‘My name is Mohammad’ said the desperate catamaran captain for the eighth time.
‘ You come on my boat with me, I give you good time. I like everything. We not here in this life for so long so good to enjoy everything. Me I like all – I like your body. Very nice body.’
‘Thank you’ Paul replied, he loved a compliment after all, even if it was being proferred by an old man in a stained loin cloth sporting just one incisor.
Paul had heard about the infamous ‘Beach Boys’ of Negombo but he hadn’t expected them to be quite so superannuated.
Of course he declined the offer. After all he’d only been in Sri Lanka for one day and he wasn’t that keen of the cut of Mohammad’s gib. In every respect. The mainsail looked as flimsy as the piece of material the old fella was nearly wearing and Paul feared the proposed trip could lead to them both going down.
He assured Mohammad that there would be no frigging in the rigging as he suffered from severe sea sickness. Mohammad said he had just the thing for that particular malady but Paul shot off before he discovered exactly what the cure was. He wasn’t swallowing any of Mo’s soft soap – although he did thank him again for the compliment as he stumbled rather uncoolly across the searing sand towards Andrew.
Except he had no idea to where his partner had disappeared. He’d only been chatting with his shipmate Mohammad for five minutes and Andrew had vanished into hot air.
Paul took the path along the beach and made his way through some fishermans huts among a clutch of waving palms. The motley crew taking the shade were also very obliging – although Paul was most unsure quite what it was they were offering. It certainly wasn’t their catch – but there would be one he was quite sure of that.
After ten minutes he found himself on a gorgeous stretch of truly golden sand which seemed to stretch for miles. The sky was clear and the sea a surprising shade of Cerulean, as Paul had often noticed the water to be quite murky a few miles away on India’s west coast. But not here it so it seemed. But despite the clarity Andrew was still no-where to be seen.
Paul doubled back on himself. It was the usual ‘Mad Dogs And Englishman’ hour during which he and Andrew were invariably found dripping with sweat whilst trekking through a shadeless environment sans agua! They never seemed to learn. Noel Coward had obviously seen them coming when he penned the classic.
‘’At twelve noon the natives swoon and no further work is done,
But mad dogs and Lola Boys go out in the midday sun!’
Paul found himself back where he had started. He steered well clear of Mohammad as the over friendly Captain waved furiously to him from his vessel. He certainly didn’t want to put wind in the poor guy’s sails by giving him the wrong impression that he’d changed his mind and returned for the proposed maiden voyage. He stared unconvincingly into the middle distance pretending to be blinded by the sun, which happened to be behind him. But it seemed to work – Mohammad stayed anchored to the spot.
Paul then heard a familiar ‘Oy’ which emanated from a scruffy little beach restaurant about fifty yards away, he turned to see Andrew sitting nursing a cold bottle of the local ‘Lion’ brew.
‘I’ve been bloody looking for you. Where did you go?’ he said, a little too irritably.
‘Here’ Andrew replied. Which was fairly obvious.
‘You didn’t get far.’
‘No I needed a drink it’s too hot’ Andrew explained, ‘Where have you been?’
‘Nearly all the way!’ said Paul and recounted what had happened to him in the quarter of an hour they’d been separated.
‘I’ve had a bit of that too’ said Andrew and pointed to a muscular masseuse who was sitting close by under a tree.
‘Well yours is certainly an improvement on mine’ Paul said.
Paul and Andrew had heard about the famous friendliness and charm the Sri Lankans possessed, but they hadn’t expected them to be quite so amiable. Still – it was nice to be admired – even if there was a price tag attached. Paul was happy for any bit of buttering up he could get now he was knocking on. But that was where the grease stopped.
He and Andrew had never visited Sri Lanka before. And so far they had found the island a delight. Their hostess in the guest house where they were residing had come out to greet them on their arrival and knew their names. And when she offered them a drink Paul knew immediately he was gonna like the place. Suddenly, amid swaying palm fronds and the tropical sounds which emanated from everywhere around them the boring pandemic seemed miles away. Distant in time and distance.
It felt wonderful.
Of course, there was still mask wearing to be done but the atmosphere seemed very chilled. If only the beer came the same way. So far it seemed a struggle to get anything approaching cool – but as they’d only been in Ceylon for a couple of hours Paul knew that could be an anomaly. Besides, they had a rather large antiquated refrigerator in their room and there was a beer shop round the corner so there was no need to panic.
Also, much to Paul’s pleasure, the tea was rather good too.
Obviously one expects great tea from Ceylon but in Paul’s previous experience when travelling other tea-growing nations of the planet it was sometimes quite hard to find a good brew. It seemed as though all the decent cha had been exported. Especially when travelling throughout India. Not so in Sri Lanka. No dodgy old yellow Lipton bags to be found. Just proper leaves.
In the evening after a ridiculously cheap dinner consisting of a variety of different curries and rice, Paul and Andrew made their way back towards their digs. Of course they were stopped constantly by the ubiquitous tuktuk drivers who were able, it seemed, to offer them anything they desired. Paul began to wonder if anything was off the menu. But he wasn’t sure he’d be sampling any of their wares. Not unless a George Clooney clone pulled up in his three wheeler with a decent wine list! But he considered that to be highly unlikely.
The following day Andrew was unable to move.
He put it down to some herbal tobacco he’d accidentally inhaled the previous evening, although Paul thought the pride of ‘Lions’ he’d sunk during the day was probably a better bet. It was an ale that certainly got one roaring! But again – very quaffable. And cheap!
Paul was beginning to think think that there may be a few tears when it came to leave the gorgeous teardrop in the Indian Ocean. Or perhaps he may not even leave.
Although there were shows to perform. And a Pom to pamper! The boys were missing their little girl already and it had only been two days.
But Sri Lanka was tightening her glamorous grip on him already. He couldn’t wait to get out and explore as much of the island as he could.
He just needed to get Andrew out of bed first.
Perhaps a cold flannel would do the trick.
Or better still – a hair of the lion?