A Symphony of Curries

Since returning to Sri Lanka, my first visit was seventeen years ago, I have been captivated by the daily assortment of curries placed before me. I have had to beg to be excused from indulging more than once a day , I couldn’t face curry for breakfast, though homemade hot roti, eaten with one of the myriads of varieties of bananas, is hard to refuse; as are pineapple slices washed in salt water and then sprinkled with ground chillies. The sun-ripened fruit, freshly caught fish and garden-fresh vegetables that appear at mealtimes in small and large dishes with an equal number of spiced sauces, or alone, are as numerous as the notes on the page of a Mozart symphony, while the flavours that burst on the palate could well have inspired Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. For those who claim they cannot eat anything highly spiced, I offer my commiserations. Since childhood I have enjoyed spices. Thankfully my digestion remains robust, as long as I’m not confronted with meat, although the amount I can eat has decreased with advancing years.  

Yesterday, I was the guest of family friends at one of Colombo’s finest beach-side hotels. The decor in the foyer was sumptuous, and air-conditioned, with a cool fruit drinks being offered within seconds of our arrival. Making our way to the lower ground floor, at garden level, we were confronted with a buffet offering a vast choice of curries and sambals. It was delectable, and although for the many tourists sitting down in their tour groups, or individually, it was authentic and appetizing, the difference for me, having eaten authentic village cooking, was that it was too bland – a musical interlude rather than a symphony.


Comparing Contrasting Days

The sunshine of Sunday enabled me to cut the grass after it, with the help of a light breeze, had dried the heavy dew, and the surfeit of rain from the day before. Saturday, and its prospect of the weekly trip to the shops, is my least favourite day; this, coupled with the threat of persistent heavy showers, decided me against any, but the most imperative shopping; even so, I felt damp and disgruntled by the time I got home.  A quick detour to the vet was accomplished en route to the shops, thanks to a phone call, and their excellent repeat prescription service; Kitcat has sufficient medication for another month, and my purse is correspondingly lighter.

Sunday’s brief respite from the wetness of Saturday, was followed by rain slashing across the garden from the estuary; even the hardier birds seemed fed-up, and somewhat bedraggled; two young woodpeckers sheltered in the lee of a tree-trunk waiting to be fed while their parents foraged among the nut-holders, whereas the day before they’d all been disporting themselves in the bird-baths, and getting deliberately wet whilst splashing as much water around as possible.

A bee-keeping friend of mine has reported a disastrous season for his bees; I know we have had few visits from bees or butterflies despite all our flowers; the soggy conditions have deterred their foraging as it has deterred the insect population in general. Only four pairs of house-martins have successfully raised offspring, the fifth nest appears to have been deserted as soon as it was finished. Some years ago we had twenty-three nests, and all successfully reared two or three clutches of eggs.

Coward that I am, I have not looked inside any of this year’s nests, which currently look deserted; I’m unsure what I might find, but I suspect, and hope, the birds have already made a move south in the hope of finding warmer weather, and more to eat. In due time, I’ve no doubt the blue-tits, wrens or sparrows will take over as they do each autumn when they huddle together for warmth; some make use of the nesting condominiums I’ve dotted round in sheltered spots, but all are choosey; sometimes accepting the hospitality offered; at other times ignoring it; preferring the deserted house-martins’ nests, but as the numbers of these are much depleted, they may again give mine a trial.

I thoroughly enjoyed Monday’s broadcast from the BBC Proms with the incomparable John Wilson and his orchestra playing Broadway Sounds. Excerpts from Gershwin’s Funny Face; Cole Porter; Jerome Kern’s Showboat, were among the many that evoked memories of some great shows. I will certainly try to watch the television recording of the whole evening on BBC2 on Saturday night – I find this young conductor, and his orchestra add their own brand of vitality to well-known and much-loved music of the theatre, along with the singers chosen to refresh old favourites.