Arrived back in Sydney on New Year’s Eve, and caught a train to some random destination in North Sydney to watch the fireworks with the Coys and some family friends. The fireworks were spectacular, although once you’ve seen a few fireworks displays they begin to lose some of their lustre. The Sydney fireworks scored in that they were being launched from several (4?) different points around the harbour, including some barges on the water itself. Quite a show.
The cricketing adventure continued on 2 January at the SCG. England put up a good-ish fight for a couple of days before losing ground badly on Day 3, and eventually crumbling on Day 4, their chances of a result being finally ground into the dust with Pietersen’s early dismissal. Nonetheless, there were a few highlights – for starters I was able to catch up with a couple of old friends. John Nicholls, an old friend and occasional co-cricketer from his time in Edinburgh, was in town for a few days before heading to New Zealand on the next leg of his epic 7 week trip. John clearly benefits from annual leave on a Local Government scale. And Lewis, my current host Phil’s companion on their round the world trip 20 years ago, was there with his son Ben. Cricket sceptics can surely at least acknowledge the sport’s superior capacity for sharing 20 years of news while watching the game. If had been a football match we might only have got up to 1992 or so. Not to mention that it might have been harder to hear each other in a football crowd. Although we were, really, as we were sitting directly behind the main bulk of the Barmy Army ranks, which was a noisy and exercising experience. We were up and down like a Church of Ireland congregation, simply to see what was happening on the field. The Aussie reaction to the Barmy Army’s antics was more receptive than I had anticipated. Mostly they found them hilarious. In fact, my own attitude has changed towards them having now been at such close quarters. At matches I’ve been to in England, they’ve been a bit of a pest, singing their signature tune ‘Everywhere we go’ followed by mindless chants of ‘Barmy Army’ ad nauseam. However, the BA in Australia have a much more diverse range of chants and songs, some of which, frankly, are genuinely funny. Not all of which I can share here bearing in mind the sensitivity of some of the readership. However, I liked how the standard ‘God save your gracious Queen’ was followed up with (to the tune of Yellow Submarine) ‘Your next Queen is Camilla Parker-Bowles, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Camilla Parker-Bowles…’ This is not to say that ‘Everywhere we go’ didn’t get a regular airing – it did – with Barmy Army general ‘Jimmy Savile’ marching up and down the aisles marshalling his troops and orchestrating the singing.
The Aussies are jealous of the Barmy Army, and those around me generally laughed long and hard at their more amusing songs. They, I suspect, wish they could respond in kind, but there simply isn’t the deep-rooted football terrace culture present here that has been around in Britain for generations. They have a bunch of Barmy Army wannabes, the Fanatics, who had a strong presence on Day 1, and regaled us, in the main, with fairly banal chants, none of which I can repeat, but you’re not missing much. Oh, apart from ‘Four-nil, four-nil, four-nil…’ etc (it was only 4-0 then remember), which, while somewhat lacking in invention, was hard to argue with content-wise.
The match ended just before lunch on Day 4, after which Justin Langer, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne made their exits from the Test arena for good. It was a privilege to be at their last ever Test match. England, to their credit (having just been thumped again), formed a guard of honour on the edge of the square to welcome Langer to the crease for the last time, as he and Hayden came out to polish off the 46 runs Australia needed for victory. During that final session, while play was going on, the Barmy Army had managed to elicit a wave from almost everyone on the field, including the two umpires and Langer himself. The Aussie players also came over to the Barmy Army and applauded them after the game for their support in the series. As did the England team, obviously.
So, apart from the cricket, I’ve had a busy week – eating out with Diana and her slightly insane friends, followed by dinner with two different sets of relatives, and Diana again at Darling Harbour. On Day 4, after the cricket finished at lunchtime, I walked back to Darling Harbour, partly because it was such a nice spot, but mainly because I’d left my New Years Test commemorative baseball cap. A senior moment, I’m afraid. And not for the first or last time on this trip – last night Phil had to drive me back to Wendy’s (another relative – who hosted a meet-the-family barbeque at her swish house in Mosman yesterday afternoon) so that I could retrieve my camera.
Walking down from Central Station, towards Chinatown and Darling Harbour, Diana remarked that she used to work ‘just along here’, pointing vaguely in the direction of Club X, an ‘Adult Entertainment Complex’. Full of surprises, is Diana. On Saturday, on the way to Paddington Markets and Watsons Bay, she insisted we stop at a picturesque cricket ground to take some photos and watch a few overs. As chance would have it, it was Drummoyne Oval, where a distant relative (they’re all fairly distant over here, second cousins are the closest it gets, but this was my dad’s second cousin’s husband’s uncle) took 10-1 for Drummoyne in November 1911. For non-cricketers, that’s quite good bowling. Anyway, the match we were watching turned out to be a first grade match (two levels below Test standard) and Stuart MacGill and Greg Matthews were playing.
Last night Phil, being the beleaguered Financial Controller of Sydney FC, organised a ticket for me to watch their fixture against the NZ Knights at Aussie Stadium. It is, I’m slightly ashamed to say, the first football match I’ve been to for over two years. The Sydney fans behind the goal were impressive, and if the still embryonic A-League takes hold here then perhaps the football terrace culture will develop in time. The visiting support was mostly comprised of about 100 members of the Barmy Army, who threw their not inconsiderable vocal weight behind the Kiwis, and appeared to take great pleasure in finally seeing the Aussies beaten (Sydney lost 1-0).
Weather has generally been really good here recently, with the odd shower. Temperature has not gone above 31C, which I’m grateful for, and there has nearly always been a pleasant breeze. We do get weather like this in the UK, however it is usually met with ‘IT’S A SCORCHER’ tabloid headlines, and is considered a ‘heat wave’, whereas here it is considered normal, perhaps even on the cool side of normal.
No idea what it will be like on Magnetic Island the next few days – a forecast I saw on the web looks good, so here’s hoping. Although if the cyclones don’t get me the box jellyfish and sharks might…