Hi this is a blog to update those concerned about Chaminda
One Friday 28th October Chaminda’s daughter Miuni phoned me to say Chaminda was very ill and in hospital. I flew the next day to Colombo and went straight to the state hospital in Galle to discover Chaminda very ill surrounded by friends and family. It was very difficult to understand how best to deal with the situation as information kept changing. Despite his condition he was sent home. He had seen a neurologist surgeon who said he had brain bleed which is related to an existing condition and has caused a stroke resulting in paralysis of the left side of his body. Muini and I went to see the consultant about the underlying condition. He said the problem was long term. We wanted a second opinion so sent all their notes to the no 1 brain surgeon in Sri Lanka . Meanwhile Chaminda had been to hospital for an endoscopy which left him very weak. When I came back from the meeting with the consultant Chaminda was awake and being massaged by his son Thehan and being fed by his wife Dilani and daughter Amaya. He tried talking to me but it was difficult to understand. What is clear is that if he can make the best progress he will not be well enough to work for the foreseeable future. His deputy Hassanta is with me at Sunbeach preparing rooms for the season and we are talking to Muini and the staff to see how we might manage the business without Chaminda who you will know is at the absolute centre of everything Sunbeach. It’s not a great situation but we were able to make a plan .
Nov 4th We’re on the way to Colombo A bit of a mammoth rollercoaster of a day with a good ending. The first neurosurgeon ( neuro1) we saw two days ago said surgery was too dangerous so he wouldn’t do it. So today we left in a crazy monsoon to Colombo at 6.30am for a 9,30 appointment with the “best”neurosurgeon in Sri Lanka ( neuro2). He was 2 hours late We showed him the crt scan from the first neurosurgeon and told us he “thought” he could operate but we would have to see another consultant who could identify the underlying problems in his hospital and they would work out a plan. We asked how much it would cost and he said if we weren’t sure we could pay a more or less open cheque then he couldn’t start. Gopal a close friend of Chaminda and myself who was with us said at least £30,000 maybe more so we decided to go for a third opinion and booked an appointment in another hospital for 4 pm and waited. That doctor (.neuro3) was also 2 hours late but once he looked at the scan and examined Chaminda he said the blood clot was definitely being absorbed into the brain and it was clear that he was getting better and definitely didn’t need surgery. He then sent Chaminda for another CRT scan to confirm his diagnosis and so we went for that at 7 pm and then had to take it to another hospital where neuro3 had moved on to. We arrived there and no one could find him. Eventually he was discovered in surgery. He came out confirmed that his diagnosis was correct and Chaminda could go home, be in the care of his GP and get some physio to get the use back of his armand leg. So great news although the underlying condition is still a major problem.
By the 9th November I felt Chaminda was stable enough and Miuni and the team at Sunbeach could continue without my support so I returned to Glasgow. I speak or text Miuni every day and she says with daily physio he continues to get a little better
I’ve been making coffee in a Moka Pot from sometime in the 1970’s – maybe for 40 years. It is probably one of the easiest ways to make coffee and the other week I discovered I’d been doing it wrong- or at least not as well as I could be. I hadn’t used one for years because I’d either used a French press or a home expresso machine but in lock down when both broke I dug out an old moka pot and started using it. And I made it as I always remembered and it had that familiar massively strong burnt taste. I tried to adjust by reducing the amount of coffee and then with time on my hands, I actually sought advice, googled it and the difference was a revelation. For coffee fans (and this blog isn’t just about making coffee) – grind your coffee as fine as table salt, fill to the top of the filter, preheat the water, fill to just below the valve. Put on heat. Remove before the top pot is nearly full and wrap the bottom in a cold towel or place in cold water to stop extraction and the coffee burning (that’s the clever bit). Don’t be afraid to dilute with hot water to adjust the strength. Perfect.
The whole experience made me think about all the other things we do with just enough knowledge to get by but without enough time and care to do well. Most evidently this happens with computers and software. I’ve been using computers since around 1984 when I got my first Amstrad but the only one-to-one tuition I’ve had was when a friend spent 30 minutes showing me the extraordinary potential of a spreadsheet programme supercalc. Until lockdown, when another friend tried to show me how procreate digital painting works, my entire experience of using a computer has been self-taught. I’m sure this is a common experience and I’m equally certain that I totally underuse the potential of the hardware and software that dominates my life. I know that there are short cuts and techniques that might make the experience of using these machines more elegant and rapid but I’m happy to learn just enough to get them working. Not much different than my son Jack who picks up an ipad, navigates his ways around the programmes and when he finds one that works for him will settle down for hours of enjoyment. Jack is 4 years old.
So I turn to bread making. During lockdown I dug out a bread machine that had been abandoned for 15 years. Since April I’ve been making bread every 2 days and getting a ridiculous amount of pleasure and sense of achievement as I experimented with different flours and seeds to the general delight and appreciation of my family. Those in the know will realise that the achievement was not so difficult- the machines are pretty bullet proof. I cant claim to be a baker – that will have to wait until I give up the bread machine for the oven, but I feel Im nearly there as I smell the bread as its baked and spread the still warm first crust with melting butter.
I’m torn between doing lots and doing well. One consequence of my Moka Pot experience is that I felt more connected to the process. Moka pots are so simple that I think I can reasonably expect to claim to be an expert in no time despite decades of Moka abuse. I not only can do it well I’m pretty close to doing it to its best. And that provoked a challenge to research (because I had time) expresso machines and coffee grinders. Inevitably I bought the combination of my dreams (a Gaggia Classic and Sage Dose Control Pro if you’re interested). And the 5 minute coffee making has transformed to an endless, eagerly awaited chemistry experiment of doses and yelds with an infinite variety of beans to sample and grind to ridiculously precise measurements. And it makes a mess and it takes patience but the coffee is sublime and every cup seems to have character and presence.
So I’m drawn to a simple and obvious conclusion. There have been so many negatives from lockdown but a common positive is finding time and with the time – making good.
Surfing has been a constant through most of my adult life. I’ve marked important occasions by paddling out to sit in the swell however small, cradled in the ocean, connecting with the natural world. Looking out to sea you learn to understand the weather patterns that generate swell and the underwater topography that creates waves. Watching the surf for hours, following the peaks and take off points as they move with the tides. Identifying the channels that create the rips that trouble swimmers but give you an assisted pull out to the line up. Rich in poetry and metaphor, surfing demands its own pace and dynamic. From the battle through the surf to the back line, the calm of the deceptive swell as you wait for your wave, the exhilaration of the drop into the wave and the joy of riding across a glassy face. Then you return – out the back. Finding your place in the line up, drawing breath, waiting.
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