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

About Me

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Last night of the Poms 2

Desperately seeking inspiration is how I’d best sum up my thoughts at the moment. I’m currently four and a half hours into an eight hour coach journey taking me from Napier in the East of the North Island through to Auckland in the North. And I am suffering the mental and physical fallout following possibly the biggest night Napier has ever been witness to, although that isn’t saying much.

It’s hard to sum up Napier. One of the problems with this tour being squeezed into three weeks is that it didn’t allow for nearly enough time between Tests to get to know the surroundings. I turned up the evening before the cricket started and I’m currently leaving the day after it finished.

I won’t have too many fond memories of Napier as a town. Sure, it was pleasant enough, the people friendly, the weather warm and the cricket won. But it’s just so damn quiet and even on the weekend’s there’s few places to go.

However last night more than made up for that. It’s one of the joys of following cricket abroad in that you get to mingle with the players in a way that would never be possible in football.

I, Mark and Nathan began our final evening in New Zealand with a quiet few drinks in the local social club. We shot some pool, ate some very cheap food and sank five or six even cheaper pints. Around 9pm we hailed a cab to the West Quay which is the 'trendy' place to drink in town.

Not that we had a particularly good first impression of the place. On the first night in town we'd gone to the Quay for food. After waiting an hour and a half for our meal it turned up burnt, soggy, tasteless and lacking the fries we'd ordered. By far the worst service I’ve experienced in New Zealand.

When the bill arrived for $120 we decided not to pay. Instead we left $20 each and walked out. Only later did we remember that when we’d arrived, in far higher spirits, we’d told the waiter where we were staying. But nothing came of it.

And we weren’t concerned when we arrived to find the Barmy Army converged in another pub a little further down the strip. We sat about drinking and then at around 11pm a good evening was turned into an exceptional one as most of the England team turned up.

And the next couple of hours were a joy as they took it turns to sing songs with the fans, pose for numerous photos and celebrate the series victory by getting smashed. I’m not sure what was more surprising, hearing Steve Harmison belting out the Barmy Army signature tune ‘Everywhere we go’ or the sight of Peter Moores, the England coach, getting involved in the action. Most of the players were there including Michael Vaughan and a teetotal Monty Panesar. And I’m not going to say who it was but there was one player who pretty much had to be carried out of the bar.

And it brought the curtain down on a fantastic tour. One that was nowhere near as hectic and exciting as the Australia series. But one that was no less enjoyable and gave us the opportunity to take in the beauty that New Zealand offers in terms of landscape and even more so in terms of hospitality and welcome.

However all good things must come to an end and this morning I awoke at 7am and staggered around getting myself ready for my 8.30am coach. Surprisingly Chung was in bed and asleep. He’d drifted in at 7.30am the previous two mornings. And as Mark and Nathan have one more day in Napier they were also dead to the world.

Our goodbyes had been said the night before but I bid them farewell as I left the room. We’re planning on going to the West Indies this time next year. It might be that our paths do not cross before then. But I hope that isn’t the case.

And so I was gone and am still going. The clock at the front of the coach says two hours before I’m back in Auckland where I stay until Saturday. Upon which I embark on a 2,000 mile dash to try and catch the Smashing Pumpkins in Sydney.

I managed to change my flight ($120) and bought a ticket for the V-Festival ($136) in the hope I get to see the Pumpkins play a couple of classics with Tomson. He’s been texting me all week in the build up getting more and more excited about it. I’m trying to keep things in check. As I said to him on the phone ‘so much can go wrong’.

And that was before he texted me saying the Pumpkins are due to play at 8.15pm. This was news to me as I thought they were headlining and wouldn’t be on until about 10pm. My flight gets into Sydney at 6.20pm. So in less than two hours I’ve got to land safely, get through customs, get my luggage, put it in storage, get a cab to Centennial Park, buy a pint, meet up with Tom and be there for the opening bars of the first song. I am pushing it.

The other fear is that the Pumpkins either cancel or play most of the stuff from their new album which I haven’t heard and is apparently pretty damn shit. The whole situation reminds me slightly of the Glastonbury washout a group of us experienced in 2005. With our tents under water me, Gabe, Luke, Mary and Ollie had driven to Bristol to buy new camping stuff, washed and dried ourselves at our friend Louisa’s, then driven back to the campsite and trekked all the way back in through the mud.

It was horrible at times but the light at the end of the very wet and muddy tunnel was that after all the stress and hassle of the day we’d make it back in time to see The Whites Stripes play ‘Seven Nation Army’. It’s not like it’s our favourite song in the world but as the day went on it became more and more important that we made it. And, in the end we did. Just.

And so this is what awaits me on Saturday, a mad dash from one country to another to try and see 45 minutes of a band play in the company of good mates. Will I make it? I bloody hope so.


Keith said...

I should have gone to West Quay on Wednesday night, then, if only to keep Monty company! Maybe see you in the Windies.

Anonymous said...

Good luck mate - i have my fingers crossed that you make it. Don't worry if your flight is delayed, there's always The Human League at Bestival ;o)

- Manc