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

About Me

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Last day at work

Everyone has daydreamed at least once in their lives about signing off in style. Flipping the 'V' to the boss, telling the chump who somehow wangled his way into middle-management where to go and sparking out the office dickhead. All the while 'RATM' are providing the soundtrack. In years gone by Cameron Diaz would have just happened to witness this incredible scene. Unfortunately real life can never come close to what the mind can conjure up.

Take last Friday for instance. In effect it was my last day at work. After two months of getting up early, long days (thankless days with little or no credit for my undertaking) and constant networking in the evening it was finally time to pack up and go home.

If Boyz to Men had been in the country they'd no doubt have been at the foot of my bed when I awoke. As it was they weren't. And so, alone, and for the final time, my first action was to pull back the curtains and look skywards for an indication of what weather the day would bring.

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Curse those trees, those beautiful, elegant trees, for blocking my view of what I hoped was blue sky and golden sun. At least they couldn't cover up the tranquil sound of the estuary water lapping against the shore, the chattering birds and wind rustling through the foliage.

After a leisurely shower I set off and soon realised I was running late. I therefore should probably not have bothered taking a photo of the driveway and its steep incline. Especially after I got half way up and remembered I'd left my bus ticket in my other shorts.

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Ten minutes later I arrived at the bus stop sweating heavily and anxious that I hadn't missed my hourly bus. It would not be wise to arrive late on my last day at work. Thankfully the bus hadn't yet arrived and the queue yet to reach London rush-hour levels of ramajam.

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And there were few people at the ferry terminal for my second mode of transport. Maybe scared off by the threat of showers, I reasoned.

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As is my custom I sat down on one of the seats on deck to read the local paper. The frong page made interesting reading.

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As did the back.

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The weather had worsened by the time I reached Circular Quay and sadly forced me to put away my newspaper. Honestly, how have I put up with such conditons for so many months? How I long for a short walk along crowded London streets and being tightly (yet cosily) squeezed into a comfy tubed train to the office in the morning!

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Thankfully by the time I got off the ferry the conditions had eased and I quickly noted that unlike the previous four days it appeared very few of those awaiting the bus were of Australian descent. As I stopped off for my customary coffee I could not fathom why.

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The bus always drops my off a five minute walk from my workplace so I fought my way through the crowds and made my way up to level seven where my officeplace awaits. As is the norm my co-workers were indifferent to my presence.

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As it was my last day I wasted no time with pleasantries and disappeared out of the office. Nobody would miss me today of all days. And it is the mark of the man that my father had made the 12,000 mile journey across land and sea to wish me well on my final day.

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Despite rain bring a halt to proceedings for a short while it wasn't enough to stop the good times. Here, for some reason is a picture of Steve Smith getting hit by a short ball from Jimmy Anderson.

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I'd be lying if I were to say that I hadn't expected my work mates to make some effort to mark my last day in the office. But it's fair to say that the guys really outdid themselves this time. As fireworks displays go it's not quite Sydney Harbour but I appreciated the effort.

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And for those of you still interested in what up to now has been nothing more than a humdrum day here are a selection of what else happened on my last day before a well earned break.

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And before I knew it a day I'd spent many years dreaming about had come to an end. Only time will tell whether I ever step foot in the SCG doors again. But that's to decide upon sometime in the future. For now it's time to kick back and relax. A well deserved four week holiday awaits.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

View from the stand

Cricket fans are split over their opinion of the Barmy Army. For some the BA offer a much needed escape from one-sided or humdrum cricket. There is an appreciation of the originality of the songs, the amusing characters that play their part in the general BA pantomime & a feeling that the sight and sound add to the days play.

But other supporters get annoyed by the media attention heaped on Jimmy Saville & Co. They don't appreciate the monotony of 'Everywhere we go' for sessions on end nor the spectacle of hundreds of drunken people going pink in the sunshine. And they might turn their noses up at the fans seeking to take attention away from the game itself. But for me there is a far worse genre of cricket watcher than the stereotypical BA member and they are just as frequent a sight at cricket grounds the world over.

Though it's a bigger problem during an English summer where tickets are expensive, seats strictly assigned & the opportunity to move an impossibility. But I have found exactly the same issue while watching cricket in Australia, New Zealand and throughout the Caribbean. For not even the sight of Mitchell Johnson finding swing with his first ball of the day can inject the same sinking feeling when two or three overs into play up pipes the unmistakable sound of either 'the bore' or 'the boorish' cricket fan.

These creatures are similar in many ways. Both possess little in the way of social skill, neither has any awareness & both believe it holds the answer to just about any social, economic or cricket conundrum. Their voices are deeply monotone & designed to travel the length of a regulation sport stadium stand. It means there is no escaping the sound but also highlights one key difference between the two. For while the cricket bore is a solitary species which rarely travels in a pair its voice is designed to warn off others of the same ilk. The boorish cricket fan however usually travels in groups of up to twelve. And its distinctive call is used to attract males from miles around.

Proof of their existence can be seen every time the camera pans onto the crowd. You know that one of these types are in the vicinity because everyone else in the stand has chosen to pay $25 for a small radio earpiece to avoid having to hear them. Channel 9 will have you think it's because of the adverts they play on a loop every two overs. It's not. It's just that nobody wants to hear the right-wing views of the bloke sitting two rows back.

It's been a recurring theme throughout the tour. In Perth I watched four idiots try and tell the police that German's find the 'German Bombers' song they were chanting hilarious. Thankfully it didn't wash and they were ejected. In Melbourne I sat with three drunk Leeds fans who waved football flags around, put on strong Yorkshire accents and repeated a few key northern phrases over and over again. This went on for hours. They sang Leeds Utd songs and laughed heartily at their own comments. In the end I had enough and I left them to it. Nathan stuck around and overheard one of them saying that he'd only ever been to Elland Road three times in his life. This is the type of moron you have to put up with at the cricket.

It's obviously not a cultural thing. It took three Tests and fully fifteen days of cricket before I heard something from the Australian crowd that made me laugh. Sitting just behind the Barmy Army inside the MCG's Bay 12 the recognisable sound of Billy Cooper's trumpet started up. After a couple of notes in respectful silence from the fans an Aussie yelled out "play some Metallica!". It was spontaneous, the delivery & timing spot on, and it conjured up a ridiculous image. It. Was. Funny.

While experiencing the bore in full flow can be equally painful as they loudly proclaim their views on whether Graeme Swann could develop a zooter, obscure 1970's first-class cricketers and scoreboard architecture. It's a bit like listening to someone on the mobile phone throughout an eight-hour train journey. Or reading this 'blog.

Unsurprisingly, Sydney couldn't escape either. Yesterday afternoon I went and sat with my family in the Victor Trumper Stand. It's only two years old and unlike it's predecessor has a roof and everything. But despite the modern sheen it also features a bronze statue in the front row of its most famous cricket fan, 'The Yabba'. It appears that its not just the Australian players who used to be better.

As the covers came off and play resumed we all took our seats and a hush descended on the ground. All attention was on the first few deliveries. Arms folded, flasks on the ground, a minimum of chatter and the players had a capacity crowd's full attention. It was exactly how the purists would like it. And then from behind it started.....

Boor 1: The thing with you Aussies is that you never make up any good songs
Boor 2: It's all Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. So boring. I mean, come on. You can do better. We've got loads.
Boor 1: That Mitchell Johnson song.
Boor 2: (Tunelessly) He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, that Mitchell Johnson, his bowling is shiite.
Aussie 1: (Cackle)
Boor 1: (Warming to the theme) It's not just in the cricket. There's a place here spelt W-A-G-G-A-W-A-G-G-A. But it's pronounced WOGGAWOGGA. What's that all about?
Boor 2: You wouldn't get that in England.
Boor 1: (Despairingly) Well you wouldn't be allowed to call it that in England
Boor 2: (Sadly) No you wouldn't.

I had spent the entire day hoping the rain would stay away and now suddenly I was almost praying it would return. As the two Boors continued on their PC-Brigade-bashing way time started to slow to a crawl. Watching Michael Clarke leave another Tim Bresnan delivery from outside off the end of the days play seemed very distant indeed. And then it happened.

The unmistakable sound of Billy Coooper's trumpet warbled up from the stand below and to the right. A cheer followed, the Barmy Army got to their feet, and a song I'd heard a hundred times before but one that had never sounded so sweet started to drown out the two middle aged bastards behind me. Another followed and then the 'Av It Man' made an appearance. My dad hadn't seen him before. He laughed, I laughed. No nonsense. And then before I knew it Clarke had cut one to point and the roars from the crowd made everything okay again.

Unlike the bore and boorish, The Barmy Army are only an ever present overseas. Back home they find their wings continually clipped by the ECB and they cannot congregate in the numbers like they do here. They may not be everyone's cup of tea but they can always be relied on.

The BA support England in a fashion that football fans could learn from. They provide humour, music and atmosphere. And if they ever cared about changing opinions within the more staid cricket community then there could be no better way than hiring themselves out at the start of a days play. As soon as the first deep throated utterance is detected simply dial 0800 BARMY ARMY and a small group will come over and start singing until the bore or the boorish shut up. It wouldn't be long before the cricket world will be united in their admiration for what the Barmy Army does for Test cricket. Which is how it should be anyway.

Monday, 3 January 2011

A day at the cricket

Despite the finest forecasters indicating otherwise the skies once again grumbled ominously as I made my way to work this morning. But this time I wasn't unduly concerned. After all the fretting yesterday the family enjoyed a truncated & interrupted days play yet one which included a fine battle between bat and ball.

While it won't go down as the defining day of the campaign it managed to encapsulate much of what this series has been about. Changeable conditions where 134 runs in fifty-nine tight overs were scored, four wickets taken, a stylish cameo on debut, disciplined bowling & determined batting. It's what Test cricket should always be about.

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Lifting the gloom

There was plenty on my mind on the way to the SCG today. And while there can only ever be two winners in cricket throughout my two-hour trek to the ground not even the Ashes could break into my top three mental battles. So instead of concerns over Mitchell Johnson, Michael Hussey and whether English hangovers will clear in time to complete a 3-1 win. Today I was more concerned with the weather, my round-the-houses journey and my hangover. In that order.

Whether in prayer, disbelief or to scan the horizon for rain, cricket fans spend much of their time staring skywards and today has been no different. After three days of idyllic weather in Sydney the rains started to descend about four hours into Fe and I's pre-wedding BBQ on Tamarama Beach yesterday. Not that we'd let that get in the way of a good time. Or a Hawaiian theme, for that matter.

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Rain throughout the night was followed by a 7am start and nowhere near enough sleep in the bag. And despite the hangover my first thought and action was to turn to my window and peer up to the heavens. For day one of the Sydney test meant one thing. A 12,000 mile journey and a single day out at the cricket for my dad, brother and cousin.

By the time I had waited for a bus that never arrived, walked 3k to the ferry terminal in spitting rain, I became more and more worried. Low grey cloud covered Sydney as far as the eye could see. And it was more with hope than expectation that I thought the skies appeared slightly clearer above the centre of Sydney where I was heading.

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It's not often you can say you've seen your country play on the other side of the world. The last time my family had attempted to join me overseas for some cricket the game in Antigua had been cancelled half an hour before their plane landed. Thankfully that was a situation that could be rectified by common sense. The weather doesn't run along similar lines.

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People say it's too hot to drink coffee in Australia. It certainly wasn't this morning as an hour before play I arrived at Circular Quay and stood in an ever growing queue for a bus whilst warming my hands on my drink. Was it my imagination of had conditions eased? It certainly seem lighter and the city still dry.

Over two hours after I had left the house I got myself into position to watch the first ball of the day and it occurred to me how quickly priorities can change. For months I'd been dreaming of watching England beat Australia in the Ashes. For weeks I had travelled around the country my every mood directly affected by England's fortunes on the pitch. But now the game was under way and I hadn't given it any thought. All I was concerned about was how much cricket my family would watch before the heavens opened. Just let them have two sessions, I thought.

Fast forward to right here, right now and a quick check at the clock tells me we've gone past the halfway point of the afternoon session and only ten minutes of play has been lost so far. Phil Hughes went late in the first session, Shane Watson moments ago. Now my priority has changed.

The ABC radio commentary team tell me we'll be lucky to get another hour in. Two sessions is the minimum I want for my family now. The race is now on for more wickets. One more before the weather stumps us? One more memory for my family to take away with them? To talk about in the months and years ahead when my journey to work on this grey Monday morning is long forgotten. One more wicket to reminisce about forever more when they tell people they were there, they were in Australia in 2010 when England retained the Ashes.

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