Archive for March, 2013

Easter Blessings

Easter? Ye Gods, by the temperature outside, you’d think it were Christmas. Lovely family day planned, four generations of Wisson present and Auntie Daphne’s coming for lunch too. Bless her.

I saw this mug in a hostel in Dunedin. I thought of Auntie Daphne. Bless her.

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She’s a lovely lady. Bless her.

A very Happy Easter to you all.

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Keep Warm And Bake On

Pie makers of Australasia, take heed. Think you’ve got the world pie market sewn up? Think on. Dear old Blighty is still in there scrapping for the Northern Hemisphere. Take yesterday’s trip to Olney, Buckinghamshire, an archetypal English Market Town so endearingly charming a return there makes tourists of us all.

En route to collect my trusty chariot from my pal Lupt, the time and day of the week decreed it PieDay Friday. There was nothing else for it. Parking up then strolling across the frozen Market Square to the bakery, my cheery enquiry was met with apron-clad blank looks and shrugged shoulders. As false starts go this was stonkingly inglorious.

Imagine if I’d have gone in there with an Aussie or Kiwi? The shame of it. A bakery. Sold out of, or indeed, more embarrassingly, not selling pies in the first place?

I’d have been laughed all the way to the Department of Immigration & Citizenship.

Fact.

As it was, I meekly sloped back into the tundra, tail firmly twixt legs, towards the fish and chip shop and a humiliating reintroduction to the staple of fat bastards the length and breadth of the land, The Pukka Pie. Then I spotted, as I trudged along the High Street, the Olney Delicatessen and Tea Rooms. Like a Stuart Broad delivery heading down the leg side with the batsman two foot outside his crease, I reckoned that had to be worth a shout.

The counter was crammed with the savouries of what makes this country great. Local farm cheeses, pates, preserves, olives, pastries, pork pies.
Yes! Pork Pies.
And pies. A big list of pies in all shapes and sizes. Keen to see how the Buckinghamshire version shaped up I ordered the Kiwi Staple and another more distinctly British sounding one.

Steak and Horseradish.

Hello and ahoy-hoy! How head-smackingly, derr-brainily simple? Your Sunday Roast encased in pastry. British ingenuity at its finest. I felt a tear patriotically run down my cheek.
Mind you, it could have been the cold.

The pastry was lighter than the snow flurries of the last day or so and unlike last week’s cumbersome effort, there was the just the right amount of light, golden flaked goodness. The meat was overcooked and less chunky than its recent Oceanic counterparts but the onions and thick gravy made up for this. The creamy horseradish, dolloped regally beneath the lid was superb, tastily offsetting the beef. The exquisiteness of Sunday Lunch two days early. Absolutely marvellous.

To the pie men of Australia and New Zealand, here’s a timely shot across the bows. To make matters worse for you, the Buckinghamshire steak and cheese pie, that corner of the pie world you think you rule was good too. The British are coming. Huzzah!

Why, Why, Why?

A busy car park at the start of another chilly day at Heathrow. An early morning after a long, long night flight. The bad tempers and bullying of the drivers of the jostling cabs and too important by half executive carriages did nothing for the sense of mind. Loading our bags into the back of the taxi my friend turned to me and said; “Have you heard about Jesse Ryder? He’s in hospital. Badly beaten up outside a nightclub. He’s in a coma in a critical condition.” The news hit me like the icy morning air after five months in the sun.

Jesse Ryder. Beloved of New Zealand cricket fans on account of his precocious ability with the bat. A once-in-a-generation type player who can turn cricket matches on their head as a result of his brilliance. Ryder will never go on to score the hatful of runs of heroes of previous Kiwi cricketing favourites like Glenn Turner or Martin Crowe but, nonetheless, he is a cult hero to this generation.

Ryder is a hero with a darker edge. The darkness of which, probably we’ll never really know or, even less, understand. Thursday’s sickening attack on him hints at, as NZ Prime Minister John Key says, something quite sinister. Perhaps now is the time to stop laughing off the Falstaffian accompaniments to Ryder’s life, the drunkenness, the list of other indiscretions and, for the sake of cricket and for the sake of Jesse too, get him properly rehabilitated.

The fact is, we love our heroes like this. As I read the news of Ryder’s latest difficulties my gaze was drawn to an article on the same web page about footballer Robin Friday, a legend to all who saw him play. The original man who didn’t give a flying one. A life tragically cut short at the relatively tender age of 38, Friday’s genius on the pitch was overshadowed by his life away from the game. Jesse Ryder is 28 and for a man of his unquestioned ability hasn’t, and even more pointedly, is unlikely to, achieve what he should’ve done in cricket.

If the right support isn’t in place for Ryder, there is every chance he might meet the same fate as befell Friday. Films, video clips, t-shirts and records dedicated to him long after his death. Great for fans of tomorrow’s nostalgia and those seeking a paladin for the self-destructive rebel but of scant use to the man himself or his family and friends.

New Zealand cricket, no, world cricket needs Jesse Ryder. Speaking to Kiwi cricket fans at various points over the last month or so, Ryder is held in great esteem there. His inclusion in the Black Caps line up could have spelt even more trouble for England in the recently completed Test Series because there are few like him on the global stage with the powers to take a game away as quickly and as ruthlessly from the opposition as Jesse Ryder. The upcoming Indian Premier League will be a poorer place for his absence too.

Reports this morning feature heartening news on Ryder’s condition. It is expected he will make a recovery. The recuperation process begins now. And it is up to Cricket New Zealand to get properly behind one of its heroes as cricket fans, local and worldwide, undoubtedly will.

Get well soon Jesse.

Back To The World

Crikey, where did the last few months go to? Tapping contentedly away beside the Rayburn overlooking the last of the relenting snow on the fields next door, it’s hard to believe I’ve been away at all.

Gosh that was fun. Thank you to everyone who made my travelling such an epic adventure. A Roll of Honour will feature here soon. A long with lots more.

The travelling may have ceased, temporarily, but the writing won’t (at least until I’m back in work at any rate). Please keep stopping by.

However, I am completely cattle-trucked from my thirty hours in Economy Class. And I’ve got nets tonight. So that’s probably it for today. Meanwhile, here’s a nice picture of my faithful slippers.

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Time to get reacquainted. Night everyone. X

Viewing Record For England Matches (Away) Stands At: Seen 10, Drawn 6, Lost 2, Won 2

Ian Bell. Ian Ronald Bell. I spoke at length with one of Her Majesty’s press men with regards to your lack of testicles in big game situations about a month or so. Having seen your stoicism on the last day at Nagpur three months ago and having witnessed something equally heroic yesterday I must concede, happily, I was wrong.

You, sir, are a man of testicles the size of elephants’ and ones made of steel too. If I ever criticise you again in public I will undertake a heinous forfeit as a result of my treachery. Your series-saving innings was quite wonderful. The patience and resolve mixed in with the trademark class in your five hour, 75 run stand was of the highest order.

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If I’m ever lucky enough to become a father, had you stayed there until the end, I would have named my first born after you. As it is, that honour instead befalls another hero of Eden Park.

Matthew James Prior. The world’s best, an inspiration. Yesterday’s unbeaten 102 is one of the best innings I’ve ever seen. Your arms-aloft celebration as you turned to the dressing room having blocked the last ball will stay with me for ever. Thank you, sincerely. I am naming my first child after you.

Even if it is a girl.

Celebrity Juiced: The Singer Of Songs

Drinks were taken early on Day Four of the deciding Test Match. At lunchtime in fact.
Kevin from the Beige Brigade, sensing my growing sulkiness at England’s impending defeat, thought it wold be a good idea to take me away from the nightmare that was unfolding before my eyes.
The Kingslander on New North Road, a ‘Two Metre Peter’ lofted smash away from Eden Park. Other Englishmen were in there, similarly counting their chickens and drowning their sorrows. More New Zealand runs. It didn’t get any better. Moodiness abounded. Late in the afternoon Kevin pipes up, ‘jeez, look, it’s Wayne Anderson.’ My response was a blank look of incredulity. ‘You know, Wayne Anderson? The Singer Of Songs. Aw, he was in New Zealand Pop Idol six years ago.’

“Wayne, Wayne, how’s it going Wayne? Can you give us a song?”

A fat, bald man with long greying hair in a jade shirt opened just above the navel revealing a plastic cross and strands of grey hair wearing black Sta-Prest trousers and battered old trainers looked over his bulky black sunglasses and began to murder It’s Not Unusual.
“That’s enough mate, thank you” shouted Kevin. Wayne looked crestfallen. Even more crestfallen than he appeared a minute or two earlier. “Err, I normally get paid for these things” he said, sadly.
I gave him twenty cents. He seemed genuinely delighted before sloping away to catch the bus home.

On the television, England continued to labour. Then worse. Kevin could see me entering the depths of despair. Putting his own feelings aside, with his team closing in on a series victory, he acted magnanimously. “Is Wayne still there? Get him back. Tell him we’ll buy him a drink, I don’t like seeing you this unhappy.”
I bounded up to the bus stop. “Wayne, sir, come with me, can we have a few moments of your time? We’ll get you a drink.” Our man perked up and escorted me back towards the Kingslander. The obliging bar staff, aware of this unscheduled brush with fame, greeted him like a conquering hero. Wayne held court for a while before heading over to our table.

An audience with reality TV personality Wayne Anderson, for the price of a whisky and soda that I hadn’t paid for. I normally hate anything to do with reality television but England were getting properly gubbed and I just couldn’t face it anymore. I swallowed my pride and momentarily forgot my snobbishness. With the cricket an absolute mess I decided to indulge a man I normally wouldn’t have given the time of day for. Like Michael Parkinson quizzing Tony Bennett, I was deferential in the extreme. At strategic intervals he burst into song. Avenues and Alleyways and Love Me Tender were similarly butchered through warble and wail before he returned to my questioning.
“I only hang out with artistic types and people who get me”, Wayne went on. “You get me”. He said, those sullen eyes peering out from behind his shades. “You understand.”

I think I understand. Wayne, bless him, is an unloved by-product of the horrible cult of celebrity. A sad, deluded soul who clings on to a fading dream. As I continued to indulge him for the amusement of my fellow drinkers I helped further destroy him through spoon feeding him morsels of hope for half an hour. Knowing what I was doing was wrong, I began to wind it down. He ended our chat by telling me his top five singers, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdink, John Rolls, Tony Christie and, I forget the other one. It was probably him.

All that was left was for me to accompany him in a duet of Roy Orbison’s Crying. I couldn’t work out which of us was KD Lang.

Then Kevin and the rest of the group’s heckling got louder before he resignedly ceased singing and plodded off on his sorry way. I couldn’t decide for whom my heart bled more, England’s hapless cricketers or this flacid, washed up tragic figure before me.

As one of my musical heroes memorably sang: Fame, fame, fatal fame. It can play hideous tricks on the brain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7jZsGyk7gs

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Wayne Anderson. The Singer of Songs. In happier times.

Marm Offensive II

Following my blog post last week on the re-introduction of Marmite into New Zealand society, I stumbled upon some Vegemite at breakfast this morning at Black Mansion*. It seemed only fair to share my thoughts with you, dear reader. A ten word review follows.

Looks like Guinness poo, tastes much better. Britain’s still best.

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*A massive thank you to Eric and Erin for putting me up for a night or two. I am hugely obliged to you both. Thank you for the cup cakes too, they’ll be delightful with my coffee for Elevenses.

Hopefully with New Zealand a few more wickets down….