Tehani Ariyaratne has posted this picture of the old GPO which I am made to understand was one of the venues of this year's Colomboscope
The GPO was an important part of my growing up years - when incredibly we managed to thrive despite having neither television (not in Sri Lanka till after 1977) nor the internet. We had what we proudly called our 'hobbies' - so stamp collecting was one of mine. Reading, was another. Corresponding with penpals (equivalent of facebook friends or twitter followers, I guess) was a third.
The GPO and its environs formed a pivotal part of my engagement with my 'hobbies'. Frequently on a Sunday, my father would drive my sister and me to the Fort. Often we would stop at the GPO because it was the only post office opened on a Sunday, and I would post my laboriously penned letters to my penpals. The uncles (think they were always uncles) at the counter would weigh my epistle and then hand me the correct number of stamps which I had then to stick on to the envelope together with an airmail sticker (which had no glue so had to be stuck on with glue from a rather sinister looking gluepot) and then give the letter back to the counter so that they could place the seal on the stamps (to prevent them being stolen was what I was told) and send the letter on its way. It would be about 4 weeks at the minimum before I would receive a reply!
We would also go to the GPO to buy 'first day covers' - when the government issued a new stamp they would seal the stamp with the date of the first day of issue, all on a fancy envelope. This was usually done with the usual fanfare and ceremony which received press coverage. These first day covers were considered of particular value to stamp collectors and became an integral part of my personal stamp collection, which, several decades and several house moves later, has now become irrevocably lost and irretrievable.
My father had letters to post too. Mostly I remember the Christmas cards - sent by second class post way before Christmas so that they could be shipped (not airmailed) in time to reach their destinations for the festive season.
Almost always after the excursion to the GPO we would be taken to the GOH or Hotel Taprobane as it was called at different times. Charles Subasinghe & Sons had a bookstall on the ground floor, and we would be allowed to browse among its shelves and choose a book to read. My father would then sometimes take us to the Harbour Room where he would have a beer and a cigarette (or it could have been a G&T, I didn't really notice) and my sister and I would have our orange barley or portello and start reading our books, while my father read his, or looked through a newspaper.
So glad the GPO is now open, and being used in some way. Am coming to terms that the Fort (Chatham Street is another whole story) is not the Fort of my childhood and raising my own G&T glass this Sunday to change!