West Indies Tour 2015
Rum, Sodomy and the Lash - Antigua Test 2015
Having returned from the Cricket World Cup with two kinds of baggage - and shag*ed out, jet lagged and despondent, no sooner had I unpacked my sweaty togs than it was time to set off again, this time to the West Indies.
Thus, cheered by the news of a mosquito-borne virus called Chikungunya rife in the Caribbean and given my past record as an insect pincushion, I embarked to Belper to meet Skip then we both traveled south to Oxford to rendezvous with Saint and Spud.
In the Jude pub that evening after I sprayed myself liberally with insect repellant we discussed the good news - the sacking of Paul Downton - one down two to go - and the bad news - the death of cricket legend Richie Benaud,who will be greatly missed by all. All the radio and tv commentators I listened to as a lad have now sadly passed into history, and I doubt whether we will see their like again.
After meeting Freddie and Son of at Wetherspoons, Gatwick, we flew to Barbados and enjoyed a relaxing drink on arrival. When our connecting flight was called I discovered to my horror that I had left my boarding pass at the check in counter, so whilst the others boarded the plane chuckling loudly, I had a brown - trousered dash to try and find this confounded slip of paper and eventually made the gate with a substantially raised blood pressure.
As you can probably imagine, sympathy abounded.
On arrival at Antigua we waited patiently for our luggage and I noticed for the first time that Skip was in possession of a vile, garish holdall that Primark would probably refuse to sell and Justin Bieber would definitely refuse to carry.
When we arrive at our villas in Jolly Bay, there are not enough beds to go round, so Spud bravely and instantly volunteers to sleep on the living room floor on borrowed cushions.
The insects ate well that night.
In the morning, Freddie, who I am sharing with, informs me that his 'bed' is not in fact a bed, but two mattresses glued together.
During the day we hit the beach. The sea is lovely and warm and with five of us swimming, Skip hurls a frisbee into the ocean for one of us to catch. This flies over all of our heads, hits the water, and like England at the World Cup, sinks without trace.
Beach cricket follows and during our game several England players arrive to use jet-ski boats, amongst them Plunkett, Trott, Bairstow, and Stokes.
Given the number of tourists swimming, I offer a silent prayer that their steering is more accurate than their bowling. Afterwards we invite them to join our game, to be met with sullen disdain.
In the evening we hire JR's taxi to take us to Shirley Heights.
Similar to his namesake in 'Dallas', JR has a policy of maximising his profit at the expense of others.
At the end of a fairly disappointing night - the place is rammed full of English tourists and children, god dammit - we run into four lads on the way back to the cab.
"You've gotta help me with my mate, he's paralytic and I need a hand getting him out of this bush." said the youngest lad to Son of, while at the same time inviting him for more drinks back at base in Jolly Bay.
Son of did not seem overly keen to accept this invitation, and matters were compounded when all four lads also got into our mini bus. A certain amount of disharmony initially occurred until we all realised that JR the taxi driver had simply crammed his vehicle to sardine can capacity and the lads were also going back to our complex.
From such misunderstandings positives sometimes emerge, and after a good old sing song on the way back to Jolly Bay we indoctrinated the four into our strange sect and they knocked about with us for most of the Test.
Brothers Matt and John ( Derby County fans), Mark ( Middlesbrough) and non-biblical Chris ( Dirty Leeds) - welcome to the Addis Army.
8.30am. Wake up and I'm goosed. JR is honking outside to take us to the cricket.
Son of emerges eating his breakfast - a can of Wadidli lager, the local hooch.
We arrive at the ' ticket office', which is two shipping containers joined together and fitted with UPVC windows from B & Q. It even has a back door with a bell cut into it.
The queue is enormous and slow moving and just as we reach the window we are informed that they have run out of tickets, although more are on their way from St Johns. Brilliant.
Another twenty minutes in the heat and the tickets arrive - whereby we are directed into another queue, this time for a bag search and wristbands.
We miss the start of play, and Trott is out before we reach our seats.
The ground is less than half full.
Breakfast seems a priority and we find a stall selling burgers and barbecued meat. Despite repeated instructions and prompting from Freddie, the chef seems unwilling to supply him with a burger.
"I'm pork and chicken" he helpfully informs Freddie.
Clearly multi tasking has not taken off in Antigua yet.
Finally we get to our seats in time to see Cook bowled after a terrible shot.
Ballance arrives at the crease and starts to play and miss.
A rasta vendor circulates selling fruit.
"Get de good stuff before de bad" he says. Sounds like good advice.
After what seems to be an eternity of wafting outside off stump, the deeply unimpressive Ballance (told you I had some World Cup baggage) is caught behind leaving our innings in a parlous state but for once, Bell to the rescue with a nice ton, aided by Root.
That evening we are joined by Wat, a friend of Saint and Skip from Oxford.
Wat has moved house 60 times, he says, and perhaps may be more suited to the Gippo army!
Incredibly, I find out that Wat lived in the next village in Saddleworth to where I now reside, and is only the Addis Army's third Manchester United fan. Welcome bro. Wat seems to lead his life in the abstract, more of which later.
Clarky is outside the ground today selling his 'Corridor of Uncertainty' fanzine and clothing wares. Some delightfully salacious articles in the former about the England Hierarchy, which meet with my absolute approval.
England's innings subsides in the morning.
"Get de good stuff before de bad" shouts the vendor, correct on every level.
Unfortunately this sound advice is ignored by three of our number, who visit a rum stall during the afternoon for two hours. This stall is selling punch at $5 per glass whose constituents are as follows:
One part fruit cocktail. Four parts gin. Five parts rum. Total ten parts = instant arsehole.
When our boys return, the punch has effected a personality metamorphosis.
Identities are not provided to save embarrassment, although some quick-witted readers may be able to piece together the puzzle.
Addis one has been transformed into a giant squid, who insists on grabbing and hugging anyone within reach to celebrate his football team's cup final win earlier that day. His grip is irresistible.
Addis two has been transformed into a drunken Leprechaun, who cannot stop nattering for five seconds.
Addis three has been transformed into a leery, Danny Dyer type cockney, who shouts rather unfriendly things at Nasser Hussain and then exhibits his manhood to all and sundry at a busy roundabout after the game, post-pee.
Some of these transformations are more shocking than others!
A car-crash evening ensues after stumps, with Addis two and three ordering lobster for dinner and Addis one first ordering champagne all round, then wisely changing his mind when he learns the cost.
Thankfully the night is curtailed early. I'm getting too f*cking old for this !
Addis three discovers the cost of his unpaid lobster bill from the previous night and needs to be revived by kiss of life.
At the ground I meet Jill and Steve of Altrincham, friends of Addis Nigel and Helen.
At lunch their boys play cricket with the Addis, which mum says "will be the highlight of their holiday" - easy to forget what holidays were like before you could imbibe alcohol!
During the game as the England innings proceeds, Ballance plays and misses repeatedly.
Buttler then creams one and hits Ballance, the non - striker, on the elbow. Ouch.
As Ballance writhes on the ground in agony my sympathy is limited.
"That's another four runs he has just cost us!
In the evening we eat Italian, accompanied by poor red wine, and learn more of Wat's abstract concepts.
He wants to hijack a yacht from the nearby boatyard and sail to the cricket ground tomorrow.
A message for all shipping in the Viv Richards Stadium area - bugger off, there is no water.
I also learn that to the list of ten essential survival items needed on a desert island must now be added "wi-fi connectivity".
As soon as the boys learn that the restaurant has t' Internet, mobile phones are drawn faster than Wyatt Earp's gun.
The curse of social media - God help future generations.
When we arrive at the ground today to my surprise, the Wat Tyler Ship Canal connecting Jolly Bay with the cricket ground is already under construction.
After a poor start Gary Ballance finds some fluency and scores a hundred.
I am loudly booed for failing to applaud like a loon.
I forecast today - you heard it here - his lack of foot movement will be his undoing, and the Australian bowlers will sort him out.
West Indies two down at stumps and looking forward to a win in the morning we go out in St Johns, the island capital. Cocktails are enjoyed at Hemingway's kind courtesy of Wat.
I order a banana daiquiri in the local lingo, like Freddie Corleone in Godfather 2.
Afterwards, pizza is the order of the day at Bananas Restaurant.
Over-ordering slightly we are given boxes to carry home the surplus and JR's taxi resembles a Dominoes delivery van.
Today is the birthday of Herbie, the Dark Lord of Addis, and all the boys are cacking themselves to discover which vile and insulting comments will be placed on Facebook - and who will be the recipients.
During the day Jimmy becomes the leading England wicket taker of all time, overtaking what's-is-name from Somerset in the process, and joining the list of Lancashire bowlers that have starred for their country.
Statham. Lever. Shuttleworth. Kerrigan. And now Anderson the Burnley Berater.
However, our enjoyment is totally deflated by a quite superb and flawless century under pressure by Jason Holder, the young West Indian captain, who looks to be a star of the future.
Well played sir, your Man of the Match award is richly deserved.
After the game, I try one of the infamous industrial strength rum punches to see if this will convert me into a Gary Ballance fan. It does not work.
So I try another to see if I will be transformed into a Peter Moores fan. That doesn't work either.
A bombshell is dropped after stumps. Wat announces that due to problems at home, he will have to leave us and return to the UK.
So sorry mate and it was good to make your acquaintance, please keep in touch.
That evening, Spud looks at Facebook and there is a question from Herbie, directed to me.
"Ask Midnight how much money it has cost him since he last saw England win a game."
As I do not respond directly to Facebook I will answer here.
Herbie, due to your mucking and messing about giving Skip a decision whether you were doing this tour or not, the consequence of which being that our intended accommodation and flights were booked up by others, my answer is :
"More than it f*cking should have." I hope that satisfies your curiosity.
Thank you Herbie and a happy birthday from us all, we hope you and your computer had a great day. And to Mrs Blade in Adelaide, pleased to report just one mossie bite so far!
Award for the best behaviour on tour so far amazingly goes to The Saint, who has been a little well behaved Angel thus far with no rambunctious flourishes. I guess we may have to wait until we reach Grenada.