Archive for December, 2013

Dodgy Dossiers

Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity’s central character, Rob, is a record store owner and list maker extraordinaire. I guess it’s a bloke thing, lists. Most of us empathise with Rob. We love a good list. One of my pals Chubby is an extension of this phenomenon. He’s a team-maker.

Texts, tweets, emails, whenever, however. If there’s an opinion to be had on sport, it’ll be winging its way to me, extemporised in the form of eleven (or fifteen) names. Win or lose, new era or not, Chubbs will have an opinion and I’ll usually be the first to know it. He’s not been in touch yet re yesterday’s big cricket news which must mean he’s really got his thinking cap clamped on.

The fallout from the Graeme Swann retirement is still swilling around social media circles like bitter sediment at the bottom of a cask. The great man has gone, let’s move on. Stop expending pointless energy on whether his decision was ‘cowardly’ or ‘traitorous’ (it wasn’t either of these by the way) and look to the future. The immediate future is the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday. I am fairly sure England will line up like this.

Cook (c)
Bairstow (wk)

Yep, there’s yet another list on its way. In the long term England are at the beginning of a new era so must plan accordingly. Michael Carberry deserves another crack at the Test arena, although in a year or two will make way for either Joe Root or Alex Lees as partner for captain Alastair Cook at the top of the order. Ian Bell is a shoo-in at four. Johnny Bairstow will come good. Stephen Davies is the best wicket keeper in the country so should come into the team. Durham have given England their newest star, Ben Stokes and his colleague Scott Borthwick, the young leggie, should be a de facto replacement for Swann. Stuart Broad is now in essence the attack leader and Steven Finn, I am confident, will come back a better player next year. Tymal Mills is bloomin’ quick and should be given a chance at the highest level with James Harris and Chris Jordan next in line for a Test call up.

Cook (c)
Davies (wk)

Correspondence from Mr Chubb, incoming I dare say. We do it because we love it. We do it because we care. Even if it makes not a jot of difference.

Lists. Teams. Prattle.

Tred Carefully

A rainy Sunday morning in Melbourne and the shock news that Graeme Swann, one of the best players of his generation, has retired from the game with immediate effect has hit me hard. It’s been a tough few weeks following England and today’s developments have exacerbated this.

Elizabeth Street is teeming with shoppers dodging the showers making their way towards the busy Queen Victoria Market. Still reeling from the news, I head to what has become our local cafe for a restorative Long Black to be met by the grinning Greg.

‘Bad news about Swanny’ I say. ‘Dreadful’ Greg agrees. Then he fixes me one of his trademark smiles, there’s hope heading my way somewhere in his next sentence. With Arthur Daley assuredness he drags me into his scheme. I feel like Edmund Blackadder in the eye of a gathering Baldrick cunning plan storm.

‘You know there’s only one man who can save us here don’t you?’

I know exactly who he means but magnanimously I let him finish his own point. I brace myself.


It’s another belter. But then Greg is one of life’s optimists. When he isn’t being unfailingly positive, he’s being unfailingly loyal to one of his sports teams. Usually it’s England or Arsenal but mainly it’s Kent County Cricket Club and their underachieving, under-appreciated band of brothers.
He reserves particular affection for their erstwhile captain and jobbing England ODI player James Tredwell. On another tour in New Zealand, I lost count of the amount of times Tredwell’s name was presented as the answer to England’s problems (not that we had any back then, by the way…). I’m only surprised it’s taken Greg ten days to crowbar his beloved Tredwell in here.

The last time I saw Greg he asked me, in all seriousness, to prepare the preface to his debut book, ‘Tredwell’s Ashes’, the inside story of how, against all odds, one man inspired a nation to victory over their oldest foes. For one reason or another (but mainly because Tredwell left his position half way through the season winless and comparatively wicket-less and wasn’t even thought of, let alone picked for England) the book never saw the light of day.

‘It’s made for him’ Greg continues. ‘He’ll take Swanny’s position at second slip, bat at number four and spin us to victory in the remaining Tests.’

‘What do you think?’

Silence. Reflective silence.

Following England. You don’t have to be mad to do it.

But it helps.

The saviour of English cricket? Err, probably not.

Band Aid

There should be more to put in here today than this.


But I can’t walk past a one man band, in the middle of Melbourne, on the last Saturday before Christmas without taking a picture of him.

I’m only human.

And here, for good measure and on a similar theme, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Have a great weekend.

And So Say All Of Us…. Part Three (??!!!)

I told them, I said to them, ‘Lads,’ I said, ‘Would I ever let you down? I mean, look at this.’


‘You’ve got your space to swing a quokka (for earlier in the day the boys had enjoyed a day on Rottnest Island, the exclusive home of the aforementioned macropod), you’ve got your air conditioning. What more could you possibly want?’

‘How about this, in hostel form, on a full time basis. For the rest of the tour….’

And with that, we glumly boarded the midnight plane to Melbourne. Like Andre Villas-Boas, I think I may have lost the dressing room.


‘Err, lads?’

‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ etc etc. Exuent, pursued by a stare. And a jolly harsh one at that.

A quokka, yesterday.

Out For A Duckie

My beloved England have just lost The Ashes. We’ve been out-thought and outplayed in every game so far and are in all sorts of bother but, but, at least we don’t do team photos like this.


What on earth is that all about? Is this the most homoerotic shot of an international cricket team ever taken?

Don Bradman would turn in his grave.

And So Say All Of Us…. Part One

There’s a traditional ditty sung at birthdays and stag nights that burns through to the very core of my soul. It’s sung in all oblivious innocence in my presence by people who aren’t in on the joke. For those who are, it’s sung as a rapier-like riposte, the tip of which pierces the soul like the sight of your best fast bowler being flayed back over his head for six. ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ they’ll lustily sing, eyes pointing like daggers my way, smirks with razor-sharp edges.

Occasionally my mates will just sing this without waiting for an occasion. ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’. It still hurts.

Several years ago I organised a Stag Do (it may even have been my own, I wasn’t even getting married, it didn’t matter) to the West Coast of Ireland. As tradition dictates everything fell to me to arrange, which, having done a few of these tours before, I undertook this task with customary enthusiasm with nothing overlooked or left to chance.

We would fly the red eye from Luton to get to our transit destination, Knock, for breakfast. We’d then get to our destination proper, Galway, for a weekend’s worth of salty badinage and the type of drinking sessions the late, lamented Peter O’Toole may have been proud of.

A gin-soaked EasyJet flight from Luton was followed by a lot of waiting around at Knock airport for, seemingly, the only six-seater taxi journey of the day to George Town, the closest town to Knock Airport. In this time Welsh Andy broke the Guinness World Record for Speedy Stout Skulling as impatience infiltrated our close knit group like boozy wildfire. Unluckily, we had to wait some more time for a bus, and rather than doing something sensible like completing the sudoku or playing I-Spy, we availed ourselves of one or two of the local hostelries to raise the hedonism levels another notch.

Couldn’t we just have gone to Edinburgh instead?

Glances were shot my way, bitter murmurings had permeated the sweet drunk talk. In short, my abilities as the group’s peerless party planner were being called into question. What had seemed such a good idea at the time was now looking insanely daft.

Couldn’t we just have gone out in London instead?

The bus journey, when it eventually came, was the longest three hours of my life, longer, even, than the complete hash I made of my History A-Level exam. We trashed the bus. I sobered up enough to sink into the depths of despair as the chaos raged all around me. Oliver Cromwell himself would’ve been made more welcome had he embarked at one of the pretty villages we passed through.

Couldn’t we just have gone out in Bedford instead?

After an eternity, we reached Galway. I don’t know how we made it off the coach into the next pub, but we did.
We’re met there by Eats’ cousin. ‘What took you so long? she asked. Sheepishly I spoke up.
‘Well, the airlines running from Luton fly only to Knock which is, quite clearly, the nearest airport to Galway. We’ve had to get a bus down here. I’ll be honest, when I booked it, it seemed reasonably straightforward.’

‘Yeah, you know all the Irish airlines fly from Luton straight to Galway.’

The jukebox ceased. Drinks were slammed down on the table. The whole pub, no, the entire town seemed to be looking at me. The world stopped. My knees gave. My throat dried. My soul sunk like a ten pence piece to the bottom of a pint glass.

I slowly turned round to look at my mates. Anger, visceral hatred, then laughter. Howls and howls of raucous laughter.

‘For he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good fellow….’

I think you know where this is going….

And So Say All Of Us…. Part Two

Remember that bit near the beginning of Bridge On the River Kwai? You know, when Alec Guinness’s character Colonel Nicholson is taught a lesson for his insubordination by the prison camp commander. Solitary confinement awaits. Day and night in an iron box in the sweltering Burmese sun.

Now, imagine that concept applied to modern day budget holiday accommodation for four.


I was not popular with my roommates for this.

Seven nights in an up to date version of ‘the oven’. Unlike ‘Old Nich’, however, we had one of these.


Mind you, given the choice, I’m sure he’d have taken the lack of food and water over the smell of the feet of rugby-playing farmers, stale beer and aftersun. The fan wasn’t so much a help as a hindrance. But at least we had a window.


Ah, no, hang on a minute we didn’t. We had a grille. And very much a mixed one at that.

‘Look on the bright side fellas’, I said. ‘At least we weren’t nearly burgled like those other blokes across the corridor who insisted on a street view. And at least when your combine harvester breaks down next August and you complain about the heat, you’ll be able to say you survived a week in Northbridge.’


‘Err, lads?’

Somewhere, in offices, at kitchen tables and on leather sofas, survivors of Galway ’06 will be smirking then clearing their throats to sing to themselves.

‘For he’s a jolly good fellow….’

Onward now to Melbourne. I’ve told my roomies they could be pleasantly surprised with their new digs. They wisely weren’t listening.

Viewing Record For England Matches (Away) Stands At: Seen 11, Drawn 6, Lost 3, Won 2

My friend John* flew home today. Part of me wishes I was going with him. It’s been a chastening few days here in Perth.

Thanks to the heroics of this man we had a ghost of a chance this morning.


Ben Stokes, the Geordie with the Kiwi accent had done enough to pull England back into a chance of getting something, anything, out of the Test Match. His magnificent innings of maturity and mettle gave England hope. Hope, that most mischievous of mistresses fluttered her eyelashes, once again.

Regular readers know my thoughts on hope. The strumpet.

An hour or so later, this is what hope did to us.


She kills you, does hope. Australia’s Ashes, emphatically.

I now hope we don’t get buried five-nil. Damn hope.

*Safe journey sir, and thank you for the excellent photos.

Tainted Love

It’s the end. We’re comfortably past the beginning and slap bang in the middle of it. My drinking partner Rex beckons me on. To the bar, with our heads on the bar. Meanwhile, England’s head is on the chopping block.

I’m stood in a crowd of boastful boorish Aussies, and no wonder. Against expectations their lot have pummeled my lot into the dust. In pursuit of an outlandish target to save the game and the series, we’ve lost our brave captain, our bright young thing and the bloke who’s style resembles best my youngest brother’s (stylish top order batsman, quality fielder, gets more starts than a set of second hand jump leads*). Our expansive, misunderstood best player will shortly be out, holing out.


My pals leave me momentarily to top up their tans and formulate the final plans for Operation Orange. At least some good can come from this morass of a performance unfolding before our eyes.

I am there alone with my thoughts.

The temperature’s down on the last few days and it’s a breathable 37 (I may even bring a jumper tomorrow), a warm breeze blows through the crowded Members bar. Sweat stained replica shirts take leave of their dappled bodies to billow temporarily in the breeze. Local lovelies ranging between the beautiful and the bawdy keep their drunken spouses company. A nation waits to celebrate and some have started early.

In ponderous mood, my mind wanders.

We’re getting hammered. Badly hammered. In the backyard of our oldest foes. I shouldn’t be enjoying this.

But oddly I am. Despite everything, there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be right now. Oh, cricket, English cricket. I don’t know why I love you but I do.


*Just kidding brother, love ya. And thanks for the contribution to the war chest.

Lazing On A Sunny Afternoon


The Ocean Beach Hotel, Cottesloe, Perth. Within a year this has become one of my favourite places on God’s earth.

I probably need to come back.