The Last Post

I write this having been back in the cold, wet and windy UK for a couple of weeks. This has given me time to adjust to what is, quite frankly, a far more mundane existence. It has also given me time to reflect on my trip.

My trip has been an amazing experience and I have many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Pretty much everything I have done on the trip has been fantastic but there have been two real highlights that stand out.

The first is the 6 days I spent on the South Island of New Zealand. I loved the wonderful scenery and doing some amazing things including whale watching, a heli-hike onto Franz Josef Glacier and jet boating.

Whale watching at Kaikoura

Whale watching at Kaikoura

image

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

The second highlight was the week in India touring the “Golden Triangle” with G Adventures. I loved travelling through such a vibrant country seeing some amazing sights, experiencing the culture and eating some absolutely fabulous food.

image

Jaipur

Jaipur

Palace of the Winds

Palace of the Winds

Trying to make a puri

Trying to make a puri

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

I have seen some amazing sights Including:-

Uluru

image

The Taj Mahal

image

Sydney Harbour

image image

The cricket obviously didn’t go according to plan. I watched every one of England’s losses to Australia and became increasingly resigned to the entirely predictable nature of these defeats. Disappointing as the cricket was it gave me a base to explore the great cities of Australia. I was part of the world record attendance for a test match at the MCG on Boxing Day.

image

Some stats!! My trip took me away from home for 79 nights. I travelled in 5 countries – Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, India and the United Arab Emirates. I went on 17 flights and travelled with 8 different airlines. I stayed in 20 different hotels. So making all these flights certainly means I have had an impact on the environment. All the air miles equate to 4.85 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The driving I did in New Zealand, 1095 kilometres, added a further 0.26 tonnes of CO2 emissions. I am investigating what I can do to offset this.

Best airline – QANTAS. I flew with them more than any other airline. Great service delivered by “real people” not the archetypal young “trolley dolly” you find elsewhere.

Best airport – Dubai. Space age. Roomy. Waterfalls!

Worst airport – Goa International Airport. Dirty toilets and rowing cleaners. Make sure you scan your luggage first! I also had issues at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport with baggage coming off the wrong carousel and lengthy queues for biosecurity checks.

Favourite hotel – The Point, Brisbane. Great service and a room with a fantastic view. Well located for the Gabba and the free boat service into central Brisbane. I also had fantastic service and food at the Resort Terra Paraiso in Goa. Excellent towel and pillow art by housekeeping!

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

image

Housekeeping art at Resort Terra Paraiso, Goa

Worst hotel – Great Southern Hotel, Sydney. Room very dated and felt claustrophobic

Favourite cricket stadium – Sydney Cricket Ground. Blends futuristic new stands with well preserved old pavilions.

image

Worst cricket stadium – The WACA, Perth. Little shade and needs urgent redevelopment.

image

So would I do it again??? The trip has been very much a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has cost a pretty penny and I now need to start earning again. 11 weeks away is a long time and there were times particularly around Christmas and New Year when I was really starting to miss family. Keeping in touch through instant messaging, email, FaceTime and Facebook has been invaluable. When you can talk to somebody and see them on screen the world does not seem such a big place.  I have loved experiencing the different countries and cultures and a much better climate. So yes I would definitely do a big trip again but not for as long.

Has the trip changed me??? Well I don’t feel any different. It may have given me a different perspective on a few things. The trip has definitely given me the desire to travel more and explore further some of the places I have been to.

A successful trip can only take place with help from others. I have had great support from friends and family. They seemed to think my trip was a much bigger deal than I thought myself and showed this with a great send off before I went away. I was worried about my house being left empty for an extended period of time. Thanks to Mum and Dad and my next door neighbours Kathryn and Steve for keeping an eye on it for me whilst I was away. My house remained totally intact whilst I was away but ironically suffered storm damage within a week of my return!

A big thank you to my travel agents, Round the World Experts, and in particular Nigel Wright for turning my dreams into reality.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. I have enjoyed writing it and it is something I can always look back on. The blog seems to have generated quite a lot of interest – It has had over 4300 views and over 100 comments.

Finishing the blog helps me put the trip “to bed” and allows me to focus on the next phase of my life which starts with the search to generate an income.

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

Australia go 4 nil up in the Ashes

I have been watching this series from the start in Brisbane. During today’s performance I started to get angry!

The day started with Australia on 30 without loss requiring 231 runs to win the match. Although Australia were firm favourites this would have been the highest fourth innings score to win a test match at the MCG for many years. I was just about to take up my seat shortly after start of play when I saw a chance dropped in the slips. It looked to me as if Alastair Cook had dropped a difficult chance at first slip off Stuart Broad’s bowling. On the radio commentary, they blamed Jonny Bairstow for not diving across from wicket keeper to take the catch. Broad was surprisingly taken out of the attack after bowling just 2 overs. Soon after this Cook drops a total sitter off Ben Stokes’ bowling. Catches win matches!!

After only half an hour of the day part time off spinner Joe Root came onto bowl. What’s going on? Aren’t we trying to win this match? We need our front line bowlers not part timers?

Joe Root brought into the bowling attack after 30 minutes

Joe Root brought into the bowling attack after 30 minutes

A wicket falls. Warner is caught behind from Bairstow. A wicket for Stokes. 64-1.

in the Aussie first innings England bowled really well. They bowled really tightly and made it difficult for the Aussies to score. In this innings England are really sloppy. Runs flow easily at 4 an over and the fielding is sloppy. Cook takes an age to make fielding changes and some of the crowd, including me, get annoyed.

Australia reach 100 for the loss of one wicket. Rogers gets his fifty.

Our front line spinner, Monty Panesar, hasn’t bowled yet. What’s going on? Cook finally turns to Panesar when the score is 118-1. But it’s far too late. Monty bowls badly and is hit for 10 off one over.

Runs continue to flow. A century partnership between Watson and Rogers. Then Chris Rogers gets his 100 off just 135 balls. Soon after Shane Watson gets his 50 off just 70 balls. Interestingly, 39% of Chris Rogers runs were through 3rd man but Cook refuses to place a fielder in that position.

This is getting embarrassing. Bresnan goes for 14 in one over. It’s a shambles.

Rogers finally departs for 116 and gets a standing ovation as he leaves the field. A wicket for Monty. However scoring continues to be very quick. Monty goes for 14 off an over.

Before long, at 2.26pm, Australia reach their target. I decide not to linger for the presentations.

An embarrassing scoreline

An embarrassing scoreline

I am now beginning to seriously question our captain. Some of the decisions today were, to me, inexplicable. Is the pressure of the job getting to him? Would it be better if he reverted to batting?

Over the four days of the test match the total attendance was 221,865. That’s a staggering number of people. I have enjoyed the spectacle of watching a match at the MCG but not the England performance.

I had an excellent seat to watch the action. It was two seats away from a seat which marks the point where the biggest ever 6 hit at the MCG landed. In 1993, during a Sheffield Shield match, a shot by Simon O’Donnell from the bowling of Greg Matthews landed there. It’s denoted by a plaque and the seat is a different colour to the others in the section. All I can say is it must have been one helluva strike!

Marking the spot where the biggest. 6 at the MCG landed

Marking the spot where the biggest. 6 at the MCG landed

So with the match finishing a day early this gives me more time to explore Melbourne. Stay tuned for blog updates on this.

4th Ashes Test at Melbourne – Day 2

Having batted very patiently on day 1, Kevin Pietersen started day 2 in a different mindset. He hit a 4 from the first ball of the day. It looks like he means business! Bresnan is out from the first ball of Mitchell Johnson’s first over. He is unable to successfully fend off a short ball from Johnson and is caught at short leg. KP is out from the 5th ball of the same over. He hits across the line of the ball and is clean bowled. It was a silly reckless shot.

Broad is then out lbw. Another wicket for Johnson. He has now taken 5 wickets with the new ball. A spell of 5 wickets for 18 runs. Another devastating hostile spell of fast bowling reminiscent of his spells in Adelaide and Brisbane. There is some resistance from Monty and Jimmy. But then Monty leaves a ball from Lyon and is bowled. England have collapsed from 226-6 to 255 all out. Another batting collapse!

Disillusioned I go walkabout. I need a coffee and head to the bottom tier to find one. Whilst in the queue the Aussies start batting and I watch the action on a monitor on the concourse. Having got my coffee I watch whilst stood behind the section where the Barmy Army are sitting. Warner is out for 9. He miscues a ball from Jimmy Anderson high in the air and is caught by Jonny Bairstow. The Barmies sing a rousing chorus of “oh Jimmy Jimmy! Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Anderson”. I join in!

Soon after Ben Stokes gets Shane Watson’s wicket. The Barmies start singing the “Hokey Stokey”. Despite practising this on Christmas Day I am still struggling to remember the words and actions to that one.

At lunch Australia are 38-2. A good start by England. I head out of the MCG to go for a walk. I reach a pub called the Cricketers Arms and head in for a beer. It’s an old pub with cricket memorabilia on the wall. A sign on the wall in the bar refers to the authentic pre World War 2 Art Deco German bar fittings. Having enjoyed a VB I head back to the MCG.

The Art Deco bar at the cricketers arms

The Art Deco bar at the cricketers arms

The cricketers arms

The cricketers arms

After lunch Rogers is hit on the helmet by a ball from Broad. There is blood and a delay whilst he regains composure. Clarke is bowled by Jimmy and is out for 10. “Oh Jimmy Jimmy!”.

Rogers gets his 50 just before tea. In the tea interval I watched some pantomime going on in the nets at the MCG. TV personality Piers Morgan had been very disparaging on Twitter about England’s batting performances on this series and in particular how they have performed against Mitchell Johnson. This had led to some banter and ultimately to Morgan facing an over from legendary former Aussie fast bowler Brett Lee. Quite a crowd had built up to watch this. Lee steamed in. Morgan failed to connect with the bat in any of the 6 deliveries. During the over he gets hit on the body, backs away from a ball and is bowled by one delivery. It was a good laugh.

Piers Morgan facing Brett Lee

Piers Morgan facing Brett Lee

After tea, Broad breaks a partnership of 48 between Smith and Rogers. A great catch in the slips from Bell. Smith is out for 19. 110-4.

Bresnan strikes. Rogers is out for 61. KP takes the catch in the deep. Bailey is out for a duck after a DRS review goes our way. Thanks snicko!

Haddin is in and yet again in this series is batting well. Oh no! Jimmy drops Johnson off Bresnan.

Monty thinks he has a wicket. Haddin is given out lbw by the umpire but survives on a DRS review.

Johnson is gone! Bresnan gets him in the end and Anderson this time takes the catch. The Aussies are 151-7 and are rocking!

The crowd for day 2 is announced at 78,346. Another fantastic attendance!

Harris is out for 6. A wicket for Broad. Siddle then falls. It’s close of play and the Aussies are 164-9.

This has been the best day of the series for England. They have bowled really well with all the bowlers playing their part. They have bowled a good line and length and exerted real pressure. It’s been just like how the Aussies have bowled all through these series. England are giving a rousing ovation from their fans as they leave the pitch.

The tv cameras view at the MCG.

The tv cameras view at the MCG.

After play I was invited to go for drinks by the tour company my tickets have been supplied through. Former England player Adam Hollioake, who I met in Brisbane, is working for the tour company out here. He would be at the drinks reception with the possibility of a current England player. When I turned up there were a number of the tour party in the bar listening to Adam and Michael Carberry. This gave me the opportunity for a photo….

Me with Adam Hollioake and Michael Carberry.

Me with Adam Hollioake and Michael Carberry.

After Adam and Michael left I headed off to the Barmy Army bar, PJ O’Briens, for a couple of drinks. There was an excellent live band playing. I then walked back to my hotel along the south bank before crossing over a bridge over the Yarra River.

Melbourne at night

Melbourne at night reflected in the Yarra.

4th Ashes Test at Melbourne – Day 1

The Boxing Day test match in Melbourne is a massive tradition. People in these parts are big sports fans and Boxing Day always attracts big crowds to the MCG.

After collecting my tickets I walked along the banks of the Yarra river towards the MCG. There were loads and loads of people heading in the same direction. At a bend in the river the MCG came into view. It looked huge! I was also impressed to see other sporting arenas in the area including Melbourne Park where the Australian open tennis is held. Heading over a railway bridge close to the MCG there was a clear view of the Rod Laver arena and outside courts. Melbourne is clearly a great place to come to watch live sport.

My first view of the MCG

My first view of the MCG

The crowds heading to the MCG

The crowds heading to the MCG

The Rod Laver arena viewed from the MCG. This is the main show court for the Aussie open tennis

The Rod Laver arena viewed from the MCG. This is the main show court for the Aussie open tennis

In entering the MCG I went looking for my seat. This was no easy task in a ground which can accommodate over 100,000. Having successfully found where I was sitting I looked around me. The MCG is a huge cavernous bowl and it’s jaw dropping when you first enter. I have been in huge stadia before such as Wembley and the Nou Camp but this feels on a different scale. I have a great view of the action from my seat which is close to behind the bowlers arm. I am quite high up in the 3rd of four tiers.

The MCG

The MCG

Another view of the MCG

A panoramic view of the MCG

My view of the action

My view of the action

The toss was held in very overcast conditions. Yet again it was won by Australia. The surprise was that Michael Clarke put England into bat. Now there is a saying in cricket that 9 times out of ten when you win the toss you should bat and the 10th time you think long and hard about bowling and then decide to bat. I can only think that Michael Clarke fancied having a go at the England batsmen under overcast skies. There were a couple of changes in the England line up with Jonny Bairstow replacing Matt Prior behind the stumps. Monty Panesar was in the team for the retired Graham Swann.

Day 1 was much like other days I have watched in this series. The Australia bowlers were excellent. They bowled a good line and length and made it difficult for the England batsmen to score. A number of batsmen got in, then got bogged down and then got out. Cook 27, Carberry 38 and Root 24 are examples. This was a big innings for Kevin Pietersen. He has endured much criticism on this tour for his peformances. He has massive talent but also a big propensity for getting himself out by playing daft shots. Whilst on 6 he hits a slog and is caught out on the boundary. However the substitute fielder, Coulter-Nile, can not prevent himself stepping over the rope. KP is reprieved.

Scoring is really slow. To be honest the cricket is a bit boring. There is talk on the radio commentary about this being potentially the lowest ever score in a  test match on Boxing Day at the MCG.

I had been set a challenge by Kathryn my next door neighbour back home. Her two brothers would be at MCG on Boxing Day. I had their seat numbers so it sounded quite a straightforward task to find them. They were on the 4th tier. It took me around 10 minutes to find the section they were sitting in. After a bit of an explanation between me and the steward she told the two brothers, Martin and Paul, that there was guy from the UK looking to meet them. Martin had emigrated to Melbourne 30 years ago and Paul is on holiday here with his wife Lynne. This was only the second time that they had spent time with each other in over 30 years. Martin last visited the UK back in 1996.

Me with Paul (left) and Martin (right)

Me with Paul (left) and Martin (right)

After tea, Bell falls for 27. England are 173-4. Pietersen is still in though. Soon after a drinks break, he is dropped by Bailey. Pietersen is not happy. There is a big delay whilst he goes down on his haunches. He wants another drink. The Aussies in the crowd give him dogs abuse. There is talk on the radio that he had swallowed a fly!

The crowd is huge. The official attendance is announced as 91,092. This is a record official attendance for a day of cricket. There are rumoured to have been bigger attendances in Calcutta but there are no official records. It was great to be part of a world record crowd.

image

Before the end of the day Stokes is out for 14 and Bairstow falls for 10. At stumps England are 226-6. Pietersen is unbeaten at 67 and has been batting very patiently. It’s a good wicket though and so Australia will be happier with their days work than England.