Archive for February, 2013

Shot Of The Day

Yes it’s another picture of Queenstown. Yes there’s cricket in it again.


Look closer.

That’s Greg standing at short mid wicket. Charlie diligently keeps wicket. The bowler is new Elstow CC recruit Ollie. The batsman off-driving? Yours truly.

This was how we spent the lunch break. In New Zealand, where they treat cricket supporters like grown ups (Yes BCCI, that barb was meant for you.), you can wander on to the field of play and inspect the wicket, you can let the soft, closely cropped outfield grass brush your toes, or, like us, you can attempt to emulate your heroes by having a go yourself.

The photo captures my first international boundary. The ball kissed the rope so I reckon it must be my first international boundary. I’m happy with myself here so I apologise for the smug title of this post. It’ll be back to doubt and self loathing soon enough though I’m sure, but at that moment I was, like Colin Zeal in the Blur song, so pleased with myself.

Ah ha.

Greg I met in Kolkata at the third Test, he and his girlfriend and Jackie are following the Test Series here too. A lovely couple, it’s been great to catch up with them. The photographer, to whom I’m very grateful is Keith, another acquaintance from the India tour. Splendid fellow. Charlie is the chap from Essex I met up north who’s undertaking his first England tour overseas. Good player, he’d do a job at The Warren. Ollie, I met him and his charming girlfriend Gemma today. Ollie looks like a cross between Jesus and Serge from Kasabian. And plays a bit like them too.

What an enticing prospect for the Barry Fry Stand regulars….

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I’ve overdone the photos and sketches a little bit recently on DWC. I think. The problem, and what a problem it is to have, with New Zealand is it does rather demand you keep taking them.
Along the way many of the people I’ve encountered have shrugged incredulously when I’ve told them I’m following the fortunes of my national cricket team to the far reaches of the globe.

Why, or as is more common over here, warum?

And then I show them pictures like these.



Ach so, alles klaar.

I’d been looking forward to the Queenstown match for a while, ok, it’s a warm up game rather than a Test Match, but I’d been told great things about the ground here. Word even reached me it might even be more picturesque than The Warren, the home of the mighty Elstow C.C.

Dear reader, I couldn’t possibly say.

England finished the day 357-7, Ian Bell finished on 127-7. Some of his cover drives rivalled the vista for serenity. As stated previously here and among fellow Doubting Thomases elsewhere, the talent has never been in doubt.
Alastair Cook looked in complete control before edging behind for 60 and Joe Root, England’s wunderkind, in keeping with the Teutonic talk from earlier, perished just shy of his half century. It was great to see Matt Prior back in an England shirt and his quick firing partnership with Bell gave his team some momentum after the New Zealand XI’s bowlers threatened to derail their progress.

Day two should see England ram home their advantage. They have the runs on the board and a bowling attack yearning to feature in the forthcoming Test series, as well as put down an early marker for inclusion in the Ashes side in the summer.

Omer’s Odyssey



The view across the bay from St.Omer Beach towards Town Pier and Marine Parade, Queenstown.

Queenstown, Mountains…. One Nil!*


Good evening. The pictures you are about to see are the most serene, amazing, dramatic and graceful exhibition of photos, possibly in the history of this blog.






Uuurgghh-urrgh-urrgh, ha ha. Well Emlyn, I have to agree, they’re quite Remarkables.

*Hello Eats!
I guess you’re all bound to want to watch one of the great man’s finest hours now, right?
Go on then….

Dream On

I couldn’t sleep last night. I have no idea why.

I used to get this a lot on Sunday nights. And I will again soon as my adventure begins to draw to a close. Firstly, what the hell do I do with my life once the booziness and badinage of this trip has warn off and all the highs of the last few months have been coldly filed into the memory bank?
Even then, I’ll probably hate what I end up doing anyway and it’ll be back to those bleak thoughts. The thought of another Monday, another week’s fruitless trudge for dismal reward.

Could it be that? Or, following my dalliance with 5 Star luxury the night before, my bad karma catching up with me.
Or my unceremonious return to hosteling. Current gripes? Good looking lasses with blokes out of their league (If that’s the current trend, how come I’m missing out?).
And big groups of do-gooding types (teachers or church groups, that type of thing) hogging the facilities, the rest of us consigned to kitchen corners as they loudly and lengthily prepare their Last Suppers.
And the fact that my current billets are right next to the adjoining creaky wooden stairs and the nocturnal cattle herd (a unique selling point for any hostel, you’d have thought) that use them for sprint training.

As I was trying to count sheep (lots of them down here admittedly, I got two thirds of the way through I reckon) and wrestle with the Black Dog a single, beautiful thought fought its way through the darkness, like the band’s greatest fan* straining through the stubborn drunken phalanx of tottering bodies to get their spot beside the stage. Something I read from Mr Derek’s article in the Telegraph an hour or two earlier;

Saturday was England’s first ODI series win against New Zealand for twenty-one years.

Brilliant. That really is brilliant.

This says three things to me. Firstly, under Alastair Cook, England are establishing a welcome habit of breaking long-standing records. Witness, firstly the Test side’s dramatic series win after a quarter of a century in India in December. And now the latest triumph in New Zealand. For all the Kiwi fans protestations, New Zealand are traditionally tough competitors at this form of the game and to win here is a sign of England’s growing confidence, a sign of a hitherto un-hinted at long term planning, player selection and tactics as firstly the Champions Trophy then, belatedly, the World Cup approaches. Keep on winning lads.
Secondly, it shows a further, worrying decline in New Zealand cricket. Blackcaps supporters, granted are quick to jump on both success and failure bandwagons as soon as they’re hastily assembled, but losing their way, at home, in One Day Internationals should sound alarm bells that have previously been ringing at Test level. It pains me to see this kind of second team (if you’re ever allowed such a thing, especially internationally) to me go through this. Their hardcore support deserve better.
Lastly, this has the makings of a very good limited overs England side. I like the make up of it, I like the longevity of it and I like the hunger of it. Young tyros bursting to show off their talents on the world stage mixed with canny performers who know this format inside out topped with the cream of world cricket talent and a collective urge to prove they are the best in the world. This is the beginning of an exciting chapter for this team.

A happy idea indeed. Forget counting sheep, I allowed my self to slip into subconsciousness with thoughts of stirring victories and a positive future for English cricket.

Sweet dreams.

*Like me at a Wait For Jude gig, for example. Hello Scott, Gav, Greg and axeman Pete.

Viewing Record For England ODI Matches (Away) Stands At: Seen 3, Lost 1, Won 2, Drawn 0

“BJ or Root?” proclaimed the coarse Kiwi fan’s banner unfurled in Eden Park’s East Stand. In the battle of the innuendo monikered, Yorkshireman Joe continues to provide satisfaction for England.

Since having been given his head late last year, the young allrounder has been superb in all three matches and was fittingly there at the series’ climax to cream the winning runs through mid wicket and seal the ANZ ODI Series for his team. While the latter stands proud across all formats of the game, Watling’s limp dismissal early on rather set the mood for his side’s loss by five wickets as England’s fast bowlers once again set up victory over the Black Caps in the first half hour.

There was no afternoon delight for the home supporters. James Anderson’s swinging deliveries and Steve Finn’s pace (9-3-27-3) simply ripped through the New Zealand top order. Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor’s stubborn fifty partnership, then captain Brendan McCullum’s spanking of 79 from 68 balls threatened something of a second coming. But when the Kiwi captain holed out to Anderson off the bowling of Graeme Swann, his departure signalled the premature finish to New Zealand’s innings, 185 all out from only 43.5 overs.

Root, as he has done all series, kept the British end up. Finishing undefeated on 28, his iron fisted resolve again took England home. England’s top three; Ian Bell, Alastair Cook, who top scored with 46, and Jonathon Trott set up the victory. Eoin Morgan then looked in great touch for his 39 from 24, but lacked the staying power to complete the task. After Joss Buttler couldn’t finish off New Zealand, Chris Woakes’s late introduction gave Root a hand. Job done for England.


A highlight from my last World Tour was a night or two after months on the road in the Leela, Mumbai courtesy of a good pal of mine, Tesco Nige. On greeting me at reception, he promptly looked me up and down disapprovingly before frogmarching me, backpack, bags and all over to the concierge with the words; Here you go, can you wash this please?

This trip’s Leela moment has come via Gareth. He’d got a spare bed in his suite in Auckland and, bless ‘im, said I could crash there for a night.



After last night in the AC-free, box room with Trampo, and several weeks of rubbing shoulders with half of Germany in confined spaces this is manna from heaven. I am hugely grateful the big-hearted Yorkshireman.
I even promised to never say anything approaching derogatory about Rugby League or Tetley’s Bitter ever again. Good on yer Gaz, good on yer.

It’s Circumstantial, It’s Nothing Written In The Pie And We Don’t Even Have To Try….

Pie Mania! The shop’s logo screamed at me from across Wellesley Street on the way back from the pub last night. I made a mental note to re-visit it today. Multi-award winning for many years, a haven for pie lovers everywhere in the heart of town. Having spent this morning taking in the Croesus-like ocean going scenery of Auckland’s Wynyard Harbour and the busy waterfront, I skipped eagerly back towards town to the earmarked venue for my Friday treat.

Closed. Not closed in the Kiwi sense, as in randomly shut at lunchtime if and when the need takes you, but properly shut.

Fermè. Geschlossen. Tūtaki. No more pies here.


Like a wasp that’s been winged by a flick from the rolled up Sunday colour supplement after a foolish foray into the stewed apple, I wobbled away, my pride wounded, my hopes dashed. I lurched dejectedly through the indoor markets teaming with South East Asian eateries. No steak and cheese loveliness to be had here. Approaching Ron Burgundy in-the-aftermath-of-losing-Baxter levels of despair and loneliness, I stumbled back towards the harbour. This weekend sees Auckland’s annual Lantern Festival take place and to celebrate they’ve loaded Queen’s Wharf with food exhibitors, sideshows and free cinema and in these most unlikely of surroundings I found salvation.

Heavenly Pies.

I’d take any pies at this stage. The lunchtime rush meant the stall holder’s take on the Kiwi Classic, the upmarket but not overly so, Port Wine Beef and Danish Blue had sold out. From Pulled Pork & Kawakawa, Moroccan Lamb Tagine and Mexican Bean & Mozzarella or Coconut Chicken & Cashew I chose the former. Probably still reeling from the body blow earlier I opted, recklessly, for the salad accompaniment.

A side dish of purples, puces and pumpkin intermingled with shredded carrot, feta, leaves and sprouts of various sizes. And beetroot. Lots of it too.
The warmth of the early afternoon sun buffed the burnt red bricks of the Ferry Building, the Isley Brothers’ Work To Do played prophetically in the background as a cooling sea breeze whipped around the wharves. Salad days indeed.

The pie sat wedged in its tin foil casing. I tried to prise it away with my fingers but it wouldn’t budge. Kiwi cricket fans will hope their top order proves as steadfast tomorrow. I hacked away with my fork through edges of short crust pastry rolled inwards like gold flaked waves and managed to dismantle the mixed herb-encrusted top, tearing it away with the type of flourish you associate with burly lock forwards flinging half backs from the fringes of a ruck.
The star turn was the pastry. The pork gravy infused fluffiness dissolved like savoury candy floss in the mouth. Kawakawa is a native herb, basil like in its qualities, and its sharpness buried itself within the pork and potatoes. For sweetcorn in last week’s effort, read pumpkin this week. Pretentious uninvited guests both, but in poncier pies like today’s version, it’s more the accepted norm. And, actually, surprisingly, it worked.

While not quite as heavenly as Steak & Cheese, Heavenly Pies’ Pulled Pork & Kawakawa rescued a potentially troublesome lunchtime. I wished the stall holder all the best with his new venture, he and his wife are opening a restaurant of the same name in Auckland soon. I very much hope the same fate doesn’t befall them as the late, possibly great (we’ll never know) Pie Mania.

Der-der-der,der-der-der,der-der-der,der-der-der-der; Tramp!

Oh the trials and tribulations of sharing your previously treasured sleeping space with the entire world. Yesterday I checked into my room to find a cheesy-footed plus size local snoring sonorously in my dorm. Today it’s a ‘frushouttaarmeecollegeyessir’ loud mouth hick from the Deep South and now, it transpires, Cecil Airline* last seen on Shooting Stars, has also moved in.

And, no, he’s not wearing any shoes.

Anyway, his bunk is sneezing, spitting and, yes, spunking distance away from my pillow. I am absolutely terrified if I doze off later this is going to happen;

It’s never a needy, nubile Swedish netball team on a Hen Weekend is it?

*I seem to recall his name was Captain John Longcock too. Can anyone confirm or deny this? Either way, it’s hilarious.

Until you room with him.

She’s A Waterfall II

Three things were meant to happen today but didn’t.

I was meant to write a match report on yesterday’s barnstorming eight-wicket triumph over the Black Caps by England.
I was meant to return to Auckland, via Rotorua, by bus.
I was meant to stay off the beer.

None of the above happened. Let me apologise for the first and explain the latter two.

Gentlemen and scholars, Gareth & Barney offered me a lift back to Auckland. Bus and Roturua versus car and Lake Taupo?
I’ve done buses and I’ve done Rotorua. I’ve been underwhelmed by both. You do not get Bob Dylan, Doves and re-mixes, and quite decent ones at that, of Noel Gallagher songs on the bus. You probably don’t get them in Rotorua either.
You also don’t get pastiches of modern cricket journalists and lists of the top five films of all time. And nowhere on Earth is Belinda Carlisle more appreciated than in Barnie’s car.

You also don’t get detours like this on the buses.




The Huka Falls, just north of Taupo. Brutal, breathtaking, beautiful. Nearly as good as Lightwater Valley in Ripon, according to Gareth, as always unwavering in his loyalty to the county of his birth.

Then there’s the third one. My nemesis. My Achilles heal. Also, sadly, mostly, my raison d’être.

You can try, really try, to have a rest from the beer for a day.

And then you go to Brothers Brewery on Wellesley Street in Auckland. Once again, and in the most unlikely of places, this great country continues to amaze and beguile.