Posts from the ‘Beer & Skittles’ Category

Dodgy Dossiers… The Final Cut.


If Test Matches will finish early, this sort of thing will always happen. The thoughts of Tredwell Corner and our Best Ever England XIs. A happy, scribbled reminiscence of an otherwise forgettable day’s cricket watching.

Lists? Brahms And Liszt more likely….

This was Sunday. Tomorrow is Friday and the first day of the 5th Test. What would we give to have any (well, possibly not Greg’s selection) of these teams taking the field for us?

No matter. Whoever is entrusted with pulling on the Three Lions we will back heartily. England are in a corner, but, as in 2011, 2003 and in 1999, if we can win anywhere, it’s at the Sydney Cricket Ground.…/ashes-rewind-gough’s-hat-trick

Uncle Ben, my dad’s youngest brother and it should be pointed out here, not the old guy who does the rice, was there that day. It’s been a lengthy and mostly ugly tour. I don’t ask for much (Actually, I ask for loads of things, but let’s limit it to cricket for the moment shall we?), but, anything remotely as magical as this will put some much needed sheen on a rather drab few weeks.

We’re with you. Come on England!

All Shook Up

‘Paul’, I said. ‘Dont worry’, I said, for worry had gripped his consternated visage. His eyes glazed in the expression only a soon-to-be-terminated pet could ever know. ‘Dont worry about this. It changes nothing. You will always be Lucky Paul.’

Our superstition had endured over a year. The Lucky Handshake prior to the start of every day’s play. We shook hands out of friendly courtesy but soon realised just how important our curious little custom had become to the fortunes of our national team.

It had brought us success in India and it had rescued us in New Zealand. Over the course of last summer, when things looked a bit dicey for our lads at certain stages during the English leg of this Ashes marathon, the odd Proxy Lucky Handshake had been sent, in a flux, via text or email.

We recommenced the ritual with gusto on Boxing Day, the first Test we’d attended together since the Matt Prior-led miracle of Eden Park. We’d been buried in the first three Test Matches and, like unlikely knights on white chargers, we thought, hoped, nay, expected the Lucky Handshake would salvage something from what had been thus far a sorry time for our beloved England team.

After Day One, where late England wickets had destabilised their quest to make slow-but-steady progress to anything approaching a decent total, we questioned the continued validity of our routine. At the close of Day Two, England’s best of the series, we questioned our questioning.
The afternoon of Day Three, where England, through another nineties-esque batting collapse, effectively surrendered to Australia, had us thinking again. Our position in the match was perilous. We would gather the next morning to shake hands regardless, but we knew the game was up.

Both for England. And our Lucky Handshake.

And so, at our usual MCG meeting place on Day Four beneath the statue of the iconic Australian quick D.K.Lillee, while the swelling ranks of home fans strode up Jolimont Street like green and gold gloating Revolutionaries towards the scene of this most public of executions, the air thick with Bogan bloodlust, we knew the end had come. This cherished, compulsive, yet slightly eccentric, shibboleth had run its course.

The Lucky Handshake would be stood down graciously. On reflection, maybe others connected to this hiding Down Under should do likewise.

Unlucky Paul? Never. To Lucky Paul and to the Lucky Handshake, we’ll always have Mumbai, Calcutta and Auckland. Great days.

There will be more greatness to come on tours in the future. As there will, doubtless, be more silly superstitions.

Dodgy Dossiers Part Two

Everyone’s a selector these days. Repairing, as had become tradition after the day’s play, to Tredwell Corner in PJ O’Brien’s, a run of the mill, fiddle-de-dee-potatoes Irish Pub, a dimly-lit warren of dark dens and, by the forth day, even darker moods, with the morass of what had passed for half a day’s play fresh in our minds, we decided to get the beers in and the pen and paper out.


Much has been said about the state of English cricket in the wake of this disastrous tour. Most of it from Team Tredders, our happy band of brothers (and sisters). The above is our predictions for the final England XI of The Ashes in Sydney on Friday.

Remember, you read it here first.

England Blown Away By Hurricane Natho

Spotted in Olympic Stand on leaving the ground a lady’s bag bearing the legend ‘Keep Calm And Listen To Radiohead.’ Even their most staunch of fans would admit that some of the band’s more, err, funereal of songs would leave some of England’s fans really close to the edge following another disastrous day watching their team implode. Day Four of the Forth Test at The MCG will be like attending a wake.

Among other things, Melbourne is famed for its unpredictable climate. Yesterday afternoon after a warm, sometimes muggy day, a turbulent typhoon hit The G. In the face of this tempest, England were a shower.
Four & Twenty pie wrappers, beer trays and member’s trilbies whipped around the outfield. Spectators were treated to one of the finest sights in world sport as umpire Aleem Dar lost his hat, exposing his magnificent bouffant hair for all to see. This was the only thing to smile about. England’s batsmen were wretched.

Alastair Cook was let down by his mates once again. On this blog earlier in the year I stated I would never publicly berate Ian Bell again, so I won’t. But he knows what he’s done. Enough said. Part of England’s tail, our famed lower order biffers, looked moronic, losing their wickets in quick succession as part of another collapse to Nathan Lyon, who England made look like Shane Warne. Michael Carberry’s days as a Test cricketer look numbered now and Joe Root, a man expected to shine Down Under has also experienced a torrid tour.

Once England lost Cook after a well-made fifty and to a good ball from Mitchell Johnson, the top order folded in a madcap second session. Not for the first time in the match or, indeed, the series, Johnson was to the fore for Australia. Simply irrepressible. His fast bowling, though still trademark erratic at times, put the frighteners on England again. Then his power arm threw down the stumps to dismiss Root, attempting a quick single that really wasn’t there. Bell’s aimless shot into the air found the waiting hands of the cover fielder.
Him again. Like the tacky green n’ gold replica gear so beloved of the locals here, he was everywhere.

So too was Lyon. His role in winning back the urn for the Aussies shouldn’t be underestimated. Time after time England have given their wickets away to him, seeing him as an easy way out, a relief in contrast to the thorough working over they’ve experienced at the hands of Australia’s quicks.
His five wickets here took him to 100 wickets in 29 tests, a fine achievement for any cricketer. By the looks of his rather pedestrian off-spin bowling, much of these dismissals have come about as a result of the batsman giving their wicket away rather than through massive turn or flight and guile, and England certainly helped this theory yesterday.

Australia need 201 runs. England need 10 wickets. They also need help from above, although a lot more than the tempest yesterday.
In this great city’s crazy climate, where seemingly any weather condition is possible at any time, England’s fans will be praying for snow today.

A Four & Twenty pie wrapper, shortly before it’s probable involvement in yesterday’s cyclone.

Back To The G. For More KP.

Ok, so it’s another fairly monosyllabic blogpost. My apologies for this, and at some stage I’ll get more words on here, but breaking the sleep-cricket-pub-sleep routine is proving harder for me to do than the England team racking up a decent total.

This may yet happen today, for The Man Who Can Do No Right is still there unbeaten on 67. It’s back to the MCG along with another thirty-odd thousand hopeful people from Merrie Englande to cheer on our lads.

Pictured strutting to Gimme Shelter which was being played, rather brilliantly, rather portentously over the PA before the start of play. Good egg, the splendid Roomie Rex (on account of him sharing hostel dorms with me as opposed to being a comment on his girth) is the other chap.

I know, I know, it’s not The Warren, Elstow. But it’ll have to do. To the G….

Go on KP! Go on England!

Hap-Pie Christmas

Um, sorry folks. Ran out of time to Skype and text and all that, which is rather poor to be honest. So here’s a picture instead.


The obligatory ‘I’m alright mum, I’ve got my best shirt on, had a shave, been to church and I’m just about to eat something’ picture that always reassures those keeping the home fires burning.

Just off to the MCG. I’m hoping England’s performance today matches the substance of the bacon, egg and cheese pie, i.e. dependable.

Come on England!

Yuletide Felicitations

Merry Christmas one and all. Thank you for sticking with my musings and for all your encouragement.

Apparently, I’ve missed the repeat of Escape To Victory on the telly at home. Bother. No matter, here, for me anyway, is what Christmas is all about.

Have a great time. X

Pie Know It’s Over

To borrow, again, a quote from a cult film which has recently launched a less-successful sequel, I’m in a glass cage of emotion. Or a concrete and glass bunker of emotion to be exact. The compellingly unlovely part of the Southgate complex across the Yarra River from Flinders Street Station.

Yesterday evening from a restaurant table I marvelled at the rain embellished view of Melbourne’s CBD. A compelling patchwork of slate greys and blues underpinned by the orange lights of the station and the avenues of trees, all finished with a serene, soft pink sunset.

Twelve hours on and the rest of the gang are keen to get a preview of their venue for Christmas lunch with the Barmy Army in the very bowels of the Crown Casino. A behemoth of a dimly lit building lined with pokies, baccarat tables and asphyxiating false hope. I squirm. This is the reason I’ve never been to Vegas and part of me wishes I’d joined my roommates upcountry, down on the farm.
I shudder, reel and with the recce complete, we head for lunch. The rain means we don’t walk far and head instead for the adjoining food hall. Scores of Woolworth’s style breakfast counters jostle for the business of lunching Victorians. Curry counters with e-number sauces, burger bars with banality and mediocre meal deal touting sandwich shops are staffed by identikit people with processed pre-Christmas smiles.

Two days from the Christmas Day that I’m meant to be spending in the sun it’s raining. Hard. One of my boyhood heroes, David Coleman, has sadly died, Swann’s gone and after twenty five years of hard work and peerless involvement in the local church’s Carol Concert, the highlight of my home Christmas, news reaches me from back home that my father has hung up his cassock and won’t be there this year. Are the wheels of my life coming off?

It’s only Monday but there’s only one thing for it. I need a pie.

That glass cage of emotion. I look past the steak pie, even the chicken & mushroom. At least if I am to break with the PieDay Friday tradition, my faithful readers need to know why.

I go for tuna pie.

Yes, you read that correctly. Tuna.

And here’s why. One of my recent theories is that here in Melbourne, after days of several days of fantastic feeds and in one of the foodie capitals of the world, it is impossible to have a bad meal.
So with that safely established in my fragile psyche, how bad can it possibly be?

Halfway through the meal, it’s apparent to my fellow diner that it’s quite bad. Over the chews of my discomfort, Jackie casually asks if the Soon-To-Be-Michelin-Starred-Surely Green Man will be going in for this kind of thing anytime soon?
Greg thinks it only fair that in the wake of the recent opprobrium Tuna Pie is served at the England team’s Christmas Lunch as punishment. Meanwhile, Lucky Paul, a picture of Yorkie smugness, munches silently and contentedly on his steak pie. His smiley mouthfuls speak louder than words.

Where to begin. The brief microwaving prior to serving saps the pastry of the last vestiges of its character. A plasticky, flavourless top layer that adorns a mad professor’s out tray of muddled ingredients. The shredded tuna steak doesn’t begin to pretend it’s anything other than tinned. Did it swim the depths once, fleetingly, or was its unhappy life spent entirely in a laboratory? The onions, tomatoes and red peppers add a further unnecessary sweetness to the already lost cause, while the capers may as well be on hung on the Fed Square tree such is their superfluity.
This pie is not what an England cricket fan needs right now. Like the Ashes, this pie is un-saveable.

My head’s a muddled Monday mess. Then clarity. At last.

Because, this pie has shot down the unbreakable theory that you can’t have a bad meal in Melbourne. So if the impossible really can come true in Victoria’s fine capital, then, maybe, just maybe, there’s every chance England can win on Thursday.

Against all odds and all that.


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.