Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cricket Bats and Rugby Balls

That was a great weekend. A real sportfest. Just what my husband needed after a particularly manic week of work. Part of the reason I enjoyed it was because it reminded me of several positives of being out here. (Ironic how one notices these just when one is about to leave....) One was being able to pay R1500 (£7.50) to go and watch England play Sri Lanka in the 5th One Day International. Despite winning the series, England lost this match, and I have to say they did so very convincingly. I got to see a typical England 'collapse' in the flesh. It wasn't the most exciting of matches. The trumpet and drum playing of the Sri Lankan supporters was a spectacle in itself. Whole bands of impromptu musicians. The fans were conscientiously tireless in their support: music making, flag waving and whistling. I felt a bit lacklustre, not to say British, with my polite applause. Perhaps I should have waved a can of lager. But I didn't have one on me. The cricket ground is an alcohol free zone.

I had got there only for the last 3 hrs, (quite enough I felt) which meant arriving alone, in the dusk, in a not very salubrious area, safe but hassly, and consequently having about 4 men and 3 policemen telling me where I could and couldn't park, and guiding me into parking places, (and out of them) so that the former could then demand money for their unsolicited parking assistance. One guy said I owed him R200 for parking on the side of a bit of dirt/unmade up rd. I laughed and carried on. He kept pace with me, prodding me and saying I owed him money. It was a real pain, I received more hassle that evening than I had in the past 18 mths here put together. People mostly leave you alone. Sri Lanka is, I have found, very unusual in this. Even hawkers on beaches usually just walk past holding up stuff, or waft a few sarongs apologetically at you from a safe distance away. I feel almost bad for them thinking they will never get a sale if they don't hassle a bit more. Still I guess it was good preparation fro our trip to India next week, Sri Lanka being what I consider a very 'diluted' version of India.

The second reason was that M & I got to have a meal together at one of the 5* restaurants in Colombo, at 'greasy spoon prices' as a friend of mine puts it. I realise I have been living in Sri Lanka too long when I felt completely overwhelmed by the choice in this new restaurant, something I have become totally unused to here.

The final thing was watching our England Rugby team in the semi final of the World Cup playing France, in the company of our England Cricket team. A trifle surreal. I mean they were in the bar, having got back from the cricket (perhaps the 'collapse' was deliberately engineered so as not to miss the rugby.......) the bar was in the hotel where they were staying. I still hadn't thought of a witty comment, since our last encounter, but it didn't matter, they were well oiled by the time we got there and pretty soon were making more noise than the rest of the room put together, singing Swing Low, the National Anthem, pogo-ing and air punching.

I have to say it was the best atmosphere for a rugby match I have ever been in, full of this eclectic mix of British, Sri Lankan, Australian, French you name it, the British High Commissioner, the England cricket team. Quite a festive occasion. I couldn't imagine this happening in the UK. Despite being majority British, or perhaps because of that, no one took any notice of the cricketers at all. Just let them get on it. And perhaps, because we are so far from home, we felt a heightened surge of patriotism, and pride in our rugby team gaining a place once more in the Final. It felt quite nice, I'm not used to feeling patriotic, despite my homesickness.

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