The cajón drum, described as the epitome of simplicity is the go-to option for playing the drums. Its history is quite a story in itself!

The story of my drumming goes back to Zambia. I still have the simple African toy-looking drum my parents bought me as a five-year-old. It’s more than a half-century old. At 16 I joined a band which had four guitarists, and someone had to be the drummer. “Who is the worst guitarist in the band?” One member asked. Well, it was me so I started with a simple snare drum and one cymbal. This was followed by an old five-piece Olympic drum set, and I played in working men’s clubs in the north of England.

My dad later said, “the worst instrument to give your child, is a drum, loud, bulky and annoying”.

My favourite drummers when I look back were Buddy Rich, a jazz drummer with his own orchestra, John Bonam of Led Zeppelin who died at 32, and Keith Moon of The Who, an amazing physical drummer who also died at 32.

The cajón drum is an easy way to start as a potential drummer, learning rhythm beats and playing on this box drum, and then creating or being part of a band. It’s space efficient and can be easily amplified by putting a bass mike through the hole in the back of the box.

The box-shaped percussion instrument is originally from Peru. Back in the 1800’s slaves would use crates to bang beats on. In 1977 the Spanish took up the drum and it continues to be proactively used in flamenco dancing.

This musical instrument is one you sit on and bang or tap with your hands. When you hit the front edges of the plywood it creates a snappy tight sound because you are hitting thin wood and a bunch of wires behind it, called a snare. But if you hit it in the middle of the box it creates a more bass sound. Getting a beat going is fun and you tend to use the right hand for the beat and the left for the base. This should be interchangeable however. Two hands at the same pressure (smack) can give a build-up sound. The main job of the player is to keep the beat and highlight certain parts of the song and support the singer.

Prior to my arrival in Sri Lanka, I bought a full-stage set of 5 drums and 5 cymbals. Jezzabel added a cymbal rack with a dash splash and other special cymbal sounds. I brought my kit to Colombo twenty years ago and played for a short while with the band “French Connection” which had six members at one time. We rehearsed in my home on Gregory’s Road, Colombo 7, opposite a major school. Nobody, including the neighbours ever complained about the noise as they thought we were the school band and we always stopped playing at 10 pm. My cajón started its Colombo days with me playing at the ‘Inn on the green’, parties and jamming with friends.

My two drumming highlights have been playing congas for Cyndi Lauper for a few songs in the “Biscuit and Blues club” in San Francisco. The other was playing once with the ageing band Pinkerton Assorted Colours (songs…. mirror mirror, it ain’t right) in the Wooky Hollow, a night club Liverpool.

I’m sure a drum kit is the worst instrument in many ways to buy your child. Some kids are gifted with a natural sense of rhythm and it’s better they play in a band than on the street. It’s also the start of peer discipline, e.g. practice, being a team player, good timekeeping etc.

The cajón is easy to transport, not as loud as a drum kit and if your child gets bored you maybe have only spent 80$.

World's happiness day - Happy people on the beach

I’ve read a lot about what you should be doing on this day to promote happiness. So I thought I’d look at how many people are happy. In a survey on 64 % of the world where stats were available; 14 % of those surveyed said they were very happy and 50% said they were generally happy.

I’m sure if a complete worldwide survey was done both these numbers above would drop substantially. I assume this because the ranking of adult happiness per country in those that participated puts Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Israel, New Zealand and Canada, as the happiest. The next tier includes India, UK and USA.

Maybe this raises questions about how the surveys were conducted but they say 64 % of the world somehow participated.

What also comes out of the survey is what makes people happy. Love, well-being, health, relationships, family and purpose.

Other surveys state that good sleep, good company, exercise, being positive and doing something special daily promote happiness. Excessive news following is a downer for many. I didn’t see wealth or financial sustainability on the list but perhaps people don’t want to be tagged. Wealth brings happiness.

The Whinging Pome Random Rule No. 274:

“You only live once, saving too much for the rainy day is like waiting for the killer storm.”

So, all the ideas of what you should be doing on this special day of happiness, e.g. be kind, be patient, be grateful, give more gratitude and make someone happy, in my mind are humbug. Unless by doing something on this special day can change your lifestyle for the better going forward. We are who we are; how many of us can be doing new things on this one day that will change our lives?

The Whinging Pome Random Rule No. 275:

“Surround yourself with active and positive people, life’s too short.”

The Whinging Pome random Rule No. 276:

“Do something different/ special every day”

I start most of my days at home looking out of the window at the waterfront whilst standing on my wobbler (a shaking platform that vibrates when you stand on it.) for ten minutes pre my walk. On many days I get an incredible display of eagles to blackbirds playing in the thermals, I see the many walkers /runners on the green, the odd down and out looking for something on the pavement to brighten his day. I then recall the lines;

“Every morning in Africa the lion wakes up knowing it must be faster than the slowest antelope or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or the antelope, when the sun comes up, you’d best be running”

Today I visited the London Imperial War Museum. I was last there at the age of 15 having just emigrated to the UK from Rhodesia. I recall the imposing battleship guns in front of the entrance (from HMS Resolution and Ramillies).

Whilst the front of the building in Lambeth looks the same and the guns are still there, everything else I see has changed.

It’s free to go in at the moment if I buy a six-pound booklet on the building’s content.

The Whinging Pome Random Rule No. 272:

“Be like an ecstatic American in a gun or sweet shop”

There is just so much I want to see on these six floors of British and Commonwealth conflict history and more. A million items to look at, collected since 1917, videos, models and military equipment and the biggest selection of British commonwealth military medals.

The good or bad news is that there are about 250 French students traipsing through the exhibits. The bad news is they are loud and doing selfies everywhere, the good news is they will hopefully understand on the next floor up the Battle of Britain and how the Brits and Americans saved the day for Europe and how quickly mainland Europe fell including France. So I’ll return to the basement and WW1 when the “frogs” have gone up to the WW2 floor.

Having visited concentration camps in Europe I’m looking forward to the big exhibit on the holocaust pre-war, during and post. It turns out to be one of the best detailed events I’ve seen, especially the post-period exhibit with lots of information I’ve never seen before.

Lord Ashcrofts collection of Victoria crosses and those owned by others is on the top floor. I should have done this first. It’s a big room with 250 plus stories of bravery and sacrifice. There are many medals, in fact, the biggest collection of its type on display in the world. On each one there is the story as to why a Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour amongst UK and commonwealth forces, was awarded.

I search for those awarded in the Zulu wars and specifically the battle of Rorkes Drift in Jan 1879. I’ve been to this location in South Africa and as a boy loved the film “Zulu” based on the battle. 150 British and colonial troops were attacked by up to 4000 Zulu warriors. Eleven VCs medals were awarded for action in this Zulu attack along with other medals. The most Victoria Crosses awarded in history in one military action. Over 400 Zulus were killed (800 could have been the final figure as many badly wounded were thrown in the grave pits.) Only 17 British and Commonwealth members died. It was in many ways one of the most amazing, well-disciplined and well-directed British military victories (other than the atrocities). The last Victoria Cross was awarded in 2015.

I have a fifteen-minute chat with the exhibit supervisor and we share stories. Then I ask her the time and she says it was 5 PM. I am meant to be meeting Jezzabel at 5 PM in Regent Street. A fast walk and a tube and I’m at the meeting point by 5.20 PM.

It’s been a great day and so amazing to go back after all these years.

There are other locations operated by the Imperial Museum, eg HMS Belfast on the Thames, and Duxford airport with a big aviation story to tell. This includes a Concorde and a collection of aircraft from all the decades after the First World War. The Churchill War Rooms are also worth visiting. I’ve done them all, but over many years.

The 80 Club

It’s been about twenty years since I’ve been to the notorious 80 Club. Now I’m returning with good friends, with one whose gran was a long-standing president of the club.

Located in the prime location of Independence Avenue and founded in 1939, this was one of the most prestigious clubs in Colombo at its peak. Initially and ironically, it was first founded in Kandy during British Colonial rule. The story goes that a group of people met in the Queens hotel in room 80, so they called their newfound club the 80.

The Whinging Pome Random Rule No. 258:

“Sometimes a new brand name could come out of a simple situation.”

Some of my own experiences with branding have stuck with me. While working with Lord Forte, his son wanted to change the name of the group ‘Trusthouse Forte’, which was perceived in some countries to be a banking company and not a chain of hotels. He commissioned a top branding company to do a detailed survey of the business, its staff and its customers. On completion of the survey, the branding company presented their findings to the board. Their proposal was to call the business ‘Forte’. The charge for all this work, 34 years ago was 360k pounds. Some years later the son of Lord Forte sold the business but one condition made by the purchaser was that Mr Forte could not use the Forte brand, even though it was his name. Within about a year he opened his first new luxury hotel and called it 4ORTE.

So, the grand 80 Club building is on two floors of about a total of 14,200 sq feet. (One can’t use meters when talking about this place or era) It had tennis courts and a massive lawn in front and was the club to be in and to be seen at. It had many glorious decades. At some point the club started to get into debt with also falling active members. The appeal was wavering and debts mounted after the lease expired in 1978. The club carried on as the land was on a short lease from the government but they were not dealing with the drifting situation.

In 2020, the Urban Development Authority took over and had a vision of recreating the old club. Some years ago the navy started restoring many colonial properties in Colombo, the 80 Club was also added to the list. The old lady got more than a lick of paint. The exterior of the club is still sitting at the back of a massive lawn and certainly looks to be in good shape from the outside. There is the classic oversupply of lighting on the exterior of the building which is quite badly positioned, it’s impossible to take a good photo at night.

Six of us meet at 7.30 and get a great welcome from the staff and a friendly manager. He and I talk about South Africa both having lived there. One in our group has brought his large music box with a loudspeaker system. There is not a single other customer in the place so we pump up the volume on the lawn…bizarre to be the only ones there and have all the staff looking after us. So the old club gets back to its glory days as we sing and dance. The excellent “bites” arrive and we sit around the table on the lawn.

The Whinging Pome Random Rule No. 259:

“Always pick a few words used by the locals when you travel, always nice to refer to them with others.”

I’d never heard of “bites” till I came to Sri Lanka and neither had I heard of “shape” (Which means “it’s okay”.) or even the word “thrice”. The famous song was not “your once, twice and thrice times a lady”.

In New Zealand, if you read my first book which included a story on the wine experience, a man said to us ‘if you all sit on my dick (deck) we will have some wine”. Another phrase I heard in India, “I know where your house lives”.

My opening line on this story of the 80 Club is that my last visit was about twenty years ago. I had arrived from the UK having represented my UK PLC company in the purchase of Orient Lanka, a local duty-free company with a small domestic liquor distribution arm. This company sponsored the new bar in the 80 Club. Mohan, our local manager asked me to come with him to the club. As we arrive he says to me, “Boss, you will need to make a speech at this bar opening.”

“Good way of testing a new boss” – I’m thinking.

When you are the son of a preacher man these opportunities are quite enjoyable, this was one of my many speeches in Sri Lanka.

The new interior of the club has sadly killed the old club look and the colours and the furniture is what Jezzabel calls “new rich”. The bar is still in the same place which has poor access and limited seating. The newness takes away the colonial look and feel e.g. there is a tv in the dining room, if essential hide it behind a sliding panel.

I hear there is also a chance that the UDA is considering putting in a pool and some bedrooms and converting the place into a hotel. Before they do that let’s hope they look at the current interior decor and dining experience. They could also look at some changes and additions e.g. Better location for the bar, putting an old car outside as a photo opportunity, reducing exterior lighting, conducting small weddings there, putting some old photos of the location, etc.

They may also consider how many hotels the government currently owns, one of which has not yet opened after ten years, two that need refits and the fact that governments should not own or operate such establishments. Their job is to govern the country well.

The night rolls on and I’m sure it will be in the memories of the six of us as a bizarre event in an amazing setting. Sadly, what we all want to forget is the main food courses, the meat was stringy at best and nobody enjoyed the main meal. Perhaps it’s one of those places you have drinks and ‘bites’ and then move out to a restaurant somewhere else. On that basis only would I go back.

Wolvendaal Kerk (church) Pettah

Over the last few decades, I’ve attempted access to this church about six times. On google maps, it says closing at 4 pm. This time I’ve cracked it. With my driver Lucky we visit the church and find all three gates are chained up. It’s 3.30 pm. I’m getting frustrated. After closer investigation, Lucky establishes that one entrance has a chain around its two gates. He pulls on the chain to find there is no padlock.

We are in!

The Whinging Pome Random Rule No. 266:

Never underestimate people around you, find out what they are good at.”

We are in the churchyard but there is nobody about, although there are lots of tombstones and bodies well decomposed no doubt.

I’m shouting “hello! hello!”

Ultimately a chap comes out of what I assume is the caretaker’s little house. Looks like he has just gotten out of the shower but has shorts on… Thank God.

This church in Pettah was built in 1757, the first Protestant church on the island. I’m told its name comes from wolfs in the dale. There were no wolfs, just wild dogs. The Dutch Reform Church was founded by the VOC, i.e the Dutch East India Company. The hill site was previously the site of a Portuguese Church but was destroyed by the Dutch.

“Thought we were all Christians”

We get into the church and the sight is quite amazing, with a dominating carved wooden pulpit, but there is no altar. Wall plaques are everywhere and 37 tombstones form part of the floor, some are ornately carved and are 4 feet by 6 feet. This is a big church shaped like a plus sign and a footprint and is 100 feet high at its highest. A thousand of people can gather in this church. The walls they say are 5 feet thick.

Plastered around the walls are numerous plaques. One section is dedicated to all the reverends who served in the church over the centuries. The elite of this city who belonged to the church back in the day are buried here as well, some being Dutch Governors of Ceylon.

It’s likely one of the oldest churches still having regular services on the island and with an active congregation. They have services in three languages.

As we finish our amazing tour we step out to check out the graves and tombstones outside, many along the church walls but no sign of a crypt.

The Whinging Pome Random Rule No. 277: 

Visit someplace you haven’t been to or do something different every day. At worst read an article on a new subject.

I’m planning to go back and participate in the 10.30 am Sunday service. Not sure I will get Jezzabel there, she says she is a free thinker, perhaps a non-believer.

This church is one of the many religious buildings in Pettah, and we managed to visit another 5 this week. More scriptures from the Pome to follow!

An Officer and a Gentleman - Movie Poster

We all have favourite songs that in many cases are linked to a time or a place. There is one song for me that has so many impactful one-liners.

“The Road is long,
There are mountains in our way.
But we climb the steps every day”

Up Where We Belong – Song by Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker

Those three lines resonate for me, I can give the varying times that they have popped up in my mind. “Who knows what tomorrow brings” can have varying interpretations depending on your situation.

Joe Cocker

The song however is called, “love lifts us up where we belong.” For most of us the song was sung by Joe Cocker (of Sheffield) and Jennifer Warnes (of Seattle) in the 1980s. Jennifer had a big hit with “The time of my life” from the movie Dirty Dancing. Well before that the song “Up where we belong” was written by Buffy Sainte Marie and Will Jennings. For you younger people, it may be the song highlighted in the movie “Officer and a Gentleman” starring Richard Gere, John Travolta having turned down the part.

There could be a deeper meaning i.e. that we all have to keep climbing the steps every day. If love is worth having, it’s worth fighting for every day, as we don’t know what tomorrow brings. This smacks at love the one you’re with, the future you can influence but not all is under your control.

With Jenna at the helm, we speed out of Belgrade on a misty wet day untypical for September. The journey to Topola is about 76 miles and we arrive ahead of schedule as the car climbs a wooded hill. We passed through Topola, a fortified town in the centre of Serbia with much history, most of it violent. From the Celts, Romans, Greeks and Slavs back in 551 to the attacks in 1804, 1813 and 1877. In addition to civil wars and two world wars.

In 1903 King Peter selected the forested hill behind the village as a location for his mausoleum. It will be where he and his family are laid to rest in peace in an ornate building called St. George, the Patron saint of the Serbian people. He first builds a house near the church site, so he can manage the supervision of the work, this we later find is now a museum.

Within a few years in the mid-1910s, whilst not completed, the building could be used and was dedicated/ sanctified. The King then brings the remains of his parents to be buried there in 1912. As the war between Turkey and Serbia brakes out, the work ceased.

The impressive mausoleum of St George’s Church with five domes and a height of 89 feet is partly decorated. However, in 1915 the building was pillaged and metalwork and other items are stolen. Ironically, the king had used a lot of abandoned war/ army metal. In 1921 King Peter died and then King Alexander takes on the task of finishing the building.

St. George’s church has 40 million various colour pieces to create its beautiful mosaics, many are precious. Burial sites in the crypt including 26 Royal family members. Some empty areas remain for currently living family members who own the mausoleum, land, houses, hotels and more. Ironically, they undertake no official duties for the country.

In 1930, the building was completed depicting saints and royal family deceased members. Names of those lost in the 1914/18 war were to be inscribed on the walls, but finally, there were 350 thousand lost, so it was not possible. In 1944 German troops used the site as a watch tower.

The visit to the museum helps us all understand the royal families and their link to this amazing building. It’s time to hit the road and find our next very different venue.

Whinging Pome Random Rule No. 255:

“It’s easy to have too much history or museums, churches or even shopping.”

So, we head off to a vineyard to indulge ourselves and enjoy local wines and cheeses.

Football World Cup 2022

Now England is out I’m in the mood to write about this Football World Cup. I’m staying focused on the venues, games, organization and results as the human rights issues and abuse of workers is not within my ken. I.e. I don’t know.

Multiple venues in one area sound so logical; the next world cup is I hear in three counties, a logistic nightmare. Top quality stadiums in Doha, many to be rebuilt elsewhere to benefit less fortunate countries is a refreshing idea. The programs of matches and the structure of games are well established by FIFA.

I can truthfully say I’ve never watched so much football in my life, helped by technology. 50 % of games I’ve watched live. Great to see underdog teams not expected to do well, (e.g. Morocco, Uruguay) take on the giants and big names. (E.g. Brazil, Germany) and win.

So, if you haven’t watched any football I’d like to know where you have been and what you were doing. Not so surprisingly, I’ve spoken to ladies who were more interested in watching sexy-looking footballers than the game. The good news is that it’s not over and you can still catch some of the final matches. E.g. Argentina vs Croatia, France vs. Morocco, semi-final and the final.

When I went online to check some facts about the World Cup, one thousand one hundred and eighty million people had logged in before me. There are 32 country teams playing 64 matches, across seven stadiums costing 200 $ billion.

Three countries host the next World Cup, USA Mexico and Canada. (The murder rate in Mexico is 95 % higher than in the USA, think I’d only go to Canada)

Nikola Tesla was born in the Austrian Empire it what is now Croatia in 1856. His father was a radical activist priest of the Serbian church. Tesla studied in Serbia, Austria, Budapest and Paris during which time he was lodging patents for his inventions. He went to the USA and worked for Edison, a “light bulb moment”, then created his own company there. He went back to Belgrade and set up more patents, e.g. the first to develop hydroelectricity, transmitting electricity over long distance etc.

In Colorado he developed new styles of wireless transmission and transformers. Some say he was a Serbian – American.

Early in 1900’s he created radio/ transmitter, registering patents for all his inventions. On his 75th birthday he was featured in Time Magazine. Despite all his creativity, genius, inventions etc, he still died in poverty in New York in 1943.

So now you know where the “Brand” name came from. Let’s hope Elon Musk and his car company and Twitter don’t go bust.

For years now our favourite Japanese restaurant in Colombo has been Zen just at the end of Rosmead Place. That view is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. What makes it the best for us can be summed up in one sentence.

“Great food, service and environment at acceptable pricing while always being consistent and having BYOB.”

Zylan opened in Dec 2011. Originally it was a boutique hotel with 10 rooms. The Zen Japanese restaurant has been operating since end of 2014, creating an oasis in the heart of the city where the hotel guests and diners can feel pampered and chilled. It’s a different experience from staying/ dining at big hotels.

So, we are here again, with our guide as always, “Sunil the jacket”.

Seven of us sit on roof terrace amongst the trees with a whispering light breeze creating a magic temperature. We always prefer the bar terrace though you can go up to another level but that’s for romantic couples. There are less than ten tables on our favourite terrace and if like us you are a big group worth booking well ahead. A large group on the top terrace is too tight.

When we go, we normally ask the manager to select the dishes and he always adds something new and keeps it flowing. Today however, is Sunil’s choice,


  • Prawn tempura
  • Gyoza chicken 
  • Tuna and salmon sashimi


  • Volcano salmon
  • Zen Signature Maki Assortment


  • Wakame seaweed – A new dish for me and very succulent


  • Garlic fried rice
  • Chicken teriyaki – Not sure this is the house speciality but it’s always on our list when we visit
  • Chili crab meat and prawn don
  • Stir Fried Mix vegetables

We delight our taste buds as the plates roll through the night. At 12,000 per couple, it’s great value and the service is exceptional.

The building also gives you that zen feel with a walkway that takes you to infinity and back (mirror at the end) the open white style hotel is relaxing to the eye, comforting to the mind and easy to navigate. Though we normally walk up a long staircase with three doggy last steps my advice to most people, especially when leaving the roof top delight under the influence of booze … is TAKE THE LIFT.