"Four More to the Eng-er-land"

Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Monday, 31 July 2017

Top times at The (Kennington, AMP, Brit, Foster's & Kia) Oval

Pick a stand any stand and I’ll give you a memory.

Vauxhall End, Block 3 & 5 - England v West Indies, 2000

Two pissed Kiwis spilling beer over my dad’s mate Dave.  Dave was (and still is) a proud Welshman with a rugby background and is the kind of person who doesn’t put up with drinking overpriced lager let alone having it dropped on him. 

“Steward!  Come over here and sort this out or there’s going to be a situation”.  The Kiwis knew that situation involved them getting punched by a primary school teacher. They opted for muttered apologies and soon resembled scolded 7-year olds.  Albeit drunk ones. 

For their protection we were moved to better seats as Mike Atherton chiseled out a century (strike rate 33) and Curtly Ambrose bowled his final ball in International cricket.

Members, Upper Tier - Surrey v Warwickshire, 2005

Surrey thought they’d won their place at T20 Finals Day and were drinking beer in the dressing room when an umpire in body armour ventured in to tell Mark Ramprakash he’d made a mistake and the team had better come back out onto the field.  Ramp’s reaction would probably have been reminiscent of a scene from Carrie.

A bowl off was announced and with nothing else to show Sky Sports News broadcast a live stream of the subsequent hilarity as bowler after bowler lined up to miss the stumps.  Ian Salisbury did get it to pitch in line with middle stump only for the ball to turn a foot more than any delivery he’d ever bowled in his life. 

With their final ball Surrey had to hit the stumps or they were out.  On a slow track Azhar Mahmood decided to bowl a bouncer which somehow clipped the top of off stump. 

It went to sudden death or should that be 'Sudden Death'?  Heath Streak missed.  Tim Murtagh hit.  Then wheeled off and peeled off in the darkness. 

Meanwhile on the Upper Tier I was laughing so hard I had to keep hold of the railing because I was scared if I didn’t I would fall off.   As celebrating with wild abandon goes it was only beaten by my mate Josh five years later when Aldershot scored against Cheltenham Town in the 91st minute.  

He’s the guy in the white shirt standing next to the goalpost.

Peter May Stand - England v Australia, 1993

Back in the days when you could just turn up and buy an Ashes ticket on the gate my brother and I did just that.  

Like typical teenagers we had been kicking around the house all weekend doing absolutely nothing when finally my dad's patience snapped. He ended up thrusting some notes into my hand and booted us out the house telling us both to “Go and watch a day’s cricket”. 

So off we went to cheer on England to one of those famous consolation victories over Australia.  While all the time worrying that the cameras would beam live pictures of us smoking straight to my parents lounge.

The Aussies were already two down thanks to a couple of dodgy decisions and soon slumped to 143/8. Despite a worrying late partnership between Paul Reiffel and Shane Warne, Angus Fraser came back to nip them out to spark what turned out to be my last ever pitch invasion.

I’m not sure my love of cricket would have survived the 90’s without days like this. 

Jim Laker Stand - Surrey v Northants, 1991

I set myself the target of following the ball from the moment it left the bowler’s hand to when it reached the batsmen.  I never came close. 

For three glorious seasons I was able to marvel at the quickest bowler I thought had ever been, Waqar Younis.  Of all the encounters I witnessed one match stands out over all the others. Allan Lamb’s Northants were the visitors and a place in the final of the NatWest Cup was at stake. 

Surrey were bowled out cheaply for 208 and with Northants 150 for five, Younis was called back into the attack.  At times it seemed the batsmen were more focused on protecting their toes than their wicket as he took 5/40 and Surrey won by 7 runs. 

OCS, in the posh seats - Lancashire v Middlesex, 2004

Neutral venues were used in the quarter-finals of the T20 Cup for some reason and I got handed a few free tickets through work.  We thought we were set for a damp squib when Middlesex were reduced to 21/4 before David Malan hit a sensational century.  “He’ll play for England” I said.  And nine years later I was proved right.

Vauxhall End - Surrey v Sri Lanka, 1984

After taking me to my first football match aged just four and having to hear me loudly ask such questions as “why do the players lie down all the time?” and “who’s the black man?” (the referee) my dad figured he’d wait a bit longer before taking me to the cricket.  

By the time he actually did I was ravenous for the game and devoured all the action at a game absolutely nobody else in the world can remember.  

By the end of the summer I had returned to pour over the scorecard so many times it resembled paper mache and still I marveled at the name Sidath Wettimuny.

OCS Stand, Block 17 - England v Pakistan, 2006

Thank heavens for Inzamam Ul Haq taking umbrage at Darryl Hair’s ball tampering accusation.  A moribund day at the cricket cut short for reasons nobody in the ground could fathom. 

What we did know was that the Umpires and England returned from their tea but Pakistan did not.  Then nothing happened for a bit before Pakistan did appear again despite the game already being awarded to England.

The farce continued as Geoffrey Boycott and Mark Nicholas recorded a piece to camera in front of our block of good natured but blind drunk fans.  We were rewarded for sticking around by being treated to some classic Morecambe and Wise slapstick as Geoffrey’s hat was blown off his head and the two chased it around the outfield for what seemed a good minute or two. 

Members, Balcony – England v Australia, 2005

The best spell of bowling I’ve seen as a fan.  With Australia odds on for a healthy first innings lead which would put real pressure on England Freddie Flintoff bowled unchanged for the entire session.  Or at least I think he did but I can't check because Cricinfo's website is down.

Anyway, somehow it was England with the first innings lead and we all know what happened after that. 

Even in a series that had it all it’s a passage of play that doesn’t get as much attention as it should and I had the best view in the house. 

Jim Laker Stand – Surrey in unknown county game that has disappeared from the memory banks circa 2004.

At precisely ten minutes past four I came to the realisation that of the 17 people sitting in my block I was the only one a) under 60 and b) awake. 

OCS Stand, Block 16 – England v Australia, 2009

Possibly my favourite day’s play ever. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Cricket updates from my bunk bed

Amazing one-handed catch on the boundary, you say? Candidate for the most athletic piece of fielding ever? I'll have to take your word for it.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

A cabbies' tale 2


I moved to Spain seven years ago. I packed up, sold the family home in Bromley for two million quid and took off with the wife and kids. Told everyone I’d pulled off the ‘deal of the century!’

I used to joke I’d swapped Costa Coffee for the Costa del Sol.  I had money in the bank, my own pool and a beer in hand for every day of the rest of my life.

So how is it I now find myself sitting in the darkness of my car outside a South London housing block waiting for a pick up? 

I said we should spend £750k on a few two-beds to rent out but the wife didn’t want the hassle.  I didn’t put up too much of a fight.  After 23 years slogging away in the City didn’t I deserve a bit of the easy life? 

Today is day 89 of 100 that I’ve worked straight.  Kipping on my mum’s sofa at night staring at the ceiling wondering where it all went wrong

For a couple of years life was a dream.  Nothing more taxing than the doing the school run twice a day.  It was clean, it was hot and after a few months it became a little dull.  It was everything I’d hoped for.

And then I met Danny.  He was a friend-of-a-friend. 

I can’t work out who I’m angry at more.  Him or me?  What a fool I’ve been.

Danny is in prison now. 

My mistake was to be greedy and lazy.  The first thing had seen me do well in the City.  The second thing, well what can I say?  I thought Danny would make me more money than I was capable of and without me having to do anything.

I nearly invested all of it.  Way too much.  Seven figures.  And then the call came.

Fraud

He was a fraud.  By the time the police got involved the money was just about gone.  Lawyers took the rest.

How did I fall for it?  Well to be fair he went that extra distance to cover it up. Even now I can’t believe the lies and the front.  He met my wife, my kids he stayed at my house.  When my parents were ill he called.  And all the time he knew he was destroying my life.

Six years.  He’ll be out next year. If I saw him now and I had a gun I’d kill him.

The kids say I’ve changed.  I can’t get over it.