Wednesday, December 29

Annual Review Digested Biscuit

I seem to have grown tired of my words, posts started ... then deleted for being too ... wordy.

Less is probably more - here's the last twelve months as I remember them - in no more than six words

half pop group, staring child

crazy white house house white crazy

smelly yoga indoor pedalo men

volcano erupts, van to spain

cheesy protests, organ on roof

home crowded, grumpy cow

walk with father, flappy soles

puddings, leopards, lolling langurs

furniture mountain blocks light

furniture removal, empty house

gnu star in kitchen drama

berlin snows england skates

Wednesday, December 22

Silly Season

I visit a supermarket that is also used by students, their conversations are such good value that I have been known to spend more time than strictly necessary hanging around near the Pot Noodles.

Today's gem:

Skinny boy, looking anxious:
I've got ham, how long does ham keep for?

It depends on how cold your fridge is

Skinny Boy with incipient fridge insecurity:
Err quite cold ... I think

You can definitely keep ham for at least a day - two if your fridge is really cold

Saturday, December 11

Back From Berlin

Berlin was great, even when I couldn't see it and was simply fighting my way down the street inhaling snowflakes. I am back home now, here's what has stuck in my head about the trip:

• Berlin snow is drier and whiter than the stuff we get at home, this makes it really easy to see how much urination happens outside

• many Lady Berliners look a lot like Christine Keener which was nice because I have quite a crush on Ms Keener

• there are loads of shops selling good quality leather footwear - all of them identical

• Berlin is heaving with Christmas markets, the whole population must be drunk on Glühwein fumes throughout December. I consulted this guide to decide which one to go to and was very tempted to try the Hanukkah Market, partly because the guide told me that I'd find
puppet shows and live music celebrating the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. Cause nothing says “we won the holy war” like a puppet show.

• I was warned that Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine is considered passé by Berliners these days - right now it's all about Korea and bibimbap. I was too busy eating strudel and spatzle for such exotica.

• there's a lot of art happening in Berlin - unfortunately I didn't make it to the Hamburger Bahnhof where they are collecting urine from the reindeer which make up the current exhibition there. Apparently reindeer urine is halucinogenic and punters with $1,000 can pay to stay overnight and try this delicacy.

...I appear to have started and ended my list with wee.

Friday, December 3

Snowblind in Berlin

Why does everyone go on about how bad the sun is for the skin. My skin loves sun and looks all relaxed and happy when it's been out in it, the cold however, is something else again. I walked off the plane in Germany and straight into temperatures of minus eighty. My face hates it, my eyelids have developed uneven droopy bits, I look pinched and raw and witchy, my nose is glowing like a beacon.

It warmed up enough to start snowing when I got up in the morning, thick fluffy flakes. I love snow and I am here to sightsee so I rolled* straight outside into Berlin - I couldn't see it but I knew it was there - I could smell the pastries.

Help, I can,t use German typewriters and my euro-in-the-slot is running out ...
*I knew it would be cold so method of packing for this trip was to wear all of my clothes - I have learned that this makes locomotion tough-going.

Sunday, November 28

Noisy Head

It was very late, I was in bed reading but not sleepy, my husband walked into the bedroom, fell on the bed and appeared to be instantly unconscious. I put the book down, turned off the light and tried to sleep but my head was too busy. I kept still as still could be.

After half an hour I heard him mutter

Please go to sleep

I muttered back that I was not moving

He hissed in exasperation
I can hear you thinking

Sunday, November 21

Snapshot Of My Life

Several weeks ago I made some calls ...

... images of tumbleweed ... time passing ...

Tuesday, November 16

Over- exposed

I impulse-bought a chair from a second-hand shop at the weekend, the shop man made his son carry it home for me. This provided a much-needed comedy bonus - the boy's trousers were fashionably slung below his bottom and both his arms were fully occupied with the chair, no matter how wide the boy made his bow-legged waddle, the trousers sank repeatedly to the floor.

Then we had lots more exposure last week when all the British newspapers suddenly started publishing photographs that were taken during filming trips in Africa:

Just two newspapers had a reporter check facts about the images which were provided by a photo library with our contact details for further information. one of those reporters bothered to take notes.

The Daily Mail made some interesting stuff up which resulted in some surprisingly abusive comments on the online article.

The images were made when this film was being filmed.

Wednesday, November 10

Party Time

The new offices have separated the Cake Eaters from the Camera Boys. The former occupy the large beautiful-ceiling-room and mostly spend time looking at hot men on each others computer screens. The Camera Boys bob in and out of their rooms like meercats investigating new burrows, they carry bits of wire or a metal box as they go but basically they’re just visiting each other to look at pictures of hot girls on each others computer screens.

Last month we all went out together. It was a straight-from-work-fancy-dinner event, an industry-award-ceremony affair where we sat at big round tables set with white linen, long-stemmed wine glasses and packets of sweeties stamped with the logo of a television company. We brought our geary clothes to work and hung them on behind-the-door-hooks until tea-time, then one by one people disappeared and reappeared to stand around feeling vaguely uncomfortable in suits and gowns until a critical mass of gloriousness was reached and just one cardigan-clad person remained tapping furiously at her keyboard.

Wednesday, November 3

Gnu Interview

Hugh's documentary project has broadened to cover all the crucial aspects of human life in Britain - here he is interviewing a human person about tea.

Thursday, October 28


At home I have plugged in a dehumidifier – I watch transfixed as the machine sucks gallons of water out of the walls.

The new office has been renamed the inferno, we believe that the coven of dragons living the dungeons are being tormented by stiletto-wearing lesbians. We are all working in our bikinis, except Miss Whiplash who wears no more than a fun fur merkin.

Thursday, October 21

Pictures Of Me (ii)

... the new me is taking longer to emerge than expected. There’s improvement; I’ve relaxed a little, got off my high heels and tried gathering flowers and rainbows, but it's not quite the dramatic personal transformation I’d hoped for - I’m still clutching at a panapoly* of coping mechanisms.

I’ve now diagnosed myself as suffering from empty nest syndrome.

My home is actually quite a lot emptier than I’d expected, the size of the offices and the extra people meant that we needed to take most of our own furniture as well as all of the things I’ve been collecting for the last two months. Removing the pictures from the walls has highlighted the damp issues that I’ve been ignoring for the last eight years.

I have a friend who tells me that his own house only stays upright because the woodworm are holding hands. Last week, I brought the picnic table in from the garden so I could have something to sit at and a place to eat - one of the legs has gone rotten at the screws and wobbles around like a six-year old’s front tooth - this turns dinner into a sort of circus performance.

I went to visit my nephew for a few days to see if the damp might just disappear if I stopped looking at it:

My nephew is three and has just started nursery school. A couple of days ago he asked if he could have a glass of wore-er

his mother looked puzzled and said
wore-er - I’m sorry I don’t think I know that word

my nephew replied
It means water, it’s the word they use for it in another country’

really what country is that?


* I particularly liked this definition of the word
1576, from Gk. panoplia "complete suit of armor," from pan- "all" + hopla (pl.) "arms" of a hoplites ("heavily armed soldier"). Originally fig., of "spiritual armor," etc. (allusion to Eph. vi); non-armorial sense of "any splendid array" first recorded 1829.

Monday, October 11

Pictures Of Me (i)

Lately I've been mostly feeling like this.

My house looks as though a herd of wildebeest have been having a bloody big party with too many drugs but it is finally empty of people (just me running naked from room to room doing Tarzan calls). The film company has moved in to its new premises.

I'll be posting the picture of the new me just as soon as I've finished all the Champagne

Monday, September 27

Life Swap Gnu

There is a film crew in Kenya trying to film crocodiles and hyenas in the Masai Mara - the plains however have been mobbed by gnu*.

Gnu being very starstruck animals are mad film fans, every one of them, walking in front of the camera trying to present their best profile - even when getting eaten by crocodiles they won’t stop showing off.

One of their clan has done a life swap with the director of this movie - last seen eating grass on the Mara plains while Hugh the gnu packed his anorak, got himself a cheap flight to Bristol and picked up a rental car at the airport .

Hugh is hoping to make his name on the big screen and is looking to the 2012 Oscars. As a stepping stone to the big time he is cutting his cinematic teeth on a gritty observational documentary. The narrative will focus on a film production company’s search for a new den, the audience will marvel at the way this species accumulates many large heavy items that they feel the need to drag around with them, they will guffaw at the hilarious human legal system, and they will cry as the little company is savaged by dastardly predators.

*If you want to know more about gnus, here's an introduction

Wednesday, September 15

God Bless The Classifieds

I have discovered a new favourite thing -  wandering around Craigslist which is classified advertising elevated to art in some cases, here are some of my current favourite listings

Penis Measuring
Date: 2010-03-02, 6:01PM PST

A friend of mine and I have been having a long-standing argument about whose penis is larger. We've tried having our girlfriends confirm to the other the exact size, but neither one of us buy it. I don't want to see his penis and he doesn't want to see mine. I don't want my girlfriend looking at his penis and he doesn't was his looking at mine.

So... We just need a girl to look at both of our penises (individually) and then to both of our faces say which one is bigger. We can't pay much. $50.

* Location: Vancouver
* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
* Compensation: $50

or maybe I like this one best:

Looking for a beard mentor
Date: 2010-03-04, 3:40PM CST

I've had a moustache and beard off and on over the years, and I've tried styling it in the past but I just can't seem to get it to the next level. I'm looking for some srs protips with this, as well as possibly some styling services by someone with skilled hands. Please submit to me your beard/moustache resume. Also if you have pictures of you achievements that would be greatly appreciated.

I'm currently having trouble with getting my handlebar working correctly as well as keeping the sideburns even.

This is 'srs bsns' (serious business) as I've been informed I need to style it up, shave it off, or loose my job. (I work in adult daycare.)

Saturday, September 11

Elephants Blocking My View

Another week and things have got far worse... We are supposed to be signing contracts and moving into the new offices in three days time, the documents are not in order, the rottweiler/solicitor for the landlord has suddenly presented us with terms and conditions that we cannot agree to.

This is last night's dream:

I am driving a mini down the road, as I am driving the vehicle grows bigger, becoming a monstrous sort of London taxi then even bigger, the driver’s seat stays in the middle of the vehicle and low down so it is harder and harder to reach the wheel - but I'm really trying to hang on, my view through the windscreen is now just the tree branches overhead, I can no longer reach the pedals. Somehow I am still driving and haven’t yet crashed. I’ve been driving for days, months even, so I pull myself together and figure that the fuel must run out soon, then I can stop and get out, maybe I’ll drift down someone’s driveway and then I can get help.

I am comforting myself with this thought when an elephant materialises in my lap.

Sunday, September 5

Antenatal Nerves

I found the ideal site for our office three months ago - I imagined that the process of moving to new premises would give me material for dozens of hilarious blog posts. All the clichés were there from the start; on-again-off-again deals, scandalous incompetence, rascally landlords, and the sound of heavy machinery gouging money from seams that I had no idea existed.

I had no idea how busy I’d be with emotional turmoil as I ricochetted between hysterical excitement at the thought of having a house that we can live in again ... and friends might want to come and visit ... and there wouldn’t be shit all over the table ... so I might want to cook supper in my own house instead of running away to do it in other people’s kitchens ...

then the paralysis when it occurs to me that it might not be real

We’ve got no budget left for this move so I’ve been scavenging where I can. I went to the local wood recycling yard a month ago, they had just received dozens of hardwood drawers that were being thrown out of a youth hostel, a truck delivered all of them to the back of my house that afternoon. I’ve also been doing quite a lot of ebay trading ... I now have a mountain of furniture and dead animal parts high enough to seriously block our light (that photo’s just the first section), the weather has become truly evil, with some flimsy tarpaulins I am desperately trying to protect my treasures from biblical rains and hurricane-force winds.

Last week when my solicitor had been ignoring my increasingly desperate calls for a full fortnight, I sat in my now dark house and wondered whether the whole move thing was all in my head, like some sort of grotesque phantom pregnancy.

Monday, August 30

Trying To Find A Match

The universal truth about estate agents is that no matter how clear you are about what important important features one is looking for; how much space, how many dungeons, turrets and catapault launchers, they completely ignore you. I showed them my drawing and I also told them about places that I had noticed looking a bit unused but possibly useful to us, places like this red brick delight that can’t decide whether it wants to be a Victorian bathing house or a car showroom. Handy for us because it already had a good workshop and big doors that you can drive a van through.

I was also rather keen on this ‘pro-cathedral

which I had no idea existed until I stumbled upon it on my early morning walks recently. This church was briefly raised to cathedralhood in the 60s, until a spectacularly ugly modern purpose-built cathedral was constructed nearby. It is currently partly used by a theatre company and a man who repairs bicycles.

No matter what I tried I kept getting sent details of things that look like this

I now realise that I should've asked to see places that looked to be made of grubby grey Lego and I'd have been overwhelmed by Baroque and Rococo.

Last week I took a phone call from an estate agent offering me a property that he admitted only had half the amount of space we needed and it had no ground floor access (which we also needed) but it did have an 'infinity wall' which he thought I'd rather fancy.

Sunday, August 22

Castles In The Air

This year the number of people working in the house where I live has doubled and just as I was about to burst with the claustrophobia of it all - we discovered that the company was solvent enough to get a home of it’s own.

I went on the hunt for suitable premises, before setting off I asked Miss Whiplash, The Director and the Camera Boys what they felt would constitute the perfect place to work - then I made a drawing which I presented to various estate agents and held up against properties on my morning walks.

additional desirable features would include;
• it being no more than 200 metres from where we are now
• it should have a dungeon
• it should have a bar
• a boy should be able to run a zip wire between his bedroom window and the office window
• bacon sandwiches
• uniformed cleaning men
• plants
• a tea lady
• regular cake
• a decent printer
• windows and doors

I have found the nearly perfect place (we had to concede one or two wishes).

Monday, August 16

The Wonder Dog

This is the hotel dog formerly known as Bollocks. All that changed last year when he was discovered with his head down a python's throat.

The rest of the python was wrapped around the dogs body and squeezing hard, the dog's owner thought Bollocks was a goner but shouted out for help anyway and noticed that the tiny bit of Bollocks that wasn't being strangled, the tip of his tail, wagged in response to his master's voice.

Help had arrived, the two men hit the python with sticks and it released the dog, unharmed but a bit cross, Bollocks bit the python before running home and has been henceforth known as Wonder Dog.

Sunday, August 15

View From Inside A Tuktuk

While I was away I got very interested in the interior decorating of tuktuks, here are a couple of images that caught my eye...

Mother's Love - All that I am or hope to be i owe to my angle mother

To make pleasures pleasant shorten them

Friday, August 13

Bringing Back The Sun

I'm back in the UK feeling all hazy and jetlaggy and it's bloody cold. A little pile of books that I read while I was away are still by my bed so I have been dipping back into them since my return for a warm-up.

The Book of Indian Birds: Salim Ali (1941)
Lovely illustrations and great text, I particularly liked Mr Ali’s descriptions of bird calls, here he is on the Malabar Pied Hornbill’s call;
A variety of loud cackling and inane screams reminiscent of the protestations of a dak bungalow murghi* seized by the cook, and also the yelps of a smacked puppy!

*Baffled I looked for explanation and found this wonderfully informative passage here
The British had set up rest-houses known as Daak Bungalow... Somehow, there was always an Anglo-Indian woman who would found her way to the Dak Bungalow to keep the company of the traveling British officer. Every Dak Bungalow has a love story to tell, only if the walls could talk.

In the rear, every Daak Bungalow had chicken coup manned by 'Murghi wala'

Reef: Romesh Gunesekera (1994)
Narrated by Triton, a young houseboy in the service of his hero Mister Salgado, sensuous and funny, turning chillingly dark towards the end, I loved it’s 170 pages so much that I eeked them out for days.
Thanks for the recommendation Eryl

How to see Ceylon: Bella Sidney Woolf (1914)
An early travel guide, Bella Woolf went to Ceylon in 1907 to visit her brother Leonard and ended up marrying the Assistant Director of the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. Contains fascinatingly descriptive travel itineraries and plenty of useful advice:
A Topee should always be worn until 4 to 4.30 pm even on dull days

Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book (1929)
...constitutes a serious attempt to aid the housewives of Ceylon to practise the art of cooking so that, like the quality of mercy, the preparation of palatable dishes will bless her that gives and him that takes.

Contains recipes for things as diverse as Poached Eggs with Mince and Titta Tibbatu Mallung. I’m particularly fond of the section entitled Invalid & Convalescent Cookery, which gives this advice
Do not consult a patient about his meal, but try and find out what will be liked and let it come as a surprise.

Then follows such appetite tempters as Egg White Water, Beef Tea Custard, Invalid Blancmange, Sago Gruel and Stewed Spaghetti.
Who wouldn't get better when faced with this?

Running in the Family: Michael Ondaatje (1982)
The most delicious memoir of Ondaatje’s Sri Lankan family history, pieced together from photo albums and anecdotes told by friends and family members. I looked for it in a bookshop in Columbo, the elderly salesman snatched it down from the shelf when I mentioned the title declaring
this book is a must have ... an absolute must have
he clutched it so tightly that I had to fight it off him. Anyway it’s great and now it’s mine - here’s a bit;

An aunt gives an account of her journey to Ondaatje's father's wedding, they have seen a car in a ditch and next to it the Bishop who was to officiate at the wedding, everyone knew the man to be a terrible driver - he has to be given a lift.

First of all his luggage had to be put in carefully because his vestments couldn’t be crushed. Then his mitre and sceptre and those special shoes and whatnot. And as we were so crowded and a bishop couldn’t sit on anyone’s lap – and as no one could really sit on a bishop’s lap we had to let him drive the Fiat...

Wednesday, August 11

Trying to Give Gifts

We went along to watch a farmer, his young son and their cattle herd being presented with an anti-leopard pen last week*. The farmer was thrilled, but the calves weren't too keen.

*more about this here

Thursday, July 29

The Mouse Deer Whale Pig

The star attraction of the nature reserves are always the big cats. In Yala the leopard paparazzi flood into the national park every day hoping for a fleeting glimpse of the big spotty glamourpuss.

My own crush is on the much more mysterious and melancholic-sounding mouse deer. The books all describe this creature as secretive and solitary, the sole surviving member of the infraorder tragulina. It runs up low, shallow-angled branches to get itself into trees and it isn't really a deer at all, it is in fact more like a pig, especially in it's sexual behaviour.

The native name for the mouse deer translates as 'a deer and a pig' and my sense of it being stranded between species is reinforced by the wiki entry that says that it has

... a remarkable affinity with water often remaining submerged for prolonged periods to evade predators or other unwelcome intrusion. This has also lent support to the idea that whales evolved from water-loving creatures that looked like small deer

Wednesday, July 28

Things I Can't Show You

I used to do a lot of people-photographing but nowadays all this bloggy, facebooking, interwebbery inhibits me, not knowing where an image may end up and how it might be used can make the camera an unwelcome intrusion, so mostly I leave it in my bag.

There are so many photos I’d love to take in Sri Lanka; groups of schoolgirls, clustered under umbrellas in the street, their hair in thick black plaits, looking like a flashback to the fifties in impossibly white dresses and ankle socks, I’d also like to snap the men in bright sarongs holding umbrellas, shopping slung around them as they weave between buses on their bicycles.

and there’s the little girl with birds-nest hair dancing on the shop counter in her baggy underwear...

Last time in town I went to buy some sarong fabric. As soon as I walked into the shop the owners called out back to someone to come and see me. A skinny child with enormous eyes and a huge tangled pile of hair peeped from behind the curtain. Initially shy, she was soon showing off and performing dance routines while I shopped. Fabric bought and bagged I asked if I could take a photo, the mother said yes and disappeared so I took a quick snap of the dancing child, said goodbye and was about to go when the mother returned with a set of clothes and a hair brush, she quickly dressed the child and set about taming the hair.

This is the photo I feel that I have permission to use - you’ll just have to imagine other one.

Monday, July 26


a concentrated product of cane juice without separation of the molasses and crystals, contains sugars and other insoluble matter such as ash, proteins and bagasse fibers.

Considered to be a particularly wholesome sugar, retaining more mineral salts than refined sugar. Moreover, the process does not involve chemical agents. Ayurvedic medicine considers jaggery to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections.

Jaggery is for sale in all the shops I go in here - except the ones that sell car tyres - it is one of the things you need to make wattalapam

Jaggery is how I feel when I've consumed too much jaggery - on the other hand maybe it's how I'd feel if I had bee stings around my mouth.

Sunday, July 25

More Food

The Golden Pudding Cupboard stands at one end of the dining room - a glass case full of sari-coloured sweets.

Meanwhile in town ... I spy the creeping influence of franchise eating.

Saturday, July 24

Some Things ...

Sun Protection
I haven't seen a Sri Lankan in sunglasses yet, nor much hat wearing.

There is however, plenty of umbrella-sharing.

Feeling Like A Farmyard Animal
I am often sitting on my beer porch in the evening when the pigs come round, they poke their noses in at me through the railings. I think they are laughing at me.

If they had bananas I think they'd throw me one.

Laundry Conversation
I don’t understand how the laundry system works - a few days ago I put a pile of clothes on my bed with a hopeful note saying laundry. The man who comes in to sweep the room looked at the pile and said

I can’t take the laundry until tomorrow. Here is a bag, write your items on the list

I am confused
But you can’t take it until tomorrow?

Maybe I can take it today

Thursday, July 22

Points Of View

Our film is about what happens at night.

If you go into the Park at night, and it is a bit cloudy without much moon, it all looks like black scribble.

With night vision goggles you can see shapes of animals but the ones more than a few metres from the car will be quite fuzzy.

Our magic cameras can magnify the light of a single star by a factor of thousands and translate heat into light. Out in the bush only the one with the camera gets a clear picture.

The view from my cabin is another thing. The Camera Boys give me their boxes containing the fragments of a thousand stories, I sort through the clips, looking for the edge pieces and important details that will accumulate to become The Most Interesting Story, a good one with little sub-plots and dramas.

Tuesday, July 20


This is a map of my world these days, the film crew occupy three of the two dozen wooden cabins that accommodate the lodge guests, we each have a little fenced-in beer porch outside our front door.

A central wooden building contains the bar and restaurant, there is a Look-Out! tower on top of the restaurant and a fiendish pool outside the bar. The pool looks really good - new guests jump in with the anticipation of a refreshing swim only to find that the water level comes to just above a grown-ups knees. The children have great fun though, there are little islands to leap around on and I spent a happy hour watching three Dutch children playing an interesting drowning/life-saving game there the other day.

Apart from my foam- and battery-buying forays I am confined to the lodge boundaries and have yet to visit the National Park.

Due to the proximity of the park and the quantity of animals that could present us with so many exotic ways to die, we are requested not to venture out of sight of the cabins on our own. I can hear a crashing sea, metres from my cabin but I can’t go and look at it without company.

The Camera Boys are subject to the same restrictions as everyone else, when they pack up the vehicles for the shoot they must include a park warden and everyone stays inside the cars until they get back home again.

Langurs come to play on our roofs, usually a great big herd of them descend and bounce around noisily for an hour before moving on to the next one.

Monday, July 19

The Jesus Pig

Just beyond the bushes surrounding my cabin is a bright green lake, the luminosity of which led me to assume that it didn't support much life but I watched as horned cattle waded in to shoulder depth in the mornings, stood around for an hour or two then disappeared back into the bushes. I also saw some deliciously cartoon-ey storks standing in the lake and realised that a lot of birds come visiting here, so I got out my crayons and walked up the spit of sand that runs part-way into the lake to see them more closely.

Yesterday evening I climbed to a look-out post from which I could see the lake. The sand spit was covered with fat man-sized crocodiles, which made me gulp a bit, then I watched a pig emerge from the bushes, keeping up a steady trot, she made straight for the spit, slalomed between the crocs and when she got to the end of the land she kept going, running on the water without slackening her pace until she got to the island in the middle of the lake.

impressive surface tension!

Saturday, July 17

More Wildife Than Might Be Good For Me

I'm much worse at packing than I used to be, I pack far more these days and yet I have only a couple of wearable outfits - the other ninety per cent of my luggage might as well have stayed at home.

I had considered my pyjamas to be redundant, at bedtime I take a cold shower and lie on the bed hoping sleep will come before I reheat. This morning, when I went to the bathroom, I noticed all the gecko pellets stuck on my legs.

A lady sunbird* pecks for long periods on my window pane, I think she is attacking her reflection and imagines herself to be arguing with another sunbird but her persistence feels rather Hitchcockian.

* From Mssrs Wijeyeratne, Warakagoda and De Zylva in Birds of Sri Lanka
'The purple-rumped sunbird ... builds elaborate pear-shaped nests with a distinctive entrance roof over the entry hole. The nest is constructed from spider webs and other naturally-occurring soft fibrous materials, it is finished off with little chips of bark'.

Friday, July 16

The Breakfast Of Champions

breakfast this morning.

String Hoppers are a sort of steamed shredded wheat.

To make Egg Hoppers
• Pour coconut milk pancake batter into a bowl-shaped iron pan on a hot ring
• swirl the batter up the sides and crack an egg into the bottom
• Place a lid on the pan and let it steam for a minute or two
• When it is cooked, the steamed egg in it's crispy pancake bowl will slide out onto your plate
• add a spoonful of dahl and a sprinkle of coconut sambal if you like.

Thursday, July 15

The Babbler

At dusk the most extraordinary boinging and hooting noises erupt around my cabin. I think it's mostly birds. There is a dust-coloured bird that comes around several at a time, the size of a fat thrush, it is not at all sleek, they chatter away together and make a lovely sound - I am told that it is a Babbler. I look the Babbler up in Birds of Sri Lanka where Mssrs Wijeyeratne, Warakagoda and De Zylva inform me that it is a garrulous bird ... members of the flock help build each nest, which may be shared


Wednesday, July 14

Shopping For Man Stuff

Photo: Gayam and W. M. Upali the tuktuk driver, we are eating fishy buns to fortify ourselves for the journey ahead.

Four hours before I took that photo, Gayam and I had come to town in a jeep, we were in search of lunchboxes, batteries, chargers, clips, leads and other motor-related items, we also needed a piece of ply the size of a small coffee table top.

In town there are lots of everything shops, they are divided into two types; the ones that sell women’s things like household items, crayons, key rings and shinyshiny. The other everything shops sell men’s things; loudspeakers, bendy tubes, wheelbarrows and batteries.

Most of my items needed to come from the Man Shops, we chose the ones with most car batteries stacked up outside them but each shop only had one component on my list, we went from one shop to another and back again assembling a compatible set of items, none of which are guaranteed - when you find the charger that works with the battery you are thinking of buying, you accompany the owner down the road to a place where the equipment can be tested to everyone's satisfaction - we spent two hours on the Man Stuff.

Prior to all this we had spent an hour in the bank, our jeep driver now had to leave us, he introduced us to his friend W.M who would drive us back to the lodge in his tuktuk.

Last item on the list was the piece of ply - the shop would only sell us a whole sheet, the whole sheet was the dimensions of a king-sized bed but a bit longer.

cutting is not possible

A tuktuk is a three-wheeled mo-ped in a cabin with a soft roof, they are usually decorated, this one had gold fringing around the windscreen, a vase of flowers on the dashboard and a red and yellow garland hanging from the ceiling. The three of us looked at the big sheet of wood, then at the tuktuk, we went for tea and fishy buns then we returned to heave the ply onto the roof of the vehicle, we got in and each put an arm out, clamping the sheet onto the roof with a hand - finally ready, we put-putted along the pot-holed road for an hour - all the way home.

Sunday, July 11

My World of Wildlife

Every afternoon the boys drive off into the National Park to film proper he-man animals: crocodiles, elephants and leopards. I stay behind at the Lodge, process footage and have a different sort of wildlife experience. The Lodge is in a sandy woody area, guests stay in cabins among the trees. I have set up a work station on a couple of tables in my room and the geckos have taken up residence above me, their tails poke out from the rafters, I like them but wish they wouldn't deposit such unusually large amounts of lizard poo among my hard drives, adding fresh ones every time I go off for a coffee.

When I do go out for a coffee, giant squirrels suddenly appear on branches, close to my face, cocking their big-eyed faces and holding out little paws, (for what? Spare change?), palm squirrels copulate on the table where I am eating my dinner and cows belch and fart explosively outside my window.

In the evenings at six, about two dozen wild pigs come round for drinks, they snorkel noisily around the cabins waving their snouty lips up at the air-conditioning pipes to catch the icy drips. Tonight I watched a big old boar with his head stuck down a drain, front legs knelt down, hind legs on tiptoe, straining his bottom and huge swollen testicles up in the air in an attempt to reach something delicious, he sensed me watching him, jerked his head out of the drain and glared at me, the perfect image of Ken Dodd, it was just an instant, then he tossed his tatty mane and trotted off to join the outlet-lickers.

Friday, July 9

Today I Am Mostly Buying Foam

After bumping across the country for about 12 hours we finally arrived at the lodge where we will stay and film for the next month.

The first day is spent getting everything set up, we have a lot of very sensitive equipment so we make special nests for all the components which we fit in the filming vehicles to help them withstand the battering they will be getting. Mostly what is needed for this is foam and cardboard - I have achieved piles of these items and the two vehicles are now ready to go.

It is bake-a-cake-in-the-oven hot but we can't use the air conditioning because it will upset the many computers that we use outside for filming then bring back inside to transfer and log the images. From now on I will become a Data Monkey working in my room all day tapping away with my fingers and operating a fan with my big toes.

The food is really good here and I'm wondering if sweating counts as exercise.

Thursday, July 8

Getting To Sri Lanka

This is a drawing of the first 24 hours of our journey to Sri Lanka, the highlights being the 3-hour jam on the motorway, the dash for the flight, the random meals and the bit where we are met by NK at Columbo airport and taken straight for our third breakfast in 12 hours. This is just the first half of the journey. When NK saw us looking like the poor straggly things that we had become he said, When did you set off? ... Yesterday morning ... hahahaha ... we now have very a long drive, you are going to kill me ....

Monday, July 5

The Epic Walk

I had hoped that my father was teasing me in that last phone call but it turned out that he wasn’t, he did look in the comments section of my last post and took Kevin’s advice to pack a piece of Kendall Mint Cake and a stone to suck on - not wanting to travel too heavily loaded he abandoned the banana.

I think we’d have got further but I hadn’t reckoned on the orienteering aspect of this walk which turned out not to be our strong point. I had figured that we could just follow the hundreds of people who were also doing the walk, but their idea of walking was a lot faster than ours, the tracks much rougher and woodier than I’d bargained for and we were soon a lone threesome finding our way around the titter-inducing names of Surrey, I'm particularly fond of Polsden Lacey, Dorking and Abinger Hammer.

How did we do in the end?
Just past the halfway mark, the walking shoes that my father’s been wearing since adolescence started coming apart at the seams and we were all feeling a little sore in parts. Progress had been a slowed by our getting lost quite a bit and suddenly we all fancied being home for tea - I definitely needed to be back by Tuesday, so we put up the white flag and called for a lift back to base.

It was an unforgettable day - for so many reasons, stunning countryside, great weather, great company – in short - a raging success.

I really am off to Sri Lanka tomorrow - if we can get the camera fixed in time

Friday, July 2


My father and I will attempt a 30-mile walk on Sunday, the forecast is warm and sunny. I called him to finalise plans

Me: We'd better have all our sandwiches and everything ready then Dad.

Dad: I won't need much - I'll put a banana in my back pocket

Me: We should take water

Dad: There'll be check points every ten miles, we can get a drink then

My father appears to be half camel.

My brother-in-law is joining us on the hike, a large man, he tells me that he can't find a sunhat that fits.

Thursday, July 1

Introducing The Bedroom Test

New people are joining our team to help with the telly-making. My interview technique involves inviting people who think they want to work with us to come over for a beer then we all do a bit of interrogation. A lovely smiling boy came to see us this week with a view to becoming a junior camera boy. After some general chit chat the current junior camera boy asked him:

You need to be quite organised, are you quite organised? - How tidy is your bedroom?

This particular Camera Boy has the messiest bedroom in the world and it contains a big snake, but I like this way of choosing applicants, in future I will be asking prospective employees to enclose a photo of their bedroom with their cvs.

Wednesday, June 30


A few hours after I arranged to accompany my father on the Epic Walk, it was announced that the filming team would be flying to Sri Lanka the day after the walk takes place - when I’m not dreaming about bleeding scalps I get anxious that this walk might make my legs snap off and I won’t make it to the airport.

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Friday, June 25

High Anxiety

I fought my tendency to pessimism for years - then I realised that living in that state of happy surprise when things aren’t ever quite as disastrous as I expected is probably as good a place to be as any.

Making television programmes demands that an enormous amount of money and energy be invested before any project has the slightest hope of getting off the ground. I am a partner in this particular business but The Director and Miss Whiplash are in charge of most of the buttons - I just peep between my fingers from behind the sofa while they move noughts around on spreadsheets.

Earlier this year our company made a film which was really rather good, we’re up for more prizes and there have been talks about making more programmes. The talking goes on for ages before anyone actually writes a cheque so we have to get on with ordering equipment, booking flights, finding new premises and keeping our fingers crossed.

I try and internalise my predictive gloom which leads to some funny symptoms like the ones where I think I’m having a heart attack or that I've got flu or that I am slowly being paralyzed by worms. I also get those dreams where I discover myself in a state of public disarray, this weeks prize dream involved being at the hairdressers and asking if I had any bald patches, Oh yes Madam said the hairdresser and held up a mirror to show me that not only was the back of my head bald but my brain was exposed and bleeding.

That might explain my grumpiness - an exposed and bleeding brain is not easily accessorized.

The first filming trip for our new set of programmes will be to Sri Lanka, there would be job for me on this one and I really really want to go - naturally I’ve refused to believe it would actually happen, I went along for the innoculations (just in case). Then, yesterday, after a kafkaesque morning at the Sri Lankan Embassy I stood blinking in the sunshine with my hurty arm (from the jabs) and a fistful of officially stamped documents and I woke up to the fact that 1000 people per year die from snake bites in Sri Lanka and I’d better get a move on with my bespoke suit of full-body armour - I’m having special added spikes attached to foil the leopards and crocodiles.

Friday, June 18

From Grumpiness...

My morning walks continue - I multi-task and look out for premises that could accommodate a small film company with a lot of kit, I take notes of the estate agents boards stuck on buildings and peep into abandoned warehouses and cathedrals.

The walk bit of my day is lovely - when I come home for breakfast I am in a very happy place, then after nine I get on the phone to witless estate agents, attempt to track down elusive surveyors and present my findings to The Director who tells me that what I have come up with is too big, too small, too high up, too far away, too nice, too grim or ‘just not what we’re after’.

Today's map - inspired by my friend Red-handed shows how we could find our way from grumpiness to a better place.

Friday, June 11

My Career As A Cartographer

Revisiting Cecil’s drawings and the prospect of the Epic Walk took me back about a hundred years to a time when I had a job looking after goats in a very very remote part of France.

I wrote home fairly often. One of my missives described a journey that I made to attend a party in the nearest town; it started with a walk through the mountains to meet some people with horses, then we galloped like Horsemen of the Apocalypse through a thunder-and-lightening storm to my nearest neighbour’s house where everyone except me changed into dry clothes. This is where the tarmac road started, the last section of the journey was the most dangerous and involved a sort of toy jeep. I arrived at the party squelchingly wet through and hallucinating.

My father, on seeing my letter which was illustrated with a map a bit like the one above but less precise*, thought it was about time he paid me a visit, he took the train as far as he could, then the next morning he started walking, first using a proper map, then the detail ran out and he used the map in my letter, it took him all day in very hot heat, when I came home in the evening I found him sitting on the log pile outside my cabin, looking as fresh as a daisy.

My own morning walks continue, my feet have settled in to the big boots but my hips have gone a bit achey, I am feeling dangerously old about half of the time. This is exacerbated by grumpiness brought on by my search for office premises.

* my dad is no sentimentalist, the original is long gone.

Tuesday, June 8

Lovely Glasses

Like Sheila I am remembering to put on my lovely glasses for my morning walks.

I've put some more of Sir Cecil's drawings here

bad reproductions - sorry!

Sunday, June 6

The Overhauling Of Me

That's a portrait of me*, made 20 years ago by one of the residents of the Leonard Cheshire residential home where my father worked. 'Sir Cecil' had serious physical disabilities and needed help to wash, dress and feed himself. Cecil made copious images of life at the Home and I've just come across a booklet of his drawings that my father made, they agreed to sell the book to raise funds for an ambulance. I will be putting some more of his work up over the next few posts.

The caption reads 'Bath time For Sir Cecil with Lucinda Proir Palmer and MALE NURSE Prince Andrew'. Lucinda Prior Palmer was a champion show jumper at the time - I'm not sure if either she or Prince Andrew were actually moonlighting at the Cheshire Home.

My Father is now 82 years old and after a recent visit to my parent's house I have somehow agreed to accompany him on the Last Tanners Marathon - a 30-mile romp around the hills of Surrey on the 4th July. Some people do run the challenge but we will be walking - it is expected that the walkers will complete the journey in ten hours.

I have no worries about my father's abilities to rise to the challenge - he is as fit as a butcher’s dog. I, on the other hand need to shape up, and to this end I have embarked on Operation Body As Temple, the rules involve an early daily walk and No (ok Less) Bad Things

Day 1: Bounced out of bed at 6am
2-hour walk
discovered an abandoned cathedral that I didn’t know existed and found five quid in a car park
gardened all afternoon
How old do I feel? 20

Day 2: Grudgingly left house at 6.30 it is raining and gets steadily heavier over the 1.5 hours that I endure this madness
my back is creaking and I can’t bend any more
How old do I feel? 70

Day 3: Another bouncer out the front door by 6am for a 2.5 hour walk
discovered a whole wood and meadows that I didn’t know existed
How old do I feel? 25

Day 4: 1.5 hour walk
I have many pairs of shoes that should be 'walkable' and have tried a different pair every day - they all seem a little too small. Today I tried some walking boots that I have never worn because they were too big – they now fit perfectly. When did my feet grow?
How old do I feel? 30

Day 5: only out for an hour because my feet are sore – I Google ‘Fallen Arches’ then do wet foot test
How old do I feel? 90
spend the evening drinking lots of Bad Things including rum

Day 6: very very hungover, I manage a 55-minute walk before I crawl home to be very very ill, a fried breakfast usually cures this condition so I get some bacon sizzling and crack an egg in the pan – it is green and putrid.
How old do I feel? 120

Day 7: I’m up early but bleary-eyed and don’t take my glasses, I’m out walking for 2 hours, mainly because I’m blind and get lost.
How old do I feel? 50

Body State after 1 week: still more Temple Meads than Temple.

*The portrait is titled 'Ken's daughter' My dad's called Ken and Leighen Buzzard is, sort of, where he lives. All Sir Cecil's pictures are signed off with Sir Cecil H Clark, KNIGHT ARTIST (later ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE) and his subjects are often also given grand titles.
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