Friday, 21 December 2012

The Prodigy- Brixton Academy.

I love live music and every couple of months I find myself at a concert.  Mr Green is the organiser, he’s often emailing me, asking if I want to go and see some band or other.  If I can, I usually do often seeing an act I’ve never even heard of.  Usually Mr Red is along for the ride, often Mr Blue joins us too and sometimes Mr B.  These are some of my oldest friends, we’ve all known each over twenty years minimum, there is 100% trust and when we get together its always magic.
The Prodigy at Brixton Academy is an event that we all want to be at but Mr B missed out, next time…  Any way the remaining four of us made the trip down to London.  Mr Green always drives, he doesn’t mind and he’s never let us down.  There are sometimes unplanned diversions, often hilarious but we always get to the gig.  In fact the fun starts as soon as we get in the car, with Mr Green also our DJ as well as driver.  With good mates who don’t see enough of each other there’s always loads of stuff to chat about, jokes to share and non stop banter.  Every time we go out we know the entertainment of the journey will be so good the event doesn’t even matter, even when it’s the Prodigy.

Refreshment began, which meant a lay by break just before the M25.  More refreshment, the night got strange, then we were in the madness of the big city which was all a haze but the sights were nice.  Then we were there.  Somehow Mr Green managed to park in a street literally round the corner from the venue.  We were early so had time for a pint in a pub and a stroll through Brixton, then back to the Academy.  I like this venue, always a good atmosphere.

More refreshment, things got stranger still.  Jaguar Skills was DJing and I really enjoyed what I heard as almost all the audience seemed to be.  He went, big build up then its midnight, before I knew it the Prodigy were on and the place was exploding.  This is the third time I’ve seen them and although it’s always a little different you know what you’re going to get a damn good show whatever they play.  Loads of beats, mad and loud.  By now the night was very strange.  I can’t remember what order the set went in (I think they started with Voodoo people but could be wrong…) but it ripped and the crowd was loving it Breathe, Firestarter, Poison, Invaders, Omen.  Mr Red and Mr Green had ventured into the madness at the front of the stage but Mr Blue & I stayed a little way back and bopped in more space.

It was a good show all right but for me not a great one.  It could be because I’ve seen them a few times fairly recently and I know what to expect.  Maybe I’d have liked to heard more of the older stuff, I love “Jilted Generation”.  Maybe it was because I’m 44, had been awake for 19 hours and was thoroughly knackered.  Whatever the reason I just hadn’t felt part of it and was ready for the show to end when it did.  The verdict from the others varied, Mr Green said “best Prodigy show yet”, Mr Red was somewhere in between and Mr Blue was as knackered as I was. 

We staggered back to the car and I collapsed into my seat, totally fucked.  The journey home seemed to fly mainly because I dozed in and out of sleep but the others had more stamina than me.  I used my last remaining reserves of energy brushing my teeth and taking a piss.  The following day was spent in recovery, mostly sleeping. It was well worth it though, it’s always great going to an event like this with my friends.

Monday, 17 December 2012

The best team won!

Sunday morning and I’m rolling out of bed in the dark.  Kettle on, quickly tune the radio in to catch up with the match while I get ready for a mornings fishing.  By 8am I had two rods fishing for Pike and two ears listening to TMS.

Catch up…India batted for an hour for only 30 runs then declared 4 runs short of England’s total.  Since then England had ground out a couple of partnerships but Cook got another poor umpiring decision 48-1,  Compton got a strange decision but done well for 34 and it’s 81-2.  After tea the KPego leaves a straight one 94-3..  A few dodgy moments, spice on the field with angry India upset at decisions but the important stat is 161-3 at the close.  Bell stayed with Trott for an unbeaten partnership of 67 which we’d definitely have settled for.  Just as I was settling down to listen to Aggers’ & Sir Geoffrey’s summary I was disturbed by the only Pike of a bright, mild winter morning.  Can’t see England letting it slip from here.

When I woke up this morning, Trott & Bell were still batting.  I can’t remember the score but that wasn’t important, the series was ours!  Both batsmen passed 100 and the partnership was worth 206 when Trott was finally out for 143.  Root came out and scored a few then England declared and the series was clinched 2-1.  A tame draw in the end but this pitch was just useless.

The first test was an Indian steamroller but with hindsight the England recovery began with their second Innings in that match.  Since then it’s been all England who have stomped all over India by outplaying them in every aspect of the game.  Firstly we batted better, Cook (man of series) & KPego stand out but all the batsmen chipped in.  Prior was superb with both bat & gloves and we were by far the better team in the field, three run outs testimony.  Panesar, Swann and Anderson were the most threatening bowlers on either side.  It’s nice that at some point in the series just about every member of the squad made a crucial contribution.  The only ones who were below par were Broad and Bresnan, who both looked unfit.  This is a massive achievement for England even though India is definitely a team on a slide.  Things might get worse before they get better.

Next up is New Zealand in February so the selectors will have a lot to think about.  If any member of this squad should be threatened it might be Samit Patel who did nothing at all wrong.  He hardly bowled on this tour and if he’s not going to bowl in India he won’t get many over in New Zealand.  Perhaps the selectors will feel a quicker bowling all rounder would be more useful?  Alastair Cook's England has a bright future.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Can England clinch it??

4th Test
England won the toss and batted first on the slowest pitch ever.  Early wickets, Cook got a dreadful LBW decision.  Trott and the KPego steadied the ship but another cluster of wickets brought Prior & Root to the wicket.  The experienced player in good form and the youngster on debut made it to the close, honours even.  The pitch is not fit for test cricket with no carry and a run rate barely over 2 per over.

Day two was all England.  Prior & Root took their partnership to past 100, both passing 50.  After Prior fell, Swann joined in scoring his first 50 for three years, in his fiftieth test.  Root was the star, eventually out for 73.  India batted and Jimmy removed Sehwag 3rd ball but Gambhir & Pujara dug in.  Great bowling from Anderson and a lucky wicket for Swann and its 87-4 at the close.

Day three, another twist.  Dohni & Kholi batted for two sessions, grinding out the runs to bring India back into the game.  Kholi gets a century but soon departs, LBW to Swann, he and Anderson share wickets then Cook runs out Dhoni for 99!!  At the close India are 33 runs behind and have 2 wickets left.

With two days to play all 4 results are possible and it could be a nail biter but England are slightly ahead, especially as they’re bowling last.  They are confident and I think they’ll bat for long enough to clinch the series and maybe the match too.

It's got a bit milder here in the east, I might go fishing tomorrow.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

2-1 to the Engerland!!

 Thanks to another big hundred from the captain and 50+ scores from all of the top four along with useful runs from 6&7 England batted all of the third day.  Cook was brilliant again for 190, Trott next best with 80+.  Worryingly only Bell failed.
India skittled England out quickly on the fourth morning then their openers made hay right up until lunch when the counter attack brought then to 86-0.  However, first ball after lunch Swanny bowled Sehwag and after that our bowlers ripped through the top order taking six wickets in the session, Finn & Anderson taking the paudits..  Three more followed after tea but at the end Ashwin held England up and took the match into the final day.  Jimmy got his 7th wicket of the match 10 balls into the 5th morning and an easy England win looked sure thing however at 8-3 things looked a little sticky.  Compton stayed fast and Bell found a bit of fluency to lead England to a seven wicket win.
England were dominant winners without a major contribution from the KPego, which is reassuring.  Man of the match was Cook for his 190 but all four of England’s bowlers made big contributions in this match.  In fact every member of the team stepped up at some point in the match, including Samit Patel who has done little wrong in these matches but still must be most vulnerable to a change.  I’ve said it before, if we’re not going to use his bowling then we could get more runs from number 6 by picking a better batsman.
India have responded by dropping three players from the squad, have we seen the last of Harhajan, Zaheer & Yuvraj in tests?  I can see India improving in this next match but not enough to prevent England clinching the series.
So we wait the final test with England holding an unassailable lead and hoping to win the series.  Who would have predicted that?  Oh yea…..

Thursday, 6 December 2012

3rd Test days 1 & 2

An hour or so into my work day I suddenly remembered there was a test match, a quick fiddle with the phone revealed we’d lost the toss and were in the field, pisser!  However Jimmy & Monty had wickets each and India were 200-4 with Tendulkar steady at the wicket.  Playing catch up, Sehwag run out. England’s bowlers keep chipping away, Sachin out for 76 Jimmy getting him for the 8th time in tests and equalling Murali’s record.  Swann gets one too.  At the close India are 273-7 with Dohni & Zaheer together.  Definitely England’s day!  Meanwhile we’ve had the first snowfall of this English winter in East Anglia.

Another good day!!!  Over breakfast the radio told me the story, Monty & Finn polished off the tail leaving India 316 all out.  Cook & Compton were still together with the score at 60.  By the time I reached work it was nearly 100!  Cook passed 7000 test runs then broke the record for English test centuries & marched on.  Compton recorded his first 50 in tests eventually falling for 57.  This brought Trott to the wicket and he kept the captain company to reach 216-1 at the close.  All England today! 
So after two days England hold all the aces.  If they can bat all day tomorrow they’ll be in a great position, can Cook score a double hundred?  If we’re still batting after lunch for a bit on the 4th day, that’ll be even better.  From this position they should win the test match.  England’s bowlers continue to look better than India’s
Back home another snowfall last night.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Great! Great, thanks, see ya


It occurred to me that we’re only a day away from the third test and I’ve yet to make any comment about the last one.  A thumping England win!  Who would have predicted that?  Well I did, see below. 

There were great performances with the ball from Monty and Swann, along with another century from Cook and an innings of genius from the KPego.  Hopefully this will be the beginning of a great run of form for him and who knows we may forgive him yet. As two mornings play fell on my weekend I was able to keep in touch with TMS and watched Monty rip the top order to shreds in the second innings, brilliant stuff!  How can England ever even think about leaving him out of a test on the sub continent?

So on to the next match.  I expect the team to change very little, Bell will probably return so if Patel isn’t going to bowl it may as well be him miss out.  I’d like to see Finn in the side too but I can’t believe they’ll drop Broad.  My prediction?  Another good performance from England and another win.

Elsewhere in the world, South Africa have retained their No.1 ranking with a 1-0 win in Australia.  I didn’t see much of it but from reading the reports the series and matches swung to and fro.  The difference in the end being another great innings from Hashim Amla.  Can’t argue with South Africa’s top ranking after that.  This series also saw the retirement of Ricky Ponting.  Without doubt modern day great batsman, if not the most likeable Aussie captain we’ve ever seen.  Even though he’s never been a player I’ve enjoyed watching bat for too long I’m honestly disappointed with Ponting’s retirement.  I was really hoping he’d be a hole in Australia’s middle order for the next Ashes series.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012



The first test came has come and gone and as most people predicted, India comfortably beat England.  Before the match I actually stuck my neck out and predicted an England series win and even though we are now one down, I’m sticking with that guess…why??
Well firstly I don’t think England could possibly play that badly again.  We only had one good day out of five and all of us that follow the team know we are better than that.  Secondly I don’t think England will get the selection as badly wrong again.  The whole world suspects England are suspect against spin so we can expect turning pitches in India, Monty Panesar has to play, along with Swanny and two front line seamers.  Jimmy Anderson will be one and I expect Broad to be the other even though he’s been totally inconsistent of late or should that be inconsistent for his entire career?  He’s a frustrating player, just when you think he’s settled down and showing the form that will make him genuinely world class he goes missing again.  Stephen Finn is still unfit so it’s odds on that Broad will get the nod over Bresnan.  The batsmen are frustrating too.  Both Trott and Bell have had a poor 2012 and with the latter flying home for the birth of his child, Bairstow should surely get the nod?  If he gets runs will he keep his spot?  You have to hope so.  Then there’s KPego who made little contribution in the last match, maybe another poor game will see him losing his place when Bell returns.
I’m expecting a much better performance in this match and I think England are capable of beating this Indian team.  Maybe I’m a little optimistic to expect a series win but we’re well worth a draw!
My XI for the 2nd Test;
Cook, Compton, Trott, Peitersen, Bairstow, Prior, Patel, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Panesar.

Since I last blogged something on here they’ve re-elected Barack Obama in the US.  I try to avoid politics at all costs but you have to feel the world is a safer place with a democrat in the White house.  While I’m talking politics, I recently read Hunter S.Thompson’s “Fear & Loathing on the Campaign trail ’72”.  Although not as insanely funny as ‘Las Vegas’ this was still a damn good read in the typical Thompson style.  We all know politicians are corrupt (should I insert an ‘allegedly’ here? ), but it shocked me just how long it’s been going on.  The campaigns to elect the candidates are crooked along with the main event!  I must be naïve.

Monday, 1 October 2012

American novels

I can’t get emotionally involved when England are playing ODI cricket and I haven’t found much interest in the current T20 world cup.  I expect I would have done if England had progressed but they didn’t and I suppose the end result will be a return for KP…  The test series in India will be more my thing, England will start as underdogs and going into an Ashes year I’d make Australia favourites for that right now.  We’ll see.

As usual I’ve been reading constantly and I’ve gone through a series of books by American writers.  I re-read “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time around.  Mix drugs with a motor race, add more drugs and a DA’s narcotics convention then marinade in loads more drugs.  Manic, hilarious, mad, love it.

Norman Mailers’ “The Naked and the Dead” is billed as ‘the best war novel to come out of the United States’.  I’m not sure about that.  Set in the Philippines towards the end of World War 2 it charts the progress of a platoon of US marines through a campaign to capture an island from the Japanese.  I have mixed feelings about this book, it’s gritty and real and does not celebrate the ‘heroism’ of war but the narrative is constantly interrupted by flashbacks charting the protagonists pre-war lives.  If these flashbacks are designed to make the reader care about the characters then for me it failed and the book would have been a better read with these edited out.  Overall it’s a good enough read with some vivid descriptions of skirmishes and the author manages to convey the fears and suffering of the soldiers.

Last week I finished the classic “Catcher in the Rye” by J D Salinger.  This is the story of teenager Holden Caulfield who is from a life of privilege in New York society and has been thrown out of the state’s best schools.  Caulfield despises the world of wealth he dwells in and the story is of him undergoing some kind of mental breakdown.  The story is told in the first person but we never who he is telling his tale to.  The obvious guess is he’s talking to a counsellor of some kind.  Sorry but I didn’t find it very interesting and to me it is only a “classic” on the over-rated shelf.

Following “Skagboys”  I re-read a few of Irvine Welsh’s early books and I’ll type a bit about that another time, maybe.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thanks Skip...

100 test matches, 7037 test runs, 21 centuries.  Captain of the most successful England cricket team in over forty years and a gentleman on and off the field.  Andrew Strauss retired yesterday and should walk away from cricket with his head held high.

I can remember him beaming with delight whilst celebrating his debut century at Lords in 2004.  That smile was on his face a lot throughout his career which has coincided with the most successful period of English cricket of my lifetime.  He was a major part of the all conquering side led by Michael Vaughan through 2004/05.  We all remember the fabulous Ashes victory, when Strauss scored two centuries but he also scored three tons in a series win in South Africa.  It was this that instilled the belief in all of us that the Ashes win was possible.

He was captain of the next great England team which made it to No. 1 in the rankings and was widely respected, a gentleman both on and off the field (with one notable exception).  I suppose personal highlights would have been fewer in this period but the 161 in an Ashes victory at Lords stands out amongst three years of team successes.  Whenever I watched him live I seemed to bring bad luck but I did see him score 55 against India in 2007 and saw part of his recent 141 against the West Indies.

He took over the team in the aftermath of a KP induced meltdown and his retirement followed another attack of the uncontrollable ego.

Enjoy your retirement Straussy and thanks!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

End of summer


So England’s reign as world number one has come to an end. Over this series we have been thoroughly beaten by a better team. South Africa have batted, bowled and fielded better and deserve to go to number one in the world. However I still believe that had this series been played a year ago, England would have won.

This year we have been guilty of the kind of errors our opponents had been making previously, dropped catches and run outs went a long way to costing England the third test for example. It’s difficult not to wonder what the team spirit has been like with all the bollocks surrounding KP going on. I still feel shocked and disappointed by his disgusting behaviour.

What of the future? I still believe Andrew Strauss is the right man to lead the team. There is talk about his form but it seems to have been forgotten that he scored two centuries against West Indies a couple of months back. He has always handled himself with dignity and genuinely seems to be a good bloke. Overall his record stands up there with the very best, over 7000 test runs with 21 hundreds.

James Taylor came into the side at Headingly where he scored a battling 34 but in this last match he didn’t contribute. Johnny Bairstow looked out of his depth against WI, in fact at the time I wrote “Roach takes the new ball it’s a different matter.  Bell is out quickly and Bairstow comes to the wicket.  To be frank the youngster is out of his depth and Roach makes mincemeat out of him.  If he’s to have a test career he needs to learn to play the short ball”. Well Bairstow has gone away and improved scoring 95 and 51 against the best attack in the world!  I expect he’ll be a fixture in the side for many years to come.

The test summer has come to an end, next up is a tour of India but before that the ODIs.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Pride & Prejudice

The London 2012 Olympics has just finished and what a fantastic show it was!  I must confess I was completely uninterested in the whole thing until the games got under way.  Actually to be precise it was at the opening ceremony when the sound of “Going underground” by the Jam came booming out.  The opening ceremony had me feeling confused up until that point by from then on I enjoyed it.

The games themselves were great too.  I celebrated every medal won by TeamGB, no matter what the sport, even the Dressage.  What a performance from Bradley Wiggins added a gold to the Tour de France he’d won only a couple of weeks earlier!!  The middle Saturday was fantastic with the under pressure Jess Ennis winning the Gold the country demanded and winning it in style.  Then Greg Rutherford won a surprise gold in the long jump and looked like he couldn’t believe it either.  The evening was completed when Mo Farah won the 10000 metres and the sight of his wife & daughter running to greet him brought a lump to my throat.  One of my friends missed all this because he was watching second rate football on the other channel.

The undisputed king of the athletics stadium was Jamaican Usain Bolt, whenever he ran the world stopped and for the second games in a row he was unbeatable.  GB dominated the cycling, done bloody well in the rowing and equestrian events too.  Lots of medals in boxing and a few more to our sailors.  On the last Saturday Mo Farrah picked up a second gold for 5000 metres, what a star!

There was lots of talk about being “proud to be British” after all of this.  I can understand this but I don’t feel any more or less proud to be British because our TeamGB done so well.  I gained enjoyment from watching people who had worked hard and trained for the last four years, reach the pinnacle of their career in their own home Olympic games and share the experience with all of us.  I enjoyed it on a more personal level rather than the extension of “TeamGB have done well therefore I must be great too because I’m British”.  However one enjoyed it doesn’t matter though.  Our games were a success on every level, who could have predicted TeamGB finishing third on the medal table?

It is much easier to feel proud of people like Jess Ennis, Mo Farrah, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and so on than it is the overpaid footballing thugs who will be all over our TV screens again very soon.  It’s also easier to feel affection for all of our Olympic athletes than a certain mercenary cricketer who has been in the headlines lately.  The third and final test begins at Lords tomorrow and I was glad to see KP has been left out of the squad, I don’t think England had any choice even if it makes winning the test to level the series that bit harder.  Maybe the improvement in morale will give England a boost but it’s hard to see England defeating a very good South African team.  We live in hope!!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The best and worst of Kevin Pietersen

2nd Test Headingly

Thursday morning and are we England fans looking forward to the start of play?  I was thinking …”it can’t get much worse but how much better can we play?”  First surprise of the day is the omission of Swanny even though I’m pleased to see Finn in the team.  As expected Taylor is in at no. 6 for a test debut.  Next up Strass inserted the Saffers after winning the toss…another surprise, would England make it count?  I’ve managed to find a spot for the radio at work so its TMS all the way now
In short, no.  SA were 84-1 at lunch with missed chances costing England dearly.  However the bowlers kept on plugging away and eventually got rewards, with the odd wicket falling here and there.  Amla managed to run himself out for 9 which was a great bonus but no England bowler has dismissed him yet and his series average is 320.  The second new ball sees the end of de Villiers and night-watchman Steyn just before the close but Alviro Petersen hit a ton and was unbeaten at the close.

Day two started with England bowling brilliantly but Saffer batsmen surviving.  Things were looking ominous for England now with Petersen passed 150 but just before lunch the wicket of Rudolph falls, the unlikely bowler is KP!!!  But it makes you wonder why no Swann?  The tide turns in the afternoon session, Petersen is finally out for 182, Duminy bats well with the tail but England’s bowlers keep chipping away, sharing the wickets and bowling SA out for 419.  Then it’s our turn to bat and the openers make it to the close scoring 48 runs along the way.

The third day begins with England in high hopes of batting all day but SA have other ideas.  Every time a partnership begins to form a wicket falls.  When Bell falls for 11 after playing a crap shot Taylor joins KP at the wicket with England at the precarious position of 173-4 and a new ball not far away.  Pietersen then plays an amazing innings. Of all the batsmen in world cricket only he is capable of this kind of thing.  Taylor plays well and scores 34 in support but KP dominates smashing the ball to all parts.  The shot of the day was a disdainful straight six, back over the head of bowler Steyn.  Taylor was out in the last session but KP continues and finishes the day on 149*.

Day four and England have a chance of setting up a win with KP and Prior at the crease there’s the chance of quick runs.  Second ball of the day and KP departs…oh well!  Prior bats well with the tail scoring 68, but no-one else really contributes and England finish up all out for 425.  If we can get a couple of early wickets we can put SA under pressure, we don’t and rain washes away most of the day and probably any chance of a result in this match.

Or so we thought…..  The final day began as expected, Smith and stand in opener Rudolph batted comfortably putting on a partnership of 120 before that man Kevin Pietersen took the wicket of Rudolph for the second time in the match.  A short while later KP removed Smith and a little later Amla making him the leading English wicket taker at that point in the series.  This makes the dropping of Swann seem even more ridiculous!  In the afternoon a burst of wickets from Broad saw SA fall from 182-3 to 258-9 and then Smith cheekily declared leaving England an unlikely target of 253 to win the match.  In truth this was never a realistic proposition but England maintained the pretence of going for the win by re-jigging the batting line up and opening with KP.  England appeared to be going for it for a while but after the departure of Prior, Trott and Bell dropped anchor and the match meandered to a draw.  Then the fireworks really started!!

Kevin Pietersen rightly won the man of the match award for his all-round performance but instead of concentrating on the match, the press conference was all about KP’s grievances and his threat to retire from international cricket. Having watched the video all I see is a man putting himself and his own petty problems before the good of the team.  Apparently KP is upset by a spoof twitter account mocking him and blames unknown team mates, this has been denied.  I find his behaviour in this instance a disgrace.  The dressing room must be an uncomfortable place, the team spirit must be shattered and it is hard to see how this England team can conjure up the win they need to square the series from here.  However, if indeed there is someone within the ECB leaking things to the media then they need to be named and shamed.

Since KP became a fixture of England teams in 2005 I have loved watching him bat but given his background and his history of selfish outbursts it’s hard to think of him as anything other than a mercenary.  I sincerely hope I’m proven wrong.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


South Africa have thrashed England by an innings & 12 runs. England had the better of the first day but ever since the Saffers have been dominant and win deservedly. I travelled to the Oval for the third day with four of my favourite people and we had a really enjoyable day. The beer flowed well, the atmosphere was fantastic and some friendly saffers shared their biltong. The cricket however was just about as dull as it gets for the England supporter. Credit to the South Africans though; Smith was superb for 131 (last time I watched him play he scored 154*), Amla patient for 186 which he later converted to 311* and Kallis was Kallis. England’s bowlers seemed flat, the seamers were all down on pace and Swann didn’t look likely, he’s hardly taken a wicket all summer.

Few would have predicted such a thrashing but let’s be honest, England have been off form since the turn of the year. Defeat to Pakistan, a draw in Sri Lanka and an unimpressive win against West Indies. In this time it’s been mostly the middle order that have let us down. KP played one great, match winning innings in Sri Lanka but has contributed next to nothing either side. I’ve been a fan over the years but I’m almost out of both patience and respect. Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid questioning his commitment. Bell had a shocking winter but he’s class and I‘m sure he’ll come good. Why not play Bell at four and Peitersen at five? There’s less responsibility on KP then. England have not scored runs at number six since Colly retired & Bell moved up. Morgan never looked convincing and Bopara doesn’t look likely although he will be given this series to stake his claim. As No.6 isn’t contributing why not play the extra bowler? Finn would walk into virtually any test team in the world, although maybe not SA.

There are only two more tests in this series which is just daft. One match sacrificed to make way for an ODI series against the Aussies is insulting to the greatest game there is. Just like the 2010/11 Ashes this is a career defining series for some of the England players can they step up another level? It’s hard to see England winning the series from here and I’d certainly be happy with a drawn series but to be honest on the evidence of the Oval, South Africa look like the best team in the world right now and I expect them to win the series.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Latitude Festival epic.

Last year the lovely lady and I had a fantastic weekend at the Latitude festival so decided straight away to get tickets for 2012.  The festival took place last weekend and I think I have just about recovered from another fantastic weekend.

For us the festival started on Thursday which happened to be the lovely lady’s birthday, that and other good news meant we set off in good spirits, stopping en route for a quick bite to eat.  We expected traffic to be slow and heavy on the A12, it was.  However in the middle of the afternoon we pulled into the car park with cloudy skies above, thankfully they weren’t threatening rain, yet.  It was in the car park that we met the first character of the weekend.  One of the car park attendants was clearly taking his job far too seriously and was very loud and sarcastic when giving directions. This got him absolutely nowhere as every driver completely ignored him which added to his frustration as well as my amusement.  To his defence he was very busy as the car parks were filling up quickly.

We’d had a good look at the map and found a decent place to camp, away from the madness but close enough to amenities and not too far from the arena.  Last year we’d been in family camping but the kids were doing their own thing this time so we were expecting things to be a little less comfortable this weekend.  Anyway, we began our long walk, checked out the price of buggy hire and thought “bugger that” to the £50 deposit charge.  I know it’s a deposit but fifty quid??  So we had a long trudge with heavy kit, we just had to get on with it.  We swapped our tickets for wristbands and the staff were friendly and helpful.  The walk seemed to go on forever but there wasn’t much mud considering how much rain we’ve had lately.  We finally made our destination and pretty much pitched the tent exactly where we’d planned.

Last year we’d spent four nights cramped in a little tent which was OK but I’d decided it was worth a little investment to get a tent I could actually stand up in. This year’s model was great and kept us warm, dry and comfortable throughout the weekend. We said hello to some of our neighbours and had a sneaky look around and luckily we didn’t appear to be camped too close to any nutters nor were there any large groups of teeny boppers. I have nothing against teenagers having a mad time at a festival but I wouldn’t want to be camped next to anyone who was like me when I was a teenager. After all of that toil I absolutely needed a beer so I donned my wellies (Muck boots are great) and we wandered off to check out the arena and become familiar with the place again. Firstly we found beer, Cider for the lovely lady and the absolute best local brew for me, Adnams Southwold bitter, fantastic! After that the memory starts to deteriorate but we found the layout to be pretty much how we remembered it from last year. I’m sure we found some music and I’m positive it rained at some point. We found ourselves in the literary arena where we were entertained by Carl Donnelly who was standing in as compere and his ad lib stuff was funny. We turned in fairly early and had a decent night sleep thinking rest now, play later.

We were up fairly early on the Friday but even so, by the time we poked our heads into daylight a couple of tents had disappeared and more had been put up in their place.  I’d packed a stove, kettle and some tea making stuff so every morning began with a brew.  The campsite toilets were already covered in shit coloured mud (I hope) and were beginning to stink.  Those in family camping last year were in a different league.  We were soon wandering down to the arenas and wellies were absolute must as it had rained overnight and there were showers through the day.  The Regatta packaway jackets we’d brought were great.  They’re light, totally waterproof and breathable so no sweating.  They got a thorough testing throughout the weekend and get a big thumbs up.  We got a big breakfast roll from a place in the village which was pretty good, get some fuel in the tank early on.  Then it was through the checkpoint and into the arena again.

Now the festival proper was starting and we began seeking out entertainment along with refreshment of mind, body and soul.  I thought we began in the comedy arena but checking back it seems it was the Obelisk arena where we saw The Givers who were great.  Described in the program as ‘Ravin Cajun’, I’m not that sure about that but whatever they were doing I enjoyed it.  The band was energetic, talented and versatile, the girl singing had a good voice and we found ourselves jigging for the first time that weekend.  I think I’ll have a little look out for the Givers on Youtube sometime soon.  Next we found ourselves in the Word arena for Lloyd Cole.  I recognised a tune but it was a little too …dull for me and didn’t cause a commotion.

Our next stop was the comedy arena where we spend most of the afternoon.  We saw Shappi Khorsandi last year and she hadn’t impressed so we weren’t expecting much but this year she had a new routine and was a lot funnier.  Next up was Holly Walsh who didn’t seem very confident and didn’t make me laugh much.  “Frisky and Manish” were a big surprise doing musical send ups, much better.  Then it was Russell Kane who has never impressed me much on TV but live was both funny and clever, another nice surprise.  Kathrine Ryan was small and Canadian if I remember rightly and there were a few moments where she could have died a death on that stage.  She didn’t but only just.  Josh Widdecombe followed, I can’t remember much about him but I do remember him being pretty good.  Then it was the comedian we’d been waiting for, Mark Watson.  Last year he’d been a surprise star for of us, absolutely hilarious, topped only by Steven Hughes.  I didn’t expect him to outdo last year but he was very funny and came pretty close.  He and Russell Kane were the best comedians of the day for me.

At some point in the day I nervously braved the arena toilets for a much needed dump.  My fears were unfounded, the toilets were very clean and remained that way throughout the festival, the staff deserve medals.  There was one mishap however in the gents urinals, when a bloke slipped on the floor and hit his head against the piss filled plastic trough.  I checked and he was OK but it couldn’t have been nice. 

Time for more music.  We went to the Word arena to catch the end of Dexy’s and thoroughly enjoyed it.  A few tunes from our youth played by good musicians with the singers playing the parts of the characters in their songs.  I thought they milked “Come on Eileen” a bit and by Christ Kevin Rowland looks old but all in all a really good show.  NB.  “I came on Eileen” was one of the best Tee shirt slogans of the weekend.  Lana Del Ray came to Latitude on the back of a few hits and a pretty good album which is sitting on my shelf.  She’s a fine looking lady with a very good voice and writes good songs.  Unfortunately her performance was unprofessional, her band lacked oomph and she has very little stage presence.  I’d expected a lot from LDR but this was possibly the most disappointing performance of the weekend.

Energy was sagging so we had delicious curried goat and magic beans then went wandering in search of music that suited our mood.  Bon Iver on the Obelisk didn’t, sounded dangerously close to country music to me.  At some point in the evening the Word tent emptied while the lovely lady and I were in the toilets.  We lost each other for a time amongst a sea of people but normal service was soon resumed.  This was probably after White Lies in the Word who were much better than Bon Iver but still didn’t hit the spot.  Shortly after they finished Moshi Moshi DJ’s started up, playing some great tunes that got us dancing amongst a crowd that was mostly half our age…at least.  After a while we went in search of doughnuts and shortly afterwards it started pissing it down.  There was lively music in the Lavish Lounge but the Wolf was cancelled due to the weather.  We wound up in the I arena where DJ’s Heatwave ?were playing Dancehall music and we danced…and danced…and danced.  The killer tune was ‘Out of Space’.  A wild night finished with us crashing out, thoroughly knackered at about 0330, still buzzing too much for sleep.  Brilliant.

Saturday is a blur as we were struck down by the ailment known as “Festival head”.  We got up around 1000 after no more than four hours sleep.  I think it was dry at the time but there was evidence of heavy rain having fallen at some point in the recent past.  After the brew it was down to the village for breakfast and then into the arena.  Mud management is very good at Latitude but at this point they were still fighting a battle, one that they eventually won in most places.  Phil Jupitas was on but the Comedy tent was packed out so we gave it a miss.  We ended up at the Obelisk watching Sissy & the Blisters who weren’t at all bad, lively rock & roll.  Mick Flannery followed and he succeeded in driving us from the arena.

We couldn’t find anything that really floated our boat so chilled out around the benches, energy was flagging so it was a perfect time for the sport of people watching.  Latitude is perceived as the “middle class festival” by the comedians at least.  Watching the audience it’s hard to argue with that though.  There are lots of families who are well catered for at this festival and maybe at times the music reflects this.  The biggest give away are the voices and accents, there are lots of “Ya Ya’s” in the crowd, a big percentage is made up from the privileged few.  For teenagers in Norfolk & Suffolk, Latitude has become a rite of passage and there are thousands of kids celebrating the end of exams.  There is fancy dress all around, every conceivable type of outfit from dinosaurs to Elvis’s.  Watching the ebb and flow of humanity and ear wigging snatches of passing conversation is an entertaining way to while away a little time.  Whatever the makeup of the crowd may be the vibe is always peaceful and the atmosphere rarely hostile.  Latitude really is a lovely chilled out festival.

The showers came and went through the day but luckily the heaviest rain fell in the afternoon while we were back in the tent crashed out.  We regained consciousness in the early evening and ventured out again feeling refreshed.  Before our sleep we’d left our phones at the Vodafone stand for a free charge up, so we picked them up again on the way out.  Dinner was from “Hot wok”, noodles but not very nice.  Adnams Southwold Bitter revived my taste buds once again.  Around this time we caught a little bit of David Doherty in the comedy tent but didn’t hear enough to form an opinion.

We tried to watch Laura Marling, of whom I’ve heard good things but that wailing vocal is not my thing and the more I heard, the less I liked.  The lovely lady wasn’t getting it either so we moved on.  At some point during the evening we saw a band in the Word arena, I don’t remember when so I can’t find out who it was but they were dancey trancey kind of stuff and were pretty good.  We did see quite a bit of Elbow who had a big show, made a big sound and seemed a bloody good band if you like that kind of thing, but I don’t.  I recognised a few tunes and could appreciate the show, they are good at what they do slick and professional. I almost wished I liked them so I could share the experience with those that were loving it.  It’s just not my kind of music.

We wandered around some more and watching the laser show by the bridge then found ourselves back at the Lavish lounge.  Before the Wolf (more about him in a bit) was a folk singer called Sam something or other.  We gave it a chance but hurried off before the end of the first song.  Horrible!  We killed time wandering around in the woods checking out the big art.  Modern art, I get it sometimes but mostly it’s just self-indulgent, pretentious shit as far as I’m concerned.  The Emperor’s new clothes.  Before long we were back at the lounge and unfortunately the folkies were still at it.  I found it all painful to my delicate ears, all that wailing and misery but there were many people enjoying it.  The last tune they played was a bit more lively and the folkies were in raptures.  One guy with curly hair, a big beard and wearing a green Corduroy jacket (I kid you not!) was jigging around in a state of absolute bliss. I considered gouging my eyes out and stuffing them in my ears to block out the misery.  But fair play to the folkies if that’s their thing, one man’s meat is another man’s poison but I would gladly have eaten that poison if it would stop me listening to that bilge.  Our late night surprise last year had been the Big Bad Wolf telling his dark and nasty bedtime stories so we’d looked forward to renewing our acquaintance.  This year his act was a little different and there wasn’t as much crowd interaction but still he made us laugh though not as much as before.  It was worth enduring the folkies though and I’m sure we’ll pay him a visit next year. 

We decided against a late night so we could be well rested for the final day.  We made the muddy trudge back up the hill and by this stage the elements were winning again. As we made our way back for probably the only time all weekend, we became aware of loads of pissed teenagers reeling around.  They were no bother just having fun and at that age I’d have probably been worse so I did not envy their inevitable hangovers.  The campsite toilets had plumbed new depths of wretchedness and stench but were unavoidable.  I would have needed a seriously turbulent stomach to make me even think about taking a dump in there.  Over the weekend almost all the staff we met were great but the poor guy on nightshift at those toilets could be excused for being miserable. The last few steps back to the tent seemed like miles.  Brush teeth, crash, knackered, sleep.

Sunday began dry and bright, we had no idea what the weather forecasters had foretold but things looked promising.  We were well rested after a good kip so after the morning brew we skipped the village and wandered down to the arena.  Breakfast would have to wait because the morning movement was imminent.  The arena toilets had been very good all weekend but there was always the sense of “Flushin’ Roulette” on opening the porta-loo door, what kind of animal had been in before?  Actually I should pity those that followed me.  Anyway with jobs done we had a big, tasty breakfast burger to put fuel in the tank, oiled with another cup of tea.  Now comedy time.

We edged into the tent and caught the end of the “Early morning edition” with Marcus Brigstock & friends, not a bad start to the day.  After that there was a short pause which allowed us to wander around and find a good position towards the back of the tent.  At first I didn’t know what to make of the silly rock star send up by Nick Helm & the Helmets, Spinal tap 3?  But he’ a great, self-effacing character and by the end I was laughing along.  I’d seen Abandoman last year so knew what to expect, very funny improvised rap music/comedy performed by Irishmen.  It was basically the same act as last year so didn’t have quite the same effect.  Next up was one of our ‘must see’ acts of the weekend, Reginald D. Hunter.  He battled against a big sound coming from the obelisk, said he wasn’t used to the daylight and seemed a little out of sorts at times.  However he pulled it off and was damn funny, worth waiting for.

A quick toilet break followed.  The day was still dry and bright and the arenas had dried out beyond all expectations, the boots were hardly needed by this stage.  Back in the comedy arena for Nathan Caton who was a new face to us.  He started slowly but soon got into his stride and was good for more than a few laughs.  Should we hang around for Rich Hall?  In the end we did and it was an excellent decision because he was brilliant.  The dry, dead pan familiar from TV panel shows works just as well in stand up and he has a way of making ordinary words sound extra funny.  That is if ‘shit’ and ‘prick’ can be considered ordinary.  Great show and the comedy highlight of the weekend for me.

After that we had seen enough of the comedy tent so wandered off into the still sunny open air.  We met up with some of the lovely ladies family for a catch up and a laugh then bumped into some friends of the kids which was nice.  We were eager for music so made our way to the Obelisk arena for Simple Minds who I’d liked for about five minutes in the eighties.  The performance was dull and the music hadn’t aged well, after a handful of songs we’d seen enough.  More fuel provided by doughnuts and magic beans.  We sat on the benches for a while and agreed what the weekend lacked thus far was a really great concert performance that we could get caught up in.  Last year The Eels assaulted the Word arena with a brilliant set featuring a huge guitar sound from top musicians.  It was a truly great gig and something along those lines would do us nicely thanks very much.  More people watching, another good Tee shirt slogan read “I’m not a gynaecologist but I’ll have a look”.  Time for more music, we saw a bit of Bats for Lashes which started off pretty good but got a bit samey a few songs in and by this stage of the festival I’d heard enough wailing vocals ta very much.

One of the bands we had pencilled in this weekend was The Levellers who were performing an acoustic set at the outdoor arena.  We got there early and found a nice spot looking down on the stage.  The lovely lady started to feel a bit iffy so sat down on a log for a bit.  The crowd began to swell and a friendly dread came and shared the log.  We got chatting about festivals and stuff but he ranted on about the “Nazi’s” that make big profits from organising festivals.  I countered that I was having a great time and it was all a means to an end.  Privately I could get where he was coming from but if that’s how he felt, why was he here?.  By the time the Lev’s came on stage the woods were packed out, the lovely lady was still feeling rough and I could hardly see the stage.  The band sounded awesome however, starting with ‘Beautiful day’ and playing some crackers like ‘Boatman’, ‘Carry me’ and ‘One way’.  As good as they sounded I still couldn’t see, the lovely lady was feeling better but needed some space so we reluctantly left the woods and headed over to the Obelisk arena for the main event of the day.

The light was fading fast as we weaved our way through the crowds to a good vantage point, right of stage close to both bar and bogs.  We didn’t have long to wait before Paul Weller hit the stage and began ninety minutes of great tunes played by great musicians.  I’ve always liked ‘The Jam’, bits of ‘Style Council’ and a lot of the solo stuff but until this gig I didn’t realise what a bloody good musician and songwriter Weller is.  We loved every minute, dancing slow and close together (‘you do something to me’) or jigging about solo (most of the rest).  Highlights included ‘Wild wood’, ‘Changing man’, ‘Town called Malice’ and the encore of ‘Eton Rifles’.  It made a nice change to actually get emotionally involved in a gig on the main stage and Paul Weller really is a fucking rock leg-end.  A really good show and without doubt the musical highlight of the weekend, exactly what we’d wanted.  We left the Obelisk arena on a high, buzzing and in search of more music to dance the weekend away.

We found DJ’s on the lake stage (Vinyl vendettas I think) and danced along to rock and indie music old and new for as long as our legs would hold us up.  Midnight came and went, as time went by we grew more and more tired so eventually gave in to the temptation of doughnuts.  We sat on a bench once more, enjoying the music, watching the world go by and trying to hang on to the festival vibe for as long as we could.  With a clear sky the temperature began to drop and it became colder.  It was this as much as tiredness that made us reluctantly leave the arena and take the slow walk back to the campsite.  It was a melancholy walk as we really didn’t want the festival to end but we had no choice but return along paths that had become homely.  The campsite toilets didn’t smell too bad at all by this stage and another brilliant day ended with us collapsing into bed around 0200.

All too soon it was Monday morning and we reluctantly crawled out of bed for a morning brew and slowly began tidying up and packing away.  When it came to folding the tent away there were spots of rain, typical!  We didn’t want to return to the real world but had enjoyed a great weekend so the post festival blues weren’t too bad.

We decided against hauling all our gear back to the car and took the lazy option of a Festitaxi, we felt we’d earned it after a big weekend.  There was a bit of a queue and so an hour wait but we just couldn’t be arsed to yomp back.  We were kept entertained by the antics of the departing festival crowd.  Bedraggled groups of hungover teens trudged by along with equally dishevelled Ya yas.  Near us in the queue were a middle aged and very middle classed couple with a young daughter.  They had been obliged to buy the ‘right on’ festival outfits.  She wore a leopard print jacket, heavy makeup topped with bottle blonde hair dying under a head scarf.  He loudly talked business into a mobile phone whilst dressed in a trench coat and full Native American head-dress.  Also nearby were three old biddies, easily in their sixties so fair play for staying the course for the weekend.  Two of the old gals seemed fine but the third was loud, miserable and moaning about everything.  She did not stop whinging from the moment she appeared to the time we left and I considered throttling her.  I was almost willing her to try and jump the queue just so I could…
Our Festitaxi arrived and we were happy to be away with a jolly young lady driving.  Just a short walk to the car and it was load up and drive away.  It took a while to get out of the car park then we were out into heavy traffic on the A12, back in the real world which is a far more insane place than the fields of the last few days.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The not very beautiful game

I fell out of love with football a long time ago.  This was partly due to the fall from grace of my team Ipswich Town, after years of glory.  However it is mostly due to the way the game has changed.  In the seventies when the Town were riding high under Bobby Robson the game was played by men.  Defenders were big, intimidating, hard men like Tommy Smith, Ron “Chopper” Harris and at the Town we had “Big Al” Hunter.  To play against these men, forwards had to be tough too, in those days footballers didn’t like to show pain and we kids having a kickabout in the park wouldn’t show pain either.  Nowadays we see the likes of Ronaldo writhing around in apparent agony if someone so much as steps on his shadow.

Although I always follow the Town’s results through the season I no longer feel the pain of defeat nor does it bother me if their East Anglian rivals do well.  However until fairly recently I have found myself passionately involved when the England team plays.  For my whole life, whenever England played in a major tournament I had an unshakeable belief that they would find a way to win.  This belief would not diminish until they were finally eliminated from whichever tournament they were playing in.  In 1990, 1996 and to some extent 1998 our exits were heroic, we retained a sense of pride in our team.  Since then we’ve gone out with a whimper. The 2010 World cup was the turning point, the standard of play was pathetic and our exit was an embarrassing thrashing by the Germans of all teams.  This was a low point in English football and one from which we’ve never recovered.

Euro 2012 has seen an improvement.  England played reasonably well in the group games and qualified as group winners.  For 45 minutes we held our own against a decent Italian team but then we ran out of gas.  The second half and all of extra time saw a piss poor performance which was excruciating to watch and the Italians deserved their penalty win.  Nowhere near as embarrassing as 2010 but we were out all the same.

What I don’t understand is how we can have such a competitive domestic league yet be so mediocre on the international stage?  Apparently all four teams that have reached the semi finals have a mid winter break in their seasons, does the English team just run out of gas?  Is the FA interested in the performance of the national team or is this of secondary importance behind making millions of pounds with the premier league?  After our atrocious showing in the 2006 Ashes the ECB commissioned an inquiry, now we have the best cricket team in the world.  Will the FA hold a similar inquest?

Finally, although I’m no longer a great football fan these days, I have watched a lot of matches over the last forty years.  Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Kevin Keegan, Trevor Brooking, Kevin Beatie (who remembers him?), Peter Shilton, Gary Lineker, Brian Robson, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and David Beckham were all great players.  Wayne Rooney is nothing like a great player, not even close.  If that scouse fucktard is the best we’ve got then we’re screwed.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

“Skagboys” by Irvine Welsh

I have to come clean, I am an Irvine Welsh fan.  I have read everything he’s had published and loved almost all of it.  His debut novel “Trainspotting” changed my life and everytime I read his work it makes me want to be a writer.

If you have read Irvine Welsh you might want to skip this paragraph but if you are unfamiliar with his work then here’s a few brief outlines.  Welsh is an ex junkie from Edinburgh and a lot of his work deals with things he himself has lived through.  You sense there are elements of the man himself in certain characters.  IW has created a world and many of his characters cross from one story to another if only in cameo.  The first thing you will notice about his language, dialogue in particular is written in a local dialect.  The first time reader will have to hear the words/ accent in their own mind, to help understand it on the page.  Once you become familiar it becomes second nature.  This style of writing dialogue is brilliant as the regular reader will recognise individual characters, without introduction, from the way they speak.  This adds so much depth to the character and really helps the reader to understand them.

“Skagboys” is a prequel to “Trainspotting” and basically charts the fall from society of the characters we have grown to love/loathe in previous novels.  To quote from the book’s cover;
“Skagboys charts their journey from likely lads to young men addicted to heroin which has flooded their disintegrating community……this is an exhilarating and moving book, full of the scabrous humour, salty vernacular and appalling behaviour that has made Irvine Welsh a household name.”

I was a little sceptical when I began reading, knowing these characters futures means I know there will be grim tales to follow and this is most certainly the case!  In places it is very dark with vile characters behaving in despicable ways and loveable characters coming apart at the seams.  It’s sad but lightened at all times by the humour throughout.  At times I literally laughed out loud, giggling in a caravan on a foreign holiday, trying desperately not to wake the kids.  By the end the characters have become those we know from “ Trainspotting” and “Porno”.  The ending is comical chaos but falls short of the euphoria of other novels but we knew that had to be the case.

Welsh has been accused of “glamorising heroin addiction”  but anyone who has read the vivid descriptions of a skag boy’s existence will be put off for life.  For this and his brilliant use of dialogue he should be on the school’s curriculum.

Skagboys is a great book, Irvine Welsh is in top form and it takes its place alongside the others in this series.  Hopefully one day Renton, Spud, Begbie & Sick boy will ride again for another scam.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

3rd test & stuff

We should be at the end of the fourth day of the third test match but due to the shite weather we’ve only had two days play.  God we were lucky at Trent Bridge last week!   England won the toss and put the Windies in to bat, Jimmy & Broad both being rested with Onions and Finn taking their places.  For WI Shiv (best batsman) and Roach (best bowler) are injured and there are many changes.  It’s a competitive day but it ends with WI 280-8, honours just about even?

Sunday should have been all England and when inn removed Rampaul with the third ball of the day that was the way it looked.  Enter Tino best for his first test in about three years and mayhem.  Ramdin inched his way from an overnight 60 odd to his second test hundred but best stole the show with a world record 95, the best ever score by a test no.11.  All crash bang wallop it was too, a great, fighting knock from a great entertainer.
England batted and managed to get in a bit of a mess at 49-3 but KP & Bell both scored fluent half centuries to leave England at 221-4 at the close.  Then there was no play on the final day, no result in this match but after two full days cricket, WI were ahead on points but neither side ever looked likely to win. 
My pre series predictions have been pretty accurate all round, he says smugly.  West Indies performed better than I expected but England were under par.  They will have to improve if they want to beat South Africa later this summer.

As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve just returned from a week on the continent and once again I’ve found myself embarrassed by the behaviour of my fellow Brits abroad.  The kids missed a couple of days school so for the first few days of our week there were very few English families around.  However the Brits arrived at the weekend when the schools closed for a week and the noise level ramped up immediately.  The jubilee weekend giving the exiles the excuse to stay up late drinking heavily and singing badly.

A good example of the mentality I‘m talking about reared itself one morning.  I overheard a skinny, shaven headed little man tell his children, “they’re not as good as us, they’re foreign…”.  I held his gaze, him not knowing if I was Dutch, English, German or whatever, he looked away.  I didn’t say anything but was thinking “Not as good as you?  Must be a fucking cockroach…”

 By now it will come as no surprise to find that I rarely feel the urge to befriend my fellow Brits when I go away.  Yes I’m an anti-social git but many of the people I meet are an embarrassment.  Shaven head, tattoos beer gut with a football shirt stretched over it, worn as a challenge.  Tribalised by the media representation of bloody football.  The Brits think that Britannia still rules the waves, we own the world and have no need to bestow our manners on the stupid foreigners.  Yes it’s a cliché but yes its bloody true!!  The blokes aren’t much better either.  This is no snap judgement, it’s something I’ve observed in the last decade or so, probably since I became a parent.

I haven’t always had this attitude, there was a time when I travelled the world as a proud Brit and probably acted just like the people I’m slagging.  In fact a Scottish friend, Lyall (where the fuck are you now dude?), once described me as “the most English, Englishman he’d ever met”.  Although I knew even then he wasn’t being entirely complementary I was far from offended.
But what really have we got to be proud of?  I certainly have pride in the bravery of my grandparent’s and great grandparent’s generations but don’t use it as a reason or excuse to hate Germans.  A football win nearly 50 years ago is irrelevant now but a couple of heroic failures made me proud.  Cricket, now that’s a slightly different matter!

As ever I’ve got loads of books on the go.  Recently I finished “Mad, bad & dangerous to know” the autobiography of the explorer Sir Ranulph Fienes.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but thoroughly enjoyed it.  Sir Ran’s descriptions of the extreme expeditions he’s attempted are vividly written and easily took me away to the coldest and highest places on earth.  He paints the pictures far better than very many authors who write for a living.  Liked it a lot and the title sums the man up nicely!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A day at the test

The day started with an ungodly alarm clock call at 0645.  Tea and toast then on a short drive to rendezvous with the rest of the family.  There were ten of us travelling to Nottingham in two cars.  An easy journey in the early morning sunshine but we were all impatient to get there.  The last few miles into the city are a drag but eventually we cross the Trent and Park the car.  A little after two hours after leaving home we’re climbing out of the cars.
This trip has been arranged a long time, in fact the tickets were my Christmas presents to my Mum & Dad plus my sister and her family.  Most of us have been to test matches before but amongst our number are four test match virgins.  The match is well poised, the weather forecast is perfect and we have a full day of play ahead of us.

We make the short walk back across the bridge and soon make it to the ground.  As usual the queues move quickly as the stewards are efficient and friendly.  We soon take our seats in the front row of the new stand and discuss the day ahead.  Surely Strauss will make a double century and Pietersen will smash them all over the park?

Play begins on time.  KP hits the first boundary of the day but we’re all gutted when he’s out for 80, LBW to Rampaul shortly afterwards.  Bell comes in and makes the game look easy but when Roach takes the new ball it’s a different matter.  Bell is out quickly and Bairstow comes to the wicket.  To be frank the youngster is out of his depth and Roach makes mincemeat out of him.  If he’s to have a test career he needs to learn to play the short ball.  Prior is in next, he always makes runs when we’re at the ground…except today.  At lunch England are 340-6 and still trailing.  We’ve had a baking sun on us all morning and we’re starting to feel the effects of it but thankfully the roof of the stand will shield us soon.
The afternoon follows on in the same vein.  Runs are difficult to come by, the pitch seems two paced and the West Indies are bowling well.  Strauss departs for 141 to a wide delivery from Sammy.  This brings Bresnan and Broad together and they manage the most fluent partnership of the day, reaching 50 between them in less than 15 overs before Broad is out sweeping Shillingford.  The end of the England innings is a farcical affair as Samuels takes the last two wickets in strange circumstances using the DRS.  England are all out for 428, a handy lead of 58 runs.  Not what we expected however!  We all hoped to see England cruise past 500 then set WI a tricky half hour spell to survive.  Instead they have a full session to get stuck into the batting after bowling themselves back into the game.  

 Anderson and Broad open the bowling straight after tea and straight away Jimmy is in the groove bowling Barath and trapping Powell LBW.  Broad bowls poorly, giving WI a four ball in every over but it’s one of these that gets the next wicket as Chanderpaul top edges him straight down Trott’s throat at DBSL.  The talented Bravo offers resistence but is eventually out for 22, LBW to Bresnan.  For atmosphere it’s by far the best session of the day as the crowd roars on the England bowlers and it’s carnage out in the middle.  Amongst it all Trott makes friends by signing autographs for children at the boundary edge, including a delighted Isaac!  Bresnan accounts for Ramdin and the hapless Edwards and only Marlon Samuels offers any resistance.  At stumps the score is 61-6 and WI are out on their feet.  England’s bowlers have seized the initiative and there will only be one winner now.

 My family and I have all had a great day.  The test match virgins have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and are determined to do it all again one day soon.  The journey home is long and tiring and kind of sad after a great day at the cricket.  It’s about ten o’clock by the time we get home, a fantastic fifteen hour day comes to an end.


Marlon Samuels leads the West Indies rear-guard but even his unbeaten 76 will not halt theinevitable.  West Indies are all out for 165 with Anderson and Bresnan taking four wickets each.   I catch a bit of TMS on the radio at break times…it would be great to be back at the ground again… England cruise to victory just after tea on the fourth day.  Strauss made 45, Cook was unbeaten on 43 and Trott finished on 17.  England record an emphatic nine wicket win and their seventh consecutive home series win. 
The last team to beat England here was South Africa, who happen to be our next guests later this summer.  I can’t help feeling that we have to improve if we are going to win a three match series against the saffers.  I’ve said it many times before but I’d love to see England bat Prior at 6 and play five bowlers.  Steve Finn is simply too good to leave standing on the sidelines! 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Second Test


We’re two days into the second test against West Indies at Trent Bridge and for the first time this year we actually have some hot summer weather!  By the end the first day was edged by WI.  England had reduced the tourists to 136-6 in the afternoon but Samuels reached his third test century and Sammy passed fifty and by close of play WI were 304-6.

Day two saw Sammy notch up his first test century as he and Samuels took their partnership up to 204 before both departed in quick succession.  England, or more accurately Bresnan, soon wrapped up the tail and WI were all out for 370.  A decent score but not a match winning one.  

From that point on, England dominated the day but if Kemar Roach had been able to run in and not ‘no ball’ things could have been different as twice Cook was reprieved by no balls.  Cook eventually made 24 and Trott 35, both wickets falling to Rampaul.  This left Strauss still there and brought Pietersen to the wicket.  These made an unbroken partnership of 126 as the skipper made his second ton of the series and KP was looking threatening on 72.  These two were not out at close of play which leaves England in a superb position to press on and score big runs on day three.  This is great news as I WILL BE THERE!!!!!!  Along with another nine members of my family.  Looking forward to it, England are well set, the weather forecast is perfect, it should be a great day!!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The First Test

22nd May
  In the end England cruised to a comfortable 5 wicket win but they certainly didn’t have it all their own way.  After dominating the second day England were restricted to 398 on the third as the West Indies began their fight back.  Bell didn’t get his ton but was last man out for 61.  England’s bowlers had WI 64-4 and it seemed like it would be all over quickly but for a second time Chanderpaul and Samuels dug in and their partnership went long into the fourth day, It only ended after lunch with the partnership almost 160 when Samuels was out for 86.  Chanderpaul made 91, with help from Ramdin and Sammy WI made 345 leaving England 191 to win with a tricky session to bat before the fourth day ended.  The score was 10-2 at the close and England would have felt lucky!  Nice to spend the evening fishing with TMS on the radio, perfect!  West Indies dominated day four as much as England had the second day.  Game on!

When England were reduced to 57-4, I was nervous, it was still very much game on at that point but Cook combined with Bell for a partnership of 132 to take the game away.  England won as expected but the West Indies showed much more spirit than they had at any time on their previous tour in 2009.

The next match starts on Friday.  I would expect England will remain unchanged, barring injuries but West Indies must make changes.  Gabriel, who looked good on debut has flown home injured and he’ll probably be replaced by Ravi Rampaul who should bowl well in English conditions.  Will they change the batting line up?  They probably need to but it does seem unfair on any of the younger players should they miss out.

Plusses and minuses?  For England Strauss, Cook and Bell weighed in with runs.  Bairstow looked comfortable on debut.  The bowlers are pure class, Broad the pick with career best figures and 11 in the match.  KP had a quiet game.  West Indies will take heart from Roach’s bowling and runs from Samuels, Barath and Bravo.  Chanderpaul was his usual brilliant self but he can’t always carry the team.  On the negative side, Fidel Edwards lacked rhythm and the youngsters Powel & Edwards contributed only l4 runs between them.

The next match is at Trent Bridge where Anderson has had much success in recent years.  It’s hard to see any other result than an England win, will the West Indies be able to take the match into the fifth day again?

Friday, 18 May 2012

Day two


The day went almost exactly to plan for England.  Broad only needed one ball to get rid of Gabriel and finished with 7-72.  Now all we need is for the captain to bat all day, which he did, finishing not out on 121.  Form is temporary, class is permanent.  All the other batsmen chipped in with a few leaving England 16 ahead with seven wickets left.  A ton from Bell would go down nicely now and England will hope to make a massive total and only bat once in the game.  I have a feeling they will.

Thursday, 17 May 2012


Where the hell did the last month go?  It’s 17th May, the official start of summer and  although the weather feels more like November it’s definitely summer as the First Test started today at Lords.  England won the toss and put the West Indies in with bowling conditions overhead.  Jimmy swung the ball around first up and nicked a couple of wickets.  Then for most of the day the WI batsmen dug in and survived whilst accumulating runs, when many would have expected England’s bowlers to rip the batting apart.  Youngsters Bravo & Barath scored runs in a useful partnership as did the older Samuels and the veteran Chanderpaul who batted as he always does.  Then Broad came up and ripped the middle & lower order to shreds, taking 6 in the process.  England finished the day taking nine wickets, Shiv contributed 87 not out to WI’s 243-9.

I think today will be typical for this series.  Probably the best West Indian team for a decade will battle hard and perform better than most people expect but ultimately England will prove just too good.  I’m looking forward to watching Bravo bat this series and the other young players will be interesting too.  Roach and Edwards are probably their best pair of bowlers since Curtley & Courtney retired.  Should be a good series but only the weather will prevent England winning 3-0.

It was hard to follow the match today as it’s impossible to get a radio signal where I’m working and I can only tune in at break times.  This inspired me to have a fiddle with my phone and managed to find a free download thingy giving ball by ball updates.  It’s called Cricket companion & might prove useful to somebody somewhere?

Monday, 16 April 2012

Where was I?


Time keeps flying by. The last time I managed to tap the buttons we were midway through a test match. Happily as you all know England won, thanks to KP’s brilliant knock and Swanny taking six for to bowl Sri lanka out. The series finished a 1-1 draw, had there been a third and deciding match my money would have been on another England win, well it would wouldn’t it?

That win doesn’t alter the fact that England’s winter in the sub-continent has been a disaster. For some reason our middle order forgot how to bat. Strauss, Cook and Trott all performed Ok but Bell and KP had shockers in the UAE and Morgan proved that he isn’t test class. However I firmly believe these performances were just a blip and our top five batsmen will come back stronger. Note I say “batsmen” and definitely NOT “batters”, horribly terminology! England are still officially No.1 in the world but only just and we hardly seem to deserve that tag.

Next up is a home series against the West Indies (I’ll be at the Trent Bridge match) which on paper should be a comfortable England win. WI are an inconsistent team at the best of times but they do seem to be unearthing some talented young players and Darren Sammy seems to be doing a good job as captain. Hopefully these can gel into a decent team over the next few years but it’s hard to imagine another great West Indian team like that of the eighties. As I write the Windies are playing a slow scoring test match against Australia in a series they trail 1-0. Neither side has looked top class in the series so far. All the Aussie runs are coming from Clarke and Hussey again. Aus should be good enough to beat Australia but they haven’t impressed so far.

Following that is the main event of the summer, England vs South Africa for (only) a three match series. Since SA resumed international cricket, test series between the two sides have always been tight and I expect this one to be no different. If one or the other can win the series clearly then they will be justly crowned No. 1 in the world. I’m confident there will be a result and England will be the winners!

The latest book I’ve finished was “Twisting my melon”, the autobiography of the one and only Shaun Ryder; vocalist and lyricist for Happy Mondays (one of my favourite bands ever..) and Black Grape and more recently a reality TV star. The words on the page are all Ryder, you can almost hear his voice as you read it. Obviously all autobiographies are biased towards the writer but there is a real honesty to this one. I’ve been a fan of Shaun for over 20 years and followed the ups and downs of his life and career closely but even I was shocked by the extent of his drug habit(s). It was really interesting reading Shaun’s take on the rise and fall of the bands as was the insights into how the songs came about. An enjoyable read for long-time fans but it did fizzle out a bit towards the end.

It’s just occurred to me that I’ve met both Shaun & Aggers and shaken their hands over the last couple of years. Both were nice gents too, Shaun outside a gig in Norwich, a little shy and Aggers signing books at Trent Bridge, confident in his environment.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

KP is god

The day after I wrote that KP needs to step up, he plays a quite unbelievable innings and having just watched the highlights on Sky sports, all I can say is wow! That was spectacular, brilliant!! Could anyone else in world cricket play an innings like that? Maybe Dilshan of SL, maybe Sehwag? However credit to Strauss, Trott and cook who all passed fifty too, giving England a platform and allowing Pietersen to play like that. If only the batsmen had played like that all winter…England finished the day with a lead of 180 + and should be able to force the win from here…surely?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

On & Off



It’s been a while since I’ve found time to put anything down on paper….

Since the disastrous series against Pakistan, England managed to lose the first test against Sri Lanka. Once again our bowlers managed to put us in a strong position only to see a woeful first innings batting display. For most of the match England matched Sri Lanka but one session of batting madness ultimately cost England the match, similar to last summer’s test match at Cardiff??

Jayawardene scored a fantastic 160+ and Herath took 12 wickets in the match. With performances like that Sri Lanka should expect to win. For England Jimmy bowled his heart out once again and Trott scored a century.

Now were two days into the second test and England are on top. SL restricted to 275 by Jimmy (3 wickets) & Swann (4 wickets). England are currently 150+ for 1 and should really push on and build a winning position. I’m told that victory here would maintain England’s position as No.1 in the world but even so, we hardly seem to deserve it. Great to see Strauss get a 50 and go some way to answering the short sighted people who have criticised him recently. I’ve been a big fan of KP over the years but even I am losing patience now. ODI form means nothing to me, he needs to step up in the test matches. Recently it seems he scores 200+ or next to nothing. C’mon KP, you’re better than that!

One thing that has bugged me is the selection. Monty Panesar must be gutted to have been left out having been our best spinner this winter. I’m really pleased that England have played five bowlers but Bresnan (and the injured Broad) are capable of batting at no.7 so why pick Samit Patel who is not test standard at batting, bowling or fielding??? Go on Samit, prove me wrong…

& Stuff…

As usual I’ve been reading plenty and my latest cricket book was “Aggers Ashes” which as the title suggests is a review of last winter’s Ashes tour down under by national treasure Jonathan Agnew. A really nice read which brought back loads of great memories, except the bit about Perth… I met Aggers at Trent Bridge last year and he is a really nice bloke.

So there’s an on/off fuel strike causing panic buying and madness at the petrol stations. Now if this was a repeat of the strike of a decade ago, a protest at the high price of fuel or more accurately, fuel (stealth) tax, then I would have some sympathy. However it turns out it’s disgruntled tanker drivers so my sympathy disappears I’m afraid. But the whole tax thing gets up my snout. We get taxed out of existence and yet we say nothing, do nothing, get on with it. The whole bank “crisis” has left us up to our necks in shit yet the tossers (bankers…rhymes with……..) who caused it still get paid massive salaries and bonuses!!!! And we take it….