New Zealand Tour 2008

I love the sound of breaking glass

Kia Ora all

For a change I'd like this update to be illuminating so the subjects of ecology, politics and The Antarctic will be touched upon - as Fergie would say fasten your seat belts.

First politics. Does anyone know the name of the Kiwi PM? She is called Helen Clark and the reason she is so little seen on TV is she looks very much like Sir Les Patterson of Barry Humphries fame. Only Colonel Mustard has wonkier teeth and he has the excuse of being hit in the mouth repeatedly by cricket balls.

Now we’ve covered politics its ecology and as you may have remembered from the last update I was due to go whale watching in Kaikoura. Well what a disappointment that was. Jacques Cousteau and Herman Melville would be turning in their graves if they could see what this has evolved into.

The trip started ominously when our maori captain, Rex, hit the harbour jetty backing the boat out. "Is he called Rex or wrecks" I shouted, which cut no ice at all with either the staff or the 30 or so multi national passengers who seemed mainly to consist of Scandics, Germans and Japanese (no harpoons allowed) .

The trip was offering an 80% refund if we did not spot a whale and I got quite hopeful when the pilot started highlighting seagulls off the port bow, but we spotted our first whale after only 5 minutes.

After a brief photo opportunity on deck we were ushered back into the boat and shown a colour photo slide of this whale complete with its name and family history!

The same thing occurred 30 mins later with a different whale. I’m sure Captain Rex was pulling them up off the sea bed on strings, and in a nutshell Monstro in Pinocchio was more spontaneous and realistic. One to avoid. Whale not meat again.

That evening we retired to the Pier Hotel in Kaikoura where Simon was on a mission, along with the Aussie landlord , to drink the town dry of red wine and beer respectively.

A late night was had but not before we met a group of Aussies one of whom was wearing a NZ rugby shirt and became a target for our banter when we asked him if this was a sub-plot to the PM's apology to the aborigines.

So it was that next day myself and George shared the driving to Christchurch, while Simon slumbered uneasily in the back of the car.

The guide book says "your first impression of Christchurch may be of a green and genteel city". I think the town must have been founded originally by settlers from Ashton-U-Lyne who had a premonition about the coming of IKEA.The name is a dead giveaway for a start, and the main street is called Manchester Road.

There is also a plentiful selection of curry houses.

However any illusions of gentility were quickly dispelled when we arrived at the cricket that evening.

"They should have warned you about this stand" jeered the steward on our entry and sure enough we were on the front row of the chuckout stand surrounded by drongos.

To our right was a building site (three sides of the ground only being occupied) and as the wind got stronger it turned the stadium into a veritable dust bowl causing George to cough and making a mess of Ryan Sidebottom's hair.

The bar was a model of incompetence. You had to queue once to get into it, twice to pick up the beer, and a third time to pay for it on exit like a supermarket checkout. I can only wonder why this hasn’t caught on elsewhere.

Back to the drongoes whose behaviour got worse with each drink they consumed. We had a streaker who forgot to take off his clothes but was arrested anyway after being wrestled to the ground. Herbie take note.

Simons personal favourite was a vacant looking bumpkin in a Benny hat who looked a little like Mark Hughes, minus any intelligence and with eyes like a great white shark. Each time Mascarenhas came to field on the boundary he shouted abuse about him being "an Aussie who wasn’t good enough to play for Australia".

Simon pointed out politely to him that Scott Styris was born in Brisbane. "Was he mate?"

My own little harpy was a Greek or Italian NZ fan (skin so oily freckles would slide off) who looked just like Solozzo out of the Godfather (the one who did the hit on Marlon Brando) but had drunk far more, indeed far more than was good for him. His target for tonight’s hit was Ryan Sidebottom.

Unfortunately there was no handgun available to me in the cistern of the gents toilet otherwise he would probably have been sleeping with the fishes that night.

Finally a young bumpkin wearing a KFC bargain bucket cut out at the front as a hat started shouting at us and by this time we'd had enough so some serious abuse was exchanged -- but as you can imagine we found it difficult to compete with the witty repartee.

KFC in fact has been responsible for the first arguments amongst our group with Simon and George insisting upon cole slaw whereas I of course require gravy when we eat out and the matter continues to be a hot potato.

I’m sure you wont need me to remind you of the game, suffice it to say we were robbed by the weather and if it hadn’t been for that pair of tw**s Duckworth and Lewis we would have squared the series.

The day after we did Christchurch in a day, the highlight being a visit to the Antarctic centre where they put you in an "experience room" complete with ice, igloo, tent etc etc to fully experience the Antarctic wind chill factor.

As the temperature fell to -18%C Simon was not impressed, clad as he was in shorts and flipflops, exclaiming that it was "colder watching cricket in Derbyshire" which the staff appreciated, I think.

Simon compounded his embarrassment later. A chalkboard was available for the children to write on "What would you take to the Antarctic" and Simon wrote upon it "Ricky Ponting".

Having seen all the Christchurch attractions we retired to Lyttleton the port for CC over the headland. A bar there had been highlighted in Lonely Planet, "Wunderbar". Upon arriving in town we became aware of a local festival having just finished so the place was chokker but we dutifully sat at the bar to be greeted by a row of dolls heads perched on wineglasses looking at us as we drank.

The effect of this became more disconcerting the more we drank and I’m sure they were winking at us. I don’t know why sometimes I feel frightened.

The barmaid did not take kindly to our suggestion that the afternoon’s festival had been "The decapitation of the dolls day". But a cracking bar nonetheless if anyone plans to visit Christchurch.

And so to the Jesse Ryder story!!

At 5.30 am in the Stock Exchange bar in Christchurch on Saturday night / Sunday morning after the game he put his fist through a window in the outside toilet because the door had "become locked".

After severing tendons in his hand he was rushed to hospital for an op, where he became abusive with the staff. As a result he will be out of the game for 3 months, miss the tour to England, and he has also had to issue a grovelling apology to the nurses, and do community service.

Makes Paul Gascoigne look quite sane in comparison even if he is, I gather, thinking about resigning for Newcastle United.

Collectively we have put together a "Jesse Ryder" top ten tunes and would appreciate any of your own suggestions for the top twenty.

Saturday nights alright for fighting -- Sir Elton

Sunday Bloody Sunday -- U2

(Tell me why) I don’t like Mondays -- Boomtown Rats

I love the sound of breaking glass -- Nick Lowe

Putty Love -- Donny Osmond

First cut is the deepest -- PP Arnold / Rod

Ryder’s on the stein -- The Doors

Only Maoris bleed -- Alice Cooper / Julie Covington

Put through any window -- The Hollies

Summer holiday -- Cliff.

Next update after Dunedin hope you are all keeping well and let’s have those Jesse tunes!

Luv Al

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