The Umpire


I’m monarch of all I survey
There isn’t a ruler to-day,
Not a Sultan or Tsar
Of a country afar
Who can boast of a similar sway.
There’s always a something that checks them
No matter how great they may be.
They’ve got armies and such,
But their power’s not much
If you only compare ‘em with me.

For I’m the infallible umpire,
The strict, indispensable umpire,
And you’ve got to abide
By what I decide;
It isn’t a matter for doubt.
If you’re peer or you’re peasant,
You’ve got to look pleasant
And go when I tell you you’re out!
Out!
How’s that? Run along, sir, you’re out.

The swell from the swaggerest club,
The “rabbit,” who’s there as a sub.,
The veteran grey
(Who was good in his day),
The wholly incompetent cub,
The man who thinks cricket a business,
And the fellow who thinks it a spree,
I handle the lot,
And I show ‘em what’s what;
They all knuckle under to me.

For I’m the inflexible umpire,
The stern, incorruptible umpire;
I add to the woes
Of the bowler who throws,
When “No ball !“ I incessantly shout.
And batsmen pursue me
With looks that are gloomy,
When I beg to inform ‘em they’re out.
Out!
How’s that? Run along, sir, you’re out.

There once was a time when I played;
But those days won’t return, I’m afraid,
For alas, I must own
That I reached eighteen stone
And a quarter when last I was weighed.
I was once good at saving the single,
My limbs were so lissom and free,
But when bulkiness came
I abandoned the game
As a little too active for me.

And now I am simply the umpire,
The massive and dignified umpire,
My eyes are as keen
As they ever have been,
For your sight doesn’t fail though you’re stout.
If you’re leg before wicket,
Or caught when you snick it,
I see it, and tell you you’re out.
Out!
How’s that? Off you go, sir, you’re out !

P.G.Wodehouse (yes, again)

This Story Has Legs


I think it was Arthur Daley who, when his minder, Terry, said to him ” ‘ere, Arfur, lend us a tenner, I’m a bit short” replied:
“Well if you’re short, I’m a dwarf “.

Aren’t short people fascinating ? And there’re a lot of em about. Hitler and Napoleon (Boneparte, not Solo) to name two – not that I’m suggesting they’re still around. Al Pacino, Tom Cruise, Charlie Drake, Diego Maradona never excelled at the High Jump at school. Guy Fawkes too was a tiddler, though admittedly that wasn’t until he had his legs sawn off for being naughty underneath Parliament.

There appear to be no records of Fawkes height either before he was caught or indeed post hoct te proc, but suffice to say I doubt if he was a happy little Guido after becoming deficient in the leg department to the tune of two. Then again he wasn’t alone: short people are invariably a miserable bunch- especially the male of the species. Short Man Syndrome is well documented and we all know at least one snappy little git, intent on making amends lack of stature.

So many of them become leaders of (taller) men too. The aforementioned Adolf, and Boney had reasonable success in their chosen careers (mass genocide and continent-conquering), Maradonna captained his country, before he started eating it and the French are currently led by a bloke who carries a box under his arm in case he has to reach a microphone (or kiss the missus). I’m unsure how tall Gaddafi is.

I was traumatised by an early Ginsters Pies ad campaign which seem to depict their factory entirely manned by midgets (“Ginsters Pies: Made By Dwarves”. Remember that next time you’re in a service station).

Then there’s Ian Hislop and Ricky Ponting, who may-or-may-not be one and the same person. Hislop edits a satirical magazine (the name of which escapes me) and Ponting leads the Australian Cricket team. Ok,  at 5’10” Ricky isn’t technically a midget but for the purposes of this rubbish he could be considered the world’s tallest short bloke. He certainly scowls and chunters around the pitch like he’s short. A tragic victim of Short Bloke’s Disease.


Ricky hasn’t had a very good winter. He and his team lost The Ashes (again) during which Ricky hurt his finger. He hurt it so much it makes him grumpy. All winter long he’s been even more grumpy than usual. He’s been throwing his tinnies out of his dunnie, screaming at his hapless bowlers and arguing with the umpires even more than usual. Poor old Punter. He’s not gonna be that chuffed tonight after his mob lost to Pakistan. Perhaps the Aussies didn’t have enough dollars to have a whip-round for the Pak bowlers, but just when Ricky needed to see the sight of a dodgy bookie in the oppo’s changing room, there came none.

Hislop;Ponting: Never seen in the same room together.

The recent weeks have seen a lot of funny old results. Ireland vrs England (cricket); Ireland vrs England (rugby); Bangladesh vrs England (cricket again – are you beginning to see a pattern here?); then there’s the hilarious Italy vrs France (rugby again); not forgetting Gaddafi’s Loyalist Troops XI making a spectacular comeback in extra time against The Rebels U18 XI, just before the Rest of The World XV threw in a couple of subs (and strikers).

Tonight’s rugby match between England and Ireland was just the latest in odd results.  Maybe it’s the Supermoon ? It looks pretty super to me. All I know is tonight’s ref (a nasty little Kiwi I think) had little legs. QED.

Two Long Legs and a Couple of Bouncers


I’m not sure if this girl ever found out she was being filmed by a web tv company, but if she did I bet she was pretty embarrassed about lying about her averages…

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…and those shoes would chew up the wicket. I’m starting to think she isn’t a cricket fan at all.

Retreat Australia Fair


Bloody Christmas. It’ll be the death of me. Even allowing for the size of me in the run-up, following a week of a pretty-much non-stop eating and drinking fest I am – if I do say so myself- a big unit. It’s not that I’ve been painting the town red – or any other colour come to think of it.  I’ve been confined to barracks for the duration, with only occasional trips to Sainsbury’s to break up the monotony of yet another tin of Roses washed down with a nice peppery Shiraz.

A Christmas at home can in certain circumstances, I am almost sure, be fun. But the lurgy put paid to most of our plans, with several members of my nearest and dearest (including my most dearest: me) coming down with the latest bout of cold/flu which has been doing the rounds. The Incumbent and I have had to introduce a strict latrine rota, lest we bump into each other in the smallest room in the house, both of my daughters were laid low for the majority of the festivities and the rest of us have been giving everyone who is a potential carrier a wide berth.

None of this, of course has affected my appetite. I find shite tv schedules the perfect solution to a rumbly in my tumbly. Pringles, peanuts, After Eights, pickled eggs, mince pies, christmas cake, Quality Street and more peanuts have been shoved down my gullet as I gorge myself on re-runs, repeats and rank tv shows in the the name of Happy Birthday Jesus.

Moving is becoming a problem. Thank god for the elasticated waistband on my new pyjamas. My ankles still haven’t healed from last season and it takes a good ten minutes for me to loosen up before I can waddle around the house in comfort. As the days pass, getting up the stairs is becoming more and more exhausting, to such an extent that I may have to consider using the sink in emergencies.

Thankfully I don’t have to get myself fit for next cricket season. I fear it would be a pointless task. In the state I’m in I’d struggle to put on my jockstrap, let alone bowl anything like a straight ball in the vague direction of a batsman. On the other hand, watching the shocking display by the Aussie bowlers in Melbourne gives me pause to think that maybe, just maybe, my chance of an international career is not quite over. Dare I consider applying for Oz Citizenship ? Surely I’m better that Mitchell Johnson ? – even in my shape !

Lucky for the Australian cricketers few of their countrymen witnessed how bloody awful they really were. Aussie fans tend to bugger off home if there’s the slightest chance of their team not winning. I never thought I’d feel sorry for Ricky Ponting, but it must be tough playing on your home turf, against stronger opposition, when your own personal form is shot to pieces and your home supporters won’t even hang around to shout for you. What a bunch of wankers.

The Barmy Army may be full of fat, annoying, boring, neanderthal racists (it is, believe me) but at least they stick behind the team through thick and thin. This bunch of fair-weather Ozzie ‘fans’ head for the beaches or the barbies the minute their opening pair are back in the hutch (or after the opening 12 balls, if that makes it simpler for you). And this from the country that brought the world the phrase “whingeing poms”. WHINGEING ?!?! How would we ever know if you lot are whinging? You’ve all fucked off !

Of course, you all stayed put when we took our eyes off the prize and you won in Perth. OF COURSE YOU DID. WATCHING A WINNING TEAM IS GREAT. But a few days later and your batsmen couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo or your bowlers couldn’t hit 12 stumps and you lot are no-where to be seen after the opening exchanges. Why not stick around and cheer on your team in the hour of their greatest need ? No ? Only sing when you’re winning ? Sports fans my big fat 46 year old arse. Enjoying winning and enduring losing (in our case a LOT of losing) are all part of being a fan. Some of us are fans of both English Cricket AND Charlton Athletic Football Club. We know a little bit about losing.

If you can’t take losing, don’t buy a ticket to the raffle. But having watched first your rugby union side and now your cricket team under-perform this winter can I suggest that you’d better start getting used to watching your sides take a drubbing?  It won’t hurt you, we’ve been doing it for years, and after this little blip this winter we’ll doubtless be doing it for years to come too.

You could do worse than read Peter Lalor, below, in The Australian. He’s wittier and immeasurably less one-eyed then his boss, Malcom Conn, and he might just teach you how to take losing with a tad more humour and a shed-load more dignity.

Peter Lalor in The Australian (27.12.10)

HOW many of the new toys of Christmas morn lie motionless and broken within 24 hours? Their shiny promise a forlorn memory recorded only in the improbable picture on the package?

A wheel gone here, a switch broken there, a light that flashed for a moment and dimmed, a leg detached or a circuit shortened. Australia’s performance in Perth was the cheap Chinese gift that never made it to Boxing Day. A glittering, but poorly engineered work that shone for a moment.

The minute the Christmas paper was off the MCG pitch things began to fall apart. There were tears by lunch (4-58) and despair by tea (10-98). You can fish around all sorts of ways to paint the picture.
The scorer announced they had lost 6-40 from 18.2 overs, somebody else pointed out they had lost 9-61 after Shane Watson departed and so on and so forth….

…If you were out Christmas night in Melbourne, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the UK. Those pubs and takeaway places that were open in the otherwise deserted streets were lousy with English accents and song.

While the locals were at home trying to piece together broken toys, the visitors – and there are thousands upon thousands of them – were out in force. At 2.37pm yesterday, as the centre wicket began to take the appearance of a mass grave, a song rose from the Southern Stand.

It was as loud and as rousing an anthem as you have ever heard at this proud sporting stadium.
It was the Barmy Army singing “God save your gracious Queen”.


The Taking of Eltham 132


I was all over the place this morning, in every sense. I don’t suppose staying awake for most of the night to watch the latest demolition of the Aussie cricket team will have helped with my fuzziness, though one would have thought having watched our brave lads once again stuff it up em would have brightened my mood immeasurably. Even so, as I left Railway Cuttings around 12.30 this lunchtime I was aware that I was a particularly tired and miserable old Hector.

I needed to pick up something down in North Greenwich at the O2. The Dome. The Millennium Bivouac or whatever it’s called this week. Then from there I needed to go to Eltham to deposit a cheque into my good friends Nathaniel Westminster & Co. It was cold and damp as I trudged up to the village to catch the first of the buses I needed to use to navigate my way around SE London. After twelve steps along the road it started raining with feeling. My mood didn’t improve much.

As I yomped by the infants school on the way, the teachers were yelling at the kids to get inside out of the rain. I don’t remember my schoolmasters calling us in out of the playground to get dry. I’m sure we ended up huddled under a tree in the corner, fatties on the inside, skinnies on the outer (sorry, the phone lines for this week’s quiz question “Where did Bealing stand?” have been closed).

Come to think of it, when we were their age we were never issued sun hats in the summer nor reflective vests when we went on school trips, but the hats seem to be de rigueur whenever the sun peeps through and my train to London is often full of little yellow herberts looking like an Oompa Loompa chain gang. When we went out on school trips we were pretty much left to our own devices. They counted us out and counted us in, rounding up any odd numbers. Or down – no two teachers ever counted us in the same way. We once lost thirteen kids on a trip to London Zoo. Five of them are still missing, presumed eaten.

But I digress.

Up to the bus stop, my coat sopping wet by now, to join the end of a queue of five or six other poor sodden sods. The electronic sign on the bus shelter said the 108 bus to North Greenwich would be 7 minutes. Sure enough, 11 minutes later it arrived. The people ahead of me filed onto the bus, one by one, until it was my turn to take the step up on board. Just as I was about to do so, and with military precision some young, complete cabbage, replete with man-bag and ipod ran up the hill towards us and with one bound leapt in front of me onto the footplate and got on board ahead of me. I was shocked and stunned, and not a little amazed. However, true to form, I kept my feelings of deep resentment and savage anger to myself. My only concession to my fury was to bark at the middle of my voice “Jesus! there are a lot of rude bastards around”. But the object of my disaffections had long since moved along the bus, and anyway his earphones were clamped to his lugholes so he was deaf to my rantings (thank christ: he was a big unit).

Alighting at the Dome, I quickly went about my business and after no more than fifteen minutes I found myself in another queue, this time waiting for the 132 bus to Eltham which, as if to catch us all by surprise, arrived on time. There wasn’t a seat to be had, so me and this rather plump, elderly woman (almost indistinguishable nowadays) carrying numerous heavy shopping bags stood rather closely together in the well usually reserved for baby buggies and wheelchairs. I would have happily sat in either if they were available. The old girl looked knackered and I wasn’t sure she’d make the trip.

Facing us, virtually touching the old lady’s knees, sat a thirty-something couple. He had an accent – either American or Canadian (to my shame I still can’t differentiate one from the other) – and had clearly been in the country a lot longer than his partner as he was going through his shopping bags, minutely detailing and explaining the buys therein. Clearly both the food and toy Departments of Tescos in nearby Bow had taken a bit of a pounding.

“This is Clue” he bellowed at a rather irritating volume “but for some reason they call it ClueDO over here”. She was sitting right next to him. Why was he shouting? “I can’t figure why they’d wanna change the name.”

He pulled out the next item from his jamboree bag. “And see ? They have Peanut Butter Cups here. I didn’t think they had them over here. I looked for them for weeks. But now it turns out they totally do. So I bought some. Awesome. It’s so tough to find anything over here that you really need.”

“Wow!” said the girl, looking as if she was feigning both interest and consciousness. I felt a touch of the Basil Fawltys coming over me. (“I’m sorry if the road wasn’t wide enough, a lot of English cars have steering wheels”)

If it wasn’t for the wilting poor cow next to me, I could have put up with this loud, irritating twat. As it was, I was getting a little concerned that the old girl was buckling. Eventually, remembering my annoyance at the queue-jumper earlier, added to my irritation at this boring git in front of me, I could no longer help myself.

“Scuse me for butting-in, mate,” I was leaning in close to him so as not to make too much of a scene “but you might be interested in another couple of strange things we do over here ?”

“Oh yeah?  Like what ?”. He seemed genuinely interested.

“Well,” I continued “For starters, when we see an old lady nearly collapsing in front of us, we often get up and offer her our seat. We also use phrases like ‘oh I’m sorry’ and ‘excuse me, would you like to sit down?’ ”

He looked embarrassed, as did his girlfriend. He jumped to his feet and hurried the old biddy into the seat. “Sorry, man, I didn’t realise” he offered.

“Don’t apologise to me, mate” I retorted, “apologise to that lady, you ignorant fucker”. I think that one broke down any language barrier ok.

For the remainder of the trip I buried  my head into my phone messages, my work here being done. The rude and boring Canuks/Yanks got off soon after our exchange. The old lady and I swapped knowing glances. Her my Damsel in Distress, me her Shite in Whining Armour. Or is that armor?

I had finally woken up. I was on a roll. And just in time to visit the bank. That was bound to cheer me up.

 

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MOVEMBERADVERT

Anatevka


So we’re making progress. The advert is in and the dustman are on steroids.  The house has never look tidier although, to be honest, that’s no great boast. But everything is heading in the right direction, if not quite at ramming speed, then at a very jaunty pace.

As you know, Railway Cuttings is to be put up for rent as the company,  Sharp Single International Holdings (UK Ltd) seeks to consolidate its position in the market. Last week the agent came round to assess the estate. It’s a nervous time, renting your house. Will other people see it as you do ? Will they ignore all the little imperfections and those little-jobs-you-were-going-to-get-around-to-but-never-managed-to ? The door to the barn is hanging off its hinges and the mock tudor gabling atop of the east wing still needs attention for a touch of rot, but otherwise my man was quite impressed.

The drainage in the lower field is still a problem, but only the keenest of eyes would spot it. Seven of the nine bedrooms are in excellent order, he said, and of other two he said the fact that one contains a gin distilling apparatus and the other a bowling machine with practise net shouldn’t be too off-putting to prospective tenants.

“You never know, Mr B,” he chuckled “we might find an alcoholic cricket nut?”
“I doubt if there’s another one in the area” I sighed.

The duck house was, he thought, a rather charming feature and once the moat and the gravel drive had had a little de-clagging then he couldn’t see any reason why the property shouldn’t fly off the shelf. He took a couple of snaps and left me to my chores, while he contacted Country Life to negotiate an acceptable rate for a display ad, hopefully opposite the Girl with Pearls. He’s suggested putting an advert in House and Hound but I thought that would be just a little pretentious.

OscarAdvert

So for the worst part of a week now that’s what I’ve been doing : de-clagging. I read somewhere that to make your house more attractive to buyers you should remove every third item from the shelves, bookcases and kitchen. Apparently it gives the impression of space and cleanliness, a minimalist look that’s so popular these days. Hmmm ok.  I decided that I’d remove every other item on show. I’m moving out anyway so the more I remove now the less work for me later on.

Out went the stack of old newspapers I’d been keeping “just in case” (you remember newspapers, right?). Off the walls came the hat collection, gathered from around the world and my travels on eBay, and hung on hooks to cover unsightly marks, scratches or stains. But I did need to keep something on the walls – to make it look lived-in and homely- so I left hanging my display of memorabilia from the 1947 Cup Final – Charlton Athletic 1-0 Burnely (aet)- and my framed Derek Underwood jockstrap.

Hidden from sight was the, now I come to look at it, worrying-looking collection of exotic, once opened booze bottles – the type that you have a crack at late on Boxing Day when there’s nothing else left (and then hurriedly replace the stopper): Greek gin, Spanish vodka and Japanese scotch, Pink Cloves, Jamaican ouzo and grappa. Some of it donated to the cause over the years, and some collected by myself at some time, somewhere and in a some heightened state of optimism that it’d taste just as delicious as it did when that dodgy waiter served it to me during that summer holiday all those years ago. No, the bottles definitely had to be put away. Not disposed of, you understand, just hidden. Well, you never know, do you?

Some of this stuff MUST be drinkable

The first swoop through the house was pretty successful, if a little tiresome and depressing. Thanks to staying up all hours to watch the Ashes cricket in Australia (you knew I’d get to it in the end, didn’t you ?) I’ve been suffering from sleep deprivation and there are early signs of exhaustion. Usually the English are so piss-poor that after the first match I could ignore the rest of the series, but it seems that the Aussies are rather less than average this time out so I fear I shall feel like this for the next 6 weeks.

So I wasn’t in the best of condition to lug dirty great bags of rubbish to-and-from the attic to the rubbish bin outside. Poor bloody dustmen. I trudged through the house carrying two bin-liners: one for stuff for the tip, the other for eBay (they’re pretty much interchangeable), in my semi-conscious state dreaming of Australian wickets to the soundtrack of Fiddler on the Roof. I snapped myself out of my malaise. It’s not as if the Tsar’s Cossacks are running me out of my little dwelling but the Tossacks from Natwest surely will if I don’t make other arrangements soon, so moving out before the bailiffs move in is by far the best plan of action.

But nevertheless I can’t say it made for happy work. When you systematically go through each and every item in your home you find yourself dwelling over the history of it and the enjoying memories for several minutes, before stuffing it into one bag or the other. Most bits you find, of course, turn out to be complete crap and something you haven’t thought about, let alone looked at for several years. It’s a time for that good clear-out you always promised yourself, but it’s still a less-than satisfying thing to do, if for no other reason that you realise just how much useless shite you’ve accumulated over the years.

The exciting news, of course, is that the new property is taking shape. The Incumbent is, as I write, overseeing work on The Sharp Single’s new HQ down in the pretty little hamlet of Dartford. Unfortunately somehow we managed to hire the firm of Hamza and Hawking to carry out the refurbishments of the new offices and they are less than perfect. If you poke your head out of the window and listen hard you may be able to hear the squeals of pain as The Incumbent inserts a spirit level into Mr Hawking.  The Incumbent doesn’t suffer fools gladly (she makes allowances for me, bless her) and these cowboy builders obviously didn’t realise there was a new Sheriff in town. If by the end of the day they’re not strung up by their plumb-lines I shall be very surprised.

For those of you who don’t know it, Dartford is in the heart of the county of Kent in the South East of England. Set amid rolling hills of fabulous English countryside, it is famous for The Peasants’ Revolt (tick), hop fields (tick tick) and for being the main escape route out of Essex (tickety tick tick).

Inshallah,  the 2011 Sharp Single will be published from its new premises, a huge purpose-built, neo-Georgian villa complete with billiards room, a nine-hole putting green and bar. From my desk (I’ve been allocated the potting shed) I shall enjoy the grand vistas of the oast houses, apple orchards and cement works of the surrounding area which some critics aren’t already calling the most exiting and up-and-coming town east of Erith. There is, of course, ample parking.

So now I sit and I wait for the phone to ring. I imagine in a week or two there will be a long queue forming outside of people eager to rent this undes-res. I envisage scenes akin to Shallow Grave as I carefully select my first tenants. It might be fun. It could be tortuous. It will be another story.

Just Warming Up


I hate training. I always did. All that stretching off, press-ups, squat-thrusts, jogging around the pitch, unopposed drills. Yuk, awful. I suspect my lack of enthusiasm for training sessions was the one and only reason I never got my England cap. Yes, that’s definitely the reason.

Training sessions, in my limited but painful experience, are invariably held on a cold, wet Tuesday night and involve someone shouting at you for an hour and a half while you forward-roll and burpee your way around the pitch until your head thumps, or someone gives you a slap because you were either tackling too hard or not hard enough. Meanwhile all your mates who had to ‘work late’ or are ‘injured’ are in the clubhouse seeing the ‘physio’ or having ‘one’ ‘shandy’.

Actually, I was pretty good at that . There’s no more satisfying pint of beer than the one you have as you look out of the clubhouse bar at those assorted idiots on the training field going through beep tests and star jumps.

This five-minute fad of keeping fit can be quite annoying. The aforementioned lycra nazis mince around with their inexplicable air of superiority. Joggers in the street sweat past you under the impression that they own the pavement, with a self-satisfied “look at me” importance only rivalled by new mothers pushing a buggy into your shins.

That bunch who arrive back in the office at about 1.50 every afternoon, stinking, red-faced and drenched, unable to breath as they complete their lunchtime jog around the block- what’s all that about? If I came out of a pub looking like that I’d never go in one again.  I dunno if they actually expect a round of applause for their efforts but by the way they look at you, iPod in ears and water bottle in hand as they collapse over the office furniture, you’d have thought that they’d just discovered radium. FUCK OFF AND STOP DRIPPING ON MY DESK.

The Incumbent takes herself off to the local gym every morning. I dunno what she’s training for and given that every single morning she announces that it hurt, I haven’t the foggiest idea why she does it to herself. I’m unlikely to announce that I’m taking out for a 10k run at the weekend, so why does she put herself through it? My mate – let’s call him Paul (even though his real name’s Martin)- joined the local fitness club purely to watch women bounce around on the treadmill. Now that I understand, although I did point out there were cheaper ways to look at lithe, young women’s bodies (I’m typing on one now).

Having said all that, I am in preparation for the big event next week. The imminent England vrs Australia cricket series starts next Wednesday, but coverage doesn’t start til 11pm and goes on through the night.  Considering these days I like to be tucked up in bed by no later that 9.30 I need to acclimatise myself to match conditions. As I write, half the England team are in Brisbane, training in tropical conditions in readiness for the five-day match which will test all their physical and mental abilities. Nothing can prepare your body for the shock of playing sport in the extreme heat of the tropics, especially if you come from Manchester, Leeds or Nottingham, so the english bowlers have arrived a week in advance to give themselves half a chance of getting used to the sapping conditions.

My preparations will be no less calculated. My plan for Wednesday is to get myself down to the local pub for about 2pm, armed to the teeth with the daily papers. I shall order a pint and sit by a window and read every sports section available. At some stage I shall order a light lunch: steak and kidney pie or fish n chips. No more than four drinks shall be ordered (unless I have company then a sensible cut-off time will be deemed).

Late afternoon I shall waddle off down the hill to Railway Cuttings to the comfort of my bed or sofa (dependent on Columbo being on tv). Having checked carefully the last delivery time for Dominos Pizza (do they open through the night?) I shall snuggle down and sleep, hopefully for three or four hours. Alarm or no alarm, I hope to wake at around 1030, in plenty of time to enjoy the coverage of the match. Then I’ll simply repeat the above for the next five days.

Of course I will drop off to sleep again eventually, but this is the best plan I can come up with without reverting to chemical help to keep me awake. I’m so excited about the series I may just explode if I was to come within a nostril hair of any stimulants. No jogging kit will be donned, no sweatband worn. No hamstrings will be pulled, and even my dodgy achilles tendons can stand up to rigours of walking to the pub.

I’ll be ready. And so will the English team. Hopefully.

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