Australia Tour 2017/18
The Dumbest creatures on earth
After the depressing Adelaide debacle, Lofty and I set off on our six day road trip prior to travelling to Perth.
Our destination - the outback, complete with searing heat, flies, Mick Taylor and other creepy crawlies.
Like the early explorers the general plan was to head north and see what happens, with one specific exception. I wanted to visit a remote town called Saddleworth, which was founded in the 19th century by an entrepreneur from Oldham, and named after his beloved moorland - which I imagine back then was still in Yorkshire.
Only joking Saddleworth (UK) residents, I don't want to be lynched on the rushcart on my return!
On arriving in the once prosperous but now sleepy town it soon became obvious that a long term decline was well under way. The Saddleworth Hotel was closed - like, permanently - as were most of the shops. The railway line was derelict. Silos that were once full of grain were now rusting in the sun. Hardly any people to be seen, and those we did see were old and doddery, like ourselves.
Surprisingly, there was a cricket oval, and we headed down for a gander.
Again, nobody around, but a door in the pavilion was labelled 'Arts and Crafts Class Thursday 10am-2pm' which by extreme good fortune was the precise time we had hit town.
While Lofty was inspecting the rather spongy outfield, I entered the pavilion looking for locals and found a group of ladies busy with local craftware.
When I told them I lived in 'the other Saddleworth, the one in Lancashire, England' and had come on a cultural visit, it was suddenly as if Donald Trump had just walked through the door.
The Saddleworth ladies had all watched 'Last of the Summer Wine' and I think they thought Lofty and I were characters from series 26, episode 15.
One of the ladies, Marilyn, insisted upon piling me into her ute and giving me a guided town tour. It didn't take long.
"See that spare ground there? That used to be our supermarket. Burnt down just over 12 months ago."
There are some Yorkshire folk I know at home that would wish the same fate befell Tesco in Greenfield!
I was taken to a local charity shop to buy souvenirs and while the people could not have been friendlier, one fears for the long term survival of this place. All very sad really.
So further on up the road and we reach our digs for the night, Lyreens Apartment in Auburn. As we parked up and got out of our car the owner, Joan, came out to meet us.
"Oooh. I didn't expect two blokes. I expected a young couple when I got your booking!"
Sorry to disappoint you, Joan. Thankfully Lyreens is a two bedroom apartment!
Auburn is situated in the Clare Valley which is famous for its vineyards and wine - well, after an arduous two hour drive from Adelaide we just had to, didn't we? The local cellar door is called Taylors, but sells red wine in the UK in Majestic and Aldi under the brand of 'Wakefields'. The guide book describes their wine as 'fit for royalty'. I wouldn't go that far, but if you see a bottle while cruising round Aldi for the weekly shop its well worth a try!
Lofty has curtailed his drinking now and is our permanent designated driver. Just as well he has stopped drinking if the following is any guide to his failing eyesight. We return to our lodgings and he parks the car right in front of a fruit tree, pregnant with yellow, oval shaped fruit. I comment accordingly.
"So, how do you know that's a lemon tree?" says Lofty.
Maybe I should do the driving after all. Anything 'camouflage' coloured, like a kangaroo for instance, would stand no chance with myopic speed demon Lofty behind the wheel.
A fine meal in the iconic local pub the Rising Sun followed, and here is a price check for our Addis pals still in Adelaide. The Cooper's beer that was on 'special offer' in the Cathedral Barmy Army HQ for $8-50 per plastic half glass costs just $6-50 for a cold glass schooner up here.
We are being had, my friends......
We hit the road in the morning but don't make it very far.
Our first stop is at 'Mad Bastard' wines in Clare. Not just for tasting, but to sample the famed sense of humour of the owner.
Same sex marriage has just been legalised in Australia, and as we drive up to the cellar door, a huge chalk board sign greets us:
"FINALLY.THE GAYS CAN NOW SUFFER WITH THE REST OF US."
As I enter the cellar the owner Mark Barry, sees me, a potential pommie customer.
"Piss orf" he shouts, in front of a group of young Aussies who are already sampling the wares! What a character, but his strategy works and I buy a nice fruity Riesling.
The next stop on the way north was Gladstone, a sleepy town which used to be a major railway junction and is still the largest inland grain storage facility in Australia. By sheer chance as we were getting out of our car a huge freight train rattled along the track, which is the main line from Sydney to Adelaide. I kid you not, this giant loco must have been hauling over 100 freight wagons and neither of us could conceive of an engine powerful enough to do the job.
Lunch followed in a small Gladstone cafe, where we were served by an ex-pat from Catterick with 'Yorkshire' and a white rose tattooed on his arm. It is unbelievable the lengths some people will go to in order to escape that county!
It was here that we heard the latest nonsense coming out of the England camp.
Tremers is attending a two day warm up match at Richardson Park, Perth. According to our new Yorkshire friend, only Moeen Ali out of the current Test side will play. The Lions will make up the rest of the team, while the 'first team' enjoy a well deserved round of golf.
Obviously, they must think they have played well enough to warrant a bit of r & r.
I hope some of the Lions perform well and are picked for the Test to freshen up this team - I've been advocating Crane must have a game instead of Moeen Ali or one of the other out of form batsmen - we've plenty to choose from.
If it lengthens the tail, so what? How can the batting get any worse, apart from selecting Gary Ballance?
James Whitaker has previous form for that though, so maybe I should shut up.
My turn behind the wheel for a further two hours and eventually we reached our stop for the night - Port Augusta. Or maybe I should call it Ellesmere Port Augusta - because that is just what it reminded me of. A small industrial dormitory town with absolutely no reason to visit unless you happen to be working here. Mrs Blade's neighbours had warned us, to be fair.
However our afternoon wasn't wasted. Remember the camera that Lofty was scammed into buying in Hong Kong? Well, the charger has a Chinese plug connector (bit of a shock, that) and is no good for Australia. So a trip to the Bargain Electrics store was required.
Result : one universal charger purchase for $49.99, increasing Loftys spend on that £80 rrp Nikon camera to a staggering £230 equivalent.
I think Lofty plans to contact Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville on his return to Guernsey to see if they will travel to Hong Kong and nail the crafty bastards that stitched him up.
Lofty has also been struggling with his luggage as his case isn't big enough to hold his extensive wardrobe of polo shirts. A bigger case was required.
They say you can always tell the class of a person by his/her luggage. Not Delsey or anything like that - Lofty purchased his new case from The Reject Shop, which is like our Poundland but a bit further down market. Still, after the camera fiasco I can't blame him for wanting to save some money! The obvious question I would ask is, why was this case in the Reject Shop in the first place, so you may be hearing more in due course on the subject.
Well, the leaving of Port Augusta didn't grieve us, and next morning found us wandering around Quorn, an old railway town that is now distinctly off the beaten track.
Iconic buildings and the powder blue sky make this an ideal setting for movies and TV. The latest tv series of 'Wolf Creek' for instance, which I gather will star John Jarratt reprising his Mick Taylor role from the two earlier gory horror films.
The old station building at Quorn has been retained as a Tourist Information office, and the nice lady in there was very helpful in enabling me to find Lofty, who had gone missing after doing his own version of Walkabout looking for shade.
Lofty disappearing with Mick Taylor prowling around in the vicinity doesn't bear thinking about, however had it been the England squad that had gone missing, I would have more than likely have left them to Mick's tender mercies.
The latest ridiculous story emanating from the England camp is that Ben Duckett, who was due to play the Perth warm-up game, has been suspended for 'pouring a drink over a Senior England player's head'. In the same bar as the Bairstow headbutting incident.
The Senior England player was later identified as Jimmy Anderson.
How Duckett managed this feat without stepladders is beyond me.
Given the extortionate price of beer in Perth, Duckett must have either been given too much spending money, or must be a complete idiot. I wonder if that's why people refer to him as 'pint sized'?
Where will it all end - well with a 5-0 drubbing and all credibility lost, I expect.
Remember that Root quote?
"There is no drinking culture in the England team......" Don't make me bloody laugh.
Regarding those few players still sober, unbanned and able to make it onto the pitch on Day one of the warm - up game, there were mixed fortunes.
Lancashire stalwart Buster Keaton Jennings made 80 in England's first knock - perhaps we could take a chance on him at three in the Test?
Gary Ballance, on the other hand, made the majestic sum of 1, which although possibly more than I expected, does not exactly press his case for a place in the Third Test.
The warm up game petered out into a predictable draw, I'm unaware who won at golf.
Our Toyota hire car has a very useful 'eco' indicator which lights up when driving economically. Needless to say this light remains off most of the time Lofty is behind the wheel. On the afternoon of 9th December Lofty had another kangaroo incident while driving at high speed up to Wilpena Pound. Any regular readers with good memories may recall that he also butchered a helpless little Joey with our hire car on our last visit to Australia in 2013.
He now appears to be on a hat - trick. The camera does not lie.
Our home for the next two nights is Rawnsley Park Station, an outback sheep station that has more or less been given over to tourism.
The restaurant here does a wonderful line in feral grills, and I have offered Lofty's services in obtaining roadkill for the larder in exchange for a modest reduction in our room bill.
An outback 4WD tour next day and we are lucky enough to have Phil, the Station Manager, as our guide. A kamikaze emu runs across the road directly in front of our car.
"Emus were put on the planet to make sheep look intelligent" says Phil.
"They are the dumbest creatures on earth!"
Obviously, Phil hasn't heard about Ben Stokes, Ben Duckett and Alex Hales yet.
The wildlife is tame and we see kangaroos in abundance and rock wallabies.
A geological lesson follows as we drive down Brachina and Bunyeroo gorges and see fossils that are over 550 million years old from when Australia was under the sea. That's even older than Lofty.
I don't suppose there's any chance of the sea-thing happening again before the Perth Test next Thursday!
A great afternoon and thanks to Phil for your superb tour.
On our final day before the cricket Torture Garden starts again we visited Burra, an old Cornish mining settlement about 150km north of Adelaide. Those Cornish miners didn't need much to survive back in the day. There was no old Hospital or School, but there was a Brewery, Police Station, Court House, and Redruth Gaol.
Burra sounds like the ideal base for the England cricket squad on the next Ashes tour.
We are now in Clare preparing ourselves for the epic flight from Adelaide to Perth by eating fabulous Indian food at Indii of Clare - to the Blades, Tim and Kate and any other friends in Adelaide you must try this place when next in the vicinity - its superb.