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Week 1: Jet-lag Chronicles

Sunday 23rd/Monday 24th September

AirbusA visually accurate portrayal of an Airbus A320 seen through the eyes of someone who hasn't slept in 26 hours

Dragging a cricket bag through Heathrow airport is slightly odd for anybody. For an 18 year old about to make his first solo skirmish into the real world it’s positively bizarre. People look at you and must wonder what the hell you’re doing. I jokingly suggested they may think I’m going to play in the Champion’s League but knew they really thought I was just a bit of a weirdo. I’m off to stay with a friend in Brisbane to - as the cricket bag might suggest - play cricket for Brisbane North Suburbs, or Norths as they are known locally.

I’m not quite Champions League standard but I hope to be a little closer by the time I get home. Hell, I might even have grown up as a person too!

Everyone is a bit quiet and awkward jokes are the order of the day. Leaving my family and my girlfriend, Clem, at security was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I feel a bit melodramatic; I’m only going to be gone for 6 months after all and hopefully it will be so enjoyable it will fly by. For me at least...

I was so distracted at security I walked through the metal detector with my phone still in my pocket and was reprimanded by a security guard but didn’t take in what she said apart from the fact she called me ‘dude’. 

I hate being bored, and the prospect of a 90 minute delay before we could even get on the plane annoyed me. Mind you, a lot seems to annoy me. The plane is massive, I think it’s an Airbus A380 and in theory should be fairly roomy and comfortable. It really wasn’t; and we were squashed in like battery hens. Squeeze as much money out of the product as possible eh

We’d be in the air for 7 hours before we reached Dubai, and I had no idea how I was going to amuse myself for that long, even with the range of TV shows and movies available. I ended up watching ‘Broadchurch’, a drama series about murder in a small Dorset town, featuring David Tennant. It was really very good, and I got through 6 out of 8 episodes before we landed.

A four hour layover in the massive Dubai airport annoyed me even more than the wait at Heathrow; not even the train ride between Gates cheered me up. I was tired, hot and sweaty. Dad had suggested not sleeping until it was night time in Brisbane, so I fought hard not to drop off as I struggled to read ‘A Study in Scarlett’, the first Sherlock Holmes book. I don’t remember anything about it I was so spaced out and drained.

We eventually were allowed on the next plane and I took my seat, eager to finish ‘Broadchurch’. This plane was about half the size of the first one. Crowds and strangers are a real pet hate, so being crammed between two strangers was a major bug-bear for me. It even took the edge off the finale to ‘Broadchurch’! 

Seven hours later we landed in Singapore. It was tiny compared to Heathrow and Dubai, but it had free WiFi so it was my favourite. As soon as I connected my phone started buzzing madly with messages of good luck and enquiries as to my progress. The internet helped pass the time and soon we were on the final leg…just another seven hours…

Same plane, same people sat next to me, different entertainment - 7 hours of Two and a Half Men. I dropped off a few times too but sleep was fragmented and infrequent.

I’d declared a lot more than I probably needed to but I’d seen ‘Nothing to Declare’ and was taking no chances. Australian Customs are notoriously strict and a 220 dollar penalty fine didn’t seem like the ideal start. Fortunately I saw no evidence of that as I strolled through baggage collection unchallenged aside from a polite enquiry about how dirty my spikes might be. Wally, our overseas player from last summer and my host for this summer was there to meet me, and we drove through the empty streets of Brisbane to the Carseldine suburb. 

The house itself is pretty big, very comfortable and has a pool, so I should be well set! Even so, I went straight to bed and straight to sleep. For a very long time.

 

Tuesday 25th September

Woke up at 2pm and could have slept longer. I don’t know whether that will mess up my body clock for a while but we’ll soon find out. There isn’t much time until my first training session so I had lunch and sat around watching TV until about 4.30pm. 

Wally took a slightly scenic route to Norths Cricket Club so he could give me the briefest of tours. It reminds me slightly of some American cities (albeit ones I’ve never been to), with overhead signs and traffic lights. Everything seems to be on a hill too. The nicest thing about Brisbane as a city is the fact that there are so many trees everywhere, even in the central areas.

The light was already drawing in when we got to the ground and Wally started introducing me to anyone who was there. The club coach is called Ducko, and is so rarely called by his real name that I can’t even remember it. He’s Aboriginal Australian and speaks in an accent I can barely decipher – I’m sure I’ll get used to it. The facilities are very impressive, at least as far as playing is concerned. There are 3 pitches and floodlit nets. There is barely a clubhouse though, and no showers. This struck me as odd, because it’s so damn hot.

Straight away we do the most complex fielding drill I’ve ever seen - I won’t even attempt to explain it. Ducko changes the rules every few minutes anyway. I can catch pretty well but dropped one high catch. I struggled massively with picking a white cricket ball out of the slightly hazy sky.

I stayed mainly silent during nets because I didn’t know anyone. The club captain, JD, did make marked efforts to make me feel comfortable which is always welcome. I bowled my off-spin really nicely and, because I was new and an unknown quantity, most batsmen didn’t try to take me on.

When my turn came round to bat I started tentatively. My nerves weren’t helped by the fact I had rarely faced a white cricket ball and had never batted under lights before in my life. I really struggled picking the ball up for the first few minutes. I was facing mainly first grade bowlers so I was pleased just not to get out! I decided not to try anything ambitious and focused on moving my feet well and getting into line with the ball.

I got home and as soon as my muscles and joints cooled down a couple of my fingers, one on each hand, started to stiffen. The ring finger on my right hand was particularly bad, and it won’t bend after the first knuckle. Training always either seems to make me stupidly hungry or stupidly tired and tonight it was the latter so I’m writing from my bed in the company of a bottle of cider. Night all.

 

Wednesday 26th Sept

DubaiDubai was so large it had its own indoor sea

Got up at a normal time today. Wally hasn’t started back at work yet so we went for another buzz round Brisbane. We went into the main shopping centre, Chermside. It is ridiculous. It’s bigger than any shopping centre I have ever seen. It’s so big it’s got a bowling alley and several cinemas. Several! It's probably got its own climate too. A person could get lost in there very easily and never be seen again. There’s a load of sports shops in there that could potentially be sources of employment for me so fingers crossed.

We saw a few more of the major districts nearby to Wally’s home but I don’t remember what they’re called. We did stop at the Greg Chappell Cricket Centre, which is one of a chain of cricket shops around Australia. This one is fairly small, but it was just wall to wall cricket bats. If we weren’t on a whistle-stop tour and I didn’t have the most outrageous Woodstock bat already I could have spent a long time in there. It’s another place I may look at applying for a job.

Wednesday nights are First Grade training nights, and I get to go even though I probably won’t be playing Firsts for a while. It’s a much higher standard but I felt more comfortable as it’s a far smaller group. I don’t know if I blew anybody’s minds but I felt I was by no means out of my depth. Again, my bowling was stronger than my batting, but I’ll put that down to the fact I’m still adjusting to the lights. It couldn’t possibly be my lack of skill…

 

Thursday 26th September

Today was Wally’s birthday, nothing at all wild however. Very, very uneventful morning and afternoon. Wally went to get some shopping done and the day was basically spent killing time until we went to Wally’s sister’s house in the evening. We met Wally’s sister, Geraldine, her husband and Wally’s brother Michael. I briefly met Paige, Geraldine’s baby daughter. Wally made a fuss over her but she was tired and went to bed straight away. 

Wally and Michael (Mick) are pretty much the same person they are so similar. All we tended to talk about was cricket to start with, but Geraldine soon turned the chat to the recent Brisbane heat wave and was one of the 400 people who asked if I was drinking enough water. It is unbelievably hot. It was 34 odd degrees today. I’m glad the sun goes down early and provides a wee bit of respite from the heat!

We had pizza and chatted about the new car Wally may or may not be getting before we went our separate ways. I used to think I was quite the exciting guy but another early night seemed determined to prove me wrong.

 

Friday 27th Sept

Wally took me to a to a tourist spot overlooking the city. I forget the name of it exactly but it was something like Mt. Cootha. It was a long, long way up. Even after driving for what felt like ages uphill, there was still a fair trek to the top. The city is massive, stretching off way into the distance. It’s slightly odd though, because the CBD (Central Business District), made up of the tall skyscrapers, is actually fairly small for a city of this size. Or so I’m told. The majority of the city is made up of suburbs, which is nice in a way. We considered stopping at the café but decided that 6 dollars for a muffin was steeper than the hill we had just climbed and decided to ‘kick it’. I’m learning the slang very well.

In the evening we went to the Aspley Hotel near to Wally’s house. We had steak as there was a 2 for 1 offer on. A girl was playing guitar and singing in there. She was good, and played good songs. Wally had made sure he got a seat facing her and I had my back to her. Apparently she was attractive, and that coupled with her decent music taste was enough for Wal to decide that he was in love. 

We moved on to Eden’s Hill, which boasts the fact it is allegedly the biggest pub in the Southern Hemisphere. It is massive mind. We had another drink here, and I learned that drinks don’t come in pints here. They come in smaller glasses called Schooners. I will never say that word; I can’t without sounding like I’m doing an insultingly poor Australian accent. We headed home and I went to bed, Wally’s reiterated admiration for that singer ringing in my ears.

 

Saturday 28th Sept

 

SingaporeDifferent scale - but at least Singapore had free WiFi

Today is my first match. For the first time since I got here the sky is dark grey when I wake up. I’m playing for the fourth grade team as no one has really seen that much of me play, plus there was no real places in the higher grades. Wally was playing an away game for first grade and they start 2 hours before the lower grades so I was dropped at Norths at 8:30. They grey skies had opened by now and it rained fairly hard for an hour. I killed time watching second grade warm and start their game before Mick turned up. We had a quick net and headed over the Allan Pettigrew oval. Each of the three pitches have names, which is unusual. We warmed up and took the covers off to reveal a fairly large wet spot on the pitch. The rest of the wicket was pretty hard but green. What with the overcast conditions and seam friendly wicket, we wanted to bowl first.

 

Predictably enough though, we lost the toss. I was to bat at 4, which is somewhat different to where I’d bat back home. Usually I open the batting for Winscombe, partially because I don’t like sitting there with pads on whilst other people bat. We lost a couple of wickets fairly cheaply and I was in. Straight away I could tell why the two wickets fell caught behind. My first ball landed on off stump and I pressed forward to defend. It seamed sharply away however and flew past my outside edge, eliciting groans and cries of ‘well bowled’ from the fielders. I battled against the moving ball and a bowler who threw the ball (quickly too) for a few overs before I was served up the juiciest of wide half volleys that I all too thankfully carved through cover-point.

From then on I found some fluency and struck a few more boundaries on my way to thirty. Whether it was over confidence or something else, I inexplicably lent back on a basic cover drive and chipped a catch to mid-off. I was angry with myself as I always am when I get out but this time I was also disappointed. No one here knows if I’m any good or not and I didn’t give a good representation of my skills. That ate away at me for an hour or so, and was intensified by the fact no one knows me so the conversation is slow.

We were bowled out for about 150 and mine was the second top score. Even thought that made me feel slightly better in a selfish way getting to 30 and giving it away is criminal. Our bowling wasn’t stunning either. We started fairly poorly and didn’t really get into the game. They got to our score 3 down and with a fair few overs to spare. I came on at a time when we were searching for wickets and bowled in a disappointingly non-threatening way. I didn’t go for many but I don’t blame the skipper for taking me off, or ‘dragging me’. 

Wally bought Indian food and we sat and discussed our separate games. The food wasn’t great, just as Wally had warned me and certainly not a patch on Mum’s. I went to bed with the events of the day sitting on my stomach as uneasily as the food.



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