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

About Me

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.


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.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Another one to scratch off the bucket list

While flares reigned down on the pitch in Saint-Etienne flames shot up into the sky in London.  Two sporting arenas in two different countries but both at capacity with spectators watching star-studded Friday night entertainment and there the comparisons end.

Week one of the Euros came to an end with the Croatian fans joining the Russian and English on the wall of shame.  Week four of the NatWest Blast emerged from underneath the covers to provide more wholesome fare.

Maybe one day I will present from a football match maybe one day I won't.  If I do so it probably won't be at Craven Cottage that's for sure. For today marked the day I presented a show from a cricket match for the first time.  At my other sporting home, The Oval.  Live on talkSPORT 2, Surrey v Middlesex with my dad watching on from the Pavilion.  The game that is.  He wasn't watching me.

Alongside me were the former Surrey opening batsman Alan Butcher and commentator Andrew 'Macca' McKenna. The last time Macca are I were in the same stadium was in Brazilia at the 2014 World Cup.  There we watched Argentina knock Belgium out the competition in a low key encounter.  While the Euros are on every cricket match has the feel of a low key encounter.

Brazil seemed very far away when I arrived with the rain pelting down and the pitch under covers.  Rain delays meant that instead of presenting for the first half an hour before handing over to my commentator I had to 'fill' an hour of radio.  How to fill an hour?  Just sit back and talk about cricket.  So that's what we did.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

It's going to be a draw....

I'm not sure if it's ironic or not but considering the amount of time I worry about getting ill it's a rare occasion that I'm actually sick.  But I'm sick today.  Struck down with a heavy cold, a sore throat and a headache.  I was tired anyway following three days of reporting on the cricket so the fact I woke up on the hour every hour last night hasn't improved things.

Luckily I've got a whole day of staring at this ahead of me.

Who needs lemons, honey and hot water to make you feel better when you've got constant drizzle and a rickety old air con unit recycling bad air instead?

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Dream jobs

I've never really understood the phrase 'he wants his own cake and eat it' because what else do you do with cake?  It's the same with Aussies calling the English POMS when POM stands for Prisoner of her Majesty's pleasure; which is what the Aussies were not English.  I'm sure a quick Google search could explain but neither question is exactly keeping me awake at night.

Nothing is keeping me awake at night at the moment to be fair.  Being at the cricket and on air for the best part of eight hours a day is enough to send anyone off to sleep.  Including the listeners.

It hasn't been the most gripping of series against Sri Lanka.  If you take Nick Compton's desperate attempts to cling to his Test career out of the equation then the only jeopardy attached to it would be, well, actually, I can't think of any other jeopardy.  It has been a series without any semblance of tension.

In another country and at another sporting event the word tension will never be too far away from the centre of things.  The Euros are on in France and whether you are a fan desperate to see your team succeed, a supporter with a penchant for late night strolls around Marseille harbour, or a radio producer battling with technical, logistic or personnel issues it can be a stressful time.  It is also the first major football tournament since 2008 that I'm not on location working.

It's a bittersweet feeling.  For while the following is a view I'd never swap I'd be lying to say I haven't experience a pang of envy when I see excited FB updates or read tweets from my colleagues ensconced in France.

After years of quietly and determinedly inching towards this seat in the Media Centre why the mixed emotions?  It is the human condition I suppose.  You always want more.

So would I swap my year long role reporting on cricketing fortunes for the manic high of producing a football tournament one month every twenty three?  No.  Would I like to somehow do both?  Rush from one event to the other?  Yes.  Is that possible?  No.  So shut up then.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Down by the river

I was recently in a car with a work colleague on the way to a function a few hours out of London. We spent the time discussing the many changes taking place, talking sport and generally putting the world to rights.

As these things do it ended up with us moaning about one thing or the other. Then as one of my mini-rant monologues came to an end he paused, muttered something in agreement and said "how often do you get bored?"

And he was right. If there is one thing you can say about the industry we find ourselves in boredom is rarely experienced. Frustration, annoyance, anger are part of life like in any occupation. But boredom? Not likely.

Three weeks ago I found myself celebrating a hat trick in a Dubai cricket ground surrounded by Pakistani fans. My only concern how to smuggle in a bagful of recording equipment. 

Today I am producing a fishing show by a lake near Reading. My concern this time? Whether I'm ever going to get the mud out of my trousers and debating the chances of TalkSPORT paying my dry cleaning bill.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Used to be the apple of my eye

What was the moment you realised Apple had disappeared up its own arse?

For me it happened yesterday; though its been building for a while.  The lack of storage space on my iPhone is the most frustrating thing.  It's horrible having to wipe smiling photos of my nephews every time I want to use the camera, update an app or listen to some music.  It's like they are talking to me as I press delete saying "don't make us disappear.  Why are you removing us from your life, Jonny?"

Then there's the constant battle with its depleting battery life, the way charging appliances has become a bigger part of daily routine than seeing the in-laws, the random manner iCloud saves some things and not others, poor reception, freezing screen, you name it it's annoying.

But the tipping point came yesterday after I needed to buy a new charger cable.  With a few hours free I popped along to the impressively sized Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.  It's not a small place.

I located the Apple store on the ground map.  Level 2 it said.  Although it didn't make any mention of any of the other shops near it.  But hey, I had time to kill, I was in no rush.  And so I set off.  And I walked.  And I walked.  And I found another map which told me the same thing.  And I walked some more.  And eventually I completed a full circuit without locating the place.

"Maybe it's shut down" I figured.  That would be annoying.  

In the end I gave up and just asked somebody.  He pointed in the general direction of a museum I'd walked past three times.  I figured I'd missed a turn off.  And then I looked inside and realised that the modern art museum I'd mistaken it for was in fact the Apple Store.

How could I be so stupid?  

Well, maybe if the pretentious bastards had bothered to put a bloody sign on the front of the building I wouldn't have been.  

I mean, really?  You take yourself so bloody seriously you think you can put your store in the middle of one of the biggest malls in the world and not bother putting any branding on the front?  Do you really think you're customers are going to put up with having to buy an ordinance survey map just to have the privilege of spending money at your shop?

What a bunch of iTwats.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Initial musings on Dubai

The expected

Having to take a motorway to get anywhere.

Alcohol so expensive its not worth drinking.

Lots of sand and construction.

Feels like you're living in a computer game.

No snow.

The unexpected

Eating Chinese food on the beach in the Middle East.  

Watching men hold hands, caress and be tactile with each other.  

Reading signs prohibiting public signs of affection between man and wife.

(Seemingly) Thriving multiculturalism.

Annoyed expats angry with the coverage it gets in the West

What appeared to be an wannabe American gangster strolling up and down the promenade aggressively selling his wares, coconuts.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

A cabbies' tale

It’s early.  Darkened streets.  A 65 year old cabby drives his car up a hill past a row of shops. He has a passenger in the back.

Cabby: (Long dark hair, with an old fashioned South East London accent) “What’s that Golden Spice like?” 

Passenger: “Not sure.  I’ve only ever had one curry there”

Cabby: Used to be the best curry house in Crystal Palace (pause) What’s the Blue Orchid like?

Passenger: I don’t know it.

Cabby: That was the best Chinese. Used to be up the hill on Westow Street (pause) I moved here in ’72 with the missus.  Moved over from Bermondsey. It’s changed a lot.

Passenger: Yeah, it all has.  I grew up down the road.  Streatham.

Cabby: You grew up in Streatham did you?  Ha.  I used to be in the notorious Elephant gang. 

Passenger: (has heard this story before but doesn’t mind hearing it again) Oh yeah?

Cabby: Fraser?  Frankie Fraser?  He was part of them.  Kenneth Noye.  Those lads that did that bank job recently. We used to go down Streatham most Friday nights. 

Passenger: Caesars?

Cabby: Yeah.  The old Locarno.  Have a tear up with the Brixton boys.  (chuckling) There was murders some nights.  We were the biggest gang in London.  All through the 20’s and 30’s right up to the 60’s and 70’s.

They drive on in silence for a while.  The driver keen to continue reminiscing

Cabby: We used to carry razors in our hats.  (smiling) Oh, there were murders some nights.  New Cross.  Peckham.  Us.  We all had gangs.  Used to get together.  Still can’t go into some pubs.  Had to disappear to France for a couple of years.  Been doing this (nods to steering wheel) for fifteen years.
Keeps me outta trouble.

Passenger: Pubs round here?  You can’t go into pubs round here?

Cabby: Some of ‘em.  I drive past ‘em still.  Would be okay for a bit but sooner or later a call would go out.  “Here, you’re never gonna guess whose just walked in?  Better come down.” 

Passenger: Still see any of the old gang?

Cabby: Nah.  Still see some of the old faces when Millwall play West Ham.  (chuckles)  You look across at some old duffers and it’s “oh hello! You’re still alive are ya?” 

Passenger: Still go to the Den?

Cabby: Oh no.  Not anymore.  Maybe for the big games.  Last one was Wigan.  That kicked off.

Car pulls up outside a tenement block near the river.  The passenger gets out.

Passenger: Take it easy. 

Cabby: See ya.

Jack Bannister 1930-2016

My former colleague Jack Bannister died in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Jack was a professional cricketer for Warwickshire during the 1950's and 60's before becoming a leading journalist and voice on the game.

He had been talkSPORT's cricket correspondent for 15 years and was someone I listened and observed from close quarters for many years.

I posted this tribute to him on the talkSPORT website.

RIP Jack.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Here I go again

Despite a trip to New Zealand and Greece in 2015 it was a quiet year for flights. 

My flight count was 20-25 per annum from 2010 onwards. That's a lot of diazpeman and unnecessary stress.

So I thoroughly enjoyed my ten month period when the black cloud of air travel wasn't hanging over me.

It's back to normal now though. 2016 could be an expensive one for the carbon footprint. 

Although I did read recently that buying a chicken at the supermarket makes more of an impact on the environment that a package holiday to Crete.

Either way I now find myself in the normal position. Having negotiated check in without an upgrade I have supped my first beers of the year. 

My phlegmatic mood continues through the 2.5gm diazepam pill.

Alternating between staring out the window and watching the girl standing next to me going through a DVT avoidance workout. 

Aware that every text I send or update I post might be viewed one day as my last. 

If that proves to be the case then can I say I love my wife, my friends and my family and Fulham for the Cup!

Monday, 18 January 2016

From the Anahata

This is a yoga studio.

This is more than just a yoga studio.

This is an idea and endeavour.  

This is the decision to take control of a life rather than letting it control you.  It's taking time to find a room, spending money to hire it and having the imagination to make it look presentable.  

It's the risk that nobody will turn up, that it will cost more than it will make, that you may end up regretful and feeling foolish. In the hope it'll be a success, another achievement to be proud, that you don't have to traipse up to North London in the dark any more and doing this will make you happy.

This room is why some people get out of bed in the morning and the reason why some stay there.

Risk in the pursuit of happiness.  Making something of life.  Creativity.  

My wife has started her own private yoga sessions.  This is how the room looked ahead of her first class in the spare room above the Sparrowhawk pub in Crystal Palace.

She's taking a risk, putting herself out there, gambling, living life.  It's what she does.

It's a memory, it's a moment in time, it's why I married her.  

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

All change

A pretty woman sat next to me on the train to work. In her twenties she was blonde, slim and wore nice clothes. The moment she sat down next to me a waft of stale cigarette smoke hit my nostrils. Not for the first time in the last three years I thought to myself "I am so pleased I've stopped smoking".

I've given up many things in my life. Some toxic, some political.  Cigarettes, a friendship here or there, Gregg's sausage rolls. Starbucks, The Sun and caring about office politics.  All required mental effort but the hard work wasn't always about going without.  It was about the disruption it caused to my routine.

I remember reading that the physical addiction to nicotine is less than what your body craves from a cup of tea.  It's more the association you have with smoking that makes it so difficult to give up.  I'd agree.

Smoking went hand in hand with so many great moments in life.  The first cup of tea of a morning, an accompaniment to food, an excuse to go out and gossip, and of course the reason most find it almost impossible to give up.  A pint and a fag.  Thank god for the smoking ban.

As the years go on and the poisonous aspects of life are wheedled out what is left to give up?  Ridding yourself of addiction almost becomes an addiction in itself.

When I told my brother I had stopped drinking coffee his response was "Are you giving up coffee just to give up something?"  He had a point.

There are health benefits to coffee and it's not like when I see someone over the age of 45 puffing away. When that happens I find it difficult to not to go up to them and shake them.

The smell of coffee is also a pleasant one.  If the woman on the train had smelt like a coffee bean I'd have had a far different reaction.

I don't think I'm going to improve as a person nor live longer my reason for giving up coffee is financial rather than anything else.

As much as I'd noticed the paradox of drinking a stimulant when in a stressful situation it was more to do with the money I was spending.  £150 a month to be precise.  That's a ridiculous amount to spend on something I only started drinking a couple of years back.  It's not like I ever drink the stuff at home.

And two weeks into my abstention what do I feel?  Well, not a lot.  Giving up coffee is much easier than stubbing out cigarettes.

The only real benefit became noticeable towards the end of my first week.  I realised that the loose change in my trouser pocket was exactly the same as it had been at the start.  I hadn't spent a penny all week!

It reminded me of the difference in cost between my Ashes trip in 2006/07 and 2010/11.  The central character in the first tour was a heavy smoking, big drinking single man sampling his first overseas cricket tour.  Four years later he had matured into an occasional smoker and a selective drinker.  An engaged man enjoying his swansong tour with an assortment of friends and family.  This far more rounded but equally less interesting protagonist saved about $3,000.

Fast forward to today and I admit I've stared wistfully at someone holding a polystyrene cup a couple of times while strolling around Crystal Palace.  A coffee used to accompany me on my shopping trips.  While it's undeniable a London Bridge latte while walking along the Thames on the way to work is a pleasant way to start the day.

But my overriding emotion about coffee?  It's a faint feeling of nausea at the thought of consuming all that milk.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Dates for the diary

I lost my diary at my staff Christmas party. It was a boozy affair, my bag got upended, I didn't realise, I was lucky I didn't lose anything else.

I didn't realise for a couple of days but when I did I was perturbed. I keep all my work obligations and social events in it so for a good week I was waiting for the phone to go. "Er, Jon the match kicks off in 45 minutes where are you?" Or a text along the lines of "just got here what you drinking?"

I rang the pub to no avail and had given it up for lost when just before Christmas I walked into my bosses office to see him holding it in the air.

Afterwards he remarked about his surprise at just how pleased I was to see it. In retrospect punching the air and letting out a whoop of delight was probably a bit OTT.

Nevertheless for someone like me who believes in getting the maximum enjoyment out of all three stages of anything (the planning, the doing and the remembering) it is around this time of year when I actually look forward to getting my new Surrey diary.

And it arrived today. WHOOP!!!!! 

I'm punching the air as I type.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

My first indulgence of the New Year

One of the things I do at this time of the year is wonder where work and pleasure may see me head to in the upcoming 12 months.  The nature of my job means I usually have the off-chance of visiting three or four destinations.  And then there's always the personal holiday or trip to see the extended family.

This year the list is India (maybe), UAE (probably), France (possibly) and New Zealand (definitely).  You can probably guess which of those are for work.  Well, I say 'you' but I don't think anyone is actually reading.

With two days of remorseless batting ahead in the cricket and no chance of a result I began listlessly browsing the Web for inspiration and I came across a page which let me enter in every country I've visited. It's pretty cool to look at a map of the world in this way and work out where you'd need to visit to make a sizeable increase in the imprint.

Going to countries like Brazil, USA and Australia really helps to make me look more worldly than my trips to Antigua or Malawi for instance.  While I'm aware that the one afternoon I spent in a market on the Chinese border isn't really deserving of earning a massive blue splodge.

Not sure 'splodge' is the correct terminology but it passes the spellcheck test.

It has made me think that my next destinations need to be new ones and big ones.  I need to fill up the map fast before family and life get in the way of my travelling.  Looking back at the possibilities for this year India would be ideal but France has already been ticked off, or filled in in this case.  Hmmmmm.

My mind flicks to the possibility of going to Russia for the World Cup in 2018 and India for the cricket as two great opportunities.  While I am also oh-so-aware that a trip to Antartica would not only mean I've visited every continent it's huge as well.

I thought of posting my map to Facebook but decided nothing screams self-indulgence more than posting a chart of all the countries they've been fortunate enough to visit.  Well apart from posting it on your own 'blog, that is.

Create Your Own Visited Countries Map

Monday, 4 January 2016

God had done a bit more by day three it's true

2016 so far: No coffees drunk, three blog posts written, playing footy on Wednesday. Fruit and veg smoothie, cereal and homemade sushi for lunch. 

So a decent start but my TV and Internet viewing remains unchanged.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Dry January

Like many I welcomed the New Year with ambitious plans to improve as a person.

I have been spending £150 a month on coffee so that's got to go. Alcohol is on the back burner for the month. Eating healthily will be less of a problem though the exercise schedule looks ominous. Yoga, football and running around in the cold all sound fantastic in the planning stage less so when faced with actually doing it.

One of the conundrums is how to fit this panoply of self-improvement in and around work.  My career is many things but the routine? Well, consistent it is not.

Happily I stumbled upon this today.

Unhappily today was the day Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow smashed South Africa for 100 runs in the first hour of play.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

A New Hope

My New Year resolutions are thus. 

1. Blog more
2. Give up coffee
3. Work out how to use the blog spot app on my phone. It's surprisingly difficult

So far I am two for three.