West Indies Tour 2015
Papering Over The Cracks - Grenada Test 2015
Direct flights are a thing of the past with Skip Tours.
Thanks to the lack of availability imposed upon Skip by Herbie's earlier dithering in respect of this tour, our itinerary is as follows:
Antigua to St Lucia then St Vincent then Barbados.
Barbados to Trinidad.
Finally Trinidad to Grenada.
By the time we arrive at Grenada we have filled in so many duplicate immigration forms we all have writers cramp. I am surprised anyone gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle with a paper trail like that for any rescuers to follow!
Grenada airport is however probably the fastest luggage and customs process any of us have experienced and in addition, a calypso band is there to greet us dispensing free drinks.
Similar to the BetFred advert, but without the consequent financial loss.
Our taxi driver Godfrey is waiting for us, alas without his sister Dolly, and we take the thirty minute journey to Sunrise Villa, Fort Jeudy, which is in a beautiful location but rather isolated - literally miles to the nearest shop or bar meaning we are wholly reliant on Godfrey to get us about.
As anyone who has seen 'The Shining' will know, isolation is not always guaranteed to develop cordial relationships.......
Our caretaker Theresa meets us at the villa and informs us that as our own washing machine is out of order, she will take care of all our laundry personally.
Theresa is promptly handed six bin liners of sweaty, claggy clothes to process - maybe she should have kept her mouth shut!!
We are all knackered so a night in is the result with Spud cooking steaks for dinner, purchased on the way from the airport along with more essential supplies of lager, Guinness and rum.
My turn to cook a breakfast fry up for six, helped by Son Of, who kindly prepares scrambled eggs half an hour before the bacon and sausages are ready:
"Sorry Midnight this normally takes me ages at home."
Must be those quails eggs they eat in Windsor.
"Is there anything else I can do to help?"
Yes, go and watch the football.....
Sunbathing by the pool in the afternoon, followed by a delightful experience unblocking the toilet so kindly hermetically sealed by the bowels of Skip.
Cocktails in the evening at Esther's beach bar, and, watched by Clarky and his 'Corridor of Uncertainty' pals, the evening gets rather messy to say the least.
Unspecified shots follow rum drinks (banana daiquiri in my case) and by the time Godfrey arrives to mop up the detritus, we are all well gone.
I fall over in the bedroom after almost reaching the winning line, break my glasses, and cut my eye needing the medication of Nurse Skip, so thoughtfully carried around each day in his doctors briefcase.
Unconscious, I am then presented with a large pot plant by Son of to cheer me up in the morning, assuming I survive the night.
On awakening there is blood all over my shirt and it is evident that I have been plastered in more ways than one. There are palm fronds and mountains of sand all around my pillow courtesy of Son of's pot plant.
I follow Liam Gallacher's advice and have a day in bed.
Most of the others take a day trip to Grand Etang and Sulphur Lakes then go river tubing.
Apparently this involves floating down the river in tyre inner tubes wearing hard hats and life jackets.
Big deal, I remember doing the same on the River Tame as a kid without the protective gear in water that was ten times more toxic, and with prams and shopping trolleys to negotiate, not just bloody rocks.
Son of and Saint enjoy the trip immensely, the former getting pissed once again and annoying some Americans also on their tour - so not a total black mark that day.
The first day of the Test.
A twenty minute ride with Godfrey sees us at the ground, tickets are $25 EC as in Antigua, but the entry process is much easier albeit with high security.
We meet our old hippie pal Five-O inside, together with his friend Peter, a Lancastrian now resident on the wrong side of the river in Cornwall.
Peter is admitted to the Addis, and given the name 'Pugwash' due to his sailing background rather than any Staines on his clothing.
England insert West Indies but it is tough going, and the cricket is turgid.
The pitch is another feather - bed and our bowlers toil away in the humidity without too much to show for their undoubted hard graft.
At close of play even this early, a draw looks the most likely result.
We retire to Sails restaurant in the capital, St George's, for a decent meal.
I take Theresa another bag of washing at 8am before we leave for the cricket, this time containing a bloodstained shirt. She arrives at her front door in dressing gown and slippers and I get the distinct impression that I could have left this until we got home - which is earlier than everyone expects, in that when we get to the ground there is an immediate rain delay, followed by two others.
By 2pm we have seen very little cricket and with clouds gathering, decide to call it a day and return to the villa.
By 3pm the game has restarted, so we watch on streamed internet on Spud's computer.
In truth a pleasant afternoon relaxing by the pool and enhanced by a Lancashire win over Derbyshire at Derby in the County Championship. Keep the Faith, Skip!
Son of decides to give the turgid cricket a miss today, preferring to take a solo day boat trip to the neighbouring island of Carricao.
The rest of us arrive in time for the start of play and Cook and Trott are batting. Turgid. Turgid.
When Trott gets out, Ballance comes in to bat and if anything the cricket gets even more turgid.
Then - excitement without parallel. Freddie through his binoculars spots Giles Clarke six boxes away on the same level as ourselves, and later he is joined by our ace selector, James Whittaker.
Some fun is called for. I see Clarky and he asks if we can identify the box they are sitting in.
We say yes, and we are then handed a copy of 'Corridor of Uncertainty'.
Our mission - to plant this magazine with its critical content in the box for Our Wonderful Hierarchy to read.
Unfortunately, like the Von Stauffenburg plot, we hit the wrong target, and we soon see a large group of Gullivers type VIP pensioners reading the 'Corridor', and glancing askance at the box to their right where our true targets are sat.
Given the content of the various articles contained therein about the shortcomings of the England management, giggles all round.
However our plot must not fail, and another copy of the magazine is obtained and this time shoved through the side of the correct box door, which is ajar, with the sound of clinking silver cutlery emanating from within.
A result. Shortly a black security guard is seen on the Clarke balcony brandishing a yellow pamphlet.
Meanwhile the dull batting continues.
Unusually when England are batting, I go for a wicket walk, where I see Hutts and while we are talking, his tour group driver informs us that he has just met Clive Lloyd whose verdict on England's batting is as follows:
"Like watching f*cking paint dry."
Personally I think the Lancashire legend was being charitable, to me it was more like listening to f*cking paint dry.
Eventually Ballance fails to move his feet once too often and is bowled by part - time spinner Marlon Samuels. This time I cheer like a loon.
The afternoon is finally illuminated by a brilliant century by Joe Root, who for me is one of the few players in this team living up to expectations and more importantly, worth watching.
Over now to Carricao, where we learn that Son of has missed the one boat home which was scheduled to leave at 3.30pm. However on the plus side he has met a young diving instructor from Spain called Laura, so he won't be lonely.
They have trekked together through the jungle to find a secluded beach, which Son of describes as "perfect for sex".
We later learn that the local turtles do indeed use this beach to get laid and lay eggs, so his observations look spot on.
During the afternoon, Skip also makes the acquaintance of a local beauty and the pair elope to the gangway at tea for a bit of 'second base.' Despite this intimacy, Skip is denied the opportunity to make further bases due to the inability of his mobile phone to dial the number 3 because of a broken screen.
Undeterred, Skip keeps the faith, and later at Spice Basket he once again engages with a local bar lady, ending with a terrific jive session on the dance floor.
The party at Spice Basket was supposed to be a well attended cricket festival, but there are just nine people there. We talk to a chap from Trinidad called Phil, who is responsible for the on site cricket museum, and he tells us that the advertising and administration for the three day event there has been a calamity, due to cock ups and inefficiency from the West Indian Cricket Board of Control and understandably, he is rather cut up.
The truth of his assertions is seen when we are handed invitations to Spice Basket at the airport on leaving Grenada, two days after the event finished.
We arrive home late that night to find we are locked out, and require to wake Theresa to let us in.
Theresa arrives at the door in her gown and slippers and is now beginning to remind me of the mouse - fearing lady in 'Tom and Jerry.'
More turgid cricket as England toil on the flat track.
Son of is at the boat terminal in Carricao for 12pm to meet his 3.30pm boat, which today leaves at 4!
The match looks for all money to be heading for a draw and after the game we split into two groups, Five-O, Pugwash and Spud heading fourteen miles north to Gouvea for a fish fry, and the rest of us heading to the West Indian Beer Company for drinks.
There we meet two lovely veterinary students called Emily and Frieda, both in their early twenties, who join us at our table after being invited by Son of.
All is going swimmingly and Son of risks a mild joke.
"If you had to have a relationship with any animal - which one would it be?"
He asks the girls, who both give the expected cute and demure answers - dog and cat.
Then it is Son of's turn.
"I would choose an owl, because no matter what position I f**ked it in, I could always look it direct in the eye."
Goodbye, Emily and Frieda.
We hear that our other group have had the best night of their tour at the fish fry, and in turn, so have we.
The final day of the Test and as a draw is likely, most of us decide upon a leisurely morning by the pool to 'see how things go'.
Right on cue, calypso collapso, England take a bushel of wickets that morning, so we head down to the ground at lunch to see them easily score 143 for victory in the afternoon.
Saint wins the 'Addis Army Good Behaviour' award for this trip - his very first such honour.
As for myself, this is my first Test victory in the Caribbean, and I should be ecstatic.
I am not, but at least I can now answer Herbie's question as to "how much money have I spent since last seeing an away Test victory."
The answer - $19 dollars EC for a KFC after the game.
Stop trolling and start touring mate.
We travel onward that evening to Barbados.
Mike Atherton is on our flight, and gets a bollocking from the stewardess for failing to open his window blind at take off. Cue chuckles.
We are then met at the Sunbay hotel in Barbados just after midnight by the most unhelpful desk clerk in history, who first supplies Skip with fictional information about our reservation, then lies about the room availability, then finally allows us access to three rooms after hanging about for what seems to be an eternity.
This guy would fail a job interview at Fawlty Towers.
As I write this blog I have just learned that our plane home will be delayed by some eight hours - good old British Airways, proud to fly the flag - so what else have we learned on this short tour?
Two poor teams competing against each other.
Group situations in a male environment require careful handling, what happened with KP could easily happen elsewhere. How I miss KP in this side.
Cook's captaincy is uninspiring and ineffectual.
Our bowling attack is not penetrative enough. We lack both a top class pace bowler and spinner. Stokes and Jordan as support bowlers do not and will not take enough wickets.
Jimmy is a fading star now, god bless him, and Broad is ineffectual with both bat and ball. It would be a kindness to drop him for his own sake to see if he can rekindle the fire.
Batting wise, Trott is not an opener. Adam Lyth should be playing, not watching.
The top three of Cook, Trott and Ballance are not easy on the eye and score too slowly, just not exciting. Not entertaining.
Bell continues to flatter to deceive as he has for most of his career to me. Now he isn't even that flattering any more.
Buttler, whilst having immense potential and ability, is not putting the numbers in the score book.
I have no doubt that Messrs Clarke and Whittaker will have seen this win and be snugly self - satisfied with their work - I bet they report back to Lords just as old Mr Grace used to say,
"You are all doing very well."
Personally, I have lost all love for this team.
I will be placing a large bet on my return to the UK ( if we ever get there) on New Zealand winning both Test matches and the series against us.
Even in my present state of disgruntlement, I could not place a bet on Australia to beat England - but I am damn sure they will, unless new blood and life is breathed into this team by the advent of Colin Graves.
Post script.....Due to our flight delay, as Frodo Baggins would say, time for a little more.
We are informed at the airport that instead of taking off at 5.15pm, our plane has not yet left London and will not now be departing Barbados until 1.30am.
After initial consternation, and after some negotiation, the good people at British Airways ferried us to the palatial five-star Crane Hotel overlooking Crane Beach and gave us each US$ 100 to spend as a reward for our patience. This is the sort of hotel that most of us only visit in our dreams and we have had no problem whatsoever spending the airlines money!
As I write we await carriages back to the airport.
Last laugh as usual to the Addis boys!