Australia Tour 2013/14
I need a vacation!
According to my pal Doubter of Dobcross, statistics have just been shown on Sky that prove conclusively that this has been the worst Ashes cricket tour ever.
Thanks for that useful piece of information Sky, I never would have suspected!
I'm not a great one for statistics, but when you win the toss, put the opponents in and then lose inside three days, you know things are pretty f*cking bad.
Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, I wake on Monday to find that my ten-man football team has been dumped out of the F A Cup by Swansea.
I lent a friend at home, Liam, my Manchester United season ticket before I left the UK and said to him:
"When I get back, pay me what you think its been worth."
How much do I owe you pal?
Mind you, things must be even worse for Herbie, whose football team also lost in the Cup - two 5-0's in one day can't happen very often! The anticipated mocking texts from Herbie about the Fifth Test have not materialised, and my phone is now on nervous anticipation alert, like Air Command on the day the Battle of Britain was won and the German bombers decided to stay at home.
Needless to say, the Australians we have run into since the Test finished have been absolutely insufferable - they are horrible, smug, gloating winners, and when they lose, they simply disappear - as happened in 2011. It is impossible to pass a pub or bar wearing England cricket gear without attracting some brainless hostile remark, and I will be surprised if all our fans manage to keep their tempers in check given the nature of this sledging.
This morning, there is a TV poll asking whether viewers think the Ashes urn should be retained down under.
Channel seven, you can have my vote now - No, f*ck off. Not on your Nelly.
No cricket on what should have been day four, so Lofty and I bought all day travel cards and flogged them to death. We went to Mosman Bay on the Circular Quay ferry and had a drink in the rowing club - recommended. Then, we caught the ferry to Manly Beach, and it was on the way back from here that we met the two latest recruits to the Addis Army.
Two Geordie boys in their mid-twenties who had left their wives and bairns behind to come on their first cricket tour, and had spent most of their time in Sydney in the Paragon - the Barmy Army pub. They were less than impressed with the attitude of certain members of that August organisation.
The Geordie lads had booked their accommodation independently, renting an apartment in the middle of Sydney's gay quarter alongside shops such as Aussie Boys, Daly Male, and the Tool Shed, and despite enjoying each others company immensely, they were clearly pissed off with their tour thus far.
The fact that they had booked their lodgings themselves rather than paying for an 'Official' tour package had rankled with a certain high-ranking Barmy Army official - whose name the boys did not recollect, but who they felt talked down to them and mocked their northern accents.
They told us that the said Barmy Army official looked like Alan Pardew - ha ha ha!
I wonder who it was?
As we had already arranged to meet Steve Higgy and his mate Roger that night in the Observer, we invited the Geordie lads out for a drink, and one of the best nights of this benighted tour was born.
Our latest Addis members are therefore Rammy, Kikko and Acceptable Roger, and they all excelled themselves on our night out.
All our new members and Lofty were drinking pints of a micro brewed local beer called 'Ruby Tuesday'. Noticing what we were ordering, the live guitarist altered his set to include this Rolling Stones classic, to the delight of us all.
Kikko made my night by shouting to Lofty in Geordie "calm down Murray Walker" as he jigged furiously to the live acoustic music. As the evening wore on and we consumed ever more beer, an auld-lang-syme circle was formed with the Addis members, an American couple from Austin, Texas and a family of resident Poms who had been drinking with us, and we treated the incredulous Aussies in the pub to some classics, including the Convict Colony song, and:
"Cheer up Ricky Ponting - oh what can it mean - to a sad Aussie bastard and a sh*te cricket team!"
What a tremendous night - we showed we know how to lose and still have a great time.
Once again the Observer comes up trumps, and I will always use this pub as my local in Sydney. Its absolutely brilliant, and thanks to the guitarist, Bernie - you were too, buddy.
More good news the following day. Lofty visited Inspector Blakey at the bus depot in Liverpool, and instead of being told "I'll have you, Lofty", he amazingly managed to retrieve his missing bag, with all its contents intact.
Pleasing to see that there are still a few honest people in the world, even in a convict colony!
Lofty and myself bade a sad farewell to Sydney with another night in the Observer, accompanied by Acceptable Roger, who chose to join us despite being in possession of a $20 admission ticket to the Barmy Army end of tour party.
Steve Higgy did attend this party, heavily influenced no doubt by the bribe of a free pint, and advised us that Stuart Broad was present for a Q & A session, which I thought would be another pointless exercise in media-trained nothing speak. My own question for Broad, relating to the anticipated tenure of Andy Flower's appointment, was sent by text to Higgy, spiced up with a couple of expletives.
To Broad's credit, Steve told us the next day that he had been very honest, had admitted how sh*te the team had been, and had thanked the Barmy Army for their support.
Off then to our old friends at Atlas Car Hire, noted for their cheap deals and diabolical customer service. After our experience in Auckland last year, I asked Lofty to ring ahead of our arrival to ensure that our car would be ready. Sure enough, when we got to the depot, our vehicle had only been brought back ten minutes ago, and was "still being washed."
On the road at last and one or two humourous moments to lighten the gloom of this tour.
In Brighton, we passed a vetinerary surgeons practice called "Benny and the Pets."
As we drove to Kangaroo Valley, even better. A local sign for Bellawonganunga ( I think ) which we were advised in Aboriginal language meant:
"Home of the many Wonga Pigeons"
I thought that was in the UK!
'Lonely Planet' is usually a must-have travelling companion on these trips, but it led us up the garden path today. Due to an over-optimistic description of a coastal resort called Huskisson, while driving we tried to book into a hotel there called the Husky Pub over the phone.
This pub was described in Lonely Planet as "a good-time joint with decent rooms, live music and tip-top bay views."
When we arrived in the rain after driving miles out of our way, the resort was reminiscent of Prestatyn in winter. All it needed to complete the similarity was a Fred Pontin illuminated talking statue booming out the phrase " Book Early!" over a loudspeaker,
The Husky pub car park was rammed, and when we eventually managed to park up and go inside to escape the rain, dire warning notices banning "Hoodies and gang-related activities" were evident everywhere.
The staff, unsurprisingly, had no recollection of my earlier phone call, advising me helpfully that the Husky had in fact been fully booked 'for days'.
A swift appraisal of the locals frequenting the Husky made departure without argument a sensible option, and back to the motorway we went, ending up in a town called Nowra.
Having checked in to a less than salubrious looking motel, we walked out in the rain past the cemetery to downtown Nowra, and my heart sank as we saw the entertainment options - one sports bar called the Archer Resort.
On entering the pub however:
Two large, delicious meals followed - cost just $10 each.
Tooheys Old - one of our favourite tipples - cost just $4.30 a glass.
Not believing our good fortune, after dinner we retired to the TAB section of the pub.
This weekend in Jindabyne we are staying at a hotel called 'Banjo Paterson Inn'.
A greyhound was running at Ballarat called Banjo Boy, and in probably the stupidest mug punter bet in history, I snatched $10 from Lofty, added $10 of my own, and placed a $20 win bet on this dog.
Banjo Boy skated in by about five lengths, and we won $64.
Maybe our luck has started to change - and if you ever visit Nowra, you now know where to go!