A Word In Your Ear - August 8, 2013

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WHEN going abroad for holidays we take tennis racquets. This leads to memorable experiences at overseas clubs but the most extraordinary was in Sri Lanka.

At Negombo, its oldest resort, our modern hotel had courts but these were under repair from tsunami damage. Fortunately, a colonial place nearby called Brown’s had a sandy court - once its coach had painted in the lines, which he did most mornings.

We hadn’t booked a lesson but, to our embarrassment, he acted as ball boy. It was so hot we could only play a short time, so ended up taking turns to hit with him - then recovering sitting in the shade.

His decency was humbling. We were like millionaires by comparison and glad to ease his way with generous “tips”. In farewell he carved us a fishing boat from polished coconut shells.

We could even afford a car and chauffeur for the day and it was this driver who introduced us to Negombo Tennis Club. This shared one stone wall with a centuries-old Portuguese fort. The roll of honour inside its clubhouse dated back to the 1800s, when all members were British.

“They ‘blackballed’ natives applying,” explained its president, a retired colonel from the local police, then added cheerily, “but you’re welcome to play.”

A coach there taught eager children each afternoon on one of three courts. These had unusual blue nets which, on closer inspection, were fashioned from fishermen’s nets.

My mother-in-law, who was holidaying with us, found her own guide – King Edward. No, this elderly tuk-tuk driver wasn’t named after a potato – but christened from loyalty to Britain.

“Too much hurry-curry!” The stately King Edward would exclaim when others tooted at him.

It was a colourful adventure that inspired my latest - and, I believe, best - novel.

‘A Punt Into Eden’, a modern-day adventure and romance, was released this week on Kindle and is generally available from next month in paperback.

n Roy’s books, published through Amazon and the Arts Council, can be ordered online or from retailers. Visit royedmonds-blackpool.com for excerpts and details.