On reaching retirement age, I checked my bucket list and came again to the one right at the top. It said “See England play in an Ashes Test” and now was the time to do it. After a phone call to my best mate Valerian (known as Val for short), we decided that we were off to Brisbane and Adelaide for the first two tests.
My excuse to my wife was that it gave me an opportunity to visit my daughter and granddaughter in Brisbane and at the same time watch England the first two Tests.
Having seen and heard about the Barmy Army, we decided to join them on tour. The price was good and the staff at Barmy Travel were really helpful especially as I wanted to travel early to visit my daughter in Brisbane. The Barmy Army pre-tour evening at Edgbaston ran by Andy Thompson and the crew was great - full of information and advice on what to expect.
Full of excitement and anticipation, we took off for Australia. I travelled out a week early and spent time with my daughter and then met up with the rest of the Barmy group at the hotel in Brisbane.
We had a super hotel in Brisbane right in the heart of the city with a view from the 20th Floor over the river. With free bus rides to the ground, allocated tickets distributed at the hotel, tour t-shirts, guides and information, we were well catered for. Andy and the team met us in Brisbane and were brilliant. Always there to help and sort out any problems, give advice, show you where the “Army” HQ at each ground was, and what entertainment was planned. That night - despite the jet lag - everyone met up at The Pig & Whistle to get the tour underway.
Next morning, we were in the ground with the Army and soon joined in with the singing, chanting and of course giving the Aussies as much stick as possible! I’m not sure what they thought of us singing Jerusalem as soon as the first ball was bowled and why, despite the result, we were still singing at the end. Wearing my “Lucky England Braces”, waving flags and wearing Barmy Army shirts, we made as much noise as possible in the ground and tried our best to rally the team to the first victory. But it was not to be the result we hoped for, despite my luck braces. Even so, Val and I had a great time making good friends, which even included a couple of Richie Benno fans who could only sing songs which were on a song sheet!
The après Test evenings at the Pig & Whistle were great – packed to the rafters with live music, good food and of course, proper beer. This was a chance to catch up with the others on the tour, discuss the day's play and what to expect from tomorrow. The atmosphere to and from the ground was great with a lot of the public recognising the Barmy Army polo shirts we were wearing and the flags we were flying with many stopping us for a picture. I even got myself on local TV!
Brisbane city is full of life. Lots of bars and restaurants to choose from plus street entertainment which included a salsa dancing party involving over 200 people dancing in the street.
Far too soon the 1st Test was over and with great memories of Brisbane, we went on our way to Adelaide with the tour. The transfers were well organised with our guide sorting out a group check-in desk at the airport to avoid us having to queue.
Although our hotel was nicknamed “The Beige” (It was called the Sage), the accommodation and the hotel staff could not be faulted. The bar staff were excellent, staying around until the last supporter staggered off to their bed. It was on the outskirts of the city but with a free tram running directly to the ground, this was not a problem. The Barmy Army HQ was behind the casino a short walk from the ground and with them organising sausage butties and a bar, this was the place to go before and after the day's play.
Adelaide was a day/night match, so we had the mornings free to explore the city before heading to the ground. As we had to walk past the team hotel on the way to the match, player spotting became fun with most of the team seen at one time or another. Some of the “Army” were seated away from the Hill, so trying to get ourselves heard was a bit harder. We gave it our best and outsung the Richie Benue’s and a group dressed as crocodile hunters for most of the time.
During the Adelaide Test, Andy and the team organised a talk to our group in the hotel by Phil Tufnell and Jonathan Agnew, which was great value. Their insight into the modern game was brilliant and as for the stories...I don’t think I have laughed so much in a long time. The team also organised a charity event at the casino in aid of the PCA Benevolent Fund attended by Ian Botham, which was a sell-out. A brilliant evening of drinking, singing and much money raised in the auction for the charity.
All too soon, the match was over and it was time to leave. It was a shame Val and I didn’t see England win but despite this, we had a brilliant time, made lots of friends and had memories which will last a lifetime.
So, if you are thinking about joining the Barmy Army on any one of the forthcoming tours, my advice is to “GO FOR IT” and join me and the rest of the army following England on a future tour.
Ashes Series to Australia 2017-18, Brisbane and Adelaide