Trains, no planes, automobiles, scandal and intrigue!
Trains, No Planes and Automobiles ……………………… oh yes plus scandal and intrigue
Amidst the backdrop of arrests, resignations and suspicions with the on-going News International revelations, the London Saints Cricket club, and groupies, set off on its first tour to mainland Europe in its 31st year. With the advantage of the instant media and communication world in which we live, we were able to keep up to date with the breaking news – and it was uncanny just how many similarities there were between these two big events going on simultaneously. Much of the attention in Europe centred upon the man to be now known as Dishonest John (or just DJ for short). The Ex Councillor has had many nicknames, and in fact collected another three or four this weekend but for reasons to be explained later – DJ will surpass them all. Now let me take you back to where it all started …………………………………………. a long, long, time ago – back to last Friday morning.
Friday July 15th
A party of 22, of varying shapes, sizes and fitness levels gathered at St Pancras for the 10.57 Eurostar to Brussels. In fact it should have been 24 but The Professor and The Floater withdrew on the previous evening, arguably our two most in form players this season. The Professor claimed he had a bad back and was advised by doctor but more importantly be ‘Er Indoors ‘ to rest and not go out playing with those rough boys. However was this the real reason ?. His late pull out meant that DJ now had a room to himself. Totally innocent we thought at the time but do we really know this man and the lengths he would go to (perhaps even making payments to our best batsman to not go on tour) just to get his own room in a city he was returning to many years after he resided there …. and all his past memories.
Where’s Jon set the tone of his weekend by making a trip to the off licence at 9.30 whilst the rest of us were sensibly lining our stomachs with a big fry up. He didn’t make a very auspicious start as he brought a load of John Smith’s Smooth, which at least pleased one person, but hardly appropriate as we were to visit a land of real beer producers as far removed from that of Reggie’s favourite tipple as could be. Many of the party pointed out to Reg that he would peak too soon and suffer the consequences later but would he listen ! The sensible ones of us in the party paced ourselves by going for the 4% Stella Artois (I% down on the usual wife beater served in the UK) in the buffet car.
The journey was all very uneventful and smooth with no hick ups despite Reggie panicking about the potential danger of The Channel falling on his head as we entered the tunnel – we thought he had gotten over all his travel phobias – but the John Smith’s Smooth helped calm his nerves. Off the train and booked into the hotel (DJ with his own room) the plan was to stick together and head off into town. However the only real hitch of the weekend occurred when DT, Robin and Terry the Ticket (the unofficial travel organisers in Lord Lucan’s absence) received conflicting advice from numerous ‘ guides ‘ at the railway station which resulted in a simple 10 minute ticket exchange taking nearly 90 minutes so everyone split up. We did though save the party over 500 Euros and considerable time the next day as our original ‘ advice ‘ was over turned – and we thought it was just the UK that had unhelpful travel information.
The party, now enhanced to 24, with the arrival of two Dutch Saints, joined up again at a restaurant chosen by DJ (using his experience of previously living in the city) for its local cuisine and well known fast service which was appreciated by some (though some contemplated a trip to McDonalds as we awaited the first course and Reg and Speedtwin fell asleep). The appointed meal time was 7.00 but some of us were delayed till 7.30 as we too busy admiring a waitress in a bar with particularly attractive assets. Twenty years ago the song of “ Get your t*ts out for the lads “ would have been the order of the day but thankfully we are now more mature and sensible, though Reggie was probably just one more beer short of starting to sing it. Lord Lucan arrived half way through the meal as his departure from the UK was delayed (rumours that he was helping the police with their News International enquiries were not substantiated). DJ was also joined by a former work colleague, which was nice for him as they could chat over old times. After the meal the party split up to different establishments, some went to a bar with a live band (Eric proved to be a bit of an old head banger and Jonny Adams showed that his taste in music was almost the same as Eric who is 35 years his elder), some to a foam bar (Where’s Jon came back to the hotel soaking wet having been covered in foam and was last back to the hotel, or was he ?) and some preferred the attraction of visiting the building where DJ used to work.
Saturday July 16th
Again amazingly no hitches with everyone up for breakfast by 8.45 and onto the train. The journey to Luxembourg was 3 hours which was mostly spent watching White Viv sewing up the bottoms of his recently purchased cricket trousers – he is definitely in the wrong profession. On the way out of Brussels on the train we travelled past the building where DJ used to work and we could certainly see the attraction of visiting it last night. Off the train, we were met by James Whitworth, the club’s previous captain and reason why we were here in the first place. Into the hotel, quick change and back onto a local train for a relatively picturesque eight minute journey to the ground
Optimists CC 224-6 (Whitworth 2-29, Burrell 2-24)
London Saints 143 – 12 (DJ 31, Keenan 15, Quinn (F) 15 – Match Drawn
For those who weren’t there you may be wondering how we could draw having lost 12 wickets. The rules were set before the game and the Optimists Skipper Richard Neale very kindly allowed us to bat all 14 of our players. I had only intended to bat 12 (we agreed to only field 12) but Richard insisted and that showed the spirit that the game was played in. He even suggested a time game after he had won the toss and chosen to bat (allowing us the chance of a draw) and shared his bowling around. Even we can’t lose 13 wickets we thought at the start but it came down to the wire with our 12th and 14th batsmen, The Baker and The Tub batting out the last four overs for a draw. We went out to field in overcast conditions on an attractive ground with good facilities and were joined by the 9 groupies who had taken a later train and immediately discovered the vending machine which gave out cans of beer for one Euro.
Finn (Out) and Flatliner opened the bowling with fine spells but no success against two very capable batsmen. Both were unlucky with the ball not going to hand on several occasions, which happened quite a lot during the innings, as their batsmen chanced their arms. The Skipper then surprised the rest of the team with his two first change bowlers, the QE2 and The Eurocrat himself James Whitworth. Those of little faith, or who still doubt the Skippers wily ways, were proved wrong when Mark took a wicket with his first ball and James his third. James took another, as the game became interesting, and his 2-19 even improved his all-time career bowling average. As we were only fielding 12 players at a time, 2 players had to sit out every five overs. For his 5 overs break the Skipper passed the imaginary armband over to DJ who brought himself onto bowl and then proceeded to take Wath off after only two overs (he had been bowling well and deserved another) and, with power going to his head, kept himself on for a further over when arguably he should have been replaced – well DJ’s 3 overs for 26 kept the game interesting. When the Skipper came back onto the field, after his 5 over break, DJ couldn’t relinquish control and was still busy redirecting the field, even telling the Skipper where to field (which was commented upon by quite a few members of the team) . Finn came back for his 2nd spell and just before his wicket, his average had passed the century mark (we thought best not to applaud) and even passed DJ’s 123 average a few years back. However a fully deserved wicket halved his average which will quickly come down even further if he continues to bowl like this. Nine bowlers were used with perhaps the surprise being The Baker who bowled an excellent spell, despite running into the stumps twice and the umpire once on his way into bowl, and took two wickets including another excellent stumping by Speedo. We stuck to our task well against some quality batsmen without much luck but a score of 224 was going to be challenging.
Optimists had laid on a fantastic curry tea provided by a local curry house, as good as the ones we had out in Sri Lanka, if not better. With this fine tea behind us we set off, White Viv resplendent in his newly shortened trousers and DJ determined to bore us to death. The run rate required was about 6.5 but obviously DJ had already decided at tea to play for the draw from the start. It could be argued both ways – whilst wickets fell at regular intervals, at the other end DJ kept his end intact but at what cost? Gary Speedtwin fell asleep on the sidelines watching whilst White Viv even nodded off whilst umpiring as it took DJ until the 21st over to get his runs scored to exceed overs faced. By this stage we were 71 – 5 with the run rate having rocketed to 9 an over. DJ eventually got the point (suitably notified to him by the spectators fuelled by the one euro beers and the succession of new batsmen) that there were many more people who wanted to have a bat having come out a long way on tour, and so was eventually out playing an ‘ aggressive ‘ shot. To be fair it would have been an ideal knock if we were facing 130 and he was the only batsman to pass 15 but he didn’t have to worry about the draw so early as we had The Baker and The Tub (once we woke him up) to save the day if needed.
In the spirit of the game, other batsmen played some shots particularly Lord Lucan and Finn who played impressive cameo innings. Finn looked so confident that one of their players seeing ‘ OUT ‘ on the back of his shirt (and following his fine bowling spelling) said he assumed that ‘ OUT ‘ was because he bowled so many batsmen out and was a bit bemused when I explained that it was due to his ability to get out on nought. Talking of playing in the spirit of the game, the Skipper had to admonish the leaders of the groupies – Reg and Terry the Ticket for drinking the beers set aside (actually they were covered up) for the two teams after the game. Not content with paying only one euro for a can of beer they had discovered a dustbin full of iced beers and started on them. Their scorer, who actually was not a happy bunny (1. at being caught by Neil off James’ long hop, 2. at having to act as a runner for almost an hour and 3. that “ playing 14 batsmen is not real cricket “) turned round to the groupies and said “Actually there’s a reason why the beers have been covered up and they’re not for you “ The groupies had been hammering away at the vending machine and dustbin for quite a few hours so his words fell on deaf ears until the Skipper intervened and persuaded them to leave alone and go back to the vending machine. Sometimes you just have to be unpopular.
Anyway whilst all this commotion was going on wickets kept falling and before we new it, we had to wake up our last man The Tub with instructions to stay with The Baker and play for the draw with 4 overs to go. This was the first time we had decided to shut up shop (apart from DJ’s own agenda) and hopefully The Optimists felt that we approached the game in the right spirit. The two of them held out for the last four overs for the draw – The Baker batting 9 overs for one run.
So an exciting end to the game and though we lost 12 wickets those were the rules at the start. We’d like to thank The Optimists for their hospitality and spirit in which they approached the game, especially their Skipper, as our requirements were accommodated on all fronts. Although we were up against a stronger team, it was a really good effort considering the circumstances of the long day and night beforehand and the age and condition of some of our players. Our heads never went down and we stuck to the task in hand.
Man of the Match
No one really excelled on the bowling front, DJ was our only noteable batsmen, but for his all round efforts with some brilliant fielding, consistent bowling and the effort to hang on for the draw, the Baker Burrell won the award hands down.
There were may contenders : –
- Gary Speedtwin running towards the stumps for an attempted run out, slipped and fell head first into the stumps demolishing them.
Garry Burrell’s industrial language as he ran in from the boundary at breakneck speed only to realise that the ball was going to sail over his head and that he would have caught it if he had stayed still – should have copied Wath’s style of fielding.
The Baker, keeping close to the stumps whilst bowling, running straight into Nick Head as he was umpiring.
In the space of two overs we had a ‘ Fat Boy 3 ’ followed by a ‘ Finn Boy 3 ‘
The sight of James and Lord Lucan running two successive two’s – their turning circles and ‘ energy ‘ was a sight to behold.
You could hardly choose DJ’s batting but after he had said that “ someone had to play the anchor innings “, he was unanimously voted “ the best anchor on tour “ in McDonalds later on in the evening – well I think it was ‘ anchor ‘ – it definitely ended in an ‘ r ‘
The winner though voted by the majority of the team and ‘ supportive ‘ groupies was the Skippers attempts to work the scoreboard. Those who have seen his attempts at working the Ex Blues scoreboard will understand as it was the same type and his particular difficulties with putting up the number 4 kept many people amused for a long time.
After the game we headed for the local pub where White Viv amazed us all with his arrows ability to take the Killer Darts challenge. An eventful bus ride back into town (still hadn’t lost anyone yet) and then back to the hotel. Our attempt to find a mature lady for Finn was put off due to their price and the pouring rain so the rest of the evening was spent in the hotel bar. Even Where’s Jon came back early feeling the affects of two long days.
Sunday July 17th
We woke up with some trepidation due to the previous night’s rain but we were lucky again. As we played in Luxembourg, it had peed down all day in Brussels and we followed the sun today into Belgium. Again everyone was up for breakfast and onto the coach in, mostly, good time. Though, despite being first on board, White Viv then proceeded to delay the coach for 15 minutes whilst he did his weekly shop. Our other bit of trepidation was due to the fact that the fast bowler who played for our forthcoming opponents, The Royal Brussels CC, was in fact Zimbabwean and he had played Test cricket and his first test wicket was that of Sachin Tendulker. Surely he wouldn’t be playing? I phoned Gregg, their Skipper, who turned out to be an Aussie and was just going up to pick up some of his Pakistani team mates – one of whom was called Asif and couldn’t play in other countries as he was banned. The last bit was an embellishment but we didn’t know what to expect. Our coach driver who obviously hadn’t heard of the laws banning the use of mobile phones whilst driving precious cargo like The London Saints delivered us near to the entrance of the ground. It was a bit of a walk as he claimed he wouldn’t be able to drive his bus up the narrow path – it was probably because he couldn’t get a mobile phone signal there.
Royal Brussels CC 203-9 (Keenan 4-21, Nanton 2-35)
London Saints 151-7 (Mayhew 43, Barber 19, Hotston 16, Wathan + DJ 14, White Viv 13, Pekka 11)
Another attractive ground in lovely surroundings, next to The Royal Waterloo Golf Club, saw the Skipper lose the toss for the 2nd time in two days and again being asked to field. Again we played 14 but this time with only 11 fielding at any one time and only 12 batsmen allowed to play. As James did not travel from Luxembourg and Eric was suffering from old age, it allowed us to field two debutants, Jonny Adams and Pekka Ovaska. Steve lent Jonny a pair of trousers but there no spare trousers for Pekka. With Eric not playing the obvious solution was to wear his. Perhaps not the best idea as Pekka is 6 ft 3 and Eric is 4 ft 10 but he will never forget the day he got into Eric’s trousers and put in a starring role in the field. In fact so did Jonny as the two of them brought a bit of youth and energy to our fielding, which was not too difficult given the state of some of our team. The team started to fall apart with surprisingly the two youngest going down first. Finn, after an excellent spell, retired to the pavilion, with a back twinge and Dave Nanton pulled up running for the ball with his groin going, again. They both could not finish their allotted overs and their missing 5 overs could have proved crucial. The rest of the team showed the youngsters how it should be done by bravely carrying on. It was a miracle that Gary Speedtwin kept going for two days. His brilliant catch off Finn’s bowling was a testament to the staying power of the Over 50’s.
After their impressive spells yesterday The Skipper asked Mark and Garry to open the bowling, this time though without success, though Gary continued his consistency of running into the stumps twice more in his run up. Finn and Dave replaced them, until injury, and then the Skipper battling through pain to his shoulder (on his 300th ever club game) and Lord Lucan came into the attack to try and add a bit of experience to peg back their batsmen who were threatening to run riot at 83-3. Steve bowled in that corridor of uncertainty a la Glen McGrath in an excellent spell which almost became memorable as Royal Brussels collapsed to 107-8. Almost memorable because he was so close to the only the 2nd ever London Saints hat trick. The hat trick ball deceived the batsman, found the edge of the bat but Gary, in his only real mistake of the tour, dropped the catch. It would have been a doddle if he had been standing back but he was up to the stumps so it was more difficult. He made amends later with a stumping off Steve’s bowling but oh what might have been?
One of Steve’s wickets though was remarkable, as much for the fact that the catch was taken by a man wearing trousers five times too small for him, as it was for its coolness. One of their best batsmen hit the ball so high up in the air that we thought it would come down with snow on it. To be fair most of our players would not have got near it but Pekka has played baseball and he watched and watched the ball come down out of the sky and coolly scooped it up in his hands as though he was wearing a baseball glove. Absolutely brilliant and Steve had Pekka to thank for another of his wickets as Pekka took another catch. Whilst umpiring, after he was out, the batsman turned to me and said “ what a fantastic catch, shame about the trousers “.
At 107-8 we were on top but Royal Brussels had kept a couple of very good batsmen back, and we couldn’t turn back to Finn and Dave and of course they then had DJ bowling at them. Just before his first ball I mentioned to DJ to mind the very strong wind that might drag his bowling down the leg side so what did he do, produce a juicy leg side full toss which was despatched for six. His 3 overs went for 30 but to be fair a lot of us were punished as they hit out at the end of their innings to turn the game their way. A score of 203 was a good effort from our team but like yesterday would be challenging.
A nice tea was had whilst we watched the Open golf on the TV in the bar and we had a chance to admire our loyal band of supporters who were well on their way to setting all sorts of records behind the bar with Robin and Reggie taking turns to play Bet Lynch. Halfway through our innings and with the Skipper worried that, like yesterday, the groupies would drink the bar dry again, leaving none for the players, a miracle happened when more crates of beer appeared to restock the bar and so we could all relax.
We set off in pursuit of their score of 203 but this time we couldn’t get a draw as it was not a time game but 35 overs. So we thought we’d get a more positive start from DJ but we were wrong as he played and missed and defended stoutly. It doesn’t take much to send The Tub off to sleep these days but DJ’s batting must have helped set a record as Gary was snoring in the corner of the bar after 10 overs. 16 dot balls (a new nickname of Solid Dot was born) came and went, even their team were counting the dot balls. Then one of our short sighted umpires, sympathetic to DJ’s plight, allowed him to get off the mark by not signalling a leg bye. Their Skipper confirmed it was a leg bye and even our ‘ supportive ‘ groupies and the rest of his team mates tried to convince the umpire to change his mind to no avail. Then the moment came which will surely stop DJ ever being able to run for public office again – a blatant nick behind spotted by their team but again not spotted by our blind umpire. So the moment arrived when JG became DJ as he stayed at his crease despite protestations. We will never fully know the truth, only one man does and he, and his hairy arse, will have to live with that for the rest of his career. Perhaps feeling guilty DJ accelerated with three boundaries but was out in the 13th over for 14 – much faster than yesterday but with only 4 scoring shots in 33 balls, and 29 dots. This inevitably put pressure on the other batsmen who also were finding it tough against some accurate bowling. We proceeded with Mark and Trevor batting steadily to 85-2 off 22 overs but the run rate was now above 9. To say that their running between the wickets was indecisive would be an understatement with the QE2 making numerous emergency hand break turns. At this stage half of the team, not thinking they would get a bat decided to try and help out the groupies smash the bar record. Neil and Wath were padded up for ages and eventually got in and showed their pent up frustration with two fine knocks. The Skipper decided that youth should now have its chance to shine with Pekka (now wearing Trevor’s trousers) and Jonny given a chance to shine and both didn’t let us down remaining not out with Pekka showing his great eye for the ball with some impressive strikes and two home runs. We ended some 50 runs short but not disgraced in time for us to see Darren Clarke win The Open and see the bar record fall. Six of the main stay groupies demolished 93 bottles and with the overall sum for the group well exceeding 200 we overtook our runs scored with beers drunk.
A huge thanks to Royal Brussels for accommodating us and making a game of it (not playing the Test cricketer and their better players) and putting on a fantastic bar-b-cue at the end of the game and keeping the bar open whilst we indulged ourselves.
Man of the Match
A few contenders from our loyal band of drinking supporters, determined on setting a bar record to Pekka Ovaska’s great debut to Trevor’s fine innings. However his Lordship stood out with an outstanding spell and so close to that deserved hat trick.
A more spectacular demolishing of the stumps today as, in another attempted run out, Gary took out all the stumps plus the batsman with all lying in a heap with Gary on the bottom – the batsman was quite pleased that the order was not reversed.
- Gary’s celebration at stumping the batsman for Steve’s 4th wicket. He ran down the pitch with all the energy he had left after three long days as though he had just stumped Tendulker on 99 and not a 15 year old girl on nought.
Another profound saying from the sage that is the Skipper. Looking up at the dark clouds blowing across the ground in heavy wind “ I think we’ll be lucky today as the strong wind will surely blow those clouds over “ – less than 2 seconds later the heavens opened and it rained cats and dogs for 10 minutes.
The sight of Pekka in Eric’s trousers !
But the winner was Pekka’s fantastic catch off a skier which most of us would have been pleased just to get a hand to, let alone catch it.
After the game we headed to the bar and a fantastic bar-b-cue. DJ’s old work colleague appeared again for a short time but then the old banger departed leaving the party to make their way via taxi, bar (including a romantic Waterloo Sunset moment) and then another local train back to Brussels. As it was the last night the majority of the party headed into town for a big night out. DJ, obviously troubled by his ‘ nick ‘ dilemma proceeded to get into an argument with the taxi driver, then anyone else who was in his way as he attempted to find The Mort Subite ‘ bar far away from where the rest of the party were drinking. DJ couldn’t find that bar so joined up with the rest of us at a fine establishment called the Delirium Café which sold an astonishing 2,000 different beers at varying strengths. So what do the London Saints do? – go for the strongest one they could find with Keith and Jonny heading the list. Trouble for Keith is that Jonny is a good few years younger and Keith did a Reggie and Twintub and fell asleep in his chair at about 3.30. It didn’t stop Jonny being tricked with Chinese press-ups with most of still wondering why Reggie always volunteers to put his backside into the face of another unsuspecting victim. Jonny can take solace in the fact that it was not DJ’s hairy arse. Most made it to 4.00 leaving Jonny, Pekka and, of course, Where’s Jon to be the last 3 up on tour. Where’s Jon triumphed rolling in at 6.30 and straight into bed with Pekka who had been unable to awake Keith (“I only drink 13.5% proof beer) Richardson who he was supposed to be sharing with.
Monday July 18th
A relative lie in for most today although some were keen. DJ persuaded a few brave souls to go to a museum. Trouble is they thought they were going to the Maigret (famous Belgian detective) Museum when in fact DJ was going to the Magritte (surrealist painter) Museum. The trouble for all of them – museums are shut on a Monday in Brussels – a late contender for Champagne Moment.
Whilst out walking in town, at lunch time, a few bumped into the bar that DJ was keen to find the previous night and to be fair it was very impressive. Turning to the menu, the first beer we saw was called Judas, what a coincidence and what a way to wind up the tour. It even came in its own Judas glass which we tried to buy but the waitress wouldn’t sell which was a shame. Our spirits were raised when she said that a certain beer shop may sell them but like Brussels’ museums, their beer shops are closed on a Monday. Then if by magic we glanced into a window of an off licence and there in the display were bottles of Judas. We had to buy them to present to DJ on the train home as man of the tour and to show that despite all the stick he had been given (including this article) that the group did all appreciate him and the hours of amusement he gave during the weekend.
So whilst DJ stood out, there were many memorable times and events over four long great days, which showed that a bunch of old gits (and some young ones) can still have fun and party, and oh yes, play a bit of cricket too.
Sat July 16 versus Optimists CC
Burrell 1 no
Speedtwin 0 no
Extras 27 – Total 143-12
Sunday July 17th versus Royal Brussels CC
Pekka 11 no
Adams 0 no
Extras 21 – Total 151-7