Smoke on the Water - and other crap songs

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
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Flag of Australia  ,
Saturday, January 13, 2007

After picking up my new credit card and a Baltimore care package from my god-daughter (both of which lifted the spirits!) it was time to bid farewell to the Andersons and leave Sydney. Along the way in Australia I've met all sorts of cricket travellers, including statistical anoraks who keep score and a retired Welsh policeman who now umpires and once gave Geraint Jones out. Then there are the even older supporters who have spent their kids' inheritence in coming here - they won't go to India and "eat that foreign muck" - with one last hope hope of seeing us win the Ashes before they meet the Big Umpire in the sky. Sorry grandad but you've no chance.

There are also (fairly) normal people, and it was one such bloke myself and Rob had arranged to drive back to Melbourne with. Simon is the head groundsman of the cricket grounds at Wormsley Park (the Getty Estate in Buckinghamshire where touring Test teams traditionally begin their tour) and he had hired a car anyway so we joined him in a three day drive along the coast. Also squeezed into the car were a couple of not fairly normal English fans: Dave-o and Graeme from Cheltenham. Dave-o is a fully paid-up member of the Barmy Army and likes to sing. Graeme is vocally quieter but likes to cough and smell.

So the five of us crammed into the car with Dave-o singing about Shane Warne losing his hair and his wife and Graeme leaning out the window smoking a roll-up whilst hacking like a consumptive and humming like burnt sprouts. I was in the middle wishing I was on a bus watching a Japanese-dubbed Sound of Music.

Down the Princes Highway we went rocking out to Simon's 70s CD, stopping occasionally at beaches and bays to stretch the legs - making sure Graeme was at least half a mile upwind. The first night we stopped at Narooma where the guy at the motel regaled us for an hour with stories of his motorbike racing at the Isle of Man TT races in the 60s. He still has a racing bike apparently but how those little stubby legs get his rather generous stomach onto the thing would be a sight to behold. Or not.

The next night we stopped in the one street town of Meeniyan across the border in Victoria. There's not a lot to do in Meeniyan and there's only one place to eat, so the motel manager shouted to the pizza joint across the road and told them to stay open as five pommies had just shown up. After the feed it was across the road to the pub to meet the locals, which is one the most entertaining things to do in rural Oz. Without fail there will be at least one nutter at the bar and this particular one had a drunk sheep shearer. Once he found out we were poms he wanted us to sing "like those idiots on the telly." Dave-o was only too pleased to oblige, so once again Shane Warne was losing his hair and his wife.

On the way into Melbourne we drove close to the bushfires which had now claimed over a million hectares. The temperature had risen to 43 degrees outside as the smoke prevented the heat from dissipating, but as we got to the coast the tempereature dropped 20 degrees and the sky turned an eerie orangy red as the the sun tried to fight through the smoke. The photos don't really capture the strangeness of it all, and a better photographer would have had a field day.

We were back in Melbourne for one reason: to watch England get embarrassed at cricket. This time it was the first one day game of a triangular series also featuring New Zealand and there were about 70,000 at the MCG to watch the Aussies flay us, and they weren't disappointed. Things went from bad to worse when Kevin Pietersen was ruled out of the series when breaking a rib by walking into a Glenn McGrath lifter (I wouldn't be surprised if some of the other England players were also wishing an early return home).

Despite this latest setback I haven't given up hope of seeing an England victory yet on this tour and so I'm looking forward - no, really I am - to seeing us play the Kiwis in Tasmania in a couple of days. We can't lose that one, can we?
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