the afternoon sun strips naked

chalked up rust hiding despair

held in a rusty blanket

within; a secret for none to see

except the hidden moon

suckling inside.


Renuka Mendis

August 4, 2015


Photo Credit. Renuka Mendis. Toronto. August 3, 2015.

Football in Primary Colours – a short note on The World Is A Ball by John Doyle


There are four primary colours. Red, green, blue and football. And Doyle colours the whole world football. The paintbrush his heart. I cannot remember a book that made me so happy of late. A joyous, funny, warm and informative caravanserai through two World Cups and two Euros; deliciously larded with biting satire and sometimes spiked with heartbreak.

A travelogue and commentary interspersed with rich reportage and some behind the scenes nuggets and mostly beautiful people – some on the tops of lampposts and others holding forth over the drinks counter in railway cars; all amidst the din made by a woman on a balcony hammering away on pots and pans in celebration. Christine, the street-sleepers. Trevor and Jack (and Julie) on the train. Then back home in Toronto on Niagara Street where boys play football with sweater pile goals as snowflakes freeze. The evocative tiny paragraph of an entirely unforeseen memorial for the Hillsborough Disaster which took me entirely unawares. Short flash backs on Toronto street cars. Sedate Portuguese men watching football in Toronto bars. The common touch. Most of all for me Doyle’s accounting of Zidane’s moments of fury in Berlin; a personal catharsis and a straight line from me and my TV screen under smoke-stack towers in the Berlin Olympiastadion to a kind of justice in an unjust world. Yup. I remember where I was. I could go on.

I have not had such fun reading a travelogue since perhaps reading From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet by Vikram Seth in another place and another time. But this was more personal because of football and it is from Toronto and also from somewhere else like many of us here given Doyle’s close ties to Ireland. That constant need to bridge the gulf between the here and the there. The book for some hours filled up that chasm us outsiders carry around as we trudge around this City dragging around fragile roots.

If you have even a passing fancy for football and a generous heart; an absolute must read. Doyle opens up a whole world that we never see on TV. I await the sequel for 2010 and 2014 World Cups and the Euros in between. If ever I run into the author on the streetcar guess that will be my first question. Where is the clock that Maria gave you in Porto? And that is kinda how I feel; a bit like Maria with her plastic bag and present. Thank you.

And to Brazil 2014 – Tenho saudades de você.

Renuka Mendis  –  From July 25, 2014.


Photo by Renuka Mendis.  World Cup 2010 and daisies on Yarmouth Road, Toronto.

A is for Annabel – Short note on Annabel by Kathleen Winter

“Different though the sexes are, they inter mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above.” Virginia Wolf

Kathleen Winter dragged me around the last few days holding me trapped in a small town in Labrador. Serving up regular doses of pure wonderment and magic. Opening tightly shut doors in the soul and psyche. Feeding me small but great lives lived and some stifled like beaver dams stemming blood’s tide; and feeding mostly its cruelties. Both ordinary and not so ordinary. And like in the Cantique de Jean Racine which plays a part in the book; in the book’s last chapters Kathleen Winter lifted me up on a magic cloud of powerful emotion stemming from seemingly simple situations that I felt I was floating closer to the ceiling in my room as I came to the book’s end.

Sometimes I felt that the narrative sagged but I think Winter was only playing a trick on me. A book like no other I have ever read. It opened up and made sense of the trap of gender and freed me from it. Even more importantly it made me look at some of the more difficult and very personal aspects of my own life and helped me make better sense of those situations like nothing else has done for me. It has now become a book that I will hold dear always. And a bitter sweet love letter to Labrador written out like one were knitting a scarf. A comfort.

You want to know more? Well you know what to do. Read Annabel. A book to love dearly. A book to read again and again. A book that is hard to love until you’ve walked towards the very end.

Renuka Mendis

from May 3, 2014.

Goldfrapp sang Annabel inspired by Winter’s book. Watch. This is from Goldfrapp TV on Youtube.

don’t ask then – by Renuka Mendis

breathe down my neck
sit here
hold my hand
bring me tea and rose water

where it hurts
which part of heart
which knuckle
at which street fight buckled
if it bled
and always bring me tea
and rose water
sit here

look at the trees
you’ll hear the birds
the sky will smile
and i will spill
everything i held
corked up
in a musty old bottle.

Renuka Mendis – July 4, 2015, Toronto

Sincy’s Tap at 52′

At many levels the connection with football is emotional. Consider the Wembley. English football before it went down the tubes. Makes one sentimental. I very nearly flew to London for the weekend to get back in time for Monday when the English women played Germany at the Wembley to a record attendance of 45,619 on November 23, 2014; as a precursor to the Women’s World Cup 2015 (WWC15). Alas, reality intervened and I never got there. Still some things remain in our football memory if you’ve lived long enough and remember. English football and the Wembley. Icons. Some half dead. But the English women have revived these symbols with a new spirit and sincerity this WWC15. And thinking of when they meet Canada’s women on Saturday other emotions surface.

Unlike England where football runs deep, Canada as I’ve said before will never fully embrace football leave alone touch it with a barge pole; not even if we win this tournament though that is a long ball. But put that aside for a day or four. Let us look at the here the now. The Canadian team and coach Herdman have got quite the bashing in the papers. Cathal Kelly (see Link below) rightly opined that Sinclair, Mathesan et al have had their last hurrah and why they needed to make way for others. True that. One factor justifying the bashing is the age of the seniors. Sinclair is 32. Well beyond prime time for footballers. Old. Matheson’s long injury and Sincy’s lack of strikes, leave alone goals except the one at expense of truth in China v Canada. So when Switzerland played Canada at knock out stages last Sunday most expected Canada to lose for the same reasons they were getting bashed in the press. It all seemed so rational.

I’ve always kept a safe distance from the Canada team and its seasonal fans. Flavour of the month fandom is not my thing. Especially when hardworking women doing double triple duty from poor countries do more with far less despite scoreless ends. It was also a nice bit of fun bashing Canada, a non-football nation. Always get a kick out of that. It’s ok. You can go har dee ha. I went along on that bus for the ride. At worst I was being a jerk and at best it gives my opinions some objectivity.

Fact is as we bashed and salivated wishing a banishment we forgot that women are survivors. They cook something up with the little they’ve got. The good, the not so good, the old and the wily. 0-0 at half-time and an energetic Swiss side on the prowl it looked like Canada’s goose was cooked. I just wanted it to be over once and for all and put an end to press-bashings not to mention the boring seasonal fandoms. I’d given up on Canada in more ways than football. But then women as women do cobble something together. Somehow. That’s nothing revolutionary. It is what women do.

It was not Rhian Wilkinson’s cross into the box which won the match. It was that old wily Sincy’s sweet little tap to Belanger at 52’; that wily tricky tap pulled out of the air like a rabbit out of an invisible hat that birthed that goal. And we were 1-0 and into the quarter finals and I ain’t gonna let the great saves made by Erin McLeod take that away from old Sincy. A magic tap that fed my emotions for a team I’d kept at arm’s length.
https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/612782512465661952 [Update below]
Which brings us back to England. England plays Canada on Saturday in Vancouver in the quarter finals. The winner advances to the semis. I will be cheering for England. The land of Shakespeare, cricket and the Wembley and other twisted and bitter sweet emotional attachments. But a part of my heart will still owe a debt of gratitude to Sincy for that wily tap on the ball placing Canada in the quarters. A magic spark that lit up this tournament for a troubled lopsided team in a sterile and cold cold country. A moment of fire which I will remember forever. Thank you Sincy. One day someone will put that moment in a statute of you in bronze. I know we will. We aren’t that cold.

Renuka Mendis
June 26, 2015

With thanks to Mr. Richard Farley, @richardfarley.
Update re GIF by Richard Farley. This was removed from twitter due to formalities. But caption says everything.

Cathal Kelly: In The Globe and Mail, June 19, 2015 – Canada owes a lot to Christine Sinclair, but she isn’t the key to this tournament. Link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/soccer/canada-owes-a-lot-to-christine-sinclair-but-she-isnt-the-key-to-this-tournament/article25042365/

reality sniffs

came home knackered .. my body like a few trains had run over it…my posture a broken tree, having done groceries in the humid rain. fortunately the dregs from last week’s soup filled a small bowl to take to bed with saveur magazine at six in the evening … and its sentences like tiny ants eat away at what i see and they swallow whole sentience like a python, to afternoon/evening sleep like oxygen for fire.

up at 9.30p.m. to notice a roomful of piles of old clothes who I have just dropped over days on end rushing out in the morning like a lemming to fall into subway. and here i am wide awake and widely dopey. at lose ends with piles of dishes to put away and wash and papers to read and leave unread and slough off the week and it’s annoyances.

and those little people in bottles that hide neglected in the cupboard keep calling me like atavistic friends. i look and see my greek oregano jar is not closed properly ..closed ajar literally. worried for all the perfume of barren greek mountain taste lost I tighten it right guarding it from taste poverty and then another bottle calls out crying to me asking me to reach for it. like a little child.

and i take its familiar round shape in my palm and hold it tight. grab the cover with my left hand and open it. to sniff perungkayang. i breathe deep for the first time in weeks and my heart. bursts. and bjork turns up on see bee sea.

and slowly i feel human again in dribs and drabs. yes. bjork, dishes, musty clothes and perungkayang. there’s nothing else. i am home for a few days.

– renu on a late late may night.

Sport is actually about being idealistic … – Subash Jayaraman

Sport is actually about being idealistic. … You have to have a very long vision. You can’t think about four year cycles. – Subash Jayaraman

When December turned to the Bottle Month I wanted to blog about the Bottle Month. But no. Instead I stayed up nights watching New Zealand and Sri Lanka play ODI’s and test cricket and went to bed at dawn when the paper arrived at my door. Cricket. The whole works. Lost count of how many. This went on into February it felt like and then more cricket. You know the one. Pool stages. Forty-two matches. Fourteen cities in two countries, Australia and New Zealand and teams and fans crossing the sea; often as Russel Arnold cooed in your ear commentating. All was well in cricket heaven and even better on earth while most of North America slept. For those of us sinners across time zones, living in two time zones with the price for heaven being paid in lost sleep, another blog post postponed and before I knew it the pool stages of the cricket world cup have now come to an end. Alas I’ve yet to write the post about watching cricket with strangers in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto two world cups ago. Did not get to that either. How to? Not when you spend your nights watching even more cricket. Delighted by minnows and associate teams and slowly falling in love with them. Well may be not slowly. Falling in love fast. Then the news the ordinary cricket world woke up to that in 2019 the CWC will have only ten teams and not fourteen. Essentially excluding associate nations.

Afghanistan is one of them. With Shapoor Zadran and his Shohaib Akhtar hair and airplane simulations which never failed to delight. The Irish are also associates, standing up to South Africa and the other excellent associate being the Scottish team with the splendid bat of Koetze. The journeymen from UAE without UAE passports and their day jobs the last of the associates this time around. And the lad from Ambalangoda – Guruge — a good bowler from Sri Lanka working in the UAE and thus playing for UAE.

The pool stages of this world cup have been a celebration of outsiders and second class citizens of the cricket world. The ICC’s inbred royalty play each other in repetitious games and tournaments over and over, over after over through the years until we get treated to the outsiders every four years or so. Yes granted in 2011 Canada and Kenya were awful embarrassments. But it was a laugh. Then we forget about them because the rest of the time the ICC ignores them along with the Afghanistans and Irelands in cricket. They rarely get to play the big, sorry, top teams. I loved Afghanistan so much and knowing the limits of the Sri Lankan team without Murali even fantasized an Afghan win over the Sri Lankans and guess what; that nearly happened. Sri Lanka got the scare of their lives. Sri Lanka won that game only by a hair’s breadth. What does this say about the associate teams that are hidden away from public view the rest of the time and the ICC cricketing hierarchy? Those not seen on TV and Internet cricket channels which are dominated by the big player nations.

Without the associates the pool stages of CWC15 would’ve been dull as ditch water. But instead they thrilled and their joy was infectious. They endeared and endured. They stood up to the big guns as the whole world laughed at England. And most of all they had so much fun and so did we watching them and cheering them on. Ireland has a good administrative structure; as does Afghanistan with a lot of support from Pakistan. But UAE is pretty well fly by night in that they have day jobs. And Scotland cricket is also well established. Thus these teams rose to the top and in a way it is UAE who are the heroes of the associates at CWC15 for having come this far with very little support. Then ordinary layperson like you and I heard that ICC royalty had cut back the teams to a mere ten for CWC19. No associates. They only want the big-timers. You know the big timers like England and even Zimbabwe. And the cricket world, no not the ICC, but the real cricket world who watch and love aren’t pleased one bit. We fear CWC19 with ten teams will be a big yawn. A petition is circulating to change this so associates get to play.

Much has been said about this injustice since this world cup started; not just to the teams but to the spectators; but most of all to cricket and its growth and the diversity of its players and the diversity of how it is played. According to Subash Jayaraman, a panelist in this podcast, ICC associate nations are being restricted by full test playing nations (such as England who no longer can play cricket for toffee) at the top of the ICC hierarchy. The ICC also takes back most of the money the ICC makes which gets redistributed back amongst the top teams and only about one eighth of the budget goes to the associates. The ICC is doing very little about developing the game and spreading cricket amongst the associates and in more countries; some of them already cricket playing nations.

The panelist/s also discuss Nepal, Papua New Guinea, for example and how they can do with a little or a lot of help from their big brother neighbours India and Australia. Unlike the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan where Pakistan nurtures and supports the Afghan team Australia nor India do zilch for their cricket loving neighbours who could do with a little help. And the other question to ask is if it is fair to leave it to the magnanimity of one ICC cricket team to help another when development and nurturing of cricket amongst minor cricketing nations ought to be inbuilt into the ICC’s structure and governance.

In this timely, informative, engaging and considered podcast by The Guardian Subash Jayaraman says that the ICC does not want more member countries with full member status because the top cricket nations don’t want to share more voting powers for fear that more votes will bring chaos; whatever chaos means. This is unjust and it is wrong for cricket when the world needs to see more Afghanistans. Nepal and Papua New Guinea, and Hong Kong to name a few. The more the merrier provided they strive for a good game. It is better for the world.

In the last segment the panel discusses the possible outcomes at the Quarter final knock off stages. A Sri Lanka win is not impossible if Sri Lanka wins the toss and bats first. Pakistan could possibly beat Australia because Pakistan is now in good form. Can Bangladesh beat India? Well not as easily as even a Gayle-less West Indies could beat New Zealand.

So while you fret and worry in the approximately sixteen or so hours before the first Quarter Final match between Sri Lanka and South Africa it is essential that we understand fully how and what stands in the way of associate nations that play well being seen in the world cricket arena. This is an excellent, considered chat that should be crucial knowledge for every cricket lover, cricket fanatic and cricket tragic at this stage of the tournament.

And then there is that problem of cricket broadcasters and their meddling in matches and the very game and how and where it is played. We all ought to be up in arms or be after the ICC with our bats raised. And you still have a few hours to mull over the slightly flippant but interesting precursor to the quarters. And as Subash Jayaraman says – Anything is possible.



silver street

why bother to shine
like the glistening moon
a silver river
this asphalt street
for only the desolate
to see

the inky night
paints the houses black
window panes dark handkerchiefs
at funerals
from morning suits
to weep

and eleanor rigby
lies down to sleep
remembering the silver sheen
of a long dark braid
woven, like three street strands of a song
in tears.

January 18, 2014