The England Cricket Team Exposed

Trip Start Nov 08, 2003
1
8
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Trip End Oct 22, 2004


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Saturday, December 13, 2003

09/12/03

Mornin' all from Sri Lanka

After three nights at Surya Samudra we were forced against our will to leave. Not after meeting Sir Clement Freud, complete with droopier than ever face but minus dog, who was passing through after his personal driver got lost. We were on the Internet as he entered the reception.

"Are you OK?" enquired Soph all star struck.

"My driver's got us lost taking me to the hotel with a swimming pool I go to each day."

"This hotel's got a really nice pool" said Soph.

" I get special rates where I go" he replied, and off he went, all rotund and sweaty.

After a really superb meal of steamed kingfish in plantation leaf and banana flambé, which was specially good as they turned out the lights, smothered it with cognac and set it alight in true holiday fashion, we walked forlornly back to our cottage to pack. The flight to Sri Lanka the next morning would leave at 9.55am, with the taxi arriving at 8am.

The next morning we got to the airport at 8.30am and checked in very smoothly, no queues, but a strange baggage system where would literally have to go onto the runway to point out what bags were ours! On our baggage were placed priority tags and in my hand was an invitation to the 'Peacock Lounge', which was a kinda VIP lounge. This was all a bit strange.

We then went through security and boarding gates, and then down the runway to the transfer bus. While waiting there we noticed our boarding cards were blue and pretty much everyone else's were green. The bus turned up and showing our cards to the Sri Lankan Airlines guy he sent us back to wait in the lounge, remarking:

"You're Business Class, you can wait in the lounge if you want to."

On hearing this an English lady nearby snorted:

"Business Class? How did you manage that?"

It suddenly dawned on me that when booking the flight in London I was asked if we wanted to upgrade for £10 each. Fine I said.

"It only cost £20 for both of us." I boasted, buffing imaginary nails on my chest.

She got on the bus with the rest of the riff-raff in a huff.

While 200 other peasants were being microwaved on the plane for half an hour, we sat in the air-conditioned airport lounge watching banghra. Then our chaperone came in to lead the twelve chosen ones down to our very own bus, which took us to the plane with five minutes to take-off. Onto the plane we swaggered, while taking a long lingering look up the aisle at the hoi-polloi, just long enough for them to clock us and bow their heads in shame.

Well, we'd had a free upgrade before with Virgin to the US, but that was just Premium Economy and about an inch extra legroom. This was something else. We'd been in living rooms with less legroom, the menu was a full dinner menu (at 10 in the morning!), iced towels, papers, you name it. The only downside was that the flight was only 45 minutes.

So after a lamb curry for breakfast we landed on Sri Lankan soil at Bandaranaike International Airport, with quite a big bump it must be said. Our bags were one of the first off the conveyor belt, and at the exchange we got a good rate of 167 Sri Lankan rupees to the pound. Everything was going too well.

After a couple of transfer-arranging emails to our hotel 'Ladyhill' in Galle, we went through customs and looked for our driver with namecard. No Mr Cordray/Codday/Cowdrey. No sign. Doing a great impersonation of two lost tourists, in fact we were two lost tourists, a man approached.

Alarm bells rang, tourist fleecing scam approaching I thought to myself.

Actually he was a genuinely friendly bloke, who turned out to be part of the Sri Lankan Tourist Drivers Association or something like that. He took us to his little booth and rang our hotel for us, and informed us that they had been having problems with their email. Anyway, he offered us a transfer for 3,800 rupees, which turned out to be a tenner less than Ladyhill were going to charge us.

Into the van we piled and after driving for half an hour down the coast road our driver had a call on his mobile instructing him to turn around as he'd forgotten his drivers' licence, an apparently criminal offence here. So, after doing a U-turn we found ourselves back at the airport. One hour gone, of what was supposed to be a two hour trip.

Our driver, who was now turning out to be a bit of a mentalist, decided to take a different route inland to miss the Colombo traffic. So, after a two hour by-pass of Colombo we found ourselves back on the coast road - about five miles along the coast. By this time the traffic had really built up and after another two hours of pootling along, with two refreshment stops, and every species of tree pointed out en route, we arrived in Galle, just as the heavens were opening, and everyone was streaming out of the ground which added another half hour to the trip.

Five and a half hours for a two hour trip and he had the audacity to offer his services as a guide and driver for the three weeks we were here. He gave me his mobile number. "Don't call us, we'll call you" were our parting words to him.

'Ladyhill' turned out to be a quaint little hotel, with a pink theme running throughout, and stuck in seventeenth-century Dutch colonialism times. The rooms smelt of sewerage, but outweighing this was the oh-so-important satellite TV and the edible four-course set-dinner for £2. The bar also seemed a good drinking den for the not-so-barmy branch of the Barmy Army, due to it being the highest point in Galle and only a five minute walk from the town centre.

That night it rained and rained with an intensity we'd yet seen. I was convinced the final day of the First Test would be a wash-out and the England cricket team were hoping it'd be a wash-out, but after a couple of hours of sun the following morning it was game-on.

Arriving at the Galle International Stadium (stadium, being a strong word, as Bigglesworth 2nd XI of the Bloggs Bakeries Northern Division Three has a grander setup), we noticed quite a few people were passing up the opportunity of paying to get into the ground, and, instead, were just walking up the steps to the famous Galle Fort which overlooks the ground as if you were sitting in the stands. So we joined the other titus maximuses and watched most of the mornings play from there, the mornings play being a steady trickle of England losing wickets.

At about 12.30 we jumped into a tuk-tuk and headed for the illustrious Lighthouse Hotel 10 minutes north.

Designed by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka's most acclaimed architect, The Lighthouse looks like nothing from the outside, but once inside, it oozes stylishness. After a spot of lunch and a quick chat with the staff we found out that the England Cricket Team had been staying here, and had booked up 50 of the hotels' 60 rooms. Tonight would be their last night here, before travelling to Kandy for the 2nd Test. We would be gatecrashing their farewell meal.

After lunch, we headed back to the game, but with England having just three wickets left and more than 20 overs to bat, we sneaked off, with the intention of avoiding a few thousand Sri Lankan fans laughing and pointing at us when England lost. They subsequently didn't lose due to a combination of good old British spunk and bad light, but we weren't going to find out whatever the outcome.

That evening, all spruced up and smelling of cheap cologne, we hailed a tuk-tuk and set off for The Lighthouse.

The food would consist of a barbeque buffet of enormous proportions, with three hugemongous grills serving every sort of fish, meat and kebab you could think of, and back inside were bowls and bowls of all the accompaniments to a barbie you could think of! As we entered the dining area, we were shown to a table for two, just a dropped-catch away from the excuse that is the England Cricket Team, looking very smug after saving the First Test.

A run down of the team sheet that evening follows:

Captain Michael Vaughan, lounging almost horizontally on his chair, with an ooh-I'm-the-new-England-captain look plastered over his po-face, complete with mobile phone surgically attached to his ear-hole.

Nasser Hussein, with an ooh-I'm-the-ex-England-captain look on his face, he too with mobile phone replacing jug-ear.

Mark Butcher, who'd slip out every 10 minutes for a cigarette, behind the tour manager's back.

James Anderson, the Becks of English cricket, all gangly, young and good-looking in full England kit so as not to be missed by the steady stream of Barmy Army arriving for a sneaky look at their idols.

Ashley Giles in fetching white sleeveless basketball top, nice look.

Chris Read, the new England wicket keeper on his first tour abroad, dressed in (trying hard to be) trendy jeans and top. I was standing next to him at the barbie when he started abusing his new-found star-status and started sledging the cook for giving him one sausage too many (just leave it if you can't eat it), and asking the ingredients of everything including the chicken wings.

Matthew Hoggard, was living up to his name, and had his head in his plate for the whole time we were there.

Richard Johnson and Marcus Trescothick made a lovely foursome with their flown-over-specially other halves, and tried to distance themselves from the singletons.

Robert Croft, Welsh has-been, looked a picture of pikeyness walking around in a 1980's kit with just his chunky woolen socks on. I tell you, no shoes, no trainers, no nothing, in one of the best hotels in the world.

Freddie Flintoff, the saviour of English cricket was nowhere to be seen, probably having an early night after a disastrous First Test with the bat.

And then in he walked, Graham Thorpe, recently hounded by the press for his wife and child dumping antics. Swaggering was taken to a totally new level, as he shimmied in with his new bit of 'fluff' handcuffed to his forearm. The 'fluff' has something written on the seat of her jeans, probably: "Look at my arse".

Did they perch themselves down with the rest of the boys? Nope, their image wasn't going to be cramped by anyone, especially Robert Croft and his socks.

Off they tangoed to a far corner to enjoy their chargrilled burgers in romantic isolation. After an hour they waltzed back, Thorpe gave the boys a secret ladsy thumbs-up and back to the hotel room they went giggling, leaving the rest to entertain themselves with smutty Thorpe/Fluff-based innuendos. Thorpe won't be making too many runs in the Kandy game.

They all then poured themselves some more beer and retired to the Cinnamon Bar upstairs to plan their next batting collapse, partaking in a competition to see who could walk the slowest, thus allowing The Barmy Army a good gander. Soph was eager to follow. I reined her in, fearing we'd be ejected after five minutes of sustained mickey taking.

Three days had passed in Galle, and we were soon realising that five nights would be two too many. So, on the third day, we set off on a reconnaissance trip to the sandy beaches along the south coast, looking for two nights in a snazzy resort. After sampling the towns of Tangalle and Dickwella (Paul's brother), we settled on the Dickwella Village Resort (don't you titter).

I'm writing this by the pool (rubbing it in) on our last day here. It's a funny old place. Non-stop Bob Marley music poolside, a group of resident Italian owners who gesticulate non-stop and presumably talk about pasta all day, two beaches, one in a calm bay, the other on a surfing beach with awesome breakers (er, big waves), really nice large apartments with the quietest air-con so far (yet another little thing we've become obsessed with) and loads of nice, predominantly-Italian, food (this part of the coast is Little Italy). The weather, again, is generally cloudy, with the sun only really appearing in the morning, although today has been one of the best days for a month, and I've caught most of it smack in my face.

Next on the agenda is an hours drive back up the coast to Unawatuna Beach, supposedly the best in Sri Lanka, for 4 days, then inland to the high country to see Nuwara Eliya (Little England), Pinnewalla elephant orphanage, Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the Dambulla caves to name a few.

Keep your eyes on the email for further updates.
Stick with us, it's gonna be a long bumpy ride.

Ciao, ciao, ciao

Gazarelli & Sophia
xx
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