Cricket World Cup: Australia & New Zealand 2015

A Missing Pensioner is Always Trouble

Kia Ora all.

Lofty and I are now in Auckland, having left Wayne behind in Wellington in the capable hands of Ryan and Bin, the lads from the Sprig & Fern, who took our boy from the valleys on the town for his last night in New Zealand after they had finished work.

I hope he caught his plane all right, as he messaged me thus on his way to the airport:

"Just seen a sign for 2-4-1 desserts. What does that mean?"

Sounds like a good night was had by all!

We are in Auckland to watch the South Africa v Pakistan game at Eden Park on Saturday, although dire weather forecasts are already indicating that the game may be a wash-out, so we are amusing ourselves as best we can in this Pacific hell-hole.

I must admit I was very amused when I read Stuart Broad's defence of Michael Vaughan's allegation that England are playing 'as if they are scared.'

I quote from the BBC Sport website:

"I don't think we are playing with fear. We just haven't clicked the way we'd have liked. Actually, the group are in a really good place. We just haven't performed when we needed to in the middle."

That's all okay, then!

As Francis Howerd may have said: "Don't laugh. Don't titter. Titter ye not!"

The team might not be scared playing cricket, but I am now bloody petrified and stressed out every time I enter a stadium to watch one of our games!

Today was Lofty's 68th birthday, and I had agreed to go along with whatever he wanted to do, expecting a quiet day on the beer.

Instead, surprisingly, he rang me at 10am, two hours earlier than usual.

"Lets go to Rangitoto Island on the ferry for the day. There are two options, boat trip and walk to the summit for $30, or boat trip and vehicle to the summit $60. B******s to the walking - lets do the $60 one."

Rangitoto is a dormant volcano island twenty minutes off the coast of Auckland which last erupted 600 years ago.

It has not been occupied since 1950, when the last resident, a chap named George Saunders, who was guarding the wartime military emplacements for the government, finally moved back to the mainland.

Over breakfast I presented Lofty with his birthday present from myself and Wayne - a set of silver spoons as he is always stirring it - and we caught the ferry.

Now there is one group of people that never fail to annoy me and wind me up on holiday - Americans.

Auckland in general, and our ferry in particular, is packed with them, and unfortunately their behavior today ran strictly to type.

"Wow. Wow. We are going SOOOO fast. WE ARE REAAALY HAULING ASS!" emitted some brash, bearded, bandana wearing buffoon as he proceeded to inform every other passenger on the boat of his life history.

Why do Americans always have to talk at the top of their voices so that everyone within a hundred metre radius can hear the f***ing banality?

If any Americans happen to read this and are offended - then, as you would say yourselves, "s**t happens".

After we landed on Rangitoto island, all went well until our vehicle neared the top of the volcano, where there was then a walk up 370 steps to reach the crater summit. Our driver stated that he wanted everyone back by 2.15, and that he was unable to wait for latecomers. I made my own way up to the top, took a few photos, then started down expecting to see Lofty on the path. There was no sign of him, and as I sat in the vehicle waiting the clock ticked past 2.15 and our driver hared up the steps to look for him, still no Lofty.

We waited till 2.35 to the silent annoyance of the other passengers - who were remarkably calm under the circumstances - then set off for the wharf and our return ferry without Lofty.

"He won't be the first, or the last, to do that" said our driver.

No, and he may not be the first or last person called George to be stranded here for 5 years, I thought.

Fearing the worst I expected a large scale search with helicopters and St Bernard hounds when we got back, but sure enough there was Lofty, looking suitably sheepish, who had taken the wrong path and actually walked down from the summit of the volcano faster than our vehicle, even allowing for his 68 year old gammy legs.

A birthday to remember and no further excuses for slow walking will be allowed from Lofty on this tour!

I didn't belabour the point that he could have saved himself $30 by just opting for the walk to the volcano summit at the outset.

Lofty's birthday meal took place at a restaurant called Neptune on the expensive harbour front, where the service took so long, we thought the staff had needed to send out to Davy Jones' locker for the food. To make matters worse, we had to sit and listen to a loop recording of Coldplay.

We didn't complain, but the waitress noticed we had not seen any food for 45 minutes and pointed this out to the chef and his mates, who were in a semi-visible kitchen. The chef, who had been busy, then threw a titanic wobbler to the delight of myself and Lofty - Gordon Ramsay would have been in his f***ing element.

The food, when it arrived, was very good!

Today, on a trip to Devonport, I recognised Sir Ian Botham browsing at the Botswana Butchery menu next to the pier.

I guess he must be on the Sky commentary roster for Eden Park on Saturday.

He was incognito, in a large Panama hat and large shades.

Not being one to miss an opportunity, and wearing a Barmy Army shirt from 2005, I approached the Great Man and said:

"Good morning Sir Ian. What do you think of it so far?"

His response was a little disconcerting.

"How are you. What, Auckland? Fantastic place. Love it."

My rejoinder: "Yes, but I kind of meant the cricket."

He then stalked off without further engagement.

Well, you can't win them all.

I suppose Knighthoods are not handed out merely due to an ability to be civil, and engage with cricket supporters.

My respect levels for this legend of English cricket have not changed one iota due to this incident!

Devonport was well worth a visit and we found a great pub called The Patriot, dedicated to British and Irish folk and their heritage.

Just as we settled down to watch Scotland v Bangladesh on tv, the pub was invaded by a party of Americans, who thought that the pub name had some relevance to an American football team - I sort of put them right on that one. Tactfully, of course.

Scotland's failure to defend 318 and their defeat leaves England in a poor position, and as I watched the Bangladesh team easily chasing down the runs to win, their batsmen did not seem scared, indeed they were smiling and relishing the challenge as far as I could see.

Clearly though, they are not in as good a place as England, judging by Stuart Broad's comments, despite having five points to our own measly two.

We now face being eliminated by Bangladesh next week, while Ireland may qualify, and although hopefully this will set alarm bells ringing amongst the stuffed shirts of the ECB, I am now dreading Adelaide.

Dinner that night was once again taken at Neptune, this time overlooking the water, where we were hoping to see a complete melt-down of all the kitchen staff. Instead, just another wonderful meal. The dessert was so good, I had two.... fat b*****d that I am.

I bet Gary Ballance would like this restaurant too. It's certainly in a good place on the harbourfront.

A further report will follow after Adelaide - here's hoping!

Midnight xxx

Click here for other tour diaries