— Jonathan Agnew (@Aggerscricket) December 20, 2013. I felt that ‘chewing-a-lemon’ expression crossing my face. That, combined with a moving interview with a breast cancer survivor, which left Jonathan with tears streaming down his face, and we were all in no doubt about the things that really matter in life. Now before hackles rise, I don’t mean that in a middle -class -English -snobbish sort of way. 56) Most shocking domestic revelation of the trip was (in a darkened corner of a Chinese restaurant in Melbourne) that Latest can’t actually use chopsticks, he just uses them subtly to stab food. With the Test starting tomorrow, there was a training morning for the team and therefore work to be done. It’s all in the detail you know! I contemplated another gentle bike ride along the river to South Perth, but an acute memory of the total humiliation of being overtaken by a jogger yesterday – who also carried out a full conversation with us – confirmed my suspicion that Latest is no longer one for strenuous activity, So I hailed a cab. 34) Best place to spend New Year’s Eve has to be the Opera House gala concert, then out on to the balcony for the fireworks. What a splendid evening we had down the cellar at Kingsford Homestead last night. Perth really turned the temperature dial up today – just in time for the start of the Test. An enjoyable hour was spent wandering round the street artists who are part of the Fringe Festival. and is organising a party in the city next year to commemorate 40 years after the cyclone. Glenn McGrath, of course. And just as we were preparing for a big night out to say farewell to Brisbane, the news broke that Jonathan Trott has gone home due to a stress related illness. I briefly checked t’Internet for cricket news (at that point I was planning how to keep Latest amused on yet another unscheduled day off) The naval and boat building industry is still very much in evidence with huge container ships, cranes and industry all along the shoreline. But he didn’t approach the prospect of a bike ride with quite the same gusto. There was a group of 3 girls who wanted their picture taken. Once we were up and out ( and ascertained the alarm had actually been set off by the restaurant next door) we decided we might as well head for our breakfast walk. Michelle Wright and I set off after breakfast to hire bikes for the day – free of charge in Adelaide as long as you leave your passport as security. Get the wine in.” Do I read that as a good or bad day at the office I wonder? He slept while I ordered in some fish and chips and then we caught up on the last episode of Downton Abbey. overlooking the water. My roguish son is currently at 39 thousand feet on his way out here – if you seen a tall, skinny lad on crutches in Singapore then give him a poke – but the latest (thirsty) members of the Leicestershire mafia, Trevor and Gordon, arrived in our hotel today. Only that didn’t come so, stumbling around, we dressed and staggered down the concrete stairwell of the fire exit. Back at our hotel to begin packing, and Latest spotted John Cleese in reception. Amazing. I always think it must be totally infuriating for the child of a famous person to be constantly asked about them, and Latest subsequently told me that at one point he had changed his name by deed poll to escape the Bradman association. These enormous 18 metre mammals ( to put it into perspective that’s about the length of a cricket pitch) surface for only 4 or 5 minutes of oxygen before diving as far as half a mile underwater to feed for three quarters of an hour. Although I simply adore the Manly ferry in Sydney on which I spent many a happy hour last winter, this is an altogether different experience. I suffered a rear tyre blow out and nearly knocked Michelle off her bike. That’s the high rolling life we lead during the games. Apparently, the teeth are small, the anti venom is the best in the world, and an average of only two people die every year. His beautiful wife Megan joined us and we nattered away about horses for a while (as you do) and before knew it, Australia had notched up 570 runs. We are nearly half way to Adelaide – and that is our last scheduled stop. Both teams were very relaxed, mixing easily and posing for photos with supporters – no air of special treatment or tension around them at all. You can get on at all the major City centre attractions, such as Parliament House, Flinders St. Station and the Docklands – or you can just stay on as it trundles slowly round the loop (about an hour in total) which is exactly what I did. It’s also worth noting the harbour is allegedly still haunted by the jangling of the convicts’ leg irons as they were unloaded from the ships. Also, I’m really missing my spoilt cocker spaniel Tino, although I know he’s being beautifully cared for by our good friend Carolyn. How lovely to see this friendly and attractive city really buzzing. Yes, of course I stopped for a cuppa. That water had been there sometime and smelt (and obviously tasted) utterly putrid. Much will have been written over the past day or two of the stresses that professional sport, combined with long periods away from home, can put on the sportsmen AND their families. Firstly, a tip for anyone travelling internally in Australia: the basic baggage allowance is substantially less than the international flight allowance. Oh, the humiliation of being tannoyed across Adelaide airport, much to the amusement of several hundred cricket fans who were also making their way to Perth. A great train trip should be on everyone’s bucket list – apparently through the Rockies is fabulous too. It probably explains why it’s a pretty expensive place to come and visit and to eat out. I’m lucky enough to be a guest of the ECB during the game and I don’t want to appear a complete ignoramus so I had vowed to mug up on a bit of cricketing knowledge. Don’t be fooled by this seemingly idyllic family of black swans we saw when on our bike ride – there’s every chance this is Dad and Uncle with the kids. I was also introduced to the goannas. In the meantime I need to decide on a few literary downloads – any suggestions? When the children were growing up and locked into school holidays it was, of course, much harder. And we certainly got that! Now trainers are most acceptable when in the gym, or going for a brisk walk along the sea front, but he’s been wearing them out to dinner; with shorts and socks. 13&14) Best kiss of the trip: tough one this, so a tie between Alastair Cook and Glenn McGrath. So compact that I had to use our (five) suitcases as a mounting block to get into bed….and there is certainly no chance of more than one person in the bathroom at any one time (unless the second person was standing on the toilet (don’t go there) and neither of us could fit in the bath at all ( I’m nearly 6 feet tall) So I very politely went to speak to the manager and she agreed that the room was fairly bijoux for two people. Latest wasn’t required to go to the England press conference, so he opted for the leisurely lunch option at the Bathers Pavilion. You could have been forgiven it was the first day of the Old Trafford Test rather than the Adelaide test; it was drizzling, grey and positively chilly here this morning. Today saw the start of England’s final warm up game so it was a simple choice; spend the day at the SCG – or by the pool. He thinks very highly of Andy and, from my perspective, they seem to enjoy a pretty honest – if sometimes robust – relationship. We knew that when we heard some hideous band playing outside our bedroom window at 0630 this morning, heralding the official opening. They say these things come in threes, and I’m afraid I threw my first tantrum of the tour. I was expecting the usual ” hello Blondie”; I’m never quite sure if it’s just because he can’t remember my name, or whether it’s a Yorkshire term of endearment! No, not a dubious after-dark establishment; instead, Nin’s is THE place to eat fresh crayfish. out for dinner last night to that beacon of respectability, the Adelaide club, I’m feeling a little bit grumpy this afternoon; principally due to lack of sleep caused by a late night and Latest snoring his head off thanks to over imbibing on the red wine. I was helping him with his iPad (yes, GB has. So, in no particular order, my top 3; it’s Sydney for an iconic holiday. He is currently functioning on three-and-a-half hours sleep a night for the duration of harvest. Never let it be said that a travel day is a dull day – in fact, it’s been very much one of ‘those’ days! Three years ago, when England won the Ashes on the fourth day at the MCG, we took a riotous party to The Stoke House, including the Family Vaughan and James Whitaker (Latest’s school fag but now National Selector). I can’t say it was exactly restful, as the equivalent of the M1 seems to run alongside… But no matter, I’m galloping through my first electronic book ( The Razors Edge, Somerset Maugham, recommended by an old friend since you asked) and faint tan lines have appeared. But one thing is for certain, you’ll be hearing all about it during the Adelaide Test Match – that’s unless you hear there’s been a murder on the Great Southern Railway! During our early morning walk round the wharf, we learned that during WWII, more bombs were dropped on Darwin than at Pearl Harbor, and that Darwin Harbour is 7 times bigger than Sydney Harbour. It’s all in the detail you know! (Just learnt that he got two in Hobart). By the time we finally make it out for something to eat, the restaurants are heaving, so last night we ended up in a sports cafe on Queens Street Mall. We have now swapped a view of the Opera House for a view of the Brisbane River. I’m not sure I have much to thank Swanny for; last time we were here in Australia, he invented “the Sprinkler” dance, and Latest promised the Barmy Army he would perform it if we won. I retired to our cabin replete from dinner – lamb, couldn’t face eating roo – to find the wonderful Susie had laid out chocolates and bedtime liqueurs. 7&8) Best lunch: The Lanes winery in the Adelaide Hills and Stoke House, on the beach at St Kilda, Melbourne. He explained how they track the huge sperm whales and explained how we had to be on the look out for spouts of water being blown up into the air.. It’s fair to say our cabin is bijoux but perfectly appointed, it’s like one of those London flats when the bed folds down out of the wall and one of you has to sing very loudly when the other is on the toilet. Last night we had dinner with friends that Latest has been visiting in Adelaide for over 20 years – you could say it’s a regular four-yearly dinner party. Trying hard not to imitate one of the love struck teenagers who have been hanging around outside our hotels hoping for a glimpse of the touring Justin Bieber, I thought I’d just wait to see if he could be lured into the Test Match Special box. Hey ho, some of us have had a fab time! Well, actually, we finally set off when he remembered he had to flick up the metal bike stand, so there was nearly an accident before we started. I spent a good deal of window shopping for said pearls yesterday and now understand what to look for in terms of size, shape, lustre, inclusions etc etc. :)Keep on adventuring!! Oh. The BIG news of the day is that, on getting to the hotel, he’d actually unpacked his suitcase. There is the highest number of self-made millionaires per capita. A great train trip should be on everyone’s bucket list – apparently through the Rockies is fabulous too. To be fair to Latest, I didn’t recognise her either, but I bet he heads to the gym with more of a spring in his step tomorrow morning! Now I’m sure you’ve been losing sleep over the state of my 44+ mozzie bites? We chugged into Alice Springs ahead of schedule and trotted off to the reptile centre. In comparison, tonight’s evening with the Barmy Army will be genteel affair. He’s a great character and former Leicester Tigers rugby player – he and Carol live fairly close to us in The Vale and are lively Sunday lunch companions! As the sun came out around lunchtime, I was just contemplating retiring to the pool when I spied one of MY favourites; there, perched on a stool chatting away to Shane Warne was the luscious Hugh Jackman. And so we resume the tour after a few days off. He was fascinating company, not only about the wines we were drinking, but he regaled us with tales of the persecution of his Lutheran ancestors in Germany who were driven to board boats and sail thousands of miles to South Australia and settle there. The second room had a view of the pool…but no bath, and I’m afraid I’m a ” shower in the morning, soak in the evening” kind of girl. If you thought things could only get better for me after yesterday’s morning in the laundrette, then you’d be wrong. Then I intend to settle back and get into the Christmas spirit. Quiet location off the highway. There was even wine tasting on the ferry on the way home, but lovely young James – a Cambridge student – and his father, Paul, drank our share. More than half their number perished on board, but the survivors planted cuttings of vines they had bought with them, and so a famous wine region was born. Spectacular, although I became obsessed with crocodiles when they pointed out the traps laid out along the riverbank. It’s a bit like Covent Garden by the water, with street entertainers and restaurants. I think I’m correct in saying we have been in Perth longer than any of the other cities on this tour, and I’ve become very fond of it. ‘Ah, but bet he rustles up a great meal’, I hear you say. 28&29) Biggest surprise of the tour: not killing Latest after 60 days trapped in hotel living. My fellow dining guests seemed to enjoy the close of up of the Queen Mary 2; frankly I can’t imagine anything worse than being on a floating monstrosity which just dwarfed the iconic city landmarks. Tonight we’ve been back with the Barmy Army at the Imperial Hotel. It was a boiling day at the SCG as we fought our way through the builders and the, It had to be done – when in Sydney, where else to be on New Year’s Eve but at the Opera House, celebrating her 40th birthday. Earlier in the tour, I had been very generously invited to Ladies’ Day by the financier, Sir Ron Brierley. The arrival of the mail boat was obviously the social event of the week, with kids (educated at home) parents and even the family dogs standing on tiny wooden jetties while Jason handed over the post. My recollection of the rest of the evening is fortunately hazy – but there are photos, and videos that you’d pay good money to see… and I’m not publishing! It was a proper ‘Saturday Night In’ but sadly, without the doggies. At last, the hotel – perfectly located for The WACA. Nothing short of a miracle! Now I know this will be a massive disappointment to many, but we didn’t mention the cricket once. We marched to the MCG with over 90 thousand other believers; those who believe it’s about time England had a change of fortune, and those who believe it’s going to be a 5-0 drubbing. But best of all, it was lovely to say au revoir to the funniest man I know – Dusty Miller. I put up the few cards that I’ve been hoarding in my suitcase since the beginning of November, and we went Christmas shopping – along with everyone else in Melbourne! This is a town previously best known for the Olympic Gold medallist, rower Joseph Sullivan who is now a local fire-fighter. Especially with the water right next to it. And that’s how it feels with Sydney. But, “Is she really going out with him?” sang the Barmy Army when Latest and I finally made it to the charity evening in aid of the Broad Appeal last night. If you get the opportunity to hop on a water taxi at any point, then I’d urge you to do so. I was utterly appalled to find the view from my table obscured by a hideous cruise liner (!) Tom had suddenly announced he wanted a particular pair of headphones for Christmas: a specific model and colour. Thankfully, actions speak louder than words, and they were soon silenced. I was several hundred dollars lighter and he hadn’t even been in the country more than a couple of hours. The news of Nelson Mandela’s death spread like wildfire round the breakfast room, And it was great that the entire Oval fell silent at the start of the days play. I headed off into the Adelaide Hills with my official tour guide for the day, old friend Godfrey. Fortunately, the liner chugged out halfway though our meal, complete with a spectacular firework display, and we raised (another) glass to all who were sailing on her. He managed to bribe me with a couple of bottles of Pinot Gris carefully packed in my bags and the promise of attempting to source some more back in the UK. We are on the early morning flight to Sydney – it’s New Years Eve, after all, and are there many greater places in the world to celebrate? “Trendy” probably means hugely expensive, very noisy and with those impossibly modern toilets where you don’t know how to turn the taps on. She then produced a couple of tickets …for the cricket! What a great bunch they are; from the youngsters who have taken on seasonal work to pay for the trip, to people who have given up work to follow England. He invariably missed parents evenings/school plays etc etc due to being the other side of the world. It’s a perfect round shape, and on first impressions I thought it had far more soul(although far less history) than the SCG. I adore travelling to Manly on the famous ferry and have spent many a happy hour on the pine fringed beach here. I know, you’d never have guessed I needed an excuse for a new purchase would you? Actually, I’m quite proud of that. Latest is trying to cajole me into sky walking off Auckland’s highest building. He loved it and was even allowed to ring the bell to get the bus to stop because he behaved so well (although he had to fight a small child for the honour). It was once a renowned and notorious part of the city; now it’s buzzing and full of many great eateries and bars. What isn’t considered is just how hard it is to leave behind the family and those creature comforts we take for granted. Talk about a busman’s holiday! A number 4 ensued; much concern that he would come out a laughing stock and that I would disown him – but no, the transformation was a good one. Er, that’ll be all of it, everywhere. Jonathan often stays in the same hotel as the team; that way he’s on hand for press conferences, team titbits and generally gets to know the team and their support staff. I’ll try to persuade him to climb the Harbour Bridge (not a chance, he’s such a baby with heights) or an early morning swim in the glorious outdoor Iceberg freshwater swimming pool at Bondi. And so, dressed in his and hers matching pink, we took our seats for the Gala opera concert. If you come all this way to go whale watching and the boats can’t sail, 30 minutes in a helicopter salvages the trip and the views are amazing. And that’s how it feels with Sydney. Now, FaceTiming/texting and mobiles mean it’s so much easier to be part of life back at home. Today has been spent packing – me for home and Latest for Sydney and the quarter finals. As most of the houses were built precariously up the hillside, there is then an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys to get the parcels home. Clearly, a girl can have too much retail therapy, too! Er, no. But, the spirit of blitz was evident, and – as the majority of the travellers seemed to be British – we patiently queued out of the terminal building. Also queuing was Stuart Broad’s stepfather Nick. A late lunch at a packed and trendy beach cafe dismissed by Latest as “too loud” (he can be such a fuddy duddy) then back to our hotel. 7) Sir Peter Blake was a devilishly handsome New Zealand adventurer who met a tragic end at the hands of pirates. And that’s when my holiday really starts. There are 6 kangaroos and you can walk right up to them. Before we knew it, it was gone midnight, which is far too late for Jonathan on a ‘school’ night; he just gets grumpy! But, with officious security guards guarding a VERY active building site ( good luck to those who are expecting to take their seats in the Bradman stand for the New Year Ashes match) it looks and feels more like a soulless football ‘bowl’ than a hallowed sporting venue. It transpired a young woman had a “lust at first sight” moment with a jogger and his pooch, so she’d launched a handwritten appeal for him to meet her. Of course, he’d asked me for cash before he even headed to Heathrow (as they do), muttering something about Duty Free essentials (fags/vodka I assume). McLeod’s Daughters was a Channel 9 production, and Jonathan has spent a lot of time recently bringing me up to speed with the whole Packer, World Series Cricket thing in the 1970’s. In fact, the sun was so intense (sorry to rub it in to those reading back home) that we went hat shopping for jaunty matching pink sun hats (very Howard and Hilda from Ever Decreasing Circles). After a morning of sightseeing, what better way to while away a couple of hours than a spot of lunch on the buzzing Southgate area of the city. the half hour ride, you get a real sense of the amazing natural harbour with its inlets and beaches ( mental note to self to book lunch at Bathers pavilion, Balmoral beach) as well as the huge number of boats of all sizes that use the water. And so Christmas was over and it was back to what passes as work for Latest. And, more importantly, can we get have a win – please! Say what you will about the man though – and I hear what you say about his self-publicity – but you’ve got to admire someone who is prepared to face Brett Lee’s balls, even if Latest tells me the result was very painful. Afterwards we strolled to Chinatown, Melbourne style, where Latest pompously ordered “Ashes chicken” aka lemon chicken (he knows which number it is on the menu in the Jasmine House, Melton Mowbray) Basically, we all know how lucky we are to be out here and we intend to enjoy the last week, but in the short term I’m thinking of a tram to St Kilda for lunch tomorrow. The crew are entertaining, knowledgeable and clearly live for sailing – including the newest member of the crew, Max. Back in the room, and Latest was having a power nap after his exertions which, to be fair, had started with a live TV appearance at 0730. He’s still working away on the radio and I’m preparing for a final evening with the travelling supporters. You’ll drive each other mad” . Driving in New Zealand is a pleasure; there’s very little on the roads and breathtaking scenery at every turn. 23) Moments of friendship on tour: being reminded that even if you only see people once every four years, true friendship means you just pick up where you left off. They’d also had a banner made especially for Trotty – great effort guys, and catch up with you again in Perth. As I’m a fellow journalist, he often asks my professional opinion when he has to handle a potentially controversial or difficult interviewee. 45) Best sledge of the tour was the Daily Mail’s Charlie Sale calling Latest and me “Brand Agnew”. During our early morning walk round the wharf, we learned that during WWII, more bombs were dropped on Darwin than at Pearl Harbor, and that Darwin Harbour is 7 times bigger than Sydney Harbour. I must find out why they are so wide in Adelaide. The Americans Cup sailing experience is,well, a real experience. Latest and I will be spending a number of evenings with assorted groups of supporters over the coming weeks and they are always really good fun. Latest came back VERY pleased with himself – he’d flown down to Fremantle and over Rottenest Island. Signs were moved, there were tannoy announcements telling swimmers not to enter the water, and suddenly the famous Manly surf was deserted. No, I set off with great expectations surrounding the much vaunted “sculptures by the sea” walk between Bondi and Tamarama. It is virtually flat and with lots of shade, and there are plenty of places to stop for a coffee or a snack. There was also a moment of genuine confusion followed by a lengthy silence at seeing this sign on the roadside. What a life! Oh yes, it’s luxury travel all the way – NOT! Judging by the surfing swell this morning, it’s a pretty apt name. Top travel tip: for all his chaotic organisation, Latest advises a left hand window seat on a flight into Sydney, so if the wind is right you get your first sight of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge from 2000 feet. Well, he did, didn’t he! It’s official; the best way to experience the Ashes this winter is in the Melbourne sunshine, next to a delightful rooftop swimming pool – but listening on the radio so you can turn it off/call for more wine/ move into the air conditioning when it all gets too much. Well that was it. To my enormous surprise and pleasure, youngest daughter had got engaged – boyfriend (clearly mad, drunk or both) had got down on one knee in front of his family and popped the question. Today it was blowing a gale and the drought appeared over as it poured with rain during our drive from Kaikoura to Blenheim airport for our flight to Auckland. Then it rained – for the first time since July 10th. And so it was onto our ‘Last Supper’. 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