27 November 2006

Still trying to catch the ashes

Following on from my attempts to either watch or listen to the ashes, here are my details of the final two attempts of the first test..

Day 4

I spent most of the day trying to ascertain how I was going to stay up to watch the nights play.

I have failed miserably so far, first night couldn't find it online, second night fell asleep and alarm failed due to a power-cut, third night got blind drunk and passed out. The answer was staring me in the face.


Since moving to France we have had a continuous flow of guests and this weekend wasn’t any different. Sitting in front of me was my ticket to staying up..Good conversation, good food and more importantly, best behaviour so not drunk or sleepy.

Perfect, first we had to eat the meal, to listen to as much cricket as possible (I have given up trying to watch this test) I needed to be up talking as late as possible. To ensure a long conversation, the food would need to be a never ending feast, tailing off around 1am (midnight in the UK). So, I bought and prepared the most bizarre ‘talking point’ dishes I could find.

Starting with fromage de tete (head cheese) which as the translation sounds, is pretty much anything that forms part of a pigs head, as a recipe, basically cook your pig's head and you strip off all the meat, the tongue, everything and then you pack it into a tureen with the gelatinized liquor it was cooked in..Sounds nice..This dish always takes the longest, you have to overcome various barriers to eat it!

We followed this up with various live courses and finished with the Mother of all cheese dishes, great, 12am and all conversation is dried out. Luckily for me, I have ‘access’ to UK tv via a dish and watched football on match of the day until 12.45am (France time) .

I’d cracked it, I was finally awake and sober enough to listen to the cricket. It is a huge sense of achievement when you finally make it. It almost took over my life!

I had done it, now I knew the recipe for success!

The cricket.

First hour, not edge of seat stuff, but the target was set, when declaring at 202-1, the Australians gave us the upper hand..we could do it..only 648 to win!!!

A little under one hour of batting from Enland had passed and everyone, commentators, websites and odds all seemed to be optimistic. Me? I was getting myself in a trance, watching the media player’s psychadelic background moves. It is hard to stay awake, it seems to take ages between bowls on the radio.

OUT! Strauss out for 11, Bell not long after. My fatigue started to set in, it was now 2.30 am.

I stayed with it until tea, 150-3. Only God and a bottle of Famous Grouse know how.

I’ll find out how they got on in the morning, too tired and now, a bit drunk, a kind a mixture of boredom and happiness to have made it! It was 5am.

Day 5

The noise started at 7am.

It felt like somebody was kicking me in the head.

The noise was coming from the square in front of my house. It is probably the most typically French square or ‘place’ you could imagine...until this morning. With two hours sleep under my belt and a small hangover to boot, I wasn’t in the best of moods. Opening the green shutters on my office window I saw loads of Police and an ambulance along with two huge tents, one filled with beds, one with bottles of water. The picture below is taken from my office in the house.

I guessed that I must still be either drunk or in shock, shock that I made it to listen to some of the ashes the night before. When, in the distance I could hear the faint sounds of a loadspeaker I realised what this might be.

The La Rochelle marathon was due to start at 9.30am.

Nobody told me that it would pass my front door.

After two hours sleep, a now pumping headache and after watching over 8,000 people jog past, many in silly outfits, I decided to check the result of the nights cricket.

293 - 5
Once again I missed the best bits. There is genuine belief that we could have pulled it off at some point last night and we could have got back into contention. It is all over now, I thought.

I tried to stay up and listen but to honest, I was so tired I didn’t make the re-run of Catherine Tate show at 10pm my time.

Australia won by 277 runs.

Suprised? Not really, in fact, I feel this could be a good thing.

England have shown that they have the talent and skill, they showed it in 2005, and we (you) saw glimpses of it on day four. All that is required now is to start in the right frame of mind and forget the past.

The ashes of 2005 will stay on our minds for a long time to come. If they win this series, and they can, they will go down as a truely great side and be mentioned in the same breathe as the football side of 1966.

If not, they will be likened to the England Rugby World cup winning side, a good team, once.

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