Saitn finally goes down under
What could possibly go wrong?
Now I’ve been doing Addis trips for 12 years now, but never have I been in a situation before where my funds and family/work commitments have allowed me to consider the Ashes away option. A bonus at work, Freddie advising of appealing travel plans (3 days in Sydney joined by Mr B, then join Tremmers and Smithy in Brisbane, plus Midnight & George (Waldorf & Statler) and likewise Adelaide, and a NEED TO GO finally made me commit. I tried to ignore horror-stories of Neanderthal locals and the limitless depression of getting stuffed 5 nil again (thanks Herbie!) as so much white noise. Ahem...
16th November. I join up with Freddie for the long slide round the globe courtesy of those nice be-robed sheikhs at Emirates. Delayed first flight means Dubai transit is frantically following a little chap with a clipboard down 38 corridors – but it worked! Then we have an 80 year-old lady in my seat who is just ‘confused’. I reckon she plays this card every flight. Anyway, I won’t let it spoil my trip, so down the back with the shifty looking Russians I sat. Penny Lane plays over the sound system. A bit surreal. Tried to make up new words; “Penny Lane was sitting in my aisle seat, smudging rouge across her lips, but she always wants to make a scene, so she can sit serene, bloody queen!”
Arrival in Sydney quite late. Can to our Air B&B (other booking companies are available) finds the worlds narrowest outside spiral staircase to a neat little 2 bedroom flat. A Bottle of wine sits in a welcoming way on the side. There’s a balcony. Shall we? Mm, that helped us sleep.
17th: The Landlady has left us ‘Opal’ cards which work like Oyster cards in London. We grab two and venture to Kegorah station and hop on the nice double-decker train. We’ve used our Opal cards. Freddie is a happy boy as his had $4.40 credit already on it. I’m not happy as mine was owing $4.90 – how does that work?!
Heading for the Harbour Freddie says ‘I’ve been here before, we get off at Central’. We get off at Central. We walk for half an hour, we get a breakfast, ‘definitely this way’ says Freddie. 20 minutes more traipsing and I give up and ask a local, he looks bemused as says ‘yes walk, but it’s 10 blocks and you’re better getting a train mate’. What could possibly go wrong? Freddie looks bashful. Dammit! We’re walking it!
The harbour is wonderful. Bustling boats/ferries/cafes/restaurants and all framed by the harbour bridge on the left and the Opera House on the right. We grab the slow ferry to Manly. Very nice, and they’ve laid on a beach volleyball competition just for us. How lovely. Trying to not look too lecherous we amble up and down the promenade ‘keeping up with the scoring’ and then find a nice first floor bar to have a couple of pints and people-watch.
Ferry back where we watch the sailing regattas and other boaters and windsurfers breeze by. Misty rain but who cares. Wander round to the ‘Rocks’ for ‘Sydney’s Oldest Pub’. Can’t get in. We go in another two doors away and I go upstairs to the loo – coming out I see a second stairway down to the pub we ‘can’t get in’. A quick word to Freddie, the plan is hatched, and like SOE agents we casually go up and down and in the bar we wanted. Mad Geordie in there who lives in the Outback, he does kick-boxing Brazilian Ying Tong Fui and is Aussie Champion – well done we say. Are there many competitors?
On to ‘Phillip’s Foote’ bar along the road. I am again asked to smoke ‘Four Meters From My Doorway Mate’, but this time by the ‘bouncer’ who is called Will and seems a wiry indeterminate age between 50 and 90 with twinkly eyes. Liked him. Mr Blade is on the phone, are you home yet (it’s about 11pm)? He’s at the airport, we decide best he gets a cab to the pub.
A lot can happen in half an hour, a convivial scene is changed when Blade drops his bags, gets a round in, and returns to our table to find Freddie nodded off in his chair, and me threatening to knock-out an obnoxious Ozzie! We drink up after a couple more and go.
18th. Mister Blade gets his Opal card. We go to ‘top-up’ he’s $4.95 in debt, worse than me, much chortling. We head down to the harbour/rocks again (this time getting off at the right place!) and arrange to meet up with one of Freddie’s old colleagues. Excellent setting of the rooftop at the Glenmore hotel. Lovely Louise is there and a very convivial time is spent up on the roof and then wandering around the Wine Festival going on below in The Rocks. Sadly Louise slopes off to get her Ferry and we wobble around from bar to bar. I’d heard of an area called King’s Cross. I’m not sure if was entirely my fault, but within a small period of time, very attractive young ladies were dancing in front of us and explaining personally the concept of ‘negotiable affection’.
Freddie maintained what was left of his dignity and left. What myself and Blade got up to cannot be gone into at length bar the fact that we are very proud that we got a ‘lock-in’ at one of these establishments with the owner buying us many drinks, and singing all sorts of songs loudly with the music right up. We staggered into a cab at 6 and fell asleep in it. Woken by the cabbie at our road, we got out and paid, then looked blearily around in the morning sun trying to recognise something. Failed. Ah, two fresh-faced healthy joggers are bounding towards us. “Is this Queen Victoria Street” we slur, as they swerve out around us. They nod. We find it. Bed.
19th. Caught up with the others late the next day, and then we had an early flight while still drunk up to Brisbane to join up with the other Addis Army travellers. Me and Freddie nearly soiled ourselves when our names are called out over the tannoy as last call (we thought our flight was 30 minutes later). This is a cricket tour you know!
Due to a slight mismatch of arrival dates, the ‘Sydney 3’ have to book into an apartment for just 1 day while we wait to join Smithy at our proper place tomorrow. Not allowed to check in until 2pm we wait around. Strangely chilly for what it says in the Australia brochure. We do what is the standard and find a boozer. A photo-shoot is going on, and whilst I’m out having a ‘4 meters-from-the-door ciggie’, I return to see Blade holding a sparkling White Wine glass (very posh for Sheffield) and Freddie with a whiskey and coke. Turns out they’d politely enquired if all these that were previously being photographed were now going to waste. Excellent initiative and smiling faces all round. Me? Jealous?
Tremmers has arrived to stoke (don’t mention Stokes!) the fires regarding Freddie’s beloved Middlesex, Tremmers’ beloved Somerset, the County Championship, and the ‘Curious Incident of the Crossbow in the Daytime’. Much amusement for all, but a grumpy Freddie.
We are heading for the Barmy Army pub – The Pig & Whistle – to find Samuel Pepys himself (Midnight), the world’s most charming Grumpy Channel-islander (George) and to observe the ‘professional’ Barmy Army types showing us how great they are at getting photographed and recorded, Andy their tour guide is there – good to see him, and we wish him luck with his ‘crew’!
Midnight, George, and Wayne of Port Talbot are housed near the Gabba whilst we head off to Redhill the following morning to a very pleasant apartment organised by Smithy. As I had a luxurious double bed in Sydney, I volunteer for the sofa, Tremmers the sofa-bed, and proper beds for Freddie, Blade and Smithy. During our stay, much amusement is found by my housemates as they find me regularly cuddling the back cushion in a romantic way… It’s on Enoggera Terrace which is finally pronounced correctly in a cab by Blade and Smithy some 6 days later. Well, they are both Yorkies.
I’m always impressed at the contacts Tremmers has around the cricketing world, but Smithy seems to have even more. He’s arranged for a tour for all of us of Cricket Australia’s Headquarters in Brisbane guided by their number two in command. Very interesting trip round, all very professionally set-up (worryingly). England Lions are using the outdoor facilities. Then he tops it off by taking us for a good few beers in the very nice Breakfast Creek Hotel. Found the rest (slightly wobbly) in the Pineapple later and tucked into lovely steaks. Much talk of the First Day tomorrow and how CRUCIAL everything - toss/batting/bowling/first hour/first sessions are. And so to bed.
We are up nice and early (always best on first days as often they descend into chaos and confusion). A cunning plan is hatched by previous Addis tourists. There is (believe it or not) a Brisbane German Social Club just across from the Gabba. Apparently it gets packed between sessions and after play, but some clever people have MEMBERSHIP and skip queues. Therefore 5 very English gentlemen politely ask for membership of a Frau, and after filling out forms (show me your papers!) and paying $5, a proper membership card is produced for each of us. I have it still now and am hiding it from old friends who were convinced that my youthful blonde hair and blue eyes suggested Teutonic roots. I’m Cornish I tells yer! Give me a pasty!
Crucial first session:-
Win toss – tick
Bat – tick
Get reasonable score with hard batting against a very good attack – tick
Membership cards work in the German Bar – tick
Nathan Lyon leading Aussie team in over the top baiting of every England player - Grrrrr
Midnight, George, and Wayne seem to have missed the message that play is starting early and Blade is quietly fuming as we wait for them with their tickets outside the ground. A nice touch is a young Aussie promoting sun cream use who supplies us with some each subject to completing his survey form. Bless ‘im.
Looks exchanged with the late boys, we venture in. Horrible local Ferals are in evidence in the hot sun. Two charlies in front with sombreros and dirty sanchez moustaches were particularly sad. Just pure anti-Pom brainless and witless hatred. “You cock-sucking dickcock”, “yeah you. Cooky sucks cock, Root sucks cock, you suck cock, you dickcock!” I reasonably pointed out that with a moustache like his, I was guessing that he’d be the expert on that particular subject.
Bowled out for 302. Not bad, not great. We have them 76 for 4, but then the revolting horrible weasel Smith just bats and bats to get a ton, not so good now…
Brilliantly Smithy and Blade had noticed that the Rugby League World Cup was on whilst we were Down Under, and we’d got tickets for the Semi-Final at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane that evening. It later was fading a bit as a ‘good idea’ in my view, as we seemed to walk further than any human has before (without a sponsorship form). I’d also started to notice that my sun cream application had missed the tops of my sandaled feet earlier in the day, which were now pink and swelling up.
We got there. Photos with the World Cup and lots of excited Fijians in evidence. Close-up, those Rugby boys don’t half smash each other, and they are BIG BLOKES. A brief excitement of Fiji leading by 2 points, was quickly followed by Australia scoring about a 100 in reply to win. Boo etc.
It’s Blade’s birthday. What could possibly go wrong?
Aussies bat on and get a lead of 26. More feral aussies about so repeat our sneak up to shaded expensive seats upstairs after lunch.
A posh-looking English gent is struggling with the local ketchup carton he has for his breaded chicken and chips. It’s Blade’s birthday, he squirts it all over Blade. Blade’s face colour now matches his Sheffield United shirt and the ketchup. We all fail to hold our laughter in.
In honour of said birthday, after post-play beers where we meet Stroudy of Windsor, Tremmers has got his Google out (ooh err missus) and is leading us to ‘an Indian Restaurant’. With my feet still complaining from being burnt and the Suncorp yomp the day before, I have to admit to the odd whiny whimper coming from me. Seeing four grown adults analysing their phones to see what had gone wrong, whilst locals are walking past without being asked, I explode ‘why don’t you just phakking ask someone?’ This I do to find it is a further mile and a half away ‘and not that good!’.
Right, flag cabs and off to the Pig and Whistle. This is much more packed and noisy with a karaoke going on and minimal seating. Whilst out for a ‘4 meters from my door mate’ ciggie’, I enquire as to options from the bouncer. I then gather the flock and we wander down the side to a very swanky riverside walkway promenade with bars and restaurants galore, though some look a bit posh for us. I am delighted when we find a small Asian eatery named ‘The Jude’ (my local boozer back in Oxford) and we sit and have a lovely meal.
Smithy arrives home properly smashed at about Midnight after his being an invited guest with the posh Members all day. Our apartment is out behind the main house and down a level so quite a steep driveway provides access. Birthday Blade describes hearing some quickening footsteps as he sat out late on the veranda sipping wine. He then sees Smithy come past sideways in true Buster Keaton/Keystone Kops style, stagger to a halt, and clamber onto the back step and door. Chucks his hat at Tremmers and crashes out. Smithy denies all in the morning.
We were going okay...
I won’t overly dwell on the Moeen stumping on a fat crease (does that read okay?), or repeatedly inconsistent use of DRS, but I will sum it up by saying that we got more and more angry as the day wore on. The Aussies in the crowd were quietening down as they (mostly) could also see what we were so upset about.
We collapsed and misery mixed with the anger. I needed more fags and a pint away from the ground so I went in a new direction (I’d asked someone!) and found shops, bars, and restaurants nothing like as packed.
I gathered the flock and we had a few beers there on ‘Saint’s Pub Tour’ (these have to have an exact distance between bars to allow the smoking of one fag).
One of these bars had obviously had a cricket competition promoted by Hardy’s wine earlier and they had Hardy’s Hats and sunglasses arrayed on the bar. Costs $25 dollars and $12 respectively. We made polite enquiries, and suddenly had 5 hats and sunglasses gratis. We then found the Thai Rose which Freddy, Tremmers and Blade recalled from earlier tours. A very nice meal and away home.
Couldn’t face watching the Aussies knock off the runs needed to win so we headed over to Cricket Australia again to see England Lions v a Queensland XI. Had a nice little chat with Mark Wood whilst he was on the boundary. He then bowled a spell where a local 19 year old carted him all over the park. Oh dear. Bimbled to the Breakfast Creek Hotel again for a few more beers and an excellent steak. Things are a bit expensive in Australia, but generally bloody good too.
Last day in Brisbane so we hop on the train to the Gold Coast where Tremmers is to spend a few days with yet another of his ‘contacts’ in some fancy house. He gets off at Nerang saying we are best getting off at Varsity Lakes. We get off as directed. No sign of much about. Let alone buses or beaches. I ask someone. “You should’ve got off at Nerang mate, straight bus to Surfers Paradise from there!” Bloody Tremmers! After my ‘4 meters from my station’ ciggie, we get back on the same train and wait for the return to Nerang. Then all is easy, bus to Surfers Paradise and off we get. Lovely beach with swimmers and surfers. Behind the beach it is all very modern with shiny high-rises and lots of glass and gold and the smell of money. Not usually my sort of place. We walk along the idyllic beach, it’s hot and I fancy a swim, as we go past the second surfing section and into ‘swimming’ the three in front veer up the beach towards the road and I follow. “No-one going for a swim then?” I enquire, “You can if you want Saint, we’ll wait in that bar”, they respond. I have memories of spending hours in bars with wet shorts (not what you’re thinking), and it ain’t good. I decided I’d better follow them. We find an upstairs bar with a balcony overlooking the beach. It is called O’Malleys and seems to have an employment policy which encourages attractive female workers who don’t like excessive clothing. We found this quite acceptable. Many beers and bars later, we realised that we’d probably miss the last train, so strong negotiations with a taxi got us a good deal and we squeezed in for the hour and a half drive home to Redhill in Brisbane.
We awake to torrential rain. It is the day to fly down to Adelaide. I visit the karzi to find I’ve had to use the last bog roll. As I have to go up to the street for a ‘4 meters from my house’ ciggie, I volunteer to get wet and try to find the Andrex. There is a nice café about 200 yards up on the corner where we’d breakfasted before. I squelch up there and wait for a lull in business. I then sidle up and ask for “Two English Breakfast Teas to go, and erm, have you any toilet roll?”
The bloke was both amused and brilliant, furnished me with the teas and a toilet roll still with plastic protection from the rain. I returned home with my prizes and we got packed up (after we’d all happily abluted!). Off to breakfast at the same café with smiles all round and very good food.
Freddie stays at the apartment to do website work and me, Blade, and Smithy head to town to meet Smithy’s niece (Emma) on a gap tour and family friend Mel who works in Brisbane. Blade leaves shortly as he has a much earlier flight than us, though he is cutting it fine…Many beers and much friendly chatter later I think that I can honestly say that I am now the only Southerner who knows absolutely EVERYTHING about Keighley, West Yorkshire! Emma does very well as she is hanging from the night before and nursing cokes and nibbling the odd chip.
We suddenly realise we’ve got to head to the airport. Freddie very kindly loads all of our bags and picks us up from the pub. Our friendly cabbie is there again and very informative and amusing as he guides us to the airport. News comes in that Blade was bounced off his flight and has had to cough up another $411 the poor sod.
Thanks Brisbane, we’re heading South!
The Adelaide adventure will continue in the next issue!