It seems like weeks ago since Oliver saw me off from Brighton station. 20 hours later I find myself in the mount lavinia hostel. The room is ok, if smelling a bit damp, and at least the garbage collectors who were in the street when I arrived have gone, along with their stench. The 2 flights gave me no sleep. The taxi ride from the airport was a bit scary. Lane discipline is non existent and 10 wheelers straddle the middle lines, with tuk tuks darting in and out, buses ploughing a don’t get in my way furrow and taxi drivers honking. It’s balmy, overcast. First impressions are not much of a grubby nondescript Asian city. Choked with traffic, a noticeable absence of western franchises. The taxi driver even drives on the wrong side of the road. Having taken the wrong right turn off the hectic galle road he deems it easier or safer to carry on up the inside of the road into oncoming buses etc rather than attempt to force his way back over to the left hand side of the road.
I slumber for 4 hours then stroll the 400 m or so past security guards greeting me politely as I pass the private entrances to plusher accommodation, over the railway line between the beach front wooden shack restaurants onto the sweep of a sandy beach with a dramatic surging ocean. While paddling I’m approached by a beach boy hustler offering me somewhere to eat, massage, boys, girls, drugs, whatever I want. I decline his assistance and stroll on. Then I’m approached once more with the unlikely story that this guy is a famous singer and that he would like me to appear as an extra in the video he is shooting for his new song. I’m characteristically sceptical and make him sing to show me his credentials. His crew consist of 2 others and a canon 6d on a tripod. This is no toy, so I give the guys the benefit of my wariness.
Dilum & Sameera are the act. Later I find them on YouTube. Apparently they are well known in Sri Lanka nd have a big teen girl following. The guys direct me. My part is one of casual passerby, out strolling the beach when I chance upon Dilium being kissed on the beach, his face being smudged with lipstick. I should walk by, notice him with surprise then laugh at the spectacle. I can’t quite understand my motivation but we perform and shoot a variety of angles.
In case you dont believe me: here is the finished work. Im on at 2’59”!
Afterwards we chat, swap details and I interview Dilum.
In the evening as dusk falls the beach is a pleasant 24 or so degrees. Hungry I explore the galle road which is now a noisy honking exhaust filled rush of buses and tuk tuks. The pavement is broken and is lined by the drainage channels, partially covered with flagstones. Precarious walking. No prospective eateries.
Dilum calls me to invite me for dinner of the beach with Sameera. We have nice time at the steamboat, and the food, although maybe not freshly cooked is quite nice. I have a bean curd curry and vegetable rice and a beer. We talk politics, sport, business, media, food, travel. Sameera speaks in praise of the govt and believes that channel 4 and western media agencies are trying to incite war in Sri Lanka. They are 24, local, live with their parents, have known each other all their lives. We say good night standing on the railway that runs along the beach. Sameera tells me about the 2004 tsunami and how nobody knew what was happening..the tide going out for a km was exciting and everybody ran down to look at and walk the exposed sea bed. Than ran and ran as the ride ripped landward, destroying the. Each front and twisting the railway lines. 20 000 dead in this area….they invite me to call than and meet up next time I’m in the area.