Sri Lanka Tour 2018
Saint’s Birthday Test Win in Galle – it’s all about me!
November 1st/2nd 2018
With a skip in our steps (and Derby Skip’s company) we are off to Heathrow to meet up with Tremmers and Freddie for this much-anticipated trip to one of my favourite places anywhere. Sri Lanka, and specifically Galle/Unawatuna.
Direct flight with Sri Lankan Airlines – Skip and I have debated about upgrading to Business Class as he has a bad knee, I am a lazy git, and we are both reasonably flush at present.
We make a bid – not enough – back to steerage class for us with the other common people.
Pretty good flight. Arrive in Colombo, and glad to see no obvious signs of the monsoons that washed through the ODI series. We are also delighted to be greeted by our driver holding up a very welcome sign saying ‘Addis Army’, which we then put in the front of our ‘official’ minibus.
After traffic across Colombo, we zoom (well, I say ‘zoom’, in effect we pootled along at the 50mph Minibus speed-restrictor rate) down the very nice toll road and arrive at Hikkaduwa. I’d not been here before but we are right on the beach in a nice small friendly hotel, and we are greeted by a marvellous sunset.
Slight numbers issue. Freddie and Tremmers booked after us and asked for a ‘twin’ as their relationship has (so far) remained platonic. As happens many times away from the UK, a double bed is what they have, not two singles. However, the owner – the very helpful and friendly Siri – quickly finds another room free and we are all ensconced happily. We look down the beach and see lights all along. Bar/restaurants abound, but look laid-back, not blaring out ‘tunes’. Yes, I have got a bit old...
We bimble along to the first one (Budde’s) and have an excellent Sri Lankan Curry and Rice, with a few Lion beers. Five O appears to join us, and we talk of tours gone by, and cabbages and kings. As we were very comfortable, we decide to move along the beach another 20 yards to the next bar – Chillspace. Here we are charged twice the rate of where we were, but it’s still all very acceptable. And so to bed.
November 3rd 2018
We wake to a breakfast of... hold on a minute... Skip, Freddie, and Tremmers have set me up so I have a pineapple salad on my plate. This dates back to our standard running joke from previous Sri Lankan tours. The locals are always eager to please and accommodating but often the language barrier means that what you thought you were getting, ends up being, well, a pineapple salad.
An omelette then appears and the sea and beach are looking lovely. A swim is required. The beach shelves quite sharply so there are short but very powerful waves and a strong undertow. Tremmers and Freddie reappear some way down the beach having been knocked over three times each. I then do the same. Lovely and refreshing though.
My good friend from back home, who I go to West Ham United games with, is Jack (son of Herbie of first Addis Army Tour fame). He is starting a proper adventure as he’s quit his job, got a year’s work permit in Convictland, and is travelling there via the cricket in Sri Lanka and a full tour of the island, thence on to Bali for three weeks, and then to Sydney. He has three mates with him who have come for a holiday and to send him off.
They must have Addis Army Tour names so after much discussion and ideas (mainly from Skip) it is decided as follows:
Johnny who is freaked out by all the wildlife at their inland abode, is of course – Johnny Morris (from Animal Magic)
Johnny from Peterborough is obviously POSH
Felix is easy – Bagpuss!
Budde’s Bar: We dine well again and the Lion beers flow. Tango PC Tintin Tom and Tufty arrive. More beers.
Skip has found a massage place along the beach which he has booked in for an hour at 4pm. I am approached by a chap who asks if I also would like a massage. I said Skip had just booked and gestured towards the hut. ‘But that is with man – you want man or lady Sir?’. ‘Oh, lady please!’. I will arrange for 6pm. I won’t go into the full details but a short tuc tuc ride to a ‘spa/massage’ establishment later, I meet said lady and have a very pleasant massage. If you must know, yes, I did invest in a ‘joyful conclusion’ which put a spring in my step. My little diversion over, I return to the group.
It’s Saturday, where can we watch the footie? We hear of Sam’s Bar. This is still within 50 yards, and just up on the road. We can’t believe our luck in everything being so close to hand. A bunch from Bolton amuse us as the eldest (a Man City fan) winds up the younger 3 (Man Utd & Arsenal) getting them all quite agitated. People-watching – it’s great isn’t it.
November 4th 2018
An ongoing issue appears to be with getting tickets. The Sri Lankan Cricket Board had decided to market it through a corporate event type mob which had produced the ridiculous £50 a day seating prices, and seemingly no option at all for the cheap grass banks. Just before the Test they realised that not enough had been sold, and sacked that company for a ticketmaster type mob who now had offers for £22 a day seats or £1.30 a day on the grass banks. Unfortunately, those of us built for comfort (like me) were too late for the seats but Skip was diligent in securing at least the cheap entry option for many of us.
November the 5th 2018 – Bonfire Night!
Nice brekkie and we say farewell to Siri and our splendid little hotel in Hikkaduwa (Blue Ocean Villas). Tuc tuc with bags for me and Skip to Hikkaduwa station. We purchase two 2nd class tickets to Galle for the extortionate price of about 40p each.
The train is slightly late – I’m guessing not to do with leaves on the line – and in clanks the magnificent old engine. We have to shuffle along the platform to the second class end, and with all the windows open I hear a cry of ‘Hello Fred’ (Fred is my normal – non-Addis name back home) and see the smiling face of Nick from St Clements Strollers CC, one of our friendly opponents back in Oxford. He’s been on the train since Colombo and has a seat! Have a quick chat and then scurry off to get on the train as it’s about to chuff off.
I love Sri Lankan trains, Skip delights in hanging out of the door waving at the railway children as we pass, he says he thought he saw a young Jenny Agutter. At Galle station we find a tuc tuc driver in the melee who agrees to go to the ground with us and wait while we get tickets, before taking us on to Unawatuna. Skip has been very team-spirited and ordered ten tickets online for various Addis Army types for some of the first three days. There is a big queue, I decide to ‘supervise’ by sitting in the tuc tuc, guarding our bags, and chatting to our driver – Sham – and having a very important smoke.
Somehow Skip has wormed his way through a side door and produces tickets. We’re off! Bedspace Beach Hotel in Unawatuna is excellent, and we arrange to be picked up for cricket by Sham in the morning. We get in touch with Tremmers, Freddie, PC Tintin, and Tufty and meet for drinks and chat in Hot Rock, which is (you guessed it) 50 yards away from our hotel. Five O has his Grumpy Jack the Taff in tow but his mate Barry is a very erudite chap who is good company. All seems pretty sorted and we arrange to meet in the morning. Tintin and Tufty are going for the fort (as I did 4 years ago), and the rest of us are on the grass banks. The heavens open, and a proper tropical storm is upon us. Coming down like stair-rods. We wonder about whether play will start tomorrow, and then remember previous Asian tours where they’ve managed to get games on remarkably quickly from what seemed like critical weather situations.
November 6th 2018
First day of the Test!
Sham the Tuc is there waiting for us, I have eggs benedict and Skip has a pile of pancakes with cream and sauces – the diet starts when he gets back apparently...
Still a bit damp in the air, but that lovely ‘post-rain’ tropical smell which suggests it’ll be warm and a bit humid. We manage to just make it in for the first ball, and start wandering round to find Tremmers and Freddie who are, as usual, there well before us. As we are passing behind the sight screen we spot them on the bank, but Skip’s eyes are on the row of nice plastic seats on our right which currently have smartly dressed Police Officers sat along them in a line. What Skip has spotted is an empty chair in their midst – he gestures to his knee and mimes a large antelope with joint problems – the Police usher him to his seat. Result! Tintin and Tufty are up on the fort. Nick from Oxford doesn’t need the ticket we put by for him as he just walked in with no problems at 9am! We pass the word around.
We have won the toss and are batting.
Burns and Jennings looked decent, but then...
Burns unluckily strangled, then our new saviour at number 3 – Moeen, is clean bowled first ball – it may have swung a bit but...
The Sri Lankan authorities seemed to have arranged loads of fireworks that were attached to the Galle Fort Wall, which also had many unsuspecting English Cricket fans – including some Addis Army types – and with Herath having his last Test and passing various records, very loud explosions kept coming over – it must have been like Army training up on the wall. One explosion came just as the bowler let go, and I’m not sure what would have happened if Jennings hadn’t blocked it.
Anyway, a somewhat familiar collapse to 103 for 5 at lunch.
We shift about a bit to ease grass-bank aches and numbness. Skip updates us on his new friends in the Galle Police. The Derbyshire Blagger is doing very well!
After lunch Buttler and new-boy Foakes give a master class in studied and assured batting. Great to witness and rescued our innings from a very muddy position.
321-8 at close.
PC Tintin should be mentioned here. He has the most ridiculous straggly ginger beard now. It makes him look even more dodgy than he did before, I can only hope that Tractor manages to put pressure on the boy to get him presentable again – I mean we can’t have him in group photos at the moment, GCHQ will be all over us.
Anyhow, we called him down off the fort as we now had a spare ticket. As we went in he was hiding a bottle of rum – ‘Why?’ I said. ‘There’s beer in the ground’. We soon lost him and he was later spotted in Mama’s Rooftop inside the Fort Town completely spangled. Again.
Had a sundowner or five in Hot Rock and all were merry and full of humour. Saw the splendid Clarky of Corridor of Uncertainty fame and booked a fanzine and shirt (chubby chappy size) from him. He is on good form though now afflicted by Parkinsons (he okayed us writing this) and is a fine example of a very good bloke not letting adversity get in the way. I salute you Sir!
November 7th, 2018
We are up and at ‘em for the start on our bit of the grass bank. Skip has played a blinder as the single row of plastic seats that the Police use, which he blagged yesterday on account of his poorly knee, has a space WHICH THEY HAVE RESERVED FOR HIM! He is as happy as a pig in pooh as he is amongst other, um, porcine (allegedly) individuals... We slap on the suncream and see the very impressive Ben Foakes get his hundred. Excellent effort, he and Buttler have rescued us from severe bother. 342 All Out on this sort of pitch is certainly well above par we reckon.
We then see our bowlers gird their loins and steadily tuck into the Sri Lankan batsmen. We eventually get them all out for just 203, and bat out to close on 38 for 0.
All this in the company of Freddie, Tremmers and Ash. Ash is a friend of Tremmers who I’d met once before. His ongoing whimsical wittering, and philosophising, were a delight for the whole tour. We decided to call him ‘Die Back’ as in Ash Die Back.
A very good day’s cricket in good company.
Skip has been chatting on his posh row of Police seats to a chap called ‘Marcus’. Who appears to be a banker (in many ways) and one who wants to be ‘one of the lads’.
They have decided we should try a swankier hotel restaurant a bit further along the coast – the Wajiya.
We get there and it appears to be where the ‘in-crowd’ of well moneyed hang out. There’s room on tables outside. Stroudy (who has travelled up from Australia) is with us and feeling truly local most of us order pizzas!
These, if not Sri Lankan in origin, are very good, and we stay for more beer, although are encouraged inside by a bit of rain. Now I start to get a bit twitchy, the music is getting a bit ‘trendy’ and there are far too many ‘well-bred’ types around for my liking. Marcus the Twat is saying ‘come along the beach, it’s only 100 yards to this quiet bar, and if it’s shut I have a fridge full of beer at my place 50 yards further on’.
I’m not keen but the consensus is let’s go. It’s dark, we can’t see much, but light on the water and surf is very pleasing on the eye. Underfoot not so good though, and as I’d feared Marcus the Twat doesn’t seem to know where the hell he is going. We clamber over rocks in the dark with the tide coming in, Ash with his army training is getting protective of us all, and my mood is getting darker than the sky.
We find a place lit up with a nice garden and Marcus the Twat and Skip go on in and sit down. A group of English people wait 30 seconds watching Marcus wander around looking for the bar.
“Can we help you?” they say
“Yes, I’m trying to get to the bar”
“This is our apartment” they say...
Further down the beach in the dark we traipse. After more and more of nothing I stamp my little feet, and stop by a house, as does Skip.
Ash, Stroudy, and Freddie, go along with the Twat, and Ash has promised a torch signal if we are to follow or not.
An old local smackhead then appears from a side-path and starts asking Skip and I for money, we decide to bin it and try to find the road and a tuc tuc. This we do and our ketamined companion slopes off. We are trying to find a tuc tuc on a quiet road, and then see Ash. He is happy as he thinks Freddy and Stroudy are doing likewise. We managed to flag a tuc tuc and zoom along, there is Freddie by the road with (I thought) Stroudy. We shout out “get the next one” as we are already 3 squeezed in the back. We get to Hot Rock and are happy to have a beer in familiar and friendly surroundings. 10 minutes later Freddie arrives, he is not happy. Apparently he was on his own and thought we’d just deserted him. Shit. We all look at each other trying to explain our Un-Addis behaviour. Ash goes back to explain, and we suggest offering him Pringles as though that would help.
November 8th (My Birthday!)
My first birthday away for 15 years, and it’s a lovely morning in Unawatuna. Birthday poached eggs arrive (I photograph these and send on to Tremmers as he still can’t get poached eggs – he is strangely not happy for me...).
We’ve got tickets for the first 3 days only and as there are so many supporters, and the Test looks like being a good one, we know we have to try to get tickets for tomorrow (officially they are all sold out). The wonder that is Ash leaps to the rescue, and with Welsh Wayne in tow they go around and queue and bargain with touts outside the ticket office. After coming back to get our agreement on the prices agreed, they take our cash so as to settle up and buy them – a round trip of about a mile – bless ‘em!
Jennings gets a ton as we stretch our lead very nicely. Stokes has a good blast too. Sri Lanka survive 30 minutes tough batting after we’ve declared.
Various Addis types under the supervision of Skip are joining me for a birthday meal at the Bed Space Restaurant. Smithy and Mrs S are there to wish me well and say happy birthday. Five O, Young Jack and the 3 youths, Freddie, Skip, Tremmers, Five O, Stroudy and more are there – twenty in all.
Unfortunately one of these people is Marcus the Banking Berk from last night’s ‘follow me chaps’ beach disaster.
I welcome all and thank them for coming in what I can only describe as a heart-warming and rousing speech of gratitude – except for Marcus, I added.
Skip had somehow wangled a cake which came out and I had a chance to blow out the candles and wish for an England victory (you see, I do love a happy ending...)
The Heavens have opened again and it gets a bit rivery underfoot. Much entertainment was had getting into tuc tucs and weaving along roads that were now streams, and we finished with a few nightcaps in Hot Rock. A very good birthday.
November 9th 2018
I wake feeling not too bad considering the drink taken, and breakfast and off in Sham’s tuc-tuc with Skip, but I know that I have a problem. The happiness of yesterday has obviously set the wheels of karma in motion and I am stricken with severe trouble with my Chalfonts/Farmers/Nobbys. I’ll spell it out P I L E S!
Strewth they are hurting. I last 40 minutes on the bank muttering swearwords under my breath then give up. I tuc tuc back to the hotel dreading every pothole… I won’t paint a picture or provide a photograph, but let it be known that I applied the relevant ointment and then positioned myself in an ungainly position on the bed with the air-con on full cool-blast at the affected area. I was still able to watch the cricket on the telly though (under my armpit) so kept up with play. When the pains had subsided enough, I braved it back in for the afternoon session to enjoy an excellent victory.
We’ve batted and bowled well in a tough setting, a truly great England away win.
We celebrate with beers over at Mamas Rooftop to celebrate the win, but also where Tufty is to be ‘tried’ for failing to turn up at an official ‘Addis Army’ event (my birthday), and instead getting smashed with a fellow wurzel and falling around singing drivel at the Barmy Army Party.
Unfortunately the defendant was drunk and uncooperative, prosecution counsel, defence, witnesses and all were a rabble so court adjourned as a farce.
Back to Unawatuna and Hot Rock where we share some drinks with my work colleague Mandy who’s over with her other half and two others. Good laugh over a few drinks, though we had learned by now that G&Ts take ten minutes longer than anything else – we think they have to go somewhere else to get it!
November 10th 2018
As the Test finished a day early, we treat ourselves to a lazy day on the beach. A couple of swims, some sunbathing, some food, and some card-sharp behaviour with young Jack. He teaches us UNO and proceeds to wipe the floor with us, though Freddie and I at least win a few hands, whereas Skip...
Evening eating is planned but we also fancy watching the England v All Blacks Rugby (and Jack and I want to know about WHAM at Huddersfield!)
We get conflicting advice from people so Tremmers puts on his ‘Man of Adventure’ expression and strides into the night. A while later he tells us he’s found what we want. A bar called ‘Box’. We start walking in the general direction that he’d gone. Lots of bars, hotels, and restaurants. None called Box.
We ask tuc tuc drivers and others – blank looks. We wander off down side-alleys until purely by chance we find him. He’s at the ‘Bilox’ bar in the Hotel Calamander – sorry chaps he says, looked like Box to me!
The big screen is however showing a South Africa v All Blacks game from ages before. A bit non-plussed we try wifi on the phones. Young Jack manages to get West Ham on 4G – oh dear, one nil down! Then an English voice over the microphone – “I’ve got a stream for the rugby on my laptop, but can’t put it on the screen unless everyone else comes out of wifi”. We all do so and hey presto – the game comes on. Well done that man! We’ve all had sporadic dinners at different times as the place is too full for the staff to cope, but still a good night.
We all wish Young Jack the very best on his adventures, and that’s that really. Home tomorrow.
Each of us would happily have stayed on and gone up to Kandy, sadly, Freddie, Skip, and I had commitments at home so had to leave.
Thanks again Addis Army friends for being a fine eclectic bunch of frankly decent people.
Thank you Sri Lanka and your people for making me love you as much as I ever have.
Thank you England Cricket Team – you can be a good mistress at times!