Because the tour was somewhat hastily arranged, there wasn’t time to put the usual tourist pack together with some information about our destination. So, I will do that now.
Southend, closed since 1960, is tucked conveniently on the arse end of England, and is the murder capital of Essex, home to more drive through fast food restaurants per square mile than anywhere else in Britain and famous for being the home of the Access credit card. Home to the Shrimpers, a county lines issue and serious lack of culture. We recommend vaccinations for typhoid, cholera, yellow fever and rabies. Exemptions applicable to anyone that has visited Benidorm in recent years.
Somewhat surprisingly, according to Wikipedia, this seaside `resort’ receives six million tourists a year. [Ed: That’s six million in total ever, right?] I have absolutely no idea what sort of person would be attracted by a slogan “Southend, it’s shit, but not as shit as you think” or a TripAdvisor’s number one recommendation of “Leave and leave quickly”. When we asked a local where they would recommend we go for food the first reply was ` Leigh-on-Sea’ the second “KFC”. At that moment I knew this was just the sort of place the Quokkas would thrive. To be fair Southend is the place that gave birth to the simply brilliant The Horrors [Ed: try `So Now You Know’ followed by `Still Life’] but sadly they weren’t playing a homecoming gig that weekend. Hmmm. Seagull, you have outdone yourself here.
By the time I found my stab vest and joined the rest of the tour party watching the Blue noses beat some other wretched Championship side on Sky, I’d missed out on Three Shells Beach, the `simply awful/awesome’ Heroes Bar, a trip to the Adventure Island Amusement Park, and the sight of a swarm of bee-hived wearing ladies chasing a choir of travellers down the promenade. However, there was still time to feel robbed despite the £1.95 price for a pint of Dickens, experience the 90s again with turbo shandies and be entertained by a sixty year old women in a luminous orange dress dancing to the macarena, on her own, intermittently dipping two small Sesame Street dolls into her large glass of gin and tonic. Oh yes, Benidorm has nothing on this place. With expresso martini on tap (Dobbie indulged), what’s not to like?
Despite the Mos Eisley cantina vibe, we decided to find somewhere that had people with more than three teeth, settling on the Revolution bar. This was the perfect place for Skip to test the charms of his midlife crisis leather jacket, Driver to fall in love with Green Frogs and Dobbie to ruin Skips night be guessing his age at mid-fifties. Again, to be fair, when later queuing for a nightclub, we all looked old enough to be the bouncers Dads and unsurprisingly failed to gain entry. “Look, you’re either undercover police officers or you’ve come to take your daughter’s home. Either way, you’re not coming in. Good night lads.” Seafront karaoke-kebab it is then.
The Yak’s snoring, a hotel room positioned such that there was little point paying entrance fee to the prementioned nightclub, and the need to get up at O seven hundred, to put money in the parking meter, meant sleep was in short supply. Would a tour be a tour without sleep deprivation? Still, a pub lunch next to the ground would provide the perfect tonic. Sadly, a lack of cars meant I had to mop up the waifs and stragglers (Mini Dobbie Dave, Faggie and The White Gold Chicken Nugget Irish Driver). Still, at least it gave me the opportunity to bond with the clucking smack addicts in the park who, despite also suspecting me to be an undercover police officer seemed friendly enough.
I tempted Driver out of bed with promises of a McDonalds dinner date, however with only 45 minutes before the game was due to start and a 50 minute journey time, it probably wasn’t a good idea to frequent Southend’s top ranked restaurant on TripAdvisor. For information purposes, milkshake and sundae machines were broken [www.mc-broken.co.uk]. Standard. Faggie and Dobbie eventually surfaced, but the desire for Donna kebab breakfast box didn’t improve our schedule.
With hangover in full effect, Faggie’s morning got a whole lot worse when he broke the recliner mechanism on the car seat and he was forced to sit at an acute angle for the entirety of the journey. That journey time was extended by a three car pile-up, which put us in the almost `not worth turning up’ timeline. At least we got the opportunity to get slow drive past of all eight KFC drive throughs on the A128 amidst the repeated out of town `shopping experiences’. The Seagull commented that the “UK has become a smaller US, only shitter”. The one upshot of our timekeeping was that with four men absent, there was little choice but to bat first, thereby avoiding the possibility of fielding in the searing heat.
Orsett & Thurrock CC 195-8 (Radio 3-28) beat Quokkas CC 192-4 (Skip 71, Faggie 54, Radio 20)
Despite our tardy timekeeping, the home side were very forgiving, clearly understanding that a game of cricket can get in the way of a good cricket tour. A delayed start, meant we arrived just in time to see Ali out third ball. His credentials as a `better batsman than bowler’ still remain in doubt. Radio John settled the ship, playing a vast array of French cricket shots. He was joined by Skip, who once again raised his game on tour, playing a great innings with a vast array of shots, all of which mostly ended with the ball going to cow corner. Todd showed his usual flashes of brilliance, before being out caught. Standard. Faggie then took charge and plundered runs to all parts and ensured we had a healthy score to defend. He and Skip were eventually out, leaving Irish and Seagull to play for their averages.
At tea, we worked our way through a hundred weight of Bakewell slices, sweating pork pies and more fruit than White Gold has eaten in his entire life. We discussed whether fish was halal, the transmitting of the internet through beams of light, and possibility of Kyle arriving accompanied by a gaggle of immigrants rescued on his route from Cornwall. Fascinating stuff, but with Skip not getting any younger, we took to the field.
The Yak and Dobbie opening the bowing. Both grabbed early wickets, but with runs flowing, especially from Dobbie’s half trackers, Evil Dave was brought on and made an immediate breakthrough thanks to a brilliant catch at square leg by Egg. After that, just lots of retrieving balls from the boundary really and with two very well set batsman, it looked like the game was running away from us. When Evil Dave pulled a hamstring, Ali came on and bowled 6 overs for nine runs, but no wickets of course.
A retirement by one of the batsman and then Seagull claiming the other during a half decent spell, created a glimmer of hope. Some Faggiesque running, and a smart throw from Egg immediately got another wicket. Game on.
On came Radio and he proceeded to rattle through the tail, taking three wickets. One of those came from perhaps the slowest deliveries ever witnessed. At one point it looked like it would run out of steam before reaching the stumps, but the batsman gave it a helping hand by playing on. Cheers.
In the end, the game came down to the final over, but a tremendous cover drive from the number 11 saw them home with two balls to spare. Tremendous stuff, orchestrated beautifully by both skippers.
A few swift halves, and we were on our way back to Southend. Radio and Ali got themselves a curry at The Shagor. No Shaggarama on the menu though. They are missing a trick there me thinks. The rest of us frequented San Fairie Ann, which offered us mounted stuffed animals, strawberry daiquiris and a level of darkness only people of Skip’s age appreciate. It was time to move on, with MooMoos providing a safe haven for half cut Quokkas, but also providing a stark reminder of just how bloody old we are. Since when have hits from the 2000s been retro? The last thing I remember was Skip messaging at 4am to say he had just seen a mother and small child walking the streets. This is not the place to be venturing out on your own mate.
Quokkas 191-6 (Sam 80, Faggie 44 n/o) beat Southend-on-Sea CC 187-7 (Skip 3-18, Faggie 2-41, Sam 1-15)
Another early morning rise to keep parking wardens at bay gave me an opportunity to join Ali and Radio on a romantic walk on the world longest amusement pier, but a Muffin Break with Yak won the day [Ed: What happens on tour, stays on tour]. The close proximity of the ground to the hotel meant we all arrived on time, except Ali and Radio who misjudged the length of the pier.
In 1948, Don Bradman’s invincibles scored 721 runs at the Southend-on-Sea Cricket Club’s Southchurch Park ground crowd in front of 16,000 spectators, the highest score ever in a single day in first class cricket. It might take the Quokkas all season to get those runs, but with the match being live streamed on Youtube [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DeDSFAhgJ8&t=20737s], the audience could extend to millions.
With Evil Dave flying too close to the sun, this created an opening for Sammy. He did his best to fill Evil’s shoes, scarring the life out of several 13 years old batsman with his pace bowling, breaking one lad’s toe with a yorker and later scoring 80 runs, but do come back soon though Dave.
Ali and Faggie opened the bowling and the former thought he had an early wicket when the umpire raised his finger after his LBW appeal, but to his annoyance a clear thick edge had the Quokkas calling him back. Despite this, Todd complained bitterly about the lack of lbws. I don’t expect to hear any further mention of me giving him out lbw first ball of his Quokkas career when plumb in front.
Faggie got two excellent wickets during his eight over spell. I wondered if he would have the energy to bat after that? These skippers that bowl first in the baking hot sun are a bloody nightmare.
Sam and Skip (first change) displayed very contrasting styles, with Sam coming off a run up that would put Whispering Death to shame and Skip moving like treacle with an anchor. Wickets tumbled, with Todd grabbing two catches behind the stumps. Do come back soon though Herc.
Just as we had them on the ropes, White Gold, Radio John, The Yak and Dobbie brought a buffet to town. Runs flowed, although it wasn’t all plain sailing for our opponents, with play having to be stopped for a mobility scooter riding dog walker taking a shortcut across the square. Amidst the carnage, our friend with the broken toe came back in and got his fifty, with Faggie dropping him shortly after.
187 looked a decent score, but when asked to help yourself to beer at the bar, no one cared about run chases. Dead pony clubs all round. With a fruit bowl decimated, White Gold ordered a KFC for tea, during which we discussed all things Leicester City, learned that Kyle had made it as far as Plymouth and then took advantage of new Quokkas jumpers with the temperature falling.
A reversed batting order saw the Egg and Dobbie open. Not really much point anyone else padding up. However, the scorers pencil sharpener wasn’t required. Dobbie did hang around for a while, with Sam keeping him well away from the strike. Eventually a delivery was faced and that was the end of that.
Sam continued to see the lion shares of the bowling, as the Yak and Nugget rotated the strike, and he scored at will. It was a tremendous innings, punishing everything short and wide, but resolute in defence, when needed. Disappointingly, having put on 50 with Seagull, he was out, just a short of his century.
That brought Faggie to the crease. A slow start was proceeded by some excellent stroke play as he carried on where he left the previous evening. When Seagull was out, Todd just increased the pace and they saw the Quokkas home to their first ever second day tour match victory, probably. Quite clearly not enough candle ends were burned or beer consumed. Binman and Zoolander will no doubt readdress the balance in Estonia next year.
Our thanks to Orsett & Thurrock CC and Southend-on-Sea CC for hosting us at such late notice. We absolutely loved our time in Essex and look forward to returning. White Gold still has a few KFCs to visit.
Don’t send nudes