The Run Home
As my mother has just reminded me its been nye on a month since I've written so as I sit here in the den of Tom and Genevieve's amazing house in Vancouver after a day of skiing in 300cm snow at the end of Spring (just a few more words to see if I can get in the Guiness Book of Records for the longest ever recoreded sentence), I begin to write.
As many know I've been in North America now for a nearly a week, however because of the length of time since I last published I have decided (in consultation with my esteemed colleagues) that I will concentrate solely on the Caribbean. There will be highs and there will be lows, there will be times when you laugh and times when you cry, but mostly, there will be times.
The last time I wrote we were about to depart Antigua for Barbados. The Indians must have got a good rate with the bookies back home so it worked out we flew there to see the world's greatest ever cricket side play Ireland, a bunch of drunk amateurs. Sort of like me, so I really respected them. Rosie and I lobbed in with no accommadation, like everywhere else we go. After wondering around in the sun for some time we found a hidden gem and called it home for a few days. Regular readers and facebook watchers will note this from my album where we had a single bed and a bottle of malibu. The next day we simply meandered to the beaches and organised our accommodation for the final, which was also a hidden gem. It was also what Rosie and I (and many others) like to call the pre-game hydration day. The only purpose of the day before game day is, in full knowledge that you'll spend the next two days either drunk or recovering from being drunk, drink as much water as possible, eat as much food as possible and get as much sleep as possible.
So game day arrived and we had the Irish. Word spread as we lined up that we won the toss and Punter had decided to bowl. We cursed the Tasmanian and made our way to the stand. We missed the first over so when we got in it was 2 down for none. "Rosie, hit the bar this game is going to be over in ten minutes and we have 8 drink tickets". 8 Drink tickets later, it was game over, before noon, and Rosie and I were throwing KFC chicken at each other in what has since been described by Caribbean authorities as "the most disgusting human behaviour we have witnessed, mun, keep it up." When cricket games start that early it is looking for trouble, and in this case trouble didn't even hide. At some stage I decided it would be interesting to see what the inside of a giant cardboard box looked like and as I was still deciding a random Australian shirtfronted me and a playful gesture. A few tumbles and broken thongs later I was back on my feet asking if someone saw where my drink went in all the tumbling. With some 8 or so hours to kill before the nightlife kicked in we were left little choice but to fill the time refreshing our ever-present thirsts. We found a little place near the ground and played cricket with the other 4 million Australians there. It was here we met Sue, to whom many didn't appear to be what we'd describe as 'cricket type' but could play off her pads like M Waugh and hook and pull with the competence of R Ponting. The boys appreciated her work and we all shouted her name and danced around her a bit. The 8 hours were suitably filled and we went to a local establishment known as Harbour Lights. Filled with yucky Aussies and silly Poms, this place got a little out of hand. Please see facebook for my photographic exhibition of how to dance on a table and point at a camera at the same time, riveting.
- ** This is not even half way. At this point I advise all readers whom have had my mother thrust this blog in their face to speed read, politely thank her and say "what a wonderful son you have... sorry I didn't catch your name strange lady!!! LET ME DO MY SHOPPING I'M AT COLES!!!"
It was at Harbour Lights that a pom poured a drink over my head and I might, after some extensive thought on the matter, have said, in a physical sense, that I didn't much appreciate what he'd done and perhaps some retribution was in order. Anyway, all was resolved quickly by the diplomatic AB and I was consoled by the fact that he was Pom and it was unlikely that he'd ever not be a Pom #
# In a cricket sense, I quite like the English.
That night I left a little earlier than Rosie but he tells a great story of being taken home by a taxi driver driving a BMW who requested a tip to which Rosie replied, "mate, you're driving a BMW"
So the next day came and I followed the usual ritual of comtemplating suicide and giving up drinking and doing neither. There was little respite because we were on a flight to Grenada. Our usual method of not arranging accommodation paid off again when we found ourselves in the conference room of a hotel on the best beach strip in Grenada. Whilst the conference room sufficed it was obvious that it unless we were going to hire a chiropractor to follow us around for a couple of months we needed somewhere else to stay: enter Mr Henry. Mr Henry had come about after a phone call to a number we'd got off some girls who'd got it from some guys. Anyway, Mr Henry's was "15 minutes out of town (read 35 on winding rodes then a walk up Mt Everest)". He picked us up from our "hotel" and drove us to Brooklyn, just out of Concord (get out your google earths people.) Mr Henry is an ex-military type and so he had the nickname Sarge from other locals. He was at least twice my size so I preferred the name Mr Henry above all others. I could write a book on Mr Henry so I'll do my best to keep it short in this forum (still finding a publisher for 'Mr Henry: The Chronicles'). Our first impression of Mr Henry's was that he had cable, sure we couldn't see the TV because the bird sized mosquitos were swarming between our eyes and the TV, but he had cable nonetheless. After examining the situation more thoroughly we became worried. Mr Henry's shower only had hot (REAL HOT), you had to manually fill Mr Henry's toilet, the mosquito net was harder to sleep with than Rosie and perhaps worst of all, Mr Henry ate our food AND drank our rum. Did I mention bird sized mosquitos and man eating F^&KING spiders! We had only booked with our lady for a few nights so immediately thoughts raced as to where else we could stay. We drank a bit and soon enough thoughts ceased to be thought of at all and the ones we did have revolved around not moving too much because I think I'm still drunk from two days ago. So it was Mr Henry's that we called home in Grenada for some 9 or so days. First thing we did was stock up on anti-insect stuff. Massive containers of 25% deet repellent, extra strength insect killer and coils for the bedroom. Operation shock and awe had begun. Whilst this may seem an over-reaction, it was honestly the only course of action. The operation was a complete success and all of a sudden Mr Henry's became a whole lot more liveable (we hadn't had the toilet or shower fixed and he still used our food and drink). Despite our chemical response, we had long accepted that Mr Henry's house was a small part of a much larger eco-system. It was literally in amongst the forest that was his backyard and lizards, spiders, mosquitos and mice all roamed alike.
The next day was the day I'd started to dread- game day. Sri Lanka v Australia. Sri Lanka had decided that Australia was over-rated and rested its two best players to add to their third best player who was injured on the side-lines. Thank God for rum and drink tickets in these situations. (Author's note: game reports are subjective and have been constructed using the fragile memory of the author. All game reports should be verified using a reputable source such as baggygreen.com.au or cricket.com.au). Although I dread these days and spend most of the days in between games wondering how I'll survive another, I always seem to bring my A game. The Sri Lankan game will be remembered for the flock of new Australians who had come over who brought fresh enthusiasm and a lot of stupidity. Honourable mention goes to a fella who went by the name of Switch. A make shift slippery side had been constructed on the hill and was being used by all and sundry. Switch decided that that was boring and proceeded to do back flips and the like off the railing. What resulted was backwackers and belly flops onto hard turf. Some days later from hospital Switch would note that he regretted his actions. That day we snuck our friends Krafchek and Wadadli into the party stand and things got mess (again). To skip a few details and still give the reader a good understanding, at 3am the next morning Rosie was negotiation to hire a couple of jet skis with some locals. Logic prevailed and jet skis were not hired. Buses didn't run until six so we decided to use the pool of one of the hotels. A quick dip and sleep on the banana lounge and we were on the bus back to Henry's.
- ** I'd say this is probably nearly halfway.
One of the benefits of staying with Mr Henry was his close proximity to the Concord Falls. The Lonely Planet describes the Concord Falls as "majestic flows of water seemingly falling from the heavens". It also notes that admission is free. So we walk up Mt Evererst and then its younger, longer, slightly less steep cousin to arrive at Concord Falls without two dimes to rub together. "$2US please" "F&*K IT!...... How about we go in for free instead" "We're running a business here" "S^&T!" So with this we decided to stick it to the man, be adventurous and find our own goddam waterfall. Facebookers will know that what we found was a pond barely big enough to cover our ankles. Still, we saved $2US each and the eels didn't bite us and the shrimp didn't hurt when they did.
So we killed the time again to game day with some sightseeing, beaching and generally just killing time. The dreaded game day arrived and I made the usual promise of not drinking so quickly and perhaps it wouldn't kill me if I remembered the second innings. Not to be. New Zealand followed the alarming trend of resting your best player against the best team and gave Shane Bond a spell. Typically, we wiped the seat with the Kiwis and enjoyed every bit. The day was spent drinking rum, making sheep noises and generally abusing Kiwi outfielders. At one stage I retrieved some white rum (70% alcohol, 90% of the cup) and coke for the boys and brought them back. I vividly remember turning to Rosie and noting that this rum would be remembered forever as the turning point of the day. The next day, we looked back and wondered what might've been if we had have spilt our rums and never drunk them- Sliding Doors. The rest was a blur. I have since seem film of me hiding under a table, eating a curry in less than 3 and a half minutes (I am now the Curry Man), dancing to Freddy Mercury and the boys in one of many Queen classics and being arm in arm with S Tait, G Blewett and D Fleming. When I caught up with Rosie later on he had by then lost out in a trade for his trendy shirt for one of the most disgusting Hawaiian shirts ever put to print. How did that happen I wondered but never aired vocally.
Some more time passed and it was time for St Lucia, the host of the Cricket World Cup semi-final. Alexander's guest house was home fot the time there and it was a great establishment. St Lucia put on street parties as a welcome to their guests and it was here that I ate great food and got diarrhoea. Regardless, it was worth it. This time determined to remember a classic match between two cricketing giants, Australia and South Aftrica, I swore not to drink until the second dig. History shows South Africa lost four wickets for 28 and I hadn't factored that into my agreement with myself. Besides which we received 12 drink tickets for the semi and it would've been silly to drink them all in one dig. 12 drink tickets later and I arrived home a full 10 hours before any previous game day. A new record, arriving home at 8pm.
The final. I'm sure much has been written and even more said about the debacle of a final, but I ask one and all to put aside their prejudices for just a few moments as I recall the day.
Like a kid on Christmas morning I woke early and charged into Rosie's room to bounce on his bed and nag him to wake. By the time he'd roused the bacon was sizzling and I was giddy. The weather looked good and our time had come. Talk at the brekkie table centred around fending off Malinga and Murali and getting Jayasaria early. We caught a cab to the ground and by now I had confirmed I wasn't in a dream, I was living it. A sign near the entrance pronounced "JESUS- 2007 NOT OUT" and I wondered to myself what position JC batted in and why someone hadn't declared his knock earlier for the team. Some of the other boys left to try and scalp their tickets and I pitied them for having to worry about business on such a grand day. We arrived at about 8am and found our seats for the day. The beer was being served until 9am which is just as well because with 16 drink tickets and a few nerves this game day could've ended like the others. I used a ticket on a water and began to day dream about the day ahead. After watching the warm ups and building myself to fever pitch, the skies opened. All of a sudden my mind turned unbridaled joy to incredible fear. Fear that both teams would get 20 overs or worse, we could be back here tomorrow and the weather could be the same and Australia declared the winner without a ball being bowled. Looking up I saw no hope for a match to be played, it was hopeless. I sunk into a deep depression and wondered how long it would take to use the last 15 drink tickets. And then it happened. Just as I stood to head to the bar, as if by divine intervention, the rain stopped and the skies cleared. I thought to myself, this time aloud, "Jesus Christ- 2007 not out".
$200US seems like a lot of money to pay for a game of cricket but as I sit to write this I can honestly say that I would pay twice that see Gilchrist bat like that live again. He was simply awesome. I wasn't the only one to note before the game the one day game had passed Gilly and that perhaps Australia were starting at 1/0 with his form. How wrong and foolish I'd been. Simply put, awesome. It was brutal but sweet. Awesome. In retrospect, he took the game from them, but at that stage we didn't know it. Solid contributions came from everyone around him but Gilly was the man that made our total unreachable. With as much confidence as one can have when playing a team with Jayasaria, Sangakara and the in form Tilakaratne, we believed we were going to win. An early wicket reinforced our confidence until it looked like Jayasaria and Sangakara were going to do the impossibe. The run rate was as good as ours and they were seeing them like beach balls. Enter Brad Hogg. A party stand favourite for the entire tournament, Hoggy seems to save his best for the big games. His first over brought the scalp of Sangakara and finally the game really was over. Michael Clarke bowled a Sav Rocca that didn't bounce to claim Jayasaria if it wasn't over before it was all done now. The rest followed meekly and then it happened. It got dark, real dark. Being Steve Waugh's apprentice it was no surprise Ponting brought the quicks on from both ends in fading late. What was a surprise was being told the silly Sri Lankans were willing to face it. In farcical circumstances, after already celebrating the win, Australia was forced to bowl in little to no light to end the match. As the crowd chanted Waltzing Matilda as Sri Lankas last rites were read, seeing Ricky Ponting turn and gesture to sing louder was one of the happiest moments in my life. Little did I know that within hours the moment would be superseded. Of course, we won. We sang, we drank, we danced, we watched the ceremony and we did it all again, singing, drinking and dancing until we were kicked out. It was simply the most incredible time of my life and certainly as happy as I can ever remember feeling. To describe what happened next is difficult, in all honesty I don't believe any story could do justice to what I am attempting to tell. As Rosie and I departed the stadium we veered left, towards a door in search of food. We'd been kicked out but I wasn't ready to go yet. Remembering some of my father's best advice I turned to Rosie and said "walk and act like you own the place and there's nowhere we won't get in", Rosie, not sensing that I was aiming for a dramatic motivation angle that required no response from him, said "mate, I'm in board shorts and I lost my shirt hours ago, we not getting in anywhere". I saw a lady carrying a stack of boxes and instead of seeing a lady carrying a stack of boxes I saw a golden ticket. "ma'am, can I help you with those?" and bang we're on an elevator going up. We step out into the presidents room and find ourselves a seat in the viewing room. A young waiter walks over and asks how we got here and we responded that we'd bullshitted our way in. He grabbed us a couple of cold ones and let us be. Sitting in our seat wondering if life could get any better, Rosie noticed his seat had a nametag on it- it read 'The Hon. Sir Garfield Sobres'. Thrilled, I turned to see that mine read 'Mr Malcolm Speed'. I promptly peeled it from its seat and placed it on my shirt. Still wondering if life could get any better we at first wondered if we could get on the ground and then devised a plan. Moments later, Cade Elg and Michael Rose stood atop the pitch where moments earlier Australia had claimed the most prestigous trophy in world cricket. In typical me fashion, my camera was out of battery after I exhausted it during the day but for evidence we took some photos using my shitty camera phone of us playing some shots on the pitch. I broke off a chunk of pitch and took some sawdust from the bowlers run as keepsakes to put beside. As we walked back from the pitch we thought we'd have a crack at the change rooms but our luck had finally ran out and they sent us packing. On the way out we checked out some of the ICC offices and someone noted that I looked younger than I do on TV and I thanked them, forgetting I had a name badge that read Mr Malcolm Speed. We helped ourselves to some water from the water cooler and made our way home, floating on air. We weren't literally floating on air so we were going to need some transport. The first car I asked happened to be heading in our direction so we jumped in; our luck was back. Rosie and I didn't need a drink because we were high on life. We had planned to go out but after a couple of pina coladas I was stuffed and so went to bed, so completely satisfied with the last month and with a big smile on my face.
- ** The day after this story was completed we began a 40 hour bender that included a tour of the malibu factory. We left the Caribbean in one piece of the 2nd of May with the most amazing memories, some of which we may never remember. Special shout outs to AB, Jacko, the Perth boys and girl, the girls, Lethal and Wadadli.
Stay tuned next week when the boys catch up with Libby for North America. Here's a preview: "Disney Land is the happiest place on Earth. The roller coasted that went upside down was amazing" and "we never planned on skiing and that was what made it so special!" and "just like the movies, we were at a frat party drinking out of red cups!" Hope you enjoyed the teaser.
- *********** Someone sort my footy team out or I won't be back until October at best! I was coming home for bloody finals.