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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Careless Whisper - George Michael

I should have known that the tickets were jinxed when they were kindly given to me by my brother –in – law, an avid cricket fan who had been summoned onto a holiday in the sun, by my sister, (and his boss) who needed heat. Wanting to do it properly, I ordered a hamper – the choice being a traditional English one, created by Jamie Oliver, but was full of the Devil’s vegetable, Beetroot, and a Tamarind one – a Michelin starred curry house in London. I chose the latter, but more of that later.
The night before, my son asked what time we were leaving and I said the normal time for work (just before 7), as I expected the traffic to be bad. The next morning, my alarm went off, and I got up excited that I was going to tick something else off my bucket list – a Test match at the Home of Cricket, Lords. Half an hour later, I heard G’s alarm go off, but I had to call him half an hour later when he still hadn’t come downstairs. He came down in T shirt, shorts and zip-up hoody. As a typical mum, I said, “Are you going to be warm enough? He disappeared upstairs and came down with a slightly thicker hoody on.. He’ll learn, I thought.
Eventually, we got going, and I used the M6Toll Road to get past the traffic I would have missed had we left half an hour earlier. We made good time until we got to Bedford when the speed restriction signs got slower and slower. Eventually we ground to a halt and my Traffic Jam Terrett’s kicked in. After a delay of about 15 minutes whilst a red Astra who had stayed 2 chevrons back from a white van was removed from the carriage way, we got going again and arrived at Stanmore at 9.45 to find the Underground car park full.  After driving around for 15 minutes to try and find anywhere to park that wasn’t time limited, I gave up and found the next station down, Canon Park and parked up. Relieved I said to G., “I get really stressed if I think I’m going to be late for something,” “ I noticed,”  he smiled.

Pressure was now on to get there in time to see Cook and Compton walk out of the most famous Pavillion in the World, bats swinging like windmills as they walked to the centre where the New Zealand team waited. We got in the ground after a bag and body search at 10.45am, I just might make it. We went to pick up the Hamper and the queue was massive. Being a martyr I said, “You go and sit down, this may take some time”. I hoped that G would say that he would do it – no such luck,  but luckily my dislike of the Devil’s vegetable, meant that queue for the Tamarind Hamper was, well me, and I picked up a lovely new cool bag rammed with excellent food, and walked round to my seat in time to see the batsmen walk to the middle.
The cricket started slowly in the first session, ending up at lunch at 56-1. It was nearly an hour before a ball rolled fast enough to get to the boundary rope. The strategies of both teams seems to be containment, as New Zealand set up a defensive field and England demonstrated their defensive stroke play. I had to remind myself that this wasn’t McGrath and Warne, or the fearsome West Indian attack of the 80’s, as the game continued to ground on with each side determined to bore each other into mistakes.

I didn’t mind about that and time flew by people watching, cloud spotting and smiling to myself as G put his hoodie up to try to stay warm. There was an old couple in front of us, who had coats done up, flask and a score sheet. I wondered how many they had completed over the years. They sat in quiet contentment all day. Behind us were four public schoolboys, floppy hair, jackets and club ties, who cracked a bottle of Bolly as the first over was bowled, followed by several English lagers (“We don’t want any of that Aussie rubbish”.)
After lunch (56 for 1) I said to G., “We’ll see some runs this session, it always opens up second session.” How wrong I was. Trott began to score, but was out to a ball that carried to slip when it shouldn’t have done, as it barely got off the ground. Out walked Bell. A player that my brother- in law tells me a technically a very gifted batsman, but hardly a man for a crisis. In rugby he would be classed as a flat track bully. Looks great when the team are on top, but unable to change the course of a game. The lads behind me discussed the merits of his style, coming to the conclusion that they would pay 'not to watch him'. The game continued at 2 runs an over. Loads of low scoring overs when Bell was on strike – and that was too often as he scraped a run on the 6th ball of the over to face the bowling in the next over, and when Trott finally got his chance, the run rate went up to between 4 and 7 an over. The lads retired to the bar to await Bell’s wicket to fall. Unfortunately Trott’s fell instead and the game continued slowly, with another group of cricket fans standing up and applauding Bell when he offered a stroke, and when finally he succumbed, cheering as thought they were from the colonies. 113 – 3. Finally, I thought the game will open up, when the clouds darkened lights came on, and the rain came.

Returning to the car, we started up the M1. I pointed out a long dark grey cloud in the sky. Trying to impress my son with my geographical knowledge I said, “Look at that Front, there will be really heavy rainfall there” and saw the overhead gantry state that the M1 was closed at Junction 6-6A. What it didn't say is that George Michael was Careless with his Range Rover - fame at last caught up in an accident with a guy who probably wasn't Awake when he was on the Go Go. It didn't give me the Freedom to use the road. But back to the story before the puns get any worse. Why don’t they tell you before you get on the road - Do they think we've got Faith in the road to cope? I could’ve gone a different route and avoided the jam or should that be Wham? Instead I came off at junction 5 to fail to impress my son with my knowledge of Hertfordshire and we drove around Watford trying to find a way to the M25 to go up the M40 home. We drove through the village on the edge of Ricksmansworth, Croxley – a surreal experience to see a Tube Station in the middle of a village with a flint church, and cosy pub. Eventually we got on the M40 to drive into the weather Front that I’d impressed my son?! with. Still, the road was relatively quiet, and the radio on BBC5 Live for the Rugby Chat show with Brian Ashton and Stuart Lancaster to discuss the forthcoming Lions and Argentina tours. So the obvious first question was: “What do you think about Beckham retiring? I couldn’t see their faces but could sense their look of incredualty as they answered. Dear media, not everyone shares your adoration of a media created legend, who’s footballing skills barely stretched beyond a great pass, running around like a headless chicken (commitment and leadership according to the papers) and smiling proudly when leading the team out. For me, Beckham generates the same sort of response as the ex-miners had recently for the death of Margaret Thatcher. Ironically THE footballer of that generation also retired this week. Scholes kept him and his family out of the limelight and allowed his footballing skills to do the talking. Ferguson hung onto him and got rid of Beckham. Says it all to me. As George Michael would say about Scholes - I'm your Man.......(although he probably fancied Beckham)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Restarting my Blog

‘Down Under’ – Men at Work
For my ‘new’ reader, my blog is about what I’m thinking when I visit places, a couple of pictures for you to get a flavour of what I’m seeing, and doing, and a song which seems to sum up the day, the thoughts, or one that has been played to death in bars, clubs, radio etc. I will then have three readers, you, me on my return and my mum.

Well, it’s time to start my blog off again, as I am on my travels to my last Lions Tour. I will have done all three major destinations (Hong Kong doesn’t count in my book), and am finishing off in the sporting nation of the Universe – Australia. In my mind, Aussies are not only sports mad, and damn good at it, but also realised years before our Olympics that being successful at sport gives you a ‘feel good factor’ and oneness that no Government can ever achieve even if they did away with Income Tax, and gave us every Monday off. I would go as far as saying that they are also the most sporting. Yes they invented sledging – courtesy of their cricket team, and media, but beat them fair and square, and they will show real respect. Think of 2003, (us poor English rugby fans have to hold on to something), David Campese, the Aussie winder with mercurial talent, thought that the ‘White Orcs on Steroids’ would lose to Australia in the Final. Well they didn’t, and Campese saw through his bet to walk along Oxford Street, with a sandwich board telling the world he was wrong. Fair Play Dinkum.

As to the Lions Squad, I think Gatland has it about right. There are one or two ‘lucky’ players – Jenkins, Stevens, Croft, and one or two ‘unlucky players – Robshaw, Wood and Zebo. Owen Farrell continues to be the second best Fly Half in whatever team he plays – second to Charlie at Sarries, 2nd to Burns for England (yes, watch this space), and now second to ‘Jonny’ - of the Irish variety. He was second last Sunday to the old Jonny, (ooh er Missus). I just hope that there are not too many Welsh in the team, definitely the back bone of the side, but any more and it just won’t feel like a Lions team. Recent successful teams have had a good mix, although the backbone (89, 97,) have been English rather than Welsh, and the Lions were very nearly there on the last tour, with an Irish backbone.
Anyway, this morning, I paid the last part of the Tour which includes:
·         3 Tests
·         Cuddling a Koala
·         1 mid-week game
·         Walking the Sydney Harbour Bridge
·         Dinner with the Lions Coaches
·         Opera at the Opera House
·         Melbourne’s Sports Venues
·         The Blue Mountains
·         An Aussie Rules game (hopefully)
·         Uluru
·         Evening reception with Ex-Players
·         The Great Ocean Road
I am going on an over-priced organised Tour, because that gives it a feel of a real Rugby Tour, where things go wrong, camaraderie builds, and there will be some real characters to write about, as on my previous tours.
To quote the guy I kept meeting from Heathrow on the way out through to party time when the Lions won the last Test (7 English Dirt trackers in the side folks) last time:
‘If you don’t know who the Tour Tw4t is Karen, it’s probably you.’