|Sarah Jane Mee|
Having spent last years annual summer family holiday in the Balearics scrapping for the sunbeds with tattoo clad, footie shirt wearing Geordies and Mancunians, I decided to head for the slightly more unusual destination of Porec in Croatia which the hosts like to call "the new Tuscany". The holiday was great, but the major drawback was trying to follow cricketing events, and particularly the Lord's Test. In the Spanish Islands, Sky Sports is readily available so in the evening while pretending to talk to the missus over a glass of the local vino, you can place yourself strategically looking at the screen in the bar whilst almost maintaining eye contact.
On arrival at my swanky hotel I went straight for the remote. To my dismay the only UK channel was Sky News. This was in the height of the KP text scandal and Sky News was regularly running the story. I typed out the "its all about KP piece" and forwarded it to Liam, based on these clips and what I had learned, prior to leaving the UK. Shortly after, the cricketing theme continued when around the pool I struck up a conversation with a guy who had been sitting close to Philip Tufnell on the flight over from Gatwick.
Trying to keep my hand in, I logged on to this site and read Dan's piece on dodgy haircuts. I particularly liked Bothams highlighted mullet circa 1985 and the reference to Alex Haley. Well what I can tell you is that in Croatia holiday hotels, the Botham 85' look is alive and thriving. The hotels are stacked with Germans sporting the Liverpool FC late 70s/early 80s look, with armies of Graham Sounesses and David Johnsons, splashing in and out of swimming pools. Maybe this look is modelled more on Rudi Voeller and Paul Breitner for those of you that remember them, than Beefy? However, despite being weighed down by those shaggy perms they did more lengths than Lindy Field during her infamous bed busting night with the aforementioned Beefy in Barbados.
The speed shown may have sometimes been more Michael Atherton than Phelps, but at other times the front crawl was quicker than that shown by Stuart Lubbock at the Roydon swimming gala when confronted by Michael Barrymore and his broom handle. The locals sunbathing in the pine trees by the beach appeared to be sporting the new Prince Harry swim wear range.
Shortly afterwards I met a guy, who had a few years previously come third in TV series, The Apprentice, who was a big cricket fan and was a commentator at Kempton Park race course . He described his post Apprentice period, as his fifteen minutes of fame during which he had the good fortune of encountering a true cricketing legend and massive horse racing fan, Mikey Holding. In Croatia this year they have had no rain since April and the earth is scorched in a similar fashion to during Holdings zenith at the Oval in 1976. My new mate told me he quipped to the famously laid back West Indian paceman that he had heard that Joel Garner had, prior to bouncing out batsman, been a professional jockey. Quick as a flash Mikey apparently retorted "Yeah but the horse road on his back"!
Talking of extremely tall people, my hotel had a sports centre attached which I heard was being used for a training camp by a women's national volleyball team. Having a sneaky peek into the hall I was hoping for the Australian beach volleyball team. Instead of scantily clad beauties, I was confronted by the Russian court team, and a succession of Bruce Reid and Peter Crouch lookalikes instead, just my luck!
As the Lord's test reached the last day and Englands tail attempted to wag more than the other halves of the 2006 England World Cup squad, without the assistance of KP, I started getting optimistic texts. So I made my excuses and scuttled up to the hotel room, switched on Sky News and waited, fingers crossed, hoping for Sarah Jane Mee to make me happy (no my right hand wasn't involved other than on the TV remote).
Unfortunately it was not to be, as SJ informed me of Englands demise and replacement as the worlds number one test side. This was followed by the news that as well as having sold the guy that scored 38 goals last season to the Old Trafford Taggart, Arsenal had sold their top assist maker to Barcelona, abandoning the infamous self sustaining model, for the Stan Kroenke inspired "Total Profit" model. Silent Stan knows fuck all about cricket, but that is evidently more than he knows about football or "soccer", as the Ian Chappell lookalike probably calls it.
So after all the problems keeping up with our great sport on my return to the UK, I couldn't wait to bring myself up to date by logging on to The Middle Stump. It is great for a summer holiday, but bloody difficult to follow the cricket in Croatia.