Posts from the ‘Blighty’ Category

Tooth Serum

It’s a damp, chilly morning in early October and I’m on a long overdue visit to see Pete, our affably accommodating and rather wonderful family dentist. After the chummy preliminaries have been dispensed with, I resignedly take my place in the chair. As much as the next ten minutes are going really bally well hurt, time in Pete’s company is always well spent, as the matters of the day, particularly cricket, are covered in great detail (well, as much detail as they can before the next patron starts kicking off about missing their bus to Lower Shelton, anyway).
The dentist’s assistant rolls her eyes as the pre-scrape n’ suck chat inevitably turns to Pete and I’s favourite topic, with England’s imminent, and similarly long overdue, visit to the United Arab Emirates and an encounter with Pakistan second on the agenda behind mine host’s revelation that he had a walk on part in last August’s Twenty20 Final’s Day awards ceremony. It’s a credit to Pete that in addition to all the wealth of dentistry based knowledge this young lady will gain from her well-spent time in his employ, she’ll be a font of all knowledge on great Northamptonshire cricketers from the 1980s onwards, as well as a world expert in explaining the lbw law too.

‘Pah! Oh no, you couldn’t pay me to go there.’ ‘What? Milton Keynes On Sand? Ha! Perish the thought. No way.’
Fast forward to two weeks later, inexplicably here I am billeted up in my hotel room in Bur Dubai overlooking the neon-lit midnight cityscape (the less glamorous part) pondering what I’m doing here. A combination of keenly felt push and pull factors have jettisoned me to a destination, much coveted by some, but undisputedly nowhere near the top of my holiday list. Indeed, in complete frankness, I would place this bloated burghal of bling one or two places off the bottom of said list. However, listed in terms of the places to visit with England, the UAE is comfortably the least appealing. Even less appealing than Australia in fact. 
I couldn’t help myself though. Last week sat on the sofa watching the first Test Match from Abu Dhabi and the thought occurred. Farmer John’s text gave me a hurry up. Then a glimpse, on telly, of Eric, minus the inflatable swans and instead with his lovely companion on his arm, then Andy trying among a good field of contenders to be English cricket’s foremost beard, singing away amidst bemused locals in an under populated, over heated concrete bowl furthered my urgency. Cooky’s magnificent innings did the rest. 
Yes it’s hot, yes it’s apparently charmless, and apparently cheerless too. But England are here. England and every win, lose, draw or tie that following them around the world entails. I had to get out to Dubai. (Who knows, I might even enjoy it.) And thanks to some very understanding and accommodating colleagues here I am (Cheers fellas!).
To the regiment.

Friday Morning, Coming Down

So it ended where it all began. The WACA, Perth.

Four weeks on from the beginning of the end for England’s men, I was back watching the start of the Women’s Ashes. Thirty degrees heat, the CBD dominating the backdrop, the Doctor on overtime blowing through an empty stadium, the field like fresh sheets, the anthem lustily sung (It was just me & Big G. The acoustics in a sparse stadium are rather wonderful, especially if it’s just you singing.), the players look pristine in the middle. The tension is at its most taut. The talk, talked. New beginnings.

I cannot get away from the fact that the opening moment of a Test Match is the most thrilling in thing in the world. But then, I guess, that also says everything you need to know about me. Till next time….


Nanny Knows Best

So I’m late up. The bus for the SCG leaves soon. Not much time to get a blog out prior to the last rites that will surely be issued later. Here’s a talking point from yesterday and one of the reasons that, should the electorate go left next year, dear old Blighty could be as much of a Nanny State as sunny ‘Straya.



Go to the booths. Stop this thing happening back home before it’s too late. You have been warned.

Orange Crush

All is quiet on New Year’s Day? Clearly Bono hadn’t reckoned with the packed Sydney high streets teeming with the thrifty, the hungover and the clinically bored. Or the scores of bathers struggling for sunstroke space on the busy sands of Bondi. Then there’s packed walkways strewn with baseball capped youngsters heading trance-like to the Domain for the NYD mash up. You’re welcome to the rave. Then there’s the Manly ferries resembling Titanic lifeboats bursting through Port Jackson to get the frantic beach dwellers to their slightly secluded havens.

In short, Sydney is a city that refuses to sleep. Even when it probably has every right to, given the effort it puts in for the big night before.

What to do today then? With my one track mind, a cursory glance at the sporting calendar would surely provide the answer.

The one or two token fixtures in response did little to stir the soul here. Back home, New Year’s Day is one big day of sport, a day chock full of football, rugby, racing and loads more besides. However, in Australia, New Year sport; Where the bloody hell are ya?

I’ve thought of little else since the news came through, like a love note from Blighty to the front, that my beloved Hatters have made it to the top of the table. It will go wrong, it always has, it always does. But for now, I’m passing Hope that gun again.

My team are at home to Barnet later, yet another test of our title winning credentials. That we are where we are is due to the part manager John Still has played in getting there. When he took over it was a shambles. Now we’re playing winning football. The players are behind him, the board are behind him and, pleasingly, the supporters, always a notoriously fickle lot at Kenilworth Road, are behind him too.

On the pitch, we are indebted to the goals of Andre Gray, the industry of Luke Guttridge, but also to our defensive lynchpin Steve McNulty.

Steve McNulty. The first time I saw him play he got sent off. Ignominiously. I have also seen him arrow, Keith Houchen-like, a diving header into the back of the net. Past his own keeper.

Standing squatly, with his closely cropped grey hair and his Sunday League pot belly, he looks nothing like a professional footballer. Indeed, when the Queen meets McNulty (when surely she will) to bestow honours, she’ll doubtless asks him ‘what does he do’. She’ll probably ask him again straight away.

Yet despite his un-athletic exterior, our McNulty is a leader of men. To watch him cajole a young defensive partner through a match is like watching the master, Tony Adams, back at work again. He knows the game inside out, as befits a man of fourteen stone, he uses his cunning to read situations and outwit opponents. Bedecked in Luton Orange, his long passes make him look like the Ronald Koeman of the lower leagues. And he’s capable of this as well.

Honestly. Just watch it again. It’s preposterously brilliant.

If Messi or Ronaldo had done that they’d be playing it on a loop on Sky Sports News.

So, play well Luton. Not just today, but every match day here on in.

2014 is a big year for us. Come on you Hatters.

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!

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

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.

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….