I ventured out on my own steam for the first time last week. The others were crashed out after a journey to visit a sick relative who had been admitted to a hospital up country.
It was the day there was to be no builders and they weren’t gone half an hour when the plumbers arrived.
The Pelawatta house is in a very nice area and quite close to a busy main intersection, although you can’t hear the traffic from the house. If you cross over the intersection and walk about a mile in one direction you reach the parliament grounds. They are spacious and flat and ideal for walking.
Turn right at the intersection traffic lights and you have every kind of shop you can imagine. I can’t remember ever living where I was so close to the shops before or had such a variety on the doorstep.
I have a reputation for shopping and when Maureen and I were on our great tour in 1999 we managed to shop at every stop on our six-week itinerary, even in the outback where there was nothing to see at first glance. Like bloodhounds seeking their prey, we could home in on any shop in the vicinity. In fact, we had shopped so much by the time we reached Sydney we had to dump a lot of the clothes we had brought out from the UK in aid of a dog and cat animal rescue group my school friend was running. I had seen Sally only briefly once in the thirty-six years since we were mad teenagers together in Edinburgh, but had corresponded regularly over the years.
Animals were her first love and her home housed one beautiful dog and an incalculable number of cats. Maureen and I tried surreptitiously to count the cats and reached the late teens but were never sure if we had missed any or counted the same cat twice. Today Sally lives in the country at the back of the Blue Mountains with an even greater number of animals including horses, most rescued, some removed from people she believed were cruel to them and that she could do a better job!
With everyone asleep, last week I made the decision to find my way out of the garden estate and to the shops. The estate is a rabbit-warren of houses, no two are identical and they are all close together. This house is detached but neighbours in any direction are only a yard or so away. Saying that you would never know as there is far less noise, if any, than there was in Ja Ela.
The houses are mainly gated and garages are alongside the gates. I went along our little lane and turned right. When we drive in we drive up a steep hill turn right and then drive down to access our driveway. I thought it would be too steep for me to manage.
It was around 5 pm and with dusk approaching I turned right and right again. The roads are narrow with passing places for vehicles and the surface of the roads in some cases are perfectly finished and in others, of compacted red sand, or loose gravel and I came across some traffic bumps to slow down passing cars.
There was a right turn leading to a fairly steep hill which I tried to avoid and went straight ahead but discovered it was a dead end leading into someone’s home. So I retraced my steps and tackled the steep hill. It was only yards long and as I got to the top and turned left, to my dismay two dogs came barking towards me.
I froze but to my relief a lovely lady, the owner of one of the dogs, came out of her bottle green door and called her dog back. The other dog ran off. The lady had long dark hair and wore a deep purple kaftan. ‘He’s only saying hello,’ she explained. I returned a tentative ‘hello’ apologetically and went on my way without looking back.
At the end of this road I turned left and had reached a main road which led on to the large intersection. The traffic was increasing on the road as well as on the pavement. Men and boys in neat shirts and trousers, many holding rolled-up umbrellas, were purposefully walking in the opposite direction to me.
There are military bases in the direction they were heading so maybe the teenage boys were the sons of officers at the base.
I passed the Dialog phone shop where you can add credit to your mobile, a café selling butter cakes and breads, then a vegetable shop. The dialog and vegetable shop were open to the street although I expect they must have some kind of shutter when they close up for the night.
A man was selling something cooked at the corner of the road and people bought paper pokes of the food and ate it with their fingers as they continued on their way home. I couldn’t see what they were eating and didn’t want to ask in case I was expected to buy.
I needed my hair cut and a pedicure but passed by the first hairdressers as they advertise full bridal packages, facials and specialise in traditional wedding head dresses.
Only a few yards further up the road there’s a men’s hairdressers on the ground floor and a ladies’ salon to its left, up a steep flight of stairs. The stairs are tiled and there is no handrail but I got there and at the top opened a glass door and dropped down a step to an immaculate salon. There was only one wash basin and there were two customers, one with a hair colour applied and her hair pasted stiff in the air. The other customer was seated in a chair in front of a large mirror and the only hairdresser I could see was styling her hair.
The hairdresser has lovely dark eyes and her black hair was neatly woven into a plait which hung down her back. She was dressed in a black top and trousers and smiled warmly and pleasantly as she enquired how could she help me. I explained and we agreed I would return the following morning at 9 am. I descended warily down the white tiled stairs holding on to the wall.
I wanted to cross the road to the supermarket but the traffic was wild and furious. I looked round at the traffic lights and wondered where the pedestrian walking sign was but in the growing darkness couldn’t find it.
I decided I had ventured far enough on my own for one day and would see how far I could get the next day after the hairdressers.