We Took two trains to get to Lords. First the Piccadilly Line then Jubilee Line to St John's Wood Station, about 500m from Lords Cricket Ground. Still feeling jet lagged but excited to be at the first day of an Ashes Test at the home of cricket.
Got there at about 10:00 and found where to collect my tickets and Reciprocal Guest Book which is rather special. Louisa came with me for the trip and to check a few things out but she knew she wouldn't be able to get in....and I'm not entirely sure she wanted to. Whilst we walked around the perimeter we must have seen 30 scalpers.
Of course scalping is not allowed but I have never seen so many people asking to buy a "spare ticket", asking if people need a ticket, or even worse, "happy to buy OR sell tickets", but usually these guys were on the move walking along the footpath through the crowd as they made their requests. I heard one guy ask a scalper "how much for a ticket" and the scalper said, "how much have you got?"
Must be a huge trade given the number of people doing it, and police were on every corner.
Once I went into the ground, Louisa walked on and stumbled onto the Abbey Road pedestrian crossing that the Beatles made famous. She then went into London and checked out Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hamley's Toy Shop (biggest toy shop she has ever seen), Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and a few other attractions. Clocked up 27,000 steps on the Fitbit!
Whilst Louisa was thinking she was having the time of her life, I actually WAS.
In the first 50m I had fired off 20 pictures of the place. Gardens and lawns with Champagne tents, members entrance, and just the buzz of the place made me keep pinching myself. Of course there were a few too many Poms around but they seemed friendly enough.
Found my seat and to my surprise, two people I knew, Mike Reidy (Hampton CC) and Graeme Williamson (St Finbarr's Primary School) were sitting within a 10m radius of me. I went over to Graeme to say g'day and half tripped on a step, sending half a pint of my first beer over one of his mates! His mate wasn't too happy so I went back to my seat.
I was sitting next to a lady who had been to four Lords Ashes Tests. She was one of the first 10 women accepted into the MCC when women members were first allowed in. A solicitor from Brighton who could tell a story or two, but I was trying to watch the cricket. She would be telling me something about London or Will processing and the crowd would erupt in applause, so she would clap whilst still telling the story and not an eye on the cricket. She had no idea what she clapping but she was having a great time. She had tickets to all five days and I was kind of hoping that we wouldn't be seated together on Day 2.
She handed me her business card towards the end of the day and when I got home I noted that her user ID and Password (for something) was written on the back. Hope she was right for cash!
Days 1 and 2 were clearly won by the Aussies. The Pommie press was blaming the pitch and the fact that a toss of the coin decided the test. What a load of crap. Same wicket both days. One team made 566, the other team was 4/30 with an hour or so to play on second day. I had to admit it, I started wanting the Poms to hold on a bit as I had tickets to Day 4 and at this stage Day 3 looked to be the final day. Besides, watching grown men cry into their jugs of Pymm's was putting me off my beer.
A few things at Lords separate it from the MCG.
1. It has a capacity of about 28,000, not 95,000.
2. You can bring bottles of champagne, hampers, beer, your favourite wine, just about a whole damn BBQ and enjoy the day as you would a picnic. It appears that the entertainment early in the day is to pop your champagne cork as far as you can and land it on the field of play. I estimate around ten people were successful in doing this. A groundsman would pick them up or a pommie fielder would whilst chasing more Aussie leather.
3. Jugs of Pymm's. I was a little surprised by this drink but it was very refreshing, with ice and half a fruit salad thrown in. I didn't notice any plums so Watto might like a drop of this too.
4. Picnics at the Nursery at the lunch break. People bring their blankets, hampers, champagne, Pymm's, wine and spread out on the lawn in front of a big screen.
5. You can buy a bottle of wine/champagne and they put it into a handy thick plastic carry bag which has heaps of ice in it. Your wine/champagne is cold for hours.
6. The Lords Urinals. Well I love history and the place wreaks of it, no more though than in the Gentlemen's toilets. Frankly they need an upgrade. If they swabbed them I am sure there would be traces of W.G Grace's DNA in the troughs, and anyone else who has found the need for a pee since 1814!
In general, the English public are not treated as morons by officialdom, and are allowed to bring things into the ground that make their stay there, a happier experience. There are plenty of food options in the ground and they seem well patronised, so why can't Aussie stadiums adopt this policy? Bloody catering contracts that are designed to screw the public for every last cent and fill the coffers of stadium and sporting association management.
Day 4 turned out to be the last day and I had access to the Pavillion and Long Room. Louisa was not allowed access to the members till 30 minutes after the close of play so I didn't stay in too long.
I was in the Long Room at the start of play, when the umpires walked through to loud applause, then Warner and Rogers, the the England team to the loudest applause. I noted Rogers followed Warner as they had to pass the door to the Long Room Bar.....I am sure Rogers wanted to keep Warner focussed on the job at hand and make sure he went straight to the ground!
Great tradition this, the way the players walk down two flights of stairs, along the back of the Long Room, then down the aisle that leads to the front door and down onto the ground. Probably would be an odd place to be when a batsman has got out to a shocker, and has to wander through the members, Long Room and then two flights of stairs before he can throw his bat, helmet, gloves and pads around the dressing room!
The day went really well with the Aussie batsmen teeing off for the first session, scoring about 130 runs in 100 minutes. Then the declaration and 10 pommie wickets before 5pm. It was a great atmosphere and I got Louisa into the Pavilion where we could see some of the players and explore the historic place. Louisa dragged me out of the Bowlers Bar when I was starting to get a taste for their ale (and I reckon Louisa knew it.....getting experienced at this sort of thing) and we were having an entertaining chat with some other Aussies. Bit of a shame that but I was probably only a pint away from ringing the Lords Five Minute Bell!
Off to catch up with Jacinda and Chris McDonald (and Lisa) for dinner....why I was dragged away from the Bowlers Bar I suppose. Dinner was nice and Chris was hairy as usual.