Welcome to our latest newsletter keeping you up to date with life at Jungle Tide. As always, let us know if you don’t want to receive them and we’ll unsubscribe you.
Galle Literary Festival
Performance poetry seems to have been a feature of this year’s Galle Literary Festival which took place in mid-January. The programme featured five poets including Kate Tempest (who unfortunately we couldn’t get to see), Luke Wright and our very own daughter Jemima Foxtrot. Foxtrot is her actual middle name, by the way. The organisers kept her busy with several performances, workshops for kids including one for older teenagers traumatised by the war when they were smaller, and a warm-up act for historical novelist Philippa Gregory. But there was no doubting the highlight which was when she and her friend Ramsay – the most accomplished guitarist you’ve never heard of – played for and were introduced to the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe, who’d dropped by to get a taste of the festival. Here they are, at the gorgeous Sun House, a top quality small hotel in an old colonial building, owned by the festival’s founder, Geoffrey Dobbs.
As well as Jemima, Ramsay and Luke’s performances we particularly enjoyed talks by Peter Frankopan on how the Silk Routes shaped world history; John Gimlette, author of Elephant Complex, which anyone with a serious interest in Sri Lanka really must read; Lesley Hazleton on her book The First Muslim, a biography of the Prophet Muhammad and Colm Toibin interviewed by the excellent Sri Lankan author Ashok Ferrey on his fictionalised life of Henry James. Jerry also went to a very useful workshop on writing dialogue led by Sunjeev Sahota.
We have copies of Jemima’s poetry collection All Damn Day on sale at Jungle Tide (Rs2,000/-) for any of you here in Sri Lanka who would like one; they can also be bought through her website www.jemimafoxtrot.co.uk for £10.
Thanks to the organisers for a great programme – and we were especially pleased that they took us up on our suggestions to include not only Jemima but Luke Wright, John Gimlette and – although she was unable to attend due to illness – Dinah Jeffries, author of The Tea Planter’s Wife. Now we just need someone to do for Kandy what the festival has done for Galle…
Christmas at Jungle Tide
We celebrated our second Christmas here and it even surpassed the wonderful time we had last year. For one thing we had Jemima and her lovely boyfriend Ed with us, and the rest of the house was taken up by an extended family of New Yorkers, originally from Romania, who were the most fun company one could wish for. In particular it was great to have four young children to share Christmas with. So Santa found his way to Jungle Tide, we shared British, American and Romanian Christmas traditions and songs, talked into the night and we ate a lot. And wore silly hats, as you can see:
New Year at the Hill Club
Jungle Tide was booked out for a week over New Year to a large group of Swedish people so we, and Jemima and Ed, had to vacate the house and treat ourselves to a little tour, starting near Dickoya where we visited the grave of Sally’s great-grandfather in Maskeliya, the first of the Martins to make his home in Sri Lanka back in the 19th century. Like so many of the early settlers he died young – just thirty seven.
Then on to the Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya for a very special New Year’s Eve. For those of you who don’t know it, the Hill Club is a piece of England set in the hills of Sri Lanka though its Englishness owes as much to Fawlty Towers as it does to a gentleman’s club.
Log fires, hot water bottles, porridge for breakfast – it’s hard to believe at the Hill Club that you’re only seven degrees north of the equator. After a buffet dinner and a band who were certainly a lot better than your average Sri Lankan band – though they had some difficulty working out when it was midnight – we were treated to a firework display which would have graced
any British town. Unlike the barrage of noise which usually passes for fireworks in Sri Lanka this was a sustained visual treat, lasting much longer and looking much better than the rival display down the road at the Grand Hotel. Well done the Hill Club!
The next day we headed out to Lake Gregory for a look around what has become one of the island’s more bizarre tourist attractions with faux-English housing developments and a variety of unlikely craft afloat ranging from imitation Mississippi paddle steamers to swan pedalos. Horses, almost unknown elsewhere in Sri Lanka, roam freely around the lake. The picture I hope sums up the sheer weirdness of the place.
Haputale, as I may have said in these pages before, is our favourite hill town, set on the precipitous southern edge of the hill country with spectacular views. The photo is of the view from nearby Lipton’s Seat, created by Thomas Lipton, the tea pioneer.
Unfortunately Haputale is let down by a lack of good mid-range places to stay. On a previous visit we’d stayed at a delightful planter’s bungalow but alas this has now been converted back into a private residence. So anyone with a bit of money to invest could do worse than opening up a quality – but not luxury – place in Haputale.
If Haputale is our favourite hill town, Uda Walawe is our second favourite national park, top spot going to Wilpattu. We visited the Elephant Transit Centre which, unlike the more famous (and controversial) Pinnawella Elephant Orphanage, exists to return orphaned elephants back to the wild rather than a life of captivity as a tourist attraction. In the park itself we were at first dismayed by the huge numbers of jeeps queueing to get in at 6am – a reflection of the surge in tourism since we last visited.
But it’s a big park and pretty soon we were more or less on our own. Lots of elephants, of course, a very big croc close-up and wonderful birds – you don’t get to see a peacock displaying all that often so this was worth a picture.
We finished our tour on the coast near Bentota where the drought had resulted in the tap-water being contaminated with sea water – a bit of a surprise in your early morning tea and coffee. But the pina coladas on the beach at sunset were unaffected. The drought, by the way, has ended, at least up here in the hills, and it hasn’t stopped raining for the last four days – this is supposed to be the start of the dry season. So if you’re planning to visit Sri Lanka, ignore the things you’ll read about the best and worst times to come and just come when it suits you. The weather, thanks to global warming, is now completely unpredictable.
Got the T-Shirt…
… for our forthcoming first return visit to the UK – tour dates are all fixed and those of you who are UK based friends will soon be getting a list of where we’ll be and when. So we can arrange either to call in on you, meet up for a beer or a coffee, or you can come and visit us at a house-swap near you. We have organised almost the entire time – from June to late October – on house swaps ranging from Penzance to Edinburgh and we plan to buy ourselves a cheap jalopy to get around in. Jungle Tide and our two dogs will be looked after in our absence by a lovely couple we found on the Trusted Housesitters website – Julie and Alex.
… is the title of the humourous book Jerry has written about how we came to live in Sri Lanka. He’s about to start looking for an agent but meanwhile would really appreciate some people casting a critical eye over it. He’s not looking for proof- reading, or spellchecking, and certainly not Lit Crit! But if you feel you’d like to read through a chapter and let him know honestly what you think: Is this entertaining? Are there boring bits that need to be cut? Do some things need explaining or expanding? And so on. Just drop us a quick e-mail and we’ll send you the chapter(s) of your choice. But he does need a quick turn-round – mid February at the latest. And of course if anyone knows someone in the publishing business…
So you can choose and see where your chapter fits in, here’s the outline of the book:
Chapter 1: Back Pages – Sally’s Ceylon childhood and how we got together. This chapter is having a rewrite so not yet available
Chapter 2: Quests and Missions – our first visit to Sri Lanka in 1998, visiting Sally’s former home and servants, ancestors’ graves, liberating her Mum’s gems from a Colombo bank …
Chapter 3: The Grand Tour – when seven of us came just as tourists in 2001. And didn’t get home for a very long time because of the gun battle at the airport…
Chapter 4: Caveat Emptor – the challenges of buying our land in 2004.
Chapter 5: The best laid plans – getting to the point where we could start building (less boring than it sounds!)
Chapter 6: Building blocks – building a dream home from six thousand miles away ain’t easy.
Chapter 7: Business as unusual – neither is running a guest house from six thousand miles away
Chapter 8: Living the dream – getting residence visas, shipping our stuff out and our first year or so in
Jungle Tide, a steep learning curve if ever there was one. This chapter isn’t yet finished.
Each chapter runs to around nine or ten thousand words.
All the very best,
Jerry and Sally