Tour Diary-cum-Blog of stuff that happened when 11 men played cricket in Northumberland and got drunk
I must be honest and say I was a little surprised to be asked to write a tour diary. In a team jam-packed full of writers, I'd be the first to say that, as a musician, I was an odd choice. Perhaps it was to give those of you who do this for "a living" the bank holiday off. "Get the tour virgin to do it." "See it through his eyes." Ah, yes. Thanks, Rich, it worked, mate. Well, for what it's worth, here it is – some people appear more often than others, simply due to proximity during travel and dormitory assignments.
Saturday 25th Aug
08:00 – Arise after a much needed lay-in due to today's match being called off. (The oppo couldn't get a team, but it bucketed down in any case, so not to worry.) Looking forward to a steady drive up and beers in the Bunkhouse later. Andy O cooking Eggs & Bacon, most of which remains stuck to the pan. It won't be the last of this weekend, though it is the tastiest (but we aren't to know that yet).
09:30 - On the road not 5 minutes and in the mother of all jams. Finally get north of the Thames and receive a call from a somewhat frantic Cunners. The car's broken down before turning a wheel. Offering our deepest sympathy and silent sniggering we plough on to Muswell Hill to collect none other than the Tour Captain himself.
10:30 - Pick up Fatty clutching a silver case. A case that, from a distance, looks like a pistol and silencer. When we feel the weight, we're convinced it is. Fatty reassures us it's harmless Poker Equipment. We take a pre-emptive loo stop, Andy buys his copy of Viz and we get on the road.
13.30 - Somewhere south of Sheffield listening to commentary on the T20 Semi Final. Jonny Bairstow flogs an awful delivery for four which is described as a "Backpack and Compass" delivery by Paul Nixon. That's a new one on us.
16:00 – Fatty and Andy pore over the readers' letters in Viz so I tell them we just passed the turn-off for Old Mother Shipton's Cave. "I don't think she's in this magazine, Rob". We all giggle like school boys.
18:00 – Arrive at The Castle (pub) Bamburgh and order a much needed pint of Guinness at much un-needed London prices. Fatty turns to me and points out that we passed through the Yorkshire wormhole of cheep booze on the way here. "Aye, lad," I agree, adjust my cap and look for a seat. (Stoke boy Fatty, it transpires, was actually born in Doncaster.) Now in another pub, continue to upset the locals by walking in front of a lady just as Chelsea are taking a free kick against her beloved Newcastle. "Sorry, pet". She needn't have worried, Torres strikes the ball and the picture freezes. That's when we realise the game is being streamed off a laptop. That's northern frugality, is that. There seems to be large number of dogs not only in Bamburgh but particularly in this dining room. I can't help also noticing that some coats are glossier and better groomed than their owners.
21:00 - In the T20 final, Miller now smites yet another six for Yorkshire. Backpack and Compass is now old hat, we try and come up with a new one using GPS. Pub practically empty, Fatty's shouts of "go on" at the TV seem louder.
21:30 - To Rich and Laura's delight Hampshire beat Yorkshire so we retire for some grub. Someone drops a fork as the waiter passes; it's a cunning ploy for us to gorp at the fantastic way he's tried to hide his bald patch by spiking his hair round the edges. The look reminds me somewhat of The O2, or is that the North Greenwich Arena? I'm confused.
23.00 – Head back to the Bunkhouse with borrowed glasses for drinks, only to find a kitchen full of them.
23:30 - J Llo whips out his hoard of Whiskys. Laphroaig is chosen and we all get stuck in. Cunners goes for a "Clapham Junction". I can't begin to imagine what that means.
00:00 – Whisky is flowing and these diary entries start to shorten. Poker begins on the stroke of midnight, Cunners playing hardball from the off.
01:28 – Wildcard confusion, things get a little heated for a moment and voices are raised. The game suddenly turns serious, we expect to be hushed from our sleeping neighbours but to our surprise that never comes.
01:45 – Many styles being played, J Llo showing us all the art of folding, and Greg riding his beginner's luck while James is quietly assuming the chip lead without any of us realising it.
02:15 – While Chuck perfectly explains "when a wild card is a seven", talk turns to a game of cricket we have to play tomorrow. "...there are plenty of guys I want to stick up the order!" proclaims Fatty out of the blue. The room goes silent. We pretend to count our chips.
04:15 - Last chance saloon for the Metronome as he goes all in with a straight, only to be trumped by Andy with a higher straight. What are the chances eh! G'night then as Andy, Cunners and James are left to play for the big bucks whilst watching the sun come up. zzzzzz..
ps Fatty muttering in his sleep now, probably wrestling with the Duckworth-Lewis method ahead of his captaincy tomorrow. Really am going to bed now. zzz
Sunday 26th Aug
08:00 - Curtains are opened revealing sunshine and a campsite full of screaming kids. Much akin to Father Jack shouting "Drink!", "Paedo Heaven!"" comes the shout from our earliest riser, which is the first thing Andy hears as he stirs still clutching his poker winnings from four hours before. It's more than he has in the way of bedding.
10:56 – Off to Seahouses for a Fry-up. Café of choice today is Rosemary's. While we get cash, J Llo is sent ahead to warn of our mass arrival. Fatty orders a peppermint tea, and J Llo nearly chokes on his tea-cake starter.
11:30 – Worry over a possible water-logged pitch for today's game is quashed with a text from Rich to say it's fine. We pack our mops and paper towels back in the boot and head to the Bunkhouse for a kip and digest our pork products.
14:00 – For us first timers, Bamburgh Castle is an absolute picture postcard. Not a cloud in the sky as the game starts on time. Over to Rich for the match report, I'll see you in the pub later...
some time later... In the Castle Pub
21:00 – Chuck's combed his hair, perhaps he knows something we don't. Burgers and Fish'n'Chips ordered on mass for a big feed, we earned it today.
21:30 – Sadly no sign of the Oppo in the pub to discuss the dead-ball rule: some of us were looking forward to it. Rich and Laura retire to their Georgian pile.
00:00 – Back in the bar, Cunners is "conducting his orchestra" of ladies. Chuck is outside fending off his predatory senior citizen, and Andy is AWOL for what seems like an age. The prospect of "cheese" seemed to attract the attention of the village nutter. She returns sometime after, high-fiving folks at the bar. "What's she done with Andy?" we enquire. "Maybe she's stabbed him and left him in a ditch". Our collective concern is acknowledged with a shrug of the shoulders by all and attention turns to the next round of drinks. In humouring the friendly locals, Greg is likened to John Bishop, (not a bad shout at all) but taking more than his fair share of verbal jibes tonight, it is concluded Chuck's hair resembles that of The Master of the Universe himself, He-Man. In his ever-present and unrelenting good humour, he seems to have won over the Bamburgh locals in one weekend. Fatty suggests he stay and run for Mayor. After a somewhat extended bar, the landlord eventually runs out of beer and we leave. Deciding against the prospect of being lost on a damp campsite in the dark, Tasty's companions, Mercedes and Montana, choose to stay in the warm. Meanwhile, Andy seems happy to have given the crazy one the slip.
00:30 - All bundle in the van back to the Bunkhouse. No one quiet has it in them for a High Stakes Hold'em again tonight. It's Jura Whisky tonight, thanks to John. Joined by Dave this session to add a little decorum and he's soon disgusted to hear of someone pouring Coke with their Laphroaig last night.
The Wetdreamz boys are letting it all hang out on the sofas. So we all have to cram onto the dining chairs and stools. Don't mind us fellas. The two "quiet ones" seem only to speak when they're allowed to. We decide the big loud one must be the dominant one. Sensing some homoerotic tension we move outside for more Cheese and Jura. The latter now helping the Metronome create a new word, "innoculous". Dave and J Llo ponder whether it should have one L or two. Suggestions are that it may have been Captain Nemo's prototype vessel that didn't work all that well.
01:40 - Swapping stories of being hit in the box, Fatty describes the worst pain he ever felt when a billiard chalk fell from a height to hit his left bollock. Imagining those precise circumstances proves a bit much but he assures us it did happen.
02:30 – After a day in the sunshine and sea air, Gardeners are fading somewhat faster tonight. Dave has his bi-annual cigarette and retires. Astute as ever, and knowing he is not the only snorer in our room, his pre-emptive strike of being asleep first works. Fatty and Cunners are the honourable dirty stop-outs finishing off the Jura. They slope off to their respective bunks and tents.
Monday 27th Aug
08:30 ish, somewhere at a rather swanky hotel, Rich is tucking into his porridge and smoked kippers breakfast [Smoked salmon and scrambled egg, in point of fact, and it was a country-house B&B. Far more louche than a mere hotel. Ed.]. The waiter approaches with a phone on a silver tray. "You have a call from Clara Vale Cricket Club, sir," he intones. As guests' heads turn, Clayders regrets not adhering to the dress code of cravat and blazer for breakfast, puts down his bucks fizz, and says, "Thank you, Atherton, you may go now."
09:30 at Bunkhouse central, we receive news that the phone call was the cancelling the game today. The weather is murky near Newcastle already. Followed by a few muttered sighs of relief, mainly from the drivers, we head for Seahouses and another mammoth breakfast.
11:00 - Breakfast again but next door at Koffee n Kreme (for comparison's sake). Chuck asks "so what IS in Black Pudding anyway?" we all bury our snouts in our food and tell him to "just eat it". Andy puts away a big breakfast plus surplus meat from other flagging Gardeners' plates. Hollow Legs doesn't quite do it justice. Bowling seven overs on the bounce can make a chap hungry, I suppose. This would not be the last meat intake of the day for the Leicestershire man, later consuming a Pepperami and some KFC.
11.30 - After a team photo outside the cafe, a short turn around the harbour kidding ourselves that'd be sufficient to walk off the weekend's excesses. Cunners insures his gut will have the last word by topping off with some cockles from the seafood stand. Potted crab for Fatty.
Talk turns to Rosemary's versus Koffee'n'Kreme. Deep fried bread, two eggs, better service, better coffee, more toast, better tea and most importantly proper HP sauce gives it to Rosemary's by country mile. Although Fatty points out that if it kicks off, the lady from KK looked like she could handle herself.
12:00 - Down the coast to Higher Newton for coffee and shandies. Taking numbers for the bog as there's only one trap, Chuck goes first and returns with a healthy grin. Further discussion of Andy's missing 45 minutes last night reveal her name was "Party P", but he remains tight lipped on the details for now. The rain sets in and we all decide to hit the road. As with most road trips, the journey there always seems more interesting than the return trip. This one proves no different with rain and spray obscuring most landmarks of any repute. The Angel of the North peers out of the gloom as does most of the north of England. God only knows how we got a game of cricket in yesterday. I heard mentioned earlier in the day that it was "one of the better tours". That probably came from someone who enjoys the jolly as much as playing cricket seeing as two out of three matches were called off. Having said that, the one game that was played was a belter. Great weather, competitive teams, token moment of aggro near the end, and 100% record saw to that. A top weekend all round. RN
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Oliver Cunningham (life)
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