Preparing for the Worst - Brisbane Day Zero
Andy Warhol stated everyone's famous for fifteen minutes, but this is taking has-beens-who-never-were into an eternity of tv purgatory – for all of us. The ex-husband of Lisa Minelli is scarcely omega list.
Kay and Laurel swear they hardly ever watch it, yet they discuss all the nonentities that do nonsensical things. I share the house with psychics. In my worst nightmares I find Don and Dec encouraging me on a Bushtucker Trial. (What aborigines make of these is anyone's guess) I bite off everyone's heads, finishing the ordeal by chewing out Don and Dec in the search for brains. Look on the positive side; at least it would be the end of my and all their tv careers and I'm not a Celebrity, Get me into Here.
It's probably harder now to get into The Gabba, where the first test starts tomorrow. Sell-out months ago, days after they went on sale.
Pundits reckon England are in for a caning. Maybe not the 5-0 prediction the environmentally aware Glen McGrath's recycling from last year. A forecast almost as boring as its actuality, but infinity better than “I'm Really Desperate, I'll Eat My Own Toe-Nail Clippings” in front of Don and Dec, my family and other animals. That’s a point; if Kay and Loz are psychic, why do they need to watch it?
People ask me my view about how the series will go – the real series, the big one, in Brisbane, Queensland not “I’m A Mobile Phone Number In Search Of An Identity”. I play cute, offering no shot to a wide one outside off-stump. "Two-one," I reply, "Not sure which side." In the last couple of weeks as tension heightens, I'm told to bring back the Ashes, which may demonstrate the value of poetry, but seems a pretty tall order, especially as I'm a short-arse who hasn't played cricket seriously for nearly forty years.
Worse, they're starting to say "Don't come back without them." And when I protest, I get "We know who to blame if we lose." In one breath they tell me it’s their taxes that’s paying for my odyssey, the next make sure we win. Poet’s can’t – either make sure, or win.
England did last summer, which is why I'm in Brisbane writing this. Just remember that, dear Australian readers. If you’d not lost the Ashes last summer, you wouldn’t be blessed with a pom poet in your midst. Every cloud has a silver, or green baggie lining.
Had Old McGrath's Almanac proved right, 5-0 the Gabba would probably be close to empty, and I don't think there'd be an iota of interest in an English poet going to Australia to record another pom drubbing.
Cricket Walkabout is a book about the first Australian cricket tour to England in 1867-68 by John Mulvaney and Rex Harcourt. The team were aborigines and sailed instead of flew. The Gabba is an aboriginal name, the back-end of Woolloongabba, the surburb of the ground. “There are two theories about its meaning, some believing it means ‘whirling waters’ while others say it represents ‘fight talk place’” according to Cricket Australia’s The Ashes Down Under – official travel guide of Cricket Australia. Could be a poem in there somewhere - Woolloongabba, not the official travel guide bit - even if only the beer spilled between aboriginal lexicographical disputees.
At the moment the Barmy Army are playing the Fanatics as a pipe-opener for tomorrow’s contest. At the same time players and umpires, ground-staff, hospitality, security, media technicians and reporters (800 press passes according to The Australian – I’m sitting in the stands in case you’re wondering) are all getting ready; ready for the big one. Barmy Army vs Fanatics must be closer to the first tour of 1866-67. Not too many to watch, keen and fairly contested, just one or two people from the media. The strange and lovely thing is that they’re each recognisably the same game. Lose that and the spirit of cricket’s lost too.
We’ll be keen to see what happens:-
First Ball 10.00am local time, The Gabba, Brisbane
The toss, decision to bat or bowl, team selection
and media games, noises off the field.
Set and survey, bat makes mark, bowler back to his
admidst the hush, arm comes over, bat into line,
each grooved, almost automatic. Whatever its outcome
wicket, boundary boards, full face or edge, play
and miss, a middled middling dot in the scorebook
the glance between bat and ball as the field resumes
its mark for five more balls and many more
over five five day matches will tell all
they’ll know before sledge or smile
who has won the very first ball
Woolloongabba they come from far
they come from far to play to play
Waters whirling winds in our hearts
Wind still whirling whirling waters
Whirling fight talk place noisome boys
Warriors outdo warriors
place to talk fight die and share
drowning placentas whirling waters