Thursday, 21 April 2011
The Curious Incident Of The Drink In The Night-Time
temple is tended by very young trainee monks
Sunday was Full Moon day and at 5 in the afternoon they bussed us to the local temple, site of the biggest Buddha in Sri Lanka, a 60 metre modern man-mountain where we milled about with the locals making their offerings at the temple. However anti-religion you are it’s hard to dislike Buddhism because it seems to engender such kindness, and since it’s anti-violence doesn’t tend to wage wars or subterfuge against those who don’t subscribe.
It certainly produces smiling people who don’t push and shove their way to the front of a queue, even to do their devotions, and there seemed to be much sharing of fruit and flowers, including with us: overhearing Lesley and I debating whether we should have bought a garland at the gate, a charming family offered us two handfuls of their beautiful white blooms to scatter at the feet of the statue. Try pinching your neighbour’s chrysanths next Harvest Festival and see how far it gets you.
There were a few retail stalls around the temple, including an incongruous ‘Highland Ice Cream’ van on blocks under a sea-almond tree and a stall promoting an organic green tea ‘guaranteed to cure diabetes in three weeks’. I’ve paid nearly three grand for this trip to reduce my blood sugar and steady my diabetic development, I shall be exceedingly miffed if it could have been cured by a three hundred rupee packet of tea.
When I came back the room attendant was arranging the mosquito net and just as I was leaving for dinner I noticed a bloody great – well, 8cm long – cockroach basking in the netting, on the inside. I told him to get rid of it, completely forgetting that his Buddhist tendencies would mean he wasn’t allowed to kill anything and there then followed ten minutes of pantomime whilst he chased it around the room, up the curtains and under the wardrobe trying to coax it into a sanitary towel bag. Eventually I stunned it with the bug spray and he nudged it into the bag to take away and, I assume, release into the wild.
Like a cockroach Schwartzenegger, it will probably be back.
Another rainstorm broke during dinner and the pounding of the surf and thunder should have combined as a soothing sedative if it hadn’t been for some German banker twunt at dinner sounding off about how this was the sort of weather that made snakes seek refuge indoors and 80 of the 87 indigenous species were dangerous.
So I didn’t exactly drop off to dreamland in an instant, even having checked under the bed and in the shower drain for sheltering serpents, and after some fitful napping realised about midnight that I hadn’t taken my 9pm medicine – even though I’d mixed it with hot water and left it beside the bed. So I chugged it, and the disgusting residual taste meant I had to grab a bottle of water from the dressing table and wash it down with that.
It was only when I put the light on I saw that the bottle contained a milky liquid suspiciously like cleaning fluid that I realised it was probably something the room boy had left earlier.
Panic ensued, not just in me but in the two doctors who arrived within minutes and then later the receptionist, room attendant and cleaner who had all been summoned from their beds by management to give account of how this bottle could have been left in my room and what exactly were its contents. And a fair amount of ranting, largely from me, about how cleaning products should never be put into drinking water bottles and what sort of place were they running that didn’t have proper health and safety procedures to avoid such risks.
In return the doctors had an urgent debate about whether I should be taken to hospital for a stomach pump or just given a total purgative in the morning if I lived that long.
There was a lot of shaking the bottle, holding it up to the light and sniffing it, before anyone summoned up the courage to tip a drop into his palm and taste it – it looked like lemon barley water but had no scent, no flavour and certainly wasn’t corrosive, so we concluded that the balance of probability was that whatever it was wouldn’t kill me, at least not tonight, but the doctor made me drink a litre and a half of water just in case.
Obviously I survived otherwise I couldn’t be typing this now, but I did have considerable anxieties and a pretty bad night.
It was only the next afternoon, when I was taking my handful of ‘Western’ medicine which includes a daily soluble aspirin that I remembered a previous occasion back home when the aspirin once slipped back into the drinking vessel. And clouded the water ...