We haven’t been back to the UK since we moved here in October 2015 but we’ll be there from June to October this year. We needed a long period to really put our roots down in Sri Lanka and we’ve achieved that, but it now feels like a trip to see familiar faces and places is long overdue. Already our mouths are watering at the prospect of eating and drinking things you can’t get out here. Ale, soft fruits, decent cheese, steak, smoked fish, crumpets. Mmmm! And not being forced to pay stupid prices for goods ranging from wine to couscous. But we’re missing even more the relative efficiency of the UK compared to the frustrations of living in Sri Lanka where no-one seems to have any idea of how to do business and everything takes three times as long to achieve. Or else has to be done immediately – drop all else and see to it. Just being able to plan our days again for four months and to have a reasonable chance that things will happen more or less when you expect, will turn out more or less as you expect, and will cost more or less what you expect will be an unalloyed pleasure.
Yesterday we ventured into Kandy to source materials and hire tools for a small building project at Jungle Tide. We found a large builders’ yard down the old Peradeniya Road which we thought would be just the ticket. But they could only sell us bricks and cement. Their roofing sheets were not what we wanted and they don’t do block paving of any description. They also don’t do tools. They sent us to a place on the new Peradeniya Road specialising in hard surfacings, and again on the outside it looked just what we were after. Lots of graphics and signs advertising a variety of surfacings. But venturing inside we found they only sell three products, and one of those needs advance ordering and a week before it arrives. Meanwhile, living as we do in the jungle 11km out of Kandy, it costs us around Rs3,000/- a time to get a lorry load of materials transported to our home. Expensive if you can’t source them all from one place. So then off to our favourite hardware store where they speak good English and stock tools ranging from secateurs to generators and hydraulic pumps, to see what they would charge for hiring out a stone-cutting saw. “Sorry, we do not hire tools”. When asked where we could hire tools we were referred to a place in Pilimathalawa about ten miles out of Kandy. Luckily I don’t have any hair left to tear out. If someone had the bright idea of opening up a comprehensive B&Q style yard within reach of Kandy they would make an absolute fortune. But good business ideas don’t come easily to most Sri Lankans and huge commercial opportunities go begging.
No doubt four months in wet post-Brexit Britain will cure me of any romantic thoughts and by October I’ll be more than ready to return home to the sunshine, the pol sambols, the soursops and the giant prawns. I just hope I won’t be coming back with unrealistic expectations of builders, accountants, hoteliers or any other Sri Lankan service providers.