Archive for January, 2013

Batty About Bradman

Today’s proposed trip to The Adelaide Oval has been postponed because Adelaide, just for today, appears to have done a Weather Exchange with Manchester. Which must be good new for ex-England footballers as there will be no need to defrost their cars this morning. So Mancunians, get out and drink in the exported South Australian suuuuuuuunshiiiiiiinnne!

The Adelaide Oval can lay claim to being one of Test Cricket’s most picturesque grounds. However, due to the expected crowds of Englishmen coming over for The Ashes later this year, it’s currently having a bit if a facelift. Let’s hope it’s a bit better than Warnie’s….

As a result of the building work, one of the ground’s major attractions, The Bradman Collection has been put away in storage until the refurbishment is over. Luckily, The South Australian State Library has some iconic Bradman memorabilia on show. Sir Donald Bradman, as you’ll all know, was born in New South Wales but settled in Adelaide later in life, which this state is rightly proud of.

Pictured below are the bats he used to make the then highest scores in Test cricket (334 v England, 1930) and First Class Cricket (452 NSW v Queensland, 1930), the highest score at the SCG (340 NSW v Victoria, 1929) plus the bat used to score his first Test century (1929 versus us again…) and his hundredth Test century (v India, 1947).

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Eighty years from now, the question must be asked. Will they have something similar on display in honour of Mitchell Johnson?

Swing Low….

This Saturday sees the start of the RBS Six Nations for 2013. Despite starting my adventures in the land of the white cloud part of my mind will be firmly on matters further North every weekend for the next seven weeks.

The Six Nations seven weeks is one of my favourite times of year. The nights begin to draw out, it warms up a little and when it doesn’t the warmth from the pub or your house does the trick as you contemplate the Arctic conditions on the pitch while the guys go all out for 80 minutes for Northern Hemisphere rugby bragging rights.
Nothing gets me out of my seat like watching an England game; shouting at the television for the big lads to stop doing stupid things at the ruck, for Ashton to stop pouncing about, pleading with the Southern Hemisphere officials to give us the benefit of the doubt sometimes.
Please?
The pounding of the table at the missed tackles, the very reluctant praise of anything good the French do, the quick to console with any of the Celtic brothers (despite the fact that some patronising English bloke in their face is the last thing they need at that time); yes, the Six Nations is a very special time on Planet Sport.

Then, from somewhere in the Twittersphere this beautiful, beautiful creation turns up.

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Finally, a televisual rugby drinking game to rival Stella With Stelling.

So just when I can’t work myself up anymore about how much I’m going to miss it this year, there’ll be thoughts of my lads (Hello fellas!) whacking fingers of drinks down their necks in a distant pub somewhere every time Brian Moore needlessly gets, let’s say, “deossification” into a damning soliloquy of how poorly the scrums are being reffed. He knows about this new game…. Trust me, he will do this.

Well, enjoy I say. Here’s to an England win, though I fear France will nick it this year. Have several for me and have a cracking Six Nations.

Picture and concept courtesy of @WelshDalaiLama . Great work sir, thank you. If you’re on Twitter, go and have a look.

The Future’s Not Bright, But It Is Orange

Every so often an absolute gift will drop into my lap for a blog post idea. As they’re fond of saying over here, tooooo easy.

Last night as I checked into my hostel, I could barely conceal my delight. Advertised on the notice board amongst the earnestly well meant but usually pretty hopeless nightly guest events, lifts to Melbourne, both begged and given, and the plugs for other YHA digs, one particular poster lit up like the Aurora Borealis.

Breakfast for $5.

Dear reader, let me tell you I hardly slept a wink. It’s taken six weeks to find something approaching value for money in a country where nothing ever, to paraphrase John Lewis, is knowingly undercharged.

I woke up with a spring in my step. All those stupidly overpriced bottles of water, those I’ll-advised financially but oh-so-worth-it otherwise Caaaaaaallld Ones, the odd Eggs Benedict (Hello Marion!) or those late Jet Star deals, all would be forgotten. I sauntered downstairs with all the bright eyed expectancy of a new cricket season. In the most jovial bordering on smug manner I greeted the slovenly receptionist.

“Good morning, one of your breakfasts please my good man.”

(Don’t worry this isn’t going to be another Cheese Shop Sketch parody….)

“Aw, no worries mate….” Came the cheerful retort, our expressions about to be switched tangibly volte face as he reached for the freezer, then the fridge before, with something approaching a flourish plopped the clingfilmed objects of his rummage triumphantly into a dish.

“Well you didn’t think we were going to cook it for yer did ya?”

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Um, well, call me a whole hearted, easily led, naive old romantic of a consumer, but I had rather hoped you might old chap. The bubble’s burst. Then I blinked in the ominously coloured, yet not immediately apparent surrounds of the hostel.

Back in the day, orange was a cheerfully evocative colour. Those football videos of my youth was lit up by this evocative shade. The buccaneering derring do of Stanley Matthews (Hello Stan! Not that Stan, but our Stan!) on the wing. Mickey Walsh’s 1975 Match of the Day Goal of the Season (complete with the wonderful Barry Davies’s commentary) twenty years later for the same club. Then the brilliant Dutch orange majesty of the Total Footballers of Cruyff, Neeskens et al before Marco Van Basten’s limits-of-physics defying goal.

Now it’s just bloody miserable. Since my lot, the Mighty Hatters have in recent years wholeheartedly adopted it as our home kit we’ve never looked like getting out of our non-league surroundings. Not only is it miserable it’s also synonymous with the paying through the nose for stuff and poor quality.

Think Easy Jet, think Jet Star, think YHA.

Controversial maybe, but after a few weeks of staying exclusively in their hostels, the aura of the backpacker’s irreplaceable friend is staring to come off a little. For the most part they’ve done a great job. It’s mainly cheap (some are more expensive than others for no apparent reason though) and safe digs and the facilities are for the most part very good.

It’s the penny pinching behaviour, reminiscent of the aforementioned airlines that grates though.

After something, anything requiring a little bit extra effort or good will? The person you’re addressing morphs from a cheery Aussie to a bluff Northern shopkeeper (and we all know which one, 70s comedy fans), and through sucked teeth, “oooooh, it’ll cost ya tha knows.” The hand reaches out towards you.

Now then, I appreciate the concept of budget travel, I really do. And I am, as previously stated, a whole hearted, easily led, naive old romantic of a consumer. But sometimes, I’d like just a little bit more bang for my buck.

Smiling wearily, I took the ingredients to The Ikea Brekkie upstairs and knocked the shit out of a cracking fry up quicker than you can say “Olympic Breakfast”.

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The menu tonight says Lobster Thermidore.

I think I’ll give that one a miss….

Rave On

Cheeky little chap isn’t he?

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This is Buddy, he’s a cross between a Poodle and a Schnauzer and he belongs to China’s housemate, the lovely Mel.

Relentless.

Take your pick from a sniping scrum half, a Mumbai traffic jam and all those PPI calls. Or choose all three.

Buddy’s a real character and has been on the go pretty much the whole time I’ve been in Perth. The late Barbara Woodhouse would have her work cut out with this one.
Buddy’s really annoying trait is that despite him getting on your nerves really quickly you can’t help but warm to him.
Whether faultlessly sitting on the third command every time, struggling to understand a Michael Clarke-esque shout of ‘Wait On’ when poised at the crossroads (though, to be fair, not many dogs would get the reference there), biting my toes, shoving his head in my lap (Why can’t I meet women like that?), effortlessly placing wet paws on clean shorts or eating my handkerchief having Houdini-like whipped it from the depths of my pocket beforehand, Buddy boy has been a real handful.

Bless him.

Perth has been a blast. I am hugely obliged to the lovely Mel for her hospitality and for putting up with me and to China for being complicit in all of the silly shenanigans of the last week. His quote earlier, a bleary utterance as the haze settles on a crazy weekend, is possibly one of the lines of the whole tour.

“This week I am going to live like a Prisoner Of War…”

Good ol’ boy. See you back in Blighty for the inaugural Bedford-Salisbury Exchange Programme and the first known game of ‘Wineyhands’ ever to be played on British soil.

Don’t Tell Him, Pike

Unlike the triumphant Blur song, in Western Australia Bank Holiday comes ten times a year. Which means ten times a year they get to do what I’m doing today.

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Put politely, not a lot.

Dad’s Army is on in a minute (Hello Pops!). You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to it.

Do you think I could be excused?

Magic Of The Cup II

Here, have a killing
In fact, giant teams here, have two
The FA Cup means a lot to me
But it means probably nothing to you

“Be strong, serve Town only,
know that if you do, beautiful heaven awaits”
That’s the poem I wrote for the first time
I saw a man with ten clubs to his name at the Kenny gates

Mr Rendell, that’s his name
No one ever knew his name cause he’s a journey man
Never thought twice about him,
Until he took his moment of fame with both hands

Now that I know him, those You Tube replays
I’d love to be in his goal scoring shoes
Getting there at the near post
And leaving the Norwich fans confused

Go ahead, Mr Rendell
Go ahead, Mr Rendell

Mr Rendell has freedom
A freedom of the Canaries penalty box
Free to be without the worries of a man marker
For Mr Rendell’s a fox

His only worries are injury
And an occasional harassment by away fans
Bench warmer they call him, but I just saw him
Send Town fans crazy in the stands

Dons, are they really civilized, yes or no?
Who are we to judge?
When thousands of Bedfordshire men could be entranced
By the prospect of a fifth round grudge

Mr Rendell has given us this greatest of days
A wondrous day of which we talk
Has our Cup dream gone too far?
To a wonderland with him we’ll walk

Mr Rendell a giant killing hero
But not to all
I see you score in joyous, bursting pride
Realize that all in all you stand tall

Go ahead, Mr Rendell
Mr Rendell, yeah
Mr Rendell, yeah
Mr Rendell, go ahead

Mr Rendell
Lord, Mr Rendell

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With profound acknowledgements and respect to Arrested Development and, indeed, Scott Rendell.

They’ll be dancing in the streets of Bedfordshire tonight….

Go ‘straya!!!

A day that begins with “Did I fall asleep on the toilet last night?” probably won’t end well. Burns Night? Crash & Burns Night more like.

So, Australia Day. And more of the same.

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why can’t we have something like this in England?

Why?

I’m off to the races, then a BBQ, then the pub then on to the fireworks. Brilliant.

Again, why can’t we do something like this in Blighty?

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Pictured above, James Squire and Roger Sale shortly before the pubs opened.

Slainte Mhath

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

The Selkirk Grace; Robert Burns

What’s the world coming to when you can’t find haggis in Perth on Burns Night?

It being that time of the week, it seemed only fair to substitute haggis for pie. And Chunky Angus Steak at that. No neeps either, although I did find some tatties.

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You’ll by now not be surprised to hear that there was no clootie dumpling either. However, I did manage to find some chocolate biscuits instead.

Err, Tim-Tam O’Shanters. Does that count?

And the wee dram? Tonight’s visit to the Lucky Shag on Perth’s waterfront should see to that….

A very Happy Burns Night to all of DWC’s Scottish readers. Your very good health.

Right Into The Danger Zone

They couldn’t do this in Manchester. Crowds, about two to three hundred Western Australians, swell the vast lawns of the man-made clearing under the watch of the gasping, sun-sapped trees. We’re in Synergy Parkland, part of Kings Park, south west of central Perth on a typically warm summer evening for a typically Aussie treat. Welcome to Pictures in the Park.

The Moonlight Cinema experience. The lucky (organised) few have got there early and bagged the sofa seats and loungers. Others have brought deck chairs. And their ever present Eskies, without which modern Aussie life wouldn’t function properly. Cicadas and clacking kookaburras compete for sound space with the popping of Pringles, rustling of Tim Tams and the phutting and fizzing of bottles. The warm dew and the cool breeze and hushed anticipation provide the ambience for the amphitheatre.
The spiel on the website advises “advance previews, contemporary, cult and classic movies.” To add to the drama, China hasn’t bothered letting me in on the big feature so I’ve spent the last day guessing. There’s some good ‘uns, well the trailers look decent, out soon and now.

Hitchcock, Django Unchained, Flight?

Oh, bloody hell. Not Gangster Squad again?

My sense of humour’s pretty warped but going through that absolute shower of steaming horse poo would stretch the limits of the absurd. Even if it is in a lovely setting….

A quick check of the ticket. Goodness me.

Top Gun.

I did not see that coming.

This may surprise you but, I haven’t seen Top Gun. Not properly.

Well once, about half way through, twenty years ago (Hello Luke!). But then it stopped raining so we went back outside to play footy.
So although, through complicity I’ve nodded my head at the half baked references, half heartedly mouthed the quotes, whole heartedly led the singing, completely obliviously now it seems, to You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ on various modes of public transport all over Great Britain.

Clearly everyone else here has. A quick study of my fellow audience reveals a cheery snapshot of today’s Perth. Different ages, ethnicities, assumed social standings. They’ve all probably seen it at least once. Thirty three probably isn’t the age to be watching this in full for the first time.

The F14 Tomcats do their thing. People mockingly laugh at the haircuts, the ‘taches, the cliches, the cheesy stuff, the creepy tongueing scene. They join in with the songs, the jokes, the Maverick as Fonz bits. The score segues unashamedly through the entire range of mid-eighties mood instrumentals. The homo-eroticism scale never dips below half. Goose is cooked. Meg Ryan’s hot too. The Migs make a re-entry because everything else has been done. The Tomcats do their thing again.
Maverick wins! Tom Cruise wins! America wins! Wow!

Twenty seven years ago, this would have been the coolest thing in the world. Twenty years ago, with most of the stuff going over my head, I would have absolutely lapped it up. Now though, I’m just pleased that, after all this time, I know what the fuss is all about.

Footnote:
Prior to the start of the film, I was talking to a lass while I was sprawled, uninvited, across her picnic rug proffering Doritos in the few promising moments before her fella returned with the Magnums. My laconic opening went something like;

When people talk of the golden age of cinema, people evoke Fellini, Lean, Bogarde etc. I disagree. For me it’s the 80s.

While I’m in the confessional, I also haven’t watched The Goonies, ET or all of the Rockys. And the Karate Kids. Yes, I know, I know.
I also don’t rate Ferris Bueller’s Day Off despite being shouted down every time I voice this dissenting opinion.

I’ll be honest. I don’t think there’s any point seeing any of the above now. The only reason to watch them today would be for the glow of nostalgia associated with the time I should have seen them first time round as a teenager.

So while I’ve missed out on these iconic pictures, and part of my argument, you could say, falls flat on its face as a result, I believe I’ve seen enough of the Gr-eighties flicks to back up my thoroughly tongue in cheek (If you are reading Dr Kermode…. Oh, you’re not? No, no, I understand.) half statement/ half chat up line.

I can, however, bask in the glow of nostalgia, and lets face it the timeless genius of the Indiana Jones Trilogy, the Crocodile Dundees, the Back To The Future series, the first Naked Gun, Airplane, Big, The Blues Brothers, Die Hard, Coming To America, A Fish Called Wanda and the film the aforementioned stinker Gangster Squad so desperately yearned to be, The Untouchables. It was also the beginning of the end of the Bond movies (Octopussy notwithstanding?) before their recent re-birth. And, of course, 1981 also saw the greatest film ever made:

Escape To Victory

Decades from now, I’d love my nephew’s generation to be lounging, wide-eyed and spellbound on a balmy evening in a park somewhere, watching on as an embattled Sir Michael Caine, bloodied, unbowed and hopeful asks;

“You really think we can win this?”

Lets face it, if the freaky weather keeps up, this may even be in Manchester.

Little Creatures Great & All

The Doctor is there to welcome us. The resuscitating sea breeze from the Indian Ocean that breathes life back into the sun battered residents of Greater Perth. ‘When in Rome’ is the theme behind our excursion to The Little Creatures Brewery, home to Western Australia’s, nay, all of Australia’s greatest beer.
I hadn’t expected to be so easily smitten. In playing the part of an unofficial ambassador for the great English pint and copping all the obligatory abuse from Caaaaald One swigging non-believers that, in these parts rightly goes with the territory, I expected to beat them.

Not join them.

But in Little Creatures Pale Ale, Australia has a genuinely good beer. A beer I’d be happy to go home and admit defeat over.

Our trip to Freo, home of the aforementioned Fremantle Doctor, meant a look in at the brewery. Not the tour, couldn’t possibly afford that in saving for the forthcoming weekend spectacular, but a quick lunch time sup overlooking the harbour.

It’s a fair bet there aren’t many more pleasant settings in which to enjoy a freshly brewed beer than in the backyard of the Fremantle brewery. Brand spanking new yachts and speed boats bump up and down on the waves like would-be glamour models straining brazenly for attention while an ancient vessel, an old Dutch girl of four hundred odd years old, blocks the views of the more functional harbour industries. Waiting staff flit in and out of the packed al fresco dining area while, against the fierce midday sun,The Doctor continues doing the rounds. The signature Little Creatures cherubs adorn wall space and half barrels featuring their image hang in the air like Mick Harford.

Borrowing from the US rather than the UK take on a pale ale style, the citrus flavours shoot up through the taste buds before being placated by the malty after taste that lingers as long as the Fred Wesley trumpet solo in the background. The chilled temperature helps rather than hinders the flavour.

It could be that it’s been that long since I’ve had a really good pint, or as I suspect, Little Creatures Pale Ale deserves to be in that category.

Now then. Anyone know if Cranfield Budgens stocks it?

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