James Went to Sonning. And Got In.

The highlight of my weekend just gone is difficult to choose
– DJing to 3 people, a gift of a tea, publishing my autumn weather forecast, a visit from my Parisian delight, an evening at the
Oakford and some amazing semi-drunken southern fried chicken – Chicken Cottage
is the chicken you need by the way.  Not
to mention it was a 3-day weekend, I had a pie and booked Eurostar tickets to
Brussels to I can go admire the European Union buildings.
But for novelty and the fact that it suits my new boring
lifestyle, Sunday in Sonning was just the highlight.
Before I got to Sonning I had to get there – I was thinking
of getting the bus from town but one of my most treasured personal advisors
suggested walking along the Thames.
And with the beautiful weather which I had predicted a monthin advance, I set off, down through the Oracle, past Mandela, through TVP and
along a nice woodland path into the picturesque village of Sonning.
I arrived upon the cricket club – on a quaint traditional
village green with a clubhouse – the club was impressively inaugurated in 1750,
though sadly had an electronic scoreboard – I was hoping there would be a
man/woman changing the scoreboard manually by inserting different plastic
numbered boards.
A little sweaty upon arrival, a bottle of Magners cooled me
down – yes there were plenty of alcoholic refreshments, including locally
brewed beer and a Pimms tent.  Prices
were unexpected – £3.50 for a bottle of Magners, £3 for a glass of wine – £6
for a jug of Pimms.  Cheaper than Hull.  Cheaper than the posh bit of Hull, anyway.
The cricket itself was supposed to be a 20/20 game but was
changed after around 13 overs to a 25/25 game – doesn’t quite have the same
ring does it?  I think it was Sonning 1st
team vs a President’s XI select – though I could be wrong.  I was more interested in talking to friends
and consuming alcohol.  I know Phil
Tuffnell was playing.
Tuffers didn’t last too long – I saw him face a couple of
balls, went for a drink and by time I got served he was out.  He wasn’t much better with the ball at first
either but really improved in later bowling spells.
The match was won in glorious style – a magnificent 6 off
the 3rd-last ball (approx) – quite a way to win a game.  It was looking like Tuffer’s bowling had
swung the game back towards the President’s XI but what a way to win the game.
Honourable mention most definitely goes to the hog roast which
was amazing.  And Oracle Christmas hog roast if you are reading – actually filled up the bun with meat!  Overfilled it, in fact.  Not just 1 and a half slices.
Dishonourable mention goes to the excitement of subsequently seeing these
amazing cakes – lemon cake, Victoria sponge cake (my favourite), chocolate gateau
– then finding out they were only for the players and VIPs.  Such a tease.
Though at least they let oneself into Sonning – a disgracefully
common Ford car was found nearby and the occupant hounded out by the tannoy –
or something like that.
Then several ciders later (and Pimms, yeah I might as well
admit that I quite like it – it isn’t as dishonourable to my northern roots as
liking Thatcher is, and fuck me, I love Thatcher), I walked back along the River Thames, and admired the
beauty of England.
If anyone does not appreciate the beauty of this world, and
this country in particular, then get out of your Wetherspoons and go for a
walk.  It is truly gorgeous.  Mostly.
And if you don’t like rain, which creates the green and
pleasant land we have, then go live in a desert.
Rant over.  Quite
short for my standards.
If anyone is as equally as boring as me and would like to go
for a walk one Sunday, especially if it ends in a roast dinner, please do let me
know.
Next up in this series is James Goes To Slough.  Probably.
 Everyone loves a gas tower don’t they?  Hmm maybe I have a new website idea…

Snakes & Cricket

My Dad once told me during my early teenage years that the
two most fascinating things in the world were politics and cricket.
I didn’t believe it at the time.  How could anyone enjoy a game that went on
for 5 days?
But during my early 20’s I used to have a lot of time to
kill – these were the days before broadband, when I only had 4 television
channels (albeit 4 more than I have now) and I had monstrous hangovers every
weekend from drinking large bottles of vodka.
Laying in my rickety single bed, nursing pounding hangovers,
I would eventually settle for the cricket – back in the days when it was free
to air on Channel 4.
It involved minimal concentration – I could open my eyes for
10 seconds, then close them for 60 seconds.
I didn’t really understand it.  Even now I still don’t know what a gully or
silly mid-off are.  I am vaguely aware of
the Duckworth-Lewis method.
2005 was the peak of my interest in cricket – before I truly
discovered nightclubs and the year we first won the Ashes back.  And the last year of cricket on Channel
4.  It was safe to say that cricket had
become my favourite sport.  I dreamt of
attending the Ashes for a full 5 days, or at least a test match.
So following the success of the previous year’s Christmas
present of a Rugby League World Cup Final ticket for my Dad, I decided upon
getting a ticket for test match cricket for last Christmas.  The original thought was Lords, but at £60+ a
head it was slightly out of my price range – in the end Headingly in Leeds made
more sense logistically as it was easy for my Dad to get to from Hull, and I
could visit my mum too.
And I love Leeds.
So we began our journey using the Leeds Metro, some nice 60’s
style trains and a large group of lads roaring with laughter – apparently one
of them had crapped themselves.
Welcome to The North.
Immediately upon arriving inside the ground, beer was
foisted into our hands.
I really liked the ground – it had a mixture of modern and traditional
structures, the wide terraces being where we were sat – with the loudest fans
and a handful of yobs – just two sections down from the fancy dress parts.
 
Any early sunshine soon disappeared under a lot of cloud, it
remained bright and dry but there was no need to be worried about getting
sunburnt.
But the lack of sunlight in my eyes still didn’t help with
being able to see the cricket ball – even for the slower spin bowlers it was
very difficult to see what was going on. 
One had to rely on the sound of the ball hitting the bat to be able to
work out where it was travelling.
The batting was slow. 
There were lots of maiden overs and not an awful lot to cheer.  We missed the first wicket by being slightly
late too.
After a couple of hours I was beginning to question being
there, it was a tad…boring.  Did I still
love cricket?
Lunch came, fish and chips consumed with further beers and
England stepped up the pace of batting, albeit gradually, with a handful of
boundaries to cheer.
The crowd then stepped up their contributions, especially when
the first attempts at the strangely banned beer snakes got going in the
boisterous fancy dress section – who would all stand up and applause every time
the ample-chested Bavarian girls walked up and down.
 
Our section was rowdy but less rowdy – a good chunk of the crowd didn’t
make it back from lunch – one assumes they went to the pub and stayed there.
The rest of the day consisted of more drinking, games of cat
and mouse with G4S as they tried to confiscate our empty beer glasses, a
competition to build the largest beer snake (I guess around 15m long), singing “G4S
are unreliable”, booing as G4S then subsequently threw some of the more
troublesome out, Mexican waves, lots of throwing empty pint glasses and various
items, generally terrible paper aeroplane throwing, various chants, more
drinking, singing “Rooney, Rooney” every time a fat person walked up the steps,
various randoms – usually girls – being challenged to down their drinks, laughter
and embarrassment when one guy dared to bring some wine to drink for himself.
And many rounds of “Feed the snake and it will grow”.  Inspiring. 
And the slightly more inventive “Feed the snake – let them know it’s
Christmas time”.
Oh yeah and some cricket. 
We were doing really well but had a slightly disappointing semi-collapse of the batting near
the end.
However we took the lead and it was nice to see England
winning after watching enough football recently.
The cricket was often background material and much of the
day’s entertainment was from the fans.  I doubt it would be replicated at Lords.
We finished the day with a really good meal, some beautiful
pork belly in the middle of the vibrant city centre of Leeds – which was
already buzzing with nocturnal life at just 7pm.
Just £37 for two really nice meals with drinks.
And then train back to Bradford for our £29 hotel room.
 
Leeds is such a great city – I could happily live there, if
my friends were there.  And there was
better weather.
The game should be finished tomorrow.
I highly recommend a day making beer snakes in Leeds.