Sri Lanka Day 1 – Prince Philip, Rucksacks & Sleep Deprivation

So this is the start of a trip to the Indian sub continent. I haven’t visited before and I have some preconceived ideas of what to expect but little else. Before you ask then I’m not taking a bicycle but something a lot more troublesome: I am taking a wife.

On the day of departure I’m not proud to say that I was as truculent and fractious as a hormonal teenager on Saturday afternoon. Leeds United were losing 0-1 at Rotherham United. Like a captive emerging from a dungeon I started to lighten up when we knocked in the equaliser and when Klich slotted home the winner I couldn’t have been a more agreeable companion seeing the bright side of all inconveniences and bordering on intolerably cheery. I can’t explain why this matters so much but it does. As the leader of the Free World would say – ‘Sad’.

However as I started this draft on our flight to Sri Lanka, via Dubai. A man in the opposite aisle fell asleep quickly after take off and was snoring. The sound the Emirates’ A380’s engines makes was as attractive as a gentle breeze catching the palm leaves on a desert island in comparison. I’d hoped for some respite even if it meant he died in his sleep.

We were en route to see elephants, tea plantations, leopards, beaches and the odd Buddhist temple and, not least, an uplift in temperature by about 20°C. The start of the journey wasn’t without excitement (if luggage floats your boat).

We were directed to use rucksacks by the tour operator and whilst excited at this type of luggage (very millennial) we were hobbled on the morning of departure by discovering a rucksack that the Favourite Youngest Daughter used (over a decade ago) was broken – a fastening had come off rendering it useless. In line with all the best practices of a then teenager this was put in a cupboard for the next 10 years rather than being thrown away. Anyway a trip to Decathlon in Stockport found a replacement and Anna, in the Manchester rain, stuffed it with her holiday clothes.

Manchester Airport was literally deserted for our 8.35pm flight. I have never seen it so empty. Anna’s purchase of ‘Fast Path’ Security passes we’re not needed but it is always nice to stroll through a better class of roped off passageway in an empty hall.

The arrival at Dubai was without incident and without sleep. It always is an unusual experience to feel terrible through sleep deprivation but to be walking in bright daylight. However after a couple of coffees, a yoghurt and the odd croissant things were a little more perky although at an equivalent of £20 I did feel that I had been mugged in broad daylight.

Meanwhile in Economy…

Given the availability of wi-fi nowadays we slouched around the Terminal gawping at our mobiles. One of the first tasks was to ‘untag’ Anna from a Facebook Post. Apparently the photograph of her looking like… err Anna wasn’t glamorous enough and so I duly edited the offending caption. Then I took in the news and saw that the Duke of Edinburgh had written a letter of apology to the woman who’s car he hit in his recent motoring accident. She seem mollified by this communication and commented that he had signed it ‘Philip’ which she took to be a nice gesture by one so lofty. Sadly I have news for her.

About 25 years ago I sat atop of a large department of employees at Moores Furniture Group who’s job was to deal with customers quotations and orders. It was an era before the internet and we lived in a sea of paper. I saw this daily forest after it’s opening and sorting. One morning as I’m perusing the letters and forms I came across a small letter of something like blue Basildon Bond. This was not the way most contractors, in Co Durham, communicated when seeking replacement hinges for a damaged wall cabinet. On closer scrutiny it was a personal letter to our former owner, George Moore, from Buckingham Palace.

Mr Moore following his disposal of the company for about £70 million had devoted himself to various activities including charitable ones. Such beneficiaries included one of the Duke of Edinburgh’s causes. The letter said little other than thank you and was simply signed ‘Philip’. This was how he signed all his letters!

I studied this letter and instructed it to be redirected to Mr Moore who resided elsewhere on the estate and did reflect that it was a little unfortunate that this letter, that he would no doubt be delighted to receive, had a date stamp plonked right across HRH’s moniker. If nothing else then Mr Moore could be confident in telling friends and family the date on which it was received.

Back on the connecting flight to Colombo I now resembled an extra from a Zombie Apocalypse film but sleep didn’t come as a nearby passenger enjoyed a local pastime of taking immense loud guttural sniffs and then gulp of mucus that amounted, in quantity, to the consumption of a four course meal. I think this may be common in the region. Deep joy. long haul, don’t you just love it?

Uncensored photo of the first wife

Arrival at Colombo Airport resembled a game in Jeux Sans Frontiere – lots of running around, snaking around pillars, little coordination but lots of smiling faces. We got to the hotel about two and half hours later and the taxi driver was genuinely pleased at the tip that came to just over £2 (the guide book said I’d been too generous and so ‘memo to self’ on that one).

The hotel seems fine and a shower, a beer and a bit of a stroll next.

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