Back in July, when all was rosy in the garden of English cricket, I booked the extra day just in case. Well, I reckoned, we’d have run up a hard-fought victory on the 5th Day at the SCG. A run-crammed epic Test Match culminating in one of the all time great England performances, with our vaunted middle-order taking it in turns to larrup and thwack those pesky Aussie bowlers all over the famous old ground in pursuit of a mammoth run chase.
I reckoned I’d need a night to take in the celebrations, a third straight Ashes victory and all this, wrapped up in the most dramatic way possible, would demand, nay insist, upon it. Endless toasts, shared stories, jugs, jeroboams, and jigs of delight.
I reckoned a lie-in of John & Yoko proportions would surely follow the previous night of Hogarth-ian hell-fire excess. Yes, an extra day would be the sensible thing here, definitely.

As it was, we got buried calamitously in three days instead.

Ashes Wednesday was a dashed Wednesday. Even the sun stopped working. My tan, the most ludicrous since the bloke who’s currently doing his best to ruin Cardiff City, would have one or two siennas stripped back by the gathered grey in the Sydney sky. The spring in my step was downgraded to a skulk. It poured with rain too.

Some gain assuagement from drink. Some chocolate. Others God. For me it’s pies.

Traipsing around The Rocks, an upmarket (ok, even-more-upmarket, it’s all a bit la-di-da in these parts) area of the city etched, like the legends of Cook, MacQuarie and Phillip, into Sydney’s legacy, I made for a traditional hotel for a spot of tiffin. Now, hotels here tend to be split into two categories. There’s the big chain hotels that you find festooned over the fashionable parts of any given metropolis and there’s the old style ones that you’ll find the next time Crocodile Dundee is repeated on telly. A lot of them don’t look like they do accommodation. Many more of them look like they really shouldn’t.

What they do do is uphold the Spirit of Donk. Beer, pokies (fruit machines as we know them in the UK), blokes and TVs that show an endless line of betting opportunities for the bored, the blasé and the believers.

This being The Rocks, the hotel in question was, naturally, a cut above the type Mr Dundee and his mates might hang out in. Cold, hungry, underwhelmed, I needed a pie to bring me back to life.

The Beef & Bock Pie did just that. Persistent pastry that clung on like a chugger sensing a sucker, unleashed a wondrous beery steam when finally prised open. Mushrooms surrounded tender chunks of thick beef in a rich, Bock lager steeped gravy. The odd garden vegetable popped in for a cameo too. It was melt in the mouth delicious, and the English mustard, in plentiful supply, added stardust to a very enjoyable meal.

The spirit started to soar again. I finished the accompanying over-flowery Hot Hog Pale Ale with a flourish. So the holiday’s sport had fallen quicker, flatter and harder than a pigeon from a farmer’s gun, it was time to make the best of the holiday’s last day with my roomies. Three top lads who’d been there with me through an eventful four weeks.


To Clovelly Beach. And the bowling green…