• When the merchandise options are a snood, fleece and woolly hat, something has to have gone wrong with the tour planning, hasn’t it? Not exactly. We are off to Finland and Estonia and the weather’s not exactly barmy at this time of the year. Best be prepared. Why no one suggested Quokka umbrellas, I do not know.

    As per usual, we spent a large part of the trip `rehydrating’, so may have missed some of Helsinki and Tallin’s highlights. There was a lack of the usual tour literature that outlines these, so I’ll fill you in now. Helsinki has the cleanest tap water of any big city. Finns are the unquestioned champions of sauna, with over 3 million of them. If you stay with a Finnish family, it wouldn’t be surprising to find more than one sauna in the home. Why? Why not? Finnish is extremely difficult to learn, with lots of compounded words. Here’s one of them lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas, although unless you are a non-commissioned student officer mechanic for airplane auxiliary jet engines, you probably won’t need to use it. Other than the Northern lights, the entertainment highlight is the Wife Carrying Championships. Milk is considered the national drink, but other popular tipples are sima, a low alcohol mead, Salmiakki Koskenkorva, a liquorish flavoured liquor and aloviina, which is a brandy cut with a grain spirit. Kippis.

    There was a choice of flights to Helsinki, at ether 7:30 am or 9:30 am. I was slightly surprised that everyone except me chose to get up at the crack of dawn to grab the red eye, but each to their own. We all made our flights. Just. New British citizen The Yak found the Government’s issuing of new
    passports to be about as efficient as, well, pretty much everything else they touch, so decided to re-join Team America. Fuck yeah. I had my own passport issues, with Finland passport control unimpressed by my “I’ve come to play cricket” reason for travel when trying to enter the country. The lack of a Quokka blazer to back up my claim was immediately regrettable.

    Paolo Wanchope
    During the earlier flight, Egg unveiled an updated set of Quokka Top Trumps, with Todd one of several new cards. I must say it was somewhat surprising to find he only scored eight in the drinking prowess category, but I guess you have to have something to aim for. Niall, unhappy at his score of five, enquired how he could boost this and was informed he’d need to prove himself in a game of mano-e-mano with Binman. The challenge was accepted, but didn’t end well, with him chundering after just a single drink and thus earning himself the nickname Paolo, after the one time Derby striker, Paolo One Shot. Yeah, I know, after five pints it worked better.

    I located the main tour party in a bar next to our hotel. Helsinki beer prices are not for the feint hearted, but a few drinking games put that concern into the rear view mirror. 21s is the first step to a care home, but later that evening when watching Saints lose to Villa, I wished I had started playing
    much earlier. “This shit is hurting my eyes Skip”. More beer needed. A few successful games of shuffleboard took my mind off Saints’ performance, but later in the Tron-themed pool hall, I replicated my team by losing to all comers. Unified Quokkas pool rules are desperately needed.

    Tour organisers’ Faggie and Driver had initially selected a single bedroom accommodation for the Helsinki leg of the trip, but there were slight concerns about the length of the bathroom queue, or more accurately one’s position in said queue. In the end, an alternative was found, with rooms more compact than a Japanese capsule hotel, which would have been great if we could enter them. Key codes were the one vital bit of information missing. Eventually we got in and I had Todd for very close company. Please tell me that’s your arm mate?

    A floating IKEA, obviously

    A lack of Uber’s created a mad dash to catch the ferry, which was brimming full of Finnish power drinkers looking to minimise their weekend bar bill by first spending 70 Euros to get to Tallin. Todd was in his element, although he seemed disappointed to be dragged away from the ferry terminal
    bar. Not sure why there was Ikea on board, perhaps the lure of flatpack furniture is too much after 18 pints of Koff? Niall revealed that it was snowing on deck, which at least meant the Quokka beanies would get an outing. While we searched for vürtsikilu or Whoppers, Evil Dave and Binman decided to share a cabin. What goes on tour, stays on tour.

    As we set sail, an 84 year old Jamaican fast bowler name Ira Ebanks introduced himself and recounted stories of playing with West Indian test stars of the 1960s, lifetime achievement awards for helping to establish cricket in Finland and his son, the lead singer of Bomfunk MCs, selling six million copies of `Freestyler’ worldwide. I’m not kidding. He explained that his team, Helsinki Cricket Club were also playing a game in Tallin. We deduced that their game was at the same venue as ours. We then discovered, that due to a lack of available players in Estonia, they were actually playing against us. I think the tour organisers may have missed a trick, but perhaps there would be better weather in Tallin…there wouldn’t.

    I am sure you enjoyed my earlier Quokka’s guide to Helsinki’, so here’s everything you needed to know about Tallin. The medieval old town may be a UNESCO heritage site, but Tallin has been dubbed the most advanced digital society in the world and is the silicon valley of Europe. Although not in Finland’s class when it comes to sauna, Tallin does have quite a few of its own, which were frequented by the Russian Tsar, starting a trend. Most importantly, marzipan was invented here back in 1422. Oh, and there is a story about a Tallin hotel owner hosting the devils wedding, being paid in gold (which turned to horse shit) before falling dead, but we haven’t got time for all that.

    Need a few hundred rugby shirts?

    The Estonian National Cricket and Rugby field was on the outskirts of nowhere and ever so slightly open to the elements. Today, that element was water and lots of it. Apparently Tallin hadn’t had `proper’ rain for a couple of years. Our timing was superb. Leaving the shelter of the taxi, we made our way across the field to a couple of shipping containers, which I assumed had been converted into changing rooms. Unfortunately, the shipping container to changing room conversion part of the stadium generation plan had yet to commence. The good news was that if we needed 200 boxes of rugby equipment, we should be fine. Half an hour of standing in the rain convinced me that it was a very bad idea to allow the taxis to depart without us in them.

    The rain contingency plan was `more drinking and shooting guns’. The perfect combination really. If half the Quokkas don’t know which end of a bat to hold, god help us if someone puts an AK in their hands. We took shelter in a sports bar and worked our way through their supply of cider and the day’s live Premiership football games. We were joined by our Estonian host Stuart and his wife who failed to fall for Radio John’s charms, “Sorry Radio, but I don’t date anyone older than my Dad”. I asked Paolo if was a batsman or bowler, and said his batting average was 65. Evil looked surprised and when we checked the LMS website it revealed it was actually a fraction over 22.15. Paolo explained that “it would be 65 if he hadn’t ever got out”.

    Five or six pints later and we had blue skies and sunshine allowing an impromptu game of town square cricket, with skippy the star attraction. As per normal Faggie struggled for line and length. With time on our hands we took in a folk music concert put on by the Estonian Union of National Minorities and sampled shots of the local tipple. Terviseks. Estonians love a folk tune and have written over 133,000 of them. Thankfully, we left the concert at folk song number three in search of a speakeasy. There I made the mistake of sitting out of eyeshot of the thumb master and found myself downing two pints of freezing cold cider in quick succession, which brought a tear to the eye

    This started a discussion as to who would make the Quokkas boat race team. No Paolo, your services won’t be needed. Maybe you can be the cox? Later, an Irish bar with a Brit pop covers band provided great entertainment and inspiration for a new Quokkoasis song (to the tune of she’s electric):

    Heeeee’s a Seagull
    He can bat and bowl better than Evil
    He’s got shots that are unbelievable
    But he hides at eight

    What we want you to say
    Is I’ll bat at first drop Skip
    But he never does

    We need a bat at number three
    With a score of 79g
    There’s only one man who’ll do
    He is a Seagull
    Can I be a Seagull too?

    I shared a hotel room with Yak, Todd and Driver. It was like sleeping with Weezy from Toy `Story, several steam engines and an amorous lhasa apsos. I’ve never met a man that exhales so much gas and air as Driver. Sleeping’s cheating I guess, so I took the opportunity to visit the supermarket, which was located right inside the hotel. I stocked up with spicy sprats, meat jelly and blood dumpling. These guys know how to eat. Early risers were met by beautiful sunshine, which meant we would finally get a game of cricket, sort of.

    Before the game, Egg was presented with the second golden Quokka cap as reward for reaching a hundred games. Well done sir. Somewhat surprisingly, Skip put us in to bat, perhaps emboldened by knowledge of Paolo’s batting average.

    When the first game of tour is a complete washout, the last thing you want to do is get a fourth ball duck in the second, which is exactly what Todd acquired.

    Thanks for coming.

    Paolo one-shot struggled to live up to his new nickname, failing to connect with any of his numerous variations of the `’heave to cow’ for the first five overs. I should point out that, despite this, the scoreboard ticked
    over nicely, as extras accumulated at healthy rate. Probably just a coincidence that Herc was fielding for the home side. Fortunately, Faggie did manage to put bat on ball, including one lovely trademark cut for four, but as would be the story of the Quokka innings, he didn’t stick around for very long. 37 for 2 quickly became 44 for 5 as The Yak, Paolo and Herc fell to some poor shots, none uglier than Herc’s mistimed pull when attempting to get off the mark.

    Thanks for coming.

    Evil Dave and Skip settled the ship, by which I mean Skipped scratched around for ten overs, but at least it interrupted the domino rally of wickets. But not significantly, as Dave failed to carry over his form with the bat from the game at Merstham CC and was out bowled. How else? That brought Driver to the crease. The only thing worse than getting a fourth ball duck on tour is being run out by some horrific calling from your Skipper. Cheers. The only Quokka that looked in any kind of touch with bat was Seagull, pulling and driving nicely.

    Blink though and you will have missed his innings, as he was caught behind when the openers returned. Binman’s innings lasted about as long as his drinking competition with Paolo. Thankfully the Egg and Radio John played excellently for the last wicket stand, with Radio carrying his bat and top scoring with 16. Actually, to be precise, extras top scored with 32, bolstering our total to a massive 121.

    During tea, when asked what a par score was on this track, I suggested 250 which turned out to be pretty accurate. Which is more than you can say for our bowling. Evil Dave went for 25 from his first two overs, a similar number came from Yaks three overs and a further 19 runs came from Driver’s short spell. The latter two did both take wickets though, with Driver clean-bowling the opener with an absolute beauty. Some degree of control was provided by Faggie, who once again bowled well.

    It was all for nothing though, as the bowling from medium paced Skip was to our opponents liking and he went for nine an over.The highlight if the innings was Skip spending ten minutes repositioning Herc in the field to try “get into the batsman’s head” after he had scored two maximums in a row. This worked a treat, as the next ball only went for four. Sadly, there was very little else to report on and the Quokkas were well beaten in the end. Standard.

    To help us forget our woeful performance, what we needed was a huge medieval feast at the Olde Hansa tourist trap, with elk, reindeer and bear sausages washed down with“man-sized” jugs of honey beer. That said, Driver was less than impressed when it was revealed that potatoes predated medieval times, so there wouldn’t be any on the menu, fried or otherwise. His mood improved somewhat when he was serenaded with a rendition of Danny Boy on the zanfana. Afterwards we headed for a sports bar to watch American egg chucking and drink Estonian trikoloor flag shots. A trip to an ice cream parlour completed the evening’s entertainment.

    During the trip back, the antipodeans watched the Queen’s funeral. The rest of us spent the time raiding the gift store of ferry shaped fridge magnets and other ferry emblazoned shit. A signalling problem in Helskinki meant taxis were the only method of transport, which created a small beer window. Thank god. What would we have done without it? By then, I’d completely run out of steam, a bit like this match report…

    Many thanks to Faggie and Lazy Driver for organising the tour. Whoever gave me COVID-19, thanks a bunch.

    Posted by iain @ 3:16 pm

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