Sri Lanka Tour 2012
"Ripping Yarns from Colombo"
As we prepare to leave our Galle Hotel various reports reach us concerning a minor miracle involving Mr Blade on the night of Herbie’s birthday party.
Staggering drunkenly around the dark side streets of Unawatoona at 5 am, he had ‘come a cropper’.
Eyewitness Tufty Wurzel explains thus:
“I saw him lean on the fence, then it gave way and he fell headlong into the sewage drain at the side of the road. I thought it was a broken leg, or ankle for sure, and hospital, but 30 seconds later he climbs out of the ditch like Lazarus with no broken bones and carries on singing.”
God smiles on the righteous, eh? Even convicts!
As we check out at reception I see a copy of the Sri Lankan News which carries a full front page spread about Manchester City and how they are heading for a well-deserved Premiership Title. For a brief instant, I imagine a sinister and dark finger of cloud stretching from the Gulf of Arabia to Sri Lanka – like the tentacles of a rabid, evil octopus – but my reverie is rudely interrupted by Giles Clarke arriving at the desk.
“ Harrumph. Room 15. I’d like you assemble my bill”.
I later discover that the copy of the Sri Lankan News I had been reading was the Second edition.
An incident free journey to Colombo follows, although Herbie treats me to a stream of abuse similar to that from a demented Chucky doll when I inform him that unlike West Ham, we are staying at the “Premier” wing of our hotel.
When we arrive at the hotel, Herbie gets to work. A plethora of gadgets are plugged in.
Problems have occurred with his latest UK development – an amusement arcade in Gateshead - which need his full & urgent attention, and our room soon resembles a Business Centre, resonating to the bleeps of incoming calls, text messages and e-mails, which arrive with grim regularity - accompanied by wails of foul, cursing invective from Herbie.
On our second day in Colombo we travel to Mount Lavinia where the rest of the Gippo / Wurzel gang and the returning PC Tintin & Tractor are squatting.
Drinks, and a less-than-enjoyable Chinese meal, are partaken of.
I’m sure PC Tintin must be a fluent Mandarin speaker, as every time I go for a Chinese meal with this guy it ends in disaster. I bet he nips into the kitchen before the order is placed, whispering in the Chef’s ear like Hannibal Lecter:
“See that fat, bald Manc over there? Make sure his starter doesn’t arrive. If he orders anything with chicken in it, just make sure he only gets the skin”.
Needless to say, the ba$tard does it again here.
When we get back to our hotel at midnight I decide to satisfy my hunger by descending to the bar until 2.30 am to drink several pints of Guinness and watch football.
Probably not the best preparation for tomorrows first day’s cricket at an unknown ground, where chaos is widely expected.
Day 1 of the Test
We arrive at the P Sara Oval by tuk-tuk at 9am and it is indeed, chaos.
The ground is 20 minutes away from our hotel and about 45 minutes away from Mount Lavinia where the Gippo/ Wurzel caravans are illegally parked up.
The ground is situated in the middle of a shanty-town and has clearly seen better days.
On gaining entry – we have reluctantly bought tickets for the first three days only – I take a walk round the perimeter.
The white main stand you see on TV is like the “The Auld Empty Barn “from ‘Dads Army’ – just a frontage, with nothing in it, concrete and asbestos cladded sides and roof and with piles of festering rubbish and debris everywhere.
The toilets consist of a Nissen hut with an asbestos roof and the ‘number two ‘booth is a hole in the ground with two footmarks.
I wonder, what do you do if you need to crap but your feet are the wrong size?
On sale there is only beer, beer and more beer.
So despite my horrid hangover, as in Ben – Hur, there is “No water for him!“
But enough, I’m sure you get the picture. The Adelaide Oval, this ground is not.
As we settle down to watch the cricket I ponder to myself on the problems of Herbie and his need to continually work.
I calculate , using a complex equation called the Jobsworth / Hughis method - based around Herbie's charge-out rates to his clients and the number of overs bowled in a day - that it is costing Herbie £1.05p per ball to watch the cricket when he could be in his room working on his laptop.
The Barmy Army are here in force, and Billy the Trumpeter is on good form despite the absence of Jimmy Savile.
When Samit Patel comes on to bowl, we get: “He ain’t heavy “by the Hollies.
Later, as the Lion beers take effect, we get:
“Ranatunga, stick your tickets up your **** “and “5000 Rupees, you’re having a laugh”.
PC Tintin leaves the ground early with a headache, no doubt brought on by having to part with 10,000 rupees for today’s tickets for himself & Tractor girl.
A rather nondescript day of cricket ends with SL 240-6 or as the Saint would no doubt put it, level par.
We depart to our respective homes and I enjoy a lovely meal at the Galle Face Hotel with Posh Margaret , this time without Herbie, who has received yet another ‘ bad news’ e-mail and is hunched grimly over his laptop in our room like a vulture that is hungry, but too busy to eat.
During the meal with Margaret my throat starts throbbing ominously like Herbie’s e-mail in-box, and I know I’ve picked up some horrible sub-continental virus.
There may be trouble ahead.
Day 2 of the Test
Herbie gets up at 8.30 am and has a shower, which I estimate costs him £17-35p in lost income as he has forgotten to take his laptop into the bathroom.
At the cricket most of our group plot up in a gap between the Barmy Army enclave and the scoreboard, which quickly becomes known as the “Feral Corner”.
England enjoy a good day taking the last 4 SL wickets before lunch then progressing to 154 -1.
On returning to the hotel later we allow PC Tintin and Tractor to use our bathroom facilities before going out that evening but alas when they arrive , Herbie has locked himself in the bathroom with his laptop in order not to lose income while doing a
Logging in and logging out at the same time, you might say.
I estimate this multi-tasking saves Herbie £36.55p.
My throat now feels like a rusted , rat infested drainpipe but despite this I manage to make it out to tonight’s rendezvous at the In on the Green ( sic ) where most of our mates are expected.
Present in addition to the above are the Saint , Spud , The Wurzels , Granite from Christchurch , James , Clarkie , Cowes Phil , Liam , Stuart from Brighton , and many, many other familiar faces. The Saint and most of our group are sat around a table with a giant transparent beer samovar sat atop, with a dispensing tap being frequently and greedily visited.
I don’t feel much like eating, and decide to try and drink through my sore throat with the Saint as an alternative form of medicine.
This does not work, and with the drinking session ending as it does at 2.30 am as we are thrown out of the bar, it can only mean more trouble ahead.
Day 3 of the Test
Wake up, feel grotty.
I call at the local chemist but the best they can offer me is a packet of Strepsils costing 204 rupees. I hand over 210 rupees and start up to leave the shop.
“Hang on, don’t you want your change “shouts the helpful pharmacist.
I spend most of the day under cover in the Gulliver’s etc stand and the kind lady next to me is taking an interest in my condition.
“Do you have a temperature “she asks?
“No more than the 120 degrees I’ve had every day since we landed here love “, I reply.
The cricket today features a rarity these days – a superb innings from Pietersen, which fully lives up all the hype. Hitting six after six, he takes the game by the scruff of its neck, and puts England in charge. I have to confess, watching this was actually worth the 5000 rupee entrance fee!
An “English“flag has appeared on the opposite side of the ground referring to a well known and exceedingly well publicised football crowd disorder event / disaster from history. This causes murmuring amongst our section of the crowd and the general consensus is that such grim reminders have no place at an England overseas cricket match. I consult Gaz the Diplomat for his opinion, expecting a provocative reply, and suffice it to say I am not disappointed - although on mature reflection have decided not to repeat his comments here. Sorry!
On returning to the hotel I am feeling very rough indeed and cannot swallow water without a great deal of pain.
I inform Herbie that I will have to stay in this evening. Tomorrow is Poya day in Sri Lanka which is a holy day where in theory at least, no alcohol can be sold or consumed, so Herbie goes out to the supermarket to stock up on alcohol.
When he returns to the room I can see he is feeling sorry for me and my sore throat.
He has bought me some food! A pack of “Maliban” bran crackers but no butter – and a chocolate bar containing crispy rice and nuts. There was I, expecting jelly and ice cream.
I’m sure that even Dr Harold Shipman would show more consideration in these circumstances.
Day 4 of the Test
No cricket for me today. Instead, a visit from the Hotel doctor, who at least has a better bedside manner than Herbie.
“Do you know Geoffrey Boycott? I called at his room before coming to see you. He has a minor stomach complaint.”
As the doctor leaves my room, I turn on the TV to watch cricket and five minutes later Mike Atherton reveals indeed that Sir GB has in fact got the shits.
I hope that doctor washed his hands before sticking his fingers down my throat.
Cricket seems very slow today, albeit I watch on TV only, and I am almost glad that I didn’t make it to the ground.
In the evening of Poya day, the Saint persuades his hotel owner in Mount Lavinia to serve beer by offering to take his daughters hand in marriage and arranging UK employment for her as a barmaid in the Jude pub in Oxford.
Day 5 of the Test
It looks like we are going to record a precious Test win and so despite feeling very rough, I rise Mr Blade – like from my sick bed to travel to the P Sara Oval at lunchtime.
The medicine the Sri Lankan doctor has given me is beginning to kick in, despite leaving an after taste like donkey excrement after swallowing every pill.
I arrive at the ground without a ticket and my tuk-tuk is immediately swarming with local ‘touts’ who offer to get me into the ground for between 2-5000 rupees. Although security is tight, I march up the main gate steward and show him my medicine packet, which I explain must be delivered at once to my sick friend inside the ground.
The perfect blag, this. Inspired!
On arrival at the “Feral Corner” I am surprisingly greeted most warmly, and England complete what in the end is the simple task of scoring 90-odd to win.
As we all go onto the pitch after the game , an inebriated Tufty Wurzel takes me to one side and tells me how much he has enjoyed the tour and thanks me / us for helping in this.
This is the first time anyone has said anything nice to me on tour ever, and I am suitably embarrassed.
However, this seems fully in accord with the aims and ambitions of the Addis Army.
It is clear to me that Tufty has the cricket bug now, and I suspect it will take more than a packet of evil-smelling Sri Lankan antibiotics to cure him!
Now it is presentation time, and the ECB / SL panel are stood in the blazing afternoon sun on a podium.
Giles Clarke is clad in a classy black padded suit and tie, which I can only imagine must be murder to wear in this heat , and when he is announced , he is roundly booed by the England supporters – although I refrain from such childishness of course…...!
The players throw various items of clothing into the crowd and, after just missing out on Jonathan Trott’s jock strap, Tractor succeeds in plucking Alastair Cooke’s left hand batting glove out of the air and dons this with the air of a girl who has just won the lottery. PC Tintin grins like a Cheshire Cat, possibly imagining the sexual possibilities this may open up.
Sad farewells are said on the pitch and I return to the hotel room where I find Herbie, curled up disconsolately on his bed with an exhausted expression reminiscent of Gollum after he had just lost his Precious.
I ask him what is wrong.
“That’s it, Midnight. That’s it. My internet access has expired. I’m not paying another f***ing $65. I can’t use my laptop anymore - I’m f***ing knackered now.”
As we wait for our pickup to take us to the airport, while Herbie sleeps uneasily & fitfully, his laptop sits on the table in the corner of the room.
Its flashes and noises become less and less frequent until finally, like the Terminators life force, they expire. The lights go out. All is silence.
Another great tour ends - maybe see you in India but most definitely in N--Z------!
Love, Midnight. xxx