The staff would spend their spare time in their favourite pastime of cricket.
And following my mantra of seeking out those who play and pray whenever I’m away I asked for a game.
They welcomed me with open arms which is what I did too letting the ball come between bat and pad and landing me LBW.
But not before I had broken my previous best score of 0 from my schooldays.
Did I say though that I had scored two in my previous innings before running myself out and grazing my knees and hands on the synthetic pitch?
Of course us of the Scottish variety are more adept at kicking a round leather ball around the pitch so I was confident that I would be able to hold my own in their football game.
Wrong again as I hadn’t factored in my age compared to these athletic Asians, and the fact that they were more used to the 30C heat than this native of a frozen Northern European land.
And so when my opponent whose multi-syllable first name I hadn’t a chance of pronouncing took up the ball on the wing he just glided past me and left me doubled over and gasping for air.
All of which they took in the most magnaminous manner and with the kind of manners that we could all do with emulating.
And so when I hooked up with my party again the word came back of the Sri Lankans who wanted to know when ‘Mr Jim’ was returning to the island to play cricket and footall with them.
Of course the best place to see Sri Lankans is in their own backyard.
Our Little Corner of the Earth
And anybody in Ireland who may have considered visiting Sri Lanka will immediately have been advised to go to the most famous Sri Lankan/Irish citizen Tess de Kretser.
Tess is the owner of Olcote in Ceylon, which stands for Our Little Corner of the Earth, and is a fusion of Sri Lanka and her adopted home of Ireland.
Tess has regaled me about her hotel both at her Sri Lankan nights in Dublin and also when we lunched together.
We could all do with a little corner of the Earth right now, and I’m sure I could find myself a cricket pitch nearby. I would even make up the numbers for the local team, as long as it’s a children’s team.
I had all planned to take a whizz around the Florida Keys before the other Donald closed America off in March but hope to put that right when I get the chance.
And it’s those areas with natural distancing like the Keys and island nations (and yes a lesson here to the UK and Ireland too) who have an advantage.
Sail away in Croatia
And when you’ve got 1200 islands then there’s ‘one for everyone in the audience.’
As they like to say in the world’s longest-running TV chat show, Ireland’s The Late Late Show, or whatever the Croatian equivalent is.
But here is a country which, as a Balkans state, dealt better than the rest of Europe with the virus.
And which is perfectly placed to host the tourist’s new requirements during and post-Covid.
One area is in small boat holidays and yachting around the islands, another adventure in the Great Outdoors.
My go-to people in Ireland for Croatia are Croatia Tours, and I went on pilgrimage with them to neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina where I started out on the road to Dubrovnik.
They have a seven-days Rivers by the Sea package, making the most of where the area where the Krka River enters the Adriatic, on June 26 £1255pp.
Where you’ll get to sea kayak, cycle, canoe, rock climb, hike and raft.
The Tuscan Islands
We’ll also be spreading our wings more next year even when we do visit our favourite cities.
And that’ll help hotspots like Firenze breathe as we explore greater Tuscany, its adventure trails, cycling opportunities and thermal waters.
And its seven islands, chief among them Elba, the first island of exile for Napoleon, and Montecristo, it of Alexandre Dumas’ Count.
Able was I ere I saw Elba.
As every schoolchild, well, at least those of certain age and lexical bent, will tell you.
And Tuscany was, and is, ere able to thrive in ‘il novo normal’.
And, of course, the Caribbean
Daddy’s Little Girl, as all our little girls do these days, is wont to show me amusing things she finds on the internetty thing.
And one we both find funny is a Jamaican tour guide who extols the benefits of inhaling the island’s plants.
I grab every chance to hook up with my Caribbean friends, Barbados,Tobago, Anguilla (heck, all of them) albeit these days over Zoom, if only to hope that I can draw some sun out from the screen.
And as usual their warmth came flowing us out as they reminded us that in their island their neighbourliness has helped them through this crisis and referred in passing to London where ‘people don’t know their neighbours but had been getting to know each other this year.’
For those of us too who in the second half of the century of years some of us are blessed to live, our cultural touchpoint for the Phillipines is the Thrilla in Manila, the nation’s capital which hosted Ali-Frazier III.