Three Months In Sri Lanka – Week 6


Kinross Club & Monkeys of Westbury

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I had an overdose of public holidays this week.

Tuesday and Wednesday were public holidays and most took Monday off as well. After a sluggish Thursday and Friday, we were on to the weekend again. Tuesday was Thai Pongal – the Tamil Harvest Festival and Wednesday – Poya Full Moon Day.

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I went to Kinross Club on Tuesday. It started life as fisherman’s shack on the beach just outside Colombo in 1940 and called itself  Kinross Swimming and Lifesaving Club. It produced several champion swimmers and spear fishermen, having first introduced the sport of spear fishing to Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon. One of my childhood heroes, marine biologist, legendary diver and spear fisherman Rodney Jonklaas who first invited Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Tony Buxton and Mike Wilson to dive on the wrecks off the coast of Ceylon, was an active member of the club. Arthur C. Clarke later settled in Ceylon.

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Today the Club has a private beach front, club house, swimming pool, dinning room and bar. A tall, dark and erect old man with a walking stick was pacing up and down the long beach front lounge and looked at me disapprovingly as I ate fiery devilled cuttlefish and capsicum and drank Lion Lager, watching the equally fiery sunset. Another old man with a pot belly and muscular shoulders walked unsteadily to the sea and swam powerfully towards the reef. Casually dressed young men in groups drank arrack and chain-smoked. The coastal train to Galle thundered past. Nobody was spear fishing.P1020806

***

A troupe of Western Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys (Trachypithecus vetulus nestor) lived in the woods that used to surround my house in Sri Lanka. They are an endangered species endemic to Sri Lanka and continuous urbanisation resulting in loss of habitat is diminishing their numbers. They used to frolick on my roof, swing from the telephone line and drink from the bird bath in the garden. The deep throated roar of the dominant male used to wake me up in the morning. But no more – they are seldom seen now. On Friday, I was thrilled to see a troupe, with babies clinging to their mothers, on the roof of the nearby school, performing as they used to do. I managed a few photographs but they were gone as dusk fell and the Scops Owl  started its melancholy song in the tall Bo tree.

I wished the monkeys were here to stay.

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