Australia Tour 2017/18
The Hazards of Wearing Shades when Parking Underground
For those readers wishing to read about the Under 19 Cricket World Cup, I commend Lofty's upcoming Addis article on the subject for your perusal. As usual, my tour diary will contain bugger all about cricket, so cricket saddoes hit the cross now!
Our journey to New Zealand was a trying one. Due to an administrative cock up (by us) we flew from Sydney to Auckland when we really needed to be in Christchurch. This second flight was duly arranged, but it meant staying at two 'Airport motels'. I had never stayed at one before and I was surprised by the quality of the accommodation on offer.
Or maybe shocked would be a better description.
In Sydney, we stayed at the Ibis Budget Airport Hotel. It is the nearest I have ever been to spending a night in prison. A cell, not a room. Bare wooden floors, no amenities whatsoever and an amazingly small double bed - which, at any moment, I was expecting to share with a 'lifer' or similar walking through the door. No phone in the room, so the staff were unable to offer a wake up call to catch our flight. Rather nonsensical, that.
Luckily, the quality of sleep was so poor, getting up next morning wasn't a problem.
All in all, I was guaranteed a high percentage score on the grumpy-o-meter from Lofty as we boarded our flight to Auckland and sure enough, he growled at most of the staff in the airport on our way out of Australia.
Auckland in the pouring rain then, and we headed to the Auckland Airport Kiwi Hotel, which as the name suggests has a large metal kiwi on its roof as a directional aid in case the shuttle driver gets lost. That kiwi must have been pecking the roof, as during the heavy overnight rain leaks developed in several places, and dustbins were placed at strategic points along the corridor to catch the rivulets. The hotel was next to a busy main road, so once again little or no sleep. Fortunately our flight to Christchurch didn't depart until after midday.
Eventually we hit Christchurch mid-afternoon. Our destination was Ilam, where we had agreed a rendezvous with Lancashire pal Stewart and his wife Moira who had kindly put on a delicious evening meal. Moira is famed for her Saturday shopping trips to Asda in Shaw when at home, where she times the supermarket visit to obtain cooked chickens for 50p and ten loaves for a penny - according to Stewart! New Zealand shopping must be more expensive, but nevertheless Moira handed us a fistful of petrol vouchers from the local supermarket which will come in very handy now that we are on the road again.
Our first destination is Queenstown to watch England in the Under 19 World Cup group and quarter final stages.
Omega Car Rentals have provided us with a well worn Nissan Tilda, which has clearly seen better days, but has two main advantages that separate it from the herd.
1. The stereo system is old, and unable to play Loftys musical torture sticks - deep joy.
2. Its f*cking cheap.
Omerama the next day, which is a one horse collection of houses in the middle of nowhere accompanied by a couple of hotels, two garages, and a pub. We only booked this as everywhere else between Christchurch and Queenstown was full, but we were in for a very pleasant surprise. The pub served large jugs of draught beer for only $13 a pop, and the kitchen was still turning out delicious food at ten pm. So what, I hear you think, but in most places in New Zealand if you haven't eaten by 8pm you will be going hungry.
Needless to say, your writer overindulged on the $13 jugs of beer after days of moderation, and I was somewhat concerned next morning when Lofty finally appeared from his room at 9.30am suffering from heat exhaustion and sleep deprivation and asked, nay commanded, me to drive.
Luckily the road is remote, with little in the way of police traps or breathalyzers, and we made it to Queenstown in one piece.
On the way we drove past a bemused Chinaman standing outside a lavender farm in the searing heat, with all his luggage beside him on the road. The police were present, and an ambulance, so clearly there had been an accident - but no dinted car in sight. As we carried on down the road I overtook the Twizel tow truck, which had the hapless Chinese mans Toyota hire car on the back. Front end completely bashed in. Radiator dripping water everywhere. A complete write - off.
For Lofty, this cruel vision was better than a dip in the waters at Lourdes - he immediately perked up.
"Piece of Japanese sh*t! I hope they crush the f*cking thing into a small block. Bury it in the ground somewhere......etc etc."
No wonder Lofty failed that interview as an AA driver.
As we hit Gibbstown, suddenly a huge amount of traffic became evident. Hundreds of cars parked off road. Thousands of people milling about. Helicopters overhead. Obviously something going on, judging by the 6km traffic tailback coming out of Queenstown to this rural outpost, which only just rates a name on the map.
When we got to our hotel it became obvious. Road crew running around everywhere.
It's Otago's biggest music festival for years - and we are too late! An 18,000 sell out!
Just to give you an idea what we missed, the top three billing acts were:
The Orchestra. Which is the Electric Light Orchestra unplugged, without Jeff Lynne.
Colin Hay. Who? The singer from Men At Work, playing their hits with session musicians.
Alanis Morrisette. Canadian superstarette, apparently.
I immediately feel sorry for New Zealand music fans and vow to be more tolerant of Lofty's torture stick when it is finally inserted in a hire car again. Luckily, we have our current Tilda car for 31 days on this agreement!
We arrived in Queenstown in time to see most of England's easy victory over Canada. Nick Knight was prowling the grass banks - he is on commentary duty for Sky, but not for this particular game. I think I blotted my copy book by telling him my jaundiced opinion of James Whitaker and asking his views.
Diplomatic to the last, Knight said "Well, I'm a strong believer in giving everyone a chance at Test level...." With hindsight, I think Nick Knight must have thought I said James Vince, but anyway I think our present Head Selector has had far too many chances!
Jonathan Trott is here acting as U-19 coach, as is Jeetan Patel, and the small number of kiwi fans here - attendance 430 - seemed rather vexed to see Jeetan wearing an England shirt!
On the other side of the pond a one day series has been going on. The only 'Sky' available at the airport hotels was 'above us, only' as John Lennon would say, so we missed the first two games. However, we were able to watch the third match on Sunday night almost in its entirety. A great win to go three up in the series. Congratulations to Eoin Morgan and the boys on a very impressive performance. Clearly Bayliss' coaching ability must be totally aligned to one day cricket.
The highlight of the game for me was Jos Buttler's 'catch' to dismiss the fidgeter. To all intents and purposes the ball looked to have touched the ground as Buttler gathered it in, but to our astonishment the third umpire gave it out. Smith grumbled and moaned all the way back to the pavilion, and the send off he got from Lofty via the TV set would have prompted an ICC complaint in other circumstances.
There were a lot of words beginning with the letter 'f' excluding 'fidgeter'.
This week I have tried to visit the superb Frankton swimming centre early most mornings. This allows me to exercise for my diabetic routine (and drink beer later with a clearer conscience). In addition, my absence allows Lofty the lie in he craves most days.
Today was a real eye-opener. The etiquette of swimming is the same the world over. Choose a lane to match your speed ( for me, slow) and swim up and down in a clockwise fashion. There is even a sign for the hard of thinking to explain this. It is early Monday morning, and almost all the occupants of the pool are members of the Darby & Joan club.
As I am swimming my first length, an old kiwi bloke swims backstroke right into me on the wrong side of the lane. I stopped and mentioned he was on the wrong side. His response:
"Well I'm not moving. I'm staying where I am. I WAS HERE FIRST!"
I just wasn't in the mood to play silly buggers.
"You don't own the pool you know - you daft old sod!"
On discussing this confrontation later with the lifeguard, a lad from Birmingham, the reason for the nonsense became clearer.
"They are spoiled here mate. Its never that busy and they usually get a lane to themselves. If someone else goes in their lane, they can get a bit shitty and do daft things to try to make you swim in another lane. You should have reported him to me!"
No need mate. I think he got the message loud and clear from me. Why are some elderly people so f*cking awkward and grumpy?? Pleasing to see the UK doesn't have a monopoly on idiots.
Tuesday the 23rd of January. A day that will live in infamy, this time in Midnights holiday diary. It all started so well. An U-19 World Cup quarter final at the lovely Queenstown ground. England v Australia. The junior convicts elected to bat first, and as we baked on the grass banks, England skittled them for 127 in just 33 overs. We then batted after a ten minute break and reached 47 without loss in no time. Guess who won?
Well, I'm sure you know by now.
The young Australian spinner Lloyd Pope took 8-35 and to think, an hour earlier I had been joking about him having his own group called 'The Commotions'. Fool You Are, Midnight. After watching England lose all ten wickets for just 49 runs I was in no mood to watch the presentation.
After we got back to our hotel, things got even better.
Backing our car out of the underground cark park in my shades to go for a swim, I failed to spot the empty bay wall behind me. The wall moved too fast for me and.......prang.
My wallet experienced an instant sharp, stabbing pain.
My horror at seeing the amount of damage versus the actual low speed of impact has turned me grey.
Nevertheless, I thought, nobody is hurt, and the car is still driveable although Lofty will be cross.
I'll carry on up to Frankton for my swim anyway.
So who is in the pool?
Only the entire Australia U-19 squad larging it up, plus later the local swimming lane 'owner' referred to above, doing the same old backstroke trick to clear HIS lane. Silly of me not to remember the pool is next to the cricket ground, I've been up there often enough. In the changing rooms one of the young Aussies saw my 'England Cricket' towel and attempted to console me.
"Never mind mate. At least you will be able to enjoy Queenstown for a little longer!"
He meant for the seventh and eighth place playoff game - and actually I think he was being sincere. My response was harsh but true:
"No way mate. We are going to Christchurch this weekend to support whoever is playing you!"
All in all a day to forget as soon as possible.
I think England must be cursed in World Cup Cricket competitions.
To finish on a positive note - after much digging I found that last years New Zealand car excess policy hasn't expired yet.