Yesterday, I ventured north to the Riverside cricket stadium in County Durham with a buddy of mine; the sporting smorgasbord provided by England and New Zealand’s national teams. Both sides final group games; the victor’s spoils the certainty of a place in the ICC World Cup semi-finals.
Boarding the packed train from our thriving West Yorkshire metropolis (Leeds), we took our pre-booked seats to a greeting of a fragrance known as the Barmy Army*** bouquet. Perspiration sourced scent which was to be our unwelcome compagnon d’odeur for the next hour and a half.
*** – The nickname of the throng of England cricket fans that religiously follow their nations fortunes with ball and willow.
This aroma rising in intensity as we progressed north through York, Northallerton, Darlington and Durham. It’s accelerant the sun streaming through an already warm carriage. A potent additional redolence to questionable cricket fan hygiene; scents made worse by the collection of sweat stained sun hats adorning ‘Army’ member heads
These platoon helmets carrying perspiration produced by it’s foot soldiers in stadiums such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, Newlands Cape Town and Sri Lanka’s Galle Stadium. These sun hat marks metaphorical battle scars; medals telling of their contribution to England’s cricketing sorties around the globe.
Bloodless worldwide missions where the only weapon used in anger is their rapier sharp wit, patronisation of locals and a collection of creative crowd chants whose lyrics are among the most poetic in the terrace song genre.
Arriving in the County Durham town of Chester-le-Street, the first task on disembarking our mode of transport was to invest in sun protect lotion. Day long exposure to searing solar rays without some barrier to mitigate against sunburn is a follysome practise. At best leaving your face traffic-lightesque, at worst creating the beginnings of a potentially life threatening melanoma.
In possession of spf 30 cream, my mate Anthrobus**** (apparently he was conceived on the bus to Anthro) meandered with other crowd members towards the sporting venue adjacent to Lumley Castle.
**** – I’ve no idea where Anthro is, or even if it exists, and to be honest I’m not inquisitive enough to google it. However, it’s Anthrobus’ (or Anthers as I call him) story and he’s sticking to it!
In September 1988, I spent my wedding night in the honeymoon suite at Lumley Castle. Legend has it the place is haunted by a ghost who wanders the corridors of the hotel wailing menacingly and asking residents “Are you sure you’re doing the right thing?!”, or confrontationally opining “I’ll give it six months!!”
While residing in the castle thirty years ago, I saw no evidence of the supernatural behaviour. It has just struck me, though, there’s a gag in there somewhere about a haunted honeymoon sweet and giving someone the willies!!….. However, you’ll be relieved to know, I don’t intend to spend any time crafting that joke.
What struck Anthers and me was the excellent organisation by the ICC and their affiliates. In particular the support teams all adorning brightly coloured t-shirts, depending on which task they undertook, making them infinitely more recognisable to Joe and Jane Public.
Green t-shirts indicated an individual was a marshal, red tees were program sellers, orange tops indicated a member of the ground staff and a white t-shirt with arrows were escapees from nearby Durham Jail.
During a moment of brain freeze Anthrobus, who’s ordinarily has the erudition to successfully hold down a higher management role for a financial institution, was unable to recollect the role name of the green topped marshals. Mistakingly referring to them as ‘the question people’.
This naming faux pas leading to a period of whimsical putdowns at Anthers’ expense. Consequently, much to our self-amusement, for the remainder of our day the orange t-shirted team became know as ‘the rolling the wicket people’, red t-shirted individuals ‘the ICC propaganda peddling people’ and high vis jacketed stewards being nicknamed ‘the moving on people’……., Erm, you had to be there!!
It was a great day out in the sun, made even better by England prevailed to secure a semi-final berth in international crickets principal tournament.
Anthers and I joined other fellow countryman in a celebratory post-match beer and analysis. Concluding that England bowler Mark Wood’s fortuitous run out of Kane Williamson, breaking up his batting partnership with Ross Taylor, was the catalyst to England’s comfortable 100+ run victory.
Wood, the England/Durham bowler, getting a finger tip on a driven shot from Taylor to run out the influential Williamson at the non-strikers end. Taylor’s run out shortly afterwards effectively dooming the black caps to defeat.
It took ‘the decide if he’s out people’ a while to come to a conclusion into whether the bowler had touched the ball, but with Wood’s broken fingernail came broken kiwi hearts.
Around 9pm, Anthers and me boarded the locomotive home from Chester-le-Street to Leeds. The Barmy Army bouquet ever more pungent on the return sojourn to West Yorkshire. The hot day and copious imbibing of alcohol at the event resulting in a fragrance best described as brewer’s armpit.
Redolence matters not, though, to the Barmy Army. They’re going to get the chance to witness their heroes in a cricket World Cup semi-final next Thursday in Birmingham…… Anthrobus was also in high spirits; his joy a mix of an England win and the fact he’d not been conceived on the train to Chester-le-Street.