Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen

There is a saying that it takes eight generations to breed a gentleman. Money can be be found in one but manners take another seven.

To be sure this is slightly elitist, very few families, even those that are perfectly well-mannered, can trace their history that far back, but the crucial fact: that new money generally goes with poor conduct is well borne out by experience.

However there are many people who appear to be reasonably agreeable and inoffensive until one meets them in a traffic accident or marries them, at which point they turn out to be utter cads, so some means of identifying such specimens at a distance would be useful.

I am a poor driver and have had many minor accidents in the past. In order to avoid the hassle I've generally tried to settle the matter without going through the insurance companies. The end result is that I get cheated. Times without number I have paid up without question or complaint, usually many times over what the actual repair would have cost. I find it so disagreeable to deal with such people that I prefer to pay up and finish it rather than negotiate, especially when it is fairly apparent that they are out to take you to the cleaners.

The situation seems worse when the car the other person is driving has already got a number of dents or scrapes. (I would expect the opposite- if car is shiny and new I can understand them being a bit fussy). They seem to want to recover the cost of all the numerous repairs from any unfortunate who bumps into them.

So how does one really know a gentleman from a cad? Unfortunately it is only when one is involved in a dispute do the true colours show. Anyone who can conduct himself with civility, grace and dignity in a dispute carries the true hallmarks of a gentlemen.

General Robert Edward Lee is supposed to have defined a gentleman as:

"The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.

The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly--the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light

The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others."

In the local political sphere the treatment meted out to former friends is quite instructive.

If anyone has a short cut to assessing people let me know. In the meantime Lou Bega has this to say:


St Andrewstide

A Service of music and readings for St. Andrewstide presented by

The Chamber Choir affiliated to St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk
Conducted by Denham Pereira.

7pm Saturday 28th November,

St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk
73, Galle Road,
Colombo 03

Includes music by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625), Adrian Batten (1591-1637), Tomás L de Victoria (1548-1611) and William Harris (1883-1973) amongst others.

On Monday 30th November (St. Andrew’s Day)

A Recital of
Featuring works by Elgar, Stanford, Thalben Ball, and more

played by
Denham Pereira
Organist and Director of Music, St. Andrew’s

Entrance by
[Rs. 400.00]

7pm Monday 30th November,

St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk
73, Galle Road,
Colombo 03

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rain, rain...

Rain, rain, go away,
come again, another day.

These are the lines that I remember from an old nursery rhyme and its the only thing that came to mind on damp, gloomy Saturday.

We have had three weeks, of this rain, some ten, twelve or even more hours of it every day. This sometimes happens during the monsoon but never, in my memory for such a long period of time. The monsoon rains tend to be predictable, starting at a particular time every day and finishing up at a certain time. They also tend to move a little, starting slightly later each day as the week wears on, meaning that daytime rain eventually turns to night-time rain when it does not bother people too much.

This rain is on in the night AND in the daytime, with only shortish breaks inbetween, leaving everything damp, cold and gloomy. It does not seem to bother people who have lived overseas, the cold and the wet may even be welcome, yet for people who have spent most of their lives in the tropics it is highly depressing.

I am beginning to wonder if we have been cursed by some god. Or perhaps is this a sign, grim warning of things to come? A reign that may never end?

ps. I'm off to try sailing some paper boats...hmmn wonder if I can remember how to make the twin funnel steamboat?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Does anyone else share a passion for good buns? They are sometimes called plain buns, sometimes tea buns. Baked from a basic sweet bread dough, sometimes with a few sultana's thrown in, round and about the size of the palm of your hand. Eaten fresh, preferably straight from the oven they are super.

There is a bakery a little way from the office that does a baking at around 12.30pm-1pm - just the right time to nip across after lunch for my snack. Imagine my annoyance therefore when I walked across a while back to find they were out of stock. I checked all the shelves, peered into the back of the shop (where the ovens are) just in case there were a few lying around - but no. They offered me fish buns or Kimbula bunnis, I was not in the mood for fish and Kimbula's are too hard. I've always suspected that the Kimula's were made from left over dough, they are hard and tasteless, except for the sugar on top. Had to make do with some other miserable sugar coated bun that approximated the real thing but was not it.

This brings me to an interesting question posed by Steven Levitt in the opening chapters of Freakonomics 'Who decides or plan the quantity of bread to be baked every day in the city of London?' The answer - 'nobody' is so simple, almost to verge on the absurd. Ar'nt markets wonderful?

By the way, the very best buns are baked at the Majestic Bakery, opposite the MC, bloggers who fit the description of 'MC Dude' or 'MC Gal' or whatever else they call themselves, please stop over and try them out.

Once bitten..

Twice shy, or so it seems. People are now seeing bubbles everywhere.

The latest warning comes from Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd.’s Chairman Ronald Arculli who said asset bubbles may be looming in Asia amid burgeoning stock and property prices.

Nouriel Roubini warned of a double dip (or W shaped) recession in August. Given that he was one of the few who warned of the crash before it happened, as opposed to everyone else who opined on its causes after the event, he needs to be taken seriously.

Perhaps they are right. Looking at the recent performance of Colombo's market, one wonders if they could be anything but right.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A note to my 16 year old self

Was Tagged by Delilah, on the letter to my 16, year self, an era of my life that I recall with a shudder. Anyway here goes:

Boy, you don't know what you are in for.

Your lazy, indolent existence at the bottom of the class is about to end, for you are due a visit from your uber cool cousin from the Americas who is going to come across your report card, note the scores that resemble the Sri Lankan cricket team's unfortunate encounter with the West Indian's in the World cup (all out for 80, with only a couple of players getting into double figures) and shame you into attempting to study.

Leave off from trying to talk big about government finances until you learn a little bit about them. Not only will it earn you an unfortunate nickname, you will end up doing so much of it that you will heartily wish you had ended up in different field of study.

Shaving would be a good idea. Che Guevara beards are best left to real revolutionaries. It will improve your chances with the girls considerably and save you from having to explain the Vijaya Kumaranatunga look at checkpoints and hiding all those embarrassing family albums. The decrepit T shirts and shapeless pants had better go too, grunge is not in and its not you anyway.

Isaac Asimov is not one of the Masters of the Universe, although his attitude to knowledge is well worth emulating. There will be no finer work of fiction than The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World (at least until the arrival of Terry Pratchett) so while you still have the time to read, explore history and the arts more extensively.

While you are about it, born rebel that you are, please attempt to prevent your upright and law abiding family from turning in your grandfather's guns to the police, as required by law, on his death. A Westley Richards is not a mere piece of sporting equipment, it is a bespoke work of art, one of a handful in the country and its disappearance is a heinous crime; exceeded only by the 'remodelling' of the wonderful dutch house that contained it. Even the four genarations bandicoots that the ceiling contained wept at that atrocity. You also need to invent a trap to catch wild boar, if that superlative curry is to be enjoyed again and attempting procure it from shady joints in Nuwara Eliya is not a good idea.

You will come to regret your lack of attention to your music classes, the gaps in your knowledge will come back to haunt you, when you eventually come to appreciate the the bloody thing. Living by your wits when you perform is more dangerous than you know.

Do not set great store by the professions and their hollow claims to knowledge. They are only means of earning a living and will not teach you to think. A Level logic will teach you more and you would have learned a great deal more if you had gone into in more depth.

Women will continue to mystify, but then don't worry, they seem to have acquired that trait before the Peloponnesian wars and have baffled mankind since.

Well thats about it, Let me tag Dee Cee and Scrumpy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Political Wisdom

Was chatting to a friend yesterday and he said something rather interesting.

"When Premadasa was in power, we said JR was good. When Chandrika was in power we said Premadasa was good. When Mahinda is in power we say Chandrika was good."

Going on this form we may safely assume that should the leadership change at the next presidential election we will probably be saying Mahinda was good.

There is speculation that General Fonseka will contest as the common opposition candidate, should another presidential election be held. On hearing this, another friend remarked that the UNP does not seem to have learned a lesson from the last time they tried this strategy - at the Colombo Municipal Council elections.

Having messed up its nomination, the UNP came into an alliance with another small party, whose name escapes me (the election symbol was a pair of spectacles). People were asked to vote for this party instead of the UNP and vote they did. Once elected however, the party refused to cooperate with the UNP with the net result that a three wheeler driver became the mayor.

Such are the times we live in.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A special literary evening with Fatima Bhutto on 10 November (today)

The organisers of the Galle Literary Festival, have arranged a special literary evening with Fatima Bhutto, journalist and poet (niece of Benazir Bhutto) this evening in Colombo.


Venue: The Park Street Warehouse, Colombo 2
Time : 7pm
Tickets: Rs.500/- (talk only) or Rs.3000/- (talk and dinner) available at No. 61, Ward Place, Colombo 07 (10 am - 4 pm Monday - Friday) or from Park Street Mews, 50/1 Park Street, Colombo 2 (during restaurant opening hours). For all further information call 011 2691056 or email

The Festival proper is from the 27th to the 31st of January 2010. This time the poya day falls conveniently on Friday the 29th so most people will be able to attend three days without taking leave, which means it will be more crowded than before, so make your hotel bookings early. Email me if you want the contact of a cheap, clean guesthouse in Unawatuna.

For those looking to take up permanent residence in Galle, have a look at the Galle Tips website.

Monday, November 09, 2009

People of Importance; Dignity and Impudence

There was a book of charcoal and pencil drawings which I discovered in my teens and which I loved.

I'm not sure what took my mind back to it, but for some reason this morning it did and after racking my brains for over an hour, the name of the book finally came to me: People of Importance. Happily someone has scanned a few images, you can check them on the link. The comments at the link point to a few other books by the same artist J.H. Dowd, which I shall endevour to track down.

Its not high art, but they are very lovely.

This train of thought brought me to another of the lesser pictures that I like: Dignity and Impudence by Landseer. The sight of the cheeky little terrier besides the bloodhound always brings a smile to my face.

Have a good week everyone.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Calling London, calling London, come in London...

There were a couple of very interesting blogs that I used to follow, both of which I believe were written from London.

They were quiet for while but now seem to be active again-but open only to invited readers, which leaves me unfairly deprived of entertainment. Given the lack of material to read, I'm beginning to see a conspiracy here, an international one, hatched in the city that was once the capital of the world, to deprive me of my rightful share of stimulation.

Therefore I appeal to all the true, um, fans(?) of this blog to track down the rascally owners of these blogs:

The Spider


I shall promise to be on my best behaviour when visiting these blogs. Shall not litter them with page after page of random comments, shall not stalk the owners or inundate them with proposals of marriage and will even be nice to their pets, cats included.