Book Review – The Ashes According to Bumble (David Lloyd)

So my next book review goes back to the cricketing theme of many of my earlier blog posts. It feels a little weird to be reading a book about cricket and the Ashes after the series in Australia has been completed. But anyway…

The book is a funny and entertaining read in typical Bumble style. There are many amusing stories and anecdotes. It’s an easy read.

I have two favourite stories in the book.

The first involved a sledging incident between the Aussie batsmen Mark Waugh, one of the famous Waugh brothers.  A number of years ago England selected a bowler called Jimmy Ormond to play against Australia. When Ormond came out to bat Mark Waugh shouted over.  “**** me. Look who it is. Mate what are you doing out here? There’s no way your good enough to play for England.” Ormond replied “maybe not but at least I’m the best player in my family”.

The second involves a game of golf between David Lloyd (Bumble), Mike Selvey and Christopher Martin-Jenkins (CMJ). The game took place, in Queenstown, when England were touring in New Zealand. CMJ, who is sadly no longer with us, had a reputation as a delightful eccentric. As they were warming up before the round he remarked. “Marvellous place this, isn’t it? Did you know it was designed by Ray Charles. You know the famous New Zealand golfer”. Selvey, carried on the conversation. “Yes and I believe there are a number of blind holes on this course”. “So I understand” replied CMJ who was totally oblivious to the gag. The famous Kiwi golfer is Bob Charles…

The book was written before the series in the English summer. There is a section where Lloyd is castigating of the Aussies and some of their players which he may now regret writing… “They’re not very good it’s as simple as that. They’ve got one batter in Michael Clarke, they haven’t got a spinner and this lauded pace attack I keep hearing about must be a drastically different one to the one I’ve witnessed over the last couple of years because it’s not much cop”. Having just witnessed the 5 nil whitewash I beg to differ…

Another book to be donated to the hotel library. Not sure what they will make of it in Thailand…

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Book Review – SHUNT The Story of James Hunt by Tom Rubython

Probably not the next blog that my followers were expecting…. Much earlier in this trip, back in Australia, I referenced the amount of reading material I had brought with me. By the time I arrive in India I need to have significantly reduced the weight of my luggage. So now I have arrived in Krabi in Thailand, the most relaxing place I could possibly imagine, it has given me the opportunity to catch up on some reading…

When I left Manchester back in mid November I spent a lot of the flight over to Australia reading SHUNT – The Story of James Hunt. I finally finished it this week – nearly two months later. It’s an epic amounting to 624 pages. Last week sitting by my hotel pool in Bangkok the American guy next to me, on seeing the size of this book, asked if I had heard of the Kindle Fire!!!

So why the interest in James Hunt? Well I have always had a fascination in him but not totally sure why. Is it because we share the same surname? It is because I remember when I was a young kid growing up watching Formula 1 and the rivalry he had with Niki Lauda? Or is it that he was an incredibly complex character? Was the fascination rekindled by the recent film “Rush” which chronicled Hunt and Lauda duelling for the Formula 1 title in 1976. I am not a Formula 1 fan. I rarely watch it on the tv. It definitely held more of an interest for me in my youth when it seemed less predictable and had amazing characters.

So to the book. Yes it’s long. At times I found it hard going. I think the editing could have been tighter – I found a number of contradictions, errors and repetitions along the way. Perhaps it could have been a little shorter. But I doubt for anyone wanting to get a real insight into James Hunt there is anything better out there.

Hunt was undoubtedly a complicated and often troubled individual. Bernie Ecclestone summed him up as “He had more facets than a diamond, which, combined with an irresistible charm, made him the most remarkable character in Formula One ever”

James Hunt died in 1993. I can’t believe its over 20 years ago. At the time of his death he was working as a Formula 1 co-commentator, alongside Murray Walker, for the BBC. He died after a massive heart attack. His heart muscles had been fatally weakened by hard drinking, smoking and recreational drug use. At the time of his death it is said he was at his happiest. He had largely gone on the straight and narrow, stopped womanising, and had a steady girlfriend called Helen Dyson. One of the saddest aspects of the story is that James had proposed marriage to Helen just before his untimely death. She is quoted as saying “I shrieked with joy when he proposed to me over the phone, and I accepted. It was the last time I ever spoke to him”,

The book is filled with some amazing stories, some of which are shocking, but nevertheless are important to understand the real James Hunt.

Some that stuck with me were…

Hunt was a womaniser. He was not faithful to any of the women that he had long term relationships with. He married his first wife, Suzy Miller, in 1974. Soon after the marriage he realised he had made a mistake and it was with considerable relief in 1976 when he discovered that Miller had begun an affair with Richard Burton whom she subsequently married.

Hunt had a lifelong fascination with budgerigars. Following his retirement from Formula 1 he took up this passion and began breeding prize budgies. There was a rather bizarre incident on a visit to a budgerigar show in Doncaster in 1989. After the show when one of Hunt’s budgies won first prize he and some of his budgerigar enthusiast friends decided to go out to a nightclub. Hunt often dressed very casually. Often he would wear jeans and no shoes for formal events and because of who he was normally got away with it. So James turned up to the nightclub wearing jeans and trainers. He was refused entry because of the club’s dress policy. An argument ensued with the doorman. A cup of coffee which the doorman was holding was flicked over him by Hunt. It could have been an accident or deliberate. The police were called and Hunt was arrested and taken to Doncaster police station. Goodness knows what the police thought about about an ex Formula 1 world champion being in Doncaster attending a budgerigar show! Well after a couple of hours he was released and not charged as the CCTV evidence was inconclusive. Hunt made a point of going to the night club to apologise. Many  years later, after Hunt’s death, the CCTV footage was shown on a Channel 4 documentary about him. This caused much anguish to Hunt’s family.

After his retirement from Formula 1 Hunt began a career commentating on Formula 1 alongside Murray Walker. The two of them to begin with didn’t get on particularly well. Walker thought that Hunt was there to replace him. Over time the relationship much improved and Walker gave a very moving tribute to Hunt in a celebration of his life held 3 months after his death. Shortly before his BBC debut Hunt had a skiing accident and had his leg in plaster. At his first broadcast, in Monaco, he arrived worse for wear from drink and deeply upset Murray by resting his plaster cast on Walker’s lap for the full two hours of the broadcast. Despite all this, Hunt put on a brilliant performance in front of the microphone. Typically he would arrive for these commentaries with seconds to spare and holding a bottle of rose wine.

Several more stories I could recite but are probably not suitable for a family blog. If you want to know more buy the book or to avoid the space issues I have download it! I will be donating my copy to the library in the lounge in my Krabi hotel.

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Dart River Jet Boat, Arrowtown and the Skyline Gondola

I had a hectic last day in New Zealand planned but was beginning to flag… After the early starts and long driving I really needed a lie in. But there was no chance of that as I was being picked up at 7.30 am to go on a Jet Boat trip along the Dart River.

The coach headed thought Queenstown and along the opposite side of Lake Wakatipu to the one I had travelled down the previous day. We were heading for the small village of Glenorchy. We got some amazing views towards the top of the lake.

The 3 Islands at the top of Lake Wakatipu

The 3 Islands at the top of Lake Wakatipu

Views towards the top of Lake Wakatipu

Views towards the top of Lake Wakatipu

On arrival at Glenorchy we transferred into smaller 4wd buses. Glenorchy is known as “the gateway to paradise” and the backdrops have been used in films such as The Hobbit, Lord of The Rings, Wolverine, Prince Caspian, Vertical Limit and Avatar.

After leaving Glenorchy we entered the Mount Aspiring National Park. We made a couple of stops to be able to capture on camera the beauty of the landscape.

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Before venturing onto the boat our guide took us for a walk inside a forest of red beeches. This included a chance to walk inside the hollow trunk of a living tree!

The inside of a red beech tree

The inside of a red beech tree

After the walk through the forest it was time to board the jet boat. Our driver, Royce, welcomed us aboard. The jet boat was full with 15 tourists. I sat on at the back near the 2 engines. The ride was exhilarating. We sped along the Dart River away from Lake Wakatipu. At times it seemed we were headed for rocks but Royce would then turn the boat at the last minute to thankfully miss them. He would from time to time turn the boat into a 360 degree spin.

After about 15 minutes the boat ground to a halt. It had grounded on the bottom of the river. Royce got us to stand up and rock the boat but to no avail. another boat circled round us to see if it’s wake would release us but that didn’t work either. Royce then said he needed volunteers to get off the boat to lighten the load. The river wasn’t that deep but was flowing fast. We all had life jackets on and a waterproof jacket. Being the only British member of the crew I was of course one of the first to volunteer. The coldness of the water took my breath away. I linked arms with the other 2 volunteers and Royce and before long we were on the shore. I was wearing jeans and trainers. Both were saturated with water! In total 9 of us evacuated the boat before Royce got it moving again. He moved it closer to the shore and we all got back on. This incident added to the excitement to be honest.

Passengers abandoning ship!

Passengers abandoning ship!

After taking the boat as far up the river as we could we then headed in the other direction towards the lake and after around an hours jet boat ride we were disembarking at the top of the lake. My jeans and trainers were wet through but it was a great experience. These things happen in New Zealand.

I'm on the back row - can you spot me?

I’m on the back row – can you spot me?

In the afternoon I headed for Arrowtown which was established in the New Zealand Gold Rush towards the end of the 19th century. I gave a lift up there, in my hire car, to Adam and Lori the American couple I had met on my trip to Milford Sound the previous day. Lori was keen to see the AJ Hackett bungy bridge which is on the way up there. We stopped off for around 15 minutes and saw about half a dozen people throw themselves of the bridge. it looked frightening!

This was as close as I was going to get to doing a bungy jump!

This was as close as I was going to get to doing a bungy jump!

Arrowtown is a beautifully preserved old town. In some ways it felt too perfect and that I was stepping onto a Hollywood set. A friend had recommended to me a bakery at the end of the street and their excellent strawberry muffins. I walked in an ordered one. Unfortunately they are not always on the menu and I was there on the wrong day. Having not had lunch at this point I decided to go for a sandwich… We visited the remains of the Chinese settlement in Arrowtown. Chinese labourers were encouraged to come and mine the gold but they lived in a different part of town and exoerienced discrimination.

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The shop in the Chinese settlement

The shop in the Chinese settlement

In the evening I travelled up the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown and feasted on the “eat as much as you can”  buffet dinner In the restaurant at the top. The gondola is a cable car which takes you up onto Bob’s Peak where there are panoramic views of Queenstown and the Lake from 1500 feet up.

The view from the top of the skyline gondola on Bob's Peak

The view from the top of the skyline gondola on Bob’s Peak

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So my whistlestop tour around the South Island of New Zealand was at an end. I had an amazing time and can’t wait to return.

Tomorrow I was to fly to Melbourne for Christmas and the 4th Ashes Test.

Third Ashes Test at Perth – Day 4

Day 3 went badly for England. Could they rouse themselves and show some fight on day 4?

For the second day in a row I had secured a seat in the WACA members area. An even better seat today within the Lillee Marsh stand. The day seemed a little cooler although that may have been because I was in the shade all day. There was some cloud cover which gave a little hope to the England swing bowlers. I had Phil sat to my left and to my right a charming Aussie gentleman who had played grade cricket for Subiaco and had once faced a young Terry Alderman in the nets.

My view towards Perth from my day 4 seat

My view towards Perth from my day 4 seat

My view of the action on day 4 as England bat to save the match

My view of the action on day 4 as England bat to save the match

The Aussies resumed at 235-3 a lead of 369. They were after quick runs so they could declare and then have sufficient time to bowl England out whilst setting a near impossible target.

On day 3 England seemed a dejected team. Their mood can hardly have improved with what occurred on the morning of day 4. Graham Swann got some savage punishment early on from Watson with one over yielding 3 sixes. The Aussies were really going for their shots.

A wicket! Smith is caught in the deep by sub Bairstow off Ben Stokes. Bairstow is on the field due to Stuart Broad’s injury. Broad will not bowl for the remainder of this test match but could bat if necessary.

Shane Watson continues to score at a very fast rate and soon gets a deserved century. Watson gets criticism from some Aussie fans and commentators but he is very talented with bat and ball. We could do with players like him in the England team.

Soon after his century, Watson miscues from Bresnan. The ball goes high in the air. Bell gets underneath it close to the wicket. He drops an absolute dolly! But watson had stopped running. With a piece of quick thinking, Bresnan picked up the ball and threw down the stumps. Watson was yards out of his ground. What an amazing wicket! High comedy…

England’s fielding is becoming shambolic at times. A chance to remove Bailey is missed when two fielders get in a mix up when the ball goes in the air between them. The following ball, Haddin is out for 5 trying to slog.

The Aussies lead is approaching 500 when Bailey starts hitting Anderson all round the park.  One over from Jimmy Anderson produces 3 sixes, 2 fours and a 2. 28 off one over! this equals a world record for test cricket! My wishing Jimmy “good luck” on the plane didn’t do much good!

Sparing England any further embarrassment, Michael Clarke declares. The Aussies lead by 503 and have set an improbable 504 for England to win the match.

Things get worse for England as Alastair Cook is out first ball, bowled by an absolute jaffa from Ryan Harris. England get to lunch without losing another wicket at 24-1.

This is probably the lowest point England have reached on a tour of lows.

In the afternoon things pick up for England a little. Some of the batsmen compile some decent scores. Pietersen 45, Bell 60. Yet again, KP is out playing a risky shot. He was trying to hit a 6 but it didn’t reach the boundary. England survive to close of play with young Ben Stokes not out on 72. Stokes looks a promising cricketer and is starting to blossom in this his second test match. Will he go on to complete his century?

So this is farewell to Perth and the WACA for me. As on day 5 i fly to Christchurch. I am travelling through New Zealand for a week before going to Melbourne for the 4th test. I always knew I would miss day 5 at Perth to give me sufficient time in NZ. I am keeping my fingers crossed that England somehow manage not to get bowled out. It’s incredibly unlikely though and I will not miss the sight of the Aussies celebrating picking up the urn,

I have enjoyed Perth as a city, and also Fremantle and Rottnest Island. The cricket could have been better and crikey was it hot!

Ashes second test at Adelaide – Day 4

I was late setting off for the cricket on day 4. When I got to Mawson Lakes interchange the screen was showing that the next train to Adelaide was running late. I was going to miss the start of play….

When I arrived at the Adelaide Oval I was surprised to see that England were batting. I had expected Australia to carry on batting for another hour before declaring. However the weather forecast for both today and tomorrow contained showers so Michael Clarke wanted to ensure that the Aussies had enough time to bowl out England a second time. What was less surprising was that England had already lost a wicket, The score was 2-1. Given that England had an unlikely victory target of 531 this was not a good start…..

I joined the queue for coffee. I needed a flat white… Whilst waiting to be served the replay of the wicket came on the screen. Alistair Cook was out caught on the boundary trying to take on Mitchell Johnson with a hook shot. Another example of a batsman making a poor decision. What was even more disappointing was that the England captain had messed up. He should be leading by example!!

I took my seat. Michael Carberry then played a virtually identical shot to Cook and was caught out in the deep from a ball by Siddle. What are they thinking? It must be pressure doing this.

Pietersen joined Root in the middle. They survive until lunch with the score at 65-2. Very slow scoring but at least they are still there. Soon after lunch they reach a 50 partnership. Joe Root gets his 50. A standing ovation from the England fans. Root and KP reach a century partnership. The first one for England in this Ashes series. They are both playing really well. Making the right decisions as to when to defend and when to attack. KP gets to his 50 by hitting a 6. Soon after he is out somewhat unluckily. He was trying to get his bat out of the way to a ball from Siddle but got an inside edge and the ball diverted onto the top of the stumps.

After yesterday’s impressive knock, Ian Bell struggles to make runs, He then hits a full toss from leg spinner Steve Smith to a fielder. Another really poor shot.

Root carries on accumulating runs. when he reached the score of 66 a wag mentions “Root 66”. The number 87 is unlucky for Aussies. 100 minus 13…. It’s also unlucky for Joe. He edges a ball from Lyon and is caught at slip. He is gutted… He gets a tremendous ovation. That’s more like it Joe. I have now reinstated him to my team for the Perth test….

Joe Root faces a ball from Nathan Lyon

Joe Root faces a ball from Nathan Lyon

At last England are starting to show some fight. Ben Stokes scores a painstaking 28. A good knock in the circumstances. The Aussies seem to target him for sledging. This is possibly because he was born and bred in New Zealand. He is out shortly after an incident where Mitchell Johnson collides with him, probably deliberately. Stuart Broad then takes the field to a chorus of boos from the Aussie supporters. Broad and Prior then saw out the day until close of play. It wasn’t always pretty. Both played and missed particularly to Johnson. But they survived. At stumps England reach 247-6 with Prior on 31 and Broad on 22. At the end things were getting pretty feisty. Lots of words being exchanged in the middle. Similar to the end of the Brisbane test. England survive into a 5th day. It’s likely to be over by lunchtime tomorrow but there is some rain in the forecast….

The lovely old scoreboard still in use at the Adelaide Oval.

The lovely old scoreboard still in use at the Adelaide Oval.

Finally to mention that I had a lovely conversation on the train on the way back with a mother who had taken her 8 year old daughter into the City to  meet Santa. She (the mother!) showed lots of interest in my trip but I think she thought I was mad to be coming away for such a long time on own!

Ashes Second Test at Adelaide – Day 2

As I was getting ready to set off to the Adelaide Oval the sad news came in of the passing of Nelson Mandela. For me it brought back memories of the struggle against apartheid, the time when South Africa were excluded from international sport and those incredible pictures when Mandela was released from prison. The way he led South Africa forward after being elected President was truly remarkable. Last night I watched for the second time the film Invictus which documents how through the Rugby World Cup, Mandela was able to reconcile and bring together the South African people. I remember going to listen to him speak at Millenium Square in Leeds after he had stepped down as president. A truly great and remarkable man.

There was a perfectly observed minutes silence at the Adelaide Oval before start of play. Both teams wore black armbands.

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The England Cricket team observing the minutes silence for Nelson Mandela

The Aussies commenced at 273-5. It was important for England to get quick wickets and bowl Australia out for around 350.

Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin set about the England bowling. They moved the score onto 300 quickly. Soon after this there was a missed runout chance. Prior was in the wrong position when receiving the ball. After the previous day’s missed chances this was an error England could not afford.

Milestones were being passed regularly. Haddin and Clarke reached a century partnership. Haddin got his 50. Then finally Haddin edged Ben Stokes behind. Haddin started walking off but then on the screen it said there was to be a review of the delivery. Stokes’ front foot had crossed the line. No ball! Haddin walked back to the wicket. It would have been Stokes’ first wicket in test cricket. he looked gutted. There were some verbals in the middle between Stokes and Haddin.

Michael Clarke got his century. His 6th in 9 tests at the Adelaide Oval. He is now the highest run scorer in test cricket in 2013. A brilliant batsman.

At lunch Australia were 389-5 and in total control.

In the afternoon Australia carried on where they had left off. The partnership between Clarke and Haddin reached 200. The highest 6th wicket partnership at the Adelaide Oval.

Clarke was finally out for 148. Stokes got his first test wicket. A standing ovation from both sets of supporters as Clarke left the field.

Stokes was the only England bowler to impress. He is a medium pacer but was actually bowling quicker than Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson. The two spinners Swann and Panesar toiled. Every over seemed to include at least one bad ball which was punished.

.Monty Panesar does not look like a professional sportsman. He lumbers and the crowd cheer, somewhat ironically, his fielding. Earlier in the day he had missed a catch as he had been to slow too sprint in from the boundary. I have bought a radio here to listen in to the commentary. One of the Aussie commentators remarked that if Monty was a horse and you saw him in the paddock you would not place a bet on him…. He is a good spin bowler but I could not help thinking that this may be his last test. His final figures were 1 wicket for 157 runs.

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Monty Panesar bowling

Mitchell Johnson was soon out for 5. A wicket for Swann. Haddin got his century. the score had reached 478-7. Stokes got another wicket, removing Siddle. Haddin was finally out for 118. 529-9

The final pair were Lyon and Harris. They were making the England bowling look mediocre. Both hit 6’s. The Aussies finally declared at 570-9. We couldn’t even bowl them all out.

After nearly two days of toil in the field, Cook and Carberry strode to the crease. Mitchell Johnson steamed in. He was bowling fast! Deliveries of 150 km/h plus. Far quicker than the English seam bowlers. Captain Cook totally missed a ball from Johnson and was out clean bowled. The ball didn’t seem to do much. Cook will have been disappointed with that one.

Yorkshire’s Joe Root walked to the crease. He and Carberry defended stoutly. It was attritional stuff. Few runs against hostile bowling. In the last over Root faced Johnson. He defended well for 4 balls. On the 5th he set off for a suicidal run. Carberry would have been run out if the fielder had hit the stumps. Carberry faced the last ball. It crashed into his pads. A huge lbw appeal. The umpire didn’t raise his finger. The Aussies had an option to review the decision but did not take it. The England batsmen had survived. Apparently had the decision been reviewed, Carberry would have survived. Could this be a sign that England’s luck is changing?

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My view of the action for day 2

So day 2 ended with the Aussies in total control of the test match. England need to bat well on day 3. Its a good wicket and they have the talent. Can they translate this into big runs?

Ashes Second Test at Adelaide – Day 1

Following a fabulous 3 days in the Red Centre I caught a flight from Alice Springs to Adelaide. My focus was moving back to the Ashes Series and my hopes to a much better performance by England.

On arrival in Adelaide it was immediately apparent that there was a big temperature difference here to what I had experienced up at Uluru. It felt freezing in comparison – with temperatures below 20 degrees.

My travel agent had difficulty finding decent accommodation in the centre of Adelaide so I am staying out of town in Mawson Lakes. It’s a new suburb of Adelaide and encompasses a campus of the university of south Australia, a technology park, a high street containing shops and restaurants, and residential accommodation. I’m staying in a very nice serviced apartment. Mawson Lakes is around 12km from the centre of Adelaide and I am commuting by train. There is an excellent train service from here and the station in Adelaide is right next to the new bridge over the River Torrens to the Adelaide Oval.

View of Adelaide oval from the new bridge

View of Adelaide oval from the new bridge

I had to collect my tickets for the second test from the cricket tour company rep at a hotel in Central Adelaide. I was in plenty of time and walked across the bridge to the cricket ground before retracing my steps and heading into the city centre. I picked up the tickets and got to meet Simon Jones, the former England fast bowler who was part of the team when England regained the Ashes in 2005. Simon is working for the cricket tour company for both the Adelaide and Perth tests.

The Adelaide Oval is undergoing redevelopment which is not quite finished. It’s an impressive stadium with 2 huge completed sides and one side which is still being finished off. on the 4th side there is uncovered seating, the old scoreboard and there are trees in the background. It’s in that area they are trying to keep the feel of the old Adelaide Oval. For day 1 I had seats in the South Stand around 10 rows from the front. I had been upgraded to Gold tickets for Adelaide so I had an excellent view.

Stand at Adelaide oval under construction

Stand at Adelaide oval under construction

Impressive new stands at the Adelaide Oval

Impressive new stands at the Adelaide Oval

A view of the action with the Barmy Army in the background.

A view of the action with the Barmy Army in the background.

Australia won the toss and chose to bat. England made two changes. Panesar in for Tremlett. All rounder Ben stokes made his England debut to replace the absent Trott. The Aussie team was unchanged. Adelaide has a new “drop in” wicket which is expected to favour the batsmen. As expected the pitch was slow with little in it for the bowlers. David Warner raced away with 29 quick runs before giving his wicket away after playing a poor shot. A wicket for Broad. In the morning session we had 3 rain delays. It felt really cold! I wore a jacket and jeans for day 1. Because of the rain an early lunch was taken.

After lunch Australia were in control. Watson and Rogers enjoyed a century partnership. After the drinks interval there was a sudden flurry of wickets. Watson out for 51, Rogers for 72 and then Smith fell cheaply. 174-4. England were suddenly in control.

In the final session there was an excellent partnership between Clarke and Bailey. Bailey finally fell for 53. A good catch by Swann from the bowling of Broad. Right towards the end of the play there was an incident which could be highly significant. Micheal Carberry is an excellent fielder but he dropped an absolute dolly catch off Panesar. The Aussies around me were saying “he’s just dropped the Ashes”. We shall have to wait and see…

The media seem to think it was an evenly matched day. I’m not so sure as England haven’t batted yet and I’m still scarred by our batting performance in Brisbane. For me it was marginally Australia’s day.

Australia’s Red Centre – Day 3

After being late for the bus the previous day I was determined not to make the same mistake again. It was a 4am pick up this time and I needed to pack and check out so I set my alarm at the unbelievably early time of 2.45am. I made the bus comfortably….

In my last day in the Red Centre I was visiting Kings Canyon. This necessitated a circa 4 hour coach journey. I felt shattered and tried to catch some sleep on the bus before sunset. We made a brief breakfast stop at Kings Creek Station before arriving at the Kings Canyon car park. I ordered a bacon sandwich and a flat white.

the tour guide presented us with two options. Option 1. A 3 hour walk around the rim of Kings Canyon. The walk started with a 500 step climb and those wishing to participate were required to sign a disclaimer. Although the walk started at around 9am when it was relatively cool it was forecast to reach circa 40 degrees C by midday. Option 2. A shorter and easier walk within the Canyon itself. Following which was the possibility of a helicopter flight….. Now since a misjudged appearance in a 5 a side football match back in early October I have been nursing a sore achilles. It has improved but is still not right so I went for Option 2. It was a lovely walk into the canyon with nice scenery. 3 of the party who had gone for the rim walk option reconsidered after attempting 200 out of the 500 steps and joined us. It was obviously pretty tough going….

The start of the Kings Canyon Rim walk

The start of the Kings Canyon Rim walk

Inside kings canyon

Inside kings canyon

Viewing platform looking towards the "Garden of Eden"

Viewing platform looking towards the “Garden of Eden”

After finishing the walk we were driven into Kings Canyon Resort. Me and 2 others from our party were keen to go on the helicopter flight. we plumped for the 15 minute flight option which took us over Kings Canyon, Kings Creek and over to Carmichael Crag. It was my first time in a helicopter. I was excited if a little apprehensive. It was absolutely fantastic. An exhilarating experience with amazing views. I can’t wait for my next helicopter flight.

Does it look like I'm the pilot or what?

Does it look like I’m the pilot or what?

The view over Carmichael Crag.

The view over Carmichael Crag.

Kings canyon from the air

Kings canyon from the air

The chopper. It's a Robinson R-44 apparently...

The chopper. It’s a Robinson R-44 apparently…

After the exhilaration of the flight I needed a beer and headed off to the bar with Julie who I shared the helicopter flight with. Julie is from Grantham, works in Paediatrics, and had been staying with friends in Sydney before flying into The Red Centre. We enjoyed a Victoria Bitter or 2…. and then lunch before it was time to get back on the bus.

After a 6 hour journey I was dropped back in Alice Springs. It had been an amazing 3 days and an unforgettable experience.

Australia’s Red Centre – Day 2

I set my alarm at 4am ahead of a 4.30am coach pick up at the hotel. When I appeared at the front of the hotel at 4.32am the bus had already left! Given how ridiculously early in the morning it was I was half tempted to go back to bed! But I didn’t want to miss the sunrise at Uluru! After picking up at my hotel the bus then collects at the other 2 hotels on the resort. I managed to relay a message to the bus driver and they came back round for me…. I was on the receiving end of some ribbing from the bus driver after this though!

The sunrise was a disappointment as the sun rose behind a cloud so the photos I took were nothing like as good as the night before. After the sunset we were driven to the base of the rock and taken on a walk which included the Mutitjulu waterhole and a cave with aboriginal symbols marked within. The waterhole is a beautiful spot. I have to say the tour guides that AAT kings use are absolutely fabulous. We got a fantastically well articulated explanation of the geology of how Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed.

Me in front of the Mutitjulu waterhole.

Me in front of the Mutitjulu waterhole.

Our guide explaining the aboriginal cave markings

Our guide explaining the aboriginal cave markings

After the walk, back on the bus and a drive round to the Uluru climb. There was a section of Uluru on the way round where photos are not allowed as it’s a very sacred area to the aboriginal owners of the national park. A foreign couple sat in front of me flagrantly disregarded this and I was fuming. So disrespectful. Me and a number of fellow passengers tried to stop them but to no avail….

The climb up Uluru - CLOSED!

The climb up Uluru – CLOSED!

Sign requesting tourists do not climb Uluru

Sign requesting tourists do not climb Uluru

The climb was closed due to the forecast temperature being above 36 degrees and also it had rained the night before making the rock potentially slippery. It can be a dangerous climb. 40 people have died climbing up it. The indigenous tribe. Anangu, do not wish tourists to climb Uluru as it’s such a special and sacred place for them. There are also environmental implications from some tourists going up there and, ahem, relieving themselves… fewer and fewer tourists are doing the climb. It’s likely in a few years time it will be closed.

we spent an hour at the Anangu culutural centre before returning to the hotel. I was starving and luckily breakfast was still going. The Aussie girl who checked me in for breakfast asked if I was going to the cricket in Adelaide. I asked her how she had guessed? Perhaps the Barmy Army tee shirt I was wearing was a clue… She recommended an area in Adelaide for me to go eating out. Googer street? This is just an example of how friendly and helpful the people working in the service sector in Australia seem to be.

during the day a couple of elderly Canadian tourists asked me what the Barmy Army was? They are involved with the Salvation Army. I explained that the Barmy Army was a bit different….

After a kip I headed out for an afternoon/evening tour to Kata Tjuta. It’s another amazing looking rock formation very different to Uluru with 36 different domes. It was red hot at 41 degrees! In these temperatures we did 2 hour long walks. One walk was through the valley of the winds. More spectacular scenery but I got very hot and sweaty! You had to be careful not to get dehydrated and drink lots and lots of water. After the walking, another sunset viewing with wine and nibbles and an excellent sunset!

Sunset at Kata Tjuta

Sunset at Kata Tjuta

Another sunset shot of Kata Tjuta

Another sunset shot of Kata Tjuta

Another fab day!

Australia’s Red Centre – Day 1

Day 1 – The AAT Kings coach picked me up at my hotel in Alice Springs at 6.40am. A 7 hour journey laid ahead via the Stuart Highway and then the Lasseter Highway to reach the Ayers Rock resort at Yulara. The Stuart Highway is named after John Stuart who was the first European explorer to travel from Adelaide to near Darwin. This journey laid the foundation for a telegraph line to be established which revolutionised communication for the early settlers. Prior to this telegraph line it could take 6 months to get a return communication back to the UK as this was done via ships! The name Lasseter always makes me smile as this was the name of the Hotel in Neighbours. He was another early explorer who claimed to have discovered a gold reef in Central Australia.

The scenery throughout the journey was relatively unchanged. Central australia is far greener than I had expected. Water supplies are relatively plentiful as there is a huge underground aquifer that runs close to the ground. Going back millions of years Central Australia was covered by a huge inland sea and there was evidence of this when we stopped at the side of the road to view Mount Conner. On the other side of the road was a huge salt lake. Mount Conner resembles Uluru (Ayers Rock) and can often be mistaken for it. The area we travelled through was covered by cattle stations, dried up river beds and desert oaks. A bird of prey flew past carrying a snake in its beak. The roads are incredibly straight with very little traffic. The occasional road train flashed by in the opposite direction.

Mount conner

Mount conner

Me in front of salt plain

Me in front of salt plain

On arrival at the Yulara resort at Uluru I checked in to the Desert Gardens hotel. a lovely place to stay for a couple of nights.

I was picked up just before sunset to head over to the Uluru viewing area. Complimentary wine and nibbles were laid on. It was a truly spectacular sunset. It was amazing to see the rock change colours. I enjoyed the company of Darryl and Charlotte from Cambridgeshire. They are backpacking through Thailand and Australia. They gave me so valuable advice for my time in Thailand later in my travels.

Uluru early sunset

Uluru early sunset

The rock changing colour

The rock changing colour

Me close to sunset

Me close to sunset

After sunset I went to an outdoor Aussie barbecue closer to the rock. I had my first taste of kangaroo – chewy…. I enjoyed trying but failing to explain to some Americans and Canadians the rules of cricket.

The meal finished with some stargazing. The sky was absolutely spectacular. It was clear so we saw an absolute myriad of constellations and stars. Venus, Sirius and a number of the signs of the zodiac.

A perfect end to a perfect day.