Archive for January, 2013

Straight To Hell

During the bus journey from the station the weather spelt out the portents for my destination. Unabatedly gloomy.
Arriving late, sweating from the two mile hike in humid conditions, and with a thirst on, I dump my stuff at the hostel, bid a cheery guten abend to my fellow guests and make a bolt for the local Oirish tavern.
The gloom has been replaced by heavy spots of rain at intermittent intervals. The thunder begins to sound in the distant. Lightning follows shortly after, illuminating the coastal town in Luciferian shades. Then bats. Loads of fruit bats scrambled to the air like a squadron of the damned adding to the chaotic scene.

Finishing my Caaaaald One before South Africa’s cricketers finish off their New Zealand counterparts on the telly, I set off for a pizza. It’s gone from the gathering apocalypse to Hades in the matter of a schooner.

I leap over the torrents coming down the hill, ducking in and out of diminishing dry spots until I reach Domino’s. I order extra locusts and frogs with mine to go with the Biblical downpour outside. Sprinting back, being careful to avoid the horsemen, to the hostel. I crack straight on with my soggy pizza to the consternation of my fellow diners. My espadrilles are shot, my clothes are sopping but my hunger is pleasantly sated. I reflect on the visions of pure evil I saw out there.

No, not the imminent end of the world. Something much more sinister than that. The prevalence of roundabouts and grid systems. The rows and rows of featureless, characterless, multi-storied but monotonous apartments and houses.

This can only mean one thing. It strikes me like a hammer horror blow.

I’ve unwittingly chosen to spend a night in Milton Keynes On Sea.


Uncle Nobby

Sunday, as always used to be the case, was a family day. Reviving tradition for the sake of a quick blog post and a self-indulgent family gag, I had breakfast here this morning.


Nobby is one of many nicknames for my youngest brother (Hello Ed!). His nephew, Alfie (Hello Alfie!), knows him as Uncle Nobby. It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss out on.

Three quarters of a mile away up the beach is a lighthouse.


It sits proudly on the part of the bay called Nobby’s Point.

There are a number of obscene jokes to be had here. To go any further would be completely inappropriate.
It is, after all, Sunday.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Jets. Woo-oooo-oooo-oooo-oooo!!!!!

Coldplay’s Paradise greets our entrance to the ground. They’ve either got very low expectations round these parts or they had a big helping of irony thrown in with the deal that, last year, brought one of English football’s cult heroes to this part of New South Wales.

It’s Saturday afternoon in Newcastle. What else can a man do but head to the football?

The Hunter Stadium, principally the home of the Newcastle Knights rugby league team, during the Australian Premier League season hosts the Newcastle United Jets. Presumably wearing the Knights red and blue is a caveat of the tenancy agreement. This is Newcastle United, but not as any regulars of the Gallowgate End would recognise them.

The Jets players saunter on to the field for the warm up. He’s not there. The raison d’ĂȘtre of my weekend, no where to be seen. Not just my weekend, two Plymouth Argyle fans have also come to Newcastle for the weekend just to see him.

He’s definitely not there. A deflating moment.

Lets be honest, as England fans we shouldn’t be surprised. This is yet another moment where Emile Heskey has failed to turn up.

I’m here with Alex and Ellis, themselves touring this great country, and similarly sports tragics. We take our places on the grass bank behind the goal and soak up the atmosphere of a matchday in Newcastle, Australia style.
The Carousel, a local band, kick off the music side of things. Spouting snarly American covers and home made grunge they are as far removed from Rodgers & Hammerstein as you can get. Dire Straits blaring Local Hero, a happy feature of watching the Magpies home games on Match Of The Day is replaced by a local Aussie legend; the best part of ten thousand people join in with the chorus of INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart. As unexpected as it is surreally beautiful.

Then the Ultras take over, not for them The Blaydon Races. A tall chap with a megaphone, turned away from the action, stoically faces his orchestra in the Front Novacastria and Nova Youth whipping them into a frenzy that will last all game.
Twelve minutes before anything happens and it’s the visitors, Brisbane Roar who work the home keeper with a routine far post save. Jets miss their talisman. Balls are played down the channel or into his deputy’s feet but nothing sticks. Roar look comfortable, at the back their captain Matt Smith looks a class above and fittingly for a team in orange, they get the ball down and try and look to work their openings rather than opting for Newcastle’s more direct approach.

However, Brisbane’s commitment to the passing game becomes their undoing, as dallying in possession, the Jets midfield starts to snap into action. Down the right, James Virgili begins to get more space and starts making things happen for his team. On the half hour, he creates a good chance that the erratic Ryan Griffiths spurns, dragging his shot wide from just outside the area. Then James Goodwin flashes one inches past Roar’s Michael Theo’s right hand post. Having laboured at the start, Jets end the half well. Griffiths misses another presentable opportunity before, in stoppage time, Smith expertly muscles the generously monikered Josh Brilliante off the ball as home fans scream in vain for a penalty.

Jets fans don’t have to wait too long. Two minutes after the break, James Brown makes ’em feel good. From another midfield tussle, Brown’s smart back heel finds Brilliante, whose cumbersome finish, reminiscent of you know who, finds the back of the net. Jets think they’ve doubled their lead again through Brilliante only for the linesman to correctly rule it out for offside.

Brisbane finally fashion a chance. Jets’ Mark Bhirighitti smothers a one on one situation. The offending Roar striker, Mitch Nichols, is regaled by the Newcastle Ultras with a version of the (much beloved by England cricket fans) Mitchell Johnson song on account of his profligacy. Bhirighitti then shows a deftness that Matt Giteau would be proud of to thwart another Roar attack. At the other end Griffiths misses again. Brown fails to get on up to head home a deserved second.

At the back for Newcastle, captain Ruben Zadkovich and Taylor Regan are called into action as Brisbane apply some late pressure. The locals love Regan and his combative style of play is your actual Aussie street fighting larrikin personified. Door duty in town somewhere undoubtedly beckons for these two granite featured individuals afterwards. Brisbane’s last roar is more of a terminal croak and they fail to make the best of three stoppage time corners. Zadkovich, for the umpteenth time holds firm. Newcastle cling on and the final whistle signals three welcome points, fifth position and with it a play off berth.
There’s not long of this season’s A-League left. They’ll need more Regan resilience, more Brown brilliance and the return of a certain centre forward if they are to challenge for honours.

Harry’s Game

Welcome to a parallel universe. The surprising end result of an engaging three hour train ride from Sydney up through New South Wales taking in the edge of the Blue Mountain range and scenic lakeside towns like, insert your own tired England manager joke here, Woy Woy (Hello Eats!).
On leaving the station, I catch glimpse of a bus destined for Wallsend. The second thing to notice is the massive dockyards that have made this town’s name. Across the bay is Stockton.The chaps here, to a man, are shirtless. Even the hostel receptionist looks like Olivia Colman….
The comparisons are as far fetched as they are spookily redolent.

Welcome to Newcastle. Infamous as the place where they took the really troublesome convicts.

It’s that time of the week already and, assuming the locals love for a pie is on the scale of this place’s English namesake I head for the nearest bait cabin (Hello Stevie lad!) for a spot of lunch. I head to the Queen’s Wharf and the home of the only licensed franchise of where I spent yesterday around this time, Harry’s Cafe De Wheels.

A legendary venue for the pie connoisseur, its original base in Woolloomoo Dockyard has been in service since 1945, when local entrepreneur Harry ‘Tiger’ Edwards, bemused by the lack of quality after-pub eaterie in his home town, decided to set up a caravan specialising, more or less, in pies for the esurient and inebriated.
The great, the good and the far too many self-serving types from reality TV shows have eaten there. Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Allan Border and P.C. George Garfield from The Bill are some of the many celebrities whose cheerful Troth-Cam images adorn the shiny aluminium walls of the iconic pie shack. As its legend has grown, so has its menu. Pasties, sausage rolls and hotdogs, not to mention other flavours of pie are all available these days.
Tradition dictated I left the pie till Friday, so yesterday I had the pastie. It was good. The pie today was better.
In keeping with the hulking pie tower of a fortnight ago, clearly the standard way to serve the dish here, I signed up for the original flavour in all its Aussie surroundings. No kidney, no cheese, no onions.
Just beef.


The cutlery was as ineffective as the ones issued a fortnight ago as the crust stood firm, as tough as Steve Waugh. The potato, meanwhile, was more synthetic than Shane Warne in his current state. The peas were in the same vein, though gloriously and voluminously mushy.
The beef itself was good enough, but, frankly, Harry, there wasn’t enough of it. The gravy was saltier than Bernard Manning’s joke book although a delightful touch of pepper did just enough to rescue the flavour.

Yeah, it was good alright, but legendary? I wondered if it would have tasted better in Sydney rather than my current location.
Overlooking the bay, reflecting on the latest instalment of my pie odyssey, a drunken, broke man rambled idiotically on in a strange accent, rudely interrupting my pie-based musings.

Newcastle. The comparisons really are as far fetched as they are spookily redolent.

Park Life

So many people. I’m out of breath watching them, it’s no wonder, for the most part, they look so joylessly, soul-sappingly knackered. Have I unwittingly walked onto the route of the Sydney Marathon?
Heading down from Bennelong Point and the iconic Sydney Opera House through the Royal Botanical Gardens that acts as a graceful viewpoint across Port Jackson to Mrs MacQuarie’s Point, I could be forgiven for thinking so. A notice at the entrance to the Gardens invites patrons to walk on the grass. I can see why now.
Tens, scores, hundreds of them, moving at varying speeds and directions, taking no prisoners, bullying and bouncing their way mercilessly across the Tarmac as innocent families, pensioners and dallying passers by all dive for cover. I look around for reassurance and conspicuous by their collective absence are the commentary by David Coleman and ‘Big’ Bren Foster, the bloke in the diving bell, the man in the rhino suit, Hazel Irvine’s gasping, rasping trackside interviews and Sir Jimm…
Err, well you get the idea with that one.

What I’d assumed to be a slight refuge from the congested hordes of sightseers on Circular Quay, seems to be an ill thought plan as these clueless boardwalk cloggers in turn are replaced by equal numbers of athletes, wannabee athletes and ne’erwillbe athletes (while not forgetting the most mercurial of all the fitness fanatics, the power walker). I have walked Central Park in New York, Hyde Park in London, The Warren, Elstow; all are known for their elegant, flora framed vistas and as hubs of amateur athleticism, but I have never felt as uncomfortably vanquished in my quest for a bit of ponderous peace as in Sydney.
The sweaty, self-important pavement plodders continue to swarm obnoxiously around and about. “Uuurghhanxmaate”, drawls one weighty, slightly tanned, grey vested individual. “No problem”, I pipe back with seething Fawlty acidity as, like Jonathon Trott letting one go harmlessly past the off-stump, I obligingly get him out of a messy three way pile up; “Enjoy!”

And that’s it.
For the most part, people don’t seem to be enjoying it at all. Yet still they keep coming.

For the men, there’s the pounders and the mincers. The tryers and the verge-of-cryers. The morons in the Man U shirts, the singlets, the headbands, the AFL boys, the white collar chaps in company sponsored running vests. The long, the short, the tall. The young and the old enough to know better.

While for the ladies, all manner of Lycra based stuff seems to dominate the scene usually accompanied by pumping, vulgar dance music on the iPods. There is, however, one delightful lass among the many would-be models who raises a smile, dashing past with the legend ‘Love Bare’ emblazoned across her running top.
Madam, if only you’d the time….

Now look, I’m not one for knocking people who take their fitness and exercise seriously. Clearly with my beer belly, wimpish demeanour and inability to throw a cricket ball properly, I could learn and a lot and gain a lot from such fiercely driven competitors.
And one day soon, I will. Promise. But there’s a time and a place, surely?
Sydney harbour in all its all encompassing finery, like a hoppy, foaming characterful pint of English ale is something to be savoured, not bolted. All I’d set out to do was have a dawdle among one of the most picturesque parts of this magnificent city. To take in its superlative sights, its quietly spoken history and its many walks of wildlife, while the harbour, the scene stealer in all this, brims with its usual buoyant busyness.

It’s not about all you joggers who go round and round and round….

We reflective dawdlers have a place here too you know.



Midweek Mooooo!!!


The Bradman Oval, Bowral, NSW. Wednesday, early afternoon.
The view from Cow Corner.

Not sure how many of Sir Donald Bradman’s runs he made as a fledgling cricketer were scored in this particular area of the ground.

(Hello Lewy!)

WCs of NSW: A DWC Special

Maybe it was the Vietnamese food from last night, but caught short in Kirribilli, I make my way sharpish to the nearest toilet, a seven foot tall, unprepossessing looking, shiny steel box on the bay underneath the north side of the bridge.
A metallic, American voice bids me welcome. It could be William Shatner, or maybe and more pertinently here, his Shooting Stars;True or False pseudonym, but suddenly everything’s gone a bit Star Trek. Red light indicates doors are secure. Maybe too secure. Will I get out of here alive?

“Thank you for choosing ExeLoo, you have ten minutes to use these facilities.”
From Star Trek to James Bond. What would Roger Moore do? Where would Timothy Dalton sit? I don’t have time to think of a George Lazenby based scenario before a piano solo of Burt Bacharach’s “What The World Needs Now Is Love” is piped through the speakers. Presumably the gas is next? If this is going to be the last song I ever hear, it’s not a bad one. Although, if you’re going to snuff it on the khazi, surely something by Elvis is much more apt?

Considering my next movement maybe my last, so to speak, I make a break for the hand washing device. What happens next is akin to that bit in Naked Gun when Drebin is searching the villain’s high rise apartment.
The toilet goes up like a geyser, soap shoots out diagonally in rapid, globular propulsions of pink, water cascades violently down the walls and hot air wafts un-remorselessly into my face like a harsh Saharan wind. Dazed momentarily, I stand by to do battle with the Kling Ons, or SCEPTRE, or the ghost of Hal David. The doors open robotically.


That voice again. “Thank you for flying with ExeLoo, we looking forward to seeing you soon.”
All shook up, I take a moment to compose myself, Roger Moore like. There’s no tie to straighten, so I do a double eyebrow work out instead.
It’s a stifling 43 degrees today, the long but rewarding walk back to the hostel across Sydney Harbour Bridge beckons. Maybe I’ll stick to pasta and sauce tonight.


Guest Publication: Bury Avenue Bugle; Elstow CC Latest

2012? Pah! If 2013 carries on in this rich vein of form we’re going to have a cracking year. First Phil The Power Taylor bags his sixteenth world title, then the Mighty Hatters stun the world of football and now my beloved Elstow Cricket Club ( are up and running in what will be a very important year for the club. Kudos to Matt, Dave and Tom for some great performances and to Dan for some great writing. It’s right here folks.

Round Five of the Bedfordshire County Indoor Cricket League featured Elstow A’s encounter with top of the table Dunstable A. After the previous early start pre-Christmas, a more welcoming start time of 12 noon awaited us (albeit this time does play havoc with the Sunday roast). Tom Wisson won the toss and elected to bowl, opening up with Phil Johnson and Stu Robson against an experienced Dunstable opening pair.
The scored ticked over for the league leaders, however in between the threes and obligatory wides, some good dot balls were had. However, both opening batsmen retired in quick succession after reaching 40. Dunstable had reached the half way stage on an imposing 96 runs for loss of no wickets.
Two newcomers created the change in bowling of Dave Riddle and Wisson (Tom – for those in doubt!). The number four lasted a solitary ball, the yorker from Tom proving too good for him. However, runs were kept to a minimum (in indoor terms) despite the best efforts of R. Blake who clearly had a licence to play expansive shots, with two Dunstable batsmen in the hutch, ready to return. In between dogged back wall fielding some lusty 4s and 6s were had, before a smart stumping by Matt Stevens off the bowling of Jonty saw Blake depart for 16.
Batsmen 5 and 6 for Dunstable tried to quicken the pace in the remaining three overs but good bowling from Robson and Tom Wisson kept runs to a minimum and prevented the retired batsmen of Horton and Boocock from returning to the crease.
Dunstable finished their allotted 12 overs with 171 for 3.

Elstow’s reply started with the ever dependable Tom Wisson and Riddle. Tom played some expansive and exquisite off and on drives before retiring on 40. Only one minor scare was had whereby Tom managed to run two singles, to Riddle’s none but a wayward throw allowed Tom to scramble home. Dave soon retired as well once Stevens was well set. Dan Wisson joined the fray and the scored kept ticking before Dan was caught excellently on the back wall by A. Lewis.
Robson (aka the self titled finisher) was adjudged LBW for nought. However Stu was pleased that he had at least managed to use his new pads. Proclaiming he ‘didn’t feel a thing’ as the ball thudded rapidly into them- which was heartening to know. Johnson came and went fairly quickly. However, Elstow were always above the run rate and managed to knock the winning runs off with an over to spare for the loss of only 2 wickets.
Thank you once again for Ali for scoring and the support of a good dozen Elstow supporters.

MoM: A tricky one this week as Riddle, Tom and Stevens all retired on 40.
The four bowlers of Stu and the aforementioned three were steady and all
went for roughly the same amount of runs. Despite Riddle again being the
most economical bowler, this weeks MoM goes to the skipper for setting
the platform and intensity at the top of the innings – Tom Wisson.

DoD: Again a tricky one – a professional performance, leaves little
calamity to pick through. A misfield from Dan Wiss costing three and
Riddle’s non running nearly costing a run out were the only real two
But wait – two late entries of Stu and Jonty. Stu narrowly misses out on
this award (as he at least used his new equipment) whilst Jonty didn’t
use any of his. DoD goes to Jonty.

Blue Monday

“Done.” The deal’s been sealed and, courtesy once again of a world renowned travel publication, our wallets are disproportionately lighter. We have been. We should’ve seen it coming, there’s only so much trust you can put in people before they keep letting you down (Hello parents! Hello ex-girlfriends! Err, hello one or two others!). The Bogan bus driver taking our twenty-five dollars sits low slung in his chair, be-hatted and bearded like the rifle toting, Bourbon slinging veteran of Spaghetti Westerns. The sunglasses and shifty disposition frame his guilt.
He cannot believe his luck, two Poms looking for a day’s walking in the Blue Mountains, two hours by train west of Sydney. He could, he could, he really could talk us out of it and say something like,”‘aw look mate, once you’ve seen one set of ranges, you’ve seen ’em all, tell ya what, for three bucks I’ll drop you down the road, you can take it from there.”

He doesn’t. Groping at China’s fifty note like a Cistercian monk granted a day’s leave in a strip club, he lodges the money in a different place to the rest of his cash and makes a play of giving us a leaflet and croaks some strangulated words of consolation along the lines of you can use these tickets on any route around the town. Which, after you’ve parted with your cash, is as empathetic as saying you can enter your hobby horse in The Gold Cup.

I know where that note has gone, mate, and I hope it finished last and is on the way to the glue factory.

So, we’ve been done on the pricing, how else can every traveller’s indispensable guide to the universe help? Take coats or jumpers as it’s likely to get cold.
As I’m traversing steep forestry with my waterproofs and fleeces stowed resolutely in my oversized, over-full backpack in temperatures hot enough to smelt your own currency, I’m less than grateful for this advice. In fact, I curse myself for not taking the task seriously enough. I have not used those walking shoes that I enthusiastically packed in urgent expectation. How silly would that be to take them all around the world and not use them? As silly as over-paying for a Hop On-Hop Off tour of the Blue Mountains, clearly.

To be fair, the train from Sydney, in comparison with a lot of what this amazing country has to offer tourists, is good value and the views from Echo Falls are rather wonderful. The Prince Henry Cliff Walk gives you your fix of cliff faces, fauna and waterfalls. The Three Sisters, while not as impressive as The Corrs, are pretty good too.



For me though, the afternoon is summed up by an encounter with another amateur trekker, China gauges her opinion on the route ahead as we’re halfway down up and she’s halfway up. Is it worth the trip down? A resounding ‘no’ before I’ve had chance to commit to paper a semi-pejorative, pre-fixed and by now rather obvious “aw, look mate” sentence opener.

It’s been a hell of a lot more enjoyable than the first Monday after the New Year usually is, but being stung for the bus fare first up has soured the Blue Mountain experience a little. Deciding, the second-most place of refuge for the scoundrel is in a Caaaaald One, we walk back to Katoomba, the nearest town.
More big hills, this time round the suburban type so nowhere near as scenic. We stumble past a bloke performing tree surgery who looks like he could be Paul Hogan had he not made it big.

Ironically, oh how ironically, there are no buses to be found anywhere. Probably lunch hour. Or their drivers have gone down the TAB.

The Old City Bank Bar and its chirpy, cheeky barmaid is a good choice. Having glugged the first draft beer, Chancer by James Squire (and not, as you may think 90’s TV drama fans, Clive Owen) and thoroughly enjoyed it, a cursory glance at the timetable means there’s perhaps time for another.
Champagne Supernova steps slowly and regally on to the pub jukebox.
There’s time for another.

Talk turns to how this mountain range got its name. I venture it’s probably down to the forthright language used by hacked off tourists after they’ve been done like a kipper by the local bus companies….


I Like Duck. I Like Duck. I Like Duck ‘Cos It Makes…..


……great pictures.