Australia Tour 2013/14
As the England squad fly to Australia next week I thought it was time for me to get busy blogging - and I hope the seats in the players aeroplane have plenty of leg room, looking at that fast bowling attack!
What an exciting summer it has been.
On the domestic front, promotion for the mighty Lancashire at the first attempt, including some memorable away days. I will never forget the CB40 trip to Glasgow, when Nigel, Phil and myself fully lived up to all the Scottish drinking stereotypes followed by a most politically incorrect, booze - fuelled train journey home back to Manchester.
On the international front I simply cannot wait to take on the Old Enemy again in their own backyard after the stupendous and breathtaking Ashes series we have just witnessed.
Well, maybe I exaggerate a little.
Trent Bridge was thrilling, and I must thank Steve Higgy for accommodation, tickets, and further poisoning my liver.
Durham was dramatic. A great weekend in the North-East in the excellent company of Freddie, and the newly weds PC Tintin and Tractor, who still found some time to watch the cricket.
As for the rest of it - Lords was a tedious procession.
Old Trafford was okay in parts, but watching Michael Clarke bat for two days, followed by the inevitable rain, doesn't exactly float my boat. The rain didn't float Streetfly's boat either - arriving as he did on day five of the Test just after lunch, he saw exactly three balls worth of cricket for his non-refundable entrance fee of £25. That must be some kind of record, probably worthy of an entry in next season's Wisden.
The Oval, apart from the result, was highly forgettable.
The one Ashes aspect that was memorable was the ticket pricing.
I know I am constantly riding this hobby-horse, but this summers prices were truly outrageous.
At Durham, Freddie and myself extended our weekend stay and were lucky enough to obtain day four tickets for forty quid each from Leafy, the leader of The Barmy Army.
The official price quoted by the club during the lunch interval of day three was eighty quid - and not a penny less - for day four!
By any standard this seems ridiculous, and it is a shame, but little wonder, that the stands at Durham were not full on that dramatic final day.
Do the powers that be really think that the people of the impoverished and downtrodden North of England can afford such largesse?
The Blade family of course no longer reside in the North of England, and now that Mrs Blade has abandoned Sheffield, and is a fair dinkum Aussie, she kindly agreed to obtain all our Aussie tickets for 2013-2014 using the Cricket Australia website, having taken a day off work specially to do this.
I am sorry to report that the theme of overpricing by the cricket authorities, this time in Australia, has once again reared its head. Perhaps it is little wonder that just this week, an additional tranche of tickets has mysteriously been 'released' by Cricket Australia, despite all the 'sell-out' hype frantically being fed to supporters.
The one consolation here is that as a result of Mrs Blade's efforts, our group will be sat amongst the Australian support for the forthcoming series and I will be able to wear my new tee shirt - emblazoned on the front as follows:
' Stuart Broad didn't hit it - you should have gone to Specsavers!'
I think that should go down a treat with the convicts!
Now some bad ( or good, depending on your outlook ) news.
Unfortunately, I will only be attending four Tests and there will be no tour blog from my favourite city of Melbourne on this trip. Previous visits to this metropolis have raised my stress levels to such an extent that Mrs Blade has had to arrange alternative and more therapeutic entertainment for the Xmas period.
Instead, I will be sailing on the Murray River with the Blade family, Disney and Tavare in a floating pub - otherwise known as a houseboat.
For anyone in the area who may wish to look out for us zig-zagging diagonally along the river, our boat is aptly named after a 1970's hit single by 'Pilot'.
Those under 50 may need a further clue:
' Oh ho ho its M----. You know. Never believe its not so.'
My normal diary service will be resumed from Sydney, no doubt with writing inspired by the prospect of another Antipodean car tour after the Test with Lofty in the role of Jensen Button.
For the earlier Tests, I am pleased to report a healthy Addis Army turnout.
Herbie has temporarily cast off his pathological hatred of all things Australian, and will be bringing his cheery demeanour to Adelaide and Perth, as will my good friend and co-conspirator with 'Englands Secret Army', Freddie.
Oops - that sounded like another plug!
Five-O and hopefully the Australian branch of his family will be at the Adelaide Test.
Jizz clubs of South Australia, you have been warned.
Posh Margaret and Higgy will be with us at Perth, travelling with their respective tried and tested tour companies. Wayne will be watching in Adelaide. Spud will be present at three Tests, returning to the UK in time for the New Year party at the Jude in Oxford.
Lofty will be joining me for a beer or two in The Pineapple, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane the evening before the first Test. Alas this time no Tremers, and he will be sorely missed, but his spirit will be present in the form of his Wormsley acolyte James, who is presently working on the ground staff at the WACA. I hope the cider is as good as usual James.
The Brisbane Test also coincides with the birthday of Mr Blade, and he will be bringing the family up to Kangaroo Point for the weekend to take in the cricket.
Given Mr Blade's past track record of England Test results, I fully anticipate going to Adelaide one down!
Last but certainly not least some great news hot off the presses.
Congratulations to Martin and Sonia on bringing into the world the latest Addis Army recruit, Master Jamie Theo Taylor.
Martin seemed disquieted to learn that his son shares a birthday with Jacques Kallis, but I'm sure there must be worse alternatives.
I will be off to Australia on the 14th November and hope to see you all out there.
Regards, Midnight xxx