“So, where are we going on tour this year Skip?”
“We’re off to sunny Spain.”
“Oh, brilliant. I adore Spain. I love Espania. It’s is such a beautiful country. So much culture and amazing visual, historical and dining experiences.
“and we’re getting a villa on the Costa Blanca”
“That’s wonderful…the south eastern province has so much Greek, Phoenician, Carthaginian and the Roman history, there is also the Castillo de Santa Barbara, the Guadalest valley and the Fuentes d’algar, plus you can eat paella, arroz a banda or denia prawns accompanied by a fine Alicante Bouschet or Alicante Henri Bouschet.
“So, where’s the villa then Skip?”
“Er, it’s in Polop.”
“Polop? Where’s that boss?”
“It’s just outside Benidorm”
“Ches, Ches…your still there Ches?”
Although meaning sleep well, the word ‘Benidorm’ sends shudders down my spine. If you have not been there, it’s the sort of place Rick Deckard hunts down replicants, Mad Max searches for a pint of the back stuff and where OB1 fears to venture. Quite literally you will never find a more wretched hive of scum, villainy and gammon. Against my wishes and better judgement, I was one of the 1.5m annual visitors from the UK to this concrete jungle back in 1999. I still have the sunburn scars, ear infection and aversion to the smell of KFC. If you want to spend your evening with 65 year old ‘lobsters on south beach’, drinking wife beaters on their mobility scooters, with Sticky Vicky for entertainment, this is the place for you.
“So, they play cricket there, right? And it will be sunny? There’s a beach and I assume beer?”
Damn, you’ve got me there Mrs Seagull.
“Skip, I’m in.”
Whether you have assisted boarding or not, getting on a 6am flight is not for the faint-hearted, which is why The Prof, helping me overcome my Benidorm allergy, and I favoured the slightly more leisurely 8am flight from Southampton. What we missed out on in terms of a Luton Airport Lounge liquid breakfast and games of 2019 Quokkas top trumps (apparently my trump card no longer has a photo of Mantis’ crotch), we more than made up for in terms of personal safety, as we avoided Alan’s best Tommy Bryne impressions as he taxied Quokkas from Alicante Elche Airport.
We caught up with the tour party at the Status Restaurante Loungebar, which overlooked the Calpe Playa De La Fossa. Sadly, we’d missed the beach cricket, but were just in time to partake in the `après ski’. Regular updates of England’s test openers offering stubborn resilience to the convicts limited bowling attack provided the perfect accompaniment to the afternoon of sun, sea, beer and burger bliss. Fantastic. However, such moments cannot last forever, especially as we needed to stock up on provisions for the weekend.
I’ve never food-shopped for 14 blokes before, but copious amounts of beer, wine, beer, vodka, chicken, pork, beer, sausages, prawns, beer, crisps, cheese, beer, gin, vermouth and Amaretto seemed to go down well. “Any salad Skip?” “Not sure we’ll have room.”
We returned to our beautiful villa at the Finca Bovalar, which was located on the outskirts of the Castell de Polop, overlooked by the León Durmiente de Montaña and Ponoig mountains and offering an outstanding view of the Altea bay. We don’t just come on tour for the cerveza you know.
I’m unsure if they have discovered fire down under yet, but we returned to a roaring BBQ, which provided Kiwi Scott with the heat needed to cook paella for the first time and for El Capitano to burn some chicken. €0.25 cerveza’s and numerous bottles of vino tinto ensured that everything tasted wonderful and we were well-hydrated. El Huevo, having sampled more than his fair share of the €1.45 Armonico seleccion vino, challenged all comers, The Driver included, to surpass his driving skills. Despite the fact he might have been ever so slightly over the legal limit, we immediately searched for a go-kart track open beyond the witching hour. Sadly, the drunk formula one championship will have to wait for another day.
Body weight in cured ham eaten, we retired to the pool room for gin and tonics. An argument about the free ball rule threatened to interrupt our search for the next Minnesota Fats, but thankfully the authentic ball-and-chain flail remained in the care of the most sober Aussie. With the day threatening to break, it was time to pass out in a sleeping position most likely to require immediate back surgery. It’s amazing how messy a quiet night in can get.
Saturday – Sporting Alfas 1st XI 168 for 5 (Goldilocks 2-19, Seagull 1-9) beat Quokkas 111 all out (Radio John 24)
Scrambled eggs and bacon breakfast all round got the show back on the road in such a good fashion that we arrived early at Sporting Alfas Cricket Club. The ground, nestled within touching distance of the Playa Albir, shared the space with a golf driving range. With the inaccuracy of our bowling, I’m surprised we didn’t hear the shout of `fore’ all weekend. Our immaculate timekeeping gave us plenty of time to survey the course, get a feel for the greens and get some putting practice in.
When nursing hangovers, what could be more fun than fielding for several hours in the midday sun, with an opening batsman and Spanish international looking to surpass his previous best score of 230? The answer to that question is fielding for several hours in the midday sun watching a Spanish international surpass his top score when Faggie is bowling. It will come as little surprise that Afzal immediately helped himself to our buffet bowling, hitting balls to all parts of the ground. Thankfully he took pity on us and retired having got to his half century without breaking sweat. On the positive side, Faggie did manage to bowl out the non-Spanish international opener. Well done, we’ll make those 52 runs back, hopefully.
With El Diablo also struggling to get much out of the plastic pitch and even failing to get a wicket with The Clawä, El Capitano turned to The Yak and Kiwi Scott for inspiration. Not having to bowl at a Spanish international certainly helped their figures, but nevertheless both bowled beautiful tight lines and Scott added two wickets to his collection. Perhaps finding the scoring rate of the home team a little too pedestrian, El Huevo, undertaking scoring duties for the day, fell asleep, [Ed: No wonder we managed to keep the score down below 300].
With runs hard to get and Seagull adding another wicket to our tally, our opponents got nervous (obviously misreading our potential batting ability) and decided to retire their struggling batsman to get some talent to the crease. Perfect timing for Seagull to take a rest, with El Capitano bringing El Profesor and Radio John on to bowl. They promptly went for 50 runs from 6 overs. Cricket is all about timing fellas.
In reply, we got off to a tremendous start, with Alan The Driver smashing the first ball for four. It went rapidly downhill though, with The Driver out second ball, Ronaldo then out for two, Faggie made the same and Basurero just four.
After his dismissal, Basurero decided to do some bowling on his own in the nets. Whether this was time well spent is unclear, but we saw half a dozen balls not only miss the unguarded wickets, but loop on to the top of the nets themselves. Talk about getting the ball above the eye line, but who knows, maybe the practice of recovering balls from the top of the nets at cow corner might prove useful at some point.
The domino rally of lost wickets was interrupted briefly by Kiwi Scott, or should I say Goldilocks, who attacked in his usual care free style. Having failed to make the boundary when connecting with two lofted drives, he looked for a change of bat, with the first deemed too cold, the second two hot, but the third (which was actually the original) being just right. Well, it certainly looked that way as he smashed the next ball for six. Unfortunately, his and several other wickets fell, leaving us in big trouble, so we were thankful for Radio John’s magnificent stoicism against an increasingly frustrated attack. Although no one could describe his innings as flamboyant or attacking, it was certainly great to watch and we celebrated every upright run in style. The faster the bowling, the softer the hands and straighter the bat. El Profesor, Slick, Seagull and The Yak all provided some short-term company, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get us anywhere near our opponents total. However, Radio’s efforts did help save face…slightly.
Over several post-match beers, we discovered that for €100 we could have a dwarf handcuffed to someone for the evening. We also found out that Goldilocks is about as charitable as a US border guard, with fines awarded for `failing to get to fifty’ or `going for more than three an over’. These harsh punishments was ideal though, as it put the Quokkas in the perfect frame of mind to venture into the centre of Benidorm.
It’s amazing how that past can come back to haunt you. As I brought Skippy into the courtyard of the Shamrock Irish pub to a less than unappreciative English clientele, I found that we would dine on KFC buckets. With face burnt from a long day in the field, I now just needed the ear infection to complete the set. A few pints and a game of 21s soon had us chomping at our chicken drumsticks to sample Benidorm’s finest evening entertainment. Too rowdy for an Australian bar partaking in a serene karaoke evening, we made our way to Jokers where we ruined one Irish holidaymakers night when he found he was wearing the same `designer’ Hawaiian shirt as half a cricket team. A quick chat found that he was a County Wicklow resident and shared the same butcher as Skips wife. Tis a small world.
In Idols Bar, Alan The Driver attempted to turn us all diabetic overnight by ordering several rounds of green syrupy drinks. On the plus side, we were ‘fortunate’ to see not only Bruno Mars, but Meatloaf perform their greatest hits. The blacked-up Bruno lookalike was an act I had not come across before, but seeing Crystal Palace footballer Andros Townsend provide support dancing was certainly a surprise. Those less familiar with Bruno’s work chose to test themselves on an arcade boxing machine. The Yak’s baseball background and perfect weight distribution stood him in good stead, scoring 900 points. El Diablo’s method needed work, scoring 899 less.
Any Quokkas making it to the `English’ Square benefitted from free bottles of spirits at the Hippodrome Disco, which made the terrible dance music that little bit more palatable. Whilst trying to revive a dying Skippy, myself and Ronaldo spent time outside the nightclub people watching. Just as we were wondering how Quasimodo possibly made a living as a nightclub hostess, a fight broke out that left enough blood on the floor of British Empire Food `El Chippy’ to perform several transfusions. After a quick mop, the lost eye reinserted by a consoling girlfriend, the night was back up and running.
Eventually, gyrating Quokkas left the club in search for sustenance at the previously mentioned food establishment and then it was time to go home. On route to the taxi rank we gave a mechanical bull ride a try and saw Faggie stonewalled by the glamorous rodeo attendant. The highlight of the evening was seeing her thousand-yard stare momentarily offering a hint of a smile when she ramped up the speed to send him flying.
Sunday Sporting Alfas 2nd XI 132 for 3 (Skip 2-9, Seagull 1-20) beat Quokkas 131 for 10 (Yak 24, Faggie 19, Alan 18)
With a minibus to collect from Altea, the 1pm start for the second game was a little optimistic. Whilst we waited for our transport, we sampled Zoolanders speciality, sandwich de huevo frito. We could be locals. Well, ex-pat locals. Four Quokkas did make it to the ground on time, with El Huevo winning the toss and putting us into bat. With our struggles the day before, that was perhaps not the best outcome, but with our opponents skipper permitting us to bat down to 13, there would be plenty of chances…and we’d certainly need them.
The second tranche of Quokkas arrived just in time to see El Huevo fall to his one and only delivery of the tour. El Profesor was equally unproblematic to the scorer. Goldilocks at least made a single, Slick three and Seagull managed the same score before running himself out. El Diablo and El Capitano both scored 7 and Radio John got 8. Our virtuosity wasn’t really worthy of the gods. Luckily The Yak enjoyed the consistent bounce on his way to a top score of 24. Some partisan umpiring did help, with a walking Yak called back when an outrageous low one-handed catch by Faggie was deemed implausible despite his claims to the contrary.
Ah yes. I should have explained that Faggie turned out for the opponents. In fact both Faggie and Basurero pulled what they thought were the only short straws and thus ‘volunteered’ to play for the locals. Why El Capitano wanted to give away our best batsman, and Faggie, I don’t know. Basurero did a brilliant job of disguising his amazing fielding prowess. Faggie, on the other hand attempted to knock El Capitano’s head off with several bouncers, clean-bowled El Profesor and took 2 for 9 in his best spell of the season [Ed: Looks like a lifetime supply of chips is coming your way Seagull]. After the Quokkas Ashes, it was almost as though he had something to prove.
Somehow Goldilocks also ended up playing for our opponents and he did us no favours either when taking The Driver’s wicket. Talk about shooting ourselves in the foot. Speaking of which, Radio John had his destroyed by a Faggie Yorker. I should mention that The Yak wasn’t the only one to make double figures. The Driver and Ronaldo also seemed to like what was quite literally thrown at them, playing some nice shots to keep the innings moving. Faggie did re-join the Quokkas and along with the Basurero smashed us to an under-par 131 from our 35 overs.
At lunch, we were joined by Zoolander, who had spent the afternoon shopping for a girls blouse. This made it difficult for him to pass comment on earlier proceedings, although he did try, many times. A rain shower delayed our opponents innings, but that just gave us more time to argue whether or not the Aussies had won the Ashes after Overton and Leach’s gallant backs-against-the-wall effort had come to an end. They hadn’t.
With such a small total, we also had our backs against the wall. After much cake, El Capitano came out fighting, bowling perhaps the best spell of the season to reign in a talented batting attack. His seven overs went for just nine runs and he also grabbed two lovely wickets. At the other end, El Profesor’s lesson plan seemed to have gone astray and he failed to make another breakthrough. The Yak replaced El Capitano and was less successful with ball than he was with the bat. If Goldilocks were writing the match report he’d phrase it slightly differently, but I often go for eight runs an over myself, so who am I to point out that the Yak went for eight runs an over? Oh.
Our opponents were proving stubborn. Even El Diablo couldn’t shift them. We needed something a little different and we certainly got that from Slick. I don’t think we have seen him bowl since a 25 ball over in Crete, which is a shame because only three runs were added to the total from his solitary over, albeit I think the scorer had left his post to return a girls blouse to the shop.
With the opening batsman edging his way to the slowest half century in history, it was time for some tempters from Seagull. At the other end, The Driver’s ten foot high beamers created a good cop bad cop pairing that worked a treat. First Seagull attempted to break the world record for longest appeal and then the partnership was broken as he got some movement at long last. Sadly, as is so often the case, getting a wicket just revealed greater talent, and the new man in hit two huge sixes that landed on the nets. This gave Basurero the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his new ball recovery skills, but also meant the game was lost.
So, two defeats out of two. Some terrible bowling, some even worse batting and the less said about the fielding the better. Pretty standard stuff from the Quokkas, but for me this was a vintage Quokkas tour, with virgin tourers Goldilocks, Radio John, The Driver and Ronaldo injecting some new life into us old Quokkas and making a trip to Benidorm a great experience. The final evening was spent celebrating our cricketing inadequacies and revelling in our failures, not to mention some quite ridiculous Michael Flatly impressions. Take it away The Driver.