Australia Tour 2017/18
My Sympathies to Gary Ballance
Lofty and I find ourselves in Swansea, Glamorgan (Tasmania) awaiting a monster storm coming in from the Pacific. I have a beach front, upper level motel room and the patio doors are rattling like a scene from 'Key Largo'.
The pub doesn't open until 5.30 pm and given the imminent deluge, I have turned my attention to the England squad to tour New Zealand, as we will also be present for that.
The incompetent England management have found scapegoats for the Ashes debacle.
Curran, who tried hard but basically wasn't fast enough, but did fine with the bat.
Ball, who played in the first Test, got injured, and was never seen again.
And poor Ballance, who didn't get a Test game at all, but must have got someone's drink mixed up carrying the tray - probably Broad or Anderson I suspect!
Having seen Ballance in action at night on the last South Africa tour, he is clearly a lad who likes a drink or two, and I wonder if he has paid the price because of the so-called Bayliss crackdown on nocturnal off field recreational activities?
The comments on BBC Sport appertaining to the squad announcement are richly entertaining and I would like to quote one here, from a man with a very unusual name.
Mr Andrew Jobsfortheboys Strauss.
This comment can be located at number 182 in the list:
"Can someone sack James Whitaker as chief of the selectors? The moron played one test, ONE TEST, for England and has refused to resign after overseeing back to back shutouts in Australia."
Before James Whitaker's solicitor picks up the phone I didn't post this, but I do agree with the sentiments. It is time that more people were aware of the selectorial nonsense that has been going on since Whitaker took charge, I have been highlighting it since pre - World Cup 2015 and am amazed that the fellow is still in a job.
The latest squad is a perfect example. If something doesn't work, just keep repeating it in the hope of a different result - borders on insanity.
Livingstone is the only new blood and whilst I agree he is deserving of his chance, with only two Tests in New Zealand he won't play, unless there is a serious injury to one of the existing 'cozy club'.
Anyway, for those daft enough to have been following our travels here is a brief synopsis of our Tasmanian Odyssey so far.
Day 1. Stayed in a small town near Hobart named Sorell.
Pronounced as in Superman's dad.
During a visit to the bottle shop, Loftys metal glasses mysteriously split into two separate pieces and fell off his nose onto the floor. Metal fatigue or something more sinister? I looked around to see if Uri Geller was in the shop, but surprisingly he wasn't.
Absolutely nothing in Sorell but we did find a superb Chinese restaurant called Zhen Bao and drank lots of wine.
Day 2. Found us in Ross, a historic inland military settlement now cut off from the main A1 Midland highway.
A town waiting to die, basically, once the tourists stop coming to see the impressive convict - constructed bridge.
Even our motel resembled a hospice, with immaculate floral gardens and little statues of cherubs scattered all around the grounds.
After an encounter with a large grey snake on the river bank whilst taking a photo, maybe someone is trying to tell me something.
Day 3. Swansea - awaiting the promised storm, allegedly of biblical proportions.
During the day, an abortive drive to Coles Bay where we have a boat trip booked to the iconic Wineglass Bay. Apparently the boat company, Freycinet Adventures, have been trying to ring us during the two hour drive from Ross to tell us that the outboard motor on their vessel has packed in and we won't be sailing. The guy has a sense of humour though.
"You've missed the big boat too for today, it sailed at ten. The only way you will see Wineglass Bay today is a hike over those mountains - about three hours each way."
Or in Loftys case, about six hours half way there and a helicopter back. I had to laugh!
Ten out of ten for your practical suggestion though, Freycinet Adventures, hope the fishing was good.
Bonnie Tyler is nowhere in sight when we hit Swansea, and Wayne hasn't called yet either. Maybe that's because there is no mobile phone signal!!
The local blurb says that Tasmanians come here for their annual holiday but Im rather sceptical. The whole town can be circumnavigated in half an hour, and there isn't much here.
Nobody on the beach, and the sea is far too rough to swim.
In fact, there is bugger all to see and do. However - every cloud, as they say!
We have finally managed to find a place where having a pint doesn't empty your wallet. The local RSL club.
Imagine the British Legion updated, with a smart, cheap bar and bistro. Two drinks for $12 - as opposed to the more usual $12 for one. The foods good too. Unsurprisingly, very popular.
Day 4. Swansea.
Storm still not arrived so I go for a morning walk around the headland without hat (too windy) or suncream. Big mistake.
The walk I did is an aboriginal heritage track called:
Wonder why the aboriginal language never caught on?
A great meal and a few beers in the RSL club. It is the barmaids 30th birthday and she drinks from a huge stein bearing the legend 'I love beer' while the Queen watches benignly from her portrait high on the wall. For us, however, an early night is required, as we have booked a boat trip to Wineglass Bay at 10am tomorrow from Coles Bay - about an hours drive away.
The promised storm didn't arrive.
Day 5. St Helens. Saturday the 13th of January.
A day that will live in infamy in Loftys holiday diary!
Lofty has a morbid fear of water, and the early start at 8am, combined with the prospect of four hours on the open sea, had the grumpy-o-meter touching record highs before we even arrived at Coles Bay. When we did arrive, he refused breakfast and declined to take his camera out on the boat.
As we turned out of Coles Bay and started heading against the swell, Lofty went very quiet, shut his eyes, and leaned against the window wishing he could be anywhere else.
When we anchored in Wineglass Bay for lunch, even a superb Tasmanian picnic pack could not lighten the gloom.
When our Captain informed us that we were parked up at one of the ten best beaches in the World (as voted by Trip Advisor) Lofty chimed in:
"I just don't see the attraction. It's the worst $140 I have ever spent!"
It was hard for me to conceal my chuckles but the best was yet to come. As our vessel headed home, a sudden squall arrived from nowhere, and as the little boat was tossed like a cork in the swell, Loftys gills were turning green.
Mind you, he was far from the worst. A young lass to our right was busy speaking to Hughie and Ruth via a large brown paper bag. She kept her headphones on throughout, bless her. Up front, a 30 stone honey monster who had ventured out onto the prow viewdeck was now petrified with fear, stuck, and unable to negotiate his way back into the cabin. As he sat transfixed outside getting soaked in the storm, it took three crew members to coerce his vast bulk back to the safety of his seat.
Fifteen minutes later this guy stood up to adjust his wet boxer shorts and tracksuit pants. Both finished up around his knees but fortunately no ballast appeared to have been dropped!
Eventually we got into port half an hour late and Lofty commenced the 90 minute drive north to St Helens. He seemed to be calming down and cheering up a bit.
On arrival at our cheap digs, by the side of a pub, horror of horrors.
No phone signal, but worse still, no Wi-Fi in the rooms, which appear to be a product of the 1960's chipboard revolution. The main side effect here - no Ken Bruce Radio 2 podcast for Loftys bathroom disco.
By this time, the grumpy-o-meter had gone off the scale.
Things are getting so bad, I am giving serious consideration to not complaining about Coldplay next time they appear on his torture stick in the car!
For once a happy ending. When we arrived at St Helens RSL club for dinner, glory be they had Tooheys Old on tap, a beer Lofty has been craving for weeks due to his distaste for lager. At last a smile. Thank you, your Majesty.
In a foretaste of what we will probably experience with city based T20 cricket we watched the Big Bash top of the table clash between Adelaide Strikers and Perth Glory on the RSL big screen. A home game for the Strikers - but played in Alice Springs in front of a handful of fans at the behest of the TV company. Alice Springs is precisely 1,532 kilometres from Adelaide, so lots of consideration for the home fans there. At least the flies looked good in HD.
Day 6. St Helens. Despite the name, a rather nice spot this and infinitely better than Swansea.
A drive around the fabulous Bay of Fires just north of St Helens. The beaches looked even better than Wineglass Bay but when I tried a swim at Binalong Bay I was rather dismayed to find that my testicles were going into cryogenic hibernation. Too late did I realise that most of the few other people in the water were wearing wetsuits. Brass monkeys.
The first ODI from Melbourne in the evening and we were in touch with Nigel and Helen who were at the game. A rare win for England featuring a record breaking run chase and innings by Jason Roy, who made 180. The highest score by an England player in a one day match and the highest successful ODI run chase at the MCG. The ground didn't look very full on TV and we wondered if the Big Bash is taking its toll on the prospective live audience?
The Aussie media coverage of this defeat next morning was rather brief, as if it never happened in fact. The minute of highlights on the news seemed to feature Aaron Finch's century in the first innings rather than Roy's historic knock. They are bitter bastards!!
Day 7. Hobart.
A day for fond reminiscences as we revisited the Prince of Wales pub on Battery Point then later enjoyed the oriental delights of 'Magic Curries'. A route travelled previously with Tremers in 2010.
Our last full day in Australia so what to make of it all?
Well I can thoroughly recommend the touring and driving to anyone, especially Tasmania, which is unspoiled and gorgeous - so long as you don't mind the occasional sixties style motel and no phone signal.
As I type this, Ben Stokes has been charged with affray, but the conclusion to this episode is really no clearer. Watch this space....
By the end of the week we will be in the best place on the planet - New Zealand!