Saturday, January 06, 2007

Irish curry sauce (imported from tipperary!)

WELL it's all over, and I've witnessed the worst English Ashes performance of all time. At least I can say I saw the international cricket farewells of two of the greatest bowlers of all time, Shane Warne and Glen McGrath. And Justin Langer, that gritty little opener who has often been a pain in the backside, has finished too.
The Sydney Test was another game where England flattered to deceive, and the fact that their batting virtually finishes at six (and five when Freddie is not in the mood) has proved extremely costly.
The Barmy Army, however, have endeared themselves to many - even though there is the odd humbug letter of complaint in the paper (it's just not cricket, don't you know). And I find suggestions that the Barmies don't know anything about the game as totally offensive. None of us would have spent in excess of 6,000 pounds to come out here if we knew nothing about what happens on the field.
It's about time these people learnt that if it wasn't for support like that of the Barmies then Test cricket would inevitably die. If it is not what you grew up with then tough, because to me it is still the best form of the game and far better than the one-day thrills and spills which are forgotten the day after they happen.
Certainly some of the columnists have changed their tune over here. One of them, writing in the paper today, wishes that Australia had some kind of support ... at least, the kind that can come up with something a little more witty and inventive than "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi".
On the final day of the Test, the Barmy Army went around the field imploring various people to "give us a wave". All the England players obliged, even though they were on the verge of a 5-0 whitewash, and so did Justin Langer. Then came the funniest moment when umpires Billy Bowden and Aleem Dar also acknowledged the banks of England support. The only miserable sod not to join in was Matthew Hayden.
We stood and saluted the Aussies, particularly the wonderful Warne, as they toured the ground with their prizes and they clapped us too, while Freddie Flintoff, Ricky Ponting and one of the top members of Cricket Australia saluted us in their speeches. We stayed to the end, standing on our chairs to clap the victors and commiserate with the vanquished. At the end of the day, we weren't in their league.

I am now proudly sporting an emergency crown that cost me $200 following the great tooth disaster of New Year's Day. The local medical centre at Bondi Junction sorted me out and hopefully I can reclaim the money on travel insurance.
At least it means I haven't had to hide away in the hotel. In fact, I've suddenly realised there are just a couple of days to go and have stepped up my nights-out quota.
Highlight for me happened on Thursday night when the Barmy Army headquarters at the Henry, Henry bar by the Central Station was heaving with England supporters. There were about eight Monty Panesars among them who remembered me from my Yoda performance in the pub after the Boxing Day Test. I also met some lads from Bristol, including one who lives in the same village, Winterborne, where I went to school. Small world.
Pretty soon there was a big sing song, including that pretty repetitive ditty "We're the right side, we're the right side, we're the right side over here" followed by "We're the middle..." "We're the left side"... "You're the convicts over there."
It got around to the stage where people were asking each "side" to give them a song. And when it got to the middle I led a packed pub in "The Finger Song". This is normally orchestrated by a guy called Beefy in the grounds, but I decided to give it a go... and only forgot the words once.
It begins with a kind of Billy Bowden tribute, where the "conductor" shouts "Today is Monday..." and the crowd repeat it.
From there it goes:
"Monday is a finger day" and everyone raises a crooked finger in the manner of Bowden giving a dismissal. Then the "conductor" implores "Are we happy?" (which the crowd repeats).
"You bet your life we are" And everyone spins around on the spot with their finger on the top of their bonce going "De do de do de do". Quite amusing when it's done by 200 odd people.
That goes through the whole week with things that have happened, mainly in cricket, although Saturday is reserved for England beating Australia in the World Cup final - just to annoy the Aussies.
So what you have at the end is:
"Today is Sunday... Sunday is for Harmison... 47 all out, 47 all out (repeated as many times as you feel, and referring to his staggering performance in Jamaica a few years ago)
"Saturday's for rugby... 20 points to 17 (millions of repeats plus a chorus of Championes, Championes".
"Friday Hayden's out three times (referring to the ludicrously bad umpiring of Rudi Koertzen in Melbourne)"
"Thursday is for Panesar (his five wickets at the WACA)"
"Wednesday Lee's in hospital (referring back to the last series in England)"
"Tuesday in Trafalgar Square" (The 2005 Ashes party)
"Monday is a finger day"
"Are we happy?"
"You Bet your life we are!"
And that is despite all the cock ups, the hotel clangers, the lack of money and the dreadful cricket results.
Still, it's been a blast and I've met so many good people. There are, for instance, the Three Brummies who start drinking at midday and don't let anything interrupt them until about 4 the next morning. Including the cricket. All of them are a cracking laugh and nicer, more down to earth blokes, you couldn't meet.
There's Jerry the Scouse and Watford Pete, Mal the anaestheologist, Chewie (who sold his house in Hull to come out here and is now staying on for another six weeks or so - I can see him living here permanently), Paul, the Macc lad with a heart of gold who insisted on me sharing his taxi even though my hotel was in the opposite direction, and loads of others along the way like Stormin' Norman, Paul from Cardiff and the like. Probably too many to mention but most get a mention in this blog elsewhere.
And last of all, of course, the Designer. We've shared some good times and some pretty crap times but we've struggled through, mostly with a smile on our faces.

We'll probably have a last meal on Sunday before he departs on Monday and we've found a great place (despite the pork crackling and the great tooth disaster). It's called Flamez in Bondi Junction and it sells a full roast dinner for a fiver and lots more besides. I got speaking to the owner the other day - just to inquire when the Irish invented curry. He had Irish Curry Sauce on the menu.
He explained that when his son was in Ireland he came back waxing lyrical about the stuff and since then they have been importing it from Tipperary.
I must say, it didn't disappoint.

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