My story of 2011 really starts back in the final few days of 2010 when I flew out to Australia for 2 weeks. I hadn’t really had had any time off work in the 4 years since my last to trip to Australia so I was more than ready for a break. Melbourne is a city that I love. It doesn’t have the spectacular sights maybe that Sydney has, but it is a wonderful lively working city offering much to the visitor. I first travelled there in 1996 with Adam on my first trip to Australia. On that first trip we did the mandatory visit to Ramsey Street, had a wonderful tour around the Melbourne Cricket Ground, went to Ned Kelly’s gaol and spend much time in the numerous bars discovering the city.
I returned in 2006 with Adam along with Lewis and my brother to watch The Ashes. We flew in to get to the cricket for days 3 and 4, but unfortunately England’s capitulation meant the game finished on day so we had a day to ourselves. However we seemed to cram an enormous amount into the 60 hours or so we were there mainly involving drinking and socialising. It was on this trip that I met Kerrie-Anne who was a great host taking us to some great bars and making sure we got to the airport out in the sticks for our flight to Sydney admittedly almost killing us in the process when she almost went down the freeway in the wrong direction. The beauty of Kerrie-Anne and every Australian that I have met is the genuine warm hand of friendship that is extended unconditionally.
And so on the most recent trip to Australia Kerrie-Anne offered to put me up for my visit to Melbourne and was just the most amazing hostess. I was a weary traveller when I landed in Melbourne. The wretched weather in the UK leading up to Christmas had put the flight in real jeopardy until a slight thaw in the days leading up to the flight allowed flights to start flying out of Heathrow once again. I flew via Hong Kong so that was a first for me. I must admit when I landed in Hong Kong airport I had to find a chemist to get something for an upset stomach. A lovely Chinese lady overcame the language barrier and gave me the most horrendous smelling tablets, but true to her word they worked and I was able to settle into the last leg of the flight to Melbourne in reasonable shape.
I finally arrived in Melbourne at 9:45pm on December 27th and Kerrie-Anne picked me up and took me to her place in Mernda where she lives with partner Joey and gorgeous young son Joshy. I could not have been made more welcome. Kerrie-Anne even had to brave coming to the cricket where this time it was the English side handing out the battering. I was able to keep up to date with cricketing events in Melbourne during the flight from the UK, and we arrived at the ground on day 3 to meet up with the Bondys, and Dr Nige and wife Claire and had a great time.
At the start of play on day 3 England were on 444-5 piling on the agony having bowled Australia out for 98 in their first innings. It was nice to be supping Australian beer in the sunshine and seeing England rampant on the pitch.
By the close of play England had been bowled out for 513 and then reduced Australia to 169-6 and facing certain defeat and allowing England to retain The Ashes. After day 3 we rediscovered The London Tavern from 4 years earlier and had a great evening getting reacquainted with Australian beer. It was a lovely evening and it’s a great place to have a few beers having been to the MSG.
Kerrie-Anne did not accompany us to see the final rights of the cricket on day 4 and sure enough the game was all over before lunch on day 4 with England bowling Australia out for 258 and winning by an innings and 157 runs.
I went back to The London Tavern with the Bondys to celebrate with afternoon beers in the sunshine but left them to it at 5:00pm as Joey and Kerrie-Anne were doing a BBQ and so I had a wonderful feast back at their place with a few new beers to try.
On the next day, December 30th and my final day in Melbourne Kerrie-Anne drove me out with Joshy to see Rupertswood the birthplace of The Ashes in 1882 and Mount Macedon. Rupertswood was a little bizarre as you drive into this beautiful mansion estate expecting to see a spectacular ground, but the ground itself was rather disappointing with even an artificial wicket. But in spite of that its a ground that plays such a significant part in the history of The Ashes it was a wonderful experience to see the birth place of one of sport's greatest rivalries.
We then carried onto Mount Macedon and stopped at the Holgate Brewhouse for lunch. This pub brews its own beer on site and so it was rude not to try out a couple of them.
As always the time went by all too quickly and I was soon on my way to airport to fly down to Sydney for the new year. I cannot thank Kerrie-Anne, Joey and Joshy for their hospitality and long lasting friendships were certainly cemented and I look forward to returning to Melbourne to see them all again one day soon.