|Posted by William Muller on February 9, 2012 at 3:45 PM||comments (0)|
The Sudbury fields were covered in snow on the Friday morning. Ah the snow! How I loved the snow! It was such a novelty. My breath was taken away with its beauty. The way it covered the lush trees and roof tops of the nearby homes encapsulated the essence of loveliness. It continued to fall ever so delicately. Each droplet seemed to bring a much needed message of peace and serenity to the earth. The snow was the one thing that somehow made sense in a world filled with war, famine, drought and economic uncertainty. I was still contemplating my preferred method of travel to Yorkshire. Should I take the train or drive? Gazing dreamily out the window my question remained unanswered. I continued to usurp the splendour watching children make snowmen in the driveway across the road. Others were throwing snowballs at their friends while taking cover behind cars and trees. Adults joined in the fun. It was seriously enough to warm the cockles of the most cynical heart. A joy to behold! Ah yes the snow.
BUT, then the time came to leave the flat. That is when the supposedly peaceful, tranquil, serene little ice shavings began to pound my face relentlessly with considerable help from their friend – the vile, disgusting foul wind that viciously cut through three layers of clothing. Suddenly a gale smashed its way through every last inch of me. And I mean every last inch! I began to converse with myself. “How ya doin’ down there fellas?” I frantically tried to ascertain whether my chances of one day providing the world with offspring had suddenly evaporated. “Guys?,,,,, You still there?...Guys?” An even swifter gust almost knocked me off my increasingly unsteady feet. Once again, breathless I looked down “Oh geez, talk to me fellas!” I began to give up hope of my boys ever having a meaningful relationship with any living being if they in fact still existed. “Why is my voice an octave higher?” was another very poignant question to my good self.
The intensity of the snowfall increased exponentially. Each bucket of frost was so much more brutal than the one before. It was all I could do to avoid slipping flat on my arse and sliding down the footpath. Simultaneously, the flakes from hell seeped through my shoes, flooded my socks and munched on my toes. Oh but that was just an entree. During the main course they obliterated my heart, destroyed my soul and assassinated my self-respect. Then for dessert some little shit landed a snowball directly at my head which nearly took my eye out. “Fuck the snow,” I pondered. “Shove your snow up your arse”, was the next thought to enter my head as I glared disdainfully at the precocious little bastard.
The Snow reminded me of one of my ex-girlfriends. Very moody! Sometimes bitter. Always frosty! Not easy to get along with! At times made me feel emasculated. Took forever to get ready! Although, when settled she did look radiantly beautiful. But I would not miss her when she finally melted off into the sunset.
|Posted by William Muller on January 7, 2012 at 7:50 AM||comments (1)|
By mid October temperatures were sliding into single figures in preparation for my second English winter. I was sitting in the corner at the bar of the Waggon on a Wednesday night waiting for Rugby Dave, Andy and Chris. As I was sipping my Carlsberg, a strong Suffolk accent from an elderly gentleman behind me said, “Somebody doid in that chair.”
When I looked around huge thicker than mercury glasses looked back at me. He was slim with very thin grey hair. The lines on his face suggested that he had spent many a night at the Waggon. Standing at about 5 feet 7, my guess was that he was in his mid 80’s. He wore grey trousers, white shirt and a green cardigan. I wondered if like me he drove a Volvo.
“Somebody doid in that chair”, he repeated.
Barman Dave gave me a signal that suggested that it was his chair. I looked at the man and it occurred to me that he had earned the right to this chair. He had done the hard yards. I was a relative whippersnapper and was not about to stand or indeed sit in the way of hardened Waggoner’s chair.
“No worries mate. All yours.” I proceeded to sit on the stool which was a good 30 centimetres (1 foot) to the right.
“Ooh you’re from Orstralia.” The old man surmised.
“Oi met many of your countrymen in Korea durin’ the war.” He extended his hand. “People ‘ere call me Father.”
“Please to meet you Father. Bill.”
“There was this one Aussie chap. Ooh ‘e were a roit character. Ernie Aldrich were ‘is name. There was this one noit we was in this bar in Seoul.” Barman Dave began to pour a beer into Father’s personal glass that was kept behind the bar for him. “There were these two lovely young Korean ladies.”
“Hello Father,” Labrador Chris entered with his lovely wife Dawn and their two Labradors. .
Hi Father.” Dawn followed with a bright smile as she always did.
“’Ullo,” Father responded.
He continued the story as he lit his pipe. “Oh Ernie ‘ad a way with the ladies. Always ‘ad the best chat up loins. ...........................................................................” The story continued and then it continued some more before it kept continuing. Father and Ernie got up to a lot of mischief in the Korean War. “Moi word they did!”
What a lovely old man! Very endearing! It was the first of many stories about Korea I would hear from Father. In truth it was not the last time he told that particular story. Each time the story of Father and Aussie Ernie would begin I smiled and did my best Madonna. I pretended I was “touched for the very first time.”
|Posted by William Muller on January 3, 2012 at 10:10 PM||comments (0)|
Ipswich Town was the name of the local football team, often referred to as “Town” or as the locals pronounced it “Teewn”. I recalled back in May 1978 a 14 year old lad staying up until the wee hours on a Sunday morning to watch the FA cup final between Ipswich Town and Arsenal. Of course that lad was me. I was supporting Town simply because they were the underdog. Ipswich won on that occasion 1-0. Twenty Seven years later on the 3rd Saturday afternoon in January 2005 would Ipswich prevail? .
Football Dave collected me from my flat at just after midday. Once in Ipswich we settled down to a couple of pre-match pints at a nearby pub in preparation for the big match. Dave explained a bit of history behind Ipswich Town and the Football Association structure. Originally there were four divisions. They were 1st Division, 2nd Division, 3rd Division and you guessed it 4th division. LIfe was simple. Then in 1992 it all changed. The Premier League was formed which replaced what was formerly known as 1st Division. 2nd Division became 1st Division. 3rd Division became 2nd Division and 4th Division became 3rd Division. In the 2004/2005 season for the first time what was originally known as 2nd Division and then 1st Division had become the Championship. Then the original 3rd Division and then 2nd Division became League 1. The original 4th division then 3rd Division became League 2. Are you still with me? No doubt in the coming years, League 1 will become the Aspiring Championship Hopefuls Could ‘o been Contenders Almost Famous League and Division 2 will become the “Probably Never Will Be’s”, “Eternal Losers” league or the AFUL (Absolutely Useless League).
Ipswich Town was at that time on top of the Championship, which meant if they stayed there at season’s end they would be promoted to the Premiership for the next season. The “Tewn” did spend a dramatic rise and fall in the Premier League a few years prior. After being promoted at the end of the 1999-2000 season, in 2000-01 they finished 5th on the Premiership table which won them a place in the next season’s UEFA (United European Football Association). However the roller coaster smashed to the ground with an epic thud when in 2001-02 they had the absolute crap beaten out of them week after week failing to secure a win in their first sixteen outings. They held the record 9-0 defeat in the Premiership from Manchester United. Their last game in that same season was a 5-0 loss to Liverpool which sent them back into what was then the 1st division.
I felt a great deal of empathy listening to Dave. It was like listening to an old time St Kilda AFL supporter. In fact I was listening to an English version of me talking about one of the loves of his life – his football team.
St Kilda is my Australian Rules football team in the AFL that has only one trophy in the cabinet from 1966. Supporters of the English national football team can probably relate to that. There is no relegation in the AFL so you can completely suck year after year and keep finishing last or near last. Back in the 80’s we did just that. Consecutive wins meant a win 1982 and a win in 1983. It would have probably been nice to head to a lower league and actually win a few games. In the 90’s we started to get better and made the final in 97. Since the turn of the century we have come ever so close to tasting the ultimate success.
Following St Kilda was like being in love with a woman who would constantly tantalise, seduce and frustrate. She would make the most scrumptious entree, a main course to die for and a dessert that leads to groans of ecstasy. She would sit across from you scantily clad in the finest lingerie leaving just enough to the imagination. Her wicked sexy smile was like a remote control pressing the right buttons to bring out the untamed beast that lies within us all. During the carnivore trilogy she would shake rattle and roll everything she had priming you for a night of passion unrivalled in any man’s imagination or reality. A tender kiss would gradually build up into a long drawn lustful exchange. Suddenly, you clear the table of all the empty dishes. The plates, the saucers, the cups, the wine glasses and bottles smash across the kitchen tiles. You don’t care. She doesn’t care. It’s all about to happen. On the table! Right there! Right then! You are ready. She is ready. It’s hot. It’s steamy. Out and out primal. The never ending kiss continues. The two of us are on the table passionately embracing. It is about to happen.
The tide turns. Suddenly she slides out from under me. She get’s dressed, grabs her handbag, walks out the door, down the road and shags my best mate. That was what it was like being a St Kilda Saints supporter in the Australian Rules Football League. But I still love her. I will always love her. It’s irrational. It’s bizarre. It’s like “yeah haven’t been laid for a long time but boy when I do....” She keeps promising so much, delivering so little leaving me angry, disappointed and depressed. But still I love her. I had always said that if the St Kilda Football Club was a woman after all the pain and despair she has caused me over several years, I would have dumped the bitch years ago.
As I was talking to Dave I got the distinct impression his experience with Ipswich Town was a similar one. This was a team I could get behind – a team I could embrace. I felt I needed more disappointment in my life. What I needed was another faithless woman to constantly let me down. Sure I could support Manchester United but that would be too easy. Where’s the fun in getting laid all the time? There would be nothing to look forward to. Despite being on top of the Championship, Dave was devoid of any optimism and fully expecting his beloved Town to stuff up at some point.
“It’s only January,” he said sipping on his pint.
“Yeah I know exactly what you mean.” Like me Dave had been with his club through thin and thinner, through the bad times and the really bad times.
His debriefing prepared me for the Ipswich Town Versus Coventry contest at the famous Portman Road Stadium. The Stadium which catered for a crowd of roughly 25000 had the 4 rectangular grand stands much like Olympic park in Melbourne or a lot of the suburban Rugby and Rugby league grounds in Sydney. Dave and I sat in the famous lower tier of the North Stand, which was apparently where the hardcore fans reside. I was happy about this. I wanted to go hardcore. I wanted to experience the real footy fans.
As the game was about to commence there was more than a slight chill in the air. The coldest I had ever been at a football game was in August 2003 when St Kilda played Geelong at Skilled Stadium, Geelong. That record was absolutely shattered at Portman Road Stadium in mid January 2005.
I could not help but make comparisons with going to an AFL or Rugby League game. The first difference I noticed apart from the much higher male percentage in the crowd – close to 80% I guessed. At AFL (Australian Football League) games the gender ratio is very close to 50-50. It also occurred to me that abuse at an English Football game is done by way of a song or chant. Everyone joins together in perfect harmony like ebony and ivory. It was quite a beautiful experience being a part of it. At an Aussie game you might hear one fan yell out, “You’re shit ump (or ref at the rugby)” Others will offer witticisms about “white maggots” which is not a racial slur on Caucasians but aimed at the attire worn by the officials. At an English soccer game the whole stadium will join together and sing “We always get a shit ref, we always get a shit ref”. These chants can range from being awfully polite “you’re not very good, you’re not very good” which I thought was pretty pathetic. I was almost expecting it to be accompanied with “I say old chap”. When Coventry’s keeper came close to letting a goal through the chant was “Dodgy keeper, dodgy keeper” which was also a pretty ordinary innocuous insult. Alas my faith was restored when a Coventry player was injured and struggled to his feet. The chant became “Put a fuckin’ skirt on!. Put a fuckin’ skirt on.” Now that was more like it!!!
The big difference between Aussie footy crowds and English crowds became apparent about halfway through the first half when Coventry scored the first goal. The stadium was silent except for one small section of the crowd, which absolutely erupted. “Nenur nenur nenur. Nenur nenur nenur. .......”. Away supporters were cordoned off into a separate section. Ipswich was known as the family club and for having among the nicest supporters in the country unless of course you support Norwich City in which you would be on the receiving of jokes pertaining to how close you were to your parents or siblings. However, it would still be advisable not to openly support the opposing club if you were sitting among their fans. Only an idiot would wear the away team’s colours in the home team’s stands. Dave was telling me he had been to away games on occasions where he could only get tickets in their stand and had to pretend to support the opposition.
Ipswich equalised just before half time and the atmosphere was electric. I was lucky enough to be at the end the goal was scored. I couldn’t help but jump to my feet with the crowd.
The final score was 3-2 Ipswich. It was the second time I watched an Ipswich game albeit twenty seven years apart and the 2nd time they prevailed. Would I become that much needed Ipswich Town good luck charm? Could perhaps the stranger from out of town bring better fortune to Portman Road? History has delivered the answer to this conundrum as a resounding "NO". It was a dream to hold onto ever so briefly as The Town once again failed to win promotion and Dave's pessimism was shown to be a Nostradamus type insight..
Football Dave has his own very entertaining blog on the Ipswitch Town website.
|Posted by William Muller on August 22, 2011 at 2:50 PM||comments (0)|
The highlight of the weekend came on Sunday. We stumbled across this town in Warwickshire called Witherley. There was a gathering of sorts. People travelled far and wide. Not sure exactly how far and how wide. But the town folk were out for their fourth annual scarecrow festival. That’s right a scarecrow festival. .
My favourite Scarecrow was Jimi Hendrix. Apart from the guitar legend there was Schrek, Humpty Dumpty, Bugs Bunny, Bart Simpson, Elma Fud and many more. Just about every house in the village had a scarecrow proudly showing in their front garden. It was amazing stuff. The hub of this convention was the Blue Lion pub. The local haunt no doubt. Across from the pub, there was a field with a few stalls. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to create a cricket match on the field with scarecrows. Seriously there was a scarecrow batsman, a scarecrow bowler, wicket keeper and fieldsman. I only wish I had seen this a couple of years beforehand and I could have made all sorts of jibes about how the scarecrows were more exciting to watch than the English cricket team. But by the summer 2004 the Poms were getting together a good crop of players. They were actually quite a good team!! Bastards!!!!!
At this same field they had balloon races. For the price of a pound, you got yourself a balloon, wrote your name, address and phone number on an attached form. Then you simply let it go. And the farthest balloon found was the winner. Mmmnn!! Yeah right. Like who’s going to know who won? Well they got me. I concluded that not many locals entered the race. I could just picture the guy who took my pound sitting back in the Blue Lion pub at the end of the day, “We even got this Aussie wanker to fork up this year.” Having a grand ole laugh weren’t you, ya little prick? They got me on the balloon race but I drew the line when it came to the plastic duck race.
In the afternoon we sipped a few ales in the beer garden of the Blue Lion overlooking the scarecrow cricket match. It wasn’t dissimilar to watching Geoff Boycott bat. (non-cricket fans won’t get that). I was half expecting Inspector Frost or the detective from Mid Sommer murders to suddenly appear and start questioning everyone about a spate of killings in this seemingly quiet English village. Someone had gone apeshit and used real life body parts to make some of the scarecrows. It would be a great story line. It had that typical English country carnival look about it that you often see in those detective shows. Of course the detective would need look no further than the guy in charge of the balloon races. People from previous year’s festivals were onto his scam and he eliminated them one by one.
As we were sitting there, I couldn’t help wonder how this idea all came about. It would be safe to assume that the Rolling Stones never played at Witherley. Shit, the Screaming Jets played in Whyalla, South Australia which is the arse end of the earth but not Witherley. How would you feel? Hendrix had more chance of playing there then than he did when he was alive. There was no Premier League soccer team and I was staring at the closest thing they would ever have to a cricket team. What I’m getting at is without wanting to sound unkind, I concluded that Witherley did not possibly provide one with a plethora of entertainment stimuli.
Okay this was what I reckon happened. The year before the first festival, the whole town was at the Blue Lion. One guy was absolutely paralytic. He was shit faced to the max, as white as a ghost and looked not dissimilar to a scarecrow. Someone not quite as pissed but well and truly on the way came up with the idea of everyone in the town having a scarecrow. He began to draw up a US style constitution substituting guns for scarecrows. A blue print for the future of Witherley with the right to bear scarecrows as the basis was then cast in stone. Then of course the serial killer who took my pound, zeroed in on heinous opportunistic money making “venture”. The plastic duck race idea would have come much later in the evening I would imagine. Just as well the pubs in the UK closed at 11. Lord knows what else they would have come up with. Obviously, the hangovers were pounding heavily the next morning because the idea still seemed like a good one. Hence, the Witherley Scarecrow Festival was born.
All pisstaking aside, I loved it. The people of Witherley were fantastic. The balloon guy was the friendliest mass murderer I had ever met. I almost said to him, “hey if you’re gonna kill me can I be Hendrix?” I mean I would have been pissed off to the max if I ended up as Elma Fud. When you think about it, it’s not as bizarre as a Star Trek festival or convention. And ponder this. Almost everyday somewhere in the world there is an Accountants convention!! Sobering thought isn’t it? At least the scarecrows had some personality!
|Posted by William Muller on August 13, 2011 at 8:00 AM||comments (2)|
Department stores in flames! Kids with hoods smashing shop front windows. Houses, businesses and people’s livelihoods burnt to the ground. Widespread looting! Mob rule. Anarchy!. Lawlessness! An impotent police force …..oops.. sorry….service. We were all outraged and appalled. The city, the country, the world looked on horrified. Monday 8th August, 2011 in the city of London anybody could do whatever the hell they wanted. If someone invaded your house, you could call the police. Good luck with that one! It would be too obvious to make reference to the Sex Pistols song.
It started Saturday 6th inTottenham, North London. Sunday it spread to neighbouring Enfield. Monday afternoon the heat really stepped up in the east in Hackney and Walthamstow. Suddenly no borough in London was safe. Brixton and Clapham in the South were also under attack. Croydon in the south of Greater London was the home of some of the most savage action. The affluent west was not excluded either. Leafy Ealing was among the hardest hit. There were up to 20 major riots all over the city. London was under siege from its own citizens.
It was time to call on the nation’s leaders. Prime Minister Mr David Cameron? David? You there David? Your country needs you now. Sorry chaps he’s holidaying in Tuscanny. Ok then Home Secretary Teresa May? Teresa? Um yes well it would appear she’s on vacation as well. It is August after all. You know it being summer. The continent is lovely at this time of year. How about that cartoon character that the creators of the Simpsons no doubt wish they had thought of first? London Mayor Boris Johnson? Boris? Nup he was on holidays too. Bloody Tories! Typical! Engaging in their upper class shenanigans! Now let’s get some sense from the left. The workers! The Labour Party! Opposition Leader Mr Ed Milliband!? Ed? Oh Ed’s on holidays too. No doubt a good working class holiday!
These guys seriously need a rota (roster) system. In fairness, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was available to avoid questions.
One by one they returned from their shortened holidays. Of course, It was all too late.. The troubles had spread outside the nation’s capital to Birmingham and Bristol Monday evening. Copycats sprung up around the country. Tuesday morning London woke up to the sound of helicopters and the smell of smoke. All Police leave was cancelled. David Cameron ordered police numbers on the streets to rise from 6000 to 16000 to restore calm . This was the very same Police department whose staffing cuts he had recently sanctioned. London was relatively safe that night. But trouble continued in Birmingham and nearby West Brommich. The trouble spread to Manchester. The country was gobsmacked.
The buildings can be restored. Hopefully the businesses can recover. Some probably will. Some won’t. But far more tragically five people have died. A 26 year old man was shot in Croydon. A 68 year old man was attacked in the Ealing riots and later died in hospital. Three young men guarding a local Garage from looters were killed after being run down in a hit and run attack.
So now a country is left to lick her wounds. It’s the aftermath. The soul searching has begun. How did it happen? Why did it happen? All sorts of theories and explanations have surfaced. Panels with psychologists and sociologists have appeared ad nauseum. Mental masturbation over the word “underclass” has been rife. It seems that there is a competition to see who can fit the word into as many sentences as possible. Politicians too have learnt a new word while on holidays. Robust! Yes we need the police to be more robust. Cameron said it. Teresa said it. Boris said it. They were robustly aroused by the mere word. Of course due to Cameron’s cuts less police will be left to action this new found robustness.
How did it happen?
The crimes were committed by a minute percentage of the population - a fraction of one percent. How did such a violent minority take control of a city? The original protest in Tottenham was just that – a peaceful protest against the police killing of a 29 year old man in the area. Unfortunately the protest was hijacked by a criminal element. It was very obvious to anyone watching that the Police struggled to control the crowd. Well organised gangs sensed this and seized upon the situation. With the help of twitter and facebook they were able to mobilise large scale attacks throughout the city. Lawlessness was established. Others who have nothing to do with gangs decided to get involved. It was not exclusively the so called “underclass”. A reporter on Sky recounted his day In court. He made comment, “Now I must tell you that a lot of the people who were charged were white.” No shit? Really? White people loot too?
That prompts the next question. Why did it happen?
As patronising as I imagine the reporters comment to be, it does highlight how the UK (like all countries) likes to dance around its race issues. The mere fact he went out of his way to say something we all knew highlights the issue. Mark Duggan the 29 year old black man killed by Police did not fire a shot. He was not the first black man to suffer at the hands of the police. Brian Douglas a black music promoter was beaten to death while unarmed in 1995. The list goes on. Prior to the Hackney riots a young black man was stopped and searched yet again. Nothing was found. Why was he stopped? The Equality and Human Rights Commission study revealed that black people are six times more likely to be on the receiving end of a stop and search than whites. The figure is much higher in some parts of London. Nobody from a white middle class background can pretend to understand what that would be like. But it does not take a genius to surmise that this would be a source of anger among black communities. Are the London Police racist? Probably no more than anywhere else or any other occupations. Most likely some of them are. Most of them are not. But if 10% of them are racist they can do a lot more damage than racist plumbers or electricians.
But let's be clear. These were not race riots. The original protest was primarily about race. The riots were not. The victims were of all races as were the attackers. A lot of people who joined the riots had little knowledge of the Mark Duggan case. Although,it would be foolish to ignore the racial undertones. The three men who died in Birmingham were of Pakistani background. The father of one of the young men spoke in a very dignified manner to the press appealing to communities of ethnic backgrounds to restore calm. He did that because he feared reprisals based on ethnicity. This racial element will be no doubt placed firmly at the bottom of the political too hard basket.
What prompted the extreme minority to take such action? Is it that complicated? First of all, pockets of the country have a significant representation of second and third generation unemployed. Consequently the entitlement mentality prevails. Nothing highlights this more than this interview of two young female looters.
"We showed the police we can do what we want. We showed the rich we can do what we want?" That pretty much sums up the mentality. Ironically it will be their own communities that will be hurt so much more by their actions than the so called rich.
A Sky News reporter interviewed four young men involved in the looting. “I saw an opportunity so I went for it” said one of the men. The back drop was Canary Wharf the financial district which was situated across the Thames. Another young man pointed to the area, “That’s who the government was looking out for.” “They’re not helping no one except for the rich people.”
Of course they are extremely lame excuses for such deplorable actions especially given that many victims were not even rich. Even if they were it would be totally unjustified. However there was an element of truth to what he said. Canary Wharf is the home of the major banks - the same corporations that received £850 billion worth of bail outs. The government extorted that much money from tax payers and handed to companies that were considered too big to fail. Still the Royal Bank of Scotland alone paid over 1.5 billion in bonuses. It was nothing more than government sanctioned theft. The crimes were committed by people with very nice suits in offices with even nicer views. Welfare for the rich! The country was run by a very confused Robin Hood. The bottom line is they should have been allowed to fail like everyone else with customer deposits transferred to competent banks. It is called consequences for actions.
Of course there were also the politicians in the centre, left and right who were stealing tens of thousands of pounds from public coffers in the expenses scandals. Some went to jail but many didn't. Again, consequences for actions.
Were the rioters protesting against the evil bankers and the corrupt politicians? Of course not. They were stealing plasma TVs and runners simply because they could. But when you have a record youth unemployment rate of 20% (double in some of the areas where the riots happened) accompanied with an appalling example set from the top, it is hardly surprising that a small minority will take advantage of a vulnerable situation. The country’s politicians have shown themselves to be sadly out of touch which again is not exactly a bomshell given their track record. Unfortunately countries that are faced with a debt problem like the UK are probably going to experience more civil unrest. We’ve seen it in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Ireland. The US is in denial but will have to address their debt sooner or later. When they do, unrest will most likely follow. Expect more scenes like this on your TVs as the second leg of the affects of the global financial crises takes hold.
|Posted by William Muller on July 23, 2011 at 8:55 PM||comments (0)|
The summer of 2006 was a scorcher. It was reminiscent of many a Brisbane summer. It will be a summer talked about throughout eternity in UK folklore - the year the country actually had one. If I am still a resident I have visions of a 90 year old version of me sitting on a porch with my one good hip placing my technologically sound teeth into my 21st century manufactured jaw becoming rather emotional and tearful about the summer of 2006. Temperatures consistently rose above 30. Good times.
What does one do on a scorching summer’s day in Suffolk? Grab a couple of mates and head for the coast. You bet.
My friend Stephen the epicentre of the Sudbury social universe drove Kylie a recently arrived Aussie and me to the lovely town of Southwold on the Suffolk coast. In a mere few weeks of being in Jolly old England Kylie had been on the receiving end of "oh an Aussie named Kylie" several times. It would be an observation of which she would never tire.
Southwold is a beach town. When one describes English towns with the word beach as an adjective, it is often met with derision and ridicule from my compatriots. Rest assured there are indeed several such towns in this fair land. And Stephen found a park near the beach that was indeed in Southwold, Suffok England.
The sand was white which is what is generally expected. The surf was shall we say ideal for beginners. Board riders were not in abundance. As we walked along the town's adjective several beach huts of various colours were to our right. A Punch and Judy show was in full swing. I remember seeing such shows as a child but they had pretty much disappeared in Oz over the years. To refresh the memory, it is essentially a puppet show where a couple beat the living shit out of each other. It's an old formula. It's tried. It's tested. It works.
After about fifteen minutes we strolled on to the pier which we decided to investigate. After what was approximately a 200 metre walk to the pier's edge we took part in the English tradition of attempting to land a coin on a stump. The prize? The right to make a wish! Of course none of us were successful. The stump was a good three metres from the edge so the coins would obviously bounce into the ocean. I was sure someone made a pretty handy living retrieving all the coins at the bottom profiteering from the gullible dickheads at the top. And yes I was one such dickhead. As indeed were Stephen and Kylie. Three dickheads who never got their wish - to make a wish. In retrospect it was a poignant symbolism of British cynicism and reality.
Near the edge a very elaborate clock was set up as a water fountain. Two statues of naked men were situated at the bottom. Both had one hand holding their genitals. Certain wind conditions would prompt both statues to urinate on the hour every hour. Egging them on, we chanted. "C'mon fellas you can do it. Let it rip guys." We were fans supporting the same team. However on this particular occasion the statues did not receive the necessary number of knots from whatever direction to bring in the new hour appropriately. Bitter immense disappointment followed for the small but enthusiastic gathering. No doubt the ones taking the piss were whoever built the statues. Another British dream that promised so much yet delivered so little.
On our way back to the beach half way along the pier we were confronted with a mini amusement park. Emphasis needs to me placed on the prefix mini. It was at most 20 by 10 metres. Another classic Pommie piss take. Kylie decided to brave the mechanical sofa which was one of the six or seven exhibits. For the bargain price of 50p she received a work out from Jane Fonda while listening to the 80's Olivia Newton-John classic "Physical". The sofa moved her body parts to the music. Only in England!! Only in England!
We then ventured into the town centre to be treated to yet another real English experience - the annual Southwold clock competition. Yes ninety seven entries no less. I've often said that England is the home of the eccentrics. If there is one person in the whole world who collects 17th century fireman's buttons that person will be in England. You could picture some old fart in Yorkshire in an obscure TV documentary saying, "Oh Aaaiigh. Loove me bootens." His wife would be beside him, holding his hand and smiling. "'arry's always looved his bootens." Harry would glance back into Bessy's eyes and enthuse over a rare batch of Minnesota buttons.
Back to the clock competition. Ninety seven people went to a lot of trouble. Ninety seven people with way too much time on both hands. There was a veritable plethora of elaborate ideas for the humble clock. One had a cat catching a mouse to bring in the new hour. Another was set up as a garden with various plants representing numbers. Big clocks. Small clocks. A lady set up a clock on a desk with 12 pints of ale and consumed one each hour. We had a chat to her at 2 o'clock so she was still quite coherent. But the most intriguing was the Mermaid Clock. - the tick tock titty clock. Yes two hands moving ever so slowly across two Mermaid's boobs. A tantric way of assessing the time. if there was such a thing as clock porn I had just witnessed it.
I never did find out who won but there were indeed many worthy entries. Perhaps the real winner was time itself.
|Posted by William Muller on January 6, 2011 at 5:55 PM||comments (4)|
A lot of Aussie cricket fans may find themselves in unfamiliar territory. (ie) Following a team that really does genuinely suck. And let's be brutally frank. This current squad seriously bites the big one. To pose the ultimate feral fan question. Do we suck or what? It' has indeed been a sudden fall from grace. And it will be hard for many to adapt. A classic post romantic riches to rags tale that has brought oceans of tears to the hardest most uncompromising sports tragic from the great southern land. Certainly Aussie X gens and Y gens and whatever subsequent post chromosome generations that follow cricket would not have found themselves in this position before. Even those of us who remember the mid 80s never saw anything like this. But some of us will be better prepared for what will be at least a few lean years from the leather and willow pass time.
As one who followed the St Kilda AFL Club throughout the 80's and early 90's I am one such prepared Australian. Oh I remember the days when consecutive wins meant a win in '82 and a win in '83. And we managed to achieve both. Boy did we celebrate? A moral victory was when we got within 30 points of a top 8 side. There were only 12 teams in those days. Let's translate that into cricket terms. Making the other team bat a second time I dub thee a moral victory. We managed to do that twice in this series. See? Feeling better already? Maintaining a positive mental attitude is vital. Even if we say don't make them bat a 2nd time what if we take it to a 5th day? Sure that could be largely due to the fact they batted for over 2 days in their first and only innings but I'm not looking for negatives
Sporting teams aren't a choice. They choose you. I couldn't suddenly run off, get some tattoos, yank my teeth out and start supporting Collingwood. That's the Collingwood football club. Not Paul Collingwood. And you can't just suddenly start dropping your Ts and Hs, avoid the sun so as to work on your peaches and cream complexion,sing corny songs in the grand stand and support England. Heaven forbid. No it doesn't work like that. Harden up, stick with it, lower your expectations and you'll do just fine. Oh there will be times when your faith will be questioned. I'm not here to paint a rose or blow any wind up your arses. No sir. It's going to be tough. You'll wonder if it's all worth it. But when success comes your way again it will mean so much more. Those moments will be truly savoured! Of course I'm sill bloody waiting for St Kilda to provide such a moment but that's another story.
In my last blog I must confess I was wrong. I described this Ashes as a battle of mediocrity. We have a long way to go before we can boast such an accolade. Mediocrity must be earned. It is at the very least a bus trip from Brisbane to Perth but we'll get there. And when we do we will be able to reassess the definition of a moral victory. Maybe a 5 wicket loss or anything under 150 runs. And England is not mediocre. No they are a good side. The jury is still out on whether they are great. But SA and India in the next twelve months will deliver that verdict.
I just want every other Aussie cricket supporter to know that help is available on this website. If you need a shoulder I am here to help nurture and harness the positive energy that will be required in these difficult times. A virtual support group no less. Maybe someday we can all come together in the one room to share our experiences. Let me start the ball rolling. "My name is Bill and well I guess I'm an Australian cricket fan..........."
|Posted by William Muller on December 20, 2010 at 4:15 PM||comments (3)|
After Adelaide the masses assumed that the Ashes were all but retained by England . Kevin Pietersen promised the faithful the urn would be England’s by Christmas. He reportedly jibed Brisbane bunny and Adelaide discard Mitchell Johnson asking for his phone number. The English commentators were talking up their team up as being among the best in the world. And in the 2nd they looked a trillion dollars. Watching the Adelaide test one got the impression that the Aussies would have to work extraordinarily hard on their skills to attain the lowest levels of ineptitude. Aussie supporters could only dream that they could bounce back and be moderately diabolical. Dropped catches, missed run outs, and poor shot selections were among their best qualities. By the same token England were superb. Their bowlers showed their hosts how to bowl on a featherbed pitch. Come to think of it, they showed them how to field and bat. Probably showed them how to tie their pads and adjust their protectors if the truth be known. It was a cricket lesson in every facet of the game..
The first day of the 3rd test produced more of the same. England bundled what appeared to be a hapless Australian batting line up for a meagre 269. And this was despite the injury to one of their front line bowlers Stuart Broad . In comes Tremlett to take 3 wickets in the first hour
Didn't things turn nasty for the Aussies? The Australian press turned on their own like cannibals. Newspapers served their team, their selectors, ankle strappers and anyone who had anything to do with cricket in the last two years on toast for breakfast. The public loathed the taste but they were equally vitriolic. They wanted blood. Heads would roll! It was simply not acceptable.
Then came the massive sea change. The Fremantle Doctor along with Mitchell Johnson blew England away in just two hours. Now of course the momentum is with Australia. It’s Australia’s turn to be cocky. The press is cock a hoop. The supporters are relishing a return to the good old days when England were the whipping boys. Back when the three sure things in life were death, taxes and Australia would beat England at cricket. After Adelaide it appeared that tax free biological immortality was upon us. But not now. No the planets are back in alignment. England sucks again and Aussies rule the cricket pitch.
Or do they? Just how well placed is this renewed confidence? Mmmmn!
Looking back to the start of the 2009 Ashes series in England it is difficult to recall so many momentum shifts between two teams in the history of the game.. The first test was in Cardiff much to the joy of English cricket fans. It was dominated by Australia. However it was saved for England by a dogged effort from Paul Collingwood and of course batting and fielding legend Monty Panesar. Australia did not get the win but one sensed they would be the dominant force in the series. The Lords test was next and the last time England had won there was during the last great depression.
BUT what happened? Freddie Flintoff and oh Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy JImmy Anderson in an amazing spell of swing bowling destroyed Ponting's men to go up 1 nil. It sent shock waves through Australian cricket. The next test produced a mixed rain affected draw with England dominating the first half and Australia the second. Australia tied the series in the 4th test with an emphatic win at Headingly. They looked almost certain go on and win the Ashes only to be smashed at the Oval in the decider. Even in the current series, the first test at the Gabba was played in two halves with the Aussies clearly in front for the first 3 days only to see England score over 500 runs for the loss of a poultry wicket in the second innings.
These are two seriously bipolar cricket teams.
Supporters of both sides need to relax, take some reality pills and not read too much into any one game. Both have seriously delusional supporters. Some Aussies are struggling to come to terms with the fact they are no longer feared. Knees do not tremble at this Aussie team. The fact that the Australian selectors are giving every mediocre spinner in the country a shot at a test spot should spell it out to the most one eyed Australian supporter. It would not surprise this Aussie if they started scouting High Schools in their elusive search for the next Shane Warne. The question still needs to be asked. Just who the hell is Michael Beer? Bollinger, the last alcoholic beverage to sport the baggy green may have got the English so merry he caused the massive hangover? Beer was a selection that reeked of desperation. By the same token it appeared that England may have believed a lot of it's own publicity They have at best a good reasonable bowling attack and a very flakey middle order batting line up (with the exception of Bell) - much the same as Australia. Why would anybody put money on either team? There is a reason these teams are ranked 4 and 5.
So it's onto the MCG. The odds are still slightly with England in my opinion given that they have something Australia does not. A quality spinner! This will be a huge factor in Sydney. Unless of course an amazing leggie named Jacob Creek emerges from the rough in the Bendigo district league. It may well be a battle of mediocrity but it will most likely be a very close exciting battle with a lot more twists and turns yet to play out. Bring it on!
|Posted by William Muller on November 15, 2010 at 5:59 PM||comments (0)|
England came to a stand still on the 12th September 2005. Streets were empty. Phones weren't ringing. A lot of Poms had discovered an interest in cricket this summer strangely enough. Cricket shirts had been outselling their football jerseys for the first time in history. It came right down to the last day of the last test. Australia had to win to keep the Ashes for the 9th consecutive series whilst England merely had to draw. Well you know what happened. The unthinkable! That's what! Bad light was finally the Australian euthanasia that finished off the series, 2-1 to a more committed, and better all round team in England.
With about 2 hours left in the contest, I received a joke txt. Who was the last person to screw the Aussies and bring home the ashes?
It was not long before every mobile phone in England received that very same txt. I figured that joke only had a limited life span. "Right now the ashes are ours but they aint gonna be for much longer" was what I was thinking. So I sent it to everyone on my mobile phone list. I remembered not long after I sent it that one of my friends was a huge INXS fan. She wore black for a week after Michael Hutchence died. But in the true spirit of the England - Australia rivalry she took it in her stride.
I spent the last couple of hours watching it at Easterns the very same pub where I had witnessed England Euro 2004 demise 15 months earlier. Workmate Chris once again accompanied me. I started to receive several txts of warm, sincere and indeed heartfelt commiserations from English friends.
Chris and I decided adjourn to another pub called the Angel when the game was over. It was just a five minute walk. We arrived just in time for the presentations. One by one three mates arrived to offer their deepest sympathies. Rugby Dave, Rugby Andy and Rubgy Simon. A rather posh sounding gentleman sitting in a gathering nearby whom I found out later to be a solicitor heard me speak, "oh do we have an Australian?" he bellowed across the room. "I say old chap" could have easily followed. I quietly responded. "oh um yes". He broke out into uncontrollable fits of laughter. I was a tad disappointed, as we Aussies have always been renowned for being so humble in victory. For those without sarcasm detectors and I suspect that would apply to very few Aussies or Poms the previous sentence would have sent it flying had you owned one.
After the presentations, we watched the highlights of the day. After the highlights of the day, it was the highlights of the match. But wait! There was more. Then came the 8 o'clock news. Well of course nothing else in England happened that day!!!! There could have been a shooting ramage. England may have declared war on Scotland. Georg W Bush could have completed a sentence. None of it would have had a hope in hell of making it onto this bulletin. It was a half an hour of cricket. Once the news was finished the publican switched to Sky (their equivalent to Foxtel) and what was on there? It was not the the highlights of the day. Not even highlights of the match. It was the Highlights of the whole friggng series. Oh lord spare me. A two-month nightmare revisited. Throughout the lads were saying, "remember this one Bill?" as I was trying my best to forget. "oooohhh, aahhhhhh". "Freddie, Freddie". The three lads were dislaying the closest thing to cricket ejaculation I had ever witnessed. It was like having a massive headache trying to get to sleep when the couple in the flat next door were enjoying loud gratuitous sex.
Blokes picture this. Imagine you are with your girlfriend, wife, partner, or significant other. She has invited a few girlfriends around to watch some DVD's. You've called up your mates but they're all busy so you are stuck there.. Nowhere to run! Nowhere to hide! One by one they arrive. Well the evening starts out with "Beaches" starring Bette Middler. You figure it couldn't possibly get any worse until one of her friends reveals that she has brought "Titanic". Only one thing worse than a bad chic flick and that's a bad chick flick that lasts 3 frigging hours!!!. Of course the DVD's are interspersed with in-depth discussions of the relationships and characters occasionally asking your opinion. After "Titanic" another one is reminded of her Celine Dion CD to which they all sing along. That was pretty much what it was like and as hideous as this sounds, I would have given my little finger for an evening such as this on that fateful September evening.
Ladies, not really sure what an equivalent would be but maybe being forced to actually watch cricket with your boyfriend, husband partner or significant other and his mates would be close for some of you.
What I got from all of this was that the Australia - England rivalry is by far and away the best sporting rivalry in the world. Little if any crowd troubles. The Barmy Army and The Australian Fanatics supporter groups get on famously and the banter is 2nd to none. I figured that when that inevitable day occurs when we win back the ashes I would have so many more friends that I could annoy the living crap out of. Obivously I had hoped that it would not be another nineteen years. They held a parade in Trafalgar square the next day to celebrate their victory and good on them.
The big picture part of me told me that this series was fantastic for the game of cricket. More kids in both countries would embrace the game. A lot of new fans were brought to the game. As Richie Benaud would say, "simply marvellous!" Of course, the Australian part of me did not eally give a rats arse about the big picture.
At the end of the evening I had a long 15 minute walk back to the pavilion that is my home. I may have been out for a duck but was confident I would live to bat again.