New Zealand Tour 2019
No Room for Racism (or the Hundred)
Kia Ora readers.
At first glance, the itinerary for this tour looked disappointing, even for an addictive Kiwi visitor like myself. Just two Test matches - one of which is at Hamilton, whose parochiality and lack of attractions make it just about the only town in New Zealand without its own fridge magnet.
No one day internationals, which were the highlight of our last visit in 2018. Instead, five T20 matches alternating between South and North Islands, which would mean travelling up and down like a yoyo to attend them all. A quite ludicrous piece of planning, which no doubt the woeful ECB played their full part in, but I am not prepared to slavishly follow.
At the end of the day any excuse to leave Brexit behind for a few weeks must be grasped at as a drowning man would a rope, so off to the travel agent I trotted to book my flight. Another unwelcome surprise. For the first time, a Visa will be required to enter my favourite country! Initially, I assumed that the shooting outrage at the Christchurch Mosques might have been the driver for this tougher entry requirement. Then I learned that Australians are the only nation exempt from the new arrangements which, given the perpetrator of the Mosque atrocities was a convict (he is a very long term one, now) blew that particular theory out of the water.
No. The official reason is somewhat more mundane - the $47 visa fee will be put towards the upkeep of New Zealand's public toilets!! Making the tourists pay for processing their own excrement....sounds to me like they are taking the piss!
Five O, who will be joining me later for the two Test matches, must be planning to do a lot of sitting down over the bowl on this trip to get maximum Visa value. After I tipped him off about the Visa requirement, he was so keen to get one that he applied online before the 'new' ETA website became active.
"I know a Government web site when I see one!" Five - O crossly told me, when I suggested he might have been scammed, but he has somehow acquired what can only be a residential or employment visa, at a cost of much hassle and over two hundred dollars!
You will need three weeks of diahorrea to get your moneys worth for that mate, but hey, shit happens!
At last the 28th of October, my day of departure, dawned.
As I sat in the lounge at Manchester Airport I was quite astonished by the sheer number of Klopp's Scouse Schutzstaffel troops returning to their homes in Germany after the Liverpool v Spurs game over the weekend.
One particularly gormless specimen wearing a red Liverpool puffer jacket got up and left the lounge for his flight to Munich. I noticed he had left a rather expensive looking pair of wireless headphones behind on his table. Helpfully, I informed the lounge staff of this. After he was safely in transit to the boarding gate, of course! The irony of this guy leaving Liverpool with all his possessions intact then losing them in a Manchester airport lounge didn't escape me.
My own fun and games started at Frankfurt, where due to fog the plane from Manchester landed late. This meant the connection to Singapore was hanging on the last minute, but the internal security staff within Frankfurt airport were also painfully slow and when my turn finally came, they insisted on dissecting my hand luggage.
As I finally ran for the gate, I was at first refused boarding until the desk staff had seen documentary proof of my New Zealand entry visa - Five O, you have been warned!
After all the hiatus, a pleasant enough eleven hour flight to Singapore was followed by a five hour wait at the airport for my Auckland flight. Then, another nine hours in the air, followed by a two hour wait at Auckland for my flight to Wellington. My hand luggage had been violated so many times, I felt like a multiple stop and search victim.
Whichever way you do it, travelling to New Zealand is a bloody slog!
Having been in Wellington now for a couple of days and almost over the jet lag, a few observations. My base for the week is the Thorndon Rydges Hotel, not perfect but a nice mid-range gaff in a great location. Last time I stayed here, there were two earthquakes registering 3 and 4 on the Richter scale which made Sky News. The Chinese lad on reception has kindly installed me on the 9th floor, which is at the very top. So if we have another quake during the next week, I'm probably gonna die.
If you do manage to survive the night here, the breakfasts are great, with the best black pudding I've eaten outside Lancashire.
Although the cricket season here is in full swing, and the sun is shining, it is remarkably cold and windy. Equivalent to April / May at home in fact so maybe I shouldn't be too surprised, hopefully this experience will stand me in good stead for the shambolic County Championship next season, if the early fixture projections are to be believed.
I understand that SEVEN championship matches may need to be completed by each county by the 25th of May.
If this is true, then it adds up to a betrayal of our proud County game by the buffoons at the ECB. A Hundred pieces of silver. Hang your heads in shame you avaricious clowns.
The batsman currently making the headlines in New Zealand may be unfamiliar to most of you. Devon Conway, who plays for Wellington, has just compiled 327 not out against Canterbury at the Basin Reserve. Yet another South African playing out time in New Zealand until he is eligible for selection into the Black Caps squad next September.
The Dominion Post reckon DC is a shoe in for the International side in due course, but until then, Devon Conway sounds to me like the ideal sort of player for the Welsh Fire Hundred team to recruit.
With a name like Devon Conway, bridge building to counter the enmity between between Somerset and Glamorgan must be practically a given - what do you think, Tremers, Wayne and Five - O? I'm surprised Welsh Fire have not already got him on a plane!
The International T20 series starts on Friday at Christchurch but if my experiences so far with Maori drivers is anything to go by, I shall be lucky to survive long enough to see any of if.
Having almost been killed twice today by cars with huge, grinning, tattooed musclemen behind the wheel, unlike our ridiculously PC British Government I shall not be endorsing any belated apologies for alleged colonial misdeeds towards the Maori in the past by hero navigator James Cook.
In fact at this point, in this blog, the British Empire Strikes Back.
These people are the worst drivers I have ever come across. Highway Cops and Motorway Patrol do not do it justice with their TV stereotypes - drinking and driving appears to be perfectly acceptable, if Captain Cook had landed with a few crates of Steinlager instead of muskets to back him up, all would have probably gone swimmingly well. Indicators on their cars appear to be an optional extra, judging by their lack of use. They seem to be exceptional at ignoring the conventions and codes that most sensible road users have to abide by. I cannot wait to leave the city traffic and get out onto the open road to Napier next week, maybe I had better make sure my colonial attitudes are packed firmly away in the boot!
At last Friday came. And as if in response to my comments above, at breakfast the Dominion Post 'Opinion' column contained outrageous anti - English sentiments that started out as humorous banter about the English reaction to the haka before last weeks World Cup rugby, but evolved into a scurrilous assault on our country - insulting, offensive tripe bordering on racism.
All by a journalist called Rosemary McLeod.
I almost choked on my black pudding when I read her following comments, which are quoted verbatim:
"I feel like that about ignorant Poms who still think England rules the world and the world should be grateful, who think they did this country a favour when they planted their flag and began ripping off Maori, just as they'd ripped off the native people of every country they took over at gunpoint. Wherever the English went racism went, and the wounds are still bleeding. They did nobody a favour but themselves however pompously they might claim otherwise. It was only ever about money and power; theirs. It was a hunt for resources to enrich the old country and deplete the new....."
And so it went on. Notice the consistent reference to just the English, rather than any other constituent parts of our beloved British Union?
Some perceptive readers may have detected the odious whiff of Scottish skullduggery given this 'journalists' name and attitude - I certainly did, especially in the evident persecution complex - and after having had to listen to that self-righteous, bloated windbag Blackford droning on in the Commons for the last two years like a faulty set of bagpipes, I had finally reached snapping point.
A swift phone call to the Dominion Post threatening referral of a complaint to the New Zealand Media Council brought an even swifter return call from the editor, himself a pleasant Englishman.
Whilst backing his journalist, he accepted why I was offended and was also pragmatic enough to concede that his paper might indeed receive quite a number of complaints about this piece.
I asked him about the background to this diatribe.
"Do I get the impression that Rosemary McLeod is yet another Scottish lady with an axe to grind?"
This was answered in the affirmative.
"Nicely balanced then" I said. "A deep fried chip on each shoulder!"
The editor offered to publish any response I submitted on their letters page. I don't know whether I will follow that through but I'm not prepared to digest such drivel with my breakfast and I hope that message got through.
All allegedly inspired by a sodding game of rugby, for Gawds sake!
In the morning, a bus ride up to Mount Victoria Lookout, a pilgrimage that has to be undertaken each time I visit this lovely city, then a walk back down, past the Welsh Dragon Bar, which advertises itself as 'The Only Welsh Bar in the Southern Hemisphere'.
I bet the Welsh Fire Hundred games will be televised live in there next year, and as the premises were formerly used as a public convenience the entry fee will probably be $47!
I hope someone has told Jonny Bairstow about this place as he will probably be eligible for a supply of free Brains beer whilst in Wellington!
My mornings strenuous exercise was followed followed by live tv cricket from Christchurch as the Black Caps took on England's B Team.
No Archer, Buttler, Root, Roy or Stokes here in New Zealand for this series.
Presumably they are being rested for more important competitions like the Hundred.
I had hoped that one or both of the new Manchester Originals Local Icons would play, but it wasn't to be.
Looks like they are here as Manchester Original Iconic Isotonic Drinkscarriers instead!
Despite the lack of 'England stars' a decent crowd turned up to see an unexciting, routine victory for England. New Zealand batted first and got off to a stodgy start, and despite a decent stand at the end of their innings their total of 153-5 was never going to be enough on a small ground like Christchurch.
England chased down the runs easily thanks to Welsh Fire's own 'Ginger Druid' Jonny Bairstow, and later a fine knock by the much maligned James Vince, Local Icon of the Southern Brave.
Nasser Hussein was on commentary when Vince went to fifty and he made me laugh out loud:
"You just wont get ugly runs. You will never see James Vince score unattractive runs....."
He's not like you then is he, Nasser?
Personally, I'm just happy to see James Vince score ANY fucking runs!!
I watched the game in The Office in Newtown, near the Basin Reserve.
I know this place is well remembered by many previous Addis tourists, The Blades, Lofty, Five - O, Higgy, Martin, Tremers and Wayne to name those I recall.
I'm sad to report that this once nice, cosy little pub has now degenerated into a low life gambling den with a bar, and I will not be returning in a hurry, even though some might say I would not be distinguishable from the locals.
The weekend promised a sporting feast. Sunday, the T20 at the Westpac. Before that, on Saturday night, the Rugby World Cup Final. I am not usually a rugby fan but fired up by the words of Blackford and Rosemary McLeod I determined to go and support the England boys.
Over here, the game would not start till 10pm, so plenty of time to kill before kick off.
The prospect of watching a superannuated Terminator annihilating the human race whilst astride a mobility scooter has always intrigued me, so I tried to get into the early evening showing of 'Terminator : Dark Fate' at the Embassy Theatre. Amazingly, the place was already sold out. So I went instead for an ethnic Chinese meal in the nearby Peking Court. The decor was great, the staff courteous and attentive, but unfortunately the food was shite. At least on this occasion, however, PC Tintin was not on location to make a movie of the event.
The starter for the sporting feast was equally disappointing. I watched the game in a great pub called Backbenchers, directly opposite the Parliament building. The TV screen was bracketed by two life size All Black satirical puppets, Lomu and Umaga I think. When the game started England were outplayed from the off and never got going in truth. All very dispiriting but congratulations to South Africa. Most of the locals were sympathetic but there was the customary village idiot shouting nonsense throughout which spoiled the enjoyment for all, so much so that the Kiwi family I was sat with actually felt the need to apologise for their disgustingly drunken countryman.
This is the earliest in the season that I have ever stayed in New Zealand and I'm struggling to cope with the wild temperature swings in Wellington according to the force of the wind. After one week though, there has not been a drop of rain, and on the day of the T20 the sun broke through in all its glory, giving us one of those golden Kiwi days that keep me returning. I had arranged to meet Silver Dave's son Nick today and he brought his own son Cooper, who is eleven, to enjoy the baseball.
The Westpac holds 32,000 and was by no means full, but judging by the number of kids in attendance all kitted out in Black Caps gear I think it bodes well for the future of New Zealand cricket. A family day out - no need for a ludicrous additional competition when the existing one works perfectly well. ECB please note.
Nick is a sporting compendium and knows many sports stars personally, ranging from Nicky Clee (Ashton United left back) to cricketers like Jesse Ryder, Grant Elliott, and Jeetan Patel.
The tall tales started as soon as we met up and I particularly liked a story about Jeetan Patel who, whilst in the Westpac as a spectator, threw a pie at one of the hapless security stewards. Obviously, this happened before his International call up, but I have never really thought of Jeetan as a pie - chucker!
Analysis of the baseball is probably redundant, but I can say that if the Southern Brave Hundred franchise has native American backers, then they have surely found their very own Big Chief Iron Hands in local icon James Vince. He dropped three sitters, attracting much derision from the crowd in the process.
Trent Rockets David Malan, meanwhile, offered a damp squib of his own in shelling another sitter late in the innings.
Iconic bowlers Brown and Mahmood both had off days and New Zealand managed to score 176-8 which amazingly, some thought well below par.
Not with England B chasing, it isn't!
Bairstow 'The Ginger Druid' holed out first ball, perhaps I shouldn't have told him about that Welsh Bar. It looked like he couldn't wait to get there.
James Vince then added to his not very iconic day by giving it away for 1, England 3-2 off just 1.2 overs.
The game was all but lost by this time although there were valiant knocks by Morgan, Jordan and Malan, who actually succeeded in hitting the ball out of the stadium - a home run is no mean feat here!
New Zealand won by 21 runs, but in reality who bloody cares? We were regally entertained throughout, with loads of sixes in the pleasant sunshine, some good banter, and all in all a much more fun game than the encounter at Christchurch looked. Series level.
Now, a surprise for all attendees at the last Christchurch Test. Remember the English guy that was dragged screaming off the grass bank and ejected from the ground in his cups? Well, he was here again today with a few of his classy mates, throwing back the lager whilst dressed in an England shirt and St Georges flag.
Each time England hit a boundary he was on his feet, gesticulating, staring wildly round for anyone to dare to challenge him.....despite the average age in his crowd area was probably 12.
What a complete prick.
Worse was to come as we exited the ground in an orderly mass movement for the exit. A group of little Inglunders emerged from the stands as if they were Millwall fans challenging West Ham, singing hostile football songs and in summary completely misreading the nature of the result, and the day out itself.
The shame. Rosemary McLeod was probably onto something after all judging by the conduct of these twats. Cape Town is probably their next stop, I'll wager. I don't think I will bother.
Before I go get well wishes to Silver Dave, who I gather is having the knee operation redone next Tuesday - Dave, I will call you from Taupo next weekend to see how its gone. And not forgetting Glenn Maxwell. A great servant for Lancs last season, not sure what ails you buddy but get well soon. You certainly are not the first to develop mental issues after a stint at Old Trafford and that goes for some of the supporters too.
A curry has been organised for tomorrow night, my last in Wellington, involving the legendary Nae Nae crew when I understand the legends that are Baz and Block will be in attendance, but that will have to wait until the next update.
The demanding Addis Army editor needs his New Zealand fix tonight.
I wouldn't mind, but he's not even covering my expenses for this trip!