South Africa Tour 2009/10
Once I'm in, I'm there for the duration
At last, the end of the journey and a a trip from the airport to a rather comfy guest house called the Sandringham in Umhlanga Ridge, just outside Durban. Awaiting was the incomparable Midnight and you just knew that you were going to get at least an hour of detailed descriptions of various African insects that had feasted upon the hapless Mancunian.
Wherever I have been with Midnight - India, Sri Lanka, Australia and the Windies - they make straight for him and this time it was a combination of spiders, mosquitoes and bedbugs requiring expensive medication. I swear that Midnight is viewed as the foie gras of the human-targeting insect world and the repellent that he bathes in on an hourly basis seems to encourage them more than anything else.
It's tradition that Xmas Day on Addis Army cricket tours always involves beach cricket and PC Tango Tom was giving it large again about how he was going to skittle me out for a golden duck. Talk is easy, my ginger friend, but walking the walk is somewhat different. I like to think that my powers are a potent combination of Dravid, Thorpe and Kallis; once I'm in, I'm there for the duration. Such was the result as the increasingly frustrated beleisha beacon toiled and was dispatched consistently into the sea sending the hapless Tractor out into the roaring and dangerous surf to retrieve the ball.
I was only out after a rule change to tip and run, getting run out from a model forward defensive. Like one of Midnight's mosquito friends, this came to bite the Mick Hucknall lookalike in the arse as he was run out first ball (denying this and using what we all now know as the Skip beach cricket justification - "It's my bat, and I say I'm in") and then justly run out again the following ball. I think they call that a 'Golden Pair', do they not, copper, and this means that Skip's South African Golden Duck of 2004 does not now look so bad.
The mighty Wycombe was there as well employing his usual devious tactic of bowling so hopelessly that you were rendered helpless with mirth trying to defend your wicket. It was all arms, legs and his tongue hanging out in concentration. Tractor, meanwhile was using her feminine wiles in what can only be described as a somewhat revealing swimming costume. Would she be able to retain her modesty whilst bowling? It was a close-run thing.
Although Saint is a valued member of any Addis Army tour I was actually quite glad he was not around to be introduced to Tango and Tractor's pal, Rupert. The only 'Ruperts' Saint recognises of course are the students of Oxford, whom he simply does not tolerate. A quick name change was required, obviously on the 'bear' theme. My first thought was 'Hoffmeister', but none of the twenty-somethings got the reference at all, so I moved on to 'Yogi' which seemed to be just right.
Xmas lunch was arranged by Midnight and we turned up in a steak house only to discover that Rafa Benitez had clearly been sacked and had moved to Umhlanga Rocks to take up a waiting job. He'd also lost the Spanish accent and picked up a passable Boer drawl. This did not immediately please Midnight, given his visceral hatred of anything Scouse, but things eventually got easier as Rafa proved to be a dab hand at delivering Jager Bombs. 6 each went down very rapidly, and on top of the wine and beer led to Tractor and Yogi looking rather spangled.
Then off to the Oyster Box, the nearby England team hotel to indulge in Tractor's favourite pastime of stalking unsuspecting England cricketers. I reckon she should get her own programme on TV, a bit like 'Nature Watch'. It was decided to restrain her as it would have been bad form to intrude on the players' time with their families. She reluctantly agreed, muttering "They can run but they can't hide."
More beer later and Wycombe was straining at the leash to get off to the Goldcoast Casino. Despite the encouraging signs earlier that Tractor and Yogi would fail to cope with the rapid inflow of alcohol, they both got second winds. Unfortunately this was not the case with Midnight who was now completely wasted and speaking a language only drunks and the clinically insane understand.
Midnight was returned safely to the Sandringham (although strangely reluctant to get in a local taxi operated by a company called 'Mozzie's') and so it was that I and the mighty Wycombe went off to the Casino, where he was hoping to add to the 10,000 Rand he had won the night before.
It was all looking good for a while and I kept asking Wycombe how much he had won in a vain attempt to get him to leave the blackjack table. It looked like about 8-9,000. He hit the heights, then the lows and then managed to retrieve the situation after beating a hasty retreat to an ATM with two rounds of three hands at 1,000 Rand a hand, walking away about 2,000 Rand up. He paid for the taxi back as I was 1,400 out of pocket.
Back at the Sandringham Guest House around 1.30 am, the walls were literally vibrating with the nocturnal sounds of the comatose Midnight. I am not sure I can shout as loud as Midnight snores and the amazed Wycombe could utter nothing more than "F*****g hell, I'm glad I'm not sleeping in here, Herbie, Merry Christmas."