Monday, 6 April 2009

It's been a while...

It's been a while since my first blog - OK, my only blog - so rather than talk about everything that has passed in my life I will pick out some personal highlights and observations from the last few months...

First and foremost

Pretty much since January 09, The Everest Test has dominated my life. I have tried to train 4-5 times a week, spent most Thursday nights muddying myself in Battersea Park (that sounds more pervy than it is meant to, I was circuit training at the mighty Trim Trail), spent a majority of weekends travelling to Everest training camps, and received 20 emails a day of expedition admin/Toovey's jokes. Physically and mentally it has been quite tiring at times, but my attitude has always been to make the most of these one-off opportunities, knowing that this time next year the mundaneness of working life followed by sitting in a pub/on my ass/lying in bed will surely kick in. So, it has been a 9-hour round trip for two nights in Cornwall over a weekend on the sofa nursing a hangover after the send-off party, and a weekend in Hereford running around a farm and how can I put this, getting in touch with nature, over a weekend in bed (being bear-like, I love sleeping).

The Everest Test has become a lifestyle for me; not just an event.

Oval Nets

Twice a month since the turn of the year I have made the journey down to Vauxhall for some nets at the Oval on Tuesday nights. They have been a good laugh and I got some beneficial practice under my belt for the big game. The format was always the same: go for a half-hour run to get the heart rate up to replicate the breathlessness of Base Camp, bowl a variation of outrageous, fizzing out-swingers (if we had the brand-new pink balls) or medium-paced pies (if we had normal cricket balls), avoid some bouncers from Butler off 18 yards, and then head home looking like a twat. The post net journey from deepest south to the northern suburbs of London where I live was always characterised by a number of questioning glances at my attire. With the classic look of running trainers, tracksuit bottoms (occasionally, on a bad day, this was shorts), sweaty t-shirt, and long black work coat, with old bag draped over the shoulder, I epitomised the sport/work look which I like to call 'trampytwat'. There were definitely some people on the tube who thought I was homeless, with such a random assortment of clothes that could have been picked up from outside a charity shop, and all of them thought I looked like a twat, that bit is guaranteed. At least after picking up our MKK stash today I know I will look great up the mountain, it is quality kit...

Nice moment

This is the slightly soppy part, but it was a poignant moment for me over the year building up to the expedition and really encapsulated how important the trip has become for everyone involved. It was after Saturday's meeting at Lord's (March 28), where if you take a step back from what we did, you had 30 guys who a year ago barely knew each other, now spending a Saturday evening finishing off the best part of a 2 and a half hour net session with no one questioning the need to be there. I'm not trying to take you all on a visit to Pete and Bernie's Philosophical Steak House (one for Alan Partridge lovers out there), but it was just essentially an odd thing for some lads to be doing but everyone was committed and putting in the effort; the determination to 'beat' altitude and produce a decent game of cricket up on Everest has defined a lot of the training sessions together.

Then we went to a cracking Thai restaurant and I ended up in a Walkabout drinking snakebite with two married men in their 30s (big up Mike and Mark) and a man in a tweed jacket (Kinsey, you're a gangster). It was a pretty normal day all round.

Being a character on a computer game

My excitement at receiving an Everest related email that wasn't slightly pointless and admin heavy was made even better by the fact that it was informing me of the Everest computer game, the Stick Cricket special. A massive shout out to Tooves and Curry on this one, what a joy to behold it is. Just played a cheeky game, and I see we have had nearly 2 million games on it now; that is legendary stuff. Seeing yourself on a computer game screen is definitely amazing, well done lads for making it happen.

Now only 4 days until we leave, the reality still hasn't fully kicked in at all, but I am an excited little man...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Cricket with a difference

This summer has provided me with a completely new outlook on cricket. On a professional level, the game is changing with amazing speed, illustrated by the naming today of an England squad of prospective cricketing millionaires; a concept that would have seemed unimaginable and highly implausible even a few years ago, let alone in the eras of Bradman and Sobers.

From a personal perspective, this summer has given me the chance to rediscover my love for the game. Having played a minimum 30-game season for club, school and county as a schoolboy, my university years provided only a handful of matches due to travelling, laziness, and a loss of desire to play cricket. The Everest Test changed all of that; it gave me a new purpose to play the game again, and a chance to revel in stories that only cricket can provide.

Such philosophical thoughts on the game did not require particularly deep thinking with teammates and opponents like the ones I encountered over the season. On one occasion, Old Haberdasher’s (my team) took the field with only nine players after the tea break. With no one sure of their whereabouts, play had to continue, and things only became clear fifteen minutes and three overs later when the pair returned holding Big Macs! To exacerbate their calm approach to the game, they decided to stand with deadpan faces on the boundary and finish the burgers before returning to the field. I’m not entirely certain but I don’t think there will be a Golden Arches up on Everest…

Another season highlight was seeing a fully grown man using the old trick of taking guard as a left hander in order to induce a field change, when actually he was right handed! What a ridiculous man, I thought that sort of behaviour stopped after the age of eleven. (To give him credit, I was slightly jealous of his immature stunt).

On the playing side, I found some form with the bat, and after a season best 72 in the final game, finished with an average of 40. A pleasing return to the fray, and all in all an enjoyable return to cricket.

The opportunity to combine cricket’s unique camaraderie with a trek up Mount Everest is a marvellous one, but it is the reasons behind it which I know will provide most satisfaction. I have watched Comic Relief so many times on BBC, and been moved by the suffering of the deprived families who are depicted. Up until now, I have never done anything meaningful about it. I am so pleased to feel I can make a difference for Comic Relief and the Himalayan Trust through this expedition, and am doing my utmost to raise as much money as I can for such worthwhile causes.

Millionaire cricketers or cricket on Mount Everest; I am not sure what sounds more outlandish. But, fingers crossed, at least the bank balances of these charities will have risen come April 2009.