“Thanks for having me” – Rob Lewis
By Jennifer Anandanayagam
2020 has not been a good year for plans.
While this pandemic has left most people, particularly those with Type A personalities, fraught with anxiety of not being able to map out their futures, 37-year-old web designer from Surrey, UK – Rob Lewis – who followed his love for cricket all the way to Sri Lanka earlier this year to watch England’s tour of Sri Lanka, may feel slightly different.
In March this year, Lewis was sitting in his plane waiting for take-off, when he heard the news that the two-match Test series of England’s tour to Sri Lanka was being postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “There was a despairing sense of inevitability about it, as it was one of the last sporting events around the world to be called off. I wasn’t going to stand up and yell ‘stop the plane!’ so here I am,” shared Lewis when we tracked him down.
Almost nine months since he got here, Lewis seems to have made the best out of a unique situation, spending his time pursuing his hobby of photography, learning to DJ, making new friends, and exploring Arugam Bay. Calling Sri Lanka a “photogenic country”, he’s been happy to “snap away” with his camera and drone. His full time job as a web designer is something he’s been doing remotely, while here.
Home is where the sea is
The beautiful coastal town of Hiriketiya, also known as Hiri for short, is where Lewis spent the three-month lockdown which was imposed earlier this year, and he calls the place his favourite because he made some great friends – “some were dogs” – and the beach was deserted most of the time, offering a sense of being “newly discovered”. Having the beach to himself on most mornings felt “pretty special and surreal” for Lewis. “When surfers started coming back, I would also take photos of them from my drone”. He has also packaged up a set of surfing photos for the Insta-famous newly married couple John and Michelle from San Francisco who made headlines here in Sri Lanka when they were stuck here on their prolonged honeymoon.
The story of ‘Pup’
His hobby of making friends with local dogs led him to befriend one street pooch in Hiri. “He was very small and getting bullied by the other dogs until my friend Jojo and Jules helped him stay out of trouble. He then latched onto me, following me around everywhere but he was the most adorable lad so I didn’t stop him and named him ‘Pup’.”
Pup stayed with Lewis in his hostel room for the length of his stay in Hiri, and when he had to leave, Lewis’ friend Jojo helped him find a long-term home for Pup, with a loving family in Ahangama. “The last I heard he was happy,” shared Lewis, who stressed that tourists shouldn’t adopt dogs temporarily without rehoming them properly when they are no longer able to care for them.
As for his DJing adventures, they all began when his friend in Hiri – Mitch – asked if he’d like to have a go on his controller. “We played a party together at Verse Collective once and it kicked off. I’ve kept learning since, with help from various DJs I met along the way.”
Lewis has spent a fair amount of time in Colombo as well, sharing that he was “proudly inaugurated” into Sippers’ Club, “where esteemed gentlemen gather over their shared passion of beer and sport.”
He even got a chance to showcase his newly acquired DJing skills at a successful gig at Botanik Rooftop Bistro and Bar. Needing a DJ name and wanting it to be cricket-themed, since that was the reason he was here, Lewis sought the help of some of his friends back home. Then “Randy Caddick” was born. “I wear my England shirt or a floppy cricket hat when playing to stay on brand,” shared Lewis. All his closest friends from this trip and some “fine fellows” from Sippers’ Club came to see him spin his tunes. “It was a genuinely wonderful time.”
Lately, he has been enjoying the local hangout spots in and around Ahangama.
All for the love of cricket
Lewis, who himself is no stranger to cricket, played a lot of the game when he was younger until his job took up most of his time, but his love for the game never waned. English cricketer Graham Thorpe was someone he admired back in the day, but in the current squad, his sights are set on 31-year-old Chris Woakes. “Getting recognition is tough while being in the same team as Ben Stokes, but he is an exceptional cricketer. I also love Mark Wood for bringing the energy.”
While he misses his family and friends back home, Lewis was candid when he shared that he isn’t missing the UK itself. “I’m due to go home after the cricket in February,” he shared, referring to the possibly rescheduled tour. “But I will determine if it’s safe and sensible nearer the time. It’s not been the year for making plans,” he added.
Describing himself as intrepid and authentic (and tall), it was no wonder Lewis had managed to turn an unfortunate sequence of events to his favour, learning the important lessons of resourcefulness and gratitude along the way.
“Thanks for having me,” he said to Sri Lankans.
“Best decision I ever made was to stay, as the world locked down. I’ve met some remarkable people and seen some delightful sights. It’s been one of the most memorable years of my life.”