New Zealand Tour 2013
Stupid, fat hobbits?
We are now in Hamilton awaiting the first One Day International.
Our brief stay in Auckland was not without a few highlights.
Firstly, the motel booked by Lofty on the internet had the most appropriate name ever bestowed.
Called the 'Siesta', it was situated next to the Route 1 motorway and near to the main Hamilton to Auckland railway line.
Whilst there was a chance of a nap in the afternoon , sleep at night was nigh on impossible and so I resorted to the tried and tested prescription for such circumstances - getting pissed for a couple of days.
We found ourselves in the Newmarket area of the capital and if truth be known, this district is good fun and contains many fine bars and restaurants albeit all a long way from the waterfront attractions. It is also very conveniently situated for travel to Eden Park.
In the splendid Brewbar next to Newmarket station we discovered that getting the lads behind the bar a drink when buying a round is handsomely rewarded in Auckland, as we were bought several drinks in return by the Brewbar staff - many thanks to Cain, Zac, and Renz, the manager.
This was just as well, because the price of a beer at the cricket is, as we feared, prohibitive - $8 (roughly five pounds) for a small bottle of Tui bitter.
Whilst I may wear a Barmy Army shirt, I am not Barmy enough yet to pay these prices for a small, sh*t bottle of beer and so our drinking has been largely confined to the pub, and our own supplies.
When we called in the Brewbar before the Eden Park T20 game, Cain the barman confessed to us that his great grandfather, namely one Daniel Woodards, had played for an English Premier League side - funnily enough, West Ham United - and furthermore he was anxious to learn if the scenes he had witnessed on film in "Green Street" were realistic and accurate.
I gently explained that Elijah Wood made a better hobbit than hooligan, and that in March, Cain would be meeting the real Mccoy in the shape of Herbie, who was a personal friend of Cass Pennant and would be able to relate enough ICF tales of terror to give Cain nightmares for a year.
Actually, we have checked out the facts with Herbie, and not only did Mr Woodards play for West Ham United between the wars, he also later became the groundsman, and was the only person at Upton Park when a German V1 rocket landed on the pitch during World War Two!
Cain,his great grandson, is, by the way, a Tottenham Hotspur supporter.
When we arrived at Eden Park the first thing we noticed was the large amount of renovation that had been done since our last visit.
This is now a very pleasing ground on the eye, but alas, not a true Test Match venue, given the short boundaries prevalent behind each of the wickets.
Rumours do persist about the Auckland Test being moved to a smaller stadium nearby - I suppose this will depend on ticket sales to some extent, but I do hope this comes to pass.
For one day cricket though, the stadium is superb. A massive crowd of some 30,000+ were packed in to see England bat first and break their T20 record for run scoring.
Each of our top six batsmen plundered boundary after boundary, and I'm sure the ball must have been begging for mercy by the time England finished their innings on 214-7.
In order to drum up local support and enthusiasm the kiwis had installed flamethrowers at each corner of the ground that ignited each time an England wicket fell, shooting a prolonged bolt of flame vertically into the air - the night was quite chilly, and you could really feel the heat from these gadgets.
In fact, I was thinking of suggesting to the LCCC Committee that similar devices be installed to combat the cold weather at Old Trafford, but on second thoughts, the Calor Gas bill would be astronomical, at least when Lancashire were batting.
New Zealand were never really in the hunt and with the game won, we left the stadium after 16 overs in order to catch an early train back to the Brewbar - where a very late night finished for me at circa 2 am, after a number of complimentary pints of 'Sassy Red'.
To Hamilton the next day.
We decided to base ourselves here for the next few days and miss the T20 in Wellington, as this would mean a 500 km round trip only to return immediately afterwards to Hamilton for the first ODI on the 17th February.
On our first full day in Hamilton I fulfilled a long-awaited wish to visit Matamata - now better known as 'Hobbiton' - the nearby rural film set is featured in 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit'.
An interesting story here in that the farmers who owned the site asked for it to be restored to its original, virgin state after 'The Lord of the Rings' had been filmed - with just one hobbit-hole left in place.
As a business decision, this was positively Goodwinesque.
Which makes more money - a few hundred grazing sheep or sh*tloads of tourists rocking up every two hours for sold-out tours?
No doubt the farm owners were very relieved when the film producers decided to use the same location for 'The Hobbit' sequels, and this time the set has been left intact with a full time staff of gardeners and guides.
At $75 a pop, this tour sounds expensive, but as I stood outside the hobbit-house where Sam Gamgee strolled up the path back to Rosie at the end of 'Return of the King' and said " Well, I'm back.", I felt as though I had stepped straight into the pages of a childhood dream.
Lofty, of course, thought I had gone crazy and remained stoically philistine about the whole morning, refusing to participate.
"What a load of f*cking rubbish. I'm not paying $75 for that - I've never heard of f*cking hobbits! Where have all these f*cking tourists come from?"
As it is now nearly a week since Lofty gave up smoking, I suppose this is about the best response I could expect, but to me the Hobbiton experience was worth every cent.
The next day, after a hearty second breakfast, we visited Raglan, which is a surfing resort on the West coast.
One of the beaches here, Manu Bay, is said to have the longest left hand break in the world, so I don't suppose KP would much like it here.
As we sat watching the surf dudes performing their tricks on the massive breakers, it suddenly became clear to me why surfers may need to dress up as ex-Presidents and rob banks in their spare time.
To cover the hospital bills!
That evening the second T20 International took place in Hamilton and we met up with Charlie, an Addis recruit we first met in Whangarei, who is doing the whole tour staying in backpackers - tonight he had brought with him a Dutch lad called Sean, who was sharing his dorm, for his first game of cricket.
I quickly explained to Sean that cricket was a gentlemanly pursuit, with a certain etiquette to be observed.
Sat in front of us on the grass bank were three thirty-something kiwis, consuming grog at an alarming rate and building a large pyramid of empty beer bottles.
As New Zealand batted, each time a boundary was hit, the middle kiwi turned round to me and waved a 4/6 card in my face.
"Have you got a card with a W on it?" I said. "You will be needing that in a minute or two."
"Does that stand for Wanker?" came back the cultured and thoughtful response.
"We would get a better game from a women's cricket team" the kiwi sneered.
"We saw a women's team last Saturday in Auckland," I replied. " They were wearing black caps and shirts."
As this friendly banter continued, to the amazement of young Sean, who was having enough difficulty following the niceties of the game, the middle kiwi and one of his mates got up to go to the bar to replenish their beer supply.
While they were away, a group of six local school kids walked up and asked if they could sit in the vacant places on the bank.
Before the remaining kiwi fan could protest I shouted:
" Yeah, lads, it will be fine for you to sit there - if the guy comes back from the bar and complains, just tell him I said it was okay."
This was a result, in that we got a friendlier, smaller group in front of us making viewing the match easier and more enjoyable.
When the two numpties returned from the bar with their stack of bottles and found they had been displaced, their anger was obvious, and it became more so when they finally squashed down and heard the banter these young kids were coming out with:
First kid: "Well, I don't mind the Poms doing well ' cos I'm half English."
Second kid: "I'm half-English too."
Third kid: "Well, I'm full English!"
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha !
As the match progressed it became obvious that Stuart Broad's decision to put the Black Caps in to bat had been another Goodwinesque call.
Batting under the lights became more and more difficult - none of our top order scored any meaningful runs, even Eoin Morgan spent most of his time at the crease blocking.
Our blushes were finally spared by yet another fine knock by young Buttler, who also hit the biggest six of the night onto the pavilion roof.
This was not enough, and despite a determined rearguard by Lofty's idol, James Tredwell, we lost the match by a large margin.
Mention must be made of the large ovation that greeted Ross Taylor when he came out to bat - no doubt the New Zealand coach and selectors are suitably embarrassed about their previous decision to demote him.
After the game we repaired to the Quadrant - readers on the last tour may remember this pub as the Fox and Hounds , now under new ownership - with Charlie and Sean.
As it was Sean's 24th birthday the next day, Lofty introduced him to the delights of Speight's strong pedigree ale and an exceptionally potent local cider, which I'm sure the lad will be appreciating today as he hitch-hikes the 48km to Raglan in the heat.
Charlie will be meeting up with us again in the Quadrant on Saturday before the first ODI.
Lofty asked Charlie about his movements between now and the weekend.
"Well, I'm going to Rotorua tomorrow, and the day after that its my real treat - I'm going to 'Hobbiton!'"
Cue delighted laughter from Midnight and an apoplectic display of disbelief from Lofty - The Road Goes Ever On, Lofty!
A further report will follow after the commencement of the One Day Internationals.
Love, Midnight xxx