South Africa Tour 2009/10
Jubilant scenes on the terraces and barely a Saffer in sight
This was always going to be a good day, given that England’s bowlers had ripped through the Saffer top order in a glorious couple of sessions at the Kingsmead ground the day before.
Every day at the Sandringham B&B, a most splendid full English breakfast would emerge from the kitchen. Never has there been so many condiments on a table, although I always drew the line at the sweet pepper sauce which looked like frog spawn. Call me old fashioned but I prefer brown sauce to sperm on my sausage and eggs.
Off to the ground and the wickets start tumbling and before you knew it, England had hoovered up the final 4 wickets by about 1045 am. Jubilant scenes on the terraces and barely a Saffer in sight as they had seen the writing on the wall and decided to stay away. The presentation was a noisy affair in front of the players’ dressing room with Collingwood giving an impromptu rendition of the ‘Durban Jungle’ song (tune: ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’). A much appreciated touch.
With the whole day in front of us, we started by comparing how many international wins we had under our belt. Midnight claimed the prize with his 4 wins out of 18 Tests attended, Wicks had chalked up 3 out of 10, while yours truly has 3 out of 13. A furious row ensued as I put it to Midnight that his two wins in Kiwiland did not count as the Black Caps are sh*t. He was having none of that, given that by my calculations, the Manc has spent about 7 grand a win.
The real winner was of course Hyacinth, the Addis Army’s very own tour virgin. A win on her debut and I’m not quite sure she appreciated the significance of that. “Right”, said Midnight, “That means that you now have to come on every tour as you are our lucky mascot”. Hyacinth did not look overly excited by the prospect of that.
Durban has a reputation as a crime-ridden place, but to tell the truth, it all seemed pretty calm to me. On the several occasions out and about downtown it looked like an ordinary city. Midnight is probably the most paranoid seasoned traveller I know, and it had taken some time to entice him outside the ground into the Durban jungle. No problems on the day of victory as we merrily trotted off to the salubrious residence of Tractor and PC Tango.
The Banana Backpackers was housed in what looked like a once fairly attractive colonial building with plenty of marble in evidence. It was next door to ‘Sonja’s Massage Parlour’ with its lurid red neon sign proudly displaying five stars – no doubt an accolade from the National Association of South African Whorehouses.
Banana Backpackers had seen better days and once you had navigated the Robben Island-style fortified entrance, you arrived in a decrepit hovel strewn with rubble. The best bit was the balconies where you could survey the street below enjoying a beer or two.
PC Ginge – who gets more strawberry blonde as the sun bears down upon his goldilocks – was in his stride joining the barperson cum prostitute that was the genial host. “Apparently she has a fantastic body, Charis saw her in the showers”, said Tango with barely concealed enthusiasm. The lady in question seemed to have taken to Brixton’s top law enforcer as well, by the way she was fluttering her eyelashes at him. No accounting for taste, I suppose.
It was at this point on the balcony that Midnight’s not inconsiderable frame proved to be too much for the expensive plastic garden furniture provided by the hostel. Down he went in super slow motion with the drunk’s technique of managing to hardly spill a drop of the precious cider that he had in his hand. After assuring ourselves that he had not suffered fatal brain injuries, there was only one thing to be done – swap the chair and await the arrival of Wycombe back from the toilet.
Barely had Wycombe’s designer shorts hit the chair and he went down like sack of sh*t. Unconvinced that it was the chair that was the problem – only Wicks would ever come to that conclusion with his perverse logic – he tried to sit down a second time with the same inevitable outcome. I can honestly say that I can only recall few occasions when I have laughed so much – possibly only the time West Ham beat the Spuds at home following their ‘dodgy lasgane’ episode, denying them a place in the Champions League.
Several beers later, we decided to make for the beach where the assembled party visited ‘Joe Cools’ bar, where Freddie performed his infamous icebucket on the head trick some five years previously. Food was ordered and service took the traditional South African 40 minutes and several enquiries to the waiters as to its whereabouts. Hyacinth was getting particularly impatient, although I am not certain that the waiter understood “We’re f*cking Hank Marvin here, where’s the food?” delivered in her fetching Notts accent. When it did arrive, she was gobsmacked as it appeared that her sandwich was two loaves cut in two.
SP has had a bit of a quiet tour so far, my theory is that he is behaving himself in Durban only to go radio rental in Cape Town but we shall see. Every day, he has been recounting stories of some northerner called Bernard who has taken a shine to him at his B&B. SP says that he is just like Jack Duckworth off Coronation Street. Hyacinth sees this geezer as probably the most boring jerk she has ever met and has been dreading the daily trips to the ground as Bernard has insisted on taking them there and back, “I’d rather take a f*cking taxi than listen to his drivel”.
Off to the beach for cricket, where yours truly once again was in fine batting form, eventually being given out LBW by Midnight looking side on through a drunken haze about 200 metres from the deck of the bar. Some kind of referral system that was the cheats – hardly Hawkeye, more like Cidereye.
Wicks arrived from the Kingsmead Press Box having bashed out some of his renowned prose and was in catch up mode. We had happily played cricket for an hour or so, but no sooner had he turned up than the ball went missing under the pier. This man brings calamity wherever he goes and as I am writing this, I am sitting next to him on a Mango Airlines plane bound for Cape Town. I can tell you that I am sh*tting myself.
Morningside next and a bar that sold a half decent pint of Guinness. A flip of a coin later to decide between Indian and Italian, and we were off for some much needed nosh to try and soak up the alcohol.
Up until this point Tractor had been expressing doubts about Italian food, but this soon changed when she clocked a number of the South African team in the establishment. Transformed into hyper stalker mode, the giddy teacher was like a greyhound in a trap ready to pounce for a photo. When she gets that scary look in her eyes, you are reminded of that bird in ‘Fatal Attraction’. For Michael Douglas, read Graeme Smith.
We almost had to send for medics as Tractor overdosed on Smith, Kallis, Boucher, de Villiers and Harris. Never have I seen her so happy.
The day’s drinking had taken its toll but Wycombe, the Addis Army’s own gambling addict was pestering me all the way back from Morningside to Umhlanga to go to the Casino. The appeals started with pathetic pleading and then turned to threats and abuse but I stood firm, being bolloxed. A perfect day ended with me leaving Midnight in the lounge of our splendid lodgings watching his beloved Manchester United on the pull-down screen with a wine box and the leftovers of my mini Cadbury’s chocolate bars. The Manc told me the following morning that it had been “The best day of my life”.