Meedhupparu’s Got Talent

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Day Seven : 30th March 2012

Mark made the first move. Someone was bound to do it sooner or later, but Mark actually took the plunge, and decided that he could do a better job at singing than the Official Entertainment. And boy, are the crowd happy. His rendition of Angels could easily pass a TV talent audition, though in my case his performance was something of a red rag to a bull.

You see, Angels is my karaoke song.

“Ya! He ist Robbie Williams!” shouts one of the Germans enthusiastically as Mark dedicates the final line to his wife. “I’m lovin’ Susie that’s all.”

“Meester Mark, everyone!” proclaims the female singer. “You think he should seeng some more?” The Germans are obviously up for it, but Mark – after some discussion – decides the band don’t have the backing track for his second favourite song?

“See, I’m a plumber – but I also book the acts for my local working men’s club in Waltham stow,” explains Mark over a drink. “So I like to sing a bit myself. What about you – are you doing a song?”

Before I know it, I’m back in my early 1990s karaoke world, before Guy Chambers had even written Angels. I do that song well, but I also rediscover my killer track : Love Is All Around – the Wet Wet Wet version.  “Blimey – that was good,” says Mark. “You must be some sort of professional.”

It’s at moments like these when my ego almost runs away with the plot. After all, I’m on holiday. Nobody knows who I am, so why shouldn’t I be a professional singer? But I’m sensible enough to remember that after a few drinks in a hot climate, everyone sounds like a professional. Of some sort.

Like a few people I’ve met this week, it’s not Mark and Susie’s first visit to the Maldives. Yet with such a vast collection of islands and resorts, there’s plenty of choice – almost all with guaranteed sunshine all year round and an increasing number offering all inclusive deals.

Day Eight : 30th March 2012

A week in a place like this is perfect – but imagine five or six months? Sounds good, unless you’re working here. I’ve started to observe the staff some more, and it’s pretty obvious that most are forced to look for work a long way from their families.
It’s easy enough to ignore the facts when you’re paying good money to forget real life, but one of the bar tenders at the beach almost gives the game away about how miserable things can be.
It turns out that the resort is run by a Sri Lankan firm, which owns hotels all over the South Asia region. Advertisements in newspapers tempt staff to the company – often in Sri Lanka – and then they’re offered work on the islands. The staff village I mentioned previously is out of sight, and the bar tender is reluctant to discuss living conditions. There’s no suggestion that anything’s wrong – but I’m guessing it’s not nearly as comfortable as the guests are used to.
Not least those who can afford the Luxury Beach Villas. Set high on stilts above the ocean, these exclusive rooms offer jacuzzis with sea views, meals at your door and – a rather large fence so that nobody else can get into the compound. Regular guests are offered upgrades at reception, at over 500 US Dollars per night. I’m all for privacy but that’s pretty serious money for what doesn’t seem like a great deal more. Who needs a jacuzzi when you have miles of coral rich ocean at your feet?
Day Nine : 1st April 2012
It’s my final day in the Maldives and fortunately they don’t mark April Fool’s Day here. The only joke is the state of my nose. I don’t tan well, I never have. I guess that’s why I don’t normally do beach holidays. But no amount of sun cream and moisturiser can compensate for the red hooter.
My return flight from Male to Dona tomorrow is at 0900. Or 1000 Meedhapparu time. Which means I’ll be leaving at 0800. Or is that 0700? This is all getting too confusing. And it seems my luggage won’t be travelling with me. A letter under my door instructs me to leave my suitcase outside by 2300 tonight for “transfer by speedboat” to the airport. I feel like I’m putting my luggage in the second class post and hoping for the best.
Still, the hand baggage only rule for the air taxi – which didn’t apply on the way here – reminds me that I’ll need to reacclimatise for the UK. I’m told summer time has arrived early, but frankly even 19 degrees is likely to feel chilly.
After dinner I catch up with Mark and Susie for a farewell drink. Although tonight the local beer is in cans, as there’s a problem with the draught. Strangely, the tinned stuff tastes decidedly flat. The prospect of a dodgy stomach makes me decide that an early night is the best option.
My suitcase is still outside the room when I return, along with another note detailing the exact departure schedule. It’s this attention to detail which has impressed me the most about this resort. Perhaps the only significant improvement might be a new Entertainments Manager. Yet the nightlife is never going to be a match for the sheer beauty of these island surroundings. The days and the sunshine seem to go on forever. And it’s a peace and beauty that’s hard to match.
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