19th October 1997


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A Club House for ever

There is an old fashioned clubhouse at Mount Lavinia, where there are evenings that old British army songs like 'Its a long way to Tipperrary' are still sung, interspersed with romantic Sinhala folk melodies of the fifties, such as 'Olu pipila wila lela denawa'. These evenings invariably conclude with an unaccompanied rendering of the S. Thomas' College song, with the unfailing addition of that last line - for the blue, the gold and blue for never!

The Old Thomians Swimming Club is a closely knit fraternity, frequented by regulars living in the College Ward around S. Thomas', by those who come to Colombo to revive memories of their alma mater from the outstation plantations, or the military services, or are home from overseas.

Nearly half a century of existence has entwined in it a curious ethos between an English pub culture and Sri Lankan club life.

The conversation at the clubhouse is often elitist and conservative, while comment on society and politics is utterly frank. Most enriching are the personal anecdotes of student life and the idiosyncracies of College masters, that are sometimes discussed in detail. Everyone's S.Thomas' has been unique, and in retrospect, they have said it at the Club. The history of the school which usually changes slowly can sometimes change during a conversation. The open verandahs of the swimming club lead into the lobby in which the legend of swimmers, life savers at the famous Mount Lavinia beach and water - polo players are recorded on wooden panels, trophies, memorabilia and old photographs.

The Swimming Club motto - 'Otium Cum Dignate,' engraved in Latin is true to the classical traditions of the two Oxfordmen - Hayman and De Saram, who built the swimming pool and founded the Club, and in their day inculcated at the colleges at Gurutalawa and Mount Lavinia, the greater ideal - Mens Sana in Corpore Sano.

As the century turns, the old Club House has also to change with the times. The old lifestyle - members only at the bar, the Visitors book, lazy family afternoons on Sundays and the Club dances will still be around.

But we have to build anew and build a monument of aesthetic value to leave behind, incorporating our lifestyle and our culture for the next generations. It was Paul Sarpi, the architect of Venice who in his dying hour gazed at his beloved city and cried - Esto Perpetua. The new Club House will rise to greater heights, to another floor. A billiards room, games parlour and television, with state - of - the art facilities, and lodgings for old boys travelling to the island on holiday from overseas.

Over the past few years the Club has succeeded in building up a reserve from which the Building Project can be launched. However we are still short of our full requirement by around Rs. 2 Million.

A number of fund raising projects are ongoing and planned, to contribute to the project, but we are aware that we need, the co-operation, help and assistance of every member old boy and well wisher to complete the building, to the required standard.

We are writing to you to solicit your generous contributions in cash or kind for our "new" Club House - our home away from home.

We look forward to your early and generous response.

Whatever else you do, don't yell

If you are yelling and raving and ranting against your children in the hope that they will end up listening to you, forget it. You have a better chance of being heard if you speak softly to them.

Ever notice that as children get older, parents seem to yell more? Increased frustration and the absence of skills to deal with each new discipline problem will all too often culminate in anger, even though most parents know that yelling is far less effective than speaking softly.

"We know better, but application is tough," says Madelyn Swift, a parenting consultant. Swift admits that her sons, now almost 17 and 19, have sometimes pushed her over the brink of anger.

"I wish that I could always be calm, but I cannot," she says. "I have dealt with a lot of kids, and none of them could push my buttons like my own kids."

Concerned that most parents have little or no preparation for the most important job of their lives, Swift has presented several hundred seminars throughout the United States, Canada and New Zealand and has written a book,' Discipline for Life! - One Step at a Time', to teach skills necessary to gain children's cooperation without losing your mind.

"Kids come without instructions. We get only on-the-job training," Swift says. "We need to learn how to be angry without being disrespectful and destroying self-esteem."

Relying on that background, along with humour and personal experiences, Swift shows parents and educators how to build self-esteem in children while teaching them that they are responsible for their actions and for what happens to them and others as a result of those choices.

All children have two basic needs: to feel lovable and to feel capable.

"We all need to know, 'I am lovable. I have value because I exist' and, 'I am capable. I can handle myself and my environment.' It is of utmost importance that we teach all of our children that they have within themselves the capacity to solve problems. They may need help occasionally, but support and ideas are radically different from rescue."

However, she warns against overuse of affirmation for doing something right or good, pointing out that children should be told and shown that they are loved for themselves.

She recommends the use of loving greetings at every opportunity: "I missed you; I'm so glad to see you; I'm glad you're home," rather than, "What did you make on your test today?" or "Did you eat all your lunch?

"We need to tell them we're crazy about them; greet them like we are just thrilled to see them," she says. "You don't want the child to feel his selfworth depends on what he does."

Swift also recommends language such as, "The rule is, he who makes the mess cleans it up," rather than "Clean up your mess." It is harder to argue with a rule, she points out. If it is the rule rather than the adult that requires a certain behaviour, arguments will generally be fewer, especially with young children.

She tells of breaking up arguments among siblings by putting them on opposite ends of a sofa and telling them they cannot get up until they give each other permission.

"The primary victim, usually the younger child, says, 'You'll never get up.' He's never had the power before, and he thinks, 'I can keep you here forever.' But then he comes around to the realisation that he must stay there with the other child. Gradually, compromises are made, and they begin agreeing with each other's conditions.

"It's fun to watch," she says.


English for better communication

By Roshan Peiris

Sir John Hanson, Director General of The British Council was in Sri Lanka last week for the 1997 Colombo British Book Fair.

A Pickwickian looking person, very chatty and forthright, he is considered a unique Director General of the British Council in an institution where standards are high and the accolade rests lightly with him. Sir John is unassuming even though he has held a number of important posts, having joined the British Council in 1963, and run operations in Bahrain, Iran and India before returning to London to take the top job as Director General.

Sir John had discussions with Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar about the all important refurbishing of the excellent Jaffna library burnt in the ethnic war, when they met in London recently.

Sir John said, ''We hope to help refurbish the Jaffna library and get the library started. We will doubtless give books and periodicals but also library expertise and hold classes to train those who will run the library.'' The British Council, he said, is quite equal to the task having helped to start many a library. It is, he felt, an imperative need and a worthy cause which the Sri Lankan Government has undertaken.

The Sunday Times raised the question of teacher training in English especially in state run schools. Teachers in English in state run schools have the disadvantage of having studied English as only a second language or extra subject.

Sir John said that this has been the case in Japan, and Central and Eastern Europe as well.

Peter Ellwood, Director British Council in Sri Lanka answered the question by saying that the British Council had been in touch with the Ministry of Education. It is, he agreed, a subject that agitates the minds of both teachers and Principals of State run schools.

Mr. Ellwood said that it was a mammoth task and the Council was alert and sensitive about it. There are, he stated, around forty to fifty thousand teachers in State run schools not only in urban areas and places such as Colombo, Galle, Kandy and Jaffna as it was earlier. The Government's striving for a high standard in English has infiltrated to rural schools as well.

The Council cannot find the space, but schools have agreed that English classes for teachers could be held at the respective schools.

Sir John also said that he was aware that English will not and need not displace the indigenous languages in a country. People be it anywhere had confidence and pride in their own language and that is, as it should be. Knowing English which is a worldwide language would help to facilitate communications be it in business or at the industrial level to mention a few.

Sir John like most Britishers love cricket and is a member of the MMC. Today cricket is serious business, he commented.

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