My Favourite Test
Before me I have a tiny souvenir clipboard about 5 inches by three with a pad of scribbled notes within regarding time spent with the Addis Army on the Windies tour of Feb/March 2009. The bright plastic ‘easywipe’ frontage of the clipboard announces ‘Grenada, Isle of Spice’ and therefore was not purchased until after we had all left Barbados. More of that journey later.
The problem is that 6 years later I have been ‘volunteered’ to publish my favourite Test, and anything that I recorded has been considerably muddied by having spent rather a lot of the whole tour, and since, in a state of some inebriation. Obviously none of this has ever been my fault.
Anyhoo, I am here to write my piece, and write it I shall. You may find some details differ from Midnight’s famous diaries, but then again perspective, and who told who’s side of the story always spices (see Grenada clipboard) things up a bit, and as Trinidad and Tobago are also beautiful Caribbean islands visited on the same trip, and supply excellent rum, there’s a chance that some things I state as occurring in Barbados, did nothing of the kind.
I write with no wish to cause personal offence to anyone (those who have met me, will doubtless already have been offended), and with hope to provide some light entertainment.
Due to some sprightly booking work from various AA types, the transport and accommodation for this whole trip was absolutely top-notch – nothing to do with me note, Streetfly and Mrs B being the chief organisers.
I remember I had a half-day from work and caught the train from Oxenfjord to Mancunia the day before the trip as Midnight had promised me a watch of the ‘United’ game and a stopover at his before the flight the following day. Imagine my disappointment when it was the Manchester version of United that played and not West Ham. Many beers and cheese on toast later it was kip time.
I was woken by a disconcertingly close brush with a near-naked Midnight going to the shower at silly o’clock, and then in bounded Streetfly having zoomed over from Yorkestershire with his first of many Tigger impressions on the tour.
Airport, and Yorkshire Sheff Utd crew plus Wycombe were met. Wycs is an interesting person, though best studied from distance. By some amazing chance the other AA parties, travelling on two separate planes from Darn Sarf arrived at Barbados within half an hour of us, and we were all in the same long queue to get immigrated (it’s a word, I said so!).
Two friendly pre-booked minibusses were there to take us all on to our converted plantation house booked by Mrs B. One bus stopped off for vital supplies (beer, fags, beer, rum, beer, fags, rum, oh and wotsits for Wycs) and cashpoint traumas at a supermarket.
LESSON 1. If planning to travel abroad and use cash-points/ATMs, then by all means tell your bank where you are going and when, but ALSO get a decent phone number from them to ring if your card is refused, because IT ALWAYS WILL BE.
We arrived at the Bellevue Estate Plantation House, to have twylight showing us a proper colonial beauty with sculpted grounds, balconies, pool, rooms the size of my house, dining tables as long as my street and smiling cooks there cooking us a lovely meal of jerk chicken. What a place. Many congrats to Mrs B on her brilliant snaffling of this wonderful gaff.
AA types in attendance at Bellevue (Midnight called it Tara as everything had to have relevance to a film in his world):-
Mr & Mrs B
Thomas (Hendo) the Blade aged 3ish (used by shallow AA types as a prop to attract women)
Walt (Disney) & Chris (Tavare)
We were joined by Vinnie from Manchester via Southampton the next day – I later officially nicknamed him Vimto following a problem with keeping down some rum in Trinidad – my reasoning being that it was a weird, soft, Northern drink, and also an anagram of Vomit. Nuff said.
The trip to the Kensington Oval the next day was a joy with us all walking past a few big/little/medium homes on stilts (avoiding termites) and shanty houses down to the main road. From there (everyone is saying ‘good mornin’ to us in a proper friendly way which helps a very easy-going feeling, further enhanced by the lovely warmth and smell of the tropics). We then jumped on a ‘reggae bus’ or route taxi which took us within 10 minutes walk of the Kensington Oval whilst blasting our ear-holes with ragga-stylee. We then stroll around having cleverly obtained tickets in advance. NB. This is vital in the Windies, lovely grounds can be kept tantalisingly the other side of a wall whilst queuing for 4 hours at a single ticket window in sweltering heat.
The ground was really stylish and modern and looked an absolute picture. We had good views around mid-off/long leg and the sun mainly beated down from behind us. Brave souls strip to waists, as do silly people. I cower beneath my volumous Headington Quarry CC top with a nice sensible broad-brimmed hat on. I smother my arms, head, shins, sandled feet and ears with factor 40 and enjoy the day. I forgot the ‘v’ of my neck at the front which burnt up like a good rasher of back bacon. My error was hardly noticed as Wycs, had, as usual, ignored advice and looked to apply his own sun-cream. The interesting marble pattern that resulted reminded me of those piebald mustangs in the cowboy films that Midnight will be able to list in full.
England batted well and my notes say 600-6 declared, but I’m sure that was in the second day. You see the problem regarding write-ups after the time is coming into play now. The venue was lovely but the cricket was on a flat track with batsmen well on top so the mind wandered, as did we.
The evil smoking faction (myself, Son Of and Streetfly) frequently wandered down to replenish beers, chicken curry rotis and suchlike. Whenever we returned Herbie (I’ve got a temple for a body, and have not touched a drop of alcohol since January 1st), was getting more and more noisy, and trying to engage in banter with the locals. This resulted in rum intake of some quantity. Wycs had also stayed off the booze for over a month prior to this trip and was joining in the rum. As were we all. Sadly capacity to absorb the alcohol and process it was lacking in some members.
Adjourning to what we thought was a rum-shack, we found lots of Barmy Army types in there, a DJ and a pole which Herbie draped himself around – old habits die hard. Photos of the chaos are on show.
Also well gone was Mr B whose speech had now got so broad Yorkshire that even Disney couldn’t understand him. I had earlier had to translate some heckling at the ground as follows:-
Mr B: The heck’s laak bugger the art owt ther fook sithee
Saint: My dear chap, could you possible up the run rate a tad?
You may see in the pictures West Ham Mike and myself in the embrace of Mr B and basically keeping him vaguely upright.
Sadly Mr B’s mood darkened when we returned home for what should have been a sumptious and enjoyable feast, and he lost the plot, I won’t go into detail but a red card was given to Mr B.
This gave us some need to extract West Ham Mike, so myself and Son Of (heroes to the last), and a flagging Wycs called up Junior the cabby to take us to the St Lawrence Gap bars. Found some English lasses there who had somehow blagged a 6 week teaching placement in Barbados (and we thought we were lucky). The rum was getting confusing as it was ‘Happy Hour (2 drinks for 1)’ and we were wandering about mixing, dancing, and buying drinks in no organised manner which at one point had myself and Son Of looking at no fewer than 18 rum and cokes on the bar in front of us. Son Of took a long hard look at the situation and pronounced ‘Saint, we are gonna have to neck a few of these’. This we did to get it down to a much more manageable ten. West Ham Mike was also keeping tabs on his fellow trolley dollies, as were my half-closed eyes. Wycs insisted on leaving which seemed a good idea as he had been asleep face-down on a table for an hour. Not such a good idea was his ripping up and throwing away our carefully written address of the Bellevue for his cab. “I know where I phukking live” is not the cleverest reaction to assistance ever shown by a man abroad. Amazingly he was at Bellevue the following morning.
West Ham Mike was back on the planes the next day so fond farewells were given, the girls who were around us then gained a number of blokes who seemed to think that myself and Son Of were a threat. Silly boys. We had called Junior the Cabman and were leaving when a minor fracas was exchanged, with us saying ‘they’re looking brave behind that big Yardie’, to which Junior replied ‘don’t you worry about the phukkin’ Yardie man, he mine’. ‘You boys need entertainin’, let’s go’.
A tour of darkest Bridgetown followed and ended up at ‘Freddies’ – Imagine our disappointment when our own Website designing, supporter of Windsor FC (only club with Royal patronage) was nowhere to be seen.
I met a lovely lady who came to be called ‘West Ham Kelly as she insisted on wearing a WHU away shirt, most of the time)’ and was most pleased when she asked me to dance…….quite a few times. Meanwhile Son Of and Junior were having tea and biscuits with the Vicar at the bar. Got in at 5.30 and made a late entry for the morning session but then had to go home again in the afternoon to sleep it off. Yellow cards for me and Son Of. We did get back down the boozer later though.
Now the remaining days of the Test where enlivened by some intrepid AA explorers turning right past the Gary Sobers statue and discovering a proper little rum shack called Gallons (or ‘Trevor’s’ after the lovely old smiling barman) where you had proper locals, chicken and rice, cheap beer and rum flowing nicely. No sign of the BA.
Among various visits, there was Wycs doing an excellent rendition of the ‘Finger Song’ which the locals (Trevor, Sar, Curt, Virgin Boy – thanks for your company lads – Hear me now!), happily joined in with, Wycs donating his Wycombe Wanderers shirt, and Son Of finding yet another reason to accidentally reveal his six-pack by donating his frankly gay Middlesex top. We made sure that these were pinned up in places that didn’t obscure the lovely ladies in adverts for Banks beer, Carib and various rums of course. We do have taste you know.
There was another occasion when a Bajun bloke in a frock with an enormous bustle/bum in it came round to dance his ass and collect cash – a definite opening for this in England I reckon. I’m working on my buttocks as I type this. Mark my words. I also managed to get a few doing the ‘Happy Dance’ which involves throwing your head back with a manic grin and pumping arms up and down with hands flapping – it’s great for looking a twat, and brightening any down mood. Try it. For dead cool Bajuns to do it made my day.
The local way of drinking here was to buy a bottle of rum, two bottles of coke, a bowl of ice and return to the table. Everyone just tops up their own plastic cup and then someone else goes up for the next bottle. Excellent, and very civilised.
A lot of us basically spent most of the day at the cricket, but also made a point of spending some part of the day at Trevor’s. Wycs in a pirate frock can be explained more fully by others.
The cricket carried on in lovely sunshine but predictably a draw was the only option.
We visited Oysins on Friday where I am proud to day I ate dolphin and chips. As I am a keen supporter of Greenpeace, I did go into the kitchen and check that the dolphin was caught on a tuna-friendly line, so no conscience problems there.
Humming birds were spotted in our gardens, and bats came round the pool at dusk. There was a weird sound which was similar to wind ruffling a flag or kite and we kept wandering around the grounds trying to locate where this was from. Our best guess was the strange Carib pods which hang from trees like huge blackened runner beans.
West Ham Kelly and I brought our romance to a climax (ahem) later, but more of that in my memoirs. Meanwhile romance was also blossoming at Bellevue, with glances across kitchen bars, nods, winks, and finally a secret liaison……I am sworn to secrecy but have my suspicions……
Another romance seemed to of come to fruition in the room of Herby and Wycs. The latter seemed to have finally found someone who he believed and trusted. Sadly, this person is Herby. I think Herby is allowing the couple to continue mainly because he had a companion who was as lightweight on the sauce as him……
Moments that stand out through the fog of rum-soaked memory for me are as follows, and in no particular order:-
Freddie sparked out on the sofa with his ridiculously long legs hanging off the end when spooked by Herbie and Son Of with horns and cameras, Freddie leaping up with arms aflailing.
Seeing Davo of Cheltenham at yet another cricket venue and being his usual surreal self. I salute you Davo.
Streetfly doing impressions of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, by bouncing around our room at around 5am every morning before going off to circle the grounds/swim/find things/befriend mangy dogs/eat grasshoppers and then come back at 7am to announce that he was ‘bored’.
Tavare’s keen-ness at helping me raise a dead Son Of by the old-fashioned means of ‘spanking his taught white ass’!
The more or less permanent grins on Disney and Simon’s faces as they just enjoyed what and where we were.
Seeing an Osprey at Dover beach the day after the Test and having Son Of around to at least listen to me saying what was happening as it dived and caught a fish. Wildlife on One? Pah!
Seeing a horribly sunburnt blotchy Wycs on the same beach being approached by a very nice Bajun who opened up a plant to apply a natural cooling gel (aloe vera) to his leprous skin. All the while Wycs had a look of absolute terror and bafflement and didn’t even say thank you, let alone offer the bloke a dollar. Needless to say he then walked straight into the sea to wash it off. I despair.
Streetfly rescuing me when I woke in a fevered dream screeching that a dog had bitten me and jumping about the room. Um, no dog was found, but we chuckled a lot and I was the butt of a few jokes, as it should be.
Wycs’s now famous losing of £400 spread-betting against Windies runs despite much advice to the contrary.
Tremers the Tour Guide’s excellent last day trip around the island, taking in all sorts of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Well done that man, but less g*lf courses next time.
Herby’s proclamation that “anyone who is not actually in the airport minibus for 6.30am tomorrow is being left behind – I ain’t scraping Saint out of his pit, he’s being left”. Me being miraculously woken at the third attempt by Tigger/Streetfly with a cup of tea at 6.20am, washed, shat, packed and on bus for 6.28. Who doesn’t arrive until 6.38? Yes, that’s right, Herby.
Now this would be enough for a bit of ribbing were it not for the next development. From the early days of booking this trip, everyone had got onto slightly different connecting flights etc. Herby had been proudly preaching of his superior booking and arranging abilities in this department for some time – about twice a day, for months and months. The point was that he (and Freddie, who believed in him – note the past tense there), had a direct flight to Trinidad, whereas we common people had to go via St Vincent and Grenada, with a 3 hour wait at the latter. We arrive at Bridgetown airport and a number of flights are in the same winding queue. A nice lady is asking people which flights that they are on so that they don't miss them and she can do an express thing. Herby chooses to pull a deaf '’un. He and Freddie are checking in as we are on the cheaper desk nearby when we hear a bit of a commotion “what do you mean it’s too late? I’ve even pre-booked my seat numbers, I do not fakkin’believe this, right! who’s in charge etc etc”.
It seems there is a problem with the 1st Class ‘Blue Riband, A La Carte’ Herby booking.
Us Plebs shuffle through and get on our twin-prop island hopper and fly away. The 3 hour stop in Grenada for Midnight, Wycs, Streetfly, Vimto and myself is spent 10 minutes walk from the airport (yes, literally – WALK from the airport)at a lovely beach bar, eating fresh omelettes, and watching the snorklers in the azure sea, whilst drinking beer and chatting to the very sweet waitresses.
A memorable Test tour, on a wonderful island with the wonderful people of Barbados, my apologies go to the people I have ommitted, misrepresented, or frankly slandered.
Love light and peace