Carry on up the blog!

Why Cricket and why 51 days? Well, Cricket has been my main sporting passion for over 50 years and I had the chance – at long last – to follow an Ashes tour and, bowing to pressure from friends and family, resorted to resort to blogging my ‘adventures’ and now I’ve got the blog-bug, I’m carrying on! All the mistakes are mine, the opinions are mine and are not associated with any organisation I am currently involved with!


Maple syrup farming, omelettes in burgers, ice-wine and colonic-style irrigation for the nose! An eclectic mix!

Photos of how to “farm” maple syrup. It takes 40 buckets of sap to make one bucket of maple syrup…and that’s when the trees first ‘wake up’…later it becomes 70:1 – hence the cost!

And a local ‘delicacy’ is an omelette burger – yes, an acquired taste together but ok apart! Have also tried ice-wine from the Niagara region; it’s made from grapes picked when the temperature is minus 10C and made in the same way as ‘normal’ wine. Clearly designed as a dessert wine with a hint of jam as a texture, could be good in a steamed pudding with cream?

And Before the irrigation, the photos…

Tap for sap when it’s cool during the day but freezing overnight…makes the sap rise. If it’s below freezing all the time, no sap!

And it was below freezing today…hence the frozen sap!

And some First Nation techniques still used today!

And a teepee to keep warm in as well as boil the sap!

Seemingly you can buy an irrigation system for your nose and nasal passages which works on the same principle as colonic irrigation except that this system has one hose going in and one coming out. How you decide that you need one or discover that your life is incomplete without this is beyond me and mind-boggling!

Canada – Contrasts, similarities and a job vacancy…should I apply?

For those of us who struggle to understand human nature, try and get you head round this…here in Canada the latest fitness craze is axe-throwing (yes, wood cutting choppers); you can easily buy a gun (but not quite as easily as the neighbours to the South can) but you can’t raise chickens or have them lay eggs in your backyard without contravening several laws!

And when it comes to elections…for a party leader here in Ontario, there are 193,000 registered members in the party but only 64,000 registered to vote in the time given of one week. Most candidates except one disagreed with the time frame, but it was allowed to go ahead. The one who lost the run off in the election then decided they didn’t accept the result and also now disagreed with the one week time frame they and only they agreed to some time ago!

Eventually they conceded but one wonders where good grace and statesman-like behaviour gone – it’s not in the UK and USA and seemingly not here in Canada. Perhaps I should go looking for it? Someone has mislaid it! Rings a bell?

And in the UK the chief cricket selector for the England team has resigned…I’m available to take over…after all how difficult can the job be? Watch cricket day after day, identify the best England players, have a selection meeting, phone or email the chosen 12, encouragement to those who missed out, go and watch every test wherever it’s played, change the team as necessary and repeat until someone tells you to stop and get paid too! Reckon I should apply!

Anyway, some more photos for my travel followers of ice carvings by a sandy beach with deck chairs but the temperature is below freezing?

Toronto in the cold…but the locals say it’s warm!

A pure travelblog…of Toronto at the cold end of winter

But first my Michael Portillo bit (with apologies to non-UK readers)…

The grandeur that is Union Station Toronto symbolically dominating the city centre. Built in Art Deco style of 1920s glory, partnered perfectly with the dominion building next door and the dripping opulence and sheer dominance of Fairmont Royal York hotels…fit for the rich and famous royalty and Michael Portillo and his TV crew. Had to pop in to try and raise the tone!

Air Canada Centre next caught my eye/lens

Harbour front deserted in the cold of winter, but interestingly the ice rink is a boating lake in the summer, and needs no artificial help to keep it frozen!

Unusual shot of the CN Tower

You can learn to skate in the fountains outside City Hall and irrespective of your age you can have a Zimmer frame to help you!

And finally…in Canadian red coat and trainers…perhaps I need to see Mr Portillo’s tailor! And yes it was snowing, windy and cold but no need to worry, the buses, subway and traffic all coped!

Things have moved on…but common sense seems to have gone out of the window.

Have moved on to new experiences after a few weeks back in the UK not helped by crashing (twice) at a taster session at the London Olympic velodrome- reckon have cracked a rib and sprained shoulder ligaments but slowly recovering. Given as a present since I’m impossible to buy for, it seems that my offspring are keen on getting their hands on their inheritance sooner rather than later…but am spending it as fast as I can to reduce their inheritance tax bill when it comes! So have taken myself off to Canada for three weeks and spending time with rellies in Toronto.

It seems that my blog followers are keen to learn of my experiences but as there’s 100% less cricket on this trip than to Oz, the main interest will centre on the photographic rather than any erudition about Canadian cricket!

First impression is that it’s cold! Minus 2 at lunch today and bitterly cold, but to look outside it looks like a grey overcast cool Spring day in the UK but it’s not! This is my seventh visit to Canada over the past 20 years or so and only the second in the cold…but as Britain comes to a grinding halt with a bit of snow and cold weather, the whole country here just carries on regardless!

Seems that there are jobsworths the world over…the local ones here insisted that last September the heating in several apartment blocks was switched on because that’s what the clause in the by-law says. The clause was added when permission was granted to build the block in the first place. The fact that it was 30 degrees C outside last September on the date the heating had to be switched on…and the elderly started to suffer heat strokes and worse with the heating on in hot weather seemed to be beyond rational common sense.

So…public meetings are now being held to gauge opinion as to whether the bylaws should be changed. On the surface it seems overkill and bureaucracy gone mad but there is a wider point at issue – the provision of heating in these blocks is regarded as a vital and essential service and hence regulated (when it gets cold here, it gets cold) but the provision of air conditioning is not an essential service, just nice to have…whereas the residents want both to be regarded as essential. Just goes to show how attitudes, expectations and requirements have changed…all underlined by a lack of common sense at the start.

Turning to cricket…there’s been disagreement between players in the test series between Australia and SA if you haven’t been following it and unpleasantness all round, all feeding on itself across social media. Just goes to show how attitudes, expectations and manners have changed…all underlined by a lack of common sense at the start.

I promise more photos and less philosophising in the next blog!

One day wonders

Each element was written at the same time or just after the end of each match of the series

Sunday – first one day match at the MCG – England win.

I leave Australia and England win? Are the two events connected? Would the ECB like to pay me not to watch England live?

A change of personnel, a change of captain and a new approach or is it that English cricket just has a one-day mentality and we don’t really want to play tests at all but need to go through the motions otherwise all credibility will be lost? India had the same ‘illness’ a few years ago and were reluctant to play the longer game but at last wise heads have prevailed – how long will it take the millions at the ECB to realise the same? Treat tradition with distain and it will come back and bite you in the ‘tonsils’.

On the other side, were Australia really that keen or interested? They soon lost heart once Roy got going and the bowlers were not that impressive but it’s early days as yet. And why no Lyon? Perhaps workload has become an issue and they’re saving him for their tour of SA in a few weeks’ time – that will be a real test for all of them, a much better trial for them than perhaps the offering from England in the Ashes.

Nonetheless, a good start from England and it’s always good to beat the Aussies – even at tiddlywinks!

Friday…Brisbane…two wins in two matches! What’s happening here? Good performance by England in all areas and nice to see Smith perplexed as to how to stem the flow of runs. The Aussie batting is not firing on all cylinders whilst the bowling is completely different from the tests; to an extent an experimental team I think from Australia whereas England are probably playing their best combination- especially in the batting line up and improving with each game. Hold the thought that we could win the series by Sunday morning! Who knows?

Sunday…Sydney…so three in a row and the series is ours! Interestingly news programmes not screaming this from the roof tops but I suppose good news never sold newspapers! Buttler is in a class of his own when on form although I thought he ‘keeping the other night was not as good as it has been/can be; but suppose I’m being picky! Good performance by England again whilst Australia look like work in progress and progressing backwards; selection looks a bit odd but I suppose they’re managing workload ahead of the SA tour. Onwards the team goes to Adelaide and Australia Day – how sweet a win would be there!

Friday Adelaide and Australia Day…could we make the next step towards a whitewash? As has been often said cricket is played more in the mind than at the crease or with the ball. Roy has regressed to type after his excellent innings earlier in the series, Hales is just not firing and finds Australia difficult to play against (ok the ball that got him was almost unplayable), Root – why play that shot given the state of the innings? Jonny and Josh just got caught up in the overall panic but it needed the wise heads of Morgan and Woakes to steady the ship towards respectability. All in the mind? Ok the new ball bowling was excellent with two of the test stars in action but have we taken our minds off the game/series?

And talking of memorable unplayable balls – how is it that the Aussies bowl them and we don’t? Starc to Vince in Perth (I still don’t believe what I saw live), Lyon to Cook in Sydney (again I…) and now Cummins to Hales (nicely dissected by Channel 9 commentators, can’t say the same for the BT team in Stratford!).

Australia winning at a canter – ok a few alarums on the way but they know how to play this format.

Sunday…Perth and the final match but the first in the much vaunted new stadium to replace the WACA. This was Australia’s match to lose after the start they got and lose they did. Ali’s caught and bowled of Marsh was the turning point…great catch but not a patch on Lyons at Adelaide in the test. England won with fine contributions from Curran but Ball looked out of his depth (again) and ok he may not be well but I don’t see an England future for him – happy to be proved wrong!

Gained the impression (ignoring the dire BTSport interjections) that Australia didn’t want to be there; the series was lost and they’re just going through the motions since they had to.

What it does make clear to me – from ball one of the first game to the last of this – is that each team has different priorities;

Australia to win the Ashes (not at all cost but clearly their main focus for the summer) whilst England looked to the one day and shorter format as the be-all-and-end-all of the tour, especially after the wheels came off on Day 3/4 of the 1st Test. Even paid commentators see England’s top priority and perhaps only one is to win the one day World Cup next year in England as this will be the salvation of English cricket.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

“May your chickens turn into ostriches and peck your ****house down” – or my impressions of Australia

I have had the most wonderful time in Australia following the Ashes tour around and across the continent. I’ve met so many kind and hospitable people (Aussie and English) that it refreshes your faith in human kindness – I’ve met a very small number of less than pleasant people (Aussie and English) that reaffirms the fact that we’re the same the world over.

It’s been my first visit Down Under and I can assure my Aussie readers that this has just been an exploratory expedition- so I’ll be back!

Each city has its own characteristics and charm (yes even parts of Perth!) so it would be unfair to pick a favourite which people I talk to are asking me but what has struck me the most across the whole country is the carefree but not careless approach to life in general and the ‘can do’ attitude; after all as one Aussie told me ‘we’re such a b****y long way from anywhere that we needed and need to stand on our own two feet and if you need something, you make it yourself’

Away from the cricket I’ve been able to spend time with rellies and their friends. I know it’s a cliche but there’s a true local community feel in their neighbourhood and the things they do for each other are truly in the style of Neighbours (which no self respecting Aussie watches or admits to watching) and beyond most (not all) of the neighbourhoods elsewhere. With a little love and understanding neighbours become true friends (I hope so as I’m hoping one of them can get me a decent ticket for an Adelaide test sometime!). It’s lovely!

Another thing which has impressed me is the embedded approach to hard work and getting things done – I suppose you have to as the place is so huge but what astounded me was walking round a downtown supermarket at 7pm on a Sunday evening (I know I need to get out more) to find it awash with people and fully staffed; as busy as my local Sainsbury’s in the run up to Christmas! Ok it’s a large supermarket in a large city but would London have the same? Do the British have the same work ethic? I suspect we do but the Daily Mail would have us believe otherwise (I’m told) but then they need to sell newspapers!

Now, whether the community feel and late night/hard work ethic extends to the country and outback – well, perhaps that’s for next time.

Incidentally there are three types of people in Australia – urbanites, those who live in the country (as opposed to anywhere which is not in a town/city) and those in the outback – that’s where it’s least a 90 minute drive each way to the local supermarket!

The Beer – as I’ve blogged before, all the beer in all the states tasted the same whereas in the UK we do have a range of flavours. Perhaps I’ve been trying the wrong stuff? As for the wine – excellent! Reds v good, bubbles nice, whites I need to practice!

What has struck me about the cities I’ve visited is how clean they all are. Litter does not seem to be a problem or issue; bins at regular intervals but also state/city employees keeping the place clean – the same extends to public transport. This is not necessarily the same in the UK?

One aspect which is the same is the level of poverty and homelessness I’ve come across. There doesn’t seem to be the same level of social security support or I may have missed it. Essentially in Australia it’s your responsibility to look after yourself, take responsibility for your own safety and if you’re silly enough to do something stupid then you sort yourself out and don’t expect the state or anyone else to get you out of trouble…or is that being harsh on the UK?

Everywhere I went the locals were extremely polite and respectful, addressing me as ‘sir’ when asking a question etc. Makes a great change from ‘Oi you!’ but everyone is so patient spending what seems like hours at traffic light pedestrian crossings waiting for the lights to change even if there is no vehicle in sight to the horizon and no one jay walks (or not if the police are about). Everything seems to be nicely ordered and organised. But the man hours wasted waiting to cross the road is criminal and would do my head in on a permanent basis!

Everyone is so glad to see/meet you – after all you’ve gone a b****y long way to get there – and the numbers who have either been to England (and it seems like the whole population) or plan to come over for an Ashes tour and go to every test just like I’ve been lucky enough to do, means I need to get my application for tests in England in as soon as they are available!

And despite what I thought was a national disgrace in only putting one piece of fruit in a muffin (seemed to be the same everywhere) I did find a restaurant serving properly filled muffins but you have to search!

So overall it’s a great place to visit, work on the basis that the locals are barking mad but kind and gen up on some local phrases to help you get by – for example

*It’s surprising what you see when you don’t have a shotgun

*He/She’s so thick he/she wouldn’t know her a**e was on fire until the fire truck turned up

*May your chickens turn into ostriches and peck your s***house down

I’ll leave you to work out what they mean or when to use them!

Personal thoughts as I review the Ashes series from here in Oz.

As the Ashes come to a conclusion what have we learned that we didn’t know before the first ball was bowled 50 or so days ago?

In terms of players from both sides, they can be ranked:

Outstanding – Smith (and by a long way)

Excellent – Lyon, Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood, Marsh S, Malan, Bairstow (a good wicket keeper is one you don’t notice), Overton (best batsman at Adelaide, best bowler at Perth and with a cracked rib!)

Progressing – Marsh M, Khawaja, Paine, Stoneman, Crane (has a promising future if we can find some pitches back home and county fixtures for him to practice and learn).

Average – Warner (for him he’s had an average series), Vince, Cook (overall poor but Melbourne was outstanding makes it average overall), Curran (based on two tests and he wasn’t in the original squad).

Going backwards – Handscomb, Bancroft, Root (found captaincy harder than he perhaps thought, missed Stokes input, and had too many off-field issues to manage), Woakes (needs to learn the difference between home and overseas pitches, learning on the job is no good),

Poor – Ali (not an overseas star and missed having Stokes to give him confidence), Broad and Anderson (each had the occasional flash of brilliance but neither performed as they should have done – not flat track bullies but English pitches bullies. Neither will probably tour Australia again).

Dire/why were they picked? – Ball, Bird (injury cover for Starc, but is he the best outside the top three?)

I think that reflects the difference between the two sides and the series outcome.

There were for me three key moments in the series but only one directly on the field of play:

Brisbane – Day 2 England 4/246 and Stokes would have been the next man in…instead we’re all out for 302 collapsing like a pack of cards.

Brisbane- Day 3 evening session,Cook off form (see blog Why Alistair? why?) hooks when he didn’t need to and is caught on the boundary; the rest of the batting just fades away after that (admittedly the Australian bowling that evening was as fierce as I’ve seen live or on TV since Holding et al at the Oval in 1976)

Adelaide – Day 1 won the toss and inserted the opposition. Whilst I’m not a fan of Piers Morgan his tweet that Joe had tossed the Ashes away was absolutely correct. Needed to win or compete at least and we did neither and from that point we were ‘doomed’

We needed to hit the ground running and at least aimed for a draw at Brisbane but our preparation was poor, the quality of the opposition offered by Cricket Australia was not acceptable, and once we had lost ground in the first test, we never made it up. The series was gone by Day 3/4 in Brisbane. The scale of the defeat by 10 wickets when chasing 170 ran deep in the psyche of the team and the off field antics came to the surface when in the past they wouldn’t have done but the media spotlight was so intense that the management team either didn’t know to or couldn’t cope; these elements just got too out of control. The wheels started to come off the tour bus and never got back on!

For me the best individual performances were:

Smith – his century at Brisbane rather than the others. He needed to bond his team together having been ‘given’ an unexpected mix of personnel but also make his mark on the series and in the heads of the English team. He did all that whilst scoring one of the best centuries you could wish to see. A truly great performance.

Lyon – all series long but particularly at Adelaide and the spectacular caught and bowled- I still don’t believe what I saw and I’ve seen it in slow motion several times since and it’s still breathtaking. His mastery over the English left handers has been superb and left them dazzled like rabbits in headlights for weeks. His record against right handers is not quite so good so England know what to do in readiness for 2019. His contribution to the whole game cannot be understated – fielding, running out Vince in Brisbane was key as England looked ready to run away from Australia. Not quite Goat but on his way!

Cook – a magnificent double hundred at Melbourne redeemed his tour and addressed the flaws in his batting which plagued him from the time the plane landed in Perth in early November. A double century which was a pleasure to watch confirming class is permanent. Is this his last tour to Oz? If so what a way to go and to get that delivery from Lyon at Sydney is no shame.

Khawaja – at the start of the series we were told he could not play spin and would be lucky to see the whole series. So…England’s spin bowlers (Ok they’re not that great) gave him the chance to improve and he did so much so that on the spinning surface of Sydney he scored a magnificent large hundred in his modest understated way. One to watch.

Malan – at Perth he became of age as a test batsman scoring the most delightful century of the series, a range of cover drives to die for and reminiscent at times of Gower and even Cowdrey! And that’s high praise indeed! Let’s hope he goes on to bigger and better things but that century was sheer delight.

The oddest thing? Did the stadium tour of the Adelaide Oval and there was no mention of Bodyline! Not one word! Perhaps they’re trying to airbrush history?

The best thing on my trip? Getting to work the Adelaide Oval scoreboard on the stadium tour! Excited beyond measure! (I know I need to get out more but how much further away from the UK can I get?) and no it’s not me operating the scoreboard below!

Day 25 of 25 and the dream fulfilled

For the first time since 1994/95 have all five Ashes tests gone to five days, so I’ve really got my money’s worth! Add in the three days of the WI test at Lords in September and I’ve seen the last 28 days of test cricket England have played. Lords in May against Pakistan seems a long way off!

The statistical forecast is for today is for England to survive until lunch or thereabouts; there’s 34 overs to the new ball if needed and that would be early afternoon but I fear it may all be done and dusted by then, Lyon making most of the dust!

Today will not be as hot as yesterday – the low 30s and clouds so a fine day overall. Yesterday Sydney was the hottest place on the planet and the temperatures in the middle of the SCG reached the mid 50s, so well done to everyone – players officials camera crews etc.

Root is showing determination and true Yorkshire grit in this innings but it’s far too late; this example should have been set week’s ago but there we are. Forecast for drinks is 6/135.

Drinks taken at the fall of Ali’s wicket 5/121 Bairstow 31. Root has been in hospital overnight with severe dehydration/heatstroke and will bat at the fall of the wicket. Dour stuff for the past hour with only 28 runs scored. One more wicket and the tail gets exposed…forecast for lunch 7/146.

Unexpectedly we get to lunch at 5/144 Bairstow 38 and Root 58 – clearly Root is not well but he’s showing true courage when perhaps common sense suggests otherwise. He was out in the sun and heat all day yesterday except for 35 minutes play so it’s not surprising that he’s been ill. Bairstow is plodding along with only 7 runs in the last hour but he’s not letting Australia pass. This match depends on these two batting for long parts of the day – can they do so? Only time will tell. My fear is that when one of these goes, the rest will follow and it will be relatively painless. Forecast runs total for drinks is 170 but cannot forecast the number of wickets for once as the new ball is due soon and this is really a new ball type wicket!

Drinks but no lorry England’s reached 8/180 Curran 28 Anderson 2. Joe is ill again and did not resume after lunch. Bairstow fell quickly and Broad didn’t waste anyone’s time, so it’s when not if. And another first – 5 penalty runs for England as the ball hit the helmet on the field; never seen that before nor the unusual signal from the umpire

And then the end…painless, swift and surgical. Celebrations seem muted but I suppose the reality is that the Ashes were won in Perth which seems so long ago but weren’t!

So, the dream fulfilled but I’m not stopping now! I’ll be back to Oz to soak some more of their weirdness and madness (and wine) and the blog continues when the English county season starts but the frequency will be less than now! Thanks for reading and commenting, well over 1000 visits and I’m amazed and flattered that anyone could be interested in my musings and thoughts on cricket.

Some final thoughts on the series and Australia to follow (after all I’ve got 24 hours on a plane and time to think).

And the unusual field placings continue to the very end!