The third part of Monday took us to Colombo city in search of a new bed and mattress for the son’s in-laws for the Pelawatta house. Driving there was pleasant and the roads were not too busy. I had heard about the ‘art road’.
Much like Hatton Gardens in London, which is a street lined with jewellers’ shops, all the shops and galleries along ‘art road’ are connected with the arts in some form or other. There are theatres and performance space, municipal and government offices and departments too -most of which have a uniformed guard at the entrance.
We slowed down to a crawl as we came across paintings for sale hanging in the street along a wall and displayed on the pavement. Viewed from the slow-moving car the variety of work was extensive and with varying degrees of size, expertise and content.
One painting in particular drew the attention of the five of us. Set on a black background this painting was of a monk, sitting on the floor, shaved head bowed, shadowed so you could not make out the expression of his face, but the orange/red robes from which his thin muscular limbs protruded, presented a sad figure in contemplation.
Martin Stone, the painter living in Skibbereen, paints pretty much in the same genre. He manages like the Sri Lankan painter, without painting features or an expression on a face, to convey what the subject is thinking with a haunch of a shoulder or a curve of a limb. It is a real talent and skill which fascinates me.
When everyone has agreed that we would love the painting in the new house in Pelawatta, Jaia starts negotiations with the painter. He starts at the equivalent of £45 but as the painting is brought to the kerbside for closer examination we discover a flaw in the canvas which being painted black would be highly visible under a light. There are also blobs of orangey/red paint splattered in neat little rounds where they shouldn’t be.
Jaia points these out and the price drops to £35 but we explain we would pay the full price for a painting without faults. The salesman immediately runs off to a spot near the wall that bounds the pavement and from a stack of canvases produces a similar painting, black background with a monk, sitting on the floor, shaved head bowed, shadowed so you could not make out the expression of his face.
I laugh and say there is probably another dozen stacked up waiting to dry. However the salesman does not bring out any more. The second painting is so similar to the first but the painter has not managed to paint the crossed legs properly and they appear like bony sticks out of kilter with the rest of the work.
The salesman agrees to remedy the faults of the first painting and we will collect later in the day.
We head further on to Don Carolis & Sons, furniture manufacturers, near the railway station and a river. It’s one way traffic, and we turn in a loop over a bridge over the river then alongside the river to the shop. The road is one of the worst roads I have travelled over here but there is a large construction site to the left of us where a notice explains this is a social housing project. There are masses of buildings under construction and many workers and never a safety helmet in sight.
Despite the rough road to the entrance of the furniture shop, there is a uniformed parking man, and another uniformed man to open the door for us. A young male sales assistant politely enquires what we are looking for and takes us to the area where the bedroom furniture and beds are displayed. Most have a tag saying the furniture is sold, but the sales assistant assures us that anything can be made very quickly if they don’t have it available in stock. We are learning that very quickly means a different timeframe here to that expected in the West.
All the furniture here is either solid mahogany or solid teak. The substantial wardrobes have locks on the outside and on one third of the inside area there are shelves and another lockable drawer. The hanging space is divided with a rail inches from the top and then half way down so you wouldn’t, for instance be able to hang a full length dress. It is possible to remove the bottom rail and a sliding drawer which sits above the bottom rail.
The headboards are solid wood too as is the frame and footboard of the beds. Light switches, air conditioning controls etc have been set approximately three feet from the floor in the bedrooms in the Pelawatta house. The reason being you can control everything you need from the bed.
The headboards made by Don Carolis are mostly over three feet tall so a quick phone call has to be made to the builder at the Pelawatta house to double check what space there is for bedside cabinets, again of solid wood, and what is the maximum height the headboard can be.
Don Carolis is the best but the most expensive furniture shop in the country. Eventually the son’s in-laws are persuaded this is a good investment being made for them. Jaia is asked if he would like to lay on the mattress on the bed to see if it is comfortable. ‘It will be because laying on the floor is comfortable too!’ is his reply.
Paying for your purchases takes some time and there is always a delay for one reason or another. Madam is asked about delivery because if they want the furniture delivered immediately that day there would be a charge, but it could be delivered on Wednesday free of charge, which is the option chosen.
We hit the worst traffic ever on the way back to the Pelawatta house as we pass colonial style buildings. These are in very poor repair, but the architecture is stunning and speaks volumes of another era. The area is known as slave island.
The traffic continues to build up and our progress is so slow we miss the curtain shop too. When there are huge volumes of traffic during rush hour here the police switch off the traffic lights and control the traffic from a centre point in the road.
It’s difficult working out what the policeman’s hand signals actually mean. It’s a case of following what the vehicle in front does and hoping that the hand stopping your lane does not wave you to a halt so you are the first vehicle in the line and can’t understand what the hand signals are directing you what to do.
Then we have a call from Gate Late the builder. Have we bought a bed because there is a van at the Pelwatta house trying to deliver a bed!