Lancashire in Wonderland
Ever since the day I met Tremers, he has never stopped enthusing about how great Wales is, and how lovely the Welsh people are. So with Lancashire playing Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay on the 19th July in an important County Championship match, I could not resist a visit.
I just had to find out for myself!
Using a cheap advance Arriva Trains ticket I crossed the border into Wales on the 18th July to give me time to adjust to being in a foreign country and get over any jet-lag type complications. The journey from Manchester was largely uneventful, apart from spotting possibly the largest mammal ever to have mounted a mobility scooter at Chester station. As this young lady and her vehicle boarded the train the passengers looked on in shock and awe, but thankfully Ivor the Engine coped with the massive additional burden and chugged into Llandudno at around 5.45pm.
As any literary buff will know, Llandudno is alleged to be the inspiration for that well known work 'Alice In Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll and the town is littered with statues of its characters such as the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit. This book is supposed to have 'entertained children for generations' according to the tribute plaque on the West Shore, although I doubt that would now apply to today's square eyed X-box and I-pad generation.
However, no apologies for any 'Alice' references you may spot in my story!
Day one of the cricket dawned windy but fair, and I was joined at the ground in Rhos-On-Sea by Bury Phil and Martin (both from the Addis Army), Bob Taylor (not the England glove man, but Martin's dad) and John and Ken, Lancashire members who I normally sit and moan with in the Pit of Hate at Old Trafford.
The ground itself is most pleasant, with stepped embankments for seating and only a short distance from the sea. Its cricket pitch is square shaped, like a Kraft cheese slice with the corners snipped off.
A great number of Lancashire supporters had made the journey, and the atmosphere in the pavilion was very jovial. Quite a few beers were partaken of during the day. The beers, however, appeared to have a hallucinatory effect. As time wore on, my eyesight and recollection became clouded. At one point, I swore that I saw Tweedledee, Tweedledum and the Mad Hatter on our elevated grass bank, but Ken pointed out to me quite forcibly that these 'visions' were merely other Lancashire supporters like myself.
A decent batting day to be sure and Lancashire had amassed 425-2 at stumps.
In the evening a visit to Llandudno Wetherspoons with Bury Phil, Martin and Bob was arranged.
But not just any old Wetherspoons - oh no.
Here, the Victorian Palladium Theatre has been converted into an alehouse, and I have to say it is the most characterful venue owned by this chain that I have ever visited.
Unfortunately the waiting times for beer (15 mins) and food (45 mins) reflected this popularity and uniqueness. Had the White Rabbit lunched here, he would have been very late indeed for his afternoon appointment.
On day two, records started to tumble. Ashwell Prince and Alviro Petersen eventually put on 501 runs for the third wicket, including a personal best score for each batsman - and the highest partnership ever in first class cricket between two South Africans. Northants and Somerset, eat your hearts out.
The Lancashire record partnership for any wicket, 371, between FB Watson and GE Tyldesley, which had stood for 87 years, was also smashed.
As were several windows, I suspect.
As six after six disappeared out of the ground into neighbouring gardens and onto Penryhn Avenue, whole boxes of new balls needed to be produced at regular intervals by the pavilion ammunition quartermaster.
All this to the accompaniment of regular chirping at the batsmen by Graham Wagg, whose analysis of 24-0-89 was in truth probably amongst the best of the Glamorgan bowlers as Lancashire finally declared on 698.
Cue the Glamorgan first innings and enter 41 years young Lancashire coach and bowler Glen Chapple. The fire may be going out but the embers are still hot, as Glamorgan discovered to their cost. Glen took 4-52.
However yet another record was shattered that day as Michael Hogan, the Glamorgan number eleven, made a personal best score of 57 to become the first innings top scorer whilst at the same time also declaring war on the Penrhyn Avenue patio windows.
As Glamorgan prepared to follow on some 350 runs adrift, I entered the pavilion wearing a Lancashire shirt to get a beer. The atmosphere had changed from the joviality of day one. A number of people were speaking Welsh in hushed tones. A dog growled menacingly at me as I waited for ages at the bar to be served, and the beer I had previously been drinking was now 'off'.
Oh, never mind. It's only a game of cricket.
Dinner was taken with Bury Phil, John and Ken at the Rhos Fynach pub in Rhos-On-Sea, which is a seaside village with an ageing population - essentially, a popular retirement resort.
John and Ken had recommended this venue to us because of the excellent Funeral Menu that it advertised, but even though we all still had a pulse, we enjoyed the lovely food served up. After a few wines, the subject of a 'Spinster' staying alone at John's boarding house was broached, and later we learned that John had now extended his stay in Wales until weekend - ie after the cricket finished and after Ken had gone home!
What goes on tour must of course stay on tour.
Day three could be best described as a more conventional day at the cricket, with Glamorgan fighting manfully to save the game while wickets occasionally fell. At the close of play Lancashire needed just five more wickets to win the match. Evening entertainment, (chosen inevitably by Bury Phil) consisted of dinner with Ken and John in the excellent Asia Indian Restaurant in Llandudno, where whilst dining with three Manchester United supporters, Oldham supporter John could not resist dipping into his compendium of Anti-Man U jokes:
"Why do Man United fans never watch Match of the Day?"
"Because the train home to Euston never gets in before 11pm!"
Sometimes the old ones are not the best...but I bet the 'Spinster' chortled over breakfast!
On the morning of day four the rain that had threatened for most of the game finally arrived and as the cricket had no chance of starting before lunch, I took a trip down the coast on Arriva buses to kill time. When the bus finally pulled up in Rhyl during a downpour, it took me about three seconds to decide to catch the next one out of there and I arrived back in Rhos-On-Sea just in time for the start of play at 1pm.
Glamorgan were charging a reduced price of £10 on the gate to get in on the last day, which I thought was rather inconsiderate as I had already paid £15 on their web-site for an advance ticket.
Bury Phil thought even less of this arrangement, preferring to while the day away instead spending his £10 in the Colwyn Bay branch of Wetherspoons, where he found Magner's Cider on sale at only £1-99 a bottle. Labelled "Drink me", no doubt! Probably a good decision here by Phil, as only one hour and twenty minutes of cricket were played before Lancashire claimed victory. The last five Glamorgan wickets fell for just twelve runs.
Time then to go home and reflect - is the North Wales Coast a 'World's Greatest Holiday Destination' as Tremers has consistently informed me?
Well, if entertainment on the pier, Wetherspoons, fish and chip shops, amusements, rock and crazy golf are to your tastes, then possibly it is. But I must confess that despite the old- fashioned vibe of the place I enjoyed it (apart from visiting Rhyl!)
So if by chance you are a Somerset fan like Tremers, and you find that your team may be playing Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay next season in the second division- why not give it a try!