Slovenia 2007

A Virginal Tour: Boot Camp

Ljubljana

Standing in the foyer of our hotel, it soon became clear that I had gotten off quite lightly. To my right stood an adult male rugby player with the usual proclivity for hairy legs, man breasts and dragging knuckles albeit it with one exception. This man was dressed in bright pink fishnets, a tight crop top (the colour of which escapes me) and a mini-skirt the wrong side of modest. As it turns out, this was his first club rugby tour and like all touring virgins he was required by long-standing and highly revered traditions, to make a complete arse of himself. I say again, I think I got off quite lightly.

As a touring (and more importantly a Kiwi) virgin with the MCC I was not quite sure what to expect. I was sure the “boys” were going to get very good mileage out of my packed lunch (thanks Mum), my apparent excess of luggage (a 72 litre backpack that looked full but wasn’t really) and my shiny new cricket shoes, which I had been unable to scuff up on the way to Hauptbahnhof. Surprise then when I gathered together and stood hands stuffed into pockets with a bunch of seedy looking guys, many of who carried equally cumbersome looking items of baggage and never even noticed the glare from my new shoes. Of greater concern was the fact that with 10 mins to kick off, captain and tickets were still conspicuously absent. Last seen in the twilight hours before dawn propping up a bar stool and doing his best to further English-Deutsch relations, said captain arrived rosy cheeked just in time for a brisk walk to the train. As it turned out he had spent most of the morning trying to track down the cricket bat he swore he had left in one the many high class establishments visited the night before; forgetting all the while that in a moment of clarity he had entrusted the bat to new captain of vice Gligorov in the hope of preventing this very problem. Basics.

All aboard (including a huffing and puffing Desmond whose decision to tour had been very last minute – due to a basic error from Finch) the cattle truck began the six-hour moo to Slovenia.

The first half of the trip was relatively uneventful, possibly as the buffet bar was deemed to be a bridge too far at this stage.

Under the influence of homemade beer, muffins and the beautiful alpine scenery the team quickly settled into the accepted repertoire of discussion topics: World cup cricket, the fairer sex, past tours and the beer supply (see buffet bar). Therefore, it wasn’t until the train approached the Austrian border that things began to get really interesting. Another late addition to the tour, Robbo Ellis, had no ticket, no hotel booking and most important of all, no passport. While his Spartan approach to touring made my backpack seem all the more ridiculous, I was kind of glad I had thought to bring my passport when we were very rudely interrupted by two rather intimidating looking Border Police guards who seemed about as inviting as a Turkish prison.

Whether they took pity on Robin for his fumbling attempts at German (we’ve all been there) or merely wrote the incident off as another case of “blode ausländers” we’ll never know. Whatever their reason, Robin was allowed to stay on the train, and we to continue on our merry way. One border down, only one to go!

Ever determined to show that he too could muster a sense of authority our captain, fine leader of men that he is, decided the time was right and donning a full Sadam Hussein mask and a pair of sharkies, proudly paraded up and down the carriage – in manner fitting boot camp 07.

It was quite a sight. Not the image of a six-foot-plus, slightly unsteady Sadam Hussein walking up and down the carriage, but the completely perplexed expressions of fellow train travellers – none of whom seemed to find it remotely funny.

On arrival, the city of Ljubljana seemed pleasant enough. Eastern bloc maybe- but without that nagging suspicion we might all wake up after a night on the turps minus a kidney, lung, or some other essential piece of equipment.

We disembarked and ram-shambled our way to where we believed buses would be waiting our imminent arrival. They were not. After some unseemly finger pointing, several members of the party voted to break away and formed, appropriately enough, a separatist party, trekking to the hotel on foot. The remaining bulk waiting patiently for the two mini buses, which eventually arrived to ferry us to our destination: Hotel Park.

Inside an unsmiling clerk (was it perhaps part of his tourist brief – “you must act, think and be communist”) doled out rooms like this week’s bread rations, making everyone (except for Robin) a little nervous when he insisted on keeping all passports. Being little red caboose, (or, if truth be told, Nigel-no-friends), I was left with a room all to my lonesome. No snoring, naked, or smelly team mates to wake up next to. You can just feel the disappointment in the air. Hardly boot camp, but I’ll take it.

A shampoo, shave, shit, shoe-shine later, all party members assembled in the lounge where it was quickly decided to find the local Irish pub in the hope of catching the tail end of Australia vs. Kiwis in the latest instalment of the farcical World Cup, see

www.farcepodsiccworldcup.com for more details.

While one or two members sat down to watch the game, some seemed more interested in bettering their tour averages and before long the dirt began to fly as the spades worked overtime and really began to dig deep and do the hard yards.

Of particular interest were two young blonde locals, who being the friendly, welcoming sort, were soon up to their back teeth in testosterone. Not that they seemed to mind. As the night progressed many of the party (those that had not gone for the sensible options of food or bed) decided to follow these two friendly girls clubbing.

After rejecting the first club due to its very ARC-like male-female ratio, the team settled for the second where Glig (in all his magnanimity) paid the exorbitant 50c cover charge. All seemed rosy until the bouncers began to express concerns over Mark –Maddog-Palfrey, who by this time was displaying all the classic systems of someone who had gone the trip thus far, sans food (the muffin doesn’t count). Luckily, some more sweet-talking by Glig alleviated the situation and soon we were all treated to the spectacle of Mark’s unique sense of rhythm as he straddled the dance floor like some sort of bucking bronco, one hand free to keep his balance, the other clamped tightly to the reigns, or in this case, a random pole used for vertical support. Mark Palfrey, the only man who can imbibe like Shane MacGowan, outdance Peter Garrett and then go out and bat like Bert Sutcliffe.

Many €2.50 vodka red-bulls later and things had hotted up on the dance floor. It had quickly became apparent that not all the action was going to take place on the field the next day and at 3am when remaining members decided to call it stumps, Grant “Andrew Jones” Algar (i.e.: unorthodox but effective) and Glig the Gypsy, both decided to stay and bowl over a few more maidens.

We Got Game

I know it’s a cliché, but with all the distractions of touring it was hard to remember there was a game on this weekend; and for those actually interested there is a pretty good summary of individual performances included below, courtesy of Desmond Bradley.

After a late rise by many, we made our way in taxi convoy to the ground. The ground itself was at least 25 mins out of Ljubljana set beneath a backdrop of snow-dusted Alps in a village called Valburga. Quite breathtaking really. The outfield itself left a little to be desired, full of potholes deep and wide enough to break elephant ankles and the worst run-ups I have personally experienced. But, to be fair, the concrete strip, while narrow, was a pleasure to play on, having in direct contrast to our beloved home ground, some bounce.

Having won the toss the decision was made to bat and for a first outing MCC made a good fist of it. Mark Palfrey looked in suspiciously good nick early in the season and his 73 combined with a captain’s knock of 56 from Saddam made up the bulk of our 228 runs.

Feeling fatally confident we took to the field and calmly proceeded to grass nearly everything that came our way. It took a lunch break of pizza and fizz, kindly organised by the opposition, to recharge our batteries before some of the catches began to stick. And despite fielding like “Dad’s Army” (Tony Blades), 40 wides, 8 no-balls, and our best attempts to actually lose the game, we eventually won it by 21 runs, thanks mostly to an inspired 5 for 59 by Robin on debut.

After a few beers with our hosts in a tidy local pub, we returned to our Hotel around 11:30pm hoping to catch a bite to eat. While we had won the cricket, not everything had gone to plan that day. Both Glig and Algar found themselves stood up by their recent nubile acquaintances and settling for a poor second prize, joined the team for dinner at a local restaurant.

The general theme for this evening was meat, meat, and more meat. The locals insisted on bringing plate after plate until begged to stop by even the heartiest of carnivores. I don’t know what was in the meat, (being the sole vege I did not partake) but something seemed to stir up the testosterone levels and as I left for a much needed early night some of the boys were giving the old dirty laundry a decent airing.

The next morning many did their own thing. Some who had gone in search of clubs in the wee hours chose to sleep it off, others sipped quiet beers down by the river side, others played tourist, checking out the castle on the hill and a local delicacy known as a “horse burger” (can’t wait for the Mc. Ed), and a select few went in search of their special lady friends, who had agreed to meet for “coffee.”.

With the day drawing to a close all that was left was to catch our train and enjoy our first class passage straight through to Munich, where wives and work were waiting.

Well, that was the plan. Never did understand the full logistical story, but the upshot of it was we were delayed one hour in Ljubljana; (giving Glig just enough time to go back to the Hotel and get his bag, the silly sod really believed one of us had carried it for him) were held on the train for another hour somewhere in Austria without a little boy’s room; had to change trains in Salzburg and wait a further hour on a cold platform, before we finally pulled into Munich on the sunny side of 2:00am, a total of four hours late. Cheers Die Bahn – Kuntz.

Well, I guess it wasn’t called “Boot Camp” for nothing.

Un-PC call of the tour: “It’s a bit Pearl Harbour” (nasty nip in the air).

Match Summary

Palfreyman: 73; didn’t bowl, one fine catch at point, kept wicket till did toys after 10overs coz ball was hurting from the pace attack pounding.

Algar: 13 ran out – blamed on senior Australian partner; 4 -0-11-0, 2 catches, 4 wides, 2 no-balls – kept wicket until called upon to bowl with aplomb. Ian Smith/Warren Lees. In danger of being led astray by the Gimp at advanced age of 34.

Dribbler Morgan: 0, 2-0-21-1, 0 catches but dropped a few or stumbled in alleged potholes, 3 wides, 2 no-balls. Promoted up order to no avail. Needs to increase intake of Pinot Grigio.

Dunne, the match-maker: (BD) M. 2; 4-0-28-1, 6 wides. See Morgan.

Sadam Lovell 56 with long lost bat (SG). Fielded like CPT Mainwaring. Allergies.

Wilson: 18; 6-0-18-0, 4 wides. Bruce Reid. Boot camp correspondent.

Robbo Ellis: 0 – alleged premature triggering by Kiwi opening bat, rumblings of disappointment at first blob for the club; 8-0-59-5, 7 wides, 3 no-balls. Left arm Paul Adams impersonations. Frog in blender etc.

Bunty Blades: 10* (red ink); 6-0-21-1, 3 wides. Kept wicket for end crunch overs – first time since Brisbane U9s.

Scotty: 11*; 5-1-7-0, 2 wides. Bonus points for alleged deviancy.

Gligorov: didn’t bat, 5-0-32-1, 1 catch, 10 wides. Very immature celebration of a) catch at cow-corner and b) wicket with alleged (even) slower ball.

Ice-Bär Haenelt, didn’t bat, didn’t bowl, no catches nor any opportunity to drop any. Berlin Wall.

Doug (Easy rider) Giles: didn’t bat, didn’t bowl, no catches and only dropped one, possibly two. Complained at not batting despite being listed 5th in MCC career runs.

Chairman Bradley – likes scoring in the LJ shade. Impressed with the originality of table conversation during dirty laundry session at team dinner.

The prize for the most wides goes to Gligorov.