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A Day at the Cricket

by Kathy Cope
A Day at the Cricket

Clean-bowled by the spinning fates of adversity, this father and son team persevered through a series of ridiculous circumstances and were rewarded with a win by their team on a nearly-didn’t-happen day at the cricket. Eventually.

This is a true story, related to the narrator over several days, of two lads at the cricket. For the sake of reputation, the two will be identified only as D (for both Dad and driver) and A (for first name initial and Almost-Lost-It).  A gift of tickets to an England-Australia game in Brisbane meant D could take teenage A out for day of father-son bonding and an introduction to male cultural appreciation.  They set off around 9.30am, leaving plenty of time for the 2.5 hour drive to Brissy and half hour train trip into the Gabba. Their day went something like this.

It’s a sunny summer’s day, Rock Lobster is blaring from the car speakers.  They pull up at a well-known country bakery, dreaming of crocodile pies. This bakery has great pies, but our intrepid duo have previously suffered that nightmare experience of the bakery running out of pies, a taste that lingers like a bit of gristle in chewy pastry.  D walks in, the pie cabinet is full.

“Two crocodile pies please”.

“Sorry, we’re just cooking the croc meat now, won’t have any until tomorrow.”

Hmmm.  “Okay then, two kangaroo pies” (They’re going to the cricket.  Patriotism can extend to fast food on days like this.)

“Sorry, we’re all out.” Hopefully like England in the early stages.

Still, the sun is shining, the cricket is beckoning, the pie cabinet is full.  They order their non-Australian native species pies and continue on their way.

Still on target time-wise, they roll onto the highway, now only half an hour from Brisbane, Planet Claire the third man in the car.  Sometime after 1pm, I receive the first text message.

“We are in a giant traffic jam of death.”

Which is teen-speak for “the traffic is bad”.  I check out snarl.com.au (excellent name – describing both the traffic and the driver condition) and discover a multi-vehicle accident occurred sometime around 10.30am, creating havoc on the southbound lanes of the highway into Brisbane.

Signage on the highway regarding the accident is sparse, and they are unable to find out anything about the cause or length of the delay.  An hour ticks by.  Then two.  Not so far down the road, the opening batsman for England cracks willow to leather, but it’s still a long hop to the Gabba.  Once the stop-start snail’s pace allows, they exit at North Lakes, hoping to scoot through the Redcliffe route.  Alas, normal shopping centre traffic combined with normal surrounding traffic combined with snarl means another standstill.  An hour ticks by. By this time, A is feeling vaguely nauseous and D urgently requires a public convenience.

Creeping to a roundabout allows time to see that the traffic is flowing nicely off the Scarborough exit, and so they follow this route, even if just to reach a speed in double digits for a few moments. Normal traffic conditions ensue through to Redcliffe foreshore, where fresh air and fresh water are both replenished and full bladder relieved.  Onward ho, over the Hornibrook Bridge.

Once over the bridge, it becomes apparent that Friday peak hour has now commenced.  For reasons still unknown, our heroes decide to duck that yorker of a city curse and take the Deagon-Sandgate exit and promptly get lost.  D keeps this information to himself, realising it had been rather silly, mid-on into their dismal adventure, to deviate from their line again.

Weaving through the suburbs, they finally wend their way to a familiar road which takes them the back way through to a train station where they park the car, six hours after their innings commenced.

Managing to snag an express train to Southbank, they begin the walk to the Gabba, having missed all of the courtesy buses, thinking to hail a cab en route.  No cabs in sight.  Another long hop.  A, having neglected to eat anything since the bakery stop, complained of feeling sick.  Vomity sick.  As luck would have it, the Mater Hospital was mere minutes away, just in case he decided to stop for the full toss.  D convinces him have a few bites of a soggy sandwich, which seemed to sustain his flagging spirits, and they continue.

As they approach the hallowed grounds, streams of people pour out of the gates to pubs in the immediate area – it was change of innings.

They’d missed the entire English batting session.

Undaunted, refusing to be clean bowled, they clutched their tickets and approach the entrance.  Bags are checked.  Tickets slipped into slots. Bap-bowwwwm.  Ticket machine declares their tickets invalid.  What the?  They try again.  Bap-bowwwwwm.  The bag-checker comes by.  “That machine has been playing up – try the next one over.”

They move across to the next machine.  Bap-bowwwwn.  The ticket machine declares their tickets invalid.  A new bag-checker wants to check the bag.  She’s wide of the mark – these boys have held it together but things seem to be unravelling again.

Finally, they are directed to a ticket office to address the problem.  Fortunately, at this time of day there is but one person in front of them.  Unfortunately, he is drunk, has lost his ticket and seems unlikely to leave until he has poured forth his vitriolic rage through the bars of the ticket office.  Having done so, he leaves and D produces his tickets and explains the problem.

After some minutes of checking and rechecking, the woman comes up with the less than satisfactory statement that the tickets are invalid.

After some toing and froing in which D guides the woman through the processes of common sense, she discovers that their seats are among a batch now sitting beneath a makeshift stage for the dress up competition.  Alternative seats have been set aside.  Sigh of relief.

Oh dear.  She can’t seem to find them.  While they are waiting, patiently, hungrily, drearily, feeling like they’ve been hit for six, a man approaches them and offers them his tickets, as he has to leave. They accept and are about to head off when the woman in ticket box ducks her head up and says “Here you go boys – your tickets!”  Comparing locations, they accept the new tickets and head down to their new fourth-from-the-front-row seats, within the ranks of the drunken Aussie Army.

Finally, though, they are seated.  A beer has been earned, and D starts the walk up the stairs towards the refreshment area.  A fellow spectator – clearly three sheets to the wind – places a foot on a vacant seat and drops it down heavily, somehow smashing D’s knee as he walks by.  He stops.  He grimaces.  He looks at her and wonders if it would be worth it to let rip.  She is blind-rotten-drunk, and unapparent her bouncer has connected. He limps to the bar, seething and orders a water and two beers, so he doesn’t have to come back again too soon.

“Sorry sir, we’ve run out of water and you can only have one beer.”

Dead silence.

And yet, still, not a word of complaint, no temptation to scream.

A conversation ensued, a result of which a friendly young man behind the counter poured a cup of water from one of his own bottles and placed it and the beer on the counter.  D paid and made to move away.

A canteen supervisor enters the fray.  “What’s in that cup?” she shrilled.  “Water” replied our weary hero.  “Who gave that to him?” she demanded of her staff.  “That’s not allowed!” she screeched.  Nobody owns up.  “Can I take my water?” D asks.  “No you can’t!” she snatches the cup from the counter.  D picks up his beer and walks away, the shrill voice still ranting at the serving staff behind his shoulder-drooped back.  His memory searches for an image of a black cat, a ladder on the footpath, a broken mirror, a Chinaman prone on the road – anything to explain the day’s events.

Finally seated, thirst quenched, headache averted, eyes on the pitch, things seemed to clear.  True, there was a large degree of larrikinism, skullduggery and general mayhem surrounding them (the mexican wave originated, more often than not, from their battalion) but the afternoon became enjoyable.  In the few innings left, James Faulkner and Clint Mackay provided highlights that, to some degree, made the adventure worthwhile.  And of course there was that final four in the last few minutes!  What an ending to a truly eventful day!

Of course the journey didn’t quite end there, but I’ll leave it at that. You don’t want to know about the beers knocked to the ground, the drunken yobbos from three seats away who surfaced at the BP on the trip home, the vomit streaming down the car door.  Suffice to say, a lusty effort from the lads in conditions that would have left lesser teams in tatters.  Despite being clean-bowled by the fickle fortunes of fate, they held their heads higher than a Minnie Ripperton chorus.  Kerry O’Keefe would be proud.

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