My 44th birthday started inauspiciously with rain. During breakfast it stopped, but by the time we’d gone back to the room to get ready it had started again. I checked the forecast – 80% chance of rain and storms and the same tomorrow. However, after a while it cleared, but then R’s bike had a puncture. By the time the bike man, Ajith, had arrived and given her a different bike it was drizzling again, but who wants to stay in a damp hotel room on their birthday? We made it to the fruit market on the outskirts of town before the hard rain came. An older man offered us the shelter of the concrete overhang and two plastic crates to sit on and there we sat and watched the rain for over an hour. Sri Lanka teaches you patience – you can’t always be doing something, sometimes you have to just sit and watch. You watch the comings and goings in the bank, you watch the stall holders lifting their awnings to pour off the collected water, and you realise how good your life is. By noon there was no let up in sight, so we braved the elements and dashed round to the Grand Indian, where we pushed the boat all the way out by sharing a Lion lager. Then we cycled back to the hotel and got soaked again. By now we were fed up with the weather and fed up with the bikes. I called the bike man and said he could collect them as soon as he wanted. We ordered tea and cake, but the cake was finished. At least I could lose myself in the fiction of 1920s Colombo having bought Cinnamon Gardens in Kandy.

When we went for dinner the hotel staff had brought the bikes inside for safety and they glared at us accusingly, but we were all done with cycling in the rain – I can do that at home! We fell asleep early, only to be woken at 11pm by R being violently ill. My sister’s birthday card had said she hoped it would be ‘memorable’, I’m not sure this was quite what she had in mind.

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