2 April 2013


Seventy years ago my father was in Ceylon. It was during World War II and he was working for the Royal Air Force as a meteorologist. Mostly he was based in Delhi but he also got to travel around and found himself in Kandy and Colombo and panned for semi-precious stones in streams that ran by tea plantations.

And so here I am with Shirley, sweating in a little internet cafe in Unawatuna south of Galle before we toddle along to the beach for "happy hour" and more swimming in the tepid Indian Ocean. It's lovely here. Laid back and friendly even if the tuk tuk drivers and occasional charlatans have to be swatted away like flies.

We visited a tea plantation this morning and saw the whole process unfolding from picking to processing and finally we sampled about thirty teas in the factory museum. Our guide was a lovely Sinhalese man called Chris who had once managed a large section of a far bigger plantation in the interior. A downside was that our irritating tuk tuk driver kept following us around instead of patiently awaiting our return and then as we drove back to our hotel he kept trying to argue for extra money over and above our agreed price.

Finally I had to say to him, "Now you listen to me! We agreed a price and I am giving you that money with a hundred rupee tip and that is all you are getting! We have worked hard for our money and I object to being treated like some kind of cash cow. And so that's it mate. End of!" And we ambled back into the hotel...


  1. Ah, the joy of the sticky native who knows best and won't let you out of his sight. I used to despair with expatriates here who somehow felt an obligation, when visiting a restaurant for example, to include the driver at the table. Just send a burger and coke to the car. It's not rocket science.

    Occasionally, guests I had invited to dine with me of an evening would expect me to feed their drivers. Fair enough. At my table? Out of the fucking question. 'Look' I would say, 'if you really want to eat with your driver, I'll feed you and him in the garden, alright?'

    Just last weekend and old friend of mine turned up for lunch with me and his driver plonked himself down at the table and, presumably assuming my wife, being a local, was a waitress, demanded she fetch him a beer.

    I apologised to Herr Klein afterwards but I had this wretch out of his chair so fast and into the bush he didn't know what day it was.

    Herr Klein seemed pretty pleased about this so I told him he had best learn to do the same every now and then or he would remain forever hostage to his own employees.

  2. As Mr Hippo says, we just don't thrash where thrashing is needed these days, and it shows. Whenever I travel between England and New York I insist that my chauffeurs travel in the hold of the liner with the cars. Give the buggers an inch and before you know it they'll be taking a damned salary off you. I remember once in Keenyah...

  3. I'm with the tuk tuk driver; he'd obviously got a good thing going there... for each tea plantation his passengers buy, he gets a back-hander of a few tea bags to take home to his wife and eight kids. The fact you didn't oblige, meant he felt the need to renegotiate his fare, obvious innit? And you being an heducated man an'all, especailly as you'd once offered to give my grammaticals an overhaul, you really should have worked that out.


  4. Leafy,

    If you and I agree a job in your house at a cost of $1,000 and I do it but then demand $2,000 because I have kids and you refuse to pay, can I sue you?

  5. Any biscuits with the 30 cups of tea?

  6. Spoken like a true Yorkshireman!

  7. Sounds like you are having a lovely time with Shirley! Hopefully when she gets back the sun will be out and the snow gone...

  8. VISITORS EN MASSE Thank you for dropping by and leaving your interesting responses...especially Cap'n Gowans, Wise Owl, Lettuce Pray, Brian the Snail, John Parrots and Katherine of Tarragon.


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