Posts from the ‘New Zealand’ Category

To Beard Or Not To Beard?

That has been the question of the last few weeks. I seem to have been given heaps of advice on my facial fuzz, so while I am loathe to tap out yet another self indulgent blog (They’re all self indulgent to a degree though aren’t they?) the beard has dominated much of the recent correspondence you, dear reader, have sent me.

Before*:

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During:

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After:

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It’s gone. Seven weeks worth of growth. Well, it seemed only fair to let the rest of my face get something of a (wind) tan before I return to Blighty. That and I don’t think Grandma would talk to me if I came back with it attached to my face. And I can’t have that.

A few things to note here. Forget what you saw in The Fugitive, beards do not come off that quickly. Then again I’m not Harrison Ford. Sadly.

Also, according to Bill Bryson’s scientific masterpiece (and I’m hugely grateful to Kevin for lending it to me) A Short History Of Nearly Everything, the pace a man’s beard grows at is down to how much he thinks about sex. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there but it does lead me on to my last beard related story.

J.B. Oliver, a good man, headmaster of my Upper School** back in the day, stood proudly bearded moments before his shave for charity in front of a full assembly hall of expectant teenagers. As the barber’s chair awaited alongside the collection buckets, moments before settling down, Mr Oliver proclaimed loudly; “I haven’t had it off for years.”

“The beard, the beard”, he hurriedly shouted as the audience collapsed in sniggering adolescent laughter.

I think I know how the poor chap felt.

*Thank you to Keith ‘Casper’ Coatsworth for the photo. Memories of a great pub, The Albar in Dunedin. Proper hand pulled ale, Beatles, Stranglers or Paul Weller on the jukebox, a fireside seat and Douglas Bader’s autobiography on the bookshelf. No wonder I look so content.

**A big hello to anyone reading from The Class of (’96 and) ’98! Oh what fun we had, did it really turn out bad?

Viewing Record For England Matches (Away) Stands At: Seen 8, Drawn 4, Lost 2, Won 2

Dunedin University Oval, the summer of 2013. If you were there, you weren’t really there, man. As with all great festivals, it rained on the first day. All day. Some of the crowd stayed in on hope more than expectation. Then went to the pub. Where they stayed all of the night.
Everyone else came back the next day, Thursday, in anticipation of the event’s main act. England. The grass banks were full to the brim in anticipation of the big name’s in world cricket. Riskily, some would say over confidently, they didn’t have much in terms of a warm up act and to the delight of the thousands of locals in the Oval, their cult favourites on the undercard, the Black Caps, got the place rocking. Yet at 167 all out it was England who were rocked the most.
Having a Bruce on the bill is usually a sign of a good festival and so it proved again here as New Zealand’s Martin’s wickets in the afternoon gloom had home fans dancing in the dark. England had flopped badly and boy were the critics ready for them. New Zealand stole England’s thunder. Or one man did.

Rudders! Na na, na na, na na, na na!

Friday saw the crowd going wild for first-timer Hamish Rutherford. Upstaging the establishment on his own patch, Rutherford seemed galvanised by the acclaim from his people sending them delirious with his virtuoso performance. Still the ACDC borrowed singing echoed around the place.

Rudders! Na na, na na, na, na, na na!

A local band took up their opener’s cause with vigour. A hirsute, gothic looking gentleman clad in Biggles hat, plastic pointy ears and the New Zealand ’92 World Cup shirt led the revelling. This man was Seedy, lead singer of aspiring local rock gods, The Mainecoons. In Rutherford, the Kiwis have an unpolished diamond of a batsman. In Seedy, the Kiwis have an unpolished diamond of a frontman. His motley crew made for four days of pure phantasmagorical fun; imagine being stuck in a Kiwi cricket version of The Mighty Boosh. The heckling seldom ceased. Neither did the laughter. Seedy, Deano, Evan and Ben held their own in their battle of the bands too, the freaky four versus the might of England’s travelling vocal support, the Barmy Army. On the banks, trumpeter Billy proved to be England’s best player for the first two days as, over on the main stage, the cricketers had a shocker.

On psychedelic Saturday morning, the Black Caps’ own main man proved again to be the axeman, Brendan McCullum’s powerful performance added to the party atmosphere. England, though, had their chance again shortly after McCullum’s eventual departure to a standing ovation. New Zealand finished on 460-9.
Seedy noisily stirred the home support, while Deano playfully irked the travelling contingent. Donning firstly purple robes and a wizard mask while holding aloft a beige cricket bat, then pig mask and home made skin tight Scott Styris vest, his madcap devilish proclamations and ribald barbs accompanied every false note played by England.
Class will out and the cream of English talent rose to the top. Nick Compton and Alastair Cook’s uncompromising, longstanding duet at the top of the bill on the Saturday did for the locals. Then as the shadows lengthened on the penultimate day of the festival, Finn, a name synonymous with music in this part of the world, began to put together his cameo. It was all set up for the last day.

Sunday finally saw Dunedin live up to its Sunny Dunny name. Glorious weather abounded. Hangovers were nursed or topped up, a mellow mood abounded the sun kissed Oval. Seedy exhorted another debutant to do his best to disrupt the harmony.

Wagner-ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner. Neil Wagner!
Wagner-ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner,ner. Neil Wagner!

But the Watford Wall, Steven Finn, stood firmly in the way of the Valkyrien quick. The festival on the main stage was starting to fizzle out. Back on the banks, things were getting much more interesting. Andy P (www.facebook.com/andypguitar – check it out pop pickers!) joined his band mates with his guitar and amplifier and proceeded to lead the crowd in their national anthem as well as some hastily re-hashed workings of Seventies rock band staples. Under his excellent musicianship and Seedy’s wordsmith skills, The Mainecoons impromptu cover of Pink Floyd’s Brick in the Wall implored;

Hey! England! Have a bloody go!
Ball by ball it’s just another fricking draw.

Finn did his best to ensure it did (as England reached 421-6 at the close) and was all smiles at the end as the tour heads now for Wellington. The Barmy Army, meanwhile, led the encores, delighted to have got out of Otago’s capital with the series level.

The University Oval, Dunedin, the summer of 2013. A Steven Finn half century, the second best bowling attack in the world going round the park, heavy rain, sun burn, cold winds, warm beer, a Peter Fulton half century, a Joe Root failure, sixes and drag acts and rock and roll. They won’t have this at Glastonbury.
If you were there, you weren’t really there, man.

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Let’s Rock New Zealand!!! DWC & The Mainecoons, left to right; Seedy, Andy P, Ben, Evan, Deano and me.

Face In The Crowd

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Not a great picture is it? Brendan McCullum has just launched one into our bit of the banks at deep mid-wicket at some point on Friday afternoon and I appear to be contemplating the meaning of life. Again.

Much more to contemplate today thanks to the brilliance and fortitude of Nick Compton and Alastair Cook. All three results possible? Probably not.

You never know though. Test Cricket, eh? Lets hope the remaining two Tests in Wellington and Auckland prove as eventful.

The Pies Have It

In desperate search of something stoically, typically and wonderfully English to believe in, in the face of the cricketing horror show that was happening before my eyes I yearned for salvation. While the Barmies and Beiges traded ready banter and witticisms, my ears pricked up at the conversation taking place between a Lancashire couple behind me.

“Yeah, it’s great ain’t it? Proper Pork Pie. Home made n’ all. Like what you get back ‘ome.”

Pork pies? Here in New Zealand? Attitudes to one of Britain’s signature dishes had clearly softened since my last visit three years ago when this redoubtable savoury delicacy came in for some of the most terrible kind of abuse they usually reserve for Australians.

My forage around the food stalls of the University Oval brought me to Havoc Meats of Waimate where Kane an enthusing, charismatic gentleman of heavy beard and stocky build much like a prop forward in the modern sense roared me through a demonstration of his noble art. Kane explained to me that all the pies were made by his fair hands, driving the point home about just how fair his hands were.
Imagine Nanette Newman played by Brian Blessed and you’re pretty much there. “Now hands that kill piggies can feel as soft as your face….”

Havoc Meat’s pies and products are made using the meat from Kane’s mum’s farm he told me proudly. Kane explained how Havoc’s pork pies were different to traditional Melton Mowbray ones in terms of look but also in terms of a unique twist on the recipe. Kane found that by using hocks rather than trotters for the jelly it gave the pie a better flavour.
He was absolutely right. The jelly, far from being that listless clear stuff you get in most pies, had a delicious pork stock taste to it. Thick chunks of pulled pork were mixed in with sprigs of sage and parsley and cubes of Havoc ham. The pastry was light on both salt and crust which allowed the succulent pork and the flavours within to cling to the taste buds like the local sand flies to your ankles.

Kane proclaimed he is heading over to England in 2015 for the Rugby World Cup and the World Pork Pie Championship. He seemed confident of New Zealand victories in both.
The Pork Pie Club of Great Britain haven’t returned his emails or calls. Kane thinks they’re running scared. Having tasted one of his genuinely brilliant Kiwi pork pies, I have to strongly agree with him.

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Red Sky In The Morning…..

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….Shepherd’s Warning as the old country saying goes.

Further bad portents for England? Or more rain of the like we saw on Wednesday?

Most of the five thousand or so that swelled the grass banks of the pretty Dunedin University Oval yesterday will be happy with another warm late-summer day. And lots more runs.

England will take the rain.

(Photo taken from my current digs in Warrington, a charming coastal village twenty minutes drive over the hills from the city. Yet again this beautiful country can’t help but inspire me. It’s going to be a hard place to leave.)

England. My Part In Their Downfall

Lucky Paul. You’ve all been following the story here on DWC. Lovely ol’ boy from Yorkshire. Fellow traveller. We met on the way to the cricket in Mumbai and somehow ended up watching the rest of the Indian tour together. He went trekking in Nepal, I went gadding about in Australia. “See you in Dunedin!” was the cheery farewell at Nagpur airport just before Christmas.

Now then readers, your starter for ten. Why is Lucky Paul so-called?

Yes that’s right. It’s because before every day of every match since our chance meeting in Mumbai, the day’s play has to start with a handshake. It started off as a convivial formality. It has gone on from being merely a superstition to an unbreakable institution.

Every day. Before play. The handshake. Not Masonic or Street or something similarly vulgar or odious. A standard handshake. The accepted greeting all over the world.

At the University Oval, Dunedin, New Zealand were outstanding today. From first ball to last. Brendon McCullum marshalled his troops well and will take massive pride from today’s showing. The Black Caps quicks got among the England top order early on, Tim Southee praying on Nick Compton’s lack of confidence. Neil Wagner (4-42) on debut was the pick though, ending up with the wickets of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen in consecutive deliveries.
Ian Bell fluffed yet another opportunity to lead from a good position, his profligate dismissal when well set in the twenties was typical of a lot of England’s stroke play. Yorkshireman Joe showed he is human after all, getting out early as England continued to implode. A wake up call for England here; Rooty can fail.
Matt Prior and then top scorer Jonathon Trott (44) gave their wickets away before Stuart Broad’s brainless slog sweep added to left-arm spinner Bruce Martin’s glut of wickets. Steve Finn and James Anderson gave their side’s total something approaching respectability before Anderson miscued to Wagner to leave Martin with 4-43 on debut and England 167 all out.

The Kiwis’ response wasn’t in England’s script either. The returning Finn and Anderson were supposed to blitz the openers as they did in the shorter format two weeks ago. The bowlers looked as ineffective as their batting counterparts. Hamish Rutherford played serenely while Peter Fulton stonewalled near faultlessly. Rutherford, the young debutante would finish the day unbeaten on 77 and New Zealand 36 runs behind.

Late afternoon and the home team, against the expectations of their loyal supporters sat on the banks, were cruising. England, with an hour or so still to go, were firmly in the doldrums. Their vast away following wracking their brains to think of similarly chastening away days.
The shadows started to lengthen, the South Western wind cooling the late summer sun, the scoreboard read seventy five without loss.
Paul frowned, casually turned to me and said;

“Henry. We never did the handshake earlier.”

Aw bugger.

Beige. Bannockburn. And Big Red

The opening morning of a Test Match and the frisson of excitement that accompanies it. In an hour or so I’ll be heading down to the University Oval in Dunedin to cheer on the lads.

Two things worry me slightly. Firstly, the weather. Looking out across the town from the lofty location of my current hostel, things don’t look good for today. Secondly, Australia.

Well, to be honest, our pre-occupation with them.

The Aussies were hammered yesterday in Hyderabad by an Indian side England worked very hard to beat last year. Properly hammered. By an innings and 135 runs. After declaring their first innings. Yes, its the sort of cataclysmically, comical thing that always used to happen to us.

And, as a result, bars, cafes and the Twittersphere are alive with the sound of English smugness. Ladies and gents, don’t get drawn into all this vulgar triumphalism. These boasts of ten-nil and Test Matches winning early may be tongue-in-cheek but their exultant tone is in bad taste and disrespectful to our foes over the next six Test Matches.

New Zealand are first up. We underestimate them at our peril. Witness yesterday’s 114 run victory by their supporters over ours in the pre-match Twenty20. A lusty singing of Jerusalem was shouted down by an awe inspiring cricket Haka solo by the Beige Brigade captain, Big Red.

We come at yer, come at yer, bat and ball.
We come at yer, come at yer, bat and ball.

Six foot and seventeen stone of Southern Man. A William Wallace like figure with thick ginger whiskers and a flowing red mane clad from head to toe in beige. As far a cry from the cuddly Kiwi image beloved of gift shops it’s hard to imagine. The English reeled. Big Red’s team went at the Barmy Army bat and ball. Hard. Bannockburn recreated on a cricket field in the most Scottish city you’ll see anywhere outside of Scotland.

As a marker for the upcoming series, together with the nearly full England team’s unexpected loss in Queenstown last week, this should say something. As anyone who’s ever tried strolling up Baldwin Street in this fair city, you underestimate New Zealand at your peril.

We have been warned.

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Root And Branch Review

Browsing through my Queenstown photos from last week and fighting off the slight pangs of Wish You Were There that periodically entrap my heart while I type this in Not So Sunny Dunny, I came across the following picture. I do like a good tree, as you well know.

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It really is a handsome specimen, isn’t it? Because I’m unsure of the species, and I’m too lazy to look it up, the tree has been named Yorkshire’s finest following a photo shoot he did alongside it on the shores of Lake Wakitipu last week.

I’m sure along with everything he wants to achieve in cricket, Joe Root will be chuffed to bits to have a tree named after him. It’s not quite Wisden Cricketer of the Year, but it’s a start.

From small acorns….

Start The Jars!

“So the thing is, err Bumble, you see, um, would you be kind enough, I mean would you mind awfully, having a photo with me. Please. My dad’s a big fan, my sister-in-law thinks you’re brill…”

“Shoooot ooopp.”

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“Right oh. Sorry, very sorry.”

Gareth, good on ‘im, takes the photo.

David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd. The man who’s done everything in the game, county and international cricketer, first class umpire, county and international coach, author. All with varying degrees of success yet it is in his current role as commentator where he is best known. Cult hero, legend, national treasure.
Take your pick of the apt accolades. Bumble’s distinctive Lancastrian accent has enhanced many a cricket match down the years, his infectious enthusiasm for the sport he has served so well spilling out into his commentaries along with his brilliant and bewildering bons mots.

I hold the gentleman in the highest esteem. I was nervous about meeting him. Which is why I couldn’t stop gibbering away like an idiot when I bumped into him on Saturday night.

You know that verbal diarrhoea you instantly develop when you see a jaw-droppingly good looking lass across the room and tumble ill-advisedly into conversation with when your turn to get the round in coincides. Granted I’d had one or two, but, by now, I was rabbiting for England.

You know when the verbal diarrhoea you’re experiencing looks like it could become terminal? Yeah, that happened too.

“So, um, Mr Lloyd, Bumble, err, let me tell you my theory that it is Bedfordshire and not Yorkshire or indeed that fine Red Rose county across the Pennines that is the cradle of English cricket….”

“Shoooot ooopp.”

Thankfully, Gareth or Barney or the band’s new song filled in the hole that was opening up in front of me.

“Brown Sugar by the Rooollin’ Stooones. Ah looov that. Get ’em to do Brown Sugar.”

I volunteered to persuade the band to do it. Alas they didn’t really know it. Or Angie.

“Roooobbish!”

I was having a ‘mare. So espying some charming sort out of the corner of my eye, I sensed my chance to make a break from my self imposed cast-iron cage of embarrassment. I followed her to the dance floor where I promptly proceeded to rip it up in that giraffe-tripping-acid crossed with Stephen Merchant with-his-spine-recently-removed way that sadly for me (and comically for everyone else) befalls someone of my lanky stature when faced with the trials and tribulations of disco dancing. She was loving it. I was loving it.

So, apparently, was Bumble. Stood crouching like Arthur Fagg in his pomp and tapping away like a young Lonnie Donegan, the great man had made his way towards the edge of the dance floor and was hollering and barracking my efforts, that characteristic love of life writ large across those famously dour-or-delighted features.

They say you should never meet your heroes. Roooobbish!

David Lloyd. Thank you. Top man.

Burger Wars

At Dances With Chazzwazzers, it’s always gratifying to receive feedback from you, my esteemed readers. Here’s some correspondence on the latest article I would like to share with you verbatim.

“Burger? That’s not a burger. Liking the latest blog fella, only I think my effort last weekend (The Devastator!!!!) pisses all over your ‘Big Al’.

Feel free to use photo on your blog….”

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Thank you, I will. That is quite a monster. But as I said to the last Mrs W, it’s what you do with it that counts.

Mind you, that was a long time ago now.

Thanks very much indeed brother (To those of you who don’t know the devastator of the Devastator is Will, Alfie’s Dad). Good to see sibling rivalry is alive and well despite us being hemispheres apart.