Yesterday’s almost Red Letter Day in Pelawatta was in the end to have a happy ending, although all three happenings to make for my personal RLD occurred by the time I was dropping with tiredness.
Indika, he of metal doors and windows fame, did turn up – very late at almost 9 pm. Most here are awake at 5 am so our ‘working’ day has shifted slightly. I didn’t see him but the son reported he arrived in a tuk tuk with said missing windows. He was full of apologies saying his own tuk tuk had broken down. The windows lay stacked beneath the curved staircase leading off what will be the sitting room overnight and we wondered how long they would stay there undisturbed.
Indika promised he would return this morning and he did, around 10 am which is very early for him as he regularly appears around 5 pm. But he was all smiles and is at the moment up in the attic room drilling away. Some of his workers arrived before him, armed with toolboxes and a sense of purpose. They knew what they had to get on with and get on with it they did.
The washing machine too was plumbed in last night although we couldn’t use it as they made some sort of concrete gulley and drain channel which was soaking wet when Gate Late explained how the drainage system would work. The washing machine is now working away on its second load and the new Beko condenser drier is working perfectly too. There is no space outside for a washing line and with the workmen still painting, surfaces being levelled and tiles being cut, it is more economical to use the drier which seems mad in these temperatures but at least everything hardly needs an iron.
The others have made the trip to Ja Ela to meet the lorry which will bring the last load of furniture and boxes down here. They will go back once a week to sweep the leaves, feed the fish, birds etc until the property is refurbished and put on the market.
So I am here on my own today but there are workmen everywhere as the final thrust is on to complete as much as they can. One of the young workmen concerns me. He has worked mainly outside and wraps his head up turban style in a thick cloth, protecting himself from the sun. He sometimes also winds a clean piece of white linen around his mouth against the dust.
Everything, at least on this refurbishment is done laboriously. There is no such thing for instance as a bag of sand ready to use. My headcloth workman slowly sieves every bit of sand from a pile that has arrived from somewhere and been deposited in a heap on the drive in front of the garage. Whether it is to be mixed with cement or used as a foundation for the small round pebbles in the courtyard every scoop is painstakingly sieved. (The small round pebbles are a temporary measure until the black and grey linked block arrive and are laid.)
My headcloth man is at times in another world. He will lean on the top of the handle of his shovel and stare intently into nothingness. At times he crouches on the ground amidst raking the small round grey pebbles and he stops mid-task and as if frozen in time remains motionless.
He works long hours and my instinct is he is sick. He is very thin but most people here are slim and thin. Carrying excess weight is not comfortable in this heat. The son agrees the headcloth man is probably sick.
One of the other workers concerns the son because this man is always tired. He works hard here all day and then sets off to drive a tuk tuk as darkness falls.
Other workmen lay flat on the paved area under the porch canopy and sleep flat on the ground during their lunch break. Most smile a friendly smile when they first see me and I smile back – it’s the most common language isn’t it.
I am halfway through making one of my chocolate cakes. The daughter-in-law’s niece was 12 yesterday, (her gift from her parents was a white mobile phone) and we are having a combined birthday lunch on Sunday with the rest of the family. Tiara is a rower and her dream would be to meet Gary and Paul O’Donovan, West Cork’s Silver Olympians. Their fame has truly stretched far and wide!
I bought all the ingredients at one of the many local supermarkets and have baked the first half of the cake using what was labelled as ‘cake flour’. I naturally thought this was self-raising flour so different from the ‘plain flour’ which was the ‘cake flour’s’ next door neighbour on the shelf.
By the looks of the cooling first half of the cake the ‘cake flour’ too has no raising agent so I should have added some baking powder. A thick layer of chocolate butter icing will cover up my mistake. I really need to learn Sinhala.