've never met anyone who can actually do it though, a person who can make themselves choose a dream.

Or can everyone?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Publish And Be Damned

I've noticed a change in the way I think as I write things in my blog in about the last 8 to 10 months. Not that I think much in the way of conscious bits and pieces as I jot the odd word or 2 down, but there are bits of random thoughtwaves that float around in the old head.

As LLD has pulled in a small amount of regular readers over the past couple of years I've observed some changes about the boundaries between friends and readers. When I started here I told Academic Bro about it and I told P my best mate. The bro reads it now and again in between PhDs and P, true to form, had a brief look at it and then forgot about its entire existence.

Life in those days was oh so easy peasy. I could write about almost anyone without fear of them reading my words and ringing me up and blackguarding (to use one of my favourite Singlish words) me for writing such utter bollocks about them. Of course my Mum springs to mind as a major suspect but there are other people as well.

Music Biz bro, unless he has stumbled across it whilst searching for porn or dog food, remains blissfully unaware of my web based perusings, as are my parents, my ex wife and the girls. That's a good thing from my point of view. One of my few criteria when posting is that I don't want to write anything that either of my daughters would be upset by if they were to find it, with the certain knowledge that they'll find my blog at some point in the future. Unless the internet gets destroyed or lost behind a chair or something.

Parents are a bewildering bag of fish aren't they. Ravana published this post which stuck in my mind, about telling his Mother about his blog. It's a post that most of us can probably relate to. The thought of my Mother finding out about my blog is both scary and okay. I'm sure my Mum would be quite proud to know that I can string the odd sentence or two together but I dread the continual criticism and the ongoing "why did you write that?" conversations that would ensue. Unlike Ravana I have no tales of orgies that I have been invited to to narrate, but I live in hope. Doesn't it always look weird when 2 "to"s are written together?

As I've blogged for longer I've also met some of the other Sri Lankan bloggers and readers. I exchange emails at regular intervals with some and there are more readers who I would class as friends and also more friends who are readers. This is mostly positive as it's nice to know that people who know me read here. But it's got a negative, perhaps a self imposed one. It's that I often have to think twice about a blog post and about the reaction of who I might write about before I actually write it.

Many bloggers and others who write proper things like books and newspapers just go ahead and publish their stuff without thought of the impact on their readership, taking the publish and be damned outlook. For me the days of just writing anything that comes into my head are a fading memory. As I think of things to write about my brain goes into a new mode in which it calculates who's involved and whether they might be offended about it.

Maybe it's time I started a separate blog that's open to invited readers only and told stories like the one about Java and the Italian figure skating team and the horse, the one I promised him I wouldn't mention. The horse is almost fully recovered now but the figure skating team haven't even got back on the ice yet, such was the trauma.

When that much blogged about Lakbima thing happened they nicked my story about Sri Lankan Mothers. Ironic really in that my own one would have probably been chuffed that one of her sons had got something published that could be read even if you didn't have an IQ over about 345, but that she would have been banging on my door like a Wodehouseian Aunt on acid and seeking painful retribution for the things I had said about her.

The other day when I wrote this post in which I mentioned the line a friend had said about Swedes I had to think twice before publishing. Said friend glances at the blog now and again and I was worried that I might offend her by repeating her line. I published it after some thought and she wasn't offended and took it all in good humour. Her job at the Swedish Embassy is in a bit of jeopardy now but that's life I guess.

I think I've developed a good strategic plan. As I tell people who know me about this blog I simply go back and delete any posts that mention them. The only negative to this is that, by the time all of my friends, family and acquaintances know about it, there won't be a single post left, but at least they'll know I had a blog.

Publish and be damned is one thing.

Publish and let a Sri Lankan Mother read it is a completely different matter.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Mystery Of Milhana

A funny thing happened to me in Scotland last week.

'twas the evening of the 29th December and I was having a quiet drink in my room prior to dinner when my mobile rang. Occasionally it does that and I have a tendency to answer it, except when I don't. I chose option 1.

I'll try to make use of my blogging name but those of you who know my real name will probably understand my clever use of the pseudonym and the way it neatly fits the story anyway.

I saw that the number calling me was a Sri Lankan number, one which my phone book hadn't recognised, so the number was displayed without the name of the caller. It's not unusual for my phone to not recognise the number even if it is a stored one. This is a phenomenon that puzzles me at times; why the digits of a number will show and the clever little Japanese brain in my phone sometimes realises that it's my office calling but often doesn't.

A girl's voice, presumably one that belonged to a girl rather than to an impressionist like Degas or Cezanne or another French restaurant owner, said to me:

"Hi, is that Rheth?"

That's not a typo. She said "Rheth" which I assumed was just a bad line or her way of saying "Rhyth" as in Rhythmic, although it was my real first name and its abbreviated form that was actually used. Here in England I am more than used to it said incorrectly and I respond to most monikers that sound somewhere in the vicinity of the correct version. Or, to put it simply, I answered her with a "yes".

"We're at _____. Are you coming down?"

I couldn't make out where she said but from her tone, the background noise and the fact that it was about 2 AM in Sri Lanka I could tell that she was in a club of sorts. I said those usual words about asking her to repeat herself and what not and then she realised that she had a wrong number, apologised and hung up.

But I thought on this and it dawned on me that it must have been someone I knew in some way as she'd asked for me (almost) by name. I figured that she must have had my name and number in her phone book, listed alphabetically and therefore above or below the number of the chap she really wanted to get hold of. But I didn't have her number in my phone. The mysteriousness grew in my mind and I decided to send her a text (that's an SMS in Singlish!).

I despatched a polite message asking who she was and saying that we'd had that brief conversation and I was just puzzled. You know, all very British and polite, I even left her my real name. She replied almost immediately, saying:

"Sorry it's Milhana got you confused with other Rheth! See you soon".

This left me none the wiser. I have no recollection of ever meeting someone with that name. I replied and told her that, looking for more information, but got nothing back. I assumed that it had dawned on her that she'd made a terrible mistake and was now communicating with some unknown geezer somewhere in the UK.

If by any chance you do read this Milhana then I apologise for the use of your real name, or what I assume is your real name. It's only because I'm trying to find out how I know you or if the fact you rang me is one of those rare coincidences.

Does anyone know who she is?

Are you out there Milhana?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Diasporic Perception

With the termination of the CFA many are probably in a similar mindset to myself, not that I've got the faintest idea what's going on in your head of course.

I worry for the family and friends I have in Sri Lanka, fearful that there'll be something detonated or something erupting at any time. The GoSL officially ended the CFA and, as T points out here, the agreement was largely a farce anyway. It really is more of an official acknowledgement that no party is going to continue to pretend that there's a ceasefire going on, whilst continuing to bomb the fuck out of the other "side" anyway.

But I was also thinking hard about how we, the Sri Lankan diaspora, view things from our overseas posts, specifically in comparison to how someone who actually lives in Sri Lanka sees and feels about things.

The biggest difference is the way in which we watch things, waiting for something to happen, whereas so many people who live in SL just get on with their everyday lives. I've just read that Minister DM Dassanayake has been killed in an attack in Ja-Ela, literally while I've been typing these sentences I heard about it.

The terrible truth is that we expect things to happen to Politicians, to leaders and the hierarchy of the LTTE. People have mixed feelings about military personnel, about police officers and about LTTE cadres but it's a tragic and undeniable situation that death or injury is a very likely and realistic occupational hazard.

That doesn't mean I condone it, merely that I recognise it happens and certain people, for many different reasons actually place themselves in the line of fire. Often those reasons are admirable and genuine. Many great people selflessly believe that the good of their cause is far more important than their own meagre existence. One doesn't have to agree with the cause to have an uncomfortable sense of respect for those types, but it's a tough moral judgement call to have to make.

But the aspect of terrorism I find so despicable is the loss of life, the pain and the suffering that is endured by people who have never put themselves in the line of fire. People whose biggest interest is to carry on with their day to day existence, to make enough money to pay for the biggest cabinet in the world, to buy things that have gone up by 22% in the last year.

Going out on a bit of a limb I would guess that most of the Sri Lankan blogosphere consists of people who have a little bit more than average wealth, people who have regular access to a computer and the required technology. And that means we're often Sri Lankans who have a politician or seven that we're related to, hardly something that's statistically unlikely but still probably true.

Yet we're also the people who have friends and family amongst "everyday" folk, who may be involved in something at any time. Most of us are also "everyday" folk who could be caught up in something at any time, not me at my desk in West London, but stick wth me on the principles here.

I was talking about this with someone the other day, about the fact that the Sri Lankan conflict would be so much more easy to deal with if it only involved people who were the "line of fire" groups. But, if it were only those chaps who were targetted, I deduced that it wouldn't be terrorism, it would be assasinations, still a bummer but perhaps a more palatable one. The problem then becomes exacerbated when a palatable series of events doesn't get the attention that outright terrorism generates.

And the defintion of terrorism is sketchy at best. Clearly it involves violence and the threat of fear, but will the end justify the means?

Devolution, Eelam or none of the above. Will the end justify the 32,000 dead, the 200,000 internally displaced and the 2 or 3 generations of people that have been born into this period and who have never lived in a peaceful society?

I don't know. But we, you and they get on with their lives anyway.

Paul Merton, one of my favourite comedians has a joke. It goes something like this:

"During the war my Dad used to say that we shouldn't worry about bombs, the only one that would get us was one that had our name on it. That used to worry our next door neighbours, Mr and Mrs Doodlebug."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bloggers, Vegetables and Holidays

My first proper day back at work after a totally relaxing festive spell. I've got that feeling most people get after a holiday, the feeling of dazed excitement at having to force oneself to relearn so many things that were so automatic so recently.

The relearning isn't a big chore and doesn't take much time, but it still has to be done. The drive to work was just that little bit more alien than it normally feels, I even had to open my eyes a couple of times. I had to think for a few nanoseconds as I logged in to my PC this morning, the password wasn't as in the fron of my mind as usual, and all those little tasks that are usually done in autopilot mode will take just the slightest bit of practice.

On Boxing Day I was sitting with some friends enjoying a chat and a laugh and I suddenly discovered that one of the fellows I was sitting with was Confab's first cousin. A few days' later I was typing a post in Edinburgh and Ian's godson was cooing and making godson type of noises a few feet away from me. I was tempted to say that he was "googling a few feet away from me". The description feels right for the noises he was making but you'd all think that the child was busily searching the net for something that previous generations used to go to a library for, which would be wholly innaccurate. I never went to a library for that sort of stuff.

But these coincidences amazed me. Through that "normal" network of Sri Lankan friends and family I had met up with these sets of friends, the route to the meetings had been nothing to do with blogging, yet we were linked, as are their relatives' blogs with mine.

I learned, from Confab's cousin, exactly what "10 second rule" means. I never knew it and, as a parent, I was surprised that I hadn't come across it before, the joys of increasing one's knowledge can be useless and fascinating at times!

He also told me a theory about holidays, in relation to the processes a fellow goes through whilst on one. It interested me and goes like this:

Week 1 - Unwinding and getting used to the holiday destination

Week 2 - Chilling, really starting to enjoy the place and just "being" and letting go of work and life stresses that have built up.

Week 3 - Getting into such a state of relaxation that you get in the zone for planning the time in front. Getting fully energised for what's in store in the coming year and feeling good about it.

Clearly this theory requires a 3 week holiday and some sort of stress to begin with. The specific time frames within it are likely to be quite variable according to the specific fellow concerned; Victoria Beckham probably needs a whole week to unwind from the stress of all her writing, thought provoking discussions and musical challenges, but other people with different mentalities may only take a day.

But I liked the general gist of the theory and, as someone who has got used to short burst holidays, where I spend a quick week here, there and wherever, it made me think. Perhaps I should try to take longer breaks. Ideally longer breaks taken far more frequently would be a good solution. I will work on it. Or maybe I can just go on a holiday and jump to week 3, perhaps by doing bugger all at work for the 2 weeks before.

Did I make any New Year's resolutions?

No, just a couple of wishy washy things, to eat more vegetables and to do more drum practice, not at the same time though. I didn't take a "SMART" approach to these things though. To be honest I didn't feel a need to set myself targets, timings and what nots with regards to vegetables and I've yet to do it for the drum side of the equation.

And a question for you. When you go back to work does it feel weird when you have to write stuff?

I don't mean about the thought processes, I mean the physical act of putting pen to paper. Do you have to relearn how to actually write, to make letters and words?

I do.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sri Lankan Timing....

...is an interesting thing.

Why do I say this?

I've been invited to a dinner party tonight. All very British and actually very nice, a good time will be had by all I'm sure.

But last night, the expected time of arrival for the dinner party popped into the conversation. The hostess for tonight was present last night. Apologies if you're reading this tomorrow, in which case the dinner party was last night and the conversation was the night before, although at this point the dinner party hasn't happened yet, but it will have happened as you're reading this.

So the hostess, whenever the conversation took place, said, after a brief chinwag with her husband, that the guests should arrive at "about 7.30 to eat at 8.00".

Surrounded by white people I smirked inwardly and enjoyed the wholly unsubtle difference between a typical British time requirement and a Sri Lankan one. Being the third culture kid that I am I can understand both languages, and I'm not talking about languages here. I know that going to someone's for dinner in Sri Lanka means that you arrive sometime during the evening, rarely does it matter what time. Like that children's party game when you have to pin a tail onto the arse of a donkey you just turn up roughly in the region of Saturday, assuming the invitation was for Saturday.

The free flowing relaxedness of Sri Lankans is luxurious when you don't have to bust a bollock to get ready to leave at the allocated minute yet infuriating when the British bit of me is sitting and waiting for a Sri Lankan friend or relative who hasn't busted the aforementioned bollock to get ready to leave at the allocated minute to meet me. Of course I didn't really mean it when I said "aforementioned" either, that would have meant the person would have neglected to bust one of my bollocks to get ready in time. Painful and unnecessary.

And my experience of British dinner parties is like Mervyn's Silva's list of incidents in which he has embarassed his Country and people; pretty extensive to start with and growing all the time. I know that an ETA of 7.30 for a British dinner party means I might be able to get away with arriving at 7.31, as long as the excuse is a good one, like my house caught fire or I broke my leg or something. If I happen to arrive early I simply do what any good Brit should do, I sit in the car and watch the minutes go by until the correct time.

Must go now, I have to get ready in 53 minutes' time.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Sad Little Bastards

The festive period was good and different for me. Edinburgh was an experience, one that surprised and interested me. I like the city, the feel of it and the friends I was with, but there was something very sadly global in its feel.

It was in the way that "local" character wasn't splashing about in abundance as much as I had expected. I saw lots of chaps in kilts, plenty of really beautiful architecture. I'm no expert in the architectural field but I'm reasonably sure this stuff wasn't influenced by Geoffrey Bawa, it might even have been older than that.

The general mix was one of Eastern European labour and big business retail outlets. The colloquialism (a word I wrote without the aid of a dictionary or spellcheck, so may well be wrong) seems to be fading fast into the distance, to be replaced by Costa Coffee, Boots and McDonalds, all served up by a Pole dressed in tartan.

I thought about the fact that Colombo is the only city I know well that still has the "local" feel to it, yet I don't think that will be there for much more than the next 10 years. Maybe there won't be a deluge of Poles working in Odel, but how long before the city we all love becomes another "corporate" city rather than a capital city?

Edinburgh was lovely in parts too. There was a castle perched up on the hill, it looked spectacular in a very special British way. There were Scottish accents coming at me from all sides and I was bowled over at times when I struggled to understand what on Earth they were saying. I was on a ladder climbing up on to a roof at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, (or is that New Year's day?), but, once I got up on the roof, I saw fireworks all around the city and heard the Proclaimers singing "500 miles".

I guess it was the obvious yet stereotypical song to hear in that situation.

Coming to you from my desk, I've just popped into the office to check emails and pick up a couple of things, something made me laugh, smile and feel a little sad as I drove here and looked at the street activity. As people clear out their Christmas decorations before Jan 6th there are Christmas trees randomly standing outside many houses, waiting to be picked up by the dustmen carted off.

The sight made me ponder and reflect. These trees are bought and decorated with so much joy and spirit, so much happiness and laughter. Then, once their usefulness has expired, they're stripped and thrown out without a thought. Left to rot and degrade, like sad little bastards. Unlike Tesco carrier bags, which last for a few thousand years.

As a totally unrelated random tangential offshoot a friend said to me over the holiday:

"I don't like Swedes, I find them racist".

Isn't that one of the best statements ever, for so many reasons!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

London and Lanka

Here I am back in London after seeing in the New Year in Edinburgh. To all you Scotophiles I have to say that I was only joking about the kilts. No way do they look as good as a smart fellow in a sarong, but I guess they're ok. For girls.

And I've got back and have had a chance to see what's been going on in the Sri Lankan blogosphere, and in Sri Lanka itself. Lo and behold. Bombs, or a bomb, in Slave Island, Mervyn getting his arse a little bit whipped and the GoSL has pulled out of the ceasefire agreement. The year is young and these things have only just happened.

Someone asked me what I'd wish for in the New Year. I thought about it and cogitated, even thought they say it makes you go blind.

Forget things like world peace, an end to global warming and fewer Eastern Europeans in Edinburgh.

Peace in Sri Lanka would do nicely for me.

But somehow I think that might be a bit too much to ask for.