Dave and I wondered why the hotel was empty. I was curious about the loud bangs, too

Telling Tales, by Suzanne Moore. 

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I was with my plus one and our youngest daughters in Sri Lanka. Dave is great to go away with. In her real life, she is high powered and super organised. But give her a pina colada and a ray of sunshine and she won’t move for weeks. Dave can lie by a pool reading the entire Booker longlist while I mostly tweet and say things like: “The novel is so over.”

Sri Lanka was not for me because it was like India but a slightly Center Parcs version of it. I fell in love with Tamil Nadu when I was very young and so this was just a pale imitation.

Still, the hotel was OK. The kids were happy-ish. I loved reading local newspapers about tuk-tuk accidents, corruption and goats and pottered round looking for internet cafés.

Dave lay on her sunlounger, interested only really in whether she should have lunch or dinner with her on/off lover back home once she had got a tan.

“Which restaurant do you think? I mean, I don’t want him to think I’m serious.”

In the evenings the guys in the hotel would bring us beer or sometimes gin. But I couldn’t sleep for the noise. Great bangs that were maybe firecrackers. Or maybe not.

It was around New Year and so I went to the beach and found some fishermen who gave me arrack and tiny sausages but I couldn’t work out exactly what they were saying.

The next day, we were the only people at breakfast. The hotel was empty except for us. I went to get my paper.

“There are no papers, lady.”

I tried go online.

“Internet all broken, lady.”

Dave was wondering if Ian McEwan had gone off and whether to wear her gold dress for the lunch with Lover Boy, who she kept insisting was “surprisingly intellectual”. She barely noticed that I was increasingly unsettled.

“Relax,” said Dave. “Have a massage.”

The massage was done in a shed by the lone waiter left in the hotel.

Things came to a head when we asked for alcohol. “No licence,” said the waiter/masseur/barman.

“But you had one yesterday,” Dave cried.

I walked into the village. All TVs were down but I picked up some wifi. The north was being invaded. They were taking over the Tamil territory.

“Dave, this is a f***ing war. We have to get out. Colombo is the only airport.”

Dave was still wondering whether to bother with her date. “He is basically selfish and his flat is shit, as well.”

Then, miraculously Dave’s BlackBerry pinged. Someone from England had seen the news.

“My God, Suzanne. There is a war?”

“They are massacring the Tamils. I’ve been trying to tell you. We have to get out.”

Finally, Dave, who used to work for the BBC, sprang into action.

“Don’t worry,” she said “I’ll ring Alan Yentob.” 

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 13 November 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Nigel Farage: The Arsonist

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