When I was little the big dread after the long summer holidays about going back to school was because the first thing you had to do was write the essay “What did you do on your holiday?” Everyone else had had really exciting times – camping in France or Spain, maybe even going to America. I just had 2 weeks in Devon to make interesting. There was one year with an element of interest when someone nearly drowned on the beach but mostly my hols were deeply dull.
This time, however, I am quite happy at the thought of the “What I did on my hols” essay. For one I don’t HAVE to do it, and for two my hols were a bit interesting!
So what happened to make my hols interesting in a sporting way? For Pseuds readers? Well – I chose to take my time off in the home of sporting excellence and endeavour. Yup – I went to Australia. A country (delightful though it is in many other ways) that judges all and everyone by their achievements in the sporting arena. From the moment I arrived it was clear that if you care not for sport, there is little else to read in the papers.
My time coincided with the pre-season Footie (a culture all of its own) and the Tri-nations cricket competition. This was between India, Australia and Sri Lanka and most of the stories were not about any actual games but the sledging between Andrew Symonds, Harbhajan Singh and the entire Aus v Ind cricket establishments. None of it very enlightening but quite fun as a spectator sport.
I did go to a match at the “G”. That is the Melbourne Cricket Ground and it is the most enormous of stadiums (or should that more properly be stadia!). This is a sports ground so huge that with 50,000 spectators it feels empty. My gosh – coming from the NE of Scots where a crowd of 7,000 in Inverness is a sell-out – to get 50,000 is beyond belief. But there that’s a show of lack of interest.
However, when I was at the G, I found myself sitting in the part of the ground filled by Indian supporters which was fun. When the teams came out to warm up, the Indians came right up to our part of the stadium and played up well to us. They were well aware of all their fans and gave us good photo opps – which was nice.
It was interesting that when the Aussies did their warm up in front of the Aussie part of the crowd, Victoria’s finest (known as the Filth), found it necessary to be very much on duty. Not being a regular attendant at football matches in the UK, I found the strong police presence quite off-putting.
Once the match got underway – after of course the ceremony of the toss and the TV interviews of the captains in the centre (a delight for me as my favourite chap Mark Nicholas was presiding) – there was much to enjoy. Ricky Ponting won the toss and chose to bat but was out for virtually no runs after twitching at the crease like a demented Dreyfus. Symonds – the subject of so much controversy was also out cheaply and once the Indians were in to bat, Symonds was the one who bowled an absolutely stupid wide at the end of the match! Which India won.
Indian One-day captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was charm and delight personified. Ishant Sharma – who earned the nickname Instant Karma – was a 19 year-old revelation of brilliant fast bowling.
I left the G having witnessed some wonderful cricket and some rubbish from the umpires – Gilchrist walked (as he is known for) to a shocking decision which deprived us of seeing him in his retiring pomp. Mostly it was fantastic experiencing this mythical ground – even half full, it was a great day.
A few days later I encountered Aussie sports in a very different environment. I took a drive down The Great Ocean Road and stopped off at a small (in Aussie terms) beach called Kennett’s Creek. Here I, almost literally, ran into some home boy surfers. Fortunately they were efficient and seeing a swimmer without board in the waves took evading action and did not run me down. It was a very hot day and I felt the best way to deal with the heat was to put on my cossie and get into the beckoning waves. What I didn’t realise was that the beckoning waves were of a strength to knock me under and nearly knocked me out!
The chaps were obviously far more au fait with the circs than I was, and very kindly shepherded me back to the beach in safety. It was a salutary experience but also one that led to an understanding of the great Australian mate-ship thing. You nearly drown, get rescued and share a stubbie or two. Nice!
There was one other delightful sporting gem that happened to me on my hol. I met an elderly chap who had seen Don Bradman play when Jardine took England to the Bodyline win. Mr Walker had stories to tell and it was a joy to talk to someone who had been witness to history. At the end of his stories he said to me “and of course I was at school with Sam Loxton”. It’s a shame I didn’t have more time to hear and take down more of his stories.
So that’s what I did on my hols. One other thing I did – and maybe some Pseuds will understand this – I did buy some lovely pyjamas!