Archive for December, 2010

31
Dec
10

it’s not what you know, it’s who you know

I arrived in Melbourne feeling fresh from a few days off in Perth. With our test defeat at the WACA taking just three and a half days, I had ample time to relax and chill out before embarking on what was always going to be a crazy time over Christmas in Melbourne. I’m currently sat in my sisters friends vacant apartment in Sydney on New Year’s Eve, finally getting some time to reflect on what has been arguably my greatest week on planet earth. This isn’t a statement I have put into this entry lightly, it’s been building up in my mind for the last few days and at this present moment I am convinced that life can’t get much better.

No other saying than the one above could be as relevant to me and my time spent in Melbourne. My incredible Victorian experience has been down to the kindness of several people that I have met over my years travelling the world, while watching the England cricket team. Those of you that are observant out there may have noticed a fairly nice picture I posted back in Glenelg of me and a young lady sitting on the beach front watching the sun go down. She even managed a brief mention in the Adelaide entry. Found her? That’s right, I’m talking about Lauren! (Or Loz to her friends) We got to know each other through the Adelaide test match and what with the ease of the modern world, stayed in contact and agreed to meet up again in Melbourne.

Without Loz I would not have seen the side of Victoria that I have done. As a day trip we took a ride along the beautiful Great Ocean Road, going via ‘Ramsay Street’ on our way out of town. My mischievous side took the bait when we arrived at the same time as the official tour, giving me a perfect chance to piss take the backpackers who had spent $60 on nothing more than a bus ride. My unofficial guide was much better, no doubt. The drive itself saw us arrive at a little seaside town called Anglesea – there was no sign of Crazy Mark and Lia though…..Myself and Dave had no real plans for Christmas dinner apart from try and blag our way into the official Barmy Army do. It wasn’t really the kind of event that I fancied if truth be told, but the idea we had thrown around to spend Christmas with Loz and her family was certainly appealing. After sorting out the logistics, we arrived on Christmas Eve and were instantly made to feel welcome. We were looked after incredibly by Loz and her family. I cannot thank them enough for what they did for us, giving us the chance to spend Christmas day around that wonderful family atmosphere that otherwise we’d have missed out on. I’m amazed that Loz talked her Mum and Stepdad into putting up with a couple of England cricket fans she had met in her long weekend in Adelaide. But she did, and I will be forever grateful for the welcome we received. How many families in the UK would invite a couple of blokes off the street into their family home on Christmas Eve and make them feel so welcome? At the time I was made up – a week on and I am still convinced that it was one of the nicest gestures anyone has ever made me.

Now, unless you have been on Planet Mars you will know by now that England have retained the Ashes! I chose not to write too much about the defeat at Perth because for some reason I wasn’t overly bothered by it. I was convinced that if we had the better of the first day at Melbourne then we would go on, win the match and in turn ensure that we would keep hold of that little urn. Bowling Australia out for 98 on day one was as ridiculously, stupidly and massively incredible as you could imagine. There was no way back for them, the urn was ours again. With the test finishing at lunch time on the final day, we had plenty of time to celebrate such a win in the manner it deserved. After an afternoon drinking, celebrating and singing in a couple of the official HQ’s, word got out about a little bar on the outskirts of town that might be of interest. A good mate of mine got wind that some of the England players would potentially be arriving later in the evening to celebrate the win with us. He wasn’t wrong.

After a couple of hours mulling over the brilliance of the win (while continuing to get pissed, obviously) we were interrupted by some cheers from the guys and girls who were supping outside. Stumbling out of a minibus were several of the England boys! This is what it is all about. Being in a bar the other side of the world, celebrating an Ashes victory in a Melbourne bar with several dozen of my best cricket mates and six of England’s finest. If we thought we were smashed up, then we had seen nothing in relation to the state Matty Prior, Jimmy Anderson, Graeme Swann, Tim Bresnan, Eoin Morgan and Steve Finn were in! It was my finest night on tour. The singing, the dancing, the drinking coupled with the feeling of togetherness was everything a cricket fan could hope for. The room was full of the correct people – I may write a piece at the end of the tour giving some thoughts on the Australian cricket tour experience which will give more of an insight to what I’m trying to say here. All I’ll say here is that the real Barmy Army were in this room. I’m grateful once again for the chance to spend time in the company of these guys and girls who I consider to be some of the finest people in the world. I chatted with someone the other day who accurately described the feeling in the bar as a ‘big love in’. We love the players and they love us. Arguably more so. These boys who made the effort to join us in the bar will go down in folklore in my eyes for the way they interacted with us. They came into the bar acting just like anyone else, not at all acting the big I am, happily posing for photos, signing shirts and more importantly chatting, drinking and singing with us all. What other sport in the world would you see national players stood up on chairs joining in with all the songs, and in most cases starting their own songs off? Seeing Matty Prior sing his own song to the tune of ‘Ring Of Fire’ was one of the best things I have ever seen. He loves it, and to be fair, I’d be exactly the same. Swanny borrowed my sunglasses to sing our ‘Swanny Superover’ song that we wrote back in Chennai a couple of years back. I chatted with Jimmy Anderson quite a bit who came across as a top lad. He used to have a reputation for being quite shy when he first came into the side. You can tell that he is genuinely happy to be winning games for England, and sharing it with his mates in the side with the fans. The classic line came from Dave who offered to buy Jimmy a drink back for the one he bought him in Sri Lanka. Jimmy replied to him that ‘He’d never bought a fan a drink before’ which was actually true – Dave had been chatting with him and overheard what room he was staying in. He simply went up to the bartender and ordered a drink on ‘Anderson, room 574’! Jimmy’s reaction to this news was superb, turning to Eoin Morgan and saying ‘Here Morgs, this cheeky cu*t only got a drink off me room number in Colombo!’ before shaking Dave’s hand for his cheekiness!

Without the friendships I have made over the years on cricket tours, I’d have never found out about this night. This is a massive tour. Day one at Melbourne was watched by 84,000. The crowd on day four was predominately English which gave a good chance to estimate that around 10,000 were supporting the boys with the three lions on their caps. There is no way a night could be arranged where you could drink with the England players so close up and personal in the way we did that night. Imagine how many would turn up? It wasn’t orchestrated such as an official do, it just took a couple of text messages to go between players and fans and we all ended up having the best night on tour imaginable.

I’ve had an amazing week. I’ve watched a brilliant, historic England victory that has seen us retain the Ashes at the awe-inspiring stadium that is the MCG. I’ve celebrated with a shit load of my favourite cricket mates. I’ve shared the moment with some of my sporting hero’s and been reminded that they are just humans like that rest of us. I’ve met a brilliant girl in Loz that has made my time in Melbourne even more memorable than I thought possible. I’ve met some wonderfully generous people in her family that gives me great hope for the human race in general. The one recurring comment I here from people the world over is that ‘I am living the dream’. I’ve scoffed at the comment up until this last week – which has felt like one giant dream. The thing is, it isn’t a dream. It’s my life and I fucking love it right now.

If 2011 is anything like 2010 then bring it on. It has plenty to live up to, starting with New Years Eve in Sydney tonight. Lifestyle choice.

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21
Dec
10

a perth-fect pub

Oh, what a play on words. Genius writing, I hear you say. Or maybe not. If the cricket in Perth was a big disappointment, then the discovery of an Irish bar in the centre of the city called Durty Nelly’s by Deano and Sara was nothing short of genius.

We’ve been very lucky on this tour so far in terms of the performance of the English side. From the incredible turnaround with the bat in the second innings at Brisbane to the all round brilliance of the display in Adelaide, the boys have performed as well as any of us dreamt they could when we arrived down under several weeks back. The exciting nature of the tests has meant that drinking copious amounts of alcohol has not been as perhaps necessary as it can be on tour. The cricket has provided more than enough enjoyment, so much so that many of us struggled to get properly smashed up in Adelaide. Sure we found a decent boozer in Adelaide that served cheap(ish) Bulmers, but for some reason it didn’t quite create that full on smash up feeling that a bar on tour can sometimes serve up. I honesty believe that this was down to being high on life thanks to the innings rout that we had witnessed over the previous few days.

When I first started watching cricket I was very much one of these people that liked to watch as much of the cricket in the flesh as possible. I remember me and my mate Sands watching that infamous third day of the Ashes test at Edgbaston where we would literally time our trips to the toilet to coincide with a gap in play, such as a drinks break or a bowling change, that would allow us to miss nothing more than the odd delivery. On one of my first trips to India I would ensure that I was in my seat for the start of play, even after getting back from a crazy night out in Bombay in the very early hours of the morning. There was one night I remember being particularly messy, crawling in from Not Just Jazz By The Bay shortly before the sun came up. In fact, I think it still stands out as my best night out on tour. It was that good that Ben couldn’t manage a single ball in the ground the next day! Last winter in South Africa I had moved to the opposite end of the scale, going out just before lunch time and not returning till the last hour of the day by which time I was that pissed I couldn’t remember the score at close of play. I also spent the rest of the night nursing a wounded arm from falling off one of the wooden tables that served beer. Class. In all fairness it turned out to be another legendary night on tour that saw me and Expat Andy get about fifth wind, managing to follow a group of yanks up Long Street to continue the boozing to the early hours. Without the ‘warm up’ session of that afternoon I’d have probably never bothered with the nightclubbing and would have missed out on some fun and frolics with some cool new people.

As I mentioned, that was an extreme. I love my cricket and even now like to be in the ground for the majority of the days play despite the lure of pub carnage away from the ground. I’ve missed a couple of sessions this tour in bars, though. In the past I may have felt guilty about this, but many tours and test matches in I’m more than happy to spend some time with friends new and old in various establishments around the grounds. For starters, it’s not always great fun watching us get rolled over cheaply for the second time in two days or putting up with BMA’s (see earlier blog for meaning) screaming at you how great Mike Hussey is or how crap the Pommie’s are. A little time away from the cricket helps rejuvenate my support for the lads when they most need it. Most places we play test cricket are also located in very hot climates. I love the sun, but for eight hours a day for fives days in a row is not good fun – though reading many peoples updates from home on facebook tells me that you are all having to put up with something called snow? Luckily I’ve avoided it for the third winter in a row now, so perhaps I’m sounded quite spoilt about the tough nature of being in the sun for days on end. Lifestyle choice would be all I say in retort to anyone cursing me.

Back to Durty Nelly’s. What a pub it was to stumble upon in these expensive touring times. For the bargain price you could get a pint of Guinness for just $5.50!!!!!!! Excuse the slightly excessive use of the exclamation mark there, but when you are used to saying, ‘Oh, $8 dollars for a proper pint, that’s not too bad’ because you have been paying $10 in most bars for a decent pint for the last four weeks, then you’d get just as excited too. No really, you would. So, always being open to new things (don’t laugh at the back) I have more than happily trained my palate to enjoy the taste of this famous Irish drop. In fact, I’ve trained myself so well that I’ve rediscovered the talent of getting pissed for the sake of it during the evenings of a cricket tour. I genuinely lost that ability thanks to the exchange rate during the Brisbane and Adelaide games. It was sometimes difficult dragging myself away from a bar while others on a three or four week trip got smashed up like it was any other tour. Spending the two months I did in South East Asia socialising in bars and clubs without even considering the cost made coming over here and having to budget an even tougher task. Thanks to Durty Nelly’s and it’s marvellous Christmas Guinness offer, I’ve had the best week on tour so far. I’m not saying you have to get smashed to have fun, oh no. Not at all. But during a test match in which we are getting well and truly beaten in, it helps a heck of a lot to get over the disappointment with a big session in the evening with my mates in a fine Irish bar.

Despite the cricket, I’ve enjoyed my time in Perth too. I wrote on arrival that I would be spending the longest time in one place in nearly seven years here at Beatty Lodge. If I am honest I thought that I’d struggle with the longevity of the time here, what with being more used to a few days here and a few days there than an extended period in the same bed. I’m delighted to report that I’ve loved my time here. It has been pretty full on again, so much so that only now am I spending some time next to the hostel pool trying desperately to not get sunburnt from the ferocious Western Australian sun, while writing this brief update.

Tomorrow is a trip to Melbourne where I’ll be spending my second Christmas away from home in a row. To all my friends and family, have a lovely Christmas. I hope you have just a Perth-fect one as the early gift Durty Nelly’s gave me.

As a final treat here is a top five list of bars that have had that extra ‘something’ while on a cricket tour-

Jamaican Sub Aqua Club – Kingston Town’s very only scuba diving establishment for wannabe rastafarians. Welcomes any type of diver, experienced or otherwise. Home of ice cold Red Stripe.

Not Just Jazz By The Bay – Bombay’s young and vibrant crowd blend in with several dozen English fans to dance the night away to a Neil Diamond tribute band. Ran out of bottled beer by 2am so we risked the Kingfisher draught stuff. A good idea at the time, though ones bowels were unforgiving the following day.

Slug & Lettuce – Our local in Cape Town, overlooking the World Cup stadium. Warnings of death to kittens for anyone caught pleasuring there selves in the pub toilets.

The Pub – Any watering hole that doesn’t bother naming itself is worth a mention. Situated in the centre of Kandy, Sri Lanka, it served pints of Lion served in Bullseye style tumblers for less than a quid. Nice.

Cocktails and Dreams – Lovingly referred to as ‘Tetleys and a Wank’ thanks to the northern mind of Damo. Our favourite pub in Baga Beach, Goa. An area of the country that is a must visit to get away from the day to day stresses of an Indian City.

13
Dec
10

making my mind up

With differing success, I have today tackled two of my biggest headaches in this middle part of the trip. Neither headache was the end product of a crazy night out on tour, but more akin to the travel part of this story that has taken a back seat over the past three weeks since the Ashes began back in Brisbane.

As I have wrote about in the past, I have always kept my itinerary open for the post cricket leg in the new year. This meant that I arrived in Australia without anything other than a flight home to the UK booked in early April from Delhi, India. Arriving in Perth a couple of days ago saw me slip back into ‘sensible traveller’ mode again, realising that I had ample opportunity in this free period before the third test match starts on Thursday to sort out these couple of pains in my head that have been playing on my mind for a while.

The first pain was Indian bureaucracy. On the face of it, getting a visa sorted out for India in the twelve night period I have in Perth should have been a walk in the park. As it turned out, it turned into a very long fruitless walk through not only a park, but also the vast majority of this fine city, only to fail in my goal of handing my passport over to have the necessary carried out. After checking the Indian Embassy website, I set off from the latest public library (with its awesome free wi-fi) armed with an address and a map of Perth. After a pleasant stroll in the baking hot Western Australian morning sunshine, I located the street quoted on the website. There were no obvious signs of an Indian Embassy, the obvious clues such as a flag or a plaque were nowhere to be seen. After walking into a random office block, a helpful receptionist pointed me in the direction across the road to where the address was. Sadly, it turned out that the Embassy in Perth had moved to the other side of the city, failing to mention that rather crucial piece of information to potential clientele on its website. Ah, India. You’ve got to love it. Luckily I happened to be on a free bus route that took me into the city centre, which I took safe in the knowledge that the new location was easy to locate thanks to a friendly lady that worked in the pharmacy that was on the old locations site.

Tracking down the new location was simple enough. After taking a lift and then walking through several rabbit warren style corridors, I located the office that now housed the Embassy that could get my passport stamped up. Now, I expected that handing my passport over wouldn’t be an easy thing, especially after the mornings shenanigans with the address change. Indians never like making things easy, especially when it comes to paperwork. I hadn’t bothered downloading a form as I naturally assumed that an Embassy would be able to hand out forms on the spot. I should have known better. You had to download a form yourself off their website (yes, that’s right they want you to visit the website that they don’t even bother updating rather important bits of information such as relocation details) Anyway, no problem. I bit my tongue, smiled and told them I’d be back that afternoon with the completed form that they couldn’t provide. Luckily it came into my mind just before walking out to double check that the visa would be ready for collection by next Thursday, some nine working days on. He couldn’t promise that – ten working days minimum for all non Australian passport holders……great.

After that pointless trek across town I headed back for Leedervile, the area of the city we are staying in. This is the longest period I planned to be in one place until I fly home (for the record I have not spent twelve nights away from home in the same place since 2004, not that relevant I know, but can stay in now it is written) so if I can’t get a visa sorted out in twelve days, then what chance have I got for the rest of the trip? In the past I’d have got quite worked up about this rather sorry situation but now I’ve got to the stage of travelling that these little challenges and obstacles can make for quite good fun. It’s led to me to think a bit. I’ve been putting this new year travel to the back of mind, which of course has been focussed on the cricket based fun and frolics that had up until today, occupied maximum brain space. Realising that I needed to start planning again has led me on nicely to sorting out my second headache – a flight out of Australia.

To cut a long story short I’ve managed to find a suitable flight out of Oz, booked it and started to sort out an online visa process for the country which seems far easier than the fruitless Indian one experienced this morning. Where is this next stop I here you cry? Well, without building the suspense too much I’ll tell you the reasons why first of all.

I’ve always been pretty certain that I would head back to Asia after this cricket trip finishes. There are several reasons. The main one is that I love exploring and travelling countries that are so different from home. Asia does it for me and always has done. Australia is nice, like really nice. But it just doesn’t do it for me like Asia can do. Secondly is that boring money factor, once again. As I’ve banged on about enough already, Oz is a rip off. Everything here is overpriced, especially the booze. Our local pub here serves Stowfords Press on draught – this should be good news, but not at $8 (£5) a pint. Anyone that has witnessed me quaff this fine cider in the Barrels beer garden will concur that I don’t just sup a couple of pints, it tends to be seven or eight. This makes the presence of Stowfords a bad thing for my already elongated budget. Going back to Asia, and the promise of local beers on sale for less than 30p makes a trip back to Asia even more appealing. Finally, despite the lure of a trip down to New Zealand, a place I have always wanted to visit, it is simply in the wrong direction for my plans to fly home from Delhi after the Cricket World Cup starts in late February.

So, drum roll please. The chosen country is…..Vietnam.

Booked and paid for – no going back and all that. It’s another country that I have always wanted to visit, which was a pretty important factor in deciding where to start the next leg of travel. Going back on the ‘backpacker’ road again will no doubt be quite strange after eight weeks of cricket related travel. I’m genuinely delighted with my decision and can now start to talk about future travels with some more certainty, which will make a pleasant change to the mystery that has surrounded me on the Ashes trip so far. The final vote on Vietnam went to Julia, an Australian girl I met back in Borneo last month. We met up on my first night in Perth and caught up on travel tales over dinner, which incidentally including her raving about Vietnam where she has just returned from.

I still have one pain in my head in sorting out India. I have a rough idea on how I can solve that, but for now will keep it on the headache shelf in my brain. A lot will depend on the plans of a good mate of mine who maybe joining me in the new year. Until that is confirmed, its back to the Ashes bandwagon that has been so much fun so far, fresh in the knowledge that I know what I’m doing in January.

On a final side note, thanks to Julia for opening her house up to Dave and Me for a superb Aussie BBQ yesterday afternoon. I haven’t ate so well in weeks!

09
Dec
10

we’re only here for the cricket

One loyal follower of this blog seemed a little upset that I hadn’t mentioned any of the cricket in my previous post based around Brisbane. He was probably right to be a little miffed off. After all, we did originally meet on a cricket tour, all our previous meetings around the world since have been based around cricket and the majority of our electronic and verbal communications also involve several paragraphs or chit chat related to the said sport. I suppose I owe to both him and myself to dedicate at least one post entirely towards the finest sport in the world. So, for all you non cricket fans out there fed up about hearing how great England are doing and how crap Australian cricket has become, you may want to stop reading now.

Following the England cricket team abroad was something I dreamt of doing from my early years of secondary school. I remember clearly the excitement of handing over hard cash to the travel agent who was arranging my first cricket trip back in 2004. Since that first two week ‘tour’ to Barbados, my hunger to watch the lads abroad has grown to near irresponsible levels, quite often leaving me with no further annual holidays to take back home and a bank balance that is too close to to the red for comfort. Every year since has been spent saving leave from work to try and squeeze in that extra week away that would give me another match or some spare time to do some sightseeing. I’d give up other hobbies, such as football or midweek boozing that would swell the funds back up to the levels required to socialise on tour.

It’s a bit like a drug. Once you have been on one tour, you want to do the next one. When I first starting going I was in awe at the brilliance of it all. The singing, the atmosphere, the cricket itself – it was as good as I expected. Perhaps the good vibe was aided by the fact I my first two games abroad in the Caribbean and Bombay were wins for England. Either way, I knew after that Bombay test match that barring any massive changes in personal circumstances, I had found a hobby as good as any to keep me occupied for many winters ahead. It was during the Sri Lankan trip in 2007 that I started to get greedy. I mentioned above that doing one tour leads to a second. From here you start to meet new friends, build relationships and start to crave doing more test matches. The thought of not being at a ground, watching your mates on TV having a great time while watching the England boys can be pretty gut wrenching. I was now not content with doing one or two test matches – I wanted to explore the possibility of doing as many as possible. I stretched the ‘fun’ account to the maximum in the winter of 2008/09, watching us play four tests out of six over the course of eight weeks away either side of Christmas. I realised during a month in South Africa last winter that doing the Ashes would be an all or nothing trip for me. As you know, I’ve managed to justify the Ashes tour to myself by travelling the world over a period of time.

The greatest thing about elongating a cricket tour is the ability to have some time away from the day to day cricket supporters lifestyle. If I were to tell you that watching test cricket abroad can be hard work you’d probably tell me to get out of town. To be honest if I was reading this sat in a freezing cold office in the afternoon gloom of winter, I’d definitely tell me to get out of town! But it is. The average day at the cricket goes something like this. Get up to a 7am alarm call and try to get rid of the heavy head from the previous nights drinking. Get down the ground early enough to find a preferred spot and chat with whoever is around about what you got up too after yesterdays play. Sit in the sun (Adelaide was 38c on day two) for up to eight hours clapping and cheering the lads on when the time is right. From here it is straight out on the town to continue drinking before crashing back at your seven bed dorm to try and get some shut eye amongst your fellow snoring backpackers. For someone like me – a huge cricket fan who likes to socialise and talk shit, life can’t get much better. To do this for five days running though can be hard work. Granted, not as hard as getting out of bed in a cold, dark flat only to face a cycle to work, but still, hard work. At least hard work as I know it presently, during these tough travel days….

Elongating a trip based around cricket also gives a chance to see some of the country that you are in. My favourite memory from Sri Lanka is the day trip to Sigiriya that I’ve wrote about on several occasions previously. Barring the win in Durban, the best part about South Africa was the six day road trip we took along the stunning Garden Route, stopping off at little places along the way that I’d have never dreamt about visiting had it not been for the cricket. I remember the night we had at a little place called Hermanus, just outside of Cape Town. It was a cracking town, based by the sea and had a real friendly, small town feel about the place. We drank with the locals in a brilliantly cheap bar (oh how I crave one of those here) and smashed them at pool, making the night even cheaper as the losers had to buy the next round of beers.

I’m currently sat in a library in the beautiful seaside resort of Glenelg, positioned a thirty minute tram ride outside of Adelaide city centre. It’s another one of those places that I have stumbled upon thanks to my love for test match cricket. Would I have visited here otherwise? No, I can’t say I would. Would I have chosen to come to Australia for any other reason than the need to watch England smash the Convicts in an Ashes test matches series? No. Not at this particular point in my life in any case. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing at all wrong with Australia. It seems a perfectly nice, easy going place to come travelling; full of friendly folk enjoying the fact the country is booming economically at present. Perhaps that’s another reason I wouldn’t chose to travel here at present, because my pound gets far better value in most other places around the world. As it happens, thanks to the cricket I have met some brilliant people here so far. There was Devo in Brisbane who provided great entertainment to our group with his antics and general Anglo-Aussie banter. Here in Adelaide I’ve spent a fair bit of time with a Victorian girl called Lauran who has been terrific company, even if she had to put up with my random cricket chanting from time to time! She was visiting Adelaide with a couple of mates especially to watch the Aussies lose the second test….

I hate to bang on about money again, but I won’t be able to afford to do some of the touristy things the average backpacker does here. Ayers Rock, The Great Barrier Reef and the like are all way out of my budget, but I can’t say that overly bothers me. I’m not here to be a tourist – I’m here to watch some top class test match cricket whilst drinking a few white wines or local ales in the company of some like minded people in around the grounds and town centres. The fact I haven’t even considered purchasing an Australian guidebook sub consciously indicates that I have no real desire to discover this country in the way I was about the many countries I set foot in South East Asia. Don’t get me wrong, if I had a driving license and a couple of willing mates, I’d have looked into the possibility of doing a drive through the unforgiving Aussie outback or a road trip down the Great Ocean Road. But I don’t, so there was no point in looking into that. I get the impression, like with most places I’ve visited, that I’ll be back some day. I’d imagine that then I’ll look more into discovering more of this vast country. The travel thing was done prior to the Ashes, and most certainly will be done afterwards. For now, as the title of this entry says, I’m only here for the cricket.

In that case I suppose I should write a little about the cricket.

One of my biggest frustrations in recent times has been watching England’s batsman fail to capitalise on getting a start to an innings. When we got rolled over in Brisbane for a below par score, I was pretty concerned that those same issues were going to occur again here. Alistair Cook getting to the sixties only to get out when set. Ian Bell playing well, but not quite going on to play that match changing innings that his counter part Mike Hussey achieved when batting with the lower middle order. Jon Trott getting through the new ball, only to play round a straight one and get bowled after doing all the hard work. When Australia opened up that large first innings lead thanks to a long Hussey/Brad Haddin partnership, a number of us were in the bar, bemoaning that we could be seeing the same old Ashes defeat. We shouldn’t have been worried as Strauss, Trott and the superb Cook went about batting for the best part of two days for 517-1! It was unreal stuff, the kind of scoreboard you don’t even see the likes of India rack up in their own backyards, let alone England at Australia’s favourite venue, The Gabba’. In all fairness, I know I should have had more faith. We had prepared well for this series and had come into it with the majority of batsman in the runs. This is a very different English team from the one that got turned over here 5-0 four years ago, as well as a much, much weaker home side.

If the 517-1 score at the back end of the Brisbane test seemed surreal, then the start of the second test at the picturesque Adelaide Oval was even more so. Batting first on a flat wicket in scorching hot sunshine, we feared that the Aussies would bat us out of the game unless we bowled well with the new ball. What we witnessed was a run out in the first over of the game, followed by a Ricky Ponting golden duck and a further failure for Michael Clarke two overs later! We set the trend there and then and they never recovered from that score of 2/3 on that first morning. To witness us win in Australia by an innings has been a privilege and has given me my fourth, and greatest win abroad so far. If we win just one more test out of three then we retain the Ashes. As good as even a drawn series would be (after all that’s all we need to see Strauss lift the Urn at Sydney) there is now a huge feeling of confidence amongst the English that we could stamp all over the Aussies here and rub their noses in it, just like they have done so to us in the past. Interestingly, the Australians I have met and spoke to all agree that England should win here. There is a real feeling of animosity towards the home side from its own fans – they just don’t support a losing side here. The crowd at Brisbane was terrible on the last day as the Aussies were being batted out of the game. Although the home side had more visible support in Adelaide on that last day, the ground was mainly full of English supporters.

Now we’ve got them well and truly on the ropes, we cannot let them punch back. When Peter Siddle got a hat-trick in Brisbane, you sensed that the home crowd started to believe they could turn us ‘Poms’ over again, even without the Warne’s, McGrath’s and Gilchrist’s of this world. The noise volumes for twenty four hours were raised from all corners, both in the ground and the bars. I’ve heard many tales of Australian fans not being shy in telling any Pommie in spitting distance just how ‘We are gonna’ get destroyed by so and so’ and that the ‘English are shit’ In all fairness to them, they were right to give us plenty, given how poor our record down under is. Now though is different. As my now Thailand bound travel buddy Basingstoke Pat says ‘There doesn’t seem to be that many BMA’s around this time’ (BMA being short for Big Mouth Aussie)

Lets keep it that way as we head to Perth!

* On a final note, check out the picture of the sun setting over Glenelg. Just like the views from the summit of Mount Kinabalu, pictures do far more justice than any words I could scribe down. Just stunning.

01
Dec
10

the traveller stereotype – part 2

Vanity once again, I hear you cry. However, seeing as the reaction I have received about a mere beard growth has far outstretched anything else I have written about, I thought I’d do another update on my appearance. I have retreated from the standard traveller appearance to a more standard approach. It feels strange not having anything to play with (insert your own joke here) but I’m happy with the result of the half an hour, scissor and six fold twin razors that it took to remove the hair from my chin.

Lets see if I can beat that record next year.

01
Dec
10

we’ve come to a land down under

So week one of my time in Australia has come to an end. This was always going to be the part of the trip that flew by. The excitement of meeting old touring buddies as well as friends from Hereford, thrown in with the start of an Ashes test series and the general carnage that is a cricket tour has made for some serious time passing by before ones eyes.

Brisbane gets a bad press from a number of people I know. I quite liked it. The people were far friendlier than the stories I have heard. I have listened to tales of people being fined for J-walking and general other harmless misdemeanour’s by Queensland’s finest, but I came across nothing like that. The city itself was clean and tidy while its folks seemed to respect the place, maintaining the cities smart image through places such as the Botanical Gardens. All of the transportation and infrastructure was extremely modern and well designed. It was just a decent city from what I could see. Nothing more, nothing less.

This is quite a difficult update to write seeing as this is a travel blog and I saw very little of Brisbane. Other than the forty minute walk to the ground from my hostel, several bars frequented by cricket fans and the only value for money offer in the whole city, the superbly efficient and free to use train system, I can’t say I saw a great deal of the city itself. Did I miss much? Nope, not really. Sure it would have been cool to have the time to go down and have a look at the Gold Coast, but I’ve seen enough beaches in the last few weeks to satisfy my desire to look at beautiful white sands and crystal clear waters. As it happens I’m back by the seaside, in a quaint little town called Glenelg, situated just outside of Adelaide.

One thing is for sure – everyone I have met is talking money. I have wrote previously about the need to have days off doing very little in Ashes in preparation for this seven week jaunt across Oz for financial reasons. See, while the rest of the world has been fighting a global recession, Australia has seen its economy go from strength to strength. I am led to believe the main reason for this is the sale of large quantities of iron ore to China, which has made Australia into the global economic super power it is today! The result has been a near halving of the pound in relation to the Aussie dollar over the past few years. The lads who toured here eight years ago sung a song in which they boasted, ‘We got three dollars to the pound’ and that they were ‘So rich, its unbelievable’. Fast forward to today and we are getting $1.60 to the pound. Yes, that’s right. $1.60. When you throw in that the cost of living in this land has also risen sharply, you can see why all of England’s supporters are shitting themselves at the prospect of being in financial ruin come January 7th and the final day of the test series!

Here’s some of the ridiculous prices I have paid so far. $28 for a bottle of house white. $4.20 for a 500ml bottle of water in the cricket ground. $7 for an hour on the internet. $17 for a jug of crap Aussie beer, which actual volume provided about two full English pints. You get the picture, its fucking expensive here. These are just some of the prices that I have handed over, I won’t even start on the price of pub grub which I have only touched once after a beer fuelled afternoon in the Chalk Hotel watching Australia bat. Of course its gutting to part which such volumes of cash, especially after being in places such as Cambodia or Indonesia where the cost of living was dirt cheap. But that’s just the way it is so I’m am just getting on with it, paying what needs paying and still having a great time with my mates.

There are rules that need following to ensure that I can see the trip through to the end. I’ve strictly told myself not to get pissed for the sake of it, like you would in the evenings on most tours, and ensure when I am out smashing it up, I do it properly! One blow out a test match or something like that…..exceptions maybe made if we win, naturally. I’m determined not to allow the money situation to become a feature. It’s quite difficult not to do a conversion in your head of what you are actually paying for in pound sterling. The trick is to just accept that this is an expensive tour and just get on with it. When everyone else around you is constantly banging the money drum, its only natural that you start calculating everything. I’m lucky that I am saving twelve nights accommodation in Sydney, which is a godsend.

Brisbane was a big social event. The first afternoon was spent getting merry with the usual faces, as well as Pete and Susannah from home and Rob, another mate who has been living and working in Victoria since the start of the English summer. In fact, I was just leaving the bar just when they turned up after downing a couple of bottles of the house white in the Pig & Whistle boozer. It would have been rude not to stay for a few more so blow out number one was well and truly achieved on the first night of the tour. Anyway, it was great to catch up and spend some quality time with them in their rather smart rented apartment. I get the feeling that Pete is starting to fall for the lure of overseas cricket tours, see you in Calcutta, Pete-o!

A lot gets made and written about Australian cricket fans. The Corridor of Uncertainty (English cricket fanzine) has published an excellent article outlining the type of behaviour usually associated with Ozzie cricket followers. They have a reputation for getting pissed on very little amounts of beer, being obnoxious to anyone nearby, swearing profusely and generally being antisocial arseholes. Obviously now I am so open minded from travelling (hahaha) I wasn’t so quick to judge a couple of lads sat in front of us on day one, who started drinking as soon as play started. They had all the hallmarks of being a nightmare for the next five days – we quickly learnt that was not the case. It was great to spend some time watching cricket with some locals that were not anything like that those stereotyped Aussies outlined above. We got to know one lad called Dev-o (all Aussies nicknames for people end -o) really well, sharing beers with him in the evening and watching the cricket unfold over the five days. The highlight was during a slow evening session in a reasonably quiet Gabba cricket ground. Dev-o had sunk a few by this point and took it upon himself to shout at each Aussie player to ‘Give us a wave!’ This was met by either ‘You are a crowd pleaser!’ or ‘You are not a crowd pleaser!’ depending on whether he got a response or not! Michael Clarke in particular finally waved after hearing the shout that he would left alone if he got just one wave….only to be followed with, ‘Only joking Pup, give us another wave!’ Good luck in your AFL comeback, Dev-o!

One test down and four to go. Here’s hoping the money doesn’t run out…….(there I go again)