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.


2 Responses to “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

  1. 1 Martin Chapple
    December 31, 2010 at 9:38 am

    What can I say mate? You deserve all this and more, a very Happy New Year to you, I’m sure it’ll be a good ‘un. We are in Liverpool for a couple of days so will be in touch on return unless I can get onto pete’s laptop! Byeex x x

  2. 2 donna
    December 31, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Wow Richard I am bowled over! Fabulous blog, experiences and people – happy for you and proud of you. Happy nearly New Year!

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