(I should warn the casual reader that the following is written for my family, particularly grandchildren, so you may find it bores the pants off you!)
I have only attended two England/Australia Test Matches at Lord’s-the last two which England have won. These are the only occasions Australia has lost in the last 80 years! Some say I should stay away. But, I think I should put matters to right by attending again! Since Australia’s previous loss in 1934 there have been 20 matches-Australia have won 9, 9 have been drawn and England have won the last 2 in 2009 and 2013. When England won in 1934 it was their first win since 1896 and was greatly assisted by a sticky uncovered wicket which Verity took full advantage of. So another way of expressing recent events (2009 and 2013) is to say those two matches give England only three wins at Lord’s in the last 119 years!
Here we are climbing out of Sydney on CX (Cathay Pacific) 162 bound for Hong Kong. Speed up to 460knts with a 10 hour flight ahead. ETA HK 7:00pm local time which is the same as Perth-i.e. 2 hours behind Sydney. Distance 7300 kms.Altitude 33,000 feet. About to fly over the Liverpool Plains where the approval of a large open-cut coal mine is presently creating great controversy. I am delighted to be in Business Class, but don’t like the herring-bone lay out-seats too far from the window for keen navigators like me! Navigation app on the mobile ‘phone working well, but light cloud cover not good for viewing. Track quite a long way east of the Darwin route, perhaps keeping well clear of the erupting Indonesian volcano to our north. A break in the clouds just revealed us flying over Coxs Creek-an important tributary of the Barwon Darling which joins the Namoi River at Boggabri, downstream of Keepit Dam. We are about to fly over “Milton Downs” the massive grain farm west of Bellata that I tried hard to buy for Clyde-even got to the lawyers beginning the contract exchange when the vendor pulled the plug. Now west of Moree and cloud breaking up. Country looks nice and green. Air beautifully smooth. Now flying just west of Bengerang, a name I’d never heard of until the recent successful takeover bid for Tandou by Websters. They simultaneously bought the company Bengerang (Prime Ag renamed) which owns amongst others the property of the same name.
Flew just east of “Binnerwell” (“Nariel” the next door neighbour and Godfather’s brother-in-law, is marked on my navigation map) where at the tender age of 16 years I worked for my Godfather as a first year jackeroo in the droughty year of 1957/8; thence over Injune and Roma, the Carnarvon Range, Springsure and west of Emerald as the clear air became turbulent and the cloud closed in well below us. Now at 38,000 feet. I wish I could see the ground. But, no one else cares-every blind in the Business Class cabin except mine and one other is closed. I suspect that they know nothing of inland Australia and furthermore they don’t care. It reminds me of my good friend Allan Farrar’s story about the father who asked his son “What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?” and the reply came ‘I don’t know and I don’t care”!
According to the map we are now flying over the headwaters of the Burdekin River east of Charters Towers
Just got a glimpse of the coast somewhere north of Townsville, south of Ingham. Later,I can still see the coast and it seems we are going to fly up to the tip of Cape York, we are presently west of Mareeba.You can see a long way from 38,000 feet.
We have just changed course and are now flying up the western side of Princess Charlotte Bay and are heading further inland. Great view of the eastern Cape York coast. Air beautifully smooth again.
We have now been flying for over three hours, nearly a third of the total trip and are still over Australia! It’s a big country! Very glarey and can’t make out the ground properly, but we are about to fly over Weipa and out over the top of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
As we departed the Australian mainland the effects of two magnificent chardonnays induced a certain somnolence so I put my seat/bed into the horizontal position and slept like a baby for an hour or two.
The view was blocked by cloud over most of Indonesia and the Philippenes, but I noticed a dispersing vapour trail 1,000 or so feet below us. It got increasingly more defined and I reckoned we were to catch up with another jet. Sure enough after about half an hour a Qantas aircraft came into clear view and it took quite some time for us to gradually overtake it.
We encountered several periods of unpleasant clear air turbulence, with fastening of seat belts required. First impression of Hong Kong was heavy smog and very hot. Got a taxi into the East Hotel with high expectations of booking in to the magnificent glass corner room overlooking the harbour, I had on my last visit and had requested for this one. I was dismayed to be ushered to a corner room at the back looking out over those ubiquitous high rise Hong Kong tenements. I was then led to a lower level room facing the harbour, with the view blocked by more tenements, and instead of modern electric blinds was equipped with a heap of tired, black venetians! So,here I am with the hope of better things tomorrow.
The moral of today is never be frightened to complain! ‘The Mother’ (Gail) would not agree! I am now in a magnificent room with panoramic views in all directions. Possibly better (higher) than last visit. Still a bit smoggy, but not as bad as yesterday. Stinking hot so am not venturing too far from the air-con. Given the smog issue I wonder why they built all of these high rise units and painted them white. The older ones are looking dirty.
I decided the large hotel pool and the stinkingly hot weather called for a swim. So, I ventured next door into the CityPlaza, with the hotel all part of this massive Swire Property development, bought myself some very plain swimming togs and ventured in. The first time I have somewhat self consciously revealed my grossly overweight, massively scared torso to strangers. I noted no repulsive reactions!
Feeling much refreshed I ventured to the Sugar Bar (remember this hotel is on the site of the old Swire Sugar Refinery) on the 32 nd (top) floor, my room is on 30th, where I enjoyed a beer and some very tasty crocquetes, which comprised my dinner. Whilst contemplating the spectacular scene it occured to me that I was mad not to have booked the morning London flight tomorrow rather than the afternoon flight which means you arrive London at 3:00AM Hong Kong time whereas if I took the morning flight I could arrive around 9:00PM Hong Kong time and mid afternoon London time. It is a 12 hour flight and London time is 7 hours behind Hong Kong.In other words I could use the wasted morning hanging around Hong Kong putting miles under my belt. So with the help of a very efficient “Customer Experience” team, elsewhere known as the concierge, I changed my booking to the morning flight.
The change of booking probably cost me the chance of an upgrade to Business Class! However, with persistence I managed to get a last minute upgrade to Premium Economy which was an aisle seat in the front of the PE section with added leg room. My companion was a rather feisty little 85 year old Welsh lady, who had been visiting Australia for her sister’s 90th birthday and to see her son and grandchildren. The sister lives at Camden and the son is a builder on the Gold Coast, she was good company. Like me she objected to us being treated like children with meals at odd hours followed by almost compulsory sleep time with insistence that blinds be drawn (shades of home), when it was mid morning and bright sunshine outside. To make matters worse the passenger navigation (maps) wasn’t working so I couldn’t do my usual navigating thing. When I good naturedly asked the steward if this meant we would get a partial fare refund he told me that the refund would be a little earlier arrival in London-presumably because of tailwinds. It intrigues me that the prevailing assumption by all airlines is that passengers have no interest in geography and taking in the countries they fly over, but are only intertested in sleeping and fast trips.
Arrived in London feeling absolutely exhausted. Indulged myself in a taxi to Buckingham Gate and was welcomed by a familiar reception face (male) and found my way to this very tastefully furnished (red wine coloured decor) Flat C on the 5th floor. I partially unpacked, did some shopping, including a UK sim card for my spare phone and went to bed.
I slept fitfully and awoke much refreshed,donned my Wallaby football jersey and at 6:30AM headed off down Victoria Road past Westminster Abbey, and in front of the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) came face to face with a very fit looking Alistair Cook, the English Cricket Captain running in the opposite direction! I hope he was intimidated by the energetic Wallaby jersey as he looked hard at me. I wasn’tquick enough to tell him to watch out on Thursday!
I attempted to make contact with my Australian medico friend John Russell who I met at Lord’s in 2013 and have been in contact with since, who is here with his commercial artist friend Anita Bentley.
After a too generous very healthy breakfast at the flat I walked to Green Park and then down to Piccadilly to correct the mistakenly coded Oyster card purchased at Westminster Tube Station earlier. Got the tube out to St. John’s Wood, walked down to Lord’s to pick up my Test Tickets. Reminds me of that sick joke which plays on the confusion between test tickets and testicles! On the walk down to Lord’s I ran into a posse of Indian Television News guys who were looking for directions to Lord’s. They engaged me in conversation and revealed that they were running a story on the very recent Indian Court finding that the IPL Indian team of the President of the ICC had been involved in cricket betting. They were clearly looking for his scalp. I gave in to their pressure to do a TV interview on a subject I knew nothing about and all I cautiously said twice that “it was not a good look” and made a pathetic pun on ethical standards and the English expression “it isn’t cricket”. Got my tickets without a problem and got a bus back to Victoria via Park Lane. Always intrigues me how the old game Monopoly gave us a firmly implanted view on London real estate values!
After a light lunch at the flat I ran into Merlin S in the foyer. Had a very pleasant conversation followed by a longer equally pleasant talk with brother Sam in his office. Whilst there also spoke with Jonathan. Feeling very weary again, I rested before heading down to the Abbey for Choral Evensong at 5:00PM.
I mentioned to both brothers that if they were coming in to the office I would love to say hello to their parents. I was thus delighted when Sam subsequently rang to say they would be in at 2:30PM tomorrow and would like to see me if I was available. I assured him I would make sure I was available!
Did my usual walk then attended to emails and reading. Met with A and J as arranged and was delighted to see them again. Afterwards I diid another long exhausting walk before reverting to my old practice of dinner across the road at “The Albert”.
Thursday 16th Day 1
The BIG day arrives! Tube from Green Park to St. John’s Wood and down the road to the North Gate. Met Martin Whitaker as arranged, looking not a day older and took out seats in the Grand Stand where we were joined by John Russell. My hopes for the day were that Australia would win the toss and bat and score a heap of runs to put some pressure on the Poms. These hopes were fulfilled in bucket loads! I wont write a commentary here, but as always with cricket, particularly at Lord’s, it will be recorded elsewhere. Suffice to say Rogers and my favourite Smith batted brilliantly and it was heaven. Unlike at Cardiff what luck that there was, was with Australia. 1/340 odd at the end of the day was highly satisfactory. Had a very pleasant Thai dinner with my Adelaide (and Mildura) friends John Russell and Anita Bentley in Camden Town, near where they are staying before getting a cab back to the flat. A great day in all respects!
Friday 17th Day 2
Same procedure and Ausralia poured on the runs. Smith a double century and Rogers 170 odd. Australia decared at 8/566. The Australian fast bowlers, particularly Johnston, really clicked and England were at one stage 4/30! At close of play they were 4/80 odd. All of my wildest dreams came true!
Had a very nice dinner with John and Anita at a tiny restaurant down the road from Lord’s and again returned to the flat by London cab.
Saturday 18th Day 3
Recieved an unexpected, but welcome call from Gail at 4:00AM. She was trying to ring Kate! Ralph Godsall rang to say that his 93 yer old mother had had a stroke and he was a doubtful starter for tomorrow.
Initially England through Cook and Stokes put up some strong resistance, but they were dismissed shortly after Tea for 312. Australia did not enforce the follow on and at stumps were 0/108, a lead of 362. the weather forcast has been toned down and we expect Australia to declare about lunch tomorrow with a lead of about 500, with 1.5 days left to play. During the morning Mike text me a running commentary of the Australia/South Africa rugby test which was of much interest to some of the Aussies sitting around us and which Australia managed to win with an 80 minute try.
Sunday, 19th Day 4
The weather forecast was rain early. When I looked out at 5:15AM it was fine so I showered and went downstairs. As I stepped out is started to rain! Today was to be our first day in the famous Member’s Pavilion with reciprocal rights applicable and I had my eye on the same seats as we (John Russell, Ralph Godsall, and me) had last time (2013) on the middle deck of the Pavilion under the TV cameras, directly behind the bowlers arm. I proceeded to Lord’s by taxi and joined the queque about 200 metres from the gate at 6:15, under cover of my newly acquired mini umbrella. After about an hour the rain cleared and blue sky appeared. As usual in cricket ground queques enjoyed good conversation, mostly with an ex Army Officer come educator from Cambridge.
We were admitted to the ground at 8:30 and I briskly found my way to the desired seats. I found John right behind me. We secured them with our bags and went down to one of the many eating places in a small annex between the Long Room and the Bowler’s Bar which Ralph Godsall had introduced us to last time. We had no sooner sat down and I spotted Ralph in the food queque so we kept him a seat. His mother is to have an operation and unbloc an artery and he thought he would have to leave at lunch time. He was sitting with his brother. Foor old times sake we arranged to meet at the Bowler’s Bar at 12:15PM. Meanwhile Australia batted brightly as they poured on the runs in preparation for a declaration. Rogers had a dizzy spell and went off “retired hurt”. Warner, Smith (again!), Clark and Mitch Marsh batted with increasing aggression so that Clark could declare 20 minutes before lunch with a lead of over 500.
Ralph was his usual bright self as we consumed two of those giant English pints standing at the foot of the stairs below the balcony and the bell of the Bowler’s Bar. When he departed John and I had a sandwhich at one of the two eateries/come bars at the very top of the Pavilion. England held Australia at bay in the ten minutes before lunch. This turned out to be their high spot!
After lunch English wickets fell with great regularity to our fast bowlers led by Johnston with Lyon chipping in for two of them. England was dismissed for a paltry 103 to lose by a masive 400 plus runs about an hour after Tea. Mission accomplished!!
We had a celebratory drink back in the Bowler’s Bar before heading off. As we walked behind the Allen Stand we came face to face with John Howard, Wally Edwards and Steve Waugh. John greeted me warmly, I suspect he recognised my face we having met many times, but didn’t recall the name. Likewise Wally Edwards (Chairman of Cricket Australia) seemed to remember me as we have had many Adelaide encounters when I have been enjoying Ian McLachlan’s hospitality. Steve Waugh and others wandered on as we chatted to John and Wally. They were in high spirits loving the Australian win. I complimented John on his Keith Joseph lecture given earlier this week and which I had picked up on the IPA’s website and much enjoyed.
John Russell and I walked thru’ Regents Park on our way bck to his “pad’ where we picked up Anita, had another enjoyable meal at a pub on the edge of Camden Town before we found a cab and I returned to Buckingham Gate.
With a spring in my step after yesterday’s win, I headed off clad in my usual Wallaby jumper and drew some unwelcome glances. Did an extra kilometre. About 10:00AM I cheekily again donned my rugby jersey and went down the steps to the management floor immediately below. I think Merlin and Sam saw the joke and we briefly discussed the cricket. Had a brief encounter with former Chairman James as he passed thru’. Afterwards I had a sleep and then spent the rest of the day watching the British Open Golf Championship. I had a pleasant conversation with Anita Osborn, my cousin Michael’s widow who is now over 90. She complained of physical disabilities, but sounded her usual sprightly self mentally. Received a ‘phone call from brother-in-law Barry Dugan who had just arrived and with Felicity his girlfriend is making his first visit to London. They are staying at a hotel near Marble Arch.
Did another long walk and then arranged to meet Barrry and Felicity at Buckingham Palace. As it turned out this was a great unplanned idea as our nominated meeting time (11:30AM) coincided with the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. It seemed to me very appropriate that their introduction to London should be The Changing of the Guard. Barry didn’t appear unduly impressed, but to my delight Felicity was very enthusiastic. We had lunch in a small Pub, appropriately “The Colonies”, which I had spotted in a street off Buckingham Gate. Great decor and “good pub food”. Wish I had discovered it six years ago when I first had the privelege of staying at Buckingham Gate. After two pints I was drowsy and Barry and Felicity were keen to return to their hotel for more jet lag recovery.
So now I’m organised to depart for Heathrow first thing tomorrow. Somewhat sadly and I wonder whether I will ever return to England. I have now been here five times- 1969/70/ 2002, 2009 2013 and now. It has changed enormously, particularly ethnically, since Gail and I were here for seven months in 1969/70, 45 years ago.I continue to love the place, particularly its cultural traditions, something imbued in me by my anglophile mother, who sadly never made it here.