Recently, a mate asked how many times I had been to Britain and/or Europe, and when I answered ’20’, he said I should write a book.
I’m not in the mood for that, and for those who follow this website, you will be aware that I regularly post stories from those travels.
But, with time on my hands, with this ‘Chinese flu’ keeping my wife, Marie and I largely housebound, I thought I would file a 20-part series on those trips, under sub-headings.
PURPOSE OF TRIP
To cover Australia’s Tri-Nations rugby league campaign in England, as well as their short tour of France. The coach was Wayne Bennett, back in charge of the national side, after one brief stint, in 1998.
Forest of Bowland, Lancashire, through Slaidburn and over Longridge Fell. The area occupies the western spur of the Pennines and was once described as the ‘Switzerland of England’, which is a bit of a stretch.
Fronton wine district, north west of Toulouse.
St Paul’s Cathedral, London. The largest in the UK.
Somme Battlefields, in particular the Australian War Memorial at Villers Bretonneux.
FIRST MEAL THAT I CAN RECALL
Sicilian beef at Devonshire Arms, Earls Court, with our daughter, Melanie.
Steak at Salon de Capucines, Paris
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL
Lamb Shank, Chequers Inn, Ledsham, West Yorkshire, dining with fellow members of the Australian media pack, as well as ARL chief executive, Geoff Carr.
Mussels at Cafe Americano, Toulouse with Brent Reed from Australian Associated Press and top sports photographer, Col Whelan. The restaurant was recommended by former French league international, Charles Zalduendo, a police inspector.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP
‘The Bridge’, Barnes, after covering the Australian Rugby League team’s training run at nearby St Paul’s School, on the banks of the Thames. Beer – Shepherd Neame’s ‘Spitfire’, the signature beer of the Faversham (Kent) based brewery.
A small corner bar, not far from the Warwick Hotel in Paris, where I was staying with the Australian Rugby League side. The hotel, in Rue de Berri, was just 100 metres from Av.des Champs-Elysees.
BEST BAR/PUB STOP
The Slubbers Arms, Halifax Old Road, Huddersfield, for a Timothy Taylor’s. The name derives from part of the manufacturing process in cotton and woolen mills. Enjoyed a pint in the company of noted English league scribes, Martin Richards, Dave Hadfield, Richard Bott and Terry Holmes.
An Irish Pub in the middle of Toulouse – because it showed the rugby league on television.
ONE SPORTING EVENT
Australia’s 32-12 win over New Zealand at Loftus Road Stadium, London, home ground of Queens Park Rangers Football Club. The Kiwis led 12-8 at halftime, in a match of high intensity. Sonny Bill Williams was one of the Kiwis’ best, while Anthony Minichiello was prominent for the Kangaroos.
Australia’s 52-30 win over France in Toulouse. The French, with rampaging forward, Djamel Fakir on fire, led for long periods, before Australia stormed home in the latter stages. It was Matt Bowen’s one and only Test for Australia.
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT
Media call at Soho Club, London, with Australian coach, Wayne Bennett and Kiwi boss, Daniel Anderson put up, mainly for the London media. Unfortunately, very few local journos fronted, and those who did, had no idea what to ask. It was left to me to ask most of the questions. Weird.
Government reception for the Kangaroos, at Australian Embassy Paris, overlooking the Eiffel Tower, drinking Hahn Premium.
A working man’s club at Leyland in Lancashire. I attended a dance and show, with English league writer, Martin Richards and his wife, Barbara.
A back street bar in the Sorbonne area of Paris, where locals played board games.
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE
Playing darts at the Viaduct Pub, Leeds with Australian rugby league players, Scott Hill and Jason Ryles, as well as trainer, Billy Johnstone, and phsyio, Tony Ayoub. And I played all right, too.
A police escort from our hotel in Toulouse to the stadium, for the Test match between Australia and France. OK. We (Col Whelan, Steve Mascord and I) tagged along with the team bus.
1 2004 Tri-Nations
2 Wayne Bennett at Villers Bretonneux
3 The Bridge Pub, Barnes, London
4 Australian physio, Tony Ayoub and player, Craig Fitzgibbon.