New Zealand Tour 2013

A Perfect Day

Morning everyone.

I will never forget Auckland.

Not the Test match, which I hope to forget as soon as possible.

No – the arrival on New Zealand soil of the Addis Army Dark Lord, Herbie.

After five years of slagging off my favourite tour, he was here at last to sample the delights of this wonderful country.

He duly arrived at my motel room the afternoon before the Test brandishing a large bottle of his favourite tipple – Amoretto Di Saronno – and two large tumblers.

I have never eaten liquid marzipan before, and this proved quite enjoyable for a mid-afternoon snack.

Lofty, who is still off the fags, had a ticket to see the ageing hippy musician Neil Young later that evening, so Herbie and myself contented ourselves with a trip down to the Newmarket Brew bar, where we had a most enjoyable drink with the Blades.

The next day was the first day of the Test and alas, the last day of the Blades time in New Zealand.

After England won the toss, we were quite optimistic for about two seconds until Alastair Cook put in the Kiwis to bat – a decision which Derek Pringle has called:

“The worst insertion ever.”

As much as it would delight me to disagree with Mr Pringle, I regret that I cannot.

For the first two hours we watched the very limited opening batsman “Two-Metre Peter” Fulton entrench himself, and bored, at lunch we went to the pub.

Where we stayed for the rest of the day – as England bowled a load of dross, which “Two-Metre Peter” laid into with relish.

Just one wicket all day.

After the cricket, a meal in Auckland and sad goodbyes to the Blades, who we will next see I hope in Australia later this year.

On Day two of the Test, matters didn’t improve much.

Peter Fulton went on to complete his maiden Test century as New Zealand racked up 440 - and then England lost early wickets.

On Day three Stuart Broad lost me a $10 bet with Herbie, after I predicted he would be out for less than ten runs.

After Mr Broad exceeded this target with a huge six, I dug into my pocket for a ten dollar note, grumbling that he would probably be out next ball.

Mr Broad duly obliged, slicing a hopeless attempted cover drive straight to the fielder. The hoots of laughter coming from Herbie could probably have been heard in Sydney.

England were then quickly bowled out and should have been made to follow on, but yet another astonishing decision, this time by McCullum, meant that despite being 220+ ahead, New Zealand batted again, giving England a slim chance to save the game.

Herbie spent his winnings later in the evening when we met Cowes Phil, Liam and Stuart the Brighton fan for a pleasant drink in Auckland.

Now almost without exception, every New Zealander I have met thus far has been friendly, polite and helpful to a fault, but sadly, all this was to change on Day four of the Test match.

Sat right behind us was the self-styled “New Zealand’s number one fan” – without lapsing into a string of expletives, I find it difficult to describe how truly obnoxious this character was, but if you are remotely interested he has his own web-site:

A brief look at this should give you some idea what a creep this man is.

He was joined by an old Arthur Daley type, looking ridiculous in his shades, who had emigrated to NZ many years ago, and now took great pleasure in insulting the mother country, and its inhabitants. Well, at least I think he emigrated – from the looks of him, he could have been deported for fixing the mileages on cars in his used car lot somewhere in a dodgy part of London.

These two brainless trolls well and truly got up the noses of all the England fans present that day, and our mood was not helped by another pathetic England bowling display, in which our supposedly feared fast bowling trio were unable to stem the flow of runs from Fulton ( another century ) and McCullum.

Lofty left the game at lunchtime simply saying “This is a disgrace “– and once again, I am unable to disagree with his harsh analysis.

Just when I thought things could not get any worse, New Zealand declared, and this was accompanied by frenzied cheering from the Barmy Army section of the ground.

‘Ken Barlow’ from Coronation Street had turned up amongst them, and was duly lauded for about an hour during the afternoon, whilst England lost early wickets again, accompanied by foul mouthed send-off’s from Sonny Shaw as the batsmen returned to the pavilion below us.

Feeling somewhat depressed, we retired to Auckland for the evening with Nigel and Helen, taking Lofty for an Italian meal as a special treat – allegedly, he does not like cheese. A discussion ensued at the dinner table as to whether Lofty could be lactose intolerant, but in the end we all decided upon just plain intolerant instead.

Later we went to the Barmy Army pub where the traditional end of tour party was in full swing.

I drank some warm, strong cider, served in a plastic pint pot.

After the charity auction, the Barmy Army stalwarts got up onto the stage to sing their regular party pieces.

When Vic got up, naughty Billy the Trumpeter played the first few bars only of an infamous theme from a BBC TV child wish-fulfilment programme, before Vic performed “Everywhere We Go.“

Nigel observed that the various routines seemed exactly the same as at the cricket and used the phrase ‘one-trick ponies’ - which would also seem to sum up the efforts of most of our cricket team on this tour so far, with the very honourable exception of Matty Prior.

Decco, if you are reading this, there may be a job for you with the England team papering over a few cracks before the Ashes, mate.

A collective decision was taken to give the cricket a miss on Day five, and instead we spent the day at a lovely vineyard on Waiheke Island getting legless.

At five o clock when the vineyard closed and the crucial last ten overs of the Test started, we adjourned into the vineyard lounge, where the bar mysteriously opened again and we watched the draw played out on a plasma screen with several more glasses of wine.

I could not help thinking that the wild scenes of celebration from the Barmy Army at the end of the game needed putting into perspective.

We have just played out a boring, result-less series with mighty New Zealand, for gawds sake.

Whilst I am pleased that England did not have to endure the humiliation of losing the series, I do not regret our own decision not to attend on that last day, and I’m sure neither does Herbie or Lofty – we had a perfect day. Herbie even managed to get a picture of Lofty eating a piece of cheddar cheese.

So those people who were not there but want to criticise us – bring it on.

Jonathan Agnew has reportedly described this game as “The worst England performance for twenty years“ - and with the worthy exception of Matty Prior, again I cannot disagree with this damning verdict.

After the cricket finished, we travelled up to Whangarei in order to show Herbie something of the real New Zealand.

In the Bay of Islands we went jet-boating out to the Hole in the Rock. Herbie positioned himself in a seat behind me as the jet-boat sped off.

“I’ve got a large Manc wind break in front of me to keep me dry!” he exclaimed.

Little did Herbie know that the design of the boat meant that all the sea water taken on board would go to the back of the vessel – thus ten minutes later we got:

“F*cking hell. I’m up to my f*cking knees in water back here.”

For our last night in New Zealand we stayed at a town called Thames – on the north side of the river of course – to make Herbie feel even more at home.

As if to prove that the subject matter in ‘Lord of the Rings’ is not entirely fictional, Herbie discovered a large cockroach on his pillow when he returned to the motel after our last night out – just like Sauron, the Addis Army Dark Lord is attracting all manner of evil creatures to his side…!

However on the plus side, the Dark Lord has started saying nice things about New Zealand now. I think he may even have enjoyed his visit!

This country has been a wonderful experience once again, although the cricket has proved to be a huge disappointment, apart from the close encounter we saw in Queenstown.

Thanks must go to the following, in no particular order:

Lofty, for sharing this epic journey. Stay off the fags now please, otherwise like James Bond “It won’t be the nicotine that kills you.” And please, please get a haircut!

The Blades, Martin and Sonia, Higgy and Five-O for your excellent company in Wellington. I’m afraid I won’t be taking up jazz though!

Herbie, for his positivity and his large bottle of Amaretto Di Saronno!

The Howzat gang, for your excellent and knowledgeable company, although my liver is still throbbing after the twelve hour drinking session in Dunedin with Nigel.

Steve the Leeds fan from the Mac Brew bar in Nelson – thank you for introducing me to the Nelson late night sub-culture, none of which I can now unfortunately remember.

To Foggy and Des at the Pog Mahone in Queenstown, thanks for your great company and I will hopefully see you both in Australia at the end of this year.

To the boys in the Judge in Whangarei – cheers Ross & Ian. Ian, you should have told us you played for the All Blacks!

Thank you to Mike and Elaine at the Kensington Motel in Whangarei, who endured the great misfortune of having to put up with us twice.

And last but not least, Renz, Cain, and Zac from the Newmarket Brew bar – cheers for the beers, and all the best. See you next time.

Hopefully more Tour Diaries to come from the land of the convicts later this year – in the meantime look out for “England’s Secret Army“ – available from Amazon soon!

Love, Midnight xxx

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