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

About Me

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

The Flying Dutchman

I had a very bizarre start to my day today. It appears one of my room mates is a bit of a mentalist. His name is Marcel, he's about 50 and Dutch. He keeps strange looking objects in jars under his bed, he irons his pants and keeps on them coat hangers over his bottom bunk, and after looking both ways to make sure nobody was listening (we were the only people in the room at the time) he told me he believes in magic. After spending 5 minutes in his company you realise he is ever so slightly bonkers. He's also one of those annoying 'morning people' I've mentioned in previous posts.

Earlier, I had rolled into my hostel at around 3.30am, dishevelled, emotional and rather sweaty. I'm not sure if you lot are aware but England lost the Ashes yesterday. You might have heard something about it on the news. A couple of you may have paused to think about me. Several of you would no doubt have thought to yourselves "I knew cricket was shit". But, irrespective of all this, I had gone out last night with the intention to get bladdered, to drown my sorrows, sing songs with Freddie Flintoff and watch Brett Lee give a mate of mine a fireman's lift on the dance floor. And I was successful in my mission.

So it was starting to get light as I stumbled into my room, I shut the window (so the trains wouldn't wake me up in the morning) and……..actually, have I mentioned the trains?

I'm not sure if I've explained the Bedford Hill-esque experience I am experiencing here. I'm supposedly staying in a 4 and a half star hostel. Apparently it's the only one in Australia. The amenities are pretty cool. But all the hard work they've spent on the rooms, pool table, kitchen, laundry rooms and rather tasty girl at the reception is pointless when you are woken every morning by the sounds of 100 tonne trains screeching their brakes and parping their horns. It's a nightmare. And even though it gets sweltering hot at night, that's preferable than waking up at 5am when the trains start rolling into town.

Where was I? Oh yes, so I crash out on my bed only to be awoken at 6am by my phone going. It was ABC Radio in Queensland. I'd been on their evening programme the night before and as they had had positive feedback from some of their listeners the lady on the end of the phone was wondering if I could talk to them again. Sure thing. She then asked me if she'd woken me up. As it was 6 in the bleeding morning I croaked in the affirmative.

So, I put the phone down, scaled my bed, put some clothes on and 45 minutes later I'm standing in a quiet room of my hostel talking to a random Aussie presenter. I was completely hungover, tired and dehydrated, but the interview was going well right up until the point when he asked me if I could sing a Barmy Army song to all the listeners. Hmmmmmmm.

Somehow I managed to do this without causing birds to drop dead from their branches and giving acute deafness to half of Brisbane. And I retired back to bed for some much needed sleep. Well that was the plan. Because moments after I clambered back into my top bunk and had drifted off to sleep, Marcel walked into my room. "MORNING EVERYONE!" He cried out. As everyone was asleep, I'm not sure who he was talking to. As I peered out from under my duvet I saw him stride purposefully to the window and open it. Oh no. Approximately two seconds later the room was filled with diesel fumes and an almighty PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRPPPPPPPPPPPP as Billy Locomotive steamed past.

I could see the dude on the top bunk opposite me and his wide eyed expression of 'what the fuck is going on?!?!?!' as Marcel happily and noisily started filling up his glass jars with all manner of weird looking substances.

Unbeknownst to the bloke opposite, the crazed Dutch fool had changed beds for the night, something he did with worrying regularity. But the bloke opposite thought Marcel was still in the bunk below him. So he started jumping up and down on his bed in anger. Not sure why but it sure beat a dirty protest.

Below him was this 80 year old Chinese man, who also kept us awake at night. For some reason he'd make this strange moaning sound every time he moved in his sleep. I'm not sure whether he was in pain or, well, I don't want to think about the alternative.

So, this poor Chinese dude is lying there thinking the sky is about to fall in, the 6'53 train from Fremantle sounds like it's about to park itself in the bunk below me, I'm dripping with sweat, I've just sung on the radio whilst completely hungover, I've had 3 hours sleep and I'm starting to think Marcel may be storing body parts in our room when the crazy jumping up and down bloke starts shouting out "For fucks sake, Marcel, stop making so much fucking noise!!!!"

But he's directing his ire at the bloke below him, who doesn't speak any English and is now about to call the police. And all the while Marcel is tootling around, acting as though it's 4.30pm and he's about to have tea with the queen.

As the English guy below me, who'd only rolled into town the night before, broke off from sobbing quietly, he whispered up to me "is it like this every night?" "Yes, yes it is" I replied, before going back to sleep.


The following passage of my blog may make a fleeing reference to the cricket. So, you may choose to stop reading now


Anyway, I digress. We lost the fucking Ashes. How gutted am I? Very. Although I don't feel half as bad as I did following the infamous day 5 at Adelaide. I knew then that the series was over. And it took me about a week to get over it. Still, it's a real shame we couldn't have at least given those gloating Aussies a contest. After last years super series I'd have hoped we'd have put up a little more fight. But we didn't come close.

What is hugely frustrating is that I believe we have a team that could have competed. But for a couple of ludicrous decisions I think we could have taken the series to the final Test. Bearing in mind we only needed to draw to retain the Ashes I feel we could have taken them all the way. Although I fear the outcome would probably have been the same.

Don't get me wrong. The right team has won the series. They've wanted it more than us, have played the better cricket, won most of the sessions, and when it really mattered have always come out on top. But, for what it's worth, here are the reasons why England head to Melbourne 3-0 down, and who's to blame, namely, Duncan Fletcher.

Since his appointment he's been an inspiration to the national team and has dragged us up from the gutter. But it's time for him to step down. Although not solely responsible he's had a leading hand in the main decisions that have let England down. And I believe he should carry the can for what's happened over here.

The role of Freddie Flintoff.

Opinion was split in England over whether Freddie should be named captain. Fletcher opted for him and it's failed. Asking him to lead the team, open the bowling and contribute with the bat was always going to be too much for a man who's only just returning from injury. His body language throughout this tour has been lethargic. His captaincy, uninspired. All too often he's looked a beaten man on the field or in front of the cameras. And his only tactic, to take the ball himself and try and bowl Australia out on his own.

He's also been totally out of form with the bat and coming in at No.6 has been more of a liability than anything else. The decision to appoint him captain was a disaster.

Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles v Monty Panesar and Chris Read.

Can anybody out there explain to me why the former two players took to the field? Above all the mistakes Fletcher did, this was the ultimate one. By opting for a safety first approach (choosing two players for their secondary skills as he thought they would bolster our batting line up - pah!) he immediately put us on the back foot and gave the initiative to Australia. You can't win in Australia against the Aussies with this mind set. Although their inclusion probably wouldn't have spared us defeat in the opening Test, we could have arguably won in Adelaide with them both playing, and I believe we'd have definitely spared ourselves defeat. And as for Perth. Jones scored two ducks, dropped at least three catches and missed a stumping. He is so short of form and confidence I honestly don't think he'd pick himself. So why Fletcher chooses to do so is a mystery.

Kevin Pietersen.

He has been our only player to take the fight to the Aussies and what a difference it makes. They do not know how to get him out. When he's at the crease they look rattled. Take the first innings at the Waca, with 7 wickets down in the first innings we were dead and buried, but the Aussies still employed 7 fielders on the boundary for him. In the first innings at Adelaide, Warne sought to contain him rather than get him out. He's the only English player I've ever seen who has the sign over Warne. He's also the most spectacular and explosive talent in world cricket since Viv Richards. So, why is he batting at number 5? He is our best batsman. End of story. He is the kind of player who can change matches and reverse fortunes. But he can't do it when he comes in after the battle has been lost. Just look at the number of times he was left stranded or got out holing out because he was running out of partners. A stupefying decision and one that cost us.

Our seam bowling.

The injury to Simon Jones and the departure of our bowling coach Troy Cooley to the opposition was always going to be critical. If you can't bowl a team out you aren't going to win a Test match.

But our bowling, in short, was directionless, (especially in Harmison's case) inconsistent and laboured. And what annoyed me was the lack of strategy and gameplan for the different batsmen. And this is where the captain and coach should be criticised. Hayden, Langer, Clarke and Gilchrist all came into this series with question marks over their form, hunger, talent or mental strength and we didn't exploit any of it. Simon Jones was sorely missed but not as much as Harmison. He's going to wake up one morning in about 5 years time and realise what talent he had and how he failed to capitalise on it.

Okay, rant over. Although I'm sure I'll think of a few more reasons to complain when I'm trying to get to sleep tonight. I'm off to Melbourne tomorrow. My alarm call will be going off at 3.30am which is probably about the time Marcel will start making us all cakes or something.

I've spent a fortnight in Perth, and it hasn't quite lived up to Adelaide and Brisbane. Though this may have something to do with the grief I felt after arriving, so shortly after that Day 5 incident that I may have mentioned once or twice before.

I've heard a lot about the place but to properly enjoy Western Australia you need to get out of the city. It's got its fair share of good pubs. But everything shuts so early. If you want food after 8pm you're pretty much out of luck. If you want to get into a club around midnight you have to be prepared to queue for most of the night. I am also dying to hear some good dance music. They love live bands over here. But that just means having to listen to someone murdering an Oasis tune.

But, as is the norm over here, I have met some fantastic people. And on my tours to Rottnest Island, Fremantle and my 3-day trip I've seen some spectacular sites. The weather has also been beautiful and I'm pleased to report there was only going to be one winner in my contest with the sun. Me!

As I fleetingly mentioned earlier, I also bumped into Brett Lee and Freddie Flintoff at the pub last night. Not something you can count on when you're heading to the Doom and Gloom in Streatham after another epic win for The Shanks. Both players are legends in my eyes. Especially after Freddie sung along with gusto to the various Barmy Army songs we aimed in his direction. Although he clearly didn't know the words. And even more so after Brett barged into our circle of bodies on the dance floor (comprising of me, my mates and these girls we'd met on a train on the way). He proceeded to jump about like a grinning lunatic. Can't think why he was so happy. Then he grabbed my mate, Mark, lifted him into his arms, before carrying on with his crazy dance moves. Class.

What Melbourne holds for me is anyone's guess. I've only spent one Christmas away from the family before. And I'll be slightly disappointed if Australia can't match Scarborough for Xmas festivities. I'll also be meeting up with Mary and Matt, and doing the Neighbours tour. If I see Karl Kennedy I'll say hello from H&J and tell you all about it in my next blog.

But if I don't get to write before next Monday, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. I'll be thinking about you all back home as I tuck into my BBQ on the beach.

Jonno xx

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Sunday, 17 December 2006

Rip van Winkle

Lazy mornings spent in bed aren't exactly the norm over here.  When the cricket's on I need to be out of the door a good hour before play starts.  When I'm being spared the pain of watching England play I'm usually hungover after a night of celebrating that very fact.  And if my hostel room air con isn't working I'm lucky to escape drowning in my own sweat.

And then of course there are the room mates.  If they're not having sex, having a snore-off or emitting high pitched squeaking sounds from their nether regions, they're 'morning people' and love to let you know it.  Don't get me wrong.  It's hardly the same as working on the breakfast show and the bleary eyed and downright surreal 4am cab.  But it's still a rarity to get to stare at the unusual stain on the ceiling/top bunk past 8am in the morning.

Last Monday I embarked on a 'get out of Perth and forget about the cricket' 3-day tour down to Albany.  It meant the first of 3 consecutive 6am starts.  Our group was 11 strong and led by a ginger dude called Pete.  We had to cover quite a distance and take in a fair few sites of interest so at times it seemed a bit of a whistle stop tour.  But it was more than worth it.  I met some great chaps and chapesses.  And thanked my lucky stars I wasn't on the 5-day tour which included three of the most boring, sanctimonious and patronising English blokes I've ever had the misfortunate to meet.  Shamus, if you're reading this, you are a complete tool.

As I write it's Sunday evening and I've been sitting in the 36 degree heat of the Waca cricket ground in Perth for the past four days.  For this reason, plus the fact that I've had too many nights on the sauce and I'm awaiting England's Ashes demise tomorrow, I'll keep this blog relatively short and let the pictures do the talking.

The first day we set off and after an hour or so drive we stopped off at the coast where dolphins swim to the beach and let you feed them.  Which is good of them.  However after a 45 minute wait the buggers weren't to be seen so we had to leave.  I hope they all get eaten by sharks.

Another stint in the coach and we found ourselves at the foot of the longest and most pointless jetty in the Southern Hemisphere.  It costs $2.50 to walk the bloody thing.  Our bus driver had already told us we didn't have enough time for this so we thought 'sod it' and so this photo will have to suffice.

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Not a great start to proceedings.  However the next stop off was a sight to behold.  Apparently 100 years ago an English dude lost three horses.  So he tried to find them and stumbled upon this cave.  Not sure why he thought the horses would be down there.  But anyway it was pretty damn impressive.  It was full of weird looking rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites and a Styracosaurus.  It was cool.

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A couple of days after I visited the NGilgi caves, three Australian elephants got into a fight on the ground above the last photo.  The shockwaves these marauding trunketed ones caused led to this entire ceiling collapsing.  60 German tourists were impaled at the bottom, cameras in hand.  A sad day for all involved.

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Day one of our trip ended with a stop off at a vineyard winery place.  We sampled loads of bottles of wine that tasted exactly the same and then bought the cheapest one we could.  Then we retired back to our camp and spent a boring evening with the 5-day tour party.  It consisted of two hugely unattractive girls who spent the entire evening sitting on each other.  In their demented wisdom they thought this would impress the boys.  Oh, wait, it worked!  Because the boys were about 40 years old, boring as fuck and spent their time lecturing everyone on the practicalities of lighting fires, leering at the two female beasts rollicking around on the sofa, pretending they knew about wine all the while giving each other knowing winks if anyone else dared speak.  Pricks.  I studiously ignored them and day dreamed about beating them all to death with their own shoes.

Another early start the next day and a chance for me to prove to myself that Australia had turned me into the man I clearly am not.  I'm shit scared of heights and we were taken to a tree 75 metres tall.  It's called the Bicentennial Tree and is used for a looking post to spot for forest fires.  You can climb all the way to the top.  Since arriving here I've tried to throw myself into every situation I find myself in.  But I just couldn't do this one.  In fact I couldn't even look at the people who did climb it.  It made me feel rather poorly to watch them scampering to their certain doom.  So I went for a little walk, all the while expecting to hear the kind of horrifying death plunge scream that you hear every time England lose another wicket and a chap in the top tier decides 'enough's enough'.

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I was so pleased to find out that the next task was a clamber along a tree top walkway.  It was okay though.  This one was just 40 metres tall and the bridge you walked along only wobbled and swayed alarmingly when more than one person was on it.  So, I happily clung on for dear life while our party and the 5-day tour started doing the running-man in lead boots for the entire walk.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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We then walked along the canopy and I tried to take a photo whilst standing in the hollowed out section of a tree.  And this is it.

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SPAN>And this is my first attempt which was ruined by a fat kid who popped into view.  This is me telling him to bugger off. 

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The kid was only 9 or 10 but he must have weighed more than me.  He was wearing a wonderfully ironic and self-depreciating T-Shirt emblazoned with the slogan 'Future Basketball player'.  Ha ha.  I don't think so chunkboy.

Here he is again, ruining another of my snaps.

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We then drove to the beach where I had the best moment of my trip.  Since landing in Australia I've dreamt of my first beach cricket session.  It's something me and my family used to play every year.  It was another beautiful beach, and despite a late gate-crashing appearance by those 5-day tossers, we enjoyed a cracking game.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

So, after all this, and taking some nice snaps, we ended up in Albany.  Albany is a pretty quiet place to be on a weekend.  And as we turned up on Tuesday night the search for an all night boozer was a fruitless one.  Still, we managed to have a good night's entertainment.  And once back at the hostel we got the bottles of wine out and attempted to continue the festivities.  It was such a shame that nobody had a bottle opener.  One girl was so desperate for a drink she tried to open hers with a chop stick.  I kid you not. When that failed, the sight of her ravenously chewing away at the top of the bottle was enough to send me on my way to bed for the night.

The last day was spent making the long journey back to Perth via a steep hill climb, followed by a sheer rock face clamber.  Apparently the view was amazing.  But as I clung to my rock, with the wind whistling round my ears, I felt too unsafe to take many photos.

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We then went and looked at some rocks called The Gap.  And here they are.

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Then we sat by a blow hole awaiting a water explosion which never occurred.

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We also checked out a maze.  Hampton Court it was not.  And I didn't even bother taking my camera out of its case.  And to finish we stopped off at another vineyard for another wine lesson.

This one was much better than the one we did before.  The woman actually explained a lot of the jargon and described the wines in layman terms.  She was also sober. This wasn't the case with the woman at the first winery.  While being taught about Chiraz Sav Cabernet whatevers our driver and his assistant were outside preparing the food.  Midway through the talk we heard an almighty crash and a cry of 'Oh, Shiiiiiiiiit!'  We all peered out the window to see our driver desperately trying to hold onto a table full of food and cutlery.  He failed.

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I grabbed my camera and took a quick snap through the window before opening the door to get another.  When he saw the camera he went a bit mental shouting 'No camera's!!!!!!' He did this whilst performing a cross between a rain dance and punk stomp, all the while brandishing his fist.  Ha ha ha!!!!!  It was hilarious.

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Although, he didn't find it so funny and he was in a real mood for about 45 minutes.  We didn't care though.  I had got a great snap and it meant we didn't have to eat any of the wet lettuce and soggy cucumber he'd prepared.

A few short hours later we made it back to Perth.  Our driver cheered up once we got back on the coach and as we were all slightly tipsy we played games and he did a quiz.  I tried to cheat.

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And that was about it.  I arrived back in town refreshed, with some great memories and a funny story or two.  I was almost looking forward to the cricket.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Aussies have a drinking problem


Aussies have a drinking problem

I've been in Perth for five days now and the pain from that last day in Adelaide stubbornly refuses to diminish.  Most of you know that horrible feeling when we get knocked out of the football World Cup.  Everyone mopes around for a few days, cusses the person who missed the penalty and tries to believe it'll ever be different.  But as bad as that is, it doesn't take too long to forget all about it and move on.  I'm in no position to 'forget all about it'.  I'm signed up to the next three Tests whatever happens.  Argh!!!!!! 


So, the last thing I thought I'd spend my weekend doing was watching cricket. 

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But that's where I've been as I step up my assault on planet sun and its harmful rays.  My tan sucks at the moment.  I've been so wary of it that I'm probably paler than when I left
London.  So the last two days have been spent lying prone on the banks of the Waca cricket ground.  Apparently England have been playing in a friendly.  And shock horror, they didn't lose!  But I spent most of my time going man v galactic star and ultimate provider of life.  There can only be one winner.


My immediate impressions of Perth aren't completely favourable.  I'd expected quite a lot but as of yet I haven't been over enamoured.  It's got the weather and it's pretty laid back but I'm struggling to find any real character to the place. 


Although I did visit a mental bar on Friday called Hula Bula, apparently it's where that South Pacific Bar in Kennington, where we went for Rachel's 30th, is based.  It sells legal loopy juice.  I bought a $30 cocktail when I got in there and I can't remember much else from the evening.  However my legendary 'never knowing where the fuck I am' kicked in.  As I stumbled around Perth I chanced upon my street at about 3am.  Result!  I then proceeded to walk in completely the wrong direction for a good hour.  You know when you know you're going the wrong way but you steadfastly refuse to change direction?  That's what I was doing.  In the end I had to be rescued by this bloke I'd met earlier in the evening.  He re-directed his cab to come pick me up and a night spent in the not so local park was averted.


It was a messy end to what had been one of the healthiest days of my trip.  Since my surfing trip the most exercise I'd managed was the standing up I'd done throughout the Adelaide Test match.  It's good for the calves.  But on the Friday I had booked a trip to Rottnest Island.  So called because the Dutch explorers who'd named it did so because they thought it was infested by rats.  Urgh!  In fact, it's infested by these rare creatures that only resemble rats.  Yay!  Aren't they cute!?  So off I went with a couple of lads, Nathan and Gaz. 


We'd booked a ferry over and also hired three bikes.  Maybe I've been hanging around with Dicky and Dave D too long, but I was pretty startled by the sheer unfashionability of my 2-wheeled monster.  We'd had to put down a $25 deposit in case we cycled them off a cliff.  You'd have been lucky to pay someone $25 to take this piece of scrap off you. 


However after tootling around Rottnest for a while I realised that you didn't have to look cool to be cool. 

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Added to the fact that there wasn't anyone around to point, stare and throw things as I cycled past, I eventually came to the realisation that all bikes should look like mine.  It was a sad end to the day when we had parted company. And I could only console myself by going for a spot of snorkelling.Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


But anyway, back to the cricket.  'Hurrah!'  I hear you cry.  Today's action was pretty damn funny.  Around 2pm, as one of the guys rotated me on the homemade spit I'd made for myself, I caught a glimpse of one of the ground staff in a spot of trouble.  He was trying to push an entire crate of soft drinks up a hill.  But he'd got halfway up before he realised he didn't have the strength to get them the whole way up.  Drinks started spilling off the crate, and he had to radio security for assistance. 


Alerted to this wonderfully funny passage of play I raised the alarm.  Not in a way that proved in any way beneficial to this poor dude, rather I got everyone alongside me to laugh at him.  And so we did.  And I took these pictures. 


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However, before you think I'm a totally heartless bastard, if you look at the top photo, in the bottom right hand corner, you'll see the head of one Barmy Army member who did rush to his aid.  But once he got there the worker told him to stand back as if he'd got hurt in the crush they couldn't pay the insurance.  Ha ha!!!!!!  So we all sat back and had a good laugh at his expense instead.  It's the little things in life…..


But it doesn't end there!  Because not two hours later as I swapped positions in the stadium so I could face the sun and I saw this!


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Ha ha ha!!!!!  Two in one day.  Maybe
Perth will be okay after all.  And when I return from my 3-day trip down the coast I'll be sure to let you know.  I'm heading off early doors tomorrow morning.  I'm going to some places I can't remember the names of to do things that won't be nearly as amusing as watching a bloke spill drinks everywhere.  Then it's back to Perth on Wednesday night as the third Test starts on Thursday.  I can't wait……….. 


Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Adelaide (part two)

So, where to begin……

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It would be fair to say that the past 24 hours haven't exactly been the highlight of my trip so far.  I spent most of yesterday with my head in my hands, a sickening pain in my stomach and despair etched on my face.  A simple glance to either side would see similar expressions on those clad in red, blue and white.  As the clock ticked towards ignomy and with the sounds of the crowing Aussies on the bank next to ours, we kept an eye out for incoming bottles hurled from the most spectacularly boorish supporters in the world whilst we watched aghast as possibly the greatest capitulation in world sport was played out in front of us, it made for a sorry old scene.  The disbelief amongst our supporters was frightening and stark.  It seemed a lifetime ago that this game was ours to win.  But we kept cheering and singing past the bitter end.

That night we tried our hardest to avoid talking about what we'd gone through that day.  Six of us sat round a bar, a backpackers bar, just to make sure we didn't have to face any crowing Aussies.  But the harder we tried to ignore it the more impossible it got.  By the end of the evening we'd gone through the lot.  Strauss being incorrectly given out, the madcap runout of Bell.  Pietersen the sweeper, what were you doing?  Flat feet Freddie, the lack of batting depth given us by Jones and Giles, the poor umpiring decisions to get rid of Harmison and Anderson, that final ball of the afternoon session.

As soon as we mentioned one thing that went against us another would rear its head.  Later in the evening as I drank the last of my beers I bumped into Ian Bell (England batsman).  We talked briefly about what had happened that day and then the poor bloke had to put up with a drunken, emotional England fan, who blasted Duncan Fletcher's selections and poured scorn on the team.  I felt for both of them and myself.

I'm in Perth now.  I flew out this morning with a sore head and heavy heart.  All I wanted to do was forget and ignore the cricket.  You can imagine how delighted I was to bump into Shane Warne, Stuart Clark and Michael Hussey at the airport. 

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Then, after my three hour flight, I walked into the arrivals lounge and straight into a media scrum as the Perth press converged on the airport.  There was Hussey again, being interviewed, Justin Langer, sat nonchantly talking on this phone.  I was travelling alone but couldn't stop myself blurting out something to the tune of 'for fucks sake, this is the last thing I need'.  A group of sorry looking English fans nodded in agreement.  A tanned Aussie dude looked at me with something approaching sympathy.

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And to think it had started so well.  So many great moments on those first two days.  Before I left England I'd said I wanted to see a Pietersen hundred and it duly came on that second day.  I'd never dream I'd see Collingwood hit a double ton but he did.  McGrath wicketless, Warne bowling round the wicket, Lee getting thumped all over the place.  And then the wicket of Langer right at the end of the day.  I've never been involved in quite as crazy a sporting celebration in all my life.  There were people flying all over the place, phones going ten foot in the air, flip flops ending up 100 yards apart, strangers embracing and fists punching the air, it was bedlam.  An amazing night out followed and the nightmares from Brisbane had been erased.

The next morning we took another couple of wickets and the mood was equally positive.  And then the defining moment came.  Ponting, who'd lived dangerously throughout his innings up til that point, misjudged a hook shot, and Ashley Giles (in the side for his fielding) dropped it.  Game over………. 

Up until this point Adelaide had been picture perfect.  We'd met some great people, including a bunch of American girls, who we hung around with for a couple of nights.  Caroline, Emily, Emma and Karen had just got into town after staying in the outback for a month.  I'm not sure how pleased they were that it coincided with half of Britain turning up pissed.  After failing to convince them that cricket is far superior to baseball and not getting remotely close to teaching them some of the Barmy Army classic songs we gave up and drank with them instead.  They were fantastic company and gorgeous.  Good looking ladies are pretty hard to come by when you're touring with 7,000 English cricket fans.  And the envious looks we'd get when entering a Barmy Army pub with them were pretty damn hilarious.  As was this Canadian guy who thought the best way to impress Caroline was to get his geography hopelessly wrong and then become my best friend. 

On the Saturday night we went to one of the best nightclubs I've ever been to.  If you ever go to Adelaide you have to check out HQs.  I've never seen so many pretty people in one place in all my life.

The girls left on the Monday on a trip to Melbourne.  At that point the weekend had been a 100% success.  I wish we'd managed to persuade them to stick around.

But that was Adelaide and now I'm in Perth.  I've got a week off to forget about cricket and tour around Western Australia.  By all accounts it's a fantastic place to be.  I think I'm going to book myself onto a 3-day tour and meet some new people, do something different and top up my tan.  I haven't decided yet.  But I'll be sure to tell you all about it when I return. 



Thursday, 30 November 2006

Here I go again on my own

..Here I go again on my own, going down the only road I've ever known..

Of all the loony tunes the Barmy Army sing throughout a days play at the cricket the one that never ceases to crack me up is the rendition of Bon Jovi's ..Living on a Prayer... I'll write the lyrics another day but can you imagine the thoughts of the Aussie bowler patrolling the boundary when he's comes face to face with 200 odd sun blotched English blokes playing the air guitar and screaming out this soft rock classic?

Sometimes it feels like you're in the friendliest mental asylum in town. There's always something going on in the crowd even when nothing is happening on the pitch. And the festivities outside of the ground are often equally as entertaining.

Since arriving in Adelaide, (think Kent, with sun) I've spent my time lazily strolling around town, whilst taking the chance to top up my tan in the plus 30 degree heat.

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Today, however, was set aside for a spot of competitive cricket action with the Australian equivalent of the Barmy Army.

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Most of us have grown up associated with a failing football team. Those that haven't have usually chosen to support Manchester United. But regardless of who you follow we're all familiar with terrace banter and singing when we're winning. The Aussies aren't like us. They are so used to being top dog they don't bother showing up when it starts to go tits up.

But we're a different breed and although they wouldn't swap their medal hauls they are definitely intrigued by who we are and why we're spending a fortune doing it. In 1994 the Barmy Army were coined as thus after their unstinting support of another cricket failure in Australia. And since then they've become almost god like in their celebrity status. Think I'm exaggerating? The main party were greeted at Adelaide airport and interviewed on national TV when they touched down.

Today's game was a twenty over affair and took place at a lovely little ground in Henley, about a 15 minute bus ride out of town. We turned up in a big red London bus.

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they turned up in a specially designed coach, full of Aussie cheerleader types. But more about them later.

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Although I used to play a lot of cricket I've only managed 3 games in the last ten years or so. The crowad was also bigger than I was used to.  About 350 or so English and Australian fans turned up.

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  As well as an assortment of TV crews ready to take live footage and interview those fielding near the boundary.

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But the occasion was so uplifting I didn't feel any real nerves. We were put into field and spent an hour or so running around trying to cut off boundaries and dropping catches. I'm pleased to report that although I didn't catch one, more importantly, I didn't drop one either. And the Fanatics duly knocked off 200 off their 20 overs.

Storm clouds gathered as we went into bat. Which in no way excuses the fact that after 6 overs we were 40 for 3. I was going in at number 6 which meant that only one more wicket had to fall before I was in. At this point the skies went black, rain started to come down and there was even a brief lightning interlude which forced everyone off the pitch.

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Any thoughts the rain might save the team's blushes (and prevent me from having to face a pack of Aussie quicks) was soon diminished by the locals who assured us it would pass quickly. And so it proved. And two balls into the restart I was in.

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To say I approached the game in a slip shod manner would be an understatement. I had to dash to the shops moments before the bus turned up to buy the cheapest trainers I could lay my hands on. I wouldn't have thought about it if Mark hadn't remarked it might be a bit unwise to face the fast bowling with flip flops on. So as I walked into bat with pads on, took the gloves from the batsman out I had a horrible few moments as he fished out his box and handed it to me. Nice.

But my problems didn't end there as I was wearing totally inappropriate underwear. Any thoughts of quick singles went out the window as I was forced to run with one hand on my box to stop it falling down my trouser leg! What a sight I must have been after a gazelle like sprinted two ended with me frantically trying to rearrange my box which not only had travelled halfway down my leg it had turned upside down.

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Anyway, to cut a long and painful story slightly shorter, I scratched around for a bit. I couldn't lay the bat on the ball throughout my first two overs. The closest I got to a scoring shot was when I tried to pull a short one and it slapped my unguarded thigh. Yaroo! However I sorted things out, scored 17 and even hit a boundary. I also averted ever lasting shame when the Aussie cheerleader type who was positioned at first slip dropped a catch as I sliced it straight to her. Considering there was about 4 cameras filming the action I was more than relieved.

With a few overs to go I finally succumbed to the bowling, managing to step so far forward in the crease I yorked myself and sent the wicket all over the place. But as I walked off, with one hand on my box, I felt pretty pleased with my efforts.

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The second Test starts tomorrow and I'm hoping England can adopt the same kind of no nonsense approach to the game that I showed today.

Monday, 27 November 2006

Fun times with the fun police

Well that didn't go exactly to plan.  After all the traveling, Ashes DVD Box Set watching and 2-hour national television program participation it all went a bit tits up.  As you will all know by now we lost the first Test by a mammoth 277,000 runs.  But as disappointed as I am, I'm still feeling a lot better about things than I did after Saturdays play.

I have honestly never seen a worse day's cricket in my entire life.  When Ricky Ponting decided not to enforce the follow on and bring an end to the agony he indirectly caused a mini-riot.  Because so boring was that final session, for Aussies and Brits alike, all anyone had to do to keep themselves amused was drink.

A few months before this Test started the organizers announced that they were going to stop the sale of the top strength beer within the ground.  It led to widespread protests.  In its place they sell this piss water that's about 2%.  How anyone gets drunk on this stuff is anyone's guess, although the Aussies seem to manage it.

It's precautions like this, plus the banning of musical instruments, backpacks, alcohol from outside the ground and the decision not to let the English fans sit together en masse that were brought in to stop the crowd getting too vocal in their support of the English.  There were roughly 7,000 Brits in the stadium but apart from our section they were mainly dispersed around the ground. 

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The low point was on Friday when they ejected Billy The Trumpet from the ground.  He's one of the mainstays of the Barmy army support and the decision provoked an angry response from both sets of fans.

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Now, if the cricket on show had at any stage on that Saturday been any good it wouldn't really have mattered.  As it was it stunk real bad.  Nobody was the slightest bit interested in watching Australia pile on another 200 pointless runs.  So they tried to do what all normal people do when they're bored and have fun.

Now I should let you know something about the Aussie security at these grounds.  They are nicknamed the 'Fun Police'.  All these little Hitlers do is retrieve blow up balls being knocked around the crowd and stick a knife through them.  They prevent people wearing water melons on their heads (it's an Aussie thing) from entering the ground as the fruit casing is deemed an 'offensive weapon'.  Or they chuck people out for the temerity of having a good time.  All the while they turn a blind eye to racist chants outside the ground.

It's no exaggeration that I must have seen roughly 100 people ejected from the ground in the evening session on Saturday.  Mostly Aussies, they were kicked out for the heinous crimes of standing up, taking exception to the heavy handed approach of the fun police and, oh yeah, the best of the lot.  One bloke was kicked out for trying to start a Mexican wave.

I'm not the biggest fan of the Mexican wave but to throw a 19 year old out of the ground because he's trying to spark a bit of life into proceedings struck me as pretty odd.  I also heard a story that a 6-year old Aussie kid was admonished by two burly officers for throwing a blow up ball in the air.  The sign that we read on leaving the ground today 'No ball games permitted inside the stadium' pretty much summed it up.  I'm surprised these fun police didn't chuck the English and Aussie cricketers out the ground.  Although thinking about it, it might not have been such a bad thing if they did.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

We're going to win 4-1

In 2002, I was working for Channel 4's cricket website.  India were the summer visitors and I watched the whole series (every Test went to the fifth day) from the offices in Camden.  Afterwards I worked out that Rahul Dravid (notorious go-slow merchant) had batted 26 hours in the series.  A whole day of my life had been spent watching 'The Wall'.  And to think that at the time I thought that was hard going.

I've never watched an entire five day Test match live before.  After three days of the opening test in Brisbane I wondered whether I wanted to ever watch another five seconds.  As Australia ground us into the floor I could almost hear the TV screens being turned off back in England while the phrase 'sod this, I'm going to bed' was deafening.

I couldn't think of a single positive to take from the game.  Even Freddie Flintoff's bowling in the first innings was tempered by the thought that as he's just come back from injury it is unwise for him to bowl too much.  I'm not sure what was worse.  The bowling (Freddie aside) or the batting (Freddie included).  If Ponting had put us back in I'd probably be sitting here thinking my Ashes dream is over.

But he didn't.  And time will tell if he's made an absolute ricket.  For not only did he cause himself and McGrath injury he gave our team a bit of confidence back.  Pietersen and Collingwood brought some of the belief back to the team.  And they gave the Barmy Army something to cheer about after ten tepid sessions.

It was always far too much to ask that we'd do the impossible and bat out two days.  But it didn't stop the English taking over the Gabba for the final days session.  It was a game that memory and history will say had few highlights for the Brits.  But here are my personal top moments.

Brett Lee. 

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Before he came to England last year, Lee had a reputation as a bit of a brat.  It couldn't be further from the truth.  Not only is he a fine fast bowler he's also not afraid to have some banter with the crowd.  His interaction with the Barmy Army gave us some much needed cheer over the weekend.

The Aussie fans.

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  They still come up with terrible chants, laugh at our songs when they clearly don't understand them and they get pissed on 2% beer, but you couldn't fault their effort on the Sunday afternoon when England were actually performing on the pitch.  The highlight was when a good 200 of them were ridiculing one of the fun police for looking like Chuck Norris.

Hijack advertising. 

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I've never been to Donut King.  But the fact they paid to have a plane fly over the stadium and write 'Donut King Wins Ashes' in the sky kept us amused for about 30 minutes.

Us lot. 

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Despite having nothing to cheer about for the first three days it didn't stop us reminding everyone who were are and where we come from.


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Lovely city, relaxed people, great food, superb weather.  Pity it didn't rain on the final day though.

The lads. 

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Thankfully the room I stayed in was bug free and full of good lads.  All four of us are traveling the entire tour.  Nearly everyone I've met has been good company.  Here's a picture of Ian (one of the Hull lads I met in Surfers), Mark (Manchester born, now is a postman in Germany), Danny (Essex boy & Millwall fan – don't let it put you off) and Jamie (Swindon lad).

This is my final day in Brisbane.  I'm flying off to Adelaide tomorrow for more pain and sunshine.  I'm going to be playing for the Barmy Army cricket team on Thursday against our Australian equivalents.  Then the second Test starts on Friday.  Hopefully England will come out and play this time and not leave it til it's too late.