Sunday, March 23, 2014

43 Colombo 1

Now in a hotel  room ready for work tomorrow,

I've done a lot of this over the last decades and I am okay with it. Fly in to a new city a few days before the job starts and see the sights on my own tab. Check into the company provided hotel the night before the project / program and I'm ready for the off.

I work in shopping. Retail marketing being the posh phrase that gets my daily rates to up over two thousand a day with expenses. I'll work for any client that sells things. I'm good at working with those that sell things people need every week or so. Grocery shops, butchers, cheese shops, pharmacists, tobacconists and newsagents (they call them CTN here), those sorts of stores. the places I went with my mum in half term holidays on a Wednesday afternoon.

I usually end up working with and for the rich grocers; such as Keell's in Sri Lanka. I would like to work for Cargills in Sri Lanka. Two reasons. One, Cargills have a glorious building in the centre of Colombo, it's one of the oldest Edwardian pieces in town. Second, Cargills are the selling agents 'for candles'.

For candles. It is a British thing. Say it to any man or woman over 45years old 'for candles' and it is probable they'll titter to themselves.

Colombo is a strange little place. Strange as in "quirky strange". I only walked and sweated the pavements around the old fort station for a couple of hours but I found it to be a pleasant spot. If no one forces me to live in it and spend Sundays until eternity here.

The quality of the buildings and roads, the driving on the left, reminds me of Kuala Lumpur fifteen plus years ago, when someone did expect me to live in it! Or maybe a Langkawi two decades ago. It also sparked off memories of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. And some parts of Cairo. It was obviously the old colonial / beau epoch architecture that was doing it. It was when there was a sense for putting the date on the building. 1900. 1903. 1912. There was a wall on one street, behind a cell phone shop (closed for Sunday), just the wall. It was falling apart and had bits of tree growing out of it. 1925 it had on it.

The railway station and the bridges over the tracks; the placement of the platform clocks and waiting rooms straight out the Hornby catalogue and if it was the London Underground then Colombo Fort could well have been a near East version of Queensbury when it was on the Bakerloo line,

In some spots the buildings were getting a conservation overhaul. Desolate almost past it structures looked like they were destined for whatever Dante had in store for bricks and mortar in the depths of forgotten hell. No one seemed interested in some buildings that must have been loved once. Every building has an architect, or a builder at the least. Some places looked too far gone to be saved.

I liked my walk in the blistering heat. Past the port buildings that reminded me of the Empire Exhibition architecture, New Delhi and also the Star Ferry Hong Kong. The GOH opposite (Good Old Hotel?) something Oriental Hotel... Grand Oriental Hotel? A bizare sculpture of a little local kid pulling an expat old gent in a rickshaw. In bronze it appeared. Thought the bronze rickshaw had a glass window in the back. Glass windows in sculptures on a bronze. I think that's cheating!

Colombo city centre reminded me of the England in my youth. Sunday shops closed as were everything else, hardly any traffic on the roads and nowhere to buy a bottle of Coke. (In youthful England back in the day, no one bought bottles of water. We drank it straight from the tap. Most definitely, none of my family and friends would have been caught walking around the street with a bottle of it in their hand. Water? Bottle? In the street? Wait until you get home. Wait until you get your packed lunch out.)

I made it back to my hotel room. Ordered a room service burger and drank the complementary water dry in five minutes, and then water holed my way through most of the mini bar. I have done that rather a lot over the last few decades.

But why is it that so many of the hotels are called Cinammon? Cinammon Grand. Been there (by accident). Cinnamon Lakeside. In there. Cinammon Stick. Cinammon Powder. Cinammon Cake. Cinammon Cinammon Cinammon. Weird word is cinnamon.

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