Archive for April, 2013

Out Here In The Fields…

They’re known as ‘travelling moments’. Those special parts of a journey or a holiday that enliven the senses, instantly opening a new box file in a part of your brain that will only ever passingly be re-opened by a sniff, sound or sight of something reminiscent of the original moment.
These typically include the first glimpse of a renowned landmark or a sunset somewhere, the sound of haunting tranquility or the hustle and bustle or, yes, maybe even the unmistakeable smell of those Tuareg campfires.

I don’t whether you’re meant to get this at home, does it count? I reckon I experienced something approaching a ‘travelling moment’ earlier today.

An early errand in the delightful April morning. The last throes of an endless winter are evident in the chill breeze and on the conquered frosted roofs of the passing cars. Meanwhile, the sun blazes defiantly, ushering in the belated season upon the tardy woodland and rolling brown frustration of farmers’ fields.
The commuter-less roads are on half-day as the exec cars sweep past. Foreign lorries mope along on, belching fumes haplessly while the middle lane is pockmarked by patchy pilots on their bi-annual weekend use of the big road.

Job done, I’m sallying back to base. As an early Blur album rambles to its murmured conclusion, my mind is invigorated by thoughts of a handsome omelette and the huge pot of black coffee that I’ll never get round to luxuriate in. From the depths of this relaxation comes the sound of a soaring synthesiser which in turn is joined by organ, bass guitar and drums.
Galvanised by this unfolding musical brilliance, my senses heighten, my right foot gets heavier and my beloved old Golf matches Rog’s vocals by cranking into life and giving it the big one down the fifth-full motorway.

A ‘travelling moment’ with little travelled. There’s not much that can match the exhilaration of a sunny spring morning in dear old Blighty.

Reach For The Pie

A call from Kiwi Geoff yesterday afternoon. “Hello mate. I’ve just got the club a sponsored pie warmer.”

I nearly dropped the phone.

He’d done it again. When the far-sighted Kiwi Geoff pitched up in the late summer of 2006 little did we know how seismic the great man’s impact would be on Elstow Cricket Club. Not for us a wailing, soothsaying, messianic figure, heavy of Biblical beard, Puritanical robes brandishing scorching scriptures. Instead a mild mannered, bespectacled genial chap in accountancy slacks and sweater, a laid back exterior belying a fiercely driven character and someone who continues to give his all. This, here, is the very vision of the thinking man’s visionary.

That the club are in the great shape we are is mainly down to Geoff. He has done more than anyone else to advance the cause of Elstow CC. The youth structure he put in place continues to pay great dividends, from the tiniest tots starting out on their life’s cricket adventures to the talented teens starting out in first team cricket who will be this generation’s Matt Stevens and Dave Riddle. Through his tireless fundraising we have a terrific nets facility well used by the club and community and an AstroTurf pitch for our junior cricketers. Thanks to Geoff the club have attained ECB Club Mark status, as well as heaps of new equipment and loads of other stuff besides.

But this tops the lot.

A pie warmer, yesterday.

Legacy, certainly in a sporting sense, has been oft discussed in this country since last Autumn. While the politicians and activists continue to use the topic for political gain, less than a year on from the Olympic Summer it is far too early, surely, to properly quantify this. At The Warren, however, we are already benefitting from the legacy of our visionary.

The Elstow Pie Emporium will be open for business soon. The start of our season is just over a week away. Dear reader, I implore you, if you haven’t already made the journey to Bedfordshire to enjoy an afternoon’s cricket with us, please do so. The cricket may not be up to much, but you’re guaranteed your welcome will be as warm as our pies.

Sophistication? I’ve Been To Leeds

Three weeks on and I haven’t yet got round to compiling that Roll of Honour from my travels yet. This may still happen. One of the trip’s heroes was undoubtedly Professional Yorkshireman Gareth. I’m very grateful to this gentleman for, among other things, putting me up for a few days, shouting me brews, giving me lifts (via Barney, another top bloke) re-tweeting some of my blog posts, sneaking Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding parcels out of the Press Lunch Room and for introducing me to one of the principal characters of Miles Jupp’s Fibber In The Heat*.

Stout fellow that he is, Gareth’s generosity doesn’t just stretch to Backpackers-battered travellers. He has signed up to run the Leeds Half Marathon on 12th May. Gareth will be running for Marie Curie Cancer Care. Earlier this year Gareth raised loads of money for Cancer Research by giving up beer for a month in January. Having survived that Herculean task, he is looking to do similarly great work once again.

Sprinting around the roads of his beloved Garden City will probably be motivation enough for Gareth, but, what will spur him on to an even faster time will be the difference he’ll be making to this important charity. Please help Gareth and Marie Curie Cancer Care by clicking the link below.

Your generosity will be hugely appreciated. Good on yer!


Tha knows.**

*A real tour-de-force of travel writing, especially cricket based travel writing. Highly recommended.
**For your kindness, here’s the man who helped inspire a legend;

Broadsword Calling Danny Boy….

For those of you who’ve bothered to check the big result from last night, it follows here. I’ll be honest, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

Blue Square Premier League: Luton Town 2 Newport County 2

Relief for me, but for my promotion chasing friend Welsh Andy, frustration. It was about to get worse for our man though. For, back across in his homeland, a diabolical happening was unfolding at the Cardiff City Stadium. There’s little in life as parochial as Welsh football. There’s no love lost between any of the traditional sides but the others (Newport County, Swansea and Wrexham) are united unequivocally in their hatred of the team from the capital.

Real hatred. We’re talking Montagues and Capulets, Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea, Smiley and Karla. That sort of hatred.

Last night, that team from the capital, Cardiff City won promotion from the Npower Football Championship to the Barclays Premier League. This means, for the first time in over fifty years, top flight football will be played in Cardiff.

I probed my mate for his reaction this morning. His text message, quoted verbatim, gives you an insight into the level of hostility I mean.

“I’m entering therapy as we speak!!!!! Hundreds of Blues, or Reds, or Dragons, or whatever ghastly manifestation they’ve mutated into are coming out of the woodwork!!! Damn them all the way to Merthyr Tydfil I say!!! Praying that their thugs appear at every ground next season, tear the place apart, and get themselves relegated to the Newport and District Amateur League.

I think I’ve said enough!!!

Last night’s result was pleasing as it gave pride all round my friend. Neil (Another name for County’s striker Chris Jolley, Ed.) is hitting form at just the right time. Please, please let us go up- it would wipe away the pain caused by those arrogant muddy funsters (Ok, I’ve paraphrased a little there, Ed.) from the wrong side of the M4!!!!”

Nothing does astringent bitterness as sublimely or as beautifully as a Welshman with the right hump. Close your eyes.

Now imagine Richard Burton (or, for you older readers, David Lloyd George) saying that.


That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

I met my good friend Welsh Andy a dozen or so years ago. He was due to play in goals for my now defunct 7-a-side team, Rural Madrid, one cold night all those winters ago. Our mutual respect for timing meant we got there, as is customary for both, earlier than everyone else. If there’s something we both prize as much as a well-placed centre from a tricky winger on to the head of an on-rushing centre forward, it’s punctuality. (That and texting in the Queen’s English as well, to be fair.) We worked out who the other was by way of introduction and got talking from there. We haven’t really stopped since. One of the first things we learned about each other, as blokes tend to do, like dogs marking their territory, was ascertain the other’s favourite teams.

“Newport County”, said Andy proudly, authoritatively, maybe even a touch solemnly. He then went on to tell me about his supporting life. Those halcyon days in Europe, the hellish days of bankruptcy and expulsion from the league; he was there for all of them. He even gave me a report of the previous weekend’s fixture.
I was massively impressed by the depth of feeling Andy so evidently, and dedicatedly, felt for his team. You’ve got to go there to come back as his Leeds loving compatriot Kelly Jones would probably say. Blokes like Andy I respect.

Your local team is your team.

A philosophy I wholeheartedly adhere too. So I told him about my team. The ‘atters. We were down on our luck that season if I remember rightly. It’s got better then worse and much worse since. Comparatively though, we were better off than County then. From that moment, I’ve kept an eye on County’s fortunes. I’ve even since boasted of them being my ‘Welsh team’ (Never my second team though. What’s all that about?).

Fast forward to now. A glance at the Blue Square Premier League (The conference in old money….) as I write reveals, sitting proudly in third position with 84 points, Newport County. Scrolling down, eventually I find, with sixty points and in eleventh place, my sorry lot.

Tonight we entertain County. Work commitments mean I can’t attend. I’m not altogether too sorry about this.

County’s rise over the last few season’s has been as meteoric as Luton’s fall. It was the only thing to compensate with the misery of the dropping out of the league, two games with those roister-doisters from over the border. So we’re in a bad way in a bad league? But, aw bless, we’re playing County. A cheeky four or maybe even six points and a consoling ‘better luck next time old chap’ over a beer with Andy would be a brief respite from the utter despondency what being a Luton Town fan has now become.

Last season County beat us. For the first time in a very long time.

The biter has been bit. Little brother has now stepped out of big brother’s shadow and is about to bloody his nose. Again.

As Luton find it increasingly harder to get out of the conference, so a rejuvenated Newport side, after a very good season, find themselves a play off scrap away from the promised land. As a football romantic it would be great to see for the sake of Andy, his lad, his brother, his friends and all the other die-hards who’ve done the hard yards down the years, the return of a traditional club back to where they belong.

In the football league.

Pob lwc County.

Just go easy on us tonight, eh? Otherwise it’ll be Andy buying me a beer with a grin the size of the Severn Bridge.

The Countdown Begins

Woolloongabba, Thursday 21st November.

The date is branded upon my conscience. The first morning of The Ashes in Australia. I want to be there. I need to be there.

And it all starts today. New job, new start.

Keep me away from my old habits. Please. The casual boozing has to stop (one or two occasions already scribbled into the diary notwithstanding, naturally). Otherwise I won’t be there.

And that would be blooming annoying. Really blooming annoying.

The SCG, 2nd January 2013. Been there. The SCG, 3rd January 2014. Want to do that.


Thought The Big Question was for Sunday’s only, then think again. Whereas I can’t bring you house wife’s favourite Nicky Campbell segueing serenely around a studio, elegantly trying his best to look interested in the mawkish contributions of the audience-by-numbers of under loved and over nourished provincial towns, I can still pose the type of rigid enquiry usually associated with facing a searching spell of James Tredwell off-break on a wearing third day St.Lawrence Ground pitch. Today’s conundrum is as follows.

Which is your favourite platt?

That question again, which is your favourite platt? Not the type of question you thought you’d be spending time considering today I dare say. I wouldn’t expect you, reasonably, to answer that immediately. To help you in your contemplation, may I proffer a few suggestions.




Here’s mine.


The Bob Cunis of the savoury based meat snacks world, owing to it being neither one thing (sausage roll) nor the other (pork pie), the noble sausage plait is criminally underrated. Comprising pastry, sausage, onion and herbs ostensibly, add one or two tomatoes and a rasher or two of bacon to the dish and the sausage plait goes from being a fringe player to one of the first names on the team sheet.

It is simply majestic.


As is this.





No word of a lie, when he wasn’t trying to emulate his cricketing heroes, Cousin Tommy spent all that summer trying to copy that goal. He even managed it once or twice.
I, unwittingly, was Michel Preud’homme. Will was Gazza. Every so often we were joined by Dan who was Steve Bull. Football was the winner, Grandma’s petunias the biggest loser.

System Upgrade (Sort Of…)

The more sharp eyed among you would have noticed a subtle change to the set up on this site recently. Essentially, as I’m going to be spending a wee bit of time in Blighty, I thought we could do with, for ease of use, a couple more categories on here.

Behold! “Beer & Skittles” and “Any More Pie?”

The first category will list any sport or shenanigans I get up to or feel like writing about, while the latter is devoted to the weekly pie reviews. The name is in tribute to probably the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.

Fifteen or so years ago on Danny Baker and Danny Kelly’s radio show, they ran a section inviting listeners to put forward nominations for Britain’s greediest footballer. The late Jeff Astle’s name was put forward for this unwanted sobriquet.
The great man attended a function and, allegedly, was quite short with the hosts, tucking in to the food on offer and not making much in the way of conversation except to venture, brusquely, if there were any second helpings going. Then it all got very silly, very quickly….


Postscript. Three links to downloads should be included in this post. Annoyingly, this hasn’t happened. Go to and go two thirds of the way down the page to the Any More Pie section and take it from there.
You’re welcome.

Marm Offensive III

A few weeks back, prompted by the re-launch of New Zealand’s version of Marmite, I took it upon myself to try some of the local stuff. The review wasn’t favourable. A day or two later, in the interests of fairness, I had another go at the Aussie option, Vegemite. The review wasn’t that favourable either.

One of the delights of returning home, along with, amongst other things, good, strong tea being the rule rather than the exception, is the re-acquaintance with the original Marmite.*


Southern Hemisphere. You may mock us for our inferior rugby (both codes), our rubbish weather (the sun is shining as I type) and our warm beer (we’ll always agree to disagree on this one) but while the good people of Burton-on-Trent continue to churn out the brown gold, we’ll always boast the best yeast extract-based foodstuff in the whole world.

*Note limited edition Diamond Jubilee jar: Ma’amite. Marvellous.
Thanks Lupt.

Home Comforts

Ma Wiss is a very good cook. Her steak and kidney pud is the stuff of legends. People have been known to fight over the last slice of her treacle tart at family gatherings. Her Auntie Mary’s Chicken should be re-named Auntie Sally’s in Ma Wiss’s honour; not since Otis Redding sang Satisfaction have covers been this good.

However, for whatever reason, Ma Wiss has decided to buy rather than bake tonight’s exhibit for the weekly pie review. So rather than put one of her delicious, home made steak and Guinness pies under the microscope, today’s offering comes via Hunter’s Farm shop near Bow Brickhill, Bucks instead.


Quarter-cow like tender lumps of steak and sharp tasting bites of firm kidney sit tightly in orderly fashion below a russet coloured canopy of crisp pastry while a thick gravy resolutely holds everything in place. This is a great pie. Allied with a thin layer of Colman’s on the meat, it tastes even better. With crunchy broccoli, new potatoes, creamed spinach and washed down with a glass of robust Merlot; this Pie Day Friday becomes a feast.

Good on yer Mum. We’ll keep you on another week.