One thing to note though is how impressive St. Pancras station is these days. Admittedly I haven't lived in England since 1985, that's 30 years now, but when I left London was poor and a real dump. The stations in particular were more like cess pits than places where you want to hang out. 30 years on, London is hopping and the stations have been marvellously renovated so it was with a certain reluctance I took my leave.
Nottingham is a nice place. It has of course been around for centuries and was a big market town in the 13th century when Robin Hood was around and about. During the Industrial Revolution, it had many of those dark satanic mills that were made famous or rather infamous by the wonderful hymn "Jerusalem". These days they are all gone... or rather repurposed for rather nice looking apartments.
|A Dark Satanic Mill|
The city itself is old. I sadly didn't make it to the castle as I'd hoped, the place where King Charles I's battle against Cromwell finally came to an end, and a nice place to stroll around taking in the sun. However I had team meetings, dinner and general rowdy behaviour to make so I had to curtail things that first day and make up for missing Stuart Broad's bowling out Australia whilst I was on the train... before lunch on the first day for 60, taking 8 for 15 in the process.
The next day was the cricket match at a small village a mile or so away where our captain, Damion, used to play. It had been years since most of us have played an all day game. Our usual format is 20 overs after work. However they had done the right thing by playing a sociable team and agreed to bat first (just in case we collapsed like Australia had done the day before).
|The Associates at Plumtree|
I managed to bowl 3 overs, being slogged for 14 in my first and last overs by thugs who didn't appreciate my style of swing and skill. But then again most of the guys who were interested in bowling had a bowl and Plumtree ended up on 247 after their 40 overs. Had Cookie not gone for 3 big sixes in that last over, or Broaders being a little more lissom in the field, or Damion taking that sitter...
One moment though stands above all of these wonders and it involved the immaculate Bally. One batsman played a firm defensive shot all along the ground straight to him whereupon Bally adopted the "long barrier" position so approved by the MCC. In this he knelt down and with his other leg stretched it out so that there would be an immovable and unpassable barrier to stop the ball. Standing sideways on, it was impossible to see what happened but usually you'd see the ball suddenly deviate if it were to get past the fielder, but in this case the ball kept steadily on. Not too fast, not too slow. As it passed Bally, he stayed there unmoving and quite probably unbelieving whilst the ball continued its merry way to the boundary.
When our turn came, I jumped at the chance at opening the batting (you never say "No" with this lot!) and probably didn't touch a thing for the first over or so but somehow managed to scratch through a few overs to get 20-something. However we lost a few wickets and some momentum until our token Aussie Travis joined Damion at the wicket and kick started the chase by smashing the ball to all parts. Sadly he got out an over or so too early and even with the skip's heroics taking him to 92*, we ended the chase 29 short.
|Check out the Associates Cricket page on Facebook for the full sight screen to sight screen race!|
The Plumtree guys were very hospitable and we did the same with our Dark n' Stormies from Bermuda which was a very pleasant prelude to dinner and a riotous finale that sensibly I didn't join opting instead for an early-ish night.
The main event was in full Bermuda attire, yellow shorts, blazer, blue knee socks and a sporty new Associates tie. Sadly the Aussies had folded late in the day the night before losing 3 quick wickets so had only 3 left for us to watch from our box. They didn't help much lasting only 39 minutes in all allowing England to win by an innings and plenty.
I managed to step onto the ground after most of the people left as the box stayed open for most of the day and also had a selfie with Ricky Ponting, the ex-Aussie captain, who said not one word for the entire time. He looked OK in the picture though.
|The Punter with the fixed grin|
We also had a chicken suit and wolf suit that rotated through the team during the day (we'd had a memorable race off between the chicken and wolf the day before at Plumtree!) which accompanied the team on the big night after. Bermuda shorts and animal suits certainly are really good at breaking the ice in bars and clubs although one of our guys had to convince a doubtful bouncer on two occasions that Bermuda attire is not fancy dress ("It is in Nottingham!") crossing his palm with silver on both occasions.
|A chicken suit and blue Bermuda blazer certainly caused a stir!|
The boys made it back at varying hours contributing in no small part to a very quiet and laid back final day in Nottingham as the guys trickled away, bit by bit.
Great time though!