Waffles and Waterproof Trousers

South Africa 322/4

As we departed the hotel for Headingley yesterday morning, we were met by a shower of rain. Regardless, I ventured out in a t-shirt, shorts and sandals (and an umbrella), while DC was more stoutly dressed in a raincoat and long trousers. On seeing the rain, he produced, like some Scottish Presbyterian conjuror, a pair of waterproof trousers from his bag and straightaway put them on. I attempted to dissuade him with hoots of derision, but he was not to be put off, and away we went.

DC and I worked our way through the Daily Telegraph crossword in the morning session, while Nasty Jen, according to text updates from a mutual friend, was working her way through a tentful (she later claimed it was more like a marquee) of Aussie men in St Andrews. The mind boggles.

DC disappeared off to the bookies at tea, to “catch up on the golf”, and Wiseman went off to the toilet, although curiously he came back clutching a burger. On their return, I wandered round to the back of the West Stand, and found a purveyor of waffles. I stood in the gap between the Main Stand and the West Stand for a bit, watching the cricket. The sun was on my back, the chocolate-coated waffle was delicious, and the only thing disturbing the serenity was the semi-riot taking place amongst the denizens of the West Stand. This particular stand, going back to its days as the Western Terrace, has a long history of boisterous crowd behaviour, with a penchant for throwing beach balls around (a banned activity), stacking hundreds of plastic beer glasses together horizontally (another banned activity) and passing the resulting snake around the crowd, cheering wildly as it becomes longer and especially when it evades the clutches of the stewards. Roddy, an ex-Holy Cross wicket-keeping team-mate, was sitting in the West Stand today. I texted him before tea offering to buy him a pint. We had managed to catch up at the tea-break on Day 1, but yesterday I fear he was too busy forming beer-glass-snakes and baiting the stewards and police to hear his mobile phone. He was always so well-behaved behind the stumps as well.

I finished my waffle, got myself a cup of tea, and stood in the sun again, watching England vainly trying to prise out another South African batsman. It wasn’t to be – only one wicket fell all day, and even that was a bad decision. England’s lack of bowling penetration in this Test is worrying, particularly as Flintoff, the Great White Hope, has returned. Flintoff, while bowling well, has not made the batsmen play enough, and has been unable to generate enough pace or hostility to get them out. Lack of swing has been a serious problem, which has rendered Pattinson, the new boy, ineffective, as it might have Hoggard, or even Sidebottom, if they had been playing.

Back in my seat, I thought it had started raining, but in fact it was a chap in the upper tier of the stand, returning from the bar with four full pints. He must have been a little unsteady on his feet, as a fair proportion of the beer was tipped over the edge of the tier onto our heads below. DC’s dignity was protected by his substantial wet weather armour, and I regret to say he adopted an air of superiority as a result.

It eventually did start raining, although long after it was forecast to, and with the close of play imminent anyway, DC fished out the waterproof trousers and we trudged back to the hotel. After the requisite afternoon nap for one of the party, we headed into Leeds for some food, and after a short search, landed in a place called Tampopo, serving a variety dishes from across Asia. It’s a chain, I later determined, but not one that’s made it as far north as Edinburgh, and since none of us had eaten there before, it didn’t count as a chain. Wiseman had an unpronounceable meal from Vietnam.

“Is it hot?” enquired DC.

“No” said Wiseman, shaking his head, and then promptly bit into a red chilli.

We retired to the hotel satisfied by a great meal and a good weekend all round. England are sinking fast in the Test, much to DC’s delight. Wiseman was reasonably content, having remembered his radio on Day 2, and in any case the bars were open on both days. The Trip to the Test can therefore be considered a success for both my companions. I was pleased to see plenty of action (and controversy) on the first day, and generally had fun watching cricket with my mates again, rather than on my own, as I had done (mostly) last time around in Australia. My presence at England matches, however, seems to have had a detrimental effect on their performance, if the last three examples are anything to go by.

Roll on Edgbaston. I promise to stay away.

Leeds, Day Two

England 203
South Africa 101/3

South Africa were on top yesterday, so DC finished the day much happier than either Wiseman or I, Mark having left his digital radio in the hotel, and so unable to keep abreast of Blowers’ uniquely colourful commentary. Helpfully, I passed them some highlights from that and the shipping forecast when it came around. It was a cracking day’s cricket, despite England’s collapse, with Freddie Flintoff making his first Test appearance since I saw him lead the team to defeat in Sydney 18 months ago. Sadly he flashed at a wide one on 17 and departed somewhat sheepishly.

Wiseman and I arrived at the ground clad optimistically in shorts, he, rather foolishly, following my lead in the matter. The weather was cloudy and drizzly, and not especially warm, and I don’t recall seeing anyone else in shorts in the entire ground, but this being the cricket, there were a number of outfits on show that made shorts look positively sensible, including men in women’s clothing, and a smattering of superheros. At some point during the afternoon session I conceded defeat and popped into a toilet cubicle to change into my jeans, emerging to find Superman wrestling his way back into his suit. It’s good to know that even Superman has to take a pee.

Thursday night, as expected, was largely sleepless, partly due to the skylight, which shed rather too much light on the matter, but also because every water pipe in the hotel seems to be routed through the wall behind my bed. A previous occupant of the room had also helpfully set the TV to switch itself on at 5.30am, for which I was less than grateful.

Last night as considerably better, having tired myself out by sitting watching cricket all day. Was woken by the sounds of Wiseman preparing to go for a run next door – that is he was preparing next door, rather than going for a run in his room. On returning from his run at 8.30am, he knocked on my door, which elicited an appropriate sub-duvet response.

Breakfast was taken at 9am. Wiseman entertained us once more with his unique croissant-buttering technique, and we even struck up some convivial early morning conversation, something neither myself or DC are renowned for, with an Englishman on a nearby table.

And so on to Day Two. Right now, the sun is shining, although showers are forecast. Nevertheless we are in good spirits, and I am confidently starting the day in shorts and sandals again.

Come on England.

The Little Chef and cricket

Had lunch with Glenn and Anna last Sunday. Their oldest daughter, Maria, who’s four and feisty with it, once the main course was over, removed herself from the table and installed herself on the sofa, where she declared she would take her dessert. Anna made it quite clear that unless madam returned to the table, improved her mood and began to behave herself, there would be no dessert at all. I reflected on how it isn’t all bad being a grown-up. After all, you can be grumpy and still have your dessert.

It’s Thursday night, and I’m in a Leeds hotel. DC and Wiseman are in the adjoining rooms. It sounds like Wiseman has just smacked his head off the wall, but I’m sure there’s a rational explanation. We’re here for a couple of days of the Second Test between England and South Africa. DC, being a rabid Scot, has adopted South Africa as his favourite cricket team for another month or so, or whenever their series against England ends. He refers to them as “our boys”. I, of course, am supporting England. Wiseman is along for the opportunity to drink beer, hopefully in the sun, and listen to the TMS commentary via a 15 second delay on his portable digital radio.

Having left straight after work, we were looking for somewhere to eat shortly after the halfway mark. The distance between Edinburgh and Leeds is 222 miles, which makes Leeds a superstitiously perfect cricketing destination for us. Almost bang on 111 miles into the journey, a sign for services appeared. Genius. We veered off the A1, hopping from foot to foot inside the car. “It’s a Little Chef, it’s a Little Chef – look look!!” cried Wiseman excitedly. He had already declared that wherever we stopped for food must have peas. Garden peas. Because he was in the mood for peas.

Little Chef fits the bill. Being a British institution, it must have peas on the menu. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a Little Chef, it was a remarkably dodgy-looking Indian restaurant. Right in the middle of nowhere. It says something for its dubious appearance that three lads not averse to a curry immediately turned the car round and headed back to the A1.

(The next services was only a few miles further on, and it was indeed a Little Chef. Wiseman was beside himself.)

Wiseman stayed in this very hotel two months ago, while on a university-funded course being taught how to hack into wireless networks. Between him and the sat nav, we arrived safely and without undue fuss. I landed in room 34, my age, which I took great delight in pointing out to DC and Wiseman, for whom the thirties are a distant memory. They may have the last laugh in the morning, however, as my room is the only one with what appears to be an ancestor of the Velux window. I also have a normal window, with a quirky triangular window above it, both of which have efficient-looking curtains. The skylight does not have a curtain of any description. I note with some trepidation that the sun is due to rise at 4:56 am.

Here’s to an early wakening…