No more cricket!

Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
Trip End Sep 19, 2006

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Saturday, August 26, 2006

Well, it's all over. Seven games in seven days. It was a lot of fun, varying in standard from 60 year-old grandads tossing up ultra-slow full-bungers to West Indian professional, and plenty in between. I've learned a new way of playing cricket, with 'whenever you're ready' 2.30pm starts after a pub lunch as well as my first ever 'declaration' match. All games have been on grass wickets, which is such a happy change from the crap artificial pitches and overgrown outfields we usually play on in North America. Our team was an ideal mix of ages, personalities, ethnicities and abilities and everyone got on very well. From a personal point of view, I had a good tour, scoring a few runs but the success of a tour like this is never measured ultimately by statistics or results, rather the goodness of times had.

So, it is with a small degree of sadness at the end of cricket, an eagerness for the adventures that lie ahead, and a belly full of ales and pub lunches, that I move on to the next phase of this trip.

JK drives a bunch of us into London and drops Tahir and me at Hatton Cross subway station, right next to Heathrow. I am hoping to watch the All Blacks' game against South Africa but both time and the Saturday afternoon football schedule are looking to conspire against me. I take the tube to Hounslow Central station, as per the instructions of my cousin Leon, with whom I am staying for the next few days. Leon is occupied until around 5pm so I go in search of a pub showing the rugby.

I don't have to go far, as the Bulstrode pub, right at the exit of Hounslow Central, is showing the game on all of its five plasma big screens. This is a very unexpected piece of good fortune. Not so fortunate is having a loud-mouthed South African come and sit next to me. Typical bloody Jaapie he is too, whining about biased refs every time a non-existant All Black penalty is "missed". He carries on and on about everything from All Blacks entering rucks from the side to New Zealand poaching Pacific Islanders to how South Africa should be ahead by 20 points when they are actually 20 behind. I try to avoid much confrontation but can't help laughing when he accuses me of being one-eyed before claiming an All Black should be red-carded for talking to the referee. We end up thrashing the Jaaps by 45-26 so I maintain a dignified gloat as he storms off.

With an our still to kill in Hounslow, I wander around the High Street. There are more Indians around here than non-Indians so it is almost like being in India, without all the poverty. There are lots of colourful saris and exotic spice smells (not sure where they are coming from) so I amble around for a while before making tracks to Leon's. His place is just up the road from Twickenham and all the rugby league fans are coming back from the big Challenge Cup final.

Planning to surprise Leon and Naz by just showing up at their house, Leon instead spots me as he is getting off the train and I am crossing the road. Their place, tucked away in an anonymous series of row houses on a nondescript side road, is actually rather large inside. They rent a two-storey, two-bedroom house with a nice little garden out the back. The tradeoff is their proximity to Heathrow Airport and the huge jets that roar by every 30 seconds at the lower part of their descent, drowning out any chance at conversation. If I were flying out of Heathrow, this would be remarkably convenient, but I actually fly from Stansted, the furthest away of all the London airports from Leon's place.

Naz kindly cooks up a delicious lentil curry while Leon and I pop off to the shops for some supplies. The shops all have a decidedly South Asian feel to them, not surprising given the demographics of the area, but it makes for some interesting browsing.
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