Ashes Poetry - cricket

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David Fine, Ashes poet in residence in Australia 2006-7

England vs Australia.
Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney 2006-2007

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bonjour Trieste

A Survival Guide to the Loss of the Ashes, and similar English sporting failures.

Fifty Ways
(after Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon)

It’s bad to be defeated
All too easily.
We travelled here with such high hopes
To end in misery.
It could have been much worse though how
I cannot see.
There must be fifty ways
To lose the Ashes.

A negative strategy made it
Harder to win,
And by the same token opponents
Reckon you’re about to give in.
We bent right over
So you could give our arse a good kicking,
There must be fifty ways
To lose the Ashes.
Fifty ways to lose the Ashes.


Play the Australians.
Pick Geraint Jones
Ahead of Chris Read.
Don’t prepare for the Gabba,
Ignore Monty Panesar,
Madness at Adelaide,
Led t(w)o the Waca.

Over a hundred thousand
Have paid to be at the MCG.
Even a fourth Aussie victory
Will seem a little empty,
Now there’s nothing we can do
To make the series live again.
A win is still a loss;
You don’t need to use
All those fifty ways.

Maybe it doesn’t matter
If we go and lose five nil.
We’ve already lost what we
aimed to fulfill. We can’t change
Those first three games,
There must be fifty ways
To lose the Ashes


Play the Australians.
Pick Geraint Jones
Ahead of Chris Read.
Don’t prepare for the Gabba,
Ignore Monty Panesar,
Madness at Adelaide,
Led t(w)o the Waca.

Australians need not go much further than this. Winning is joy shared by all, except the loser. Loss is more private, if not personal.

This guide should not be necessary. Not just because England at worst should have drawn Adelaide, but by now England supporters should have grown used to loss and disappointment, not just in tests, but also one day internationals, soccer, rugger (both codes, especially union) athletics (2012 here we come) Wimbledon and lest you've forgotten the Empire - which included Australia.

As nations we're sporting antipodes. England loses far more than we win, while Australia wins far more than they lose. Likewise expectations. England build expectations upon hopes upon dreams. Australians do their best.

So, how as an England supporter do you cope with loss and failure? Here I speak with some acumen and expertise. Not just as an England supporter, I'm a third generation Coventry City fan. Here are several methods, tried and tested, together with a context-based star rating.

The Grieving Process
This is the classical method of coming to terms to coming to terms. Shock, Disbelief, Anger, Guilt, Remorse, Sadness before moving onto the next Ashes Series. Hard work, soul searching, but may lead to personal growth, which in this context is wholly irrelevant ***

Alternate Realities
You need a smattering of relativity physics for this to work. There is an alternate world in the universe where Vaughan comes back with a fully fit team from Australia having retained the Ashes. A variation is Lady Luck - if only Giles had caught Ponting, Strauss not given out lb, Captain Cook not discovered Australia... Neither luck nor alternate realities hold much water in face of a three nil drubbing. *

Especially after the batting in the second innings at Adelaide, you start to think you could do at least as well as the players you support, especially if you've travelled round the world to do it. However 'My dead grandmother could play that Shane Warne with a stick of celery blindfold with both hands tied behind her back' doesn't quite have that ring of truth about it. **

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life
This is the Barmy Army Weltanschlung. For it to have any chance of working it requires copious consumption of alcohol. Indeed for the Barmy Army, win, draw or lose requires copious alcoholic consumption. Provides instant and oblivious if temporary relief. The morning after may well bring back the full horror of the situation. **

Temporary Transference of Cultural Identity
Desperate situations require desperate measures. You can deny you were ever interested in cricket, or supported England. You'll need a alternate pursuit and/or nationality. For example, tiddlewinks or my favourite, as someone with half-Russian blood, becoming a member of the MCC - Moscow Cricket Club. Be prepared for the guilt and loneliness of isolation, not to mention knowing when to time your return. *

Historiography Perhaps the most effective means of combating cricketing failure - the study of the past. It's a short but easy step to travel from the 2005 Ashes Victory to memories of Gatting, Botham, Brealey, Hutton and before you know it, you'll find yourself saying 'That Hammond's some player' or 'Should we play Ames or Duckworth?' It doesn't matter because cricket supporters will respect your knowledge and learning, even possibly forgiving the odd lapse of memory when it comes to buying your round.

Interestingly, the world of literature doesn't possess this depth and gravitas. Bonjour Trieste was written in the 1950s by Francoise Sagan as the sad end to the gay (both senses of the word) riviera life of the epoch and her own. Trieste, that Adriatic resort which can't decide if it's Italian or Slavonic. Today Sagan's excellent novel is out of print and forgotten. Not so great cricketers of class and the past. *****