English Try not to Lose Match. Questions in the House.


Australia scored a huge moral victory today when the world’s media decided, as one, that the England Cricket Team were batting too slowly. In a test match. Newspapers and media commentators from both ends of the globe were united in their damning of English tactics in the Fifth and final Test at The Oval.

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Down under, Ockers in bars across the colony— from Wagga all the way to Wagga—could be heard to whine in celebratory unison at the attack on the English decision (on the season’s slowest pitch) not to lose the match and consolidate their 3-0 lead. The Aussie team, led by skipper Michael ‘Bloody’ Clarke, and in lieu of bowling the opposition out, opted for calling Pietersen nasty names and bowling the ball to 2nd slip (presumably as some sort or Homage d’Harmison). This enormous vote of disapproval at the speed of the English batsmen means the scoreline in the series has now changed to …er…3-0 to England.

Not since a girl called Mary was followed about everywhere she went by her companion with a fleece as white as snow has there been such constant bleating for so long. Much has been made about the plummeting of Australia down the Test Match Rankings, but the ACB will be proud of the fact that their fans have reached the top of the Whinging Fans Table, removing French Rugby Supporters from the top of the “Whole World’s Against Us Championship” (Sponsored by Brains Beer).

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But this is no fluke, no flash in the pan. It has been worked on all summer, ever since the Aussie Tourists lost to Roedean Girls School by an innings and 74 runs on a slow turner in May. While the Strines‘ Upper, Upper Middle and Lower Middle batting order practised batting collapses, the fans were drawing up a war chest of moans, complaints and whines to be gradually introduced to and shot at the English public throughout the season.

And how they’ve fired them off:

The Umpires are too foreign; DRS is too unreliable; The grounds are too small (they can’t get tickets to the matches so they can moan about the English); The pitches are too dry; it only rains when we’re winning ; Stuart Broad is a Cheat; Root provoked the Punch (and he’s a cheat); they’re batting too slow; the commentators are too posh/biased/insulting/use long words; The grass is too green (ok, I made that last one up—but only that one) . etc etc etc.

The ICC are investigating claims by the BCCI, the ruling body of Indian Cricket, that they have the monopoly on Sore Losing, and that the Aussies are in danger or breaching their copyright on it.

The MCC have made a formal apology to Australia and indeed the whole of the Commonwealth and given an undertaking that they won’t try to save a cricket match again, or ensure that they don’t give the opposition a sniff.  Rather they will play dashing, exciting cricket, giving no heed to throwing away the contest. It is believed the have contacted Mickey Arthur with a view to a possible advisory role.

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In a totally unrelated incident, Police have discovered a small heard of sheep in a bar in Brisbane. The animals have remained undetected in the Inn for six weeks, mingling with the local sports fans. They were only given away when one of their member got into a fight with a group of cricket fans when he asked them to keep the bleating down.

Malcolm Conn is 108

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And Not a Drop to Drink (again)


It’s quiet here now. Through the open window of the potting shed I can hear the chirping of the Marsh Warblers, the Chaffinches and the distant scrap metal dealers going about their business. There is the gentle hum of rural England, the faintest of drones from a combine harvester over the meadow as it positions itself outside the local council offices in readiness for todays rally against diesel tax; and the unmistakable giggling and hubbub from local village children as they play on the nearby rope swing down near the beautiful little babbling brook, exchanging football cards, crack cocaine and used needles. The village hall is holding a “Bring and Sell Your England Cricket Tickets’ Fete this afternoon, and the verger is nailing up an effigy of Stuart Broad. Yes, sadly only an effigy.  The sun is out. Tis a tranquil scene. I’d put some Mozart on, if I thought it would still fit me.  Yes, it’s all very quiet here now. But that hasn’t always been the case….

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For the past few weeks the air has been thick with a whiff of emulsion, the rasping of sandpaper and the clatter of ladders. Our door has been darkened by carpenters, plumbers, plasterers and pipe fitters. Also, The Incumbent has been decorating the boys’ bedrooms in preparation for their return from college next week. All this coincided with a huge spike in business for what the Local Paper is calling “One of the slightly more promising home t-shirt businesses in the West Dartford area”.

Yes, finally business could be described as booming as, following a huge demand for Medium, Slimfit Bonnie Tyler t-shirts recently (go figure), and a call from several companies to kit-out their workers, the new line in British Lions and Festival Tees has been keeping me nicely thankyouverymuch in bourbons biscuits and doner kebabs. In between Medium Ladyfits, I’ve been popping upstairs to lend help, advice and elbow grease to the Boss as she undercoats, fills, sands, top-coats and glosses her way around the house.

It wasn’t all fun and games from the get-go. She didn’t take to it at all at first. As the air became bluer and bluer I had to step in to point a few hints and time-saving tips I’d learned over the years, stuff which while not ridding The Incumbent of her hatred for decorating, would help her reach her goal of completing two rooms in two weeks. I taped the roller to a broomstick and did a few walls there, a ceiling here. I visited the DIY store more times than I went to the pub. All the T-shirt profits were spent on Brilliant white Gloss, Sandpaper, Insulating tape and roller trays. I even semi-believably feigned interest when we picked out new carpet, which was to be delivered and fitted tomorrow, Thursday. So we even had a real deadline. And I’ve really missed deadlines. (!)

So come Monday afternoon, nearing the end of the fortnight (look it up) we were carrying out what I believe those in the trade called ‘snagging’: Seeing to all the little knocks, blemishes and missed bits in each room which needed to be put right before the carpet fitters came in 72 hours time.

(We chose a lovely beige cable carpet with a slight brown fleck in it, seeing as you asked. Oh, you didn’t)

A few scrapes and holes were smoothed over, a little dab of emulsion once or twice and the room looked spiffing. I thought my partner and guvnor should be really pleased with herself, and I told her as much.

“You’ve done really well here, you should be proud” I offered.

“well….” she said, not wanting to boast.

“no, really, you’ve done a top job. AND…”  and this was where things started to go wrong for me “….AND you’ve learnt a few things along the way from me, haven’t you ?”  Even as I was saying it I knew I was sounding far too smug for my own good.

Why do I do these things to myself ?

As we attempted to get the back bedroom straight, she asked me to take a look at the floorboards on the far side of the bed. Lifting up the underlay, it was clear that some had splits in them, some were not laying right and there were several screws that were standing proud of the floor.

“Yup, no worries, I’ll go fetch the screwdriver and some screws. You find some hardboard for me.” I was like a young Tim Allen. I was MR Home Improvement. Skipping back up the stairs like a someone in a Check-a-Trade advert, electric screwdriver in one hand, a fist full of self-tappers in the other, I zapped down a few offending items back into the holes whence they came, and added a few more for good measure. The Incumbent had found a yard or two of hardboard laying around which we placed over the area of split floorboards, (promising to come up with a more permanent answer later on), and replaced the underlay. The missus, walked up and down the previously selected spot and pronounced it to be “Bloody Marvellous”.We had finished for the day. I suggested we celebrate in one of two ways. We went down the pub.

A couple of hours later we returned with our bellies full of cider, and a carrier bag full of curry. There was good Korma.  Although I had a madras.

I sat down at the keyboard for a quick check on emails, looking forward to the impending feast. The Incumbent was in the kitchen dishing up. I waited excitedly to hear the words “Dinner’s Ready !”

I have to tell you now, that no such undertaking was received.

Behind me, between the curtains and the patio door, came a disconcerting sound. It sounded as if there was water dripping through the ceiling, running down the wall, door and glass, down to the floor, making a huge puddle. I pulled back the curtain. There was water dripping through the ceiling, running down the wall, door and glass, and onto the floor, making a huge puddle.

The next 15 minutes was a bit of a blur. Dashing up the stair as fast as my three-inch long legs would carry me, I ripped up the underlay on the floor where I’d earlier been working and, sure enough, I could hear a faint hiss of water escaping the pipe. I took the screwdriver and undid one of the screws which I’d previously inserted. Then came the flood. Where once had been a tiny little jet of water, squirting out of the hole the screw had made, but being partially blocked by the screw itself, unscrewing it had opened up the hole sending a torrent up into the air. Looking remarkably like the moment when Dambusters breached the Möhne Dam, I thought momentarily of taking a photo to be used later in this blog, but the cries of “Oh For Fuck’s Sake!” coming from downstairs alerted me to the fact that I should try to remember how to turn the water off.

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“TURN THE WATER OFF !” I shouted, and I heard her emptying out some cupboard or other where presumably the mains stopcock is housed (I didn’t know where it was then, and I don’t know where it is now). The water still kept coming. Gushing up like a big gushy-up thing, or like a scene from one of those films I don’t watch any more. The step ladders used to get up to the loft (I never knew my real ladders) carry a weight limit warning of 15 stone, but I didn’t care, I needed to get to the water tank.  With one giant leap and several little uncomfortable ones, I climbed into the attic and made my way carefully along a beam, ensuring I didn’t put my foot through the ceiling (well, we didn’t want to have any accidents, did we ?)

I turned off each and every valve I could see, and some I couldn’t. With the missus keeping watch at the hole in the floor in the bedroom, she eventually hollered that the waters had receded. I slumped over the tank exhausted. I was sweating like a 70’s comedian in a police line-up. I knew I’d have to go back down and face both The Incumbent and the music. And I had to use the step ladders again. They surely wouldn’t take my weight a second time.

She called the insurance company who ordered out an emergency plumber. That was 6.30 on Monday evening. It’s 10.30 am on Wednesday now. The plumber still hasn’t arrived. In the end we would spend 23 hours without water—unless you count all the water which had saturated the lounge wall, the coving and the wooden floor, lifting and swelling everything, stinking out the house. 23 hours without water,  22 of which I used the words “I’m sorry” in every other sentence. No shower, no toilet and, most drastically, no cups of tea.  Taking advantage of a mate who happens to know his pipework, and who happens to drink in The Shovel we eventually got our pipes fixed and our water back on. I thanked him profusely and gave him a large drink for his trouble. The Incumbent called the “Emergency Plumbers” and gave them some directions on Self Intercourse.

The whole pub knows what I did and find it rather amusing. All our friends know and are ceaselessly mocking me. And now you know.

It’s quiet here now. The Incumbent has decided to go out for the day. Gone to Canterbury  to visit her boys at College.

She’s taken the screwdriver.

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The Dambuster theme continues:  The insurance company has sent along professional dryers, complete with huge turbo turbine machines which look like they were once strapped to the wings of a Lancaster Bomber. So my tranquility has ended, interrupted by the sweet sound of two Merlin engines. One in the bedroom, one in the lounge.

Oh joy.

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Caught Out Crowing on the Crystal Set


So right on cue the English cricketers have reverted to type. Having played like gods for the past fortnight, last night they looked like a pissed pub side. It had to happen, of course, as the night before I was feeling so very, very smug with their performance that I decided to share with the (cricketing) world a little ditty I’d been sent to me by a mate in Sydney.

In the middle of the afternoon’s play, as Aussie wickets were tumbling, my mate Corky who’s working Down Under sent me a text of this song doing the rounds down there about English fast bowler Chris Tremlett.

Oh the weather outside is baking,
The Aussies are for the taking,
And since Tremlett’s stole the show,
Let him bowl, let him bowl, let him bowl.

There’s a mob called testmatchsofa.com who are broadcasting live coverage of the whole ashes series as a sort of boys pub chat alternative to the BBC and Sky. So I decided to tweet them with this Christmas cricket song, hoping they might circulate it. Click here link to hear the result.

Notice that these three lads are, as incredible as it may seem, completely unaware of what The Sharp Single is, the poor naive fools. The other result is, of course, as soon as I decide to start crowing about how great my beloved English team was, they started playing like…well..Englishmen. I’ve never been guilty of counting my chickens, and this is exactly why I, especially when it concerns English cricket. I tempted fate and it bit me right on the arse.

So now I’m desperately trying to compose some spoof version of “In the Bleak Mid Winter” which depicts our batting order as useless arseholes which may reverse our fortunes in Perth tonight, but I feel it’ll be too little too late. So you can blame me. Or really blame Corky. Yes it’s Corky’s fault really. And the pitch. And the umpires. And James Anderson’s missus. And…

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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Great Touch for a Big Man


Paul Collingwood, having just captained the English cricket team to its first ever victory in a world final (albeit in pyjamas), is reported to have been given a few months of to recoup. He says he feels mentally drained and physically exhausted. It’s been a long season and he’s picked up a ‘couple of niggles’ along the way which ‘aren’t getting any better’. With the Ashes coming up in the winter, the English cricket authorities have begun a rotation system, having rested Andrew Strauss and Jimmy Anderson last winter, Collingwood along with Stuart Broad looks set to recharge his batteries before the main business begins in Australia in November. Broad would certainly need to rest his jaw, given the amount of bleating and whingeing he does on the playing field.

The rotation system of course is a favourite of soccer managers, and Fabio Capello is not different. He may well have to do a bit of it while shepherding his 23 young men through to what he hopes is an appearance in the World Cup Final. He’s not against rotating his opinion as well as his team. He’s already picked unfit players (something he said he wouldn’t) picked players out of position (which he’d previously ruled out) and those out-of form (ditto). Still, so far he’s not budging on the WAG question. The players will only get to see their loved ones once-a-week during the tournament, thus preserving their natural bodily fluids to sweat on the pitches of South Africa rather than in the bedroom/the balcony/the back of a limo. Colleen’s had the first result of the Cup, I reckon, and at least John Terry will be close enough for his team mates to keep an eye on him.

Capello is running a tight ship at the team’s high-altitude training camp in Austria: Peter Crouch has to sleep in the same size bed as everyone else this time round, and has been bollocked for wearing slippers around the camp. Capello likes his boys smartly dressed. It must be some relief to all that King David isn’t in the squad as Christ knows what the boss would have made of him swanning around in a sarong, Victoria’s drawers and slingbacks. The games room is off-limits for most of the side, so Wayne, Rio and company will be barred from playing as themselves on the PS3. Diets will be monitored at all times.

Austria was chosen as the venue for the pre-tour training camp as Capello wanted to replicate as near as damn it the conditions in the High Veldt where the English will be playing their matches. This is where we see the Italians genius: Not only is the atmosphere similarly thin to that in South Africa, but there are almost as many neo Nazis in Austria as they’ll encounter among the farming communities when they arrive down south. Once the competition begins England will make their base in Rustenburg, SA, not to be confused with Rastenburg, Poland where A. Hitler‘s Third Reich XI set up camp during their own quest for world domination.

Historians point out that Hitler’s men may well have succeeded but for the fact that, although they possessed a devastating attack, they were a team packed with right-wingers, and were vulnerable in the air – which an RAF Select XI exploited in the quarter-final played at Biggin Hill.

Hitler's back three discuss zonal defence during summer training at Rastenburg

But I digress.

So taking a leaf out of the books of the great minds from cricket and football, I have decided to rest myself, to recharge my batteries, to get my mind straight. I’ve picked up ‘a couple of niggles’ over the season (which, let’s face it, has lasted since 1983) and they’ve shown no signs of getting any better. In fact I get more niggly as the years pass. My week’s low-altitude training in Amsterdam didn’t pay the dividends I’d hoped for, but I can’t blame the fact my WAG came along with me. No, a strict rotation policy is what I need. I know you think rotating a squad of one is gonna be difficult, but I have a carefully planned strategy to get me through the closed-work season. Playing in a solid 0-0-1 formation, I shall alternate between The Crown, O’Neills and, when I really want to punish myself, The Railway.

In the games room (my couch) I shall play no more than three hours per day, switching from Tiger Woods Golf , FIFA 10, and Red Dead Redemption, which I’ve just had a couple of hours on and is quite superb. Tiger might get squeezed out (not for the first time).

A strict diet from the Sun Bo chinese takeaway (chilli beef me-up), Khans curry house (mismas every time) and the imaginatively dubbed Blackheath Fish and Chips (all major credit cards accepted, and at these prices highly recommended) will keep my girth at the diameter to which it’s accustomed.

I have promised myself the bathroom will be painted, the banisters sanded and the bushes and hedges in the garden kept neat and trim. If I can’t find a source of income soonish, I may have to rent (or even sell) Railway Cuttings, so a month off is a great opportunity to get the house in top shape to impress any potential buyers.

But with 3 World Cup matches every day and villains and varmints to shoot on a video game, I may have to break a promise or two. Now where are my slippers ?

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