Our resident media mogul comprehensively reports in:
“It has been two years since I last traveled abroad with the Quokkas. If the destination is not land-locked and the locals don’t have a penchant for pork and pike perch, then quite frankly I am not interested. Budapest certainly ticks all of those boxes, but with the Hungarians having a reputation for being the gloomiest and most pessimistic nation in Europe, I just knew this place was made for a fun-hoover like me. So once again I signed up for world’s greatest cricket club tour and headed to Luton.
Straight away I could tell this was going to be a good weekend, our flight from Luton wasn’t at some ungodly hour and the airport had two bars! Resplendent in my brand new ‘don’t get too close to a naked flame’ Quokkas blazer I ordered a lager top….which granted me the honour of first fine of the tour. Skip eased me into the tour with a Jägerbomb chaser and we were off and running, well drinking wise anyway – a two hour Easilylatejet delay for “unnecessary maintenance” meant we had to sample the delights of the departure lounge a little while longer. Every cloud has a silver lining however, as this provided the perfect opportunity to sample Luton’s finest pork baguette. You don’t have to go all the way to Hungary to get your recommended daily pork intake you know!
We settle in for a few games of 21 and the noise and buzz created attracts possible additions to the touring party. Perhaps it’s a love of coach driver attire or Fudger’s fake tan, but there is no time for sharking, we’re boarding!
We face our first tough call of the tour almost immediately after take-off. Do Yak, Slick and I spend our combined £17 on two red bulls and three vodkas, or a half bottle of bubbly? The Vodka wins – let the David Boon style drinking commence. I hate flying, but time passes quickly, especially when the Quokka Top Trumps finds their way to us. It’s a shiny new and updated deck, but with the same obvious printing error as last year; Chez – Drinking Prowess 4. Does anyone proof read these things? The second tough call of the tour is selecting the right category when discovering Verger in your hand. Thank god for Drinking Prowess!
We land safely and having bled the airport cash machine of every last Forint, we make our way to the wonderfully titled Swing Hotel. Comfortably ranked 206 of 333 on Tripadvisor, it’s perfectly nestled between a Kebab house, sex shop and Budapest’s largest bakery. Scratch the surface however and Skip has found a gem here, there is no lift to get trapped in and I’m assured the bread rolls are not easily confused with burned hand-grenades as they were in Serbia. Sadly there is no time to enjoy the kind of artwork typically found unsold at car boot sales up and down the UK. We need to Quokk’n’roll before our guide, Adrian, drinks all the beer.
Having made fine use of Budapest’s ‘free’ public transport, we were led to Adrian’s favourite drinking holes. Along the way we experienced our first taste of Zwack, in the form of Unicum Next Generation and Palinka (umm, I can still taste it now…no I really can). Suitably lubricated, talk turns to football, cricket, jobs, recent additions to families and the general joy of parenthood. My suggestion of 51% joy, 49% hell is Conan-smashed into the stand by Binman’s “95% shit really” assessment. No one is going to argue with a sleep deprived father. With expectant dads (big congratulations to Mr and Mrs Evil, Mantis & Yak) looking nervous, we made our excuses and hit the dance-floor for the first time with Evil Dave and Egg pulling some interesting shapes.
The night is a success, but as we passed the witching hour the 50:1 male to women ratio sees the Quokkas disappear back to their beds faster than a Fudger half tracker. On route Skip doubles the local bakery takings for the year by acquiring its entire supply of sausage rolls and cake.
Somewhat surprisingly we don’t have a 6.45am wakeup call the next morning, nor a 5 hour drive to another country. Tour logistics manager I thank you. Suitably rested we consume a huge fried breakfast with Guinness chasers, whilst enjoying the Lions crushing the Aussies again to make it 2-0 in the series. We felt for the Aussies, but being true Englishmen (and gentleman) we didn’t mention this minor victory for the rest of the tour.
With the egg-chasing over and Mr Saucisson suitably fulfilled, we make our way to the temporary national stadium of Hungarian Cricket. Floods had apparently ruined the proper ground, but this is a great replacement. Picture the scene, the Maracana stadium…. only with table tennis tables in the stand and onsite paintballing. The excitement is starting to build, that is until I am absolutely crushed by Evil Dave in a game of first to five.
Cutting players is very unQuokkalike, but you will be surprised to hear we were not scratching around for a spare fielder, instead Skip has to select a final eleven from what is without doubt the Quokkas strongest touring party in living memory. However, it turns out to be far easier to remove the chaff from the wheat, with Egg and Skip joining my good self on the side lines to consume our weight (not Skips, obviously) in cherry beer.
That’s one less International cricket cap on my CV than I had hoped for, but this gave the three of us the chance to get a good look at the talent circling the field, as well as the Quokkas dismantling the Hungarian XI bowling. That said, a first ball duck for tour debutant Arunev gets us off to a flier. Thankfully Saucisson and Conan soon have us back on track, supported gamely by Fudger and Evil Dave, who smashes 12 balls to all parts of the ground for 25. Mantis also gets in on the act, but only after convincing not only the umpire but also the opponents that he hadn’t got the biggest nick in cricketing history. With Conan about to reach 50, Binman plays around a straight one, getting a second ball duck in the process and leaves Mr Invincible standing. The question is will he ever get out?
Match 1: Quokkas CC 173 (Conan 46no, Dac 26, Evil Dave 25, Mantis 24)
With tea sadly not forthcoming from the locals, Skip really comes into his own by unveiling the world’s largest supply of sausage rolls and apple turnovers. Cherry beer ensures that no one dehydrates and then it’s time for Slick to lead the Quokkas back into battle. A huddle, rousing team talk and gently directing his troops from the fine leg boundary seems to work a treat, as wickets steadily fall. Evil Dave’s break dancing doesn’t seem have left him worse for wear and he grabs several to make him prime candidate for all five B and F points, but he is ably supported by the Yak and Dac. What chance do Hungary have?
Despite its low alcohol content, my like for cherry beer prevents me from offering you a detailed breakdown of the bowling figures – that’s what the book’s for. A comment at dinner about hearing me laughing loudly at several beamers suggests that the usual high standard of bowling was maintained throughout. I can at least inform you of the overall outcome, which was a fantastic and somewhat comfortable 70 run victory for the Quokkas. Tremendous work chaps. 1-0 to the Quokkas!
Match 1: Hungary Select XI 103 (Evil Dave 3/21, Attack 2/15)
As the sun starts go down we settle in to watch the joggers and have a few post match beers. Needless to say there was more than enough reasons for Skip to hand out fines, meaning everyone gets their share of Zwack – the drink of champions. Some more than others. The lack of a Quokkas wristband ensuring Mantis had to ‘double up’. At this point Evil accurately bade him goodnight.
Like Chairman’s girlfriends, the night was still young, allowing Adrian to guide us in a zigzag formation out to dinner. Fellow expat Steve was clearly chomping at the bit for pike-perch and promptly fell flat on his face in his haste to enter the restaurant. Skip’s never ending list of self-inflicted wounds and my wasp sting apart, this was about as bad as it got mishaps and injury wise all tour. Not bad considering the potential for drinking hand repetitive strain injuries and Eastern European tours offers. That said, Mantis decided to break every Quokkas dress code rule, thereby consigning himself to paralysis of the brain. Thousand yard stares bring on comments of “here’s Mantis”. But perhaps “you are here Mantis” might be more fitting.
Although not falling foul of the evening’s dress code, Hairdresser’s tie did catch the eye and drew suggestions that he spends his winter evenings walking on all fours with a rubber ball chained to his mouth. Somewhat better dressed was Conan, donning a smart short sleeve shirt with accompanying bow tie. As everyone knows bow tie wearers are all serial killers which, as the Zwack fines come in thick and fast, encourages our very own Chez n Dave duo to compose a sure fire Quokkas hit in `Bow Tie Killer’. Qu’est-ce que c’est?
Goose legs consumed and with Dic-Dak bowler hats in place, we make for a bar where the beautiful reside. We watch cyclists go nowhere, chat up Americans and pick up potential lady-boys, stopping only to take in Hairdresser’s post-modern expressionist dance routines that have the Quokkas in stitches and the locals running for the hills. With all drinks seemingly on the house, courtesy of the bar owners love for Skippy, it was hard to move on, but we’d drunk enough 151 proof rum, so it was time to see a baker about some sausage rolls.
I awoke to find all that separated me from the Bow Tie Killer – still fully dressed (trousers apart) including aforementioned neckwear and arms crossed like Count Dracula – is a deflated Skippy (Binman got peckish apparently). I quietly leave him to catch up on his beauty sleep to see if the bread rolls are edible.
It’s day three and the second and final match of the tour. I just about make the side and am almost instantly walking into bat as Skip, donned from head to toe in Lycra, runs (that’s stretching it a bit) himself out. The track looks plastic and the bowling loopy, so I dig in for the long haul. One or two Quokkas come and go. Arunev shows that he’s been taking running between the wickets lessons from Fudger, but it doesn’t matter when you can cover drive for six.
The scoreboard rattles along at a reasonable pace, although shouts of “get out” from one impatient rent a mouth suggest I’m hogging the bowling. The Egg comes in and speeds things along, toe ending the ball to various points of the ground before Fudger takes up the reigns with some tremendous hitting. My wicket eventually falls before I can put Plan F into action, so it’s left to Mantis to do the honours. He doesn’t. ‘kin’ell Mantis, that’s a fine.
Match 2: Quokkas CC 223/8 (Ches 79, Faggy 36, Arunav 32)
We give the home team 223 to chase and quite frankly it always looked too much for them, especially when they run themselves out. We offer several batswomen (I did mention that half the side were from the Hugarian ladies team didn’t I?) second chances through poor catching and the non-turning pitch reduces the threat of the likes of the Egg and Slick, who I can confirm has entered the Guinness Book of Records for the most wides in an over. Despite this we still somehow manage to decimate their top order. Good work Skip. Cometh the hour, cometh the best bat in Hungary and boy can this guy hit.
I’m dispatched over my head for six and the feat is repeated several times until the scoreboard starts to look a little tight. The ball is handed to Faggie, in what can only be described as a win/win situation. Either he gets the wicket to take the match or is dispatched, to much hilarity. Immediately Fudger has him caught behind, but no it’s dropped! The next ball is hit all the way to Serbia to howls of laughter, but it’s Fudger who has the last laugh as he cleans him out and we’ve won! Just. Zoltán Gera, Ferenc Puskás, Oszkár Asbóth, Joseph Pulitzer, Erno Rubik, László Bíró, Bela Lugosi, Zsa Zsa Gabor, you boys, er, I mean girls took one hell of a beating, by 18 runs.
Match 2: Hungarian Womens/Mens XI 208/8 (Just about everyone took 1 wicket each, even Slick!)
2-0 Quokkas! We celebrate with paraffin (or is it Palinka? I’m not sure) and a huge bowl of goulash as we debate the best ever Aussie batsman. As night falls a football match breaks out, but a Budapest nightclub is waiting so we head off leaving the joggers in peace.
There’s not much to tell about Sunday night. A few quiet beers down the local with hardly a lady in sight. I recall that there was certainly some dancing, but I couldn’t tell you much more than that. We did bump into one of Skips relatives, they quite liked a drink too and the evening ended with yet another stroll to the river to watch the sun come up.
For some the tour is over, but for others a late flight provides us with another day to enjoy the delights of Budapest. We use our time wisely, venturing out to the famed spa baths to soak up some sun, ease some aching limbs and cleanse the mind. The steam rooms and ice cold baths work like a treat, bringing the remaining tour party back from the dead. Rejuvenated, we destroy some meat platters, take advantage of happy hour Zwack cocktails and contemplate the magnitude of our achievement: The Quokkas have not just won two in a row, but they have completed their first ever winning and undefeated tour.
Just like the lions we are victorious, but of course it’s cricket that is the real winner. See you all in a pike-perch loving venue next year.